Archive for August, 2009

Sermon Illustration… gone wrong!

August 9, 2009 - 10:02 am 27 Comments

A  pious minister wanted to make a point about the nature of sin to his congregation…. So he thought a convincing visual demonstration would add emphasis to his moralistic points…

He placed four worms in four separate jars…

The first was placed into a jar of alcohol. The second worm was placed into a jar of smoke. The third was placed in a jar of sexual fluids. The fourth worm was then placed in a jar of good, clean soil…

After a while, the worm in the alcohol died. Then, the worm in the smoke died. Shortly thereafter, the worm in the fluids died. However, the worm that was placed in the good clean soil was alive!

So then the minister said to his congregation: What can we learn from this demonstration? A little old woman, from the back of the room,quickly raised her hand, and stated:” As long as you drink, smoke, and have sex, you will not get worms!”

Symptoms Of Inner Peace

August 9, 2009 - 9:51 am 3 Comments

Beware! Watch for these Signs! The hearts of many people have already been exposed to it … Soon, we could find our society experiencing its effects in epidemic proportions!    Here are the signs and symptoms to watch for:

Tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fear based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

Loss of interest in judging others

Loss of interest in judging oneself

Loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others

Loss of interest in creating conflict

Loss of the ability to worry ( this is a very serious symptom!)

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others and with nature

Frequent attacks of smiling, laughter, and the willingness to look at things through the lens of a caring heart

Increased tendency to let things happen, rather than feel you must make things happen

Increased susceptibility to love; to extend loving regard and gestures towards others, and the uncontrollable urge to extend your love and caring, respect and support to others…

IF you have some or even most of these above symptoms, please be advised that your condition might worsen until a general feeling of Peace will manifest, and become so advanced that it will be not be curable!

If you are exposed to anyone exhibiting several of these symptoms, remain near them at your own risk! This condition called PEACE is probably in its most infectious stage when you surround yourself with ethical, spiritual, and caring people.

