What BLACK PANTHER, 50 SHADES OF GREY, PUBF & DESTINY 2 all have in common with an expelled orphan outcast. (OR The United States of Entertainment, (except when people die.)

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                  Education is not transformation. 1234 So really the whole academic fallacy is moot. We don’t need statistics. Although partisans can spin numbers to fit narratives on both sides.  Leading spiritual, environmental, anthropological, and psychological leaders come to the necessity of there to be a transformed mind. This, unfortunately, occurs at the liberty of individual experience. Though the closest we ever came to a mass awakening was MLK’s march on Washington. That in the context of how far we still have to go shows that even as close as we got, (ending segregation) we weren’t even close.  A mind liberated from dualistic binary thinking has been freed from the chains of western saturation of win, lose, achievement and aesthetics obsessions. Words like them or they no longer exist. Grievances, victimhood, or the inability to forgive the past is transcended. At this stage heart and head are interlinked and in balance, while the left part of the brain has been sanded over into check.

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The Left brain is where we get our PHD in judging.

We are all us, at that stage of deeper consciousness in the contemplative mind. Both and, with paradoxical tension is to see and discuss reality as it is, and not waste time on what should be. Should be is an admirable goal. But we aren’t at the should be. We are where we are now. That is where the discussion has to take place.  I don’t have all the answers. I have some mentors who’s reflections seem to be true more often than not. I observe the same truth’s more often than not. Yet this idea of one size fits all solutions continues to appear from a mass vague consciousness and every time that surfaces we must call our attention to focus. I have watched both sides of dead horse manuscripts on reactionary government posturing the last week.

 

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Binary dualistic thinking is deciding who’s in and who’s out.

 

I literally saw a number of people in leadership lament about a current event, and then go to the movies. It’s kind of like people playing violent video games while watching IRL breaking news sensationalism live (If it bleeds it reads) on a separate TV at the same time. I try not to think about it. People saw the news last week and didn’t even stop. It was like a walking with our hands full waiting for the next justified reason to bash or cuss out the sitting President of The United States. “Thoughts and Prayers” sure got a beating. Apparently, a new bandwagon or piggyback fanbase on Twitter and Facebook is that people don’t want people to think, or pray? If I had to choose a winner in that whole exchange I liked this post from a Canadian Actor:

I love that Arnaud is able to see both and, a key ability that some in our opining soup de jour never develop in an entire lifetime. We can do all those actions mentioned, yet we however cannot fix people. The list of political problems that exist in America, including specifically the AR-15 assault weapons ban, was mentioned by me on August 2nd of 2016 predicting that problems would continue to exist no matter which candidate for POTUS was elected. See the original post in this link post here. The circle of influence on current event individuals is worth discussing. I heard only one commentator mention the entire context of our environment. The rest zoomed in a buzzword to play partisan ‘squirrel’ all in search for a scapegoat.

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Michael B Jordan as Erik Killmonger in “Blank Panther” 2018.

Black Panther is playing about every fifteen minutes in about twelve theatres per every ten miles in major suburban and city areas all across the United States. The premiere night for the general population was the day after the most current mainstream media reported shooting in a school located in Florida. Michael B. Jordan plays, “Erik Killmonger.” A person left ‘outside’ the family of Wakanda, a decision authorities made to keep him outcast and to remain left out. A character in the film describes him as, “A monster that we created.” Do you see any irony that the latest mass media reported shooter was expelled by a school, un-survived by his parents, and ditched by his alleged girlfriend? The comparison unavoidable in the proximity of the real-life events and walking into the Marvel Studios story.

“Erik Killmonger” turned to revenge because he was left out. The violence was not something that could stop him from his determination to get revenge. He was bound and determined to meet and become what was his only remaining destiny in a lonesome mind. The Black Panther? Apparently, in Wakanda it is the end all and be all to be a king, and to be the best warrior (the Black Panther) with the best technology. To leave everybody that’s not “One of us” in their mind, out. Do you see that anywhere in real life today?

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Eric Johnson as Jack Hyde in “50 Shades Freed.”

Or take Fifty Shades Freed, where Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey, an orphan turned billionaire by winning the adoption lottery. Antagonist Jack Hyde played by Eric Johnson was the other foster orphan who didn’t get the billionaire parents. He believes his fate was to be in Grey’s place and sets off on envy, jealousy, and revenge. He blackmails women, turns violent, and has a dark side. The Grey’s had chosen Christian and turned Jack away.  Jack was left out. Jack had nothing and no one. Metaphoric, ironic, eerie. Tell me you see it?

PUBG’s (Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds) is a video game for PC and Xbox released in 2017 that reached over 40 million purchases with 3 million concurrent online players at a given time. Per Wikipedia, “In the game, up to one hundred players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and equipment to kill others while avoiding getting killed themselves.”

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Most popular first-person shooter video game currently in the United States.

These are known as deathmatch games. Another first-person shooter game as a top seller is Destiny 2, another PS4, Xbox and PC game sensation published by Activision in the fall of last year. Per Wikipedia, “Players fight to protect the Last City from different alien races.” The expansion pack is set to release later this year to drag out consumers and gamers longevity in the game. Grand Theft Auto V, the last installment of the series where gamers can rape and beat women, steal cars, kill and run over pedestrians, and run from the police for glory. Per a Forbes article, the game was rolled out in different consoles from 2013-2015, it was still in the top ten selling games of 2017.

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While there is insufficient evidence to provide these media diets as a sole problem in the negative, I don’t think a culture of media glorifying violence is necessarily positive. I don’t think the shooters in 1999 having played “Doom” one of the original first-person shooters, is sufficient enough to provide the extent of determinable influence one way or the other. I don’t think it would be the most uplifting fact also. We are cutting people out while producing violent media in games, film, musical lyrics, and literature. When a crisis occurs, the journalist media turn the volume on all those way up.

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Screenshot of game, “Destiny 2.”

The individual free society to game, binge-watch, play, recreate, sing about, write about, all around imitate, until it’s actually happening, and people die. Then it’s only a matter of blame and default agendas. Dialogue almost cannot occur. So grab the controller, or drive to the theatre. This was just another week in the human dilemma, disguised and collaterally related to the physical, social, mental health, and individual realities of living in Wakanda.

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“Black Panther” film 2018.
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A YODA HOLOGRAM’s MESSAGE TO NICK FOLES

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When you enter a party what is the most commonly asked question? Sadly it is not, “What is your name? That may have been once upon a time in a galaxy further away. Today I have observed the most common question at any new introduction of human to human interaction in any real context as… “What do you do?” This can be paraphrased as, “How do you chase the ‘American dream’ or as, “Besides male white privilege how do you live in the context of needing high costs of living to even be here to talk to me right here right now?” This suggests that people do believe in the cultural influence that your identity is what you do. What you do is who you are? Who you are is what you have done, or what you have, and or both?

