After reading yesterday’s blog, Witness to the World’s Destruction, my mother emailed with a reminder of divine intervention that has helped in the past when the world was in a similar state of hopelessness – that divine intervention came through our Divine Mother, Mary. My mom suggested Mary might be interested in helping us again. (Thanks for the terrific reminder mom!)
For centuries, Our Divine and Blessed Mother Mary has been making her presence and her desire to assist humanity known through visual apparitions. She appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France. She revealed herself to Juan Diego at Guadalupe, Mexico. For several months in 1917, Mother Mary appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. Since 1981, our Divine Mother has been appearing daily and delivering messages for humanity to six visionaries from Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In all her apparitions, the message is the same – pray to her to help bring an end to war and to restore humanity to peace.
Again, it seems, we are being invited to turn to our Divine Mother for her help and intercession.
One traditional way of praying with and to Mother Mary is through the rosary. In case you don’t remember how to pray the rosary, or aren’t familiar with how to pray it, follow this link for simple instructions: http://www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm#loaded
Or, we can simply turn to Mary, asking for her assistance using the traditional “Hail Mary” prayer as follows:
Hail Mary, full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed are you among women,
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God.
Pray for us.
Now and at the hour of our death.
Whatever vehicle for prayer we use, we can be assured that our Divine Mother is here to help us. For centuries and for millions of people, Mother Mary has been a source of comfort, guidance, help and support. What has been true for over 2000 years is still true today. When we feel as if all else has failed, we need simply turn to our Mother for help. Thanks Mom, for the reminder!
For twenty-some years, I have been hounded by the vision of a different (original) way of doing church. I was inspired by my personal experiences with small faith communities, contemplative prayer and authentic spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation). All of these experiences proved to me that for many people, (42.7 million non-practicing Catholics for example) “pay, pray and obey” is simply not enough. Many people are not content to simply show up on Sunday morning so as to fulfill their Sunday obligation and receive their “get out of hell free card.” In short, people are simply too smart to buy into this reward/punishment model of church, especially when what they often see are grotesque examples of hypocrisy in those bludgeoning them with threats of eternal damnation – most especially when these threats of hell are coming out of the same mouth that just preached on the unconditional love of God.
Instead, what I have envisioned and held in my heart for the past twenty years is something more akin to what Jesus seemed to have done.
First – He prayed. He meditated. He spent time in contemplation with that which he called Abwoon (sometimes translated as Father but is really beyond gender or image). HERE was his source of peace, clarity, guidance, healing, comfort, transformation and love.
Second – He uncompromisingly obeyed the guidance he discovered in his time in contemplation, even when it meant disobeying the perceived authorities (religious and civil) of his time and/or going against societal norms.
Third – He shared with others what he discovered in his time of contemplation and prayer. Mostly what he shared was LOVE. In his time with Abwoon, Jesus discovered an expansive, unconditional, uplifting, empowering Source of love – a love that conquered fear, that healed wounds, that pierced the veil of judgment and false perceptions.
Fourth– He taught others to do what he learned to do and in the learning, they too found healing, transformation, contentment, joy, peace and a sense of fulfillment.
This is what Jesus did…..PERIOD. He never formed a church. He did not set out to create a new religion. He established no doctrine. And the rituals he enacted were all traditional aspects of his Jewish faith. One might say that what truly set Jesus apart was that he lived his Jewish faith to the fullest extent possible based on what he saw as the pillars of his faith – the simple commandments to love God and love neighbor – and in doing so….he changed the world.
I must admit that my vision of something beyond church is for nothing less than this – to do what Jesus did and in doing so, to help change the world.
To learn more about upcoming “beyond church” offerings at Authentic Freedom Academy click on the links below:
As we examine the seemingly increasing states of violence in the world (are they increasing…or does the media just make it look that way?), it is easy to point the finger of blame – it’s his fault, it’s her fault, it’s their fault. We are quick to make other people the enemy when in fact, we are the greatest enemy.
