Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Where Have All the Catholics Gone? Part II

Today’s blog continues the discussion about the 42.7 million people who still identify themselves as Catholic, yet no longer participate in the Church.  Today’s discussion explores where they might be and includes those who were raised Catholic but no longer identify themselves as such.  PS  I’m probably going to get a little “up in my ego” on this one……so I acknowledge this ahead of time.  I’m still human afterall.  🙂 

Why They Left and Where They Went

The last two blogs explored the why’s of the Catholic exodus:  change in priest, Church teachings, bad liturgy, sex abuse scandals, told they weren’t welcome, etc.  Today I will share with you my theories on where the Catholics went.

Evangelical, Congregational and Unitarian Churches

It has been my observation that when Catholics leave, they don’t normally trade Catholicism for something that looks similar such as Anglican, Lutheran or Methodist.  While I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, Catholics who are liturgy inclined, are more likely to seek out a worship experience different from what they have known.  For those who are in search of vibrant worship, uplifting music, motivational preaching and who want to know more about scripture, they might find themselves drawn to Evangelical and Non-Denominational Christian churches.  The Congregational Churches draw the Catholics looking for community.  And for those Catholics who are kind of done with the whole “God” thing, and are looking for something more embracing of all practices and beliefs, the Unitarian church might do it for them.

If You Want to Learn More About Scripture and how to Know Yourself and God through Scripture, click HERE. 

Wicca/Neo-Pagan

Did you just fall out of your chair?  It is really true……the majority of people I know who are currently practicing Wicca were raised Catholic.  And if you know anything about Wicca, it is an easy transition from Catholicism to Wicca for many reasons, not the least of which is polytheism.  As much as the Institution would quake in its shoes to hear me say this, Catholicism is about as polytheistic as it gets.  No, the teachings and theology of the Catholic Church are not polytheistic – professing One God (oops….in three!).  🙂  But let’s get real, in practice, Catholics worship many “gods”.  Yes, these “gods” are cleverly disguised as “Mary and the Saints” but who do we think we are fooling?  I know, I know, we aren’t worshipping Mary and the Saints and we really do only believe in ONE God, but our practice of honoring the Communion of Saints and having altars to our favorite saints, wearing their medals, hanging their pictures in our home,  saying novenas to them, etc. etc. etc. is no different than the practices we judge as polytheistic from our Wicca or Hindu or Pagan brothers and sisters.  So let’s pull the splinter of the true cross out of our eye before we yank the broomstick out of our Wicca brother and sister’s eyes.  The other reasons Catholics gravitate toward Wicca are rituals and sabbats.  Wicca rituals look a lot like ours and their holidays…..well, let’s just be really honest here and admit that we stole our holidays from THEM!  Check your history books if you don’t believe me!

Buddhism

For many Catholics, their true heart resides in contemplation.  The problem is, they don’t know it and the Church hasn’t done a good job of helping them identify or find this within their own faith.  So…….for many of these Catholics, the restlessness that drives all of us to our truth, causes them to seek the remedy to this restlessness and for many, instead of finding the remedy within the rich tradition of Christian Contemplation, find it in the contemplative practices and philosophies of Buddhism.  Here, they find the DIRECT EXPERIENCE of God, (known in peace, contentment, love and joy)  that they found elusive in their experience of Catholicism.  Buddhism is also an easy resting place for those who have had trouble with the negative images of God sometimes propogated by the Church.  In Buddhism, there is no sense of a “personal” God.  Instead, it is described as Essence or Presence – something transcendent, but not separate from us, something that is part of us and it our truest self, highest self, truest nature.  HMMMMM…..sounds a little like Jesus’ teachings on Oneness.  🙂

If You are Interested in Learning More About Christian Contemplation and Jesus’ Teachings on Oneness, click HERE. 

Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong

One HUGE thing that has been neglected in Catholicism is the spiritual nature of our physical bodies.  Our bodies house our Spirit and are therefore sacred, holy, amazing.  In its attempt to demonize physicality, the body has all but been neglected or worse yet, effectively destroyed.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, Dance, SEX, allow us to rediscover the intimate relationship between physical movement and God.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, etc. allow Catholics to fill an ENORMOUS gap in their religious/spiritual experience.  Sadly, the Institution hasn’t been very supportive of these practices and in some cases have tried to dissuade Catholics from participating. If you have found yoga to be supportive in your search for inner peace and your priest tells you it is evil, how are you going to respond?  Hmmmm…..I’m thinking some might decide to leave, especially if their experience of Church isn’t providing them with the same kind of spiritual fulfillment.  Just sayin’!

New Age Groups, gatherings, on-line communities

Several years ago the Vatican published a document on the New Age Movement.  In short, they don’t like it and in the document condemn many of what they are calling “New Age” practices (Eastern meditation practices, hands-on healing, yoga, meditation, among other things).   The New Age Movement is drawing many Catholics away from the Church because it meets the needs that are not being met in the Church.  DUH!  And this is where I get to do a little of my own pontificating……What would happen if instead of condemning the New Age Movement, the Vatican took the time to explore WHAT in the New Age Movement was drawing Catholics and offer these things in their own communities.  Because I’m here to tell you that whatever we are finding in the New Age Movement exists within our Catholic Tradition.  It is just that nobody bothered to teach us and show us how we could get the very same needs met within our own Church.

