Unknown source. Please e-mail me if you know the artist.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Celebrating Birth

Christmas blessings!
Today, we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, and we can reflect on this birth as a birth for each of us as well.  So on this day of birth, I’m reposting The Birth of the Mystic:

Many of us here began in a tradition that filled us with awe.  In time, we found ourselves conflicted.  We began to “wrestle,” ignorantly thinking that no question is a bad question – only to discover some questions are off-limits.  Why? we wondered.  Isn’t God big enough to take any question?  If we posed this one aloud, we may have drawn out special aggravation, as the answer is clear and implies the next question: Sure, but is the church?

Some of my own questions stemmed from the discord between the God I had discovered within my own heart and spirit and the one described by my tradition, as well as the one described by the scriptures, as interpreted by the religious.  Why, I wondered, did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?  Why would Jesus have prayed for Peter, but not for Judas, when Satan was “sifting” all the disciples as “wheat”?  ("Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail" ~ Lk. 22:31-32)  And the big stumper: why would God command Joshua to commit genocide?

Posing the big questions can be dangerous, not only for the persecution it might bring from external forces, but even more for the internal persecution it can bring from our own internal forces.  Hence, we hear Dumbledore’s wise admonishment: “Curiosity is no sin, Harry, but one must exercise caution.”  Jesus blessed those who were willing to persevere in this trial: “Blessed are they who have been persecuted within themselves.  It is they who have truly come to know the father” (Gospel of Thomas, 69).

For a time, we wrestled on our own, posed our questions to the Lord in private, and pretended conformity within our tradition – only to betray our non-conformity from time to time.  We did not yet know we were mystics.  We were like “mystics in the womb”: yet to birth what was inside.  So in this season of Advent, we can celebrate not only the Birth of the Christ, but also the birth of the mystic.  This is the moment when the long nights of wrestling and struggling birth themselves into the daylight.  We awaken out of our human construct and into our identity as mystics, recognizing our divine spirit within.  We begin to trust the Light within, follow it, celebrate it, and live into it.

But as newly birthed mystics, we face a new question: as we follow the Light within, do we remain with our tradition as well?  Our tradition, after all, did point us to this Light.  Our tradition taught us the sacred, hinted at the mysteries, and directed us to the scriptures.  Meanwhile, our tradition had also set itself up like a boat with the mission of carrying both the sacred contents and the sacred souls into eternal life.  But once the mystic-in-the-womb is birthed, he discovers holes in the boat.  Using basic logic of cause-and-effect, he sees the ultimate end for the boat: it will sink. 

Upon such a discovery, many leave the tradition entirely – not only the boat, but everything in it.  Some here have done so for a time, and even those of us who haven’t, know many who have.  When some of my friends ask my opinion about those among our mutual tradition who have left, I sometimes return their question with another:  Is it better to embrace or reject a false Christ?  Oops, another “off-limits” question that is usually followed by the critical one: who is the true Christ?

Most of us here are attempting that challenging, narrow, center path: embracing the sacred within the boat, releasing our need for the boat, and expressing love for the boat in spite of its holes. 

I am reminded of St. Paul who foresaw the sinking of the boat he was in and received a promise from an angel that while the ship would be lost, all lives on the boat would be saved.  Regardless of the future of each religious tradition in its outer form, the contents within – the worshippers and the mysteries: found within the worshippers, the scriptures, and the sacred rites – will forever live on and ultimately harmonize into a radiant Bride.

While we celebrate the birth of Christ today, may we also celebrate our own birthing into the Light.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Surprising? Risky? Praying . . .

I just did something unprecedented today: I wrote a letter to POTUS.

In my previous post, you can see my letter to Congress, which began with the answer to my own prayer that President Obama would seek Congressional support for his proposal to send air strikes to Syria.  The response of the media, so surprised by his change of course, prompted me to post a question on Facebook: “Have any of the rest of you been struck by the two most common words the media has been using to describe Obama’s decision to seek Congressional support: ‘surprising’ and ‘risky’?”