“WHAT…..how am I the enemy?” you might ask. It’s simple. WE are the greatest enemy because we do more harm to ourselves than we ever thought of doing to another human being. Hatred toward others ALWAYS begins with our hatred of ourselves. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he wasn’t issuing a commandment, he was making an observation. We do love our neighbor in direct proportion to the love we have toward ourselves. When we know ourselves and are comfortable in our own skin, we can’t help but treat others with kindness, compassion and respect. When we judge and condemn our selves for every little thing – how our hair looks today, what we are wearing, trying to hide our insecurities and imperfections from the world, etc. we judge the world likewise. When we cling to same and hold out for predictable, safe and orderly, the truth of our chaotic and unpredictable world makes us feel unsafe. Instead of loving ourselves in spite of our unease, we turn the finger of blame outward – “It’s their fault the world is in the state that it is in.” We’re busy shaming ourselves for being too afraid to ask for our needs to be met, so we lose our patience with our kids and yell at them for being….kids.
We are the enemy in all the ways we criticize, condemn, judge, shame, belittle ourselves and for all the ways we suppress the uncomfortable feelings within ourselves (anxiety, fear, sorrow, anger, resentment) because we judge them as “bad”. We are the enemy when we do these things, first, by doing harm to ourselves and second, for all the ways these feelings come out sideways in anger, hatred, intolerance, impatience, condemnation, toward others.
Healing the violence in our world starts by healing the violence within ourselves. We do this by learning to love ourselves. Here is a simply little practice you might try to begin that process of loving yourself without condition so that you are no longer the enemy to yourself first, and then to others.
Below is a prayer you may all be familiar with – The Prayer of St. Francis. In this practice, instead of using the prayer as intercessory (directed outward toward God or toward the world), turn it inward. With every phrase, turn the words toward yourself. (Here is a musical accompaniment for the song if you wish to attend to this practice through music…the prayer itself starts at 3:39 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrcn85_MPYI )
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Oh Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving (to ourselves) that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born into eternal life.
May we all learn to love ourselves without condition so that we can love the world in the same way – slowly and surely turning a world of fear into a world of love!
Lauri Ann Lumby, OM, MATS provides programs and services to support you in your journey of self- love and self-actualization. Call (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
In this week’s Agape’ Newsletter – supplement for the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church service for Sunday, October 19, 2014 – we are invited to examine our relationship with money. Are we rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and still making room for God? Find out more below:
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Mt 22: 15-21
Is 45: 1, 4-6
Ps 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7 -10
1 Thes 1: 1-5b
Paying Unto Caesar
This week’s gospel provides an important message for the modern world – the importance of having a “right relationship” with money. As was the case in Jesus’ time, we are human beings living in a material world. As such, it is important to tend to our material needs. In this gospel specifically, the material need being addressed is that of societal support which is provided for through taxation. Such is the case in our culture as well. We have a government structure whose job is to provide for our wellbeing as laid out in the Constitution. In exchange for this support, we pay taxes. As such, whenever we pay taxes, we are “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and this is our responsibility as a US Citizen in exchange for the measures provided for by our government.
What this gospel also reminds us is that we are more than just material beings. As such, our sole focus cannot be on the material. Instead, we are invited to give equal weight to the spiritual support that we need as well. Spiritual support is always provided for us, whether we are paying attention to it or not, but we actually FEEL that support when we “render undo God what is God’s.” In other words, when we set time aside to be PRESENT to our Divine Source of loving support and we do this through our spiritual practice. Prayer, meditation, creative activities, being in nature, etc. are all ways in which we “render unto God what is God’s.”
What proportion of your time are you giving to your material concerns?
What proportion of your time are you giving to your spiritual needs?
How might you bring these into a more equal relationship?
Spiritual Practices – Taking Inventory
This week’s spiritual practice will be very practical. Please attend this week’s virtual church service for a more prayerful practice.
Make a list of all the things you do in the day that are targeted toward meeting your material needs and how much time is dedicated to each of these things.
Make another list of all the things you do in the day that are targeted toward your spiritual needs and how much time is dedicated to these activities.
Compare the two. Where is there balance? Where is there a lack of balance?
Write your thoughts and reflections on this.
