On Readings for November 6, 2022

Opening question for sharing

Have you ever felt a strong connection, had a dream, felt the presence, or saw an animal that reminded you of a loved one who has passed on?  Would you like to share that experience?

Scripture

 Job 19:23-27a

O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book!  O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever!  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to himand asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.  Finally, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 

Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.   Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

I (Mary Ann) notice in this reading that Jesus pretty much dismisses the false question the Sadducees were asking – Whose wife will she be?– and answers the unasked question behind that silly scenario – How can you say that there is a resurrection of the dead?  Jesus mentions Moses and the burning bush, where God maintains that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jesus maintains that God is not God of the dead but of the living, so all three of those forefathers must still be alive.

Yay, Jesus, for getting to the heart of the matter!

Your thoughts?

Paired Readings and Music

Luke 9:28-36:  The Transfiguration

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

LIVE WITHOUT THOUGHT OF DYING

We work so hard to fly

and no matter what heights we reach

 our wings get folded near a candle,

at the end,

for nothing can enter God but Himself.

Our souls are some glorious substance of the divine

that no sentry wants to stop.

Live without thought of dying,

for dying is not a truth.

We have swayed on the sky’s limb together,

many years there the same leaves grow.

But then they get that look in their eyes

and bid farewell to what they disdained or cherished.

This life He gave the shell, the daily struggles we know,

sit quiet for a minute, dear, feel the wind,

let Light touch you.

Live without thought of dying,

for dying is not a truth.

Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380)

“For me (Matt Linn), our ongoing connection with those on the other side has been especially moving… Immersing myself in stories of NDEs has taught me that there is no separation between me and those I love who are on the other side…As I open myself to the stories of NDErs and their growing awareness that they are the Light, I understand that I, too, am that Light and that we are all one. This means that I am one with those who have gone on to the other side in a way that goes far beyond what I was taught as a child.  Communication between the two worlds is constant and instantaneous, and so I am never alone.

          For example, recently I was in tropical Florida with its lush orange groves and trees draped in Spanish moss.  I longed to share this with my father, who as a former farmer was enchanted with every plant.  I wished he were there with me.  Then I realized that my dad is the same Light that is me, and that he really was with me, admiring the same trees I was seeing…

          So, I asked my dad to show me what most delighted him.  I had a sense that he was saying, “Did you see that eagle?”  I thought, “This is crazy! Eagles aren’t a tropical bird, and I’ve never heard of one in Florida.”  Nevertheless, I searched and there he was – in an oak tree.  As soon as I notice him, he started to flap his wings as if ready to fly way in fear.  So, I looked at him and consciously held the awareness that we were one in our shared loving Light.  His fear seemed to vanish, and he allowed me to approach until I was within about fifty feet of him. We admired each other, and my sense of our connection grew even greater, until I felt as if I were the eagle!  I sensed he wanted to fly home.  I told him he could, and off he flew!  It seemed to me that my father was smiling and that he had given me his eyes that always saw the surprise in the corn field.”

Matthew Linn, The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences. pp.169-171

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” Handel’s Messiah

Sylvia McNair, soprano

Meditation

          Close your eyes; place your hands on your heart.  Breathe God’s love, light, comforting darkness, and healing power directly into your heart.  As you breathe out, surround yourself with those aspects of God.

          Imagine that you are in a lovely park, sitting on a bench with some comforting image of God – Mother/Father God, Jesus, Holy Spirit as friend.  Hold an imaginary conversation with that God image and with a departed loved one, or a beloved pet.  What would you long to say?  What words, feelings, memories, thoughts, or images might come back to you?

Closing Prayers

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant: Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Cycles in Life

Green turned to brown

a season ended,

Leaves drop;

Great Determiner of the seasons of our lives

   there are greens

      colorful changes

         then brown

And a season ends.

Death!

