U2 Concert by D74

IMG_3674Earlier this month I attended my first U2 concert at New Era stadium.  With three of my children and great seats, the stadium filled with fans of the 40-year-old popular Irish rock music group.

An opening “prelude” came from a newer group named “Beck,” after it’s writer/singer/guitarist named Beck Hanson.  After rocking and reverberating through the stadium for a couple hours, the 4 member U2 group appeared led by lead singer, writer, guitarist “Bono.”  Tons of powerful black speakers hovered around and over the stadium on large cranes.  Although never a fan of hard rock music, the experience was unforgettable.  My body often rumbled with loud pulsating music enhanced by booming base strings and pounding percussion.  Wearing earplugs to help save my aging hearing, it still thundered loud!  My son-in-law, a few miles away, felt the beating throbs floating over his home as if played next door!

As I sat through the 5-hour event, I felt reminded of Shamanic experiences I once experienced.  In 2006, I attended a 10-day experience at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY.  There, Stanislav Grof, a well-known psychiatrist from the Czech Republic, and Buddhist spiritual teacher, Jack Kornfield, led us in daily drumming and chants they called “holotropic breathwork.”  Grof had sought healing techniques for years for people struggling with trauma.  He experienced recognized success working with Viet Nam veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.  First using LSD as a healing agent, before it was banned, Grof then studied with Shamans in South America.  There he discovered similar healing results with Shamanic breath work, akin to healing experience I have read from Native Americans.

So, there I was, among mesmerized, swaying, clapping, and dancing fans of U2, and experiencing some of same lift with Grof and Kornfield.  As I became tired of standing and swaying, (most never sat in their $165 seats!) I dropped down into my seat.  I opened from my iPhone the stored lyrics from the songs of “Joshua Tree.”  One of the most famous U2 recordings, they were singing all the album’s songs!  Somehow, the beating drums, flashing lights, screaming vocals and twanging guitars didn’t quite seem to match the words, words I had been unable to follow surrounded by thunderous music.  Surprisingly, the words seemed sad and hopeless.

“I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside…Where the streets have no name, …the cities a flood and our love turns to rust…

Or another, “I Still haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”   I’ve climbed the highest mountains, I have run through the fields, …crawled, scaled these city walls …run through the fields, only to be with you….  But, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for….

I have kissed honey lips, Felt the healing in her fingertips, Burning like a fire, this burning desire….   I have spoke the tongue of angels, …held the hand of a devil,

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for….

And from “Running to Stand Still.”   “She walks through the streets, With her eyes painted red Under black belly of cloud in the rain.  ….She is ragin’ She is ragin’  And the storm blows up in her eyes.  She will suffer the needle chill, She’s running to stand still.”    Not exactly uplifting lyrics.

In “Red Hill Mining Town:” “I am hanging on, You’re all that’s left to hold on to,”   “Love, slowly stripped away, Love, has seen its better day, Hangin’ on, Let’s go out on Red Hill, Let’s go down on Red Hill….”

Yet, I was impressed with the sincerity expressed by Bono and company giving recognition to the forgotten and oppressed.  His tribute to Martin Luther King, showing on a large screen his “I Have a Dream” speech, brought tears to my eyes.  The parade of 20 feet high pictured women who worked and sweat to bring liberating life to millions, was moving and appropriate.  Yet, there remained the belief, actually quite appropriate, that in this life, in this world and the whole visible universe, there is not a lot of hope!  And with that awareness, I agreed with the lyrics.

In the early teachings of the church there was a group, later banned, which taught the world as an ultimately hopeless place.  They were called “Gnostics,” heretics and God-deniers.  There were many other similar groups throughout history from Eastern religions and even Plato’s writings.  Their teachings were banned in the 4th Century by the Roman government as the official Church was recognized with its exclusive creeds.  Yet, the teachings survived over the centuries, despite attempts to frequently stamp them out.  These “heretics” taught the ephemeral world of time, form and matter is hopeless.  Even verses in the Bible state such as, “If in this life we only have hope in the physical Christ, we are most miserable….”  It means without a “spiritual Christ,” the meaning of a risen one, there is no hope.  This Christ, however, is within us all, it’s our Higher Self, what Jesus taught as the kingdom within all.  This vision can actually see everything in the world as pure because it sees beyond mortality.  Everything we see and touch physically is mortal, time bound, passing with its aging, sickness, rust, disease and death!  We are like sprouts of grass: born, shoot up, thrive awhile, and then no more.  For, “All flesh is like grass….  The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever….”  1 Peter1:24.

