Wild Flowers or Weeds?

wild flowersThis beautiful display of wild flowers, now in my living room, graced Bates Memorial Church this morning.  A gift from a long term member.

Since the scripture was about the Parable of Weeds, a spiritual anecdote told by Jesus to demonstrate human inability to make judgment that belongs to God alone, it reminded me of the need to allow a greater power than ourselves make the final assessment–weeds or wild flowers?

What might be seen as a weed could just be a wild flower that grows our souls.

***

  • Anger can be a motivation for good, for change, or it can be a force for evil: violence begets more violence in a cycle that is endless.
  • Jealousy can teach us where we need to grow.  Are you looking with envy on someone else’s life?  How might you develop new skills, and move towards a change in your way of living?
  • Greed underlies much of our lives and we don’t’ even notice. Does a pair of shoes you’d like to have and don’t need matter?  Or could you spend your time and money in a more enriching way?

 

 

Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shining Like the Sun

shining sun

Inspired by Genesis 28:10-17  and Matthew 13:24-30

Did you know that if you stand still for an entire day, you will have traveled almost 25,000 miles? That’s the circumference of the earth.

Furthermore, you will have moved 1.59 million miles in orbit around the glorious sun. The life-giving sun. And you won’t even have raised your toe or moved your leg.

That’s a lot of miles you’ve traveled in one day. And didn’t even know it.

That’s if you believe the earth is rotating and our heavenly planet is orbiting the sun.

A lot of people did not agree. Copernicus back in 1514 made the observation, contrary to popular belief, that the earth was not the center of the universe but orbited around the sun. He didn’t tell too many people until he was on his deathbed. He might well have realized dire consequences could occur for such heresy, for being outside accepted beliefs.

Along came Galileo 200 years later. He supported and further elucidated the Copernicus theories in a book he published. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a discussion among three people: one who supports Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe, one who argues against it, and one who is impartial. Galileo claimed Dialogues was neutral, but it was clearly not.

And guess what happened to him?

Church reaction against the book was swift, and Galileo was summoned to Rome. The Inquisition proceedings lasted nine months. Can you imagine being grilled by those who have absolute authority over you? Galileo was mostly treated with respect and never imprisoned. However, in a final attempt to break him, Galileo was threatened with torture. He finally admitted he had supported Copernican theory, but privately held that his statements were correct. He was convicted of heresy and spent his remaining years under house arrest.

That’s the way people are– We condemn people who are different because we are certain we are right.

We want to stand on firm unchanging ground. We don’t want our beliefs challenged.

Funny thing is the solid ground beneath our feet is always moving.

Only God is solid ground. Only God knows what is truly right.

A lot of people today do not believe in God.

Not believing in God does not limit or define God.

We people of faith continue our spiritual journey with the awareness of a mystery greater than ourselves. This Mystery, God, is much greater than us, beyond our ability to fully understand. God is ineffable, unknowable, yet we continue to learn deep truth through the teachings of Jesus. We in the Church, even when it is less than perfect (it always is) are strengthened, comforted, upheld, and loved even when we are less than perfect.

Take Jacob. He was a scoundrel in his early days, manipulative, tricky and determined to get his own way. My gosh, he fooled his blind father who’d probably been good to him even though daddy did favor his brother, Esau, over him,

Yet God did not discard Jacob for selfish behavior. Nor did God punish him. God saw his potential, just as surely as God sees our potential, yours and mine. God understands how and what we are, where and who limits us. Through every passage of our lives, God wants to help us shine like the sun.

God is an awesome force for change, for good, for sunshine to not only radiate down upon us, but to radiate through us.

Jacob’s Ladder is beautiful imagery describing an experience of awe, of God, who tells this wretched trickster, this Jacob, all would be well, he would be the spearhead of abundant life. Not because he was good, but because God was with him: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…

Wherever we go, there is God wanting to illuminate our lives, be a lamp unto our feet.

Jacob sees angels ascending and descending on a stairway to heaven. He gets a glimpse of an awesome reality that says we earth-bound humans are not alone, never alone.

Have you ever had an awesome experience of God–a God-moment outside of the ordinary, something that let you know there is a greater reality than this world?

We hear from our Buddhist friends that this life is a dream and an illusion. I’ve always wondered what they mean. Life seems concrete enough to me. We are physical creatures with pleasure and pain, love and hurt. It occurs to me another way to understand the meaning of life is to recognize that the ongoing work of our lives is a process of birth into greater understanding and eventual joy. We are in constant process, growing like seeds rising through the dark earth to seek the light. We are in a process of awakening. But we aren’t there yet. And to some extent it is nothing we can control.

Near Death Experiences are awesome glimpses of another reality:

Bella J was hit by a ski boat.7/15/14

I remember the air being forced from me due to the impact. Immediately I was without a body; the best way to describe the experience is I knew who I was however I did not feel pain nor was I afraid. I was surrounded by a tremendous white light. I felt unbelievable peace, love, harmony, goodness. I knew I was floating, that I did not have a body; I sensed goodness around me then sensed a question asking if I was ready to die. I knew I was conflicted – instantaneously I saw my grave with my two little children crying, standing apart from my husband, their dad. I sensed I could not leave my children; I saw the lake water parting as I was pushed to the surface of the lake.

We do not understand how limited our perception actually is, sometimes wrong. Like thinking the world flat when it is a globe.

That is why we struggle to understand scripture. It is a powerful force in our lives, inspired by God to help us understand his purposes for each one of us. His purposes are greater than our ability to understand, and yet they continually and constantly increase the light within us, point us inward and outward, that we might increase into the fullness of our potential. The acorn becomes an oak. The cocoon opens to free the butterfly.

We need not fear the process.

Here’s a comforting NDE. Tracy D NDEEnglish met her deceased dad.