In Authentic Freedom, Temperance is the spiritual virtue that is attained when we find a way to balance our spiritual with our material needs. When we are firmly rooted in our spiritual nature, we are able to give to our spiritual needs and are able to do so without entering into a state of imbalance. We are able to enjoy the fruits of our labors while not distracted by temptations to waste or hoard while being able to share from our excess. Regarding “Caesar,” we feel no resentment about contributing financially to the programs that are there to support the common good.
How are you finding peace in a state of temperance – maintaining a balance between tending to your material as well as your spiritual needs and finding contentment in that?
This week’s Agape Meditation newsletter, supplement to the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church service, draws our attention to the anxiety and fear that are prevalent in our world and offers a simple remedy.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Twenty-seventh Sunday Ordinary Time
Agape’ Meditation Practices Newsletter
Supplement to the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church Service
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Phil 4: 6-9
Is 5: 1-7
Ps 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20
Mt 21: 33-43
When Anxious, Turn to God
We live in an anxious world. There is unrest, conflict, poverty, hunger, war. We worry about how our needs will be met from day to day. Paul acknowledges the anxiety that pervades the human condition and offers the remedy, and that remedy is GOD. Meditation, prayer, contemplation, being attentive to what in our lives we are grateful for, engaging in those activities which help us to feel fulfilled and which give our lives meaning, all work toward replacing our anxiety with peace.
Where in your life are you feeling anxious?
How are you using this anxiety as a cue to return your attention to God?
What practices do you have that help you to move from anxiety to peace?
Spiritual Practices – Engaging our Anxiety through Tonglen
Tonglen is a spiritual practice from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Tonglen is based on the Buddhist principle that “what we resist will persist.” Through Tonglen, instead of turning away from unpleasant feelings (resisting), we turn toward them so that they may be transformed. This week, you are invited to engage in the practice of Tonglen as a way of transforming your anxiety into peace.
When you find yourself feeling anxious (afraid, scared), instead of pushing it away or judging it as bad, allow yourself to FEEL the anxiety.
As you feel the anxiety, become aware of WHERE you are feeling it in your physical body. Some people feel anxiety in their gut, some in their heart, some in their neck and shoulders, perhaps it is in your left ankle.
Holding your awareness in the physical place where you are feeling anxiety, breath into it. Breathe the anxiety into the place you are feeling it.
From the physical sensation of anxiety, breathe out love.
Breathe into the anxiety, and breathe out love.
Continue this practice until you feel the anxiety shift into something else. Perhaps there will be a release through tears. Maybe it will shift from anxiety to anger. Maybe it will change from anxiety to peace.
Continue this practice throughout the week whenever you find yourself feeling anxious.
FEAR/ANXIETY are the symptoms of humanity’s core spiritual wound. This core spiritual wound arises out of the false perception of separation from God, and is the natural consequence of choosing to experience the human condition. In choosing the human condition, we chose to temporarily forget our Oneness with God in love. The good news is that in allowing us the freedom to choose the human condition, God also planted within us the seed of remembrance so that somewhere deep inside us, we would always remember and be drawn toward our original nature as One with God. The path toward this remembering is what Jesus came to teach us. Through meditation, prayer, contemplation, and any experience that helps us to experience peace, love, joy and fulfillment, we have an opportunity to remember our Oneness with God and be restored to our original state of contentment and joy. The more we actively engage in these practices, the more we remember our Oneness with God and the more often we know peace.
How are you being invited to begin or deepen a daily spiritual practice? (hint, spiritual practice consists of anything that helps you to experience peace, joy, love or fulfillment).
This Sunday, April 13 marks the beginning of Holy Week – the time set aside in the Church calendar to remember the events that led up to the death of Jesus. I encourage you in the coming week, to set aside your own remembrance – to take extra time out for prayer, reading and reflection on scripture and contemplation. It is in the silent places in our hearts that the true meaning of Jesus’ death is revealed. As a way to facilitate this remembrance, I invite you to go to the USCCB websiteand explore the daily readings featured there.
