Christmas Morn

Christmas Morn“, by Already Shining ~ John Astin
[Listen Online]

What We've Always Been

When you lose your life you’ll find me
You will find me everywhere
There’s a joy inside of laughter
And a smile inside despair

When you lose your life you’ll find me
There’s a love in everything
Nothing can be separate
When there’s only this it seems

You are the wonder–glory, the life…
Miracle gazing from your eyes…

When you lose you’re life you’ll find me
You will find me everywhere
There’s a joy inside of laughter
And a smile inside despair

When you lose your life you’ll find me
As a love in everything…
Nothing can be separate
When there’s only this it seems

You are the wonder–glory, the life…
Miracle gazing from your eyes…

When you lose your life you’ll find me…

–> What Do We Have To Lose?

lamentations 3 -- 22-24

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For God So Loved The World

Our Categories Give Us Our World

Whether we are:

Theists, Atheists, Agnostics

Idealists, Materialsts, Phenomenalists

Realists, Essentialists, Nominalists, Nihilists

Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Jews

Ascetics, Aesthetes, Sensualists, Legalists, Libertarians, Libertines

Liberals, Conservatives, Centrists, Center-Left, Center-Right

Capitalists, Communists, Socialists, Fascists, Anarchists

Heterosexual, Homosexual, Transexual, Asexual

Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender

Masculine, Feminine, Androgynous

Rich, Poor, Begging, Thieving

Mr. Mrs. Ms. or Miss

We must admit:

Our Categories Give Us Our World

The possibilities are seemingly endless and we can mix and match as much as we see fit!  Such worldviews give form and structure to experience…   Consciously or unconsciously, we define ourselves and others…  Categories within categories… Cultures within cultures…  Layers upon layers…  Our name is legion for we are many…

“Precept upon precept; line upon line . . . here a little, and there a little; that [we] might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28:13). 

But has it always been this way?  Under Popes and Monarchies, western culture seemed more uniform, perhaps… More stable…  More circumscribed…  Our available categories relatively limited… Our use of them more strictly choreographed…  God was in his Heaven and all was right with the world…

But perhaps this is just a superficial impression.  Maybe there was a relative stability and uniformity– at least we can imagine it that way in retrospect –but, if so,  it would seem to have been largely imposed from the top down by a power elite who’s worldview (at least to our minds) did not really do justice to reality.  In any event, that world is gone and its passing seems to have been marked by the protestant reformation and the subsequent transition from monarchies to democracies.

Progress?  Age of enlightenment?  Perhaps…  But this new-found freedom resulted in an even greater proliferation of social and cultural categories– which resulted in a corresponding proliferation of worldviews and worlds –so that, increasingly (especially in this technically astute, socially networked, post-modern age) each individual seems to have the option of constructing and defending a unique vision of the world.  But this raises several seemingly unanswerable questions:  In this hall of mirrors,

  • What is truth? 
  • Which world is real?
  • Is God, in fact, dead?
  • Must the phenomenology of Spirit finally be reduced to the will to power?

For God So Loved The World

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

As the quotation, above, suggests, it is unlikely that answers to the preceding questions will be found by those who seek them in moralistic rhetoric, hermeneutical wrangling, or other conceptual gymnastics.   But for those who have an ear for it, answers can be found in the “I Am” presence which transcends all social, cultural, and political categories.  This is not just the thought that “I am”, but the aware Presence that is prior to thought–the profound sense of Being that is encountered in alert stillness, between each breath we breathe; and in deep silence, between each heartbeat…  Indeed, this is the One who is with us alwaysthe One who is given that we might have life and have it more abundantly:

John 3:16 [paraphrased] For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son [to the world], so that everyone who [trusts in and relies on] him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who [trust in and rely on] him are not condemned; but those who do not [so trust] . . . are condemned already, because they [do not trust] in the name of the only Son of God ["I Am"].

John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I Am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I Am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I Am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (KJ2).