He looked so perfect and so at peace. I can’t really describe how awesome and calm and perfect he looked. When he passed he was all gray beard and mustache , 73 years old. As he appeared before me he was much younger (in his prime with thick wavy bright deep red hair as he had when he was younger, only much more vivid and intense. Any imperfection or flaw he had was sculptured, chiseled away to a smooth perfection. HE LOOKED PERFECT, BEAUTIFUL AND CONSUMED WITH PEACE AND JOY AND OVERFLOWING WITH UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE.. I COULD GO ON AND ON…. WE VISITED FOR WHAT SEEMED LIKE HOURS.  (afterward I discovered I had been without a heartbeat for 1 min and 14 seconds ) WE LAUGHED AND HUGGED AND CRIED ( AND EVERYTHING WORKED…NO FREEZING OF LIMBS ,…NO INABILITY TO MOVE..) and then he hopped down off his post and turned on the ocean floor and started to walk away. I jumped up and said…”DAD… HEY,… WAIT A MINUTE ” AND BEGAN TO FOLLOW HIM AND IT WAS AT THAT MOMENT HE STOPPED, TURNED AROUND SMILED THIS HUGE HEARTWARMING AND INDESCRIBABLE SMILE AND SAID…” NO SON , YOU GOTTA GO BACK . THEY’RE FIXING YOU, ITS NOT YOUR TIME.”

The Bible says there will be a judgment day? Listen to the words of Romy who had an accident and experienced an NDE

I was watching millions of the pictures of my life’s event, like a movie broken down into picture frames. All the little deeds, thoughts and moments upon moments, even the ones I forgot ever happened-they were there. It was such a fascinating sight. The most curious thing was that the pictures were not connected to one another- they had a gap between them that looked like a string of light. It looked like they were threaded on this string of light. My main feelings were equanimity, awe and curiosity. There was a strong quality of inquiry and inquisitiveness as I was examining everything. Every time a question came to me, the answer was immediately revealed. This unfolding of pictures and gaps developed and progressed continuously, presenting a constant delicate consequential line in perfect order, a chain of events, yet somehow they were all happening at once. The past, the present and the future were all happening at once. It was inspiring to witness the order and sense that all these little pictures seemed to have in “the big picture”. I felt a lot of compassion. I was all forgiven. In fact there was nothing to forgive. I could see that my life had “perfect order” to it. In some way it was like watching a mathematical equation or sum that makes perfect sense- such event and such event create this kind of result. It was a simple portrayal of natural cause and effect with a gentle understanding. There was no judgment, only innocence.Exceptional NDE from lady originally from Israel resulting from car accident in India. Remarkable and detailed comments on life review. Received information in experience that likely saved her life.

Me, I fear being alone. Do you?

Gillian M  is a doctor who had a heart attack and a subsequent NDE 

My next recollection is being in a vast, seemingly endless space filled with brilliant white light.  I recall no limits on perception – no binocular vision, but panoramic/spherical/360 – hard to describe.   I spent what  seemed like a long time – certainly not minutes, hours, or days.  More like weeks, months, eons.  Time was meaningless.  I was with a group of beings that I felt I had known for a very long time.   Seems like more than 12 and less than 25.   I have a vague recollection of having my Earthly experiences “”downloaded””, and having a great reunion with these beings, and a great period of relaxation/recuperation.   Communication was non-verbal and instantaneous.  It involved relaying entire occurrences, concepts, and events with associated emotions, not just words and sentences.  Eventually a consensus was reached that I should return to the life I had left as it was unfinished.  I don’t recall how I appeared, but I do recall how the other beings appeared as I departed from them – Brilliant jewel bright points of scintillating light.

We cannot prove or disprove these experiences. We do not know if they are true or not.

What we can do is live fully, decently, struggling with the interior sunshine and the clouds within ourselves, the wheat and the weeds of our existence.

Any of us who grow gardens know about the tenacity of weeds. We’d quite likely to get out a spray can of Roundup weedkiller, but God understands the weeds better.

Jesus explains The Parable of the Weeds

36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Elizabeth Johnson New Testament scholar and pastor says:

“What Matthew most likely refers to, (as a weed), is darnel or cockle, a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat and is plentiful in Israel. The difference between darnel and real wheat is evident only when the plants mature and the ears appear. The ears of the real wheat are heavy and will droop, while the ears of the darnel stand up straight.”

We often cannot discern what is good and what is bad. The roots of the weeds and the wheat plants are entangled. You can’t strip them apart without killing the very plant you really want to grow. We are full of goodness and brokenness all intimately connected.

In one NDE,  a woman says she experiences such love, that she realizes all religions are untrue. God is only about love. That’s it.

When I read her assessment, I was glad she had experienced great love, but I also found myself thinking yeah, isn’t that great, and wondering what accountability was in her life? I wonder what happens after those moments of beatific joy?

Yeah, well. What about the woman who figured out how to synthesize ricin, an extremely toxic poison, and sent it to the President and the former Governor of New York. She was caught, no one died, and she said she wouldn’t hurt anyone. She’d intended to implicate her husband who was divorcing her.

How sad that she could not directly address her angers and needs in a realistic way. Let’s blame the President. Let’s set up my ex. Let’s not deal with my problems.

What if you are still trapped in life’s challenges? For sure I am. We all are.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopalean priest, teacher and author says – ” growth interests God more than perfection and that he is willing to risk fat weeds for fat wheat. When we try to help him out a little, to improve on his plan, he lets us know that our timing is off, not to mention our judgment, and that he does, after all, own the field.”

God owns the field. God is with us. We belong to him. It’s not our job to separate people into wheat and weeds, into the good and the wicked, but we can identify the good seeds (that draw us close to God and neighbor) and the evil seeds (that draw us away from God and neighbor), and we can struggle to move away from our personal weeds, our brokenness–angry outbursts, jealousy, gossip, anxiety, worry, pride, greed, arrogance…

We can trust the God-process in our lives: both wheat and weeds have a place in God’s kingdom, and God is going to sort it out. Eventually. But we’ve got to try, we can’t simply sit back and say God is love–all will be well. It will be. Yes. It will be. But not without struggle.

God saw good in Jacob.

God sees good in you and me.

***

Listen, Watch, Glorious Unfolding — Steven Curtis Chapman  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Q7wUoQV5Q

 

Posted in Blog Sermons, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sunshine of God for Children

 

sunshine

Churches, during worship often have what’s called a Children’s Moment. They are nuggets of spiritual wisdom for the little ones, teaching them about God and Jesus.  I always loved the ones delivered by Rev. Ike at First Christian Church in Ashland, Kentucky.  Just loved them.