Yet not ultimate death

for there remains a cycle

of endings

and birthings of new beginnings,

Fashioner of the seasons of our lives

may we celebrate the changes

   of green

      colors mixed

         brown;

And in our celebration may we

humbly

hopefully

anticipate the recreation of a new season,

One in which new birth while not like the last

brings forth new order,

   color

      purpose,

and in which brown turns to green again;

One in which life emerges from that which is let go

of its present life cycle;

Great Determiner of the seasons of our lives

startle us anew with the colors

of new birthings;

To experience recreations from that which had died

to its present life cycle.

         Rev. Dr. Raymond (Budd) Hearn, Come Sit with Me in a Quiet Place, pp 75-6

On Readings for October 23, 2022

The “True Self”

OPENING QUESTION FOR SHARING

Share a memory of when light seemed especially important to you.  It could be an experience in nature, or the lights of a night sky or of a Christmas tree, or a sunset or sunrise, or even a night where you longed for the dawn to come.  It could be something else entirely.  Share a time where light was important.

SCRIPTURE

Luke 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people; thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

PAIRED READINGS

Today I thought we might look at this parable in the light of what many people from different eras and religious perspectives have written about the “true self.”

The writer Joyce Rupp offers different metaphors for discovering the True Self, a journey that requires opening a door from within:

The Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi [1207–1273] describes our soul-space as a magnificent cathedral where we are “sweet beyond telling.” Saint Teresa of Ávila [1515–1582] views it as a castle. . . . Another way to speak about this inner sphere where our truest self and God dwell is with the words of scripture. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The body is often referred to as a temple of God but our soul is also a wondrous residence. This hidden part of us, in union with divinity, is where our abundant goodness (our God-ness) exists. Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin [1881–1955], understood the necessity of opening the door inward to find and claim this goodness. Reflecting on his spiritual growth, Chardin observed this truth: “The deeper I descend into myself, the more I find God at the heart of my being.” [1] . . .

Cathedrals. Castles. Temples. However we describe our inner terrain, one thing is certain: we tend to live in just a few rooms of our inner landscape. The full person God created us to be contains more than we can imagine, but most of us dwell within only a small portion of the superb castle of ourselves. Opening the door of our heart allows us entrance to the vast treasure of who we are and to the divine presence within us.

Author Paula D’Arcy suggests fire as another metaphor to describe the mystery at the center of our being:

Mystics and sages of all traditions speak of the inner fire, the divine spark hidden in our very cells and in all that lives. This flame of love is the pure presence of God. Because of it, life is sustained. No power is greater. [2]

Rupp continues:

Our authentic self, which is in union with God, may seem out of reach. It never is. “Deep in ourselves is the true Self,” writes Beatrice Bruteau [1930–2014], “and that true Self is not separate from, or even different from, the Source of Being.” [3] Always our truest self cries out to be known, loved, embraced, welcomed without judgment and integrated into the way we live. When we open the door and go inside, God is there in the temple of our soul, in the ashram of our heart, in the cathedral of our being. Which is not to dismiss the reality of this same loving presence being fully alive in our external world. The Holy One is with us in all of life. Our purpose for opening the door inward is to help us know and claim who we are so we can more completely join with God in expressing this love in every part of our external world.

Franciscan author and spiritual teacher Richard Rohr writes:

The True Self is who you are because of divine indwelling, the Holy Spirit within you (Romans 8:9). We are all tabernacles of God, says Paul (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Few Christians have ever been seriously taught about their inherent union with God and will find all kinds of self-hating reasons to deny it. Only the True Self can dare to believe the gospel’s Good News.

The false self, or smaller self, is characterized by separateness. The small or false self is who we think we are, but our thinking does not make it so. It is our identity created through culture, education, class, race, friends, gender, clothes, and money.  That’s all that Adam and Eve had once they left the Garden where they walked with God. But let’s not feel too bad for them or even guilty ourselves. It seems that we have to leave the Garden. We have to create a false self to get started; the trouble is that we take it far too seriously. It is always passing away—in stages and then all at once at death. Only the True Self is eternal. We all suffer from a terrible case of mistaken identity.

