Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What is your interior spiritual life like? The fourth principle of UU

The question arises when people say they are spiritual but nor religious what is meant by this phrase, "spiritual but not religious?"

It seems to mean for most people that they recognize that there is a Higher Power and that they are not alone or even the most important creation in the universe. However, organized religions, churches, do not facilitate and expand this awareness in a way that the cost of membership provides resources for spiritual growth in sufficient benefits to be worth those costs.

A further question could be asked about whether this response is flippant or said in an intentional and sincere way. Assuming that it is a sincere statement, then the person saying they are spiritual and not religious might be asked to explain what (s)he means by this and how does he/she pursue his/her spiritual growth? In our Unitarian Universalist tradition we covenant to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for meaning in our fourth principle and the right of conscience in our fifth principle.

I, as a psychotherapist, sometimes ask my client's "What is your interior spiritual life like?" I have never had any client object to this question. The usual response is for the person to become pensive, quiet, and then attempt to formulate an articulate statement which is usually meaningful and somewhat difficult to put into words.

Luke was 17 and a senior in high school. Luke was very bright, came from a middle class family who were pillars of the community, who his parents said, "is going down the wrong road." Luke, college bound, was not abiding by his curfew, drinking and drugging, having promiscuous sex, and being disruptive in school. His parents brought him to see me when he was arrested for shop lifting.

Luke acknowledged his parents' concerns but stated they were over reacting and "boys will be boys." It was his senior year in high school and he was doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing which was "sowing my wild oats" and "having fun." Luke was willing to see me  in counseling to placate his parents and make a good impression on the legal authorities as he was dealing with his legal charges.

I had met with Luke three times and we had gotten to the bottom of his situation, and we had developed some rapport in our relationship, and at the end of our third meeting not knowing where to go next, I was prompted my an inner intuitive voice (which I call the Holy Spirit) to ask him, "Luke, what is your interior spiritual life like?" He looked at me solemnly for a change and paused. Instead of his usual glib and ironic response he said to me, "Interesting question. I'm not sure. I like nature." There was a palpable change in his demeanor and there was a deepening of the rapport I liked but didn't understand. I said to Luke, "Well that sounds good. Can we talk more about it next time?" He agreed and left as thoughtfully and at peace as I had ever experienced him.

When Luke returned for our fourth meeting he said to me, "I really liked your question. I have been thinking a lot about it." We talked further about his inner yearnings, meaning making, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I only saw him one more time. I have learned subsequently that Luke graduated from college, went to law school, and now is a practicing attorney living for the time being with his parents.

There is a deep spiritual yearning in our society which is not being addressed adequately by our mainstream religious institutions. They are failing while the interest in Buddhism, Yoga, humanism, mindfulness, and the Perennial Philosophy is on the rise. We all have an interior spiritual life if we pay attention to it. Perhaps the two most important questions we can ask ourselves, and people we care about, are "What is your interior spiritual life like?" and "How do you nurture it?"

Monday, September 18, 2017

Loving the one who scares you

It is written in A Course In Miracles, "There is a course for every teacher of God. The form of the course varies greatly. So do the particular teaching aids involved. But the content of the course never changes. It's central theme is always, 'God's Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation.'"

Rev. Lavanhar is a teacher of God as are all the people at All Soul's and billions of others around the world. It is Rev. Lavanhar's sermon on 09/17/17 that helps us remember what our true vocation is and that is to join with others to facilitate salvation or as A Course In Miracles calls it the Atonement which is the At-One-Ment when everybody loves everybody all the time. Impossible you say?

There are moments of grace when we have experienced this oneness with the universe but it takes, as Rev. Lavanhar reminds us, integrity to overcome our egos. Integrity is a wholeness within or as we said back in the 60s "getting our shit together." Some people have their shit together but most of us don't. It is a matter of degree because it is accurate to say that no one, on this ego plane, has his/her shit together completely. We are, to more or lesser extent, broken people. It is in unification that we compliment one another and achieve more wholeness. As Jesus promised, "Where two or more gather together in my name, there I will be." What Jesus meant was not literally in His name as in Christianity, but in His spirit which was loving the oneness of God's creation.

Today say hello to someone you don't like or who scares you and see what happens. Extending ourselves socially outside of our comfort zone may be one of the most loving things we, as egotistical human beings, can do.

Why do you or don't you go to church?

Celebrate the ties that unite us is a sermon preached at All Soul's in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sunday, 09/17/17. It is a wonderful sermon that all UUs and many others not UU can benefit from.

