prayer from the cell: face to face

prayer from the cell face to face by nakedpastor david hayward

This was my very first Prayer From The Cell from April, 2008!

Wow. Lot’s has gone under the bridge since then.

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  • Unfortunately, as you know, it ain’t going to happen!
    Well, you could get together with lots other folks who are pretending it is happening. That is usually enough for them.

  • Carol

    Is it the “texting” or the proof-texting that comes between us and God?

    Sabio, what makes you assume that intimacy with God is impossible and that it is always illusory?

    First-hand religion is based on direct experience of the sacred, also called mystical experience. Second-hand religion is based on another’s experience, authority, or dogma. This distinction is often framed as the difference between spirituality (first-hand) and religion. (second-hand). –John Davis

    In mysticism that love of truth which we saw as the beginning of all philosophy leaves the merely intellectual sphere, and takes on the
    assured aspect of a personal passion. Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the
    disconcerting language of first-hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools. Hence whilst the Absolute of the metaphysicians remains a diagram – impersonal and unattainable – the Absolute of the mystics is lovable, attainable, alive. — Evelyn Underhill – MYSTICISM (Chapter One)

    God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament. –Evelyn Underhill

  • @ Carol:
    Thanks for the question. Answer: Experience, honesty and lack of reliance on quotes of others. 🙂
    And what makes you assume that God-sensation (mystical or otherwise) is little more than self-deception? (perhaps the same as me, eh?)

  • BW

    @ Carol – Well, if Sabio’s like me, I am at a place where my thinking is that God most likely doesn’t exist. So that would make intimacy with a deity impossible for me. I tried for years, so been there done that. I have to admit, part of me wishes that God is real….but then a bigger part of me feels so free without the burden I felt when I was a ‘believer’.

    @ Sabio – good point here:
    ‘Well, you could get together with lots of other folks who are pretending it is happening. That is usually enough for them.’

  • IG

    @Sabio: The main issue with your statement is not the validity of it, but the insensitivity of it. I’m sure you would find it disrespectful for someone to state that you were stupid for “not” believing. The stark reality is that there is AS much chance that God is real as there is not, the choice becomes whether or not a person chooses to believe that or not. You and BW choose to not believe, but please allow carol and david to decide on their own.

  • Carol

    Sabio and BW, I suppose experience and how we interpret our experiences is the basis for most of our beliefs and not just our religious ones, either.

    Actually, I don’t appreciate personal testimonies because they all sound so much alike: “I used to be this terrible person and then I met the Lord and now I have been completely changed.”

    Now, that’s what I’d call an illusion! My faith experience has been to be confronted with the painful reality that I am NOT as nice a person as I thought I was before becoming an adult convert from a secular humanist belief system.

    I am not going to give you my “personal testimony” because believing on the basis of another’s experience is about as valid as believing on the basis of a systematic theology that satisfies your metaphysical curiosity.

    Your relationship (or the lack thereof) is between you and God alone, as is mine.

    I went to a Reformed Evangelical worship service with a Lutheran friend of mine when I was an MS Lutheran and part of the service was “personal testimonies.” I almost lost it when Evelyn said to me on the way home, “How can you have a personal relationship with God when that whole Church has its nose up your ass?” Now there’s a very good question for you!

    Perhaps it isn’t possible to have a trust relationship with God when your God is or has been Calvin’s Cosmic Bully. I know I couldn’t.

    Suck up or get punished is not my idea of a healthy relationship. I find God within nature/immanent as well as beyond nature/transcendent. There are no rewards and punishements in nature, only consequences. I believe Nietzsche was quite correct when he stated that “[Unconditional] Love is beyond good and evil.”

    Having had a bible thrown at me for stating an unconventional interpretation of a biblical text [that was a memorable experience], I can understand why, if you were a cradle Christian, you might not be interested in experiencing God up-close and personal.

    (Quote alert, Sabio)

    “My parents spoke of piety, of love and of humility. I have really tried hard. But as long as there was a God in my world, I couldn’t even get close to my goals. My humility was not humble enough. My love remained nonetheless far less than the love of Christ or of the saints or even my own mother’s love. And my piety was forever poisoned by grave doubts. Now that God is gone, I feel that all this is mine; piety toward life, humility before my meaningless fate and love for the other children who are afraid, who are ill, who are cruel.” –Ingmar Bergman

  • Ya know, “BW“, I simply put out my statement of my feelings. David has cartooned often about the silence of God and Jesus disappearing out of his life. So I don’t think I was being “insensitive” to David. And stating my opinion, is certainly no more “disrespectful” than believers telling us their lofty, wonderful visions of their god.

