Friday, July 31, 2009

Cleansing the Lens - OR - The Seduction of Fear

I'm sure enjoying this grand adventure ... and enjoying how the "just right" book falls into my lap at the "just right" time. Recently, it's been a confirming joy to bounce back and forth between Richard Rohr (a Catholic mystic) and Marcus Borg (a Protestant scholar) ... and to discover how these two dear and brave and radical men have come to the same conclusions about the heart and nature of our uberly-beyond-good God...!

I found this chapter of his book, "Everything Belongs" to be enrapturing - as soon as I'd read it I had to jump up to share it - but no one was unbusy enough to sit and indulge me, so I had to wait 24 long stinkin' hours in order to share it here with y'all. First I have to process inwardly (for I am a slight introvert - which doesn't mean "shy"...!), and then the "owning" of a concept isn't complete unless and until I can share it. Good thing I can talk and type fast!

Take from it whatever resonates for you ... freely let the rest go:

- Instead of leading us to see God in new and surprising places, Christianity too often has led us to confine God inside of our place. Simone Weil said, "the tragedy of Christianity is that it came to see itself as replacing other religions, instead of adding something to all of them."

(I see that [even as I would go further, and say that I see Christianity as a man-made attempt to define, confine and control God's truth -- which was always meant of the world-at-large, and never meant to be turned into a separate sub-culture -- a spiritual ghetto]. This is, after all, good news for *all* mankind.)

- Corporate religion gets all tied up with totems and symbols and arguments about who's right and who's wrong. This preoccupation with religion as an ideology leads to over-identification with the group, its language and symbols. Group loyalty becomes the test rather than loyalty to God or truth. It is easier to belong to a group, than to belong to God. Thomas Aquinas said, "If it is true, it is of the Holy Spirit." The only question is veracity, not origin.

(LOL, I experience this continuously...! I'll share something, and I'll inevitably hear back, "aha! You're a universalist/new-ager/Preterist/mystic/heretic!" Somehow, by labeling me, it gives them permission to not hear nor consider whatever it was that I said ... I am dismissed, devalued as a human being, cast into the box of "daughters of perdition" and therefore my words have no merit. It's the spiritual version of sticking one's fingers in one's ears, and yelling, "I can't heeeeeeeear you - la-la-la-la-la-LA!" Once, when telling a friend about what I was blogging about here, I said, "I may not be traditional, but what I'm sharing is biblical." My friend actually said, "Well, we're traditional, so we can't go there." I was incredulous! Did he even hear what the choices were, and which one he chose..? Having been a participant in the house church "movement" in recent years, I can attest that this "group-think" preoccupation is strongly prevalent within that realm ... thinking themselves so very radical, they don't see how, while they've left the buildings, they've kept the institutional spirit alive and well.)

- God does not lead with his judgments. When we lead with our judgments, we can't see correctly... when we lead with our fear, we can't see correctly. If we lead with the calculating mind, we'll never get to love. But God refuses to be known except by love. If contemplation teaches us to see an enchanted world, cynicism afraid there is nothing there. The problem is no longer to believe in God - it's to believe in humanity. We're tremendously under-confident about what it means to be human. We tend to see ourselves living in a disenchanted universe without meaning, purpose or direction. We are aware only of what it is not. Seldom do we enjoy what it is. Healthy spirituality is an enthusiasm about what is, not an anger about what isn't.

(An enchanted world ... yes, I'm coming to see that. Who knew it was always there?!? So label me an emerging Pollyanna...! Better than the correctly-pessimistic perfectionist that religion had trained me to be! As a Christian, it seemed that I was known for what I was against, more than what I was for. If someone mentioned one of the "blessing" verses, I'd counter with a "yeah, but look at this destruction verse -- God is both love AND wrath, y'know!" I made a good and miserable little parrot...!)

- When we see that the world is enchanted, we see the revelation of God in each individual as individual. Our job is not to be like anyone else, but to do what is ours to do. We must find out what part of the mystery it is ours to reflect. There is a unique truth that our lives alone can reflect. all I can give back to God is what God has given to me - nothing more and no less! Our first job is to see correctly who we are, and then to act on it.

(I see this as part of the "all truth" that the Spirit will lead us into ... we come to see God as He is, which in turn, almost simultaneously, reflects who/how we really are, and out of that flows God-through-us.)

- We determine by our internal dialogue and predispositions - fears, angers, and judgments - much more than we'd like to admit. We determine what we will see and what we won't see, what we pay attention to and what we don't. That's why we have to clean the lens: we have to get our ego-agenda out of the way, so we can see things as they are. We usually see everything through our own egocentric agenda. Our preoccupation is "How will this inconvenience/affect me - make me feel?" Then we twist realty so we can feel good.

(Our minds are seemingly wired to latch on to what we think is our version of the truth -- but in reality, it's just the "story we tell ourselves." We dub it as "THE TRUTH" and then our brain seeks to prove that it really IS the truth -- it will resist, ignore, discount, deny and denounce anything that it perceives to be a threat to what it thinks IS the truth. Hence the lies we believe, thinking them "truth." Hence our need for mind renewal. Our egoic/carnal minds need renewal - to line up with the Mind of Christ which we already have - affirmed even by scripture.)

- The truth is always too much for our ego - who is ready for the whole truth? I'm not. For the thinking of the ego is largely based on fear. Fear of what I might not be. Fear of what I might see. Fear I won't be successful or accepted, or that I will be hurt. So we have to recognize how dominant fear is in our lives. But this fear is not a great big teeth-chattering fear that something is going to kill us. Our fear is in the service of all the little ways we have learned to protect our false self. But love is who we really are. We'll never see the love we really are, our foundation, if we keep living out of our false self of self-protection and overreaction.

(Woah ... let that one sink in a while. Do you see it? Do you see how everything we do, think, believe, is rooted in either love or of fear? Can you feel that? Test it a bit ... think of some situations in your own life, some recent conversations, some recent thoughts. Dig in a bit, and ask yourself some questions -- can you lift the veil of the story you tell yourself, and see what's there, at the root? Is it love, welling up and over, wholly uncontainable? Or is it fear, sniveling in the corner, pretending to be something moral and altruistic and noble, not wanting you to peer too closely? Or does fear even *keep* you from questioning in the first place -- dismissing the notion as "unnecessary" or "ridiculous"..? Are you yet aware of how subtly fear can masquerade as pseudo-love? Do you want to be that aware? Can we handle the truth..?)

- The world, the system, moves forward out of fear. That's why it has to threaten us to make us play the game. We're threatened with loss of job, money, reputation or prestige. Another reason we play the tame is the high reward we receive for staying in it. Why else would we play it? Rewards and punishments become almost the only game in town. But true power moves us, with great difficulty, beyond the reward/punishment mentality. In contemplative prayer, we move into a different realm. It is not the arena of merit, of reward and punishment; it is the realm of pure grace and freedom. Religion drags along the reward/punishment system since it can understand no other. But love flourishes only in the realm of freedom.

(Think about it: how did you first get enticed to "come to God"? Were you drawn in by His love, or scared into accepting Jesus as your Savior? Never mind that that phrase is not found in scripture -- notice how that keeps happening? How many of us would be Christians, were it not for either the threat of "hell" or the promise of heaven? What does that say about our concept of God? Do we believe He's got not enough going for Him, that we have to resort to either threats or bribes to come to Him? Is knowing God, here and now, not *enough*...? Further, what if knowing Him here and now was the very point of all of Jesus' messages? What if He never was talking about life-after-death in the first place? What if He was always more concerned about life-before-death, because the outcome is secure..?)

- Sometime around the 1960's and increasingly since then, the language has switched. We have switched from a language of responsibility to a language of rights, which only aggrandizes the private self. "I deserve, I have a right to, I have been hurt, I have been offended." These are huge debts the fragile ego tries to pay to itself. But they have to be forgiven, because they can never be paid. The private ego does not deserve all this supposed dignity it thinks it has accrued and can pull from the outside. The real primal dignity is a gift from God and is nothing that can be claimed by other people's response to me.

(Ohhhhhh, to *get* that! I mean, down deep, where I live and move and have my being - oh wait, God's there. And the ego cannot "get" anything -- it can only be exposed for what it is, i.e., "oh, it's only you, you lil' stinker!" It can only be absorbed into the light. It's meant to be a gift to me -- that which looms large and gets my attention, and shows me who I'm *not* -- so that I can finally see who I really *am*.)

- The wounds to our egos are our teachers and must be welcomed. They must be paid attention to, not litigated.

(Yes! I no longer want to despise my ego/carnal nature -- I want to learn, and not repress, deny, and thus repeat the same errant thinking/behavior. To "die to" our egos, doesn't mean to kill off our egos -- as if that were possible! It means to accept what is ... to face reality, on a deep and naked level.)

- A contemplative posture faces reality and sees the presence of God. So there is ultimately nothing to fear. True religion is never about fear, but always about moving beyond fear. Yet many of us were religiously trained to be comfortable with fear.

(Don't get me started ... too late! How many times have I been told that I "should" fear God. "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Yes - the beginning, but not the place to remain! Perfect love casts out all fear - including the fear of God. Intimacy cannot thrive (or even exist!) in an atmosphere of fear. Think about it - how many women would respond positively to a man 'courting' her with this statement: "I love you SO much - I must have you! I want you to love me in return, and live with me forever -- and if you do not choose me, I will hunt you down and torture you forever!" Yeah, that'll inspire "love"...! How could she trust such a one? And yet we put that on God. Sheesh. Do we really listen to what we accept as traditional truth...?)