 

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Jesus and the Fishermen (J. Kirk Richards.)

 

When we hold up living texts as a mirror we can see the same moments in our own lives. Sometimes we do lots of learning, preparing, training, hard work, and intense labor. In any of those have you ever got to a point of, “Now what?” In John chapter 21:1-14, Peter has been traumatized in denying that he even knew Jesus three different times. He had just seen his teacher and friend killed in the most gruesome fashion known to history. He has no idea what to do, and he doesn’t know who he is, or even yet, the meaning of everything that had just happened in his life. He decides to go fishing. This is to suggest that, fishing is who Peter really is now that the Jesus saga seems to be well, over.  In this context, Peter is going back to the old work he was doing before Christ said, “Leave your nets and follow me.” (Matt 4:19) He is going back to square one to sit around, and to wait… for fish. “I’m going out to fish.” (John 21:3) We can expect that Peter was heckled by the other local fisherman. “How did that Jesus thing work out for you?” Now what? I guess fish now. So the context is Peter fishing and waiting, the same context as when Jesus first approaches a dozen chapters ago. Peter waiting in the past has become Peter waiting in the present.

               “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)  (Philadelphia and the NFL, Isaiah wants the trademark rights to the word eagles back.)

They who wait upon the Lord, shall be free, liberated, full of life.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

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He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of a large number of fish.

                Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” Peter, who in his natural faith is customed to do his pass time work of fishing, has now been liberated again. In jumping into the water without hesitation he has, “Mounted the wings of eagles.” He again has found what he has already had the whole time. A shepherd in whom is salvation. It’s like God taking him aside and saying, “Peter do you understand who you are, and how big this is?” Peter is waiting on God again after putting back on the false self (being a fishermen) only to fall back into his true self. (Called by name as a child of the living God.)

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People hate Tom Brady for one of a hundred reasons so the bandwagon effect takes place when rooting for his opponent.  Fun and games are one thing. The guy does live luxuriously with a big house, a celebrity wife, and a lot of money. Nick Foles, however, is taking online seminary courses at Liberty University, where Jerry Falwell is the President of the institution. After the Not For Long League, he wants to join the wrong team in Christendom that peddles reward-punishment theology.

The last line of the campus doctrinal beliefs states, “We affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent. It will be followed by seven years of great tribulation, and then the coming of Christ to establish His earthly kingdom for a thousand years. The unsaved will then be raised and judged according to their works and separated forever from God in hell. The saved, having been raised, will live forever in heaven in fellowship with God.

To paraphrase in case you are not understanding. Nick Foles and parts of The Eagles team and institution belief as a system of a football team that if you do not accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior that you will be in hell for all eternity.

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Nick Foles wears a WWJD bracelet

We look to championship winners in professional sports as role models in ‘climbing’ the first half of life ladder. Deflating some footballs okay maybe not great. What about taking one of the most sacred faiths with the most famous human being to ever live, and to say that he has any message other than love?  “Will be separated forever from God in hell.” How can you celebrate someone who believes that when it’s not a matter of believing? We don’t need to believe in Jesus, we need to experience (to know) Him. A Christ who’s ancestors prophesied before him, “As far as the East is from the West, so have your sins been removed from you.” (Psalm 103:12)

“The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:8-14.)

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I don’t see Jesus saying, “Come and have breakfast, only if you believe.”

I don’t see Jesus saying, “Come and have breakfast, except you who will burn separated from me for all eternity.”

Instead, we see Paul with a way more accurate depiction, “Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)

There is no them. Only us. Them is us. We are us. We are them.

If Mel Gibson really is doing a sequel to the Passion of The Christ, it could only need to be this. The hologram of Yoda that appeared on Jedi Master Lukes mountain of contemplation and action shown in Star Wars The Last Jedi, needs to beam down to Nick Foles (and dissolve his W.W.J.D bracelet) and say,

Them are we, institutionalization of fundamentalism, your fault is not, small container Jesus impossible, bigger Cosmic, Jesus is, we all come, and have breakfast, we will. Jesus burn anyone, would not.” Fade to black.

 

PLAYING THE VICTIM, SCAPEGOAT FOR THE SHADOW SELF, & THE MYSTERY OF LENT

“Do not seek answers, live the questions.”Rainer Maria Rilke

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Breath of man, J Kirk Richards

There is a balance between logos (the principle of reason and judgment) and pathos (Greek for experience or suffering) between left brain and right brain. Between taking on and letting go. Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, James Hollis, Richard Rohr, Thich Nhat Hanh, Susan Muto, Thomas Keating, James Finley, and Oswald Chambers in unison write several times over that we must die to our ego. Chambers, “A man must get to his wit’s end.  Albert Einstein still flooded with questions got to an agnostic end (wit’s end) of a long search. “Whatever the answer, it will be simple, and it will be beautiful.” A sort of surrendering. A sort of faith that love is deeper behind all that is. The mystery of God. The unknowable resolutions to the tension of paradox. Buddha says sit by the tree. Christ says to take up your cross and follow me. We change from the why are we here to the what are we doing? That’s the ego only dying half way. Different things can get in the way of us getting ourselves out of the way.

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James Franco (Out Mag, 2017)

We glide along the surface, taking on our cues from the newspapers, or our neighbors, or the commercials on TV. They tell us what to desire, what to fear. Yet the more we listen to such voices, the less we know ourselves.” (Robert Ellsberg 2003, The Saints Guide to Happiness, page 5.)

Rene Girard unpacks this in traces back to Aristotle. The Greek word for mimesis translates as imitation. Not only do we not know what to desire and resort to imitation, but we need a scapegoat to reunite a divided humanity that claims victimhood. Deep dive further in the video below.

On desire, imitation, scapegoat:


On power of the group, and scapegoating:

See any scapegoating going on the news lately? ICYMI my last post on a modern example: Hollywood Scandal and even further back three years ago: James Franco, Masks, and Angels in Wyoming. Interesting how posts age… I will quote myself from that post which was published on May 15th, 2015: “We want to be ourselves, and we want people to stand and walk with us as who we really are. What happens to many people in different times of life, in the most vulnerable and fragile moments, they reveal an intimate part of themselves, and sometimes they are shunned. It is the ultimate betrayal to be rejected, exiled, ridiculed, bullied, protested and even in some contexts detested. I think that’s why so many people keep masks on for so long or even go back to hiding with them.” Again you can read the full post just Click here.