My first comment in the comments section read as follows: “From the standpoint of an average American citizen, these two words are 'surprising.' Didn’t he make the common-sense choice? Didn’t he take the right, Constitutional action in a democracy? Then why are all of the reporters in all of the mainstream media outlets beginning their reports with headliners like, 'Obama is taking a big risk . . .' or 'Obama made the surprising move . . .'? Do they know something the average American citizen does not? 
"The President's decision to seek Congressional support for the strikes on Syria may be his most independent decision of his Presidency.  And, it may put him in danger.  If Congress says 'no,' then he either goes against the will of the people and faces many angry vigilantes, or, perhaps more precarious, he stands with the people and faces even more sinister forces."  In the next comment, I solicited prayer for the president to follow his own convictions.

A good deal of banter followed, particularly with one friend who said our president doesn’t have convictions and, instead, “bows to his masters.”  I added to my first comment as follows: “According to reports, [his decision] has 'stunned many,' including his 'closest advisors,' who had 'strongly urged' against it. This is why the reporters are so 'surprised.' It appears he followed his own convictions.

He remained cynical, while I remained optimistic:  So why do I have optimism? Because I prayed for Obama to change his mind and ask for Congressional support, and he did. And now ‘many are stunned’ and it's being reported as a miracle. So I'm praying for more miracles: for the miracle that Congress says ‘no,’ and then the miracle that Obama stands by the people, and then the miracle that his life is spared, and then the miracle that the Syrian people forge a new life in safety and freedom. I'm praying for more miracles!

To that he replied, “. . . and they all lived happily ever after . . .”  I chuckled, said “smiling with ya’,” added that “realistically, change is a very slow and painful process,” and noted “momentum is building.”  He wasn’t sure, linked to an article with good facts but a sarcastic tone, and I closed with a line from my letter to Congress: “"How tragic it is that in place of debating how much asylum and humanitarian support we can provide, we are instead debating how much violence we should inflict.”  He “liked” it and our discussion was done. 
But my prayers were not.  Today, Syria has expressed a willingness to negotiate, so miracles are possible.  Also today, I was led to send the following letter to our President:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

September 10, 2013

President Barack Obama
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Pres. Obama,

Thank you for asking for Congressional support for air strikes to Syria.  Trusting in your heart of democracy, I had been praying you would make this decision and rejoiced when you did.

To one who had been praying, the media headliners, at first, were puzzling: “The President has made the surprising decision . . .” or “The president took a risky move . . . .”  They noted that “many were stunned” and that many of your advisors had “urged you not to.”  I realized I had prayed for a miracle, and the miracle had been granted.

Realizing this, I wrote my own letter to Congress and began praying ever more fervently not only for the development with Syria, but also for you personally.  In my prayers, it became clear that your decision was not only “risky,” but also dangerous, including to your own life.  If Congress says “no,” then whether you stand with the people or against the people, your next decision is fraught with danger, for your life personally, for our country, and for our world.  I came to see that, perhaps, you have lived your first 50 years for this moment and this decision.

I am praying for you and am calling my friends to pray for you.  Your heart, your mind, and your soul knows the “nothing” or “weapons” debate is an either/or fallacy and that methods of diplomacy, humanitarianism, and asylum are all at your disposal.   But I’ve come to see the peril for you in following your own convictions of peaceful means over violent means and democratic means over dictatorial ones.  May you have the courage to live by your soul and may the Lord protect you as you do.

Thank you and praying,


"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”  (Mark 8:36)


Monday, September 2, 2013

Relief not violence

Although the following post tangents from my typical ones, it certainly reflects my thinking as applied to real world issues, and it is my deep prayer that enough of us will unite together to speak for peaceful means in a violent world.  So today, I sent the following to my own members of Congress and then posted a link for it on my Facebook page.  One of my friends has re-posted it with her own introduction to a larger website.  May it represent one of many voices, and may our voices be heard.  Amen.


September 2, 2013

Dear Senators and Representative,

Thank goodness my first prayer has been answered.  The President has decided not to strike a country without seeking the support of the American people, through our representatives.  Now I’d like to participate in my second prayer, that the American people, through our representatives, say “no.”

