Posted in Authentic Freedom, church, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation

Re-Visioning Church

(What We Used to Call Church)

Having been raised Catholic, completed nearly 12 years of Catholic school, receiving my ministry training through the Catholic Church and then working for 15 years as a pastoral minister in the Church, I have had a front seat view of all that is magnificent as well as malevolent within Catholicism.  The final conclusion I have drawn is that for the past 2000 years, immediately after the apostles discarded Jesus’ embrace of the feminine in favor of the patriarchal and hierarchical status quo, the Church has needed to be reformed.

I used to believe this reform could come from within.  I have since learned otherwise.  I also used to believe that perhaps the answer was a whole new church altogether – as was the result of the Protestant Reformation, and more recently in Evangelical Christianity and even closer to home, in the off-shoot Catholic denominations.  While a more traditional form of “Church” might work for some, I have increasingly come to understand that as we grow toward union, anything that separates – religion, denomination, even atheism, will not serve.  Instead, the awakened world is looking for a way to connect that is accepting of all beliefs, and embraces the Truth that is inherent within every single belief system – even those which has grown past the idea of “the old man in the sky god.”

Enter Authentic Freedom…here we provide everything that Church was originally intended to do, only without doctrine, dogma or any form of prosthelytizing:

Education

On-Going Spiritual Formation

Social Network/Community

Individualized Support

Empowerment

Publishing

Authentic Freedom (dot) Love is a community of women and men who are responding to the calling of their Soul to discover their own unique giftedness and how they are called to find fulfillment in these gifts while being supported and empowered in the use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.

You can become a part of our community by:

Subscribing to our Blog.  It is always free!

Following us on Facebook.

Enrolling in a class or two (or three).

Subscribing to our weekly Authentic Freedom lesson by registering for a Basic Membership.

Increasing your involvement with a Plus Membership which gives you access to our Private Social Network.

Connecting with other leaders in the human evolution movement by joining our Teacher’s Circle with a Premium membership.

Authentic Freedom has come about because we long for a more loving, more compassionate, more tolerant, more accepting and gentler world where the needs of all are met for the common good and where all of humankind can once again live in harmony, peace and understanding.

If you have found yourself here, you are either just beginning to hear the rumblings of your Soul, or have already come to know that you are among those who are being hospice to the dying world while midwifing the new world that is coming into form and are looking for people of like-mind with whom you can share this challenging and exciting calling!

We are changemakers, wayshowers, sh.t-disturbers, mystics and rebels. And here we are safe to question, explore, discover, be empowered and supported for our own unique giftedness and for how we are called to exercise these gifts in our world.

 

Join us in whatever way you are able and welcome!

With love,

Lauri Ann Lumby, OM, OPM, MATS

Authentic Freedom (dot)Love

 

 

 

 

Posted in Raised Catholic

There Was Good in the Old – an Ode to Notre Dame

Yesterday, in a discussion with the TWYH online community in which I am a member, we were sharing the deep sorrow we had all been feeling before hearing the news of Notre Dame burning. Before the event even took place, many of us were feeling a deep sorrow and the need to weep tears that were not specifically our own.  We were feeling the collective sorrow over the destruction of a centuries old icon while wondering, “what could this possibly mean?”  As I have ceased from trying to give meaning to world events, I could only ponder that question and yet in the sharing, one of the women said the following words related to her own sense of grief and these words hit me between the eyes:

 

There was good in the old.

 

Not only did these words hit me between the eyes, they hit me in the “feels.” Oh yes!  Oh yes!  There was good in the old and there continues to be good in the Church I once called my home and from which I have been in exile for the past eleven years.

In a similar conversation the day prior with a friend who is “spiritual but not religious” and scientific in her leanings, I tried, and failed, to express what it is like to be raised Catholic and the indelible imprint Catholicism leaves on one’s soul. From a rational perspective, I left the Church because I had to.  I left because the container of the Institutional Church had become too small.  I was no longer free to do the work I know in my Soul I have been called to do and I had to make a choice – be obedient to God or obedient to the Church.  I chose God.  While this choice has given me more freedom to pursue my Soul’s calling and has allowed me to minister to those the Church has turned away, the consequence of this choice is a loss that I will likely grieve for the rest of my days.

