Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

How Do You Grow in Christ?

posted by smcswain

“Be no longer children,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “but grow up in Christ” (Eph. 4:15). All my spiritual life…for as long as I can remember…religious people have sincerely, but mistakenly, exhorted me to “grow up in Christ.” It sounded reasonable. And, they were quoting Saint Paul. But what did most of these religious people really mean? What did “growing up in Christ” actually mean to them? I suspect for most of them, it meant…

  • Go to church every Sunday and, if you are a really mature Christian, you will show up on Wednesday night, too, the weekly gathering of a faithful few to exchange the latest gossip about who was ill and infirm or facing unimaginable setbacks and adorn that gossip with a few Gospel prayers.
  • Spirituality meant reading the Bible every day. So, I remember many New Year’s Resolutions to read the Bible from cover to cover in a year’s time, thinking that, if I read the Bible every day, I would be taking a dose of high-powered spiritual vitamins that would protect me from the evil little amoebas that go about to and fro on the earth looking for weak followers to devour.
  • Furthermore, I understood “growing up in Christ” to mean that I had to rigorously seek to be spiritual every day. Pray…be good…work hard at thinking pure thoughts, instead of the one’s I was usually thinking – thoughts of pretty girls and parties and…well…you know…the thoughts you think, too, as an adolescent.  It was all so depressingly difficult…almost always a total disaster and, as I look back on it now from an entirely different perspective, completely misguided, misinformed, and just plain wrong.

Here, my friend, is the real spiritual truth.

  • You are spiritual already. There is nothing…I repeat…nothing you must do in order to be spiritual. If spiritual is not who you are, then what was the point of Christ’s appearance on earth?  Christ has demonstrated, and accomplished, in his own life, death, and resurrection the realization that, in God, we are everything already. That’s the point of Jesus’ appearing. If all his coming was meant to do was to suffer some kind of Divine punishment so you and I could go to heaven when we die, then, my friend, you and I in all candidness have missed the point entirely.
  • Spirituality, or growing in Christ, is nothing more than the progressive realization of who you are already.

And, who are you? A spiritual being who is progressively waking up to the realization that you and God are one.  You cannot “get more of God” by flexing spiritual muscles. You and God are complete already. You have arrived already at that place you’ve been told you have to work in order to achieve. You have all of God there is and God has all of you that there is. Daily, therefore,  you practice God-realization, God-awareness. That’s what it means to be spiritual. Nothing more. Nothing less. That’s all. It really IS that simple. And, it’s supposed to be this simple. It is RELIGION, my friends, that complicates it. Which is precisely why Saint Paul said “The cross is offensive to many” even a “stumbling block” (1 Cor. 1:23). It is mostly a stumbling block to religious people. Which is why they are always adding more to it…adding things you have to do in order to be. Do not believe it, my friends. That is actually the greatest heresy in the church today.  That you and I must add more to what Christ has clearly accomplished in his own life, death, and resurrection. There is NOTHING YOU COULD ever do to be more who you are. Live from that place of who you are. This IS not only the beginning of wisdom, it is freedom. It is salvation, the Bible’s way.

You Are What You Seek

posted by smcswain

treeOr, so said Saint Francis.

Rumi, the Sufi poet put it slightly differently, “What you seek is seeking you.”

And, Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom.”

So, what is the Kingdom? It is not the Church. Not heaven either.

Are you disappointed?

Don’t be.  What the Kingdom actually is…is better than both.

One day, when I was just a child, I learn a Sunday School song. I’d bet many of you reading this could sing it with me, couldn’t you?

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man

      And a wee little man was he.

He climbed up in a Sycamore Tree

       For Jesus he wanted to see!”

Neither the first person nor the last to wish to see Jesus.  But the crowd was in the way. Neither the first crowd nor the last Church in history to make it difficult for people to see Jesus.

Was seeing Jesus difficult because Zacchaeus was “a wee little man?”  The song says so. I cannot read this story but what I would wish to cast Danny Devito as Zacchaeus, if I were doing a modern rendition of this story.  Perfect, wouldn’t you say?

Interestingly, however, the text itself does not make clear whether the short person was Zacchaeus or Jesus himself.  In fact, the text oddly positions the Greek pronoun “he” so that “he was short in stature” may actually refer to Jesus and not Zacchaeus at all.

