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Namaste, y’all!

How many times have we heard the phrase “fight fire with fire”?  Usually, in a movie, it is said right before the action really gets going and the hero gets busy giving the “bad guy” an overdose of his or her own medicine.  It is very dramatic, and speaks to that part of us our culture has convinced needs to be hard, tough, and even ruthless in order to triumph over adversity, or even sometimes just to survive.  But how many of us really think about where the term came from and what it really means?

Fighting fire with fire comes from the practice begun by settlers in North America during the first half of the 19th century of protecting their property from wildfires by setting smaller, controlled “back fires” nearby to rob the wildfire of fuel and thus keep it away.  Because they lacked effective firefighting equipment, however, the back fires often got out of control and caused as much or more damage as the wildfire would have.  Nevertheless, the technique worked and is still employed by firefighters today, (who still sometimes lose control of the back fires even with modern tools and equipment).

It is important to understand that when you set a back fire, you are destroying something in the hope of preventing further destruction.  It is a sacrifice. Plants and animals will die. When we set a back fire in our lives to keep out destructive influences, hardening our hearts to the suffering we must cause, closing our minds to alternative solutions that might involve compromise, and adopting a ruthless determination to achieve our goals, we destroy precious parts of ourselves.  Sometimes, like with some some forests, they will grow back with time and enough rain, but often they will not, and there will always be the charred remains of precious parts of ourselves that can never be the same again. There can be times, more rare than our culture would have us believe, in which a back fire is necessary.  However, the truth is a back fire is not required if enough water can be brought to bear on the wildfire in time.  Water, not fire, is the best way to fight fire.

If the actions coming from a hard heart, closed mind, and ruthless ethic are fire then actions coming from a generous heart, open mind, and ethic of compassion are water.  It is not an easy thing in our culture to respond to an offense with compassion.  Our first reaction is, depending on our natures, either confrontation or avoidance, (or sometimes a confuse mixture of both).  But think of it this way, the offense is a spark from someone else’s fire.  If we avoid, we deny both fuel and water to them and the situation, leaving the fire to catch whatever fuel it finds elsewhere but not really helping to put it out. If we confront, we are starting a bit of a back fire of our own, showing them there is no fuel for their fire here, but in the process we are, to some extent, burning ourselves for them.  A better response, though much more difficult, is to respond with compassion and caring. We cannot always put out their fire, but even as a fine mist can keep embers from spreading a wildfire, and a soaking rain can leave a forest too wet to burn, we can keep the fire from spreading into our own inner woodlands without having to sacrifice the precious parts of ourselves that keep us living lives of lush, verdant growth.

How do these wildfires get started in the forests of our psyche anyway?  What puts us in such danger of succumbing to their threat that we even think setting a back fire in our inner lives is a good idea?  Well, if a hard heart, closed mind, and ruthless ethic make a forest fire, then a complicated life is the tangled underbrush and isolation and fear are the drought conditions that make our inner woodlands tinder-dry and ready to go up with a single spark.

We need plenty of water to keep our inner woodlands moist and growing and resistant to fire. We need the regular gentle rains of kindness and compassion from friends and family, the occasional soaking thunderstorms of love and passion from our loved ones, and even the passing light showers of friendliness from strangers and co-workers. We also need the rivers, lakes, and streams provided by involvement in community efforts based on compassionate action.  They flow in many directions, lie in many valleys, and all have different purposes, but they all help to replenish our own waters by calling on us to add ours to theirs.

You might be thinking, “Wait, that sounds crazy! How can I get more of something by giving it away?”  You’d be right if you were the sole, isolated source of the energy of love and compassion you have to share, but that is not the case.  Your time and physical energy are finite resources, and can limit your ability to act, but love is infinite.  Each of us is more than connected to the ultimate source of love in the Universe, our very inner essence we call a soul is but a concentrated point in the infinite and all-encompassing field that is the Divine nature of what some call God.  If we take no other truth from the teachings of the Christian faith, we must cling to this, that God is love.  By acting with compassion, alone or with others, we can become channels for the power of God, opening ourselves to receive from the limitless aquifer of Divine love as we are manifesting it to others.  Never fear that you will run out of the water of compassion and not be able to replenish it.  The well of Divine love never runs dry.

It is important to recognize, however, that while there is always enough love, there is not always enough us.  Regardless of the ultimately infinite nature of our souls, our bodies and minds have limits. It is these physical manifestations of ourselves that allow us to act instead of just be.  Every act of compassion in the world requires the use of our minds and bodies. Even if we know the physical world of separate identities is an illusion, it is an illusion we must respect.  We must not fail to act compassionately to our everyday selves, so that they may be fitting and useful tools to perform acts of compassion to others.  Thus, we may need to set limits, not out of a lack of compassion, but out of a lack of physical or mental energy, or simply because in the temporal world, acts take time and time itself as measured by the clock is finite.  So yes, sometimes we must close the access gates to our inner forests and tend to their welfare.  Do not think you are doing less than you should for others by doing some for yourself.  If you let your forest go dry by not letting the rain in, always putting it off while you are busy, you will soon be unable to resist going up in flames. They call it “burnout” for a reason!