If you are interested in learning more about the connection between “new age” energy medicine and Jesus, click HERE

Isolated and Alone

This is the group of non-practicing Catholics for whom I feel the deepest level of grief.  These are the folks who were told they weren’t welcome or felt as if they were not accepted by their Church and who have been unable (or unwilling) to find supportive and accepting community elsewhere.  So, they sit home, alone and unfed.  This makes me sad.

If you were raised Catholic and no longer attend mass, why not?

What spiritual and communal needs are you finding satisfied outside the Catholic Church and where are you finding them met?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Agape Project, church, Mary Magdalene, Raised Catholic

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part VII

Today’s blog explores the gifts of both the Institutional/orthodox Church and the mystical, contemplative, interior church that I refer to as “the church of the Magdalene.” 

Continuing Yesterday’s Discussion

Apparently yesterday’s blog stirred the ire of some readers.  I will say it again, I am sorry if any readers took yesterday’s blog personally or thought I was shaking the finger of judgment at them.  As a Perfectionist/Reformer (on the Enneagram), I am predisposed to see the world through the lens of “How can this be better?” and in my professional life, the common target of this question is the Institution of the Roman Catholic Church.  Not because I hate it, mind you, but because I love it!  I want my church to be a place where all people feel welcome, accepted, loved and honored for who they are.  I am saddened when the very human Institution falls short of this hope.

Room for Orthodoxy

The Catholic Church as an Institution has stood strong and proud for 2000 some years and serves a very important role in the spiritual and religious experiences and beliefs of its members.  The Church as an Institution creates form, structure, predictability, unity of belief and practice.  You can go anywhere in the world, attend a Catholic mass and be able to participate.  There is great gift in this form and structure as it can create a sense of security and safety in an often unpredictable world.  We know where the Church stands on matters of morality, politics, and matters of social justice.  We also know the chain of command and our role within that chain.  The Institution of the Church creates order and for many people, this is important and necessary.  The Institution also provides sound instruction in what members are expected to believe and how they are expected to act.  Again, very important resources for many people.  The Church also provides a sense of belonging.  For those who qualify as “Catholic in good standing,” you know that you are accepted, you belong, you have a home and a community that you can turn to for comfort, support, guidance.  These are all good things that feed and nurture many.

The Mystical Church

Here is where it gets messy…..especially for some.  The Mystical/Contemplative church is pretty much the complete opposite from what is listed above.  Instead of creating order, it stirs up chaos.  Instead of offering rules, doctrine, strict guidelines, it invites us into our own personal discernement were we are called to discover God’s truth for us on our own (or with the help of a Spiritual Director).  The black and white rules of orthodoxy are replaced with the grey matter of relativity….the only absolute truth being God….or whatever we want to call that.  Instead of offering strict rubrics for worship and ritual, the Mystical church invites us to create our own.  Rote repetitive prayer is expanded to include imagination, dreams, writing, inviting us into a deeply personal and intimate dialogue with God.  In the Mystical church, instead of following the chain of command,  we are invited to take it “straight to the top”, by-passing the human element and going directly to God.  The final authority in the Mystical church is God, rather than the pope, cardinals and bishops.  The Mystical church belongs to all of humanity and there is no separation by religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  All paths lead to God and all paths are honored as sacred.  In the Mystical church, decisions are made through prayer, careful discernment, collaboration and concensus.  Leadership looks more like a circle than a straight line.  Can you see how this might not be for some…..even many?

The Church in a Perfect World (as defined by Lauri Lumby)

In a perfect world (at least according to me) there would be room for both expressions of the Christian experience.  The Orthodox and Mystical churches would co-exist side by side in peaceful harmony and collaboration.  Leaders and members would be formed and educated through both sound spiritual formation (Who am I?  Whose am I?  What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?) as well as religious formation (rites and rituals, dogma and doctrine, theology, scriptural exegesis, church history, the study of church documents, canon law, etc.). Spiritual formation would inform religious formation and visa versa.  Men, women, lay and ordained would all be included in this formation and leadership would be determined by the individuals’ specific charisms, not their gender.  Ordination might be more broad…..perhaps all would be ordained to their specific call in the world and in the Church.  Contemplation would be honored along side traditional forms of prayer.   Religious dogma would be tested against discernment and the call to compassion.  Primacy of Conscience would be valued in areas of morality with the final authority resting with God.  Worship would include some wiggle room….room for interpretation of worship to expand beyond the strict rubrics of the Roman liturgy.  I know, crazy, right?

Not in my lifetime

I realize that this vision of “the perfect Church”  will most likely NOT be made manifest in my lifetime…if ever.  And I have stopped beating my head against the wall of the Institution hoping they will hear the call to be open to the Mystical expression.  And perhaps I am just a voice calling out in the wilderness….but I know there are people who resonate more clearly with the Mystical expression and hunger for its nourishment.  So, here I am, offering it to those who would have it.    In the spirit of this offering, I just wanted to remind you of the March 15th launch of the Agape’ Project – a subscription based newsletter that will give those who want it, tools for sound spiritual formation through scripture, meditation and contemplation exercises and educational materials that help us to grow in our understanding of what the scripture writers might have been trying to say.  The newsletter is the culmination of my own 20 years of devoted prayer and contemplation, study and practice and I am humbled and honored to offer these tools in the hopes of helping others know the depth of love that arises out of the use of these kinds of tools.  Going back to the mission of Authentic Freedom Ministries, to help you:  Remember the Love That You Are!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

 

Posted in church, Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Practices

Manifesting a Vision

In today’s blog, we explore the topic of “Contemplative Worship” and “Contemplative Community” as a complement to our traditional western forms of worship and church.