The True Self is characterized by communion and deep contentment. It’s okay, right here, right now. The True Self is the realigned self; religion’s main purpose is to lead us to experience this Self, which is who we are in God and who God is in us. It has to do with participating in a Universal Being that is beyond our being. Ultimately, our lives are not about us. We are about life! That doesn’t mean we stay in the True Self twenty-four hours a day. Life is three steps forward and two steps backward. Yet once we know the big picture, we will never be satisfied with the little picture.

Author and near-death-experiencer Anita Moorjani describes her true self this way.

In my NDE state, I realized that the entire universe is composed of unconditional love, and I’m an expression of this.  Every atom, molecule, quark, and tetraquark is made of love.  I can be nothing else, because this is my essence and the nature of the entire universe…Universal life-force energy is love, and I’m composed of Universal energy!… When we know that we are love, we don’t need to work at being loving toward others.  Instead, we just have to be true to ourselves, and we become instruments of loving energy, which touches everyone we come into contact with…

I have discovered that to determine whether my actions stem from “doing” or “being,” I only need to look at the emotion behind my everyday decisions.  Is it fear, or is it passion?  If everything I do each day is driven by passion and a zest for living, then I’m “being,” but if my actions are a result of fear, then I’m in “doing” mode…We know we’re on the right track when we feel ourselves at the center of our love without judgment of ourselves or others, and we recognize our true magnificence within the infinite Whole…We all have our own way of recognizing that infinite space within us, and for some it may be prayer.  For others, it can be music, art, being in nature, or even pursuing knowledge and technology – whatever brings out our passion, creativity and purpose for living.        Dying To Be Me, pp 139, 147, 156

Two of the three authors of The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences, Shelia Fabricant Linn and Dennis Linn, describe becoming aware that they are the Light.

Sheila describes a forest experience:

“Everything radiated or vibrated even more intensely than I normally perceive it.  At that moment, I was acutely aware of myself as the Light that constituted all the things I saw around me… Gradually an abiding sense of myself as the Light has grown within me, especially recently, as I have exposed myself to NDEs and their message has taken deep root within me.  The sense of myself as Light that I had by the forest is now nearly constant.  I know myself to be the Light I have always seen in all the things around me.  I can no longer accept self-perceptions or cultural and religious teaching that would tell me otherwise.”

Dennis describes his own experience of Light.

“I have never experienced the Light radiating from all things around me as Sheila has.  But I did have an experience of coming in contact with my Light that changed my life.  Many years ago, I was in an environment of intense love with several thousand other people…  What I recall is that the moments of hurt throughout my life, beginning with my earliest memories, were filled with Light…This was a great step in a journey that ultimately led to knowing that I am this Light.

If we had to summarize all our work with people in seminars and other forms of pastoral ministry, we wonder if it would come down to helping them heal the way they have forgotten that they are Light.  Kenneth Ring expresses what we want for ourselves, our child, and everyone else:”

There is an essential teaching from the Light that, NDErs say, applies to everyone…It wants you to realize that your core being is this Light – it is not something external to you.

The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences, pp 74-6

What does all this have to do with Jesus’ parable?  Well, I (Mary Ann) think the Pharisee was stuck in his false self, relying on following every law correctly to be accepted by a judgmental God, and judging those who did not follow each law as less than him, and unworthy.  He didn’t know that his real worth was being a fragment of the Divine Light of God, rather than his status, actions, or religious beliefs.  He was turned towards himself, his false self.

I think the tax collector also judged himself by his actions, but he was turned towards God, asking for forgiveness.  He was not stuck in the past, re-living and feeling defined by his mistakes over and over again.  He was turned towards God for forgiveness – looking to live differently in the present and the future.  I like to think he was closer to his True Self, because of turning to God and asking for forgiveness.  Maybe he found his true worth!!!

Your thoughts?

MEDITATION

          (Taken from the chapter “The Light” in The Gift of Near-Death Experiences: You Don’t Have to Die to Find Your True Home, Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Dennis Linn, p. 76.)