Why? A rational person would think this grief silly and unnecessary.  It is easy for those raised outside the Church to scratch their heads in disbelief over what seems to be a clinging to nostalgia or an unwillingness to let go of what has been.  Not so.  Not so.  There is something profound that happens in those of us that were raised Catholic and no matter how distant we become from the Church, there is always something that will remain.  I believe the words spoken by my online friend perfectly describes that which remains:

There was good in the old.

There is a mystery and a magic in Catholicism that is unmatched by other belief systems (at least in my experience). Where else is bread and wine turned into the “Body and Blood” of Christ?  Even if we only believe the magic of the Eucharist as symbolic, this is pure magic – transformational magic at that.  In the Eucharist – the central sacrament of the Catholic tradition, we are participating in the transformational act of becoming Christ.  When eating the bread and drinking the cup, we are saying “YES” to being the Body of Christ.  This is not meant to be lip service or an empty ritual of eating bread and drinking wine.  Eucharist is meant to be taken literally – we are accepting the invitation to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, to live as he lived, to do as he did – clothe the naked, heal the sick, give food to the hungry, free those imprisoned, pray for our enemies, love our neighbor, etc. etc. etc.  And in living as Jesus lived, we are meant to become him – to embody all he represented – purity, humility, generosity, mercy, compassion, love, all while living and working for justice.  For those who are paying attention, living in and among this ritual alone changes you.

There is wisdom in Catholicism. I discovered this wisdom in the rich tradition of contemplative prayer – a tradition previously reserved for those in religious orders – the Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Jesuits, etc. etc. etc.  Women and men who for thousands of years have dedicated their lives to the study of the scripture and praying with that scripture so they could know God and in the process, growing in love.  When I was in my ministry studies and learned these practices, they LITERALLY changed my life.  I began a daily practice and for 25 years (minus a couple when I was having babies), I did not miss a day.

In Catholicism every passage in life is treated (or has the potential for being treated) as sacred. Birth.  Entering adulthood. Marriage.  Vocational decisions.  Death.  Every passage in life is met with a sacrament.  Both life and death are treated as sacred and given their proper honor, along with the appropriate communal ritual for honoring that passage.  These are the rites of the ancients – a wisdom that has not been lost in the Church.

There is a Goddess in the Church. Mother Mary.  Mary Magdalene.  Eve.  Sarah.  Teresa of Avila.  Bernadette Soubirous.  Joan of Arc.  The one thing that Catholicism has that is lacking in all other expressions of the Christian faith – a Mother we can go to for comfort.  Women we can turn to for inspiration and support.  The idea of the Communion of Saints gives us not only women but also men who were Superheroes – people who dedicated their lives for the purpose of Love.  St. Francis of Assisi.  John of the Cross.  Meister Eckhart.  Ignatius of Loyola.  The list goes on.

There is beauty in the Church. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is the perfect example.  The first things rescued from the church were works of priceless art and religious relics.  Why is the whole world grieving the destruction of Notre Dame?  It is certainly not because they were raised Catholic – it is because they see the loss of beauty – the art and architecture of the middle ages which inspire awe and wonder by symbolically making visible the magic and mystery of life – that which some call “God.”

This is the old that is good. This is the good that remains.  Even if Notre Dame had burned to the ground (which reports assure us it has not), this good would still remain.  This is the good that has held the Catholic Church together all these years in spite of the reign of terror that has co-existed with all that is good.

There is good in the old. My hope has always been and will continue to be that as that which is no longer life-giving is burned away; it is the good that will remain.  Perhaps this is why Notre Dame allowed herself to be burned – to prove to the world that sometimes death is necessary to reveal the good that has always been there and to make a way for something new.

 

Posted in Raised Catholic

Is Lauri Lumby Still Catholic?

Google Analytics cracks me up. Apparently two different people found my website this morning by typing in the very same question, “Is Lauri Lumby Still Catholic?”  My daughter and I shared a laugh over this.  Really? Who are the two people that felt the need to seek Google for an answer to this question?  I also want to know, is there someone besides me who has an answer to this question?

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The answer to this question is of course, multi-layered.

According to official Catholic teaching, of course I am still Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, and according to the Church, once a Catholic, always a Catholic.  You can’t be un-Catholicized. (I believe there are exceptions to this rule, such as being accused of the sin of apostasy.  I have been accused of many things, but apostasy is not one – that I’m aware of anyway!)

