Monday, March 26, 2012

DREAM: UNITING PAST WITHOUT LOSING PRESENT...March 25, 2012


I was a walking tourist in Europe. I think Spain or Italy. I came to some new stone modern construction. New apartment buildings were being constructed. There was an old abandoned stone church and ancient stone dwelling buildings that were being preserved and made as a seamless part of the new construction. This was expensive but I was greatly impressed at the cultural values that were being shown by this community and these builders. The inside of the the church had been hollowed out and tourists could walk through the ancient areas. An old rough skin wrinkled kind-eyed woman was skillfully brewing large urns of three kinds of herbal teas. She was doing this on the old stone floors of what had been the ancient church. I was giving her some assistance and was also serving the requested teas to some of the walking tourists.
New Construction Old Church

REFLECTION: This is to me a wonderful and soothing and hopeful dream. It is very archetypal in that the scene involves aspects of probably 14th century Europe. It is a picture of the deep archetypal roots from which much of my American culture developed. The dream reminds me that to know ourselves now we must gain a strong sense of our own spiritual/psychological/cultural roots. Post modern people suffer from uprootedness and we have tended to tear down and bury all the signs that could connect us to the ancient. Here some people had not been willing to do that. The old medieval Christianity extravagantly and overly  spiritualized all of reality. Two examples are Christ is now hardly a real human in our image of him and the 'good woman' is pictured as a physical virgin with no connection to erotic joy. The Christ story that orthodoxy developed eventually lost touch with the earth and thus to our instinctual humanity. We have become ungrounded, out of touch with our deepest roots. This is a very grounded and earthy dream. It respects the past for we must understand  our spiritual history in order to fully live our post modern lives. Keeping the old church and the old living quarters wonderfully unites the spiritual with the common and earthy. The stone floors in the old church could not be more solid and comforting. Our eyes are brought from the heavens to the earth thus uniting them.  This dream unites past and present by having new skilled construction built seamlessly connected to the old construction. It is significant that the old structures are kept but they have to be 'hollowed out.' Our post modern knowledge and psychological/spiritual development , new facts of a new era  must be incorporated and must replenish and sometimes replace much of the world view that the dwellers and worshipers of the old church had. This is a spin on the well know archetype that Jesus used which says, 'new wine requires new wine skins.' The old church has been hollowed out and reinforced so that it can be a container for new life and new perceptions.
Wise Anima Figure


I am pleased that the anima, our inner feminine principle who connects our consciousness to the Collective Unconscious, makes a strong and impressive but eloquent appearance. She is here pictured as a skillful brewer of tea. Tea drinking has long been a symbol of fellowship and generosity among humans. This is a tradition in both the Eastern traditions and in parts of Europe. Herbal tea stresses our present need to honor the earth, matter , dark,  the damp, the feminine. These are values that orthodoxy left behind that now demand their place in modern Western culture.  They are coming into the light of full conscious valuing the dream is saying.  This is needed for our improved  psychological/spiritual health and wholeness. I am glad to be pictured as cooperating(which is the correct attitude for humans to have regarding the forces and realities of the inner world and for the incoming content from the Collective Unconscious. Our place is  no longer to 'subdue and control' but to listen and to cooperate.)
Ancient Hot Tea Service
I am even assisting my anima in her desire to bring these ancient gifts so needed in our postmodern situation. This is a dream that presents the kind of values that will best serve our day, the kind of connectedness that we need to honor … with other humans and with the earth.

Moon, Venus, Jupiter March 25, 2012
This dream came after I had viewed an impressive early night Western sky. A crescent moon was aligned with bright Venus above and beautiful Jupiter below. We can still see things in the sky that our most distant human ancestors also gazed at and gave natural spiritual meaning to. The crescent moon in ancient times was associated with Venus, the goddess of love. I tend to think that this outward scene, reminding me of the goddess's love that was a union of both the Greek passionate Eros and tender nurturing phileo loves, inspired this dream. It creates the richly spiritual yet down to earth situation where such love can find a place of birth. This portends such love will be found  far more commonly in human beings than has ever been before. Such a perception can truly  change the world for humanity in  this new millennium. Jim