Here’s a little one I have prepared for the kids at Bates Memorial Presbyterian Church where I am the pastor.  To tell you the truth I struggled with what to say since the scripture I am using for the sermon is the Parable of Weeds. It’s about weeds growing amongst the wheat and how God will do the weeding, not us–so here I was thinking about weeds and poison ivy and what to say to little children.

Instead of weeds, I discovered God’s sun wanting to shine on and through children (big ones and little ones) so I ended up adapting and mixing up three well known songs. You big people might well know the tunes, but I’ll put links to youtube versions at end of the blog. As well as Tibetan Folk Opera, and Japanese Hymn to the Sun.

I am God, and I love YOU

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right Little darling, if you’re cold,

Little darling, don’t you worry,

You are my sunshine  My only sunshine.

You make me happy  When skies are grey.

You’ll never know, dear, How much I love you.

I’ll never take my sunshine away.

Here comes the sun Here comes the sun,

and I say  It’s all right Little darling,

the smile is on your face Little darling,

Here comes the sun, and I say It’s all right

I am God, and I love YOU.

***

God speaks to us in many ways through many voices…

The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5E_zXbmrlM

Stevie Wonder – You’re The Sunshine Of My Life-HQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL_PNNr_NgU

“You Are My Sunshine” – ( Anne Murray ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHEaRFNx7tw

Sukyi Nyima “Radiant as the Sun” Tibetan Folk Opera   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HBPfv4MowM

Hymn to the Sun with the Beat of the Mother Earth – Satoshi Yagisawa   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E6anGm7rQc

 

 

 

 

Posted in Children's Moments, My novels and writings, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cry of the Uguisu

 

Uguisu

In my unpublished biography, Samurai to Sushi, the teenager, Yasunari Kawabata thinks somehow he can keep his grandfather alive if only he writes 100 pages, but he can’t do it…

Scroll down to discover what a Uguisu Bird means and link to hear bird singing, Japanese shamisen, and Japanese rock group.

***

The excerpt from Samurai to Sushi, biography of Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese literary genius), that follows is an ongoing narrative.  You can read the complete manuscript (eventually as I get it online) on the blog category: Samurai to Sushi.

Yasunari made no entries in his diary for eight days. He had planned to write one hundred pages.  Somehow, he thought that if he achieved this many words then Grandfather would live. But he’d only written thirty pages.

On the day of the funeral for Emperor Meiji’s wife, Yasunari wanted to go to the ceremony about five miles away to honor her.

“Omiyo,” he whispered. “If I go, he’ll die.”

“You go,” she said. Then she told Grandfather that as a dutiful Japanese citizen, he had to go. Yasunari got up the courage to ask Grandfather directly if he would stay alive until he got home.

Grandfather told him, “Yes, I will still be alive.” As Yasunari ran from the house, the leather thong holding the clog onto his foot broke. He felt certain this was a sign that his Grandfather was about to die. He returned, most sad, to the house.

“This is not a sign,” Omiyo insisted. “You must go.”

So he went to the festival lit by bright lanterns. There he gathered with crowds of people as they watched the last rites. His grandfather lay dying in their lonely house. The cord that bound Yasunari and Grandfather together, and did not easily allow Grandfather to slip away, was about to break. Yasunari ran all the way home in his bare feet. Shortly after midnight, twenty days since Yasunari began writing his diary, Grandfather died.

Yasunari, his heart full of sadness, sold Grandfather’s house. As he showed the new owners the house, he heard the cry of the uguisu, a little bird that sang ho-ke-kyo, ho-ke-kyo. This bird was said to preach the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law. Yasunari smiled a slow, sad smile to think of Grandfather in the Triple Universe now listening to the sounds of gods and goblins. Grandfather was gone, but the birdsong promised many good things

***

Monk says pay attention after death of loved one. Many signs of their happiness will manifest. Birds, butterflies, ten yen coins…

Uguisu refers to the Japanese bush warbler (Cettia diphone), a small song bird native to Japan. uguisu2Uguisu can be recognized by their olive colored plumage, the white markings over the eye, and upward turned beak.

Uguisu are a secretive bird, more often heard than seen, except in winter when the trees are bare. Their characteristic breeding call is associated in with the coming of spring in Japanese poetry.

http://www.immortalgeisha.com/wiki/index.php?title=Uguisu

ウグイスの鳴き声 Singing Bird (Japanese Bush Warbler): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfmraoicGKY

Uguisu no (うぐいすの)Japanese Shamisen:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk__ze4kR2g

Singing Group: Uguisu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQy_oH8Vdyw

Posted in My novels and writings, samurai to sushi | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeds for the Soul

acorn

Inspired by Matthew 13: 1-23 The Parable of the Sower

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Gertrude Weaver who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas just turned one hundred and sixteen. She is the oldest confirmed living American. And the second oldest person in the world. Gert took up residence at Silver Oaks, a nursing home/assisted living facility when she was one hundred and nine. Her age is impressive but perhaps even more impressive is her summary of what mattered most in her life and why she lived so long:

Gert cited three factors: “Trusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody.”

“You have to follow God. Don’t follow anyone else,” “Be obedient and follow the laws and don’t worry about anything. I’ve followed him for many, many years and I ain’t tired.”

I’ll bet she was a faithful church-goer and I’ll bet in her one hundred plus years she has seen her share of upsets within the church, schisms, and plenty of conflict.

The Bible is full of stories about people struggling with one another over just about everything we can imagine. One of the big clashes is often over power and leadership.

When I was studying at WVIS, my mentor was Dr. Carol Riley–she brought in another woman, Sister Lily, to run the program. I have no doubt they clashed over who should have the last word, these two powerful women, both of whom had their doctorates. Carol’s was in spirituality and music, and Sister Lily was a theologian. I learned much from both of these women.

Sister Lily pointed out the nature of what she called Savings theology and Blessings Theology.

