… on… grow where you’re planted

Rock Side Planter smlr
Nature can teach us so many things if we only take the time to stop and listen. This photo was taken at a local area called Gorge Metro Park. And yes it does live up to its name since it is a large rocky gorge carved out by the Cuyahoga River over centuries and cuts right through the city of Cuyahoga Falls. There are several trails in this park where one can observe huge rock overhangs, cliff walls and large monstrous boulders. This image is a detail from a cliff wall. It was well above arms reach and I had my zoom lens out to its max of 200MM. I was mesmerized by this patch of grass that seemed to be growing happily on a small outcropping of the cliff wall. I took this photo a few weeks ago and have been pondering over it ever since.

As a species, we humans are a restless lot. We never seem to be satisfied with where we are at – neither in physical location personal, emotional or intellectual development. It seems are constantly dissatisfied with what life hands us. Now some people would praise that and say, “Duh! That’s how progress is made” But is so much dissatisfaction really beneficial? I think there’s a difference between the dissatisfaction that encourages progress and the dissatisfaction with life’s circumstances that are imposed on us that we have no control over. Can we ever accept contentment and happiness – even if they are fleeting?

I wonder if we need to take the time to truly cherish where we are located in life. I wonder if we can grow where we are planted like the grass in the photo. Talk about an inhospitable environment! That poor grass is in a bad location all around – lack of nutrients, lack of water, limited light and limited attention. But it is still growing. Is its life circumstance sad, tragic or unacceptable? Absolutely not. For it has shown me beauty and taught me something valuable. That patch of grass can be content with its limited life span because it has served some purpose for the betterment of the planet – even when it has reached maturity and “gone to seed” it will feed other animals and as it decays on it’s little rocky outcropping it will become fertile soil for the next generation. You and I are the exact same way. We may live an ever so humble existence – we may lack one thing or another – we may be living in circumstances that have spiraled beyond our control. And like the grass – we have worth – we have value – we exist for the betterment of the planet; it may have happened in the earlier part of our lives, in the present or may even happen in a fleeting moment in the future but we have worth. It’s not the amount of time we have or how much we do with it. The fact that we ARE is enough.

In our birth we bring joy and wonder.  As we grow we become a symbol and a beacon.  When we die we make room for others.

So go ahead try to appreciate where you are no matter how rocky it may seem.  Just stop for a while and then slowly feel your way around lest you fall off the cliff.  Then relax and grow where you are planted.

“Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:29,30 (NIV translation)

“If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.” – Zen saying

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” – Zen saying

“the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Zen saying

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and grass grows by itself.” – Zen saying

…on Peter Gabriel – Amazing


“I’m Amazing” – lyrics by Peter Gabriel

Run into the cage
With what I grew up hating
Keep on recreating
Please help me

Something’s got to change
It was something that you said
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead

Saw the kind of blood
Like a picture’s going to shatter
Can you recognize the pictures of a bone-luck setter
All the people, all the faces in my head that are running around
I’m trying to make connections but the circuits are down

Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
I’m amazing

I’m living from without and I’m living from within
Got light in every layer of my illuminated skin
Could swallowing a lightbulb transform into the sun?
I can jump into the darkness
I can shine on anyone

Look at me
Look at me
Can you see what I can do?
‘Cause I’m amazing

Look at me
Look at me
Look at me
Can you see what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Reaching out my hand
I’m going under water
Sunlight filtered into shafts
I’m going under water
With the human race
I’m going under water down
Under water down
Under water

Trying to put it together in my head
Feeling the weight of what you said
The weight of what you said
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead

Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Look at me
Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Cause I can!
And I will!
It’s moving in me
The spirit is free
Oh what did I leave?

On his website Peter Gabriel[hereafter PG] states,

“I wrote a song a few years back – ‘I’m Amazing’, which was, in part, inspired by Muhammad Ali’s life and struggles and at the time of his death, when so many people are celebrating his life and thinking about all he achieved, it seemed the right time to release it.”

I do not believe we should see this song as a tribute to Ali. I saw one video posted on YOUTUBE that said this song was “about Muhammad Ali”. I disagree. PG is an artist; and as such, he uses all of life as inspiration in creating his art. Ali was only one part of the equation that helped clarify the point PG was trying to make. PG has something much bigger than one mans life that he want’s us to consider. If there is any comparison to Ali that can be made accurately is that the song deftly alternates between “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee”.

So what makes this song, it’s music and lyrics so powerful? Peter Gabriel has become an undisputed master of using various music influences from around the world in creating his own unique sound. “I’m Amazing” is a blend of these influences that borders on genius. The music moves forward and has it’s own pulse points with a fusion of sounds electronic, tribal and organic with lyrics both spoken and sung, chant and vocal ululation. There are ebbs and flows in the overall song structure that help propel the listener through the song with rhythmic emotional intensity.

Lyrically, the song offers intense criticism of our culture and society. He is careful not to place blame. He simply let’s the character in the song make observations and leaves it up to us to determine any cause and make appropriate adjustment in our own lives so that we do not end up in the same predicament. What is NOT said in the lyrics is just as important as what IS said. PG does not write on the surface of things but gets under the skin. While on the surface if you just read the lyrics it may seem like a positive paean with the old “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. But listening to how the lyrics are sung provides a whole new wealth of meaning that seems truer. It is funny how music can add clarity to the meaning of words. By themselves lyrics are ambiguous and can be interpreted by each individual as they wish. But what is lost is the authors intention. Music provides that intention. I have not heard such snarling sardonic expression in pop music for a long time and it is refreshing. A true wakeup call. I love how the lyrics switch between introspect/retrospect/prospect as the singer looks to escape his own mundanity and latch onto all the promises made by a self-help society with “happy times ahead”. Drowning in his own misery he not only seeks for a way out but becomes so self-obsessed that all(and everyone) else is left behind. The character acts/does because he can and never asks if he should. It’s only after it’s too late does he contemplate what was left behind.

