I am (sadly) curious about what the “Christian” lemmings’ take / excuse is on the latest news that Donald Trump, in order to treat his Covid 19 symptoms, took a drug that is made from aborted fetus cells. Anyone? Anyone ready to look at the definition of hypocrisy, now?
I speak here from what I hope is an evolving, growing Judeo-Christian Worldview and a belief system that reaches out to all forms and belief systems of truth, light, joy, love, and peace. However, every now and then, I simply cannot remain silent when I see so many, at least in my country, America, claiming a type of “Christianity” that I don’t recognize as either Biblical or God-loving. We used to do these things called “testimonies”, in the churches I grew up in. Here is a little one of mine for today.
If I claim a Judeo-Christian worldview, it is not about whom I support, but WHY I support them, for we believe God looks at the heart. And for the one who claims either Judaism or Christianity, there should be only one “WHO” that matters — our Parent/ Creator/ God. My choices about anything and everything are important because of what that says about my walk, my religion, my soul, my God. As Jesus makes tragically clear: “What does it profit me if I gain the world, but lose my soul”? The only WHO that matters is Whom I say Christ is. The only WHO that matters is the God of LOVE of the whole world, the whole planet, the whole of Us, from the least to the (temporarily) greatest.
I will once more recommend a deep dive into the actual words of The Christ that many of us have claimed to follow. Matthew 23 is shockingly bold and convicting for starters. Warning: there is absolutely nothing at all on abortion in Christ’s words or in fact any of God’s, but there is quite a lot on hypocrisy and lies.
As just one little sheep myself, I am trying to follow the right Shepherd, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I am trying to take these words to heart from Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus is very clear that there will not be any politicians or even church leaders to stand beside me on judgement day. He does promise me judgement however, on how I treat others and how I follow “the Truth, the Life, and the Way.”
Sorry to be so preachy, but it just matters so very, very much to me. Not this man, or that man matters one whit in The End; and I matter not all; but it all and all certainly matters about The Son of Man and what some of us do in His name. #nocheapgrace#nocheapSavior
May you today find your own way to Truth, Life, Love, and Joy. May you know the value of your very own soul above all things temporal. May you be bold and brave enough to stand up and be counted among those who would change the world, even just your own little corner of it. May you have the assurance that Good will always win in the end if we truly believe that “faith, hope and love will reign eternally”. And above all, may you know that there is a Spirit-God Who loves you — just little old you.
I needed reminding today that Hope is a gift. All I need to do is hold out my hands and accept it. But I must risk holding out my hand. I must for one moment forget, how many times that hand has been slapped away by disappointment, fear, anger, or pride. Only by forgetting the past moment, can I welcome this new moment of hope. I must remember that I cannot hold onto hope if my fists are closed or my hands are full of selfishness, greed, or vanity. I must remember how lovely it is to hold things lightly enough in one’s hands so that they can be filled with hope. Hope is a gift, but I must open myself up to accept it.
Hope is a gift, but I must listen for it, tune my heart to its sweetness. I must watch patiently for Hope to alight. I must keep my hands open for hope to remain. The minute I try to imprison hope, it will flee from me. Above all, I have to remember that there is plenty of hope to go around. Hope is strongest when it is shared.
Today, I was reminded of the long arc of hope by these artists and writers. I am thankful to them and history, both mine and the world’s, for reminding me that Hope is “the thing that perches in the soul, singing the tune without the words, never stopping at all”. Hope patiently waits for us to remember that it is powerful but meek, self-contained but kind, and that every love ever loved needs hope to help it survive.
Hope is that which inspires me to join the dreamers, believe in the goodness of other people, know that love is stronger than death. And as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, while finite disappointment is real and hard, we must never lose hope, for Hope is infinite.
Keep Hope Alive. In fact, “live right under it”. ~~Jane
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ― Shel Silverstein
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ― John Lennon
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
— Anne Frank
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
— Barbara Kingsolver
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
— Robert Fulghum
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
— Pablo Neruda
When the night is dark, may you still see how bright are the stars, Jane
How to Sleep Better and Maybe Live Your Days Better Too
By Jane Tawel
September 17, 2020
And God said: “Let all creatures on earth have a great need to rest, just as God needs to rest”. And so, God created humans with an overwhelming need each day to turn off their minds and to pause all bodily functions except for breathing and heart beating. And God said, “Let all women, men, and children need to sleep for at least eight hours a night”. And behold, it was so! As God commanded — all humans needed to sleep. And God saw that it was good, and very good. (And then God probably took a nap).
You may stop reading here if you have always had a good night’s sleep every night of your life. And I must make a disclaimer here: I apologize beforehand for this very first-world problem that I am going to address. I know there are far too many people in war-torn or impoverished countries who can’t imagine the luxury of thinking they were able to somehow sleep soundly at night. But it is a problem that has been on my mind recently as my adult children talk about their sleep-problems and I recognize in so much of what they say my own history with sleep issues. Also, let’s face it, many of us are having more sleepless nights lately as we see the onslaught of world-problems come to a head.
Not everyone has as much trouble sleeping as perhaps I have had through-out my life. But because most of us have had, there is a plethora of helpful tips and natural remedies we can all find to personalize our “doctoring” ourselves to get a good night’s sleep. There is of course Melatonin or Valerian supplements for jump-starting a better sleep pattern. Some of us have found we need to wear mouth-guards or retainers at night in order not to grind our teeth. Some of us have found we need white-noise machines necessary for tuning out sounds, or deep-breathing in a pleasant relaxing aroma as a necessity for relaxing and sleeping well. I am someone who has found I need to do all of the above. But I wanted to share a few things that are maybe outside some people’s wheel-house that have been complete game-changers to my sleeping better at night and waking more rested the following day.
There are five things I want to share with any fellow seekers about what is such an important part of our day — our nights! We tend to think of sleep as a negotiable part of being human. But of course, it isn’t. This is why sleeping poorly disproportionately effects living well. It is also why bad people figured out early in mankind’s history that depriving someone of sleep could make them do just about anything. Getting a good night’s sleep is actually an ethical matter.
We have all given up some amount of sleep, willingly at times, to care for a baby or sick family member; or to meet a deadline, or even to celebrate an occasion (think bachelorette party or travel to another time-zone). And we all know that even when we don’t get a good night’s sleep for good reasons, we will pay for it the next day (and often, the next, and the next, and the next — sometimes for weeks or months afterward).