Here’s what the text actually says…

      “Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature” (Luke 19:1ff).

Who was “short in stature?” Was it Zacchaeus? Or, Jesus?

See what I mean? It isn’t so clear.

What is clear, however, is this: what Zacchaeus was seeking, Jesus was seeking, too.

And, what is that? Or, more accurately, who is that?

They were seeking each other.  You cannot find God inside a building. Or, a book of religion.

Why? Because you cannot find what is not lost.

Who Zacchaeus was seeking to see, Jesus was seeking to find.  In other words, the seeking, no matter who is doing it, is one-and-the-same. Which explains why the longing you feel for God is God.  To put it as succinctly as I know how, you cannot find who you already are.

“Scandalous!” you say. “You are saying you and God are the same!”

Interesting that you would make that charge! It was essentially the same charge another “crowd” brought against Jesus himself who, not coincidentally, said the very same thing. “You are gods.”  Perhaps you should go back and read John 10:34.

If God must be a separate entity to you, then, yes, of course, these words of mine will make you want to take up stones.  If God must be beyond you, bigger than you, it is perfectly fine. I have lived most of my life thinking of God in this very same way. And, to be perfectly honest, I still think of God from time to time as an Eternal Someone who is separate from me. In fact, I have been so conditioned to think of God in this way that it is hard to think of God in any other way.  The same will be true for many of you. Even now, you picture God as this benevolent and bearded grandfatherly-type, wearing a white robe, sitting in a big chair, and on the other side of an eternal door in a place called the “Kingdom.”

In recent years, however, I get this strange and wonderful feeling from time to time that the One I seek and the one doing the seeking are one-and-the-same.  Which explains why Meister Eckhart said, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me.” Which also explains why the religions in the east frequently teach, “I am that…you are that…all this is that…and, that’s all there is.”

Again, Rumi expressed it best: “I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons…knocking on a door. The door opens.  I’ve been knocking from the inside.”

Jesus looked up and into the Sycamore tree and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down for I am going to your house today.”

The house?

The Kingdom?



When the door opens, my friend, and, be assured, the door will open, you will discover what I am just beginning to discover.  You’ve been knocking from the inside.

See what I mean? The Kingdom is not outside you…the Kingdom IS you! (Read Luke 17:21).

Life’s Most Inglorious Bastard

posted by smcswain

Inglorious Basterds! Not sure why they spell it that way, but they do.

Remember the war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino?

I’m pretty sure “Inglorious Basterds” is an apt name for my ego…maybe yours, too.

I have struggled to overcome my ego for decades.  If you’re a theologian type, get used to this word “ego” for I use it as a kind of replacement for what Biblical writers have tried to capture with the word “sin.”  Sin is not something you’re born with, as in the silly notion of “original sin.” People have looked for ways to explain what goes wrong in humans since humans evolved as conscious beings.  And, even Saint Paul, for all his seminal insight into the human experience, did not really know how to explain it either. But he did as good a job as any other, given his limited understanding.

Here’s how ego – the little inglorious bastard in me has bastardized my life for pretty much most of my life.

I’ve been a self-promoter all my life. Some of  you knew that already – Hm! You might explore why that is. Anyway, with an ego as broad as the Grand Canyon, I’ve wanted to be known but, not just known, I’ve wanted to be better known than most everyone else. I’ve wanted to be liked too. But not just liked, more liked than you. I’ve wanted to be successful; I’ve wanted to be envied, to make money hand over fist, and…well…you know, by this time, have several million tucked away, and living the high life.

Yes, I’ve been one of those kind. Which explains why I had a strange mixture of friends – those who admired me because they, more self-despising than I, envied me for what they presumed was a self-confident person who knew what he wanted and, by God, was going to get it. Theirs was a different sort of problem caused by an equally dysfunctional and inglorious bastard of their own.

The people who did not like me, and they were many, didn’t realize that the reason they didn’t was because they saw in me – namely, the competitive, self-promoting inglorious bastard type – what they were busily denying was also in them.

It usually works that way, doesn’t it?

You like those people who display qualities you admire and wish you had more of in yourself.

You despise, however, those people who display qualities you have denied or ignored are also in you.

That pretty much sums up the work of the inner inglorious bastard. Your ego.

You can look at almost any unacceptable behavior – what we’d call in religious circles “sins” and trace it to some twisted projection of the dysfunctional ego…envying in others those qualities you think are not in you and despising in others the evil that resides in your heart, too.