–>  Joint Heirs With Christ

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Joint Heirs With Christ

John 15:15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

i am exodus 3-14Language (in general) and spiritual modes of discourse (in particular) are often ambiguous and Jesus’ teachings are no exception.  At times they seem intentionally cryptic and were– more often than not, it seems –grossly misunderstood.  His frequent references to himself, for example, seems to have given his critics the impression that his teachings were self-serving–that he was seeking his own glory.  Indeed, his repeated use of the phrase, “I Am”, as reported in the gospel of John, must have seemed to them like shameless self-promotion which– given its association with the name of God in Exodus 3:14 –bordered on blasphemy.  Jesus responds to such criticism as follows:

John 7:16 Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. 17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. 19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?”

imagesCALNH9PFThey were, indeed, looking for an opportunity to kill him and, a few chapters later, they thought that they had him dead to rights when he said,

“The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

This claim followed on the heels of several of the aforementioned “I Am” expressions which, as indicated above, are provocative enough in their own right.  They are itemized, below, compliments of Henry Morris:

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,48,51).

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7,9).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14).

Moreover, his assertion that, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30) is, in turn, followed by three more “I Am” expressions:

“I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1,5).

Egoic minds are, indeed, self-serving and self-promoting–imagining as they do that the whole world should revolve around them.  And perhaps it is natural that it would seem to such minds that Jesus had a similar agenda–albeit one of megalomaniacal proportions:

John 10:31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

But looking ahead a few chapters, it does not appear that Jesus is necessarily claiming or desiring anything for himself that he does not also claim and desire for everyone else–if only  they are willing to receive the Word of God as he receives it and are willing to know themselves to be in the way that he knows himself to be.   For if they are willing– indeed, if we are willing –he prays for both them and for us as follows:

We are One in the LordJohn 17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one…

As such, it is at least questionable whether or not Jesus intended to set himself apart and glorify himself, personally, in contradistinction to the rest of humanity.

–>  Seeing Beyond Worldviews

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What Is Looking!?

St. Francis in he woods...St. Francis is supposed to have said, “What we are looking for is what is looking” and Meister Eckhart wrote,

The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.

That’s the mystery…  That’s why it is forbidden (and impossible) to make a graven image of God.  Nevertheless, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handywork (Psalm 19:1).   And we live and move and have our being in the Divine ‘image’ which is the light of the world… 

headless circleTo recognize the Lord is to notice what is noticing…  The light which lights everyone who comes into the world…  The stone which the builder rejects…  The gate of the Lord…  Whosoever will may come…

Have you noticed what’s noticing?  Listen to this song by John Astin and/or scroll down if you’d like to read the lyrics:

What is Noticing?  [Listen Online]

John Astin ~ Already ShiningHave you noticed…
That something is here…
You can’t see it…
But it’s nearer than near…

Have you noticed…
What is noticing…
And listened…
To what is listening…

Oh, what you’re searching for
Is what is searching…
And what you’re looking for…
Is what is looking…

Have you noticed…
That something is here…
You can’t see it…
But it’s nearer than near…

Have you noticed…
What is noticing…
Have you listened…
To what is listening…

Oh, what you’re searching for…
Is what is searching…
And what you’re looking for…
Is what is looking…

Have you noticed…
That something is here…
You can’t see it…
But it’s nearer than near…

Have you noticed…
What is noticing…
And listened…
To what is listening…

You’ve been searching for the truth…
And all the time…
The One you’re looking for…
Is seeing through your eyes…

Have you noticed…
something is here…
You can’t see it…
But it’s nearer than near…

Have you noticed…
What is noticing…
And listened…
To what is listening…

Have you tasted…
What is tasting…
And remembered…
What’s remembering…

Have you noticed…
What is noticing…
And listened…
To what is listening…

–> What Is Awareness?

