Posted in About Lauri, church, Discernment, Freedom, Healing, Jesus, Raised Catholic

Good Friday – The Church Who Turned Away

As we commemorate the trial, suffering and death of Jesus at the hands of two institutions who turned away from him, I find that my own “crucifixion” has resurfaced to be examined and grieved again.  I share this because I know I am not alone in having felt turned away and condemned by my Church (recovering Catholics, those raised Catholic, non-practicing Catholics).

The Church That Turned Away from Me

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.yourspiritualtruth.com.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Truth, Virtual Church

Good Friday

On this day, we commemorate the trial and death by crucifixion of our beloved, Jesus.  On this day, we remember the price he paid for standing in his truth.  I invite you today to spend time with scripture by reading the gospel account of these events, and offer a visual meditation through clips from some of my favorite Jesus movies, along with an excerpt from my yet to be released novel, Song of the Beloved – Jesus through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. 

 

From Jesus Christ Superstar:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJHCVR8vQCA

From Jesus of Nazareth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fAMDYlJgpU

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Some music to accompany your reading:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePe0XyJwdJE

In the words of Mary Magdalene:

As Jesus released his final breath, my resolve gave way and the grief and horror that I had contained erupted into wailing and screaming. I tore at my hair and at my garments wanting to be freed of anything that might stand in the way of release.

It was finished. Jesus was dead. As we poured out our grief, some of the Roman soldiers who had been moved by Jesus’ love drew toward us, knelt on the ground and offered their own prayers.  I, in turn, was moved by their compassion and in awe over the ability of Jesus’ love to transcend even the perceived separations of culture, belief and rank. Lazarus, Martha, Judas, Nicodemus, Joanna and Mary’s brother Joseph who had joined them after the noon hour soon joined us at the top of the hill. After a time, the commanding officer came and said, “We must take him down from the cross so you have time to entomb him before the sun sets. We nodded in our assent.

We stood in silence as the soldiers worked together to remove Jesus from the instrument of his torture and death. They removed the spikes from his feet, and then lowered the crossbar as Joseph, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Judas and John bore the weight of his lifeless body. They laid him out on the ground as they removed the spikes from his wrists and the crown of thorns from his head. The men gathered about Jesus’ lifeless body as Mother Mary and I laid out the red cloak – the only thing we had in which to wrap his body. As they laid his body upon the cloak, I fell upon him, wrapping myself around his lifeless body. I held him to my heart as I cried and I rocked him as I would a child. My heart was broken, my soul torn in two. But as I held him to me, I was more and more certain that this body had been just a shell and that my beloved, no longer dwelled within it. And I heard my beloved’s voice as I had all those many times before, ‘Mary, do not be afraid. I am with you always, even to the end of time.” These words gave me the strength I needed to release his body. I stepped back and allowed the men to gather him up to be carried to the place of his entombment.

During the evening and into the morning, Joseph had accomplished the preparations for Jesus’ burial. First he returned to Bethany to retrieve the burial nard that had been set aside for Martha’s dowry, along with the burial cloths that were all housed in the wedding chest beneath her bed. He located a humble tomb near Jerusalem since their family tomb was several days’ journey to Capernaum. The tomb he had procured was in the potter’s field just outside the city walls in the hillside caves usually reserved for the poor. We took up Jesus’ beaten, broken and lifeless body and walked in procession the short distance to the potter’s field intoning the Kaddish, the Hebrew song of mourning. Three Roman soldiers followed us at a respectful distance, having been ordered to see that Jesus was properly buried and to stand guard at the tomb until three days had passed. The High Priests wanted to make sure that no one was able to fake a resurrection, thereby confirming Jesus’ prediction that he would be raised from the dead. We arrived at the tomb, a small cave hollowed out in the limestone. The space was large enough for us to enter and stand upright. The men lay Jesus upon the floor of the cave while Mother Mary and I prepared the burial cloths. The burial cloths were strips of linen which we first covered in the burial nard – a mixture of resin, oils and spices which were to mask the stench of death while deterring insects, vermin and other animals from feasting on our dead. We soaked each strip and carefully bound his body from foot to head. A separate cloth was used for the head which we first covered in nard, then draped over his face from neck to crown, then over the back of his head to his shoulders. This was wrapped in strips of linen as the rest of the body had been. After his body was anointed and bound, we said our final prayers, our individual goodbyes and departed the tomb.

I waited outside the tomb as John, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Joseph and Judas, along with three of the Roman soldiers rolled the stone in front of the tomb. Mary, Martha, Salome and I held each other as we waited. After the tomb was safely sealed, the men returned to us, John holding in his arms, Jesus’ scarlet cloak. He came toward me and gently laid it into my arms. I wept at his thoughtful generosity. We said our goodbyes as Mary, Judas, Joseph and John turned toward Jerusalem to deliver the news to the Galilean disciples waiting in the Upper Room. Lazarus, Salome, Martha and I turned toward the road to Bethany. As we turned toward home, I heard my beloved’s voice for what I was sure would be the final time, “Mary I am with you always, even unto the end of time.” This time, I found no comfort in these words, only the finality of death.

copyright Lauri Ann Lumby

 

Posted in church, Death, guilt, Jesus, Oneness with God, Raised Catholic, sin, Truth

Re-Framing Jesus’ Death

Jesus died for our sins?