- A lot that's called orthodoxy, loyalty and obedience is grounded in fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of being rejected, or fear of not being "in." Fear of not being promoted, fear of a God who has not been experienced. WE call it loyalty, but it's often fear.

(Fear leads to control and manipulation, or anxiety and paralysis - always. We cover over our fear with platitudes, and symbols, and rituals ... we shut down questions by implying that it demonstrates rebellion. We deny that we have fear, and thus insure that fear is thus all the more entrenched in our hearts! But anxiety and faith seem to be opposites for Jesus. Sometimes we mistake fear for humility, but it's just a perverse blindness. Fear is contrary to truth.)

- Love is the ultimate reality. And yet love can be hidden -- we don't see it unless we learn how to see, unless we clean the lens. In a perfect mirror I see what's there, not what I'm afraid of, nor what I need to be there, but what is really there. Mirror-wiping is the inner discipline of constantly observing my own patterns, what I pay attention to and what I don't pay attention to in order to get my own ego out of the way. Teresa of Avila said, "for the most part all our trials and disturbances come from our not understanding ourselves." We must learn to observe our own stream of consciousness. What is my agenda? What is my predisposition? What are my prejudices? What are my angers? We need the ability to stand away from ourselves and listen and look with some kind of calm, not judgmental, objectivity. This process can be brutal, but it is absolutely necessary. Most people become their thoughts. They do not have thoughts and feelings; the thoughts and feelings have them. It is what the ancients called "being possessed by a demon."

(We need eyes with which to see -- the eyes that see beyond the form, into the essence of reality. We need to see within ourselves - minus the shame-colored-glasses that most of us were taught to wear! The brutality spoken of here only comes from the judgments of ourselves, and others -- or what we believe is coming from others. That judgment is not coming from the very God who made us exactly as we are -- for His "very good" purpose! The brutality is to our ego, who is highly-invested in seeing things its own way, highly-invested in masquerading as the real us -- but it's not. As for the demon-part, that's all been dismantled for me... Jesus tells us that evil comes out of our own hearts -- we have met the enemy and he is us. We just can't bear to see that, so we egoicaly project our unbearable stuff "out there" onto an overly-personfied "being" -- i.e., "the devil made me do it". Satan, as I now see it, is nothing more than our own adversarial/egoic nature, which resists God and truth -- it's been defeated, but it still makes a lot of noise. So much fluff and nonsense. We don't have to agree with how the ancients, groping in the dark, explained that which they didn't understand. We can receive more truth, if we can but bear it.)

- The watcher can become self-preoccupied, which only distorts things further So we have to observe, but also not let the observer become an accusing tyrant. If we get past that temptation, we no longer ask questions about whether we're doing it "right." We stop pestering our soul with questions like, "Am I pure?" "Am I holy?" "Am I good?" "Is my technique proper?" They all fade away. When the veil parts and we see love, the self-conscious watcher, preoccupied with doing it right, just forgets the self. After worrying that I don't know about myself, a lovely question then arises. Who cares? Prayer then is not finally self-observation, but rather to "fall into the hands of the living God."

(Ahhhh, the relief! After years and years, and decades of being told to "examine myself" I get instead to observe, and learn from what I see. No judgment, no condemnation, no shame! We're so terrified that we'll find wrath, and harshness, and condemnation when we look deep inside, that we're afraid to look -- not knowing that we will experience only LOVE. Love is all there is -- the strongest force in the universe! The very essence of God! The rest is our own illusions...)

- When the soul lives in that kind of security, we're no longer occupied with technique [or doctrine]. We no longer follow rituals and disciplines idolatrously. We don't condemn people who don't do it our way.

(Christianity has SO very much to learn from that last statement...! It majors in technique and doctrine ... in smug and self-righteous certaintude of correctness. In zealousness to convert everyone to the "right" way of thinking/believing/acting. Condemnation is a knee-jerk response -- as if judgment triumphs over mercy.)

- We are energized by what we see. And our private darkness is no great surprise. Who cares? Who cares where I am on the ladder of perfection? That's an egocentric question. "Where am I?" "How holy am I?" become silly questions. If God can receive me, who am I to not receive myself - warts and all?

(When you look inside of yourself, in this gloriously-messy human form that God intentionally breathed His very breath into - thereby inspiring you, are you energized, and delighted, by what you see? Can you see your own private darkness for what it is - a no-thing? Can you see the perfectionism-game for the silly snare that it is? Do you know, I mean *really* know, that God receives you? If you knew that, if you lived that, how would it change the way you see yourself, and all others? And God?)

Tomorrow, I want to splash around a bit in the concept of free will ... perhaps in a way you've not often heard before. And I reserve the right to go down some curiosity-seducing rabbit trails, should the rabbits catch my attention ... (I'll have to share some of my "God sends me bunnies as signs" stories ...!).

Shalom, Dena

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unpacking Creation ...! (Part II)

What if we were to (just for fun!) read the Creation stories through a metaphorical lens...? Would we get zapped with lightning, psoriasis, or a major flea infestation for doing so..? Would God fall of His throne...?

Or would we maybe, just maybe, find out that there another way, perhaps even a more plausible way (perhaps even a way that fits well with our spirits - and a way that honors the nature of God!), than the literal story many of us have been taught...?

Only one way to find out!

(WARNING: This will be long. Ain't no other way to unpack it. But I believe you'll be glad you stuck - stook? - it out. I'll be typing this out by hand - my kingdom for a scanner! - so please be gracious with any typos you discover ... I really do know how to spell and use grammar...!)

- A metaphorical ( and thus nonliteral) approach to these stories is not new. In the third century, a Christian biblical scholar named Origen, commonly seen along with Augustine as one of the two most brilliant theologians of the early church, wrote:

What intelligent person can imagine that there was a first day, then a second and a third day, evening and morning, without the sun, the moon, and the stars? [sun, moon and stars are created on the fourth day] And that the first day -- if it makes sense to call it such -- existed even without a sky? [the sky is created on the second day] Who is foolish enough to believe that, like a human gardener, God planted a garden in Eden in the East and placed in it a tree of life, visible and physical, so that by biting into its fruit one would obtain life? And that by eating from another tree, one would come to know good and evil? And when it is said that God walked in the garden in the evening and that Adam hid himself behind a tree, I cannot imagine that anyone will doubt that these details point symbolically to spiritual meaning by using a historical narrative which did not literally happen.

(Preach it brother Origen...! A literal belief is on the level of what children believe, noncritically and nonquestioningly, when their parents tell them something is so ... if we remain spiritual children, if we never critically question that which we've been taught, we're merely parroting the traditions of man ... spiritual propaganda, and nothing more. Further, we miss the deep and rich meaning that the metaphorical rendering contains.)

- In popular language, "myth" is a dismissive term. To call something a myth is to dismiss it; one need not take it seriously. A myth is seen as a mistaken belief, a falsehood. But the term means something very different in the study of religion. Myths are metaphorical narratives about the relation between the world and the sacred. Myths use nonliteral language; in this sense, they do not narrate facts. But myths are necessary if we are to speak at all about the world's origin and destiny in God. We have no other language for such matters.

(Well, duh. I mean, who was there, "in the beginning" to take notes...? We're human, we're limited, we're groping in the dark most of the time ... caught up in our five senses, having this human experience, out of touch with the true spiritual nature of our beings. So too have we been mesmerized by the modern worldview and reliance upon *facts*. In the past 500 or so years, facts = truth. Mysticism has been largely ridiculed ... and yet the Kingdom of God is mystic, spiritual, and "does not come by observation." Perhaps 'tis time to forsake our love affair with facts, or at least to flesh them out with a deeper understanding of the many truths hidden. metaphorically, within myths ...?)

- Myth and reality go together, myth being the language for talking about what is ultimately real. Myths are true, even though not literally true. To cite another definition: "Myth is a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that it proclaims a truth. Myth is poetry-plus, not science-minus.

(YES! Another case for both/and rather than either/or...! What a wonderful all-inclusive God we have! How we limit His speaking to our hearts, how we limit His revelations all around (& in!) us, when we insist upon a literal understanding, and demand that others do so as well...!)

- To the extent that there is a literal affirmation in ancient Israel's creation myths, it is simply this: God is the source of everything that is. The only literal statement in Genesis 1 is "God created the heavens and the earth." God is the source of everything that is in every moment of time. Affirming that God is creator is not primarily a statement about origination in the remote past; rather it is a statement about the present dependence of the universe upon God. If God ceased to vibrate the universe (and us) into existence, it (and we) would cease to exist. The contemporary "big-bang theory" of the universe's origin, which speaks of a moment roughly fifteen billion years ago when the present universe began, is quite compatible with thinking of Creation as historical origination. Indeed, some have seen the primordial "cosmic flash" of the big-bang theory as strikingly similar to the first act of creation on the first day of the Genesis story: "Let there be light." Twenty years ago, a scientist wryly observed:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the highest mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

(Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Even as many theologians/Christians have spent decades striving to climb to the top of the theological ladder, only to discover that it was leaning against the wrong wall..! Ahhhh, we're all in for some shockingly-delightful surprises! I read an old book, "Genesis and the Big Bang," written by a Jewish astrophysicist - his view is that both science and scripture are right ... that the universe was created in "6 days" or over the course of eons, depending on where one was standing in the universe at that time - due to how time "bends". Having not been there, and not having a astrophysical degree, I'm inclined to take his word for it..! I do adore Borg's view of God being the Source of *every*thing, and the on-going Sustainer of all that is ... for I've come to see God in everything - panentheism... which is not pantheism. Look it up if you're curious. Speaking of curiosity ... I do have to admit that mine is piqued with Borg's mention of "this universe" ... wondering, are/were/will there be there others? whether in location or in chronology...? Hmmm...)

