Archive for October, 2009

Celtic-Pagan Prayers and Blessings

October 29, 2009 - 7:52 pm 17 Comments

Celtic-Pagan Blessing

May the blessing of the light be with you always,
light without and light within.

May the sun shine upon you and warm you heart
until it glows like a great fire so that others may feel
the warmth of it.

And may the light of your eyes shine like two candles in
a window at night, bidding the wander to come in
out of the dark and the cold.

And may the blessings of the rain be upon you,
the sweet and tender rain;
May it fall upon your spirit as when flowers
spring up and fragrance fills the air.

And may the blessings of the rain wash you clean and fair,
and may the storms always leave you stronger and
more beautiful.

And when the rains are over, may there be clear pools of water, made beautiful by the radiance of your light,
as when a star shines, beautiful in the night,
pointing the way for all of us.

Blessed Be – Amen.

Brighid (Irish):
Make my words sweet enough to call you here,
and sweet enough to praise you when you arrive,
Sweet Brighid.

A Bhrighid, the flame on our hearth,
in our hearts,
receive this olive oil poured to you,
butter of the southern lands,
and my promise as well of your butter sweet,
spread thickly on bread,
on our return.
Milk as well will be poured to you,
Protector of our well-blessed hearth,
of our inner hearts,
which turn to you with love.

The God (Wiccan):
We call upon the All-Father: Come to us!
By the raging wind: Come to us!
By the blaze of fire: Come to us!
By the surging water: Come to us!
By the cold, still earth: Come to us!
By the Spirit of All: Come to us!
Come to your people: Come to us!

We sing in praise of the God of Help; we sing with words finely wrought, we sing with thanks for His blessings, we sing to Him just as we ought, we sing for His gifts freely given, we sing for His lessons well-taught.

The God (Wiccan) as Death:
Come, Stern Lord: Come to us!
Out of the darkness: Come to us!
By the tempest wind: Come to us!
By the devouring flame: Come to us!
By the overwhelming sea: Come to us!
By the opening earth: Come to us!
By the Spirit that waits: Come to us!
Come to your people: Come to us!

The Goddess (Wiccan):
Mother, can you hear me crying?
Gather me in your infinitely encompassing arms,
hug me to your soft breast, and whisper, “There, There;
all will be well.

All will be well, but for now cry.
My clothes have been wet with tears before and will be again.
So for now, cry, and all will be well.”

She is great and not to be held
because it is her arms that hold.

She is ever-present and not to be seen
because there is nothing to compare her to.

Ride across the plains
and you are on her body.
Climb the mountains
and you climb her breasts.

Go into the ocean
and you are in her very womb.

We call on the Great Mother: Come to us!
By the singing air: Come to us!
By the dancing fire: Come to us!
By the ocean water: Come to us!
By the silent earth: Come to us!
By the Spirit of All: Come to us!
Come to your people: Come to us!

When the Priestess stands in the circle,
filled with the divine Female Power,
she is not the symbol of the Goddess,
she is not wearing the Goddess:
she is the Goddess Herself, here among us,
here, blessing us with what is only Hers to give.
That is why the Priestess is standing here in this circle.
It is why she stands in the center and waits for the Goddess to come.
Let us wait with her. Let us sing for her.
Let us sing for the Goddess,
so that seeing us ready she might come.
[singing]
Come to us, Mother,
Oh come to us here;
Come to us, Goddess,
Oh come to us here.
[repeat as desired]

The Goddess (Wiccan) as Death:
Come, Dark Mother, Come to us!

Out of the night, on owl’s wings: Come to us!

By the screeching wind: Come to us!

By the cleansing fire: Come to us!

By the absorbing water: Come to us!

By the resting earth: Come to us!

By the Spirit that waits: Come to us!

Come to your people: Come to us!

The Green Man (Wiccan):
From the tree leaves eyes are peering, smiling.
But when I turn my back it seems like they’re looking with distrust.
So I leave this for the Green Man to prove my good intentions.

