Archive for the ‘Left Field’ Category


As a Christmas gift I got one of those inspirational sayings calendars, this one from a hero/spiritual formation guru of mine, the Dalai Lama. On January 4th the statement was simple: The sharing of food is where relationship begins.  It rings very true.

Think about it.

When do people usually relax the most?

Pub over nachos. Cheap burger joint. A kitchen table (heck its why most house gatherings eventually wind up there).

It is why I have always held the firm belief in my spiritual journey that communion was never about the grape juice/wine and bread/host, that was not what Brother Jesus was instituting as sacrament.

These thoughts were renewed when my daughter and I went back to our Presbyterian church home on January 1 and it was a communion service for us to partake in.  You just need look to the earliest church writings from St. Paul, where he is chastising people for abusing the communion (community) meal, where some gorge and some starve, and you begin to see the true institution.

A new way of life was being called for. It would lead to the structures executing Jesus. He was saying, take time together, slow down life, break bread, eat and drink so all are cared for. Take this time to get to know one another, and like Sabbath, refresh and renew.

BUT…

Yes it is a big but, and I cannot lie. Like the Dalai Lama pointed out, for building community/family it was not the be all and end all.  This is meant to be the beginning where new life transformation emerges.  The breaking of bread is the beginning for the most radical transformation of ever…beginning to truly love one another authentically.

So who will you invite for a quick bite to start life with?

A great commercial to see, #Eattogether

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I woke up the morning of December 19 for work with my shirt soaked with tears. It is not a normal occurrence, but my son had a rough night of emotional pain and crawled into bed and couldn’t stop crying. Why you ask?  Well that is an intriguing story that actually started a reminiscence for long time readers.

A few years back when I was editor of socialist paper, I had a column dubbed “View from the Pew” where I would ruminate on the crossroads of the spiritual and political. As those in Canada know (or may need to re-learn) that the progressive movements started over coffee and tea in church basements in trying to build our just society.

A society that a spiritual centre dubs in their Metro paper ads as “inclusive” and my son learned far to devastatingly that this was false on the morning of December 18, which led to the tears overnight.

It was a secondary response from a pulpit that was anything but inclusive, and sadly so different from what he, in his joy, was used to feeling/experiencing.  Our world is not comfortable with those blessed and experiencing the world differently abled, we like to sidebar or over see or exclude. As some may realize, my family is not like that, when we speak of an open door for anyone, and even to loss of spiritual homes we have lived this.

So a few years back, we were attending and about to join the Roman Catholic church (I know shocking with their conservative theology, but bear with me on this)…and my sons joyful noise was addressed from the pulpit during High Mass, and y’know what the Priest came back with?  Hallejuah that there is someone so alive with love and the Spirit here today, that is how we all should be in our faith and living of love.

A faith home, that also had leadership that essentially stated all were welcome, all ages were welcome, and those raising complaints would be dealt with by the leadership for not including all God’s children.

Fast forward a few years and we are a family in a spiritual centre that speaks of inclusion, that never raises any issue with my son’s joyful noise. One time, the av guy had to come speak with us, he was respectful needing us to move from the back to the front so the sounds did not overcome the recording microphone. We got it, and even though the stadium seating stair case at SAIT Orpheus Theatre are not easy for someone with Cerebral Palsy to move down, supported by me, that is not always the strongest of backs, we made it work.

Then as my son in his grief cycle of loss, got to the point he wanted to go back to “church” to hear music, and hear about Santa…we went.  The morning music was about Santa, he was rocking in joy, and excited with pics of his buddy (Santa) up on the screen…when it happened.

The Minister decided it was time to attack as he was taking a moment to gleefully calm down. Asking him to move to the back or not make a noise while she talked. My son said No. He knew there was no option to move to the back, and by asking he was being kicked out.  With the next noise he made in glee…my son and me left. It was a hard walk up, as he did not want to go, but I could not deal with any more spiritual assault from the pulpit to my little boy. Eyes were averted.