- This way of thinking of God as Creator is compatible not only with the current big-bang theory, but also with whatever scientific theory might (and almost certainly will) replace it. Indeed, thinking about creation this way means that the affirmation of God as "maker of heaven and earth" is compatible with any scientific account of the universe's origins. At the level of ultimate origins, there need be no conflict between Genesis and science. The two do not directly compete.

(Whew! Get the word out! We can stop all this caterwauling and in-fighting...! Scientists can embrace those suppressed experiences with God, and believers can stop playing stupid about science...! Truth is truth, whether expressed through sensual evidence, or metaphorical experience...! Sheesh, I almost typed "sensuous evidence" which is an entirely different blog-post, but another great passion of mine!) ;)

- Just as there are two ways of thinking about creation, so there are two models for thinking about the God-world relationship -- that is, the relation of God as creator to the universe. The first is the "production" model. Namely, like an artisan or artist, God makes the universe as something separate from God's self. Once created, the universe exists separate from God, just as a house or a painting exists separate from the builder or artist who produced it. This model is associated with a particular concept of God. Known as "supernatural theism," this way of thinking about God conceptualizes God as "another being" separate from the universe.

(This is what I was taught to believe: "God is holy and wholly Other. God is Way Up There, and you, mere wretched bit of humanity, are way down here. Further, the separation cannot be breached by your efforts - all attempts are futile. So, you need to accept Jesus as your Savior - nevermind that the phrase to "accept" Jesus cannot be found in scripture - and THEN you can get on the treadmill of exerting your own effort to make sure that God continues to like you... because He doesn't really like you, wretch that you are, He only puts up with you because of Jesus. Ok, I'm using hyperbole to make a point -- this is metaphorical, you understand ... no one ever literally laid it out like that to me. But, honestly, is that not an approximate characterization of something that most of you have been taught..? Can you relate to it? To put it succinctly - oops, too late! - I no longer believe in that separation ... and Borg will help me out by getting to that.)

- The second way of thinking about the God-world relation has been called a "procreative" or "emanationsist" model: God brings forth the universe from God's being. Because the universe comes out of God's being, it is in some sense, "God-stuff." This model does not identify the universe with God,for God is more than the universe; rather, it sees the universe as being "of God" and "in God." (In other words, the model is panentheistic. To quote a passage from the NT, God is "the one in whom we [and everything] live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)

(YES!!! I adore finding my own dangerous-to-status-quo and thrilling thoughts put forth by another author...! The joy! God keeps whispering the darndest things to my heart, and my spirit jumps up and down in exuberant recognition of truth, even while my "must. maintain. equilibrium." brain hollers all manner of "yeah-buts"..! This transformation business is tough! I've lost sleep, hair, and all manner of friends and ministries! But I've gained GOD...! And peace! And joy! And excitement! I'm becoming ok with morphing into a bald, friendless insomniac..! I mean, well-behaved women so seldom make history...)

- The differences between these two models for thinking about the God-world relation matter. The production model suggests that the universe is separate from God and that creation happened in some past moment. The procreative model affirms the presence of God within and beyond the universe and fits the notion that creation is an ongoing process, not simply a past event. Finally, whereas the production model and it's association with supernatural theism emphasize God's separation from the world, the latter model leads to a much more intimate sense of the closeness of God to the world - indeed, of the presence of God in the world.

(Another Yes! I was reading this morning, and canNOT wait to share it with y'all, in Richard Rohr's book, "Everything Belongs" - get it! read it! - how he sees the world as "enchanted" ... beautifully filled with the Presence of God -- God showing up in all the places He's not "supposed" to. Reminds me of a little plaque I bought this weekend at the art show, spending nearly as much money as I made - and if I've already shared this just smile and metaphorically/indulgently pat me on my lil' head. The plaque read:

I found Jesus.

He was hiding behind the couch the whole time.

LOL! Love it! He's everywhere, and *right there* where we least expect! We go looking all over tarnation for Him, thinking we have to perform all manner of rituals to get Him to "show up" and He's always been *right there* - behind the couch of our heart..!)

- Obviously, the Genesis stories speak of creation using a production model. In short, God is portrayed as creating a universe separate from God. But because this is the language of myth and metaphor, the way we think about the creation stories need not be confined to a semiliteral reading. To cite an analogy, the Bible often speaks of God as a person-like Being; this is the natural language of worship and devotion. But that does not mean that we must think of God as a person-like Being. In any case, whether our thoughts of creation follow a production model or a procreative model, the central truth-claim of the myth remains: God is the Source of everything.

(Wondering if you, like me, almost immediately think of several dire situations, that I cringe to think of as being sourced in God ... crimes, rapes, child-abuse, war, murder, injustice, genocide, etc. Hang on - that gets addressed...!)

- Central to Genesis 1 is the refrain repeated each day of creation: "And God saw that it was good." This does not mean that everything that happens is good. But whatever exists is good.

(I see this as a crucial distinction. I also see that it's critical to realize that we, as limited-humans, are incapable of declaring a thing "good" or "evil". The crucifixion of Jesus, had we witnessed it, would be declared to be "evil" - and yet we now know, in historical hindsight, that it was "good." We're also told that ALL things work together for our good. All things - no exception. We just get stuck-in-time, rather than seeing it from God's POV. Ask any woman if the transition stage in labor is good or evil, the first time she goes through it. Unless she's drugged out the wazoo - and don't get me started on drugs in childbirth! - she's likely to label the experience as "uberly-evil". And yet, as soon as that baby gushes out with that wondermous-wet-wiggle, her world is transformed from abysmal to glorious. The next time she's in transition she'll have a reference point, knowing of the great-good that is about to come. So, too, with the hindsight of experiencing the heart-of-God, we can come to see how the pain we're currently experiencing can be transformed/birthed into joy. Knowing God, we can have our minds renewed with His perspective -- which changes EVERYthing...!)

- The creation story is strikingly world-affirming. Indeed, the Jewish tradition as a whole has consistently been world-affirming, in spite of the horrendous sufferings that Jews have experienced. The affirmation is also central to Christianity, although popular Christianity, with its emphasis on the afterlife, has sometimes seen the world (especially the "flesh") as highly problematic, something to keep at a distance, a place to get through on the way to one's heavenly home. But against all world-denying theologies and philosophies, Genesis affirms the world as the good creation of the good God. All that is is good.

(Getting back to my "other passion" this mindset shows up frequently in the realm of sexuality - largely thanks to Augustine, who clearly needed some Prozac. We see it as "of the flesh" and therefore "bad." But "flesh" is "ego", or "carnal nature" not "body". Jesus affirmed the body by taking one on. That should settle the issue. As for God's view of sex, read Song of Songs/Solomon from the view of an understanding of Hebraic poetry - yes, there are plenty of books out there on the issue. God goes "so far" as to use sexual intercourse as a metaphor for our connection, surrender, and union with Him...! For those who want to delve more deeply into a renewed-mind-view of sex, complete with transparency and humor, check out "Sheet Music" by Kevin Lehman.)

- According to Ancient Israel's stories of Creation, we are the climax of Creation, created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth. Yet we are also "dust creatures," people made of earth. We do not know what ancient Israel meant by affirming that we are created "in the image of God." But whatever it means, it is clear that ancient Israel thought there was something special about us. The paradoxical juxtaposition of our status is expressed in the familiar words of one of the Creation psalms. In the first half of Psalm 8, the author addresses God and reflects on our insignificance:

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

Then the author affirms:

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [c]
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet

(Now catch what Borg goes into next ... depending on how much you've questioned traditional thinking, this may come as rather shocking to you...)

- The term "the fall" does not occur in the Genesis story of creation. As a description of the events surrounding Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise, it is largely a Christian label; Jews typically do not speak of "the fall." Within the Christian tradition, "the fall" has commonly been understood to mean "the fall into sin." It has also been associated with the notion of "original sin," which is not simply the first sin, but a sinfulness that is transmitted to every individual in every generation. This latter notion, which goes far beyond what the Bible says, is usually attributed to the brilliant but troubled theologian Augustine around 400 CE. Although the term "the fall" does not occur in the story itself, the story of Adam and Eve's accepting the temptation offered by the snake points to something having gone wrong. The consequences are vivid, evocative, and thorough, Adam and Eve find themselves living east of Eden in a world that must endure toil and sweat for one's bread, and pain and suffering in childbirth.

(just a quick note from me ... in another Bible translation, which relies heavily on documents discovered within the past 100 years - documents ignored by other translations - the word is not "child-birth" but in "child-rearing" ... as in, we will suffer in raising children in this world of perceived separation from God. Further, I no longer see this as a "curse", as in a punishment from God, but a consequence due to our distrust in God, and our perceived separation from Him.)

- But what went wrong? What action, desire or deed, led to such pervasive consequences? The language of the storyteller is evocative, not precise. It does not clearly point to a particular reading. Thus, over the centuries, a variety of understandings of "what went wrong" have emerged.

(Borg then goes into several different theories that humans have come up with...)

- The Primal Act as DISOBEDIENCE: God gave them a command, they disobeyed it, and that was that. For this view in it's most elementary form, it would have made no difference if God's prohibition had been "Please don't eat the daisies." This view typically leads to seeing sin in general as a matter of disobedience: God gives us commands and rules and laws and we break them. The human problem is thus disobeying God the law-giver.

