How Do You Respond To A Miracle?

John Stewart and Family. How do you respond to a miracle?

I am writing today because I have incurred a debt. Not a financial debt, but a literary debt. I mean that I have told part of a story, but left out the much more interesting remainder of that story. I am remedying that omission today.

How do you respond to a miracle?

In May of 2014, I introduced you to my friend John Stewart. I also mentioned that he was recently diagnosed with ALS, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years after diagnosis. I am pleased to report that John is still in the world. Furthermore, much furthermore, he was undiagnosed of ALS 13 months after he was diagnosed. John is the only person I know of who has been undiagnosed from ALS after having been diagnosed with ALS.

John Stewart and Family in Prague. How do you respond to a miracle?

John wrote the following in April of 2017:

“Three years ago today, April 22, 2014, my wife and I received that diagnoses, and the apparent death sentence. To say that the rest of that week was the most surreal in my life would not be an exaggeration. Faith and family, as you know, were the key pillars then and going forward, as you can see if you back through this blog. To some extent, a blunt diagnoses such as that can be extremely clarifying. “If the doctors say there is nothing man can do,” I reasoned to myself, “then that only leaves God.” Galatians 2:20 came to me: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” If I was as good as dead, then it truly was “no longer I who lived” and that became both my focus and the name of this blog that I started a few days after the diagnosis.

If you’ve been following along here, you’ll know that 13 months after I was diagnosed I was undiagnosed, also at the Mayo. I still had some symptoms, but I was too healthy. Since then I’ve continued the story here sporadically. There were additional miracles to report (as you can scroll down to read), but also a life to live. My youngest daughter moved to Prague in late 2015 and we flew over there for 9 weeks as she transitioned, and we returned there last fall with our oldest daughter and newest grandchild. These and many other things were blessings we could barely have foreseen while sitting in that doctor’s office 3 years ago.”

How do you respond to a miracle? Perhaps you think that John only adopted this optimistic attitude only after things started to get a little better. That is not the case. John wrote this shortly after his apparent death sentence.

“In the last couple of days I have had some bad minutes, and some very good hours. I am planning on confounding this disease [emphasis mine]. Oh, I know – it’s not unusual for folks to talk tough and brave at the onset, or whistle past the graveyard as it were. I know as well as anyone, and maybe better than most, what ALS entails. I don’t dismiss it as a lightweight, or over-estimate my own strength and resolve. In fact, if I were trusting in my own resources I’d be quivering on the floor right now. I know what the disease is and what it can do, but I also know that my God is greater, and I remember all the miraculous things I have seen Him do in my life and in the lives of others. There will be more on this – much, much more – as I go on.”

Douglas Bass and John Stewart playing trivia at Keegan's. How do you respond to a miracle?

How do you respond to a miracle? I wish to explore this phenomenon. John mentioned that certain words had a special significance for him during this time. One of the words was “confound.” John shared this with me:

“You once asked me why I used the word, “confound.” I said I didn’t know, it just came to me as I was writing, and it just felt right. Later, I actually looked up the Biblical meaning, and it literally means “to close the mouths of your enemies”. To confound your Enemy (or your doctor) is to leave him speechless. I didn’t realize the full intent of my mission at the time I wrote that, but that “random” word was an important part of denying death, destruction and the loss of hope.”

Another word with particular import was “expectation.” John writes:

“As the neurologist gave us the blunt truth, describing the end stages in detail, it got a bit emotional. He apologized, and said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I want you to have the right expectation.” In the tunnel vision that was closing around me, that was a sudden light.

We had had teaching that the word “hope”, Biblically, means “expectation” (especially if you look up hope in the Webster’s 1828 dictionary on-line).

When he said “expectation”, hope is what lit up in my mind, especially in the context of Webster’s. My hope was based on an expectation that God could and would deal with this. It was therefore, a hope and not a wish.”

The 1828 Webster definition of hope is too long to quote, but it is much more than “what I would like to happen.” It includes “confidence,” “substantial evidence,” and “well-founded expectation.” I surmise this “lighting up” that John describes had something to do with what was inside John at that moment.

How do you respond to a miracle? How could it not mean that there are more things in heaven and earth than what is explained by your worldview? Doesn’t it spark your curiosity even a little bit? Doesn’t it call into question your list of things that can and can’t happen? I say it should.

The New Message from God places a relatively light emphasis on miracles. I have mentioned before that the word “miracle” is mentioned exactly twice in the 500-something pages of Steps to Knowledge. It is as if the New Message from God is trying to redirect my focus away from seeking miracles and dispensations. It seeks to redirect my focus toward preparing to respond to Knowledge, the deeper spiritual intelligence that God has placed within each person. Step 28 of Steps to Knowledge contains one of the two mentions of “miracle.”