Ego. Life’s Most Inglorious Bastard.

Welcome to the real world, my friend.

When my Dad died, something in me died. What died was a big chunk of my inglorious bastard. I did not know it at the time. I grieved as anyone would who had just lost something or someone special. And, my Dad was special. The grief, the sadness, the brokenness in me took several years to sort out. But today, I see in his death my own spiritual resurrection. How could I remain sad? Oh sure, I miss him. But in many-a-strange way, he’s more alive in me than at any other time. And, yes, I talk to him. So, if that makes me nuts, I hope I’m never sane.

Every death, my friend, is followed by a birth. And, both underscore the cycle of Life – Eternal Life itself. Don’t waste any death – any death. I call them “littler” deaths all given to you to help you prepare for the doozy around the corner. And, that corner is getting nearer all the time. This is probably what Leonardo DaVinci meant when he said, “All my life I thought I was learning how to live; now I realize I’ve really been learning how to die.”

In just the last few days, some things have happened in my life that I think have struck a fatal, final blow to the inglorious bastard in me.  If not completely, pretty damn close. Ego is so subtle. The little bastard will even attempt to use its own dying as a means of surviving. It began to die in me the day my father died. But, in these last few years, it’s been doing a number on me. It has been secretly hoping that in its own dying and death it would somehow rise up and finally achieve the greatness it has longed for, the promotions it has sought, the achievements its dreamt about at night, as well as the success it has secretly envied in others all these years.

Don’t worry if you do not understand what I’m talking about. If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t quit reading, it is likely because you recognize the damn “dog” in you, too.  It was the atheist philosopher Nietzsche who called it “the dog that followed him everywhere.” He had a better understanding of sin than most preachers I know.

For years, I’ve wanted to be free of the bastard, not knowing it was using my desire to be free as a means of achieving its own inglorious ends.

But I’m aware now. Better aware, anyway.

Here’s how you may, too…

1. Stop trying. Once the process of ego-death begins in you – once the process of spiritual enlightenment begins to occur, what we Christians would call salvation followed by sanctification – words that mean virtually nothing to even the most devout in church today – another reason why, it’s past time for some new ways of describing great, old spiritual truths – but, that’s another blog for another day.  Just know, once the process of dog death begins in you, the Holy Spirit will bring it to completion. That’s why Saint Paul said to the Philippians, “Be confident of this, he who has begun a good work in you, will bring it to completion” (Phil. 1:6). Ego death is God’s business. That’s what Jesus was trying to say in all he said but, principally, in the words, “Deny yourself.” So, don’t rush things, my friend. Which means…

2. Wait on God. “Those who wait upon the Lord,” wrote Isaiah, the prophet, “shall renew their strength” (Isa 40:31). It’s the little inglorious bastard in you that zaps your strength. It isn’t the challenges you face in life. You have the resources within to face anything. It’s not your job that wears you out. It’s the dog that hounds you day and night. Do you know what it means to “wait on God.” Stop interfering with what appears in your life. Trust that nothing is showing up but what it’s supposed to show up. Let life unfold for you and release yourself into the arms of God, believing Jesus was right when he said, “Seek first the kingdom, and you’ll discover everything else takes care of itself” (Matt. 6:33). That’s what I’m discovering.

3. Now, give thanks. You, my friend, are free. More free now than at any other time. But you know this because you can feel it, even as I can. When you know this freedom more and more, and you will, for remember, it is your destiny to see the leash removed, you won’t be able to do anything else but cry tears of joy. It’s like a prisoner must feel when he looks and the prison doors are open. How could he not just cry?

Freedom from the inner burden of self-promotion and always feeling like you are not going to make it…freedom from the fear of not having enough recognition, enough respect, enough money…freedom from the worry that there’s too little life for all your efforts or too little money for the life you have left…freedom from the feeling of being a failure…of not reaching the dog’s dreams of grandeur and greatness…when those burdens, my friend, disappear from in you, from inside all self-promoters like me, then nothing much matters anymore…except of course you can’t help but smile, give thanks, cry and bow your head before the sacred. You will say all this with integrity because you will know more deeply than ever before that you are living the Life you were destined to live.

What could be more wonderful than this?

Let the ole dog die. Or, as Muhammad said, “you will die a thousand deaths.”