My blood and my bones tell me I’m Catholic. As much as I have tried, I can’t get the imprint of Catholicism out of my soul.  There is a kind of sensibility that becomes part of your soul when raised Catholic – especially when you have loved the Church in the way that I have.  My life cycles follow the Church calendar.  My favorite architecture is gothic cathedrals.  Stained Glass Windows make my heart sing.  Incense feels like a hug.  And I am ritualistic by nature.  Step into my house and you might even feel like you are in a church….little altars everywhere.

More important than either of the above – Jesus is my teacher. But he is more than my teacher, he is my Beloved.  He is my Beloved in the way he was the Beloved of St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.  As a mystic who follows the Spiritual Exercises and Rules of Discernment of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I am Catholic in every sense of the word….except the two that the Institution of the Catholic Church probably counts as valid.

In my eyes I am still Catholic. In the eyes of the Institutional Church, perhaps not.  Of course I cannot speak for the Church, but I do know about a HUGE file with my name on it in the office of a Catholic Bishop who shall not be named, likely reporting every perceived way in which I have broken with Catholic teaching and committed heresy, as reported by the self-appointed local inquisition.  Included in these reports would be:

  • My continued work with Reiki.
  • My mention of the possibility of Jesus having been married.
  • My insistence that Mary Magdalene had a WAY bigger role in Jesus’ life and ministry and in the continuation of his work than we have been led to believe.
  • My call to the priesthood and the ways in which I have found to live out that call, in spite of the Church’s insistence otherwise.
  • My insistence that the Church be held accountable for its sins, especially the long history of discrimination and violence against women, and most especially, the long history of sexual abuse of children, and that it remove the plank from its own eye before pointing out the splinter in our eyes.
  • My prayer, hopes and dreams that the Church return to its original mission of being a force of love, peace, justice and harmony in the world and that it begin by becoming this to its own people. (Thank you Pope Francis for leading this charge!!!!!)
  • My continued decision to fast from the Eucharist. (Read about this decision HERE).

So, while I still consider myself Catholic, perhaps the Church does not. But since inquiring minds want to know…..here is why I have never jumped ship even when there are a million other ways I could be living out my belief in Jesus and there are a million other denominations who would probably be happy to be the recipients of my gifts:

BECAUSE GOD WOULDN’T LET ME!

And not because I haven’t tried.  Three separate times with three separate denominations, I have discerned ordained priesthood, because I was invited to by leaders of said denominations to do so.  Every single time, saying yes to the call of the priesthood ( a call I authentically have), meant denying my Catholicism and officially breaking from the Church so I could become an official member of said denomination.  Every single time, God barred the way.  No matter how hard I tried to NOT be Catholic, through my discernment, I realized I could not.  I could not forsake the faith of my bones.  So while the Catholic Church is not a place in which I can share the fullness of the gifts and the call God has given me, there is no other church to which I can belong.

So, yes, I’m still Catholic – at least in my own eyes and apparently in the eyes of God.

This is good enough for me.

 

 

Posted in church, Forgiveness, Raised Catholic

Shining the Spotlight on Clergy Sexual Abuse

I was not sexually abused by a priest, but I know and have counseled many people who were.  I was not sexually abused by a priest, but I worked in the Church when the insidious legacy of priests sexually abusing children and having inappropriate relations with other vulnerable populations began to come to light.  I was also still working in the Church when the sexual abuse scandal exploded and other “sins of the institution” came to be known.

So, when I watched the recent Academy Award winning movie, Spotlight, which tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse, uncovering and then exposing the unconscionable cover up of hundreds of priests (249 in the Boston Diocese alone!) who had been sexually abusing children and the thousands of victims, I was already long-acquainted with the story, but was so deeply moved and startled by the true extent of the crime, I could hardly speak for days.  What I didn’t know, was that a dear friend, professionally a Lay Ecclesial Minister, was also watching the movie at the very same time, reliving her own experience of clergy sexual abuse and reflecting on her on-going path of healing.  Here is her response:

Original photograph by Kathy Walczyk
Original photograph by Kathy Walczyk

I watched the movie Spotlight five times. I cried every time. I cried because the reporters knocked on doors, they came in search of listening and learning. They came to give a voice to the voiceless. They opened doors of truth. In the middle of watching Spotlight for the fourth time, I wrote to thank them, the real reporters. I got a personal reply in six minutes. Six minutes!!!

I wish it were like this in the church. I wish the church had come knocking on doors in search of us, our story, listening with the intent of learning our needs, and inviting our voices. Greater dignity was lost in this lack.

