Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Out of the Temple


And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables. And he said unto them . . . take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise . . .
---John 2

Sermon on the Mount


And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them.
--- Matthew 5

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let Christ Be Born Today


I have spoken of a light in the soul, a light that is
uncreated and uncreateable ... to the extent that
we can deny ourselves and turn away from created
things, we shall find our unity and blessing in that
little spark in the soul, which neither space nor time
---Meister Eckhart

Friday, December 12, 2008

Zen Gifts for Christians

I am reading a book by Robert Kennedy, a Roman Catholic priest and Zen teacher, called "Zen Gifts to Christians". Here are some of my notes from the Introduction:

After some of his early Zen retreats, Kennedy says that he was so impressed with "the value of the meditation experience when it was guided by the inspirational leadership of Zen teachers that I believed it belonged in the church."

Here are some quotes:

those Christians who are tempermentally inclined toward practicing Zen to enrich their lives

no one devotional practice possesses the whole Christ

(these Zen gifts can make us better Christians)

(these Zen gifts) offer us a spiritual experience rather than a theory

(Zen practice for Christians may involve an) apostolic endeavor to listen attentively to the other in an attitude of respect and admiration at how truth manifests itself differently in other cultures and pesonalities

Quotes about the ten Ox-herding pictures:

(the ten bulls represent the) successive steps we must take to realize one's true nature

Kennedy uses the ox-herding pictures, the corresponding verses, related koans, and Western prose/poetry to reveal insights into the ten steps.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Filling Our Lamps With Oil

Here are some things that Eknath Easwaran recommends to nurture and cultivate the God-seed within, and help us to reveal our Original Goodness. I added (in italics) some examples and goals for my own life.

1. Meditation

Sit for a few minutes each morning, and at stop-lights.
2. Repetition of the Holy Name

Example: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
3. Slowing Down
Vacations, coffee-free days, bicycle riding, working outside, driving slower and walking.
4. One-pointedness

Goal: Avoid over-extending and try to focus on one simple thing at a time.
5. Training the Senses

Goal: Avoid over-stimulation.
6. Putting Others First
Forgive others' everyday mistakes and imperfections.
7. Spiritual Reading
Read a few pages from inspirational books in the mornings.
8. Spiritual Association
Examples: Christian fellowship in a church community, meditation group, and people at work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

God's Word

Those of us who have decided to follow Jesus do not necessarily believe the same things. For example, we may see the Bible in different ways. The members of our Sunday School class were asked to fill out a questionaire about "God's Word" last Sunday. Several of the questions had to do with the Bible.

Although I did not get a chance to share my answers, I was somewhat surprised by the answers of some of the other members. This led me to consider this and I have written down some of my thoughts.

For me, God's Word does not come just from the Bible, or even primarily from the Bible. Other sources of God's Word for me are: all inspired writings, and oral traditions, both ancient and modern, both Christian and non-Christian. These questions seem important: Does it ring true in my heart, especially during quiet times, listening to the small, still voice within? What do people I respect believe? Does it come from a true Spirit of Love?

JJ Dewey says:
the sincere religious person has felt 'soul contact' while reading the scriptures and because of this is not about to drop his belief in the closest link he has to the Spirit. On the other hand, many "new agers" have not even read the scriptures, or had them forced upon them while they were young, and do not identify with this feeling. Instead, many of them have received some spiritual contact while reading other books that teach enough 'truth' to draw the inner voice.Freeread.com

In the quote above, I identify more with the "new ager". JJ Dewey goes on to say that:
God has spoken to many different people in many different ways and even though the vocabulary and definitions may vary, the core truths are the same.

I think that it is more important to have the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts than to have a "right" view of the Bible. If one has the Spirit of Jesus in their heart, they are hearing God's Word.

May I remember what is truly important.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dependent Origination

  • For plants to grow, feed the soil.
  • It is not the horse but the oats that pulls the wagon.
  • If you want Peace, work for Justice.