Death to all the Inglorious Basterds!

Wouldn’t make a good hymn to sing on Sunday. But it sure expresses my heart.

The Big Yellow Bus to Somewhere?

posted by smcswain

child-scared-of-schoolLao-Tzu said, “Be #content with what you have; #rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

You are probably not so different from me. But I live much of my life with this inner feeling, somewhere right smack in the pit of my stomach – the “solar plexus chakra” – if you do not know what that is, I know only enough that I’d misrepresent it to say more. What I do know is exactly what it feels like and what it likely means. It is that place inside your upper abdomen where you feel self-worth or, in my case, the lack of it…self-confidence or, in my case, its opposite…self-control…or, in my case…well…you know where that’s going.

Maybe it isn’t the same with you but, much too often, I feel quite unworthy…as if I could use a little more confidence…no, a lot more confidence. I just don’t feel in control of anything anymore.  Some of it I blame on my age, something else of course I cannot control, much less that stuff that happens as a result of it. Hence, I live, for the most part, with this feeling right smack in the pit of my stomach that is sometimes so intense it’s as if the inside of my stomach were trembling.

The feeling is inevitably accompanied by the questions, too. Or, maybe the questions precede the stomach stuff. I do not know which it is. But I think things like…

“What will happen to me?”

“Will I ever quite make it?”

“Can I make a difference in this world?”

“Why do people judge me…dislike me?”

“Why don’t I have any more friends than I do?”

“Does my life really matter?”

I sometimes have profound lonely feelings, too, the kind that make you wonder if you should see a therapist. But then, I am the therapist. Who do I see? A double whammy, huh?  I need from others what others need from me.

I’m smiling even as I write this because the whole darn thing we call “life” is just that ambiguous, isn’t it? Just that crazy!

Oh, and while I’m at it, there are times I have pretty frightening feelings and I seldom know what I’m afraid of. All I know is that it’s the kind of feeling you might remember having the first day you let go of your mother’s hand — or, was it Mom who let go of my hand? — I cannot remember — but, you slowly, reluctantly climbed up those big black steps onto the platform of that the big yellow bus bound, or so they said, for the first grade in elementary school.

Know the feeling? Understand what I’m describing here?

Some of you do. Which is why you’re still reading.

Then, Lao-Tzu comes along and says, “Be content…rejoice in the way things are!”

“Yea right?” goes off the voice in your head.

And, just then, another kind of Lao-Tzu shows up, his name Jesus, and he says essentially the same thing, only he puts everything into questions:  “Why do you worry about your life? Your clothes? Why do you concern yourself with what others think of you? Or, worry about how to make ends meet or what tomorrow will bring? (Matt. 6:25-34).

And, just as he utters these questions, you’re right there with him, of course. His words resonate with you. “Yes, yes, Master,” you say. “You nailed it. That is what I feel…the stuff I worry about…yes, yes, I feel it right down here in the pit of my solar plexus!”

But, no sooner than he asks these questions that resonate so deeply…no sooner than the pain in the pit begins to pale, he picks up point two of his sermon and says, “Seek first the Kingdom and all these things will take care of themselves.” (Matt. 6:33).

“Really?” you cry out with doubt. “Are you kidding me? You make it sound so easy, when it’s really so damn hard?”

There’s no answer.

“Master? Are you listening to me? I have a few questions of my own!”

He just walks away.

“Wait! Wait, Master.  Just one more question?  Please, sir, what is this Kingdom I am to seek?”

No answer.

He doesn’t even turn around.

Don’t despair, my friend. There are some hints as to what he meant. Somewhere, in his no answer there is an answer. And, you will find it.

You know how I know? Because the answer is in the search itself. Only those who “seek” the Kingdom experience the Kingdom. I couldn’t swear by this. But, I think I’m right.  Kind of like a quail hunter whose hound has the flu. So, he’s there alone but he’s been there before. Something inside says to him, “I’d bet there’s quail in the cover up there.” So, he proceeds.

I think I know what the Kingdom is and I think I do because the pain in my pit pales more and more the longer I ride the big yellow bus to somewhere.

I’ll tell you where my bus ride has been taking me in the next post.

“What?” you ask. “Wait till the next post? But I need something now! Some therapist you are!”

I know. We all need something. So, try this on for size, won’t you?

