Religion and Spirituality

Butterfly in Spring

Butterfly in SpringMedium: Acrylic

Size: 11 X 14, framed 14 X 17

Private collection

Butterflies have a great spiritual symbolism which comes from the transformation from caterpillar to this beautiful creature of grace and beauty. Butterflies are here to show us the path of freedom; freedom from our past and the transcendence of the soul.

I Am Grateful! He Is Not My Pope

Source: Yahoo
Source: Yahoo

Yesterday, as I was conversing with friends on Facebook, I was seeing a variety of different posts about the new pope, Pope Francis. Many were encouraged. More were unhappy and disappointed with the lack of progress that is being made by the Catholic church.

 

I suppose it is much easier for me to look at this with an objective outlook, he is not my Pope. For some reason, ever since I was a young girl, I have questioned the “rules and laws” espoused by any church that smacked of injustice, inequality, judgment, and a lack of inclusion. I am not surprised that the new pope follows the doctrines of the Catholic church without question. He would never have made it to Cardinal status if he did not, and would never have been viewed as a viable candidate for Pope if he did not.

This outlook, of course, has helped my spirit resonate with the First Agreement of Toltec Wisdom as written about by don Miguel Ruiz in his book, The Four Agreements. The First Agreement states “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. Underneath that agreement is the concept of looking at the agreements you have made with your tribe (family, friends, church community, teachers) and your culture, both ancient and current. These are agreements you have made without reservation, without thought as to whether they are true for you. Without asking the question, “does my spirit resonate with this agreement”, and listening for the truth from deep inside.

As I think about the views held by Pope Francis with an intention of standing in non-judgment and staying assumption free, taking him at his word – I see that he strongly believes in helping the world’s poor, protecting women and children from abuse and exploitation, he opposes abortion and views choice as a “death movement” and he opposes same-sex marriage stating, as reported by L’Osservatore Romano:

“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.

Let’s not be naive: This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God’s plan. This is not a mere legislative proposal (that’s just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God… Let’s look to St. Joseph, Mary, and the Child to ask fervently that they defend the Argentine family in this moment… May they support, defend, and accompany us in this war of God. “

 

I can only bless Pope Francis, and know that these are his truths – that they may have come from his culture and/or his tribe. I cannot judge him, but my truths are not his in all cases. I recognize that I cannot change him, or his church. And, I am not responsible for him.

So, let me be impeccable with my word:

  • I agree with helping our fellow (wo)man. None should be abused or exploited. The ill deserve our love, compassion, and to be cared for. Humanity, not just women and children deserve our love, compassion, and to be cherished and not be abused. The elderly deserve our love, compassion, and our monetary support so that they might be able to share their wisdom without fear of destitution.
  • I believe a woman must be given the right to choose abortion under certain relatively narrow circumstances. This is my truth – based on my experiences in life and my belief in responsible choice.
  • And, as I watch the very elderly, and very sick people around me, I also believe they should be allowed the right to remove themselves from pain. This does not “make them disposable and worthless”, it honors them. This is my truth, and is based on my life experiences, and the stated desire of my parents.
  • I also honor the hundreds of LGBT people in my life. It has been a strong part of my life’s journey to embrace this wonderful community, and to be accepted by them as an ally and advocate. This is my truth, and I cannot believe that this is “a war of God” or that this is not “God’s plan”. Perhaps it is because I believe that being gay is part of God’s plan, to teach us that we are all unique, treasured and loved. And, that we should treat everyone with compassion and more than just tolerance or acceptance – but embrace them for who they are. My Grandma Violet used to say “God doesn’t make junk!” And those are words to live by.

I am grateful he is not my Pope, and I honor him for living his truth. I am free to listen to my heart, to act on my truth, and to love  and support without passing judgment, without taking away freedom and the right to choice, and to extend the hand of compassion and peace. I am free to change my world, one person at a time.