[to be continued]

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Sneakers

From Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart:

Imagine this scenario: Your child is putting on his new sneakers. You knew last night when you bought them that he was not really happy with them, but they were the only ones you could afford. Now, as he is getting ready for school,he is crying. How are you going to handle this one? If your objective is to let him know what you think, you may say something like this:

"Look, I don't know you don't like the sneakers, but that's all I could afford. Don't be such a baby. What would Jared say if I told him you were crying over something like this? They're just going to get messed up anyway. In a couple of days no one will know what they look like. What do you care about what those kids think about your sneakers? Who made them the experts anyhow? You should be thankful you even have them. Those sneakers you don't like cost more than my first car. Look, I have to go to work; I have more important things to worry about than sneakers ..."

Now, if your primary objective is to understand the child's internal struggles, you could have a conversation like this:

PARENT: You're upset about the sneakers, aren't you?
CHILD: Yeah.
PARENT: I didn't think you liked them when we bought them last night. You didn't want to tell me, did you?
PARENT: What don't you like about them?
CHILD: They look stupid.
PARENT: I don't know what you mean.
CHILD: Jared says they look stupid.
PARENT: When did Jared see them? We just got them last night.
CHILD: Chris got a pair just like this and Jared told everybody in class that he looked like a dweeb.
PARENT: What's a dweeb? Oh, never mind. What looks dweeby about those sneakers?
CHILD: This red strip on the back. They don't put red stripes on the the new ones. They're last year's shoes---that's why they were only $87.98.
PARENT: Oh, I see. You're afraid that they will call you a dweeb today, right?
CHILD: Yeah.
PARENT: That really hurts, doesn't it?
CHILD: Yeah, I don't know why they should care about what my shoes are like, but I know they'll call me a dweeb.
What are you learning? Your child is struggling with feelings that you can identify with. There is a genuine pressure out there in his third-grade classroom. He is feeling the pressure to be approved by his peers. This circumstance is bringing out the hopes and fears of his heart.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Original Goodness

I have spoken of a light in the soul, a light that is
uncreated and uncreateable ... to the extent that
we can deny ourselves and turn away from created
things, we shall find our unity and blessing in that
little spark in the soul, which neither space nor time
---Meister Eckhart

In his book "Original Goodness", Eknath Easwaran comments and expands on these words, explaining that Eckhart essentially taught four principles:

First, there is a "light in the soul that is uncreated and
uncreateable": unconditioned, universal, deathless, in
religious language, a divine core of personality that cannot
be separated from God. Eckhart is precise: this is not what the English language calls the "soul," but some essence in the soul that lies at the very center of consciousness. ... In Indian mysticism this divine core is called simply atman, "the Self".

Second, this divine essence can be realized. ... It can and should be discovered, so that its presence becomes a reality in daily life.

Third, this discovery is life's real and highest goal.

Last, when we realize this goal, we discover simultaneously that the divinity within ourselves is one and the same in all --- all individuals, all creatures, all of life.

Easwaran also describes this "little spark in the soul" as a "divine seed" and quotes Origen:

because it is God that has sowed the seed in us, pressed it in,
begotten it, it cannot be extirpated or die out; it glows and
sparkles, burning and giving light, and always it moves
upward toward God.

And then Eckhart again:

The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is, and according its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God.

The signs of this God-nature, according to Easwaran, include: compassion, fearlessness, and equanimity. Easwaran goes on to say that Original Goodness

does not deny what traditional religion calls sin; it simply
reminds us that before original sin was original innocence.
That is our real nature. Everything else - all our habits,
our conditioning, our past mistakes - is a mask. ... But the
nature of a mask is that it can be removed. This is the
promise and the purpose of all spiritual disciplines: to take
off the mask that hides our real face.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is how I became a follower of Jesus

Having turned away from the church because I could not believe the message it said that I must believe, I began a search for my own answers to the universal questions. I encountered stories of people who came to an experience of God in an East Indian context, and who told their stories using the rich language of Hinduism. Also from the ancient Indian religious traditions, I found ways of practicing the presence of God on a more daily basis.

As a result of these things, I experienced something mentally, emotionally and spiritually that changed me forever.