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Seeing Beyond Worldviews

Our categories give us our world, do they not?  And is it not the case that if we can control the categories through which people see the world, we can also control them?  How, then, do we know that Jesus’ teaching isn’t just another power-play?  Is he not, by virtue of his teaching, attempting to control our categories?  And if he succeeds in controlling our categories, is he not circumscribing our worldview?  And what might his motive be if not to secure power and glory for himself?  perception and realityAnd even today, if we can control the way in which his teachings are understood and applied, are we not similarly attempting to take charge?  Are we not attempting to secure power and glory for ourselves–at least among those who are willing to follow our lead (i.e. those who are willing to say “Lord, Lord” in more or less the same way that we say, “Lord, Lord” — cf. Matthew 7:21-23) ?  How can we show that Jesus’ teaching is different?  Indeed, how can we show that this representation of Jesus’ teaching different?  Why is this not just another worldview?  Why is this not just another power-play? 

To be sure, many people– associated with many different groups and institutions –are happy to invoke the name of Jesus as they promote themselves and their particular worldviews.  They honor him with their lips, but their heart is far from him (cf. Matthew 15:8).  not everyone who says lord lordThey are quick to say, “Lord, Lord,” but not only do they not enter the kingdom, they do their best to prevent others from entering, as well (cf. Matthew 7:21 and 23.13).  Indeed, it has been incredibly easy (and very tempting) for later generations to project their misunderstanding of his teaching (not to mention their intentional distortion thereof) onto the person of Jesus.  In contrast to the scribes and pharisees who, in their pursuit of power, opposed him (fearing that his popularity threatened their position), later generations– looking back at him in an idealized way, his name having triumphed –are eager to hitch their wagon to his star as they attempt to secure power and glory for themselves (showing themselves, in the end, however, to be like the scribes and pharisees after all).

Language is notoriously ambiguous, but there are two particular ambiguities that makes it especially easy for us to associate ourselves and our worldviews with Jesus of Nazareth.  We quite naturally assume, as we read the gospels, that his references to himself– especially his use of the expression “I Am” in the gospel of John –are, as far as we are concerned,  merely (or primarily) references to himself as a historical personage on a historical mission–a person who (in our frame of reference, at least) also happens to be the only begotten Son of God (aka the second person of the Trinity).  Subordinate to this, but closely related, is our further assumption that any references to “my word” or “my words” refer merely (or primarily) to the words reportedly spoken by him (or to the words that allegedly apply to him) that we find recorded in the scriptures.  And while all this is plausible enough from a particular point of view (i.e. a particular worldview that idealizes the Bible as “the inerrant word of God” and that projects the conclusions of later theological speculation back onto the life and teachings of Jesus), the real jesusthe end result is that these two icons– Jesus  and the Bible –are simultaneously powerful enough and ambiguous enough to attract and accommodate a wide variety of (more or less) self-promoting prophets and conflicting worldviews.  But rather than attempting to sort through all these as we search for one that is true, let us see if we cannot discover a deeper and more authentic significance in Jesus’ references to himself and his words that will lead us beyond particular worldviews– and beyond the power struggles implicit within them –to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that Jesus said, “I Am” (John 14:6).  We shall attempt to do this by strategically paraphrasing a series of texts from the gospel of John in hopes that they will speak to us in a fresh and authentic way.  To the extent that we are successful, we will be in a much better position to ascertain the relative value of the various worldviews we encounter.  Like the prisoner who was released from Plato’s cave and who– having left the cave, and having seen the form of the Good –decides to go back into the cave out of concern for the other prisoners, we too may choose to re-engage the world and debate, on some level, the shadows on the cave wall (but we won’t mistake these shadows for reality); we, too, may once again consider the relative value of various worldviews (but we won’t mistake these worldviews for the Truth).

Two Dangers

Before proceeding with this enterprise, however, the reader should be aware of two dangers:

1) like Jesus, himself, we may open ourselves up to the charge of blasphemy (the reasons for this becoming apparent, below); and 2) we may risk actually blaspheming– in a manner of speaking, at leastinsofar as we are liable to mistake the relative for the absolute (e.g. the egoic mind for the mind of Christ–or a particular worldview for the Truth).

