Rohr and an online test. What’s not to love?

Recently, Richard Rohr’s daily email series has been about Enneagrams. Now I’d always been under the impression  that they were some Scientology type science fiction thing, and had ignored them completely, but discovering that Richard Rohr was a proponent made me think that there might be something more to them than I’d realised. Because as we know I’m a crazy Rohr fangirl and he could sell me Amway. Or Kale. Or Homeopathic remedies…

So, knowing how much I love a good online quiz, I headed over over to Enneagram Test and discovered that I’m a type 9 and OH MY GOD I AM SO MUCH A NINE!!

I’ve been waiting all week with baited breath for this email to come, seriously. I didn’t want to read other peoples take on type 9, I wanted to read his take.

Now I’ll just say that while the Forer Effect is true in some cases, my intensive case study (of me reading all the other types describes in this week’s emails and comparing them to myself) has led me to believe that this is pretty spot on.

I’ll cut and paste, just in case anyone else is a 9 and wants to read up. And be my New Best Friend, clearly.

Let me know what number you get!

And I’ve found this book which obviously I will now buy, even though I pledged to buy no books this year. Although kindle is okay (by my own totally arbitrary rules) so I’ll see if I can find a copy on Amazon.

NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. They knew a kind of optimism and motivation that all could be worked out and fixed because God is Love. Love changes everything; love resolves everything. Russ Hudson emphasizes that the core of the NINE is about being itself. The primal knowing of the NINE is that “I am. I am a manifestation of God. . . . I feel that divine Presence and how that divine Presence is producing this life. It’s all some unfathomable huge unity right now. . . . I feel so harmoniously related to everything that exists. We’re all manifesting out of this Oneness, this divine Presence. . . . This is what NINEs are here to teach and remind the rest of us.”
(I’m going to say ‘Yes’ for me but I’m sure everyone else would too).
Hudson explains that the NINE’s passion or root sin–sloth–emerges from the loss of this oneness. The NINE feels, “I don’t exist, I don’t matter, I’m nothing, I’m not real. I’m peripheral. I’m disconnected from everything. I’m a little insignificant nothing. (All egos feel that on some level.)”  Sloth in NINEs is really the lack of focused energy. NINEs don’t put out any energy that lets you get a handle on them. It’s the attitude of checking out, because at the center of the gut triad, NINEs feel life is just too much. NINEs seldom take initiative in relationships or in projects. They need a fire lit under them. They need to connect with an institution or structure or have someone like a spouse or a child depending on them. Otherwise they’ll just float and get pulled in all different directions because they don’t know what their priorities really are.
(Absolutely 100% me)
NINEs are naturally humble. They allow themselves to be overlooked. They like to stay in the background and cultivate the self-image of not being anything special. They consider themselves simple and uncomplicated and present themselves accordingly.
(Yep)
NINEs are peacemakers. They avoid conflicts. Their gift of accepting others without prejudice makes people feel understood and accepted. NINEs can be unbiased arbitrators because they can see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides. Their sense of fairness may make them committed fighters for peace and justice. They express harsh truths so calmly and matter-of-factly that it’s easy for others to hear these truths. In the presence of a NINE many people find it easy to come to rest themselves. NINEs somehow harmonize the energy in a room.
(Not deliberately, but I certainly have come to take on this role as my life has progressed. I’m essentially the arbitrator is most instances and can count on two hands the number of actual arguments I’ve had in my life. Keeping the peace is usually my number one priority)
The life task of NINEs consists in discovering and developing their feelings of self-worth and their own inner focus and drive. They find their way to real love when they have found their way back to their own center. Then the virtue of the NINE emerges which is, surprisingly, decisive action. At first NINEs waiver and hesitate, putting off everything. But when they reach a decision, it happens in a moment of absolute clarity. They know in a flash what’s involved, and they will do it, often quite well–and look anything but lazy or slothful.
(Well that’s something I can work towards…)

Nadia, my new favourite person, in a totally non-stalky manner.

I’m deeply smitten with Nadia Bolz-Weber at the moment. I think that I’ve highlighted about 80% of Accidental Saints; Finding God in All the Wrong People and I really appreciate the fact that she clearly wrote the book specifically and just for me, which was considerate.

Even though she ministers to, and often writes for, the marginalised and those on the fringes, and I couldn’t be more un-persecuted, white, straight, and middle class, she reaches everyone, I think (although I do say fuck and am tattooed and my sarcasm level is perpetually at a 10, so maybe we are totally in synch).