 

 

My Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage

I am constantly looking for ways to make things as simple as they can be, and I’ve been thinking about this very complicated issue for a long time. I know that many of you have strong emotions tied to the topic of same-sex marriage – on both sides of the issue, and I respect your feelings. All I am asking is for you to give consideration to my thoughts, and see if you can push the sides of your box out far enough to embrace a new idea.

Marriage licenses started in the early 1600’s in Massachusetts, and in the Middle Ages in Europe to permit a marriage which would have been considered illegal if the appropriate banns had not been posted. Banns are proclamations or public announcement that a marriage is about to take place. It was commonly used by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church (abolished in 1983).  The purpose was to give people enough notice to raise church or legal impediments to the marriage to prevent invalid marriages. These impediments would normally include a pre-existing marriage not annulled or dissolved, a vow of celibacy, forced marriage, or couples related too closely.

Over the years, marriage licenses have been used by states to prohibit marriages to those who were deemed inappropriate. Stephanie Coontz, in a NYTimes article entitled “Taking Marriage Private”, states that “by the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, ‘mulattos,’ Japanese, Chinese, Indians, ‘Mongolians’ ‘Malays’ or Filipinos”. Several states refused licenses to addicts, drunks, mentally deficient or those who had been previously married. Most of these laws were repealed by the mid-1900s.

Most licenses/documents now (2012) serve two purposes:

  1. Legal and contractual
  2. A record of the ceremony of marriage itself, if signed by the couple and witnessed.

Every state within the United States requires a marriage license (marriage certificate), in order to legalize their marriage. This provides proof of legal obligations that have been entered into, as well as who receives Social Security, insurance, medical and survivor benefits.

A partial list of rights/benefits and legal obligations under Federal Law[1] include:

  • Right to spousal benefits while married
  • Joint tax filing; Income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption and estimates
  • Disability benefits
  • Medicaid
  • Property tax exemptions for totally disabled veterans
  • Joint and family-related rights
  • Tax-free transfer of property between spouses
  • Special immigration consideration to spouses of citizens and resident aliens
  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Funeral and bereavement leave
  • Joint adoption and foster care
  • Spousal medicat decisions
  • Permission to make funeral arrangements for a deceased spouse
  • Right to inheritance of property
  • Spousal privilege in court cases
  • For those who are divorced or widowed, the right of many of ex- or late spouse’s benefits
  • Spousal income and assets are counted in determining need in many forms of government assistance
  • Ineligible for National Affordable Housing program if spouse ever purchased a home
  • Ineligible to receive varius survivor benefits upon remarriage
  • Providing financial support for raising children born within a marriage

That’s the history, current usage, rights and benefits associated with “marriage”. Now, let’s make it simple.

The way our marriage license laws are being used today, they restrict marriage for same-sex individuals because it is considered inappropriate by a variety of religions, but not all. And, by mixing religion and law, not only are we moving back to the Middle Ages, we are depriving people of the legal rights, benefits and responsibilities given to those who commit to long-term relationships based on love, respect and dignity. We had moved away from this perspective when we repealed the discriminatory laws in the mid-1900’s, and it hasn’t taken long for us to find another group of people to legally discriminate against.

Our country was founded upon the separation of church and state, as laid out in the 1st amendment to the constitution.[2] And, to keep things simple for all of us, we should go back to what was intended by paying attention to our Constitution. Belief systems, and religious practices are too unique, and too widely disparate, for us to bring them into the laws governing our nation.

For me, because marriage licenses are used primarily to determine legal rights, benefits and responsibilities, and can only be dissolved through legal dissolution, it has become a contract – pure and simple. In my mind, this is ALL that either the federal government or state governments have a right to enforce. And, last I heard, any citizen can enter into a contract unless they are a minor, or have been declared incompetent to do so due to mental incapacity (which also requires legal action).

Any divine blessing can be conferred by a religious body according to it’s beliefs, and should be kept separate from legal determination. This allows those entering into a “Blessed Union” to choose the religious body reflecting their own beliefs and values to confer the blessing, and removes religious discrimination from our laws.