Godman! by devan78 via Flickr

Godman! by devan78 via Flickr

While, at this point in history, the first of these two dangers is not a huge concern– unless, of course, we are beholden to a particular church or related institution for our paycheck and/or our sense personal identity –the second of the two may be related to the Jungian concept of inflation and should not be taken lightly.  Indeed, whether we ourselves suffer from this kind of “inflation” and are engaging in a kind of megalomaniacal “self-promotion” OR whether we are promoting a particular “world-view” as if that worldview were, itself, the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is sought– whether we do either of these things  –a certain prospect of judgment looms over us as the thoughts and intents of our hearts are exposed to the light:

Hebrews 4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Nevertheless, while we would do well to pause for introspection, at this point, we should not imagine that any attempt to avoid the light of life would be a virtue:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Ephesians 5:13 . . . but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

–>  Recognizing the Light of Divine Presence

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Recognizing the Light of Divine Presence

It is worth considering– with the help of some strategic paraphrasing –whether Jesus of Nazareth may have intended neither to point to himself, in the flesh (i.e. to his social or historical persona) nor to make theological pronouncements about his unique standing (as the second person of the Trinity or the long awaited messiah), but that he was instead pointing to the Divine presence that is also in us–the Divine presence which is both deep within and high above that which we normally take ourselves to be.  still-small-voiceMoreover, let us consider, in addition, whether his references to the importance of hearing and obeying his word(s) [or the Father's word(s)] were not merely (or primarily) references to his literal words (or words about him), as recorded in the scriptures, but rather to the possibility of recognizing and abiding in his Divine presence and of becoming attuned to the still small voice which is the Word of God in our hearts, here & now (cf. Hebrews 4:12 and the reference to “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17; cf. John 16:13).  For if we have access to the same Divine presence and living Word of God that Jesus shared with his disciples, rather than taking refuge in worldviews, however plausible (or consoling; or personally empowering), let us instead take this opportunity to enter into life– the abundant, eternal life that Jesus offers –here & now:

John 17:3 [paraphrased] And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ [the Divine Presence] you have sent. 4  I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6a “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.

I AmIt is worth remembering that Jesus is said to be “a prophet like unto Moses” (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Acts 7).  Not only is his description of himself, in verse 6a, above, somewhat reminiscent of the role of Moses, in the Exodus, his repeated use of the “I Am” expressions most certainly calls to mind Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush:

Exodus 3:13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.’ “

But in contrast to the children of Israel, in Exodus– who are characterized as a rebellious and stiff-necked people –the disciples are said to have kept God’s word:

John 17:6 “I have made your name ["I Am"] known to those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

This is also in marked contrast to the scribes and pharisees:

John 7:19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.

The disciples, however, being both hearers and doers of the word (cf. James 1:22; Matthew 7:26-27), now know with certainty that Jesus’ teaching is not just another worldview– that it is not some conceptual scheme intended to bring honor and glory to him, personally –but that it is, indeed, from God.  This also calls to mind another verse from chapter 7:

John 7:17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.

I Am PresenceThere is no question, then, of merely “adopting” some abstract doctrine or worldview on the word of some itinerant preacher, however charismatic, and then mistaking some combination of  group think and confirmation bias for a demonstration of its truth.  Rather, when the word of the Lord– the Divine presence that “I Am” –is both heard and hearkened to, the Truth is obvious and it is seen to be in no way dependent on the turn of events.  Indeed, the Divine presence that “I Am” is the condition for the possibility of any turn of events.  One may simply

“Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8).