Lugh (Irish):
Lugh, of arts and skills, as your spear, so my hammer:
May if fall powerfully and accurately,
and may my work be performed with beauty and without delay.

Manannán (Irish)
A Mhannanán, rider on the secret sea,
whose white-maned waves lie under the wheels
of your chariot which through a meadowed plain,
a fertile land of flowers fair, makes its way to me.
A Mhannanán, hear my well-wrought prayer,
receive from me this silver fare: keep me in your fabled care.

O Mhanannán, who stills the waves,
bring waves to me, and then still them too.
Bring clouds, bring turmoil, bring broaching winds;
then calm seas, as if after a storm.
Dredge up from the deep the ancient fears,
then soothe them away with your branch’s ringing.
O Mhanannán, hear my prayer.

Amid overwhelming waves I call to you,
and, sea’s son, you will calm them.
For they are the horses which draw your chariot,
your goad the ringing of golden bells.

Rhiannon (Welsh):
It’s quite obvious, really, but at the same time a marvel:
a woman on a pale horse,
a woman who can not be reached by great exertion.
Impossible to reach, she is easy to attain.
We need only call and ask for her love.

So I call to you, Rhiannon; out of my need I call to you.
I call to her – look, she stops.
Listen to my needs, Rhiannon,
fulfill them:
Please listen to someone who loves you.

Ceisiwr Serith

For more of her inspirational words and wisdom teachings, please go to her website: Ceisiwr Serith.com

No More Witch Trials! Looking at Religious Intolerance

October 27, 2009 - 8:58 am 11 Comments

No More Witch Trials-Looking at Religious Intolerance
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

This month, I have focused on the other Western religions that share our modern civilization with us… And I would be remiss if I did not mention- especially as Halloween nears- that there is another great tradition… Namely indigenous European spirituality that has come to the New World- namely, Paganism, Wicca, or the Earth-centered religions in all of their various forms.
With such broad inclusiveness always comes questioning and uncertainty. As religious liberals, we should be comfortable with doubt, with the willingness to explore new ideas, beliefs and practices, and even if they do not speak to us personally, become willing advocates for those among us who do find these ideas and practices to be inspiring and worthwhile.
Today, I would like to examine the roots of religious prejudice, and I have selected this day because of the historical realities that we, in this country, have witnessed and have tragically perpetuated among us.
For you see, when Halloween rolls around, our culture goes into its trick or treat mentality…. We uncritically agree with historical stereotypes of women as witches, and it is from that awful association, that the first recorded trials and punishment of women occurred when this country when we were in our uninformed, unenlightened infancy, some 300 years ago….
A Quick Colonial Quiz… Q: How many men were condemned after being accused of witchcraft and sorcery? A: None! Why? Its simple…