I have put into practice, in some ways almost accidentally, some habits that have truly changed my sleeping restfully and fully through the night. We all know how important sleep is, for our physical and mental well-being, as well as our health in our own spirits or soul and in our relationships. We also all know how impossible it is sometimes to achieve a good sleep. I know there is a lot of information out there, and you should find anything that can help you sleep well — sleep is truly just that important. But here are five things I have personally found to be life-changing in terms of sleeping at night. They are however, also things that should you be one of the lucky ones who sleeps well each night, can be used to good and helpful benefit during your day as well. I use all of them in various ways throughout my day when I can; but at night, they are now a necessity for me, and thankfully, mostly habitual. They have been real gifts to me to discover, and I hope one or two of them will be gifts to you as well.
1.Create a ritual that ends your relationship(s) with your Day, and begins a new relationship with your Night. Think of “Sleep” as a friend just waiting for you to join him or her. Say good-bye to your work and your relationships. Literally — say it and mean it. What very often keeps us awake is “staying” at work, or “staying” in an argument or problem with someone we love or even someone we don’t; someone, we have encountered that day (or last year, or when we were ten, or that we are imagining an encounter with….. you get it).
First, recognize that nothing can be done about any problem, whether at work or with family or friends while you are sleeping. That is your friend, Sleep’s, great gift to you — the gift of doing nothing because you can do nothing but be there — sleeping. So before you think about going to your bedroom to sleep, think of sleeping as a “new job or task” or a “new time together in a real relationship”; and each night say “Hello, Sleep. Glad to see you again”.
Of course we all know by now to make sure nothing work related is in the bedroom, if at all possible. That includes computers and phones, but it also should include thoughts. Make a ritual of entering your bedroom. Before you enter your bedroom, touch the door-frame and leave all your worries or concerns at the door. Say, “Goodbye, Day.” (This is one of the practices that can also be an excellent habit to form, if you are able, before you enter your home each day after a stressful day at work. Touch a tree in your front yard or your front door itself, and leave your Day worries and Day life, and Work relationships behind, and say, “Hello, Home. Hello, Family.” And then let your home as you enter it, be the special place it is meant to be, even if later on you have do a bit more work from some where in it.) Each Night — Think of your bedroom as a sanctuary and your good night’s sleep as a reward for all the things you have done that day. Enter your place of rest with a worshipful or spiritual attitude and let it assume the importance to your life that it is meant to have.
2. Before falling asleep, do something to relax that involves anything other than a machine. Something with paper and a pencil is very good. You might do a cross-word or Sudoku puzzle but not on a device, one on paper with a real pencil that you hold in your hand. You can read a real book, that involves turning pages. Instead of listening to music, you could sing or just hum. (I have written before about the great healing quality of humming, especially in terms of the vagus nerve. But humming is also a great “mindless” practice that can help turn off any thoughts keeping you from relaxing.)
We are discovering the toll devices take on our bodies, everything from our necks to our eyes to our skin are adversely affected. But devices also subconsciously represent the stresses of our day, or the worries of the world, even when we think we are doing something relaxing or fun on them, the subconscious reality takes a toll. Devices involve work and relationships for us, and you want to let those go so you can do the important thing you need to do at night — sleep. Things like relaxing with something that needs paper or pencils are also excellent because they involve a more natural tactile experience; something more in tune with our senses or nature if you will; and that makes our bodies more in tune with the natural rhythm of things. If you go to bed later than the person you share a bed with and can not turn on a light, you can do this step before entering your bedroom, but definitely after you have put all devices and work-related things (even things like doing dishes or laundry) to bed first.
3. Sleep on your back. Period. Doctors and chiropractors had told me for years to do this to help with shoulder and neck pain issues, and I just could not give up sleeping curled up on one side or another. After an illness, in which I literally could not sleep on my side due to the excruciating pain, I had to train myself to sleep on my back. It has made so much difference in my ability to sleep through the night that I have to say — it is the way every human being who is lucky enough to have a bed should sleep. It helps if you can afford a really good pillow; mine is a Tempur-Pedic one which does not elevate my neck but firmly supports it. I also put a pillow under my knees, a soft but king-sized one. This does two things. One, it gently supports my lower back by raising my knees slightly, thereby, “pushing” the lower back down into the bed, level with my upper back. Two, it prevents me during the night from easily turning over onto my side. Because the pillow extends out from both sides of my legs, I can’t quite as easily roll onto my side.
I could go on and on about what a huge difference sleeping all night on my back has made both to my sleep and to how my body feels when I wake up in the morning. My neck and shoulders really are much less adversely effected since I have been sleeping on my back, (although if I could quit bending over a computer or sink or pen all day, they would be even better.)
I will warn you — it was psychologically hard to get over that need to “protect” myself by sleeping on my side, curled up, and if you are sleeping with someone, it can be hard to get used to not “spooning” with them, but believe me, if I can recommend one thing to do to physically help yourself sleep better, and to make your muscles feel better in the morning it would be this — sleep on your back all night.
(NOTE: IF YOU ARE PREGNANT YOU SHOULD SLEEP ON YOUR SIDE PREFERABLY LEFT SIDE, AND NOT ON YOUR BACK.)
4. Have several meditative or relaxing things memorized. There will always be times when it is hard to fall asleep because you can’t turn your brain-off, or when you wake up in the middle of the night and your brain is already munching on your problems from yesterday or trying to gobble up your problems waiting for you tomorrow. Rather than think about them or get up to do something else, I have found it incredibly helpful to have memorized things that I can easily bring to mind and mentally recite.
Memorizing things has a host of benefits for the brain, whether your brain is young or old, and we have ignored doing it to the detriment of many things, but for this topic, I am merely recommending it as super helpful in terms of helping you have a restful sleep.
When your day has some down time, like you are in a waiting room, or manning a telephone at work that isn’t ringing, or on your break, or the kids are napping — memorize some thing that brings you peace, joy, or is just interesting. I am not that great at memorizing, but I have found that writing something out by hand on a piece of paper helps with memorization. Then I keep those papers in a binder or purse to pull out when I have some “free time”. This can be a quite relaxing practice during the day, too, since it is mostly far removed from what most of us do with our work days. Make sure it is something that either uplifts you or entertains you, though, if you plan on using it for night-time stress-reduction. It doesn’t have to be spiritual, but most of us find that at least something we consider good for our hearts and souls can be helpful. I like to have something sort of “mindless” or non-spiritual as well, though.
For instance, I decided I was interested in memorizing the actual NATO Phonetic Alphabet. This has been helpful when giving information on the phone during the days, because now instead of making up my own “M as in Mom” phonetic cues, I can use the correct universal ones, like “T as in Tango”; and I feel a sense of pride when I do that. BUT — it is also super relaxing to recite in the wee hours of the night, so rather than trying to count sheep at night, I simply go through the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Sometimes I will think of my loved ones and use the NATO Alphabet to spell their names, and that is nice too, as it brings those loved ones to mind without really “thinking” or more importantly, worrying about them.
