What could this possibly mean?
It reminds me of the teachings in The Course in Miracles about forgiveness REALLY and ACTUALLY reversing the cause and effect scripts in our mind.
What could this possibly mean?
Sensitive stuff, and I don’t want to overstate it. If it’s a new concept to you, I really want to share the GIFT in the insight. So if it’s challenging language, let’s take it slowly.
Basically, in my very very ACIM layperson’s terms:
Forgiveness is what enables us to live in the PRESENT. As we proceed on the forgiving spiritual path, we grow in our ability to resist attributing our present well-being chiefly to the PAST choices we’ve made or others have made (a decade or a minute ago).
It’s in this way, that we mean that evidence of injury can recede. I do NOT mean that we are not changed and shaped by the nexus of choices and experiences that we and others make. Like Jacob limping away from a Divine battle or Jesus, after the resurrection, showing his scars… we may be very aware of the ways today that our thoughts and habits reflect past experiences. Indeed, we are embedded and interconnected with one another. That’s the beauty of being this amazing complex and wabi sabi world of which we are a part. Our unique present constitution is what helps us have experiences of being distinct and in process!
So, it’s not that we are not influenced but it IS about experiencing healing — a sense of release of the ego’s lies about cause and effect. “The evidence of injury that recedes” is simply that script about being the injured one, the victim, if that script clings mercilessly to blame and judgement about the causes and causers. It is not the scars that go away, but our fixation on them.
Attendees of the upcoming Forgive for Life Institute (Winter 2013) will go more deeply into the Course’s teachings about forgiveness. My current clients and students are developing more and more life-giving Energy Leadership skills. We uncover new joys every day as we work with each other on discovering true healing and true power. And, we are changing the “realities” of selfish scarcity, excuses, blame, and deferment which keep so many of us from our passion and our present.
Interested in more for your life? Check out upcoming events or coaching at Living Well Ministries. I serve people around the country who are ready to leave behind the beliefs and habits which keep them from living well in the present. Together, we discover the Living Well that nourishes us as we “love from the Center of who we are” (Romans 12:9a).
In preparing for the blessed opportunity to be with PFLAG-Chicago on July 15, I was so mindful of the long journey I’ve taken. It feels more like concentric rings on a tree than a journey through strangely disparate lands, though.
A fundamentalist Baptist childhood
a graced evangelical college chapter (laced with the pain of the closet)
the finding of sanctuary and healing as a young adult lesbian in an intimate LGBT-welcoming church (Grace Baptist Church)
the journey of ministry call and the fires of social justice awakening at Chicago Theological Seminary
a season of pastoral leadership that brought new rhythms of wellness and passion for personal and community health
(including spiritual paths and places!)
new paradigm shifts that make peace and prosperity a reality, and call me to build yet more bridges.
What is the impact of all of this?
More than ever, I know that my part to play in justice-making is more of a healing and bridge-building role than an activist’s battle strategy.
I look around at the volatility of our times and the fervent opponents to diversity and solidarity. What I see and feel is the brokenness we all share in the web of the Ego: fear, insecurity, anger, aversion, enmity. No prejudice which would withhold safety or equality from other groups is VALID, and must be challenged and overturned. But I trust more than ever this Knowing: ALL EMOTIONS ARE VALID. (By valid, I simply mean that people are having whatever experience they are choosing to have, and it is not my place to judge these difficult feelings.) While we do the necessary work to persuade, and to “lobby” and to convince minds and to gain votes for the sake of more just laws, we can either hold a transcendent and redemptive hope for all (New Creation) or simply replay the unsustainable script Winner Takes All with its short-term gains.
The social and political opponents of LGBT diversity, or transracial solidarity, are caught in the grips of age-old fears of difference and projections of blame and anger that the New Testament might call “the flesh.” But I am letting go of the battle mindset that “spirit” opposes “flesh. The Rainbow Journey has taught me that this idea does great internal damage to our personal spirituality and integrity. And, how often do we make our group out to be the ones who need to battle those “Others!”