As you all have known since Sunday school, all the evils of the world come to us by way of women; women are the Devil’s playground, Lucifer’s consorts, Satan’s concubines… Remember, the disease of hysteria comes from the Greek root word for womb… Because women are so often hysterical! Feminist theology or Paganism anyone?
With all our sophistication, with our burgeoning, ever present media outlets, to realize that we have made so little progress in inclusiveness, tolerance and acceptance of one another baffles and disheartens me. Prejudice, intolerance, and the persecution of differences in worship and belief still fill our news stories, and can be seen as a contributing factor to group violence and cultural harassment nationwide.
Yet, could we expect otherwise? The despicable history of witch hunts and hate crimes is pre-Biblical, almost Neolithic! Some anthropologists claim that drawing differences between people, approving of only one skin color, one way of belief, etc., and this was a necessary step in building families and clans of affinity, and so, over time, the societal rules for inclusion and exclusion were formed and enforced to build an ethnic or religious identity.
From the Creeds to the Crusades, from Salem to Selma, we have seen various and vile expressions of prejudice be given their voice, their values, and their violence. We, as humans have born witness to the effects that these pernicious motives, and we know that these events have been fueled by fear and further abetted by erroneous theology.
For me, there is no worse light, nor deeper shadow than when one’s faith has been used to justify acts of vengeance, exclusion and acrimony. There have been “Burning Times ” in our collective history when these attitudes ascended to popularity or when people of conscience stood by passively and allowed venom to become accepted and affiliated with governmental and economic systems of power. What seems to encourage this willingness to be passive or give a tacit approval is the appeal to the status quo, and such coercion remains a powerful one today;
there is a motive or drive within the human heart that declares that I want to be safe from others, safe from strangers, and away from those who are different from me…. So much so that we will willing shelve our discernment, and mothball our compassion in order to achieve conformity and obedience, and thereby punish the individual conscience and the organized need for dissent that sounds the alarm!
What I have perceived recently in our national debate, and in our cultural consciousness, is there appears to be a significant rise in a lack of acceptance… An increasing, and I would say, an insidious creeping justification for exclusion and for virulent prejudice among us….
Being of a generous and accepting nature, I am willing to say that some of those feelings are marked by a simple and uninformed xenophobia- the fear of the stranger, or anything different from what you are used to or that makes you comfortable. This feeling is somewhat understandable.. .
And, if all it amounted to was a little awkwardness, and that it does correct itself with a lesson in cultural openness. If this acceptance is accompanied by a period of halting welcome, and then an awkward adjustment that moves towards a more full acceptance, then its just a simple case of human process/ progress.

However, you and I know that the world today is far from safe, or free from the more adamant expressions of exclusion… While it is relatively safe to assume today that we have outgrown the religious fervor that surrounded the Colonial witch trials, I can’t help but wonder if the culture has changed all that much, or is it that the targets for hate and prejudice have changed?
I also have to wonder if the general rise in rudeness, and the acceptance of crudeness, together with the decline of civility and courtesy signals a greater lack of societal respect…
Personally, it seems to me that it sows the seeds that encourages intolerance, and endangers the process by which we can work for greater dignity and worth for everyone….
Witch hunts of every kind, then and now, are fear-elicted responses, built on uninformed, rehearsed prejudices. They are, for the most part, irrational, and emotionally driven responses to perceived outside threats. They manifest in the desire to find convenient scapegoats, and to identify culpable targets for slander and derision, hated and violence.
Some of the rationale that tries to explain the appearance of new hate groups and others who enthusiastically are practicing religious, racial or homophobic intolerance, stems from various occurrences…
First, they are the results of feeling disenfranchised from The American Dream, and the desire to regain access to this elusive prize. This dream never, in fact, existed, much like Horatio Alger myth, yet it was given to us as an illusionary false hope, and reinforced by the myth of individualism….
Such beliefs erroneously assert that everyone is born culturally equal, and therefore it up to each person to overcome obstacles such as poverty and illiteracy and then succeed for and by themselves!
As a counterpoint to this, I feel that it is worthwhile to frequently recall the words of Mark Twain: When speaking about the need for social change in our religious and cultural attitudes, he was reported to have remarked, ” Loyalty to any petrified opinions has yet to break the chains or free any souls”

