It is often said that it is human to make errors but to forgive is divine.

But how do you forgive yourself, let alone forgive others?

Memories plague us with unfinished emotional business. Our emotions range from anger, guilt, and despair. We lose sleep. We self-medicate. We question the correctness of forgiveness. Resentment and self-absorption act like bullies to block this restoration process. We are closed off from others in ways we are not even aware as our self-delusion limits our personal growth and we get stuck.

The Loving Community Infoletter, Volume 1, Issue 11 is now available to help you, and those you meet, with these protracted issues. Let us make healthy communities in these troubling times. Add to Cart View Cart

I was about twenty years old ( a collection of decades ago) when I read Eusebius’s book on the early church. Everything seemed to make progressive logical sense until his explanation of how Constantine was suppose to have become a Christian and to have had a weird vision from the “Christian” god leading him to victory. Nothing could be more contradictory to the teachings of Rabbi/Guru Jesus. I was left feeling out of synch (not for the first time) with the rest of my faith group who, as far as I could tell, bought this stuff hook-line-and-sucker. Everything seemed to go sideways after that, historically speaking.

When we look at art history, we get a more complete picture. Persecution was not able to eradicate these believers of the way. These “little Christs” met quietly and secretly in their house churches. Certain houses had baptismal tanks for the ritual of the water and word to symbolize the washing away of our tending to be outside of God’s loving will. The psychological and visceral impact coupled with pure intent is quite impactful. Many other people groups used baptism rituals, but this one was brought along from those of the Jewish faith. It is an act of humility that we cannot follow a pure path alone. It is a path and a work in progress as one allows the Divine to be a vital part of one’s life. They were a tight knit community.

Constantine, not wanting to be bested by these cell groups that quietly came and went, offered an olive branch of non persecution. Eusebius gets to become a bishop in this deal, which probably explains his easy enthusiasm for an Emperor who has a passion with associating himself as Sol Invictus “Unconquered Sun.” Various mosaics and massive sculptures would feature his having the rays of the sun radiating from Constantine’s head.

It was Constantine who initiated Sunday worship pushing the church to assume Sunday worship as their own. In the early years the followers of Jesus went to synagogue on the Sabbath. According to Wikipedia, Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis –day of the sun, “Sunday”–as the Roman day of rest. Only farmers were exempt.

In a very deft move, Constantine routed the Christians out of hiding and gained complete control. The doctrine of the Trinity has the fingermarks of Constantine as with how he manipulated the Roman sun god imagery to his own advantage. Over interpretation and attribution of this document plagues and confuses people to this day, distracting from the core teachings of the prophet and rabbi Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but today I am fed up to the eyeballs about how our news and internet are being taken over by ISIS snuff videos and the reporting of same. It is enough to get my juices going and to wake me up, whereas parts of me have been sleeping. I am sure we have all fallen into that malaise. It has also resolved me to become bolder in terms of life applications of spirituality. The days of being raised that we (mostly Christians) are not to talk about religion and politics are long gone by absolute necessity.

We may think it happened after 9/11 and 7/7, but really what we are in the face of right now is unfinished business since the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the venting of the collective Arabic spleen, and others. World War One (the Great War) has little been talked about as my parents’ generation produced volumes of movies and documentaries of World War Two.

Ed Husain, who wrote “The Islamist,” made two points about rejecting the Jewish and Christian faiths when he was in a space of personal spiritual crisis, having left violent Islamism behind. He rejected Judaism out of hand because it was “race” based. It ignores the universal truths the Hebrew tribe early identified and uniquely expressed in legal logic language to clearly delineate our human relationship with the Creator. Sammy Davis Junior, may he rest in peace, would soundly disagree with Ed.

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for personal and communal transformation honours the atonement message’s deep psychological wisdom. During its ten days of repentance that extend from the first day of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (Yom Hazikaron–the Day of Remembrance) to Yom Kippur,  humanity through the Jewish faith tradition is encouraged to look at what we have done and what we have become in the past year. We are called to participate in an individual and collective reassessment of our lives and to reaffirm through prayer the possibilities of our lives individually and in community. Repentance (teshuvah) requires considerable detail exactly what we shall do differently in our lives while taking stock of what things will likely throw us off or undermine our resolve. Make concrete workable action plans based on our deepest and most searching self scrutiny.