adapted from the popular list by Saskia Davis

Addiction & Grace- Some Spiritual Perspectives

August 5, 2009 - 8:21 pm 3 Comments
1160506_pathAddiction and Grace:
Their Spiritual Correlation’s and Potentials
“To be alive is to be addicted. To be addicted is to [stand or to live in the need of Grace.” This statement was made to me by Dr. Gerald May, a psychiatrist and spiritual director. He was my supervisor and the clinical director of the Shalem Institute, in Washington DC, where I received my training in spiritual direction. He was the author of Addiction and Grace. (Harper and Row)
At first, I recoiled when I heard those seemingly harsh words- I was defensive and I thought that it was an unfair, sweeping generalization, an indictment we were all supposed share, like an additional form of original sin. But, as we began to discuss its meaning in our personal and spiritual lives, I came to realize the truth that statement had for me, and for all of us.
Today,  I will share with you some of the connections I have made between the concepts of addiction and attachment, between addiction and spirituality, and conclude with a working model that blends insights from my
work with the concept of spiritual emergence, a new look at grace, and the dimensions of human freedom. This model will represent the basis for our later discussion and how any of us can make sense of suffering, addiction, and our need for spiritual awareness, change and growth.
Like Dr. May, When we become more aware of ourselves we are better equipped to handle any of life’s difficulties. Self-knowledge is the most universal factor that links all the world religions; it is the cornerstone of spiritual maturity. As this applies to freedom for addictions of any kind, St. Paul reminds us, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is our freedom.” (II COR.3; Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit, gentleness, self control etc.)
As we become more spiritually aware or discerning, we can assess our problems and progress more clearly- that is, without remorse or guilt. Such negative emotions only retard growth or recycle blame and shame, all of which works to keep us unworthy, imprisoned, trapped.
Instead, we can accept and practice increasing our self-knowledge and spiritual awareness. With this change of attitude, we can welcome an inventory of one’s feelings and experiences and evaluate them as opportunities for developing an identity that values wholeness and holiness.
This more spiritual and nonjudgmental perspective names every addiction we have and identifies them clearly. Addictions of all types are undisclosed, undiscovered, or disguised spiritual needs; in other words, addictions are counterfeit spirituality that hides or masks our need for our lifelong acceptance and replenishment of God’s grace, peace and love. .
These behaviors, once they are learned and rehearsed. act as crafty forgeries; as counterfeits and substitutes for the spiritual ideas and nurturing we need most. Addictions and attachments create false desires and physiological cravings that substitutes for the work ,energy and dedication we need to grow beyond our toxic beliefs about ourselves, others, God, and the world.
( excerpted from Matthew Fox’s interviews  in Creation magazine, etc.)
There has been a lot of attention given to the multiple problems included within drug abuse in our society. Thousands of books and articles have created libraries full of data. These well researched sources have always tried to neatly and scientifically categorize drugs into legal and illegal, or into their many physiological and pharmacological effects. When drug awareness and education are taught with that emphasis, the results are recreational chemists and gourmet users. It would be far better if our understanding of drugs was more democratic and universal. It would be more suitable and hospitable to understanding its scope and depth if we realize that almost any substance or activity can be used as a drug.
What is a drug? Some time ago, when I first began to CO-teach classes in drug education, I learned that a drug could be defined as anything that could alter your mind, mood or motion. Mind, Mood, or Motion… in short, anything -any substance, outlook, attitude or activity taken or used to alter one’s basic reality. Under these parameters, we, as individuals and we, as a society, have to admit that we condone many forms of addictions and consider them quite normal! Our culture seems to breed addictions, compulsions, and all varieties of dysfunctions- we can hardly limit it to illegal substances; there is finally sufficient concern to alter our focus away from only the illegal drugs and put our attention on alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and caffeine, the legal, lethal killers.
Additionally, if we really desire to be honest, our society supports and condones strong addictions to work, success, money, and material achievement. We encourage addictions to social approval, clothing, shopping malls beauty, overt sexuality and many forms of image making and ego identification. Maybe worse of all, is the addiction to  political power, its risk-taking, and its war-making.
Just to round it off, there are addictions to exercise, TV  sex, family ties; to substances like chocolate, fried foods, even addictions to wanting to be helpful, to seeking help from others, or trying to save people from themselves!  DID I MISS ANY ???   Over the years, I have developed or experienced at least one from every category.
To summarize, anything can be used as a drug, therefore can be potentially abused, and possibly addicting. Dependencies, attachments, addictions of all sorts are intrinsic parts of the human condition, a part of everyone of us that stands in the need of Grace.
Medically speaking, Dr. May defines addiction this way:   He said that whenever 4 of these 5 following characteristics are witnessed, a state of addiction is present. They are:
1) When there is an increased tolerance for larger amounts
2) When withdrawal causes physical or emotional distress
3) When a person engages in continual self-deception and/or
social denial
4) When there is a conscious loss of will to stop or change
the destructive behavior
5) When there is a distortion of attention, or of the
importance placed on the activity itself- so that it preoccupies or becomes “an all consuming central activity in daily life”
Addictions exist whenever a person feels internally compelled to give it inordinate energy. It is a state of compulsion, obsession, or a state of preoccupation that enslaves our will and imprisons our freedom. In more spiritual terms, addictions diminish us; reduce our ability to act, choose, respond with love to the realities that are around us, and within us. When we are addicted, we react out of distorted ego needs- we find ourselves asking,” what am I going to get out of this ?” the intention here is to define all activity  by a self-centered, often manipulative, and egotistical whim.
Religiously speaking, addictions act as rivals to God; as idols and as counterfeit deities that vie for our attention, care, that rob us our freedom, time or love because they demand service and obligatory worship. Currently, our society’s reinforced drive for pleasure, power, and possessions have formed an unholy trinity in our cultural lifestyle. This troika has been quite successful in keeping many of us away from finding our true, spiritual selves; these demands keep us numb and keep us distant from forming and maintaining meaningful connections and relationships, away from finding God within us or all around us. Such preoccupation’s also keep us from working for justice, equality, and human dignity as children of one human family, equal children of God.
As citizens of the United States, we belong to and we maintain the most addictive society in the world. From Madison Ave. to Marshalls, we are bombarded with all the things we want, need, or “just have to have.”
We promote and advertise all kinds of compulsions and dependencies everyday.  With the advent of Mass media and around the clock advertising, They have become almost automatic; ingrained. Our whole culture is geared around consumption. If you buy this, it will make you . . . (fill in the blank… happy, healthy, sexy, popular, and a great success… somehow better more acceptable… We fail to ask ourselves,  to whom???
In the medical establishment, the case is one of clear and blatant hypocrisy- legal drug abuse by prescription  rivals almost anything on our streets or back alleys. Maybe, if brutally honest, we should change our national motto from “In God We Trust,” to “Drugs R US.”
But cultures do not change before the people within them do, so I will not go on with my social commentary except to say that the desire for a better world begins and ends within each of us; daily, one step at a time. None of us are totally free, just as no person is without recourse to spiritual power, will, grace. We are, and we live in constant relationship to one another. As a part of the shared social reality, we are to assist and empower one another to understand what freedom means, and what living more spiritually can do or accomplish. Our world exists and is maintained by our shared unity; by our declaration of interdependence that is Godly and gracious.
What is grace? What kind of inspiration do we need to break attachments, overcome addictions, really change our lives? If you received a traditional education or exposure to religion, you would define grace as [ the unmerited, undeserved, loving care that God gives to all humanity.] Accordingly, grace isn’t something you can earn, nor can it be purchased, nor can any amount of so-called ascetic “good” behavior insure it or provide you with it. It’s just there-ready and waiting -given, not deserved.
Some Western theologies state that such God-given grace is our only way out because human nature is so sinful and depraved; only by professing a strict creedal faith or only under the direct authority of a church’s rites and rituals can anyone ever receive or maintain a sense of grace in their lives.
I prefer to take off these leaden and overly laden theological shoes and remove the heavy burden of obligatory beliefs. I would declare that ANY real or truly spiritual community can act as a support agency or facilitator for God’s gracious insights, transformation, and healing. This community might not conform to be the usual church, temple or synagogue. It could also be an ashram, a place in nature, a “step” meeting, sacred time in someone’s arms or sharing among intimate friends.
A spiritual community exists ” wherever two or more are gathered in My name”; wherever a loving, holy and sincere connection can be found or made in the presence and the power of a holy intention ( or shared esoteric ritual)
Most theologies concur that grace is involuntary and on that basis, “irresistible”. We can not tell when it will appear, or how it will manifest its blessings to us. Because we are loved by God, we are given grace sufficient to amend our lives and save our souls (our psyches or our consciousness). Following in that reasoning, most of our theologians and Western churches declare that” we are all sinners who fall far  short of deserving the  grace of God.” I can swallow hard and begrudgingly agree with this assumption, IF that view also means that we all have our rival attachments and addictions and we all have need of God’s empowering grace to free us and heal us.
This approach has its value when it corrects the faulty human notion that audaciously states that we are in total control of our lives, and that we can overcome anything with sufficient personal willpower. Such an extreme view, is neither helpful nor accurate to our interdependence on or with God which is a fact of total consciousness and complete spiritual being. Neither is the approach that says we are totally powerless a healthy or accurate statement. While I know that this latter approach has found favor among many of the Anonymous groups, and I have seen it work its miracles, for some 30% of all addicts, I cannot agree with its emphasis on labeling someone as having a disease that they are totally powerless or defenseless to overcome.
As I have come to define it, understand and experience it, the grace we need comes from the grace we are willing to seek, the grace we are willingly to change our ego for, or accept as a new standard for our lives. For me, that grace is the one that uplifts me with a blend of loving acceptance and contains a higher incentive or holy idealism. It is a grace that hold two factors in a dynamic synthesis- it is grace and will, extremity and  opportunity, it is readiness and follow-through. In more traditional theological and metaphysical language, it is the experience of “SYNERGISTIC GRACE.( a term first discovered or named by Philip Melcanthon, a early Reformation theologian who first postulated that grace and will must work together in some way)  Synergistic grace is based on our invitation and our willingness or readiness to respond to it; we invite it into our awareness either consciously by direct behavior change on the obvious level, or it comes to us unconsciously through subtle changes that percolate upward into our conscious awareness. Both ways can change us dramatically.
Ironically, this manifestation of grace comes most readily when we are the closest to despair or when we feel the most desperate. It comes when our personal willpower is defeated, when our ego games and distortions no longer work, and like some large psychic black hole, finally implodes in our hearts or draws us into its vast emptiness. It occurs when our gnawing neediness can no longer by satisfied by our manipulative strategies or denials. This synergistic grace of God manifests when we are at our lowest ebb which  is the exalting paradox: when we are the farthest from our egotism, when we are the most desperate, lonely, divided, and ready to change, that is when God’s presence comes closest to us, and becomes most real and true. As Meister Eckhart refers to it, [ God is not found in adding more things to our lives, more activities and diversions, instead God is found through subtraction, through emptiness and readiness where in we can find the God that is within all things, even our suffering].
This transformative event is an act of God that moves our awareness into the state, the great mystics have generally called, “Holy Surrender”. Holy, because it transcends our accustomed and accumulated ways or routines and allows us to give them up or surrender them to a greater love and a larger hope. I firmly believe that it is this cooperative grace, this synergy of grace and will, and not grace alone, is what breaks the bonds of pour imprisonment. It is necessary, vital, that we actively participate in our own healing and wholeness each day. For as we actively participate in keeping ourselves locked within our attachments, our dependencies, our suffering, so too, do we act to reinforce our insights and maintain our break through. We lock in, until God frees us or gives us the key… then it is our task to remember not to imprison ourselves again or substitute other addictions for those we had let go.
There is a bit of proverbial wisdom that states,” Our human extremities are really God’s opportunities.” For the most part, that’s true. How many of us would have changed our behavior one iota if we remained successful at it? If we did not feel increasingly ground down under its whirring blades or burdened by its emotional grinding stone? Until we are willing to give up on our hurtful and futile drives or neediness, our inner lacks, and our personal fears, would any of us honestly say we were truly ready and willing to make spiritual progress, really ready to decide for change in our lives??? And if, as I suggest, that addictions of any sort are, in reality, our undisclosed, undiscovered spiritual yearnings, unless we make the ground of our soul ready to receive the holy seed of transformation, we will lie barren. Unless we decide to invite or make ready our consciousness, either through spiritual discipline, preparation or courage, we will not change. We are given, through grace and our own free will, the ability to follow through on God’s opportune blessings and inspiration and receive real inner peace; that loving assurance we had never felt before, a love and a peace we can desire and deserve.
Lastly, I have found it helpful to look at our various afflictions and attachment this way: That our addictions assist us by taking us to the point where we are impelled to find God and discover our true spiritual identities. Our addictions and afflictions teach us about where God needs to be in our lives and where inspiration can make us whole again: whether that area is in our families, relationships, our sense of belonging, fulfillment or usefulness. Wherever we need more freedom, God is to be found. Addictions are our upside-down blessings; because without their pain and their suffering we might never know or come to experience the spiritual depths of our souls- its true joy, peace, love. Being alive also means being addicted, we all share in an equal mutual necessity to grow, evolve and change. Similarly, we can seek out various spiritual communities that acknowledge this truth and support its discovery among others and our society at large. And we can join their ranks without trying to hide any guilt, shame or fears we have wrestled with in life.
It is my hope that this community will become such a spiritual place where we can learn to face our afflictions and addictions with compassion and courage; being able to share in their resolution or in our restitution with joy. I also believe that we are called to become such a spiritual community of mutual blessings, where such knowing and loving support can be found. AMEN

Addiction and Grace: Some Spiritual Correlation’s and Potentials

“To be alive is to be addicted. To be addicted is to stand or to live in the need of Grace.” This statement was made to me by Dr. Gerald May, a psychiatrist and spiritual director. He was my supervisor and the clinical director of the Shalem Institute, in Washington DC, where I received my training in spiritual direction. He was the author of Addiction and Grace. (Harper and Row)

At first, I recoiled when I heard those seemingly harsh words- I was defensive and I thought that it was an unfair, sweeping generalization, an indictment we were all supposed share, like an additional form of original sin. But, as we began to discuss its meaning in our personal and spiritual lives, I came to realize the truth that statement had for me, and for all of us.