Saturday, March 24, 2012

HOLY WEEK, JESUS AND VIOLENCE ..October 26, 2011...edited March 24, 2012

Our culture has a very deep seated violent nature which we have yet to face or understand.  Murderous shootings at Universities, high schools and public malls of recent years  brings this cultural fact home to us all.  And more recently the killing of  the innocent teen Trayvon Martin in Florida  by a possibly well  intentioned , but  archetype  possessed, self appointed community watchman.  The evil archetype is so strong that the entire  city leadership seems  unable yet to tear it from themselves and see it for the evil that it has wrought.
Trayvon Martin's Grieving Parents

We see ourselves as a Christian  nation but are in some ways morally and compassionately  far from it.  Or another way of seeing it is that America  is indeed a final product of Christianity and the archetypes that have supported it.  It has astonishingly and necessarily  separated and shown the difference between  good and evil but it has also demonstrated that its present interpretation is unable now to unify these  warring opposites .  This leaves us now with a split world made of people who also suffer much  internal split. The situation calls for the necessity of  reuniting, at a conscious level, all the opposites that have been so well clarified and separated in recent centuries.  It also leaves us with a violent climate, both with  neighbors and toward ourselves inwardly and  among the various religions and ideologies  externally.  Everything is now polarized.  And we now  frequently and  unwittingly support  economic, emotional and  physical violence against others as the solution to interpersonal and international frustrations.

I experienced a very safe childhood  in North Alabama ...could go for miles from home on my bicycle...we never locked the house. But now I realize that in those 'ideal' days for people like me, my    majority society was sowing the seeds of present day violence- by not owning the reality of discrimination against various groups of people and  not  preventively providing realistic fairness and  justice throughout  the culture. This is not to blame but to understand where we were then and seek to know where we are now.  We have such a strong tendency that our darkness is all in the past rather than seeing it acting out in our present mutually created culture. Perhaps this last presidential election  has re-surfaced some of our wounds so that our nation has another opportunity to face  some of  its own shadow,  seek healing and opportunity to  make the sacrifices needed to bring about a renewed effort for justice and equality  for all. The church also should examine why the Bible has been and is still misused for supporting injustice, which is always violent; against women, people of color, low income,  different sexual orientation, and ones 'different' by ethnicity or religious faith. For the Christian story to  be a non violent force, as expressed by Jesus and demonstrated  in our Civil Rights movement of the 60's, toward a less violent society  a renewed understanding of  the dynamics of Holy Week could help.  Jesus' message was the 'Kingdom of  God  is at hand.'  What did that phrase mean then and what could it mean now? This seems very much lost in much of popular American Christianity. 

Rome Colluded With Local Religious  Authorities To Oppress The Poor.
It essentially meant two things.  One is about how  the Roman Empire and the colluding top ranks of the  religion in Jerusalem,  the home of Jesus' Hebrew religion, were abusively dominating the common people. A greedy elite system had developed, as the Bible consistently implies always happens in human society. Common people were oppressed economically by both the reigning Empire and  by the colluding Temple rulers. They were taxed by both to the point  they could barely make a living for their families while those at the top lived sumptuously, greedily seizing the power and wealth produced by the common people.  Jesus is shown, increasingly toward his death, to act and speak against  this situation. So Jesus is saying it is to the 'Kingdom of God', not any abusive dominating kingdom or system, that he lends his full support, even to the point of dying to make message clear.

Once he  is pictured  being asked, by the religious elite,  if common Jewish people should pay tax to a cruel Caesar. Jesus asked them to look at their  coin. His questioners produced one that had Caesar's picture on it. This in fact, without a word, showed the encouraged common onlookers that his accusers already were Caesar supporters; for the Hebrews could request, by Rome's approval, coins without the Emperor's image. This was only a surface political  gesture to make the appearance that Rome understood the plight of the poor and oppressed.  Then the famous quote, 'Render to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God the things of God.  He is not saying 'keep religious values and politics compartmentalized' or that 'the spiritual and the oppressors are to be equally  served'  but rather that  'Kingdom of God' means that the Empire's abuse of people is to be opposed so that  God's rule, not Caesar's, will  prevail. That God's rule 'be on earth' and bring human justice, not Caesar's rule of abusive dominance. Then  the human situation can approach being 'as it is in heaven.'
He was clearly non-violently teaching truth to power. A message he fully knew would soon have him killed.