In order to be an effective deterrent to hate and intolerance, we have to further our understanding of how our culture condones the practice of social ostracization, and just how it is that we marginalize others in our society. The obvious and the easiest targets of this exclusionary practice are those who are already on the fringes, and who are struggling for acceptance. Each of us can make a quick list: the sick, the uneducated; the immigrant, the stranger, the drug-dependent; the gay or lesbian, the homeless, the disenfranchised in any or in all these ways…. The arrogance that perpetuates this inequality is incredible and incredulous for me… Yet, each of us here can attest to the results of recent governmental and economic decisions that cut spending on food, medicine and housing , etc. That make these realities among us continue to fester and multiply….
For me, what disturbs me most is the growing specter of religious fascism- those extreme patterns of persecution that are effectively concealed under the banner of God and Country. For me, it is one of the greatest blasphemies! While our elected officials seem to garner great delight in reminding us about the value of freedom, the price of our liberty, and giving frequent lip service to our national security and those historical ideals about being “The land of the free and the home of the brave”, I conclude that far too little attention and resources are going into making this ideal into a living, achievable reality.
As I see it, our national priorities are doing more to incarcerate than liberate, to imprison us rather than to free us…. Only an deep and profound ethical challenge that speaks truth to power will ever suffice; ever be sufficient to alter the course of our cultural history.
You see, because of the accumulated pressure- economic and political- to be safe from harm, as if anyone ever could be secure when the world is in flames, and the admission that our society is suffering traumatically from multiple fractures of trust, support, adequate housing, meaningful work, and the list goes on…. The onus of having to be normal, to be acceptable, to be free from criticism, or to play it safe so dominates our societal consciousness today we have ethically withdrawn from raising our voices, speaking of such injustices! As a result, I would say, borrowing from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, [“At the expense of our ethical conscience, and spiritual convictions, it makes cultural cowards of us all’]

Witch hunts have affected me personally… and I am sure that others among us can attest to their cruel effects, and the lasting scars of their inhumanity… Rather than dwell on their lasting effects, I feel that each person has to be willing to first ask themselves, and then inquire as a community, how is it that we can join together to express our U-U motives and values…. We first ask ourselves: Do our ethical and religious values truly inform our daily choices? The we can ask each other: What else can we do as a church, to counter those social trends that exclude or that encourage prejudice and intolerance?

Today, in remembering the witch trials, we can ring the bell, we can draw the line, we can make the shift in our personal consciousness and in our collective purpose and mission, to put reduce prejudice whenever and wherever we find it…. SO BE IT!

In an attempt to create a prayer for tolerance that express this,
I would say:
” Holy One, known to us in both our deepest fears, as well as found in our deepest levels of knowing and loving,
We ask for a calmness and clarity of mind, an open and courageous heart. We affirm that we have been given a resilient strength of will that can step up, and that can work to challenge hate, and can exert itself to break the shackles of prejudice wherever we find it.

We, ask this, Spirit of Life, as we seek to forge friendships, build community and establish the vision of a future church that will be ever more welcoming, and that becomes a haven, a house, and a helping hand where equality and caring will be offered to all. AMEN; SO BE IT; Blessed Be

Opening Words:
One of the founders of American Universalism, Hosea Ballou, taught us this:

If we can agree in love, then there is no disagreement that can do us any injury…. But if we do not, then no agreement can do us much good….

Closing words? Benediction:

Devocation: ” whether we name it God, Goddess, Spirit or something else, its truth lies in that it is not something outside of the world- like some kind of remote judge…
It is a force that manifests in nature, that lives within each of us, and will be reflected clearly among us, in the community and in the culture we create…”

From Starhawk’s “Truth or Dare”

Two Wisdom Parables about God and Ourselves

October 24, 2009 - 12:45 pm 20 Comments

The Elephant and The Rat
There once was a rat who always saw the worse in people; he was suspicious, haughty, and self-righteous: he was quick to accuse, find fault, and believe that people were really out to get him….
Well, one day this pleasant fellow was at the community swimming hole. There in the hole was an elephant, relaxing and enjoying himself.
Going into the locker room, the rat looked around, and being upset, marched over to the swimming hole, he commanded that the elephant to come out!
The elephant, not knowing what was the problem, asked him why…
The rat just insisted, and stomped his foot. He yelled at the elephant to come out, and then I’ll tell you why … The elephant refused… and the rat continued to fuss and fume…. finally, out of compassion and not wanting the poor little rat to be so upset…. the elephant decided to end his swim, and see what the rat wanted….
When he reached the bank , he walked over to the rat and asked, ” Why did you want me to come out of the water ? ” The rat replied, “I just wanted to see if you were the one who took my swimming trunks!!!”

The moral of this story: An elephant could sooner fit into the swimming trunks of a rat, than could God fit into any preconceived ideas of who and what God is, should be, or where it is that God could be found.