My friend, when you feel your stomach tremble at not knowing what you’re going to do or how you’re going to face the challenges ahead, do as I do and live into that feeling inside. There is nothing wrong with you and you’re no different from anyone else. Oh sure, I know, there are those who always look like they have it together…who seem invincible…as if no challenge is too great for them…that they could handle anything in life with confidence, grace, and courage.

But, it’s all just a charade, my friend. You gotta know this. I do. I was one of those who wanted everybody to believe I had all the answers.  I possessed the wisdom…the truth. But it is those who act courageous who are life’s biggest cowards. They’ve just learned to swallow a lot of religious cliches’ the way some people swallow Pepto-Bismol tablets. It temporarily masks the indigestion in their souls.

Live into your fears…your questions…doubts…loneliness…and feelings of unworthiness. We all have them. And, when you know this, and are no longer ashamed to admit it – even when everyone expects you to have answers for them -when you can embrace your fears and your worries and stop trying to pretend you don’t have any pain in the pit of your stomach, that’s when you’ll begin to feel a little relief.

There’s one thing I’ve come to know about God and that is this:  She, like my mother, knows just when it’s time to turn loose of your hand so you’ll learn how to climb on board the big yellow bus all by yourself.

So, until next time, just try enjoying the ride. You will reach your destiny. Sure, the leather seats aren’t too comfortable and smell of dirty butts. But the big yellow bus is going somewhere and that somewhere is called the Kingdom.

And, just in case you were wondering whether the journey has begun, here’s how you’ll know…

There’s a pain right smack in the pit of your solar plexus.

Until next time…

What’s Wrong with Much of Organized Christianity Today?

posted by smcswain

J. S. Spong says this:

1. God is still envisioned as a “being” supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to this world, usually depicted as “above the sky.”

2. Prayer is largely an effort to manipulate God to conform to our wishes.

3. Heaven and hell are still largely “behavior controlling religious mechanisms” designed to get people to conform and obey.

4. Sacraments are the “means of grace” as if God is even subject to the religious institutions that arbitrarily decide who can be the recipient of grace and who cannot.

5. Neo-orthodoxy of the late 20th century has been replaced today by the oxymoronic slogan of “Progressive Orthodoxy” which reminds me of the political slogan “Compassionate Conservatism” that turned out to really be little more than rabid conservatism. Spong calls this “Progressive Orthodoxy” just “perfumed orthodoxy” – just the old orthodoxy put into a new spray perfume in hopes of making it a little more acceptable.

6. The organized expressions of Christianity, just as in many other organized religions, entertains the illusion that its understanding of God is “right” which, by implication, means every other religious understanding of God is “wrong,” and, as a consequence, if you want to go to heaven when you die, instead of the “other” awful place of eternal, conscious torment where you burn, burn, burn yet still, you’d better believe as our religion says to believe, or you will have no one to blame except yourself for your everlasting screw up. (Taken from “A New Christianity for a New World” newsletter, dated Oct. 10, 2013).

That last one I took a little liberty with. But do you realize how many sincere religious people I meet almost weekly who still live in the terror of these empty, dehumanizing and godless, religious notions?

How did any of this ever pass the “Good News” test? What’s “good” about it? It is offensive. Hurtful. Godless. Aberrant. And, it is a misguided reading of scripture. The damage it has done to people…to their potential for living productive, joyful, Christ-filled lives is beyond any imagination.

I am an advocate for change. There is nothing wrong with Christianity, my friend. Only the unbelievable expressions of it. The Jesus way of living…the Christ-path to Christ-consciousness is more real…more vital…more humanizing…more in line with who Jesus was, is, and wishes you and me to become than most of the nonsense you and I have been taught is truth. If you have not read Diana Butler Bass’ new book, Christianity after Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, I commend it to you.

Even as I write these things down, I find myself feeling deep inside that something has gone terribly wrong in much of what we say on the outside is “right” about our religion today.

What do you say?

The 3 Most Effective Ways of Facing Adversity

posted by smcswain

adversityDo you ever feel like you just do not know what to do?

You’ve been following a path that has felt right to you for a long time and doors of opportunity have opened, confirming the rightness of your choices. But then, suddenly, like lightening in a storm, adversity strikes…challenges appear and doors slam shut in your face at almost every turn.  Uncertainty and doubt emerge. Fear, too, and an uneasiness in your gut that keeps you up at night, interrupts sleep, and occupies your every waking moment of thought. You second guess your choices and wonder if the adversity means that your original choices were all wrong.