I also, of course, have some “serious” stuff I have memorized; things that not only relax me at night, but also feed my spirit and soul. I have about ten psalms and prayers memorized. These include ones like the Serenity Prayer in its entirety and Psalm 23. I also have memorized poems such as “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson. I am now working on finally memorizing the poem I had read at my wedding, “Us Two” by AA Milne.
Poems and prayers that I can call to mind in the alone hours, help me especially when I am worried about someone I love, upset with God or someone I love or work with, scared about the news or a diagnosis or just reality in general, or just can’t let go of either something I need to forgive or something I need to forget. I think, also, that it is kinda cool to think that I can work on the most important parts of who I am and who I want to be, by NOT working, but by letting meditative words roll through my spirit like water and then to let sleep rock my spirit like a baby, ready to be reborn with the morning. Memorizing spiritual things helps me in that spiritual practice / belief.
5. Each morning, put an intentional and thoughtful end to your “work” of sleeping, just as you intentionally put an end to your work-day the night before. This doesn’t at first seem like something that would help you sleep, but I have found it helpful to make a ritual of waking, just as I do with going to sleep. So, whether rushed or not, I take at least a few moments each morning, no matter how early the alarm rings, or how often I have pushed the sleep button, to make a ritual of leaving behind what we might call, my “Night-Job” or my relational friend, Sleep, my “sleep partner” or my “lover, Miss Sleep” — letting go, giving leave to that part of Time — and making the new part of my day, the “not night/ sleeping part” something I am purposefully and mindfully transitioning to. This not only makes me feel that my waking again this morning is a bit of a lovely thing, but it has, strangely perhaps, helped me sleep better. It also just starts the day as being reckoned with as something different than the night. It becomes something I can look forward to, like I have trained myself to look forward to sleeping at night.
My own ritual in the morning, is to first, mentally greet my friend, the Morning, as I have greeted my friend, Sleep, the night before. “Good morning, Day. I am super glad I made it through another night without being eaten by wolves or forgetting to breathe. I am happy to be alive. Thank you, new Day, and Friend, Morning, for showing up with all your possibilities ready to work together with my own possibilities. We make a great team.”
Then I stretch. Since I am waking-up on my back, like I slept all night on my back, this is easy to do. If you end up not on your back, take a moment to really relax your whole back-side into your bed. Since I sleep with my husband, I stretch quietly and calmly and gently so as not to wake him. But gentle stretching is key to get the benefits, and it is one of those things we should be doing throughout our days for better health, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Starting the day connecting to the miracle of my body’s accomplished feat in keeping itself going through the night without any help at all from me, and caring for the body that will now get me through the day is an act both of productive care for my body as well as productive care for my soul.
This is what I do, and it can take as long or as short a time as I have without stressing about how long I “should stretch” on that particular day. It is also a great thing to do, when you turn out the light at night and prepare your body to care for you during the night.
Starting the stretches for my own body’s needs, I gently stretch my neck to one side and elongate my shoulder and arm on the opposite side by gently pulling down with my fingertips, and then do the other side. I stretch my chest gently up and down all the while taking deep breaths in and out. I stretch each one of my legs by elongating from the hip to my toes, reaching them long, down towards the end of the bed. I flex and stretch each foot and maybe circle it and then I do the same for each hand. It takes all of a few minutes on a busy day and can be a bit longer on days I am not “rarin’ to go”.
Then, to bid farewell to my friend, Night-time Sleep, and to get on better with the tasks I plan to do with my friend, Day-time Work, because of my own worldview, I greet God, and say a quick thank-you for another day and for protecting me through the night; and a quick “help me today” prayer. I mentally pray for my day, my family members, and any thing else that I might want some God-help with and I end with a word of gratitude for another chance at life and perhaps a chance to do a bit better at being a human being.
If prayer is not your thing, then any kind of spiritual meditation on Otherness, or some kind of affirmation, something that makes you feel that you are not all alone as you are going into your day, would be helpful.
I recently read a lovely idea in an essay on Grace Paley that she in turn learned from her father. In Paley’s essay, “Upstaging Time”, she writes about each morning “taking your heart in your hands” — literally taking it in your hands by cupping under your chest where your heart might sit. Then, Paley’s father told her to each morning do something like: “Then you must talk to your heart. Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.” I have recently started trying to incorporate this in my mornings, and you can read this beautiful essay in Paley’s collection of essays, Just As I Thought, especially recommended if you are growing older and not sure how to deal with all the feelings, both body and soul, that that involves.
Because that is the Big Idea, the thing I want to end with here– no matter who we are, what we do, what we believe, or where we find ourselves in place, time, and life — we can feel awfully alone and lonely on the best of days. And when we can’t sleep at night, we can start to think we really are alone. Because each of us, no matter how many may be snuggling next to you in your family bed, is in some ways, truly going it alone. The nights that are sleepless can make us feel that that is the only reality. And after a sleepless, lonesome night, we can feel awfully alone and lonely when we charge out to fight the dragons waiting for us on the other side of the dark nights. Some of us even give up the fight.
It isn’t the only answer, but I have found it is a very important answer to fixing the problems of the day — to treat getting good, restful, all night-long sleep as the critical health issue that it is — for physical and more importantly, emotional, mental, and if you will, spiritual health. If we can see sleep as a friend, we can greet it each night as someone we want to be with. If we can see a new day, as better, filled with possibility and hope, because we had a good night with our good friend, Sleep, then we can find the strength to, as the Serenity prayer reminds us, “live one day at a time; and enjoy one moment at a time.”.
And maybe we can also learn, with some good habits formed and renewed love with our relationship to rest, to “sleep one night at a time; and enjoy one restful moment after another.”
And God saw that the creature needed a friend, and God caused the human being to sleep, and took from him a rib, and God created woman so that each human-being might always know, that they would never have to feel alone. And it was good.
And the storms rose with a frightening vengeance, and the followers awoke as if in a nightmare, and they screamed in fright, and The Good Man slept soundly, waking only to calm the storms with a word, knowing that even in sleep, he was safe and that all would be well, because by sleeping, He was doing what he was born to do, just as with the morning dawning, he would rise to do what he was born to do. And it was good.
Sleep, and find hope that all will be well.
Rise, knowing that you are ready, and you are not alone.
