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Thoughts From My Journey


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Guest billmc

John 3:8 - "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

A couple of days ago, I was thinking about my recent experience of God's unconditional love for me. Perhaps like Jesus' disciples at his transfiguration, I'm tempted to build an altar there in my heart and worship the experience rather than the One who gave it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with our 'mountain-top experiences', it's just that we can't seem to stay there, can we? Just like Moses, we have to leave the mountain-top and return to living out those experiences in real life with our brothers and sisters. Just as with Jesus, experiences of the reality of the Father translate into compassion for others.

 

The story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well also came to my mind. She was interested in getting her theology about God right. Where was God? Was God in Jerusalem, as the Jews said? Or was God on Mount Gerizim, as the Samaritans believed? Jesus tried to enlighten her thinking by telling her that because God was Spirit, worship didn't have anything to do with location, but with awareness and truth.

 

It's tempting to think our experiences of God should become ebenezers in our lives, monuments to places along our journey where God has met us in real ways. But the danger in that way of thinking, it seems to me, is the temptation to pitch our tent there, to think that we have arrived, to think that no further growth is necessary and that God is finished with us.

 

Jesus said, in John chapter 3, that God and our experiences with him are like trying to catch the wind. The wind goes where it wants to. You can't tell where it came from nor where it will go next. My journey feels much like that. I mean, sure, I can note some of the markers along the way, some of the experiences that have brought me to where I am today. But I can't tell you exactly where that is. :D I'm still journeying. And I have absolutely no idea where this Wind will take me next. All I can do is to raise my spiritual sail and to trust.

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Amen.

 

Thanks for that, Bill.

 

I think the value of our 'mountain-top experiences' is how they open us, even if just a little, to the bottomless grace of our existence...de-centering the ego and turning our old values on their head. We don't need to try to carry the experiences themselves with us, just that insight into grace.

 

From one journeyer to another, thanks and peace :)

-Mike

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Guest billmc

I think the value of our 'mountain-top experiences' is how they open us, even if just a little, to the bottomless grace of our existence...de-centering the ego and turning our old values on their head. We don't need to try to carry the experiences themselves with us, just that insight into grace.

 

I appreciate the way you put that, Mike - the bottomless grace of our existence. As long as we think of grace as having a bottom, as having boundaries, it's not grace. It's the nature of grace, because it flows out of the One who has no boundaries, to encompass all. I also appreciate what you said about our experiences shouldn't become baggage - they are meant to change our perception, not to make our journey more arduous.

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Guest billmc

To me, following the Way of wisdom is simple...but it's far from easy.

 

Throughout my whole life, I've tried to mentally arrange things in my mind so that I could get them accomplished. I'd do this at night concerning the next day, then I'd rehearse them again in the morning to make sure that I knew what I had to get done. Frankly, when you have a wife, children, a job, church involvement, and other commitments, it's easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs doing. But there is, I think, some effectiveness in such a technique. So I thought that I could do much the same thing in my spiritual life. And popular Christianity caters to this technique with a plethora of teachers and books that offer "10 Easy Steps to Living a Godly Life" or "7 Effective Principles for Church Leaders" or "Following Jesus Made Easy." Right.

 

To me, the goal of following Jesus is not to follow Jesus, per se. The reason that we seek to follow Jesus is because he leads us to the kingdom of God which, oddly, we discover first within ourselves. How do we do it? Well, far be it from me to offer "2 Easy Steps to the Kingdom of God" :D , but I would say that it comes down to wisdom in loving God and loving others. And that, it seems to me, goes beyond a list of rules and regulations to the personal experience of trusting the Spirit's leading in our lives from day to day, moment to moment.

 

Put this way, yes, it sounds simple. But it is not easy. It's, in essence, a selfless lifestyle. While the Spirit does call each of us to a life lived for others, the particulars of what that looks like in my life will look different from the particulars in your life. God has made all of us unique, and that is reflected in how she leads each one of us. As the old saying goes, "God doesn't make cookie-cutter Christians." We can, and should, bind ourselves together to be effective in our good works, to maximize acting as the Body on earth. But, again, the Body has great diversity and the hand may be lead to do things that the foot cannot do. This is, IMO, a good thing.

