Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 12/11/2011

(10 people participated)

In the Bible (John 6:62), Jesus is described as the “Son of Man”, the human one who lived as the archetypal model for humanity. His actions and perspective are studied in this light:

1. For example, in the Bible (Luke 7:44), it is noted that Jesus washed his disciples' feet. To frame the cultural context, the group discussed different forms of showing reverent respect in the West and around the world.

In Western society, people are used to shaking each other's hands as a way of showing humble respectful personal attention. Jesus' action of washing his disciples' feet goes one step beyond how people in India frequently show great respect to each other. They bow to touch each others' feet as a practice of the awareness that God is everywhere and in all. This deeper more careful attention also helps to remind the recipient person of his or her own divine essence and helps to cultivate an earnest response.

All in the Adult Spirituality Group agreed that it's very important to give respect in culturally appropriate ways that the other can understand and appreciate. Day M. attended a Devi Bhava in San Ramon, CA.
* Please see the program details of a Devi Bhava at - (One reason why I think that the program details are on the Web is so that people can open their minds beforehand to this culturally exotic event.)

2. We also chatted about the notion of Holy Communion, that we are sampling the body and blood of Jesus Christ through the wafer & wine. As a symbolic action, this seems an intimate way to experience the Christ’s teachings and example. As a literal action, this seems cannibalistic, a poor example for our young boys to learn, just as they often learn to respect discrimination and bullying among their friends.

What ever happened to softness and kindness? (Francis & Rose B.)

For next week, please finish reading Chapter 8, entitled, “Compassion”, in which Jesus’ role as a game-changer is discussed. Try to respond to the question, “Do you really want to make a change?” (Pastor Dan)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 11/6/11

TODAY - We completed questions of interest in the rich Chapter 2, in Questions of Jesus:

Jesus asked, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" (Luke 12:14, see p. 30)
"Jesus does not want to get involved in our family feuds or divide up land and possessions. Rather, he is trying to get us to see beyond ourselves, our material goods, our brief lives. He wants to save our souls, to change the world, and to inspire us to lay down our lives on behalf of the human race as nonviolent martyrs for justice and peace." (see p. 31)
Day - Jesus is a heart/soul/identity doctor. Us humans are so easily distracted by our egoic notion of "I am the body", and forget to raise our consciousness to realize how God is our true living self and identity "I". With this higher perception, "Jesus rarely loses his patience. he is like Buddha, like Gandhi, an icon of peace and serenity, even as all hell breaks loose around him." (p. 33)
Bob - Jesus' whole goal was to empower people to do what he did, to lift people's eyes to a new level.

Jesus inquired, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?" (John 14:9, on p. 39) "I am the way and the truth and the life," Jesus explains. "If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." (p. 39)
Day - At a certain level, it's fairly easy to revere and honor God. It seems that Jesus wants us to go deeper, to learn from him and do the work requisite to achieve his miracles ourselves. In the following quote, I'm curious about Mother Theresa's center of awareness -
"As Mother Theresa washed the vomit and vermin off the face, chest, and legs of a dying man, the reporter watched in horror, appalled that she would go near such filth. "I wouldn't do that for a million dollars," he said.
"Neither would I," Mother Theresa answered." (p. 36)

Rose Bailey asked - Would we still be interested in what Jesus said, without him showing his miraculous powers? This led into a discussion about how humans clamor for material possessions:
"Our context today is characterized by a glaring disparity between the rich and the poor." (p. 37)
Tom Ward - In the U.S., the gap between the rich and poor is widening. The U.S. has the most radical extremes among almost all countries on Earth."
Gudrun - "I just came from China and was positively impressed. Democracy isn't efficient. In the U.S., we're too focused on capitalism for the creation of material wealth, without using our government to direct it for the people's benefit. We need to use the counter-balancing powers of our representative democracy to provide justice and righteousness."
Pastor Dan - Most of the wealth nowadays is gotten from usery, or making money off other people's money. (See
Gudrun - "It is important to set up a good will to protect children's inheritance and future relationship with each other."

NEXT WEEK - We'll discuss:
- Chapter 3, Purity of Heart (p. 410->)
- Chapter 4, Conversion (p. 49->) Giselle thinks this chapter is superb!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 10/23/11

Today, the nine attendees discussed Chapter 2, entitled "Identity" and posed the question to ourselves that Jesus posed to a wealthy young man, "Why do you ask me about what is good?" (Matthew 19:17, that we read on p. 15 of our book, Questions of Jesus).

