Sunday, December 12, 2010


I always hesitate to write blogs like this - blogs about judgmental attitudes can often point back to myself as having been judgmental in the very writing of the blog. I suppose that's true. In advance, I beg forgiveness for the likelihood that in my own meditation and ponderings I've played God and judged the heart of fellow people based solely on my observations and thoughts. This blog is not intended to stand in judgment of anyone, but it is the result of me digging in to my own faith journey and finding out what the whole point of it is and what it is that I even believe in.
I've talked many times about my spiritual upbringing - it's quite diverse. Was raised in an ultra conservative Southern Baptist home with a mom who thought sex was a dirty word and a dad who thought he should leave his stack of playboys out on the coffee table for visitors to enjoy. My church said that emotion was ungodly and "dangerous" and should never be expressed towards God. I attended Lutheran school for seven years where I was required to memorize bible verses and say the apostle's creed for a grade. After elementary school each day I would spend several hours with an older extremely pro-Israel couple who loved me and my mother dearly. They actively studied biblical numerology, astrology, and biblical end-times prophecy while smoking about four packs of cigarettes a day and throwing around cuss words like they should be part of any fourth grader's vernacular. My mother taught me to *appreciate* (and use) extrasensory perception and other spiritual phenomenons while also telling me that rock and roll music was from the devil.
I later attended some charismatic churches where I witnessed some pretty amazing stuff. People speaking in different languages that they did not know, people with some nasty ailments being prayed for and healed, people becoming "drunk" in the spirit and being "slain" in the spirit to the point where they fell down and occupied a semi-conscious state for several minutes. Most impressive to me were the prophecies being uttered by "strangers" to me and the congregations, saying stuff so poignant that no one could have made that kind of stuff up. I also remember on several occasions have worship experiences that were so deep and meaningful that I was literally brought to tears in the service.
Different as these experiences have been, one thing has remained constant... there are good people and bad people in each place. My spirit has found both kinship and enmity in all of them. There are attributes of each experience that I think have positively formed me in some way - and there have been experiences in each that have left a deep and powerful negative mark, as well.
I recently attended a meeting that was primarily attended by charismatic believers where we had a great time of prayer and prophetic ministry. I have missed this depth of communion with God in prayer and was feeling the longing to be a part of that kind of church body again...when I subsequently was also met with such a "religious spirit" of condemnation and judgment, arrogance, fakery, and spiritual pride that I just wanted to run away and never return.
Many times I have considered changing churches so that I could find that group of people whom I could feel "at home spiritually with". But the more I look, the more I don't think that group of people exists - the closest that I have found don't even technically share my Christian faith. I deal with the conundrum of what to do with this faith that I proclaim. Indeed, I often wonder aloud exactly what my faith is even in. I hear people proclaim a Christian faith and then deny living the life that Jesus would urge living and the message that he taught. Makes me wonder what their faith is in, as well? They proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and thus they consider themselves a Christian. Or some of the charismatics pray in tongues and prophecy, yet do not follow the simple commands that Jesus taught. I wonder what the point of that is? You either believe the message or you don't. It's either a part of who you are or it isn't.
I have largely found myself drawn to the people who just want to be real. If the word "shit" is on their lips, the word "shit" comes out of their mouth. If they are in the midst of a crisis of faith, they don't try to "fake it until they make it". If they stub their toe, they tell you it hurts. They do their best to be honest about everything - the bad AND the good. Not to say that it's a good idea to intentionally offend people or to live in a state of negativity; rather I'm saying I've grown weary of guessing about people's real state of mind. I'm weary of hearing someone preach "dying to the flesh" and then proceed to cling to wealth and possession over relationship. I'm pretty much done with hearing any word of instruction from any person of faith who does not have the capability to ask forgiveness for one of their actions that caused hurt and division. I prefer an honest and humble agnostic who smokes weed on the weekends to a degreed and decorated pastor who is afraid to admit his faults and shortcomings. In fact, there are many in the church who would actively tell me that it is my duty to avoid befriending that humble agnostic.
I don't want to abandon the "church" as a result of this, but I truly am in a conundrum over to what extent to be involved. I want to know and fellowship with the God of the universe, but I'm not real interested in associating with many of the people who call themselves his ardent followers. I love the grace and the blessings that flow from on high...but I think that so many "believers" have yet to allow that part of God to flow through their lives. I want to fellowship with those who are "real", but I don't want that reality at the expense of depth with God.
I have no answers. And when I have no answers inclining me to change course I generally take that to mean that I need to continue doing what I'm doing and stay on the same heading. I'm quite certain I still won't fit in anywhere. But I guess life's purpose is not for me to fit in somewhere... it is to do my best to be conformed to the image of the Son, letting his life flow through me, regardless of what goes on around me.
And so the conundrum continues.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Even though it was a scorching 85 degrees today, most of the leaves have fallen off the trees and the summer annual plants are either already dead or they are starting to look dry and diseased. The bugs that used to prolifically fill the ground and busily swarm around my head have slowed down and dwindled significantly in number. As a result, the spiders that used to be well fed and commonplace are now much fewer and with a much "cleaner" web than would have been the case a month ago.

