Tag Archives: truth

The Elephant is Very Like a Rope

What is truth? What is reality? Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the tail of reality, hand it to your neighbor, and declare, “Here, look, this is it: Truth!” 
“Hoaxes, lies and collective delusions aren’t new, but the extent to which millions of Americans have embraced them may be,” writes Kevin Roose, in The New York Times. 

Which part of the elephant are you touching or bumping up against? Is there a way for us to step back and see a bigger picture than our own hand grasping a tail? Some say: Why go to all this work to root out truth? It’s a free country. Why can’t I believe whatever I want and what makes sense to me? I don’t have time to track down every piece of information.

The ideology (Nazism) which the Barmen Declaration sought to unmask, and reject is an ideology of freedom, a false and idolatrous conception of freedom, which equates it with the freedom of each individual to do as he or she wishes.”   Lesslie Newbingen, Truth to Tell

If I refuse to acknowledge my brothers and sisters, who are also taking hold of part of the elephant from different vantage points, I turn everyone else into an enemy and threat to my truth and my freedom. Is there a way out of the stalemates and battles that keep us at odds with each other?

Here is the latest issue of Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on Contemplation

The Elephant Is Very Like a Rope

It is an illusion that we can escape personal responsibility for our assertions of truth, regardless of how we interpret the first amendment. We have an obligation to discover our internal truth, that place of honorable veracity, where we are aligned and balanced with the larger eternal truths about ourselves and the world around us.

In the words of Charles Williams, Unless devotion is given to the thing that must prove false in the end, that which is true in the end cannot enter. Being true individually is vitally important to all of us together. Why? In the words of the old
Sunday school song – for there are those who trust me. (Howard Walter)

Truth is a communal experience that requires us all. As you are transformed by truth, so are the rest of us.

Lenten blessings!

Loretta F Ross

Do You Know What You Know?

Four Great Questions

The word is very close to you.
It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.

 I was putting away some of the books which had clustered around my reading chair:  David Brooks, The Social Animal; Contemplation Nation, edited by Mirabai Bush;  poetry by Wendell Berry, The Hunger Games; The Cloud of Unknowing… when I randomly opened one of the books and found Four Great Questions.

The questions are in the book, Yoga and Anxiety – Meditations and Practices for Calming Body and Mind by Mary and Rick NurrieSterns on page 102. I will tell you what they are in just a minute.

I find the world fascinating and cannot get full of the knowledge and wonder of it all. I usually am reading four or five books at the same time. Often what I read opens doors of understanding and appreciation. Other times reading confirms my own intuitions and understanding, or it invites me into whole new places and realities I have never experienced or imagined.

“He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s actually kind of dangerous,” a friend recently said to me about a young professional on his way up the ladder to “success.” Sometimes we do not know what we don’t know. We may then set out to decrease our ignorance, or remain self-deceived, uninformed, arrogant, and even dangerous.

On the other hand there are occasions when we don’t know what we know, which could also be dangerous. The questions I found on my way to my book shelves are aimed at uncovering truths we already know, but are ignoring, denying, or deceiving ourselves about.

For example, we may know more about what is the best course of action for us, than we allow ourselves to own. Sometimes I play dumb in my relationship with God. I will go back to God over and over with some question I really already have the answer to. Yet I insist on double checking, second guessing, and reconfirming. It is my anxiety and doubt that send me back for continual assurance. I almost seem to prefer wringing my hands and hemming and hawing, than striding confidently, calmly into the next step.

This commandment that I’m giving you right now is definitely not too difficult for you.  It isn’t unreachable.  It isn’t up in heaven somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will go up for us to heaven and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?”  Nor is it across the ocean somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the ocean for us and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?”  Not at all! The word is very close to you.  It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.   Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Common English Bible (CEB)

Four Great Questions

Sometimes we are not ready to face a truth for various reasons, so we choose to remain ignorant. These questions help you consciously acknowledge a truth that you know deep inside, or to bring into the light a nagging realization that keeps popping up.

1. (Fill in the blank) The truth about this relationship is ______________.