Ever been here? My guess is, this describes where some of you are right now. And, you’re wondering what insight there might be into this dilemma.

“What is it,” you ask, “I should do to face this adversity?”

Here are three important things to remember when facing adversity.

1.  Do not stray from the course you’ve been following. You made these original decisions and took great risks because they felt authentic to you. In fact, they were the most authentic choices you had made in almost a lifetime. Do not go back now. Stay fixed on your vision of living true to your dreams.  Your heart knows when you are being yourself…when you’re living by the beat of your own heart, values, and beliefs.

When you made these choices months ago, or maybe even years ago now, you did so because you felt God releasing you from a lifetime of living in a prison of phoniness. For the first time in your life you felt free from everyone else’s expectations, beliefs, and definitions of who you were supposed to be. You must remember these original decisions and choices that brought you to the place where you are today. And, even though things seem uncertain and you’re not sure what’s coming next, stay firmly fixed on the freedom you’ve been given, the authenticity you have known, and the person you have become.

2.  Remind yourself that the doubts you’re having…the second-guessing is not your enemy. Do not resist the doubts.  Embrace them instead. They’re part of the journey, too. I know this for I have, and still have from time to time, many doubts of my own. I still second-guess myself, too. I still question God. And, I know that doubt is not the opposite of faith and, therefore, its antithesis. Doubt is faith stretching its wings to take flight into a Presence ever higher and grander than you could ever imagine.

Faith and doubt are the flip sides of the same coin. So live into your doubts as an indication, not of weakness, but of growth. Doubts do not mean something is wrong with your faith. Contrary to the misinformed kind of conversation about faith you see and hear from the television preachers, faith isn’t something you and I acquire in quantities. They’re always saying nonsensical things like, “If you just have a little more faith, you would receive what you need.” If that were true, why do they spend so much of their time praying and praying more for money during their fund drives? Does God withhold the money they think they need until they’ve offered so many prayers or reached a certain threshold in the amount of faith they’re supposed to have? Does God wait to give them what they need until they have “enough” faith?

Jesus’ comments about “faith the size of a mustard seed” may be one of the most widely misunderstood metaphors to have even come from Jesus’ lips (Matt. 17:20). He was not speaking of quantity of faith with this image but the power of faith. Faith may seem against the mountain of adversity you’re facing as inconsequential…powerless. But, faith, even when its as a mustard seed has the capacity to move mountains.  In other words, no mountain is anything more than a molehill when faith is present, even faith no bigger than a mustard seed.  See the difference?

Faith is not a commodity you pick up like picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery. It is the way you live. Faith is waiting on God when the temptation is to take control of things and bulldozing the mountain yourself. Faith is forgiving yourself when you do take over because it’s hard to believe sometimes. Faith is accepting yourself and your doubts and letting go of self-judgment, knowing that God does not finally accept you when you’ve attained to some imaginary level of faith. God accepts you even when you doubt more than you believe. Faith is forgiving yourself and once again learning to wait on God.

3.  There’s one more thing: During this time of barrenness…when the adversities are big…frightening…and many, know that the spring of new life is coming. It is. Watch for it. But have no expectations as to when it will show up. Grow through this by going inward daily and there remaining in the company of the Eternal.

If you will do this, you will find joy in the Presence and peace in the present.  Doubts will be kept at bay, adversities and challenges will not be overwhelming, and God’s Presence will be to you as a fresh-water spring. It will quench your barren soul. I cannot stress more strongly the importance of returning to this inner place of nurture on a daily basis.  Again, bring no expectations, just a watchful, open heart. Wait on God and see what happens. The writer of Proverbs put it like this:

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health and
your very bones will vibrate with life!” (Prov. 3:5-6).

What More Must God Do to Get Your Attention?

posted by smcswain

PresenceI love these words of Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening:

“God starts in everything unseeable,

but comes to us plainly in the things of this world.”

And then, he offers this prayer:

“Close your eyes and pray for the one thing you need.

Breathe deeply until the prayer loses its words.

Open your eyes and enter your day listening to the things around you,

for they carry what you need.”

What more could I say?