 

I like efficiency. I appreciate guidance and instructions that try to make things simple. But simple and easy are not the same things. In fact, sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do. They take Power that seems to "come from above" or from deep within or from community. And that Power is best seen, not in getting our own way, but in serving others. Simple. Hard to do.

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Alan Watts tells a story of a Buddhist monk asking his teacher who is Buddha. I feel the same answer can be applied to who is Jesus. The teacher replied, "It is windy today."

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What we may miss when we want to stay there on the mountain top and build a shrine at which to worship, that unlike the reason a mountain climber may give for having climbed a challenging peak, that is, just because it's there, spiritual mountaintop experiences are about the treasures we find there to bring back down to the valley with us.

 

When scripture related that after coming down tothe valley from the mountaintop, where He met and talked with Moses (Letter of Law) and Elijah (illuminated by spiritual fire brought down from heaven), he taught the people, I have to think something He brought down from that experience was translated into practical teachings.

 

Further, I think a depth level interpretation of that might be that "the people" He then taught meant not only other people, literally, but the many "people" each of are, in our various rolesand relationships in our lives. The spiritual understanding and wisdom found on the mountaintop isn't of much use or value unless it then percolates down into every nook and cranny of our being and beliefs systems, to then inform how we think, how we percieve, what we do, in the many various roles and relationships, our "situational selves" in our life. We've all noticed in others, maybe even ourselves, how our ways of thinking and acting in different situations can seem informed by very different, even conflicting underlying beliefs.

 

Sifting the "Spirit of he Law" from from the components of the "Letter of the Law" is faciliated by mountaintop experiences, and in fact often seems to the the very or most primary reason for them.

 

Jenell

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I appreciate the way you put that, Mike - the bottomless grace of our existence. As long as we think of grace as having a bottom, as having boundaries, it's not grace. It's the nature of grace, because it flows out of the One who has no boundaries, to encompass all. I also appreciate what you said about our experiences shouldn't become baggage - they are meant to change our perception, not to make our journey more arduous.

 

Thanks Bill. "One who has no boundaries" is a great "definition" of God. The ideas of "bottomlessness", "without boundary" - and in your later post - of the kingdom of God being within through leading a "selfless lifestyle" - all link compassion with selfless existence. And why not?, after all - "compassion" means encompassing passion - as you write, "the nature of grace...flows out of the One who has no boundaries, to encompass all." This leads me to think of selflessness/grace as an ontological category, grounding (or de-grounding :)) the kingdom of God within us, within our bottomless existence.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Guest billmc

I'm currently reading a book by Quaker pastor, Philip Gulley, called "If God Is Love" The focus of the book, as you can imagine, is what it means, not just theologically, but practically to say that God is love. One of the "freeing notions" that Phil brings out is that salvation is a process, not an event.

 

I used to consider salvation to be the event where God changes my destination from hell to heaven. Granted, there was a great deal of initial joy in that view. When you are young, to discover that God is sending you to Disneyland instead of Boise, Idaho is a reason to rejoice. :D But in the last first years, I've sensed that salvation is more about wholeness and healing than it is about destination. And like everyone else, I often feel incomplete and wounded and wish God would give me a magic pill to instantly fix me. I'm sure my wife would appreciate such a remedy. :lol:

 

But there is a certain amount of...freedom...and comfort in knowing that my salvation is a process. For one thing, it helps us to see that healing and wholeness is not something that God gives us apart from herself. It is in giving us herself, her very presence with and within us, that salvation is experienced. Salvation is not something I get "from" God, it is something I experience through God. Accepting this is healing to me because I know that nothing can separate me from God's love, not even myself.

 

The other part of this that is freeing to me is knowing that it's okay for me to be "in process." Yes, I'm a mess. But there is nothing I can do to make God love me any more, and nothing I can do to make God love me any less. I don't have to worry about meeting some standard in order for me to experience the love that is God. Salvation is something that happens a little bit more every day. In all honestly, I wish my progress were a straight line from the bottom to the top. But I know better. Some days are 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. Yet I know that he never leaves me or forsakes me.