A second meaning in the gospel story of the last week of Jesus' life  is what  the 'Kingdom of God' that  Jesus supports centrally is.  To follow Jesus meant to follow  'the way' or 'the path' of God that Jesus followed. In Holy Week Jesus' path was to finally go into Jerusalem, the  center of the  Roman and religious abusive dominating systems and  make clear that God's way for people is one of a just sharing of  earth's gifts and wealth produced by human labor.  To discover 'the way' of God in any generation then means  to be ever aware of the potential evil of any dominating abusive system, whether  family, church, corporation or government. And to be ready to stand, as one can, non violently opposed to it.  To support  the 'Kingdom of God' is to trust that the  Spirit of  an Easter Jesus is alive and risen, and invites all people to stand with and for the used, abused and marginalized of society.  And against the social arrangements that  perpetuate the sources of  unholy  human suffering and greed.  'Kingdom of God at hand'  suggests that recognizing and acting 'this way' is the timeless and godly  approach for preventing and facing  violence of every kind.  Jim Hibbett



Thursday, March 15, 2012

DREAM: UNRECOGNIZED GIFTS, WE CAN MISS MUCH...July 16, 2010

The scene was a dark, dirty yard of trucks and equipment. It was rather like a 'junk yard' environment. Muddy ground. It was all in brown tone color. The people working there were speaking a foreign language. They were dark Caucasians. A child had been killed, maybe murdered. The whole community was in mourning. I was unsure how I fit into it all. One man was the obvious leader. He could be very tough, gruff and intimidating. They were into a quasi memorial service for the child with him saying some words. Then he turned to me asking for a prayer. I was surprised to be asked. I put my heart into the prayer calling the child’s name, thanking God for him and asking for comfort for the bereaved. My prayer seemed well received.
Funeral Of The Poor, Paris 19th Century

A while later the leader came to me with some cash as payment for my services. I accepted the $25 dollars knowing it would come in very handy for me. Then later he brought me a fistful of cash. There were large bills in it, some hundreds even. At first I thought wow, how generous of these people. I handed him $30 for I knew he was going to much trouble to serve the family. Later he addressed the whole group emotionally promising that this child would not be forgotten and that he would not rest until anyone responsible for the death was held accountable. I began to think of this pile of money. I knew I could put it to good use. But it was not appropriate. The people somehow were placing far too much and inappropriate meaning into my office, perhaps even unconsciously seeking some blessing through their gifts to me. I asked the leader to please give the cash to the family who were poor.

BLESSING: Sometimes what the dream source asks you to consider is very irritating because it seems so far removed from what you feel your actual concerns are. In this way it can totally shift, in an unpleasant way, your conscious focus. Jung's central idea of a dream's purpose is just that, to change the conscious outer present orientation and attitude in some way. This dream asks me to consider a scene and topic that are farthest from my conscious images and thoughts. And is in this case a very unpleasant shift of conscious focus.
An 'Other' Looking Man

The dream is shadowy due to the dark, muddy, junk yard atmosphere. Also the people were very 'other', speaking a different language and having community that was very different than mine. 'Otherness' is something that humans seem deeply ingrained to be repulsed by. We tend to unconsciously experience all of our own negatives, fears and repulsions toward life in the 'other'. This accounts for the perpetual resentments, unappreciativeness and outright hostilities that color human history as a whole. We never get away from it. It is what the news is generally about in the paper and on T.V. Humans are somewhat fascinated by the 'other', but usually in a negative , condescending, judgmental and only curious way. The dream is about my very real capacity to experience the 'other' in such  unenlightened ways. It should dawn on us occasionally that what is 'other ' to us is very often a blessing to the whole  broader situation. That the most needed gifts often initially strike us as strange and not of value. This is a central religious theme in the Bible...The expression that, 'Nothing good comes out of Nazareth' and 'The rejected stone becomes the chief corner stone' , ' the Messiah being born in a dirty stable rather than a palace.' Why does our present culture, even our Christian culture, seem not  able to carry such hopeful positive expectations and trust such central religious symbols? We have witnessed politically a successful attempt to paint President Obama in darkest 'other' terms... not a Christian, not a citizen, not a product of the American dream.  Yet in spite of  the unprecedented  way of painting him as 'other', anyone would have a hard time finding one example of  the President responding in such mean and cynical terms. He may be the strongest model of being a mature gentleman of all our presidents. But to his enemies that means nothing because of their fabricated but  successful labeling him a 'dark stranger not to be trusted.' We seem to be experiencing a very dark time in Politics. This dream is pushing me to expect the needed gifts and blessings in our day to likely come from what is 'other' to us. This is quite the opposite attitude from trying to recapture some imagined  'good old days', to insist that society go backward rather than forward to a new day or religiously to a 'new creation.' This in practical terms shows  that the Collective Unconscious can generate very hopeful and  positive  dispositions and not all negative as Freud  described it.