Today,  I will share with you some of the connections I have made between the concepts of addiction and attachment, between addiction and spirituality, and conclude with a working model that blends insights from my

work with the concept of spiritual emergence, a new look at grace, and the dimensions of human freedom. This model will represent the basis for our later discussion and how any of us can make sense of suffering, addiction, and our need for spiritual awareness, change and growth.

Like Dr. May, When we become more aware of ourselves we are better equipped to handle any of life’s difficulties. Self-knowledge is the most universal factor that links all the world religions; it is the cornerstone of spiritual maturity. As this applies to freedom for addictions of any kind, St. Paul reminds us, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is our freedom.” (II COR.3; Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit, gentleness, self control etc.)

As we become more spiritually aware or discerning, we can assess our problems and progress more clearly- that is, without remorse or guilt. Such negative emotions only retard growth or recycle blame and shame, all of which works to keep us unworthy, imprisoned, trapped.

Instead, we can accept and practice increasing our self-knowledge and spiritual awareness. With this change of attitude, we can welcome an inventory of one’s feelings and experiences and evaluate them as opportunities for developing an identity that values wholeness and holiness.

This more spiritual and nonjudgmental perspective names every addiction we have and identifies them clearly. Addictions of all types are undisclosed, undiscovered, or disguised spiritual needs; in other words, addictions are counterfeit spirituality that hides or masks our need for our lifelong acceptance and replenishment of God’s grace, peace and love. .

These behaviors, once they are learned and rehearsed. act as crafty forgeries; as counterfeits and substitutes for the spiritual ideas and nurturing we need most. Addictions and attachments create false desires and physiological cravings that substitutes for the work ,energy and dedication we need to grow beyond our toxic beliefs about ourselves, others, God, and the world.

( excerpted from Matthew Fox’s interviews  in Creation magazine, etc.)

There has been a lot of attention given to the multiple problems included within drug abuse in our society. Thousands of books and articles have created libraries full of data. These well researched sources have always tried to neatly and scientifically categorize drugs into legal and illegal, or into their many physiological and pharmacological effects. When drug awareness and education are taught with that emphasis, the results are recreational chemists and gourmet users. It would be far better if our understanding of drugs was more democratic and universal. It would be more suitable and hospitable to understanding its scope and depth if we realize that almost any substance or activity can be used as a drug.

What is a drug? Some time ago, when I first began to CO-teach classes in drug education, I learned that a drug could be defined as anything that could alter your mind, mood or motion. Mind, Mood, or Motion… in short, anything -any substance, outlook, attitude or activity taken or used to alter one’s basic reality. Under these parameters, we, as individuals and we, as a society, have to admit that we condone many forms of addictions and consider them quite normal! Our culture seems to breed addictions, compulsions, and all varieties of dysfunctions- we can hardly limit it to illegal substances; there is finally sufficient concern to alter our focus away from only the illegal drugs and put our attention on alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and caffeine, the legal, lethal killers.

Additionally, if we really desire to be honest, our society supports and condones strong addictions to work, success, money, and material achievement. We encourage addictions to social approval, clothing, shopping malls beauty, overt sexuality and many forms of image making and ego identification. Maybe worse of all, is the addiction to  political power, its risk-taking, and its war-making.

Just to round it off, there are addictions to exercise, TV  sex, family ties; to substances like chocolate, fried foods, even addictions to wanting to be helpful, to seeking help from others, or trying to save people from themselves!  DID I MISS ANY ???   Over the years, I have developed or experienced at least one from every category.

To summarize, anything can be used as a drug, therefore can be potentially abused, and possibly addicting. Dependencies, attachments, addictions of all sorts are intrinsic parts of the human condition, a part of everyone of us that stands in the need of Grace.

Medically speaking, Dr. May defines addiction this way:   He said that whenever 4 of these 5 following characteristics are witnessed, a state of addiction is present. They are:

1) When there is an increased tolerance for larger amounts

2) When withdrawal causes physical or emotional distress

3) When a person engages in continual self-deception and/or social denial

4) When there is a conscious loss of will to stop or change the destructive behavior

5) When there is a distortion of attention, or of the importance placed on the activity itself-  so that it preoccupies or becomes “an all consuming central activity in daily life”

Addictions exist whenever a person feels internally compelled to give it inordinate energy. It is a state of compulsion, obsession, or a state of preoccupation that enslaves our will and imprisons our freedom. In more spiritual terms, addictions diminish us; reduce our ability to act, choose, respond with love to the realities that are around us, and within us. When we are addicted, we react out of distorted ego needs- we find ourselves asking,” what am I going to get out of this ?” the intention here is to define all activity  by a self-centered, often manipulative, and egotistical whim.

Religiously speaking, addictions act as rivals to God; as idols and as counterfeit deities that vie for our attention, care, that rob us our freedom, time or love because they demand service and obligatory worship. Currently, our society’s reinforced drive for pleasure, power, and possessions have formed an unholy trinity in our cultural lifestyle. This troika has been quite successful in keeping many of us away from finding our true, spiritual selves; these demands keep us numb and keep us distant from forming and maintaining meaningful connections and relationships, away from finding God within us or all around us. Such preoccupations also keep us from working for justice, equality, and human dignity as children of one human family, equal children of God.

As citizens of the United States, we belong to and we maintain the most addictive society in the world. From Madison Ave. to Marshalls, we are bombarded with all the things we want, need, or “just have to have.”

We promote and advertise all kinds of compulsions and dependencies everyday.  With the advent of Mass media and around the clock advertising, They have become almost automatic; ingrained. Our whole culture is geared around consumption. If you buy this, it will make you . . . (fill in the blank… happy, healthy, sexy, popular, and a great success… somehow better more acceptable… We fail to ask ourselves,  to whom???

In the medical establishment, the case is one of clear and blatant hypocrisy- legal drug abuse by prescription  rivals almost anything on our streets or back alleys. Maybe, if brutally honest, we should change our national motto from “In God We Trust,” to “Drugs R US.”

But cultures do not change before the people within them do, so I will not go on with my social commentary except to say that the desire for a better world begins and ends within each of us; daily, one step at a time. None of us are totally free, just as no person is without recourse to spiritual power, will, grace. We are, and we live in constant relationship to one another. As a part of the shared social reality, we are to assist and empower one another to understand what freedom means, and what living more spiritually can do or accomplish. Our world exists and is maintained by our shared unity; by our declaration of interdependence that is Godly and gracious.

What is grace? What kind of inspiration do we need to break attachments, overcome addictions, really change our lives? If you received a traditional education or exposure to religion, you would define grace as [ the unmerited, undeserved, loving care that God gives to all humanity.] Accordingly, grace isn’t something you can earn, nor can it be purchased, nor can any amount of so-called ascetic “good” behavior insure it or provide you with it. It’s just there-ready and waiting -given, not deserved.

Some Western theologies state that such God-given grace is our only way out because human nature is so sinful and depraved; only by professing a strict creedal faith or only under the direct authority of a church’s rites and rituals can anyone ever receive or maintain a sense of grace in their lives.