Or as Shakespeare expressed it in Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The message and music of U2 certainly rings true with many, even among those who live and die to make this world a more equal and perfect place.  But the answer many long for and can discover, is ultimately found within ourselves, our “Higher Selves.”  In the mystical view, the world was actually created as an attack on God.  Sometimes the losses, carnage, destruction and violent unfairness overwhelms us all.  The good die young, people live in deployable conditions their whole lives, and so little ever seems to change.  We take two steps forward and then fall back three!  Even the rich and famous experience the same end.  We can never find Home or permanence in this dimension. Yet, it’s within us, in our Higher, Spirit Self.  Yet, even after horrific experiences in war, swamped with senseless, loss of buddies, and unbearable pain, an induced trance can help.  It can take us to another dimension, help lift us out and above it, and bring some healing to the unending and unbearable pain of loneliness and disappointments of life.  Many have rediscovered this “new world” in Shamanic trances, and some may experience it in moments of U2 or “rock” concerts, moments which lift us above words and a world which at times feels so hopeless.  However, as another option, we can find it in simple silence and remembering that Love is within, and That is Who we truly are!



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What’s It Mean to Die?

IMG_9242My 4-year-old granddaughter asked me this yesterday morning.  I had mentioned to her that Gramma and I were getting a new dog in a few weeks, one that will be little, but a little bigger than Carmel, the Dachshund dog we had before.

“What happened to Carmel?” she asked.

“Carmel died,” I replied.

“What does ‘die’ mean?” She quickly responded.

I never expected her response or saw it coming.  For a few moments I sat stunned, not expecting such a quick reply.   What should I say to an innocent 4-year granddaughter whom I deeply adore and love?  She remained quiet, looking at me, waiting for an answer.

“To die,” I began as thoughtful as possible with seconds ticking by, “is when our bodies get old or something happens and they don’t work anymore.  So, we, like animals, die.  It means we leave our bodies and become part of the Spirit world.”

“What is Spirit?” Papa?

“Spirit,” I continued the best I could, feeling I was offering a funeral meditation for a grieving family who just lost a loved one, “is another existence where we are everywhere at once.  Yet we can still help people who are worried and afraid.  Spirit never grows old and dies.”  Then to add a bit of assurance I added, “Some also think our Spirit comes back in another body to live and learn more lessons on loving others.”

At that point, she seemed satisfied, or heard enough.  At least, there were no more “Why’s.”  So, we returned to saying our good-byes as she and her daddy departed for home.

“Out of the mouths of babes,” I thought to myself.  During the day, I reconsidered what I said or might have added.  I asked myself if I was satisfied with my quick answers, and how they could improve.

How would you answer?  Personally, I believe and feel life continues after the body dies but in a different or new form.  Although spurned by many modern “believers,” whom I always question, I believe from my own experience and readings, there is an existence beyond this life-in-flesh.  Working with a few psychic gifted people, I have found comfort in their words and intuitions.  I have talked with folks who having friends or parents die, sense their presence with them, who even found evidence of it with lamps lighted or things moved!  I have read studies by credible researchers on souls which have been reincarnated into other bodies, who found children who spoke other languages from a different family in a previous birth.  I think of living now as preparation for the next one, outside of time and space and or the returning to another life in body.  “….and their works will follow them.”  (Romans 14:13)

I think of religious institutions as ideally sharing these insights and experiences.  Little children aren’t the only ones who ask the question.  Yes, we can easily become overwhelmed with imperfections of this world, which in my thinking will never end.   I experienced this confirmation from the lyrics of U-2 the other evening at the stadium:

“I have spoken with the tongues of angels…. But I haven’t found what I’m looking for…I believe in the kingdom come Then all the colors will bleed into one…But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…”

Life here is part of that journey or searching and realizing it’s not the end, it’s not enough, there is more.  Meanwhile, life still becomes as Bono sang, “you give yourself away, and you give yourself away…”

Thanks, Madeleine, for asking Papa your question!  It helped make my day.

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“Getting to Heaven!”

I was driving home this morning when this sign caught my eye!  I wondered how many people understand what the words mean, taken from the Bible gospel book of John, chapter 3 and verse 7.  A more literal meaning of the verse from the ancient Greek text might read, “…. you must be born from above.”