I came to see that Jesus had a relationship with the same God as the Indian mystics, that the same God lived in him. And I realized that basically what had happened to me was that I had decided to follow Jesus. My experience of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit expanded from a distant misunderstanding based on doctrinal statements into something full, meaningful and alive.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Please let me know that you stopped by and leave your name and tell me where you are from. Thanks for stopping by! Philip

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jung and the Self

The following is taken from here:

The self is the most important personality archetype and also the most difficult to understand. Jung has called the self the central archetype, the archetype of psychological order and the totality of the personality. The self is the archetype of centeredness. It is the union of the conscious and the unconscious that embodies the harmony and balance of the various opposing elements of the psyche. The self directs the functioning of the whole psyche in an integrated way. According to Jung, "[C]onscious and unconscious are not necessarily in opposition to one another, but complement one another to form a totality, which is the self" (1928b, p. 175). Jung discovered the self archetype only after his investigations of the other structures of the personality.

The self is depicted in dreams or images impersonally (as a circle, mandala, crystal, or stone) or personally (as a royal couple, a divine child, or some other symbol of divinity). Great spiritual teachers, such as Christ, Muhammed, and Buddha, are also symbols for the self. These are all symbols of wholeness, unification, reconciliation of polarities, and dynamic equilibrium--the goals of the individuation process (Edinger, 1996).

Jung explains the function of the self: The ego receives the light from the Self. Though we know of this Self, yet it is not known.... Although we receive the light of consciousness from the Self and although we know it to be the source of our illumination, we do not know whether it possesses anything we would call consciousness.... If the Self could be wholly experienced, it would be a limited experience, whereas in reality its experience is unlimited and endless.... If I were one with the Self I would have knowledge of everything, I would speak Sanskrit, read cuneiform script, know the events that took place in pre-history be acquainted with the life of other planets, etc. (1975, pp.194-195)

The self is a deep, inner, guiding factor, which can seem to be quite different, even alien, from the ego and consciousness. "The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness" (1936b, p. 41). It may first appear in dreams as a tiny, insignificant image, because the self is so unfamiliar mid undeveloped in most people. The development of the self does not mean that the ego is dissolved. The ego remains the center of consciousness, an important structure within the psyche. It becomes linked to the self as the result of the long, hard work of understanding and accepting unconscious processes.


Edinger, E. (1996). The Aion lectures. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Jung, Carl. The relations between the ego and the Unconscious. In Collected works (Vol. 7). (Originally published, 1928b.)

------. Individual dream symbolism in relation to alchemy. In Collected works (Vol. 12). (Originally published, 1936b.)

-------. (1975). Letters, Vol. 11: 1951-61. (G. Adler, Ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

A Statement of Faith

Here is a 'Statement of Faith' that my wife and I put together recently in response to "A Brief and Simple Statement of the Reformed Faith" by B.B. Warfield:

1. The Bible is full of inspirations from God and helps show us the way to live a good life, wisely and skillfully.

2. God is good and created all things and the Holy Spirit is in all things. God makes himself known through nature, wildlife, music, art, ordinary people, saints, Jesus, and other individuals.

3. Because God created all things, the universe is inherently good.

4. Because God created all things, man is inherently good. However, we are ‘sinners’ in that we get lost in selfishness (anger, greed, fear, delusion, and so on).

5. We seek to uncover our inherent goodness by putting God first in our lives. The Prayer of St. Francis is helpful: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. …”

6. God’s grace is always available. At each moment, we can choose God’s righteousness, peace and love rather than our own sinful nature. For example, we can choose to give thanks and to forgive others. And we can choose to stand up for what is right and good and true.

7. Christ shows the way, the truth and the light. He can be our way-shower, walking side-by-side with us each step of the way. He can redeem us and lead us out of darkness. Note - we are using 'Christ' in the post-Easter sense that Marcus Borg uses.

8. God’s love was so strong that it manifested through Jesus who died for all of us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

9. The Holy Spirit is in all things.

10. We can be redeemed by surrendering. As we surrender more and more, then through prayer, meditation, reading, fellowship, and so on, Christ, working within us, will reform our thoughts, speech and actions. The Jesus prayer is helpful: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

11. Good works follow from uncovering and releasing our own inherent goodness, the “Christ within” (peace, love, joy, understanding, forgiveness, and so on).

12. We need the help of others to guide and support us as we develop our own personal relationship with Christ. In return we are called to help others in any way we can.

13. God will not leave us, even after death. Life is eternal and all those we love, and who love us, cannot be separated even by death.