Since I have put a bird feeder outside my “reading window”, I can now spend my early mornings looking down at my book, looking up at the birds — down, up; down, up; down, up. Come to think of it, I look a bit like a bird, with a head full of grey feathery hair atop my long scrawny neck, bobbing up and down as if pecking among the philosophies and fictions strewn across my table; and looking up at the birds — down, up, down up. I am like the scout-bird who is often a part of a small group of birds; the one that sits not at the trough of seeds but up on the top of the post, or in a nearby tree branch, the guard-dog of the others, (to mix animal metaphors). I sit with my pack of people imagined and real in books and pictures and thoughts and memories, and my own life-flock is with me in spirit, if not in truth. And I guard them, both in my memories of feeding them, and their continual feeding of me.
I like to see the little red-breasted, red-throated birds, who might be robins or finches but might be neither since, even though my daughter, Verity and my dear friend Heather, have tried to teach me and help me, I remain blissfully ignorant of types and names. The birds in the air swoop in and peck in their persnickety ways among the feeder’s offerings. I love the cool, grey pigeons — so seemingly unremarkable compared to the others. The pigeons are the sheep of birds, quietly feeding on the seed that has fallen to the ground. They may not be flashy or particularly bright, perhaps being two feathers short of a quiver, but they calm me and I feel my divine pathos rise up to surround them with thoughts of hope for their protection and delight in their innocence.
There is often one little sparrow — at least I think it’s the same one. I least I think it’s a sparrow. I watch the birds — I am not a bird watcher, a birder. I actually mostly don’t want to know anything about them — their names or anything like that. I just want to observe them. To be with them, apart, but a part, similar in cellular makeup, but oh! So very different! If there is anything that can assure me in the dark hours before the Sun rises, that there is a Loving Creator who somehow spoke into being, our planet Earth and all of the awe-some-ly unique creatures that roam it — for me, a belief in a Creative God is stronger, now that it has happened to be that I have time to sit and quietly watch the curious qualities of “birdness”.
So back to this one little sparrow. The minute he comes he pushes or scares the other birds away. He is a horrible bully and I feel so sad for the little birds that he scares from their places at the bird feeder as they fly away in fear and shame, while the bully bird takes their place. Notice I assume a male dominance factor going on here, but the bird could easily be female. Remember, I don’t want to know. It is unimportant to me. With the birds, I am able to do what I seldom can with people. I can judge the behavior without judging the character.
This sparrow, let’s call him / her a non-gendered name, shall we? This sparrow I will call “Jody” is a true bully. There isn’t a morning when Jody does not feel that no matter how much room there is, no matter how peacefully all the other little birds are getting along with each other, no matter what side of the nest Jody woke up on that morning — there is not one single morning when Jody does not immediately swoop in to bully the other birdies. He doesn’t stop to assess the situation. He doesn’t offer a deal or make some small talk. Jody doesn’t wait for the other birds to strike first or snap at him with some unpleasantry. She just hops on the feeder, flaps her quite normal-sized and frankly, rather drab colored wings, and chases away whoever got there before her that day. And if one of the others tries to sneak back on the other side of the feeder to finish its breakfast, Jody leaves her spot and chases the interloper off again. Don’t try to make excuses for Jody. This has nothing to do with being a “leader” or a “chosen and favored one” (Jody is nothing special, being a bird just like other birds). Her behavior must not be excused with some silly idea about it being evolution or natural selection. I am sorry, but it must simply be accepted — Jody is just a bully.
And I feel like sneaking up one morning on Jody when he’s at the bird feeder, his attention somewhere over his birdy shoulder looking for perceived enemy/victims; and I feel like grabbing Jody up in my gigantic godlike paw and holding Jody powerfully in my right hand and saying,
“Jody, my birdy-pal, my darling, I, the God Who Peers Through the Window, She who observes the Sun rising, and the deeds of all birds; I, Who have watched you each morning of your miserable little birdy-life; I, the Goddess who gives the birdseed to nourish the good and the evil birdies — and who cares for even the naughty, cheeky squirrels, for Heaven’s sake! I forbid you, small wee Jody, to keep bullying the other birds. Fly now, away with you — you are forgiven but Sin No More!”
And then, because I can’t kiss Jody on his little beak or hold her little foot as I would a naughty child’s small hand, I will stroke Jody on the head and assure her, and assure the whole little flock that now has come to see me deal with Jody– a flock of all kinds and colors, genders and abilities of birds — a multitude of birds that has by now gathered at my Godlike feet, stunned into birdy awe at my great supernatural appearance, and who are all bobbing their little birdy heads as they listen to my righteous message. And I will say to the flock that, foolish though they be, are my own, and are all those whom I have come to love and care for, even Jody:
“There is plenty. There will always be plenty for all in My Kingdom. Do you not know, that I can take these small seeds that I hold now in my hand, and I can turn them into a Costco sized bag of food to feed you? There is room at the bird feeder for all, for the pigeons and sparrows, for the meek and the red-breasted, for the shy and the brave, for the protectors and the children and for those who sing like angels, and yes –there is even room for the Jodies. There is scattered seed on the ground for those who must scratch in the earth to get their daily meal. And there is seed in the feeder for all that I watch over from my own perch, behind the window.
Do not worry, little flock of beloved birds. Do you think by worrying you can add one feather to your head? Do not worry, Bully Jody. Do you think by bullying you can add one hour to your life? Be peaceful in your bird-brains, and at peace with each other. If God can care and provide for both the good and also the naughty humans, how much more will He care and provide for you, the birds? Yea, even for the Jodies.”
I think Jesus observed birds often and knew them well. He used them as illustration and metaphor quite often, along with ones about seeds and grain. Maybe every morning, he woke up and read the Torah and had some pita bread, maybe throwing the crumbs out onto the ground to share with the birds. I like to picture him quiet before the world woke up, meditating prayerfully, reading and learning from the words on the scroll, and then looking up at the sparrows eating his crumbs and the grey pigeons pecking at the seeds in the fields. I imagine The Great Teacher and Miracle Worker in the early hours of the mornings before the hungry, needy multitudes gathered and the crowds and his friends and followers, who would swoop in, full of need, full of chatter, full of fears and hopes, and with broken wings and bent tail feathers they wanted fixing. A flock of followers who just as I do, just as you do, keep searching for something to feed us body, mind and soul, but miss the common, ordinary miracles of life and our planet and the miracles of other humans. We miss the miracle of seeds. And so we have rarely seen, that we too can fly.
The miracle that real food and spiritual food are always available is what Jesus tried to show the people; the reality that there is plenty and that no one needs to take more seed than what they need that day, because tomorrow, there will be more seed. That is the miracle of the seed.
