Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nose on the ground? Why not?

Bring raised evangelical did have its upsides.  

Like we could DANCE  in the aisles, whoop it up when you got excited about the new thing that God was doing.  I could express  outloud deep appreciation when I noticed that God had moved on my behalf.   We were always about finding new, creative, old established and wonderful ways to fall in love with God!  And if it made you more open to God, then do it more!   





So why then, when presented with a new way  (new to me, 1600 years old otherwise) to worship God, would I balk?  What part of nose on the ground, hands up in prayer did not somehow register as a beautiful way to offer prayers?  Am I just being afraid of something I don't know?  Is beauty in worship somehow not related to God?  


So I am on a journey here... feel free to join me, I love company, especially people who love God and want to actually connect in and not just be afraid all the time: 


Let's start with the Arabic, Farsi and Turkish word for God: Allah.  This isn't a proper name... it means God. People who have these languages as their mother tongue who are Christian use the name Allah to talk about the unknowable source of all being.    It's not a proper name like Bill, George or Jesus. It's really a title.


Is there anything about the words in the Salat that were suspect?  I have the English translations here.



God is the greatest!

Okay on this part.  Seems reasonable.  Heck, even seems like my kind of excitement about the creator. I'll move on and see if there is more: 



Glory be to you, O God, and all praises are due unto you, and blessed is your name 
and high is your majesty and none is worthy of worship but you.

Sounds like Psalms to me.  Oh, and the prophets.  Exactly.  Kind of strange that it would be exactly the same.   Must be somewhere else. 




I seek God's protection from Satan who is cursed.

Wow, I think the people who wrote this may have been to our prayer meetings.  I can't tell you how many nights I have been up in all night vigils, praying against the enemy.  Holding up in my prayer closet, head on the floor, prostrate face flat wanting Gods protection and mercy.  


Praise is only for God, Lord of the Universe.

The most Kind, the most Merciful.
The master of the Day of Judgement.
You alone we worship and to you alone we pray for help.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those whom you have blessed.
Who have not deserved your anger,
Nor gone astray.

Can I get an Amen? I have prayed so often to find myself not lead astray.  Hence the fear around these prayers.  What if the salat prayers lead me away from God?  How are they leading me to God?   In this section it would appear that the prayers themselves are actually asking God to not let me stray from the path, to not find myself worshipping false beings and asking for help from anyone who cannot actually help me.  (Thank you Abraham for clarifying this for us) 

"Glory to my Lord the Exalted".


Psalms again.  I am a big fan of Psalms. My favorite song that relates to this is probably from Psalm 99 below:  

He is exalted, the King is exalted on High 

I will praise You 
He is exalted, forever exalted 

And I will praise His name 

He is the Lord 
Forever His truth shall reign 
Heaven and earth 
Rejoice in His holy name 
He is exalted, the King is exalted on high 


“Allah listens to him who praises Him"

Reminds me of: 

Psalm 22:26  The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

Zephaniah 2:3
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.

Exodus 15:2 - The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him;




So far I am not seeing a problem here honestly... so on to the next sections: 


All compliments, all physical prayer and all monetary worship are for God.

Peace be upon you, Oh Prophet, and God's mercy and blessings.
Peace be on us and on all righteous slaves of God.
I bear witness that no one is worthy of worship except God
And I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger

Okay, I had to think about this for a bit.  What would be the point bringing in a prophet here.  I am noticing that they are not saying that Muhammed is God.  The prayer is saying that Muhammad said to turn back to God, to follow God and that they are saying that he DID this and therefore was a prophet.  

From Matthew 10:14

"He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.

My second question was, is Mohammed allowed to be a messenger of God?  

I found:  

Then Hagar went and sat down opposite him [Ishmael],  about a bowshot away, for she said, "Do not let me see the boy die." And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept.God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him."… Genesis 21:16-17 

What is interesting here to me is that God is listening to Ismael's prayers.  He is not the cursed person that I was taught in Bible school, he is praying and God is listening and God answers his prayers.  Sarah's mistake to not believe God does not seem to affecting Ishmael's grace, promises from God or seemed to have cursed Ismael.   This did not go as well for Jacob's brother. 