I prefer to take off these leaden and overly laden theological shoes and remove the heavy burden of obligatory beliefs. I would declare that ANY real or truly spiritual community can act as a support agency or facilitator for God’s gracious insights, transformation, and healing. This community might not conform to be the usual church, temple or synagogue. It could also be an ashram, a place in nature, a “step” meeting, sacred time in someone’s arms or sharing among intimate friends.

A spiritual community exists ” wherever two or more are gathered in My name”; wherever a loving, holy and sincere connection can be found or made in the presence and the power of a holy intention ( or shared esoteric ritual)

Most theologies concur that grace is involuntary and on that basis, “irresistible”. We can not tell when it will appear, or how it will manifest its blessings to us. Because we are loved by God, we are given grace sufficient to amend our lives and save our souls (our psyches or our consciousness). Following in that reasoning, most of our theologians and Western churches declare that” we are all sinners who fall far  short of deserving the  grace of God.” I can swallow hard and begrudgingly agree with this assumption, IF that view also means that we all have our rival attachments and addictions and we all have need of God’s empowering grace to free us and heal us.

This approach has its value when it corrects the faulty human notion that audaciously states that we are in total control of our lives, and that we can overcome anything with sufficient personal willpower. Such an extreme view, is neither helpful nor accurate to our interdependence on or with God which is a fact of total consciousness and complete spiritual being. Neither is the approach that says we are totally powerless a healthy or accurate statement. While I know that this latter approach has found favor among many of the Anonymous groups, and I have seen it work its miracles, for some 30% of all addicts, I cannot agree with its emphasis on labeling someone as having a disease that they are totally powerless or defenseless to overcome.

As I have come to define it, understand and experience it, the grace we need comes from the grace we are willing to seek, the grace we are willingly to change our ego for, or accept as a new standard for our lives. For me, that grace is the one that uplifts me with a blend of loving acceptance and contains a higher incentive or holy idealism. It is a grace that hold two factors in a dynamic synthesis- it is grace and will, extremity and  opportunity, it is readiness and follow-through. In more traditional theological and metaphysical language, it is the experience of “SYNERGISTIC GRACE.( a term first discovered or named by Philip Melcanthon, an early Reformation theologian who first postulated that grace and will must work together in some way)  Synergistic grace is based on our invitation and our willingness or readiness to respond to it; we invite it into our awareness either consciously by direct behavior change on the obvious level, or it comes to us unconsciously through subtle changes that percolate upward into our conscious awareness. Both ways can change us dramatically.

Ironically, this manifestation of grace comes most readily when we are the closest to despair or when we feel the most desperate. It comes when our personal willpower is defeated, when our ego games and distortions no longer work, and like some large psychic black hole, finally implodes in our hearts or draws us into its vast emptiness. It occurs when our gnawing neediness can no longer be satisfied by our manipulative strategies or denials. This synergistic grace of God manifests when we are at our lowest ebb which  is the exalting paradox: when we are the farthest from our egotism, when we are the most desperate, lonely, divided, and ready to change, that is when God’s presence comes closest to us, and becomes most real and true. As Meister Eckhart refers to it, [ God is not found in adding more things to our lives, more activities and diversions, instead God is found through subtraction, through emptiness and readiness where in we can find the God that is within all things, even our suffering].

This transformative event is an act of God that moves our awareness into the state, the great mystics have generally called, “Holy Surrender”. Holy, because it transcends our accustomed and accumulated ways or routines and allows us to give them up or surrender them to a greater love and a larger hope. I firmly believe what  this is a  cooperative grace, this synergy of grace and will, and not grace alone, is what breaks the bonds of pour imprisonment. It is necessary, vital, that we actively participate in our own healing and wholeness each day. For as we actively participate in keeping ourselves locked within our attachments, our dependencies, our suffering, so too, do we act to reinforce our insights and maintain our break through. We lock in, until God frees us or gives us the key… then it is our task to remember not to imprison ourselves again or substitute other addictions for those we had let go.

There is a bit of proverbial wisdom that states,” Our human extremities are really God’s opportunities.” For the most part, that’s true. How many of us would have changed our behavior one iota if we remained successful at it? If we did not feel increasingly ground down under its whirring blades or burdened by its emotional grinding stone? Until we are willing to give up on our hurtful and futile drives or neediness, our inner lacks, and our personal fears, would any of us honestly say we were truly ready and willing to make spiritual progress, really ready to decide for change in our lives??? And if, as I suggest, that addictions of any sort are, in reality, our undisclosed, undiscovered spiritual yearnings, unless we make the ground of our soul ready to receive the holy seed of transformation, we will lie barren. Unless we decide to invite or make ready our consciousness, either through spiritual discipline, preparation or courage, we will not change. We are given, through grace and our own free will, the ability to follow through on God’s opportune blessings and inspiration and receive real inner peace; that loving assurance we had never felt before, a love and a peace we can desire and deserve.

Lastly, I have found it helpful to look at our various afflictions and attachments this way: That our addictions assist us by taking us to the point where we are impelled to find God and discover our true spiritual identities. Our addictions and afflictions teach us about where God needs to be in our lives and where inspiration can make us whole again: whether that area is in our families, relationships, our sense of belonging, fulfillment or usefulness. Wherever we need more freedom, God is to be found. Addictions are our upside-down blessings; because without their pain and their suffering we might never know or come to experience the spiritual depths of our souls- its true joy, peace, love. Being alive also means being addicted, we all share in an equal mutual necessity to grow, evolve and change. Similarly, we can seek out various spiritual communities that acknowledge this truth and support its discovery among others and our society at large. And we can join their ranks without trying to hide any guilt, shame or fears we have wrestled with in life.

It is my hope that this community will become such a spiritual place where we can learn to face our afflictions and addictions with compassion and courage; being able to share in their resolution or in our restitution with joy. I also believe that we are called to become such a spiritual community of mutual blessings, where such knowing and loving support can be found. AMEN