In my early years as a child, and even in my fundamentalist college studies, I thought the idea meant a warning of how I could go to a place called heaven when I died.  In a conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a “leader of the Jews,” Jesus became the teacher from God.  In answer to Nicodemus’ question about where Jesus received his authority, Jesus replied, “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”  Of course, Nicodemus wanted to know how a person could enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born again.  Jesus replied one must be born of water and Spirit.  He related water to our physical birth and Spirit to our spiritual birth.  Jesus also said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is spirit.”  What does this mean?

It means one is mortal and the other is immortal.  It means awakening to a new understanding of who we are as a person.  We have physical and temporal bodies but when discovering a new understanding or belief, we can awaken to ourselves as Spirit.  Spirit is where “heaven” is!  Spirit is our nature’s essence.  Bodies reacts to stimuli of this physical world, to the ego selves to which we normally identify ourselves.  This identity has been shaped by the world around us.  We are told we are boy or girl, which race we belong to, what mixture we are, where we live, what our IQ might be, the country we call home, the vocation we learn, etc. etc.  Yet, all these are temporal and passing.  We know this just by reason.  Heaven, the word used on the church sign, is from a Greek work meaning sky or that above.  It’s expansive and unending.  Heaven is used for the Spirit or Unseen Creator’s existence.  It’s a place or realm of peace, beyond time and space, beyond all dualities of race, gender, economic status, and nationality.  It is the sense we feel of “no place,” of just being, without judgment, fear, or needing to do something.

Where then is this heaven?  It’s within minds, our thinking, and how we think.  Heaven is an idea.  It can be equated with breath, or life.  It is our Higher Self or the True Us.  It is what Jesus once said is “Within you.”  (Luke 17:21) It’s not up or down, behind or in front, it is the You or as some call, “the Thinker” or “the Observer.”  In the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, it reads, “Be passersby!” (saying #42)

So, if you want to experience heaven, a place of eternal peace and love, you simply, yet profoundly, awaken to it as being within you, the True You!  Such is like being born again, not in flesh or another incarnation, but in your mind, your thinking.  You can experience the idea in a church (sometimes, at least) or in any place or time.  In the Psalm it simply says, “Be still and you will know!” (46:10) Know God and know Heaven, peace, and eternal love.

To go to heaven, then, just understand it is you.  You don’t have to go to a church, synagogue, mosque, ashram or temple.  Sure, they could help, but they can also sometimes become obstacles.  Beliefs can easily become gates of intolerance, narrowness and judgment.

I’m glad I saw the sign in front of the church this morning.  It reminded me again of the simplest yet most dramatic, life-changing thought we can discover.  Heaven?  It’s You!

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Can we ever really know God?  Like a friend, or even a lover?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have and enjoy such a relationship?  I think it is possible and also one of the best things we can enjoy on earth!  Here are some suggestions.

First, learn to appreciate and love silence.  That’s hard in our culture.  Life can be noisy.  We’re surrounded with radios, TV’s, engines, airplanes, telephones, and, even “smart phones.”  Some of us find silence disconcerting, wanting endless noise, entertainment, distractions and stimulation.  However, noise can prohibit us from really knowing ourselves, and more importantly, who we are as God’s Children.

Even churches can be quite noisy.  Meetings with discussions, planning, and sharing tend to dominate.  Presbyterians are noted for their meetings, struggling to keep things “decent and in order!”  Worship services become filled with sounds; music, announcements, and talking leaders.  I once asked confirmands to time the amount of silence in our services.  There wasn’t much.

To experience and feel God’s presence, solitude and quiet are indispensable.  The Psalm today, chapter 46, contains a verse which says, “Be still and know God.”  The Hebrew word for “be still” is rapha which means “to become weak,” or to “let go and release.”  Another Hebrew word used in some manuscripts is dumas, the root of our English word, “dumb.”  We not only become still and quiet in silence but give up our thinking.  In popular Eastern meditation, it is often called “mindful breathing.”  We watch our breath as a way to close our minds to feel stillness, or Spirit’s presence.

Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry.  There he was tested but also assured God would be with him.  In the book of 1 Kings 19, Elijah the prophet, after experiencing defeat and humiliation, went into the wilderness to find God and peace.  He came to a cave and waited.  When a terrible storm came by, he thought this might be it, but nothing happened.  Then things became very silent, as if time suddenly stopped, and he heard God’s still small voice. Elijah returned with hope and peace.

Before we can appreciate silence, however, we must remember one important truth; in our essence, we are not our bodies but spirit.  Such is the key to understanding the use of silence.  Silence without understanding ourselves as Spirit can be torture; it might even drive some crazy!

Jesus said to his disciples, “God is spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:24, English Revised) We become stuck in our body identifications like bees in their honey.  We can’t imagine ourselves as Spirit.  We want to think our bodies will be raised.  We are attached to our ego/body identifications.  A priest once told me people ought never to be cremated because there would be no body raised “on the last day.”  We are not our bodies, however; we are Spirit.  So, whether our stillness times are long or short, remembering we are Spirit is critical.  The God’s Son, Daughter, or Child (temporal names) return to its Father, Mother or Maker in Oneness.

“Be still and know God.”  The Hebrew word for “know” is yada which is the same word used for sexual intercourse.  In the climax of intercourse, one experiences “yada,” or what we call it “orgasm.”  It is the same word used in Genesis when it says, “…. Adam knew his wife.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to experience more “yada” in worship and prayer?  As pastor, I hoped when people came to our services, they would leave feeling more “yada!”

Holy Communion can give “yada” to our souls.  Jesus once said, “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you can have no part of me!” And, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.”  Wow!  Of course, this is not literal, but spiritual, figurative language.  That’s what Holy Communion, the “Lord’s Supper” or Catholic Mass, is all about.  They are symbolic ways to go beyond our body/material world senses.  Mass, Holy Communion and the “Lord’s Supper” are culminations of the service, time for high “yada.”

After a good spiritual “yada,” people take things less seriously.  They realize anew this world is not their home; they realize they are only strangers here for a little while until they “gme.” ohn writes in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love this world or the things of this world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Everything here is just passing, ephemeral; it’s not Spirit.  Don’t take it so seriously.

So, schedule time for silence.  Use it to meditate and be healed.  Meditation has the root of medi, or healing.  Through proper mind control and clearing, you’ll experience more healing and joy.  You will be entering the great “cloud of unknowing” which the anonymous monk wrote about in the 14th century.  He was writing about the lost art of mysticism, reclaiming that which Dante’s famous play was about, our “Paradise Lost.”

Spend time each day in practicing stillness and knowing.  Get out of your mind!  Prepare a place in your house to do it.  Go to nearby quiet places.  And amid all the losses you perceive with church buildings, in the national hopes for peace, and a world without war and hunger, you’ll likely experience more “yada” than ever expected.

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;

Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand,

Christ our God to earth descended, our full homage to demand!”

(from liturgy of St. James, 4th Century)


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Seeing God

2012-03-10_18-13-49_552.jpg“The world will see me no more, but you will see me….”  John 14:19

Do you often feel lonely?  Perhaps that’s an understatement!  Most do, but we need not, at least for too long.  Studies show Americans are lonely, 300 out of 335 million feel lonely.  Not even marriage eliminates it.  Or sports, drinking, and politics.  About 50 million are classified as seriously lonely.

Why?  Maybe because we don’t see God enough!  Wouldn’t having vision or sight of God settle our loneliness?  If most of us could really see and meet God, the “Man Upstairs,” it would probably help!  Oh, just see Him or Her as accepting, forgiving, and loving us just as we are!

John’s gospel in the Bible promises this.  In chapter 14 verse19, Jesus tells his disciples, “In a little while the world will see me no more, but you will see me!”  Really?  Is it just craziness, or “fake hopes?”

How can we see Jesus?  Well, it’s not his body we see but his Spirit.  Have you ever seen Jesus’ spirit?  Probably.  I think I have, and I’m not on drugs either!

Jesus says it’s not possible, however, for the world to see Him, but we should.  How?  Because it’s all in our heads, in our thinking.  The Greek word for thinking is theori, from which we get our word “theory.”  Theory is how we think about something.   And how you think determines whether or not you see Jesus!

What then is the right thinking or theory?  God is Spirit, Spirit was also in Jesus, as God is in us.  Earlier in the gospel, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”  (John 4:24) Spirit is One, non-local, everywhere, like Light.  Without light the world and universe could not exist.  Without the Light of understanding, we would never see God, or Jesus, as Spirit.

