Opening question for sharing

The Gospel story tells of a blind man who is healed and can see for the first time in his life, but no one listens to his story.  Pick one of the following questions to share.

When have you needed or received more light to see?  When have you not been listened to?  Who was or is best at listening to you?


Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

John 9:1-41

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

The neighbors and those who had seen him
           before as a beggar began to ask,
           “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”
           Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying,
           “No, but it is someone like him.”
           He kept saying, “I am the man.”

                           —John 9.8-9

John tells a long story full of irony and comedy,
almost slapstick in places:
Jesus heals a man born blind and everybody has a fit.
Pharisees don’t think it’s a good idea,
his parents don’t think it’s safe to say it’s true,
friends don’t think it’s him,
and detractors don’t think it’s possible.
Everybody’s trying to make it something else.
Nobody but Jesus and the healed man seem ready
to just let what is be what is.
The story suggests a Lenten discipline of allowing.
Allow yourself to be healed.
Allow someone else to be healed.
Let someone you look down on be healed.
Allow people to change. Or not.
Let people freak out without joining them.
Let someone criticize you without stopping them.
After all, God allows.
God did not command light, God allowed it:
Let there be light.”
Only when there is ample room for what is
is there room for what may yet be.
Loosen your grip.
Stop trying to make things be what you want.
Let there be great letting in your life.
Let God have their way with you.
Let it be.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Guided meditation

Go back in time and become a participant in this story.  Use all five senses in imagination to picture the scene, hear the words, look at facial expressions, hear the surrounding sounds, smell the dust or mud smell.   Read one paragraph at a time, closing your eyes as you imagine each part of the story.

          At the end, take time to speak by yourself with Jesus.  Ask anything about the story or about your own life, desires, and concerns right now.  Take time to listen for answers in the form of feelings, memories, a song lyric, a word or phrase, a look on Jesus’ face, an emotion, an idea.

Closing poems and prayers

Psalm 23: a meditation
A person holding a sword and standing in front of a herd of sheep

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Love, you shepherd me;
            generously, you place my life in my hands.

You rest me in the meadow of your presence,
            I drink from the gentle brook of your peace.

You are my next breath, and the next.
            You are my path, my steps.

The way to life leads through death;
            you go there, and I willingly follow you,

your presence beside me,
            your wisdom before me.

Despite my fears and doubts this life is a feast.
            You embrace me with such love,
            feed me with such delight.

Your goodness and mercy shadow me;
         and with every breath
         I am returned again and again to you.
                       Steve Garnaas-Holmes


Some people need a good talking to.
But almost everybody needs a good listening to.
Being reflected changes light. Being heard changes people.

Let their speaking be all there is.
Silence your own noise so you can really hear them.
Pocket your thoughts. Table your advice.

Listen like the earth listens to the rain.
Dry earth doesn't take in the rain very well.
Practice listening so you can hear.

Listen like the violin listens to the string.
Listen deeply: to their soul, their silences.
Listen like God listens to your prayers.

In the clear space of being heard
people may hear themselves for the first time,
hear echoes of the divine between the words.

Someone who hears you hearing them
can believe God has heard them as well.
Listen for God's listening in people.

Like midwives
we can listen each other into wholeness,
listen people to life.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes


Opening question for sharing

Have you ever drawn water from a well, or a pump, or from a lake or stream?  What do you remember about that experience?  What did the water taste like, feel like, perhaps smell like?


John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Guided meditation

Go back in time and become a participant in this story.  Use all five senses in imagination to picture the scene, hear the words, look at facial expressions, taste the water, hear the surrounding sounds, smell the dust or water smell.   Read one at a time, closing your eyes as you imagine each part of the story.

          At the end, take time to speak by yourself with Jesus.  Ask anything about the story or about your own life, desires, and concerns right now.  Take time to listen for answers in the form of feelings, memories, a song lyric, a word or phrase, a look on Jesus’ face, an emotion, an idea.

Closing poems/prayers


Another morning and I wake with thirst

For the goodness I do not have.  I walk

out to the pond and all the way God has

given us such beautiful lessons.  Oh Lord,

I was never a quick scholar but sulked

and hunched over my books past the

hour and the bell; grant me, in your

mercy, a little more time.  Love for the

earth and love for you are having such a

long conversation in my heart.  Who

knows what will finally happen or

where I will be sent, yet already I have

given a great many things away, expect-

ing to be told to pack nothing, except the

prayers which, with this thirst, I am

slowly learning.

Mary Oliver, Devotions


A lake,

it’s serene surface

sits undisturbed until

I pick up a stone and

throw it skipping across.

1 -2 -3 times-

rings begin to form,

circling and circling.

The surface of the water ripples.

Sometimes I think

God likes to toss stones into our lives,

skipping them across the water of our soul.

He disturbs our surface so that He can let us know

we must not sit in complacency, but let ourselves

be stirred into action – to send out our own

ripples into the world,

encircling each other

with God’s


Lorri Briner


Sunday, Feb 12, 2023


What is one of your favorite passages, and one of your LEAST favorite passages of scripture?  How do those passages affect you, make you feel?  Please remember, there are no right or wrong answers to this question.


