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Of hearts and souls (05/17/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

Here I am, back to spiritual research again. Reading others’ meditations and ponderings can broaden our horizons, as well as confuse the mind. When filtered through the heart and soul, one usually discovers that their beliefs change from time to time as they mature. You may also conclude that you can’t allow someone or something to dictate what you must unequivocally believe. To thine own self be true.

For many centuries most religions strongly discouraged their flocks from questioning their practices, tenets, and doctrines. Certain sects have not strayed from ages-old orientations, though some religions are becoming less judgmental and more ecumenical. One faith does not fit all.

There is a # 1 New York Times Bestseller that has been causing quite a spiritually dynamic stir. “The Shack,” written by Wm. Paul Young, c 2007, is an absorbing, yet whimsical, work of fiction, depicting a human transformation. A grieving father claims to have spent a weekend in an isolated, forest shack with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the flesh.

Cleverly, Young’s imagined God makes profound comments, such as, “Son, this is not about shaming you. I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation.” “Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly.”

Reading ‘The Shack,” drew me back to an essay by renowned theologian and psychotherapist Thomas Moore. “Religion is full of beauty and inspiration,” Moore writes. “We have much to learn from many traditions about sacrifice, ritual, prayer, atonement, healing, and many other basic elements in the spiritual life.”

The former Catholic monk admits, “I, too, have serious problems with the institutions and their authoritarianism.” Noting that spirituality is not the whole picture, Moore asserts, “Basically, to be religious is to be capable of awe and respect, two qualities that usually disappear when secularism begins to dominate.”

I believe that Moore’s definition of religion is a beautiful, broad perception, acknowledging a universal supernatural power. He has stated, “Religion is an attitude of reverence and a method of connecting to the mysteries that we find in our world and in ourselves.” Plain and simple. His essay’s final line affirms, “ I expect secular life (materialistic and earthly) to become humane only when religion, too, has come of age.”

All this input led me to bestselling author and lecturer Marianne Williamson’s “Everyday Grace,” c 2002, which I found at the Dollar Tree in Winona for one buck. (I’ve discovered many worthwhile reads there.) Stressing hope, finding forgiveness, and bringing miracles to life, her essays are a delight and an inspiration.

I feel her compilation has a great deal more substance than “The Shack,” which is in story format. Both writers are worthy of praise. I underlined Williamson’s essays excessively! Her following words are but a nibble. Devour!

She muses, “We are moving toward a universal compassion because, if we do not, we will cause our own extinction.” “Hatred itself is our greatest problem,” Williamson discerns. “Our relationship with God is our relationship with ourselves, for in no way are we separate from Him” “When we forget that we are love, we forget to love. And it is choice, not identity, that determines our experience. Should we wish to feel God’s mercy, we must choose to be merciful. Should we wish to feel God’s peace, we must extend God’s peace. And should we wish to feel forgiven, then we must forgive.”

Miracles?! “Indeed, there are ways in which the pain we suffered yesterday increases our power to work miracles today,” Williamson writes. “For challenges teach us humility and faith.” We need to become more motivated by inspiration than by ambition. “Everyday Grace” stresses this: “Our true gift to ourselves and others lies not in what we have but in who we are.”

The final lines of the book, in a chapter entitled “Community,” bring the message all together. “An awe-filled grace will fill the skies and flood our hearts, when we have remembered at last who we are to one another. That we are one another.

Praise God. Amen.”


Janet Burns lives in the heart of the county. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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