As central part of my approach to transpersonal counseling, and my Interfaith Services, I encourage people to deepen their awareness of the God of their understansding, and to apply those insights as sources of wisdom and learning, healing and justice making in their lives…

The Devil and his Friend

One day, the Devil went out for a walk with his friend…. They saw a man ahead of them stop, stoop down and pick up something from the ground…
” What did the man find?”, asked the fiendish friend. The Devil said, ” Oh, he found a piece of the Truth.” “Doesn’t that disturb you?”, asked the friend…
“No” said the Devil- “I just will let him make a religious doctrine out of it”

A religious belief is only a signpost that points towards the truth that you personally have to explore, understand and accept for yourself. When you cling to the signpost, out of a need for an external source for your security, you are prevented from moving ahead to the goal. When you believe that you have the whole truth, as some more structured and conservative religious approaches proclaim, then there is no incentive to find out more or expand your understanding of truth, … Which, in my lifelong spiritual search, can come to us from all directions- those that are intentional, those that are gracious, and those that are seemingly unconnected… yet are synchronistic to our growth…

Ecological and Spiritual Message

October 20, 2009 - 10:54 am 21 Comments

Peter Russell, a British author and futurist, has a mesmerizing world clock on his website.

This clock doesn’t tell time, it measures global stress issues, such as population growth, species extinctions, deforestation, and CO2 emissions. I reset the clock, sat down to read the paper, and came back an hour later. What happened in my 60 minutes of leisure time?

1480 hectares of forest were cut down (3660 acres)
690 hectares of new desert were created (1700 acres)
3.1 Million tons of CO2 were emitted
3.5 Million barrels of oil were pumped
3 species went extinct
The world’s population grew by 8,800 people

In autoracing, the term ‘redlining’ refers to the maximum speed an engine and its components can operate at without causing damage to the system. Go over the redline and the damage is usually widespread and severe. Watching the numbers on the world clock continue to grow, can there be any doubt that there is a planetary redline for each of these metrics? We don’t know where the upper limits are, but it goes without saying that our world can not support limitless population, greenhouse gas emissions, desertification, or oil. If we knew these upper limits, and watched as the needle slowly approached the redline, I wonder if we would take the issues more seriously.

On the climate front, the carbon meter currently reads 385 parts per million (ppm). Many of the world’s leading scientists estimate that 450 ppm is our self destruct point. Still others feel that we need to drop back down to 350 ppm, and have already hit the redline — we just don’t know it yet. The number is rising by 2-3 ppm per year, and to get atmospheric CO2 to stop rising, scientists believe that global emissions need to be cut by at least 50%. Whether we are approaching or have passed the limit, we clearly need to take our foot off the accelerator. (You can sign the Care2 petition in support of a strong US climate bill here.)

There is of course a second definition of redlining, which is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of necessary services (health, food, jobs) to residents in defined racially determined areas. Sadly, in an indirect way the world clock also measures this. As the metrics increase, it is many of the poorest in the poorer countries who will be impacted most, exacerbating the differences between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

Because of both redline issues, we need to start thinking more holistically about our planet. As Russell says;

“The real crisis we are facing is not an environmental crisis, a population crisis, economic crisis, a social crisis, or a political crisis. It is, at its root, a crisis of consciousness. A crisis is an indication that the old mode of operating is no longer working, and a new approach is required. This is true of a personal crisis, a family crisis or a political crisis. In the case of the environmental the old way that is no longer working is our self-centred materialistic consciousness. It may have worked well in the past, when we needed to provide ourselves with the basic commodities necessary for our individual well-being – but it clearly no longer works today.”