- The Primal Act as HUBRIS: Hubris is a Greek word meaning pride - exceeding one's proper limits - giving to one's self the place that belongs to God alone - making one's self the center. This view focuses on the first half of the serpent's temptation: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil." The desire is to become Godlike. Sin - the human problem - is thus hubris, understood as self-centeredness.

- The Primal Act as SLOTH: It doesn't mean laziness in this context, but "leaving it to the snake." Letting something else author one's existence. It means uncritically accepting somebody else's ideas about how to live one's life. In this view, sin - the human problem - is heteronomy: living the agenda of others.

- The Primal Act as BIRTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS: "Knowing good and evil" is understood broadly to mean having knowledge of opposites, a capability that is intrinsic to the birth of consciousness. Consciousness involves distinguishing one thing from another; above all, it involves the self-world distinction, the awareness that the world is "other" than one's self. This is something we all experience; all of us become aware of the self-world distinction very early in life. Thus we cannot avoid the primal act. Indeed this understanding emphasizes not the disobedience and sinfulness of "the fall" but its inevitability. All of us begin life in the womb with an experiential sense of undifferentiated unity; we begin in paradise. But the very process of growing up, and the birth of consciousness that is intrinsic to it, propels us into a world of division, anxiety and suffering. Living "east of Eden" is intrinsic to the experience of being human. We all go through "the fall" and live in a state of exile and estrangement; it cannot be avoided.

(Selah ... pause and think on that. Wow ...! I've come to believe that, even before reading it here. This rings so *very* true within me. It changes everything, for everything is founded on how we frame the Creation narrative in our minds. What story do we tell ourselves? Do we tell the story that God had a wonderful Plan A, but that we humans blew it, and now God is pissed, and we're being punished, and we have to accept Christ - Plan B - so that God can tolerate us again? What is the fruit, the consequence of that story we've believed? Do we have to continue to believe what we've been told, what we've told ourselves? Can we try on another story, and experience the results/fruit of it? Would how we see God, how we see ourselves, how we see other humans *change*...? Would that change be helpful, or harmful? Is what we believe now helpful or harmful? The questions could go on and on ... get alone with God, and a notebook, and see what you come up for yourself. See what answers come out of yourself... in that spirit/Spirit intersection that is who we really are.)

- These various combinations can be combined. For example the birth of consciousness typically leads to hubris, understood as being centered in one's self. Moreover, centering in one's self intensifies the sense of separation from the world, deepening one's experience of exile. The process of socialization leads to sloth understood as heteronomy - we internalize and live in accord with the agendas of others, including parents, culture and religion. Most of the time, most of us live "east of Eden."

(Sounds a bit like the Creation stories are "everyone's stories" ... just as Rohr says about the Bible as a whole ... the unfolding of awareness ... a metaphorical account of the human experience ... unfolding throughout history ... the macro-story of our own still-being-written life-narrative.)

- Given the richness of meaning that a historical-metaphorical reading of Genesis reveals, the creation stories strike me as profoundly true. Critical thinking leads to an understanding of why the details of Genesis are as they are and also makes clear that their truth is not to be understood in literal, factual terms. Rather, their truth is expressed in the nonconceptual language of myth and metaphor, and no particular reading can exhaust their meanings. But I can hear their central claim: "This" - the universe and we - is not self-caused, but grounded in the sacred. "This" is utterly remarkable and wondrous, a Mystery beyond words that evokes wonder, awe, and praise. We begin our lives "in paradise," but we all experience expulsion into a world of exile, anxiety, self-preoccupation, bondage and conflict. And yes, also a world of goodness, and beauty; it is the creation of God, But it is a world in which something is awry.

The rest of the Bible is to a large extent the story (and stories) of this state of affairs: the human predicament and its solution. Our lives east of Eden are marked by exile, and we need to return and reconnect; by bondage, and we need liberation; by blindness and deafness, and we need to see and hear again; by fragmentation, and we need wholeness by violence and conflict, and we need to learn justice and peace; by self- and other-centeredness, and we need to center in God.

(Beautiful! Inspired! For we all are, indeed God-breathed, inspired. I don't for a minute believe, as I did for a very long time, that we were literally/sp ritually separated from God in "the fall" ... though I do believe that we humans, as a result of experiencing our own "fall" in early life, come to believe that we're separated from God ... the problem, as Paul puts it in his epistle, is that we're enemies *in our minds* ... and as a man thinks in his heart/mind, so IS he. The problem is our perspective. The problem is the lies we believe ... both those we've been taught, and the conclusions we've come up with ourselves. The solution is to experience the reality of God; to have those lies replaced, experientially, with truth. To awaken to ultimate reality. To come to know God as God really is, which is synonymous with knowing ourselves as we really are.)

Tomorrow I plan to share a bit about perspective -- about how our lenses shape how we experience the world around us, ourselves, others, and God.

Shalom, Dena

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unpacking Creation...! (Part I)

Soooo... my predicted and anticipated crash-and-burn came a day later than I expected. I was still apparently buoyed by adrenaline and paint fumes on Monday ... but yesterday - kaput! Didn't help that we hit 109 degrees (this is OREGON, people...!). After weeks of going-going-going, and 3 days of being "on" continuously, my true (though not extreme) introvert nature decided that it was going to recover, no matter what plans I had in mind (I was going to prime the remaining 50+ items currently choking my front parlour). "Not so" declared my body. My body deigned yesterday as "blobishness day" ... in which I sat around, utterly unmotivated to move. Even my brain was vegetative. In previous times, I would become frustrated by such a state, examine it, and fix it ... yesterday, I did something different ~ I fully noticed, observed and accepted my blobishness. "Ah," I said within the depths of my vegetative brain ... "this, is what IS." And so it was. I therefore just reveled in my blobishness. It was a totally nonproductively-productive day..!

Now, where the heck did I leave off...?

I remember wanting to delve into Creation ... seeing it through new eyes, perhaps ... or just trying on a different perspective, just to see how it fits...?

I've most recently read the perspective put forth by Marcus Borg in his book, "Reading the Bible AGAIN for the First Time". I'll do my standard quoting-and-commenting format, and see what unfolds!

- Ancient Israel's stories of the world's beginnings in the first eleven chapters of Genesis are among the best-known parts of the Bible. Major battles about the factual truth of these stories have marked Western culture to the modern period. Prior to the birth of modernity in the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, the factual truth of Genesis was accepted in the Jewish and Christian worlds without controversy, even though its stories were not always read literally. Theology and science alike took it for granted that the earth and its continents, mountains, oceans and varieties of life were created in very much the same form in which we now find them - the time of creation ranged from 6000 BCE to 4000 BCE.

(I find it fascinating to discover how people in times past thought - what they believed to be truth. It seems that we imagine that the way we believe now, is the way folks have always believed ... but it's just not the case. Our current "traditional" theology, that which accepted by the majority of Evangelical churches, is only about 200 years old...!)

- The nineteenth century was a time of intense conflict between science and the Bible. Geology and paleontology soon began to point to an immeasurably older earth. The challenge to the factual reading of the Genesis stories of creation was intensified by Darwin's argument for evolution in 1859. While some Christians adjusted quickly to the new scientific claims and integrated them into a nonliteral reading of Genesis, others felt that the truth of the Bible and Christianity were under attack.

(In previous centuries, science and Christianity clashed over the geocentric vs. heliocentric understanding ... it was a *doctrine* of the church that the earth was the center of the universe -- and the church was wrong. That should humble us in our stance upon doctrines..)

- [Borg then describes his own childhood/teen years as a time of wrenching conflict, as his awareness of science threatened his long-held literal view of Genesis, and thus how it impacted the rest of the Bible.] I now see these chapters quite differently. Reading them through the lens of historical scholarship and with sensitivity to the meanings as metaphorical narratives has enabled m once again to see them as profoundly true stories. And because their propose is not to provide a factually accurate account of the world's beginnings, it is beside the point to argue whether they are actual or mistaken factual accounts. They are not God's stories of the world's beginnings, rather, t hey are ancient Israel's stories of the world's beginnings.

(That is profound to me ... the whole Bible, including Genesis, is not a scientific/historic/literal account of *facts*, but a gradual unfolding of how humans viewed God, and thus themselves!)

Some interesting statements Borg makes about Genesis:

- The first 3 chapters of Genesis contain 2 stories of creation, written about 400 years apart. The first one, Gen 1:1-2:3 (the Priestly or "P" story), was likely written in the 500's BCE. The second one (Gen 2:4-3 - the Yahwist or "J" story) was written earlier, around 900 BCE ("J" is used for Yahwist, as it was a German who came up with these labels, and Germans pronounce J like a "Y" - your free foreign-language tidbit for the day...!).

- In the P story, God creates in a succession of "days" (though how there could be a 24 hour "day" prior to the creation of the sun, remains a mystery...! Hmmm, perhaps it wasn't meant to be literal?). A "day" is more of a span of time, than of a literal day as we know it. I found this interesting:

Day One (Light) corresponds to Day Four (sun, moon, stars)
Day Two (Water/Sky) corresponds to Day Five (sea life and birds)
Day Three (Dry Land) corresponds to Day Six (land creatures and man)

It sounds a bit like poetry, no..? ;)

- The J story is different; it focuses on the creation of humankind and barely treats the creation of the world at all. It doesn't mention light, or firmament, or sun, moon or stars, or animals -- instead it begins with humans, of "adham" - a Hebrew word meaning "humankind" and often translated "man."

(More on this later ... down below.)