In the dream I am  delightfully surprised that the 'other' here is more accepting of me than I assume they are. I was 'projecting' my negative attitude onto them, assuming they did not welcome my presence any more than I would have welcomed them. While I as placing a 'negative' value on any good they brought toward me they were placing a positive one on me. This was revealed when the gruff leader asked for my prayer. This is an awareness that should make one feel 'ashamed.' I can recall an expression in my family when one of us had erred ethically , 'You should be ashamed of yourself.' With all of my experiences of 'enlightenment and growth, and hard won belief changes' regarding the positive value of the 'other', the importance of inclusiveness etc.; the dream reminds me that it remains a struggle for me to keep an enlightened attitude regarding the unexpected positive appearance of the 'other.'
 The Rejected Stone That Became The Corner Stone


Here I'm shown falling back into that negative mentality. I was for reasons beyond my own choosing present in this 'other' community and so was somewhat forced to find a place and receive and give reactions with them. This is how my life has often been these past 25 years. I’ve moved in my work from one community to another and I have experienced totally 'other' church communities. Without fail I have been more received and welcomed than I may have offered if the situation had been reversed. The dream documents that personal reality. Also I experience having been led into these new situations by the guidance of the 'Self', the 'Holy Spirit' or the Sacred. It was not primarily the work of my conscious ego that guided my life changes and 'knightly adventures' involving the 'other.'

In my pastoral work I have received many gifts following funerals. I have generally gratefully received gifts of appropriate amounts, sometimes up a $100. There have been times when I have passed the gift on to the suggested charity of the family etc. I especially do this if I feel there is any kink in my relationship with the family or any sense that the gift is given out of obligation rather than desire to benefit me. I'm glad the dream shows me recognizing that this gift is out of bounds and that I turn most of it toward the family. I'm also glad that I recognized the service the informal leader was giving this community and rewarded him.


I ask myself , why am I being asked to take good time to reflect on such a theme? I am reminded that I tend to be slow to spend and give money that has come to my care.... that I can be tight-fisted and live too much from an attitude of scarcity rather than abundance. This is not spiritually healthy. So that must be the key reason I am asked to reflect on such a dream. How considerate for the dream source to present me in nearly a totally positive light while pointing out clearly my sin. Only a God worthy of my attention and service could treat me so gently while kicking me in the ass. She even makes me laugh as she keeps everything so in the open that there is no place and certainly no need to hide. In fact I am nearly bursting into tears of joy and grace  right now. There is absolutely no fear of the loss of divine support and love in this process of reprimand. I find it amazing and cannot help but be more generous for it. I'm having coffee now in a cafe. I will now go out of my way to cash a five so I can tip the waiter a buck for my coffee. My bill showed  the cost was  a dollar even and I have no other ones or change. So I had resigned that I would not tip this time. The dream at least resulted in a decent tip for this waiter.

Note: I unconsciously typed in BLESSING above instead of the intended REFLECTION: Even when I noticed and was a bit irritated at my 'mistake' I started to correct it. Then I became conscious that this was part of the message coming to me from the dream source. This is one of those synchronicity occurrences totally outside of consciousness. My hands typed BLESSING when I fully intended to type REFLECTION as I always do. Such is also commonly referred to as a 'Freudian Slip.' It is a way the Self suggests that the dream and my thoughtful reflection on it is indeed a BLESSING to me. I agree.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DREAM:EXPERIENCING THE CROSSROADS MOVEMENT CHURCH OF CHRIST..February 16, 2011