Why do we ask Jesus about what is good? Do we expect a direct answer?

This question is not simple and requires long-term personal introspection. What are our expectations of a so called God-man who is to "save" us and answer our life existential questions? The group discussion, by elucidating the complex nature of this question helped map the path towards a meaningful answer:

Day - Nowadays, the Internet and other entertainment is a form of material wealth that can be very distracting from what Buddha has called the Middle Path, which best balances one between the delusions and distractions of material wealth as well as the hardships of poverty. The Middle Path is best to discover and deepen one's spiritual perspective and realization over the long-term.
Bob - People have an early basic sense for right and wrong, just by sitting and naturally listening to what is going on.
Francis - Ignorance is bliss. The more you know and perspective you gain, the more clear and responsible you become to understand and manage the complex ethics of mature adult reality.
Pastor Dan - It is our responsibility to have the discipline of love.
Bob - In the bible, the blind Bartimeus had a lot more to benefit from by immediately dropping his possessions before Jesus. The rich man has more external responsibility and a complex set of priorities that made him more attached and thus slower.
Rose - I think we get bogged down by our nuances of the questions - "What is good?" and "Who do you think I am?"

FOR NEXT WEEK: Please continue to read Chapter 2, focusing on the questions on pp. 19 & 23.

List of possible after New Year 2012 readings:
1. The Red Tent (novel)-
2. The Poisonwood Bible (novel)-
3. Everything Must Change: Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope, by Brian McLaren

Friday, October 21, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 10/16/11

With love, respect, and hope, Jesus repeatedly inquires of his followers, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20; Matthew 16:15) At some point along our faith journey, Jesus turns to each one of us as well, and asks us this same question. Who do you say that I am? (p. 13)

And so we responded:

CharlesJesus was a humanization of God so people could relate, to make humans in God the focus.

Rose – What’s the difference between Jesus and humankind? I see Jesus as a mentor, showing people how to live. Jesus was fully human and divine. I give my all to work. How much energy at the end of the day do I have to ponder who I am?

Bob – We, in Western society, can’t help but anthropomorphosize ourselves.

Day – It’s an identity question. Are we the body & our set of relationships? What are our potentials and potencies? I’ve been reading about the concept of divinity in humans. Check out “The Spark of God lives within the Heart -

Pastor Dan – The kingdom of God lives within. God is everywhere. The Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, and Mother Theresa cleanly see divine reality everywhere.


Bob – E.g., Mother Theresa says that Jesus’ pronouncement to seekers of the divine to give up our material wealth truly means to give up the veil of our egos.

Charles – It’s important to understand our use of the word “ego”. As we use it, “ego” is actually “Id”. The id comprises the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the "pleasure principle", seeking to avoid pain or displeasure aroused by increases in instinctual tension.[2] Ego is trying to make reality fit us. Instead, God wants us to serve others as a vessel of the divine reality.

Bob – People learn separation over time to survive in the world.

Charles – The ego helps us relate to the world. Jesus wasn’t appealing to the ego, but to the reality of our divine source.


For Next Week (10/23): Reread Chapter 2, as we only got through a few questions.

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 10/9/11

We're just starting to read the book, The Questions of Jesus - Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life's Great Answers, by John Dear.

On the back cover is written:

This illuminating examination of the Gospels reveals how the questions Jesus asks of his followers lead the way to a deeper understanding of the meaning of life and the mystery of God.

The Gospels are filled with stories, parables, miracles, commandments, and dramatic incidents that trace Jesus’ life and recount his teachings. A close reading of the Gospels reveals, however, that they are also filled with questions. As John Dear points out in this remarkable book, Jesus, like any great teacher and rabbi, “has a question for everyone he meets, for every occasion, for every experience, for every potential disciple.” Dear uses these questions as a starting point, an invitation to readers to discover the lessons they contain by searching their own hearts and minds for answers.

Throughout The Questions of Jesus, Dear interweaves insights from ethical and religious teachers ranging from Buddha to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. Using recent events as powerful and poignant examples, he shows why a renewed commitment to Jesus’ message of nonviolence, compassion, justice, and peace is essential to healing a world torn by violence and war.