This is a most welcome addition to the canon of music written by this great artist.

…..Samsaric Capitalism…..

In the Samsaric world of Capitalism
I am neither positive nor negative.

I know that promises breed hope –
Without a guaranteed reality.

What will be, will be.
Not what is promised or guaranteed.

Guarantees are empty absolutes;
To live by them is to live in delusion.

If we want to remove the Samsaric sting
We must accept the beauty of a flawed reality.

Like wrinkles on a face, spots on skin & gray hair describe aging –
Broken promises reveal an imperfect reality.

Where, O Samsara, is your victory?
Where, O Samsara, is your sting?

Embrace with loving-kindness all errors and flaws.
In doing so, we redeem and ransom ourselves and others from Samsara;
From the long list of disappointment-fueled anger and sufferings.
untitled

A Christmas Prayer

Lord God,

Father in Heaven

Thank you for this day

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth

A man who would be, and did, become Messiah

The hope of all Israel and all of humanity

A man who taught, and showed us,

That we CAN have a relationship directly with you.

In this way he was the door, the gate,

Through which your spirit that dwells within us

Has been awakened.

We thank you for this awakening that removes all Hindrance

Even if that separation is political, social, religious

And now we thank you for this meal

And time of togetherness between family and friends

We bless this meal in the name of Jesus

That it may give us physical strength and stamina

We bless you that you may give us the mental and spiritual  strength and stamina

To be a blessing to others we come in contact with;

Removing all wrong perceptions

In Jesus name, Amen.

I believe the best prayers are not prayers of thanks and requests (or to use consumerism terms – supply and demand).  The best prayers are when we pray what we believe – not what we want or hope for.   For example when we pray the Lords prayer do we hope these things are true that are mentioned OR do we really believe them?  And how do we believe them?

Maybe some day I’ll dissect and expound on the Lords prayer specifically.

But for now – Merry Christmas everyone.  Enjoy one of my favorite Christmas songs.

The Happiness Conundrum

INTRO:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” ~ Jesus [Matthew 7:3-5  NASB]

I’ve been trying to get the logs out of my own eyes for years – and will probably keep working on it for the rest of my life. It’s funny how easily our perceptions are blocked [log-jammed] and muddied by emotions. Emotions are a fact of being human – and self-control of those emotions is key. I find it interesting that one of the characteristics of “love” in the Bible is “self-control” but that characteristic is seldom preached – maybe because it’s difficult to look at oneself with the critical eye of awareness. Many people seek to control others and define their happiness in that context.

I’ve read a lot of wisdom literature over the years and have found (even in my own experience) that happiness is fleeting. Happiness is fickle. Happiness is something people constantly strive for only to see it slip through their fingers like sand. So what do we do when we aren’t happy? If we are seldom happy is that a bad thing? How do we cope, or what emotion is happiness replaced with when it skips merrily on its way?

I have found that happiness is the wrong thing to focus on (contrary to what all those self-help gurus say) When we are happy we naturally relax and enjoy the moment. But once it’s gone we immediately try to re-capture, control, and try to manipulate external circumstances to get back to that happiness state. Many people, unfortunately, despair and long for past happiness (“I remember when….”). But this is the mistake.

THE DREAM:
On September 29, 2014 I woke up early from a dream I had. I wrote the dream in my journal. I thought I knew what it meant – turns out it has multiple applications (for me). Now for the dream:

In my dream I was fighting a fierce dragon. It was boastful, conniving, cruel and threatening. I only had a sword. The dragon didn’t have to move around a lot. It was so much bigger than me it just seemed to mock me as I searched for its weak point. The dragon started to yawn and I seized the moment to go for the mouth. With one eye open the beast snapped its jaws down on my sword and with iron like strength just held on. I couldn’t move that sword no matter how hard I tried. I wasn’t going to let go either because the sword was my only weapon. We were at stalemate. Neither one willing to budge. I decided that instead of pulling the sword out – an impossible task – I would try the opposite and push it further in. I pushed with all my might and with a snicker the dragon opened it’s jaws wide and I went tumbling into its mouth. With one self-satisfied gulp the beast swallowed me. Inside I could hear echoes of its satisfied, mocking laughter. It all happened so fast, and caught me by surprise. I was tumbling down its steamy, moist throat just trying to get my bearings on the long journey despairing of my loss and my situation. I came to an opening which I presumed to be the dragons stomach and expected to be digested and totally consumed. Instead I noticed in this opening, fresh air, a breeze, sunshine the sound of birds and children laughing. It was a whole other universe. Familiar yet different. I saw clear skies and saw people enjoying themselves just like the world I had come from. It was magical and different – somehow better. I just stood in wonder and amazement asking myself who had really won – the dragon or myself and its other victims?

LOST HAPPINESS:
So what do you do when happiness is gone? What is the cause of your unhappiness? What emotions replace happiness? Anger, envy, jealousy, bitterness, fear, hatred or despair? Maybe it’s a combination of these emotions. How do you deal with these darker emotions? I recently (again) have lost my happiness at work. In fact I would say I hate my job. It is not the job I was hired to do. And after some corporate restructuring things seem to have gone “haywire” and all akimbo.  I’ve dreaded going to work and have been stressed, frustrated and angry.  So I have some decisions to make. Do I look at the situation and blame management, the union, or other people for the loss of my happiness? Or, do I look at myself? Do I look at my blocked perception and try to “fix” myself instead of something I can’t possibly win against?