(now, catch this)

- The P story portrays humankind as the climax of creation by having people created last, after everything else. The J story gives humankind priority by having people created first, before vegetation and animals. In the P story, humans as male and female are created simultaneously; in J, the creation of woman comes later.

(Well, blow me away...! HOW did that escape me?!? Read Gen 2:4-25, and see for yourself ... no plants, no animals ... man first, woman out of man, and then the animals... wow! What *else* has the traditional rendering prevented my brain from seeing...?)

- Israel told these stories to express her deepest convictions about God and the world, and about what is often called "human nature" - that is, what we are like, and what our lives "east of Eden" are like. The question is: WHY did ancient Israel tell the stories this way?

(Borg then unpacks all of this ... it's rich and meaty, and SO worth exploring. It may take me a few days to share it all, without being overwhelming, as is my tendency...! Stay with me in this ... my suspicion is that I won't be the *only* one both blown away and blessed by what can be discovered here...! Heeeeere we go!)

- The P story (which is the first one in the text, but the latest one chronologically), was written during or shortly after the exile into Babylon, in the 500's BCE. Because the Jews had been diminished in numbers during the exile, they believed it to be critical to firmly adhere to the Law (& thus to please God and prosper) - they wanted to preserve their identity as a people. They saw sabbath adherence as absolutely crucial -- the priests who oversaw them wanted to make the point that even God observes the Sabbath (by resting on the 7th day). Rather than this being intended as a literal account of how long creation took, the six-day creation story was meant to reinforce the importance of the Sabbath.

(Again, wow. What a difference a bit of historical context makes, no?)

- Ancient Israelites thought of the earth as the center of the universe. In the P story we read about the "dome" and the "firmament". We read of God "setting the sun moon and stars in the dome." While this doesn't fit with our modern scientific understanding, it very much fits the ancient experience. The sky *looks* like a dome over our heads. It appears that the sun moon and stars rotate around us. Water does come down from this dome as rain and snow. Far from providing us with an understanding of the universe that can be reconciled with modern or postmodern science, the cosmology of the P creation story simply reflects the way ancient Israel thought things were. Israel told the story this way because she thought of the universe this way. Thus it is Israel's story of creation, not God's story of creation.

(Of course. How could I not see this sooner...? What made me think that the Creation account, and the whole Bible for that matter, was lifted out of the human experience, literally-dictated by God, preserved from all possible error, and delivered to my lap and mind, pure and totally untainted by human impact...? Oh yeah - Christianity told me that. And I swallowed it. Whole. Without questioning. How much *richer* to read it in this other way!)

- [This part is really cool!] The P story of creation was likely adapted from an ancient Israelite liturgy or hymn of praise to God. It's use of repeating phrases suggests refrains such are found in hymns and liturgies. Each of the following is repeated seven times:

"God said, 'Let there be ..."
"And it was so."
"And God saw that it was good."

Moreover, the six days of creation suggests six stanzas.

We do not expect hymns to provide accurate factual information. The language of hymns is the language of poetry, metaphor and praise. Creation cannot be described, but it can be sung. Thus, the book of Genesis and the Bible as a whole begin with a hymn of praise to God as Creator. It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate beginning.

(LOVE it..! I'd never seen that before ... I'd been taught to accept it all at face-value, absolutely literally, and I missed the beauty of it!

- The origin of the P story in the time after the Babylonian conquest adds one more dimension of meaning. In antiquity, when a nation was conquered by another nation, it was commonly thought that the god (or gods) of the victorious nation had defeated the god of the vanquished nation. To many - Babylonian and Jew alike - it looked during the exile as if the gods of imperial Babylon had triumphed over the God of Israel. The opening line and the central claim of the P creation story defiantly assert that the God of Israel is the creator of heaven and earth - of all that is. The story affirms a "counter-world," an alternative world to the world of empire. This affirmation is a theme that runs through the Bible from beginning to end.

- [Back to Adam...] Adam is not a proper name in ancient Hebrew - no one else in the Bible is named Adam. It's a common noun, adham, meaning "humankind." It's also a play on words, as it comes from adhamah, meaning "ground or "dust". It suggests that the author of Genesis is thinking not of a specific human, but of *everyman* ... the implication being that the Genesis story is not the story of a particular person(s) but of *everyone*.

(Selah ~ Pause on that one for a moment...!)

- Eve is also not a proper name in Hebrew - it means "mother of all living." "Garden of Eden" also has a symbolic meaning: it means "garden of delights" (and, by extension, Paradise). Living in a semiarid climate, the ancient Hebrews pictured paradise as a green and bountiful garden filled with streams of flowing water.

(I notice that we humans tend to project perfection and utopia into our past, and into our future ... this seems to me to be a denial of the present moment. Because we see ourselves as separated from God and from one another, we experience pain in the present ... we remedy this by dwelling on that idyllic "garden", and/or upon the utopic "millennial reign" -- in doing so we entirely miss the metaphorical understanding of both, and of how we can enter in to that *more real* spiritual reality which is the Kingdom of God ... at hand, within, in our midst ... but not seen with observation - it's spiritual, beyond the five senses, beyond "proof" ... it must be experienced to be believed...)

- There are a number of suggestive parallels between the narrative flow of the J story and Israel's history:

Like adham, ancient Israel was created in a dry land (through the covenant with God in the Sinai desert).

As in the case of adham, a prohibition came with the covenant and gift of the land, with the threat of expulsion if the prohibition was violated.

More speculatively, the tempter is a serpent, a common symbol of Canaanite fertility religion, which was the primary temptation to infidelity to God tat Israel faced in the land.

The J story may thus have a prophetic edge to it: if Israel abandons the covenant of faithfulness to Yahweh she faces expulsion and exile from the land/garden that God had given to her.

(Am I the only one who finds this to be fascinating? It brings in so much food for thought to the Creation stories...! Tomorrow I'll start with a rather provocative quote from Origen - did he make any other sort?!? - and discuss how myths are really GOOD things...! Stay tuned!)

Shalom, Dena

Monday, July 27, 2009

Waking up with a Thought...

I awoke today thinking some thoughts, that didn't seem to be my own ... they came to me, unbidden ... from that spirit/Spirit intersection ... and I felt prompted to share. Receive if you will, reject if you must (it's really ok, either way -- I'll still love you!).

Regarding the source of evil ... I know that our traditions teach us that evil arises from satan ... but I no longer believe in a dualistic perspective ... that God is the source of good, while satan is the source of evil. Jesus says that the source of evil is our very own hearts *Mark 7:21).

(For the record, I also no longer believe in a traditional satan/devil, but that's for another post...)

I see that God declares that He is the author of all things ... bringing about both good and calamity (same word for evil) ... and really, since all things work together for good, all things are ultimately good -- it's only our limited perspective (the "story we tell ourselves") that defines a thing as "good" or "evil" to us ... and I believe we are still to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, since we're not equipped with God's discernment, or eternal perspective (instead, we seem to insist upon climbing that tree, and pummeling folks with rotten fruit ... our judgments of their externals). Only God knows the heart - only God can truly discern and judge. We are called to love, regardless of whether we deem a person to be a brother, friend, neighbor, or "enemy" (love IS a force far more powerful than judgment could ever be).

Yes, I do see that Jesus spoke (to the self-righteous religious leaders, who thought they knew "absolute truth"), and said to some that their "father" was the devil, the father of lies.

Now ... do we really think we're meant to read this literally, or are we to read it within the context of a metaphorical rendering? We need to step back from our propaganda-ized, 2,000-years-removed-from-reality perspective, and consider the context, the historical setting, the beliefs of the time, and how *they, then* would hear this - rather than relying on how *we* have been taught to hear this. Do we *really* think that the devil/satan actually created life...? How may Creators do we believe in? There is only One Source of all life -- God. All things on heaven and in earth come from him, have their being in Him, are sustained by Him, and return to Him -- at least, if we're going to believe the scriptures.

There is no competing/counterfeiting life-source ... the only competition is the egoic bent of our own minds, and the individual and collective stories we tell ourselves.

Paul tells the (pagan, pluralistic) Athenians that "we are all God's offspring" ... and Jesus Himself makes it clear, during the Sermon on the Mount, that our problem is *within*. Our problem is our own thinking ... our minds need renewal, to line up with our hearts (these hearts which God told us He would give us ... trading "hearts of stone" for "hearts of flesh" ... hearts which are connected to Him ... hearts which are no longer to be seen/declared as "deceitfully wicked" and untrustworthy -- hearts through which the very Spirit of God communicates with us). At least, if we're going to believe the scriptures.

To really experience the Absolute - that life is radically good, that life courses through us, and that this life is the very presence of God - is to experience the essential pattern. When we experience the transcendent quality of God, when we encounter the Living God in an experiential (not merely head-knowledge) way, suddenly everything is ok, despite the absurdity, the injustice, and the inevitable pain in life. This life is a spacious and abundant life (the life Jesus spoke of, the life He brings, if we can receive), able to even absorb the seeming contradictions we encounter ... God is so great, so bottomless, so vast, that He can even absorb the "contraries," even the apparent collisions of opposites. When we experience Him in this profound way, it feels like a universal amnesty ... a total forgiveness of ourselves, and of everything/one else...!

We can't live there 24/7, but if we taste it even once, it's *enough* for an entire lifetime. When the veil parts, even once, and we see that life is radically ok, then we see that we are indeed (and always were) a child of God. That union is palpable, and nondeniable. We see that we have all we need, and always did. Nothing left to prove, nothing to attain - as a child of the Living God, we see that all He has was always ours. It's simply a matter of recognizing, honoring, trusting. And we are startled to our core to discover that when we know God in this way, we seem to know and accept our own humanity -- as well as the humanity of everyone else. When we meet ourselves at this revelational level of awareness, we also meet God. We have no access to who we are except through God, and we have no access to God except through forgiving/accepting/rejoicing in our own humanity.