Matthius: The Forgotten Apostle? Reflections on discipleship

October 19, 2009 - 7:58 pm 7 Comments

Matthius: The Forgotten Apostle?
Reflections on being a disciple and following your calling
The Rev. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Good Morning! Now here is a quick quiz for all of you New Testament and Christian Scholars out there? How many apostles were there? 12, right? Maybe, 13… The complete answer that most scholars would agree on is 14; maybe 15 at the outside edges… Depending of course whether you believe that women could be apostles….
There are, without doubt, the traditional 12… And of the 12, one, Judas, hung himself due to the shame of his betrayal, so another took his place- that’s 13, and if one is open to accept Paul as an apostle, that’s 14… And If, as the Russian, Syrian, and Greek Orthodox do, accept Mary Magdelene as an apostle, then the final answer is 15!
Well, it not quite the final answer, the most inclusive, yet still penultimate answer is 85…. (Jesus sent out another 70…) And the final answer?… Well, you can decide that for yourselves after the end of my sermon!
Today, I am unwilling to argue the merits of whether Paul was an apostle, and I savor a later discussion of Mary Magdeline as an apostle, so I will focus today on number 13- the most obscure of all the rest… Matthius….
In all the Christian Scriptures, accepted and controversial, they all agree that Matthius has only one reference in Scripture, and an oblique one at that! In the Book of Acts, he is mentioned as one of the two men being considered to replace Judas among the 12… There is a casting of lots, and it was he who was chosen ….And that’s it! Nothing in Scripture, and barely a word in Early Church tradition follows… He is quickly mentioned, and promptly forgotten! There is a flimsy reference to him as a wandering apostle whose faith witness took him to the far away lands of Asia Minor and the Caspian Sea, and that he died, like almost every one of the apostles did- violently- and little else is known to us. Yet, no matter how sparse the reference is, it got me thinking about some interconnecting themes and some larger question for this morning’s consideration: First, what is an apostle, anyway?

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Since we know so little about most of the apostles, what we can we glean from examining scholarly history is short and not so sweet… And while facts are an important consideration in any assessment of truth, they do not always provide the complete story, and rarely do they assist us in a full disclosure or discovery. Only the more poetic, imaginative, and inductive understanding of our lives, or more aptly, the whole story of our lives can do that for us. It is a lot like the difference between an obituary and a eulogy; one states the facts and worldly accomplishments of your life, and the other lifts up what your life has meant to you and how it primarily has affected others who have shared it with you. We are, after all, not our resumes… but we might well be the sum total of the quality and impact of our relationships.
There are various approaches to the study of sacred texts… Most often, and the most common is the concern for accuracy and historical veracity. This is a rigorous discipline and it is an admirable apporach in and of itself. We trust our scholars to provide us with as true and as accurate a picture of historical events as possible. However, this rigor is not suitable for the psychological and spiritual comprehension of any text- be it a poem, Scripture, a story or a dream. We ask ourselves what is the meaning of this person, this dream, this event is for us personally, and even the best scholarship cannot answer that fully. So we turn to a more inductive approach…
One that allows for our personal subjectivity to hold the key- we allow ourselves to imagine how being there in the first person would feel for us, and then we can use those feelings and thoughts as a means to unlock the riddle or solve the puzzle of greater understanding for us…
Strictly speaking, there is a great, historical and theological difference between an apostle, a disciple, and a follower…. And yet, when taken from a more inductive viewpoint, I believe that we are all apostles and disciples of something in our lives.
First, the more narrow and traditional definition, an apostle, according to Scripture is a follower who has a direct experience of the Easter Jesus- the risen Christ- and that direct witness confers on that person the title of apostle. All others who believe or who follow are disciples, even though the two terms are commonly interchanged.
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From a wider and more inclusive point of view, a disciple is someone who follows the disciplines or the teachings of a tradition. It is someone who is devoted or who holds a deep allegiance or loyalty to a particular school of thought, to a teacher, or to a approach to life. One can be a disciple of Socrates, or Aristotle; a disciple of science or medicine; a devotee of Buddha or Krishna, a follower of Mohammed or Lao Tse ; you can be a disciple of a school or style of art, or be devoted to one branch of music or genre of literature. Commonly, we hear a reference to someone being a disciple or as a leading advocate of a political system; Generally, it refers to anyone who has a particular dedication- even if it is to a special diet, and since the words and ideas behind both fan and fanatic come from the same root source, the idea of a disciple can be stretched all the way out to how avidly you follow your hobby or favorite sports team.
More directly, many philosophers, theologians and psychologists will define a life by what you come to love and respect; what your discipline is, and what you are willing to devote your time, energy, money and personal resources to achieving or supporting.
This morning, as a beginning exercise in inductive religious study, I am asking you to try to relate to this forgotten apostle, Matthias in some way… Because we distinctly lack information, and are given scarce facts, we do not wish to let anyone, in the words of Emily Dickinson, “die obscure” so in order that his story can be better understood, we can begin to understand and appreciate him through our own life experiences. To accomplish this, we employ a more artistic and imaginative approach. In this way, Matthius, any of the various characters from Scripture, or any personalities from great literature, or drama, can become alive, compelling or inspiring for you…
From the willingness to suspend factual analysis and linear thinking, we permit ourselves to ask- What if this person were me? What if I were there? Would I have acted in the same way, or would I have tried to change the outcome in some way?
So let’s begin to ask some questions as if you were like Matthius, or had a similar situation in your life…