    Why is it that when Atheist state their opinions about no-god, we are called insensitive and disrespectful but Christians feel they can wax poetical about the beauty of their beliefs and assume that is the cultural norm which deserves respect. Hasn’t recent news about religious folks being offended made you wonder about your reflex?

  • BW

    Sabio, I think you meant to respond to IG. I agree with you.

  • BW

    @ IG, I am not trying to convince anyone not to believe…I am simply putting my beliefs, or lack thereof, out there as well.

  • LOL, yep. Would you folks stop going by initials — arghhh!

  • Carol

    I think that what IG is trying to say is that it is not WHAT Sabio is saying that bothers people so much as it is the WAY he says it.

    Since God is Spirit, the existence of God can be neither empirically verified, nor disproven.

    One becomes convinced of God’s benevolent Presence on the basis of a conscious but “indescribable” experience of pure love.

    Spiritual certitude is quite different from dogmatic absolutism. Agnosticism about theological beliefs and doubts about one’s own understanding of God’s ways and will; but not about God’s Loving/Mercy, are quite compatible with an intuitive mystical faith.

    I often feel more bonded with persons of faith in non-Christian religious Traditions than I do with other Christians. *Same faith, different myths/beliefs* is how I regard them.

    I can also understand how sharing a “no-faith experience” can bind people emotionally as much as sharing a “faith experience.” I can sense that bond between Sabio and BW.

    So, to get back to the question of style rather than substance. Although I don’t share a no-faith bond with BW, whose replies have always been both honest AND respectful, I feel a human bond between us.

    Sabio always seems to add a snarky put-down to his replies that leaves me feeling disrespected and alienated. I’m assuming that it is not his intention to evoke that feeling; but it is there and it makes a productive dialogue with him very difficult, sometimes even impossible, for me.

    I would rather let other people have the last word than get into a personal put-down contest with them. Personal put-downs, whether given or received, always leave me feeling like I’ve been dipped in manure.

  • You know a part of the journey of a mystic is feeling like God leaves you. St. John of the Cross calls it the dark night. St. Teresa of Avila wrote about it, even Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wrote about it. It is described in the Song of Songs in the Bible. It is a horrible feeling, I barely made it through it. While God doesn’t appear to me “face to face” we are in constant communication. There is nothing special about me, He will do the same for anyone, and the key is prayer. Contemplative prayer, not just talking at God. Talk to God, yes, but learn to be quiet and listen to Him. And as anyone who has been in a relationship knows, the best, most intimate moments are when you stop talking and share a moment of silence together. Reading the Bible and going to Jesus pep rallies on Sundays is not a relationship. You have to pray. You have to put as much energy into it as you would a marriage

  • BW

    Sabio – I’ve been trying to come up with a better username 🙂 Still thinking…

  • BW

    “I often feel more bonded with persons of faith in non-Christian religious Traditions than I do with other Christians. *Same faith, different myths/beliefs* is how I regard them.

    I can also understand how sharing a “no-faith experience” can bind people emotionally as much as sharing a “faith experience.” I can sense that bond between Sabio and BW.”

    Good intuition here Carol. It is difficult for me to relate to “dogmatic absolutism” as you put it above. So I do relate to those who have a “no-faith experience” because I have been condemned so often by the faithful. And, yes, I too have had many a Bible thrown at me. Thank you for your thoughtful responses.

  • @ Carol
    (1) I am very glad your immanent mysticism works well for you. It sounds much healthier than what you had before. Somehow you still have “relationship” in all that though — sounds like left-overs.

    (2) A statement like, “Your relationship (or the lack thereof) is between you and God alone, as is mine.” That is as reasonable as me saying, “Your relationship with the Easter Bunny is between you and the Easter Bunny alone, as is mine.” If you don’t believe in the Easter Bunny then that sounds bizarre to you. You still can’t see that your statement seems bizarre to me. This is a common dismissal phrase used by theists.