And I wish all the walls of defense were not so high and the finger of blame would lower. I wish humility, responsibility, and a desire for mending and reconciling would replace what we have now.

I wish we could bring the sacred to conversations, uplift the holy in each other.

I wish the church could talk about the beautiful, sacredness of our sexuality, our life essence, and our lifeblood that is good, and is within every human. And I wish we could talk about how our desire for God, for wholeness is found through relationships with each other. I wish we could talk about how this same sensual spirit is creative and life giving. Without healthy dialogue of our human sexuality there will be no understanding of how sexual violence in holy places, by people wearing crosses, can affect one’s communion with God and with each other. Reconciling divisions will come when we can address this in a spiritual, caring way.

There is a better way.

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Read Kathy’s original post HERE.

Kathy’s artwork and poetry are currently on display as part of the “Co-Workers in the Vineyard” exhibition at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.  Learn more HERE.

Kathy’s work will be displayed locally at The Norbertine Center for Spirituality in DePere September 1 – 30, 2016.  Watch the Norbertine Center’s website for details HERE. 

Posted in grief, Raised Catholic

The Cyclical Nature of Grief

Yesterday, and old grief was triggered in me, along with all the symptoms that have come along with this grief – deep sorrow, rage, hatred, anxiety, panic, trembling, emotional and intellectual paralysis, nausea, upset stomach, etc.  When I found I could not even give words to what I was feeling, I turned to my blog archives and found exactly the words I needed to hear – the words that clearly articulated my grief and the loss surrounding this grief.  In this I have been reminded of how grief continues to come back around seeking another layer of healing.  Thank you those who shall remain nameless for inviting me into another layer of healing and to the gift of God’s healing presence. 

The Church That Turned Away from Me

(originally posted on Good Friday, 2015)

Copyright 2015  Lauri Ann Lumby

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For the past eight years, I have been fasting from the Eucharist.  To one on the outside looking in, I might be accused of turning away from my Church.  The opposite in fact is true.  It is the Church that turned away from me.

As a Vatican II Catholic, raised in a Vatican II Church, I have had a unique experience of Catholicism, markedly different from the generations that went before me.  I never experienced the Latin mass or was drilled on the Baltimore Catechism.  I attended Saturday evening folk mass accompanied by Kumbaya’s, Up, Up with People, and To Be Alive! Fish on Friday was reserved for Lent.  Ecumenical dialogue was encouraged and instead of Heaven being the privilege of Catholics only, the pearly gates stood open to all who lived in love. I was brought up with a rock n’ roll Jesus Christ Superstar who in his humanness pleaded to be released while weeping tears of blood at Gethsemane and to whom we desired to “see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly,” as he danced around us in rainbow striped suspenders, sporting a Superman t-shirt.  Speaking out on matters of social injustice and working for peace; feeding the poor, clothing the naked and setting captives free was the understood responsibility of every person sitting in the pew.  Divine retribution and punishment had been left on the editing floor of the Holy See – along with indulgences; and even the unbaptized had a place in God’s loving kingdom. The only God I knew was the God of love. Jesus came to know this love and taught us how to love and was set up as the model and example of how every Christian was called to live.  We were called to be Jesus’ hands and heart through the unique charisms gifted to us by God’s Holy Spirit (sometimes even spoken of as a woman!).

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This is the Church I grew up in and the Church that I deeply loved.  Strengthening this bond was the mass that provided sanctuary and support for my inherently contemplative nature. Gothic arches, painted statues and stained glass windows serenaded by artistic soul.  And the stand up, kneel down, bow and sit of Catholic choreography nourished my need for a spirituality that was as much physical as it was emotional and intellectual. Devotion to Mary satisfied my need for a Divine Mother and the saints became my superheroes.

If I love my Church so much, you may be wondering why I have been fasting from the Eucharist?  What went wrong?  In short, it seems I took what I learned about God, Jesus and our Christian call too literally:

  • I believe in an unconditionally loving God, a Son that is both fully human and fully divine; the call to follow Jesus as an example of how to live my life and to be and do as he would in the world.
  • I love God above all else, my neighbor as myself and I consider ALL of humankind to be my neighbor.
  • I judge not (lest I be judged).
  • I pray for my enemies.
  • I try to forgive 70 times 7 times.
  • I pray without ceasing.
  • I feed the hungry.
  • I clothe the naked.
  • I give sight to the blind.
  • I set captives free.
  • And, I heal the sick.