2. I know I need to _______________________________________.

3. The real truth is _______________________________________.

4. What do I know about myself and my life that I haven’t been listening to?

Take some time this week with these questions. Find out what you already know and let me know how it goes.  “The word is very close to you.”

Questions from Yoga and Anxiety – Meditations and Practices for Calming Body and Mind by Mary and Rick NurrieSterns

A Spare, Bare Love

Spring is coming, maybe. A man, whom much of the world will declare is God, is making his way inexorably to death. He is going to do that ordinary thing people do everyday: he is going to suffer and die.

What makes this different is that it is God, who is doing it, and God overcomes the sting of it all by being God, by being One who attains victory, not by escaping evil or by beating it to a pulp, but by surrendering to it and going right through the heart of it, while remaining God.

As we watch Jesus walking toward the cross, we call out: “Don’t do it. Don’t go that way. And for heaven’s sake, don’t ask us to do it, too.” But he, who has set his face like flint, will not hide from the insult and spitting. No, the amazing claim is that this gray day, this aging body, this meager life, this broken world houses glory. And our reluctant following after Jesus is grounded in the slim hope that somehow, some way, this is true.

Spring doesn’t come from some far distant place like an eagerly awaited guest bringing exotic presents.  Spring recoils, bounces up from the heart of winter, and jiggles before us like a jack-in-the-box. The joke is on us.

We strain to turn the crank that sets free joy, and just when our guard is down and we think life is only a meaningless turning to an idiotic tune, out pops Jesus, winking his eye. “Now, die!” he says. We, who thought we were chasing joy and were hot on its trail, find ourselves swallowed up by Life and dwelling in the inner parts of the God who creates joy.  . . .

Amazingly, God wants to be with us and has gone to great lengths to get our attention, even condensing divinity to fit into a mortal being.  And that is almost more than we can bear. What do we know about being company for God? For thousands of years we have been trying to get it right.


 Someone hears a Word from the Lord and says: “Here do it like this. Here are the answers we are seeking.” We give names to Truth. We compose prayers, and rituals. We sew up little suits for Truth to wear. Over time Truth grows beyond the suits. Its legs stretch below the pant cuffs. Shirt sleeves ride up to the elbows. We try to stuff Truth back in its tearing clothes. We sew patches here and there. We get into fights about the right color of patches. We pay more attention to the clothes than to Truth.

Truth condescends to wear the forms we give it, only briefly. Jesus bursts the wineskin of the tomb we called death. The church shudders, draws in its breath and exhales, bursting its seams. Some panic. Some become weary and simply turn away.

When Truth as we have known and cherished it begins to grow beyond the forms which have mediated it for us; that is, language, institutions, and rituals – we may shrug our shoulders and walk away, feeling betrayed.

For a good part of the journey our relationship with the Holy is largely self serving. We seek God for our and others’ benefit. Then during this tedious lent we go seeking help and find a forlorn God carrying a cross.


Jesus asks, “How long have I been with you and you still do not understand? I want to be with you – not just to bring you peace, joy and good, but even more, because I need a place to lay my head.  Will you stay with me one hour?”

“We usually begin our acquaintance with God from the outside in. Jesus is external, beyond us.  I learn about God from the historical record, the witness of the church, scripture – through forms, rituals, disciplines, words, symbols. Could it not also be possible to know God from the inside out? To experience God from God’s interior reality, a reality which the forms seek to represent or express?  “Where are you staying?” John’s two disciples ask Jesus. “Come and see,” he says. And they went and saw where he lived and remained there with him that day. (John 1: 38-39)

How would it be for you to live in the place where Christ lives? To eat and sleep and move about in his home?

The shift from knowing Jesus from the outside in to the inside out may be perilous. The structures of meaning, categories for naming and holding one’s experience and truth, begin to disintegrate. They no longer work to contain one’s experience of self and Christ. We may feel confused. What was certain and absolute seems less so. We may feel abandoned by the God of our past experience. We may think we are losing our faith.

