PITHY CAKES | At Cross Purposes

Some years ago, I attended a five-day silent retreat in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tucked into a corner of the woods was a tiny circular sanctuary, a space so small it could barely hold ten people. Windows all the way around with stained glass on one side, meditation cushions on the hardwood floor, and a “fire pit” in the center for a candle and some incense. I snuck out there every chance I had.

Just below the stained glass window was an altar, a ledge really, holding various knick-knacky items. The largest in the center was a ceramic 10-inch-high Buddha. Off to the side, a six-inch-high stone Celtic cross.

It just doesn’t cut it to position Jesus as second-stringer.

I have no beef with Buddha, don’t get me wrong. But once you really grok the truth about Jesus, as the Guide’s teachings have allowed me to do, it just doesn’t cut it to position Jesus as second-stringer. Since way before some meathead watching golf ever barked it, Jesus, you the man.

So I would move the cross to the middle, and the next time I returned, Buddha would be back. Back and forth we went, me and some mystery spiritual-but-not-religious switcher. In truth, Jesus has taken it on the chin in spiritual circles. He’s gotten a bad rap from being in churches, and that is just a crying shame. Because he’s the main architect of the plan to help us get all the way back to God. I did my best to put this story together in the online “Best Of” Q&A Collection at www.theguidespeaks.com.

My passion for a more front-and-center Jesus goes back to those days sitting there in the woods, longing to know these teachings but finding most spiritual seekers had thrown out the baby with the bathwater. But, I asked myself, What is it I really think I want to see? Some big ol’ maudlin 50-foot cross towering over the retreat center campus?

In fact, a few years later, I was sitting in Hawaii at a poetry retreat, enjoying the charm of the teak and thatch-roofed buildings. And I couldn’t imagine a how a dead Jesus hanging from a cross would work with that ambience. Actually I could. So irked, I wrote a pithy little poem about it.

Jesus Tree 3

The Jesus tree.

But the cross, I opined to myself, is how he died—not how he lived. Surely we airy-fairy spiritual-saint-wannabes can come up with something better. And then my brother texted me a picture from the front deck of my parents’ cabin. Had I, he asked, seen the Jesus tree? Across the lake, towering at the top of the pines, stood the most magnificent 50-foot cross you could ever hope to see.

Weird thing, our cabin was about the only place on the lake from which you could see it. Get a little off to the side, and plain old pine. A most wonderful freak of nature. And it made me pause: Jesus, are you talking to me?

This symbol has endured for the past two millennia because it represents our twofold being—the way we are at cross-purposes within ourselves.

For the next several years, each time I spent a week at the cabin, I sat and marveled at that tree. And then I learned what the Guide said in the Q&As about the cross. This symbol has endured for the past two millennia because it represents our twofold being—the way we are at cross-purposes within ourselves. We desire love, yet push it away.

The two bars, one horizontal and one vertical, are the opposites in us that can be brought into harmony so we, as whole people, can resurrect ourselves. We can overcome our own pain and suffering, as Jesus demonstrated. He doesn’t need us to believe; he just wants us to do this work.

We get to claim victory when we stop living self-centered lives and realize that we are all part of a greater whole. Funny, sounds like something Buddha might have said.


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