Moreover, it is also obvious– to those who resolve to do the will of God in this way –that Jesus was not seeking his own glory, but the glory of the one who sent him:

John 7:18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

Thus, in Chapter 17, he continues to pray as follows:

John 17:8  for the words that you gave to me [in the stillness of the Divine presence] I have given to them, and they have received them [in the stillness of that same Divine presence] and [they now] know in truth that [the Divine presence that "I Am"] came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Moreover, just as Jesus had earlier affirmed his oneness with the Father (John  10:30), in the latter half of this chapter he prays that his disciples, including  those of subsequent generations, will be also be oneone with God, one with him, and one with one another:

John 17:17 [paraphrased]  Sanctify them in the truth; your word [the Divine presence that "I Am"] is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me [in the Divine presence that "I Am"] and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  22 The glory that you have given me [i.e. the glory of the Divine presence]  I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I Am, to see my glory, which you have given me [i.e. the Divine presence that "I Am"] because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them ["I Am"], and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and [the Divine presence that "I Am" may be] in them.”

In light of this prayer, then– if we are truly hearing and obeying his words –we:live simply

  • are sanctified through the truth…
  • are sent, by Christ, into the world…
  • are one with Christ and the Father…
  • share in the glory of Christ…
  • are  indwelt by Christ and the love of Christ…

It should be stressed, at this point, that those who attempt to “hear and obey” the words of Jesus in their own strength and according to their own understanding, will sooner or later realize the futility of their efforts (cf. Romans 7), while those who those who recognize the “I Am” presence and walk in that light– those who resolve to do the will of God, both in Spirit and in Truth –are truly free (cf. Romans 8).

–>  I Am” Not What You Think

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From The Inside Out

[scroll down for music video]

from the inside outA thousand times I’ve failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in Your grace

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

My soul cries out to You
My soul cries out to You
To You, to You

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

–> What Is Awareness?

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No Effort Is Necessary

Romans 8:1  [paraphrased] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [the "I Am" presence] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [the egoic mind] but according to the Spirit [the mind of Christ].

bicycle-boyIn a recent post it was observed that the difference between these two “walks” cannot be put into words that the egoic mind can understand.  In some ways (it was said) it’s like riding a bicycle.  You just keep trying until, at some point, you realize that no effort is necessary.  The following verse was used to illustrate that sense of effortlessness:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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” (Matthew 11:28-30).

couch potatoPerhaps it is worth pointing out, however, that the effortlessness that is needed is that of one who stays on the bicycle– not the one who parks it in the garage and becomes  a couch potato.  But how to stay on the bicycle without trying?  A few things to note:

  • It doesn’t mean no energy will be expended, but that it will be expended  in faith, hope, and love (not in fear, guilt, and/or despair).
    • Note:  Hope is tricky–this does not mean a desperate desire (or pretense) or wishful thinking about the future, but a confidence in the face of that which is unknown (in the ordinary sense of the word).
  • Rest in the Lord, indeed, but do not fall asleep at the wheel (aware presence or alert stillness is what is called for).
  • In lucid awareness, trust in and rely on the Lord– the Divine presence that “I Am” –unconditionally (surrendering all to Him and accepting all from Him as the gift of  God).
  • Take up your cross… (the cross of Christ is our cross).

If this seems cryptic or obscure, consider the alternatives:  1) you can continue to play tug of war with the flesh (a la Romans 7), 2) you can park the bicycle and become a couch potato (cf. Luke 9:62), or 3) forgetting those things that are behind, you can

“…press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, NKJV).

And that upward call is to be found, here and now, in the Divine presence that “I Am”.

–>  Trust in the Lord with all your Heart

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“I Am” Not What You Think

Those who attempt to “hear and obey” the words of Jesus in their own strength and according to their own understanding, will sooner or later realize the futility of their efforts (cf. Romans 7).  But those who recognize the “I Am” presence and walk in that light– those who resolve to do the will of God, both in Spirit and in Truth –realize the freedom described in Romans 8:

John 8:31 [paraphrased] Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word [abiding in the Divine presence that "I Am"], you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [the "I Am" presence] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [the egoic mind] but according to the Spirit [the mind of Christ].