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Richard Rohr, OFM,

To dig even further back Richard Rohr OFM in a 1993 book entitled, Occasions of radical grace where he writes in the context and age of romantic expressionism: It may be acceptable to repress the objective issues of famine, destruction of habitat, medical care, and arms sales to everybody, but it is a mortal sin to repress any feelings, fears, or sexual fantasies. The psychological is bottomless and fascinating. You do not need to have a degree to enter into the conversation. In fact, a past experience of crime, abuse, or destructive behavior actually gives you authority. Psychological conversation provides both instant intimacy and a sense of control. Gaining power is playing the victim. Given the language of romantic expressionism, no one can criticize you without appearing to be crass and politically correct. To hurt, to suffer, to deserve sympathy is to have achieved a moral victory. Once you can prove that you are indeed a victim, no more can be demanded of you than the perpetual right to tell your story. The rest of us must feel the appropriate guilt and offer propitiatory incense. We all know there are real victims, and the role of the prophet is to proclaim their story publicly. But sophisticated, psychological society has used the…

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J. Kirk Richards

(cont.) profound Christian archetype of the Lamb to gain negative power for people who are often merely bitter with their own vendetta. The victimhood of Jesus is a matter of accepting, forgiving, and non-self serving.  The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, the victim lambs insist that the rest of the world has sinned against them. The first redeems. The second deadens and paralyzes. (pages 12-14.)

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Aristotle painted by Steve Hammond (Flickr)

To paraphrase, this enters the third concept of Aristotle’s three artistic proofs. Ethos, Greek meaning “accustomed place” translated as “character” that per Wikipedia, Is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community. Ethos forms the root of ethikos:  moral, showing moral character.” The Ethos that inspired Hollywood to make the film “Spotlight” realized that when the spotlight had boomeranged into their own front yard, that same Ethos had to apply to its own institutional members. Not only is victimhood being used as power, but scapegoats are also being used to unite what is an otherwise divided competing cultural tribe. To discover that maybe spotlight is a human dilemma that exists in all institutions because the human condition has what Jung calls, “The shadow self” is only the beginning. Hopefully describing some of the symptoms we are seeing provides some insight into why every other day another high profile person is trending on twitter for something middle-class husbands do every day of their life. This isn’t to justify it, but to highlight the selective outrage that comes with what Rohr calls the three P’s: power, possessions, and prestige. The false self always has an image to protect, many times due to the shadow self. 

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Portrait of Christ, by J Kirk Richards

The season of lent for mature adult Christians on deeper layers of consciousness and deeper chapters of the faith is to reflect and contemplate the spotlight on our own shadow self. That in the coming crucifixion of Christ throughout these 40 days, we see the connection between the God-self-replacing the shadow self. A true self is now discoverable, as the apostle Paul discovers and writes in Galatians 2:20, I live no longer, not I. Full verse text,I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Lent is about dying to our false self, before we fall into Ressurection. What will it take for your tomb to be fully empty so there’s room for God and neighbor?

Why I turned down a trip to Israel with Pastor Davey Blackburn. (Or will the real Jesus please stand up.)

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“TIMES UP” intersection for fear $elling Fundamentalism et al,

There are two paths, two different directions for Christianity. The past, and the future. An inclusive all-encompassing love which is true towards the life and message of The Risen Christ in our lives will stay alive and last. A separate, conditions-based, if only this, write a blank check here with selective and legalistic principles prideful version of the faith will die. The vast denominational differences on path one will merge, and the rest will scatter into the wind and become nothing. The Zionist Jews (extremists) who won’t recognize Palestine, the Wahhabi Muslims who use the Quran as a weapon (extremists), the fundamentalist fear selling cookie cutter Christianity (extremists) the institutionalized Atheists who have to be right (extremists), the over academic agnostics who cannot see beyond reason, have all hit an iceberg and are taking on water. “Time’s up.” To illustrate the two paths I discovered the newest example on twitter by accident, which takes the temperature of basically a randomly selected church and pastor. Here’s what was found.

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Pastor Davey Blackburn of Resonate Church in Indianapolis Indiana (Source: Christian Post)

Discovery: 

What tool could Matthew’s gospel have recorded of Jesus warning us how to find “religious people” in the ages to come who bear the real truth? Matthew 7:16 is the closest we get, “By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” 

Around January 20th of this year, there is a public invitation to anyone in the world that wants to join Pastor Blackburn and another church in a week-long pilgrimage to Israel. I have always wanted to go, and I strongly considered going. I poke around other Christian leaders to probe their fruit. If a sudden spotlight were to expose someone as THE ambassador of the whole Christian faith, say, like a social media trend or a national television interview or some guy named Pope Francis, just what are we proclaiming about God? What direction are leaders walking flocks of people? Toward love and justice and peace? Toward inclusion, forgiveness, and compassion? Just compare Pope Ratzinger to Francis, and you can see a stark contrast in, ‘the fruit.’ Just what kind of work shift to I have to sign up for to earn brownie points from God, according to this leader? If the answer isn’t “none” I get worried. Do they have all the answers? If yes, I really start sprinting to running away fast.

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The news media is a powerhouse of influence on millennials. A classic example is a nobody had heard of pastor began trending on twitter a while back after an ineffable tragedy late in 2015 happened to his family and others. I hope that the season of healing and grieving continues to find all involved with growing comfort, peace, and newness of life in the months and years ahead.

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The word pastor is a buzzword nowadays. I know this from having anything I post on twitter, facebook, or even conversation being combed through by a peanut gallery. Anything to do as a representative of the most famous human being to ever live and as a representative of God and whatever this word ‘church’ means, is to ask for ‘spotlight.’ Everything you do is watched, everything you say heard. You are never ‘not a pastor.’ You are never not representing the faith and God.  Peanut gallery’s nose through people with positions of responsibility to find a cause of offense, immorality, or political ammunition. People with respectability can never escape the ‘gotcha’ game. Ironically this occurs to Jesus in all four gospel accounts. He cannot escape the peanut gallery.

I became inspired by the grace and humility pastor Blackburn was seemingly and externally handling unimaginable circumstances. A gifted speaker, I could see the draw he has with both one on one communication and when speaking to a larger audience.

Surprise of all surprises I went to check out the church he leads and to see just how big of a Jesus was present in this faith community. What branch of fruit would be there?  Immediately I found the Jesus followed at Resonate Church to be way too small to be taken seriously. In week two (per Vimeo) of a sermon series titled, “What happens when you die?” is a sermon titled, “Does hell really exist?”