We could see Jesus like our loved ones who have died or passed.  We often think of them as spirits or angels.  Some even claim they can hear from them. Spirit is our very essence even now.  We are all Spirits or Angels in our being, in our right thinking or theories.  So, look at people around you and say, “You are angels and I want to see it!

I know the old joke about the man who said, “My wife is wonderful, a perfect angel!”  His friend responded, “You’re lucky; mine is still living!”  But seeing Spirit, God or your deceased loved ones is a matter of how we think and see ourselves, or the one who taught about him named “Jesus.”

How can we experience this?  Most of the time we worry, fret and do not feel very happy about things around us.  The world seems like a big mess, which it is!  It’s a lonely place.  How can we get beyond or out of it?  In our thinking, or our prayers!  We can practice daily, hourly, even as part of our breathing.  Prayer can be like something on our shopping list.  But Prayer is not something we bring home and put it on the shelf; prayer can become like our breath.  We keep remembering, remembering and remembering!  We spend time in prayer and meditate upon words like these.  We meditate on them while sitting, walking, working, riding, and before meals in morning, noon and evening!  We can carry reminders on our “smart phones!”  Every hour I receive a little reminder.  Today it is, “Heaven is but a choice I must make!”

It’s so hard to remember because we get caught in our busyness, our mortality.  We get stuck in our bodies, country, city, politics, and churches.  We are like bees who get stuck in their own honey.  But remember, if you and I want to see and know God as with us, we must understand we are in spiritual territory; it’s beyond the body.  It is akin to music, poetry, ocean waves, blowing wind, quiet wooded areas, or closing our eyes and seeing.

And what happens if we keep remembering?  You’ll have one of those experiences when you feel right out of your mind!  It’s like being in bed with a lover!  (Let’s hope it’s your proper mate!)  The word for knowing is ginosko, which is the word also for sexual intimacy.  Jesus said, “You will know Him!”   “In the days to come you will know the father because you love each other.”    Wow!  We can have that every day!  One can “know his wife or husband” in an intimate way.  Prayer and meditation become the Viagra for encountering intimacy with Jesus, with God, the great Unknown, Inexpressible One!

What more would you want?  Why wait?  Why waste time feeling sorry for yourselves, your so-called littleness.  It is the same search and longing in each human being on earth.  Riches and fame won’t bring it.  At least if it’s in them you trust.

So be happy in your Self, your true identity.  For “The world will see me no more, but you will…!”

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When God Sleeps

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died!”   John 11:32, RSV

Anxiety and depression are common diseases in America.  About 7 percent of us, of all ages, suffer depression in our country.  Maybe more since the election since anxiety often leads to depression.  About one third of our country’s mental health costs go for anxiety and depression.  Women suffer twice as much as men while many children also struggle.

Depression increases with age!  However, it tends to decrease after age 70, but us older folks with depression or anxiety are also less likely to get help.  It’s safe to assume a good share of us experience some anxiety and depression and probably are not getting needed help or treatment.  (http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics)

The biblical account of the raising of Lazarus tells a story about anxiety and depression.  (John 11:1-45) It is not a story about literally raising someone from the dead whose name was “Lazarus.”  The story links to a 5000-year-old one from ancient Egypt.  Such discoveries, found through the 1799 discovered Rosetta Stone, revolutionized the understanding of many “miracles” from what we call the New Testament.

The word “Lazarus” begins with the divine “El.”  “El” combined with “asar” is the divine name “Lord Asar.”  Lord Asar has gone to sleep!  The town’s name, “Bethany”, means “house of light.” But since the Lord went to sleep, the lights have gone out!  The two sisters, Martha and Mary, are ancient Egyptian names for those considered divine teachers, “Meri and Merti.”  The  teachers and pastors have also lost hope.  Jesus comes as the one who awakens the “Light.”  He represents the outside messenger of hope, the Christ Bearer who had been lost.  In ancient Egypt, his name was also known as “Usus.”  (Tom Harpur, The Pagan Christ; Recovering the Lost Light, 2004, Thomas Allen Publishers.)

So how can we “awaken” from our moments, or days, weeks and years of anxiety and depression, our discouragement and inner loneliness?  How can we awaken when it seems our God hope has left or forgotten us, when loved ones die, and 4000 churches close each year and 300 pastors and participants leave each month.  (Latest Pew Foundation report.)