This dream seems to ask me to not forget an experience I had at the Clear Lake Church of Christ with a group who were influenced by a cult like movement within the larger mainline non-instrumental Church of Christ. The  dream presents some actual people in my Clear Lake Church of Christ nearly 30 years ago. A  middle aged  couple became welcomed  members of  our congregation. They had been life long Catholics. They were adorable outgoing hardworking people in the larger Springfield community. Their 'conversion' to the Church of Christ had come through the influence of their  college graduated minister relative. He in turn had changed to this religion as the result of a peculiar branch of the COC that were primarily active on various College campuses around the country. This group was called the *'Crossroads movement' having originated at a large COC by that  name in Gainsville, Fla. In the dream the couple had become  upset at their experience of being a part of our 'mainline' Sunday School class taught by a life long traditional COC person. They were  upset at what they saw as the lack of direct application of scripture to life style including the teaching that 'discipling' others by  converting them to the COC was the ultimate mark of a 'true Christian.'  This is what they had been taught by their Crossroads friends. They were bringing their complaint to me and others. Their college educated Sunday school teacher had also heard of their complaint and was looking to me to support his frustration with the couples' complaint. In the dream I was probing deeply into myself and the situation to try to understand it and to offer some direction/counseling to both parties in order to not lose either the teacher or the couple as members. It is very common in COC culture that when people have sharp emotional differences about the teaching and ' doctrinal correctness' of the congregation to leave the local congregation and start a new one, one that will be a 'truer church' than the one being abandoned. So a COC minister has to try to help all dissenting parties maintain a reason to stay with his congregation. In this dream I am attempting that by seeking to understand the nature of the conflict and by communicating with each party to move toward what is likely an impossible reconciliation with both having 'good feelings' about being a part of the Clearlake Church of Christ.
Clearlake Church of Christ Springfield, IL

REFLECTION: These Crossroad COC campus church groups met the basic criteria in our  American religious culture of being a religious cult. They centered around a top charismatic leader who was in charge of the original Crossroads Church in Gainesville, Fla. Perfectly like minded and 'trained'  young college men became similar ministerial leaders in the local campus churches that were started. College students were taught a strong 'discipleship' program and were given an interpretation of the Bible that reflected negatively on all other religious groups, including the traditional 'mainline' Church of Christ. Only the sincere COC people like them were the 'true Christians.' Main-liners or 'lifers' were described as being soft on evangelism and not requiring their church members to follow a devoted enough and discipled life. These 'crossroads' groups placed each new convert with a devoted crossroad trained peer who helped them make the 'proper life decisions' about dating(should be only within the group) social activities, 'evangelizing' etc. They were taught how to tell their non COC families that they were not true Christians  and needed to convert to the Church of Christ. The progress of such tutoring was reported regularly to the charismatic leaders. This group demonstrated in outer life the ideal that many mainline COC people had as their dream....dynamic youth oriented church groups that had mesmerizing congregational a'capella singing and local churches that were robustly growing with baptisms happening 'daily'. The mainline Church of Christ in general was also convinced, at least in formal doctrine, that only the Church of Christ made up of those properly baptized (immersed) and 'who understood' that the COC is the only true church. It was just that this new Crossroads movement of  energetic young well dressed college students was 'really' believing it, behaving accordingly and achieving by various pressure and fear-based methods the dreamed of results. The leaders of the group would negotiate with an older mainline college town COC to let this be the home of this new growing College Crossroads Church. The male mainline leadership, elders, was often so impressed with having such a successful outreach going on in their church facility they could  hardly resist allowing the Crossroads group leaders to in effect take over the older mainline church and its less cult like heritage. The Crossroads Movement developed later into the** International Church of Christ.
An International Church Of Christ Meeting In Chicago

This had happened on a less defined  or formal scale in the Clearlake COC when several people, including the couple in the dream, had been converted and indoctrinated by Crossroads people and later became members of Clearlake because they lived in Springfield. My elders too were very attracted to these people and glad to have such strong outspoken, 'evangelizing' and involved new members.

I also was at first highly impressed with this movement and the 'kind of church atmosphere' it was able to create and sustain. I even had interest in ClearLake becoming such a church with an emphasis of working on the local college campuses. But as time went on and especially when some of these Crossroads people became members of Clearlake and getting more acquainted with their leadership in other area churches I came to 'see' just how unhealthy and cult-like this teaching and behavior was. It directly sought to undermine the typical COC mainline identity. Like most 'outreach' minded young pastors, in my own way I thought the status quo of the COC needed to be changed and to become more 'sincere' and more 'devoted' to its unique call to be thriving growing communities of the the 'true church'. So in a way these Crossroads people had made what many of us COC main-liners had always longed to see happen. But I was now seeing that the way it was happening was at the cost of the converts surrendering their individuality and of accepting the direction of strong willed dictatorial charismatic male leaders. In the dream I had come to this kind of understanding. I realized that this couple was not as hardcore and cult-like in nature as the youth who had experienced such a 'Crossroads Conversion.' They were genuinely desiring to be part of the life of the mainline people in the church. But no doubt were being influenced by their more cult minded friends to 'stay strong' in the Crossroads hard line teaching.