  1. Close our eyes and put your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe slowly and deeply. Place your hand on your heart and imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart.
  2. Let your awareness move down to your core or essence, to the most ancient part of yourself.  Imagine a tiny point of Light, glowing brightly in the depth of your being.
  3. As you continue to breathe deeply in and out through your heart, watch the light grow, bigger and brighter.  Despite its brightness, the Light is soft and warm.

Let the Light continue to grow and expand within you, until it fills your whole body and extends beyond you.  Let it radiate out from you until it fills all the space around you and extends as far as you can imagine.

Be aware that this is your Light, one with all the Light in the universe and yet unique to you.  Notice any special qualities of this Light, and notice how you feel as you experience it.

Imagine if you really knew that you are this Light.  How would you live differently each day?  How would this affect your children or other loved ones?

CLOSING POEMS

I WILL JUST SAY THIS

We

bloomed in Spring.

Our bodies

are the leaves of God.

The apparent seasons of life and death

our eyes can suffer;

but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:

they are God

Himself,

we will never perish

unless He

does.

Teresa of Avila

IT’S RIGGED

It’s rigged – everything, in your favor.

so there is nothing to worry about.

Is there some position you want,

some office, some acclaim, some award, some con, some lover,

maybe two, maybe three, maybe four – all at once,

maybe a relationship

with

God?

I know there is gold mine in you, when you find it

the wonderment of the earth’s gifts you will lay

aside as naturally as does

a child a

doll.

But, dear, how sweet you look to me kissing the unreal;

comfort, fulfill yourself in any way possible – do that until

you ache, until you ache,

then come to me

again.

                   Rumi

DECEIVE OUR GLORY

Something inside me said I was a mineral, and I was so glad to just be,

I replied, “I’ll take that job; it sounds like fun.”

But after eons, roots appeared on my soul that want to nurse

from a warm body, and the wonder of her love, the tenderness of the earth lifted me into the air and I beheld

light, and praised it from

the fields.

Time sculpted my senses and another song I heard,

“You are more than plant, you are like those

extraordinary beasts.”

so I believed that and roamed and roamed, but then I

started thinking:  What is my real

truth?

I became the wings on falcons and angels.

I flirted with God in the sky.

And I believed that He, once in a while kissing me,

would be as close to love as I would get,

but now I know:

All words and images deceive

our glory.
                                      Rumi

EVERY PROPHET’S NAME

I found completeness

when each breath began to silently say the name

of my Lord.

That name – my conception of Him – extended to me

a hand that led to a place

where even His divine name could not exist.

Why?

Most sounds express discontent, longing, or negotiation.

The teapot may whistle out an ecstatic cry,

but even that I learned to control

until everything I knew burst

in a glorious symmetry.

I have no seams, no walls, no laws.

My frontiers and God’s are the same.

One Divine Being is existence.

All the forests on this earth combined are but

a tiny wood fiber – a particle of one spoke

on the Wheel.

What is the relationship of form to the unseen aspects of God?

What percentage of God is unseen?

What percentage of the Truth of Him do we know?

He led me to a place where only Light existed.

Only in us is God so lost that He asks

questions.

The soul outside all walls

never troubles Him, never wonders things like,

“Where are You,

Beloved?”

For then your arms and God’s

are intertwined.

I said to my Lord,

“This Holy place I have entered –

is Your name the only key

to this?”

And my Lord responded,

“How old do you think is existence?

For eons of time, souls have been entering Me;

Every Prophet’s name is a key,

as is every heart full of

forgiveness

and love.”

                                      Teresa of Avila

 
 

On Readings for Sunday, October 9, 2022

Opening question for sharing

Share what you do to be refreshed or healed or lifted up during difficult times.  Would it be walking in nature, reading a certain type of book, listening to music, talking with a dear friend, or something else?

Scripture

2 Kings 5: 1-3, 7-15c

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 

Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.”