Time and time again, when I’ve set a different course and nurtured a different energy, I’ve found that hearts and minds of opponents open up to new encounters and relationships. People long for a little respect and dignity; our brothers and sisters who are most afraid and angry, who are most caught up in emotional and social barriers or violence, need the healing presence of bridge-builders who genuinely care for their pain and can honor their authentic desires for Good. It is only then that ideas about the Good, or how to live out the Good, can be reexamined and let go where they are found to be limiting our God.
I most certainly have not “arrived” in my own struggles to occupy such a place. But I am a product of these multiple communities and hold them all, somehow, inside me. I have made peace with that. And I am more convinced than ever that spiritually speaking this is the KEY to “living well.” In my living, coaching and teaching I am focusing on personal transformation and healing. As LGBT folks and allies work on forgiveness, coming our, self-care or faith transitions, they find that the more self-compassion and acceptance we experience the less enmeshed in enmity we need to feel. It is only from this place of spiritual freedom and equanimity that we can truly be the creative change agents that our world so desperately needs.
Forgiveness is not about a head trip, or just THINKING(forcing) our way to resolution.
HOWEVER, I do find that it matters very, very much how we define it, map it, open to it, and measure our progress. This kind of thinking helps us on our way to empowerment as we set intentions for progress. Far from merely intellectualizing the process, it instead enables us accept our agency and power in the choices we make. Oh, how the soul longs for this!
As a forgiveness coach, I have the privilege of supporting a wide variety of people in their transformation of the painful attachments to which they’ve long clung. How we define forgiveness, its nature and purpose makes all the difference on the journey. Are you using the best compass for the journey — the soul’s longing to express present healing — or are you using a navigation tool which keeps you imprisoned in the past? No matter where you were yesterday, you can begin shifts TODAY which will free you to forgive for LIFE.
Learn more at July 21 “Forgive for Life” workshop. Register today at http://www.eventbrite.com/
Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’s True Christianity:
We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves. It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully. The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:
“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them. This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)
This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor. People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit. People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.
Wow! Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world. Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?
I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically. I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality. One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing. To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties! (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).
I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”). It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God. And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse. Swedenborg called these “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.
My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter. So, in fact did Jesus. Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this. Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.
Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:
To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.
To treat others justly.
To not judge wrongfully.
To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…
“The Law of Goodwill.”
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” — Matthew 7:24-27
This passage has held and nourished many returns – my returns to study — over the years. It’s so simple really. To hear and act upon the words of Jesus. Jesus (not church or government or culture). The words he’s just shared (the Sermon on the Mount, not later pronouncements of Tradition).
What is it to hear?
To hear and perceive the Good News in them.
To hear and feel Gospel-style judgment (not condemnation) in them.
To hear and know more of God because of them.
To hear the Truth in silence beneath our hapless and self-centered words.
To hear the pain of this world, as He did.
What is it to act on them?
All of these are to act on them, in the manner Jesus himself acted upon Word:
To submit to their wisdom in hope, obedience and simplicity.
To chew them with earnestness, as a sweet scroll, turning food into life and into waste as well.
To wrestle with them as Jacob, settling for nothing less than blessing.
To resist their use as weapons, as lifeless tools in the hands of prejudice or legalism.
To take upon — as a yoke — an inner meaning which is Life and Spirit.
To embody them as Word-made-flesh, unafraid of our place in the family of things.*
Jesus cried out with lament on another day, “If only you knew the ways that make for peace!” Today, He stills beckons us to the blessing of the universal and nonviolent compassionate spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. When we embrace such a life with our whole being, we must dissolve Ego’s opposition and the backlash of those who themselves are threatened by such grace. But it is truly the way to the life of resilience and witness that is pictured by the house on the rock. It is the life of freedom from judgments, vengeance and prejudice. It is the life that lasts.
Where do you see examples of the steadfast in your life, of the weathering of failure and finitude?
Where do you see the crushing impact of despair, discrimination, or disappointments?
What fresh word of life is for you this day?
*I am invoking Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese here. Check out Panhala for the full text and lots more great poems.
“You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” — Jim Rohn
This is a wonderfully life-giving and empowering reminder to me. I do not hear it as piety but as prophetically wise, not as quietism but responsibility-taking, not as escapism but as incredible rigor. My clients and students who are working on sustainable activism, biblical self-care, forgiveness or coming out as gay or lesbian Christians are thriving because they are learning what they REALLY have charge of — their “energy leadership.”
