Monday, September 8, 2014

Sin Management or Healing?

When religion is not about healing, it really does not have much to offer people in this life.”  
--Richard Rohr

This statement in Rohr’s book Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World From a Place of Prayer has stirred my thoughts as I think of our world’s conflicts and woundedness. The turf wars in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Israel, are only a few we see daily in the media. These are, in part, about religion interpreted with a fundamental view taking extreme actions. In their minds, they believe themselves to be in the right.

Most religious persons today do not have a view to such extremes. On the other hand, I do wonder about how we who consider ourselves “religious” have taken more of a focus of sin management, and less on healing.

Focusing on sin seeks to define what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Who defines this right and wrong, good and bad, depends on those in power. This is not only in the extremism of Islam and Jewish states, it is found in Christianity, as well. We all have a tendency towards creating law above the love of the people and healing for the community and the world.

I see this especially as fear rises along with experiences of violence and aggression in our communities. We talk of gun control and putting extremists in their place. How do we speak of healing and education towards communication with each other in conflict, with teaching peace and compassion among our young people?

This healing of the world must begin with the healing of the self and with those we are with on a daily basis. In his book, Rohr states,

 “Only whole people can imagine or call forth a more whole world. Healing depends on relating with love and compassion. Official religion usually focuses on imputing and then forgiving guilt. This is much more about sin management than proclaiming a larger-than-life vision for humanity. Remember that the ego contracts around problems. The soul gathers and is drawn by meaning.” (p. 55)

What this calls me to ask myself includes:

“Am I focusing on the problem (and trying to manage that)?” or “Am I seeking to understand meaning with an openness to heal-myself and the world around me?”

Am I needing to “be right”, which means I am judging others as being wrong? Or am I seeking truth and meaning, which has the opportunity to invite others into the conversation? Am I about sin management or healing? Healing is not about the law, but the soul. This is about seeking healing out of compassion. It is open to a diverse community. From my Christian point of view, I think this is what it means to be a disciple of the One who sat with sinners and loved them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Passwords To Meaning-Making

Love, like a carefully loaded ship
 crosses the gulf between the generations…
We live, not by things, but by the passwords
from generation to generation.

--Antoine de Saint Exupery

As I read these words above in my morning meditation time, I began to reflect on my time with my dad and the family over the past week with them in Virginia where they live. My dad (pictured above) is 93, mentally very sharp, though finds his physical self growing more and more limitations, which have changed his quality of life significantly in the past year. Mom died 11 years ago, and this picture depicts how he still misses her daily. My siblings and I were blessed with a parents who loved each other and modeled for us a relationship of love and care for others. 

As I read the words by de Saint Exupery, I began to think of the words that are "passwords" of my past, of the things that I expect to see in my family home, of the decisions my 7 siblings and I will have to "sort through" in the future, whenever that may be. 

What gives meaning to this "stuff"? What makes the experience of returning to the home I grew up in one that I want to keep returning to again and again. I have been blessed to be in this home with family for 54 Christmases now. This struck me this year, in part because I wondered if this would be the last one. Whether it is or not, I am aware that the physical building, the furniture, the knick knacks that sit around, the stuff in the basement and closets are not what matter. It is how this place and these things have allowed us to grow up and learn to be in relationship with each other as family. How we loved, how we fought, how we were disciplined, how we celebrated milestones and growth as persons, how we lived faith and experienced disappointments. This place has given us a place to gather and remain as family over the years, even when we "left home". We continue to return. Where will that "place" be when we have left this behind?

So when I read these words in my morning quiet time, I was struck with how the place represents family, togetherness, the source of my life, even as I know it now over 500 miles away from there. I am so grateful for this. And no matter what lies ahead, it will continue to ground me in what is important, and bear meaning to who I am--not so much the physical place, but what it represents.  I have been reminded that it is not the physical place or the things that I return to, but the meaning-making in my life that has foundationally made me who I am. Our family's passwords that have been passed along through the generations include words such as, "family", "faith", "service" and "music". 

What are your passwords that move things and daily life into meaningful experiences?