The Syrian government has no motive to attack its own people and, given President Obama’s threats, a clear motive not to.  The insurgents, on the other hand, who we have supported, do have motives.  A remark that they have neither the means nor the ability to do so is starkly na├»ve and in great contrast to what has been said and observed of other independent militia groups around the world.  Is our government saying the same about a truly remarkable technical mastermind twelve years ago?
Even if the Syrian government did commit the atrocity we claim it did, does that warrant us to commit our own atrocity?  If we are to “lead by example,” then we must truly lead by example – to relieve suffering without furthering it.  How tragic it is that in place of debating how much asylum and humanitarian support we can provide, we are instead debating how much violence we should inflict.

Do we not see this never-ending cycle?  One group uses violence; we use violence in response to them; and yet another group (Russia? Iran?) uses violence in response to us, and so on and so on.

My great prayer is that our country would finally wake up to the insanity of violence and the deep-seated truth that the means to a peaceful end must also be peaceful.  As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary of the Dream Speech of our great leader, Martin Luther King, let us remember that the battle he forged was fought non-violently.

Please vote “no” on strikes on Syria.
Thank you very much,
** signed **


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Law of Liberty

           In watching my kids’ dramas, I observe how much can be learned from the parables of our children’s crises.  When my son was a preschooler and my daughter a toddler, their initially happy play at a game my son was creating hit a crisis one evening and I heard my little girl screaming, high-pitched, in an open nook behind our couch.  “What happened?” I exclaimed, and heard her brother’s explanation: “She cheated!  She’s in time-out!”  Holding back chuckles while rescuing my toddler, I said, “Buddy, she doesn’t understand your rules.  You need to let her play her way.”  It didn’t penetrate.  With angry arms crossed, he insisted, “She was cheating!”
            I thought to myself, “Just like the Church: setting his own rules and then punishing others for breaking the rules he made up.”  Jesus complained of the teachers of his day too, who were “teaching as doctrines commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).  Elsewhere, he condemns them more forcefully: "what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Luke 11:46, NLT).  Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly working to liberate people from restrictive rules designed by men.

Ironically, the most powerful institution that was birthed from his ministry, the Catholic Church, instituted what were likely far more demanding regulations and punishments for breaking those regulations than those Jesus had freed his own followers from.  Still, church after church has followed suit.  But if we Christians follow the teachings of our Master, which James calls the “law of liberty,” we’ll be set free into abundant life.

            The most recent sibling crisis in our family took place a couple of weeks ago when my kids and I were on a bike ride.  Big brother had to show off and go really fast and little sister had to keep up, while mom was trailing far behind, but impressed with her daughter’s speed on a bike with wheels so small.  When we arrived, my daughter was in tears.  Her brother is “too competitive,” “won’t ever slow down,” and “doesn’t care.”  After a sympathetic “I know,” a pause, a “Let him do his own thing,” and another pause, I looked my daughter in the eyes and said, “Sweetie, I was left way back in the dust, and I’m not crying.”  Needless to say, that didn’t satisfy her. ;)

            The lesson here is that it’s not always the external force that punishes us.  We punish ourselves, and this is the more damning of the two types.  And even when it appears that the external force (like my son) is doing the punishing, in truth, it’s always an internal choice.  Though she didn’t know it, my daughter could have let herself out of her brother’s time-out, but she accepted the punishment he inflicted, thereby making it internal.

            All of this, of course, is more complex in adult life; however, this idea is the basic principle behind Jesus’ induction to “turn the other cheek.”  He saying, “Don’t internalize an external punishment.”

            We can also choose to play or to bypass the rules and modes of operandi of those in our midst.  My daughter might have complained that her brother is “too competitive,” but what about her?  Why not hang back with slow-going mom? ;)

            So why do we have drama?  Because we permit external forces to determine our way.  Sometimes, we choose to give such power to external forces.  Perhaps we surrender for the sake of societal order or for our own growth, as we trust in a teacher for our long-term benefit, even if short term moments may be amiss.  Even a deeper impulse of growth may have been working within my daughter, who grows by trying to keep up with her brother. 

Or we choose surrender for the sake of love, recognizing our own surrender will help another to grow.  Often, we surrender because we’ve fallen in love and the external force is the one we love.  Sometimes, we think we are in love and perhaps have become needlessly attached, so our choices to surrender can be quite complicated.

