Sunday, August 21, 2016

Have you lost your way forever?

Hello. It is thank God It's Sunday here at my blog on  August 21.  There's a special kind of torment suffered only by people who had formerly been very religious -- genuinely religious -- in their courage and humility to recognize and conquer their inner dragons,  in their compassion for and willingness to help set at liberty those held captive by poverty, loneliness, or a sense of futility. This exquisite torment  is the pain suffered by those who, accustomed to looking inward, and having found fellowship with God there for years, one day start to torment themselves with such questions as: have I committed the unpardonable sin?  have I just been delusional about my speaking to and listening to and hearing from God all these years?  have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit?  will I ever get that childlike faith in God back? is it denied to me now because I've been filled with "an evil heart of unbelief" or because it was all a fantasy to begin with?

This torment is not limited to those from a Christian tradition. Google "spiritual crisis" and you will see.

I don't presume to write these "Thank God It's Sunday" articles because I think I am a spiritual giant -- far from it. I do want to offer encouragement to people who find themselves in that place of torment--those who are so homesick for the secure state of knowing all the answers that they type these questions into Google!

Here is comfort: you are not alone, and you are in very good company.  People who care for the souls of those seeking God in all kinds of traditions have recognized that these painful seasons, or Dark Nights, are
(1) not only a very common, but also
(2) important steps in the deepening of the spirit's walk with the Spirit of God.

St. John of the Cross writes in "Dark Night of the Soul" of two kinds of "dark nights," the night of purification of the senses, and the night of purification of the spirit.  The first kind is said to be endured by "countless beginners," who when shepherded through this painful season by someone who understands what they are going through, end up with a closer walk with God than they ever had before. The second night, "the night of the purification of the spirit" will only be experienced by  a very few.

This second night is "horrendous and terrifying to the spirit," (and can last for years!) and those who have lived through it can't even speak of the things they've seen. Paul writes in one of his epistles (2 Corinthians) of a man in Christ who is caught up to "the third heaven" and heard astounding things he was not permitted to write about.

 The important thing to keep in mind about this second Dark Night for most of us (who will not likely before death reach that stage of union with God)  is that even those who are marked for the highest degree of spiritual development will endure a process of feeling abandoned by God, completely lost in their journey to knowledge of their Creator. The majority of us who are merely going through the process of having our spiritual training wheels removed are, because of our faith crises and doubts, no less dearly beloved than the most devout and seasoned saints, whose paths have included doubts, too.

Doubting? Lost? You are on the right path, if you are still yearning for God. And if you weren't yearning for God, you wouldn't be googling such questions, would you, now?




I am so happy

Mr. Athena and I walked along the Columbia River and around downtown Portland.

I love rivers. In Miss Fox's 4th grade music class at St. Mary's Parochial School  I remember singing a Woodie Guthrie song, "Roll on Columbia."

"Roll on Columbia, roll on. Roll on Columbia. Your power is turning our darkness to dawn. Roll on Columbia, roll on." While looking for pictures of the Columbia River just now, I learned that Woodie Guthrie had been commissioned by a federal agency to write a propaganda song promoting regulation of hydroelectric plants.  I also didn't know that the tune was based on "Goodnight Irene," which song, as you can imagine, I have heard all my life. I would say that roughly 10% of people who have ever said "Goodnight, Irene," to me have added, "I'll see you in my dreams."

I think I will start answering this way.

Sweet dreams!

[Family Friday and Non-Saturnine Saturday]

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Alt-Right Way to Write... Eschew the Fact Checker

Like a ten-thousand acre wildfire ignited by yahoos setting off fireworks in the middle of high-desert sagebrush, a white identity alt-right social media phenom's description of some black person's evil deed can achieve Internet viral status in a matter of hours.

If there's a link to 4-chan or stormfront, then it must have happened, right? 

If his nose is rubbed in abundant evidence to the contrary, he'll just double down. "You can't get these stories in the main-stream media."

FOOTNOTES
One such rumor hit close to home recently.

The Right Way to Write, with a Ticonderoga Pencil

Buy your kid Ticonderoga pencils for  back-to-school. Don't multiply the frustrations in his life with cheap-o pencils that splinter during the first few rounds through the sharpener, or snap at the graphite end before even one side of the math work-sheet is finished.

