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Which Face Do You See?

Posted May 31, 2013

Orion nebula

Okay, so here's my question: How do we communicate with God if we are ONE with God? How do we have a relationship with something we already are part of?

Ever since I was introduced to author Ken Wilber's idea about The Three Faces of God, I have worried that I have been teaching about God in the wrong way.

The Three Faces are:

God as All That Is.

God within each person.

God in relationship to us.

It's the relationship I'm having trouble with, although that's the most familiar face of God for most people.

I've been teaching for years that God is within us and/or God is a force field of love and intelligence, encompassing everything. I like both ideas, although I have been confused — and no doubt have confused other people — about whether it's still possible to have a one-on-one relationship with God.

Prayer is where the problems first arise. If God is within, are we praying to ourselves? If God is the web of life, are we launching prayers into a great, unhearing cosmos? If God is principle, is there any point in praying at all? Universal law is already fixed, right?

I've been slogging through these questions for years now, trying to sort them out and explain them in my talks. At the same time, I've been insisting God is not an old man in the sky, watching and judging us. I have said we are creators of our own experience, exercising universal law through the power of our thoughts.

But I've gotten pushback on that. Some people feel bereft or abandoned without the belief that a Supreme Being is keeping tabs on their ups and downs. Others say they don't want to rely on themselves as creators of their experience; they want a Higher Power with a will for their lives, a divine blueprint they can figure out and follow. And they want Someone to talk to.

Hm. No matter how many times I say we naturally outgrow the theistic God, a lot of people can't conceive of God any other way.

(Theism is God-out-there, a being who intervenes supernaturally in our lives to manipulate events. And theism is so bound to our culture that anyone who doesn't see God this way is an a-theist.)

Of course you are free to view God any way you like. But a relationship with God has seemed dualistic to me. Aren't I and Thou separate entities?

Ken Wilber's Three Faces clarified the different ways I had been trying to describe God -- God as All, God within, God in relationship. The tumblers fell into place.

Wilber says the world's religions usually pick one or two faces for God and disdain the others.

Traditional Christianity, for instance, is very big on a relationship with God. But God within us? Maybe a spark, but nothing more. Certainly not enough to claim divinity for human beings. Adam was made from dust. Jesus was the only begotten human who was ever divine. The rest of us are sinners.

Buddhists are the opposite. They don't talk about a deity but focus on the Buddha nature within. Buddha means awake.

I first heard about the Three Faces of God from my friend Karen Kelly while she was in seminary, and we both became intrigued by Wilber's challenge to integrate the three, to understand God as all that is, God within us and God in relationship at the same time. No religion has ever done it.

Karen wrote about this in Unity magazine. I spoke about it last year.

Now Karen and I are starting a six-week series for Unity Online Radio called The Three Faces of God. It starts Monday, June 3, airing live at 2 pm Central with recordings available afterwards.

We're not looking for the correct ways to understand God but useful ways. We don't want to close ourselves off to any ways God might be revealed.

I'm approaching the show with one main question: Is it possible to have a relationship with God without falling back into the dualistic God-out-there from which we feel separate? Karen sees a healthy relationship with God as crucial to a spiritual path. My focus the past couple of years has been oneness, living AS the divine. Can it be both/and?

We won't be the only ones talking on the show. Most weeks we will have guests — authors, ministers, faculty from Unity's seminary, leaders of other religions — to hash it out with us.

Jesus seems to have approached God in all three ways — he spoke about God, communed with God and lived as God — so apparently it can be done. And I did have one glimmer of insight the other day:

Maybe we are like fish in water. It surrounds them, moves through them and sustains them. They are distinguishable from the water, a different vibration or density, but they are not separate from it. It gives them life. Is that a relationship? Or is that oneness?


PS -- How does this work for you? Is God a Being you relate to? Do you also feel a sense of oneness? Can you have both?

What have been your changing views of God, and what questions remain for you?

Would you share in the comment section where you are with this?


What Can You Possibly Say?