            If we are unconsciously following the path others are telling us to take, we remain unnecessarily enslaved.  The choice of independence is a key part of the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus noted to be “within” (Luke 17:21).

When we do surrender our freedom, the key for us is to determine whether we have done so by choice for a higher cause, or whether we have unconsciously relinquished the law of liberty given to us by Christ to an external authority.  Ironic though it may be, we Christians are most likely to unconsciously relinquish our freedom to our church authorities.  If we have, have we done so consciously, by choice, in the recognition that it is for our long-term growth, or have we done so unconsciously, thereby perhaps ironically undermining our own growth?

As we quietly still ourselves before the Lord (psalm 46:10), set our minds on things above (Col 3:2), listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, examine the scriptures for confirmation, review our discoveries with those we trust, and remain faithful to the law of love, we will find the law of liberty to become evident in our lives as well.

  © 2013 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Does God play dice?

At the Christian Mystics site I regularly participate in, I recently began a discussion called, “Does God play dice?”  I began it as follows:

It was Einstein who famously said God doesn’t play dice.  But Neils Bohr reported once replied to him, “Don’t tell God what to do.”

Einstein spent most of his physics career studying the Macrocosm, the Great, the Universe, which follows fairly organized and predictable patterns, even if, as Einstein himself proved, the patterns are found to be entirely mind-boggling and astonishing. 

In the years following Einstein’s famous discoveries, the next group of physicists spent their careers studying the tiny, the invisible — that mysterious world of the quantum, where rationality appears to have been thrown out, where God seemingly plays dice. 

Some said “no,” and noted God’s control, to which I responded:  
But the question of God’s control is actually different than whether God “plays dice,” as Bohr hinted in his reply to Einstein. He could be in control and play dice too! We think of the Trickster god in Native American legends as an example.
                Some brought forth some scriptures, such as Isaiah 55:9 that God’s ways and thoughts are “higher” than ours;  Proverbs 16:33 “The dice are thrown but the Lord determines every outcome”; Job 38:19 “Where is the way where light dwells? And as for darkness, where is its abode?” among others.

                I also noted the following:

“In the beginning, God created . . .” How do we often refer to God? “The Creator.” I’ve known of Einstein’s comment for quite a while, but have been pondering this question along with Physicist Amit Goswami, while reading his book, “The Self Aware Universe: How Consciousness creates the material world.” It’s a question that has compelled Goswami himself, both in his career in Physics, but also in his own, clearly, mystical quest. Now that I’ve almost finished his book, I’ll share the answer he provides, which resonates with my own sense:
“The universe is creative; you and I in our creativity are the living proof of it. In determinism the world machine allows us to evolve only in its image, as mind machines. But there really is no world machine. In our desire for harmony and for prediction and control of our environment, we created the idea of the world machine and projected that deterministic image onto nature. A statistically harmonious, lawful universe would be, however, a dead universe; the universe is not dead because we are not dead” (230).

We discussed God’s control, His free will, our free will, our free will as “chaos principle,” and, in response to the following, whether God as Creator may be “First Cause”:

“In the beginning, God created . . .”  How do we often refer to God?  “The Creator.”  I’ve known of Einstein’s comment for quite a while, but have been pondering this question along with Physicist Amit Goswami, while reading his book, “The Self Aware Universe: How Consciousness creates the material world.”   It's a question that has compelled Goswami himself, both in his career in Physics, but also in his own clearly, mystical quest.  Now that I've almost finished his book, I'll share the answer he provides, which resonates with my own sense:
"The universe is creative; you and I in our creativity are the living proof of it.  In determinism the world machine allows us to evolve only in its image, as mind machines.  But there really is no world machine.  In our desire for harmony and for prediction and control of our environment, we created the idea of the world machine and projected that deterministic image onto nature.  A statistically harmonious, lawful universe would be, however, a dead universe; the universe is not dead because we are not dead" (230).

Our discussion was fruitful and engaging, and we teased ourselves that we are likely "the dice," but as one participant noted at the end, we ended fairly well where began, in a “rabbit hole.”