We could begin with the idea or theory that God, Christ, or Spirit is incarnated within each of our lives and bodies.  It could be called “Spirit” or our “soul.”  It is the “infinite within the finite.”  How might we reclaim and experience this lost awareness, hope, and feeling?

We might begin by being aware of our negative feelings.  We will not deny we might be aboard a sinking ship.  But we will identify with these negative feelings as our True Self.  We may feel like the scolded child taking a “time out” in the corner.  We will sit and observe our anxiety or loneliness without judgment.  We will still claim our “family name;” “I am not my body, I am not this anxiety or depression but I am happiness, hope, and positive.”

It’s sort of like driving a car.  We can remain conscious of steering, accelerating, braking and stopping while at the same time having a conversation with a passenger.  However, don’t text on your phone while doing this!

I once heard the late Tony De Mello describe this.  He was both a certified counselor and ordained Jesuit priest.  People often came to him with a serious problem.  They would greet him with, “Hi Fr. De Mello!  How are you doing?”  He might answer saying, “Oh, I am having a bad day of anxiety but never mind, how can I help you?”  Sounds nuts, doesn’t it??

It’s like an unmarried minister who lived with his mother.  One Sunday he was very discouraged and tired.  He said to his mother, “I am not going to church today.  I am sorry we moved here, I’m discouraged, the people don’t like me and I don’t like them!” His mother looked him in the eyes and said, “Son, you are 40 years old, they have called you to be their pastor, and it is your duty to go.  And remember, they pay you to do it!”

Somedays are like that.  I have them.  Our negativity or tiredness wants to take over.  Still, we won’t identify with it.  Just do it anyway along with your sadness, or whatever.

A minister once told he me coped with depression and anxiety by taking little naps!  He would excuse himself at set times and just go someplace and take a 20-minute nap.  He awoke feeling better.  I have been known for the ability to do that.  It’s good for body and mind!

We also can spend time each day in solitude and quiet.  It can be called our quiet or devotional time.  When I first joined the Baptist Church, they told me to spend time each day in “devotions.”  In the 80’s I wrote a dissertation for San Francisco Seminary on the importance of practicing solitude.  Jesus did it all the time.  I still have favorite trails near our home on which I use to take prayer walks.  My, dog now deceased, would go with me.  I also have a special area in our home to sit mornings and evenings.  I have it set up with a little altar, complete with a picture of wilderness with Buddhist prayer flags.  I use a little electric candle since I once almost burned the house down!  Psalm 46:10; “Be still and know I am God!”  It works.  It worked for Jesus, for Elijah of old, and it still works for us.  “Be still,” in the Hebrew word means, “stop thinking, become dumb” (dumas) and you will know!  Clear your mind, become “mindful” of the noise, and let it go.

To fight anxiety, loneliness and depression, we can also join together with another or others.  Remember, you don’t need a church building to be a church.  “The church is not the building, the church is not the steeple, the church is its people!” as the old Avery and Marsh song went.  Gather in homes, read some scriptures, listen, meditate and pray for each other.  Today, It’s a growing phenomenon.  Continue as friends, even if they are few.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, but he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere!”

Yes, sometimes relief doesn’t come instantly.  We may need to make changes in our lives. We may need a few weeks or months of counseling or to learn more patience.  We may need to suffer long enough so we truly decide, “I want to change!”  In the gospel story, they complained Jesus took so long to come.  “If you would have been here, he would not have died. Now he already stinks in the grave!”   Sometimes must endure a waiting season.  Quick fixes not always help.  We need to take “time outs” and go sit and make new decisions and resolutions.

I heard a story about a man guiding his donkey who pulled a cart load of produce to the market.  The donkey would suddenly stop and move no further.  This behavior occurred several times and the man worried about arriving late to sell his goods.  Finally, when the donkey balked again, the man got off his seat and taking a small stick, went up to the donkey and whacked him three times over the head!  He climbed back on the seat, picked up the reins and continued.  He wife asked, “Why did you do that, whacking the poor donkey three times?”  The driver answered, “I needed to get his attention!”

Sometimes life makes us suffer long enough to finally get very sick of our behaviors and attitudes.  We all want “quick fixes,” not a new orientation about life and where we are going.  Some may need to spend a few weeks in a hospital, or find themselves without our family, or a spouse, or job, or a friend before they “wake up” and listen.