Secondarily, God tells that we are all supposed to be listening to those messengers who are trying to point us back to God. 

...Listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; (Jeremiah 26:5) 


So we are not supposed to be listening to false prophets who are leading us away from God, but in what way is Muhammed a false prophet by the definition of the Bible?  He is telling people that there is only God, that we need to return to him and that God will be merciful if we do.  The hadiths (sayings of Muhammed) essentially talk about how to live these things out in day to day life.  I also assume that there must be more messengers that are leading us back to God.  Heck, we have pastors everyday that are leading us back to God and no one is throwing a fit about their leadership int he church, their books, their sermons, their suggestions on worship. Why pick on this guy? 

Lamentations 2:14 - Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; And they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and 
misleading oracles.

In this verse, and many others I found in my searching being a false prophet is about NOT telling people like it really is (look at the , not saying that sin is a sin, not asking people to return to God in order to be let out of captivity.  In the case of Mohammed we actually see that this is the main message.  Even in the Qur'an the angels are telling him to walk a better and more holy walk.  The message is not, "it's all fine, ignore God."  

The message is "Get right with God, the sooner the better."  

Lastly, is Mohammed saying that the religion of Islam is the only path to God?  Is it saying that being Christian isn't okay, or Jewish? 

I did some research around this too:  I am certain that there are Muslims who believe this, but that is not the same as the leader of their tradition saying it, so I looked around.  Starting with the Muslim scriptures: 

Jesus: OK - Among them were those to whom God spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. 

Other faiths - There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. 

Qur'an - 2:285 "The Messenger and the faithful with him, have faith in what has been revealed to him by his sustainer, they all have faith in God, his angels, and His (God's) revelations, and his messengers, making no distinction between any of His messengers." 


It is so important to me to love God, and if others are loving God, even if it isn't how I was raised, who am I to say that God's creativity was only what I could grasp, did, understand or come up with:  "My ways are not your ways" 

Also God said, "I did not give you a spirit of fear but a sound mind"  

So I guess Salat is okay with me.  I am not seeing an issue here. In fact, it's kind of awesome to have such a beautiful rite that lets me use so many different pray postures that had already been used through the years in one setting.  And being with God that many ways is my idea of Heaven.  

God is good, all the time.





Thursday, May 08, 2014

How Rabi'a Made my Heart Laugh

The power of stories have a unique way of showing what we are doing.  There is a wonderful story about Rabi'a one night looking for a key outside on the street.  She was searching high and low and her neighbors decided to help her.  They asked that question which we all ask, "what does it look like... do you think you lost it here?"  She replied, "oh no, I lost it in the house."  Laughing they asked, "why are you looking out here if you lost it in the house?  That doesn't make any sense!"  She said, "there is more light out here!"

But it's dark in there!!


Then Rabi'a laughed and asks, "Friends, it is clear you are intelligent, so why is it when you lose your peace of mind, perhaps because of a failed relationship or a lost job you look for what is lost out there and not in here."  She points at her chest and says, "did you lose your joy out there or in here? Do you avoid looking for it in here because the light is dimmer or because it is less convenient?" 

This story strikes a deep chord for me.  Often I find myself looking at things outside of my spirit to stop pain from happening.  I can look at a way that a relationship isn't working and find myself a 10 year old again trying to figure out what fashion I should be wearing to fit in, or watching a quippy show on television, wondering what way I should be with these others.  I have even joined churches to fit in!  I developed this practice from moving from place to place, there is no solid anchoring into one culture.  What was acceptable in one region, was verboten in another region, and what was fashion forward in one place was entirely last years news in another.    Beyond fashion, also morals changed, churches changed, environment changed.  That part was really, really fascinating.  

So what does this have to do with Rabi'a?  I have been learning to turn back to God over and over again in order to be able to come back, point at my chest and say, "this is good enough here."  As I embraced God's view of us that we are holy, my own opinion about that has shifted too! There was a deeply ingrained shame about how my family did things.  We were in poverty, we were the "didn't mow the lawn, showed up to school without washed clothes, never went to the doctors/dentist unless a limb was severed" crowd.  This meant that my spirit as a child believed deeply that we were dirty.  