On November 14, 2014 I wrote in my journal:

All things come to an end. But when one thing ends another begins. Happiness never lasts forever. When happiness is gone, what replaces it? Is the thing that replaces happiness worse than the thing that displaced happiness in the first place? I’ve been fortunate to know happiness in the past. Now that happiness is gone – do I get to choose what replaces it?

Initially I interpreted the dream as: whether I am facing an enemy or adversity I will remember the dragon. Because whether I fight or surrender the outcome is the same. One life is merely changed for another. I live on either way.
And I keep a small note on my computer monitor at work now with the words “remember the dragon.” This has helped in my work situation. I can see that the dragon is my work environment. And since I’m in the belly of the beast It may not be as bad as I thought. This interpretations definitely works on one level but I came to realize some other things.

With my understanding of the dream and recent questions of happiness I started asking questions about the perceived source of my unhappiness. The questions themselves began to evolve.

Do I need to look for another job? Yes.
What will I do? At 54 I don’t even know anymore. There’s nothing I “want” to do. Nothing I need to prove anymore.
What kind of work can I do? Same as above
Can I do the job I have now? Absolutely!
Is there benefit to the job I have now? Yes, I can eat and pay bills.
What would the consequences be for taking another job with another company? Answer: most likely, based on past experience, starting at lower pay than I’m making now and eventual dis-satisfaction.
Do I need to look for another job? No

When I was in my teens, 20’s and even my 30’s I thought I could, would and wanted to change the world. Now that I’m in my mid 50’s I realize I can only change myself. Change my perceptions. It’s been a long difficult road and I’m sorry for any harm I’ve done along the way.

So, back to work. When I realized I didn’t need to look for another job the next task became – how to survive my current work situation. I remembered that happiness is fleeting. Happiness is not a requirement and need not be a benefit of doing a good job. There will always be times I hate my job. And having “processed” all this before I went to work yesterday – it changed my whole day. Work was the same, all haywire and akimbo but I had changed. I was less stressed and when things were “thrown at me” (figurative) I may have been frustrated or even angry but I quickly got over it and moved on. I stopped seeing the company, management, union, co-workers as those who were making my life miserable.  And realized they were just doing their job with their own frustrations, stress etc.   It was all ‘n all a good day which is about all I can hope for until happiness returns. Just being less stressed made such a HUGE difference. I’m not perfect so I suspect on Monday I’ll have to remind myself again about this lesson.

CONCLUSION:
While happiness seems to have escaped me and things may not be pleasant right now – the good news is, I believe that happiness, being fickle, will return. And I will enjoy it when it does. In the meantime I know that I can be less stressed, less angry, less frustrated, less fearful, less hateful and more tolerant at work. While I may have removed only a “splinter” from my own perceptions – there are plenty of logs (wrong perceptions) left for me to work on.   All by the grace of God.

Thanks for reading.  I hope it may benefit someone.


Being and Nothingness pt.2

In the previous post I started writing about the connection between spiritual life and physical life. I hope to expand on that today. I wonder when the spirit enters a physical body if it (the spirit) is asleep and its function is to awaken at some time during that physical existence. Following that I wonder if our human existence provides various catalysts for the great awakening. That catalyst could be spiritual or physical struggle. I also wonder if anyone can truly point to a specific time or event for their spiritual awakening. It could be that we really don’t know but there are many epiphanies along the way and one of those epiphanies may actually be the awakening itself.

My question this morning – What made Jesus so successful? I’m NOT talking popularity/celebrity which is how we have come to define success since the dawn of the 20th century. I mean successful in terms of how he was able to accomplish the “miracles” that he did. Was it because he was the son of God? I don’t think that’s it; because we are all sons and daughters of God. Every single one of us, you, me, the greatest saint to the vilest criminal had our spiritual origins in God. Even the ultimate Adversary (Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, Big D – whatever you name him) had his origins in God. God Created him. We are all spiritual beings that come from God. So if all our origins are in God what made Jesus different?

I think it was because he came to spiritual maturation much sooner and he was able to give people the revelation that they were spiritual beings, providing the catalyst so they could have their own spiritual awakening. The people who were the recipients of these miracle’s were bound/limited by either bodily deformity and suffering or spiritual deformity and suffering. And with this spiritual awakening the things that bound and limited them in this physical existence ceased to do so – ceased to bind and limit them. I do have a special reason for saying this.

Most people calls these miracles because there is no “natural” or scientific explanation – like why a persons blood would change from one type to another, or why a new limb would be generated. I would argue that most people today don’t believe in true miracles. Miracles have become events like weeping statues, mold on a slice of bread in the shape of Jesus, etc. Or people call things miracles that are not miracles, as a way of describing things they consider unlikely but are totally within the realm of purely human endeavor – i.e. “It was a miracle that I got that job.” or “It was a miracle that the doctor was able to determine my disease”. But these are NOT miracles. Because people have deconstructed and diminished their understanding of miracle, they do not believe in true miracles and, therefore, do not receive miracles like Jesus performed. I have news for you. Those miracles are still available to YOU and me today. I’ve been fortunate to have received a few miracles of healing where no doctor was involved. I’ve also been fortunate to receive other miracles in the material realm for which there is NO logical scientific explanation.

Now, back to Jesus. Jesus had two responses for people depending on if they suffered spiritually or physically.