I also want to take this time to help you prepare for this Sunday’s Authentic Freedom Virtual Church service. In lieu of a traditional service, I will be providing an opportunity for you to attend your own pre-Easter retreat. The retreat will include scripture and a unique meditation and reflection experience that I hope will help you to connect with the human Jesus – the flesh and blood man who allowed God to be his source of guidance and support and who, without compromise, adhered to the truth that God revealed to him. This is the Jesus that struggled, who experienced fear, who sometimes doubted God’s direction, and who, through prayer, found the support he needed to accept the difficult direction of his life. I think you will find in this Jesus a kindred spirit and powerful teacher – like us in our humanness with access to powerful tools for transcending the struggles of the human condition.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2: 6-11
“Jesus, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.”
These words from scripture, perhaps more than any, give us a glimpse into the focus and motivation of Jesus’ life and ministry. While he knew he was One with God, he did not consider himself as equal to God. Instead, Jesus continued to turn to God for guidance, direction and support. Instead of allowing his own desires to guide his life, he turned to God for direction and then. Then, without compromise, Jesus adhered to God’s direction, trusting that God knew what was in the highest good, even when the consequences of adhering to God’s truth seemed dire (like death on a cross). In this Jesus provides the perfect model of humility and spiritual obedience. Humility is acknowledging that God alone is the Source of our life and that God alone knows what is in our highest good. Spiritual Obedience is taking the time to listen and hear God’s truth for our lives and then adhering to this truth no matter what the consequences of that truth might be – even if the consequences would lead to our own death, trusting that even in our death, a higher good is being made manifest (we need only look to the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi for examples of this in our own lifetime).
With this week’s scripture, you are invited to participate in an exercise in Creative Expression. You will need two blank sheets of paper and crayons to complete this activity.
Slowly and meditatively read the above scripture from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
With crayons and paper, draw an outline of your human form, taking up as much of the paper as you are able.
Inside the outlined form, write or draw all of the things that are obstacles to you taking time to listen, hear and adhere to God’s guidance and direction in your life. Fill the empty space with all the things that keep you from enjoying peace, contentment, joy and love.
After you have filled the empty space, take time to reflect on all you have included there. Reflect on the obstacles you have placed between yourself and God. In your own words, or in the silence of your heart, invite God to help you be freed of these obstacles so that God can once again be the center of your life.
On a second sheet of paper, or on the backside of the one you have already used, create an image of yourself being emptied of all these obstacles.
Take time to reflect on the new image you have created. What does it feel like to be freed of these obstacles between yourself and God? Make a commitment to allowing this emptiness to remain so that you can instead be filled with God.
Authentic Freedom reveals pride as the seventh deadly compulsion and the fear I am alone/have to do it alone, as the fear that causes this compulsion. It is this false perception of separation from God that is in truth, our CORE spiritual wound and the wound that causes all the fears that keep us believing that we are separate from God – the fears that prevent us from enjoying the peace, love, contentment, joy, fulfillment and connection that God intended for the human experience. Authentic Freedom reminds us that when we turn in humility toward God for guidance, direction and support, all of our needs are met in abundance and here we enjoy that peace, love and joy that God intended.
Where are you tempted to believe that you are separate from God?
Where are you tempted to allow fear to direct your life instead of turning to God for guidance and direction?
Where have you forgotten that God alone can direct you to the path of your highest good?
Each of us are uniquely gifted to be a vessel through which God’s love is known in the world. Often, the way in which God has gifted us and the call God extends to us transcends institutional definitions, boundaries and controls. I share the way this has been made known in my own life as a way of encouraging you to look outside the box for how God might be calling you to be love in the world…..sometimes the answer is right under our nose and has been there the whole time and sometimes it is so obvious we wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”
Priest All Along
I wrote last weekabout the lightning bolt awareness of how for the past 20+ years I have been a priest and I didn’t even know it! Looking back on the ways in which I have been called to be God’s love in the world, they all take the form of duties frequently associated with a priest – preaching, teaching, healing, counseling, leading, pastoring, serving, ministering. Of course, being raised Catholic, the path to ordination is not open to me (in the Roman Catholic Church anyway), and at this point in my life, even if ordination were made available to women, I don’t think I would pursue it. I prefer to serve as a priest in my own way (rather, the way in which God is leading me to be priest), instead of being subject to the limitations of the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church where clericalism frequently reigns over humility and compassion.