I happened to be standing near two of the remaining spiders today and I wondered as i stared up at them if they knew that they were going to die soon. While I know this probably seems like something silly to ponder, I really wondered it. (Several months back I watched a spider move with great dexterity and purpose as he not only trapped, but deliberately reacted to the movements of his escaping prey. I believe they can think.) If they are somehow aware of their impending death, I wonder what compels them to keep at it.

Similarly, I have been unable to escape the recurring thoughts of meaninglessness recently. It's not like it's always been this way. In fact there have been cycles of my life in which life seemed to have great purpose...only to be followed by other cycles in my life in which life seemed to carry nothing but pain. This, I am sure is no different than the others. But the thing that sets this cycle apart is that it seems far less deliberate than the other cycles. In those times I seemed to have defined goals - whether those goals were spiritual, career oriented, or relationship driven - and as such were under my perceived control. Now I seem to be at the mercy of the wind and the waves. It's almost a helplessness where you feel compelled to do something, yet you feel as though to do it will yield an unsatisfactory result, so you do nothing. Even the work that does seem to be goal-oriented doesn't seem to carry the same satisfaction that it once did as the reward for finishing the task doesn't seem as appetizing as it once may have appeared.

I know there are still worthy pursuits in the world, and I still find joy in soul conversations. But the truth be told, I am finding less and less to talk about that actually seems to matter. It's kinda like that spider who's thinking about his impending death in two days, yet wondering what's for dinner tomorrow night? Why would he even care? I suppose it's to derive whatever joy he can from the days that he's got left.

Past cycles have told me that tomorrow is a new day and this too will soon give way to yet a new direction in my life. I'm quite anxious to see that that new day and new direction will bring, because I can deal with many things in life, but lack of purpose is not one of them.

Until then, I'll sit down like everyone else and count my Thanksgiving day blessings and try to be the man that I want to see in the world. Perhaps that's my purpose and I'm not even focusing on it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's it all for?

I was standing outside in the wind this autumn morning when I looked down and saw a couple of fuzzy catterpillars scurrying near my feet. One of them was running at top speed, heading "who knows where" until he ran into a roadblock. Upon encountering this obstacle, he quickly turned 90 degrees to the right and resumed his sprint somewhere else...until he hit another roadblock and the experience was repeated. This fuzzy little creature was in a hurry to get somewhere but I'm not sure even he knew where that was. It seemed he was just gonna run until he got "there", wherever there is - probably thinking he would intuitively know when he was at the right place.

Recently I've felt a lot like that little catterpillar. Scurrying around somewhat directionless, running like I've got somewhere to go and no time to get there, but not really sure where it is that I'm going, nor how to know when I've actually arrived. Everything simultaneously seems to be of utmost importance and yet of no significance. I find it almost humorous to see the goals and dreams that each of us set, thinking that when we achieve those goals or dreams that somehow we will have found what we were looking for all along. But for many the dreams are ever elusive and for others who manage to achieve them, they seem to be nothing more than a big missed expectation.

Many have told me that I need to find my "life's purpose" and set about giving my time and energy to such a pursuit as that which fulfills that life purpose. So I find a few things that seem to align with it and pursue them. to some degree, there is life there. But today's life is tomorrow's heartache. Whether it's seeing others trample on and reject your prized "purpose" or whether it's a partial achievement of it with the full knowledge that the fullness of the achievement will never be realized, it all seems rather pointless.