Spiritual growth may involve the pain of withdrawal we feel, as God is yanking our cherished means of knowing Divine Reality away from us. Our spiritual sense is still too unrefined and accustomed to spiritual glitz to appreciate the more subtle flavor of pure faith. Hence we may feel aridity and dullness. 


As God calls us away from familiar ways of knowing God what is left? Nothing but loss and a cross on hill with a dead man hanging from it? Stay there a bit longer. Wait. Be confused. Consent to not knowing or understanding.

Something you cannot even conceive of is preparing to spring up. Something so new, so radically different your mind cannot name is sending out roots in the silent darkness. Tiny tendrils are thrusting through the heavy earth, threading their way around stones to living water. Wait some more.

Oh, it’s hard to bear the ambiguity, the urge to plow up the soil and rip out the root, to hold it to the light, dissect it, name its parts and feel that secure sense of power and control where we can say this is this and that is that. Yet we can wait. We can trust until it stands before us in the morning sun. Then we reach in joy to touch once more our Beloved.

      “Don’t cling to me,” he says. (John 20:17)

Here is a spare, bare love. All that is left is a man walking alone carrying what will kill him, the merciless weight of mortality. Here is only a naked soul surrendered to God, slung from the pillar of its own predicament.

If God could enter into our humanity with humble love, can it be too much for us to do the same? There is no other way into the Kingdom.

Here this is what is so:  we all screw up. We all are limited and frail. And we can rejoice, because we do not have to lie about it anymore. 

Spring tenses in the roots of the pear tree. And all who were ever carried off in the teeth of jealousy or simply in the way of things, all innocence defiled, all vulnerability exploited sink with a sigh into a white dawn that stretches like a shroud wound round the world.

“Come follow me,” the Dawn whispers. And we are invited to take another step into that place beyond knowing, beyond feeling where everything really is all right.

Excerpted and adapted from Letters from the Holy Ground, by Loretta F. Ross (Ross-Gotta)
The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer
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Sick of Words

I am word weary. I am tired of tedious characters marching stiffly like tiny soldiers in regiments of paragraphs across a page.

I am wary of shady words with their cruel thorns, sleek seductions, hidden agendas, and high fashion wardrobes. I am annoyed by shifty words with their little beady periods punctuating deceit. I am bored with dreary, weak words, always minding their p’s and q’s. I am fed up with grandiose words mincing truth into carefully parsed packets of freeze-dried candor.

Because I do not know words – tender, true, and worthy enough to tread upon the pristine sweep of your soul,

I give up on words

and offer you the integrity of silence,

the undefiled page,

and the wordless wonder of your own beloved self.

Linger here in this moment on an autumn day.

Oh, for once, do not rush down the labyrinthine corridors of dense vocabularies to the echoing mortuaries, where truth lies shriveled in drawers pulled in and out by experts.

Be stilled.

Soon truth will rise up and burst from the cramped
tomb of your preconceptions.

Then you will hear it sing its little freedom song  —

a soft whirr, a buzzing hum

like a cat purring to herself in the sun.