Rather than just quote huge swathes of it (because you know I want to), I’ll just point to two of her articles that I love;

Sermon on Baptism and the Devil represents a perspective that I hadn’t really considered,

and

The Parameters We Prefer Jesus to Work Under, about how we need to spend less time defending positions and more time appreciating God’s love.

Ok, I’m going to just have to quote a little bit from that last article…

A couple weeks ago I got to hear Catholic theologian James Allison talk about how we think faith is about striving – keeping parameters, calling people out for not having it right, spiritual practices, doctrinal purity …  whatever – but that really faith is about relaxing. Specifically, relaxing in the way we do when we are with a friend who we know for certain is fond of us. We don’t have to strive around them and we somehow still become our best self – funny, spontaneous, free. Allison suggests that faith is trusting so much that God is fond of us that we just fricken relax.

Seriously good stuff.

I may have to sleep in the chook pen tonight.

I’ve pulled my religious/ christianity/ faith type books off the shelves and my Grand Plan is to organise and curate them beautifully into concise sections. I’ve got ‘social justice’, ‘apologetics’ ‘NDEs’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christian living’, ‘Catholocism’, ‘Rohr’… well, you get the idea. I’ve also got ‘Really Hard Books That I’m Too Simple To Comprehend’. I’m looking at you, Brueggemann and Philokalia.

This idea was much better in theory, believe me.

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Lenten Aspirations and Really Deep Faith.

I found this list today, recommending several books that would be good for reading and reflection during Lent (well it advocates reading and discussing them but reading and engaging in a robust inner dialogue is just as good, right?).

I love Lent. It’s all about preparation and possibilities and refining. My previous Lenten practise of Veganism is now my normal, so I’ll have to branch out a bit this year. Maybe fasting? I did a three day fast last year and things got a bit profound, actually, in the ‘Whooa, I’m not blogging about this’ kind of way.

I particularly like the look of Sabbath as Resistance; Saying No the the Culture of Now. But the reviews on Amazon seem to indicate that I’ll be stirred to resist multi-tasking and consumerism and I’m not sure whether I want to be challenged in that way right now. Which I know is the whole point but I would like my comfort zone stretched on my own terms, thank you very much (yes, yes. I know).

A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience and The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith look interesting too, although they seem to be of the ‘faith is hard, embrace your doubts, it’s fine, questioning is good’ variety, which I’m a bit ambivalent about to be honest because doubt and I are fine. We’re good. I don’t need to be patted and told it’s OK, because doubt is one of my things.

Which brings me to this quote that I saw yesterday from Flannery O’Conner;
“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

I wonder how much faith actually costs most people? I wonder if you are not being challenged and stretched then you’re not doing it properly? And I don’t mean ‘cost’ such as people giggling uncomfortably when they discover that you’re a Christian, or assuming that you’re slightly dim. I mean really going deep. Like this.

Slightly awkward.

I wish that I was vaguely skilled at writing book reviews. There are so many books that have been important to me on this whole ‘spiritual journey’ caper that I would love to be able to honour and do justice to. But sadly my review writing skills atrophied at about age 11 and will never move past ‘a great book for girls of all ages who love ponies and adventure!!’

But of course it’s been a series of fits and starts; reading one book that stated firmly and authoritatively that if you couldn’t accept substitutional atonement then there was no place for you within the faith set me back quite a bit, believe me. But eventually I came to see that what I thought was my own substandard and cobbled together theology of ‘less original sin and more moral influence’ wasn’t just ‘mine’ at all, and if fact actual (gasp) real Christians had thought along these lines for hundreds of years. The voices that are evangelising the loudest within our culture at the moment aren’t necessarily the bearers of the ultimate ‘truth’, apparently.

Who would have thought it?

There are a great many different schools of thought amongst those who are, at the heart of it, ‘followers of Christ’ and some of the elements that I’d thought were deal breakers are, in fact, not. But, just like a marriage, even if you don’t like bits of it, it’s the whole that’s important, isn’t it? If you get too bogged down in the detail of what doesn’t work, then you miss the overwhelming completeness of what does.

Reading ‘Convictions‘ by Marcus Borg in early December brought all the ideas that hadn’t quite connected yet together for me, and helped me realise in a quiet and unspectacular way that first, I actually am a Christian and secondly, I’m not embarrassed about it. I’ll let you decide which of those is a bigger deal…

Anyway, this is a bit awkward. Let’s just pretend it never happened and carry on as normal except for the fact that I’m a christian now, ok?