Of this great spiritual place that boasts 9 other “deeply trained” practitioners and ministers, none followed, no members of the congregation that always said how they enjoyed my son followed to see if we were okay…sorry check that…one loan lady came running out in tears pleading for us to go back in saying he wasn’t bad, but that’s all my son could repeat:

Santa thinks I’m naughty. I spent time calming him, soothing him, reminding him no he was not naughty, this is the ugliness of prejudice that he is far to young to experience.

A few members came out to use the washroom or get a drink, he would say hi, they would not make eye contact and hustle past completely ignoring him. We were waiting as I did not want my daughter to feel the pain of being cast out to by pulling her out of Funday early.

But as we waited,

I watched the sparkle leave my son’s eye. His joy fade to a pale facade, as each of these “holy” people ran away…

my little boy who a few years earlier when we became members thanked this place for loving him…looked at me and said, “Daddy they no love me.”

Was there an outreach for an apology? A feeble attempt of the, it was handled badly moments…made worse by the centre believing they could post the video unedited of the talk, so that I actually had to contact them to deal with it in a respectful way…because that act in itself tells me you saw nothing wrong with the actions as a community, and do not see him as a full person.

But it was the ringing silence that morning that struck me…one person whose heart is bigger than her, but no one else, and those that did averted like you think we had the plague. That is when it hit me. The progressive spiritual movements were in shock when someone like Trump road a wave of lowest common denominator to the presidency and in shock asked how?

Sunday Morning December 18 when my little boy was asked to leave a spiritual gathering over joy in Santa, and all but one person in a 100+ person gathering remained silent. Sat in silent solidarity with the most vulnerable being cast out…that is how a USA 2016 election result happens, you are now part of the tipping point to the opposite of love and inclusion.

This is my humble view from my pew (or in this case padded seat in an Orpheus Theatre to a wooden bench in the SAIT Student Centre).

-30-

 


Prologue

800 years ago, give or take a few years St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron of my Spiritual Charism, cast a new order to go beyond Order of Friars Minor (think Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck) and the Poor Clares (think Nun’s with Feminism dashed in, kind of like Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg if you will)…

Yet. Much better than a but, Y-E-T- as Francis’ mendicants (insult meaning beggar) travelled spreading the gospel message of poverty, charity, love, and justice for all the interconnected of creation many who were married wanted to forsake their vows and join the celibate orders and…

Yup plus an A-N-D- there was some friars and sisters that well, let’s be honest humanity like every species on the planet is designed for procreation. Francis was an astute spiritual guide in that he realized this and blessed those that are called to be together, to make babies, to populate the world for that is the original commission within the Hebrew Scriptures go forth and out of the indwelling love of Spirit populate the world in love.

This is what birthed the Third, Lay or Secular Order. It was a work by one of these Franciscan’s 19 years into my journey of trying to remember paradise, discover the Spirit within, that working in a bookstore I stumbled upon John Michael Talbot’s (1998) The Life Lessons of St. Francis: How to bring Simplicity and Spirituality into your Daily Life. For someone who had journeyed through many Eastern, Celtic, Pagan, Western and Alien spiritual paths finding myself back in the Christian Church as a Sunday School teacher, this little volume showed me how my beliefs around love and inclusion worked together with belief and living out of God’s love, from the divine spark, the star dust that we are created from.

So dear reader, you are probably wondering what this 800 year history lesson has to do with anything? Especially the book you have picked up to read on different centering values to create a fuller you?

Simple, it is part of the formation of the writer of this book, it has influenced my understanding and shaped any bias within the stories to be found within. Also, when in the mid-2000’s I took the Munay-Ki Shamanic Rites, I was blessed to be labelled a Wisdom Keeper, one that holds the truths of the ancient stories for today.

In the Franciscan story there are many truths for today, but the one to remember as we move through these pages is perhaps the simplest lesson of all:

Within Francsicanism there is no historical Reformation (where the Protestant Church split from the Roman Catholic Church) rather it is a moment by moment reformation of one’s own heart, soul, spirit and community that one is called into.

So thank you for stepping into this new journey, it is a collection of values for all ages. To prepare for this spend time cleansing your energy, exhaling out the negative, and opening your heart to seeing things in a new light. There may be terms that are unfamiliar or may not resonate with you, this is due to my family’s Judeo-Christian Heritage, simply as you are reading replace them with terms that resonate with you.