Good birds will share space and seed; but even bullies could have much more than they could ever dream of, if only they would just ask. If we would only look around, and scoot over to give more room to others, and enjoy the seed set before us in just this moment, why then — those everyday miracles would become common place. Most people came to Jesus looking for a handout, anxious to fill their stomachs. But Jesus offered them what he knew they really wanted, which was the bread, the manna of his life that gives us life, and the “living water that will make us thirst no more”. Many came to the one they called Messiah, Rabbi, Lord, looking for an edge, a way to rise above the hungry, dirty masses and be better than their neighbors, richer than their enemies, more favored than those who were different than they; and to have Jesus do the heavy lifting but grant them a ticket cheaply bought to a better, far off heavenly place, a new, select feeder made just for them and not for the crows and ravens, those they considered scavengers, or the weak and meek, those they considered worthy only of what we in our pride and greed, had made of this filthy, untended, sinful world. But what they were really looking for was the beauty that had been forgotten, an earth full of possibility and hope, joy in the journey, and fullness in every moment. What they longed for was not someplace out there, but to finally be truly right here; in a new Garden, a better Kingdom to live in, a world that is this one, but reborn, renewed, recreated, in every glorious breath we take.
Since the beginning, some humans have struggled with the fearful reality that tomorrow the feeder will be empty, and others have hoarded and stored up more than they need, with the despairing anxiety that The Feeder will desert us for good. We are all afraid that that which has held the world together, and The One Who has cared to create us, will leave us on our own, leave the fools and the bullies that we are, in the shadows, in the burnt out husks, in the arid, drought-deadened fields, in the wilderness without Him. So since First Woman and First Man bullied each other into eating from the forbidden fruits of greed and need; and since the manna in the desert wilderness rotted in the storehouses of both the greedy and needy alike, we seekers of seeds and soulfulness, have tried to bully God. We pray without listening, look without observing, take without trusting, and we try to force God into understanding us, rather than the other way around. We whine that our hearts feel empty even when our stomachs are full. And we refuse to believe that we might be able, — even now, even all these years, after the beginning, after the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us — we refuse to believe we might be able to fly.
Many start their mornings and end their evenings at the feeder of thoughts and prayers, yearnings offered up to a God that in truth, we doubt can really care that much for us. After all, if there was a God who loved us, wouldn’t He give us more seeds and crumbs? So some of us bully the weak, and hoard the grain that rots in our storehouses, and we convince ourselves that it is our own power that provides the food in our feeders, and our own abilities that keep us aloft. Some of us choose to believe that there is a God who is as weak as we have let ourselves become, and so we convince ourselves that we need to do nothing but assent to the idea of the existence of a Bird Feeder, and we can let the world turn as it has always done, being only as weak as the God we have fashioned in our image. We worship a God whom we have made in our likeness and so She is either a bully or a weakling, or some days one and some days the other. We keep chirping and squawking, “Why? Why do we have to keep coming daily to the feeder for our sustenance? Why don’t You bless us with something more than manna or crumbs? Why must I share?”.
People came to Jesus and some of them learned that he loved them and that he believed in a Greater Good that also loved them just as any wonderful Mommy and Daddy always love their children, even when those children might be very naughty or unable to fly because of a broken wing. Jesus showed people that there really was Someone behind the window, and that even though the window was so foggy and scratched up and cloudy, you couldn’t really see Who was sitting there, you could sometimes see movement; and you knew that it was The God Behind the Window who each day, provided the seeds for us.
People came to Jesus because they were hungry and wanted to be fed, just as my birds come each morning to my yard to be fed. The people came to The Christ in their foolishness and pride and neediness, and they drained him of power and fought over who got the best and biggest crumbs of divine knowledge and holy interference. We are all people who never quite trust there will be enough of God’s good gifts. But there are seeds strewn throughout the world, freely given, gratefully received, enough for all, created by The Feeder’s righteous hands and shared by those of us who scoot over to make room for more hungry beaks. I think of these people who came to The Christ, people who depleted the Giver, like the hungry birds deplete my feeder full of seeds. I like to think after a long tough day, that Jesus returned to sit by himself, or maybe with one or two other bird-watchers, sharing a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread but not talking much, just sitting together, listening to each other’s breathing, and relaxing, and observing, and very glad to be alive.
I, too, want to follow in the footsteps of those who have left us evidence that they were Masters of Life and Living. I want to rise each morning to learn my lessons and share seeds with the birds, and to let the Great Gurus and the small birds teach me as I look up and down, up and down, up and down. I want to sit in the cool of the evenings somewhere quiet and alone or with those who also watch and wait, and we will end as we begin, by watching the birds.
When I sit watching Jody bully his neighbors, or the pigeons meekly graze, or even those cheeky, naughty squirrels catapulting through the branches or skittering across the yard in their games of tag, I imagine the mornings before the Father’s Sun rose, when Jesus sat alone, but never felt alone. I think of The Man as that one who would suffer all we do and more, much more, and yet who was able to care for the birds; a man perfectly content, happy, mindfully watching and waiting, just a human being, like me, reading, observing, smiling or shaking his head at the foolishness of birds and of men; someone who saw everything for what it truly is, but deeply loved and cared for it all. And I imagine that those were the times that he understood most truly that he had fulfilled his mission for living among us, as he sat with his head bobbing — up and down, up and down, up and down.
I understand a bit more now about my own task in this world and my own joy in the journey of a moment, now that I too, have made the time I always needed but seldom took, to sit and study, and watch and observe, and just be — just be with the goings on about me on this planet, and to be with the birds. I know more about why Jesus, The Teacher, told us the Parable of the Sparrows, because knowing birds a bit better, I am learning that we are all so much less important than we think we are, and we are also so much more loved than we believe we are.
Whether today, you are a struggling pigeon of a person, pecking and hunting for your sustenance. Or you are a Jody — a bully who thinks he has to overpower and overcome others to get ahead, to get more, to get what he deserves, to have the best perch, the most seeds, the top spot, or whatever it is you think you must have. No matter what kind of bird or being you are, remember that there is One Who Makes the Seed; One Who creates and plants and tends; One Who gives each day the Sun and Rain to grow the seeds; and One Who cares as much for you as for the sparrows. Meditate today on The God Who is a Feeding, Watching, Caring Being that even when you can’t see Her, loves you and has provided plenty of food and room at the feeder.
Then we must all try to understand, that the final instructions that Jesus gave before he flew off, were:
“Feed them. In the same way you feed others, you will be fed. Trust in Goodness, and that there is enough for all. In the same way you share seed and give place with others, I will give to you. Now go — and you must not just feed the birds you like, but you must also feed your enemies, the Jodies. I say, unto you, love The Watcher in the Window, and love your neighbors and your enemies just as much as you love yourself. Know that by doing so, you are like Your Heavenly Feeder and Father, whose feeder is full to overflowing, available and free for all of us.”