You had me, you lost me: 

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In the sermon, Davey talks about the bridged gap we have from the theology of the cross, etc. Then we take a really long right turn derailing straight from the pages of far-right winger fundamentalist Pastor David Platt’s books. “If you have not received the free gift of redemption, you spend all eternity in hell. If you have received the free gift of redemption, you are saved,” says Blackburn in the Vimeo sermon.

What Happens To You When You Die Week 2 – Does Hell Really Exist from Resonate Church on Vimeo.

Either or. You’re in or you’re out based on if you choose to receive a free gift that we do not deserve.  This is clearly a direct contradiction to John 10:16 where Christ says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

SMALL JESUS? BIG JESUS? Will the real Christ please stand up? 

A much bigger Jesus is the Cosmic Christ. Jesus as God, cannot be pinned down into a container of requirements for salvation. In Pauls words, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have a peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Out of the 365 times ‘Do not be afraid” is mentioned in the Bible, Jesus in foretelling facing his own death says again, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”  (John 14:27)

In 2016, Best Selling author and Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr nails the current problem with reward-punishment theology in a talk in Pasadena California:

Talk about a contrast of fruit. It’s not even close! You can get an extensive talk on this subject with Rohr by clicking here .

If I was touring Israel with Pastor Davey (and I did consider it), I wouldn’t help but notice that the Jesus guy he portrays to have walked around there is way too small. That the real Jesus has stood up, and long walked elsewhere. The path of division and selling fear is as past and bygone as the empty tomb. Jesus isn’t there. It’s just that very empty. The living Christ is within us, and we are the hands and feet of God who take light into darkness, love into division, and bring heaven into hell until we’ve all journeyed together. The definition of congregations is literally, “assembly.”  Jonah is still in the whale for that touring group. Hopefully, someone will spit out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, to bring everyone into the same assembly.

Unfortunately, fear still sells as it did before The Reformation. A slow and painful pace of change seems likely. The security and comfort of money are too powerful. Why else would fear work as a business model? Why else would someone ever interpret a living book that says don’t be afraid every day for the year, and still come out on a webcast sermon and say the opposite? Grace is not a choice if it is a free gift. A free gift doesn’t have to be received. The gift is in the giving, and of the giver. That is the mystery of love. End scriptural food fights. Go outside your comfort zone. Follow Jesus beyond the old empty tomb and kindle the real living flame that is Divine love.Monk reading an upside down bible.

A WORLD OF SLEEPING MR. ISMAY’S, KNOWING WHO YOU ARE, & AN UPSIDE DOWN KING.

 

REFLECTIONS FOR THE SEASON OF ADVENT 2017 – #1

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There was a female guest preacher years ago at St. Luke Lutheran in Portland. Her sermon was titled, “The Upside Down King.” The line I remember as she wove out patterns of examples of how Jesus turned the world upside down, was, “Once you know who you are, then the trouble begins.” In the first half of life the trouble is in discovering who we are in a world that defines us over and over again, and the time it takes to realize we already were who we are. In the second half of life, once you know who you are, the trouble begins. At least Martin Luther King Jr. would most certainly agree. “We will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” In the age where “prominent” (in their minds) voices opine to real time punditry has become twitter. A classic post internet debut platform of pros and cons. If we speak out, or don’t speak out, we are effecting our consistency.

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For example President Barack Obama made comments about a Trayvon Martin case in Florida, but didn’t mention other controversial cases that were equally as unjust. So this example in the twitter world is, once you stand for something, and speak out, your silence can often then speak louder than your previous statements. You have to from then/now on make a statement on every ongoing current event to maintain consistency. If you do not, it will be implied by those who’s sphere’s of influence that you are will wonder. There is always at least one good two shoe student paying attention. You can’t win. You have become a binary vehicle in the binary consciousness that is partisan divided politics. The agenda to the other 50% of any audience you have is to discredit, out wit, and ad hominem your reputation until it is reduced and considered “defeated.” Imagine being Martin Luther King Jr, who couldn’t live with his own conscience if he didn’t speak out. Yet now we have folks who have selective outrage as entitled citizens trying to fit everything into a box of victim or aggressor in some kind of grievance.

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Ken Keyes J.R. (American Author, January 19, 1921 – December 20, 1995) said somewhere that more offense is taken than is given. How accurate that prophecy has sure become. I don’t even need to cite partisan politics again as an example, you know it. There is offense to be taken, but not as much as is actually given. That is to say we are by definition a peanut gallery collective that believe our individual voice will sway results  against agenda’s by corporations and wealthy lobbyists. We are entitled to expect, we are entitled to be entitled. Anything short is offensive.

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The Diests who wrote the Declaration of Independence inspired by the French Revolution forgot that freedom isn’t the ultimate virtue. Certainly not so in the gospel accounts of Christ who makes it abundantly clear that this current world must be turned upside down. That the orphans, poor, and outcasts ought to get the bulk of our attention, that is once we know who we are.  Identity and action are completely connected in every accounted moment of our Lord’s ministry.

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Boston Public Library September 2017

An individual society built by individuals resides to set itself up to be crushed by other individuals, with “the others” falling in the cracks as collateral.  It’s a market capital view combined with survival of the fittest, and we know that it thrives on the build up of the ego which can only absolutely break down. The rich man or woman doesn’t know who whom they are beyond making more money.  The deeper level of consciousness doesn’t have a clear pathway to awaken. There is only what can be lost at that level, which as the siblings of wealth are power, processions, and prestige. If you don’t know who we are, the trouble cannot begin. To find who we are, we have to die to our ego, and surrender the misguided (but not irrelevant or irreverent spirit) document created as “inalienable rights” (if you are white men) specifically designed to inflate it.

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Thomas Cole’s ‘The Fall of Rome’

See the fall of Greece and Rome. History shows us that national pride at the top creates the great collapse. It starts with the overconfidence of such first class individuals.  A rich man on the titanic known for schmoozing captain’s to his will, Bruce Ismay, had ambitions and dreams to be the best in his position. Those illusions came to break after Captain Smith’s error of thinking watch towers would have sufficient time to dodge ice. Is the mere presence of Ismay on board to blame for the increase in speed for headlines, at the peril of everyone else? It is the subject of heated debate since that tragedy to this day. Mr. Ismay was more focused on headlines to make money before the tragedy. Afterwards, he fought with every influence of his esteem to repair, vindicate, and counter assaults on his reputation. Blame, accusations, and scapegoating landed at his door. His ego was brought to it’s lowest end being slammed in the press. Until he got his way and the White Star Line insurance company indemnified him of any liability of the ships sinking. He had too much to lose, that he could never understand the picture beyond himself, his power, prestige, and possessions.