Or said a different way: untouchables.  The people no one wanted to be associated with. Somehow I equated a cultural disdain for poverty as there was something wrong with me as a soul.  My inner person was dirty!  

To have Rabi'a say to me "why are you looking outside for when you are struggling inside" at first was hard to grasp.  The story helped redirect this because up until I heard it that way, it didn't make sense to me.   


To look in the "garbage for a treasure" was the analogy that was set in place from MY cultural upbringing.  Everything outside of me was shiny and those things were what was right with the world.   How did I ascertain it was what was right?  People were smiling wearing those things, people wanted to hang out with those people, people wanted to be LIKE those others. No one wants to be like the poor, no one wants to be friends with the poor.  The poor don't want to be friends with the poor because it's painful to see yourself.  I related in my being to Rabi'a's comment about the "house is dark and dirty and uncomfortable" part.   


If you could have seen me, you would have seen my eyes got really wide and my mind chuckled a little.  She was right... why would I look for the lost key somewhere that I hadn't been yet? 

The strange thing that was the hinge for me was that we were not morally bankrupt.  My mother was very firm on morals, "don't gossip, follow your conscience (which is the voice of God), be kind to people even if they are mean to you, don't beat up your brother."  *grin*  And to the level as children and teens that we could, we did.  She had her own separation from the other neighbors because she wouldn't gossip or tell tales.  The stresses of poverty are very real, and getting through daily life can be a challenge with four kids sleeping in the same room, fear around whether we will have heat in the house (one time we burned cardboard boxes in the fireplace and sat and watched them as closely as we could), if we are going to be asked to leave our home because we can't pay rent, or we aren't the kind of tenants they were hoping to have. 

A surah in the Qur'an spoke to my heart: God shall make (me) understand the message of God in the farthest horizons to within (myself), and in other parts of the Qur'an it says "will you not see?"  
I felt like I saw for the first time.  Or I saw that I hadn't seen that this soul is the construction site for the work.  There isn't a magic remedy 'out there', a spell, or a right thing to swear, wear or say that is going to change the world around me to make my heart feel different.   I have to come in and find the key inside and stop avoiding what is uncomfortable inside.  Yes, I am going to bump into things, my knees might get bruised, my frustration will probably rise up... lots!  But the message that I hear in the Qur'an,  the Christian scriptures and the earth-based traditions is that God is Love, God is Mercy and that the stuff that is in us is what is also in infinity.    

Rumi says, "You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you do not know the value of your own soul, it is all foolishness."   

So, that is my own story, how I kept myself from looking for the key to myself somewhere else other than in my own heart.  What is keeping you from deciding to find yours in you?

Much love!


Post thought: 

In this way, I deeply related to the Lego movie parting words:  whatever lego creation you create is good enough, and having someone else build on your invention is good, having it not be perfect is good, and having it not match everyone else... is also good.   

Because God is good. 

I cannot be contained in the space of the earth,
I cannot be contained in the space of the heavens,

But I can be contained in the space 

Of the pure and loving heart of my servant.

—Hadith Qudsi



Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Holy Longing

by Johann W. Von Goethe

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.


And so long as you haven't experienced this:
To die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The fault is in the blamer — Spirit sees nothing to criticize!
- Rumi

Traveling with the Holy

Where do you begin with all of the good things happening?

I traveled to the Santa Cruz mountains to participate in the Phoenix Fire Gathering. The days were amazing, the nights were extraordinary! During the day we talked to amazing souls doing intense personal work, children who are some of the most intelligent and well adjusted I have ever met and creativity that would make a 4 year old jealous!

Each day has been filled with song, music, dance, drumming (oh goddess the drumming) and heartfelt conversations. Each day, I have felt my spirit soar as I meet people who are of the faithful in their tribe, coming together in the banner of unity. It has touched my spirit to see the level of love that the Hebrew tribe, the Jesus tribe, the Pagan tribe and the Star tribe (and so many others!) have for each other. To see that the faith matters in the fact that it is a point of integrity and that we all know that we are trying to open up more to divinity. The world is becoming an amazing playground for holiness, folks!

The nights were incredible, dancing the fire, releasing old wounds, allowing my soul to be vulnerable in community. I was reminded of my community at home, my Thalian community and my heart grew larger... so large I was realizing that I was going to have to do more work to make it bigger to contain it all!

My holy sparks moved into heaven and the Holy sent an angel to touch my lips! Let me love more, Blessed One, Let me love more!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Challenges throughout the day

As many of you know, I was recently asked to be the business manager for a local mind/body/spirit wellness center based out of downtown Portland. This job has been a challenge that to date is par to none. Each day I have to manage invoicing, practitioner training, set up systems of communication, and so forth. And then, on the side, I am still a spiritual counselor.

I am finding that I have to develop systems to keep my life from moving into stress. I have to take breaks, stop and head outside, make sure I eat lunches and take time to look out the window to watch the weather pass instead of only looking at my computer all day. After being a spiritual director for so long, I forgot what it was like to work in an office all day.

I admit, I like it. It is much more structured, I get to organize chaos and I can see what I accomplished at the end of the day. I am also having to figure out my own complexities around my home. How much should I be away? Is it okay to leave it there with Anthony or as the woman of the house should that be my domain? How do I balance eating at home after working all day? These things are obviously things that I had figured out at one point, but for almost 8 years I have had the option to do it different.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Traditions and those who follow them

Our conversations in class today revolved around each of our traditions and how very few in our traditions wants to change or really walk according to their theology... this was a class that had:

Muslims
Wiccans
Catholics
New Thought
UCC Liberal Christianity

It seems to be a human trait as opposed to faith based. I think people (e.g. Metaphysical community) like to blame Monotheists, and Christians like to blame the devil, but we are our own devil! One of the Muslim fellows talked about how what he was writing in his thesis didn't match what was happening in the mosque or in the Islamic communities. One of our Catholic sisters talked about how she is talking about doing Catholic Jewish conversation and people cannot see their way clear to see how the two of them are connected.

I wonder what our faith traditions would like if we actually followed our theological beliefs or our sacred scriptures... we cannot detach our image of God from our image of ourselves. We are competitive with God and we cannot imagine God not being competitive like us. We do not share, we won't share the who is "right" stage because we want it for ourselves and we inadvertently create an image of the holy and a group eggregore that matches US!

My advisor said, loyalty becomes the highest value... I think this is true... loyalty is valued above even personal truth or theological truth... to stay in our comfort zone vs being present in our spiritual experience... what an uncomfortable place!

One step in front of the people, you are a teacher
Two steps ahead of the people, you are a prophet
Three steps ahead of the people, you are a martyr

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sad mostly

Well, it's official. Letha and Brian are heading out of town and off to China and Cambridge next weekend. I am so excited for them. I really am, and yet am sad. On some level, I just feel bad that I didn't have more time to spend with them before it was time for them to go. It is hard to imagine what was so important that I didn't have time to call more often, but life seems to pull us away like that. Letha is one of my oldest friends, if not my oldest. She is the one who reminds me to look straight ahead and keep walking. It is time for her to move on in her life. I am sure on some level we both are hiding in Portland because it is nice and safe, when we could or should be doing something else. I just wish I felt like I was a better friend. She was alone for most of this year and I was like, yeah, let's get together. But when? Between papers or coven events? Between teaching schedules and visits with family and remodeling. Or perhaps I was just too close to my own sadness about having Jason be gone and having to be strong in that way. Perhaps I didn't want her to see that and just wanted it to be okay for her. even in the moment I am not sure. Mostly I think it's my own detachment from time and the way that I don't think spatially... meaning... I don't have time for everything I want to do and don't have a concept of what it will take to do it. If it were up to me, we'd all just do what we needed to do and ignore the clock. And yet, here is a situation where it bit me in the ass. I ran out of time being too busy doing what I feel like I am called to do, but yet still managed to neglect something that I feel matters more to me than some other things that I have invested in. How does that work? I feel wrong saying that I felt bad for missing time with a dear friend bec ause I was putting in french doors.

I've been crying at some level most of the evening. After I dropped Jason off at the airport a day earlier than I had expected, I just came home and cried. I think I am just grieving her leaving and looking for reasons why I should feel bad or sad instead of just the fact that I am sad to see her go.