Oshkosh WI 2/9/11: Photo by Jeannette Merten.

In the end, it was the last three actions that caused my Church to turn away from me.

After eight years in Catholic school and an equal number of years in academic and professional education and formation as a lay minister and spiritual director, I was guided by God to study hands-on-healing and Eastern Energy Medicine (Reiki). Out of this training and experience, God guided me further to develop a protocol through which people found healing from the spiritual wounds that separated them from God’s love, thereby healing them of their sin.  Right in line with Jesus’ teachings, right!? Apparently not, because the practices that I had learned and successfully applied were not “explicitly handed down by the Magesterium.”  I was challenged and confronted, hateful emails and letters were sent. I was accused of every nature of evil. Local bishops, fueled by the fear of the vocal minority, challenged my work and eventually handed down a prohibition calling it “witchcraft and sorcery,” in spite of my attempts to reason with and explain things to them.  Through this, I endured, but when I was attacked by a newly-appointed  pastor for a course in “Christian Zen” that I was sponsoring, who claimed it to be “outside Catholic teaching” and who identified Eastern practices as “dangerous,” I broke.  My heart was broken and my resolve with it.  The Church I had loved and out of whose embrace I had come to know God’s love – the Church who had called me to continue the work of Jesus – had betrayed me.  My gifts, my call, the unique way I had come to know God was no longer welcome. More than that, my ministry had been condemned as “dangerous,” “witchcraft and sorcery”….some even called it, “the work of the devil.”

ChristianZen.jpgOn that fateful autumn day, I listened beyond the voice of the fearful priest, the self-appointed inquisition, and even the Vatican II teachings that provided space for the ecumenical nature of the work I was doing and the unifying discussions that might arise out of this work.  I listened instead to the still, small voice of God within.  God’s voice was not small that day.  God spoke directly and loudly to my heart, “Lauri, you are my beloved daughter.  I have placed my word within your heart.  I have anointed you to be my servant.  Who will you obey?  Man or Me?”

Of course I chose God.

With God and the echoing support of Peter and the Apostles who similarly responded to the Church who turned away from them, “We must obey God rather than man, (Act 5: 29)” I handed over my keys and walked away.  Buoyed by God’s eternal promise of freedom, I knew that I could more freely do the work God had called me to absent the on-going scrutiny of the Church and the fearful minority.

Some would suggest that in leaving the Church I have also left behind my faith.  The opposite, in fact is true.  My faith has remained intact, and in truth, has been fortified.  I start every morning in prayer and meditation over the daily scripture.  Jesus is my constant companion, teacher and guide. I discern daily the ways in which I am being called to continue Jesus’ work in the world. I have seen the clear evidence of God at work through me as I witness the profound healing experienced by those who have become part of my ministry, and I am continually amazed at how God works through me to bring people more and more deeply into love and more closely connected to their own gifts and vocational call in the world.  I see the power of faith at work as I witness the empowerment experienced by those who come to me for counsel, attend my classes, read my writing and partake in my weekly services; and with each passing day my faith is strengthened and affirmed.

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Regarding the Church, I wish I could say that like Lot, I never looked back.  I find, instead, that I am more like Lot’s wife, forever gazing back in profound longing – grieving the loss of my home, my sanctuary, my community, my Church.  Beyond my own grief, however, I weep for my Church.  I long for the Church that I had come to know – one that is firmly rooted in the truth of God’s unconditional love and acting as that love in the world.  I long for a Church that works for unity and empowerment of all humankind – regardless of their gender, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I long for a Church that is willing to set down its wealth and its power and get in the trenches with those who need its help – the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, the wounded and the broken. I long for the Church that takes Jesus’ example seriously by being humble, giving the seats of honor to those without honor and washing the feet of strangers.  I yearn for a Church that supports people in becoming self-actualized, mature disciples – fostering the psycho-spiritual growth of men, women and children so that they can find the God they have forgotten in their hearts, discover their own unique giftedness and vocational call and become empowered in the fulfillment and use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.  I long for a Church that recognizes the earth as holy and sacred and works to be a steward for the gifts God gave us so that all of humanity may not only survive but thrive.  I cry out to the Church to work for justice – justice for all – not only for those who “are Catholic in good standing.”  My heart yearns for a Church that welcomes ALL people to its table – inviting all to know the unconditional and infinite love that is their truest nature. This is the Church that I once knew and I often wonder what happened to that Church – or if all along it had really just been a figment of my imagination.