 

Yes, I'd like the magic bullet of salvation. But God seems to be more of a potter than a "quick-fix" expert. And he seems to call me to be part of my own journey of wholeness and healing. The grace is not that he changes my destination; the grace is that he somehow changes me.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest billmc

I'm scared.

 

Well, maybe not scared. More like...concerned.

 

I've always been a Type A personality. You know the type -- ambitious, aggressive, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with status, time-conscious, tightly-wound. So tight that...well, never mind, I won't go there, public forum and all. Let's just say I've not been popular at parties.

 

But I'm scar...concerned that I'm turning into a Type B personality. I'm slowly becoming more patient, relaxed, easy-going, lacking a sense of urgency. And being relaxed and easy-going is putting me on edge. What's going on?

 

See, I've always felt "driven" in my spiritual life, always looking for the next new thing, the next spiritual high, the next revelation from on high that will forevermore change me. That feeling or sense of "drivenness" is slowly ebbing away. I don't know why. I seriously doubt that it's ebbing away because I've "arrived" spiritually. I've probably "stalled" spiritually more than anything else. But I'm concerned because that seems to be okay. Almost like I'm becoming comfortable in my own skin. And being comfortable in my own skin makes me, well, uncomfortable. I'm not used to it. Is it normal for a Christian, even a Progressive Christian, to be okay with who they are and where they are at? Book, chapter, and verse, please.

 

Then, to make my feeling better even worse, they say that Type B people are often described as apathetic and disengaged. Crazy, I can handle. But apathetic and disengaged? If I were a little more preoccupied with my status, I would go look these words up in an online dictionary to find out their definitions, but I'm just not much interested, know what I mean?

 

So, anyway, I don't know what all of this means. But I feel like I'm okay. Okay with God. Okay with the universe. Okay with my homeboy, Jesus. Maybe even okay with myself. It's got me...concerned.

 

Or maybe it doesn't, I don't know. :lol:

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Hmmmm...your profile gives your age as 52....yep, that's about right. You are learning to shift into overdrive and cruise..relax and enjoy it. Believe me, at some point near the end of this decade of your life, panic will set it and you'll find yourself trying to kick it back down into passing gear, only to realize there's nothing out there worth trying to pass.

 

Jenell

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.Put this way, yes, it sounds simple. But it is not easy. It's, in essence, a selfless lifestyle. While the Spirit does call each of us to a life lived for others, the particulars of what that looks like in my life will look different from the particulars in your life. God has made all of us unique, and that is reflected in how she leads each one of us. As the old saying goes, "God doesn't make cookie-cutter Christians." We can, and should, bind ourselves together to be effective in our good works, to maximize acting as the Body on earth. But, again, the Body has great diversity and the hand may be lead to do things that the foot cannot do.

 

I'm reminded of the idea that God works through me, as me, so that I may incarnate God - in my music, in my listening, in my loving.

 

Oh, so this is just "getting old"? :lol: Well, heck, if I had known it was gonna be like this, I would have gotten older when I was younger

 

Didn't Mark Twain say that? :rolleyes:

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Way I see it, people have two choices about how to deal with getting old....there are those that mellow with age, like fine wine and good cheese, and then there are those that just get sour and bitter and finally just rot....and by 50, most have pretty much made their choice and are well on their way toward one or the other.

I think I was about 35 when I noticed that among the older generation before me, saw that it seemed to be a pretty consistent set of patterns, and made my choice, though I can't say I consciously recognized it as such at the time, but I think i had become consciously aware of it by my mid-40's....at that point I started letting go of baggage and dumping garbage as I saw what it did to those that were determined to hang onto all that....

Someone said to me one time, going on at length at all the things other people had done to them, how many bad things there had been in their life, that they had every right to their anger and resentment...it was justfied anger at the wrongs and dissapointments and setbacks they'd sufferred....and I realized, having a right to keep carrying it doesn't mean we are required to keep carrying it.

Seems to me that by 50, the ones headed down one track start settling into cruise, those headed down the other are kind of like someone trying to drive with one foot pushing the accelerator pedal to the metal, while standing on the brake with the other....same things start happening as it would that car, the bands start slipping and the gears start stripping and the wheels start smoking.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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