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Are We Of God?


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As I continue the last few decades of my Journey, I have found that my Spiritual understandings have become simplified and less bound up with definitions and theology. Not having my faith in God contingent on acceptance of what a particular theology defines faith as being has liberated me from the endless debate over what the Bible means in this passage or what Jesus' devine status is in relationship to God and so on. Endless intellectualizing over books and interpretations, to me, is more of a wall that has kept me from understanding MY own true relationship with God and not some definition that I must fit my relationship with God into. How can one's own personal Spiritual identity be defined by a book written by another human being? What priest, pastor, or Bible quote can tell me what is in my own Depth?

 

As I ponder that Depth and what lies Beyond my own human edges, I find the Bible, human religions, and denominational definitions and debates to be irrelevant. Marcus Borg wrote that faith, true faith, should be transformational and I agree with him. What kind of transformation, real life-changing transformation, can be had in believing in someone else's faith? By 'being a Catholic' or by having, say, a Protestant church define Jesus as the 'Son of God', the Savior who came to this earth to take away our sins, do we then, in effect, allow someone else to say, 'Here. This is what you will believe'? I personally reject all such human definitions. To me God can be known and experienced. Here. Now. All we must do is look within and meditate upon the reality that, as once written, 'God is as close to us as our own breathing'. We do not need to involve ourselves with endless intellectualizing, debate, and/or constant analysis over Bible quotes. We can finally say to the pastor and priest, the books and the creeds, 'No..God is more than that.'

 

After years of Journeying, including membership in the Methodist Church, I had come to the end of the road with religion, organized faith, the hypocracy, and the predjudices. Not seeking definition or guidance to fill a void in my own personal belief, I came to the Quaker Faith and Practice out of agreement and alignment, not out of seeking. It is in such agreement and alignment that I have found other co-thinkers, including the founding members who had to fight the dictatorial religious denominations jockying for top position at the time to establish the simple right to meet and share their own Faith. One of the founding members of the Religious Society of Friends, first known as The Children of Light, wrote this very piercing quote that, to me, challenges us as people of Faith to look for our own Spiritual Selves and not have ourselves be defined by an external human religion: "You will say, 'Christ saith this, and the apostles say this', but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?" It is this knowing that God is not only with me, with US, but also within me...within each and every one of us, that brings me ever closer to all of you, all of us, as true Brothers and Sisters. We are truely, each and every one of us, 'Children of the Light'.

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Russ,

 

Beautifully written and echoes many of my own personal views. Of course not everyone is at that stage in life where theology and debate has lost such importance to them. However, i do think that even all that debate and intellectualizing over books and interpretations is a portion of ones journey that was necessary for those so inclined to bring them to that liberation. Perhaps it is all vanity, but is it not an essential obscuration that needs to be passed through to recognize this?

 

Just some of my thoughts. Enjoyed your post. Thanks,

Joseph

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In looking back over our life, it can be easy to fall into thinking, if only I had done that differently, if only I hadn't wandered down paths that turned out dead-ends that forced me to back-track and begin again, if only I hadn't wasted the time I did in places where I stopped and began to set roots down into, thinking that was the home I sought, only to realize it was again a place to be left behind, not a place to stay....maybe I would have gotten here sooner, where I am, that seems to be the place I have sought...

 

But every step of the journey has been toward where we are now, and even what seemed mis-steps were neccesary stages of that journey...the old adage 'if only I'd known then what I know know, I'd have made better choices', fails when we realize that what we know now has come through our experiening those things...

 

And no matter how sure we may feel that where we are now is to have finally arrived at our intended destination, it is wise to understand that by tomorrow, we will have once again realized this, too, just a place to rest awhile, before moving on down the road.