Remember to look around at the world, to observe the birds of the air, and the beasts of fields, and as you peck and scratch, or you hop and flit from here to there today, be assured —
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the unbelieving and faithless who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.~~Jesus as recorded in The Book of Matthew by one of his followers.
There is an ancient Book. It began as one life, The Tree of Life, the Tree of Jesse, and it has sent seeds throughout the world, which have taken deep roots, growing into a mighty, world-reaching forest of life-giving beliefs.
Some people have taken the Book Tree’s branches and turned them into tentacles to ensnare. Some have taken the Book Tree’s roots and poisoned them in their desire to destroy the Life that the Book Tree offers. Some have worshipped the Book, and forgotten that a Book is just a book; and that it is always about something that is more real than any words on a page can hope to convey. And some have used the Book Tree for personal gain and profit, cutting away the branches so the fruit can not be easily gleaned by those in need, but only gorged on by those hogging the sectioned-off branches.
There are many people who have taught me about The Book, some because they understood its meaning and some because they refused to. A person can learn from those who get it right and from those who get it wrong, and that is the wonderful thing about this Book; it is full of stories of people who got the messages in it right and those who got it wrong. I have learned that the Book has stories about people who from the beginning of Time have been just like me – full of pride, full of brokenness, full of a desire to give in to the temptations of self-centeredness, full of fear, and full of need. I have also learned from the stories that people have always been just like the best of humans that I know – full of courage in the face of danger, full of love in the face of hate, full of determination in the face of injustice, full of faith in the deepest darkness, full of hope in what we can not see yet, and full of something that can always be a little, better, a little higher than the beasts but always still a little lacking, a little yearning, a little lower than the angels.
I have learned in the Book that people have mostly gotten it wrong, but that as long as there is breath, there is the possibility of finally getting some things right. In the Book the only thing that counts is that you admit when you get it wrong and that you keep trying to get it right and that in the end, if you get it right, you’ll be okay. The Book calls this “forgiveness”.
I have learned that if you are my friend, that does not mean I should make your enemy my enemy. The Book teaches that there is only one “team” that matters and that I should try to play for it; and that team is not in competition with any other team, but it is the one sharing with everyone else. I have learned instead of keeping my heart hardened toward an enemy, that if I try to understand and have compassion for everyone, then I will have no enemies, but only brothers and sisters. The Book calls this “love”.
The Book has taught me that I, like all before and after me, have many choices of what to believe, but that if I want to believe what The Book teaches, then there is One Being that I should worship whose name no one knows but Who nonetheless, “IS”. “I AM” is the sole consolation of The Book; there is no other prize, no other meaning than relationship with Holy Otherness. The Book is clear, and yet not comforting about this God. The stories teach that there is a Creator of this world and of me (and of you); that there is a Parent who is Love; that there is a Conscience Reality that judges between Good and Evil; and that there is a Giver who loves to give what is truly Right and Good for the Created Planet and for the Creatures we are. That’s it. That’s all we get to trust in about what we long to know. Trusting in this and acting on it, believing against all odds, and despite our lack of knowledge and assurance, is what The Book calls “faith”.
The Book has taught me that there were many humans that lived Good Lives, lives lived all in CAPS with exclamation points behind them; GOOD PEOPLE!!!! and that every single one of them sacrificed and suffered a lot to do the right things. The Book has taught me that it is these suffering servants who really get what this life on earth has to offer that is best of all; and that the people who think this life is about getting more, earning more, hoarding more, of anything, including wealth or power, never really live as we were created to live. We should feel sorry for these people, not envy them, at least that is what The Book teaches.
The Book has taught me there were many people who were saviors of their people, and that there was one person who lived a perfectly Good Life and he is The Savior of all. He was also the most suffering servant of all, so it is astounding that so many people since he lived on earth claim they want to live like he did. Of course, it is hard to come up with actual examples of any of us who have lived like The Good Man lived, but the point is, so many people keep trying to, and that has made all the difference ever since.
The Book has taught me to follow the example of all of the Good People in the World, even if they never have read the Book or know anything about the God in it. The very best person to follow in life is the One Perfect Human, but this person is a very, very, very hard person to follow. He is a hard act to follow and at the same time, he is also exactly like me. And so, the Book teaches that I have great responsibilities, great need of forgiveness, and great hope of rebirth into the kind of Life that this particular Savior who is part of the Story of The Book, taught us about. This Man is what The Book calls “Son of God”.
The Book teaches me that every human comes into the world with a sense of right and wrong called a conscience, but that our conscience is a part of us like our hands or our lungs or our livers, and we can either care for and nurture our conscience or we can abuse and starve it, so that it becomes weak and sickly. The Book teaches that there are universal laws that will lead to being the best sort of human our species can offer and that everyone knows these laws but also that everyone always wants to make new laws that aren’t good for everyone or to apply the laws to others to follow but not follow themselves. The Book teaches that unless we follow the laws of caring for the planet and for all who live in it, then we are lost. This is why the Book teaches that the one thing most hated by the God of The Book and by our own best natures, is our ability to turn Truth into Lies. The Book teaches that from The Beginning, when First Man and First Woman lied to The God and lied to each other, that that is when they began to die. Lies are the roots of Death. The Book teaches us that we can kill our conscience, that we can kill that very thing that makes us “like gods”. This thing that is in all of us that we are to care for above everything else is what The Book calls “the soul”.
The Book teaches that though we may not see it clearly, there is beyond the mist and fog and in the darkest of darknesses, a Light of Truth that has no end. This Truth can only exist as a Co-Creator with Love. And Love as a powerful force of Goodness and Truthfulness and Joy is that which will remain long after The Book is no longer needed, on earth as it is EveryWhere THE IAM of LOVE lives.
I learn from The Book about Life and what the stories in The Book do in my own life and my own relationships and my own Relationship, is a matter of how I live each day in The Garden. Like seeds planted, each moment, it matters on an unfathomable scale, how I choose to nurture those seeds, how I protect them from weeds and drought, how I nourish them, how I grow them, and how I trust in The Sun to freely give them Life. The Book teaches that to whom much is given, much is required of her to give back, to give others, to give forth, to give freely. Because The Book teaches me that there is nothing to fear if I keep my hand to the plow and the other hand outstretched to my neighbor and that I can live boldly and joyfully, like the other people whose stories are told in The Book. I can be at peace in this world with a “peace that passes understanding”. The Book calls this “wholeness” or “shalom”.