    (3) I was not a “Cradle Christian” – my site tells my story if you are interested. And as I left Christianity, I also embraced mysticism for a while — but not a personal mysticism with relationship and all that evangelical stuff. Your phrase “experiencing God up-close and personal” also strikes me as very odd. But that is OK, as long as it is not in my face and it is OK to say I think it is bizarre.

    (4) Because the Casper the Ghost is spirit, he “can neither be empirically verified, nor disproven.” Yeah, so. You can still dismiss him — especially if he can do nothing. God is promised to be able to do all sorts of things and we have not one iota of evidence for that. So I dismiss that idea — not a person — just an idea that does not fulfill its promises. And if you say God can not be detected and has no effect, then ignoring that is fine too.

    As to your dislike of my “snarkiness”: For many, being challenged is all it takes to be labeled as “snarky”. And even if I were, sometimes “snarky” is needed to get through to some folks. Much as many of you are very snarky with Steve Martin — heck, sometimes snarky is a good strategy. Especially when towards people who feel religiousity should be the status quo.

  • I’m baffled by that strategy of comparing billions of peoples’ through billions of generations belief in a higher power or Mystery or The Source or whatever to Casper or the Spaghetti Monster. I think knowing what we know now, if billions of people believed in Unicorns or the Spaghetti Monster, I’d be concerned. But the evolution of one’s spirituality from fundamentalist to evangelical to mystical to nameless should at least be respected, in my opinion. I’m the first one to challenge authority, the status quo, tradition and its books. But to stand up to so much variety of religious experience down through the ages and across cultures and societies and religions and say you believe in the Spaghetti Monster as if to ridicule and negate all that is curious to me.

  • @ Naked David,

    David, to have a fruitful conversation, we’d have to be specific about what “God” is thought to be.

    Billions of people, through many generations (no where near “billions”) have (and still do) belief that gods and spirits cause sickness and storms. Good gods & spirits, to these billions, can heal sicknesses, if they are pleased.

    “Billions” of people believing this should be of no comfort to you. Instead those “billions” should speak to you about the ignorance of humanity and the danger of thinking mere numbers make something right.

    Now, if you want a different definition of “God” (for that one has been the majority through the ages), then we can talk about that. But likewise, we should not make “Billions” of believers a criteria to accept anything — well, except foolishness.

  • Sabio, my good man!, you should know from my comment that I wasn’t referring to a unified definition of “god”, but to a unified reality reflected in a diversity of beliefs that many people do and have suspected that there was something “More” to reality.

  • My point, my good chap, is that the “Billions” of believer argument does not work.

    It doesn’t work for magic gods.
    It doesn’t work for liberal neutered gods.

    What helped us rid ourselves of the magic gods was testing claims — testing all those billions of false claims of the billions of believers over 40,000 generations or so. We proved them false. And so what “God” meant had to change radically.

    I get that people want to hang on to “bigger than me”, “meaning”, “my dead ones live on” , “I will live on”, “I am important” and all that. I get it of course. But after getting rid of the magic gods, the trajectory should be clear and that is why fundamentalists scream.

    Why should there be a “unified reality” (what the heck does that mean). The unified thing was magic — and we proved it wrong. Now liberals want to tell all those superstitious ancestors and present day folks what the REALLY believe is different. That is the arrogance, to tell others that the REAL GOD is something different than they say. All of a sudden you mystics got it right?

  • I guess I feel no urgency to prove anyone wrong in matters of belief. What matters in the end is love. Belief and the objects of the belief are secondary. In the communities I served I encouraged diversity of belief or non-belief… whatever… because to me what was most important was unity. Uniformity of belief is impossible and probably dangerously suspect. So my goal is unity with diversity.

  • Well I certainly feel an urgency to prove people wrong “in matters of belief.”

    For example:
    * spirits cause illness
    * homosexuality is a mental illness
    * women are inferior to men
    * prayer can cure illness
    * angry gods/spirits cause storms, earthquakes, famine …

    I am thankful for all those who fought these “matters of belief”.

    Now, I guess it comes down to just what beliefs you are talking about. And to determine the consequences of these beliefs — how they are used.

    “All beliefs are wonderful” certainly is not my mantra. (nor is it yours, I am sure)

  • In many ways I agree Sabio, especially when beliefs affect morality and ethics. Absolutely.