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week.  On this day, Passion Sunday, we reflect on Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, juxtaposed against the heightened tension around his teachings, his eventual trial and death by crucifixion. Having been raised Catholic, this was the time of year when we were vigorously reminded that, “Jesus died for our sins,” as we stood with heads bowed, striking our breasts in self-flagellation while chanting mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Jesus was portrayed as the sacrificial lamb that was sent here to be slaughtered in reparation for our sins.  While I have found personal comfort in praying with Jesus through his trial, crucifixion and death (allowing myself to experience the reality of Jesus’ suffering, thereby finding in him a companion in my humanness) I cannot reconcile the God of love that I have come to know with a god who would send his own son to die.

Was it really necessary?

While I acknowledge that the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and eventual ascension ushered in a dramatic shift in the spiritual evolution of our planet, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if humanity hadn’t gotten in the way of the amazing message Jesus came to reveal.  It seems to me that Jesus could have been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven without the violence of the crucifixion.  Jesus crucifixion seems wrong, untimely and unnecessary.  While God revealed a higher good in Jesus’ untimely death, I have a hard time believing it was really part of God’s plan. I often wonder if God thought, “Darn it, they missed the point again!  I send them prophet after prophet after prophet to help them understand how much they are loved and instead of receiving my love, they turn against my prophets in fear! When will they learn?” As a result of these quandaries, I have a really hard time upholding the idea that Jesus died for our sins – at least not in the way it was presented to me growing up.   Instead, I have come to approach Jesus’ cruel death by crucifixion from another perspective.

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Another Perspective.

The turning point for me was diligent prayer and meditation on John’s gospel, and at least a million viewings or listenings of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEzEROSj11Q

In Jesus Christ Superstar, in the scene of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, we hear the following exchange:

Pilate:  Then you are a king?

Jesus:  It’s you that say I am.  I look for truth and find that I get damned.

Pilate: But what is truth?  Is truth unchanging law?  We both have truths.  Are mine the same as yours?

In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals the truth that he proclaims will set us free (John 8: 32) – the truth that he came to know within himself and the truth he lived by and tried to share with others.   Jesus came to know the truth of his Oneness with God in love (John 17: 17-23). Through this Oneness, Jesus found the remedy to the fears that are the cause of our sinful behaviors and the path toward our spiritual freedom.  This is the “I Am” truth that Jesus discovered.  This was the truth he tried to help others understand. Knowing, cultivating and embracing this truth is what saves us from the fears that are the ultimate cause of our sins.  So, yes, we can say that Jesus died for our sins, but not as a consequence of our sins, but for the sake of the truth that will heal us from our sin.

The Truth that kills

This truth that Jesus believed, the truth in his Oneness with God, is a dangerous truth.  It is because of this truth that Jesus was killed because it is a truth that seriously threatened the religious and political authorities of his time. If people find the God within and find peace in their Oneness with God and are no longer controlled by their fears, how will the outside perceived political and religious authorities be able to control and manipulate them? If people have found their Oneness with God, then what need do they have for an institution to intervene with a fickle god on their behalf?  If we are truly One with God in love, then what need do we have of the sacrifices and observances that have been put in place to appease an angry God or earn our way back into God’s good graces?  Jesus came to know and taught of a God that loves without condition – who loves us without merit and whose love does not have to be earned, neither can it be denied.  And to the religious and political authorities, a people who believed in their inherent goodness, who knew they were loved beyond measure and who could reason, discern and exercise truth for themselves, was a dangerous lot. It was ultimately his insistence in this truth that got Jesus killed, the truth that frees us from our sin.  As such, I prefer not to say that Jesus died for our sins. Instead, I prefer to acknowledge that Jesus died for the truth.

How would your life change if you believed that you were One with God in love?

How would your life be altered if you believed in your inherent goodness and that you are not only loved without condition, but that you are love itself?

How might your Holy Week observance change if you saw Jesus’ death as a consequence of standing in the truth of love instead of in reparation for sin?

 

Posted in Virtual Church

Virtual Church Service – Holy Week Retreat

This coming Sunday, April 13, 2014, marks the beginning of Holy Week with Passion Sunday.  During this week, we recall the final days of Jesus’ life, leading up to the observance of his death by crucifixion on Good Friday.  In preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, we pause to remember the very human Jesus who faced the pain of betrayal, the temptation of doubt and the very real human fear of suffering and death. We also have an opportunity to witness the tools that Jesus used to help him continue through the worst of human experiences, and to learn through his example. Holy Week is a terrific time to remember Jesus as an example of what it means to be fully human so that we can grow in our ability and comfort with our own humanness. 