In scapegoat imagery, the unblemished lamb on behalf of sins was a visceral contract rite to move the participant to accept letting go of guilt, accepting restoration of relationship. The altar was sanctified. The mechanism requires that we accept that the past errors of our lives need not stick to us as we embrace this living imagery of an internal transformative work.  The cross that Jesus  died on was a stumbling stone to the Jewish community in First Century.

So, the sensible reasoning goes, how can the vile criminal’s cross be sanctified to lay claim that the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross so everyone on the planet for all time can embrace this basic truth? This is where the drama in the last days and hours before the death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes essential for the imagery to have cohesive effect. In the end, the chief priests handed him over to Pilate whose form of execution was crucifixion, thus for this instance, sanctifying the cross Jesus died on. That was then.

Constantine, in the Fourth Century, foisted a belief system and made the followers of the way of the way, truth, and the life into dogmatists and doctrinaires including the new stumbling block of the doctrine of the Trinity, Ed Husain’s second pet peeve. Shall be  addressed in another blog.

Yom Kippur resources: Michael Lerner (1994). Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. HarperPerennial, New York, NY.

God’s dream is to not be alone, but to have humanity as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Normally I simply compile information with reflections on this site. However, today, this is a blog about some news: “NHS worker who ‘bullied’ Muslim by praying for her” by David Barrett, of the Telegraph, June 28, 2014. See http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book and http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book?utm_source=Jihad+watch+Daily+Digest&utm_campaign=3969b89d36-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ffcbf57bbb-3969b89d36-123486873

The comments on this blog site were most disturbing. First, we have devolved from a global society in which we share our spirituality with one another, to keeping “religion” out of the public or workplace discourse in order to not offend others of different backgrounds. As you read Victoria Wasteney’s comments in the above link you will see that she had a spiritual, not religious, communion with her. She was supportive, friendly, and welcoming. Her only “mistake” was to pass on the book for relatives to find it. This put the young lady in danger from her own family.  The real issue is freedom of public discourse, a matter Wasteney is attempting to address. The comments on these articles were not helpful.

Spring cleaning and I haven’t written much since my new computer got stuck in Canadian French keyboard…

Many years ago I wrote a retreat package that I did not get around to marketing–a typical flaw of writers. It was in the ancient times of no e-books. So, I shall get cracking and get those creative juices going again.

It was called Day by Day Patterns of Life: Tools to Break Negative Habits to Release You for Joy.

If you have experienced retreats that worked for you, let me know. Tell me what did not work for you.

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Guiding the Counselling Process: the ABCD Model

Pastoral care is traditionally a lay person receiving help from a trained pastoral care worker. There is a two-fold problem with this model.

Firstly, there aren’t enough people trained to counsel all the people in need. Secondly, we can learn skills from pastoral care training for self-reflection. The following uses language that sometimes addresses the therapist, and other times to the client. We have both the therapist and client within us as we learn to nurture ourselves.

The 1920s was the beginning of loss of theological perspective, the beginning of pastoral care using behavioral and social sciences, psychology, transactional analysis, Carl Rogers, and so on.  Priorities have been misplaced.

Role confusion ensued with too many roles for one clergy person to spiritually shepherd (be sheep dog for the shepherd) the followers of Jesus. Misplaced priorities where preaching, teaching, administration and so on take a back seat. Clergy/rabbis/gurus… (the sheep dogs of the sheep-people) should not be dragged into the long lengthy process of personality change in a counselling situation.

The number one role of clergy is to impart God’s message of love, facilitating confession, repentance of error, and the power from God to aid you to make revolutionary change within. We can give pastoral care to ourselves when there is no one to go to. Having recovered from crisis, we then can be better friends to others we meet.

It is not about analysing yourself. Don’t over-think your past. Rather, become aware of your weaknesses as well as strengths to continue to grow in love. As you stop to listen to your own heart, you will learn to listen to others better.

Spiritual councillors are useful for crisis; six week problem solving, six to eight weeks of marriage counselling, grief counselling, and individual, marriage, and family problems.

You are not alone, yet ultimately it is your experience.

Stresses are developmentally derive: anxiety over rule following; rituals; beliefs; values; situational issues, both normative and catastrophic.

Choices are yours. What are the factors affecting the ability to solve problems?