Why do you go to church or not go to church?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Radical hospitality

Went to church today, Sunday, 09/18/17. First time this new church year. The theme this month is "radical hospitality." The sermon was mush. Preacher seemed to miss the point. Didn't get what I wanted so I thought I would write my own sermon.

What is "radical hospitality?" Bottom line: it is hosting and welcoming people you don't like, people you find repugnant, people who scare you. It is easy to be nice and welcoming and host to people you like or aspire to ingratiate yourself with. That's mostly what passes for hospitality in churches looking to add to its membership. How about hosting and welcoming people your are afraid of and/or don't like? Now that's radical. It's based on our UU first principle.

Somebody asked Mother Teresa one time, "Mother, Jesus said that the way to the kingdom is to love as I have loved. Who should I love?" Mother Teresa said, "Whomever life puts in your path." And we can add, even if they scare you or you don't like them.

That's the hard teaching I wanted to hear and didn't. So I preach to myself and ask God for the courage and strength to be kind to the people who scare me.

Amen. May it be so.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In times of tragedy from whence comes Grace?

During September, 2017 we continue our discussion of the UUAWOL fiction book for the month which is Dave Eggers' novel, Heroes Of The Frontier. Heroes Of The Frontier doesn't have much of a plot and it not being plot driven so some readers might find it boring but it is rich in character and observations of the human condition. For example, Eggers writes about Samantha, Josie's foster sister, "But Sam had always been flippant about any loss, any tragedy. She felt it her right, as a survivor of a broken personal world." p.136. I know people like this and feel and act this way myself at times. I sometimes feel exasperated with people when I'm not all that empathic and want to say to them, "Look, you need to get over yourself. This shit that has happened to you is really not all that important in the big scheme of things."

Our Unitarian Universalist faith teaches us, though, that every person is important and has inherent worth and dignity and that we should treat each other with compassion. Well when you have been wounded yourself, or worse yet, traumatized, this kind of empathy is extremely difficult if not impossible without the intervention of some kind of grace.

Those of us, who have resolved our trauma and learned from it, are especially called upon to minister to those who are still hurting. To be flippant and dismissive is to protect ourselves from having our wounds re-opened. It is important for us in our ministry to tune into where people hurt and at the very least do no further damage. The intervention of grace referred to above comes from the covenant we make with each other to promote and affirm the faith we have placed in our seven principles. The covenant is a source of grace. The more the merrier. Many hands make light work.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pax vobiscum

Dear Lucy:

One of the things I miss the most about my Catholic days is the saying "Pax vobiscum" which is Latin, of course, for "Peace be with you," and the response is "Et tu spiritu tuo." "And may the spirit be with you also."

The truth is that the Peace of God is always with us yet we are distracted, pre-occupied, and lose our faith in it. Nowadays, there is a greater awareness that the Peace of God dwells within and among us and we can tune into it if we are mindful and so mindfulness has become increasingly popular.

What mindful practices do you find helpful, Lucy?

I find myself, increasingly, turning off the radio when I am driving in the car, and avoiding my screens just so I can quiet all the chatter which runs in my mind like the hamster in the wheel. I just watch and allow myself to laugh at the nonsense that I have allowed to take over my awareness.

I am reminded of my niece who would get anxious and upset in third grade and her teacher would tell her to take a "chill pill." We used to joke about what her "chill pill" consisted of and even make up a little recipe book for what kinds of coping tactics made up her "chill pill". We discovered in doing this project that she had more than one type of "chill pill." Chill pills are good tools for restoring our faith and experience of Peace.

Pax vobiscum,


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Oh ye of little faith and the UU sixth principle.

Kevin, you asked about the goodness of God and that, because of what has happened in your life, you have given up your faith.

Happens a lot. People get mad at God for the stuff that happens.

Got to blame somebody. God becomes the punching bag, the whipping post, the scapegoat.

Don't worry. God has big shoulders. He just laughs at the absurdity of your blaming Him for stuff we humans do or nature does.

The bigger problem is not the stuff that happened or is happening, but your faithlessness.

Faithlessness is generated by misunderstanding the spiritual plane and the workings of the real world as compared to the drama of our ego plane.

The thing to remember is that God, Love, is always there for us beneath the drama but the drama blocks our awareness of Love's presence. We get caught up in, and sometimes overwhelmed by, the drama.

The bumper sticker reads, "Shit happens," and I always like the old saying that "There's always something."

Indeed there is. No reason to give up your faith. Give up, instead, your belief that God is a puppeteer and micromanages our nonsense. Stay focused, if you can, on our UU 6th prinicple which is the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. In is in this principle that we can put our faith in even though, at times, the achievement and existence of this seems impossible.

As we said to one another in the 60s, "Keep the faith!"