They're the best.

[Wednesday Wisdom]

If you don't want refugees, Trump, then stop making them.

It's good that Trump is denouncing America's foreign nation-building schemes.

He's making the mistake, though of thinking  we can end the war in Iraq, by fighting there, with the resolution to keep on fighting there...until it ends...which will happen...when?...when the regime changes?  How is this strategy different from the one the US has had in Iraq, and Syria, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan, across Democrat and Republican administrations, for the last fifteen years?

It's time to come home.


And where is 'home' for the refugees?

Fair treatment of people who have been displaced by our foreign policy should be considered a matter of national security. That's not just syrupy do-good-erism. It's smart: the patience of the down-trodden has a limit.

We won't be spending as much on defense anymore.  What can be done with the savings?  Use your imagination. Beat the swords into ploughshares.  

Now, where have we heard  that before?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

108 steps and 3 days.

108 and 3. A  meditation on these two important numbers led to consideration of how frequently one might assess one's progress toward goals. That progress can be discouragingly small when measured at the end of each day.   There've been so many interruptions and delays and hurdles.  Too, there are problems with waiting until the end of the week to make that evaluation.  First of all, it  puts one more thing on the to-do list for what is supposed to be a day of rest and refreshment. Seven days is also a bit long to wait to make a course correction in aiming for short-term goals. 

So, what about checking at the end of every three day period, on Wednesday, and then again on Saturday? Then rest for a day, and then the week begins anew.

So if you aren't interested in the ramble, you can quit reading right here!

***
The number 108 reflects the harmony of the sizes and distances of the three celestial bodies we earthlings know best:  the distance between the Earth and its moon averages just about108 times the diameter of the moon; the distance between the Earth and the sun averages just about 108 times the diameter of the sun; the diameter of the sun is just about 108 times the diameter of the Earth. (I talked about this earlier, showing the calculations here.)

108 shows up frequently in ancient systems of religion (108 repetitions of a brief mantra quiets the mind and prepares it for meditation) and medicine (108 pressure points in Ayurveda.)  So what?  Numbers and relationships between numbers can speak. Often, they say, "the Universe is a beautiful place." (*1)

What might 108 "say?" The ratio of the diameters of and distances between the sun, moon and earth, and the number of beads counted when going around a Zen juzu or Hindu mala once or a Catholic rosary twice--these hint that 108 might be symbolic of the number of steps in a journey.

There is a pleasing pattern in the prime factorization of 108.  It's 3 to the third power times 2 to the second power-- times 1 to the first power, if you want to throw that last bit  in to finish the thing off with a flourish. What if you continued that pattern, by multiplying 108 by 5 to the fifth power?  That's 337,500 -- a lot of prayer beads or repetitions of a mantra. 

Compared to that, 108 seems quite doable! I can take the time needed for contemplation -- thinking ahead, giving God  a chance to get a word in edge-wise, basically -- every day. 
***

There's so much one could say about the number three!  All the Trinitarians agree.

As Ian Fleming says, once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. If you have means, motive and opportunity,  you're looking guilty. Three times is a charm. Strike one, strike two, strike three, you're OUT.  Beginning, middle, end. Mother, Father, Child. The three legged stool as a metaphor for balance. The balance of power in the U.S. is maintained (in the best of times) when the Judicial, Executive and Legislative Branches function within their appointed bounds.

Thinking of a step as a measurement of time rather than distance, three days come to mind.  And why shouldn't it? Hebrews spent three days in the Desert of Shur before they found  water. Jonas was three days in the belly of the whale. Destroy this temple, said Jesus, and in three days I will rebuild it. Then, he himself got destroyed, spent three days in the tomb, and came out rebuilt on Easter.   

Give the struggles three days.  Sleep on it. Then sleep on it two more times.  Then, go to plan B.
 
FOOTNOTES
(*1)For one of many examples of the elegance of the relationship of the numbers found in nature,   there is Euler's Identity:  e^(pi x i) + 1 = 0   
e is the constant found in equations describing biological processes and compound interest
pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius.
(*2)For fun, I took the average of two of the constants in Euler's Identity.(*1)  It's 2.93.  Almost three!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Thank God It's Sunday

I do this kind of thing once a week, so I don't bore myself and others, and besides....who the heck am I, some kind of wing-nut pseudo-spiritual giantess, presuming to speak of meditation, and San Juan de la Cruz, and dark nights of the soul, as if I knew what I was talking about? 