* There's a decent book review at –

FRANCIS reflected that Jesus not answering some sorts of questions is a kind of answer itself. That way Jesus doesn’t just prescribe simple answers to complex problems, but he leads people to find answers in their own lives, which is more useful. In this way, Jesus manages to put bridges between the cliffs in people's life. Often what we need is to get the assurance of love to lead on through life.

TOM mentioned that since God is the ultimate reality, spiritual seekers aren’t necessarily finding solutions via analytical logical answers, but instead through contentment and repose.

BOB – For example, a man in a grocery store asking “What are you looking for?” is easier to answer. But, regarding meta questions, one can’t so easily answer.

GISELLE revealed “Jesus helps me to get guidance regarding my own expectations. It’s one of the strongest questions I can ask my kids.”

* Day suggests our next book to read and discuss be, Everything Must Change: Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope, by Brian McLaren.

What do you think? Please check out a review –

FOR NEXT WEEK: Discuss Chapter 2 – “Identity” (30pp.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 5/15/11

On Sunday 5/15, we discussed the chapter, "Week 7 - Risen" to conclude the book, Calmly Plotting the Resurrection:

EMPTINESS - Thea W. highlighted that there are many ways to gain insights about God from one's personal experience in creation. "In God's house there are many mansions. Many rooms. There is a place for you who failed to keep alive or to love perfectly your own child." (p. 80)
- Rose B., a school teacher, responded that it's necessary to hold emptiness in one's heart for insights to arise. "Everyday, I lead class in group breathing exercise to center people's attention for study."
- Charles begins stressful encounters with a brief prayer.
- Don added that a person needs to release the sense of failure to persist for success.
- Bob, "We all benefit from finding emptiness, a balanced space to be able to focus and integrate disparate elements that cause stress."
- Day M. spring-cleaned and child-proofed the entire house & yard to prep for my sister's and nieces' arrival to allow them to experience the wonder of discovery untainted by the stress of dangers.

BOOK QUOTE ABOUT STRINGS - "We remain string to short to be saved until God forgives us and then we connect. We become something strong and useful and capable of holding other stuff together. String separated is nothing; string connected is something."(p. 83)
"It's important to not just house-clean our hearts, but to butler (organize & bring harmony) them." (Day M.)
"I think our reactions to others should be nuanced to encompass what they intend. Therefore, we should spend some time to craft our response to be able to be effective, heart-to-heart, not just have a visceral polarizing gut response that can pull people apart." (Francis)

Regarding DAY 4, Pastor Dan mentioned that his ministerial role is to be a keeper of the story, the vessel.
Regarding DAY 5, Rose B. noted that it's really important to have depth of conversations.

Charles passed out our next read, Seeing Gray- in a World of Black and White (Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics).
- For next Sunday, we'll read the Forward, Introduction, and Part 1 - Chapter One. (until page 8).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 5/8/11

(10 attendees)
5/8/11 Adult Spirituality Group:

(Rose) "Forgive others so you can move on in your life."
(Charles) "Donna E Schaper is talking about individual spirituality."
(Dan) "The best parts of us are willing to suffer personally for vast benefits for others and the common future."
(Day) "It helps me to relate with others in periods of conflict to remember my center is at my heart as a whole, not getting stuck with a viceral polarizing gut reaction."
(Bob) "What we consider evils change over time. They vary from context to context. Perspective of the universe has changed over time."
(Charles) "There is a greater power game going on in the U.S. than the power game going on in rape. Power is reversed, through control over weaker societies. This structure is accepted."
(Francis) "We need to nurture males to enjoy & experience our feminine qualities. Otherwise, males are set up to only express themselves through dominance."

For Sunday 5/15/11, please read chapter 7 through to the end of the book.

The next book we'll read:
Black and White (a series of short essays sent to Tom & Thea Ward, which cover many subjects)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 5/1/11

We discussed Week 6 - "Rising", pp. 66 - 79.

For Next Week, we'll discuss "Day 6" & "Day 7" of Week 6, pp. 76 - 79.

Members of the group expressed interest in us together reading fiction, possibly over the summer. Check out the description of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver -
- Barbara Kingsolver's books generate a lot of thought and discussion.
- It made Frances so grateful!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 4/17/11

(five attended)
Today, we related the symbolic action of Communion to the themes in book section, "Week 4 - Parabolic Thinking: The Land Beyond Lost, Next to Doubt":

What's the point of Communion as a communication with one's Soul and God?
1. Communion is like an hors d'euvres of Grace. One's body gets a taste of heaven's love fest.
2. One's intention adds greatly to the intensity of one's experience of Communion. It makes the experience more memorable for lasting value if one provides a proper context by being consciously receptive both to the direct experience and the symbolic nature of Communion.
3. We're always communicating with others! It's so important to be self-conscious to care for our bodies, minds, and life habits. We should consider ourselves as temples for God's works & inspiration on Earth, in Communion with divine Heart, instead of being myopic and self absorbed.