As you can see, the language is very different than that used by Warfield and the theology is also different, although there is also much agreement. We could probably add to this but it is a point-by-point contemplation of what Warfield wrote.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tradition: To be part of a community that tells these stories and sings these songs

The liberal religious author and scholar Marcus Borg wrote in 1993:
When I was a child, I thought that being a Christian was about "believing," and belief was no problem. When I was an adolescent and young adult, I struggled with trying to believe, and finally was no longer able to do so. Now I see that it is not a question of belief, and there is much that I do not believe. I do not believe that Christianity is the only way of salvation, or that the Bible is the revealed will of God, or that Jesus was the unique Son of God. Rather, I now see that the Christian tradition—including its claims about Jesus—is not something to be believed, but something to be lived in. I see that Bible and the tradition as "icons," mediators of the sacred. The point is not to believe them, but to be in relationship to that which they mediate: God, the Spirit, the sacred. My own journey has thus been "beyond belief." It has moved from belief through doubt and disbelief to relationship. For me, to be a Christian is to be part of a community that tells these stories and sings these songs. It feels like home. Read More

This is a new concept for me - a middle ground between total acceptance of tradition and total rejection of it. I like it.

I took an online quiz called "Which theologian are you?" which concluded that I had views similar to Charles Finney. On the quiz, I strongly agreed with the following two statements:
1. Good preaching is more important than good theology.
2. The best way of expressing our love and unity with God is by music.
I guess another to put this is that how my heart feels is at least as important as what my head thinks when it comes to participating in a church.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Problem

The problem is finding a church that we feel comfortable with --- where we can hold to our truth without being viewed as weird or an outcast.

I think novelist and spiritual teacher Joseph John (JJ) Dewey says it well:

It is interesting to watch a debate between a "new ager" and a "born-againer" [Born Again Chrisitian]. The "born-againer" will quote scripture after scripture to back up his beliefs and the new ager will smile as if the guy is from the stone ages and preach back his philosophy quoting no authority, but his heart. Consequently, the two are not speaking each other's language and both go away from the discussion feeling that the other is as far down the enlightenment scale as you can get.

One of the problems is that the sincere religious person has felt 'soul contact' while reading the scriptures and because of this is not about to drop his belief in the closest link he has to the Spirit. On the other hand, many "new agers" have not even read the scriptures, or had them forced upon them while they were young, and do not identify with this feeling. Instead, many of them have received some spiritual contact while reading other books that teach enough 'truth' to draw the inner voice.

What the true seeker must realize is that God has spoken to many different people in many different ways and even though the vocabulary and definitions may vary, the core truths are the same. Freeread.com

Here are a few examples of religious issues that concern me because I disagree with the "traditional" mainstream view:

The Cross. I am skeptical of the mainstream view that Jesus "died a Penal Substitutionary death for the sins of the world" . Call me a "new ager" if you want, but this is not consistent with my understanding of God.

Salvation. I believe salvation is available to everyone because Christ lives in all people, knocking at the door of their hearts. They may not call this presence "Jesus" but it is essentially the same. This position is not quite a "philosophy quoting no authority, but (my) heart" because there is plenty of support for it. However, my view is not what I am calling "mainstream".

Eternal Hell. I believe in "hell", both in this life and in the life to come, but I do not believe in an eternal hell that someone might be condemned to because of what they did or did not do or believe during a relatively short human lifespan. I believe that God is good and that this goodness is not consistent with that kind of punishment. I do believe that some things are temporary and that these will be destroyed. As Jesus said:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Engage The Christian Community?

Having children changes everything (almost). We have two pre-school boys and we want to find a spiritual home where the boys can learn about a religious tradition and develop spiritual values for themselves as they develop into young adults. Here are some reasons why we want to find a Christian church to serve as this home:

1. History: My wife grew up in a Methodist church and I grew up in a Baptist church. We appreciate many positive benefits from these experiences. It is our tradition.

2. Availability: The Christian Church is by far the primary religious organization in our town, county, state, region. It is the way most people seek God in this area. We have two large churches within a 5-minute walk from our house. If we are to ally with a well-developed organization to help our boys develop spiritually, it is the obvious (if not the only) choice we have.

