Posted in church, Forgiveness, Healing, Raised Catholic

A Church of my own making – Part 2

Speaking to the 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics, and those who may have been raised Catholic, but no longer identify themselves as Catholic…..this one’s for you/us.   Dreaming, imagining, exploring what Church could look like if it resembled the Church in my heart…and maybe the one that is in your heart too.  PS  This is Part 2 (or 4, depending on where you start) of a who know how long series.  🙂

confessional - M Clift

Sacraments

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, the church of my own making, the one that is reflective of what I have found in my heart, would have sacraments…seven of them to be exact.  But…..some of them would differ from how we have come to know them in the Roman Catholic Church.  On Tuesday I tackled baptism.  Today……reconciliation.

The Value of Reconciliation

Growing up, I had a mostly positive experience with the sacrament of reconciliation.  While it was always an effort to get over my resistance, once I entered the confessional and unburdened my conscience, I felt relief.  Then, when the prayer of absolution was given, I felt a sense of being uplifted, of feeling as if my body was being released of some sort of heaviness within me.  I can’t say I enjoyed going to reconciliation, but I always felt comfort and consolation after having gone.  While I have never believed (contrary to Church teaching) that we need the intercession of a priest to be forgiven of our sins, and that like our Protestant brothers and sisters, we could simply turn to God to be freed of the burden of our non-loving behaviors, I fully appreciated the value of having a person with whom I could unburden myself.  And, I cannot give explanation to the profound sense of consolation in the prayer of absolution – except to attribute it to grace.  As a spiritual director, I understand even more acutely the value of having a person to whom we can go to be freed of what might be troubling our conscience and the profound gift inherent in compassionate presence and counsel….both potentials within the sacrament of reconciliation when done well.

Sin

One of the issues I have with the sacrament of reconciliation is its emphasis on sin, specifically, sin as an act that “separates us from God,” and sin that will be punished if not confessed and released through absolution.  If we believe in our Oneness with God, then there is nothing, not even sin, that can separate us from that love, yet in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it reads:

It is called the sacrament of reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles.   (CCC 1442)

If we can never be separate from the love of God, then how is this love imparted?  I like to think of it more in this way – the we are One with God in love as Jesus taught and was reported by John the Evangelist (1 John 4).  While we are always one with God in this love and this love does not have to be earned, neither can it be taken away, because of the choosing the human experiment, we often forget this love.  When we have forgotten this love, we feel separate from God which results in fear.  Fear, then, causes us to seek outside ourselves for the remedy to this fear which often leads us toward non-loving actions (towards ourselves and each other).   We don’t choose these non-loving acts because we are depraved.  We choose these non-loving acts because we are afraid.  The Church would call these non-loving acts sin which implies punishment.  I call these non-loving acts compulsions which invites us to respond in compassion.  The sacrament of reconciliation, when done well, has the potential of helping us to remember the unconditional love of God that dwells within us and frees us from the fears that generate our compulsive/sinful behaviors.

The Potential in Reconciliation

Because I have experienced the consolation and comfort in the sacrament of reconciliation, I would never be in favor of dumping it all together.  Instead, I see great promise in expanding the scope of the sacrament and deepening its foundations in compassion.  I see the value of having a person to whom we can go to unburden ourselves.  I have experienced the grace of absolution.  And, I see in reconciliation an opportunity to help people heal on an even deeper level.  The deeper healing comes when we invite participants to move beyond simple confession and absolution and empower them to do the work of identifying what is causing them to indulge in their compulsive behavior in the first place, and then give them tools through which they can heal the fears that lead them to their compulsive behaviors.  Healing these fears, is ultimately about helping people to remember that they are loved without condition by God and that they are in fact one with God in that love.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to tell people this…..we have to give them opportunities to have a lived experience of that love and show them how to cultivate a practice in which they can frequently and consistently be open to these experiences.  And then….we have to get out of the way and let God do the work.  Because ultimately, the lived experience of that love comes from God reaching out to us….but first, we have to make ourselves available and then be open to receiving it.

For more on the fears that drive our compulsive behaviors, see my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy.

copyright 2013  Lauri Lumby

Posted in Relationships, Spiritual Practices

The Path to Dialogue with guest blogger John Backman

Today’s blog comes to us from author and writer, John Backman.  John Backman’s new book is Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart (SkyLight Paths Publishing). As a blogger for Huffington Post Religion and an associate of an Episcopal monastery, he writes extensively on contemplative spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. His website is located at www.dialogueventure.com.