SPIRITUAL HEALING –
If there was a spiritual problem (demons, evil spirits, etc) Jesus would “cast out” the demon or evil spirit. What is the nature of demons or evil spirits. Based on what I wrote yesterday, about the cycle of being and the carnival of life, I think that what happens is that these “demons” or “evil spirits” are spiritual beings that are trying to take a short cut to spiritual maturity by hijacking another spirits physical existence. These demons or evil spirits are trying to get around the majority of bodily experience by dumping themselves into a physical body that is already well on the way to spiritual awakening or has already experienced a spiritual awakening and thereby skipping over the majority of human experience to spiritual maturity. When this happens the original or “birth” spirit is beaten down and in battle for the body with the new entity. By “casting out” the evil spirits Jesus made it possible for the original “birth” spirit to defeat its adversary and get self-control over its original human experience.

PHYSICAL HEALING –
When someone is suffering physically whether blindness, pain or crippled this may be due to either the fragility and sensitivity of the human body or a result of harm intentional and accidental, from others. I always found it interesting how often Jesus would tell people, “Your faith has healed you.” He didn’t take credit for himself or God but gave the victory and the credit to those who were healed. Is it possible that he didn’t heal but made it possible for people to heal themselves through their faith/belief? How is this possible? I wonder if these people who suffered from physical ailments had their spiritual awakening and it could even be that these ailments helped bring about this awakening. When they realized and saw themselves as spirit beings in a physical body they could then understand this was just a temporary situation and part of the journey to spiritual maturity. With this revelation the physical pain, illness, deformity ceased to have any power over them. They were able to “move the mountain” or even better the mountain within dissolved entirely.

Again you can receive miracles your self. When one views life where the human experience is merely a filter or step to spiritual maturity there is no such thing as a “bad” thing. IN fact there is a common teaching in the true Christianity that says we can take joy/be content/celebrate in our sufferings, trial and tribulations. (James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 12:10) Why? Because this is all part of our spiritual growth. It’s about awakening to the spiritual connection. The mystery. The divine connection to the Source. The Source from which we come and to where we will return.

Enjoy this classic gospel song written by Andre Crouch.

Being and Nothingness Pt 1

So good morning my friends.
I woke up this morning thinking about the connection between being and nothingness as part of the life cycle (although those words to describe just came to me as I’m typing here). Most people are afraid of nothingness but let’s call it spiritual existence for the time being. I think we come from God and return to God. Our very being is rooted in God or whatever name you give God. I use God here because it is the one name for the ultimate being that most people I know use.

I had an image rattling around my brain which I created this morning.

being a

I’m thinking about spiritual existence as a primary existence and that it needs the physical experience for it’s development which is why we are born physically. This could also explain why God came to earth as a man [Jesus] – aside from the evangelical understanding of the word “salvation”. I was also thinking how we begin aging the moment we are physically born. Aging is not something that happens when we turn 40. And the reason for this aging is that the physical experience from a spiritual perspective was never meant to be permanent or finite experience but just a transition being part of a spiritual beings maturity. I wonder if this misunderstanding of the “place” of our physical existence is responsible for why people make the judgements they do and take respective actions. For example. If we view our physical existence as separate from spiritual – the physical experience is all there is; therefore aging is a bad thing fraught with disease, weakness and terrors. In that case the only response would be to try and avoid aging by whatever means possible (medication,surgeries, fashion, youthful thinking, etc). I’m reminded of an advertisement for a “beauty” product where the main character says, “I don’t intend to grow old gracefully, I’m going to fight it every step of the way.” That just seems absurd, ridiculous and ultimately harmful.

For spirits that wish to mature, they must undergo the physical experience – it is not a choice. I also think Freewill develops before a physical birth happens and therefore not all spirits experience a physical birth and never mature. The physical experience is like going through a gate at a carnival. And we choose how we experience the carnival of life. Either it is a joyride and fun house or it is a house of horrors and freak show. Unfortunately, I think the latter has become the common viewpoint. The other thing I’ve begun to think about is that the human experience is the catalyst for how the spirit/soul will mature and live it’s remaining existence. In other words, If you choose to see yourself as a victim and allow your thinking to see all of lives experiences from a negative point of view that is how you will spend eternity. Now I’m not just saying everybody be happy. Let’s face it – SHIT HAPPENS!!!!! And sometimes it happens more to some than others. There’s no rhyme or logic it just IS/DOES. As a result there are times when we will be pissed off, angry, curse, hurt, suffer or inflict these on others as a reaction. But it’s this lifetime when we have the opportunity change our viewpoint and change our thinking and ultimately our actions before we leave this carnival and go back to a solely spiritual reality. We need to understand that about ourselves and also others when they lash out at us.

We are first created spirit, become physical beings and then return to spirit. After we are physically born we develop, mature and age in human terms. And it is during this process that we can have a spiritual awakening where we understand our human existence as part of a greater experience. I wonder if this is the primary role of parenting; to assist/train the child for a spiritual awakening.

All religions (including Christianity) are started by two kinds of people. First, those who had an awakening experience and secondly, those who seek control of the human experience. The problem is that these religious people stop maturing and become spiritually stillborn. They create a dualistic system of belief that forces people to choose the founders experience instead of letting them be free to have their own experience. Because a dualistic system of belief says either/or when it creates a set of rules, guidelines, regulations and then says, “This is what you need to believe, and this is the type of experience you need to have.” “This is what your spiritual experience should look like.”

Are there people who have never been awakened? I think there are. The sleepers are those who become so preoccupied by the material, physical, human experience and have chosen to shutout all other experience. Many of these people are very religious and some even participate in religion. They are religious in their devotion to partisan human experience instead of pursing and engaging in nonpartisan life experience (human AND spiritual).