When the elders fired me,after eight years as minister, on a Wednesday night effective immediately; none of the four was able to give me a single reason for this extreme action. An action I was confident would cause a major congregational disturbance. I think part of their motivation was to yield to the Crossroads type members who charged me with not being 'evangelistic.' And some of the elders may have had dreams that with me gone the crossroads influence would lead to a realized dream of a more growing and excited Church of Christ.  Jim

*Here is a simplified description of what I am referring to as the Cross Roads Movement Church of Christ. It later expanded, was home based in Boston and took on the name International Church of Christ. http://www.reveal.org/abouticc/crossroadsera.html

** I am not well informed about the history of  what was eventually named the International Church of Christ. And this dream reflection is intended to make no statement about this movement beyond what I experienced in my own local  Church of Christ in 1983-84.

DREAM: LIFE SWALLOWS UP DEATH...REMEMBERING BEVERLY...February 28, 2009...Reflection : March 14, 2012

This was a good bye dream  that I felt  nowhere ready to accept a month after Beverly died.  

The  scene is an up close of a large strong steel bridge. I can only see the opening of it, sort of looking up hill at it and  so close I cannot see where it is going or  what it's  crossing  at all. It is a sunny day with fluffy white clouds.  I apparently have been walking beside Bev as she rides a bicycle toward the bridge with a  little covered wagon behind it . She is dressed casual and wearing a ball hat.  She looks healthy and happy.  The wagon  is filled high(with her stuff) and a white  canvass covering  is neatly over it all(shaped liked a regular large covered wagon of pioneer type). The picture, if it were painted, is her entering the bridge and I am back behind her(not in the pic) beginning to turn and go back the opposite direction by myself.(That is my saddest part. I am turning back the opposite way she is headed.) I  suddenly turn, as having forgotten something, and yell out  to her asking,  'Did you listen to the 'heart of the fighter'? (this was her favorite Landon Saunders audio tape. She used to listen to it regularly. How I wish I could find a copy.) In this scene she is  waving her  left arm and nodding  'yes' without looking back at me.  Then I say, ' O, you are the 'heart of the fighter' aren't you?'.  It ends with her distinct and totally appreciative and amused laugh(at my comment) as she rides away.  I don't know if you can sense the emotion this dream still resurrects. It becomes less painful and more inspiring with time. This is the dream that came and that I carry daily in a reserved place deep within me....   I so wanted her to turn around and come back.
REFLECTION:
Ash Wednesday, A Christian service that marks the beginning of Lent in early Spring, became a meaningful time of worship to me after becoming a United Church of Christ pastor. Our Ash Wednesday service stressed  that God raises up from the ashes human situations that have the qualities of death all over them, eg the fear, aggressiveness, domination, greed, and covetousness that so easily steal life from us. Also  resurrection is presented as the 'new creation' and 'abundant life'  in the here and now as emphasized in Paul and  the gospel of John. As  ashes are placed on participants' foreheads the pastor says, ' You have been baptized into the death of Christ' and they respond, 'all things have become new'.  It also stressed that a frequent  biblical description of the most dangerous sin is not personal but communal.... that we accommodate human injustice, discrimination, abuses and  environmental destruction  as a continuing aspect of  communal and national/world  life.  

I'm not sure that we mortals should consider physical death as an enemy(at least not nearly as much as the spiritual death  mentioned above.). The death  I think is most represented in the N.T. are the kinds of death that take over the human capacity to live spiritually  while we are physically alive. It is not essential to me to think that Beverly has to reappear as the individual she was to us in this life. If I did not value her walk in this life enough to consider that plenty  to keep me always amazingly grateful and her memory alive with me then I feel I have failed in my valuation  and appreciation of her  life. She did not  insist in living personally the other side of her physical death though she did believe that in some way, beyond our imagination, life continues on and perhaps even returns. I think that spiritual attitude is what made her so value  and enthusiastic about every moment of  life.  I think she was content to let the 'other side' remain just as much a mystery as to from where and how she entered this life in the first place. My dream of her implies that mystery by not showing what was being crossed or what was on the other side. What is important is to be conscious of the mysterious change and to desire to go gratefully, graciously  and assured  into that mystery.  I  think I am now content also with such a humble approach to these things. Is this not a part of accepting that we are 'dust and to dust we return',  but what a glorious transformation  and grace we experience in ourselves and in each other while we are actually  'living and moving and loving and having our being'  in God in this earthly life ?  That is more marvelous to me than any assurance of personally continuing after I die. I simply do not know nor is it  anymore of significant importance.