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MR. ISMAY (1862-1937) Chairman and managing director of the White Star Line

Have’s and have not’s make for a great illusion. Founders were wanting to capitalize on an ethnic tribal formed community, that every man could be a king, never mind the king of England. So Revere went riding on his horse not knowing the paradox he carried. On one hand echoes of William Wallace’s mantra for a, “Country of our own.” On another hand, an ugly journey for words to mean what they really do in the context of humans ability to be who they already are. (This is true throughout history, the whole time but were prevented from or didn’t know it. Classic binary pattern aggressor, victim.) In the meantime, history repeating itself. Class warfare, gender roles, hard labor etc. All born out of the inflation of the ego.

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Middle class is not at the same level of illusion but some illusions exist. While you were laughing to it’s a small world after all playing on repeat in the background, someone without a job or friends of compassion turned to drugs as a method to escape thoughts of meaninglessness. The Opioid crisis remains an unanswered crisis in all 50 states of the U.S.  Yes there are just folks who love drugs but we are not zooming in there.

Or on another NFL Sunday whilst washing your car, an orphaned person turned to crime in order to survive. Unnecessary roughness doesn’t seem that relevant of a penalty when the entire sport itself is by definition unnecessary roughness. How else do we get to CTE? Why doesn’t a mass consciousness care?

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Stages of CTE in progression from normal to severe cases.

 

Yes it’s okay to have a car as long as you are using Uber/Lyft to ride some of the less fortunate neighbors around. One less car off the road because of you might help the planet. A friendly ride might make someone’s day, but the fare should be free. The poor housed. The orphan surrounded by loving community. Yet we don’t live in what should be. We live in what is. What is, is…. we must change what is in the future to be now.  We must go from asleep, to awake, to know who we are, for the trouble to begin. The mystics have called this, “Action and Contemplation”.  To fight the what should be to become what is. What is, is all that is real. It’s not a line by Bill Clinton, “It depends on what your definition of is, is.” There is what is, and there is what should be. They are not the same. It is what it is in this moment.

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Agent’s of courage to “Be the change you want to see in the world” can come only, according to Christ, in a world that must be turned upside down. Which of course, can only be done by you, and those at your side, if you know who you are. The meaning of Advent and Christmas is supposed to help in that discovery or transition between the first and second halves of our journey. May we get to a place where the trouble begins, with only rising ranks and strength in numbers. To change lives. To steward the planet. The weave a new trail for what is now merely a circling repeat of history.

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OREO’S & THOMAS MERTON (or 2017 THE YEAR IN REVIEW)

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What I learned from the year 2017 since the year of our Lord.

  • A. Lighthearted observations
  • B. Deeper observations
  • C. Top Ten Reads/Films of 2017
  • D. Inspirational people of 2017

A. First world lighthearted observations:

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  1. Whoever invented Oreo’s is a genius (Sorry vegans.)

A. When eating Oreo’s, crush them into a glass, add two spoon fulls of milk, drink from glass. Experience Oreos in a bold, fleeting hedonism.

2. There still is no federal law on having lawn mowing day the same day a week for zoned areas, as is garbage day.

3. The human ego can always be revealed by observing shopping cart traffic or mall /stadium walking traffic, or any kind of driving on any road.

4. Water melon is only a summer food.

5. Maple bars seem worth it at the moment, and about 10 minutes after, only.

6. Chicken Caesar Salads are universal meals. (Sorry vegans.)

7. Ted Kaczynski was right about red lights but we don’t need to blow anything up to convince anyone.

8. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do if you have the right people to do it with. You can read more insights from turning 30 in this previous post.

B. Deeper observations: 

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  1. A high number of people want to be right more than they want a dialogue. Many people are pundits without a skill of active listening or arrive at immediate dismissal. I think part of this is the disastrous point of view promoted by Meryl Streep, “On top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” That kind of thinking is the opposite of an open minded, non-dualistic environment.

Example: Kevin Spacey is accused of wrong doing. An individual in identity politics writes a Facebook status that appears in your news feed saying that it takes dozens of women to bring a heterosexual predator down, but it only takes one male for homosexual wrong goings to be immediately believed. If I respond to the fifteen points that challenge or provide context to that, (see examples from last months post) people take their trained ear to go mute. By being an opposing view point I am the ‘other side’ in their binary thinking. I am the problem and must be eliminated. We saw this in divisions between members of the same political parties in the 2016 primaries. When it comes to the outcome of world events from either candidate taking office, my predictions so far pretty accurate. Take a look.

One woman accused the captains of the Duke Lacrosse team of rape in which they were defamed and humiliated without merit.

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One female feminist author of Rolling Stone Magazine claimed a proven false gang rape occurred on the Virginia University Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

One woman destroyed Bill Clinton’s second term in 1998.

One woman got 32 million in private settlement’s from Bill O’Reilly causing speculation as to why after it leaked to the press.

Who are the aggressors and victims without stone facts confuses us back into our judgement problem. (Discussed more here.)

2. A high number of people are binary thinkers stuck in identity politics.

3. Capitalism is broken, flawed, outdated, and designed for the repackaging of greed.

4. Capitalism leads to isolated individualism, four walls, and time gets sucked up by “zero.” Zero is the one of the three fears of the west. “There is always a danger that hermits will only dry up and solidify in their own eccentricity. Living out of touch with other people, they tend to lose that deep sense of spiritual realities, which only pure love can give.” (Thomas Merton, New seeds of Contemplation 1972.)

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5. Paul Tillich writes in his works “The courage to be,” three types of anxiety. The anxiety of fate and death originating out of classical world Greece and Rome. Second the anxiety of guilt and condemnation which belongs to the medieval age and the beginning of the reformation. Third, the anxiety of meaninglessness, which is in numerous problems we face modernly today, according to John Douglas Hall. Thomas Merton writes in, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, published in 1966:

All has become one, all has become indifferent, all has been leveled to equal meaninglessness. . . . It is not that all is “one” but all is “zero.” Everything adds up to zero. Freedom is then to live and die for zero. Is that what I want: to be beaten, imprisoned, or shot for zero? But to be shot for zero is not a matter of choice. It is not something one is required either to “want” or “not want.” It is not even one something is able to foresee. Zero swallows hundreds of thousands of victims every year, and the police take care of the details. Suddenly, mysteriously, without reason, your time comes, and while you are still desperately trying to make up your mind what you imagine you might possibly be dying for, you are swallowed up by zero. Perhaps, subjectively, you have tried to convince yourself and have not wasted time convincing others. Nobody else is interested. What I have said so far concerns execution for a “political crime.” But death in war is, in the same way, a kind of execution for nothing, a meaningless extinction, a swallowing up by zero.”