  © 2013 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Learn from the Plant

This morning I was doing the most tedious part of what should later be so pleasing: weeding our garden in order to begin preparing it for spring planting.  I delight in pouring in fresh new soil into the garden at the start of each new season.  My kids and I all take joy in seeding carrots and planting new starts of broccoli, lettuce, peppers, onion, and – our favorite – strawberries.  Most of all, we love harvesting it.  When the fruit and vegetables come in and we get to make complete salads from our own garden, mmmm! Delicious!  And so rewarding!

But none of that comes without the pre-planting weeding.  Ugh. The stubborn nuisances I fought this morning kept refusing to be pulled by their roots, so I spent a good portion of the morning working at it, but barely made a dent in the garden.  Still, persist I will, for I know the future return will be worth it.

While gardening, I was reminded of a whisper that came to me only a few weeks ago.  The whisper said that we humans are to learn from the plant who has one and only one mission in life: to touch the sun.  As gardeners, we should encourage plants, as if we’re cheerleaders, to root them on for their one mission, as it does help them grow.  The gardener may be rooting on the plant to grow big strawberries, but the plant only hears encouragement for its only mission to touch the sun.  It doesn’t occur to the plant that any other purpose in life exists, so if it hears encouragement, the encouragement, naturally, is for its one mission.  It doesn’t even know it’s growing strawberries.  That’s merely a side benefit for the gardener.   

The gardener might get too focused on the fruit and forget the Light.  In that case, the fruit is no longer meaningful.  When we are bearing fruit and doing good deeds, Jesus tells us “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt 6:3).  Even better, like the plant, we won’t even know we’re bearing fruit!

The plant, says the whisper, has a small degree of intelligence: just enough to know its one goal in life, but not enough to know its goal would be physically impossible.  We humans are to be like the plant: to seek only to touch the Light and not even notice if we are also growing fruit.  We humans are too focused on the fruit.  But if we’re like a plant that doesn’t even know it’s growing fruit and cares only to touch the Light, then we will be blessed with all. 

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”
(Matt 6:33).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Tearing of the Veil

"And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom;
and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
The tombs were opened,
and many bodies of the saints who had fall asleep were raised."
(Matthew 27:50-52; NAS)

The Mystery of the rented veil is sufficiently astonishing that perhaps it matters not how many times we’ve heard about it, discussed it, reflected upon it, and prayed for its essence into our lives.  At each new moment we reflect upon this Mystery, new blessings come forth. We notice Matthew recording the event in phases: Christ’s spirit is yielded, then the veil is torn, then the earth shakes, then the sleeping rise.  Awake!

As mystics, we see this mystery in the microcosm, the renting of the veil for each of us individually.  But we also yearn for the mystery in the macrocosm, as many come to see anew, as the blindfolds of an entire society are shed.  Jesus began this story, and ever since, many have followed to carry it on.  Reformers like Martin Luther, artists like Da Vinci, authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, activists like Gandhi, leaders like Nelson Mandela and prophets of our like Martin Luther King have each, in their own ways, slashed tears in the veil.  As the veil is torn, separation is replaced with liberation, which we'll glean in a few ways.  It is in this macrocosmic way that I pray for many veils to be tearing in our culture and our world.

In pondering this mystery, it seems fitting to highlight the gospel that most complements the metaphor of the veil, both in its message and in its life -- a gospel veiled behind the canonical Bible, apparently deemed too radical for inclusion, the Gospel of Thomas.

Religion is replaced with spirituality

“I shall give you what no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
what no hand has touched,
what has never arisen in a human heart”

(Thomas 17)

Behind the veil, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, where he could directly encounter the Presence of God.  This Holy place was so sacred only the holy priest could enter, and even he only he once a year, and with blood (Hebrews 9:7).

That the veil was torn from top to bottom suggests a confirmation of Jesus’ prayer, “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”  As Above, so Below.  It is done.

As the veil separated the people from the Holy of Holies, its renting expresses mysteries of great depth – mysteries the churches teach, but may not wish us to know.  For if we understood and entered into them, we may no longer need the churches as they are currently functioning.  We would continue to come together, but we may also leave some of our leaders unemployed.  In the microcosm, the torn veil brings the Great Mystery: “Christ in you” (Col 1:27).