Savings theology is Old Testament based  fear and awe of God, whereas Blessings theology is based upon New Testament love and compassion of Jesus.

The Old Testament is foundational to the New Testament–not that the Bible is to be read in a linear fashion as if it’s a novel. It’s a special book, a spiritual treatise foundational to our culture. The Old Testament is filled with the same spiritual principles as the New Testament. But the Old Testament is fear-based, and the New Testament is love-based.

We humans are a mixture of fear and love–we want to move into the freedom of Christ’s love and let go of our fears but the reality is we are always in process–trying to understand, and we are a combination of fear and love.

Sister Lily moved on–that’s all I know about her. Both she and Sister Carol influenced me in many ways.

Who will lead us? What will be the foundation of the leaders we are going to follow?

The Old Testament reading from today’s lectionary was about Esau and Jacob. By birthright Esau, because he was the oldest of the twins, should have become the heir of the family property and the patriarch of the clan, but his brother, Jacob, was favored by his mother. She wanted him to be the son blessed by his father, the one to become their leader. Esau was impulsive and fiery. He came into their house hungry from outdoor activities. In exchange for a bowl of stew, he readily swore to Jacob to give up his birthright. Later, Jacob with his mother’s help proceeded to trick his blind father, Isaac, into blessing Jacob, which meant he was the one to receive the birthright of the property and leadership.

Neither Esau who was more interested in eating a good meal not Jacob who used bribery and deception sound particularly promising as leaders. Neither one sounds wise.

What qualities did they possess for leadership? We certainly wouldn’t in America choose a leader based on birthright, would we? We would choose someone wise, someone smart, someone strong, someone kind and compassionate, someone skilled and knowledgeable, someone who brought us joy, someone who healed us, someone we could trust, .

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Jesus chose twelve apostles to become his leaders: Peter, John, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon and Judas.

What characteristics did they have? There doesn’t seem to be much in common. A few of them were fishermen, one was a tax collector, one was a zealot, one, based on his name, loved horses, several didn’t become well known for much of anything. Yet they were chosen as Jesus’ first disciples.

The word Disciple is Greek, transliterated into English as mathetes (math ay tes). It means learner or student.

Perhaps it was a spirit of willingness to learn that made the first twelve the ones Jesus chose. His chosen.

Perhaps they wanted to understand more about life, and were ready to hear something new, and were open to the spirit, willing to grow, and perhaps they had a heart for other people. Here comes this wise teacher, this Rabbi, who says things that awe them, and they have the courage to follow his leading.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Jesus spoke to the people in parables like the Parable of the Sower. A parable is a short tale that illustrates a universal truth; it is a simple narrative. It outlines a setting, describes an action, and shows the results.

Jesus quoted a prophecy from Isaiah. The Parable of the Sower used different words to say the same things: seeds, rocks and soil would be understood by the people Jesus was talking to.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Seeds for the soul are Gospel words that fill us with life.

People who hear the word, the seeds of deep truth, who allow them to grow within hearts and minds, grow as individuals. They are humble, temperate, kind and helpful. They know their limitations. They seek to use skill and passion to be of service, to bring about change not only for themselves, but for others too.  They are the chosen of Christ.

Here are a few well-known leaders who have Christian backgrounds–

In the business world, — Anne Mucahy ( turned around a financial crisis at Xerox): While not particularly religious, Mulcahy is imbued with Catholic virtues–for better and for worse. Why would she fight what looked to be a losing battle? Nothing spooked me as much as waking up in the middle of the night and thinking about 96,000 people and retirees and what would happen if this thing went south,” she says. “Entire families work for Xeroxincluding her own. She learned about Christ through the teachings of the Catholic church.

The most feared U.S. General in WW2, Old Blood and Guts, he was called, George S. Patton said Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. He was an Episcopalean.

Oprah Winfrey: I think education is power. I think that being able to communicate with people is power. One of my main goals on the planet is to encourage people to empower themselves. She was raised in a black church and according to one source her speech is infused with the rhetorical style of black preachers.

Dwight Eisenhower said Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. His religious beginning was Mennonite and then Jehovah’s Witnesses which he left in favor of the Presbyterians. In his retirement years, he was a member of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” ― Julian of Norwich

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Not many people become or want to become world renowned leaders. No one would pay any attention to much of what we said, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have input and importance. We are all witnesses in the world–at work, at play, with family and friends, before neighbors, through our love, through our feet and hands, through the strength of Christ’s words, living within us..

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Churches can be thorny places, it is true, but they are also places where seeds for the soul can be found.  What truth will you found your life upon?

Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei: Enciclica sulla Fede “The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path.”

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path

***

Listen to Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path sang by Amy Grant:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u_NMSH3hR8

Look: Churches feed the poor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vaF8YB8A1c

Help:  volunteers seeded and rooted in holy behavior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubrpPpzeEiY

 

Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Newness of Life

newness

Inspired by Genesis 24:34-67

We never know when times will change. We never know what we might be called to do by God.

Fourth of July celebration is about newness of life. Many are home to be with family. We are happy to let off fireworks and eat our hamburgers and hotdogs, slaw and potato salad, and lots of tasty traditional foods. We enjoy our baseball games, our concerts, our craft fairs, and our fireworks. How lovely it is to take for granted our freedom. I wonder how many of us ponder that long ago Fourth of July when independence from Great Britain was declared.

It was a time of great struggle for a new nation with unknown consequences, moving forward into newness of life. People were divided over letting go of the past regime, Great Britain and rule by a king, but what happened, happened. Newness of life was thrust upon some against their will, and joyously embraced by others who expected the new nation to be glorious and free.

What a mixture of dread and hope must have prevailed.

The Bible is full of struggle–it demonstrates change, but always with God, the movement, the transitions, lead us towards new life.

Take Rebekah. She is home doing her usual chores, carrying her jar on her shoulder to fetch the water, but there is a stranger at the well, and he is a servant from Abraham, who is of God. Next thing you know she is wearing beautiful jewelry: for her a nose ring and bracelets. Next thing you know she is heading out to a new life. It happened fast.