“I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge and I give myself now to cultivate that which is of the greatest good within myself to be given to the world.”

2015 Celebration of John Stewart's undiagnosis of ALS. How do you respond to a miracle?

How do you respond to a miracle? A little humility and wonderment wouldn’t hurt. John will most likely disagree with me on this, but I say that John knew something in that moment with the doctor. I am grateful that he is in the world and well and sharing his testimony. I am pleased to have been with him at this celebration in 2015 of his sisongaid (undiagnosis). I am pleased to have told this part of his story.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

“We’re Going To Need A Bigger Room”

Marshall Vian Summers in Siem Reap, Cambodia We're going to need a bigger roomMarshall Vian Summers spoke briefly at the 2014 Encampment of the New Message from God. He gave a brief blessing at the end of the first day. On the second day, he read a page from his book Secrets of Heaven, then said “That’s my teaching for tonight.”

We’re going to need a bigger room

He compared his journey to that of the character Mojud in the dervish tale “The Man with the Inexplicable Life.”. Mojud was guided by a mysterious, benevolent teacher with great wisdom and mystic knowledge. He was guided to go to places he had never been, and to do things he had never done. And as he went to these places and did these things, certain miraculous things started to happen. Sometime around the time Marshall referred to this story, he said “Heaven needs to know that I’m reliable.”

On the evening of the third day, he opened himself a little to questions from the attendees. His answers were relatively succinct. But he said something that evening that struck me like a bomb, and still does when I recall it. He asked “What is 4% of the 7 point something population of the world?” I foolishly shouted out “28 million!” It turns out I was low by an order of magnitude. It was actually 280 million. After the 280,000,000 was confirmed, Marshall, with a slightly mischievous grin, calmly said “We’re going to need a bigger room” to great laughter.

I realize that some might consider that remark to be highly ambitious. On the other hand, he didn’t set a deadline, so he might be referring to sometime in the future. But there is a phrase ringing and singing in my soul, and that phrase is “The world is ‘here,’ the future is ‘now.'” What do we need to get to 280,000,000? Multiple miracles. Perhaps that’s what the Step 28 prayer of Steps to Knowledge was referring to when it said, “I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge…” All I know is that if 4% of the world engaged with the New Message from God, humanity would be a much better, much stronger race.

We’re going to need a bigger room. I’m going to lie down for a while.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Are You Happy With Your Purchase?

Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were regular guests in my childhood world.

In the above video, a portion of the 1960 theatrical animated short Hopalong Casualty, the chronically inept, technology-enamored Coyote scatters some Acme Earthquake Pills on the road, hoping that the Road Runner can mistake them for birdseed. The Road Runner obligingly eats them, but they have no effect as he zooms away. In disgust, the Coyote swallows an earthquake pill himself, and then even more disgustedly swallows all of the remaining pills. After jumping up and down several times in an attempt to trigger an earthquake, he contemptuously chucks the empty bottle over his shoulder, but immediately leaps after the bottle with bulging eyes to catch it before it shatters in the middle of the road. He is too late; Wile E. reads the fine print at the bottom of the bottle’s label: “Not effective on Road Runners”. As soon as he sees this, he gulps nervously, now knowing what he faces. As he gingerly takes his first step to get out of the middle of the road, the product takes effect on him, causing him to shake, rattle and jerk helplessly across the landscape, getting flattened by a huge boulder and almost falling off a narrow rocky arch in the process. When the product finally wears off, the Coyote feels so relieved when he steps out without looking where he is going and strides off the edge of a cliff.

Are you happy with your purchase?

I am telling you this to confess that I harbored a secret, irrational hope, and a secret, irrational fear during my study of Steps to Knowledge.

The secret, irrational hope was that studying Steps to Knowledge would cure my autism (it was once called Asperger’s Syndrome, but that is now lumped with the rest of autism in DSM-5). It was mostly irrational because Steps to Knowledge offers no promises of cures of medical conditions. The only way it was not irrational is that it took the prayer of the Step 28 review at its word. “I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge…”

I also harbored a more rational hope that studying Steps would offer some compensations, coping strategies and perspective which would make my autism less of an inconvenience. That hope has been fulfilled to a certain degree, and the fulfillment is growing and ongoing. Studying Steps has helped me to feel that I’m not without resource in the face of the difficulties of my life. Steps tells me that I have brought a great treasure to this world. Steps tells me that engaging with my mission, my purpose, my role, will either require that I solve my pathetic little personal problems, or render their solution unnecessary. At the 2012 Encampment, someone said “God doesn’t take away your disability. He gives you something important to do.”