Well that’s not very Christian.

I’ve been working on a post that discusses whether or not the bible condemns homosexuality in any huge way (spoilers- I don’t think it does. shush.) and while reading around the topic I found my copy of John Shelby Spong’s ‘Sins of the Scripture‘. I hadn’t read this book for several years; basically since I was so right of agnostic that I was essentially still an atheist.

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I’ve always considered myself firmly in ‘Camp Spong’ but as I read his thoughts about Paul and homosexuality (Spong posits that Paul may have been gay), I felt quite…threatened? No that’s not right because Paul being gay or not isn’t a fight that I have a dog in (I don’t care who you have sex with as long as you do not tell me about it). Obviously I would defer to Spong on essentially everything because this is his life work and I just dabble on a whim, but my first thought was ‘Oh come on, Paul wasn’t gay what is this free thinking chicanery?

Of course when I actually looked into it (a summary of his argument can be found here) I realised that there are some completely valid points made and it’s an interesting argument that does actually make some sense to me although there are equally powerful counterarguments but my point here (because I do have one) is how confronting it is when our beliefs are challenged, even if the beliefs aren’t held very firmly or passionately. when we have a ‘go to’ thought pattern and something jolts that, then our reaction isn’t always very helpful or useful. I could be referring to anything at all; a fundamentalist who begins to question biblical literalism, a skeptic who has a near death veridical experience, an incredibly accurate tarot reading thats leaves you wondering ‘what if…’ to anything along that continuum.

It’s OK if I don’t agree with everything that Spong has to say. He doesn’t believe that the resurrection occurred either and given the fact that I do believe in various things that are classed as ‘supernatural’ the resurrection isn’t actually something that I have a huge problem with.

But this made me take a metaphorical step back and I realised just how confronting this must be for people who define their whole lives and are convinced that there is no other way. Hearing someone say something that you dont agree with can be confronting and can cause you to immediately discredit everything else that they have to say. After having my little WTF Spong moment, I intuitively thought ‘I really don’t think that he is someone whose ideas I can get on board any more’ (I know, I’m awfully judgey but I am a constant work in progress and believe me I fight against it constantly.)

Maybe we should all have our preconceptions challenged from time to time. Even if we ended up exactly where we started, at least we have opened our minds a little. If I had just written him off because his ideas rattled me a bit then I wouldn’t have googled ‘John Shelby Spong interviews and found a passage from this article

I don’t think that what I’m advocating is an easy sort of bourgeois feel-good gospel. I think what I’m advocating is a new humanity that will deliver us from our deeply competitive, tribal, prejudiced attitudes toward other human beings, and indeed toward other religions. So I think the role of the church is not to rescue the sinners, but to empower people to become more fully human. This is why Christ is so important to me.

Of course it just adds to my understanding that being a ‘Christian’ is far more layered and complex that used to understand. It’s not as cut and dried as many would believe and discovering that someone is a Christian doesn’t actually tell you that much about their beliefs. Some will say that ‘to be a PROPER Christian you must believe this’ but seriously, you’re probably going to need to take a good hard look at yourself if that is your mind set.

Basically, no-one has the right to decide whether someone else is Christian or not. Just fucking stop it and love people. THAT is Christian.

I never dream about lotto numbers though, dammit.

I’m going to go into slightly more off beat territory today and talk about something that will put at least some of you off- precognitive dreams. Now I’m working on the premise that they are a valid experience despite the fact that my copy of ‘The Skeptic’s Dictionary’ has this to say about them;

“Prophetic dreams are impressive to those who lack understanding of the law of truly large numbers, conformational bias and how memory works’

But I have experienced them all my life and I’m not debating their validity. Just to give you a quick example, the night before the Port Arthur Massacre I dreamt that I was being hunted in a place that may not have had a sign up saying ‘Port Arthur’ but involved enough grassy expanses and sandstone walls for there to be no doubt in my mind as to where I was. A man next to me had been shot and I was crouched at the base of a stone gate hiding from someone who was trying to kill me. Those of you familiar with what happened on that day will recognise all of this*.

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Fortunately my other precognitive dreams haven’t involved horrendous murder (although the dreams leading up to the Boxing Day Tsunami weren’t especially pleasant) but I have many, many dreams that have come true, ranging from the mundane to the profound. I don’t tend to discuss these with people because I don’t really like to have to explain what is going on because I have no freaking idea.

So the big picture question that comes to me when I ponder these is

Does this mean that the future is fixed and we don’t have free will after all?