(The king of Aram sends a letter to the king of Israel, asking for healing for Naaman)

          When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

          But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

          So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

          But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?”  He turned and went away in a rage.

          But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

          So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.  Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company.  He came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Paired Readings

Healing through Affirming Love

          Dr. Conrad Baars, author of Born Only Once wrote that all of us have been born once – physically.  But many of us have not yet been born psychologically because no one has yet sufficiently affirmed us. We have been born only once and we are still waiting for our second, psychic birth, our birth as our true self… 

We know who we are as human beings only when we are seen by another who loves us …The impact of one who sees begins even at the subatomic level.  For example, one of the most startling discoveries of modern physics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  It says that we cannot predict with certainty the direction and the velocity of a subatomic particle, because the observer affects what he or she is observing.  Moreover, many physicists now believe that the very nature of matter is changed by being observed: subatomic particles apparently change from waves to particles when they are seen by a human being.

Studies of resilience in children from deeply troubled backgrounds have found that a critical factor in their ability to succeed is the presence of even one loving adult who can bond with that child.  Bonding is seeing and being seen.  Alice Miller calls the one who sees the “enlightened witness, who stands unreservedly on the side of the child, sees that child’s reality through eyes of love, and validates it.

Perhaps an intuition for these ideas is why the Judaeo-Christian tradition holds that God is personal.  Of course, God is at least personal – because only One who is personal can see us.  Thus, healing prayer begins with allowing ourselves to be seen through infinitely loving eyes, thereby affirmed, and born as our true selves…

I cannot affirm myself.  What I can do is put myself in situations where I am likely to receive affirming love, consciously take it in, and let it grow within me.

Simple Ways to Pray for Healing, Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Dennis Linn, pp. 14-15, 17

Meditation

  1. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, breathing in the love of God that surrounds you.
  2. Recall a moment from the past for which you are grateful,

-a moment in which you experienced belonging to yourself, others, God, and the universe. Breathe in that moment, letting it remind you of your lovableness and your goodness.

-a moment in which you were able to give and receive love.  Perhaps you will think of the day you were married, the birth of your child, a conversation with a friend, an experience with nature, a special moment in prayer, a time when you stood up for what you believed.

  • Whatever moment comes to you, imagine yourself back in that situation once more and relive it.  See the people who were with you, hear their voices or other sounds, recall what you smelled and what you felt with your skin.
  • Breathe in deeply, letting the love and gratitude you experienced in that moment fill you once more.

Simple Ways to Pray for Healing, Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Dennis Linn, pp. 11-12, 22

Closing Poems and Prayer

GOD WOULD KNEEL DOWN

I think God might be a little prejudiced.

for once He asked me to join Him on a walk

through this world,

and we gazed into every heart on this earth.

and I noticed He lingered a bit longer

before any face that was

weeping,

and before any eyes that were

laughing.

And sometimes when we passed

a soul in worship

God too would kneel

down.

I have come to learn: God

adores His

creation.

Francis of Assis

WRING OUT MY CLOTHES

 
Such love does

the sky now pour,

that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light

when I get

home.

Francis of Assisi

Healing

Thank you, God, for all the ways I have been healed.
For health in my flesh, the miraculous way
my body knows how to heal itself.
For your healing of my self-esteem,
the gift to see myself whole, as you see me.
For the renewal of my relationship with you,
gratitude where once there was doubt.
For the healing of my hope,
trust where once there was despair.
For the restoration of relationships,
forgiveness where there was brokenness.
For the healing of community,
inclusion where there was division.
For the mending of the world,
where, whether there be disease or not,
and people able-bodied or not,
whether there be justice yet or injustice still,
all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

 

ZEESHA’S JOURNEY

AN EASTER STORY

A Sequel to Zeesha;s Tale, available Easter 2023

By Mary Ann Archer

Illustrations by Lena Shiffman

In my previous book, Zeesha’s Tale, A Story for Christmas and Easter,

I introduce the young donkey Zeesha – who is about to carry Jesus to Jerusalem,

his mother Seila -who carried Mary to Bethlehem,

and their long-ago maternal ancestor Lal – who carried the prophet Balaam and could see angels! 