For next Sunday, please read "Week 5 - What Is Enough Resurrection?", p. 55 - 65.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 4/3/11

The nine attendees had a rich discussion about the second section, "Week 2 - Are We There Yet?":

Frances B., "Participating with the poor is an experience that benefits all involved. Poorness is not just monetarily. Some are poor in time, but we may have wealth in health or personality."
Day M., "Poorness is always in oneself. It's partly reflective."

Giselle (80 birthdays), "When I was a student in the Convent, I did daily Mass for 30 minutes, everyday. We had to do it. The habit of daily reflection helps instill discipline."
Bob S., "The structure of school discipline and military service helped me think of others and God."

Bill H., "Do we really believe God is here?"
Joan H., "Sometimes we don't let in God, the good stuff."
Thea W., "Three things I recite everyday:
1. What wonderful things are we going to do today?
2. How will I make You smile?
3. Fill me with Your holy spirit.

For next week, please -
• List the criteria you use to determine the quality of your life. (See p. 20)
• Read Week 3 (p. 29 - 42).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 3/27/11

(There were seven participants.)
We all are in the process or learning how to live a life of forgiveness in Jesus' model:
FRANCIS S. shared a definition of forgiveness. "Kaphar" in Hebrew means to forgive (cleanse pardon, purge away).
BOB S. mentioned that to learn how to forgive is to overcome pride. To be forgiven is to overcome hopelessness and despair.
It is possible for a BCUCC Movie Night to watch a Catholic movie he was familiar with, As fast as my feet will carry me. (It's theme is that every man deserves to be forgiven.)
BILL K. brought out how the author interplays space and place in the Day Two chapter, A Prepared Place. For example, "Forgiveness knows just how much love there is... plenty."
DAN S. highlighted the importance of exercising forgiveness as a daily practice.
DAY M. discussed his intuition of subtle healing and balance with another person that had occurred this last week. The process seemed to be initiated by the other person, and included DAY proactively responding by making a mental choice to forgive and broaden his perspective, towards a final integrated whole Heart for both.

FOR NEXT SUNDAY, 4/3, please reflect when reading Week Two content, how the questions at end of chapters bring out the quoted bible verses.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 3/20/11

(Today, there were eight attendees.)
We're starting to discuss a new book, Calmly Plotting the Resurrection - Lenten Reflections for Individuals and Groups. The back cover of the book has the following information:
"Donna E Schaper [a senior minister] has written a thought-provoking book to assist readers in developing a way to move forward, a way to become persons of faith, and a way of becoming Christians by "calmly plotting the resurrection." Schaper provides a daily exercise for the seven weeks of the Lenten season, including a passage of Scripture, a brief reflection, and concluding questions for further consideration or group discussion. The themes for each week of reflections are:
  • Week 1 - Where Are We Going?
  • Week 2 - Are We There Yet?
  • Week 3 - Are We Lost?
  • Week 4 - Parabolic Thinking: The Land Beyond Lost, Next To Doubt
  • Week 5 - What Is Enough Resurrection?
  • Week 6 - Rising
  • Week 7 - Risen
Schaper provides a daily guide for our journey through the Lenten season, filled with personal illustrations, inspirational stories, and words for reflection. Perfect for individual study and for adult groups, Calmly Plotting the Resurrection is a helpful resource for anyone seeking a meaningful journey toward Easter.
ISBN-13: 978-1-59752-020-1 "

• DAY MURTI suggested to note 2-3 paragraphs in each week's reading that were meaningful and inspiring to us. This will allow us to condense what really matters to us and help pull out material for group discussions.
• For example, DAN STERN highlighted a bible passage, "In my father's house, there are many dwelling places." Consider that physicists have mathematically discovered 23+ dimensions, as detailed in the Public Broadcasting System Nova series entitled, "The Emergent Universe." (Check out - )

For next week, read (to page 14) the rest of "Week 1 - Where are we going?"