Respect the sacrifices of those who have set back fires in their inner woodlands during times of extreme danger, be compassionate to them and do what you can to help them heal. Keep your own forests well-watered and surround yourself with others who will let a little of their rain fall your way, and keep the spring of infinite love from the Divine All flowing by clearing out the debris that may limit your ability to receive that which has no limit in ability to give.  And the next time you feel the urge to fight fire with fire, reach for the water instead.

Blessed be,

MDW

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Date & Time: Saturday, February 21, 2015 ·12:00 PM – 1:00 PM  
Location:
Duncan Park Voting Precinct

256 Edsel Dr. Rossville, GA 30741-7609

Come join with us in a celebration of universal Divine love!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Blog of the First Panentheist Church!

What is panentheism?

In our case, it is the belief that the Divine Essence (“God”, to use our culturally common term) is present in all things, yet greater than the sum of those parts, with “Mind” and “Will”. God is immanent and transcendent, omniscient and omnipresent, the Great Architect of the universe and the all-loving source of life.

What is the Primary Message of the Panentheist Church?

I like to call this The Best News. It has three parts:

  1. You are an inseparable and permanent part of God.
  2. God is an inseparable and permanent part of you.
  3. God loves you unconditionally.

We will examine these points in greater depth throughout this ministry, but in brief, this means that nobody is excluded from the body of God, that all people have at their cores a Divine nature, and that nothing anyone does, says, or believes will ever cause God to withhold from any person any portion of the Life, Light, and Love that is the Divine Gift to all creation.

What about Sin?

The Panentheist Church believes that God’s love for us is absolute and unconditional. It is impossible to sin against God. The idea that we can somehow offend God to the point where the Divine Gift of Life, Light, and Love (sometimes called “Grace”) is withheld is a pernicious lie. So in that sense, the Panentheist Church does not believe in “Sin”.

However, there are many things we humans do, think, and believe that can get in the way of our ability to fully accept, internalize, and manifest Divine Grace. The difference is that it is all our own doing, not God’s.

It is the responsibility of every person to learn what their personal “blockages” might be and do what they can to minimize them. This spiritual policy of continuous self-improvement is sometimes called “the Great Work”. It does not depend on pleasing any external, judgmental being, or following any arbitrary set of rules.

Everyone will make progress in their Great Work at their own pace, and that is fine. Nevertheless, the Panentheist Church encourages everyone to help each other in that Work wherever possible. By forming a spiritual community, we do not have to do our Work without help, encouragement and advice.

What about Rules? What is the Moral Code of this Church?

Because everyone is working on their own personal development, trying to become more receptive to God’s Grace, building their inner relationships to that Grace, and learning their own ways of manifesting that Grace in their lives and to those around them, there is no “one size fits all” set of rules. Everyone is different, and is free to find their own way.

This is our only Rule: Harm None.

It sounds simple, but it is not easy. There may be times when all possible actions cause harm. Regrettably, that is part of physical life. Then we must decide which is best; which will cause the least harm for the greatest good. What shall guide us then in these choices?

This is our only Moral Code: Love under Will.

What this means is that we will do our best to manifest Divine Grace in our own actions. It is not the kind of love that “just happens”, but an intentional application of the principle of Love to what we are doing.

Who are you?

I am Reverend Mark D. Warner, D.D. My background is broad and includes Christianity, Judaism, Bahai’ism, Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, Taoism, Western Mystery Traditions, Modern Neo-Paganism, and the study of Philosophy, Psychology, and Communications. I have been actively studying belief systems for over 30 years.

I was brought up both Methodist and Presbyterian churches, took my catechism, went to a Jewish private school, was initiated into a Western Mystery Tradition at age 13, and studied Brythonic Druidry with a hereditary (back to the “Victorian Revival”) Druid. I spent a year and a day as a Bahai’i, practiced Soto Zen meditation, incorporated energy (chi) work into my martial arts practices, and was a member of a “White Lodge” that actively worked to counter the negative influence of people practicing destructive and harmful magic. I joined the Unitarian Universalist Church in 1991 and was active in C.U.U.P.S. for many years in three states. In 1999 I joined a Wiccan coven and studied within the Evergreen tradition, and began participating in local Neo-Pagan gatherings.

I took my ordination in the Universal Life Church in 1993, and received my Doctor of Divinity degree from the ULC Monastery in 2007. Although there are those who have abused the liberal policies of the Universal Life Church, I have always considered myself bound by the ethics of a responsible clergy and take my ordination and work very seriously indeed.

I am a Freemason, a 2nd Degree Wiccan Priest, and a founding member of the HearthFire Spiritual Alliance.

I have spent the last 12 years as a professional technical writer, and am venturing into writing novels and short stories. I hold a B.F.A. Degree in Painting, and live with Dana, my wife of 12 years and our 4 cats in the beautiful rolling mountains of Northwest Georgia. I enjoy drumming, Thai food, and puns, not necessarily in that order.