  • Kris

    One of my deepest yearnings…a face to face convo with God…*sigh*

  • Caryn LeMur

    Kris: I hear you. I wanted that too… and still do.

    “Now we see His reflection in a mirror of metal, but then, we will see Him face to face.”

    Based on the verse (above), I see conversations with God in this life as ‘reflections’, and the desire to have more than ‘reflections’ as good and normal. And that analogy used by Paul helps me to understand the limits of my mystic experience – it will never fully satisfy my desire.

    I enjoy a blend of reasoning and mysticism – this seems to work for me. Yet, even my reasoning will not be fully satisfied until I am with Christ – ‘for now, we know in part; then, we shall know fully …’.

    Thus, I make room for agnostic, atheist, fundementalist, evangelical, mystic – none of us perceive the spiritual fully or even reason fully. We each have compassion on each other; we each have humility in our understanding of the sciences or of the godhead.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Carol

    Sabio, your theory that religious belief is the cause of all of humanities social ills was disproven by the Communists in atheistic Russia, remember.

    Human nature is human nature. The “glories and miseries of man” are a fact of life always have been and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we should just forget about looking for a quick cure, especially one that involves a scapegoat, and concentrate on coping with it in as kind and humane a way as possible.

    Utopian idealism is so cruel. It always finds a way to justify eliminating those whose imperfections prevent them from measuring up to the standards that define perfection.

    Many immature mystics succumb to the error of failing to love those who do not share their yearning for spiritual perfection. Mother Teresa was a mature mystic. Denied the consolation of a direct experience of the Presence of God, she found Jesus mediated in the lives of the socially marginalized, the poorest of the poor, humanity’s off-scourings. Do you really think that the world would be better off without its Mother Teresa’s?

    “The fullness of our heart comes in our actions: how I treat the leper, how I treat the dying person, how I treat the homeless. Sometimes it is more difficult to work with street people than with the people in our homes for the dying because the dying are peaceful and waiting; they are ready to go to God. You can touch the sick and believe, or you can touch the leper and believe, that is the body of Christ you are touching, but it is more difficult when these people are drunk or shouting to think that this is Jesus in that distressing disguise. How clean and loving our hands must be to be able to bring compassion to them!” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

    “There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls – 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers.”
    –Mother Teresa

    “There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
    Jesus is my God,
    Jesus is my Spouse,
    Jesus is my Life,
    Jesus is my only Love,
    Jesus is my All in All;
    Jesus is my Everything.”
    ~ Mother Teresa

    Once we take our eyes away from ourselves, from our interests, from our own rights, privileges, ambitions – then they will become clear to see Jesus around us.–Mother Teresa

    Of course, formal religion has also produced the Torquemadas and the Calvins who would annihilate anyone who does not conform to their idea of human perfection.

    “When religion is in the hands of the mere natural man, he is always the worse for it; it adds a bad heat to his own dark fire and helps to inflame his four elements of selfishness, envy, pride, and wrath. And hence it is that worse passions, or a worse degree of them are to be found in persons of great religious zeal than in others that made no pretenses to it.” –William Law

    “I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse. . . . Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.” ~C.S. Lewis in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec.20 1961

    A pious mien can certainly cloak a multitude of pathologies; but there are even a few atheists who share such narcissistic desires, so the problem must have a more complicated cause than religious belief, no?

    Perhaps it is egoistic narcissism, making oneself and one’s desires the measure of all things good and/or acceptable.

    “Von Huegel, in one of his letters, writes of W.G. Ward (“Ideal Ward”) as an “eager, one-sided, great, unintentionally unjust soul” who on his deathbed saw the mischief of his life–he had consistently demanded that all others be like himself!” This is the root of inhumanity!
    ~Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

    What is the difference between believing that all of our problems will be solved when everyone shares my religious belief and believing that all of our problems will be solved when everyone shares my atheistic belief? Is there such a thing as atheistic fundamentalism?

    “Beware your enemy, for he is the one you will become most like.” ~ Source Unknown

  • @ Carol
    I will ignore your pathological quoting.
    As to what you tried to say, I never said “religious belief is the cause of all humanities social ills”. So if you’d like to discuss what I wrote, and get your head out of your quote machine, the conversation might make progress.