So you want to live a life of faith?

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The Monkey Mind

Suppose one day you decided to intentionally live a Christian life.  Where would you begin? What is the first small turning of mind that begins the adventure of following Jesus?

A first step is to notice the process of your mind, the Buddhists call the unconscious and undisciplined mind, “the monkey mind” meaning that our mind is a tree full of monkeys with chattering, swinging to and fro and competing thoughts. Notice how the mind flits from thought to thought. Know that focus is the goal and also know that this is easy to wish and hard to achieve and when achieved is of short duration.  What to do?

The very first thing to do is “decide” to follow Jesus.  Immediately, the thought erupts, “You can’t do that!” I say, “Yes you can,” however, avoid vain battles and take the posture of “as if.”  Begin to act “as if” you can live the Christian life. Give up the pressure of doing it right and just act as if it were true.  Later on if it isn’t working you can climb again into the simian tree.   Now that you are acting as if it were true, now what?

The next thing to do is to cultivate inner peace & serenity. How? Let’s explore.

Inner serenity is gained by balance.  Balance is gained by moving beyond contradiction to paradox. What you ask?  Just listen.  We learn to be good boys and girls at our mother’s knee.  There is a right and wrong.  If we choose the right and avoid the wrong all will be well and of course that is true as far as that goes.  Contradiction is only a place on the journey not its end.

“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” a hymn in the 1979 Hymnal sums up this stage, however, if we assume this is all that isImage required we will lose our way.  The opposite of faith is not doubt!  The opposite of faith is certainty.   Certainty is seductive.  We choose the light. Done, we think. All that is required is to set our autopilot and get on with other demands of life.  Choosing the light is of course the right choice and if that choice put paid on sin all would be well. This is not the case.

The boundary between light and dark is not between us and someone else, no, unfortunately this boundary is in the core of our being. When we realize this is uncomfortable, so we find someone and focus on them and their failings and thus avoiding our own we find our “certainty” again, lapsing again into comfortable unconsciousness.  What is called for is honesty, ruthless honesty.

  •  We keep before us our brokenness self-centeredness
  • We withdraw our projections (more about that in a bit)
  •  When tempted to project we look instead at our own shadow
  •  We adopt what Richard Rohr calls “non-dual” thinking. What is this?

 Non-dual thinking is the origin of this blogs name: Beyond Contradiction.  We must leave behind the either or thinking and embrace paradox. Yes there are two points of view.

In fact one of these points of view is right and the other wrong. One option is chosen and the other avoided.  We do all this without losing our objectivity and serenity.  In this quandary, I found a passage from the writings of Carl Jung very illuminating.  This portion of the last chapter of his work, Memories, Dreams and Reflections speaks to me as deeply as it ever has.

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Carl Jung

I quote it in its entirety.  “In any case, we stand in need of a reorientation, a metanoia. Touching evil brings with the grave peril of succumbing to it. We must, therefore, no longer succumb to anything at all, even the good. A so-called good, to which we succumb, loses it ethical character.  Not that there is anything bad in it on that score, but to have succumbed to it may breed trouble. Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism. We must be aware of thinking of good and evil as absolute opposites. The criterion of ethical action can no longer consist in the simple view that good has the force of a categorical imperative, while the so-called evil can be resolutely shunned.  Recognition of the reality of evil necessarily relativizes the good, and the evil likewise, converting both into halves of a paradoxical whole.”

Memories, Dreams, Reflections – Carl Jung pg. 329

Aside

Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart

The Renewal Works team proposes, the Rector endorses supported by the Vestry that beginning in September through the Cycle of the coming Church be the Bible Challenge to read the Bible in one year, Yes the entire Bible, Yes !  Where did we leave God?  Where did leave him?  For many of us, in truth, we left him at our mother’s knee or children’s Sunday school.  What was going on as you left him?  They were telling the stories of God’s people, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and stories of Jesus, God’s son.

I suggest if that is true for you that you find a good children’s Bible; good in that it recounts just the facts of the story without elaboration.  If you have children of your own, so much the better; read the stories and as you read, eavesdrop,  overhear you as you read  the story of God’s loving care of his people through history.

As the Meister said, “Your best chance is look where you saw him last!”

Note:  Over 200 people pledged to read the Bible, 80 to read the Bible all the way through.

Renewal Works

Jay Sidebotham

Jay Sidebotham

Let me be specific about  the call. I have come to the conviction that we are called to three critical aspects of spiritual growth in Episcopal congregations:

1.  A more transforming encounter with God, especially in our common prayer, our worship, and our engagement with Scripture.

2.   A deeper life of discipleship,   marked by personal spiritual practices that infuse all of life, not just time spent in a church building.

3.  A more compelling orientation toward putting faith into action, specifically in service to those in need and work for justice and peace, with dear articulation  of opportunities to do that.

J Sidebotham

J Sidebotham

As I survey the wondrous church, I see a big gap between what we are called to do and be and what we are actually doing and being. In order to close that gap, I believe we need to experience the kind of transformation suggested  in Romans 12: a renewal in our thinking and way of being  that  transforms  the lives of individuals  and church  leaders,  as well as the common  life of our congregations  and denomination. We also need the kind of discerning, sober judgment to which Paul alludes, moving us to a deeper sense of expectation, responsibility, and challenge.

The Reverend Jay Sidebotham

Note: these remarks are taken from an article in the Anglican Theological Review – Summer 2012.  It was this article by Jay that excited me as a method to move forward in Spiritual growth at Saint John’s. JWS

 

Aside

 

ImageAnn Coulter summarized her view of Christianity in a 2004 column, saying: “Jesus’ distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day, because I’m here to redeem you even though you don’t deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.” She then mocked “the message of Jesus … according to liberals,” summarizing it as “…something along the lines of ‘be nice to people’,” which, in turn, she said “is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity”.

I think she if a little off about loving people but we are on being “nice” to people.  “Nice” is rooted the word for impotence so Jesus was many things but nice was not one of them: compassionate, kind & loving but nice, I don’t think.