Duality is replaced with unity

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the one who comes from what is undivided.
I was granted from the things of my Father. . . .
For this reason I say, whoever is undivided will be full of light,
but whoever is divided will be full of darkness”
(Thomas 61)

We see in Exodus 40:21 a description of the veil: “And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.”  Its function is described in Exodus 26:33: ”And you shall hang up the veil from the clasps, that you may bring in there within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”

The veil, then, covers and divides.  The torn veil, therefore, reveals and unifies.  Like all significant biblical metaphors, the veil brings us all the way back to the metaphor of the First Couple.  Given that the Tree of Knowledge is knowledge of “good and evil,” I have been calling it the “Tree of Duality,” as noted in essay form and hinted at in metaphor.

When the First Couple opened their eyes to see duality, the duality formed a veil; their eyes were covered, as in a veil, such that their eyes were no longer “naked,” but “veiled” in duality.  When the veil is torn, their eyes can see fresh into the Tree of Life, into Unity.

Illusion is replaced with truth

"Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.
When he finds, he will become troubled.
When he becomes troubled,
he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All."

(Thomas 2)

Other traditions speak of “maya,” cosmic delusion that covers the eyes of those of us on earth.  Our culture’s own proverb expresses this notion as “things are not as they seem.” 

Veils remain because we perceive our safety behind them.  A ripped veil terrifies us; for once we can see, we are disturbed.  Two other Thomas sayings hint as to why: we find a corpse.  According to twin sayings 56 and 80, “Whoever has come to understand the world has found a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world” (56).  So when the veil is torn, we are dumbstruck, shocked, grieved, and angry.  Somewhere deep within us, we know we’ll be disturbed if the veil is torn, so we “protect” ourselves by maintaining its covering.  Little do we realize how unprotected we actually are while the veil remains.  Towers fall and confusion reigns.

If we permit the veil to be torn, we are then disturbed, or as Matthew described it, our earth shakes.  We see everything with new eyes so that our whole world is disturbed. Though Thomas never admits this, the majority of those who find the corpse remain there: stunned and disturbed by it.  Some are angry, some are cynical, some drug themselves, and some are medicated by their doctors who ignorantly aim to drug them back into illusion.

But if we come to terms with the corpse, as expressed in Thomas, we are “astonished."  We have permitted our earth to shake and now our tombs are opened. Then Matthew describes the final phase: the sleeping rise.  We are awakened.  Thomas’s less politically correct text expresses this final phase as being superior or ruling.  I prefer Matthew’s expression of this final phase and see it as the awakened person who is no longer ruled by the world, but instead by Christ within.  This is the person for whom the truth has set free.

If many of us permit the veil to be torn in the microcosm, then our collective microcosms will tear the veil in the macrocosm.  Once our collective veil is torn, we will be stunned, disturbed and grieved, but then we will be set free.  Our permission for the veil to be torn from top to bottom will be more than worth its cost in our liberation.

"Recognize what is before your eyes,
and the mysteries will be revealed to you.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.”

(Thomas 5)

  © 2013 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Evangelical and the Mystic

Once upon a time lived an Evangelical.  Having been ostracized, lonely, and confused, she was warmly welcomed and loved into a church that explained Jesus was the reason they had so much love.  If that’s what makes them so special, she thought, then I want Jesus too.

She grew in love and wisdom and was entrusted to guide others in the ways of her church.  She was taught the Bible was the inerrant Word of God, and she studied it passionately.  She was drawn into the gospels, especially the stories of Jesus standing up for the poor and putting the religious authorities in their place.  She prayed for the beatitudes to be lived out within her.

On a personal level, the God she prayed to and the Jesus within her transformed her life in miraculous ways.  The isolated and angry former self gave way to one of peace and love.  She resonated with St. Paul’s description of the “new man” and she knew that it was “no longer I who live, but Christ living in me” (Gal 2:20).

Having studied the books in the New Testament, she embarked on a study of the Old Testament.  Often, she was confronted between what she was reading and her church’s teaching on the Bible.  Why would God care so fervently about food preparation?  Why would He harden a king’s heart?  Why would He tell his leaders to kill every man, woman, and child?  Why, she demanded, would He command genocide?