Saved by Poetry

(Caution, rant alert.)
I am really tired of people who are in charge of things – leaders, authorities, and grown ups – fighting. I am annoyed with how much of the “news” consists of offering ringside seats at the latest knock down, drag out. I am sickened by sarcasm, cynicism, stridency and the legitimizing of fear, anger, and blame as reasonable and acceptable points of view in communal problem solving. I am annoyed by emails which trumpet, Read and weep and conclude with This is bad…..real bad….these guys MUST be stopped, stopped now, and stopped HARD!!!!
Thank goodness, April is poetry month. It has arrived just in time to save you from the black hole of my self righteous indignation.
When my brother and I picked, poked, badgered and teased each other into tears and blows at bedtime, my poet mom would holler up the stairs, “You kids settle down or I am coming up there with a stick with a bee on the end of it.” Mom rarely raised her voice or showed anger, but that image of her bounding up the steps waving a stick with a bee attached would hush us up and settle us down right smart. Just contemplating mom doing such a thing was sobering. So we turned over in our beds, sighed, and fell into the sleep we so sorely needed.
Flannery O’Conner wrote that poetry is the accurate naming of the things of God. For me that means everything, for what does not belong to God? For accuracy we must step away from bombast, pontification, egotism and fear to look courageously into what is so. Rather than exalting anger and fear and attempting to defend truth by diminishing all other competing truths, poetry invites us to gaze generously upon the reality of our common experience that points in the direction of truth, which poetry would never claim to possess, but only to love.
Poetry is the sensuous earthy praise of dirt, color, and detail. Poetry holds in its open palm the transformative reality of the winged sparks of sun bouncing off the blackbird’s belly, and the piercing sting of a stick with a bee on the end of it.
God, who consented in Jesus to be tethered to time, space, race, nation – the unique, speckled, flecked and marked human form of one homo sapiens, has in that startling incarnation blessed and made holy the spare, the absurd, and singular. In each particle of creation the deity scintillates, and truth shouts for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
A poem has been haunting me for the past two weeks. Remembering only snatches, It’s lemonade. It’s lemonade. It’s April, I finally hunted it up. Read it out loud right now to your cat, your friend, or just for the glorious sound of it.
It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s daisy.
It’s a roller-skating, scissor-grinding day;
It’s gingham waisted, chocolate flavored, lazy
With the children flower-scattered at their play.
It’s the sun like watermelon,
And the sidewalks overlaid
With a glaze of yellow yellow
Like a jar of marmalade.
It’s the mower gently mowing,
And the stars like startled glass,
While the mower keeps on going
In a waterfall of grass.
Then the rich magenta evening
Like a sauce upon the walk,
And the porches softly swinging
With a hammockful of talk.
It’s the hobo at the corner
With his lilac-sniffing gait,
And the shy departing thunder
Of the fast departing skate.
It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s April!
A water sprinkler, puddle winking time,
When a boy who peddles slowly, with a smile remote and holy
Sells you April chocolate flavored for a dime.
-Marcia Masters
I recall this poem every April, but I probably hadn’t read it for more than 35 years. Hmm, things have changed. Some of the images sound dated. Scissors grinder? What’s that?
The polite soft spoken man showed up every spring with his neat kit and folded soft rags that smelled of oil. He would sit on the front steps, while I watched him sharpen my mother’s scissors. A small man with creases in his face, he worked carefully, thoughtfully as he ground, polished, oiled and then replaced his tools, and folded the cloth he wiped the scissors with. I smell the oil and metal, see the dandelions on the lawn, and feel the warm sidewalk under my bare feet. He told me he lived in Florida in the winter. From spring to fall he worked his way through towns across the country, sharpening scissors and knives, talking to children, and carefully folding his rags.
Other images sound out of touch: The happy hobo pausing to smell the lilacs has been replaced by large numbers of homeless people – most not so happy.
However, the rich magenta evening like a sauce upon the walk, trips over the tongue like a tap dance and coats the mouth with the aftertaste of expensive chocolate. Just the other night, I watched that magenta evening spread its warm sauce over the streets and sidewalks of my neighborhood.
You can see how a poem can evoke, expand and unfold within your own experience, taking you to places you have long forgotten and inviting you to see your present with new eyes.
I used to think our problems would be solved if all politicians were required to take a weekly ballet class. The intense focus on the body with its specific articulation of holiness, seemed to be good for the soul. To pay attention to the turn out of the leg, the strength of the abdomen, and the way the arm and wrist occupy space would ground lofty ideologies and silence talking heads. The sweet and humbling honesty of doing all this surrounded by mirrors would level the playing field. The thrilling self surrender of a grande jeté would put many things into perspective.
Maybe all it would take is a few good poems.
Why not write one yourself this week? Stretch yourself to accurately name some of the things of God. With a smile remote and holy, post it here or on the Sanctuary Facebook Page, and add your singular, sane and supple sanctity to the dance.

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To Err Is Human, To Forgive Divine

This Week’s Puzzler!