Creation Spirituality and Becoming a Spiritual Warrior

August 5, 2009 - 8:03 pm 8 Comments
Creation Spirituality and The Quest for a New Male Spirituality; Reflections on being a Spiritual Warrior
The Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship
The University of Conneticut at Storrs
June 15, 2003
There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now, an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another. It is a growing vital concern- not just in numbers of explorers, which is significant, but in a universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology belong to each other. In truth, there can be no complete approach to God, to humanity or the planet that does not include and affirm the dynamic and essential connection between spirituality and ethics, mysticism and justice.
Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the desire for church revitalization. One approach presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires and fill these needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.
One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify old harmful theologies and religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood. As an ecumenical and interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive and life affirming, spiritual and justice-making themes, and helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Bible, Judaism and Christianity without having to accept old theological interpretations that were used to control others by promoting grief, guilt or fear.
The second principal purpose behind the growing expansion of this movement is that is directly seeks out and promotes an ecological spirituality; a reverence for life on planet Earth, a love of the Creation; its rocks and waves, flowers and trees, its animals, cycles and seasons.
Creation is a wonder… it is nothing short of a supreme miracle called life on Earth. Yet, it is ironic that so few Western religions teach such respect and reverence as a part of their education or spiritual teachings. Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, and/or anthropocentric, and its theology and its church outlooks do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment.
In short, We are all taught and admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings.
Creation Spirituality is a Western theology and approach to life that emphasizes the positive values and options we have in living; it promotes creativity and compassion, the interrelationship of the arts, sciences and religion to create a better world. C.S. does not start with Adam and Eve, the Fall, and Sin, it starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as an energy and as a presence that is alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious, benevolent and intimate relationship with all of life. Echoing many liberal religious beliefs, it states that Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of mind and heart that confirm that we need a more positive view of ourselves, and our world, if we are ever to repair, restore or revitalize the Earth or one another.
As for the greatest sin… it is desecration of Mother Earth herself; our ignorant, wasteful ravaging now holds all of humanity liable, and all the world’s people are now at risk.
So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with sin, it does not wallow in sin or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves honestly and compassionately;
To see ourselves as caregivers, who have as their heroic task to reclaim and reaffirm the natural wonders and blessings of our world, not try to conquer or take from it.
C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, the understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands with hope and find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes.
By affirming our positive identity as the children of God, and to live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, we can empower ourselves to heal our world. With our God-given power to bless and restore, in friendship, we can save each other and live harmoniously on the Earth.
Creation Spirituality is a move toward Oneness; it honors human dignity and worth. Its teachings and principles equalizes the sexes, and is an inclusive trans-denominational approach to spirituality and ecology. While the ideas and ideals of its teachings go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is barely 30 years old. A progressive, now labeled a heretical Catholic who is now an Episcopal priest, named Matthew Fox, rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian mystics. They were those inspired men and women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature and life alive throughout the centuries.
From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people into its participatory themes.
It spoke to our common need to celebrate and be responsible for how each generation can live, share and cooperate with the Creation. Today, I will focus on how this new spiritual approach helps to validate the particular hunger that men in our world are experiencing.
On Becoming Spiritual (Peaceful) Warrior
While feminism has had its proponents, and victories, we have seen its reluctant message become more mainstream, men of all ages are finally summoning their courage to look at the shadow side of our masculinity found in war, greed, selfishness, and hostile competition. Men from many of the developed countries are actively questioning social, economic, and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities. Men are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity in our music and films that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. In the 1970’s, liberation movements for men consisted of drum circles and the Iron Man Wild John ideas that frankly, became comic and largely ineffectual when it came to transforming Pentagon priorities or Wall Street abuses.
Now this quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls while letting our spirits grow and be free, is, under political, economic and family duress, arriving at a level of depth and maturity rarely realized in earlier decades.
Along with political and economic reform, this striving for a new definition of what it means to be a man is  what being a peaceful and spiritual warrior is all about.
(now before the women in this gathering recoil or rebel…
Of course, women can be warriors… But that often centers on reclaiming or recapturing the masculine energies in themselves, and that integration is a worthwhile goal… But as a man,  I cannot fully speak to that… But it is clear that such necessary alchemy and growth towards individuation is the right path as such transformation or wholeness is a universal human need.)
The principal reason I emphasize the need of men to awaken to the depth of their character and to the greater sense of meaning and purpose in their struggle to be alive, strong, compassionate, and at peace, is because our whole world, maybe its very survival, depends on men learning these lessons of  how to possess a vigilance for peace, for upholding human rights, dignity, and self worth in their days and in their ways that neither  an illustrious sense of title, worldly power, or a bank account can truly give them. There is no equation that states happiness is
equated with money or power… Happiness comes to men when a man feels useful and when he is able to express his positive emotions when and where it matters most!
As one of my “Socrates” or as one of my mentors, Matthew Fox puts it there may be no greater need that adopting a warrior mentality. A warrior is different from being a solider…
“[A solider follows external orders, usually to accomplish some external goal, whereas a warrior finds his or her strength and purpose in following their hearts…]” Fox is the principal modern exponent of Creation Spirituality- an inclusive, earth centered approach that honors science, the world religions, the arts, and what can be called the best of the human spirit. He puts it this way:
As men of all ages are questioning social, economic and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities, they are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. This quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls speaks to men, while letting our spirits grow and be free, is what spiritual warriorship is all about.
To become a spiritual warrior encourages us by challenging us to risk- to go beyond social expectations and the ordinary ways of perceiving and relating. It asks us to look within and to  acknowledge the wonder and the reverence that can be found in oneself, life, and in all of our sacred relationships. It is being willing to risk the unknown for what is yet to be. Here the essential masculine task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and then to obey one’s inner wisdom directives so that he can practice only what will not harm him or live in ways that will not robs anyone else of their dignity, freedom, and respect.]”
o be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate, yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real, and nurturing to oneself and affirmative towards others. How? It is having the inner awareness, insight and confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. When one gains that courage, that strength of will, that is when the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, to truly know deeply what the world and what life requires of you.
Creation Spirituality urges you to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change. As we intentionally create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we can become, we serve our world needs and promote by our example what a more enlightened rlationship, family, or society can become.
Matthew Fox offers a further more complete spiritual and theological understanding of men’s issues and the masculine tasks found within the spiritual and ethical life. He witnesses, in the four paths of in Creation Spirituality, new ways and meanings for life’s quest.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and then outline how each way or approach can be an asset for male, and of course, for female or humanity’s freedom to become more centered, attuned, responsible and compassionate. Using the metaphor of being or becoming a spiritual warrior, Fox gives us these insights:
First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and the Creation. He suggests that men learn to hunt for beauty, for how they can best see and experience, feel and understand the meaning and the magic found in everyday life. Fox states that: “we have become afraid of our own divinity,” that we are the sons and daughters of God.” With divinity comes the identity of each of us as a royal and wonder-filled human being; a marvelous new way of perceiving who and what we are… yet, with this truth, there is also responsibility.
The reason the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, afraid, even guilty, than it is to accept our responsibility as co-creaters of our own world. Here, in the first of the four paths, called The Via Positiva, we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life, that the world is good.” Because of this, the spiritual warrior within us has to uphold beauty, truth and virtue with strength and a resolve that brings to all men and women the ability to celebrate all the ideals they believe in or trust.
The Path Two is called the Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the warrior accepts his or her own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, rehearsed roles. In the Via Negativa, we have to face up to our inner pain, our hurts and whatever we feel that we lack in ourselves, or have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior to develop fortitude, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar to welcome the unknown; to expect the good, to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds. Fox says this: “a spiritual warrior learns to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or past ways of relationships. Here the task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm him or robs anyone else of dignity and respect.”
The Third Path or way is called the Via Creativa or the way of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is where we learn about giving birth to newness and hope, and how to experience a rebirth of who and what we are or can become.  It takes a lot of faith, and flexibility to be creative; to bring into being a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.
We also find in this creative path the creativity that uproots or refashions. Here is the prophetic urge when we dare to disturb the status quo, and develop our view of the future, one we want to share with our friends and prepare for our children. As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, the spiritual warrior stands up and offers his or her gifts to the community. Here the fight is engaged, and the demons exorcised….” Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that… if we do not give back what is our unique gifts, talents and skills, and give expression to life’s mysteries and give witness to life’s truth, no one will stand up, or give or do it for us.”
Here is where we learn to befriend the various parts of ourselves, and use them as teachers and to see ourselves as artists giving birth or expression to ourselves as new beings.
The last way or Fourth Path is called the Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily. People and institutions do not relinquish power and privilege cheerfully. Paradigm shifts are resisted.
Yet, the spiritual warrior… has learned compassion for him or herself and for their world. “Through empathy, these warriors learn to celebrate the common struggle and can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality and truth as belonging to everyone, as being the right way of in community , as living on and for the Earth.
To be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation  Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real and nurturing to oneself and others. It is having the confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. Then the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, what the world and what life requires of you.
As a spiritual warrior you will be asked to face the greatest enemy- oneself; and you will be enlisted to support such challenge and change in others for the sake of the world, for all biological life, and for the future of all the children on the planet.
Creation Spirituality urges you and all men and women to take up your shield and spear, to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change; we create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we, and our world needs and can become. Today, I invite you to learn more about this approach and consider incorporating the insights and ideas into your own spiritual life and the activities of this community-
Let it be an opportunity for you to express more of who you are, and how you can participate more fully in spirituality and in the original blessings that have been given to us by God. AMEN/AMET

Creation Spirituality and The Quest for a New Male Spirituality; Reflections on being a Spiritual Warrior

The Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship,  The University of Conneticut at Storrs  June 15, 2003

There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now, an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another. It is a growing vital concern- not just in numbers of explorers, which is significant, but in a universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology belong to each other. In truth, there can be no complete approach to God, to humanity or the planet that does not include and affirm the dynamic and essential connection between spirituality and ethics, mysticism and justice.

Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the desire for church revitalization. One approach presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires and fill these needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.

One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify old harmful theologies and religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood. As an ecumenical and interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive and life affirming, spiritual and justice-making themes, and helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Bible, Judaism and Christianity without having to accept old theological interpretations that were used to control others by promoting grief, guilt or fear.

The second principal purpose behind the growing expansion of this movement is that is directly seeks out and promotes an ecological spirituality; a reverence for life on planet Earth, a love of the Creation; its rocks and waves, flowers and trees, its animals, cycles and seasons.

Creation is a wonder… it is nothing short of a supreme miracle called life on Earth. Yet, it is ironic that so few Western religions teach such respect and reverence as a part of their education or spiritual teachings. Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, and/or anthropocentric, and its theology and its church outlooks do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment.

In short, We are all taught and admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings.

Creation Spirituality is a Western theology and approach to life that emphasizes the positive values and options we have in living; it promotes creativity and compassion, the interrelationship of the arts, sciences and religion to create a better world. C.S. does not start with Adam and Eve, the Fall, and Sin, it starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as an energy and as a presence that is alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious, benevolent and intimate relationship with all of life. Echoing many liberal religious beliefs, it states that Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of mind and heart that confirm that we need a more positive view of ourselves, and our world, if we are ever to repair, restore or revitalize the Earth or one another.

As for the greatest sin… it is desecration of Mother Earth herself; our ignorant, wasteful ravaging now holds all of humanity liable, and all the world’s people are now at risk.

So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with sin, it does not wallow in sin or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves honestly and compassionately;

To see ourselves as caregivers, who have as their heroic task to reclaim and reaffirm the natural wonders and blessings of our world, not try to conquer or take from it.

C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, the understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands with hope and find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes.

By affirming our positive identity as the children of God, and to live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, we can empower ourselves to heal our world. With our God-given power to bless and restore, in friendship, we can save each other and live harmoniously on the Earth.

Creation Spirituality is a move toward Oneness; it honors human dignity and worth. Its teachings and principles equalizes the sexes, and is an inclusive trans-denominational approach to spirituality and ecology. While the ideas and ideals of its teachings go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is barely 30 years old. A progressive, now labeled a heretical Catholic who is now an Episcopal priest, named Matthew Fox, rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian mystics. They were those inspired men and women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature and life alive throughout the centuries.

From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people into its participatory themes.

It spoke to our common need to celebrate and be responsible for how each generation can live, share and cooperate with the Creation. Today, I will focus on how this new spiritual approach helps to validate the particular hunger that men in our world are experiencing.

On Becoming Spiritual (Peaceful) Warrior

While feminism has had its proponents, and victories, we have seen its reluctant message become more mainstream, men of all ages are finally summoning their courage to look at the shadow side of our masculinity found in war, greed, selfishness, and hostile competition. Men from many of the developed countries are actively questioning social, economic, and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities. Men are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity in our music and films that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. In the 1970’s, liberation movements for men consisted of drum circles and the Iron Man Wild John ideas that frankly, became comic and largely ineffectual when it came to transforming Pentagon priorities or Wall Street abuses.

Now this quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls while letting our spirits grow and be free, is, under political, economic and family duress, arriving at a level of depth and maturity rarely realized in earlier decades.

Along with political and economic reform, this striving for a new definition of what it means to be a man is  what being a peaceful and spiritual warrior is all about.

(now before the women in this gathering recoil or rebel…

Of course, women can be warriors… But that often centers on reclaiming or recapturing the masculine energies in themselves, and that integration is a worthwhile goal… But as a man,  I cannot fully speak to that… But it is clear that such necessary alchemy and growth towards individuation is the right path as such transformation or wholeness is a universal human need.)

The principal reason I emphasize the need of men to awaken to the depth of their character and to the greater sense of meaning and purpose in their struggle to be alive, strong, compassionate, and at peace, is because our whole world, maybe its very survival, depends on men learning these lessons of  how to possess a vigilance for peace, for upholding human rights, dignity, and self worth in their days and in their ways that neither  an illustrious sense of title, worldly power, or a bank account can truly give them. There is no equation that states happiness is

equated with money or power… Happiness comes to men when a man feels useful and when he is able to express his positive emotions when and where it matters most!

As one of my “Socrates” or as one of my mentors, Matthew Fox puts it there may be no greater need that adopting a warrior mentality. A warrior is different from being a solider…

“[A solider follows external orders, usually to accomplish some external goal, whereas a warrior finds his or her strength and purpose in following their hearts…]” Fox is the principal modern exponent of Creation Spirituality- an inclusive, earth centered approach that honors science, the world religions, the arts, and what can be called the best of the human spirit. He puts it this way:

As men of all ages are questioning social, economic and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities, they are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. This quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls speaks to men, while letting our spirits grow and be free, is what spiritual warriorship is all about.

To become a spiritual warrior encourages us by challenging us to risk- to go beyond social expectations and the ordinary ways of perceiving and relating. It asks us to look within and to  acknowledge the wonder and the reverence that can be found in oneself, life, and in all of our sacred relationships. It is being willing to risk the unknown for what is yet to be. Here the essential masculine task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and then to obey one’s inner wisdom directives so that he can practice only what will not harm him or live in ways that will not robs anyone else of their dignity, freedom, and respect.]”

o be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate, yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real, and nurturing to oneself and affirmative towards others. How? It is having the inner awareness, insight and confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. When one gains that courage, that strength of will, that is when the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, to truly know deeply what the world and what life requires of you.

Creation Spirituality urges you to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change. As we intentionally create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we can become, we serve our world needs and promote by our example what a more enlightened rlationship, family, or society can become.

Matthew Fox offers a further more complete spiritual and theological understanding of men’s issues and the masculine tasks found within the spiritual and ethical life. He witnesses, in the four paths of in Creation Spirituality, new ways and meanings for life’s quest.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and then outline how each way or approach can be an asset for male, and of course, for female or humanity’s freedom to become more centered, attuned, responsible and compassionate. Using the metaphor of being or becoming a spiritual warrior, Fox gives us these insights:

First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and the Creation. He suggests that men learn to hunt for beauty, for how they can best see and experience, feel and understand the meaning and the magic found in everyday life. Fox states that: “we have become afraid of our own divinity,” that we are the sons and daughters of God.” With divinity comes the identity of each of us as a royal and wonder-filled human being; a marvelous new way of perceiving who and what we are… yet, with this truth, there is also responsibility.

The reason the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, afraid, even guilty, than it is to accept our responsibility as co-creaters of our own world. Here, in the first of the four paths, called The Via Positiva, we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life, that the world is good.” Because of this, the spiritual warrior within us has to uphold beauty, truth and virtue with strength and a resolve that brings to all men and women the ability to celebrate all the ideals they believe in or trust.

The Path Two is called the Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the warrior accepts his or her own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, rehearsed roles. In the Via Negativa, we have to face up to our inner pain, our hurts and whatever we feel that we lack in ourselves, or have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior to develop fortitude, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar to welcome the unknown; to expect the good, to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds. Fox says this: “a spiritual warrior learns to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or past ways of relationships. Here the task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm him or robs anyone else of dignity and respect.”

The Third Path or way is called the Via Creativa or the way of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is where we learn about giving birth to newness and hope, and how to experience a rebirth of who and what we are or can become.  It takes a lot of faith, and flexibility to be creative; to bring into being a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.

We also find in this creative path the creativity that uproots or refashions. Here is the prophetic urge when we dare to disturb the status quo, and develop our view of the future, one we want to share with our friends and prepare for our children. As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, the spiritual warrior stands up and offers his or her gifts to the community. Here the fight is engaged, and the demons exorcised….” Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that… if we do not give back what is our unique gifts, talents and skills, and give expression to life’s mysteries and give witness to life’s truth, no one will stand up, or give or do it for us.”