I do see that  an individual passing through the gate of death as very significant spiritually. I relate it to the 'narrow gate' that Jesus spoke of. It is so narrow that we do indeed, if still blessed with consciousness, go alone with only the assurances of divine and human love to sustain us. I was impressed with how Beverly approached  and accomplished that final human task.  It showed the dignity that is present in we mortal humans of dust. Reading I Cor 15 I'm reminded that it is  highly symbolic and metaphorical language culminating with the assurance, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where is the victory of death? " I  have experienced death being overcome by life in my friendship with Beverly.  I feel no need to ask God for more than that. I know she is gone as I have known her. I still wish she could come back because I miss the continued unfolding of her life. But the flower fully matured. Nothing was left undone or incomplete that was needed, though at first it surely appeared that she had not been given enough time here.  I still for  moments nearly panic when I know she will not be here in the flesh anymore. But the life that unfolded in her as I and others knew her is a life that her death simply does not destroy or have any victory over whatsoever.  Paul makes full sense to me when I realize the spiritual/symbolic truth  of his language. Jim H.


Friday, March 9, 2012

'WORD OF GOD' AND REGULAR FOLKS....October 26, 2010


'Word of God' in the Bible does not primarily refer to human words that are spoken or written. But for centuries many have thought of God's communication with people as being mostly confined to human words. Often the Bible, a book of written words, is held high with the proclamation, “This is THE Word of God.” The idea that we can 'read in words' the actual  full 'Word of God' has led us Westerners to think that responding to God is primarily a matter of understanding such human words and then doing what they tell us. But doesn't this grossly over simplify the reality of 'Word of God' and reduce our being engaged by it to a human-human kind of encounter rather than a God-human encounter? Regrettably, I think this has been  the case and is also why many thoughtful people today are suspect of religious language and claims.

Until the printing press, ordinary people did not possess many, if any, written words. The first Bible was printed in 1455. But recent centuries of people can hardly think of 'God's Word' except as written or spoken words. This comes in part from the huge impact of the Age Of Enlightenment's materialistic focus from the 1700's on. 'Human words' is not what 'Word of God' generally  means in the Bible itself, but rarely is that mentioned in sermons and Christian teaching.
God Sows 'People' Into Our Lives
Here's a simple example that can change, and I think make more accurate, the notion of how God might project 'God's Word' into human life. It is the parable of Jesus called the 'the sower' or 'the soils.'(Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-24) The story speaks of a sower scattering seed on hard soil, rocky soil, weedy soil and finally 'good soil'. The seed does not become a mature healthy plant except when it lands on the 'good soil'. The usual explanation is the seed is the written or spoken human word of God-the Bible. And only the person who 'hears' them and does them is 'good soil.' But there is good evidence that a more accurate interpretation is that God is the sower and the 'seed is people'. Yes , the unexpected idea is that 'God's Word' is sown among us and it is not human words of religious ideas and commandments, but is the people that 'drop' into our life. Suddenly the challenge of being spiritually motivated is not primarily about hearing human words from a book and doing them, but about being 'good soil' for the people sent our way. Is that not an astonishing twist on what 'Word of God' can mean and on how we are confronted and challenged by it? This view may result in  some sincere people seeing  themselves as far more like 'good soil' than they had been taught to believe.... and some not so good after all. The test becomes on how we honor all other humans as we come to interact and involvement with them.

The people who are sown into 'our soil' include children born to our families, the one who becomes a life partner, people that come into our social groups, the friends that arrive in our personal work and play spaces. The parable raises the issue that we are to give all such people the unselfish reception, acceptance; the nurturing, the emotional and truth-telling nutrition that humans need to become the unique persons God intends them to be.