(The Hebrews long discuss this, like in Lamentations and Job, questions and complaints to God. See Ecclesiastes.)

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“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, which I sent among you.” –Joel 2:25 

6. What was eaten by the Locust, time taken from being blind or on lower levels of consciousness, being stuck in the binary or a traumatic experience (the feeding of the false self) will be returned to us. Like a Caterpillar becoming a butterfly our mind is renewed. (Romans 12:2) We look on with a new pair of eyes, scales removed. (Matthew 6:22-23, Ephesians 1:18Acts 9:18) We finally just are, “I am, therefore I think.” We just are divine beings learning to be human as our true self in the Crucified and Risen Christ. God is always doing something new, “With the fullness of time.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

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We search for our identity, as faith proclaims by faith and experience that, “God is with us.” To the general population, that doesn’t translate to the same level of consciousness/awareness. Which begs the question…  Does the latest Ryan Gosling film, “Blade runner 2049,” Define Thomas Merton, or the other way around? See the film and decide. Here’s a quote from Merton’s 1966 Raids on the unspeakable:

“We are drugged by entertainment, numbered in billions massed together. As the end approaches there is no room for nature. The cities crowd it off the face of the earth. The city lives in it’s own myth. Instead it’s a stubborn and fabricated dream. Constructed a world outside the world, against the world, a world of mechanical fictions which condemn nature and seek only to use it up, thus preventing it from renewing itself and man.”

The films themes of, role of fear, search for longing and identity, desire for authentic love, the folly of capitalism, greed, labor, and pursuits of idleness or amusement. Dualism between status quo and resistance, man vs man, man vs nature.  Men playing God with life and death and rule over governing.

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“The Last Jedi” will be released around the world the second or third week of Advent. Calculated to capitalize on the western ‘Christmas break’ blue laws.  The bill to make Christmas a holiday was introduced into the House of Representatives by Illinois Rep. Burton Chauncey Cook. It passed the Senate on June 24, 1870. President Ulysses S. Grant signed it and declared Christmas a federal holiday in 1870. The themes of the Star Wars franchise echo the Gosling film. What is our identity, purpose, in the past, present, and future? How does love play a role in everything?

C. THE TOP TEN NONFICTION BOOKS OF 2017:

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  1. Adam’s Return, The Five Promises of Male Initiation, Richard Rohr OFM.
  2. The Great Themes of Scripture, Richard Rohr OFM.
  3. The Way of St. John of the Cross, Dr. Susan Muto
  4. Trump and a post-Truth World, Ken Wilber
  5. Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Donald S Connery
  6.  The Art of Letting Go, Richard Rohr OFM.
  7. Luther’s Theology of The Cross Alister C. McGrath
  8. Killing England, Martin Dugard & Bill O’Reilly
  9. Henry David Thoreau, A life: Laura Dassow Walls
  10. Goodness and light : readings for Advent and Christmas

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Best Films of 2017: Tie between Breathe and Dunkirk

Best Actor of 2017: Andrew Garfield, (Breathe)

Best Actress of 2017: Jennifer Connelly (Only the brave)

Best Director: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Inspirational Athlete of 2017: Aaron Judge

2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby

“For 175 years we have sailed with those winds at our back, and with the tides of human freedom in our favor. We steer our ship with hope, as Thomas Jefferson said, “leaving Fear astern.”

Today we still welcome those winds of change–and we have every reason to believe that our tide is running strong. With thanks to Almighty God for seeing us through a perilous passage, we ask His help anew in guiding the “Good Ship Union.”~ John F. Kennedy: Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union.,” January 14, 1963.

 

THE CULTURAL FOOD FIGHT FOR A SCAPEGOAT OF EXPOSED SEX ABUSE

Spotlight on Hollywood:

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In light of a row of actress women coming out against Harvey Weinstein, the following twitter exchanges occurred as an example of the national consciousness in reaction to sex abuse:

Let’s deep dive the opposing viewpoints on why sex abuse conversation has become a food fight over who to scapegoat. First we need some context on some things these tweets brought up and media coverage before twitter had such high voltage.

Vocabulary Origin:

These two greek words diabolos (meaning adversary or enemy) combined with kategoros (one who speaks in a derogatory way of another) create the English word, “Accuser.” The original Hebrew, “Ha-Satan” is traditionally translated as, “the accuser.” (To obstruct,  or oppose. See Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, Psalms 109:6.) Sykofantis, the greek meaning for slander (scandalum in Late Latin) shows up later.

The Catholic Church: 2002-2010

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Between the dates of May 1 and August 31st of 2002, The mainstream media published 1,636 articles in four months time on the sex abuse cover up culture of silence. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and other bishops across the United States had shuffled accused abusers from parish to parish without informing the police or public. That’s 77 Articles fewer to be published in 2010, when abuse allegations had re-emerged in Europe.  On NBC’s Today Show airing March 29, journalist Stephanie Gosk reported on assignment live from Vatican City on hundreds of new allegations against Catholic clergy in Europe. 2.1% of American news coverage in a four month period was spent on the story. That is twice as much as any topic in religion usually receives in an entire year. However, twitter and other new media didn’t care about the story. It didn’t trend like we see other stories do just seven years later.

Irony: 

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Will Hollywood make a movie on Weinstein?

According to the Pew Research study:

“Compared with the media coverage of nine other recent scandals, the focus on the pope does not appear unusual. The nature of the other scandals varies enormously, and some are intrinsically more personal than others. But they help to illustrate the media’s penchant for personalizing big stories. Following the marital infidelity of golfer Tiger Woods and the arrest of filmmaker Roman Polanski, for example, nearly 90% of the coverage focused on Woods and Polanski personally, rather than on, say, moral standards among professional athletes or Hollywood celebrities in general. At the other end of the spectrum, coverage of steroid abuse in Major League Baseball did not zero in on any one player; the biggest single newsmaker was Roger Clemens, who figured prominently in less than a quarter of all stories on the subject.”

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The Duke Lacrosse Case:

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On March 14th, 2006, Crystal Mangum a then student at North Carolina Central University did adult entertainment as a side gig. She reported that morning that on the previous night that three Duke University students (two of which were captains of the men’s lacrosse team) had allegedly raped her after hurling racial slurs at a private house party in Durham. Time would prove the allegations to be false. The case rocked the university and academic culture both on and off campus. Jolting the press, shaking the world of college sports, and sparking controversies on racism, class, and criminal justice in America. All driven by media coverage. It became an important modern precedent of cry wolf in an age of hyper feminism in journalism trying to hijack and use anything for it’s agenda and cause of exposing and banging the drum of misogynist privileged men. Cynicism was found at a rate of 7 of 10, 6.5% in negative newspaper outlets sampled by a news coverage analysis thesis by a college study.