Coming to Fruition

On Sunday, January 8, 2012, Authentic Freedom Ministries will start offering a Sunday worship service, manifesting a vision that has been nearly 20 years in the making.  What will set these worship services apart from traditional worship is that it will be rooted in sound spiritual formation and focused on the contemplative journey of the individuals in attendance.  In other words, those who participate will not be told about God, they will not be told what to believe based on someone else’s experience of the Divine, or by an institution’s dogma or doctrine, instead, they will be given tools through which they can come to KNOW God – to know God in a deeply intimate and personal way that is unique to their own life experience and to their own unique giftedness and call.  They will be empowered to know the Divine that resides within their own hearts as the source of Truth, Guidance, Comfort, Healing, Love, Compassion, Peace, Joy, Mercy, Justice and Empowerment.  In coming to KNOW the Divine that lives within, we are healed of the fears and false perceptions that prevent us from remembering love…specifically, the love that we are.  When we remember this love, we are free to know peace and joy and to discover, cultivate and share our own unique giftedness so that we can experience the fulfillment that is intended to be known in the human journey.

Speaking of Love

After years of trying to figure out how to describe the work and the ministries that I offer, it seems I have found the words.  My job, the work that I do, is all directed toward helping my clients, students, readers, etc.   REMEMBER THE LOVE THAT YOU ARE.  And it turns out that it is through sound spiritual formation, combined with contemplative practices that we remember this love.  This is another one of those things that will set apart the worship, along with the expanded offerings of spiritual formation (more on that later).  Departing from the Western model of religious formation that begins with the idea that there is something inherently wrong with us (ie: original sin), and that there is a formula by which we strive to re-earn God’s love and approval so that we can know eternity in heaven, we discover instead that there is NOTHING WRONG with us.  In fact, EVERYTHING about us is good, benevolent, loving, kind, peaceful and filled with joy.  The problem is not that we “sinned” –  but that we forgot.  Through sound spiritual formation and engagement in contemplative spiritual practices, we REMEMBER  We are inspired (like Jesus and other spiritual masters) to identify the fears that keep us from remembering this love, we allow these fears to be healed and we are restored to the recollection of our natural state which is love.  From this perspective, we don’t follow the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes just because we are told to do so, instead, a virtuous life flows effortlessly and naturally out of the knowledge that we are love.  Rosaries are said because they help our minds quiet so that we can connect with God, not to earn indulgences that will buy our way out of purgatory.  Service is done because love naturally flows outward….not because we are expected to do “Good works” to earn God’s favor.  Providing a foundation of spiritual formation that encourages contemplative practice allows the human spirit to blossom into the fullness of its natural magnificence….AND we come to know heaven on earth.

A Word on Traditional Worship

“In this model, is there still a place for traditional worship?” you may ask.  In a nutshell….you bet!  As I observed while working as a Lay Minister in the Catholic Church, Religious Formation (as we experience through the Catechism, study of theology, scripture, etc. and in attending the mass) is necessary for those who choose a specific set of beliefs and desire to live that in community.  Traditional worship provides the Yang to the Yin of Spiritual Formation.  Traditional worship gives us form, structure, ritual that allows us to live our beliefs in a public forum.  In my opinion, the healthiest, most balanced of religious institutions would provide equal opportunities for both.  Unfortunately, most Western religious institutions aren’t there yet, hence the vision and ministry of Authentic Freedom Ministries – providing opportunities for men, women and children to balance the religions of the mind with the Divine in their heart.

Where have you been given opportunities to KNOW not just about God but to actually KNOW God in your heart?

Where have you learned and explored opportunities for contemplative practice?

Where do you find the balance between the traditional religious experience and spiritual formation?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in church, Divine Revelation, Jesus, Raised Catholic

Religious Arrogance and the New Roman Missal

Warning:  If you are offended by challenges or questions aimed at religious authority, you might want to skip today’s blog.  Also, if you are attached to living your Catholicism to the letter of the law and consider questioning that law to be heresy, again, you might want to skip today’s blog.  Remember- I love my Catholic faith and it makes me sad when the Church does things that seem non-loving to me.

Shhhhhh….they think they are the only ones here.

There’s a really funny and potentially blasphemous story about a man who dies and is met at the gates of heaven by St. Peter.  St. Peter gives the man a tour of heaven so that he can decide where he wants to live out eternity.  The man, having never been brought up with any specific religious affiliation is amazed and intrigued by what he sees….individual rooms of people of differing beliefs, all living out their practices and beliefs.  In each room, the man finds something that appeals to him….meditation in the Buddhist room, rituals in the Hindu room, conversations in the Quaker room, prayer in the Muslim room, etc.  Then they come to the Catholic room and in the Catholic room are all the Catholics participating in the mass and saying the rosary.  The man inquires of St. Peter, “This room looks like it would be fun.  Who are these folks?”  Peter responds, “Shhhhhh…..these are the Catholics, they think they are the only ones here.”