A Different Kind of Priest
What does priesthood look like outside the boundaries of tradition? What is a priesthood without hierarchy, patriarchy and clericalism? What is priesthood without a church? As it is currently being revealed to me, for myself personally, it is a priesthood of a different kind, but in truth, it looks very much like a priesthood of the original kind. When I look for a model of priesthood that feels appropriate to me, the example is obvious in Jesus. To me, Jesus represents the quintessential example of what priesthood should look like. What does it mean to be a priest like Jesus?
1) For me, it starts with the clothes. Nowhere in scripture does it describe Jesus as wearing special clothes, in fact, in several instances, he challenges religious leaders who don special vestments (phylacteries) as a way of drawing attention to the way they are better, separate, or more special than ordinary folks. I have a very strong sense that Jesus dressed in the same fashion as the people to whom he was ministering. What that means for me is that I dress in ways appropriate to the occasion. In presiding over weddings, I dress up in ways similar to the guests. In facilitating spiritual formation in circle, I dress casually. When seeing people one-on-one, I wear business casual. And when networking with business professionals, I dress appropriately. There will be no Roman collar or guilded vestments for me.
2) While Jesus sometimes taught in the temple, he was mostly seen ministering to the people where they were at. He moved about the marketplace, in the desert and on the mountain, in people’s homes, teaching, healing, ministering to people where the people were. Jesus was not a member of the official hierarchy of the Jewish temple, instead, he was priest to the people in their midst. A related key point – Jesus did not have a church. Instead, it seemed his church was anywhere he found himself. For me, this means being open to all the ways in which God is calling me to meet people where they are at – and in this day and age, it is often in front of their computer.
3) Jesus’ primary audience was those no longer welcome in the temple and for this he was often condemned. Jesus spent much of his time in the midst of “sinners and tax collectors,” and he often ministered to lepers. Jesus made himself available for those who had been rejected by the Institution in which he was raised. This is highly reflective of the audience God continues to place before me – women and men who no longer feel welcome in the religious institution in which they were raised….and for me, 90 -95% of these folks were raised Catholic.
4) Jesus prayed – a lot, and he taught his disciples how to pray. Before, during and after every ministerial encounter, Jesus can be found in prayer. Prayer, his intimate relationship with God, seemed to be the foundation upon which everything else was built. I can only hope to be following this example that Jesus set.
5) Jesus’ priesthood served to support and satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart – to know that we are loved, and Jesus did this primarily through his loving regard of the people to whom he ministered. Jesus did not judge or condemn the “sinners and tax collectors,” or the sick to whom he ministered. Instead, he helped them to find healing for the deeper spiritual wounds that told them they were anything less than love. Jesus built people up. He empowered them. He gave them dignity and respect. And, he admonished anyone who would treat ANY of God’s people with anything less than love. Jesus did not pile up a burden of tasks or rules that had to be accomplished in order to earn God’s love. He taught that we are loved by God without condition and that when we turn away from God, God is anxiously waiting with open arms for us to come home to the truth of who we are – one with God in love.
How is the truth that God is revealing to you and the gifts God has given you, calling you to step outside the traditional or familiar?
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 is “Change the World to Love” day.
“Change the World to Love” day is a collective and worldwide effort to come together in meditation and prayer with one intention, and this intention is LOVE. In Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we are celebrating this event and joining in this intention of LOVE through a Flash Mob meditation event at a local coffee house. You are invited to join us in this intention through your live or virtual presence (details are shown below) and to invite your friends and family and everyone you know by sharing this Blog post. Our desire is for the awareness of this event to go viral!
Host your own event!
Even better than joining us virtually, we encourage you to organize and plan your own meditation event in a public venue near you (with the permission of the venue, of course), inviting your own community to join. Again, our intention is for this event to go viral and for the whole world to join us in Changing the World to LOVE. Thank you for your generous sharing of this event, and thank you for joining with us in the intention of LOVE.