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In the spirit of Holy Week, instead of offering a traditional service, I have created a Holy Week Retreat experience.  I am inviting you to set aside 1-2 hours this week to enter into your own Holy Week Retreat using the resources provided on the Weekly Service page. Please go to the “Weekly Service” page HERE for your video instructions and appropriate links in support of your retreat.  You may wish to divide the experience into two or three parts:

1) scripture reading

2) music meditation activity

3) processing the above meditation through journaling, etc.

I hope you find this retreat experience rewarding and an appropriate way to prepare for the celebration of Easter.

Remember, if you find these services helpful and supportive of your spiritual journey and inner growth, consider supporting Authentic Freedom Ministries through a financial donation. 

Posted in Lessons, Ponderings

Embracing the Wisdom of the Cross

As we move along the path of spiritual growth, we are invited to embrace a life of balance.  The symbol of the cross can be a reminder of that invitation, no matter what our religion or spiritual beliefs.

 

 

Consulting Higher Wisdom

This past weekend, as I was sitting in my respective corner and the kids’ were hiding in theirs (after a week of frenetic travel and activities), I decided it was as good a time as any to consult some higher wisdom.  I pulled out my spiritual wisdom cards and drew six from the deck for insight.  The foundational card that was placed in the center of the spread was the card for “Creative and Spiritual Passion.”  The next card, placed on top of the first card was the card for meditation and retreat.  I then placed four other cards  – two, horizontally on either side of the first two cards and two vertically, one above and one below the center cards.  Interestingly, both horizontal cards also represented meditation, reflection and retreat.  The two vertical cards, like the foundational card, represented creative passion, along with the final reminder that in order for work to be fulfilling, it must also reflect a spiritual motivation.  When I looked at the cards as a complete message, it was a terrific reminder to balance the spiritual with the material aspects of my life.  HMMMM   I think there might be a universal message here!

Maintaining a Balance

The universal message here is BALANCE.  For me, balance means that I maintain the spiritual practices that sustain me (meditation, journalling, yoga, contemplation, prayer, chant), cultivate the creative practices that feed me (in some ways, literally), nurture the relationships that enliven me (with family, friends, and in work), and allow time for work and for play.  In a more general sense, it is about the balance of the spiritual (the being) and the material (the doing).  I do not believe it is a coincidence that this message revealed itself to me in the shape of the cross.  I believe it is this message of balance that is the ultimate meaning of the cross, and a message that can transcend spiritual beliefs and religious practice.  Even saying this, I can feel the collective hair standing up on the back of readers’ necks (for a wide variety of reasons).  Before you get your undies in a bundle over this idea…let me further explain! 

 

My Own Journey with the Cross

Growing up Catholic, the cross was one of the central symbols that infused my life.  The cross, in the form of a crucifix, hung in every room of our home.  All four of Lumby kids received a crucifix as a First Communion present, along with a rosary, with a cross in the form of a crucifix hanging from the end of the string of beads.  Every classroom at St. Alphonsus elementary school had a crucifix hanging on the wall and every morning, we stood up at our desks, said the Pledge of Allegiance, then turned to the crucifix, hung our heads in prayer, made the sign of the cross and recited our morning prayers, sealing the deal with another sign of the cross.  I think you get the picture – the CROSS was it, specifically, the cross in a form of a crucifix on which hung the bloody, crucified body of Jesus.  The preponderance of this image spoke of the theology we were expected to embrace – a theology focused on the suffering and death of Jesus.  “Jesus died for our sins.”  While there is a deep truth behind this kind of theology, the human Jesus and more importantly, the resurrected Christ sometimes got lost in all those mea culpas! 

 

A Cross beyond the Suffering

While I can appreciate the image of the cross as crucifix as a reminder of Jesus’ suffering and death, the cross can be so much more than that.   As my wisdom cards reminded me, the cross is ultimately a symbol that represents balance and was in fact, utilized in this way by people and cultures who far-preceded Christianity.  For example, the Celtic people (from whom my gene pool originates), used the cross as a symbol of balance and as a reminder of the wheel of change and the cycle of the seasons of the earth.  The cross was a spiritual as well as a material symbol.  It reminded the Celtic people of the higher spiritual consciousness that governed the cycles of material birth, growth, death and rebirth.  Like the Christians after them, the Celtic people embraced the cross as a symbol of death, but more importantly it was a symbol that invited balance and promised new life.  It was a reminder that our human life must contain a balance, like the earth, between seasons of planting and harvest (doing) and seasons of lying fallow (being).  It is this message of the cross – about balance and wholeness that transcends our spiritual beliefs and religious practices and can become a universal message for all to embrace.   (ok, you can breathe now!) 😉

How are you balancing the material (doing) and the spiritual (the being) aspects of your life?

Where are you being invited to explore a more healthy balance in your life?

How is your spiritual life informing your material life?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com