Name a three letter word, which will stop a conversation. Say it and watch people avert their eyes, stiffen, and slip away as quickly as possible. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book about whatever happened to it.

You’re right!  The word is sin.

Here is Menninger: But first I must return to the promise to review the events in the recent rapid decline and disappearance of the word “sin,” not because any particular word is so important in itself, but because its obsolescence may be a clue to fundamental changes in the moral philosophy of our civilization. (Whatever Happened to Sin? 1973, p 27)

Thirty seven years later, sin sounds even more archaic. Sin grates against the ear like some antiquated puritanical rant. In a culture with license to say any swear word or expletive one can come up with, the taboo word is, ironically, sin.

Part of this may be due to a trivialization of the meaning of sin and the distortions we bring to it. For many, sin carries negative connotations of judgment, intolerance, hellfire and brimstone. However, sin is not a moralistic judgment. Sin, which is separation from God, is a description of the condition of creation, a condition of alienation and estrangement from our highest good.

Eugene Peterson writes, Sinner means something is awry between humans and God. In that state people may be wicked, unhappy, anxious, and poor. Or, they may be virtuous, happy, and affluent. Those items are not part of the judgment. The theological fact is that humans are not close to God and are not serving God. The Contemplative Pastor

As reasons for the decline of sin as a category for understanding the human condition, psychiatric nurse, Norman L. Keltner, cites four factors: First, the influence of psychology on our understanding of human behavior. Second, the erosion of personal responsibility.

A third factor is the focusing away from behaviors to one’s feelings about those behaviors. .. The implications of such views were that if individuals could get in touch with their feelings and understand their motivation, then many unacceptable behaviors were acceptable. While not totally devoid of some standard, the overwhelming move to openmindedness blurred the lines. When coupled with the growing philosophical view that right and wrong are better conceptualized as personal values than as community values, tolerance of once frowned upon or forbidden behaviors occurred.

Keltner finds a fourth tendency in our society’s whole notion of individualism. As Robert Bellah and his colleagues (1991) note, “… individualistic achievement and self-fulfillment make it difficult for people to sustain their commitment to others, either in intimate relationships or in the public sphere.” Whatever Became of Sin – Revisiting Menninger’s Question

A world view that includes both God  and sin, assumes that persons are responsible for their behavior, that some behaviors draw us closer to God and other behaviors lead us away.

Without sin as part of our understanding of human behavior, we are left with explanations that fall short and miss the mark of a satisfactory remedy. Without sin we do not need God, Jesus, or that nasty thing called religion. Without sin the crucifixion is just one more state execution and Easter, an interesting ghost story.

Without a serious reckoning with sin, we fashion a god and a religion which suits us, which condones the behavior we want, and urges us to satisfy our desires at others’ expense. The word for this, another taboo word, is idolatry. Without sin, we delude ourselves into thinking that we have accomplished what Adam and Eve were hoping for, when they succumbed to the temptation to disobey and replace God with themselves as sovereign in their lives.

As St. Paul wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we are deluding ourselves and strangers to the truth.” Avoiding the word, does not remove the reality of sin. Denial of sin does cut us off from the remedy – the mercy and grace of God, which free us from the crushing burden of guilt, shame, and having always to be perfect and right.

We, alone, cannot extricate ourselves from the mess of human existence. We can fight about whose fault it is. We can politicize and theorize. We can gather all the brilliant thinkers, artists, and scientists of the world to bring their expertise to bear. We can possess all the wealth of the world, yet we, on our own, cannot save ourselves. We cannot defeat the greed, the lust for power, the envy, the deceit, and the selfishness of the human heart. So we flounder, cry out, slashing at one another, bent over in pain and fear like souls in torment lost in a maze of fun house mirrors.

To see oneself or another as a sinner is like the child telling the obvious truth that the emperor had no clothes. There is wondrous freedom here to be honest about who we are and to be healed and forgiven. As Eugene Peterson writes, “To call a man a sinner is not a blast at his manners or his morals. It is a theological belief that the thing that matters most to him is forgiveness and grace.”