Off she goes to a foreign land to meet a man who is to become her husband. What young man or woman does not yearn for a deep meaningful relationship? Marriage is one of the great journeys of life. We all long to feel connected and yearn for a sense of belonging and deep intimacy. For many of us, marriage and family fills that need.

Off Rebekah goes into the wilderness. Into something unknown.

Rebekah, did she feel scared, I wonder? Her mother and brother–were they not sad for her to be leaving even though they’d been given expensive gifts?

Life is a process for a nation, for a church, and for individuals.

What might those gifts symbolize? Letting go of their daughter surely left a vacuum in their lives. Gold and silver cannot fill such a vacuum. Only God can fill us. But what does that mean–to be filled by God?

Life changes. We must cope. We must move on. We must become One with Christ in newness of life. We must pay attention to the opportunities beckoning us forward into newness.

In God we expect and want life to be like a wedding banquet. Who does not want the experience of joy, of being in-love, of seeing only the beauty of our betrothed. Weddings are glorious beginnings, a promise of forever love.

It is so important to make commitments. That old-fashioned vow to remain with one person through sickness and health, for better or for worse, provides a framework for spiritual growth.

When the first baby comes along, the couple is increasing in fruitfulness, but it is not easy to raise children. It requires selflessness, staying power, and maturity. And a community of helpers–be they family or day care, or friends…

Speaking of babies, a friend told me how her mother yearned for a great-grandbaby. She wanted her granddaughter to get married and have a child. This happened recently. The infant was on Great-Granny’s lap. She was wearing white slacks. The baby–well–did what baby’s do, and next thing Great- Granny’s slacks were wet and brown.

Newness of life brings with it consequences. Sometimes during transitions things smell for a while and we must take care of any messes remembering it is necessary in order to proceed, remembering when in Christ we trust, all things are made new in a healthy way.

The baby’s diaper was changed, Great-Granny put on clean slacks, and everyone got over this moment and continued to love and help one another.

We all have moments when we are less than perfect, when we struggle with ugly feelings, when we hurt other people.

Recently in Ashland a twenty year old young man was arrested for harming his girlfriend’s two month old baby. He was home alone with the child. This baby was not his. He and the mother lived together. More than this was not reported. When the baby was unresponsive, he called an ambulance. The infant had a subdural brain hemorrhage–the hospital suspected child abuse. Sure enough, the young man admitted he might have shaken the infant. What a tragedy. What a model of what not to do, how not to live.

What a model of lack of freedom, lack of selflessness, lack of discipline.

How not in God this behavior was.

As atrocious as we know child abuse to be, we also know that some things are very difficult to cope with. We need help from one another. We need community. We need guidelines about how to behave. We need to be One with Christ. We need God-help. We cannot go it alone or we will get into trouble.

St Paul says to the church in Rome: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

God-help begins with baptism into the church Catholic, the universal church. It is a commitment to  Christ, whose love, whose guidance, whose presence imbues us with strength. We will not immediately get over addictions and other sinful behaviors, but we can keep on trying, keep on picking ourselves up, keep on filling ourselves with the wisdom and freedom of Christ, who fills us with new awareness and new strength to face the unknown in our lives.

Newness of life requires we move on, sometimes resisting, sometimes accepting, but always with the goal of becoming a deeper and better person, a person who understands each little act we do has consequences for other people. We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God through Christ.

Newness of life comes in many ways: joining the service. Retirement. Having surgery. Starting a new job. Going to a new school. Beginning a family. Getting old. Losing a house in a fire. Losing people we love. Getting divorced. Getting married. Disease. Death. These things are all aspects of life. Within all aspects of life, we can find times when we are aware of the presence of God, and times when we are not, but God is always there.

My mother experienced great suffering at the end of her life. She had both colon cancer and throat cancer. The throat cancer was probably from smoking. The colon cancer–well, it was just what happened. Bodies age. We are subject to pollution we cannot control. Perhaps we have a poor diet. Sometimes we might be depressed at our powerlessness. We might feel worthless.

I was in the hospital with Mum in Lewisham in London. She’d just come through a third surgery, this one a colostomy. She was hurting bad: her physical pain was also accompanied by spiritual pain. She asked me, deep sorrow in her eyes, “Have I done something to deserve this?”

It was very clear to me, this gentle kind giving woman who’d raised three children during the difficult post WW II years when housing was poor, food was rationed, and not much opportunity existed for women, this good woman, this loving mum, a woman who’d had ups and downs in her marriage to my father, had never done a thing to deserve this disease.

Whatever comes our way, and sometimes it will be difficult, but it is not a punishment from God. God never visits suffering upon us to hurt us. In fact, God cannot do anything against his nature which is love.

For those of us blessed to have found a church family, with its ups and downs, we have a center, a ground of being. We can turn to the Christ who is our Savior and remember his words:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The call of God, the call of the Holy, is a call into newness of life, into a wholeness of being that at least as long as we are on this planet will be a mixture of good and evil, of light and of dark, of shadow aspects of personality.

When we take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ, we are one with Christ who shares our struggle through life. We are not alone in the struggle to establish a new relationship. We are not alone in the middle of life earning a living to support our families. We are not alone in the struggle of illness and end-times. Christ is harnessed to us and we are yoked to him. He is with us and for us.

Charge and Blessing

Go out into the world, remembering you who are yoked to Christ, all who are followers of Christ, are called into loving relationships, into wholeness of mind, body, and spirit, and into the newness of life where God, through Christ, is your strength and leadership.

May you be blessed with God-help through hands and hearts, God-love through hope and community, and God-surprises of clarity and joy in every waking moment.

***

God-help

Families matter: Sesame Street Family Song   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii_LtHrEiao

Caring: Chimpanzee and Puma Playing Together https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp5UcxTGQ-s

Dance with God: Nhyira- Newness of Life (Milton Vann)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOmFqm8xUXI

 

Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

God’s Love

lovers

So many of us do not understand the Bible. In fact, probably, none of us, even the greatest scholars, really get it completely. We certainly do not understand the concept of God very well, but perhaps it is not a matter of understanding. Perhaps it is a matter of experience of God.

The Song of Solomon is taken to be about God as a lover.  It is often ignored because it seems so sensual. It is! We are sensual. We need not deny this.  To be embraced by God is to be embraced holistically, connectedly, and growthfully.