 

 

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATP is a published author, ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director and teacher.  She ministers to a world-wide audience, most of whom were raised Catholic but who were also turned away by the Church.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  You can learn more about Lauri and her ministry at www.authenticfreedomacademy.com.

Posted in Being Human, Faith, God

When I Stopped Believing in God

Last night, while facilitating a class on spiritual gifts, I realized that somewhere in the past several years, I had stopped believing in God. This realization struck me like a two-ton brick to my head (perhaps the same brick that started me on this journey in the first place) while meditating on the following words of Jesus from John’s gospel, chapter fourteen:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”

In meditating and praying with this phrase, I realized that I absolutely believe in Jesus. I believe in what he did. I believe in what he stood for. I believe in the path of self-actualization he modeled and showed us how to live. Most importantly, I believe in the love that he embodied and in the love he calls us to embrace within ourselves and the love we too are called to be in the world.

What I also discovered in meditating with these words is that while I believe in Jesus, I do not believe in myself. I’m human. I’m flawed. I’ve failed myself. I’ve betrayed myself. I’ve made mistakes. I’m imperfect. Why would I believe in myself when I have failed myself in so many ways?

This I could deal with. So what if I don’t believe in myself, I did believe in Jesus. And I believe in Jesus more powerfully than I do not believe in myself. So, we’re good.
But then it hit me….I do believe in Jesus, but somewhere along the way, I had stopped believing in God.

As I came to this realization, I felt the wheels fall off the truck and the life-vehicle I’m riding in crashing head-long into the mountain wall.

I had stopped believing in God!!!

What in the world am I supposed to do with that? At first, I was tempted to shame myself for my non-belief, but then I realized my unbelief was totally justified. For you see, God had betrayed me.

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God betrayed me when he called me along the path of ministry. Showed me my gifts. Gave me my passions. Tempted me with a call that gave me at first affirmation and validation for my gifts and all the resources I needed to nurture and cultivate this call. God showered me with love for what I was doing in my unique giftedness and provided me with an opportunity to freely share this gift with those who needed and wanted it. Once, I was joyously happy and content working within the Catholic faith in which I had been raised. Guarded and protected by the Church and uplifted and honored for my gifts and my call.

Then one day, God took it all away.

The person(s) who supported my gifts and who empowered me to use my gifts to the fullest resigned, and I was left at the mercy of the fearful and vocal few (and let me tell you….these people can be MEAN!) – those who did not understand my gifts and who, because of their own unhealed wounds, feared what they could not understand. Instead of being empowered to share my gifts with the world, I came under the scrutiny of those who believed it was only truth if “explicitly handed down by the magisterium.” Where I sought Oneness, they preached separation. Where I supported Unity, they basked in the glory of their specialness as members of “the one true faith.” Where I sought Love, they preached intolerance and fear. It became increasingly clear that the place that had at one time been my home was no longer mine to enjoy. My ONE place of undying and unconditional safety and support had suddenly been torn from my hands and I was forced out into the wilderness – naked and alone. And my heart was broken.

When my Church betrayed me, so too had God for it was God who had brought me there in the first place and who had planted within my heart love for his son and love for the Church in which I had been raised and where I had, at one time, found my refuge.

But it didn’t end there.

For all the years since being forced out into the wilderness, I have tried to live according to God’s guidance. I believed in God’s promise of freedom. I left the land of slavery (many times over and in many leavings) in search of the promised land – “flowing with milk and honey.” I followed the model set forth by his son. I sought first the kingdom of God. I prayed as Jesus prayed. I healed the sick. I counseled the broken-hearted. I gave sight to the blind. I supported people in the discovery, cultivation, nurturing and empowerment of their own gifts. I did what Jesus did and am still doing what Jesus did – all along, trying to find a foothold somewhere….ANYWHERE in this world. I trusted, and I trusted, and I trusted, that in doing what God was guiding me to do, all my needs would be met and my soul’s purpose fulfilled.

But, in this writing, I find that I am still standing alone in the wilderness – starving, thirsty, wondering “what the hell am I doing out here?” While there was energy once in trusting, I find I have no more trusting to give and I am forced to wonder if God has simply left me out here to die.