Religious Arrogance

Now, I know I’m picking on the Catholic church in the telling of this story, because in truth, this story could be told with any specific religion as the punchline.  Religion, by its very nature tends to be about separation, pride, arrogance.  Just about every religious denomination can be accused of creating God in their own image and painting themselves into a corner of “We are better than you because…..”  (and just for the record…..I know that in even writing this blog today, I too could be accused of said arrogance.  I’m just owning that right now!)  And you know what, at the end of the day, I’m not sure if it really matters except when we use our religious arrogance to judge, condemn, harm or wage war against another in the so-called “name of our God.”  If we want to embrace differing beliefs, images, perceptions of the Divine based on our cultural and tribal customs….then so be it.  It is only when we choose to bludgeon another or make another less than ourselves that these chosen differences become problematic.

Allowing God to reveal God’s Self

One of the ways around the temptation to religious arrogance, is to allow God to reveal God’s self to us, instead of having God imposed upon us by an outside authority….or at the very least, to allow God to reveal God’s self to us and to weigh that against what might come to us through our religious affiliations and beliefs.  This is what Jesus learned and experienced in his own journey.  Jesus was raised and lived his life within the institution of Judaism.  God was defined and systemized by the religious authorities of the day, law was dictated and practices mandatory.  The God that was known was the God of Israel, the God of the chosen people.  Their God was the only God, the only right God and no one else found favor with God.  Jesus learned otherwise.  Through his prayer and his life experiences, Jesus discovered a God of compassion and a God that existed for the sake of the all.  In tomorrow’s gospel (Matthew 8: 5-11) we see Jesus live this out in his healing of the centurian’s servant.  The centurian, a Roman and an “enemy” of the Hebrew people comes to Jesus and asks Jesus to heal his slave.  Jesus is happy to oblige and offers to come to the Roman’s house to facilitate the healing.  The centurian responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.”  And it is done.  Jesus is astounded by the centurian’s faith and reminds us that, “many will come from the east and the west and will recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  In other words, “We aren’t the only ones there!”

The New Roman Missal and Lauri getting in trouble

Now, here’s where I’m going to get in trouble.  I find it ironic that this reading is featured during the very week that the Roman Church rolls out the new mass – a mass featuring the newly translated Roman Missal.  And, here I promise to keep my pontificating brief.  I have one primary issue with the new translation – The Roman Curia drawing the line in the sand and making it pretty clear through their words that they think they are the only ones in heaven.  Places where it used to say Jesus came for “all” have been changed to “many.”  Or in the Gloria where peace is only prayed for “people of good will.”  What about the rest of humanity?  I am tempted to shake my finger in self-righteousness over these potentially hurtful words….but instead I just want to cry.  The Vatican II Council tried to undo 1900 years of religious arrogance and profound abuse at the hands of the Roman Church by including all of humanity in the plan of God’s salvation and communicating that through the mass.  But even beyond what the Catholic Church may or may not do toward embracing unity, I am saddened by anything that images God as non-loving.  And perhaps this is me making God in my own image – a God that is all-loving, all-compassionate, all-embracing of all people of all beliefs and practices.  I believe in ONE GOD…..by whatever name we call it, and that God is LOVE….period.  And if I’m being arrogant in wanting to believe in a God that is love, then I guess, so be it.  Anything else would just make me sad and would be inauthentic to the God that has revealed itself in my heart.  So when I go to mass, I will hear the words of the new missal and cringe a little, while praying that the Institution of the Church will one day come to know the fullness of God’s infinite, unconditional, unifying love and that they will see that they are not the only ones there.

Where have you witnessed religious arrogance?

How has God revealed God’s self in your own heart and how does that differ from what your religion may have told you?

How can you be open to God revealing the fullness of Divine love to you?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth

Posted in church, Discernment

Coming Out of the Closet

In today’s blog, I come out of the closet in regards to the “secret” I have been discerning and where it seems God’s is calling me.  In the end, God has a sick sense of humor and is telling me it is time to GROW UP already!

Will God be the Death of Me?

On October 1st, I penned a blog entitled, God will be the Death of me, in which I shared a vision that had come to me and the journey that I was embarking upon to determine if this vision was authentically from God and therefore to be obeyed, or something out of my ego to be ignored and set aside.  Well, today, I am coming out of the closet as to the nature of that vision and what it seems to be saying to me.  The funny thing is that after posting that blog, I got a text message from one of my friends who had apparently already figured out the nature of the vision – without me offering any details.  Her text said it all, “When are you starting the new church?”  ARGH!

The Vision

In the middle of yoga practice, after stating my intention for direction and clarity and while chanting scripture in my mind (“Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you” …… and  “Let it be done to me according to your word”), I was interrupted by the following vision:  I saw an image of myself, dressed in a white robe, with a wide, red mantle hanging over my shoulders (like a stole, only wider).  I was standing behind an altar, presumably presiding over mass and before me sat a multitude of people also dressed in white, participating in this ritual.  NO NO NO I shouted at God as this vision presented itself.  “Been there (discerning priestood), Done that (participated in an off-shoot eucharistic community along with several other “alternative” projects)  NOPE NOPE NOPE  not doing it!  God, you will be the death of me. ”

And God Laughed

Now here I am, several weeks into this discernment and God is laughing at me.  “Silly girl, it is time for you to GROW UP!”  (these words came to me from God via my Spiritual Director).  And I recognize that this is true.  And….I realize that what God is calling me to is what I have already been doing.  I have been priest/ess and what I have been doing for the past 20 years is church!  God isn’t calling me to something I don’t already know or to something I haven’t already been doing.  And, God is not calling me to leave the home of my childhood(Catholicism) in search of ordination elsewhere.  In a sense, I have already been ordained and now it just might be time to actually name, claim and own who I am and what I have been doing all along.