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Being Trued

The dog is gnawing his bone, snorting and snuffling. I am curled on the couch at the end of a long day. The furnace fan shuts off. The house is quiet. I am tired. My throat is scratchy. I feel like I am coming down with a cold.

I think of you – your life, your sorrows and burdens. I wonder what you had to deal with today, and if you are at peace. When I write, I want more than anything that what I say is  true, is real. This means that I want to be trued, made straight, conformed to Truth. I don’t mean that what I write has to be perfect or factually correct (though I want to do my best on that score). I just want it to be aligned with a larger true Reality I know as God. I want what I write to have integrity in that sense.

Do I have a Word for you? Is there a Word from on high for us this evening?

The dog rests his muzzle against my foot, then plops down beside me. He sighs. Then we grow silent and still. I stop grasping for words and thoughts. I wait.

“Tell them that I love them.”

Oh rats. This fills me with a kind of frustration and sadness. The phrase God loves you has become so clichéd. I could just as well write, You are in good hands with Allstate. Ok I will try anyway. Do you get that, really know, that the Creator and Sustainer of the deepest Truth and Reality loves and cares about you? Do I?

Then: “Stop living your life as though I did not exist. Stop behaving as if I am not real.”

Ah, here is the being true part. Does your life, as you live it, reflect your prayer, as you pray it? How about today, Loretta, and this weary stressed out self you are bringing to God? How much of what you did and said and thought and felt denied the reality of Christ and cut you off from the source of life and strength?

I grin, recalling something that came to me a few weeks ago while I was praying with John 14: 1-9.  In this passage Jesus tells his disciples not to worry, but to trust in God and in himself. He tells them in his Father’s house there are many rooms, and he wouldn’t be telling them this, if it wasn’t true. He promises that he is going to his Father’s house and will prepare a place for them. And he will come back and take them with him to his Father. Then he says that they know the way to where he is going.

But Thomas responds, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Then Philip pipes up with, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

And Jesus, shaking his head, maybe even rolling his eyes, says, “Philip, have I been with you this long and you still do not understand?”

Good grief – how many miracles, healings, parables, and sermons on the mount is it going to take?

As I pondered this text, what I heard was, “Quit acting like you are confused. You know the Father. You know me.”

I laughed out loud. It was a call to grow up, to maturity. Stop the confusion act, sweetie. Get congruent. Be true. Line up what you believe and know in your heart with how you live your life. Stop fussing around worrying and fretting like you do not know me and do not have a home on high. Have I been with you this long and you still do not get it?

It makes me sad, carrying on like Jesus is not here, like God didn’t love us so much that he died and rose for us. Me – like some self indulgent, disingenuous little twit saying with Philip, “Just show us the Father, then we will all believe. Meanwhile we’ll put our trust in Allstate.”

Oh, long suffering Savior, have mercy on us sinners, one and all.

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What Is Truth?

 Butterscotch and Ahs Discuss Epistemology

In this time of crumbling institutions, conflict and rapid change, the question of what is truth emerges as we weigh in for and against various approaches to solving our problems. How do you express and live out truth as you know and experience it? How do you respond when your truth collides with someone else’s? What does Jesus mean when he says he is the truth?

Butterscotch, the golden rex rabbit, and Ahs, the collie, reclined in the shade under the pear tree. A gentle breeze lifted the hair on their necks. Butterscotch stretched her hind legs out behind her stubby tail. Ahs lay with his chin on the ground, nose close to her cage, eyes watchful. He heaved a long sigh.

Butterscotch 3“Stinky Dog, it is rude for you to drool like that when you look at me,” Butterscotch said. “Don’t think for a minute that I don’t notice how your jaw goes slack and you begin to salivate every time you see me. A prey species never has a moment’s rest. Which is why I say Jesus is getting a bad rap. Folks sniffing him up one side and down the other, running circles around him, chasing him into the brush, cornering him with their philosophies and theologies, poking him with their politics, trapping him in their minds – like he was some wild thing somebody wanted to make a hat or mittens out of.”