I am so grateful to have found the Book, so many years ago now. It is a compass that always points to True North, it is a map and a guide on The Way; it is a consolation in times of trial, a rod and staff when I err and need redirected; it is a wealth of good tales with stirring events and teaching moments, with characters that I can relate to, admire, and either cheer or boo; it is a source of eternal proverbs and excellent poetry; and it is an eternal clarion call to live justly and righteously in a world of naysayers. And greatest of all, The Book is a hint – a small little hint—that there is Someone who wants to know me and be known by me and that That Otherness called simply “I Am” is as real as the Perfect Love that I have always imagined truly exists.
The Book is a Tree, and we are the branches. Let me reach forth my own small branch so that even the small birds of the field may find shelter there. Let me be secure in the Truth that The Tree produces enough fruit for all and let me share the fruits of my own small labors and my life so that all may live in the shade of Love. Let the leaves of The Book be like leaves of a mighty forest bringing Life to the whole world. May it be so for you and for me in this very moment ~~ Jane
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)
“The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.” (The Book of Daniel 4:10-12)
(Image by Dave Cutler for The Boston Globe, March 2020)
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned
By Jane Tawel
August 3, 2020
Introduction: Reading C.S. Lewis and what some call the “Old” Testament (actually the Torah and Tanakh) is not for the faint of worldview. They aren’t for the faint of heart, either, but it is especially our worldviews that seem to have brought us to where and who we are in this particular moment on Planet Earth. Perhaps if it had been our hearts instead that were leading us, we would not have arrived at this Foucault’s Pendulum swing that may, like a Giant Finger on the World’s Balance, forever still the rotations of our world as we have known it. And still, those who can, fly off to space for a joyride, or build an empire for king but not kingdom, or insist on being the naked emperor, unmasked but unhumbled; while we let our children die and the wars rage and the planet burn and dry up into a husk of the Eden it was meant to be. If only we would all stand on the same side of that swinging pendulum and push and pull together to right the balance of this lopsided world. The discouraging beginning of this essay will hopefully resolve itself in the end. But this is our task, is it not? To look honestly and truthfully within and without at what is wrong, and then do our very best to right the wrongs, become upright ourselves, and then right the off-course ship of this great world?
Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images
I no longer fear the hell of Mythologies and Scripture. That hell is reserved only for those who choose it in this very present “now”; and if we are honest, we can see them choose hell for their souls and whatever souls they may desire to pull down with them. There is a “special place” reserved for those who would hurt others for their own gain, and we can see it in the world we live in; we do not have to believe that somehow, some God will either “send” people to that hell or that some God will not send any one to that hell because of some kind of supernatural love. While love is always a supernatural power, so are hate and greed, and those who choose hell have every right to live in it, just as those who choose to live in the perfect “heaven” of love have the right to hope for it in Eternity. We see the choices people make and we turn from the knowledge because it is too horrible to see any human being choose to live as a hellish creature, but also it can be too fearful to see the power and might of those who truly choose to live as heavenly ones. So we often turn from the knowledge that we can choose to live in a “heaven on earth”, an existence without the outcomes and consequences of our fear or anger or hatred or wrongs; we just do not really want to.
C.S. Lewis writes much about this choice between living into what I might humorously call, the now of Nirvana or the presence of Purgatory. In The Great Divorce, a fictional exploration of this idea of our choices in the view of Eternity, Lewis writes:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
But it is Lewis’ book of essays in The Weight of Glory, that stun us into contemplation on this idea of heaven or hell as our ever present daily choice: In it, Lewis writes:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. … Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (The Weight of Glory, Lewis)
Besides my current “on steroids” fears of super-viruses and super-villains, there are other things to fear in one’s soul in the here and now. Instead of fearing a future hell, that lake of fire and pit of despair and place of torment, I fear instead that I will continue to exist in the now as nothing more than sinew and bones. I fear a death of becoming nothingness if I have lived a life that is full of the nothingness of the lies of selfish striving, and not the fullness of everything in truly bountiful, beautiful, generous being.
I fear that I will continue to think of my life and this world as stuck irrevocably in our human plight since Genesis, and that if I allow it and accept it without a fight, that “since from dust I was created, so to dust I will return” (Genesis 3;19) Oh, to me is there anything more fearful than to contemplate that I am soul-less by choice and that from molecules I was created to live as nothing more than hungry molecules, finally dying to the dust of molecules in death? I fear to continue living as I far too often have, and far too frequently do. Hell is the idea that I will die and be punished to live in something worse. But is it not more awful, more tragic, to never choose to live into the idea of being something better? Should we not more truly fear never knowing Heaven now, on this lovely, lovely Earth that we have been given to share with each other?
I fear death, but it is more and more a fear of never truly embracing the mindfulness of living, a kind of living that I have too seldom fully grasped and too seldom fully practiced. How can I fear a permanent end to my mind’s existence, if I have never truly been mindful while alive? How can I fear the stilling of my beating heart if I have never completely listened to the miraculous beat of that feeling organ, that organ that represents all that which we feel as humans, that life-force pumping away in our bloodstreams and symbolizing all that poets and prophets write of, that lovers dream about, and that mothers teach their babies to accept and expect? How can I be afraid of no longer seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling if I have never enjoyed the heavenly sensuousness of my God-given senses? As the Good Teacher said, Oh, what does it profit me if I gain the world but I lose my soul in the process?
I do as all others, fear the cessation of what I may call “my soul” and the separation of myself from that “Otherness” which I may call My God. What has often kept me safe from despair and evil, that “Other Hope”, that Otherness as an “Eternally Existing Life-Force”, is only as real as I make it. It may finally ebb and never again flow back to the shores of that which I call myself. And yet, while I fear the cessation, how often as I live– how often do I choose– to stand on the shore and merely watch my life, rather than fling my life into the ebb and flow of this present ocean of existence as Goodness and joy in the journey? How often have I chosen as Lewis warns us against, to see my neighbor as “mere mortal” and not to see my neighbor as the “holiest of objects ever presented to my senses”?
But above, all I often forget all the love. I so easily remember the hurts done to me and the shame in the hurting I have done; harm done to me, and the harm I have participated in, to others and self; the painful silences of loneliness and my own pain-producing silences in the face of wrong and evil. I fear that one day, when my body dies, and everyone’s will, I fear that I will no longer love, nor have love. If Love is the strongest belief of all; the most real thing that exists anywhere in the Universe; the most unerring righteousness of all law and ethical philosophy; the greatest gift as well as The Giver; and if Love is the one thing that will remain forever, being real in an unknowable, mysterious Eternity, even if all else fades away; then all I truly need fear is the end of Love. And since that can never be; my fears are always at the mercy of Love. My fears can be conquered each day by the grace of my loving actions, by the very real presence of my loving others as I would love myself, and by the faith of my acceptance of a Love that has the power to defeat even the evils of death, and to live forever.