 

Jenell

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Well put, Jenell, thank you for sharing your thoughts. For me, I am a Spiritual Pilgrim journeying through Life. I agree that such a Journey and our own coming to Faith is a process and not an event although it could begin with one as was the case with my own beginning. I believe that my personal Faith Journey began the day a voice, a presence, told me that I'm an alcoholic and that if I didn't stop drinking I would die. That was the turning point in my life almost twenty nine years ago and it was, I am convinced, a message from Within and from the One Within. Faith Journeys are lifelong once begun and are never easy. We struggle with our own beliefs that are handed down to us from our families, from our communities, from denomination churches. As we further follow our own Paths, we painfully become aware of the doctrines and creeds, edicts and proclamations, not making sense to our own imaging of God and our own sense of what is right. Faith Journeys can strip away the old in the same way that many of our fellow earth creatures shed an old skin for a new. I was an arrogant atheist for many years until I realized that I had been Saved by Grace and have been on my own personal Journey to discover that which I know lies Within...not just within myself, but within all of us. I also am convinced that I was Saved by God in order to return to God. The Divine CAN be experienced on a personal level and that experience may save our lives, inspire us at a particular moment, or come to us in a vision while meditating. We Journey not only without as we live our lives, but deeper Within as well. Our Journeys take us through dark and light, around unknown turns and to discoveries that mark our own growth...Once begun, our Faith Journeys continue on and become one with our Life Journeys. Let us all share in such things as we are all Being of God.

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Quaker Way, thanks for your thoughts and testimony, and to Jenell. Maybe appropriate here to give some words from Thomas Merton.......

 

In one sense we are always travelling,

Travelling as if we did not know where we are going.

In another sense we have already arrived.

We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life.

That is why we are travelling and in darkness.

But we already possess God by grace.

Therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and

Are dwelling in the light.

But oh! How far have I to go to find You

In Whom I have already arrived!

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Well put Tariki. There are many engimas and much paradox pertaining to the journey. Perhaps the reconciliation between state of having arrived and yet we still journey is to found in having begun the journey, we have arrived at the journey itself as a destination.

 

I agree we can easily over-intellectualize all this, and must admit that I've had to recognize in my own self that the tendency to over-intellectualize in general in my response to life events and challenges is among my weaknesses...its one of my ego defenses in some ways. I try to recognize when I'm letting that happen, and take 'spiritual breaks' that help me move back toward experiencing rather than being too mental. These are usually neccesarily brief, having to be fitted into every day life, refocvusing on daily meditations and activites that for me induce meditative state. Though I have experienced some longer, deeper, and more dramatic retreats from the mental, the 'worldly', the most extensive and life-changing was several decades ago, entering a period of several years into a shamanic journey, that took me into depths I would not even begin to try to describe outside that relam of experience. Mind-bending would be an understatement. Thankfully, it was a period in my life when I was fairly well sustained materially by circumstances, for one is not especially 'functional' in the 'real world' when plumbing those depths. Some accounts of that kind of experience have been given in such descriptive terms as a journey into the fringes of madness, or into the realms even angels fear to tread.

 

I can relate to one's wanderings through various faith traditions as seeking alignment rather than a new path to follow. But I think even so, when among others with whom we experience alignment, we are likely to learn from them as well. The words of others cannot give us the way, the answers, nor can simply following the path and teachings of others lead us anywhere substantive. However, I think we do still find in other's words, as they share their own experiences and what they've learned, nuggest of gold here and there that we can add to our treasure purse, use to enhance and further what we have come to otherwise.

 

As for looking back on one's life and being able to identiify a definite turning point, often one we did not recognize as such at the time, I think if we look closer we will find there have been many such turning points, some perhaps more dramatic than others, but all still important to our development. For me, I have identified a number of such turning points, from early childhood, over my life time, each a little different, for the most part, those early ones gentler in their impact, each one progressively drawing me deeper into the invisible reality with less regrd for the aparant reality.

 

Those of us communicating these ideas here in this forum are all well on our way on the journey, I know that is so, because if it weren't, we'd not even be able to begin to understand what one another is talking about in many of these conversations. To those not yet well on their way on the journey, our words here sound like gibberish, the confused ramblings of crazy people. It was so liberating for me when I really comprehended that "normal" is not the standard for ideal or superior!