I encourage you to find the best time of day to do the soul work with these values, take along a prepared kit:

Monk’s Bag of Tricks

  1. A simple bag, back pack or attache case
  2. Place within pens, pencils, crayons, pencil crayons, pastels,
  3. A fidget toy (perhaps a koosh, some Lego, a slinky, mystery box figures, something to play with to clear your mind when you get stumped).
  4. A journal
  5. A book of Wisdom teachings that you can read a snippet of each day.

Armed with this bag in your daily life, either identify a place in your community or your home that you can use as a retreat space to commune deeper within yourself.

So are you ready? This will not be your traditional spiritual formation journey, I mean the book is called Left Field, which for any sports metaphor you know it is usually the unusual team members that do not fit anywhere else.

That is us, those that are seeking the personal ongoing moment by moment reformation of St. Francis of Assisi, not only for ourselves but for our community and out world. So the question is now in your hands, close the book and walk away…

Or turn the page, step into left field with gusto and accept the challenge to create a new you.

Left Field


A new spiritual work…this is a draft of a chapter thought I would share:

For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 1:8

Ah the first step in understanding the Cosmic Christ you are, that’s right the star stuff we are created from, that is the Cosmic Christ within, the divine you in unity with the human you in the here and now. The first step in this reality is living a life of compassion. These are simple lessons of life shown not told. It is in the way that you observed your family behaving, how others were treated. Perhaps it was stories told after the fact, or those that became family legend.

For those without a happy family life, perhaps it was the mentors and family you chose to have in your life that laid out the new reality. This is the reality that exists, and that by beginning this new journey you may see again.

One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living

entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free

from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who

is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with

determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement

 with Me-he is very dear to Me.

                                                –Bhagavad Gita 12: 13-14

The fruits of the Divine within whether you term it Spirit, God, G(o)od, Vishnu, Krishna, Dharma, Karma—the list can go on, but what is evident is we know the star stuff exists as science says, and from that we live out the compassion that burns brightly. By acknowledging it and listening to it, we move beyond the “Old Laws” like Moses character was used to lay out in the 10 Commandments (and the 617 in Leviticus) that in our infancy story guided us towards a selfless self-love life that drew us closest to the divine.

My family was raised with many living examples of the simplicity that is compassion, as Paul wrote to the church in Philippi there is a compassion within each of us as was witnessed in the life of the Master Teacher Jesus of Nazareth. This is the compassion that if you take time to be present in your own story, and the great story around you will see.

In my own life it was being 16 years old and being at my Granddad’s funeral, having many of the now adults that grew up in the town with my grandparents and them sharing the open door they had in their home for the neighbourhood kids, always having the open listening ear to help them work through life issues to come to a solution.

It was hearing about my Grandma Ragan working in a diner in Canada around the Air Force bases, and refusing to bend to American soldier’s whims not to serve African Canadian Soldiers and welcoming them all in. Her following the life of a friend of my Uncle’s of Japanese descent and celebrating his milestones, even though she should have been of a generation that saw him as “enemy”.

It was the open welcoming door in my own home growing up, where whichever person entered became part of the family. My Mum and Dad always having a helping hand for friend, family, neighbour or stranger whether it was help with child care, food, rides or just a listening ear, and a strong shoulder for tears.

These were not people that trumpeted their simple acts of compassion as anything more than simply what one did in life to help another member of the family that is humanity. It is stepping away from mourning what “we don’t have” or “what we can’t do” to looking at the blessing we are, the purpose we have been given and are doing, to something deeper.

N-A-M-A-S-T-E-

The divine in me sees and recognizes the divine in you.

To one step more…even when you don’t I will see it and respond to it, and interact with you as such to help bring you begin to see you as the truth of divinity you are.

An ancient story was used by Jesus of Nazareth, Brother Jesus in Franciscan teachings, from the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician and a historian who tradition of the church states in his works Luke and Acts of the Apostles set out to write an orderly historical account of the early church. What is also noted as you read these works as one, these are not high faluting theological texts like John (Greek) or Matthew (Jewish) or a Roman Action Flick like Mark, no Luke is like the investigative reports of the ancient world.