The Best Path to Dialogue Is Through Your Deepest Self

If you read Lauri’s blog for any length of time, you will have all the resources you need to talk with—and listen to—the annoying relative at Thanksgiving dinner. Or the neighbor who voted for the candidate you loathe. Or the faithful believer from the religion you abandoned years ago.

Does that seem hard to believe?

You might think the gulf is too wide, and no one would blame you for that. When we encounter people who disagree with us, our gut leads us toward anger, defensiveness, self-protection, fear, or some combination thereof. More often than not, we shy away from those who disagree with us, or we angrily state our opinion and brook no dissent.

Some of this comes straight from our DNA. Fight or flight, after all, is built into our status as creatures on this planet. But our culture has taught us well too. Black-and-white thinking inhibits dialogue and even casts it as irrelevant. (Why dialogue with anyone when you already know The Truth?) Too many pundits and radio hosts would rather shout than talk. The structure of our media reduces complex, difficult social issues to sound bites and platitudes. Elected officials, all too often, model how not to dialogue with others.

Behind these obstacles to dialogue are entrenched systems that we cannot change on our own. So why not start with the one thing we can change—ourselves?

Oneness Transforms Us…

This, I think, is where God comes in. We can change ourselves by ourselves, but overall, we’re not very good at it. (For evidence of this, think weight loss programs.) We do better with help—and who better to help than the One who can change us permanently, thoroughly, from the inside out? How better to access help than to seek Oneness with this One?

Oneness with God—or, rather, participation in our Oneness with God—has fueled the journeys of saints and mystics for millennia. An experience of this union brings us unutterable bliss, joy, and love. But it does something else too: it changes who we are.

I first experienced this soon after undergoing a born-again experience in my teens. By the end of three days, not only was a long bout of depression lifting, but as I told a friend with some consternation, “I’m starting to love people I can’t stand! That’s not my style!”

The experience of Oneness comes from a mutual opening. As we open our hearts to God, God opens the divine heart to us. And we start to “look like God.” Have you ever noticed how long-married couples start to resemble each other, or how the opinions of our closest friends “rub off” on us? This is what happens here. When we foster our own personal connection with God, we gradually begin to reflect God. We begin to desire compassion and connection above all else—because God desires them above all else.

These are precisely the virtues that make dialogue possible. As they become part of our souls, we move beyond the practice of dialogue and become people of dialogue at our very core. Dialogue and its prerequisites—curiosity, compassion, attentiveness, listening—flow from within us.

…and We Start to Listen

When that happens, we stop marshaling our counterarguments while pretending to listen to our neighbor blather on about his candidate. Instead, perhaps for the first time, we truly hear what he says and think, “I wonder how he got there?” Our children can dig in their heels about getting a tattoo and we want to ask, “Why is this important to you? I really want to know.”

Nothing about this inner transformation means that we will automatically agree with our adversaries, or that we will “win them over to our side.” What does happen is that issues of agreement or “winning over” become irrelevant. The other’s well-being, and our relationship with that person, become more important.

The process of reaching out from this deepest self feeds upon itself. In many cases, “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), so when we communicate curiosity and compassion, our adversary responds in kind—or at least dials down the intensity. The more we hear the perspectives of others in this way, the more we come to realize that our perspective is one among billions, and that other points of view might be just as valid as ours. That redoubles our curiosity about those other perspectives, and we delve deeper into dialogue.

A Matter of Time—and Practice

Rarely, if ever, does this happen in an instant. It is why, instead of the single word conversion to describe the process, I prefer the Benedictine phrase conversion of life: it implies a slow, daily turning of our deepest selves toward God. We draw toward Oneness one day at a time, one step at a time.

In the process, we draw closer to reconciliation across the divides that plague us—not necessarily to agreement, but to a commitment to greater wisdom and one another’s humanity above all.

How do we get there?

The Oneness is real. Our job is to enter into it. Most faith traditions include spiritual practices that, over the millennia, have been shown to foster our drawing closer to God. Seek out the practices in your tradition and try them out. Or find the practices that resonate with you and make them a daily practice. Daily practice is the best way to open ourselves to the daily shaping of our souls that is conversion of life.