Maybe just this: The Divine Presence will appear to you today in and through everything. Look. Listen. Everything you need is in the one thing you hear, the one person you meet, the one word you read…

Beginning with these.

Want to Be Free to Be You? Here’s how…

posted by smcswain

Lazy SusanOver the years, I have learned to keep some of myself hidden from others. Do you ever do this?

I’ve been like a “Lazy Susan,” as Mark Nepo describes it, “offering only what others wanted or needed or felt most comfortable with.” (The Book of Awakening, Sept. 17).

Here’s how Nepo puts it:

“What I didn’t realize was that more and more of who I truly am was being hidden, and that showing only the part of me that others found acceptable was not being true to my self.  Over time, I became a spy with my deepest feelings and beliefs. The cost eventually was a subtle, but ever-present spiritual suffocation.”

“Darn, that’s me on the Lazy Susan,” I thought as I read those words. “No wonder I can’t breathe.”

For years, I have duped myself into actually believing that I was hiding me for your sake. That it was for you that I revealed only part of me.

I caught myself doing that just the other day, for example.  I was meeting with a potential client. Because I am good at sizing people up rather quickly – the consequence of years of working with all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances – I realized that I was speaking with a fundamentalist Christian, one who held deeply religious but, too often, unexamined views of all things spiritual. Views that I, too, tried to hold myself.

As he talked, I was talking to myself: “Be careful what you say. Better hope he doesn’t visit your website, or Google your name, or find all those things you’ve written for the Huffington Post. If he knows you’re “the voice of the spiritual but not religious,” he’ll label you a liberal…a church hater…unChristian…even an heretic.”

I reached up and felt for my unity pendants.

He was still talking.

I was politely listening, nodding where appropriate.

I felt the unity pendants. They were safely hidden from his sight underneath my shirt.

“Whew!” I thought. “If he saw those, he’d really be offended.”

You see? I’m the perfect Lazy Susan, am I not? I can spin myself around and be for you just what you need. I have learned to keep my opinions to myself and, for the longest time, I’ve convinced myself that what I was doing was being more Christian…more benevolent…the more enlightened thing…that, by keeping me from you, I was protecting you from me.

You want to know the real truth, however?

I hid myself from you to protect me.

I have lived with such a heavy fear of rejection…so an overwhelming anxiety that, if I wasn’t careful about how much of me I let you see, I might lose your business. That if I let you see me, you might reject me…judge me…talk about me to others…ruin me.

So I am the perfect Lazy Susan.

Some of you reading this are, too. Which explains why you’re still reading this.

I’ve grown weary of this game. Tired of playing hide-n-seek. Sick of telling myself that I am the benevolent one and that, by spinning around on a spindle top, I am serving you and your needs. Meanwhile, my soul is suffocating.

The real truth is, my spinning — your spinning — is the consequence of fear, the precise opposite of faith, too. I hide — you hide — not because I want to save others, but I do so to save myself. Not because I want to avoid offending another but because I’m scared shitless of being judged by you, rejected by you. Something goes off in my head and warns me, “Better hope this person doesn’t know who you really are, or never finds out, or they won’t like you!”

I am hardly as enlightened as I’d like to think I am.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been around Christians and I’ve made sure my unity pendants were tucked under my shirt, out of sight.

I hate myself for hiding.

I am more Christian today than ever. But I am also more non-Christian than ever, whenever being Christian is reduced to a label, as it still is today by far too many Christians. I am also a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew, and at one-and-the-same-time, I am none of these things, too. When is “I am” enough?

“I love all religions,” said Mother Teresa, “but I’m IN LOVE with my own.”

There is wisdom in that distinction. Which is why I’ve adopted Mother Teresa’s motto as my mantra.

Why can’t the judging stop?

Maybe it’s because everyone is spinning. We’re all hiding ourselves from ourselves.

How may you be you without being the Lazy Susan to everyone else?

1. Raise your awareness level. Know whenever you are about to step up and onto the Lazy Susan.

2. Do not judge yourself.

3. Just stop the madness and step down.

4. Breathe.

5. Exhale

6. Now, breathe again. This time deeper.

7. Release your fears.

8. Feel trust replacing the fear.

9. Relax, my friend…

10. You are standing inside your real self.

You have just taken one of life’s most important steps…

The step into yourself. Your authentic self.

Which explains why you can breathe.


Your Best Life Now!

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