So, don’t spin your mind or wheels too long when in despair and depression, feeling discouraged and alone.  Wake up to the Divine, the Christ of whom we are in our essence.  Don’t wait for the complete bottom to fall out.  Learn and practice to check your negative thought habits.  Keep a journal and write your progress down.  Make positive affirmations and go over them every day, morning and night.  Begin taking actions toward what your heart tells you to do.  And climb out of the graves of your life which are only barring you from the sweetness and hope Divine Peace which is yours, and within you.

Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou does love, and do what Thou wouldst do.

– Edwin Hatch, 1886

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Conscious Prayer

“As people think in the heart, so are they….”  Proverbs 23:7

            Everyone prays, whether they realize it or not.  Healthy people pray, sick people pray, parents pray, children pray, race car drivers pray, atheists pray, and certainly, politicians pray!  But what is prayer?  How could we improve and use our praying?  Does prayer change anything?  Why would one consciously practice it?

The word “think” comes from an old English word which means, “to make or cause to appear.”  If we don’t like things as they are, we can begin to change them by thinking!  In a study, many years ago at New York City Seminary, the leader said, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there!”  For as we think, so we become.

The Greek word for prayer in the Bible is pros euchomai, meaning to think and express wishes.  You can wish to change things around you.  You can think of how to change people in how they act or treat you.  All thinking is a form of prayer.  “As we think, so we become.”  (Proverbs 23:7) So, if we don’t like what we see or experience, we can change our thinking!

We start is with ourselves.  The ancient Hebrew word for prayer is hitpalel, which means to “observe or judge oneself.”  The idea is different from what most practice.   We want to change how others think and act so we can be happy.  We judge how others treat us: what they do, or where they go.  The Hebrew word is more inward; “Who am I?  How am I feeling?  What do I want?  How can I find peace and success?”   The process thus becomes a more conscious one.  We sit and mediate, observing ourselves; “What do I want?  How am I feeling?  How can I change?”

Such thoughts are powerful.  They have built buildings, including churches.  With thinking, we change appearances; get a new haircut or buy new clothes.  Everything in this room around began as a thought or idea.  Scientists even have said without thinking, there would be no world!  To say nothing about this sermon.

Much of my understanding prayer expanded as I read and learned about Einstein’s discovery of quantum energy, the smallest particle of “substance.”  A quantum is light energy and it radiates itself.  This quantum moves at double the speed of light.  It creates energy, a lot of it!  Einstein called it “the spooky part of the universe.”  It can be used to heal or make bombs which powerfully radiate heat and kill hundreds, thousands, and millions.

I have a brother in law with a Ph.D. in biological science.  Years ago, I asked if he could explain quantum mechanics to me.  He said, “Dave, when you look and gaze upon the moon, you will be changed.  And so will the moon!”

Two years ago, I attended a summer seminar of the Theosophical Society near Chicago.  One of the presenters was named “Amit Gotswami.”  A brilliant scientist from India, for years he has taught physics at the University of Oregon for 30 years.  He has become known for his work and writings in Quantum Mechanics.  Several years ago, he married another native of India who moved to America.  She amazed him with her “meditations” as she described them.  Amit wanted to investigate what was happening from a scientific viewpoint.  He became convinced she was connecting with her deepest self, a self even separated from her body, a Self which could communicate with the universe!  Now the two of them conduct seminars combining science and meditation.

Thinking and mediation affect people around us.  Experiments show how thoughts change people miles and continents away!  A writer, named Lynn McTaggart, has studied and written books on this phenomenon.  In 2011, she helped put together a group called “The Intention Experiment.”   She and her helpers brought together thousands of people from 75 countries, including people of several faiths including Muslims with thousands from Arabs of the Gulf states.  For 8 days, beginning with September 11, they prayed for violence to be lowered in two of the deadliest provinces in Afghanistan, Helmand and Kandahar.  Then they waited three and a half months to see if there were any effects.  They found that attacks in these two providences had dropped 29 percent during that period.  And during the 8 days of concentrated prayers in September, attacks dropped by 790 percent!  Prayer can change things.  (For more details, see The Global Peace Intention Experiment by Lynn McTaggart.)