3. Good people, good fellowship: There many good people in Christian churches, people who will love and help the boys throughout their development. We will see a community of people devoted to living God-centered lives

4. Good preaching: The messages (lessons, sermons, bible stories, etc.) are generally good and full of truth.

5. Good singing: The music is uplifting and heart-opening.

6. Youth programs: There are many programs for youth. The boys can be part of a youth group. Or they may want to be involved in the music somehow.

7. Redemption: We will be exposed to the message that all human beings fall short of the glory of God and thus need God to have a good life now and after death. The boys need to learn what it means to repent, and that they need to repent and to receive God's grace and redemption.

8. Jesus: We will be brought into direct contact with the healing power of Jesus.

9. Prayer: The boys will learn about prayer --- turning our concerns over to God --- and we will all experience the power of prayer.

10. The Bible: We will be exposed to the Bible which is full of tradition, wisdom and God-inspred, truth-filled messages.

So you may say: this all sounds good, so what is the problem (i.e. why not just join a mainstream Christian church)?

This is addressed in my next post (see above).

Monday, April 14, 2008


Inspired by a a post by Theo Geek called Adherance to Doctrinal Statements , I started this blog to create a place to organize my thoughts concerning (1) truth and (2) religious tradition.

I want to explore how my family and I can respect and benefit from Christian traditions while remaining loyal to God's truth. God's truth for me being the Truth as in "I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:8)". Thus I find God's truth in places other than the Christian Bible and in interpretations of it that are different from most "mainstream" churches in the USA.

So you may ask: why is it important to me for my family and I to engage the Christian community?

Let me include this sketch of my spiritual journey up through 1993.

1951 --- born
1953- 1958 --- Baptist Church – Sunny, clean, happy, joyful. Alcoholism.
1958-1963 --- Baptist Church – “God is your conscious” said one Sunday School teacher. Alcoholism. Unhappiness. Repetitive prayer.

At age 11, I listened to sermons urging sinners to repent and believe and be saved, or if they did not believe, then they would go to hell forever. I thought of my father and realized that he was exactly the kind of person the minister was talking about, and that if what he was saying was true, my father would spend forever in hell. I thought about it seriously, but immediately realized that I did not believe this “gospel message” as it was presented. And I realized that it would do no good to pretend I did and make a profession of faith, because this would be false, and God would know that --- so I wouldn’t be saved anyway. So I pretty much just walked away and quit attending.

1964-1970 --- rock & roll, drinking, sports, girls, more studious.
1970-1974 --- college, science, math, computers, heavy meat and sugar diet, less and less exercise, academic success. Agnostic.
1974-1977 --- got married, began full-time job, began taking exams, studying until 3am in the mornings. Still agnostic. Attended country church – long services – emotional preacher – anti-intellectualism. Good fellowship in a way. My wife was unhappy because of my lack of faith.

1977 --- Spiritual awakening. Initiated by reading books, especially “Be Here Now” and listening to tapes. Many powerful experiences on all levels --- spiritual, emotional and mental. An opening to the spirit, through devotion to God. Made a number of changes (“methods”) to facilitate closeness to God --- fasting, walking, quit caffeine, quit meat, yoga, vegetarian diet, more exercise, slowing down, worked less, closer to nature. Saw the one truth manifested in Christianity as well as Eastern religions, joined Baptist Church, was baptized. Prayer, singing (“I have decided to follow Jesus”).

1978-1983 --- Continued practicing these methods, and working on relationship with my wife. Began to realize that I did not fit in with the other members at our Baptist Church. Started counseling with my wife. She was unhappy with some, maybe most, of the changes I was making. And she was also unhappy in general.

1983 --- My father died.
1983-1985 --- My anger started erupting into our marriage and I was sometimes cruel to my wife. After a very difficult decision-making process, we decided to move. This created more stress as I had decided not to be the one compromises all the time and she was unable or unwilling to compromise much either.
1985-1987 --- My wife was hospitalized as an inpatient for depression. I went into Al-Anon for Adult Children of Alcoholics and private counseling. Difficult divorce was finalized in 1987. Started meditating.
1988 --- Diagnosed with diabetes. Learned how to live on my on. Continued meditation, practicing more formal (mostly Buddhist) meditation. 12-step programs.
1989 --- My mother died.
1990-1993 --- Masters program in Mathematics, teaching assistant. Summers at Meditation Center. Yoga and meditation, and the other methods (see above).