In crisis, the precipitating event usually has occurred within 10 to 14 days before the individual seeks help. Frequently it is something that happened the day before or the night before. It could almost be anything: threat of divorce, discovery of extramarital relations, finding out their son or daughter is on drugs, loss of boyfriend or girlfriend, loss of job or status, and unwanted pregnancy, and so forth.

The ABCD Traing Model

Follow this protocol for yourself and others:

A – Achieve an empathetic listening relationship. Ask about the crisis. Be willing to problem solve together. Affirm the person’s strength in asking for help and their ability to cope. If you have the crisis without anyone to listen to you, begin a journal and write the problem down. What does the crisis event that has happened mean to you? Is there someone you can trust? Do you have a support network? Is there a member of the family that can be trusted? The more people available to help at the start of the crisis, the better the outcome.

In the assessment phase it is imperative to ask: “Are you planning to kill yourself or someone else?” “How?” “When?” The therapist must find out and assess the seriousness of the threat: Is he merely thinking about it or does he have a method selected? Is it a lethal method – a loaded gun, a tall building or bridge picked out? Is a time to do it picked out? If so, it is time for a psychiatric evaluation.

B – Boil down the problem. Concentrate on the items that can be changed. Has anything like this ever happened before? How do you or your client abate the tension, anxiety or depression? Has the same method been tried this time? If not, why not? If it didn’t work, why didn’t it?

What would reduce the symptoms of stress? Exercise? Playing a musical instrument? Lessened stress makes it easier to think clearly.

C – Challenge the person to take constructive action, realistic small attainable goals, to foster hope. Make another appointment.

D – Develop an ongoing growth-action plan. Review progress. Develop more plans which gets easier as one builds on success. Build on a mutual support system. There is growth in constructive coping.

When helping other friends and yourself, establish verbatim reports with dialogue on the left half of the page and with the right side for comments:

1. Marital status
2. Education or Training
3. Medical History
4. Religious history
5. Major changes in life.
6. Impression of a person
7. Description of reaction/feeling
8. What you would like to do for this person
9. What would you like to accomplish
10. Goals and plans
11. Strengths and weaknesses

Peace of Mind is a Choice

Distractions seem to be the order of the day but it need not be distressing challenging any exercise to quite the mind. Utilize a few simple steps to avoid identifying yourself with erroneous thought and emotion patterns that distract you from a peaceful fulfilling life. Denial of distractions are as harmful as undue attention to them, ultimately fueling the distraction’s strength.

Prayer life to, or meditation before the Creator of all things good, is an important aspect to avoid an egocentricity that cuts us off from fundamental connections with one another and the rest of creation – a living death.

Refuse to identify yourself with distracting resentment, anger and the like. Everyone has interrupting thoughts when they engage in prayer; sometimes these distractions are barely present, when at other times there is a pitched thought-battle for your attention. Whether you use a specific prayer or meditation time, or use the maxim to pray without ceasing, these suggestions will aid in maximizing those moments to best advantage.

Briefly pray about a distraction and move on to what you had originally set to pray about. Even the act of trying not to think about an invading thought is a form of giving it undue negative attention which can only injure your peace of mind. Use tactics to keep yourself from ruffling your “spiritual feathers”:

a. Acknowledge the distraction as a part of life. Declare it does not belong in your space.
b. If you are recalling a person, convert the thought to prayer, for the person’s needs and spiritual welfare. Having brought the person to the throne of grace, you may then let the person go from the forethought of your mind.
c. Temporarily abort prayer to journal about the distraction writing it down, and out of mind.
d. Read uplifting scriptures and spiritual books such as the Psalms, New Testament, The Imitation of Christ until a passage grips your train of thought or until the meditation time is finished.
e. Be patient with yourself. Think of the thought or cascading thoughts like an awake dreaming, as inevitable as REM sleep to keep you healthy. They reveal aspects of yourself that you can nurture or change.

Prayer without ceasing is good and advised for a truly integrated life. It is fundamental. Yet, like multi-tasking, it has its limits. Give up a few minutes to half an hour per day at least five days a week to specific mental prayer or at least two hours per week to truly move toward peace of mind.

Before going to sleep, read whatever spiritual resource that you have, such as the gospels or other inspirational texts to prepare your mind in dream-sleep for your meditation in the morning before the work of the day. Your understanding of the text will be clearer after “sleeping on it.” Morning may not be possible so pick a time that works for you.

Peace be upon you.

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