The late well-known psychologist, Wayne Dyer, believed, lived and taught this idea after discovering it.  Raised his first 10 years in an orphanage, he discovered the power of positive thinking.  It thoroughly changed his life and over the years, his teachings and lectures help change millions of lives.  Dyer believed living with unconditional, positive love will be manifested in those around us.  He believed our thinking affects not only one’s own family and community, but the whole world.  Over the years, I’ve read many of his books, being introduced to them by a church Elder in Pennsylvania.  A few years ago, through a survey of the top spiritual teachers in the world, Wayne Dyer rated in the top 5!  Number one I believe was the Dalai Lama.  Number 2 or 3 was a scientist named Eckhart Tolle.  It was amazing that none of these recognized leaders spoke in churches!

However, negative thinking and prayer also has effects.  Ancient Plato, philosopher and founder of the Academy in Athens, recommended death for anyone using negative spells, charms, incantations and sorceries for purpose of mischief!  We see examples of such negative use in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, Elisha placed a hex on children who made fun of him and his looks!  Two bears came out of the woods and ate them!  (2 Kings 2:23-24) Now you know why I don’t take everything in the Bible seriously!   Clergy, as Naomi and I have experienced, can scare the daylights out of people by threatening eternal hell fire and damnation if they “don’t believe!”

Negative thoughts and prayers destroy relationships, churches, civic organizations and countries.  Hitler used negative thoughts about people, mesmerizing people to destroy millions of Jews and “undesirables.”  It happened in history many times; Russia, China, and of course, in our own country with the slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans sold in slavery!

Today some of us worry about the negative campaigning which elected our new President.  I’ve never heard such mean descriptions of other races, promises to build high walls to protect our border, deport people seeking escape from poverty and brutal governments, and talk of stopping Muslims from entering from several countries with “extreme vetting.”  It often frightens me, as it does others.  As written, hatred toward Native Americans and Africans forced into slavery were historically practiced, and the attitudes still linger in the vow to “make America great again.”

Change, however, brings consequences.  Some will be good and some not.  Medical doctors such as Larry Dossey, have used and written of the power of meditation and prayer.   Dossey wrote several books including, “Be Careful What You Pray For, You Might Get It!”   He described a woman psychiatrist who prayed with her mental patients in a Vermont hospital.  The administration stopped her since it gave her patients “unfair advantages!”

Have you ever decided to better yourself only to find things worse?  Most find this in marriage, or a chosen career, or moving to a new area.  We discover everything and place has “its own poison.”   Spiritual teachers suggest we adopt a more “acceptance of the present” attitude and find contentment with what we have.  Count your blessings.  A Bible verse goes, “…. I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

Positive prayer, however, is loving and kind, wishing the best for oneself and all those around him or her.  To obtain this state, most of us need hours, days, and years of routine self-reflection.  The word in ancient Hebrew from prayer, hitpalel, basically means “self reflection.” One becomes conscious of his or her own thoughts and actions.  I practice daily meditations and prayers, as I described in my memoir.  Finding this practice in 1979, it remains a staple of mine today.

In 33 years at Wayside, people helped me incorporate, I believe, a deeper understanding and practice of prayer.  We prayed for people who requested it during services.  We offered the laying on hands, not only by myself, but by others with the anointing of oil.   We trained people to visit homebound and hospitalized people, offering them communion of wine and bread as a sign of Divine Energy within them.

As a 9 year old boy, I remember going to Daytona Beach races in the early 1950’s.  Then then was a two-mile track on which drivers raced cars south on pavement and then around a curve to roar another mile  north on the beach sand!   Occasionally, we attended smaller races around our home in Sherman where in the 1950’s cars were raced in an abandoned gravel pit by the feed mill and milk plant.  Once, early in our marriage, I went with my father to a race near Jamestown where one of my high school friends was a mechanic on one of the cars.  During the race, I noticed a bright red car that looked new.  It was one of the most powerful cars in the race, one of the early “Dodge Challengers.”  But the driver always held back, staying away from the front or other cars.  I was told he never won a race.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because he doesn’t want to damage his new car!”  Seemed kind of silly.

Without daily inventory of our minds and directions, we could be moving around our bodies without reaching our potentials of deeper peace and fulfilment.  Minds are powerful.  They are the engines which drive our lives toward goals of joy and deep peace.  I urge you to often drive them “wide open and awake!”  Spend daily time in silence and meditation, go over your goals and intentions, and watch them become manifested in your lives!

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