The dog sighed again. The rabbit pointedly rubbed her nose with her paw. Carnivores have terrible breath. “How do you know he doesn’t like it? Hasn’t even brought it all about?” asked the dog.

“Well, if you really knew him like I do, you’d see my point,” she sniffed.

The topic for the afternoon was epistemology – truth, and how you know what you know. Specifically, the two creatures were discussing the quest for the historical Jesus, the search by Biblical scholars to determine the historical reliability of the gospels. Their findings are seen by some as a frontal attack on Christianity.Ahs

Not that the rabbit put much store in two legged saviors. But she was able to recognize truth when she saw it. Ahs, on the other hand, slavishly worshiped two leggeds, followed them about, whined and begged to eat their food, and lie next to them. She knew for a fact that he let them pet him and never cleaned up afterward.

Since the pair could not read they hadn’t got as far as taking votes on whether Jesus really said and did the things that scripture claimed. Besides the sun was warm on their backs, the wind just right to waft the fragrance of honeysuckle their way, and neither believed the veracity of scriptural witness was the real issue.

068_le_christ_redempteur  14th CHow does one know what one knows? On what do we base our hope? On what authority does one make a claim? And just what does real mean anyway?  Butterscotch, like the blind man in John, rested her case on the indisputable facts of her experience. “Whether this man is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I know, that once I was blind, now I see!” Her reality was corroborated by the testimony of witnesses. Toad in the flower bed south of the house agreed that she was indeed a changed creature following some kind of encounter with this Jesus. Mourning Dove reported that the rabbit was more humble and compassionate.

Ahs, on the other hand, more faithful or more gullible, relied on the testimony of tradition and the dogma of the church. Yet each appreciated the limitations of his or her perspective. Neither the uncritical acceptance of systematic dogmatics, nor the subjective witness of the inner bunny could completely satisfy the inquiring mind. In the end the two were left with the disquieting notion that everything might be in the eye of the beholder, the universe a dream, and the two of them, snoozing under the pear tree, only the imagination of some mind greater than their own.

There is a bit of the scientist in every mystic, who sets out to test in his or her own life if Jesus Christ is really all he is cracked up to be. “Prove it,” he says to God. Here are all these promises: freedom, joy, abundance, peace, wholeness, justice, truth, and life eternal. “Show me,” says the mystic and sets out to experiment with divinity in the laboratory of her experience.

In the beginning God is the object of the search. At some point God may peremptorily rise out of the test tube and take over the experiment. I find myself being dissected. My soul is flayed open by truth.light and trees I am blinded by glaring light and toasted over a Bunsen burner, where my impurities are burned away and I am distilled into my essence. I am no longer in control of this process. The knower and the known have shifted places. And truth is not something I can find, but something that has me in its grasp.

Theologian Lesslie Newbigin observes, “Reason, even the most acutely critical reason cannot establish truth.” … [This is because] You cannot criticize a statement of what claims to be the truth except on the basis of some other truth-claim – which at the moment – you accept without criticism. But that truth-claim on which your critique is based must in turn be criticized. Any claim to know truth is, therefore, simply a concealed assertion of power.” 

The work of scientist Michael Polanyi reminds us that “all knowing involves the personal participation of the knower, that knowing always involves the risk of being wrong, and that the struggle to know calls for the fullest exercise of personal responsibility.”

Instead of seeking proofs of God from reason or experience, the contemplative finds fulfillment simply and humbly dwelling in love in God’s presence.  The contemplative gives God entry into the world, not through a claim of truth, but through a believing heart. Instead of an exercise of power through the assertion of my reality over yours via dazzling argument or feats of spiritual prowess, the contemplative takes the vulnerable route of allowing God to make God’s own appeal through the context of his or her surrendered life.

That’s how Jesus did it. He seems to me to be asking us to do the same.

Agony in the Garden

Excerpts from Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta Ross (-Gotta), Sheed & Ward, 2002, p 118-120.  Read more….

More about prayer –

Contact Loretta –
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

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