Jesus is quoted in Matthew 12:31-32 where he talked about being a divided being. The Pharisees (a Jewish sect) had just accused him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (or the Devil/Satan – for modern readers). Jesus said that nothing can survive (i.e. “stand”) that kind of division and is ultimately defeated. He also said that people who make such a dualistic distinction are actually either choosing humanity over the spirit, denying the spirit, or choosing the spirit and denying humanity. And he referred to that division as blasphemy against the spirit – the one sin that is unforgivable. So here we have the strongest case for our human AND spiritual existence being connected.

So in conclusion, here are some questions to ponder:

– Where do I stand?
– What do I believe?
– Do I view life as a house-of-horrors or joyride?
– Do I focus on horrors and in my ineptitude inflict horrors on others? (the news media has mastered this)
– Do I nurture and raise my children to become spiritually awakened to see the connection – between “real” life and spiritual life?
– How do my beliefs affect my life?
– Am I denying the Spirit in some way, either through unbelief or in my daily practice?
– What am I doing to mature spiritually for when I leave this carnival of life?

Blessed Are The Disillusioned!

So I was reading my Bible – sheesh when will it end….. hahaha.
Matthew 26:31 “Then Jesus is saying to them, ‘All of you shall be snared in me in this night, for it is written,….” (Concordant literal translation from the Greek)

This is what Jesus told his closest followers. Of course Peter denies it and claims to be an exception and we all know how that turned out. With a literal reading there is only one type of understanding to this verse. But what if we look at it differently? The Greek use of the word “snare” here means to trip and fall. So why would Jesus tell his closest followers that they would ALL trip and fall because of him? Another way of putting it could be that they would all be disillusioned after what happens to his physical existence. And yes, he did say ALL which suggests that all who want growth to move forward must become disillusioned at some point.

Beyond a literal understanding of what happens:
What is he talking about? I wonder if he’s talking about spiritual growth because if we look at what happens after they all are snared/trip and fall we learn in the book of Acts about the metaphysical manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that being disillusioned (tripping and falling) is a necessary part of spiritual growth? …to move beyond our “normal” relationship with the an understanding of God based on our physical existence into a mystical relationship with God that connects the physical with the spiritual?

Disillusionment as part of spiritual growth? And if that’s the case, could it be that those who refuse to allow themselves, or deny, disillusionment are the ones who wish to “stay asleep” in their own comfortable stagnate understanding? Could it be that, like Peter, they try to deny disillusionment but, unlike Peter, when it happens they instead prefer to maintain the illusion and call that illusion faith?

It is interesting that Jesus approaches disillusionment as a fact-of-life and does not deride, curse, punish those who are disillusioned. And could it be that is because he knows that it is a necessary step to greater understanding and relationship with God?

Disillusionment may be the very thing that wakes us up! Blessed be the disillusioned.   There is no worry about gnosticism heresy because this disillusionment connects the physical/material with the spiritual.  The true gnostic heresy would deny one or the other in the same way that some people insist on a literal reading of the Bible.

So disillusionment is necessary for individual growth in that same way that falling is necessary for walking and moving forward; as Laurie Anderson describes.

With that understanding this song takes on new meaning.

So for all of you who may be disillusioned with the Christian religion and have been accused of “backsliding”, being atheist, agnostic or otherwise. Good news – you are blessed!!!! You are blessed because you have moved beyond the mere religion of men. 🙂

“The search for truth takes you where the evidence leads you, even if, at first, you don’t want to go there.”
~ Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible

“Never shy away from opportunity and wholehearted living. Never be fearful of putting yourself out there. The courageous may encounter many disappointments, experience profound disillusionment, gather many wounds; but cherish your scars for they are the proud emblems of a truly phenomenal life. The fearful, cautious, cynical and self-repressed do not live at all. And that is simply no way to be in this world.”
― Anthon St. Maarten

So where do all these ideas from this blog come from? They come from my unique relationship to the Creator that is best described in this song.

Hope, For the Weekend, For Life.

A couple of quotes on hope.

“Well, it’s important to have hope that something can be done at some level to protect what’s of value in the world, and I think something can be done, But such hope must be informed by a realistic understanding of human beings as they are.

There’s a type of hope now which I think is very harmful, which is essentially a form of blocking out reality because it’s too difficult to contemplate. Now, I think , that’s a much more hopeless view.” – John Gray

“Hope is only where despair is. Something truly new-beginning happens only when you are in such deep shit that, within the existing coordinates you can find no way out, and then, in order to survive you have to invent something new. The magic is to turn a desperate situation into something new.” – Slavoj Zizek

A great documentary by Alfonzo Cuaron.
The Possibility of Hope – Part 1


The Possibility of Hope – Part 2

The Possibility of Hope – Part 3

FCK the Beliefs

Saul Williams is one of the finest poets of our time.   Urban prophet, wordsmith, actor and musician.

FCK THE BELIEFS – Saul Williams from Saul Williams on Vimeo.

Your belief in Christ will NOT save you…

Today I’m writing about the institutional church’s emphasis on missions, evangelism and promotion/marketing the salvation of the soul. For too long I have heard that if we only believe in Jesus then we will be saved. But this is untrue a fallacy and deceit. Okay some readers may start quaking and shaking because I’m challenging one of the basic tenants of the what has been preached as “the faith”.