It starts with the story of a girl without voice, nothing more than property, that God breaks that culturally established walls of propriety and asks Mary of Nazareth, if she wants to take on the shame, the outcast, the challenge of a lifetime in becoming a living example of compassion to the world. Would she become a mother out of wedlock? Essentially if her betrothed did not choose to follow would lead to her execution by stoning or being cast out the city to become a beggar/child sex trade worker for survivial.

Yet she chose the power of love, hope and compassion. Mary chose her yes.

The rest of Luke’s works are filled with stories that poke the bear if you will of cultural norms and challenges them. I do believe if Luke was writing in the Twenty-First Century about the church he would tear open the idiocy of the debate around full inclusion by sharing power stories of the divine within the lives of Trans folk, LGBTTQ, the single parents, the addicts, the abused, the fallen from grace and those with disabilities in such a way that they would be as fully included as Mary of Nazareth and lives as celebrated.

But I digress. For this is the backdrop of the writer as Brother Jesus is answering questions. And then a powerful story emerges over a question of “who is my neighbour?”

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must

I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What

do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all

your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your

mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given

the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell

into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving

him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when

he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came

to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while

traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He

went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then

he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The

next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care

of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which

 of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of

the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go

and do likewise.”

-Luke 10: 25-37

At this point it is time to pause and let the story speak to you. This is a mix of breath prayer and Lectio Divina. The Divine Reading as taught by Ignatius of Loyola as a method of study to allow the inner divinity to speak to you through the ancient stories. Read the story three times, if you can find an audio link online then listen to it. With each reading/listening there will be a question to reflect upon.

Sit comfortably, slow your breathing, focusing on it. Feel the environment you are in fade away. Feel the gritty sand get between your toes, the arid desert air, the sounds of the market place, bleating of live stock, haggling. Take in the aromas of the sacrifices, the fresh food, cooking, children singing and dancing, soldiers moving in and out taking what they want. You find the small group surrounding the labourer who has become a rabbi. How not many know, but they have all heard the legends of this man, the whispers that he is the bastard child of a Roman soldier, yet there is something in his manner, the way he looks upon everyone with tenderness, and compassion regardless of who they are or where they are from, he draws you into the conversation. The lawyer asks the question…who is my neighbour? The priest and the levite are so heavenly minded they will not stray from the rules of holiness to help someone in need, which makes them no earthly good. The Samaritan is part of a race from an exile of ancient Israel that saw them remain in exile and inter-marry with the conquerors, they worship God differently, they are seen as traitor’s to the chosen people, the stereotypical villain of every story.

Hear the story for the first time, during this reading as you walk through as the priest. What times in your life flash back to when you responded as the Priest and Levite? What truth emerges in these memories as you sit with them? Now as you sit write them out, colour them out to cleanse your Chakra energy of this negativity.

Sit looking at the old, are you ready to release this way of being? If so walk it out the garbage bin outside your home, rip it up and throw it in, walk away from this old way of being. If not note why, and come back to it later.

Hear the story for a second time this time as the Samaritan left hurting and bloodied by   bandits on the road side. What comes to you, with those that at first walked past  that you expected aid from and none came as with the Priest and Levite? Write and colour this out in your breathing again to get it out of you. In these moments where did aid come from surprising sources, take this thought and enter it into your journal as a reminder of times when someone else’s divinity came to you.

Are you ready to dispose of the hurt and pain of being left by the roadside by those you believed to be friend or helper? If you are take the walk as before and dispose of, if not place in your journal and note why you are not ready yet?

Hear the story for a third time, this time hear it as the Samaritan. What makes you stop? What times in your life have you lived out this compassion regardless of labels? Not these in your journal to remind yourself of living compassionately, invest these in your heart and sit with them.

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal, the aromas of the market place vanish, the sounds dissipate, the sand and breeze are gone, feel the chair reform around you, hear the sounds of your world, and the new aromas of your world. You are back and have a question to answer? As you interact with your world, others in your community, your workplace, your place of worship, your home and within yourself.

One simple question to answer: 

Who is my neighbour?

 

One simple question to answer:

Who is my neighbour?