The problem is the wariness, and even the fear of, experience. People who have not yet had an experiential encounter with God can tend to be rigid, dogmatic and controlling about doctrine ... it seems to stem from anxiety about not yet having had an experience of God. Missing the whole, they can cling desperately to some small portion.

The great commandment is not "thou shalt be right." It's to love. To BE in love, with God and all that God has created. All that is needed to participate in the Abundant Life, is to surrender and be grateful.

It doesn't require being "correct" .. we are all enmeshed in various forms of skewy thinking. This is status quo with the human experience. It's been said, "if you understand it, things are just as they are. If you don't understand it, things are just as they are." I sure don't want a God limited to my understanding ...!

The real question is never, "how right is this," for that leaves me, and my own understanding, as the reference point -- an impoverished state to merely exist in. The real question is: "what does this have to say to me? what does this have to teach me? what's the gift in this for me? How is God in this event? even, how is God in this suffering?"

Every experience, whether it appears to be "good" or "evil" to my skewed perspective, is yet-another opportunity to learn how to love. This very moment has a message ... this very moment has a fullness.

Show me, God ... draw me ever-more into Yourself ... continue to show me who You really are, and who I really am. Show me Yourself in every person I encounter, every experience that greets me ... peel back the veil of my own skewed--and-limited perspective ... let me question what I *think* I know, let that which is of man be shed, so that which is of God may emerge out of that stifling cocoon of "correctness-and-certitude" and rock my world with the absolute beauty of Your radical grace...!

Thank You.

Shalom, Dena

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Meanwhile, at the Art Show ...

Dallas, Oregon may not be ready for the likes of me, or my art ...!

Reality #1 is that I'm set up in an event center that's not in the thick of the vendor-traffic ... Reality #2 is that most of the vendors are advertising local businesses, and VBS's coming up ... along with the notoriously greasy fair food. Very few artists ... most of those will be in the art show on Sunday. I'll have a tent in the park for that, and there should be a significant crowd ... today was Oregon's 'biggest small-town parade" (though seriously, some of the floats are unadorned *tractors*!) ... 20,000 people show up in addition to the town's 15,000 inhabitants.

Mark (main squeeze) and Zach (son #3) got shang-hai'd into being the king and jester, respectively ... they got to pump up the crowd before the parade, singing show tunes. It was a RIOT! They were dripping wet in their regal costumes ... Mark came over to me and "dubbed" me his wife (I got a drippy-beard kiss, LOL!).

I was hoping for more traffic ... but we're just too far off the beaten track.

I did sell a lamp yesterday ... and I'm purchasing two of the big mirrors (they speak to me, so I have to keep them).

This art is not what this town is used to ... they seem to like it, they ooh and ahh, but can't imagine it in their homes (these are very practical people ... farm-stock from Mennonite backgrounds, and former loggers). Frivolous furniture seems to strike them as being akin to gold toothpicks ... as in "what's the point?" Perhaps some of them think I went and desecrated perfectly good wood, LOL! I do get the occasional soul who loves it ... a few have asked if they can commission me to paint something they already own.

I figure they have to be exposed repeatedly ... in the same way in which we don't usually like a song the first time we hear it, and have to hear it a few times before our brain recognizes and remembers it. So, I'm inoculating folks to my art..!

I have, however, had some wonderful conversations with folks ... the owner of the event center is a mama to 7 kids - former YWAM missionaries ... she wanted to hear my "whole story" ... she'll get Part II tomorrow. Her daughter in law is quite open to hearing things beyond the pale of orthodoxy, and wants to read "The Shack" ... another woman was a self-professed pagan, who's unschooling ... another, the wife of the city commissioner, wanted to discuss a book she's reading, The Infidel, which led me to discuss "A Deadly Misunderstanding" ... which led to me saying, "I see all people as beloved of God," and she said, "well they are - they're all His children!" (not your typical church-going sentiment!). Another woman, the one who bought the lamp, wants to get our girls together (she's the one who won the auction of my other lamp, last month) ... when I said, "I had to leave Christianity in order to find Christ," she looked deep into my eyes, and said, "Oh, we *must* talk ...! We have much in common!"

The Chamber of Commerce wants to get me hooked up with the rest of them ... (which means I have to get all official, and get licensed, and start paying taxes, UGH!). I did get a couple of leads on some stores that may want my things ... and just interest in general. Perhaps I'll get more interaction-schmooze time tomorrow...!

I plan to have a BLAST, regardless...!

And, honestly, I love my own things ... it's ok if I hang on to them. I shall find my niche!

Shalom, Dena

Just a Little Interchange...

Okay, okay, I said I was taking a hiatus, but I just can't seem to help blogging ...!

So color me compulsive.

And I confess that I'm cheating a wee bit - pulling from my vast resources, whilst dealing with a mid-art-show-crash (neeeeeed sleeeeeeep).

A little while back, one of my more traditional friends expressed concern that I seemed to no longer think of Jesus as a Person, but only as a nebulous force. I can see how they *might* have that impression ... so here was my attempt to clear that up:

I do experience Christ as personal Friend, inner Spirit ... not just a force -- but I'm aware of the Life-force which is Him... and I see no life apart from Him. But His Presence is incredibly intimate and personal ...

Some may know Him by name only ("Christians"?) ... and others may know Him by Energy only ("Non-Christians"?) ... and one day we will *all* know Him by both (but I wouldn't be surprised if we're all "off" in His actual name ...).

I just see that the man-made religion of Christianity has gotten in the way of us knowing Him, far more than it's assisted us in TRULY knowing Him.

How much better to know Him by experience, and later come to know the name, than to know Him by name, and later come to know Him by experience ... that make sense?

I think it's a grave (and arrogant) mistake to assume that only Christians can experience, love, and follow Christ ... or that only Christians can have a relationship with God.

I think much of what Jesus lobbed at the pharisees could be directed at some (many?) Christians today ... (an observation - not a judgment).

Shalom, Dena

Friday, July 24, 2009

Three-Day Hiatus ...

Just so y'all know, I'll be involved in an art show for the next 3 days, and will likely not have the opportunity to post ...

However, if you like, you can read an article written about my artwork ... it was in our local newspaper, the Itemizer-Observer, this week. Here's the link, and I'll copy the text here below ... in case the link stops working:

Artist unlocks hidden treasures
DALLAS, OREGON -- Nine years ago local artist Dena Brehm was recovering from a 21-year battle with bulimia when she had a creative impulse.

Nine years ago local artist Dena Brehm was recovering from a 21-year battle with bulimia when she had a creative impulse.
She had been looking at an antique milking stool she had in her house and noticed the painting on it. It was a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign portraying a two-headed bird, one half of the bird representing life, the other, death.

To her, the image symbolized the struggle with illness she was trying to leave behind.
Not wanting the reminder, she painted over it -- and with that began an artistic career that helped her heal.
Brehm, 47, still has the stool in the front hall of her Dallas home. Now, like all her art, the antique stool is a mix of bright colors and patterns.
Brehm calls her art "Serendipties by Dena" -- a name she says reflects her process of finding hidden treasures within everyday objects. Brehm takes unwanted pieces of household furniture and gives them a new look and, in turn, a new life with someone who views them as more than clutter or trash.
She finds material at flea markets, garage sales, and even digs through dumpsters.
"I like the idea of rescuing and reusing," she said.
Brehm's work became a hit in the Washington, D.C. area, where she lived before moving to the Northwest, though about four years ago she put her paint brush down.
She was recently given a reason to pick up where she left off.
Brehm was asked to donate some of her work for a local fundraiser in June. The request had her with paint brush in hand, wondering if she still could paint. When she found she could, Brehm decided to branch out, starting with Art in the Park Sunday and a show at the Majestic this weekend during Summerfest.
She had missed the entry deadline for Art in the Park, but Dallas Art Association President Sally Clark said organizers reconfigured the booth layout to accommodate everybody on the waiting list, including Brehm.
"Her (work) is so colorful and unique," Clark said. "I've never seen furniture painted like that."
Brehm said she is grateful for the opportunity, but scrambling to paint more than 30 pieces in a few weeks has taken over her house and life.
Brehm's work crowds the front room and kitchen of the house she shares with her husband and eight children. She says she feels as scattered as her surroundings look and high on her own adrenaline.
"I have sacrificed sleep, eating, time with my family," she said.
The whirl of artistic activity has been a test and a revelation of what she can accomplish under a strict deadline, but is not her typical pace.
She says sometimes she knows right away what she will do with a piece. Other times, inspiration is a process that develops as she works on a table, desk, foot stool, mirror, lamp or whatever piece of furniture she is transforming.
Brehm's creations seem a ray of sunshine -- with lively patterns, checkerboards and whimsical scenes -- but they still can be used for their original purpose. A table still is a table, a lamp still a lamp, when she puts the paint brush down. She just adds more character, and, she hopes, brings more joy than when she found them.
"I'm out to change the world one piece of furniture at a time," she said.

Shalom, Dena

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Quick Thoughts on the Bible ...

Once a person sees that the Bible was never meant, by God, to be what we've made it into today (a collection of books to lead us into all truth -- something Jesus said the Spirit would do, not the Bible) ... once we see that it's a reflection of what humans thought/perceived about God ... once we see that while it IS inspired (just as humans, God-breathed, are also inspired), that all of creation is also inspired, that sets us free to partake of the WEALTH of all that God has inspired throughout creation.