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Open Questions:
  • Does the precedent of the Duke case that one is guilty until proven innocent really the new reality in news media and court of public opinion?
  • Do facts matter in a post trump post truth internet matrix?
  • Does the scandal of the Catholic Church, Fox News Channel, excuse the silence of Hollywood elites that protected Harvey, or the NBC executives that benched the story?
  • Knowing that Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek tweeted experiences without naming names, are they complicit in keeping them hidden like Pope Benedict?

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Will the news media rest until all of Hollywood is swept of victims and their predators? Or does that only happen when the accused are captains of a lacrosse team, or that infamous Catholic Church?

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Conclusion:

It’s a part of the perennial mistake and the original sin for us to always want to blame others. We all start out with that nature. Until we transform our consciousness, it will always be “we are right.” It will always be, “the problem is over there, with those people.” Until we can identify that we are one humanity, we will continue to make, “The Dark Knight” a prophetic movie:

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What the VIETNAM WAR and the CTE CONCUSSION CRISIS HAVE IN COMMON (Or the spirituality of unknowing)

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AP Photo/Splash News

In the last week of September, results on CTE research came in on the brain of controversial NFL player Aaron Hernandez. I wrote about him in this past post . This is the latest development in a rush to judgement culture that is the sports pundit world.  Opinionated editorial blogger Alan Schwarz was quick to light up cannons in a manifesto response regarding the tweet of a Pro Football Talk host Michael David Smith:

It just baffles me that we continue to have such divisive figures debate something for which deciding undetermined facts remain absent. Michael is more cautious to conclusions in that we don’t know enough. Alan leaps to conclusions. You decide who’s right. It’s not so much about being right or wrong in the discussion as to getting to the facts. The fact is there is insufficient revelations from studies to draw a conclusion one way or the other. Hernandez is controversial, so a quick fuse on reactive opinions is not a mystery.  We should admit what we don’t know. Anything else raises bias, or agenda.

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Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War is playing for free on public broadcasting websites and television. I remember watching an award winning documentary “Fog of War”  years ago of an interview with Robert McNamara reflecting on his life.

The theme from the interview for me was we thought we knew way more than we actually did. The question like always is do we, the humans, ever really learn from history? Track records suggest not. Non violence is the only way to prevent incalculable escalations in our cold war 2.0. Isolation isn’t an option either as I’ve written before. The current issues as long as nuclear weapons still exist on our planet will remain a paradox.

Additional reading: Deep Dive on the threshold of transformation and unknowing:

Spiritual emptiness as a seed for violence in our culture:

  • Where are you on the journey of transformation?
  • What do you do with your pain?web

“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. Pain that is not transformed is transmitted. The two Virtues of Equanimity and Compassion become more available to the person whose ego-shell has been smashed-either by great suffering or by great love-or by both.” ~Rohr

  1. We have to experience pain to understand and discern maturity in our spirituality.  (See Matthew 5 )

” We must experience pain to understand the depths of scripture, especially the eight beatitudes. The inaugural announcements from Jesus are absolutely assuring that you will experience rejection, failure, and vulnerability. That’s why we read them on all saints day and ignore them. Grieving, meek, weeping, and low in spirit? Who wants that? Nobody, so we ignore it. All initiation rights have to go through necessary grieving. Any young man who cannot cry is a savage. You have to teach a boy the tears of things. You have to teach him how to get down into the pain of the world because his whole intention when he is young is to grow up in power, fame, ambition, and greatness. A young man who cannot cry is a savage, and an old man who cannot laugh is a fool. At the end of some journey’s you see what is real and unreal about things. If you can’t laugh you haven’t been transformed, you are taking yourself too seriously. When you see your failures don’t matter but are the great school, transformation is occurring. Success has nothing to teach you after 30. You just need a few successes to get started that’s all. That’s why Jesus wisdom language is not of ascent but descent. The fundamental rule of the divine game is he who loses wins. It’s in the losing experience that you in fact understand everything and success has almost nothing to teach you. Can you see what trouble we are in this culture where everything is about success? All our youth are being told success is where wisdom lay? There’s not one spiritual teacher in any of the great world religions that would agree with that. We are on a deadly toxic course. No wonder we have shootings. It’s an incoherent world. It makes no sense. It has all the wrong goals and definitions of what power really is. So we seek lethal power because we do not have spiritual power that is the true self.” ~ Richard Rohr, New great themes of scripture, Disc 5, Track 10, 2012. 

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2. The lack of true power leaves a vacuum for false power. (See Psalm 49:16-17)

“The psalms show over and over again riches as a false sense of power. We have to arrive at the powerless of not knowing. Religion had always meant predictability and we want to know today will be the same as tomorrow. That we’ll never have to go outside our comfort zone. We prefer a performance model. Earning our worthiness. Spiritual reality in revelation of experience and the bible gives power through relationship seen in Jesus refusing dominant power and restoring relational power by persuading, non violence, radical compassion and forgiveness etc. We are externally focused when we don’t have the internal, transformed self.” Richard Rohr, New great themes of scripture, Disc 5, Track 10, 2012. 

3. Experience and unknowing is necessary for a contextual and relational transformation of the true self’s reunion with God. (See John 16:10-15, 33) 

“It’s dangerous to have people reading scripture when they haven’t experienced transformation. The beginners mind must get to a point of unknowing. Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” cultures that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I’m afraid. People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before the paschal (the birth, life, suffering, teaching, death and Resurrection of Christ) mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all (the trinity) in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
― Richard Rohr  Breathing Underwater, Spirituality and the 12 steps.

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“The Deepening layers of faith at Turning 30 years of Age.”

“The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived. Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

 Oregon Coast Spiritual Retreat 2017

 

In 13 days I will reach the Gregorian calendar age of 30 years. The calendar is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October of 1582. Sources from the 1800’s to early 1900’s age period of the world put average life expectancy between 30-32 years old. So for many ancestors, this time period would be a row of final seasons.