The difference between these two “walks” cannot be put into words that the egoic mind can understand.  In some ways, it’s like riding a bicycle.  You just keep trying until, at some point, you realize that no effort is necessary:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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” (Matthew 11:28-30).

“I Am” Not What You Think

We have the mind of Christ!If you merely “think” about all this, it will doubtless seem foolish and/or incredible and you will miss the point entirely.  Moreover, it must be stressed that for the egoic mind to attempt to usurp God’s place– for it to suggest that “I Am God” –is, indeed, both absurd and blasphemous.  But it is another thing entirely– in the stillness of the Divine presence that “I Am” –to recognize that God’s life and our life is one.   For insofar as we– by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit –are put to death in the flesh (i.e. crucified with Christ) and are made alive in the Spirit (i.e. raised with him in newness of life), it is perfectly appropriate to say that we one with the Father.   Indeed, we are dead and our lives are hid with Christ in God (cf. Colossians 3:3).  As such, we have the mind of Christ and are participants in the Divine nature, enjoying eternal life, here and now (cf. II Corinthians 2:16; II Peter 1:4; John 3:36).  Quoting the Roman Catholic Catechism:

The Headship of Christ795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:
. . .

Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.

Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person.

A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

It’s Not Personal

person (n.) early 13c., from Old French persone “human being, anyone, person” (12c., Modern French personne) and directly from Latin persona “human being, person, personage; a part in a drama, assumed character,” originally “mask, false face,” such as those of wood or clay worn by the actors in later Roman theater.
~ http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=person ~

As we continue to reflect on a variety of scriptures pertaining to our union with God in Christ, let us see if we cannot come closer to recognizing the Way, the Truth, and the Life of which they speak by assuming that when Jesus alludes to the “I Am” presence, he is not suggesting that we put him on a pedestal, personally, and worship him–the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as such.  To be sure, our devotion to him as the only begotten Son of God –the archetype of Man in the image of God –is, in retrospect, perfectly appropriate.  But to imagine that he thought of himself in this way and desired this kind of veneration can be very misleading.

“…from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more” (II Corinthians 5:16).

Our veneration of him as a historical personage is merely the first step in a process through which we may, by the grace of God, come to recognize and participate in that which HE IS  — the Divine presence that “I Am”.

On the other hand, God forbid that we should we imagine that Jesus is suggesting that we put ourselves on a pedestal and worship our own egos (cf. Philippians 2:4-8).  Rather, what is suggested is that we see through our false, mind-made (personal) sense of  “self” and recognize ourselves as we are in Christ — recognize the Divine presence that “I Am”chosen in him before the foundation of of the world (prior to the story of “me” and prior to any and all worldviews which can only be relative and provisional points of view–never the Truth, per se).  We are repeatedly told that we must be willing to leave all this behind if we would follow him:

Matthew 10:37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.  39 He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own life? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?

Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  25 For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or suffer loss?

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? . . . 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 17:20 And when he was demanded by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. . . . 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

John 12:25 He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serves me, him will my Father honor.

Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price:

Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking fine pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

In the words of T.S. Eliot, the Divine presence that “I Am” is

The Pearl of SimplicityNot known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
~ from Little Gidding

Let us recognize, then– once and for all –the “I Am” presence as both the image of God in us and the image of God in which we are said to have been created–the light that lights everyone that comes into the world (John 1:9).

–>  Be Ye Reconciled To God

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God of the Ages

[scroll down for music video]

creation-300x288(Verse 1)
He is the image of the invisible God
The first born of creation
He is the first, the last,
The one who matters most

(Verse 2)
He is creator, ruling sustainer of all
He holds it all together
He is the Word of God
The hope for all the world

His name is lifted higher
Jesus, your name is lifted higher

(Chorus)
We bless you Lord, God of the ages!
Highest of all we magnify you
Your name will be exalted, exalted!

(Verse 2)
(Chorus 2x)

(Bridge)
Who can compare?
Who can compare to you, to you?
(Repeat 4x)

(Chorus)

–> What Is Awareness?

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