Live life for the moment, I guess is what I come back to. I know there is no life in achievement, accumulation, or status. I know that even the wisest of men are thought fools by most of their contemporaries, so even the high pursuit of knowledge and truth is rather meaningless.

Yet it seems like there should be more of a point to it all. What, indeed, is it all for?

I don't know.

But I'll keep seeking, and try to find the motivation to play the games that other people demand be played. I'll try to respect all those scurrying catterpillars in my path for wherever they are going so quickly. I'll try to find a reason to keep caring even when people seem to reject the care that's offered. And maybe some day I'll find my answers. Or maybe, like the catterpillar, I'll eventually even stumble upon my "there" destination.

Or maybe not.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mind over matter

Some of the "spiritual" experiences that I have are not only foreign to most people, to some they are downright freaky. A person who has yet to embrace the interconnectivity of the mind/spirit/body might think some of the things that I've experienced are pretty strange, indeed - and in my recollection of some of the events I've almost lost a couple friends over it, just by mentioning it to them. Others are more open to such things, and those people are usually quick to ask questions and share their own unique experiences with the supernatural. I was introduced to the spiritual by my mother when I was a pre-teen. She had always had a fascination with things like extra-sensory perception (ESP) and telekenesis (manipulation of an object with only the power of the mind) and she would talk openly about these things with me. On several occasions I remember her attempting to train me to "hear" her thoughts. On a few occasions, the mental telepathy worked and I correctly heard what she was attempting to tell me using only her power of thought. I also remember her encouraging my sisters to "think" to certain boys that liked them whatever thoughts that they wanted to convey. Some might call this dabbling in the occult. But my mother loved the Lord and taught us in His ways, so I don't think I'd agree with them.

A cure for hiccups
When I was in high school, I took my first psychology class. It taught me about a psychological therapy called bio-feedback wherein a patient was connected by electrodes to a series of computers that allowed the patient to monitor their physiological condition while practicing various techinques of concentration, relaxation, or quasi-meditation. The patient would use the feedback of the computers to know when the relaxation techniques that they were doing were altering certain physiological functions like heart rate or blood pressure. This "loop" would allow the patient to teach herself to manipulate her body in the way that she wanted it to be manipulated, and thus provide a natural cure to whatever was ailing her.

At that time in my life I had a frequent problem with hiccups. While I did not have access to the high tech labs and computers that the psychologists were using, I did know how to monitor my own heart rate and in essence, listen to my body. I decided to try the technique to rid myself of hiccups. The next time I got them, I quieted myself and concentrated intently on my diaphragm. To help the focus I took my hands and actually touched that part of my body. I "told" my diaphragm that there was no need for it to be spasming and that it needed to obey me when I told it to relax. Of course, I felt pretty silly telling a part of my body these things, but hey, it was an experiment and I was going to make sure I actually did it correctly. Results? the first time was basically nothing. No effect except me feeling pretty silly. But I persisted. I figured the psych textbook experiments had to have some truth to them, so I did the hiccup relaxation technique again the next time I got the hiccups. Much to my surprise, the second time it worked. Not right away, mind you, but it did work. Encouraged by this result, I began to employ the relaxation technique every time I got the hiccups. Eventually I figured out how to literally control that part of my body. I have even learned, to some degree, how to control the hiccups of other people, if they will allow me to do so. My daughter Angie, tonight, had hiccups that would not stop. I finally walked over to her and looked her eye to eye and stated firmly, "you will stop hiccuping now". I made her hold my gaze for a few seconds and sure enough, they were gone and did not resurface the rest of the night. I have taught my other two children the same technique, and they now know how to rid themselves of hiccups simply by telling their body what to do.

That same high school psychology class made me aware of another strange phenomenon. People who are afflicted with multiple personality disorder not only "become" different characters, but they will often talk with different accents and even sometimes have different eyesight, requiring different glasses prescriptions. Yes, one personality can have different eyesight than another personality that shares the same body - it's true. This led me to believe that biofeedback might be able to be used to alter our vision. I've not figured out how to do that, yet, but am still working on it.