Coming out of the Closet

So, growing up for me apparently means no longer hiding in the closet.  It seems God is calling to own my vocation as priest and my call to be church.  (NOTICE – “small c” church!!!!!).  What the details of that will mean I’m not quite sure….but there are some things about this call of which I can be sure:

  •  It will be founded upon the compassion teachings of Jesus of Nazareth
  • It will provide contemplative worship and tools for sound spiritual formation and spiritual healing
  • It will recognize that all paths lead to the same destination – recollection of the Source of compassion, contentment and joy – that which some call “God.”
  • It will be open to people of all spiritual or religious beliefs
  • It will empower people to name,claim and freely share their own unique giftedness in service to love and for the betterment of our world

Ok God, I’m listening and as I have been praying all along, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” and “I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  Time to grow up Lauri!

 

What closet is God calling you out of?

How have you resisted that call?

What tools do you need to step more fully into the person God has made you to be?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in God, Jesus, Raised Catholic

I’m Not Worthy to Receive You

Today’s blog explores the topic of worthiness – the fine line between self-loathing and humility. 

 

 

Lord, I am Not Worthy to Receive You

Every Sunday, (or anytime attending mass) just before the reception of Holy Eucharist (communion), all Catholics bow their heads, strike their breast and say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  As a child, I understood this part of the ritual to be a moment in which we acknowledged our sinfulness, our depravity, our complete unworthiness of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice, and recognize that even though we are woeful sinners, God can somehow make us worthy of receiving HIS (God, to me,  was still the old man in the sky at that time) grace through the Eucharist.  But even reciting these words did not erase the lingering doubt in the back of my mind that we were still completely unworthy.  I have a sense that this is how many (if not most) Catholics understand this phrase along with its ritual actions.

Only Say the Word and I Shall be Healed

Then something amazing happened.  As I grew up and found the tools through which I could be open to discovering, exploring, cultivating and nurturing a deeply intimate, expansive and personal relationship with that which I call God, I found that the mass and all its trappings began to be transformed.  As I came to know God through prayerful contemplation of scripture, through my life experiences, through nature, through signs and wonders, in Jesus and his ministry, in the lives of the saints (especially:  Mary Magdalene, Bernadette, Francis, Clare, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Joan of Arc), I came to understand that God is not the scary, vengeful, judgmental, punitive god that so many want us to believe in.  Instead, I found a God that is loving, infinite, compassionate, just, merciful, kind, joyful, peaceful and forgiving.  I found a God that loves us beyond what we could possibly imagine and is the very nature of Love itself and as this love, seeks to be known in and through us.  God was really cool and no longer the scary old man in the sky with clipboard in hand marking off if we are naughty or nice.  The fear-based images of God were erased from my consciousness and replaced with nothing but love.  How cool is that?!

From Self-Loathing to Awe-filled Wonder and Humility

So, back to the “Lord I am not worthy” stuff.  As my images of God became transformed, so did my experience of the mass.  The mass was no longer the sacrificial banquet in which we celebrated Jesus’ death (and I do mean, “celebrated”), and hung our heads in shame over the sins that made his horrific execution by crucifixion necessary.  Instead, the mass became a celebration of the wonders of God and the amazing teachings of Jesus and the new life that he came to reveal for all of humankind – a life rooted in the passionate love of God and the contentment and joy that are our reward when we allow ourselves to be open to this love.  In attending the mass, I was reminded over and over and over that “we are an Easter people.”  The focus moved from sacrifice and death to new life.  Amen!  While this transformation was taking place, so too was the experience of the Eucharist changed for me.  No longer was I compelled to hang my head in shame over my unworthiness of the Eucharist, instead, I raised my eyes in awe-filled wonder at the miracle of God’s love and the promise of new life.  Receiving Holy Communion became a ritual through which I could humbly say, “God you are so awesome and I am humbled at the sight of your glory and I know my heart is too small today to contain the fullness of your love, but I know that through your grace I will somehow, someday, know the depth of your love that Jesus knew and be able to reveal that love in our broken world.”  It was to this awareness and intention that I was able to say “Amen” when taking the bread and the wine that had become the body and blood of Christ into my hands.

Our Life Experience is the Mass

Now here is the really cool part!  Not only was the liturgy of the mass transformed in me through attention to God’s love, but that 1 hour of Sunday mass spilled out into my daily life.  No longer was mass contained by the ritual, but my whole life became the celebration of the mass…and everyday I have been invited to see the glory and wonder of God and exclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  And no longer do these words come from a place of unworthiness and self-loathing, but from a place of complete wonder and awe and I frequently wonder, “What did I do to deserve this greatness?”  And the terrific answer is NOTHING…..It is simply the abundant outpouring of God’s magnificent love …  we simply need to be open to receiving it and offer it a bold and joyous “AMEN!”  (meaning, yes!)

How are you open to seeing, knowing, experiencing the magnificent wonder and love of God?

Where are you reluctant to receive the generous outpouring of joy that God intends for you?

How can you say “yes” to all the love that God wants to give you?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in About Lauri, Spiritual Practices

Special Edition – The Mystic’s Curse

Some people, as they move and grow along the spiritual path discover that their’s is the unique path of the mystic.  The mystic’s path is a profound gift, but at the same time in a world that might label the mystic as “just plain nuts,” it can sometimes seem like a curse.  This special edition of “Your Spiritual Truth” came about as I realized that yet again, my body was somehow reacting to the volatile weather patterns of Mother Earth – this time in honor of the hurricane’s currently hammering the East Coast.  ARGH!