God’s love, the mystics say, is incredibly sensual. It is something that tingles our bodies with the energy of action–encouraging, empowering, energizing, causing us to make things right in relationships, in family, in friends, in the communities where we live–by being open,  honest, and receptive to understanding. It strengthens us for what is right. It strips away our misconceptions. It challenges our assumptions. It shakes us to our core. Anything less is a watered down idea of God-love. But we must be careful we are not simply imposing our needs for safety and certainty upon particular Scriptural texts that suit us.

Gods’ love is not about sex. It is about accepting an embrace and giving an embrace. My heart cries out for all who seek intimacy through sex and one-night stands as if the pleasure of the sex act can fill them. My heart goes out to people in long-term relationships who also find sex wanting. Their task is surely to figure out ways to please one another, and to come to terms with the imperfection of the other and of themselves.

How often does new love, new relationship, seek personal pleasure alone?  We are to love one another as we love ourselves, so Jesus says.

The love of God strips away all but the truth, seeking to expose the hidden name of our being, the one we have the potential to become. Such love is fierce and consuming, powerful and frightening. It bares our souls. Human loves, the very best of them, point towards this awesome love, one that can consume  us but instead causes us to become more free, to become more strong, to become more ourselves.

Through Christ, such God-love is gentle.

Listen to a beautiful rendition from the Song of Solomon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2Pih198UVg

Hear the purity and joy of the singer. See the passion of the pianist.  They are expressing their love for God in an ecstatic moment. Such moments come and go, but ordinary life is the consistent opportunity to express love for God and receive God’s love within all of its diversity.

Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are Not Alone

confusion

In my unpublished biography, Samurai to Sushi, the teenager, Yasunari Kawabata cannot stand to see his grandfather so confused. For a while, he runs away.

Scroll down to discover what Monk suggests and link to Song of Solomon – lyrics (beautiful), and other links too for awareness and peace.

***

The excerpt from Samurai to Sushi, biography of Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese literary genius), that follows is an ongoing narrative.  You can read the complete manuscript (eventually as I get it online) on the blog category: Samurai to Sushi.

While Yasunari was in school the following day, Omiyo could not leave the old man’s side for a moment. She told Yasunari that Grandfather’s confusion was worse than ever. At breakfast time, he wanted dinner. Time seemed upside down to him.

“Where is Yasunari?” he asked. “Where did he go?”

“I am right here, Grandfather,” Yasunari said. “I didn’t go anywhere.”

Grandfather’s skin sagged and looked yellow. Yasunari wrote in his diary, “Grandfather just lay there looking like a soiled, worn out silk Summer Kimono.”

Grandfather became unsure of whether or not he had urinated. Then he developed a fever. A bad smell filled the room.

An old man called Shirobei came to help, but Grandfather lay in his bed and just moaned. Shirobei told Yasunari that it was up to him to take care of Grandfather. Yasunari fled from the house and did not return for three hours. He found a peaceful pagoda where he curled up and slept while a cleansing rain fell. But back at the house, the same confusion and pain persisted. Grandfather repeated himself and did not remember one moment to another.

***

Monk says when people very old, very sick, they drift in and out of consciousness.  Do not worry. Try to read beneath their words into their hearts. Remember the love they showed and if they were not so loving, you have the opportunity to look deeply at what their lack of love teaches you. Do not worry that you need to go away for a rest from the suffering. But after the cleansing rain of solitary time, return to them and whisper to them the Pure Land, Heaven awaits them. They need not fear. When you are ready, tell them it is okay to go. You, it is okay to cry. You’ve done the best you could, but you are not bodhisattva, you are not Jesus.

***

Listen:

ELO – CONFUSION–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo4SblJ_SnU

All is well: Gentle Rain, Soothing Sounds of Nature–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgG4vDfcJek

God comes running: Song of Solomon – lyrics (Jesus Culture with Martin Smith)      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2urjlelpuM

Posted in Miscellaneous, samurai to sushi, Spiritual Practices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Free

 

Breaking-Free

inspired by Genesis 22:1-18

Breaking Free from what—to what? Our religions are dust in the wind if they do not free us to become deeper better more-engaged, connected people who tolerate, love, assert and create abundant life for others.

In the Christian tradition, God calls us to step forth in faith, but is it blind faith, or something more, something stronger, something worth fighting for?

Abraham, the man we know, who has had many an argument with God, who pleaded for God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, who felt bad to send Ishmael and Hagar into the desert to die, and who has had many a negotiation with God agrees to what? To take his only son, the one his wife didn’t give birth to until they were very elderly, the one who was to be his heir, the one he loves dearly up onto a mountain, where he is going to slit his throat with a knife and then burn his body, dripping blood! 

Excuse me!  How could God ask such a thing?

This is so grisly a tale it makes you cringe.  It makes me say no wonder Jesus was the last atoning sacrifice! Enough is enough! 

Of course this scripture has been expounded upon for centuries.

Philip and I had a long conversation about it–he took a traditional stance–it’s all about obedience to God. He said Abraham’s experience with God strengthened him in the face of suffering to be able to proceed, and obey.  I agree with that but Scripture is rich with meaning.

John C. Holbert, the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX, says this: Kierkegaard wrote an entire treatise on the ultimate meaning of genuine faith from this Scripture (about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac) …he called it “Fear and Trembling.” … which I assume in plain English means that all bets are off; when God asks things like this of us (we are expected to) leap wildly across the chasm of our doubts and fears, thrusting ourselves into the arms of this same God (the one who said kill your child) and we are to trust he will catch us. By so leaping we discover the true meaning of faith.  (paraphrased)

Really?

Okay, here’s the story again.  My version.

“Isaac,” Abraham says, “I am going to take you on a camping trip. Would you like that?”

The little boy squeals with delight. “Yes, Daddy, that would be wonderful. Is mummy coming too?”

“No, my dearest.” Abraham begins to sweat. “But we’ll take plenty of supplies and firewood. If you get tired you can hop on the donkey. I’ll have to tie the firewood on top of you, but it’s only for a little while.” 