Because I hold each person’s rights to their religion to be sacred, I cannot and will not argue with them over verses or belief systems. I simply believe that everyone deserves the same legal rights as every other citizen of the United States, and the state of Nebraska.



[1] Per Wikipedia, prior to the enactment of DOMA, the General Accounting Office (as the GAO was then called) identified 1,049[2] federal statutory provisions in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor. An update was published in 2004 by the GAO covering the period between September 21, 1996 (when DOMA was signed into law) and December 31, 2003. The update identified 120 new statutory provisions involving marital status, and 31 statutory provisions involving marital status repealed or amended in such a way as to eliminate marital status as a factor.

[2] The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. It enforces the “separation of church and state.” Furthermore, the Supreme Court has interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.

Reflecting on Gratitude

I have been thinking about gratitude a great deal this week, one of Unity Lincoln’s core values.  In case you don’t know this by heart yet, we say “We recognize, rejoice in, and give thanks for all of God’s gifts.” As I reflect, these are the things that come to mind for me today:

I am grateful my children and granddaughter are no longer living in Aurora, Colorado. They frequented the Cinema complex that was the site of the horrific murders last week.

I am grateful my gay son has not been the target of a hate crime since the late nineties, and that he works for a company that has an HR diversity policy inclusive of sexual orientation.

I am grateful that the economy did not impact our family any worse than it did, and Karl and I are able to live our retirement with all our basic needs being met, and fulfill some of our dreams.

I am grateful for friends who are always there when I need them, and grateful I am able to be there for them when they need me.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and my ability to recognize them as they arise.

Here’s the catch, though. To borrow a phrase from Jack Canfield, here is what worries me… is it possible we could be falling into a dangerous trap that keeps us from being successful in moving our culture forward? Is it possible….

That we are settling for less than we deserve in the name of gratitude.

Rather than taking action and actively educating the people in our communities about the issues facing the gay community (LGBT), and working to create equality in all areas of life, we say “I’m grateful it doesn’t impact my family.”

Rather than taking action and working to educate the people in our communities about the effects of hate and bullying behavior, so we might have an impact on that behavior, we say “I’m grateful I have learned the power of affirmative prayer, and this type of behavior is not the norm in my community.”

Rather than taking action to do something about the impasse our elected officials seem to enjoy creating in relation to our economic and health needs as we enter another frantic presidential and congressional election, we say “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

As I reflect, I must remind myself that wanting more does not mean that I’m ungrateful. It means that I recognize that I must take action in order to move forward. Most people are too frightened of what others will think of them to go after their dreams. It is my fervent desire to not be one of them.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  – John F. Kennedy

It is my dream that we live in a highly diverse community, where everyone has the same rights and responsibilities, and our society recognizes that the spirit of God resides in each person. Therefore, we are all one. I want all my children to be given equal opportunities, and the right to marry the person they love, and raise children.

Because we create our life experiences through our way of thinking, I want to live in an environment where everyone is encouraged to live in to their potential, recognizing and celebrating their inherent worth and dignity. I want our young people to be given all the support they need as they grow so that they might develop healthy thoughts, and respect for themselves and their peers.

If these are my wants, I must reflect on the action I am willing to take in order to do my part to move my community forward. And for that, I am grateful to be part of Unity because I understand that knowledge of Unity principles is not enough, we must live them. We must take action to live our core values, and our principles. Only we have the power to create the life we want, and it will be as big as we are willing to make it. We have a choice: to be grateful for what we have without acknowledging what we want or to be grateful for all we have been given and taking action to create the world we want to live in.

Please join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and for those who were terrorized over the last few weeks. We know that God is with us everywhere, and pray that we might see our next right step as God In Action. We pray for joy, kindness, love, generosity, and an inclusive spirit. Amen

Blessings,

Georgia

The Aramaic Prayer of Jesus

The Spherical We

My friends are fascinating!  The other day I mentioned to a friend of mine how I would like to find the original version of the Lord’s Prayer.  I heard it one Sunday when T. Marni Voss gave the Sunday lesson at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, and I fell in love with it.  My friend gave me the blessing of searching for the information herself and shared the prayer with me and several others on our spiritual community’s Facebook page.  I don’t think this is the one I had heard before, but I love it!  Thank you, Aimee.