 

Defining Mysticism

In searching for a concise and valid definition of mysticism (at least as I have experienced it), a found a great one in all places, The Catholic Encyclopedia: 

Mysticism, according to its etymology, implies a relation to mystery. In philosophy, Mysticism is either a religious tendency and desire of the human soul towards an intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire. As a philosophical system, Mysticism considers as the end of philosophy the direct union of the human soul with the Divinity through contemplation and love, and attempts to determine the processes and the means of realizing this end. This contemplation, according to Mysticism, is not based on a merely analogical knowledge of the Infinite, but as a direct and immediate intuition of the Infinite.

What seems to set mysticism apart from other philosophical of religious paths is the piece about DIRECT EXPERIENCE.  What this means is that the mystic knows the Divine not just as an intellectual construct based on theologies, thoughts, ideas, etc. but that the mystic has experienced the gift of a direct, intimate, emotional experience of Oneness with that which we might call “God.”  As such, the mystic’s experiences are those of the heart, the soul and the intuition and are not limited by the constructs of the mind.  In a rational, logical, pragmatic, intellectual world, this path is often perceived as irrational (because IT IS!) maybe even bordering on insane.   It is this tension between the “real” world and the world of the mystic that creates what I have come to refer to as “the Mystic’s curse.” 

The First Signs of the Mystic

You know, it is never really much fun to be the “weird kid.”  As early as I can remember, I had what I can now define as “mystical” experiences.  Knowing truths I should not have known, sensing other people’s emotions, feelings, thoughts.  Being able to read “the energy” of a room.  Knowing there was something bigger, greater, kinder, more loving that what I had observed in the human condition.  Finding myself confused over the fear-based and often violent ways of humankind.  Not understanding certain “institutions” and their “laws.”  Finding comfort and inspiration in fairytales, magic, mystery, fairies and witches on broomsticks.  The “world” that I inhabited within myself bore a marked contrast to the world I saw “out there.”  Thanks to my Catholic upbringing, I found the perfect vehicle through which I could indulge these mystical tendencies, quietly, in private and just between me and God…and that was the mass, along with the spiritual practices of my Catholic faith.  I was the weird kid who actually liked going to mass and praying the rosary.  Weird, insane, irrational?  Right?

You can run but you can’t hide!

So, as long as I had the mass and the rosary, I got to keep those direct experiences of the Divine just to myself.  Me and God had lots of conversations, private moments and tender revelations.  Ah….but then I had to grow up and when I grew up I found the mystical part of myself wanting to come out of the closet (in spite of my protestations).  So, I found myself guided along many pathways, through many theologies, always finding myself at the doorstep of the world’s mystical practices – ecstatic dance, meditation, contemplation, yoga, Lectio-Divina, mantra prayer, chant, etc. etc. etc.  Little did I know that this pathway would break open the doors to my own heart and mind, while making me look even MORE insane to the outside world.  What?  You can heal with your hands?  You can feel when a major weather event will hit the earth (like today’s hurricane for example)?  You will weep tears of heartbreaking pain over the fear in the world that toppled the Twin Towers?  You can look into someone’s eyes and energy field and tell if they are lying?  Really?  Are you sure you don’t just have a vivid imagination or might just be nuts?  Come on, there’s no room for that in our logical, practical world.  HHHMMMMM  

Crazy but not alone!

As a young adult, I might have been tempted to agree with these kinds of sentiments….but now that I am a grow up….I protest!  In fact, I think as a species, we are more in need of the mystic than we ever have been before!  And the good news is that I am not alone in these mystical tendencies.  For this I give thanks to my favorite Catholic saints: Bernadette, Francis and Clare, Teresa and John, Hildegard, Joan of Arc.  And then there are the Eastern Mystics: Kabir, Rumi, Yogananda, etc. etc. etc.   Oh yea…not to mention Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.  And what kind of friend would I be if I did not also give thanks to my circle of crazy mystical brothers and sisters (you know who you are!!!).  HMMMM   Maybe being a mystic isn’t so bad afterall….even if hurricanes on the East Coast make you go loopy!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in church, Healing, Initiation, Jesus

Ordained by God

In today’s blog I explore the question, “What does it mean to be “priest?”  Raised in an Institution that doesn’t honor women’s call to ordination/the priesthood, how does one authentically live out that call?

 

Blaming Jeff

Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline, doesn’t it!  And in a way, I do have to blame Jeff (as in Fr. Jeff now Pastor Jeff…the one I talked about yesterday) for apparently planting the seed of this discontent that has somehow found its way into my heart.  After posting yesterday’s blog about how Jeff was the one to point out my Introvert, he emailed me and told me of the “coincidence” of yesterday’s post as he was, on that very day, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.  Then one of the readers of this blog in her comments observed that I was living out my call to be priest.  THEN….I had a dream of meeting two Franciscan priests who believed in women’s ordination and who readily ordained women,  and who handed me the paperwork necessary to begin that process.   So……what is God trying to tell me through all of these “God-cidences?”  Am I being called to find a church that will recognize my call to priesthood and honor it through formal ordination.  UM……I tried that one on for size a few years back and I can absolutely tell you it did NOT fit! 