The problem arises when, in our challenged attention span, we fail to understand the scripture/teachings in the larger context and what it means for our lives. For example, Jesus said, (in the ever popular verse)

“For thus God loves the world, so that he gives his only-begotten son that everyone who is believing in him should not perish but have life eonian.” – John 3:16(Concordant Literal New Testament – CLNT)

Out of context this verse clearly suggests that belief alone will save. But wait! What is the larger context where this appears? To understand the context we must read the entire section where this verse appears – John 3:1-21 in addition to the larger context of Jesus overall teachings throughout the gospels. Jesus is having a conversation with one of the Pharisees named Nicodemus who was a chieftain. Briefly, Jesus talks about how the times have changed and are changing. Previous perceptions of heaven are re-evaluated. Throughout his ministry Jesus talks about Heaven being here and now. In this section of scripture he points out that the Pharisees were making distinctions between celestial and terrestrial existence/being. Jesus says in verse 13 that the only one who has gone to heaven (as the pharisees teach) is the one who has come from heaven. In short, Jesus brings heaven back down to earth. The “one” he speaks of is the only-begotten son of mankind. And the belief in what the only-begotten son of mankind has done (bringing heaven down to earth) is what saves mankind. He then goes on to say that our actions here on earth reflect what we believe. So it’s not the belief that saves us. IT IS our actions here and now that reflect what we believe that matters.

So it’s not so esoteric as a “soul” that is so often preached in churches. It has nothing to do with heaven as a separate place to escape from this existence or find as a reward for believing. Belief alone will not save; it is how our actions are determined by our belief. As is written in James 2:19-20

“…the demons are ALSO believing and shuddering. Now are you wanting to know, o empty man, that faith apart from works is dead?” (CLNT)

Many translations turn that question into a statement. But it is in fact a question and the writer goes on to say that actions are not separate from belief. Actions illustrate and are inseparably linked to belief. No wonder so many so-called Christians, church workers and religious people are accused of hypocrisy and bigotry; saying one thing while doing another. It’s our actions here and now in this existence that show what we truly believe. Our actions at work with our co-workers, customers, suppliers, investors shows what we truly believe. Our actions at home with family and neighbors shows what we truly believe. Our actions in our “play” or social activities show what we truly believe. Going to church or saying we are Christian doesn’t mean squat! Anyone can, and does, do that. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter heaven. He continues by saying that the people who experience heaven are those who do Gods will. In other words, not most who go to church or say their Christian will never experience heaven as Jesus taught. Only those whose actions are in line with what Christ taught will experience heaven on earth as he taught.

Enjoy this delightful satire

A Culture of Victimization

(fyi- this is a re-post from my previous blog in August, 2012.)
Scene from THE CROW “Victims, aren’t we all….”

I’ve been thinking about the things that put me “around the bend” regarding the institutions of the church. First of all I don’t believe the Church was ever meant to be an institution. It was just a label given to groups of people who got together from time to time.

The scene above from the excellent film, THE CROW, is a modern parable. A parable on the consequences of viewing ourselves, our churches, our religion, our culture as victims. When we view ourselves as victims we will only know violence, hatred and revenge. I’ve often told people, I am not and never will be a victim. That does not mean that others won’t try to make me a victim or victimize me in some way. But I choose to never see myself as a victim. That’s doesn’t mean my life is any easier. In fact, because of my choices, my life is at times more difficult than what it may need to be (I’ve been told more than once to just “play the game”).

This does not seem to be the case for the Church/institutional Christianity. It seems that the “church” everywhere is embracing victimization. For further proof one only needs to look at the elaborate security systems churches have in an effort to protect their investment. And that may be part of the problem. The investment for the church has become something other than the people who make up the church. Fund raising is used to prop up the institution. The Church has entered the realm of monument building. And it will do everything it can to defend and prop up it’s monuments. In short Churches have become “Like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27) Everywhere we turn the so-called Church is on the attack. Defending it’s turf, complaining about its circumstances, and seeking anti-christian (legal/political) means of resolving it’s conflicts has become habitual behavior. In this age when the media is filled with stories of hate-crimes against different religions it is easy fall into the trap of victimization.

Why is victimization a trap? As soon as someone sees themselves as a victim they have already decided to react by complaining about their situation, lashing out, placing blame, even attacking the perceived cause/source of victimization. It’s done in the name of defending themselves. This is a very unhealthy and unproductive mindset. Sadly this is especially true in America since 9/11. Gun sales have risen sharply since that time. Sadly many of these buyers claim to be Christian. I know of people who try their best to use different bible passages to justify taking up arms (always out of context for self-justification). I know of one Christian who recently bought a gun in the name of defending his family. He sees himself as a minister of the gospel. But I ask what precedent does this set for your children? What example does that give to others? How does this even coincide with Jesus’ teaching – which you claim to follow? In fear, we already see ourselves as victims. When we are afraid we make unhealthy choices not only for ourselves but also for those around us who we may claim to be protecting. We become slaves to that fear of victimization. The result is we victimize ourselves. Sadly this has permeated the so-called church. We have applied this mindset to our beliefs – in spite of the actual teachings of the Source of the faith.

When we claim that we, our church and/or our religion are victims we are in bondage. We are trapped by our thinking. We have stopped promoting a gospel of love and freedom. We create and defend a gospel of bondage. We have created our own chains. Is it any wonder that Christianity has such a bad name today? Is it any wonder that church institutional membership is declining? Who wants to be in bondage? Not me! Jesus came to set people free from the very things that the church is doing.

Where I grew up and where I live there’s a lot of talk about being a “slave to Christ”, “in bondage to Christ”. Now the church has taken some archaic language in the bible and twisted it to support its gospel of bondage. As is surrendering one’s rights to the church has something to do with being Christian. It doesn’t. First of all slavery should never be promoted. If a person chooses to enslave themselves that is their choice. When the Bible is talking about being a “slave to Christ” it is not talking literally but metaphorically. It is about aligning oneself to the teachings of Christ and making every effort to live them in daily life and not give up trying even though one fails. That’s different from giving in to institution demand and mindset to defend the faith – as if faith was something to defend. This has given rise to an increase in Christian Apologetics. Genuine faith cannot be defended – it can only be lived.