Acme Earthquake Pills. Are you happy with your purchase?

What was my secret irrational fear? It was that somewhere along the way, like Wile E. Coyote, I would read some fine print in Steps to Knowledge that I had foolishly ignored at an earlier time. The fine print would say “Caution: This won’t work for people with Asperger’s Syndrome.” It was an irrational fear, because five minutes worth of computer searching could determine if such fine print actually existed. It doesn’t.

I am writing this because I believe some people are thinking “I say, Douglas, you’ve invested quite a bit of time, effort and trust into this Steps to Knowledge thing. Are you happy with your purchase?” I’m definitely not a spiritual windowshopper. I have definitely started an exchanging flow. I found some of the things I was looking for, and a certain degree of perspective on the things I still haven’t found.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

How Deep Is My Commitment?

How deep is my commitment

How deep is my commitment I ask myself as I do the Step 28 Review. This is the fourth review so far in Steps to Knowledge and begins with a prayer. The prayer asks me to do a lot of accepting. And much of what I am asked to accept requires a mind that is willing to throw off old, hackneyed thinking and embrace higher, more enlightened thoughts, to say the least. The prayer has been presented in full before in this space, but I think it is worth repeating.

“I accept my Knowledge as a gift from God. I accept my Teachers as my elder brothers and sisters. I accept my world as a place where Knowledge can be reclaimed and contributed. I accept my past as a demonstration of life without Knowledge. I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge and I give myself now to cultivate that which is of the greatest good within myself to be given to the world.”

Am I ready to accept these things? Just how deep is my commitment?

My notes for this review say: “I don’t think I am deeply enough involved yet. I am motivated, but still I feel I am expecting results without doing the work. I am not spending enough time on exploring my experience, although I feel the practices offered by the Steps are uppermost in mind as I go about my normal activity. But still, I need to delve deeper and devote more time to searching and investigating.”

This describes me to a tee, expecting results without doing the work, thinking I am progressing without making a deep commitment. But I am not doing this for myself, for my own benefit alone, but for those whom I will serve in the future. For after receiving the benefits of reclaiming Knowledge, I will wish to give in whatever context and in whatever form is appropriate for me. So if my commitment is not deep enough, if I am not motivated enough in penetrating the barriers that exist, I am not doing those who follow me a very great service. I am not cultivating that which is the greatest good within myself to be given to the world.

How deep is my commitment?

However, the flip side of commitment is hesitancy and doubt. And this review did not bring up those things for me. This review helped me to see where my practice needed more dedication and direction, it made me realize I needed to deepen my commitment. It is one thing to be so hesitant that I shun commitment and quite another to see the value of what I am doing and wish to deepen my commitment as I move on. I trust that as my mind studies the tracks, Knowledge will move the train, and my commitment will deepen.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

What Am I Being With? Why Am I Being With It?

I took a brief vacation from blogging about Steps to Knowledge after the lengthy Step 49 review of the first 48 steps.  But I am now refreshed and ready to resume the ascent.  Step 50 is “Today I will be with Knowledge.”  What have we been told about Knowledge so far?  We have been told, among other things…

  • I brought Knowledge with me from my Ancient Home. (Step 1)
  • Knowledge is something I greatly need (Step 7)
  • Knowledge is my True Self, a self that is not apart from life (Step 10)
  • Knowledge must be distinguished from my thoughts (Step 15)
  • The Teachers of God assist my discovery of Knowledge (Step 23)
  • My life up to now is a demonstration of life without Knowledge (Step 28)
  • Reclaiming Knowledge is part of my mission in life (Step 33)
  • There is a particular pathway to Knowledge which works for me (Step 38)
  • Reaching Knowledge, like everything else, is a group effort (Step 45)
  • Knowledge works in the limited context of my individuality (Step 46)

After all the amazing things that have been said about Knowledge, to say that I can be with Knowledge is another amazing thing.  Can that really be so?  There seems to be some awareness that I would wonder things like this, as the step instructs “Do not argue with yourself about the reality of your pursuit, for that is wasteful and meaningless.”

I still struggled with the idea of practicing feeling something when I did this step.  It helped when they said “relax and be present.”  I could do that.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Can I Take A Step Into A Larger World?