When instead, I could be using the valuable piece of internet real-estate which is IreneAthena.blogspot.com  to hold forth on why Francis of Argentina is the anti-pope because he supports immigration, or alternatively,  why you are a heretic with a false and brittle faith if you support Trump's anti-immigration policies instead of Hillary Clinton's anti-Putin policies or, alternatively, Clinton's policies instead of Trump's.

Here's your belated Christmas in July: Bah, Humbug!
*** 

I'm going to cut and paste an excerpt from an earlier entry, "Brain Repetition Not Vain Repetition."

... I've been noticing how  The Our Father and The Shepherd's Psalm mesh together. 

Our Father who art in heaven          The LORD
Hallowed be thy name.


Thy kingdom come,        
Thy will be done            is my shepherd:
On earth 
as it is in Heaven.


Give us this day        I shall not want. He maketh me
our daily bread                                                    to lie down in green pastures:
                                                           he leadeth me beside the still waters.


And forgive us our sins         He restoreth my soul:
as we forgive those                               he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness 
who sin against us.                  for his name's sake.


And lead us not         Yea, though I walk through 
into temptation              the valley of the shadow of death,       
but deliver us from evil.   I will fear no evil: 
                                               for thou art with me; 
                                                  thy rod and thy staff 
                                               they comfort me.
  .                      Thou preparest a table before me
                                       in the presence of mine enemies: 
                                thou anointest my head with oil;
                                                my cup runneth over. {wow!} 
                        Surely goodness and mercy
                                  shall follow me

For thine is the Kingdom,                 all the days of my life: and I will dwell
and the Power,                          in the house                  
and the Glory                          of the Lord
Now and forever.                        for ever.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

First Nations Lake is a Scene You Can Make...

First Nations Lake is a scene you should make
with your little one.
So keep it in mind if you're lookin' to find
a place in the summer sun.   --Cowsills


Ah, summertime. Ah, Political Correctness.

I had been  warned before-hand by a dearly beloved PC individual not to ask this woman about her  First Nations culture because, mmm, something to do with my being  white. Well, OK.  I was nervous.  On the day after we were introduced, she and I took a long walk in the woods and then sat on rocks at the bank of a river. We talked about anything and everything, so comfortably and agreeing on so much.

She invited me to dinner, and told me her daughter was preparing Bannock Hotdogs.  "Bannock is basically Indian bread," she explained.  

All's well that ends well.  I've got myself a new friend.

On the Water

I VERY briefly envisioned myself, standing up in the boat, or no...no...better to be on the dock.... me, a prophetess calling out  to those launching their fancy sailboats and party pontoons, "Do you hedonists  have any idea how many people in the world don't even have clean *drinking* water?"  

Instead, I absorbed the joy of ear-to-ear grins of people as they achieved balance on water-skis. This is where I found myself today. This is where it was given me to be. I stayed on the boat, and bore the orange flag aloft as safety required. 

And I will, please God, bear clean water to  thirsty people, as compassion--not guilt-- requires, on other days.

Earlier, I had read about Jesus teaching about seed that falls on no-soil -at-all, on stony soil,  on soil full of thorns, and finally, on good soil. He delivered this farming allegory while sitting in a boat,  the crowd listening to him from the shore. That was interesting to me, and something I thought about as we sped along.
  
I saw, speckled with low dusty-green sagebrush in some parts, and blackened and browned by a recent  wildfire in others, the foothills, deeply wrinkled and mounded like old army blankets around the lake. 

What kind of kind of soil does Lectio Divina (*1) from Matthew 13 fall on? Sometimes it is BURNT OUT, BURNT OVER soil, that's what kind of soil!   What do you do when you feel burnt out, burned over, withered, a heretic? 

There are all kinds of soil in a soul, all kinds of terrain. Keep on walking, stopping, listening, then taking up your journey again. Be patient.