Central to the art or gift of being 'good soil' is not seeing oneself as owning or possessing the persons who are 'sown as God's message' into our lives. The soil's role is only to provide nutrition, protection, truth-telling, and the love that all developing persons(young and old) need. The miracle of growth and what the plant matures to be or do is all the work of God and remains a mystery which Jesus warned to 'not judge.'
The Plant or 'Person' Is Beyond Our Judgment

To broaden 'Word of God' to include it meaning the 'people in our lives' makes it more clear that God can be perceived as a present reality and resource to all humans, not just ones predisposed to valuing the study of written words.(I'm not devaluing that process at all but am suggesting that in our culture and religion 'head' has become far more and overly valued than 'heart.') I see 'Word of God' as 'the people in our lives' as a far more 'heart' and 'spiritual' understanding of the reality of 'God's Word' compared to the heady and intellectual concept of it being a specific assortment of 'written human words.' This meaning of 'Word of God' is practical for every human , regardless of education, learning temperament, formal faith or any faith at all. It means that 'God's Word' is always as near to us as the person(s) in our presence. To hold that 'Word of God' is primarily human words, generally the sacred texts of ones own religion, rightfully affronts many  other sincere people and could profitably be retracted as the way all religious and non religious people can more productively explore the practical meaning  and place of  God in human life.Jim H.

Monday, March 5, 2012

OUR PRESENT AMERICAN 'BIRTH CONTROL' DEBATE...March 5, 2012

The birth control  debate and related issues, spawned by the GOP presidential campaign,  have been on my mind  and heart for decades. So I think I will post my central thoughts here:
All Male GOP Panel Testifies Re Birth Control

The 'medicinal  pill' is used for both birth control and other important medical issues. So it rightfully has been  covered by insurance.  Birth Control has also  been established as a woman-doctor decision not her  employer, government or insurance  company. Cost is obviously  a very important factor, especially for poorer women. (Rush Limbaugh does not seem to know that the medicine is taken no matter how infrequently the responsible  woman plans to have sex. I still have heard no  ranked GOP person  contradict Rush's position, only that he used  a bad choice of words. That is not the crucial issue.) This has been the consensus in the country for decades. Only now with the present GOP candidates is this consensus being again challenged, implying the desire it be re-legislated. Senator Santorum specifically says 'birth control is bad for society'  and the reason he gives is, "it's what the church teaches and I agree with the church.'' (This is no John Kennedy on the subject of church and state.) The others to date  have not been willing to  clearly challenge him. Even Ron Paul considers it an immorality issue(so much for his claim to libertarianism and of government not interfering with private personal lives.) So it  really is a GOP thing at this point.
Georgetown Law Student Testifies Re Birth Control


The debate is showing  there must be a significant number of Americans who have always quietly believed this and would gladly legislate  this established medical need of women be denied and  considered as immoral. This would certainly increase abortions, unplanned and  'illegitimate' births in the country many fold. It would be a social  nightmare. I do not believe this will happen but it is presently the logical conclusion of the GOP candidates.  Most women and men simply do not believe the Catholic Church(and many other churches) is right on this moral and human rights  issue. This is the importance of  America being  a land where Religion and State are separate. This is  why it is important that any leader must respect and defend that central tenant or America loses much of  its human rights potential and influence.

Here is the shadow that most are not willing to acknowledge. The church's history  has always been about the church attempting to control the sexuality of women.(not  nearly so much that of men.)  This is firmly rooted  in the  Old Testament patriarchal sexual regulation of women.  It was essential that the father of every born child  be established. The mother was no matter of public or religious concern. That is why Adultery was defined as a violation of a MAN's rightful  property by another man  and not vise versa.  Thus a man could have as many wives as he could afford  as long as none of them were already another man's property(wife or daughter) This is a dark, often denied, area of our religious cultural history and it is astonishingly  still very much alive.  This present controversy brings back up  these same  very dark desires  against the equality of women before God.  I find it unbelievable that such is being debated in America, but it is.

P.S. I am not  here attacking the important role and need  of the Bible in our culture. The Bible cannot be expected to have the human rights standards that have evolved from those early  religious  codes. Male superiority was simply the established rule in all those  Eastern cultures of that day, including the Hebrew nation. The Bible authors cannot be expected to not be men of their day. They reflect the world views  and values of their day as they tell their religious stories and experiences of God.  Post modern religious people are now called on and obligated  to straightforwardly accept the actual  nature of these ancient Sacred texts. Otherwise they will continue to be used, just as Americans fear is often done with the Quran's content by fundamentalist Muslims,  in dark and  immoral  ways that violate the foundations of  the dignity and rights of marginalized humans, including those of women. Christians, and the church  in many of its forms, are failing to do this hard and humbling work. The present GOP presidential candidates have failed to become aware of this same need in America's political, social and moral leadership.  Jim H.