“What is the knife for, Daddy?” 

Abraham stares up at the sky. “Nothing for you to worry about, little son.” 

Later up on the mountain, Abraham is obeying God. 

“Daddy,” Isaac cries. “Untie me! I don’t like this! I’m scared.” 

“It’s okay, my only son, Daddy knows best because God told him to do this.” 

Apparently, child sacrifices were common back in Abraham’s day. It was a way to propitiate great favor and show respect to your god.

John C. Holbert continues, this is a hard text. … God has some explaining to do… Well, you may ask—why exactly am I so troubled by this powerful and memorable and religiously important tale of Abraham and his son, trundling their way up Mt. Moriah for a date with a fire, a knife, and a very demanding God? And here is my answer: because I have a son, too, and since I do, I can only now see this text as a terrible form of divine child abuse.

Personally, if you asked me to sacrifice my dog or my cat, let alone my child, I’d have a row with you; I’d certainly ignore your command unless my pet were very sick. Then it would be a humane ending through euthanasia, not slitting a throat.

This Abe passage is a sacred script, though, which past scholars and preachers take to be about the necessity of obeying God. Of course, we get it–we want to be obedient to God, but blind obedience is not in keeping with freedom of choice.

Sometimes, we must struggle with God–consider other options, and get deeper…in the Bible there are plenty of struggles with God. One memorable one is about how Jacob struggled with God.

Jacob was Isaac’s son, Abraham’s grandson. He has some powerful holy lineage. Yet he struggles quite a bit, and in fact does some things we might not appreciate. For one thing, he manages to fool his aged and blind father into giving him the inheritance that should have gone to his older twin brother, Esau, who he sweet-talked into giving up his place as elder son.

Jacob leads a rich and interesting and successful life. He has a family, and a good livelihood. Esau, the brother he tricked, is about to come back into his life. Esau is a very fierce warrior.  He is coming to meet Jacob with 400 men. Jacob is scared and wants to prepare for the worst.  He is in desperate prayer with God.  We don’t’ know whether God tells him what to do, or he figures he’d better appease fierce Esau who has every reason to be upset. So he sends Esau some presents and makes nice with him, calls himself Esau’s servant.

Jacob does not run away but takes his family across the Jabbock River and then fetches his possessions across to wait for Esau. He has no idea what is going to happen. But he ends up spending the night wrestling with an angel of God. And finally, never giving up, he demands a blessing and is renamed Israel.

Israel (Yisra`el, means “one that struggled with the divine angel” (Josephus), “one who has prevailed with God” (Rashi), “a man seeing God” (Whiston), “he will rule as God” (Strong), or “a prince with God” (Morris), from Hebrew: שרה‎, “prevail”, “have power as a prince”).

How do we struggle with our understanding of God so that we are renamed in a way that reflects deepened maturity and oneness with the holy?

Another message can be gleaned from the Scripture about the command to sacrifice Isaac.  If he had been killed, we would not have Jacob struggling. We would not be struggling to figure out who we are as individuals and as a community of faith. It would have all ended in death.

Assertiveness. Thoughfulness. Deepened understanding.  Are these not goals worth struggling for?

Being assertive can change the course of the world, and certainly the course of individual lives:

There are essentially three different ways that people can relate to one another. They can be: 1) aggressive, 2) passive or 3) assertive. Most people understand what aggression and passivity mean, but they don’t understand assertiveness at all.

Aggression is about dominance. A person is aggressive when they impose their will onto another person and force them to submit, in effect invading that person’s personal space and boundary. Violence may be used in this effort, but it is not a necessary component of aggression. Passivity, on the other hand is about submission. Passivity occurs when a person submits to another person’s dominance play, putting their own wishes and desires aside so as to pay attention to fulfilling the wishes and desires of their dominant partner. They may not like being dominated (most people don’t), but it seems like the smart thing to do at the time (perhaps to avoid the threat of violence or other coercion). Aggression is about domination and invasion; it is fundamentally disrespectful of relationship partner’s personal boundaries. Passivity is about submission and being invaded; it is fundamentally disrespectful of one’s own personal boundaries.

In contrast to these two fundamentally disrespectful positions, assertiveness is about finding a middle way between aggression and passivity that best respects the personal boundaries of all relationship partners. Assertive people defend themselves when someone else attempts to dominate them, using any necessary method (including force) to repel the invasion attempt. Though they can be strong people who are capable of aggressive domination attempts, they never act in an aggressive manner, however, because they know that to do so would cause them to disrespect their relationship partner’s boundaries. Another way to say this is that assertive people use aggression defensively, and never offensively. http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=9778&cn=353

The Abraham/Isaac passage is certainly about faith but also points to struggles with speaking up. Abraham is passive in this situation.

What if the story went like this?

“Abe, I want you to sacrifice your only son, the one you and Sarah had when you were in your nineties,” says God.

“This can’t be right. I must refuse,” Abe says quietly. “Take me instead.”

What might God have said to Abraham’s refusal?

He might have said, “Well done, Abe, you are absolutely right to not want to kill your son, and I applaud your willingness to take his place. I don’t want anyone to die for nothing.”

In my version, when I postulate that Abraham could have been assertive rather than blindly obedient, there is a different outcome, and a different understanding arises. God is no longer a powerful God superbeing who ruthlessly tests his chosen one,  but instead God is happy and loving to see the chosen one take some initiative.

All churches experience conflict and struggle in many ways. Yet Christianity has been sustained for 2000 years with a rich tradition.  Why is that? Because, in spite of disagreements, the most important thing we do as a community of faith is stand together, embrace one another as equals in the eyes of God, obedient to the teachings of Christ. Really, churches, are safe houses to struggle together to seek the truth that frees us from former behaviors, empowering us, for instance, to communicate assertively.

Just what does God want and expect today? Why did Jesus come? Blind obedience?

Holbert says this: “And let me go even further: due to the potency of this unforgettable story and its undeniable influence on later Christian reflection about Jesus and his sacrifice on another mountain many years later, I can only see that later story as another example of divine child abuse. If Jesus really did “die for my sins,” as the familiar phrase has it, then God has some mighty explaining to do about just why God’s only child also trundled, or perhaps more accurately, stumbled up a mountain to be tortured on a Roman cross while God, all too much like Abraham, seemed a willing participant in the murder.”  