Here is where we learn to befriend the various parts of ourselves, and use them as teachers and to see ourselves as artists giving birth or expression to ourselves as new beings.

The last way or Fourth Path is called the Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily. People and institutions do not relinquish power and privilege cheerfully. Paradigm shifts are resisted.

Yet, the spiritual warrior… has learned compassion for him or herself and for their world. “Through empathy, these warriors learn to celebrate the common struggle and can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality and truth as belonging to everyone, as being the right way of in community , as living on and for the Earth.

To be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation  Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real and nurturing to oneself and others. It is having the confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. Then the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, what the world and what life requires of you.

As a spiritual warrior you will be asked to face the greatest enemy- oneself; and you will be enlisted to support such challenge and change in others for the sake of the world, for all biological life, and for the future of all the children on the planet.

Creation Spirituality urges you and all men and women to take up your shield and spear, to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change; we create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we, and our world needs and can become. Today, I invite you to learn more about this approach and consider incorporating the insights and ideas into your own spiritual life and the activities of this community-

Let it be an opportunity for you to express more of who you are, and how you can participate more fully in spirituality and in the original blessings that have been given to us by God. AMEN/AMET

Hearing The Prophet’s Call

August 5, 2009 - 7:56 pm 6 Comments
564343_light_of_hope__1Lesson: Hearing The Prophet’s call
The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
There are two main streams of thought, devotion and action in our Western spiritual tradition. They are the mystical or prayerful and then there is the prophetic or the ethical.
The first concerns itself with sanctification, the second with justice. Thomas Merton once described these two approaches to the Holy in these words: [“Prayer is seeking a union with God through the path of personal transformation; Justice is seeking the community of God through the path of social transformation.]”
Unity and its teachings seem to emphasize the mystical and does a wonderful job with the raising of individual consciousness to accept God’s blessings. It seems to be closely related to the Via Positiva as its home base. Today, I will introduce you to the other side of being a spiritual and responsible person, becoming the prophet. That is simply defined as being willing to become a living testament to the need for change, and a vital witness for justice and truth in your world, which ties in directly with the Via Transformativa.
In general, the prophets are the part of our religious heritage that we find to be the most troublesome. They are risk takers, troublemakers, radicals and conspirators against the status quo. Their targets are complacency, security, apathy and ego driven disobedience. One of the main purposes of prophets is to remind us that we are all in this world together- we are so interconnected as to our fate and our future that we can say that there is no personal salvation- there is only all of us or none of us.
We are reminded by them that The Kingdom or Queendom of God is the place for those who love, and for those who serve.
The prophets emphasize that we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers, and we are also stewards of the earth, its gifts and resources. Prophets remind us that we are everybody else’s caregivers, lovers, and healers, and that is as it should be-we are all one, all part of the family of God.
The way of the prophet is not always a gentle way, but it is always sincere and deeply committed to what is just and true. The prophet stands defiantly-He or she makes the commitment to act fiercely as a warrior of the heart- to be uncooperative with oppression and evil while being steadfastly compassionate toward humanity and all of life.
Being a prophet, or more accurately feeling called and being wrenched out of your resistance to act courageously is not a gift that most people want or seek. It contains very little personal glory, but much heartfelt satisfaction. Usually there is a large price to pay when one chooses God, and the willingness to stand up for what one believes. Most often, the mark of a true prophet is found in the one who doesn’t or who won’t volunteer, who is not eager, but reluctant. For who in their right mind wants to put themselves out there in front of family, friends, the media, and become an easy target for ridicule and criticism?
And yet…something happens to these blessed ones, something inside them that seems to look like madness, and to the ordinary people who look at their strange demands to follow God more closely, it does seem impractical, even insane! From somewhere deep within them, they hear a call, something awakens them and urges them to accept a divine mission. They are compelled to write, speak and lead for righteousness sake- for the sake of humanity, for the need to establish justice on earth and among nations, neighbors, and in our own households.
A prophet is constantly on guard and warns us of following or falling into any of the traps of conformity and comfort, routine and apathy. They advise us strongly and rally us and our convictions to prevent defamation, abuse, injustice and conflict. On a personal and on a social level, they warn us against indulging in any passions or preoccupations, idols or addictions-anything that can act as a substitute or counterfeit spirituality. They implore us to stop any behavior that can take you away from identifying yourself as a connected, ethical, and responsible spiritual being.
A prophet asks each of us to make choices- choices as if the reality, power, love and grace of God really mattered to you, and to how your world needs to change to respond to those blessings. A prophet or a prophetess is a man or a woman whose mission is to be very protective of their community, and the Council of All Beings. They are willing to be a very effective, front line workers for justice, equality and dignity for all. They see themselves as protecting the value of maintaining a spiritual identity and a heartfelt relationship to all that is sacred and holy in life.
Are you a prophet, in waiting??? Let’s see…
The classical description we get from the Jewish prophets goes like this: First, there is a call to one’s conscience- a compelling, and welling up cry to come out and serve your God in the highest way you know how, or in a way that God will reveal to you.
Second, there is an assurance that you need not be afraid, you are becoming a servant of a holy purpose, a channel or an instrument, a current of God’s desire to uplift and reform what has been down trodden, abused, and enslaved.
Then you are told what the task ahead is, you might balk, and then finally see that the world has need of you and you then risk and declare in God’s name what needs to be said and done.
Hear then the prophet’s call … to you… To each of us, learn of its wisdom, look at your life, and prepare to heed its message and mission for you and the world you want to see…
You! You out there sitting in that pew! Come Out! Rise Up!
Be the person of God you were meant to be!
Don’t be afraid…I will never give you a task or a responsibility that I feel is too big for you, and besides… you believe that with God, you can do anything Don’t you?
And that one on the side of God is a majority!
I have a job for you…a simple task really…but it is also my special gift to you by which you can bless all your brothers and sisters, all your relations on this planet…
I want you to become my voice, my heart, my hands…
Now I warn you-expect to be misunderstood; you might be maligned, ridiculed and abused-but Hey, it goes with the territory-human ego and human culture don’t like to be corrected, and both are very resistant to change! Read the Beatitudes again, especially the last part!
Besides, there a certain kind of enjoyable freedom when people think your crazy-you can get away with a lot while still teaching many things!
Speak earnestly and honestly…Speak from your heart… Offer the people a choice and a hope-ask them to change for the sake of their lives, for our children’s sake, for the planet, so Earth can have a chance to heal…
Meet any resistance you find with courage- teach them the promise of justice, Give them the belief in equality, ask them to work for dignity, and not to neglect the suffering they see.
Tell them to stop; stop cooperating with evil, stop being passive and letting sick and evil people in their lives have their way. Stop being passive, safe, or secure in your disfunctions. Stop being afraid of judgments, Stop your soul robbing addictions, and seek out a place for God as alive, strong, loving and free within you.
Know, down to the depths of your being,that you are precious to God and that God has need of you- O reluctant prophet that you are- and that the time for you to answer the Divine call and for making peace and justice come into reality is here…and NOW.

Lesson: Hearing The Prophet’s call

The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

A Parable Retold  adapted from Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality

Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of Earth, pages 143-45

“In the Gospel of Luke we read about a rich man and a poor man named Lazurus. I propose the following updated version of that parable:

There was a rich nation whose people used to dress in whatever clothes they wanted every day, and buy whatever cars they wanted which emitted untold amounts of carbon dioxide.

These people ate beef at fast food restaurants whenever they wanted; they created a whole new industry around beef eating even when it was grown by tearing down rain forests where the poor lived, even though it was explained to them how their children depend on these very rain forests so far away for their health.

Now at the rich country’s border there lay many poor countries to the south; they were called “The Third World.”

They were covered with the sores of poverty, unemployment, lack of food and medical care, and owed many debts to the rich nation. Much of their land and forests had been stripped bare by the rich nation’s oil and lumber, fruit and meat industries, who supported dictators and their military guards. The sores of the “Third World” included 5 hundred million persons starving; 1 billion persons living in abject poverty; 1 billion, 5 hundred thousand persons with no access to basic health care; 1/2 a billion, 5 hundred million with no work and a per capita income of $150 dollars a year; 814 billion illiterate persons; 2 billion people with no dependable water; and no topsoil.

These sores were present daily for the rich nations to behold, but they turned their backs and pretended that such suffering was not “newsworthy.” Instead, they built a culture of denial and left the dogs to lick the wounds of the poor.

For years the “Third World” longed to fill itself with the scraps that fell from the rich nation’s table. But most of the assistance that the “Third World” received from the “First World” was in the form of military weapons and money to support the dictators and their armies because those armies were needed to keep the poor people from rebelling. The rich nation would train the poor armies in methods of effective torture. The rich nations then could continue to receive the fruit, the coffee, the sugar, and the cocoa and eventually all the cocaine and the other drugs that fed the rich nation’s insatiable needs.

And the poor nations died and were carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich nation also died and was buried and sent to fires of Hades. In its torment in Hades the rich nation looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with the “Third World” beginning to rise from the dead straight out of Abraham’s bosom. So it cried out, ” Father Abraham, pity us and send the “Third World” to dip the tip of its finger in water and cool our tongue, for we are in agony in these flames.”

” My child,” said Father Abraham, “remember that during your life good things came your way, whereas you dealt the bad things to the “Third World. Therefore there is a great chasm that lies between us, and it is a gulf that is fixed to stop anyone who tries to cross over it.”

So the First World begged that Abraham send the Third World to the other rich nations of First World and give them a warning so that they do not wind up here in eternal torment.

” They have had Moses, and the prophets, let them listen to them!”…

Then Abraham said to the rich nation, ” If they will not listen to Moses, or to the prophets or to Jesus, they would not be convinced even if someone would rise and return from the dead.”

There are two main streams of thought, devotion and action in our Western spiritual tradition. They are the mystical or prayerful and then there is the prophetic or the ethical.

The first concerns itself with sanctification, the second with justice. Thomas Merton once described these two approaches to the Holy in these words: [“Prayer is seeking a union with God through the path of personal transformation; Justice is seeking the community of God through the path of social transformation.]”

Unity and its teachings seem to emphasize the mystical and does a wonderful job with the raising of individual consciousness to accept God’s blessings. It seems to be closely related to the Via Positiva as its home base. Today, I will introduce you to the other side of being a spiritual and responsible person, becoming the prophet. That is simply defined as being willing to become a living testament to the need for change, and a vital witness for justice and truth in your world, which ties in directly with the Via Transformativa.

In general, the prophets are the part of our religious heritage that we find to be the most troublesome. They are risk takers, troublemakers, radicals and conspirators against the status quo. Their targets are complacency, security, apathy and ego driven disobedience. One of the main purposes of prophets is to remind us that we are all in this world together- we are so interconnected as to our fate and our future that we can say that there is no personal salvation- there is only all of us or none of us.

We are reminded by them that The Kingdom or Queendom of God is the place for those who love, and for those who serve.

The prophets emphasize that we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers, and we are also stewards of the earth, its gifts and resources. Prophets remind us that we are everybody else’s caregivers, lovers, and healers, and that is as it should be-we are all one, all part of the family of God.

The way of the prophet is not always a gentle way, but it is always sincere and deeply committed to what is just and true. The prophet stands defiantly-He or she makes the commitment to act fiercely as a warrior of the heart- to be uncooperative with oppression and evil while being steadfastly compassionate toward humanity and all of life.

Being a prophet, or more accurately feeling called and being wrenched out of your resistance to act courageously is not a gift that most people want or seek. It contains very little personal glory, but much heartfelt satisfaction. Usually there is a large price to pay when one chooses God, and the willingness to stand up for what one believes. Most often, the mark of a true prophet is found in the one who doesn’t or who won’t volunteer, who is not eager, but reluctant. For who in their right mind wants to put themselves out there in front of family, friends, the media, and become an easy target for ridicule and criticism?

And yet…something happens to these blessed ones, something inside them that seems to look like madness, and to the ordinary people who look at their strange demands to follow God more closely, it does seem impractical, even insane! From somewhere deep within them, they hear a call, something awakens them and urges them to accept a divine mission. They are compelled to write, speak and lead for righteousness sake- for the sake of humanity, for the need to establish justice on earth and among nations, neighbors, and in our own households.

A prophet is constantly on guard and warns us of following or falling into any of the traps of conformity and comfort, routine and apathy. They advise us strongly and rally us and our convictions to prevent defamation, abuse, injustice and conflict. On a personal and on a social level, they warn us against indulging in any passions or preoccupations, idols or addictions-anything that can act as a substitute or counterfeit spirituality. They implore us to stop any behavior that can take you away from identifying yourself as a connected, ethical, and responsible spiritual being.

A prophet asks each of us to make choices- choices as if the reality, power, love and grace of God really mattered to you, and to how your world needs to change to respond to those blessings. A prophet or a prophetess is a man or a woman whose mission is to be very protective of their community, and the Council of All Beings. They are willing to be a very effective, front line workers for justice, equality and dignity for all. They see themselves as protecting the value of maintaining a spiritual identity and a heartfelt relationship to all that is sacred and holy in life.

Are you a prophet, in waiting??? Let’s see…

The classical description we get from the Jewish prophets goes like this: First, there is a call to one’s conscience- a compelling, and welling up cry to come out and serve your God in the highest way you know how, or in a way that God will reveal to you.

Second, there is an assurance that you need not be afraid, you are becoming a servant of a holy purpose, a channel or an instrument, a current of God’s desire to uplift and reform what has been down trodden, abused, and enslaved.

Then you are told what the task ahead is, you might balk, and then finally see that the world has need of you and you then risk and declare in God’s name what needs to be said and done.

Hear then the prophet’s call … to you… To each of us, learn of its wisdom, look at your life, and prepare to heed its message and mission for you and the world you want to see…

You! You out there sitting in that pew! Come Out! Rise Up!

Be the person of God you were meant to be!

Don’t be afraid…I will never give you a task or a responsibility that I feel is too big for you, and besides… you believe that with God, you can do anything Don’t you?

And that one on the side of God is a majority!

I have a job for you…a simple task really…but it is also my special gift to you by which you can bless all your brothers and sisters, all your relations on this planet…

I want you to become my voice, my heart, my hands…

Now I warn you-expect to be misunderstood; you might be maligned, ridiculed and abused-but Hey, it goes with the territory-human ego and human culture don’t like to be corrected, and both are very resistant to change! Read the Beatitudes again, especially the last part!

Besides, there a certain kind of enjoyable freedom when people think your crazy-you can get away with a lot while still teaching many things!

Speak earnestly and honestly…Speak from your heart… Offer the people a choice and a hope-ask them to change for the sake of their lives, for our children’s sake, for the planet, so Earth can have a chance to heal…

Meet any resistance you find with courage- teach them the promise of justice, Give them the belief in equality, ask them to work for dignity, and not to neglect the suffering they see.

Tell them to stop; stop cooperating with evil, stop being passive and letting sick and evil people in their lives have their way. Stop being passive, safe, or secure in your disfunctions. Stop being afraid of judgments, Stop your soul robbing addictions, and seek out a place for God as alive, strong, loving and free within you.

Know, down to the depths of your being,that you are precious to God and that God has need of you- O reluctant prophet that you are- and that the time for you to answer the Divine call and for making peace and justice come into reality is here…and NOW.