Now, I want to be clear – I’ve NEVER heard a church or Christian say, “We are victims”. But a person doesn’t need to say it in words. As I’ve suggested all along – it’s in our attitudes/mindsets and our actions. Look at the Christians (whether Orthodox, Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, etc) who seek to punish those they perceive are criminals (criminals being; those that object to, criticize, ridicule, distort and slander a person’s faith or religion in word and/or action) And this they apply to the arts, politics, science, education, lifestyles and other religions/belief systems. What has happened is that the Church has come to see itself as separate from humanity and not a part of it. This separation has had dire consequences. It is “Us vs. Them”. The church does not promote unity, healing, love among humanity but is a source of division. It not only puts one on the defensive but it becomes justification to attack and is used as a reason to go out and proselytize others in an effort to “bring them into the fold.” Instead of Christianity’s institutional leaders directing the path taught by Christ, this thinking is supported and encouraged. It is even applied to the institutions themselves – thus the evolution of the Gospel of Bondage.

This is inappropriate and was NEVER supported by Jesus. And that’s part of the problem. Jesus is being taught as the Messiah, that Savior of Humanity that did a lot of cool things and told some cool stories. But by-and-large the Church has stopped investigating his teachings. People use other scriptures out of context to justify their actions, thoughts and lives without testing them against what Christ taught. But if it doesn’t align with what Christ taught it is anti-christian.

So how should we then live? If we are Christians we need to re-investigate Jesus actual teachings and seek every effort to apply them to our lives. Teachings like forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy, caring for ALL people (not just those of our own faith or those who agree with us). When we can do this for people who are against us we no longer see them as separate from but actually a part of the big picture – a part of God’s creation – a part of the human family. We need to understand what he taught about the kingdom of heaven and what it means for us today.

We each have our function and purpose on this earth. We are part of one existence. Part of the God-consciousness itself. Each of us may be a different part of the body (i.e. someone may be a hand, foot, eye etc) but we can’t survive without each other. In fact we need each other. But If we reject others for their beliefs, actions, etc we are actually rejecting a part of the body that we are a part of. When this happens we are slowly killing ourselves by self decapitation. Have you ever seen a decapitation that was a good thing? Decapitation is ALWAYS violent and ugly.

A personal story:
I work in the Customer Service industry. No, not retail, not something that glamorous. I actually work the phones for a utility company. That means that I have the opportunity to be verbally attacked and even threatened – and it does happen from time to time. When I started this job (nearly 5 years ago) I literally had no idea what this would be like. Naturally at first I was on the defensive and it seemed that almost every call was a personal attack. And it’s hard not to feel that way when you are being verbally attacked or having your life or family threatened. Add to that we have a changing work-place environment based on the changing economy that adds challenges to the relationships I have with co-workers and supervisors. This all adds up to one stressful day. I tend to be more emotional anyway so dealing with these things are very difficult at times because it is my nature to react emotionally first and intellectually second. I am getting better at taking a moment (a breath, a pause, a heartbeat) to step back from the situation. But my growth and change has not been easy. I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy. But I view it as necessary. I keep a phrase by my computer that I look at quite often to remind me. It is simply, “Like water off a ducks back, let it roll over me.” The next step was to, as I’ve been talking about, viewing these people I deal with not just as “callers” or “co-worker’s” or “management” but as part of the human body – my body. It is a real game changer to think in this way. I can say that the outcome of my calls has been significantly different from when I started with this company. I still have a long way to go but I at least feel that I am on the right path. But again, it all comes down to the fact that at some point I decided NOT to be a victim or victimize others by being defensive.

We need to diminish our conflicts and differences not escalate them. It’s a choice. The choices we make now not only affect our actions but the actions of others both now and in the future. If we choose to perceive ourselves, our churches, our religion as victims we are making a very dangerous choice with dire consequences, both short-term and long-term. So don’t ever call me a victim. I am not and never will be a victim no matter what happens to me in this life. And it feels so good to say that. 🙂

Scene from DANGEROUS MINDS – “Choice”

Music today by Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn – GOSPEL OF BONDAGE

From the album ‘Big Circumstance’ (1989).
GOSPEL OF BONDAGE by BRUCE COCKBURN

Tabloids, bellowing raw delight
Hail the return of the Teutonic Knights
Inbred for purity and spoiling for a fight,
Another little puppet of the New Right

See-through dollars and mystery plagues
Varied detritus of Aquarian Age
Shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind –
We kill ourselves to keep ourselves safe from crime.
That’s the gospel of bondage…

We’re so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
We can only placate with state security laws
Whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks
Whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross

But God must be on the side of the side that’s right
And not the right that justifies itself in terms of might –
Least of all a bunch of neo-nazis running hooded through the night
Which may be why He’s so conspicuously out of sight
Of the gospel of bondage…

You read the Bible in your special ways
You’re fond of quoting certain things it says –
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
But if God stays silent, what else can you do
Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you’d surely see
That God won’t be reduced to an ideology
Such as the gospel of bondage…