 

I first became consciously aware of that when among the first mystic works I encountered, and read, were the Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross, and St Teresa of Avilla, and they made perfect sense to me...yet, what I was told by so many was that they made no sense of them at all! What I discovered in reading those writers was that there are ways we can speak and write of these things, which Paul spoke of as being unlawful to speak...we cannot speak them directly and plainly, for our language has no words for them, but between those that have heard those things unlawful to speak, we can understand one anothers analogies and metaphors.

 

Jenell

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I can relate to one's wanderings through various faith traditions as seeking alignment rather than a new path to follow....As for looking back on one's life and being able to identiify a definite turning point, often one we did not recognize as such at the time, I think if we look closer we will find there have been many such turning points, some perhaps more dramatic than others, but all still important to our development.

 

This is so very true, Jenell. I first began to sense something in people of Faith long ago...something that certain people had and that I did not, a certain depth to their lives. Not only did I recognize this, but felt somewhat drawn to this unknown way of being. It took many years of Journeying and growing Spiritually before I realized that those few people whose depth that I secretly admired were people who possessed an inner life based on a deep Faith. Such an inner life gives us a 'dimensionality', a depth that is Spiritual and that can be recognized by others. The lack of such an inner life kept me mentally chained to this world, unable to see or know anything more, as if I was simply living through my sense of what I could only touch and see. Such an inner life is the Doorway to God...we live our lives exploring such Depth and ever deeper with each pondering, each reading, each conversation that leaves us to think in a new way, each moment of inspiration. God is not only sought, but Revealed to us through such seeking no matter how difficult or simple...I believe that these turning points are Inspired and that we are not alone on our Journey, but Guided along the Way.

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Guest billmc

Hi Russ,

 

Just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed your posts in this thread...and to ask if you have any good Quaker resources that are more "meditative" in nature that you might be able to email me through my profile?

 

Thanks,

billmc

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Guest billmc

I believe that my personal Faith Journey began the day a voice, a presence, told me that I'm an alcoholic and that if I didn't stop drinking I would die. That was the turning point in my life almost twenty nine years ago and it was, I am convinced, a message from Within and from the One Within.

 

I had a similar experience about 8 months ago, Russ. The Voice, the Presence, the Light told me that I was accepted and loved "just as I am" - not because of what I believed, not because of a conversion experience, certainly not because I was holy, and not even because "that Thy blood was shed for me." I was accepted and loved because that is what Love does. The fear of not getting my beliefs right or of not belonging to the right religion or denomination or of not being a "real Christian" dissipated. To me, it was as if God was letting me know that, yes, I am "of God" and nothing can separate me from his Love.

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There is another thread that asks the question, does God still speak today?

 

I couldn't come up with anything to say on the topic because it is something I have very mixed feelings and opinions about, and can become quite emotional about it, often not in a good way.

 

That is for (1) how cheaply claim is made among some people, as it is used to be the end of any further discussion or question, as in "God spoke this to my heart", "God said this to me as I was reading scripture," in a way that makes it clear the speaker just drew a line in the sand....go any further, argue against their position, try to present facts contrary to what "God told" them, will be met with chrge you are questioning and denying God Himself. Or (2) those that gush about God speaking to them in way that seems obvious they want others to know how much more special, or faithful, or beloved and chosen by God they are.

And then of course, there are those that will mock and make fun, suggest you have to be at least a half a bubble off level to really think you can hear God speaking to you.

 

But I think I am not the only one here that knows better, that yes, God does still speak to us today. And I mean that more than in the sense some mean it, that God speaks to them through what they find when reading scripture, that He speaks to them through the bible. I do mean that yes, for at least some people, sometimes, they have truly heard His voice...I think many mean they've heard it as an inward voice, a voice in their mind, like the still small voice, but for at least some, they have heard an auditory voice, of a nature and under circumstances that is entirely inconsistent with any auditory hallucination associated with psychosis or mental illness.

 

I've no doubt I've heard His voice. Most often, He has spoken to me in dreams, One I know as my Lord that has appeared in such dreams at intervals all my life, to walk with me and talk with me, and it was always at some crucial point in my life, either outward situations, or stages of growth within. A few times, not a great many, but enough to establish my complete faith in such incidents for being just that, an auditory voice, that seemed spoken aloud, out of thin air, percieved by my physical ears.