Yes, including other books (even books "outside" of our particular manmade-religious constructed background), that resonate with the Spirit within us.

I no longer see scripture being limited to the Bible ... and I notice that God never said that was so ... I don't see anywhere within the Bible that the Bible says it's the only source of truth... though I do see that many *Christians* do say so...

Nor do I believe that everything withIN the Bible is an absolute reflection of God's truth ... it's an evolving understanding of mankind, about God ... some of it is a rather murky understanding ... even in the new testament.

I treasure the Bible -- much more so today, with this understanding, than I ever did when I tried to reconcile the irreconcilable within it ... I no longer see God as schizophrenic ... I see that humans perceived Him as best they could ... and I see that understanding becoming clarified in Jesus -- but even those who knew Him missed much about Him.

IOW, I don't see the Bible as the end-all-be-all where God is concerned ... HE's still speaking, still revealing truth -- and I'm greedy and gluttonous enough for truth, that I'm going to stay completely open to the MANY ways in which God reveals Truth (which is Himself - He is Truth).

And ... I trust that I do hear His voice, and do not confuse Him with either the thief nor the stranger ...

And even IF I get confused (or when ...), I fully trust Him to know how to leave the 99 and search until He finds me.

It's all good ... it's really all too good to *not* be true...!

Shalom, Dena

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eavevsdropping on a Conversation about the Abundant Life vs. the "Christian Life" ...

A conversation I recently had, elsewhere ... let's eavesdrop:

Me: I see Christianity getting in the way of the Abundant Life -- and yeah, I'm quite sick of it.

Other Human: How does the world get to the Abundant life? What do you believe the world already has and what do they need? And how is Christianity getting in the way?

Me (the rest is me, actually ... I mean, it's my blog, LOL!): The Abundant Life is God's life -- it's the life we all have, as His children. It's the only life there *is*. It's what we've always had ... only all manner of egoic/illusional perceptions get in the way.

Our early perspective of, and insistence of scapegoating/blaming (which created & justified the sacrificial system - which God said He never wanted!) got in the way ...

Our erroneous belief that we are separated from God (because of our focus on fear and shame) got in the way ...

Our erroneous belief that there is scarcity (not enough of food, land, water, resources, attention, love, God) and we must therefore compete, got in the way ...

Our erroneous belief that we have to *earn* a connection with God (whether by doing good works, or believing the right doctrines/beliefs) got in the way ...

WE have ALL that we need -- God is Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniprovisional. We are of God, with God, and we all return to God. We are only separated in our imaginations, in our minds (& thus in our experience). Scripture affirms this, in many ways:

Colossians 1:21
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies *in your minds* because of your evil behavior.

Proverbs 23:7
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...

(more "mind" verses: )

What the world needs, what each of us needs, is to have our minds renewed -- to have our minds (filled with illusions, deceptions and skewy thinking) *transformed* -- so that our minds line up with our hearts - so that we are in tune with the Mind of Christ (which we *have* - 1 Cor 2:16).

What the world needs is to *wake up* to what God has done, who we (all!) really are in Him, and to recognize the banquet spread out before us ... the Abundant Life that is our very inheritance (what other sort of life is there, beyond the life that God had breathed into us? what other source of life do we imagine exists?).

We don't "get to it" ... we come to our senses and SEE it right there, in front of us, all around us and in us (we experientially experiencing God's reality, as opposed to our delusional and limited perspective). The Kingdom of God is *at hand*, in our midst... here and NOW. The journey is not linear, as if we must head out to a distant place in the future, or in some geographical location -- the journey is inward, within us, with God as both our Guide and our Goal. It's not about location-location-location, but about perspective-perspective-perspective...!

Christianity, as I see it, gets in the way, for it claims to be the "one and only" prescription to the problem of "separation from God". It perpetuates the notion of original sin (the product of the twisted thinking of Augustine -- a man who clearly needed some Theophostic and/or Prozac...!), of "separation from God", and that it is UP TO US to ensure that we can be reconciled to God (something that was demonstrated by Christ, to have never been a problem in the first place - *except* in our wrong thinking).

Christianity perpetuates the Pharisaical notion that we have to be "good enough" to warrant God's attention and blessing ... that we have to "do our part" to have a relationship with God ... when even scripture tells us that it is Godwho first loved us, Godwho puts the ability to respond to that love within us, Godwho enables us to have the faith to comprehend Him at ALL, Godwho has reconciled us to Himself, Godwho opens blind eyes, Godwho reveals Himself to us, Godwho leads us into all truth, Godwho even gives us the very desire to draw close to Him...!

Christianity masquerades as the Abundant life, while bleeding its adherents dry, putting them on an exhausting and perpetual striving-treadmill of "try harder, do better, repent more sincerely, believe right, serve enough, get your priorities straight, examine yourself," over and over, ad nauseam...!

Christianity claims to have the secret to knowing God (!), and excludes the vast majority of all mankind, unless and until they "do the right thing and claim the right beliefs" ... Christianity promotes self-righteousness, and an "us vs. them" mentality ... Christianity breeds division, separation and overlording ... Christianity takes organic life, and subverts it into organized hoop-jumping ... Christianity promotes the conventional wisdom of man (& how man traditionally views God), and makes a mockery of the subversive and alternative wisdom of Jesus ... Christianity keeps Christ to itself, and rejects the notion that Jesus is the savior of the WORLD, accessible TO the world, expressed in a myriad of ways IN the world ... Christianity sees love as a less-than-power, and resorts to using fear-power as a motivator to connect with God, thus Christianity doesn't trust in the love-power of God, and instead uses fear as a manipulation ... as if God's got nothing else going for Him...

I could go on and on, for this is a passion of mine ... but that's enough.

Accept no substitute for the Abundant Life which is your inheritance, NOW...!

Shalom, Dena

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Do I Hear About God ... or Do I SEE God...?

As soon as I have a wee bit more time (as in after this looming art show - which is in 3 days!), I plan to delve into a profoundly fresh and relevant way of reading/seeing the Bible ... I find it utterly provocative and compellingly lucid -- and I cannot wait to share...!

Except I must. Sigh ...

In the meantime, I can share a snippet from what I read this morning ...

I was reading this in Marcus Borg's "Reading the Bible AGAIN for the First Time" ... it fits in well with my own journey, and perhaps those of others as well:

"Why be religious? Why take God seriously? Is it because 'there's something in it for me'?

That is the answer of conventional religious wisdom, ancient and modern, Jewish and Christian, and as found in other religions. Follow THIS way - it will take you to a good place, whether internally or externally, whether in this life or the next. It's Christian forms are many: believe in God and Jesus and you'll go to heaven, or you'll prosper, or you'll have peace of mind, or you'll be fulfilled. All of these turn taking God seriously into a means to some end.

Is there such a thing as religion unmotivated by self-interest? What would it mean to take God seriously, not as a *means*, but as the ultimate end...?"

Provocative, no..?

(though I would replace "religion" with "relationship with God" - and I *do* see a significant distinction...)

And so, I'd expand that excellent question to this: "If there's no hell or heaven, why follow God at all?" (i.e., if there's no punishment or reward, does God have anything going for Him...?)

This is powerfully exemplified in the book of Job -- Job goes from believing in conventional wisdom (if I do the right things, I will experience blessings; if I do the wrong things, I will experience calamity), to having that conventional wisdom turned upside down ... despite being righteous, he experiences calamity. He experienced the worthlessness of conventional wisdom - it was wholly inadequate to help him comprehend, and endure, his own suffering. Despite how his friends continue to repeat status quo (& to thus blame him for how he was suffering), he instead insisted upon having a conversation with God, for the purpose of understanding what he was experiencing (to me, this illustrates the peril and absurdity of quoting all parts of the Bible as if they reflect God's point of view ... all too often, the Bible is reflecting man's point of view - mankind creating God in his own all-too-small image).

Job pours out his heart to God, and God responds (God shows Job the stark difference, but not distance, between the creator and the created) - thus Job experienced an encounter with God -- which transforms him (the real meaning of "repent" - to be changed by an experience with God -- we butcher its meaning when we reduce it to "being sorry for our sins").

Job describes his transformation here:

"I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear -
but now my eye sees you."

("seeing" is classical language for a mystical experience - an intense, immediate experience of the sacred -- an encounter with the Living God)

His rejection of conventional wisdom called everything he had once believed into question ... and his experience of God convinced him that God was real, despite the human inability to see fairness/balance in the world around him.

The point, I believe, is not to adhere to a second-hand religion (an orderly set of conventional-wisdom teachings about how things are and how things go, and thus what one "should" do - or else!). Second-hand religion is learned from others - a set of teachings and practices to be accepted and believed and followed, IOW religious conventional wisdom. First-hand spirituality is that which flows from a first-hand experience of God... an experience of the sacred which shatters and transforms second-hand religion.

Do I want to settle for hearing about God from others, or do I want to see (experience) God for myself, first-hand...?

(even if it means that the others will dismiss and reject me for my experience, and thus my shedding of status quo, conventional wisdom, and the traditions of man ...)

Shalom, Dena

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Thou Shalt Be Right"...?

I notice that Jesus never said, "thou shalt be right."

I notice that it's nowhere in scripture at all ... just much about how we can deceive ourselves (by believing in the "certaintude" of our ego/carnal nature/satan/adversary-within - in our own imaginations), and how we're told to thus have our minds renewed.

God invites us, continually, to let go of what we *THINK* we know (that of which the ego is so sure, and will defend, even to the death), and to 'come up higher/deeper' to His own perspective.