It wasn’t merely the command of genocide that bothered her.  Her church had also taught that people who had a different belief system would spend an eternity in a fiery place of torment.  If they didn’t happen to hold a paradigm that a historical person named Jesus had died on a cross and risen from the dead for their sins, and if they hadn’t asked this person to save them, then they would face the rest of eternity in a place of torment.  She was bothered by this God who could be that cruel and wondered whether she could keep following Him.  She gave this God that her church had taught her an ultimatum: prove to me you’re not cruel or I can’t keep following you.

The God who responded to her reassured her that He was the one who had worked the miracles within her and that she could trust Him.  But proof, He said, He would not give.  He merely called upon her to trust Him.  Frustrated but willing, she agreed.

* * * * *

Once upon a time there also lived a mystic.  The mystic was an only child of two busy parents, who lived in economic and cultural extremes.  When she was a year old, her parents moved to a large city in South America, across the street from shanty homes.  Though she didn’t know it, her own home was paltry by the standards of her later culture, for it had no clean water, no telephone, and no working oven.  But it kept her safe and warm.  That wasn’t the case for the children across the street.  Without shoes, they played outside, where their mother cooked.  Their dwelling was made of miscellaneous boards of wood nailed together in a disorganized fashion that kept them from being protected in the rain.  As a preschooler, the mystic often worried for them and wondered why they couldn’t live in a house like hers.  As an only child, she looked to the heavens for answers and for connection.

Only a few years later, the mystic’s parents moved the family to the heart of Silicon Valley, where her dad earned a high salary as a computer engineer.  This time, she lived in a very big house, across the street from other wealthy neighbors, and down the street from some of the wealthiest in her city.  Confused, out of place, and in culture shock, she struggled to make friends.  Schoolmates perceived her as a different and ostracized her.  Here again, as an only child, she looked to the heavens for answers and for connection.

* * * * *

                After many years of trusting the God she knew, in spite of the God she was taught, the Evangelical woke up one day.  The God she knew poured out a series of miracles that astonished her.  No human could explain these miracles as “coincidence.”  They were too dramatic, too powerful, too personal, and too life-changing.  Mysticism was happening to her.

                Among the miracles were whispers of mystery, divine utterances of mysteries known by the heart, but not by the mind.  In complement to the whispers of mystery came biblical passages of confirmation.  Sometimes, the Evangelical would read these passages within hours of the whispers, sometimes days, weeks or even months, but, regularly, she would be stopped while reading by a passage that confirmed and clarified a recent whisper.

                Among the miracles was also an encounter with the mystic.  The God she knew called her to a mission trip, where He recreated her early childhood and showed her who she is and who He had created her to be.  She met the mystic in South America.

                And then, looking into the mirror, she saw the mystic in her own reflection.  She struggled with the mystic.  Would she reveal the mystic to her friends?  Would she hide her?  How?  How was she to live as the Evangelical and the mystic together in one person?

* * * * *

                Both the Evangelical and the mystic struggled with one another.  Each was pained to love her sister as herself.  Each was especially pained to love her sister within herself!  The mystic pleaded with the Evangelical to quit going to church.  But they kept going, and the Evangelical kept hushing the mystic while they were there.  Still, they shared something very important in common: a commitment to Christ and a promise to follow Him.

                The Evangelical and the mystic have never stopped struggling with one another.  But, each one has been learning, bit by bit, how to love her sister as herself, even within herself.  One day, they trust they will live together happily ever after.

* * * * *
                Postscript: The story above was written with a special audience in mind, one that has become very dear to me and for whom this story was especially timely and relevant.  The close to the story for this community is as follows: 

                   Anyone who has frequented this site with any degree of regularity has been reading between the lines from the start.  Yes, both are me.  But, to some degree, both are all of us here at ChristianMystics.com.  Some here don’t come from Evangelical backgrounds, and some don’t claim to be mystics.  But I see the stories of both the Evangelical and the mystic in each one of us who regularly participates in our community.

                The struggle of the Evangelical who meets the mystic in the mirror or of the mystic who meets the Evangelical in the mirror is the same struggle each of us has in coming to terms with our spiritual identity, our understanding of God, our relationship with Christ, and our communication with one another.  We are each on a journey of learning how to love our brother and sister as ourselves, within ourselves, and with one another.  Blessings to all of us in our corporate journey!

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