 

It may be for different people and under different circumstances, what the voice conveys to us is meant to be shared with others, most of it I believe, and in all my own experiences, it was for only me.

Several times, that voice did come at times of uncertainty, when I seemed to have lost my way, or confronted with a choice, knew not which path to take. Sometimes it has been when on one hand I felt sure of the right thing to do, but my own doubts plagued me, it it really sound reasoning or spiritual guidance I am responding to, or it is my own mind and will and wants decieving me, because it something I want myself, and the voice has helped clarify the matter for me.

 

I beleive the voice can come to our aid in times of crisis. I know a man, and this story about him well enough not to doubt it, whose life was saved by audibly hearing that voice. He was not a religious man at all. Working alone on his wooded property, he stepped off the small cat-track dozer he was using to clear brush and smooth ground for a driveway, to dislodge some timber debris that had become caught in the blade's lift mechanism. He thought he had shifted the machine into neutral, too late realized it was still in gear. As he pulled the binding debris free, his feet slipped and the fell backward, face up. Freed of the obstruction, the machine began to crawl forward, catching his feet under the blade before he could react. Slowly it kept crawling, up his legs, in stops and starts as the tracks slipped in mud, as it was crawling up a fairly steep uphill incline. He was alone, no one would think to check on him until he did not arrive home Sunday night, and this was Saturday morning. He had laid his cell phone "safely" aside a few yards away.

He said he heard a voice, that instructed him at every step what to do. He said it was strange, but hearing the voice seemed 'natural', though it surprised him at first, he didn't fear it or question if it was real. The voice instructed him to tie the end of one of the long sleeves of his shirt in a knot, then pack a ball of mud into it...then, to toss it up and around the dozer housing so as to have it catch on the gear lever, to jerk it into neutral and then reverse. He was pinned under the front of the dozer, he could not even see the cockpit, let alone the shift lever he was aiming for. he missed a half dozen times, and each time the voice told him how he had missed and how to adjust his aim. Eventually he succeeded, was able to back the dozer off his body, which by then had crawled up onto his pelvis. He was then able to drag himself to his cell phone to call for help. He suffered both legs broken in multiple places and a fractured pelvis. I know this a true story, the man is a relative. Given the impossiblity of having actually managed to throw that mud ball in a shirt sleeve up into the cockpit he couldn't see, to catch on and shift a lever he couldn't see, gave those personally connected to this far more than his say so for believing what he said happened. But what I've come to realize is pretty typical for those that have heard the voice, he doesn't talk about it much. He says he know most people wont beleive him anyway, and when they don't, he feels something sacred he experienced that day is belittled by that.

 

Knowing the reality of the presence of the voice, a guiding light there for all of us who will dare to trust, have that faithg, is something I've always admired in the Quaker way. If only more Christians could find that faith, that trust...

 

Jenell

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Btw, Quaker Way, I think that which you speak of that you have sensed in people a deep faith, a depth, a serenity, even a repose, a peace not as this world gives, that made you want it too, inspired you to seek it for yourself, is THE witness, THE testimony, people of faith are called to bear forth into the world...to BE, not talk about, teach about, but to BE the lamp set high upon the hill, for others to percieve, be drawn toward, to seek toward, for themselves.

 

But also, it is truly a gift from God, not something that arisies from within oursleves. The seeker's way truly does not begin UNTIL faith has entered, been given as a gift...faith compels us onward along the Way, drives us as the seeker, but that entry point, faith, was given. The man whose story I relate aove, never at all a religious man, or at all a man of any particualr faith...so the gift of faith he was given in that incident,which will never leave him, wasn't something he was consciously seeking...but it certainly changed him, and everyone that knows him has seen it, whether they know about the accident or not. After it, the strange quality we are calling depth first appeared in him, and his journey began. He's still not at all religious, but he was definitely changed, he became the seeker that day.

 

Jenell

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I don't have anything to to add here, just want to say thanks for all the beautiful thoughts Quakerway and everyone else who contributed. Spirituality is alive and well. :)

 

Peace,

Mike

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