Which is, of course, our own truest perspective ... when not obscured by the 3-ring circus of our egos...! (too dang bad we don't hear that chintzy-tinny pipe organ music, when our ego is manifesting...!)

I don't reject the ego, nor denounce it. HOWEVER, I do want to see it for what it is ... that part of me which masquerades as the "real" me. The real me is the spirit me. The ego is a part of me to be used in this life, as a means of discovering who I am not, and therefore, who I really am. (envisioning the story of the prodigal son, as a prime example of how the ego led him to come to the 'end of himself' and thus to remember who he really was, and to return Home, where father/God was actively waiting ... knowing that the son had to come to the end of himself, to come to this deeper awareness...!)

My ego is indeed a gift, a tool, a useful part of me, but *not* all of me, or even the deepest part of me. Any more than the part of me that dreams is the real part of me ... the part of me that recognizes I'm dreaming is the real me ... just as the part of me that recognizes that my ego is in operation is the real me.

The ego is meant to serve me ... when I'm caught up in serving it, unawares, I'm at cross-purposes to the gift.

I *do* embrace all of me, and all of my path (my history - nothing wasted, nothing regretted -- all part of "what it took" for me) ... I just want to see it for what it *is*.

Shalom, Dena

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Message for Me Today ... Also for You?

I love how God is always speaking. Always. I get the visual impression of Him continuously broadcasting ... within me and all around me. The question is: am I tuning in? Am I receiving what He's revealing? Or am I listening instead to the many egoic "stories I'm telling myself" - those traditions of man that nullify the word of God...?

For, indeed, those traditions can be external, or internal - or both.

Am I believing and heeding the many "lies" I've been told (by myself or others), or am I hearing the Voice within, which is seeking to renew my mind ... to replace those lies with Truth? And, when I am first exposed to Truth, am I aware of the all-too-human tendency to consider that truth to be heresy/blasphemy, because of how it clashes with what I think I *know* about truth...? Am I aware of how my very own ego will launch an all-out assault against anything "new", anything it perceives to be a threat to it's own view from the throne of my mind? Am I aware of how the ego masquerades as "me", and will enlist me to defend myself even against the Voice of God within me..? That it will warn me to not trust my own heart, my own feelings, my own thoughts, my own experiences (the very things through which God most often communicates)...?

Am I aware of how my own worst enemy is within me, disguised as me...? "We have met the enemy and he is us." Am I aware that when I join the many who overly-personify and project the enemy as a being outside of me, that I then deny what the enemy is (my own ego/carnal nature), and thus enable it to continue it's invisible and undetected dominion within me..?

Am I aware that dethroning the enemy/ego does not require a battle (a wholly egoic notion in itself!), but that it merely requires awareness ... that in the Light of awareness, the darkness of it fades into no-thingness..? If I insist upon shadow-boxing with my own ego, it will "win", for it's goal is to keep me so distractedly & busily deluded that I cannot see it for what it is.

It's the manifestation of my own fears, writ large. As well, the collective fears of humanity around me ... both contemporarily and historically, ganging up on me, reciting an endless litany of fear, shame and anxiety (which feels so familiar that I mistake it for "truth") ... luring me to swallow-whole the liturgy of propaganda, and to bow down to worship this idol of oppression. And if I do so, I cooperate with my own blindness...!

Instead - I shine the Light of Truth upon it, and it all is instantly, and without a murmur of resistance, absorbed the Light. There is no battle. There is no struggle. There is no striving. There is only seeing anew, from a higher/deeper perspective of the One within me ... and I see that all is well, that all has always been well. That I can live in the state of open trust ... knowing that all things (including the *gift* of my ego) work together for my good ... for universal good.

(Hmmm... I had no idea that I was going to write all of that ... I set out to only write a short intro for a couple of messages I'd received in my in-box ... what a delight to find that within me!)

Here are those messages, which reflect what I was saying above. I believe that these are messages for me, for today -- are they for you as well...?

Shape Shifting to Glory

“Be renewed with new thoughts of abundance and prosperity.”
~Romans 5:1-3

“Where we invest our energy is a result of choice. No one outside of us forces us to invest our energy in any particular emotion, thought, or act. The energy investment choices we make are either conscious or unconscious. Either way, where we direct the energy of our thoughts and emotions gives rise to our experiences.”
~Michael Bernard Beckwith

Today's Affirmation

I always find what I expect to find.

Today's Meditation

Dear God,

Help me remain awake and aware of the choices I make everyday.
I intend that my thoughts and actions are perfectly aligned with Love.
I know that everything is working together for good, right now.
I choose to relax into your peaceful presence.
Dance yourself into expression, through me.


"This day is a messenger of God, and this day brings into my experience God's grace, God's law, God's life, God's presence, and God's power. I choose this day whom I will serve. My heart, my soul, my mind is filled with the conscious realization of the presence of God. I surrender myself unto God. I listen for the still, small Voice - that It may guide, lead and direct." You are then knowing the Truth, you are choosing, and you are sowing to the Spirit: Throughout the day you have brief two minute, three minute, five minute reminders: "This day is a messenger of God, for this day is bringing the presence and the power of God into my experience. This day is revealing God's glory. The heavens declare the glory of God, the earth showeth forth His handiwork. God's grace is being revealed in my experience every moment of every day."
(Joel Goldsmith)

May this day manifest God's Presence, in a plethora of jubilant and awe-inspiring ways...!

Shalom, Dena

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reflections on my Readings This Morning...

During the current art-production-crunch that I'm experiencing, I've got a severe lack of free time ... not to mention a brain addled with paint-fumes...!

(normally I'm just high on my one adrenaline -- right now I'm dual-drugging...!)

But I do want to share two things which struck me in my own readings this morning. The first is from my not-yet-met friend Richard Rohr. The beauty and power of what he shares here impacted my soul - resulting in a big ol' inner-YES! May it lift you up higher, and invite you to dig deeper:

It’s not, “If I am moral, I will someday achieve union with God.” That’s backwards. We must put the horse before the cart, and not the cart before the horse. Union with God is objectively already given to everyone from the moment of their creation. Who else created them? All we can do is awaken to it. We cannot achieve it. Once we live the life of union and abundance—not hating ourselves and apologizing for ourselves every minute—then we start living in our inherent dignity, a dignity that no behavior has given to us and no one can take away.

Then the horse is first and the cart comes along. Not “If I am moral, I will be in union with God, but when I live in union with God, morality will come naturally and powerfully!” A completely different path.

(is that not uber-glorious..?!?)

The second sharing is from my actually-met friend Micah Redding (the lead singer of my fave rock band, The Redding Brothers - - and a generally brilliant-yet-accessible sorta guy). This is part of an ongoing conversation, elsewhere, about the meaning(s) of Noah's flood. What's highly ironic (and oh-so-cool) is that Mark and I were having this very conversation this very morning...! Mark and I each do our own "greet the day" time of reading and reflection ... we then come together to share what we're seeing, and then go for a race/power walk, to explore further. Wondermous way to start the day!

So, to find that Micah unpacked and expounded upon what we were saying just makes me smile my face off ... and so I must share:

I think historically there was a large regional flood in the general
area the biblical authors were concerned with. But there have also
been all manner of other catastrophes throughout history. Why is this
one singled out for inclusion in the story?

From my perspective, I have a hard time NOT attributing the flood to God. After all, I see God as encompassing everything, including disasters and deaths. Even the bible seems to suggest that we blame ALL bad things on God (but also give him credit for all the good things). From my perspective, I have to implicate God in the biblical
flood, as well as in modern hurricanes and tornadoes.

The biblical authors saw everything as being an action of God. I tend to see everything as being from God. That's pretty much the same.

The difference is that the biblical authors "read" the flood as a story about God's judgment, while MOST of us wouldn't "read" modern hurricanes as meaning anything. The biblical authors "read" everything as if it carried a rather superficial moral story with it, while people who see things that way now are labeled crackpots.

The book of Job visibly deconstructs this mentality. Job suffers, his friends tell him his suffering is from God - because God wants to punish Job. The story says YES(!) the suffering IS from God, but humans have no ability to attribute moral stories to the suffering we see.

With Job in mind, we can see that the bible is actually rather insistently telling us this. God seeks righteousness by killing off people, and then "sees" that that doesn't work. God seeks righteousness by destroying an ancient political system (the tower of babel), and then "sees" that that doesn't work. God seeks righteousness by establishing a new nation, and then "sees" that that doesn't work. God seeks righteousness by delivering a law, and then "sees" that that doesn't work. On and on and on.

The biblical authors either thought God ineffective, or thought God was trying to demonstrate what DOESN'T WORK. I tend to see the bible as a big work of deconstructing the entire religious mentality itself.


LOL - why do we not see how absurd our traditions paint God to be..? No wonder so many of us have a schizophrenic relationship with Him ... "is He in a good mood, or a bad mood today? Is He prone toward mercy or wrath? Can I hide well enough behind Jesus, so that I don't get zapped..?"

Yeah, I'm with Micah (and thus Borg, and Rohr, and my friends at Presence, and SO very many others who are all awakening to the "much more" of the Spirit's leadings) - I'm going with God demonstrating, throughout history, how absurd our thinking is about Him ... I'm going with the God revealed through Jesus - the God I'm experiencing within me, at the intersection of spirit and Spirit....!

May we all have the courage to examine and scrutinize our screwy-thinking about God ... May we tune in to how HE's revealing Himself, in and through and around us...!

(oh - and for those who care to read more about that conversation about the Flood, followo this link: )

Shalom, Dena