Posted May 31, 2013

A few weeks ago, I wrote about metaphysical malpractice. I said when someone suffers a tragedy, loss or illness, do not ask, “How did you create this?”

But what do you say? What do you say to people in Moore, Oklahoma, after the tornado last week? Or after the factory explosion in West, or the school shooting in Newtown, or the bombing in Boston, or any other place with a shocking disaster?

For that matter, what do you say to a friend who has been diagnosed with a serious illness? Or has lost a spouse or child? Or the myriad other events that make the human experience so challenging and unpredictable?

I ran across a beautiful essay this week from Rev. Kelly Isola, who served for 18 months as temporary minister in Joplin, MO, after an F-5 tornado wiped much of the city off the landscape, including the Unity church. It happened two years ago May 22.

Kelly said people not only needed shelter, safety, food and water, but they needed to make meaning of the event. They wanted to know what their devastating experience said about God, humanity and the lives we live. Their spiritual health was as important as their physical and emotional recovery.

She wrote:

Healthy spirituality … lets us know that all of life's experiences are part of our journey, not just the ones that feel good. There is no separation between what is sacred and what is earthly, or what is secular and what is spiritual, because every bit of our life is infused with spirituality.

Spiritual health is quintessential for long-term recovery and healing from the confusion, grief and darkness that accompanies great loss. Without it, we run the risk of not living from our sense of wholeness, of not stepping back into life with a sense of adventure and creativity, of not being willing to risk new experiences. (Read the whole article here.)

Kelly suggested we can help in others' spiritual recovery by acknowledging, without judgment, any of their questioning, any feelings that God has forsaken them, and any anger, grief or guilt they express.

But how?

A woman who lives in Joplin responded to Kelly via Facebook. Having lived through the tornado, here's what Tracy Allan Cope would say now to someone whose life has swirled away.

I would say:

§ You are going to make it through this.

§ You will find things in the rubble to treasure.

§ You will think of things years later that you lost. You will be ok without them.

§ You will never be the same, but you will be ok.

§ Someone will come to help you; please accept their help even if you don't know what you need. Ask them to stay with you and help you think, because that will be the hardest thing to do right now.

§ I am praying that this experience brings you to a place that is even better than where you were yesterday. It will take time.

§ God is with you.

§ We are with you.

Ministry of Presence

In the end, words may not be necessary at all. A pivotal point in my previous life as a reporter was in 1984 when I covered a tornado that destroyed the little town of Morris, Oklahoma. With only 1,200 people, nearly every house and business were vaporized, and eight were killed in a place where everyone knew everyone.

I was trolling the devastated blocks with a second reporter from United Press International, looking for people to talk to and feeling guilty for being there. Why were we bothering these nice people, I thought? We're invading their privacy, we're obstructing their recovery.

Until I realized those people were seeking us.

“Are you a reporter?” they would ask with a glance at my notebook.


“I was in this house right here.”

“We hid in the bathtub.”

“My aunt was killed — she lived two blocks away…”

They talked and talked and talked. They needed to tell the story, to hash through the experience just as they were picking through the physical rubble of their lives. There were no great theological insights — except “Thank God we're alive!” — just the rambling memories and speculation of befuddled minds.

“It sounded like a freight train.”

“We're hoping the dog will come home.”

I listened long past the time I had enough quotes for my story. I stopped taking notes and kept nodding my head, standing with them in the hot sun to survey the wreckage.

I understood for the first time the ministry of presence. In many more years as a reporter, and later as a minister, I never felt guilty again about asking to receive someone's story. They nearly always wanted to offer it.

On the stripped-bare streets of Morris, Oklahoma, I learned that what I say to someone in tragedy doesn't really matter. I'm not there to talk to them, I am there for them.

The people of Morris certainly don't remember me. Hospital patients emerging from anesthesia, families grieving a death may not be able to name everyone who showed up.

But I believe somehow they feel better. Maybe they know deep down someone cared and they were not alone. The presence of another person, after all, is a visitation from the divine.