This is the fourth post in a series of seven posts regarding my experience of Step 49 of Steps to Knowledge.  In this step, I am directed to review my practice and experience of the first 48 steps.  I am sharing what I wrote when I did this step, and adding commentary when needed.

Step 22 – I am surrounded by the Teachers of God – “This step presents the Teachers as critters who have just been a little ways further down the road I’m on. I commented further on this step in this book”  I finally got around to writing about my experience of the steps when I did them, when I did step 22.

Step 23 – I am loved, surrounded and supported by the Teachers of God – “I remember finding this Step as unusual (see commentary)”  This is the commentary I wrote at the time: “One thing I find noteworthy about this step is that it I one of the rare (so far) occasions in Steps where something good is said about the student in his current state.  The feeling for me is a feeling of connectedness, a feeling someone wants me to hit the jackpot, to find the great treasure, to win the brass ring.  I have this thought that, generally speaking, the Teachers don’t do flattery.”

Step 24 – I am worthy of God’s love – “I recall having a nervousness about this step.  What great efforts will I have to make to repair my errors?  I didn’t have an answer for that.  I still don’t”  The step said “Your worthiness in the sight of God is unchanged. There is only great effort to repair your errors so that you may experience your True Self so that it may be rendered into the world.”  At this point, slowly backing away from suffering over my errors is a good first step.

Step 25 – I am at one with the greatest truth of life – “I was nervous that the Step said my Teachers are within me.  See above regarding feeling things.”  Steps 22 and 23 went to great lengths to say that the Teachers of God weren’t just mental constructs or helpful metaphors, but actual individuals.  And now they say they are within me?!?  I’ve already written about my issues regarding practicing feeling things here and here.

Step 26 – My errors give birth to my Knowledge – “This step made me have a great deal of respect for the authors.  I wanted to make the pain of my errors disappear, but not learn from them.  They killed off many bad ideas (or incomplete ideas) in one paragraph.”  If I can learn from my errors, I have a good chance of not committing them again.  They killed off the ideas that error non-exists, that error is pure service, and error could be justified.

Step 27 – I have a wisdom which I wish to discover – “I remember the same thing about this step as Step 17.”  On further review, this Step took what was in Step 17 and elaborated on it, so this is hardly surprising.

Step 28 – Review – “I don’t think I’ve had any miracles yet.  I remember being nervous if I had done the Steps as hard, as much as I shoulda.”  The prayer in Step 28 says “I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge…”  The word miracle is used exactly twice in Steps to Knowledge.  A miracle is a demonstration of the presence of the great mystery of one’s life.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Why Do I Need Teachers? Let Me Count The Ways

The idea of the Teachers of God was introduced in Step 22 of Steps to Knowledge, and elaborated on in Steps 23, 24, 25, 28 and 36.  They are being mentioned again in Step 47, but as part of larger discussion about the nature of learning.  I quote from the Step:
“You have been prepared through relationships for everything that you have learned, whether it be a practical skill or a deeper insight.”

The way I see this, when anyone has the thought, “Hmm…maybe I should learn more about this particular subject,” if it is traced back far enough, it is another way of saying “Perhaps if I learned more about this particular subject, I could contribute something more to a certain relationship than I am currently contributing.”  The very thought that I should care goes back to relationships.

Even in the area of practical skills, people have things they don’t know that they don’t know about themselves, and they have things they don’t know that they don’t know about the thing about which they want to learn something.  I consider it a miracle that learning takes place as often as it does.

People will vigorously protest that they know how to learn.  But the same people will also vigorously protest that they know how to eat.  I willingly grant that people know how to put things in their mouths, chew them and swallow them.  But how many of these people have health issues because they’re eating too much of this and not enough of that?  And why are they eating too much of this and not enough of that?  Some people’s learning is more profitable than other people’s learning, just like some people’s eating is more healthy than other people’s eating.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

And Who Did You Meet?

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

One thing that is interesting about this particular review is that it is the first time the word “prayer” is used in Steps to Knowledge:

We shall begin our fourth review period with a special prayer.

“I accept my Knowledge as a gift from God. I accept my Teachers as my elder brothers and sisters. I accept my world as a place where Knowledge can be reclaimed and contributed. I accept my past as a demonstration of life without Knowledge. I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge and I give myself now to cultivate that which is of the greatest good within myself to be given to the world.”

Here is the word cloud for the steps under review (steps 22-27):
I’m not happy with the shape of this word cloud, but I’m seeing that experience and error are things by which I must practice being served. The final paragraph of the review talks about the value of the review, not just for me, but for the people I will serve in the future.  Part of my development is being aware of how people learn (or don’t learn) things.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.