 

 

 

Truths: 

  • Reward/punishment theology is in the past.
  • Heaven is here now.
  • God is alive and amidst us now.
  • God is love.
  • Money is nothing.
  • All is fleeting.
  • You are going to die.
  • It’s not all about you.
  • If it’s true, it has come from the Holy Spirit.
Source: The Divine Dance, Rohr OFM.
  • You already are everything you’re ever going to be. (Isaiah 43:1) 
  • Life is difficult.
  • You are going to suffer.
  • God desires nothing but good for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Only our identity (the immortal diamond) in God will last forever. (“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Luke 21:33)
  • Christ has no hands or feet but yours.
  • You are going to reach a midnight hour during the dark night of the soul.
  •  Morning comes.
  • You are going to be raised to eternal life.
Season of Lent  2017

In 2017 I have been slow to realize that individuals on social media now do a photograph to mark their birthday in which the caption is, “This is what (enter age here) looks like!” With a mesmerizing photo of 6 pack abs, or doing something fancy, the caption strikes a sense of eternal optimism. This feeds the notion that ‘it gets better’ as you get older. It being, the worlds definition of a “successful life.” How would you define that?

There is today this notion that trials, or suffering, or search for identity, are in the past after a certain age. That the tower of success and the ladder of ‘adulting’ leads you to your destiny, which is to have finally arrived at this “place of success.” To have finally become the ‘adult you’ with status, prestige, and more stuff. That you now graduate from growing up because you’ve reached a prime golden age, or, will in the next ten years if you haven’t yet. Thomas Jefferson called this, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What he didn’t write was how or that we would actually ever obtain it, when the grass seeming green on the other side isn’t. Or keeping up with the Jones’s only halts in disappointment.

Our search for our authentic self cannot be found in the lyrics of a Lady Gaga song. Our search for identity as the whole, cannot be found in who is on our Facebook friends list. Our search for purpose cannot be found in the grandstanding of our dream of career, or our dream of how our live was always supposed to unfold in how we’d imagined it. We must dig deeper. We must ask: Is our life a personal monologue, with us at the center? Or do we have eyes for the eternal, our life pointing to Sola Deo Gloria? (The Glory of God alone.)

“19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” ~Ephesians 2:19-22

 

   (Source: Thomas Keating)

 

Spiritual Retreat 2017

By age 30, we should be layers deep in our faith. We have experienced dark nights of the soul. Maybe not the midnight hour yet, or, the last period of unexpected changes or loss, but the path of descent should have begun. God is revealed in the passion of the Christ, revealed only by the eye of faith, discerned, yet concealed. Revealed yet hidden. Humilitas Fidei – before man can raise to heights he must descend to the depths… (at our wits end.)  the cross shatters human illusions concerning capacity of human reason to discern God. Thus Luther arrives at Sola Fide. True christian faith doesn’t reach all answers, but goes deeper into mystery. This is experienced at the level of The Divine Indwelling.

Source: Rohr, Luther.

 

The mystics, Diana 20 years later, and the path of descent. (Or love is learning how to lose.)

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston Churchill

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

Is life about winning? Have you read the mystics lately? They are timeless writers for a reason with little gems hidden in their spiritual classics. The only way to rise up is the path of descent, for example. St. John of the Cross, “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” Darkness becomes light. Julian of Norwich, “First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!” Fall becomes recovery.  FR. Richard Rohr, “You will and you must “lose” at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey. Deep mature faith is the ability to lose graciously.” ~ “Falling Upward.”

Singer Shawn McDonald writes a lyric in a song on his latest album that goes, “Love is learning how to lose.” Have you sung something like that recently?

NFL player Tim Tebow in a memoir, “Shaken” describes being asked to turn down a one day appearance commercial for $1 million, the day before being cut from his then drafted team. He went on to be signed to another team. He goes on to write that he had learned how to lose graciously, to rise after falling in adapting to a plan or dream changed from what he originally had imagined. Rohr continues, “It is not only the loss of persons that leads to grief, but also the loss of ideals, visions, plans, places, relationships. It all depends on whether we are willing to see down as up.” That, “Where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.” ~ Jung  What have you fallen from in your life?

Do all of us get to the flip side?

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We come to the 20 year anniversary of the unexpected accidental death of feminist sensation Princess Diana. She used her white privilege to show the rest of us how in her own descent one could rise and give back to humanity in ways never seen before. Especially in awareness to land mines and the first to confront stigma of the HIV/AIDS breakout. And then there came an early morning in a tunnel. It is here where theologian Fr. Richard Rohr doesn’t address the shock and awe of the unexpected. “Dying must be allowed to happen over time, in predictable and necessary stages, both in those who die graciously and in those who love them. Being present at live birth and conscious death are probably the supreme catechism classes and Sunday schools that we have available to humanity. And yet we have turned them largely into medical events instead of the inherently spiritual events that they are.” But what about the unpredictable and unnecessary death’s that happen in a flash, that are so shocking that are almost unconscious in the stages of grief, “Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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In all the experiences I have had, shock and awe unexpected death is not the predictable necessary stages. It is a total maddening poison to any spiritual life in the traumatic experience of the ineffable. Certainly what the disciples must have felt running away from the cross as Christ hang bleeding. I don’t think we are ever prepared Golgotha in the way we can accept the fate of Lazarus.  Shock and awe is a different kind of grief, one that may never fully heal in the fleeting speed of a new reality, and the weight of finality. Does the weight get lighter? Prince William and Harry still grieve after all this time. Yet their actions in charity lift millions of lives up.

Author Brene Brown in Rising Strong writes, “When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”  Where are you in your story? I can’t think of a better film that demonstrates this then “Manchester by the Sea.” Read my review of the film here.

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Do all who descend fall upward? Are there forces that try to pull and keep others down when they are down? OSU baseball pitcher Luke Heimlich had a past in which he persevered a successful treatment program. A slimy local newspaper brought it up in the middle of the playoffs. Pressuring the coach, school, and team to ‘send the message’ that it would be better for him to quit. He stepped aside and the undefeated team lost the college world series. What kind of a message does it send to those in the way of descent that as you try to rise strong a judging world may not be on your side? “One only needs to gasp at the criminal justice system in the parole violation hamster wheel to see we are ignoring root symptoms with mere jail time.” ~Sgt. Michael A. Wood Jr. Baltimore P.D. {Ret.} Luke is rising strong, our unforgiving society failed him.

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It just seems that some people start hiking to the summit at different depths of the mountain. The monastic mantra of equality doesn’t apply. Some share in the suffering of Christ a lot more than others. I cannot pretend to begin to understand why. If love is learning how to lose, then many have a much deeper love that finally brings them to the top. And that is an extraordinary spiritual happening that isn’t often noticed by anyone other than God.

“Faith is a dark night for man, but in this very way it gives him light.” -John of the Cross