January 28-C, 2023

Beaufort Fall 04 11/14/2017 Oil Paint Rendered — Beaufort, South Carolina
I ditched theology five years into the ministry,
on the occasion of Ruth Sample's death,
and spent the next 35.5 years making sense of things
without theology.

The de-theologizing of religion was/is incredibly simple.
Start with the basics: 
Your fingerprints.

Your fingerprints,
and your iris cones,
and your original nature
and your innate virtues/traits/characteristics

(Here we will take a break. 
"Virtues" have nothing to do with "humility,
charity, chasity, temperance, patience
and diligence," or with "benevolence, righteousness,
propriety, wisdom and trustworthiness," 
and have everything to do with the things you
do naturally and well--
your virtues are the things you are good at,
as in "The virtues of this mare are her smooth gait
and her gentle way with riders,"--
and together form a mixture which set you apart from 
everyone else who has ever, or ever will, live)

and all of the other things which shape your identity
which make you, you, 
and different from all other sentient beings.

You/I/We are the ground/foundation 
of religion sans theology.
The deeper we get into ourselves,
the deeper there is to yet go,
and we discover, as Heraclitus did,
that “traveling on every path, 
(we) will not find the boundaries 
of soul by going;
so deep is its measure.”  

Aye, but, we are a lazy bunch,
stiff-necked and hard-headed,
and do not care a bit for the work
of uncovering ourselves
and doing what is called for
in aligning ourselves with ourselves
and taking up the work of balance and harmony,
so that things mesh smoothly within and without,
making the peace
in becoming one with oursselves,
and circumstances.

We prefer the easy way,
the course of least resistance, 
and settle for doing it as it has always been done,
so that lethargy and shortcuts call the shots,
and we get by with as little as possible,
while complaining and whining about 
that being too much.

We don't have what it takes to bring ourselves forth,
be who we are,
and do what is ours to do
in each situation as it arises.

We betray our calling
and exchange our destiny
for a life of drugs/sex/alcohol/money/
in the wasteland of eternal discontent.

To do otherwise requires us to change our mind
about what is important
when we get to the end of our rope,
and do what is necessary 
to reclaim our birthright
and live in accord with our original nature
and innate virtues
through the daily practice
of emptiness/stillness/silence
and doing what is called for,
when, where and how it is called for
in each situation as it arises,
no matter what
all our life long.

(Here, we will take another break.
Emptiness is emptying ourselves
of all thoughts and emotions,
memories, dreams, desires, wishes,
hates, fears, dreads...

Letting it go the instant it arises,
ordering it to go to the room in our awareness
especially suited to contain such things,
and returning to your breathing,
becoming as empty as the space between breaths.

Silence is just that.
no music,
no drumming,
no humming,
no chanting,
no noise...

Stillness is no fidgeting,
no twisting,
no turning,
no looking around...

5 to 20 minutes once or twice a day)  

This is the Sisyphean Task
of doing the next needed thing
day-by-day for the rest of our life.


And, it is also the path from the Garden of Eden
to the Garden of Gethsemane.

All of the old biblical symbols are apropos
to our awakening and development
quite apart from theology!

De-theologizing the symbols
"turns the light around,"
and anchors us upon the ground of our being
and secures our everlasting proximity
to the well-spring of living water,
from which revitalization,
and renewal ceaselessly flow.

Our life becomes our touchstone, 
evidence of our own validity,
our own value,
our own trustworthiness--
and our north star,
guiding our way forward
in light of where we are
by virtue of where we have been.

The experience of ourselves
in our own life
through all the circumstances
and situations
to here/now,
is quite beyond words.

No one can say
how we know what we know
or how we know what's what,
or by what assurance
we can trust ourselves to our life
and find the way
when "The path that can be discerned
as a path,
is not a reliable path"
(Martin Palmer).

The Tao te Ching places our plight
clearly before us:
"Darkness within darkness,
the gateway to mystery!"

No theology can help us here!
Words cannot help us here!
Words cannot go where we must go!
Only experience,
past and present,
and intuition,
the "feel" for what's what
and what needs to be done in response to it
right here, right now,
the felt reliance upon the sense
of this, not that,
now, not then,
the spontaneous,
response to the situation as it is unfolding 
before us,
can guide us here.

can help prepare us 
for the way that cannot be discerned
as a way,
but no human guide is worth her,
is worth his, 
soothing reassurance and directing words.

We are on our own,
and learn as Jesus did,
as the Buddha did,
to rely upon the inward,
grace that is always with us
"to the end of the age."

This is the Gethsemane portion of the way,
the dying place--
to be reborn,
only to die again 
a bit further along.

Eden and Gethsemane dance us as an
everlasting duet
across time and place,
and we dance our heart out
along with them
all the way.


Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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