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Q: Have you ever been the subject of a bet? Did anyone ever bet on you or did anyone ever expect you to win? Did you feel any pressure? And conversely, did you ever win without trying, were you ever chosen without necessarily wanting the prize, the job, or the person involved? How did you respond?
In ancient times, the practice of casting lots was employed to determine an important outcome; it was far more than a mere game of chance or child’s play… It was considered to be a sacred way of coming to a decision- sort of a holy dice game, or an inspired game that allowed the Spirit to step in, or that allowed Fate to determine the outcome. Then, once the choice was determined, it required that the players would trust that the outcome was ” for the best” and that it was somehow foreordained or its outcome was divinely chosen.
Q: Have you ever felt as if you were chosen or called to do something- something vital, important, noteworthy with your life?
And conversely, have you ever been passed over, in some abitrary way for a promotion, or for recognition… Just to find out that it was indeed, a fortunate failure… All the world faiths, in one way or another, teach this: That there is no such thing as absolute free will; Some of the greatest experiences of our lives have been already chosen for us, have been outlined for us, and are in some way imposed on us. The value and lasting importance of these outside decisions are framed or determined by how we respond to the twists and turns of choice and fate, duty and opportunity.
We do not have complete free will because of our previous choices, or our parent’s choices and decisions, but we always retain the freedom of how we are going to respond to the calls to discipleship we receive in our lives: how well we handle the lessons, demands, choices, and challenges that life presents to us. One of the most useful definitions of faith fits here: That faith is not simply what one believes, as much as it is how one lives- the measure of one’s faith, one’s trust, one’s strength, or one’s confidence comes from how we respond to what choices we are given, and how determined we are to make the best of the choices we have, and the decisions we need to make.
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When considering Matthius, or the life of any disciple, what genuinely distinguishes a person and a call is the personal experience of its power and impact on your life. Whenever we have a personal encounter, a sustaining or intimate experience of a transcendent truth, whether it is of a religious nature or not, you can feel called- mainly because the subsequent effects of the event on our lives. We are changed. Even if the meeting or the experience was a brief or fleeting one, we are different because of it. We will feel compelled to pursue it, we could be said to have become apostles or disciples of that truth, ideal, or mission….
Outside of psychology or religion, I can think of some of the great scientists and inventors who felt compelled to work feverishly to discover or complete something;
I can think of artists, composers, and writers who, following their demanding muse, worked all night or exhaustively for days, even weeks at a time. …
If, in this case, If you were like Matthius, how would you respond to being chosen for some great work? Would you protest and declare, Oh, no! You got the wrong guy here, no, not me! I want to take a spiritual mulligan, I want a do over!
Or would you be quietly grateful for this unique and wonderful opportunity to put your faith to its truest, most demanding test- to begin to teach passionately and preach persistently about those transformative experiences, telling any who wish to hear it, what your highest sense of good, your highest sense of truth is, spreading that word out to the far corners of civilization!
To follow a call to disciplehood, in its larger most inclusive sense is to be willing to transform who you are into who you will become…. Most often, this will require a life change; either a new direction, a new relationship, a new career… But even more personally, the willingness to follow your calling, or your compelling sense of discipleship, can and will often require a deeper commitment to yourself, and it will take your renewed courage to brave those feelings of being lost, broken, abandoned, and yet still be willing, open and expectant.
Two quotes from sources that have been meaningful and trustworthy for me during my vocational questions and personal crises are these:
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As the author of the personal journey book, Broken Open, and workshop leader Elizabeth Lesser puts it: “If we don’t listen to the voice of our souls, it sings a strange tune. If we don’t go out and look for what lies beneath the surface of our lives, then the soul comes looking for us…. And further in the book, she describes her watershed year in these words. “Now I know what Dante meant when you come to a place in your life where you feel lost, and it is there and then that the real journey of life begins.
Within a year, my husband left, my children went off to college, my father died, and I lost my job. I felt I had nothing left to lose. Now, looking back, I call that “my ashes to wings” experience. It was as if I were born a second time.”
Then, in the book, She goes on to recap the philosopher of religion, William James’s idea of what it means to be twice born, and she ends with this: As Hazarat Inyat Khan, the great Western Sufi teacher put it,” Out of the shell of the broken heart, arises a newborn soul.”