This approach – quite suitable for Lent — yokes self-examination with the tasks of transformation of circumstances. It makes the interior life the starting point.
I join others from time to time in the critique of Western individualism and the corrosive impact it has had when taken to the extreme. But I will not settle for a faith and a justice-calling that does not take seriously — reverentially — that resilience that can be cultivated only when we remember the limits of what we have charge of…
It is, I would go so far to say, GOOD NEWS.
What do you think?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Who could you be if you took this invite of Jesus at face value?
What could you let go of?
What long could you wait in a period of rest?
How might you distinguish the false burdens placed by the world, from the worthy yoke placed upon us by Christ?
Jonah did not like that the people of Nineveh saw the “error of their ways.” He was more attached to his role of self-righteous victim and ranting “prophet” than to the radical Divine option that those oppressing Powers That Be might actually experience grace and a second chance.
I’d like to reread, soon, Miguel de la Torre’s book Liberating Jonah: Toward a Biblical Ethics of Reconciliation. I’ve always loved the story of Jonah, and began serious discipling study of it in 2005. Miguel’s book offers some wonderful challenges about what it means to forgive injustice and to truly envision reconciliation. And there’s no sugar coating it.
That’s really important: no sugar coating. As we embark together in coaching and classes this year as part of Living Well Ministries’ Forgive for Life programs, we will support one another in a forgiveness journey which holds truth of pain and radical compassion together. No sugar coating. No self-righteousness, either.
I hope that I can support, in these settings and others, the sustainable prophetic work of those called to transform injustice in our world. So very often I encounter those engaged in justice work I truly value and share in interactions which reveal such animosity, resentment, and demonizing toward “the Other” who they would blame for society’s ills. No doubt, many structural injustices and systemic prejudices — such as racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and sexism — permeate our current reality and hold many in bondage through invisible systems of privilege and unequal power and opportunity. In Buddhist terms, our attachments to blame and our aversions poison us all. The liberating and creating work of justice-making cannot thrive while we are stuck in that abyss.
As a Christian coach, I hold the vision of shalom for us all. Peace, completeness and well-being might be modern aspects of this Hebrew concept. In my personal life, public ministry and coaching/teaching work, I hold space for people to articulate the pain and damage they feel and see WHILE LETTING GO of Jonah’s temptation to make the human vessels of harm out to be evil incarnate. I have slowly shed a view (now, to shed in daily experience!) of God as one whose wrath would come down to punish my/our enemies. Or, that I have the power and right to dehumanize those whose beliefs and actions cause harm.
We have the opportunity to cultivate a Divine heart that, unlike Jonah’s, truly desires the well-being of all victims and all violators. (That’s the approach to forgiveness I take, inspired by Marjorie Suchocki’s work). Anticipating Lent is a good time to recall that a forgiveness that demands a punitive judgment is not Christ’s gospel. Forgiveness looks like acceptance, bold truth-telling, and a welcome Home.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Forgiveness is a process.
A path of intention and of practice.
One element is discernment, the kind of discernment we do when we decide if, when and how we spend time with others when relationships are tender and compromised.
As we live into another multi-holiday season, we will often be making choices about how to be together (or not)”celebrating” in times of fracture and pain. As I support my clients in this season, I am reminded that the best framework for defining forgiveness INCLUDES — at the heart of its definition — the ongoing work of discernment. It does not serve us well, I think, to define forgiveness as some kind of stand-alone transaction, that happens or occurs with a finality that then makes discernment about next steps possible.
Instead, practicing discernment about how and with whom we spend our time in this season can be viewed instead as part of forgiveness practice.*
to spend time or not
to validate solitude or not
to draw certain boundaries or not
to set intentions or not
It’s all about practice–
holding truth and love,
honor of self and others,
past and present unfolding,
now and not yet.
A forgiveness practice could be just the right holiday practice…
* In my coaching and teaching, I prioritize Marjorie Suchocki’s definition of forgiveness, paraphrased here: “Taking into account the full extent of the harm done AND choosing to will the wellbeing of all the victims and all of the violators.”