Matthew 5: 29-30

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

In the book, Understanding Difficult Scriptures in a Healing Way, by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn, the Jesuit author Matthew tells of visiting his friend Bill in the hospital:

When I arrived at the hospital, Bill’s hands were chained to his bed and a bandage covered the right side of his face.  That morning, Bill had tried to gouge out his right eye.  When I asked him why, he quoted Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Everyone knew Bill was crazy for taking the first part of that passage, “if your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away,” so literalistically.  But I realized that Bill was no more crazy for taking the first part of that passage literalistically than I was for taking the second part literalistically and believing that God would vengefully throw me into hell.  Bill was no more crazy than I had been the night of the second-grade dance recital when, after watching Ann in the bathroom, I believed I had committed a mortal sin and God was going to send me to hell.

Matthew Linn goes on to explain how, although Bill had been involved for 13 years or more in drugs, prostitution, and probably murder, Matthew would never give up on him.  Matthew believed that God loves us at least as much as the person who loves us the most in this world.  He writes:

As I looked at Bill’s mutilated face, I knew I could never say to him.  “I love you more than you could ever imagine.  But you blew it.  You had many chances to repent and change but you haven’t changed at all.  So, to hell with you.”  If I couldn’t say these things, then, God, who loved Bill a whole lot more than I did, couldn’t either.”

Looking at Bill, I knew that our misunderstanding of scripture had made both of us crazy.  Although I couldn’t put it into words then, knowing Bill laid the foundation for what has now become my criterion for reading scripture:


Later in the book, Matthew Linn suggests that if we cannot find a loving interpretation of a Scripture passage, we may set it aside until we do.  He goes on to explain other ways to help with interpreting difficult scripture:

-When a Passage seems unloving, compare it with the rest of scripture.

-What is the literary style of a passage?

-We are all good goats (a mixture of good and bad, yet loved).

-Check the translation.

-In what sense is the Bible inerrant (without error)?

When we are most in touch with our life experience of giving and receiving love, we   are most likely to find the message of love in scripture.

Let’s use this last idea and get in touch with Love through meditating on the following two Mary Oliver poems. Then we might turn to the last point in Matthew Linn’s process of meditating on difficult scripture.


I don’t know where prayers go,

   or what they do.

Do cats pray, while they sleep,

   half-asleep in the sun?

Does the opossum pray as it

   crosses the street?

The sunflowers?  The old black oak

   growing older every year?

I know I can walk through the world,

   along the shore or under the trees,

with my mind filled with things

   of little importance, in full

self-attendance. A condition I can’t really

   call being alive.

Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,

   or does it matter?

The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.

Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing

just outside my door, with my notebook open,

which is the way I begin every morning.                                                       

Then a wren in the privet began to sing.

He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,              

I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.

.I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe

or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.

But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be

   if it isn’t a prayer?

So I just listened, my pen in the air.

              Mary Oliver


Every summer I gather a few stones from

the beach and keep them in a glass bowl.

Now and again I cover them with water,

and they drink.  There’s no question about

A picture containing plant, pan

Description automatically generatedthis; I put tinfoil over the bowl, tightly,

yet the water disappears.  This doesn’t

mean we ever have a conversation, or that

they have the kind of feelings we do, yet

it might mean something.  Whatever the

stones are, they don’t lie in the water

and do nothing.

Some of my friends refuse to believe it

happens, even though they’ve seen it.  But

a few others – I’ve seen them walking down

the beach holding a few stones, and they

look at them rather more closely now.

Once in a while, I swear, I’ve even heard

one of two of them saying “Hello.”

Which, I think, does no harm to anyone or

anything, does it?

Mary Oliver


How does the cat pray?  What is the wren singing? What is the stone soaking up? Where is the cat, wren, and stone in you?


Now, again in meditation, let’s use the healing process Matthew Linn suggests at the end of this chapter from which I’ve been quoting.

  1. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Think of the person who loves you the most.  (This can be a person who has died, since the deceased continue to love us through the Communion of Saints.)  Place your hand on your heart and breathe in that person’s love for you.
  2. Ask yourself which scripture passage most closely communicates to you the depth of love you feel from this person.  Breath in that love, knowing that God loves you at least as much as the person who loves you the most.
  3. Now think of a difficult scripture passage – a passage you find puzzling or frightening.  Ask yourself how the person who loves you the most or God would explain this passage so that it conveys love to you.  If you are not satisfied with the explanation for the passage, give yourself permission to temporarily set it aside until it does convey love to you.  Once again, breathe in how God loves you at least as much as the person who loves you the most.

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?


 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.”


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


          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.


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


And in our celebration may we



anticipate the recreation of a new season,

One in which new birth while not like the last

brings forth new order,



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”


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.


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.”


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?


          (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?




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


we will never perish

unless He


Teresa of Avila


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



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


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




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


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.


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.


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


The soul outside all walls

never troubles Him, never wonders things like,

“Where are You,


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


and love.”

                                      Teresa of Avila