And the second quotes comes to us from his excellent book about finding yourself and your direction in life, Gregg Lavoy in his book, Callings, makes this observation about a modern sense of discipleship:
[“Our calling, our true vocations, might be a call to do something- become self-employed, start a new business, go back to school, start or leave a relationship, move across the country, be a parent… Or the call might ask us to be something; to be more creative, less judgmental, to be more loving, less fearful- thereby adding new meaning to our lives. The call might be to move toward or to move away from something or someone; It will, almost always compel us to review our lives, and then move in a new direction; even to work to change something that has been chronic or long-standing.
Whether you receive the call to discipleship from your soul, your imagination, from your gut, from your breaking heart, or from the enlivening of your mind, it is, as Khalil Gibran puts it, life longing for itself.]”

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Now the multifaceted understanding of what constitutes a call is a much larger topic than I can cover today, I would prefer to state it this way: Whether you choose to follow an established religious path- and by that I mean from atheism to mysticism, or any combination or version of the great world faiths, or as many U-Us could choose, to create a path of their own devising, it will take perseverance, integrity, and a lifelong attitude of risk, exploration, and experience to gain from whatever path you choose to travel. At the last analysis, it comes down to this: your maturity as a soul, or as a full person, will assist you to recognize your own true calling, your pathways to wholeness, integrity, greater use, or greater purpose.
First, and maybe foremost, you have to be willing to listen carefully, sensitively, openly for your calling, then realize that it is up to you to chose the path of your life-
To comprehend more fully the result of your previous choices, and consequences… Then you will earn and confirm your self knowledge, and let this next significant choice act as your teacher and your master, so that you are your own best disciple of your life.
Unlike Matthius however, I believe that you will not be forgotten by history, and I trust that you will be well known, and well remembered as someone who was willing to follow your own dreams, strive for your ideals, live up to your principles, and reach for those cherished goals that will define the greatest purpose of your life.

Lastly, remember, we start this quest at any age… And at any age, the time is right…
So Be It!
Closing Words:
The psychologist Ira Progoff, known best as the creator of the Intensive Journal Experience, once said that each of our lives is like a well; and we’re meant to go down deeply enough into our own wells so that we finally reach the stream that is the source of all wells. There, theologian Fredrick Buechner say, in that place where ” our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” we will hear a further call. This call leads us out of into the world to test our bright swords in real combat- to teach love, save lives, change minds, to educate, minister, and to serve one another. Callings Page 13