Here the story continues as Zeesha begins his journey. Mary Ann

On Readings for September 25, 2022

On Readings for September 25, 2022

Opening Question

What was one of the happiest moments of your childhood?

Scripture
Luke 16: 19-31

     “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.  The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.

     The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.  He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

     But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.  Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

     He said, ‘Then father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 

     Abaham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

     He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

     He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Paired Readings

Today, I’d like to add to this parable several accounts of “life reviews” from people who have had near death experiences.  All these readings come from the book, The Gifts of Near-Death Experieinces: You Don’t’ Have to Die to Experience Your True Home, by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn.  My reason is not to frighten anyone, but to show that these life- reviews, in which these people experienced first-hand the injuries they had caused others, were always conducted within the incredible Light and unconditional Love people felt in their NDEs.  Here are some passages:

“Consider the story of a former Nazi who hurt people in big ways, by killing them in concentration camps.  He had an NDE while he was in a coma.  The coma lasted forty-eight hours, but it seemed to him that it lasted a lifetime.  He was in a dark cave with Nazi and Roman soldiers who had been responsible for mass killings.  After a while, he saw a different part of the place where light was shining, and there were the people he had killed.  He wanted to ask their forgiveness.  He heard that he had already been forgiven, and that now he only needed to forgive himself.  He felt unable to do this, and so he was allowed to feel the pain and suffering he had caused each of his victims.  Afterward, all these people comforted him. ‘He was bathed in unconditional love; it permeated his entire being.’  Then he awoke from his coma.

Whether we have hurt others in small ways, or in horrific ways, as the Nazi soldier did, our actions do have consequences, and at some point we will be asked to face whatever pain we have caused.  Yet accounts of NDEs consistently indicate that this has nothing to do with judgment or punishment. The life review takes place in an environment of unconditional love.  The NDEr can ask that the life review stop temporarily if it becomes overwhelming, and she or he can rest for a while in unconditional love before going on.  The reason for facing the harm we have done to others is so that we learn from our mistakes and grow in love and compassion, including compassion for ourselves.”  (pp. 105-106)

I…went back all the way to fourth grade when I was teasing a small girl, maybe second or third grade… She was up against a wall and I was calling her names.  But now I was inside her body, and I was receiving my own actions.  And not only was I feeling her pain, I was also seeing the future, how she as a person would become more shy and inward as a consequence to my actions.  And not only that, I would also feel the pain of her parents for realizing that their child would become inward, shy, and closed as a person.  So, I was basically experiencing the full consequences of my actions… It was not just that I was teasing this little girl and she was shy.  It was also her parents’ sadness, because everybody has hope and love for their children.  They want them to grow and bloom in life.  So, I experienced the full cycle, the chain of my actions (pp.127-8) 

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He relived each incident in his life, including killing a mother bird when he was eight.  He was so proud of that single shot until he felt the pain the bird’s three babies went through when they starved to death without her.  It’s not true that only humans have souls. (p.109)

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Mine was not a review, it was a reliving… No detail was left out… It was me judging me, and my judgment was most severe…but I took interest and satisfaction from one characteristic she (Phyllis) had repeatedly displayed, and that was her desire to try and try again..

She was relentless in her determination to make of herself a better person and to learn everything possible… This pleased me and at last I pronounced her personality good and the life she had lived worth its living.

As I looked down at the body of Phyllis on the floor, I was so filled with love and forgiveness that I floated ever so gently back into her body.  I re-entered through the top of the head, feeling the need to shrink and then squeeze back into the tight form Phyllis’s body offered. (pp.109-110)

————————————————————————————————-What kills is judgment; what heals is love.  The Light itself is only love, and it never judges; instead it gently nudges you toward your essential self.  It wants you to realize that your core being is this Light – it is not somethings external to you.  When you become identified with this Light, you will have only love and compassion for yourself – and for everything – you will be able to let go of all judgment.  Self-condemnation, guilt, and other forms of self-laceration are vanquished.  When judgment – that ruthless sower of division – falls away, there is only acceptance – of everything.  And that is called love. (p. 110)

“Whether we have a long time left to live, or a short time, we can change our life now.  How might you live differently if you knew that when you die, you will experience your effect on everyone you interacted with in your life?  This will happen during the life review in an environment of infinite love.  Since the purpose of the life review is our own growth in love and compassion, it would seem that the more we reflect upon our effect on others here, the more we can live in the Light and as the Light.  We move in this direction every time we honestly face how we have hurt another, forgive ourselves, make amends, and use our self-awareness to grow.” (p.113)

Meditation

Relax your body in three stages from your toes to your head, breathing in God’s light and comforting darkness, God’s love, strength, and healing power.  Breathe out burdens and cares, handing them to God.

Imagine that you are entering Heaven.  What is it like?  Use all five sense in imagination.  What do you see, feel, hear, smell and taste?  Who do you see – relatives, friends, animals?  Experience the Light.  If you like, hold a conversation with a loved one or with whatever God-figure you encounter.  Ask questions.  Listen for answers.  Imagine the scene unfolding like a movie.

Writing or Sharing

If you are in a group, you may want to share what came up during the meditation time.  Or you might want to write a description or even a poem about your experience in Heaven.

Closing Poems and Prayers

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord!  Praise the LORD, O my soul!  I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.  When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.  The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.  Praise the LORD!

NO ONE WILL BEGRUDGE ME

I talk about it sometimes with Him, all the suffering in the world.

“Dear God,” I have prayed, “how is it possible

all the horrors I have seen, all the atrocities you allow man

to commit when you – God – are ever standing

so near and could help us?

Could we not hear your voice say ‘No’

with such love and power

never again would

we harm?”

And my lord replied, “Who would understand if I said that I

cannot bear

to confine a wing, and not let it learn from the course it chooses.”

But what of a man walking lost in a forest

weeping and calling your name for help, and unknown to him he

 is heading for a covered pit with sharp spears in it

that will main his flesh when he crashes

through the trap?

“Yes, why don’t I remove every object form this world that could

cause someone to weep?  Yes, why don’t I speak in a way

that could save a life?

I opened up my hand and the Infinite ran to the edges of space –

and all possibilities are contained therein, all possibilities,

even sorrow.

In the end, nothing that ever caused one pain will exist.

No one will begrudge me.

The Absolute Innocence of all within my creation

takes a while to understand.”

Catherine of Sienna

LIVE WITHOUT THOUGHT OF DYING

We work so hard to fly

and no matter what heights we reach

our wings get folded near a candle,

at the end,

for nothing can enter God but Himself.

Our souls are some glorious substance of the divine

that no sentry wants to stop.

Live without thought of dying,

for dying is not a truth.

We have swayed on the sky’s limb together,

many years there the same leaves grow.

But then they get that look in their eyes

and bid farewell to what they disdained or cherished.

This life He gave the shell, the daily struggles we know,

sit quiet for a minute, dear, feel the wind,

let Light touch you.

Live without thought of dying,

for dying is not a

truth.

Catherine of Sienna

The Best is Yet to Be

I will also give to each one

who wins the victory a white stone

with a new name written on it.

Revelation 2: 17

…Makes sense.  Fathers are fond of giving their children special names.  Princess.  Tiger.  Sweetheart.  Bubba.  Angel…

          Isn’t it incredible to think that God has saved a name just for you?  One you don’t even know?  We’ve always assumed that the name we got is the name we will keep.  Not so. The road ahead is so bright a fresh name is needed.  Your eternity is so special no common name will do.

          So God has one reserved just for you.  There is more to your life than you ever thought.  There is more to your story than what you have read…

          And so I plead… Be there when God whispers you name.

                                                                   When God Whispers Your Name