No wonder Jesus is the atoning sacrifice! God sends his only son to say enough is enough! Stop it!

I imagine God saying something like this: Can’t you see how atrocious it is to snuff out anyone’s life, but even in death, I your God, stand with you in solidarity. You are not alone no matter the struggle. You are not alone! My child, Jesus, is with you. 

My chosen people,  you have often done things I don’t like as you well know, but I will always love you. Yes, I expect you to repent and do better.

Why do you think I sent my son?

He made his own choices, I can tell you. He wasn’t a little boy. He was a grown man. A spiritual adult.  He is the last sacrifice you need to make to get me to favor you again. Forget the past. Move on.

God loves us in spite of our bad behavior and failures and when we try to do better, when we repent, God is always there for us and takes us back. In fact God is the ground of being and even when we don’t know it, is an ever-present force in our lives.

Jesus taught us, shows us, so many things–including that there is life after death. And he comes back to prove it.

Struggle with God is about deepening our understanding, about finding what is relevant today, what is universally meaningful to all people all the time, and yet speaks to us as individuals within communities of faith. 

Blessing and Charge

May you be blessed with the ability to assert truth, find a faith community where you are able to struggle for deeper understanding, respect the voices of other people, develop your gifts, and fearlessly proceed with the goal of creating abundant life for others.

Listen carefully, every day, noting your feelings, your angers, your willingness, your resistance, seeking to hear and allow God, which is love, to guide your life.

***

Listen

As the Wind Song, by SWEE HONG LIM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpXH4vFdfFI  Chapel service hosted by PCOCS at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, KY

As the wind song through the trees, as the stirring of the breeze, so it is with the Spirit of God, as the heart made strangely warm, as the voice within the storm, so it is with the Spirit of God.

Never seen, ever known where this wind has blown bringing life, bringing power to the world, as the dancing tongues of fire, as the soul’s most deep desire, so it with the Spirit of God.

As the rainbow after rain, as the hope that’s born again, so it is with the Spirit of God, as the green in the spring, as a kite on a string, so it is with the Spirit of God,

making worlds that are new, making peace come true, bringing gifts, bringing love to the world, as the rising of the yeast, as the wine at the feast, so it is with the Spirit of God. (SEMurray) http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_a_liturgy_collection/year_a_pentecostafter/pentecost2a.html

***

Watch Assertiveness Training Video

Assertiveness in 7 minutes -  by Chris Croft  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-p_MBy9I_4

***

How not to be unless you are, shall we say, hip?

Hippos assert control – BBC wildlife https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJdiyPOLaT0

 

 

Posted in Miracles of Healing, Miscellaneous, Spiritual Practices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing a Loved One

losing

It is incredibly painful to lose someone we love–there are so many ways we cope, deny, and suffer.  I’d like to say not to worry, all will be well, and it will, but the journey through loss is difficult and unpredictable.  In my unpublished biography , the teenager, Yasunari Kawabata has no-one left, and is watching his grandfather dying. It is excruciating. His granddad wants the best for him, and yet he denies him too. What is that about?

Scroll down to discover what Monk says.

***

Excerpt from Samurai to Sushi, biography of Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese literary genius)

Soon, the old man completely lost his short-term memory.  Yasunari wanted to run away, but he did not.  He pitied Grandfather’s constant talk about things from the past.  Some seemed nonsensical to Yasunari, like the secret bank-seal that Grandfather insisted Yasunari use for banking.  In Japan, a bank-seal along with a signature was needed to get money out of an account.  They had no money.  Perhaps, Yasunari thought sadly, Grandfather says this nonsense because he wants me to have good finances.  He did not argue with Grandfather, even though there was no such a seal and never had been one.

Grandfather talked constantly about wealth, making Omiyo laugh.  She did not take the old man seriously.  “You have a grandson.  Now that is real wealth.  This boy is your hope.”

“How will you manage, Yasunari,” Grandfather fretted one day.  “I will buy you some land.”  After a few moments, he said, “It is not right for you to go to live with relatives.”  Then a few moments later he got more cheerful.  “You must go and talk to the Temple monks.  They will help you.”

Yasunari groaned.  “They will call us the madmen of our village,” he said.  There was no way he was going to go to monks for help.  Yet, he wanted to do something.  He needed to do something.  Not just for himself.  He wanted to honor Grandfather, and so he accurately recorded his Grandfather’s last words.

“Namu Amida, Namu Amida,” Grandfather chanted.

Blood drained from Yasunari’s face.

“Namu Amida, Namu Amida,” Grandfather continued with the words used at the time of death.

Yasunari knew that by saying these words, Grandfather wanted to be welcomed by Amitābha into heaven.

“Don’t worry,” Omiyo said.  “He’s just worried because I didn’t get in touch with the monk for him.  I lied to him and told him the monk wasn’t there.”

“He deserved to know the truth!” Yasunari scolded her for deceiving Grandfather.

Grandfather turned his back on Yasunari.  That night Grandfather called out for Omiyo.  He did not call for Yasunari.

***

Monk asks, what really matters?  “I lost the love of my life.  She was so beautiful. I wanted nothing more than to make her happy.  It was not to be. I had no choice but to let her go. Looking back now that I am an old man, I see that I could have made many other choices, but I do not regret becoming a follower of Amida Buddha, eventually taking the vows and becoming a monastic.”

Monk continues, “never give up hope, and know you are more than your body. You will be re-united in the Pure Land with all those who went on before you.  Bow to the holy.  Pray and meditate to center your mind, no matter your religious tradition, and you will understand more and more…Be still…”

***

Buddha Amitabha Song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtOlT-VvmsI&list=PL4B0F290CEFA4FDC8

Jesus Prayer – Иисусова молитва: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHP4Z84a_WY

Sufi Music with quotes from Rumi:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoY6ChsMxnA

 

Posted in My novels and writings, samurai to sushi, Spiritual Practices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment