Non-Religious Christian Spirituality

conversations

Conversations: Presence

Another email thread, another peek behind the curtain to see what may be relevant…

6/2/15, 5:52 AM

DM: Have you ever taken a side street on your journey? I have done so and it is turning out to be quite the cul-de-sac, and it has actually taken me quite a while to get back to the main path. I guess the way to describe my detour up the side street would be discouragement…

6/3/15, 1:34 PM

DB: Yes, I’ve taken many detours. I’m beginning to wonder if our latest project for the non-profit is one of them… Remember, though, that nothing is lost unless we lose it, learn nothing from it. That is, we judge our detours as detours because they don’t take us where we thought we were going, don’t serve our agendas or the outcomes toward which we’re working. But outcomes and agendas are not why we’re here. If we’re here to learn how to connect, how to be one with everyone and everything (as I believe Jesus is showing us), then detours are just as useful and valid as main paths. In fact, from the point of view of connection-as-purpose, a detour is indistinguishable from a main path.

When we find ourselves falling into disconnection, then we need to redirect of course, but we can do that on the detour as well as what we consider the main path without leaving either. I’m working on becoming much more aware of how I judge my moments—remembering that there are no insignificant moments except those as judged by agenda, that all moments are equally sacred once we find connection within them. And though I joke about our latest project, whether it succeeds or fails as judged by our agenda is insignificant against what we learn of connection through the process….

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DM: A pastor mentioned in a recorded message that God loves when we knock and sometimes allows us just to keep knocking and knocking. I would describe this as asking God a lot of questions. And sometimes if you ask long enough, and keep at it long enough, you will get some answers back.

DB: I’m thinking more and more how important it is to remember that God never withholds anything. We may experience a perceived lack of response, but God can’t possibly be more present than he is right now and every moment. He literally is the air we breathe and the lungs with which we breathe it. It’s just a matter of us tuning to God’s frequency, which is what knocking really is–not to gain God’s attention–we already and always have that, but to fix our own on him. And to begin to learn that any answers we get will not necessarily be specific to questions as asked, but will most likely break the line of questioning and evoke what is needed to show us that the most important questions in life don’t have answers. Only the experience of asking.

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DM: One of my pet peeves are songs we sing at church. I asked one of the worship leaders if he was ever conflicted that the songs that we sing so boldly are not what we experience for the most part. I don’t think he understood what I was asking and came up with a predictable response. The following Monday or Tuesday night I was driving and put on one of my favorite worship songs, which was asking for God to show up in His glory. As I pulled into my driveway, I felt the Spirit telling me that he would never just show up because we ask in a song, but that his presence would be experienced if people asked for the reality of the songs every day in their morning awakening and in their evening lying down, if throughout the day they kept this desire before them. I really was quite devastated by this because who is telling people these things? …we sing these songs so flippantly without realizing that we could actually experience them…

DB: This relates perfectly to the above bits. God doesn’t really ever “show up.” He’s already and always here, but we aren’t, so God comes in and out of focus. Big distinction to make. I know scripture describes God showing up and leaving, hiding his face, but that’s a typically Hebrew idiomatic and anthropomorphic way of speaking that is important to express as part of our human experience—as long as we remember that our music and our worship and our asking is not an incantation to bring God somewhere he’s not, but an experience to bring ourselves into presence with him: always here, always now. What you experienced in the car was just that: a tuning in that brought you to a new insight within Presence. Beautiful. And you may already know this, but I think it’s an important enough distinction to mention again: God is always here, always now, and always pouring out everything there is to pour…

Changes the way we think and choose if we really know this.


Conversations: Productivity

These days I do a lot of informal counseling and mentoring by email, phone, and even text. We all do, I’m sure. Some of these conversations reach across specific circumstances and personalities to speak to common human experience in such a way that with permission and anonymity, I thought it would be interesting to publish some brief slices, little peeks behind the curtain to see what may be relevant…

9/15/15, 9:24AM

Hey brother Dave.

Watching over a baby this morning, like every other morning, and I’ve already used up most of our nap time with prayer and a little reading. Expect he’ll wake up any minute, and he has croup so I’m being very attentive. In an attempt to get grounded this morning, I read a blog post of yours focused on time and light changes at 5AM…so many of your thoughts and questions seem familiar to me…

I feel lost right now. In the summer, my purpose was to reconnect spiritually and write. I loved it. I had time, time enough to make myself available to serve others, and time enough to serve my desire to get some of my thoughts out on paper. Since I got back in my school year routine, taking care of a grandbaby I adore, time is precious and harder for me to manage.

Here’s where I’m going with this. When you came to the part in the blog when you said that your son’s sticker on your arm was, in effect, proof of life…that cut through the clutter in my head and went straight to heart. I want to believe that there’s meaning in the minutes of my days, but the clutter in my head tells me I’m doing it wrong. It draws attention to the ticking clock, my lack of productivity, lack of clarity, lack in general.

Yet this baby grounds me, to experience, to love, to connection. What’s my problem!? Rhetorical question, and if I were you I would avoid it…

L

9/15/15, 11:50AM

Hey sis,

Ah, sometimes I just want to hug you like no tomorrow and tell you it’s alright…it’s alright now and will be alright forever. I think I’m getting to the point that I realize there’s no way I can do all this wrong as long as I’m trying to do it right. I suppose the only wrong way to live this life is not to live it at all. To be paralyzed by fear into complete non-connection. Even if we’re misguided, if we’re trying to connect, we’re still moving toward the light—maybe just a bit slower than we otherwise could.

Mostly, the wrongness we perceive is just that: a perception laid against some expectation or standard we carry around in our minds. What is really important in life? Productivity? Creating things that will outlive us? Nothing wrong with that, and those of us who produce well are the ones we know about and recognize as having accomplished something meaningful. But the meaning is not in the thing produced. It’s in the experience of life from which the thing is produced. The meaning is real whether the thing is produced or not. Production feels good; it stokes the part of ourselves begging for attention, and all things being equal, produce as much as you can if that’s what you enjoy. But things are not always equal, and we have to give ourselves permission not to produce when that production gets in the way of the connection that gives us meaning in the first place.

Holding that baby, that proof of life, if you let it, will give you all the meaning you need right now. All the meaning there is. You won’t be holding that baby long. It will be taken from you by time and circumstance. Then there will be some other proof of life for you to hold. But it all points to the same center. I suppose the ultimate productivity is recognizing the meaning in that center and doing whatever it is that connects us to it.

All this has to do with letting go of the image we have of ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. We see others doing and producing the things we think we should be doing and producing, and it makes us restless and unsettled and no longer present to the baby in our arms. But if we can let go of all that even just for the moment we’re holding the baby, then we can find the meaning that may produce something sometime later on–a product, a thing that someone else can hold in their hands and recognize as pointing to meaning. Or not. Doesn’t really matter, because in the end, nothing survives but the connections we made with the babies we held–of whatever age or species.

It seems to me you’re exactly in the center of the right place at the right time. But when circumstances shift, you’ll be in the center of a different right place and time. It’s up to us to make the circumstances right simply by abandoning ourselves to them, immersing in what they can show us of the center of that meaning. Right now, the baby is everything. Let it be everything, and you’ll start to get that sense of how everything is alright and will always be alright, if you allow.

I have to remind myself of all this daily. Or put another way, my good days are the days when I do remind myself…

d