How I’m NOT Called to Be Priest

A few years back, I did find a church that would have readily acknowledged my call to priesthood and would have happily honored it through ordination.  I know that I am a total brat, and that this would not be the case for many, but in the end, it was about the clothes.  (not really, but it was sure part of it).  I could not think of donning an outfit that somehow set me apart from the people to whom I would be ministering….even if the outfit were only used for ritual, I could not do it.  Plus, none of the “outfit” companies have yet designed anything that even remotely looks good on a woman…it all looks like the male version, except with a skirt.  BLECH!  What I could consider was donning the humble, brown hooded habit of the Franciscans, but the black shirt and white collar topped off with the ceremonial white vestments, then chasuble, then stole?  Nope, not for me.  To me, all those acutrements spoke only of separation.  “See, I am different than you, I am more important because I get to wear these clothes, and if I’m really important I get to wear a funny hat.”  There was something in all this clothing stuff that seemed contrary to Jesus’ message of Oneness.  Jesus didn’t wear a special dress, he wore what the people around him wore… a humble rough-hewn mantel and a pair of dusty sandals.  No collar, no dress, no special hat.  So, if I am to be priest, why would I be any different than the greatest priest of all?  Why wouldn’t I wear what everyone else is wearing?  Yea, maybe I would dress up a bit while presiding over mass (if I were even called to do this), but nothing that would set me apart from the rest.  I don’t mean to dishonor those who have chosen the formal ordination path and who humbly don the required attire of the priesthood, and I know many would argue with me that the garments represent humility, I just have to say that the people sitting in the pew view it differently.  To them, you’re wearing the collar and the robes and therefore you are different and somehow better.  I’m just sayin.

What is a Priest Called to Do?

To me, being priest is about SERVICE.  In my mind, the priest is called to preach and teach, but more importantly TO HEAL.   In the Catholic Church in which I was raised, this part of the call happens primarily through the sacraments.  As a representative of Christ, the priest presides over the sacraments of baptism, eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, anointing and reconciliation and through the reception of these sacraments, the participants receive healing.  Outside of the sacraments, the priest acts as a vessel of God’s healing through active listening and attentive presence.  This can be facilitated through an effective homily (sermon) and in the role of Pastoral Minister and/or Counselor.  The priest has many opportunities to be a vessel through which others may experience God’s healing grace and I have known many priests in my lifetime who have done a really good job of being a model of God’s compassion and healing in the world (Jeff among them.)  

So, How Am I Called to Be Priest?

So, if it is not about the dress and it is not about being separate from the rest, how am I called to be priest?  Ultimately, it is about the healing.  When I look to Jesus as the model of what priesthood could be, I see healing, healing, healing.  When Jesus taught, people found healing.  When Jesus preached, people were cured.  When Jesus offered attentive listening and focused presence to another, their hearts were uplifted.  When Jesus laid his hand on people, they were healed.  This is the kind of priest I would feel called to be.  And guess what?  I’m already doing it!  No special dress.  No special ritual.  No dude in a funny hat placed his hands on me thereby giving me permission to be “priest”.  I’m already doing it.  And guess what……SO ARE YOU!!!!!   Whenever you allow yourself to be a vessel through which others find peace, contentment, joy and love, healing, compassion, YOU TOO ARE BEING PRIEST.  When you show kindness to another, when you feed someone who is hungry, when you stand up for justice, when you offer someone forgiveness, when you show mercy…YOU ARE BEING PRIEST.  Boy, we sure have a whole lot of priests walking around!  🙂

 

How are you called to be a vessel of God’s love in the world?

How are you called to be a vessel of healing, mercy, forgiveness, justice?

How are you living out your own Priesthood?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Jesus, Spiritual Practices

Praying the Lord’s Prayer when we no longer believe in “the old man in the sky”

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the foundational prayers of the Christian tradition and a central part of most Christian worship.  How do we participate in this prayer when we no longer believe in God as only “the old man in the sky?” 

As a Catholic Christian, one of the first prayers I learned was The Lord’s Prayer, otherwise known to me as The Our Father.  I was taught to say the Lord’s Prayer as part of my bedtime prayers.  I was taught to say it when praying the rosary, and The Lord’s Prayer was central to the Catholic Mass (and to other Christian worship services as I later learned), which I attended weekly with my family and on Fridays with my classmates at St. Alphonsus Catholic day school. 

For all of my childhood and a fair portion of my adulthood, the Lord’s Prayer was something I said by rote memorization, out of a sense of obligation and with little thought to its meaning or my own intention for saying this prayer.  Praying the Lord’s Prayer felt like me asking God for something….but I was never really sure what I was asking for.  I just knew I was supposed to say this prayer, so I did and it never seemed to give me any trouble, so why not say it?  But then….something changed.

Somewhere in my spiritual journey…and I cannot tell you exactly when this happened, I started to question the whole “Our Father” thing.  Was God really the old man in the sky and should I be calling him Father?  As I explored the writings of feminist theologians, I began to find validation for my questions.  How could God be just a man?  This no longer made sense to me.  Then, as I learned how to pray and reflect on scripture and when prayer became an interaction between myself and God (rather than me simply going “blah blah blah”) I came to experience a God that was much more than just father.  While I had never really had any problems with thinking of God as father-like, I also came to experience God as much more than this….God was even more than mother….God was Spirit, Energy, Movement, Presence, Action, Creative Expression, etc. etc. etc.  For me, God could no longer be contained within any of the traditional labels.  Suddenly, The Lord’s Prayer became a problem.  How could I pray this prayer if I no longer believed in God as only the old man in the sky?  Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue.