Of course, I remained curious, and found a similar, but different, version on The Spherical We blog.   I am sharing with you the version Aimee found, and if you would like to see the other, please click on the link above.

THE ARAMAIC PRAYER OF JESUS
as translated from Aramaic by Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz of the Sufi Order of the West

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us — make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other’s guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.

Does this not make your heart just sing?

Here is what it means to me:

In this prayer, we are asking that the light of the Universe, the Source, light us from within so that we might be useful.  We might then become one with the Source’s desire, and one with creation.

We ask that we be given what we need each day to sustain us and help us grow,   so that the shame and the guilt we have bound ourselves with over the mistakes we have made will be loosened, and that we release and let go of any part we might play in anyone else’s shame and guilt.

We ask that we see materialism and metaphysical reality for what they are and that we be released from fear so that we might fulfill who we are meant to be.

We recognize and acknowledge that you are our Source.  You give us the power to be and do what we are meant to do, and it is for us to step into it.  I believe this in my heart.

I would love to hear what it means to you as you walk your path on your own journey.

Practicing Self-Compassion

This week I am practicing having compassion for myself.  Connecting with the best of me; the person I am here to be.  It is not always easy, and sometimes I show up badly in my human interactions.

It is 2:30am, and I am irritated with another night of less than four hours of sleep.  Byron, aka Big Dog, has had another seizure, with a major loss of bodily functions. He is pacing, searching for something, whining and howling as he talks to us.  Trying to tell us what is going on with him.  I am insisting that Karl call the vet in the morning.  We need something to help Byron – Big Dog is refusing Reiki, getting up and moving as best he can when I place my hands on him; howling when I attempt it long distance.  My patience is stretched.

The lessons and opportunities here for me are similar to those that are offered up for millions of people across this world as they deal with family illness, trauma, babies with colic, and a myriad of other reasons for the pain of loss, lack of sleep, not knowing exactly what to do, and not liking the options in front of them.

Self-compassion is all about acknowledging your feelings, recognizing the pain and suffering, and the resistance to what is.  It is about giving yourself the same compassion you would give to someone else going through similar circumstances.   It is giving yourself a hug, and saying “I understand”.  It isn’t wallowing in the pain, but simply recognizing that it is there and you are dealing as best you can, showing up as you are meant to be.

Some of you might be thinking – this doesn’t measure up to what I’m going through, what my family is going through. It is a dog!

You will be right, it isn’t the same. Byron is a dog; and yet, a member of the family.  A sentient being who cannot readily share his feelings, his fears, and where it hurts.  He is my son’s dog – and I have not yet told Joe of the issues we are facing.  I needed to be sure before I brought that pain into his life.  He loves his dog, as do we.

And, so, I am practicing compassion for myself as I ready myself for the dawn of the day.  Calling the vet, deciding the best course of action, and sharing the news with our son so that he might come love and hold his dog (in hopes that we can get some medication to help Byron) or say good-bye as we wish him a peaceful and brilliant transition.

Self-compassion is a concept that many do not understand or have difficulty with.  They were brought up to be stoic – my husband ,self-critical – me, or to think that self-compassion is an excess of indulgence. Choosing to stay stoic, self-critical or resistant in an invitation to disaster as we face situations that are difficult.  The stress we create for ourselves is tremendous, leading to ramifications to our health.

Today – actually early morning – I am choosing self-compassion as I listen to Big Dog moan and whine as he begins to calm down.  He is no longer howling as only an Alaskan Malamute can.  It is good practice for me.  It helps me more readily and mindfully give compassion to those I have relationships with, and yes, even those I don’t.

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Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.   Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.