Posted in Spiritual Direction

Do Not Fear the Darkness of Life

It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, but is instead the ability to move forward in spite of our fear. THIS is the lesson and meaning of life and what Jesus came to teach us.  This courage is what we commemorate and give honor to in our Good Friday observance and what we are invited to embrace in our own lives.  Whether we profess Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, the Buddha, Amma, Anandamayima, the 13 Grandmothers, Spider Woman, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene or any other formerly living human as our teacher, the lesson is the same:

Do not fear the darkness of life. Instead, let it lead you to freedom.

In every spiritual tradition, the invitation is the same – FREEDOM. Some describe this freedom as salvation.  Others speak of it as presence, bliss, oneness, unity, peace, or love.  No matter what word is used to describe this freedom, the sentiment is the same.  We are here to remember the freedom we once knew and will once again know and we are here to remember this freedom right here in the midst of our human experience.

Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of my favorite scenes from the life of Jesus.  Here he wrestled with his doubts and his fears.  Because of his foresight and wisdom, he had a sense of where his path was heading.  He knew there were those threatened by his presence and that if people truly believed what Jesus had come to know, many would lose their perceived place of power and privilege.  Jesus knew they plotted to kill him.  He was afraid.  Terrified.  And in this, he wondered if God really had his back.  Had he simply made it all up or was what had been revealed to him really true?  Jesus fought hard with these fears and doubts.  He was tempted to chuck it all and return to a normal human life.  Instead, through the agony of prayer, he found peace.  He discovered resolve.  He harnessed the deep well of courage within him to face his greatest fears – suffering and death.

But Jesus’ struggle didn’t end in the Garden. His fears surfaced over and over and over as he took one step at a time on the road to Calvary.  When accused.  While on trial.  When he was whipped and beaten.  When the soldiers placed the crown of throne on his head.  When we was given the cross to carry through the city of Jerusalem and up the winding road to Golgotha.  As people mocked and ridiculed him, spit on him, called his names.  When he fell.  When he stumbled.  Every step of the way rose up another fear.  Jesus did not overcome his fears, he walked through them. He faced them.  He bore them.  And he walked.  One step at a time.  As the executioners nailed his body to the cross.  As the cross was lifted and his body sunk under its own weight, crushing his lungs.  Terrified.  Feeling abandoned and betrayed.  Suffering the excruciating death of crucifixion.  Jesus was afraid.  In pain.  Suffering.  In his suffering he turned to God and this is where he found his courage.  Where he found his acceptance and peace.

Hopefully none of us will have to face the death of crucifixion, but fear, suffering, and death are all consequences of the human condition. We cannot escape it.  We will all experience suffering.  We will all face challenge and difficulty.  We will all experience loss, betrayal, and death.  This is the human condition and this is why the Jesus story is so important – for all of us.  In the crucifixion narrative and the events leading up to it, Jesus shows us how to face the darkness of life.  He shows us how to find our way through our fears (he never promises the elimination of fear) and most importantly, how to walk on in spite of our fears.

 

What darkness are you currently facing?

How are you being invited to be with your fears and in being with them finding the courage to walk on?

 

Authentic Freedom is a protocol inspired by Jesus which shows us how to face and move through our fears in our own journey toward freedom.  Learn more HERE.

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 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.