Today I can have Heaven on Earth. Today I can live an eternity in this moment in the destination of my choice. Will it be Heaven? Or Hell? Or will it be mostly the drudgery and soul-less-ness of dust? We are taught by The Master, to pray that we may have life today “on earth, as it is in a World of Perfection”. As another favorite guru of mine, Kathryn Schulz wrote, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t” (Being Wrong, Schulz).
All of my fears of the afterlife can be resolved when I put away my fears of tomorrow and live only for this day. But I also must continue to live for the future; not a future that is focused on myself, and the continuation of what I want, but focused on the future of that which is more than me and at the same time, makes me so much more than just a continuation of who I am and what I have today. I must choose today, between heaven and hell, but I also must make this day a “heaven on earth”, by not just enjoying for myself what I have, and not just “being all that I can be”, but by living with the knowledge and purpose and desire to create that world we were meant to live in as One. I must imagine a heaven on earth where all have what each needs, and the earth is returned to beauty, cared for as a child cares for an aging parent, with tenderness and love; and a world in which each child is my child, and where there is more than enough to share, and especially enough Love to share. Until every human on earth can live in the freedom and joy of that heavenly vision, then no one will ever truly live in it.
My soul is secure in The Presence of Goodness that is here and that is now. My soul is at peace in the hope that is alive even in the darkest moments, because hope is not a trophy earned, but a gift freely given. My soul is “in love” with the life that I have today and being “in love” with life makes me full of love to share freely with all others. My faith is an ocean flowing backwards and forwards in the Time I am allotted, but when I immerse myself in the flow, I am able to get a small, faint glimpse of the Heaven that lies on the Far Shore. It is my choice of where I shall live today, will it be that which is Good and causes good or that which is Suffering and causes suffering?
Today I will baptize myself in that river of healing – in that ocean of Love— and from the depths of almost drowning myself in the reality of my fears and hatreds, my hurts and harms, I will arise to that Reality which has no end, on earth, in heaven, or in that which I call my soul.
We are taught to pray for a world here and now “as it is everywhere else in the Cosmos – The Heavens” where Love and Light and Holy Joy exist as Reality Eternal. Heaven is Love and Love is available to all Life. Now. Here. Love is as small as the teardrop on someone’s face that I can wipe away. Love is as vast as an ocean which may obscure the Vision of The Other Shore, but is full of life and life-giving. And because Love is not a feeling, but an action, and an action that has the power to change even the worst feelings we humans may have – anger, hatred, and even fear –then Love is Heaven Come Down to us. As long as I can choose to act in the Love of this Moment, then I need have no fear. Love is Eternal, and if I love, so am I.
C.S Lewis had much to teach about the Judeo-Christian ideas and the imagined reality of heaven and hell. In his story about people having one last shot at choosing where to spend eternity, he has a prophet say to a seeker,
“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” (The Great Divorce)
When fear has us quaking or anger has us shaking, we must remember that it can be a God-send – a Heaven-sent, if you will—opportunity to let all that is wrong or broken inside of us, all that is untrue and un-straight, all that is hurting and hurtful – all of that “hell” to be shaken loose to fall away like so much sand in the mighty waves of the ocean. The Ocean of Love is unshakeable, and it is that which will remain in us and in our world and in our creations and from any of our meager accomplishments and that which will remain forever in those we love, including our very own selves. It is what will remain in earth, and in the heavens. And the reality of the heaven we seek is that heaven that we bring to this day.
If hell hath no fury like a heaven it scorns, then it is also true that heaven mocks our fears of death with the strength of Love. That Heaven which is among us, scorns the lies of hell, and scoffs at the weakness of hate. That Heaven is the most powerful thing in existence – Love.
All this will pass away, but Love – unshakeable, unerring, unfearful Love – that will forever remain. May our hearts lead our worldview and our love lead the world.
May your Love, and The Love that can be yours today, dispel all your fears of living in the Heaven of this very moment. Together let us have faith in Love and faith in each other to bring heaven to earth. ~~ Jane
“There is no fear in Love, for Perfect Love, casts out all fear”. ~~From the Book of I John 4:18
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
~~ From the Book of Zephaniah 3:17
“The Kingdom of Heaven is closer than the brow above the eye, but man does not see it.”
Let your love flow outward through the universe. To its height, its depth, its broad extent, a limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie down, as long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; your life will bring heaven to earth.” ~~ Gautama Buddha
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” ~~ Jesus
There is nothing more foolish than continuing to try to change the mind of a fool or the heart of a hater. Better to go ahead and change the world and let all benefit from it. The fools and haters will never thank you for it, but you won’t need their thanks. Heroes don’t need the praise of fools any more than the Sun needs the earth in order to shine its light. World-changers don’t need the haters to love them, any more than the weeds and stones need to love the Sun in order for it to warm them. As the Good Ones say, “The Sun shines on the good and the evil”. The Light illuminates The Path for those who will walk it and for those who will stand on the sidelines and look for any excuse to sit in the dark. Just as the Sun does, we must let the light of truth and the warmth of love touch all, even those who will continue to prefer darkness and coldness.
Let your light shine and let your love warm. Do not fight or worry about those who refuse to step into the light or embrace the warmth. World-changers don’t waste time trying to get fools and haters to believe that the world doesn’t revolve around them, any more than the Sun needs to convince us that She doesn’t revolve around the Earth. Each day, the Sun shines, whether a person believes in it or not.
The Sun will shine because it is created to shine. You are created to shine.
The Sun will warm because it is created to warm. You are created to warm.
And the Earth will continue to exist to revolve around the Light and Love of the Sun as long as there are Good people willing to keep their lamps full of the sacred oil of love and their lights burning bright, conspicuous and bold with the power of truth.
Be a Sun in the world today. Be the unsung, un-thanked Hero of this moment in the sun.
Be the light and even the fools will feel your power.
Be the warmth and you will find that even the haters will feel less cold.
Be the Light and do not let darkness delay you in your quest for a better world. And when you leave the fools and haters behind, you will find that there are many more heroes in our world than you ever dreamed there could be.
And the unsung heroes are the ones that will one day, receive the only thanks that truly matter in a better world where all will live in The Light of the Sun; the heroes of today will receive the thanks of the children of tomorrow.
Be of good cheer; have hope even in the darkness; shine your light; find joy in your journey; and rise to your very own task of being a light on The Way and a hero to others today – Jane (P.S. And remember that all real superheroes wear masks. 🙂 )