So, I am confident in saying that it is God’s fault that I no longer believe in him and I have no shame in admitting my unbelief. God did this. God tempted me with these gifts, led me on the path of my call and then God took it all away. And then, when I sought God’s guidance and followed the path of my Soul, I find that still, I am left with nothing – alone and afraid. Yes, I have my friends and my family and for their support I am grateful. Yes, I have my clients and students and for them I am grateful too. But, I no longer have the one Source of support I always thought I could rely on – and that support is God.

So God, if you are out there listening, and if you want me to believe in you…..then it is your turn to show up. I’ve done all that I can do. I’ve tried to hear your voice. I’ve tried to follow your guidance. I’ve been obedient to what you have shown me. And still, there is nothing. So, in this moment, I’m kind of done with you. If you want me to believe – truly believe – then it is YOUR TURN to show up. And you’d better MAKE IT BIG and you’d better do it quick because….YOU OWE ME for what you have put me through and for what I have put up with all “in your name.”

(and for those who have also stopped believing in God, know that you are not alone!)

Posted in Authentic Freedom Academy, church, Jesus, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation, Uncategorized

Beyond Church Part 2 – What People Really Need

Somewhere around 1995, I was hired by the local Catholic Campus Ministry (Newman Center) to implement and facilitate a program for adults joining the Catholic faith. Developing the curriculum and facilitating this program proved to me what I was already beginning to understand about what people REALLY need when it comes to matters of the Spirit and inspired within me a desire to be part of something that gives people what they REALLY need.

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Let’s start with what people DON’T need:

We do not need to be forgiven. If we believe what Jesus taught and what early theologians say about the meaning behind Jesus’ death and resurrection – we have already been forgiven (not that there was anything to forgive in the first place…but that’s a whole other blog post). Yes, we need to be open to an ongoing process of forgiveness – forgiving each other 70 times 7 times, and we need to be open to the grace of forgiveness over our own non-loving acts (freedom from the shame we feel, release from our resentments and reconciliation with those we’ve harmed). But if God loves us without condition, then simply by our desire to be healed of the brokenness we feel within ourselves and the hurt we may have caused others, we are already forgiven.

We do not need to be saved. If Jesus died and rose from the dead to save us and if this has already been done, what more saving is needed? If there’s anything we need saving from, however, it is ourselves – from all fear that arises out of the false perception of separation which then cause the non-loving acts we commit against ourselves and others.

Nothing needs to be earned. If God loves us without condition as Jesus taught then there is nothing to earn and nothing to be taken away. God loves us – PERIOD. More pointedly, if we believe in the truth that Jesus died for (Oneness with God), then there is really nothing to earn. God is love. We are one with God. Therefore, we are love. Period! We don’t have to earn our way into heaven and heaven will not be denied us. It is heaven on earth that Jesus was concerned about and this is the legacy he left behind.

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If it is true that we do not need to be saved or forgiven and nothing needs to be earned, then what role and purpose is there for church? Of course there is a place for Church (religion) in the world – first as an outward cultural expression of spirituality; and as a cultural way to formulate and enforce what the culture agrees to be acceptable behaviors between human beings. Church is also a way to express our human need to be culturally connected (ie. Find our tribe). And church is important for those who believe they need to be saved or forgiven and who believe heaven is something they have to earn.

Whereas churches can provide a great container for cultural norms, and offers to some a sense of belonging and others with comfort for their own inner shame or sense of unworthiness, I would argue that there are deeper needs that most models of church are failing to address. In my own journey and in providing ministerial support for over 20 years, beginning with the program for adults joining the Catholic Church, here is what I have observed to be these deeper needs.

People need to know they are loved.
People need to feel safe.
People need to know they matter – that their unique personhood is of value.
People need a life which has meaning and purpose.
People need unconditional loving support.
People need connection (to feel they belong).

To these I would add one additional need that is unique and specific to the modern world in which we are living – a world that becomes more and more global every day and which is being decimated by our misplaced need to be right and to have dominance over the earth and over another:
We need to be freed of the ignorance, fear and false perceptions that cause us to separate ourselves from the earth and from one another. We need to know we are One within ourselves, One with the earth, and One with each other (and ultimately ONE with God).

Authentic Freedom Academy, through our programs, services, writing and publishing, seeks to help people find the fulfillment of these deeper needs – for the sake of the individuals and ultimately in support of the betterment of our world. Find out how by exploring our website or contacting Lauri Ann Lumby (920) 230-1313 or lauri@authenticfreedom.love .