10 Things

Dumpster Diving #78 Nearly Ten The Geometry of Time

Dumpster Diving #78 Nearly Ten The Geometry of Time

10 Things that Christianity got WRONG:

10.) Thinking Heaven is about escaping life instead of living life.
9.) Emphasizing the divinity of Jesus and diminish his humanity.
8.) Choosing Duality instead of seeing Jesus as the ultimate non-duality.
7.) Missions; let’s face it, it’s proselytizing a sales pitch to try and get others to be part of the group.
6.) Reading the Bible literally – ’nuff said.
5.) Having a personal Jesus – teaching that Jesus came to change their world instead of helping THEM to change the world.
4.) 7-day church.  It only promotes separation from the world not participation in the world.
3.) The “right” to bear arms against anyone we disagree with – to defend ourselves.
2.) 10 commandments/rules and regulations/rituals – [even though Jesus said that he was the end of the law]
1.) Exclusivity, being part of the “chosen”, us vs. them – [even though Jesus Christ was inclusive]

10 things Jesus NEVER saw coming:

10.) That he would have a religion named after him.
9.) A government which allowed him to be murdered would turn him into a state sponsored religion.
8.) People would actually pray to his mother.
7.) Temples/Churches would be built in his name that had nothing to do with what he taught. [And most of the people who attend those “temples” and read this still won’t “get it”.]
6.) That some worthless King(James) of England would make a political move and commission his own Bible that would be written with the intent to justify/legitimize his own English Church and that this would become the standard for “modern” Christianity even though it is inconsistent and full of errors in translation.
5.) That people would use him as an excuse to disengage from the world – except when they want donations.
4.) That his name [Jesus] would become a marketable commodity where trillions of dollars would change hands – even in church.
3.) The industrial revolution.
2.) The technological revolution.
1.) The internet and the information revolution.

10 things Jesus actually taught:

10.) That he would be the source of much misunderstanding and division turning, even, families against each other causing much suffering.
9.) Pray in a closet – not in public.
8.) Politics gets it wrong.
7.) Religion gets it wrong.
6.) You can have peace regardless how horrible your life circumstances may be.
5.) You’re a narcissist? – so what! love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
4.) It’s your faith, what you believe, that heals you. Healing comes from within.
3.) Love your enemies – because when you do, you no longer see them as your enemy.
2.) The kingdom of Heaven is within you – here and now.
1.) Churches are like tombs filled with the bones of the dead.

Bonus – The thing Jesus’ life revealed – He is the Saint of Impossible Causes (like me).

declare your self unsafe

(fyi – this is a re-post from my previous blog in 2012)
UN SAFE

What does it mean to be unsafe?
I think it means to be open, unlocked, unconditional and taking risks. Certainly easier said than done. In our culture these things are typically lauded but not encouraged. A strange paradox. I think that in terms of faith, especially the Christianity I live, the paradox is even more profound because the institutions encourage conformity yet the Savior it proclaims was the ultimate individualist, open, and risky person around.

In our culture we have let fear define safety. We close up our borders, we increase security by increasing surveillance and decreasing privacy, we cast the dark light of suspicion on anything we do not understand or are not familiar with. We use religion as a weapon. And I am ashamed to say that many; who claim to believe in Jesus Christ are just as guilty as those who don’t.

Let’s look again at just a couple of examples of what Jesus taught;
“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48)
“Do not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:38-42)
“Do not act for the purpose of being seen or recognized by others” (Matthew 6:1-4)
“When you pray, go into your room, close the door…” (Matthew 6:5-15)

I could go on. I just want to encourage everyone to live a life of faith that is unsafe. Don’t be afraid to be open, to take a stand against “accepted” public opinion. Take the risk of fighting others by trying to understand them and accept them that they may see, in you a different way to live. Love “keeps no record of wrongs.”(I Corinthians 13:5) “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work… so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Well that’s all I have to say right now.
I declare myself “unsafe”; An urban explorer of the human soul.
Enjoy this video by Mike Stand and THE ALARM – UNSAFE BUILDING

Is God A Contradiction?

I was reading Exodus chapter 33 this morning.  And something really stood out for me.  A major contradiction between verses 11 and 20-23.   

Verse 11 states,

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another.  And he would then return to the camp….”

Then in verse 20-23,

… He (God) said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and Live.” And the Lord said, “See there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”

Talk about a major contradiction. First we read that Moses regularly speaks FACE TO FACE with God, just like you and I would talk to each other, then we read that God says that no man may see him and live. This is exactly the kind of contradiction that Atheists throw out to prove that God does not exist. I read an interesting side note in the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of this text which stated that the two verses came from different sources. Basically the Talmud was hobbled together from multiple sources which explains the contradictions. But are these contradictions a reason to stop believing?

I got to thinking, Is it that God does not exist because of these different and conflicting versions of events; or is it possible that God exists in both sides of the contradiction? Maybe God is IN the contradiction. I think that in our “modern” age people have forgotten about the beauty of paradox, mystery and contradiction. But if God is the God of ALL then he is also the God of paradox, mystery AND contradiction. I’m very interested in mysticism and exploring other religions. It seems to me that even though the religions of men try to exclude others that God is actually present in ALL religions in one form or another revealing “Himself” to humanity in different ways according to each ones ability to understand and comprehend.

Could it be that God is bigger than the contradiction? Could it be that God is both sides of the contradiction – the unifying force of a contradictions two sides? An ultimate non-duality. Maybe another way to put it is to say that when we view these contradictions in our religions, politics and events of our lives we should not think they disprove the existence of God but that God is in each position and point-of-view.

So what do we do with this? I’m not sure we DO anything with it. I don’t think we should try to remove the contradiction from our “sacred” texts. Contradiction is a part of life. A part of human experience. Why shouldn’t it be a part of our spiritual experience? Let it be. Understand that it’s okay to try to do good but shit will still happen. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. That’s life! Contradiction is okay.

Here’s a great song that talks about contradiction.