Without saying a word, that is enough.


What Makes You Happy?

Posted May 18, 2013

What would it take to make you happy?

Would you need to add something to your life? Or let go of something instead?

I ran across an article called “15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy,” and they amounted to a checklist for spiritual maturity. In this little video, we can go through the list together and see how we're doing. Five minutes to happiness?

(If image doesn't play video, click here.)

What could you release from your life in order to be happier? Share your ideas below. (Click the little blue number.)

Here's the original article about 15 Things if you want to read it without my commentary!


Are You My Mother?

Posted May 11, 2013

mother and child

It's Mother's Day. Let's talk about yo' mama.

I was shocked the first time I heard the notion that we choose our parents before we are born. No way! Never in a million years!

My spiritual views have evolved since then, and so has my perspective on my mother. I believe completely now that we do choose, although I have no proof whatsoever. Just for fun, let's stipulate we chose our parents.

Why did you choose the mother you had?

What did she offer you, good or bad? What did you learn, either by her direct teaching, by example or even by negative example?

I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours. Mine is easy. My mother gave me words. I speak and write for a living – it's what I was born to do – and she's the one who literally taught me to say my first words and write them in crayon. She valued reading, creative expression, poised public speaking and proper grammar.

She was an English teacher, for heaven's sake. One time she hurt her knee and was at the hospital emergency room, where a nurse kept telling her to “lay back.” She couldn't stand it. “Honey, it's LIE back, LIE. You say this to patients all day, you need to know how to say it correctly.”

Mother passed on her peeves, so now that she's gone, I've taken up the mantle of cringing at people who use non-words such as “irregardless” or write lead when they mean led. Local television anchors who say “deppity” and “liberry.” And presidents who say “nukeyer.”

My mother and I had the standard mother-daughter tensions, which we took way too seriously. Part of her legacy required therapy to untangle and much too long to forgive.

But when I picture my soul as it planned this life and cast the role of parents, I can easily imagine that I said, “Those two right there. The English teacher and the radio announcer in Texas. They'll give me a head start on all the writing and speaking I need to do.”

Whether you believe you chose her or not, your mother might have launched your profession or your relationships. She might have been a shining role model or a cautionary tale. You might have been paying some kind of karmic debt to each other. Difficulties in your childhood might have hurried you into the healing and growth you wanted for this lifetime.

A few of the negative examples are extreme. I heard a guy on Unity Online Radio the other day saying he used to pray his mother wouldn't show up for school plays or games because she invariably would be drunk. She eventually left the family and is still in the grip of addiction.

His story was hard to hear, but he didn't judge his mother. He said her influence, complicated as it was, helped him become the man he is. She was the right mother for him.

A friend of mine says her daughter was about 3 when she looked up one day, eyes full of love, and said, “I'm so glad I picked you instead of that Chinese mommy.” The daughter turned 16 last week, and her mother wrote on Facebook, “Thank you for picking me to be your mom.”

Did you pick the right mother? For what you became, for what you needed to learn? Do you have a sense of the soul work you were doing together? Or still are working on?

I'd love to hear from you. Click on the tiny blue number below and share your story. Why did you choose your mother?

Bonus question: If you're a parent, why do you think your children chose you?


A Moment of Peace

Posted May 5, 2013

Today … a 42-second meditation for you. Just watch the video and take a couple of deep breaths. Ahhhhhh.

Some background … last week here in the Texas Hill Country, we had a rare day of thunder, lightning, wind and finally rain. I know rain might not be a big deal to you. But after years of drought, we worship it. We call each other to exclaim, “It's raining!” We put headlines in the newspaper. Sometimes we dance in the raindrops and praise God, like Dust Bowl farmers of old. Or more likely these days, we shoot video.

I was sitting out on the porch when the rain started to patter on the stone deck. This is a view of Lone Man Valley from my church. The only sound is rain.

Just wanted to share this moment of peace and grace.

Click for video


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