If I dream that someone is going to do something and then the do it then were they always going to? Are there endless possible futures in endless possible Universes and I occasionally tap into the right one? Are some things fixed yet others still open?

*There are several other synchronicities between me and what happened on that day but I’m going to put them down to the fact that Tasmania is a relatively small place. They’re interesting though.

Quotes from Richard Rohr

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And the award for the ‘Most Literal Blog Post Title Ever’ goes to…

I’m sitting in a (very noisy) cafe, reading ‘Silent Compassion’ by Richard Rohr and I wanted to share two fabulous passages (I’d tell the guy sitting across the table but he doesn’t look like he’d appreciate them).

I think that when you recognise something as beautiful in your life, it partly emerges from the silence around it. It may be why we are quiet in art galleries. If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate something as singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then it’s singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.

There are two kinds of silence. There is the natural refreshing silence of the introverted personality or the pause between conversations. But there is also a spiritual silence, a silence that does not need to be filled with nervousness laughter or a joke or any attempt to be clever of show that you are informed and an insider. Such spiritual silence demands a deep presence to oneself in the moment

I want to say that this book is the best one I’ve every read but I’m only up to page 8 so I’ll reserve my judgment for a minute. I should also probably have read it before I went away and used up my quota of silence for the next five years.

Jamberoo Abbey- part two of three by the looks of it.

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The reason that The Abbey is largely cloaked in silence is because that is the environment most conducive to the Benedictine call to ‘listen to the ear of your heart’. The nuns dedication to a life of constant prayer necessitates a quiet serenity.

I thought women were supposed to be good multi-taskers but clearly not.

Obviously the ability to engage in a truly productive silence is far more finely honed in the women who live there; those of us who lob in for a brief moment then go back to the franticness of our lives miss something in the translation. The depths that are necessary for a truly transformational experience can’t be reached in a weekend. I imagine that spending time in true contemplative silence is like descending to the depths of the ocean; it must be done slowly and in a considered manner (or your head explodes). Obviously, given that I am the World’s Crappest Prayer, talking to God for the entire time was going to be a bit too much for me. I found the first evening quite hard, being away from the four people I love, with none of the coping mechanisms that I usually have when dealing with existentialist bleakness (that would be Cointreau and The West Wing, by the way).

But once I had made peace with the fact that there were no conversations or radio or distractions in general, the thing that I found notable about existing largely in silence was the fact that I didn’t have to concentrate on other people. Removing the “meeting new people and being socially ‘on’ for the weekend” factor was enormously relieving and meant that the inner dialogue about what I said, how I had said it and how I am perceived was gone. This meant that a whole layer of mental subterfuge was stripped away immediately. What’s left when you can’t worry about what other people think about you or watch television or argue with your spouse? Well actual quality thoughts, one would hope.

The first thing that I realised? That I am so lazy and entitled and my life is so completely blessed that its next to impossible to see where God is moving in it. When essentially everything that happens to you is good and fulfilling and you have all of your material needs met, then it makes sense that it would be a struggle to identify God in the everyday. Is it possible to be so spoilt that you lose sight of, or fail to see God at all? Is this why those of us in the developed world are becoming so secular and fractured from our spiritual selves?

When reading ‘God’s Smuggler’ (it’s on Kindle if you’re interested) there was story after story of people obtaining a Bible, for example, that seemed to be such an improbable culmination of coincidences that it was easy for them to say ‘This is God moving in my life’. When I read stories that describe amazing experiences that people have; really ‘boom’ obvious God moments, I get irritated that these things don’t happen to me. If something incredible happened then it would make it so much easier to believe! I say.

But then I realise that half the time I wouldn’t notice if something amazing happened. If an improbably gift arrived, for example, would I notice it in between the books from amazon and the shoes from Ozsale and the makeup from Ebay that arrive at my house so regularly?. I wouldn’t notice if God tried to get my attention by creating a mini-miracle.

Of course I’ve always railed against the idea of a God that gives us ‘stuff’, a God that endorses stupid-big mega churches and $5000 hand bags and prayers for a flasher car. But that is from my developed-world privileged perspective. Who am I to question whether God moves in these ways amongst those who have little?. If God knows me at all then she wouldn’t try to get my attention or respect or whatever by sending me a bejewelled Bible (there aren’t enough WTFs in the world for that thing).

I guess in my case, God would have to get my attention by planting an irrational desire to seek the holy and transcendent like a dog with a bone for years (oh, hang on…).

(The next post is the deep one, I promise.)