THANK YOU JOHN for this beautiful post.  It is a great lesson for all of us……me included.  😉

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Book, Forgiveness, Healing, temptation

Let’s Talk About Lent

Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian calendar is this week.  What is the purpose of Lent anyway and how might we be invited to put away the cat of nine tails in exchange for the healing balm of love.

Mea Culpa Mea Culpa 

Ash Wednesday is this week and for the first time in my life, I am not looking forward to Ash Wednesday or even to Lent in the anxious anticipation that for me used to color this season.  I take this to mean that my addiction to self-loathing has finally come to an end!  Seriously…..I used to BASK in the glow of self-judgment, the wagging finger of blame, guilt and shame and the penitential practices that said to me, “See how good of a Catholic I am….I’m fasting, I’m abstaining, I’m donating to the poor, I’m praying, I’m doing the Stations of the Cross, I’m attending Eucharistic Adoration, I’m going to confession and receiving absolution, I’m earning God’s approval and insuring my own ticket to paradise.”  Lent was the PERFECT church season for a Perfectionist who was not yet on the road to recovery (from perfectionism, that is).  Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see the value in many of the Lenten practices …..even the sacrament of Reconciliation…but if all Lent is doing for us is telling us how depraved we are and how much we need to earn back God’s love and approval because of our horrible sinful natures and if all Lent is doing is making us feel like crap….or allowing us to wallow in our own addiction to self-loathing, then perhaps we need to rethink our relationship to this annual Christian observance.

Proposing a New Theology of Lent….or Lent for recovering Perfectionists and Martyrs

So,  if you are one of those who wallows in self-loathing, or likes to bask in the glow of self-imposed martyrdom….or if you are simply a Christian who wants a new lens through which to view Lent…..here is my proposal.  Let’s start with the foundations of Lent.  Lent, we have been told, is modeled after Jesus’ 40 days in the desert where he was tempted by “Satan” in preparation for his entrance into his ministerial life.  Let’s back up the story a bit……the part that is often neglected is that Jesus’ foray into the desert came IMMEDIATELY after his baptism in the Jordan by John.  It was at the moment of his baptism, that Jesus came to understand that he was God’s beloved son.  His time in the desert, provided the opportunity he needed to reflect on what that meant for him and how he was called to live that out.  At the same time, Jesus had to confront all the “inner obstacles” (the meaning of the Hebrew word “satan”), that might stand in the way of him freely and openly living out that call.  As such, Jesus had to come face to face with all of the ego-driven temptations (pride, sloth, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony) that might stand in the way of him being the person he was called to be.  He took that time in the desert to face those inner obstacles and to allow God to release him from those temptations….thereby being healed and freed of his spiritual fears so that he could be the healer, prophet, teacher, savior he was called to be.  And…..he did it, successfully…..thanks to God’s help.

Lent as a Time for Healing – Exploring the What ifs

So, what  would happen if we applied Jesus’ 40 days in the desert to our own spiritual journeys?  What if we recognize, that like Jesus, our baptism is the moment when we are reminded that we are God’s beloved son or daughter and that with us God is very pleased?  What if we stuck our necks out there and actually BELIEVED in God’s unconditional, limitless, infinite love for us and that there is in fact nothing we can do…and nothing that we have ever done that could separate us from the Love of God (Paul says something to this effect).  What if, like Jesus, we struggle with the inner obstacles to remembering God’s love and that we struggle with the inner obstacles to being the person God has called us to be – peaceful, content, joyful, fulfilled, creative, loving, compassionate, working for justice, merciful?  What if instead of using Lent as a time for self-flagellation and self-punishment, we used it as a time to ASK GOD FOR HELP……inviting God to heal all those places within us where we have forgotten God’s love….forgotten our beloved nature and forgotten the work God has called us to do in the world.  What if?

A Terrific Lenten Resource

Now, a moment for a little shameless self-promotion.   If you are looking for a resource to help you move through Lent with a new set of eyes, my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy is a fabulous resource.  The foundation of the book illuminates the false perception of separation from God that causes the spiritual fears that lead to our compulsive (sinful) behaviors.  The book then provides a systematic process through which you are invited to name your own spiritual fears and through sound spiritual practice, give those fears over to God for healing and release.  Consider it your own 40 days in the desert.  And if you buy it before midnight tonight, I’ll throw in your own set of  Cat of Nine Tails for free.  😉

What has been your relationship with the annual observance of Lent?

How are you being called to embrace a new perspective on Lent?

What are some of the inner spiritual fears that you might want to offer up for healing?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com