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Posted in Authentic Freedom Academy, church, Jesus, Raised Catholic

Beyond Church Part 1

For twenty-some years, I have been hounded by the vision of a different (original) way of doing church.  I was inspired by my personal experiences with small faith communities, contemplative prayer and authentic spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation).  All of these experiences proved to me that for many people, (42.7 million non-practicing Catholics for example) “pay, pray and obey” is simply not enough.  Many people are not content to simply show up on Sunday morning so as to fulfill their Sunday obligation and receive their “get out of hell free card.”   In short, people are simply too smart to buy into this reward/punishment model of church, especially when what they often see are grotesque examples of hypocrisy in those bludgeoning them with threats of eternal damnation – most especially when these threats of hell are coming out of the same mouth that just preached on the unconditional love of God.

Instead, what I have envisioned and held in my heart for the past twenty years is something more akin to what Jesus seemed to have done.

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First – He prayed.  He meditated.  He spent time in contemplation with that which he called Abwoon (sometimes translated as Father but is really beyond gender or image).  HERE was his source of peace, clarity, guidance, healing, comfort, transformation and love.

Second – He uncompromisingly obeyed the guidance he discovered in his time in contemplation, even when it meant disobeying the perceived authorities (religious and civil) of his time and/or going against societal norms.

Third – He shared with others what he discovered in his time of contemplation and prayer. Mostly what he shared was LOVE.  In his time with Abwoon, Jesus discovered an expansive, unconditional, uplifting, empowering Source of love – a love that conquered fear, that healed wounds, that pierced the veil of judgment and false perceptions.

Fourth– He taught others to do what he learned to do and in the learning, they too found healing, transformation, contentment, joy, peace and a sense of fulfillment.

This is what Jesus did…..PERIOD.  He never formed a church.  He did not set out to create a new religion.  He established no doctrine.  And the rituals he enacted were all traditional aspects of his Jewish faith.  One might say that what truly set Jesus apart was that he lived his Jewish faith to the fullest extent possible based on what he saw as the pillars of his faith – the simple commandments to love God and love neighbor –  and in doing so….he changed the world.

I must admit that my vision of something beyond church is for nothing less than this – to do what Jesus did and in doing so, to help change the world.

To learn more about upcoming “beyond church” offerings at Authentic Freedom Academy click on the links below:

Sunday Service

Authentic Freedom Mastery Course

Superhero Gatherings

 

 

Posted in church, Jesus, Raised Catholic

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

A letter I sent to Pope Francis in yesterday’s mail.  I hope he reads it. 

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April 13, 2015

His Holiness Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City

 

Most Holy Father,

I am writing to you with profound gratitude for the work you are doing to return the Church to its original foundation in Jesus’ message of compassion, mercy and love.  Your presence and your actions give me hope for the future of our Church.

I write this because I am included in the second-largest religious denomination in the United States – a denomination made up of 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics (PEW Research).  While I still call myself Catholic and honor with profound gratitude my Catholic upbringing and the many things I love about the Catholic Church, eight years ago I made the decision to “fast from the Eucharist.”  I have enclosed an essay (HERE) which explains the whys and the hows of this decision.  This decision was made after many years of careful discernment and a decision I believe was guided by God, so that I could be obedient to the fullness of God’s call for me.

I share this essay with you because I know that I am not alone in my experience of feeling no longer welcome or at home in the Catholic Church.  I believe my essay reflects the many reasons others have left.  I find that my ministry has been to these women and men. Above all else, these people are longing to be healed of the false perception of separation between themselves and God (love). My work, firmly rooted in scripture and Ignatian Spirituality, meets this need, and I am both humbled and grateful to have been given the gifts along with the call to meet these needs. I believe this is the work Jesus did and the work he calls us all to do.

Most Holy Father, I am grateful for the way in which you have turned your ears and your heart toward those crying out for God’s unconditional love and mercy.  I believe this was the focus of Jesus’ ministry, the call he imparted upon his disciples, and the call he extends to us all.  I am happy to see the Church returning to its foundation in compassion and it is my hope that all those who once felt separated may once again find the Church to be an unconditionally loving and safe place to be the person God is calling them to be.

Yours in Christ,

 

Lauri Ann Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

www.yourspiritualtruth.com

lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

(920) 230-1313