FOOTNOTES

Lectio Divina. You read a short passage--I read from "backwards P paragraph sign" to "backwards P paragraph sign" in my Bible-- three times, then pick a short phrase, maybe  just a word or three, that stands out.  That takes about three minutes. That's Lectio Divina. Then you meditate on that phrase for 20 minutes. That's called centering prayer.

[Family Friday]   



Friday, August 12, 2016

Meditating with Crying or Other Unpleasantness


I finished listening to Fr. Thomas Keating's "Contemplative Prayer" today.  It was reassuring.

Once you've gotten into meditating, don't be surprised at what comes to the surface. Up and OUT, for good and better. I've heard and read more than a few people say: contemplative prayer can be upsetting in surprising ways, for awhile at least.

I haven't heard the same crises being described during meditation that one is prescribed for say, reducing blood pressure. When God is invited to be part of the process, there seems to be a difference.

The goal of this way of praying is not introspection for its own sake, but God-ordained change on the inside,  so that one is made ready to love and serve Him and love and serve other people for the right motives. The wrong motives are being exposed, a lot of other painful things are being shaken lose, and it ain't pretty.


"Just wave goodbye to it, just as cheerfully as you can under the circumstances," Fr. Keating advises.


I must keep on going, even though it has been, and will be rough sailing, til whatever needs to go has gone.  For a season. 

Cans to Put on the Shelf not the Freezer.

I was going to leave it just at that: *crickets.*    And make people wonder, but I think I'll say more.

I made my first batch of COOKED (not freezer) jam. Six out of the seven jars sealed properly (pop! pop!) so the seventh jar went to the refrigerator instead of to the pantry with the other six. It tastes really good. I made the low sugar recipe, and anything sweeter would have been cloying. Excellent blackberry growing, Mr. Athena!

I am afraid of so many things.  I don't want to appear to brag 

Maybe someone reading this gets frightened like me and needs some encouragement.  It was something I was afraid to try on my own, putting up food and being confident it's safe being stored somewhere other than the refrigerator.   Find someone who knows how to do it and have them show you.  Sooner or later, you'll be ready to try on your own.

*crickets*

*crickets*  


Monday, August 8, 2016

Scanning and Canning

I am scanning in 14 years worth of slides to distribute to my siblings before I turn the whole mess over to my brother. If it weren't for him, I might have forgotten I had them.

And there's been more fruit to can as well.   

That's the reason for the break in blog-writing.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Think of the Key Strokes You'll Save

Key "Ctrl" & "backspace<--" to delete a whole word at a time instead of backspacing to delete one letter at a time.   (Belated Wednesday Wisdom)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Brain Repetition not Vain Repetition

Memorized prayers allow you to keep up your end of the conversation with God when you don't know what to say, or perhaps aren't even sure what you believe anymore.

Focusing on your breath for about twenty minutes a day provides the proven medical benefits of meditation. Coordinating your inhalations and exhalations with the phrases of these prayers brings that focus to these time-honored words as you say them slowly,  thinking about they mean, phrase by phrase.  With each repetition, your thoughts on the meaning deepen, as you ask  what they might mean for you, what they might promise you and require from you, this day. 

This month, I've been noticing how  The Our Father and The Shepherd's Psalm mesh together. 

Our Father who art in heaven          The LORD
Hallowed be thy name.


Thy kingdom come,        
Thy will be done            is my shepherd:
On earth 
as it is in Heaven.


Give us this day        I shall not want. He maketh me
our daily bread                                                    to lie down in green pastures:
                                                           he leadeth me beside the still waters.


And forgive us our sins         He restoreth my soul:
as we forgive those                               he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness 
who sin against us.                  for his name's sake.


And lead us not         Yea, though I walk through 
into temptation              the valley of the shadow of death,          
but deliver us from evil.   I will fear no evil: 
                                               for thou art with me; 
                                                  thy rod and thy staff 
                                               they comfort me.
  .                      Thou preparest a table before me
                                       in the presence of mine enemies: 
                                thou anointest my head with oil;
                                                my cup runneth over. {wow!} 
                        Surely goodness and mercy
                                  shall follow me

For thine is the Kingdom,                 all the days of my life: and I will dwell
and the Power,                          in the house                  
and the Glory                          of the Lord
Now and forever.                        for ever.