A few years back, I attended a spiritual dance retreat at the Christine Center in Willard, Wisconsin.  The retreat consisted of learning sacred chant from several world traditions, then dancing to these chants.  The chant we learned and participated in on Sunday was the Lord’s Prayer, reinterpreted from the original Aramaic, the language most likely to have been spoken by Jesus, and the language through which he most likely taught his disciples and followers.  This was a profoundly moving experience to learn the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic and then to pray it with movement and gestures, but it was the reinterpretation of this prayer that was the most moving for me.  Through the work of modern-day scriptural translation and with the added benefit of Neil Douglas-Klotz’s meditative reflection on these translations, the problem of the old man in the sky God was suddenly solved!  As I said before, Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue! 

You would either  need to read Prayer of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz or attend my class, Deepening Freedom (see the classes section of my website for details….this class starts November 10th!) to comprehend the full depth of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic….but let me give you at least the solution to the old man in the sky problem.  In the traditional translation of the Lord’s Prayer, the first line goes something like this:

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

In Aramaic, the first line is:

Abwoon d’bwashmaya

When we translate the first line from the Aramaic, directly into English, it says something like this:

O Thou From Whom the breath of life flows and is present in all forms of vibration and light…

Pause for a moment and read that phrase again.  HOLY COW!  God is no longer JUST the old man in the sky.  God is suddenly vibration, light, the source of breath, the source of life…not just the old man in the sky.  Problem solved.   So, thanks to Neil Douglas-Klotz and other Aramaic scholars, I am once again able to find meaning and resonance with the prayer that Jesus taught us.  And….if you want to learn more about this and my own personal belief that Jesus gave us this prayer for much more than simply rote recitation – but as a powerful tool for healing and transformation, you will just have to come to my class!  😉

What has been your experience with The Lord’s Prayer?

What are your images of God?  Father? Mother? Spirit? Lover?

How are you being invited to deepen your experience of Christian prayer?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/YourSpiritualTruth

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

 

Posted in Lessons, teachers

Wisdom from my Therapist about Resentment

A short blog on the virtues of resentment – as told to me by my therapist.

Yes, I see a therapist…..and I am not ashamed to admit it!  One of the greatest bits of wisdom handed down to us Lumby kids by our mother came in the form of the following mantra:

“Never be afraid to get professional help if you need it.”

In sharing this wisdom with us, my mother broke down all the societal walls that tell us we have to do it on our own or that there is some kind of shame in asking for help.  I have embraced this wisdom and have gathered a system of support for myself that has includes a professional therapist, a trained Spiritual Director and a variety of alternative medicine practitioners.  Through the help and support of these trained professionals, along with my biological family and my spiritual family here in Oshkosh, I have grown, found healing and transformation and been empowered to more and more freely live my most authentic truth.  So today, I give honor to my therapist who shared a crucial piece of information with me in our session this past Tuesday.

This piece of information has to do with RESENTMENT.  Resentment is a skill that I have MASTERED!  I learned this skill through the example of my maternal ancestors – Irish Catholics who have absolutely perfected the fine art of cultivating resentment and grudge-holding.  Even my aunt Nona who went to daily mass, prayed the rosary three times a day and said novena after novena for all the lowly Baker/McMahon progeny who were in need of Divine intervention bore grudges.  This was evidenced by her thoughts on the hand-shake of peace during the mass, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to shake so and so’s hand during church after what she said to me in 1924!” 

When I think of the role resentment has played in my own life, I see images of myself in Gollum fashion, stroking “my precious,” descending deeper and deeper into the obsessive pit of darkness, knowing the damage the resentment was doing to me….feeling guilt and shame about it, but feeling so addicted to the strange power I felt in cultivating resentment that I could not give it up.  Resentment had become my drug…..or so I thought.

I was sharing my struggle and thoughts about resentment with my therapist, feeling shame and guilt over the relationships I felt I had damaged through the cultivation of this compulsion.  Then my therapist turned the tables on me.  She asked me if I had ever given myself permission to see the gift in resentment?  WHAT?  GIFT?  I had always been taught and had actually taught myself that resentment is unhealthy, destructive, harmful, damning, etc. etc. etc.  RESENTMENT A GIFT?  I’m still trying to process this invitation, but here is how my therapist presented it to me:

“Resentment is a gift.  Resentment is a natural emotion that surfaces to alert us that OUR NEEDS ARE NOT BEING MET. How can you begin to use resentment as a red flag that is waving to alert you to danger – to your needs not being met, and in doing so, how can you respond to resentment in another way?” 

WHOA!  Resentment as a gift?  Resentment as an alarm?  Resentment as a source of support and help in our journey?  I have to give a lot more thought to this idea….but I can tell you that what this thought has done is help me to let go of some of my shame around my past use of resentment.  And after giving myself permission to do a hasty life-review around my  experiences with resentment, I have to say that my therapist is DEAD ON CORRECT!  Everytime resentment has shown up in my life, it is directly related to my needs being either completely ignored or discounted.  HHHMMM  Now what do to with this new information?  Time will tell!

What role has resentment played in your own life?

Can you see a connection between your needs not being met and the surfacing of resentment?

If resentment is a kind of alarm system within us, how can we choose to respond to it in a healthy and productive way?

 

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/Yourspiritualtruth

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

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