There have been times as an adult where I have "sent" thoughts to someone and they have received them. There have been other times when I have sent "healing" to other people and I later learned that they got better at exactly the time that I prayed for (sent) the healing to them. It has happened so frequently that I do not even question it anymore. I just accept it as truth. I simply realize that the spirit realm is quite real and quite interconnected with the physical.

There are times when I meet a person and instantly I see a bond "of light" with them. It's like a spiritual connection is there before I even meet the physical body. Other times I can see a spiritual "blockage" within people that kinda tells me where they are in life and what issues they are struggling with (blinded by or deceived by), or are out of balance in their life. Still other times, I can meet someone and know that they are bad news - that they have actually embraced a spirit that is not of God and have no desire to let it go. They like the power that the embrace gives them. These are the people I tend to avoid, for their negative vibe (their fixation on evil) is very draining and sometimes contagious.

I think that most issues that we encounter, be they emotional issues, spiritual issues, or physical issues, they can be fixed through a balancing of the body, mind, and spirit. Whether you call that bio-feedback or whether you call it accessing the spiritual realm I care not, so long as you are not approaching the matter for selfish gain. God needs to be approached in humility. If you are enthralled with the power of the spirit realm, you are summoning the wrong power. If you are overcome with the collective unity (shared spirit) of God's people and the way that you have a part to play in blessing and balancing them through him, you are on the right track. That track might simply start with a cure for hiccups, but it will take you much farther if you surrender and allow yourself to stay on it. It's a beautiful thing to walk in the light.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Addressing the symptom

One of the biggest challenges I have with the way our health system has evolved is that most doctors now view our symptoms as the problem that needs to be treated. The pharmaceutical industry is on to this trend and they make drugs largely for the same purpose - they alleviate our symptoms, yet do little to nothing to alleviate the problem that caused the symptom. In some cases the fact that we no longer are experiencing the symptoms of sickness may even cause us to put off the rest and proper nutrition that we should be doing so that our body can heal itself. Our quest to make ourselves rid of the symptoms can actually prolong the problem.

But I wonder if our penchant for treating the symptom rather than the disease stops with physical ailments or if it doesn't continue into other areas of our lives. A good friend of mine - whom I generally highly respect - made an argument against facebook this morning, by saying that to fraternize on there with people from your past can lead to extra marital affairs. While I respect my friend, I have to disagree with him on this one. Facebook does not cause anyone to have an extra marital affair any more than a bottle of rum in one's cabinet causes an individual to become an alcoholic. The affair or the alcoholism are merely the outward symptoms of an inward condition. Can we keep the problem at bay for a while if we limit access to the internet or hide all the booze? Yeah, sure. But has that fixed anything? I don't think so. If anything, all it has done is to use bondage to further mask the problem. I know the human soul longs for freedom and I am convinced that no emotional or spiritual problem is ever cured in the absense of freedom. While we can prevent one symptom from manifesting by removing access to it, invariably what happens is, unless the problem is healed, it merely manifests again as a different symptom (i.e. alcohol addiction might manifest as prescription drug addiction). Nothing has been cured - the condition that caused the person to look for an escape is still there - its symptoms have only been managed.

Holistic medicine works with the body not by treating the symptom, but rather by creating the conditions by which the body will heal itself - seeking to re-establish balance. By nourishing the parts of your body that do the healing and removing the nourishment from the things that harm it, it brings the body back into balance and harmony with the way it was intended to function. Maybe a good healthy dose of holistic medicine is what we should learn to apply in our emotional and spiritual lives. Can facebook be used as a crutch that sends nourishment to parts of our body that is causing us harm? Absolutely. I think there are also times when it can bring the nourishment to our deficient emotions. How does one determine whether it is healthy or unhealthy? I don't know that there's any easy answer to that question, but perhaps we can look at how our symptoms have changed as a guide when the "medicine" of facebook is applied. What happens when we change the "dosage"? If nothing else, asking these questions will help us to know ourselves a bit more.

I guess because we've become so results driven we feel as though we've accomplished something when we can see a milestone achieved - therefore making the conquest of a "symptom" all the more attractive. I know that where I am in life, I prefer being around people who are aware of their problems and are working to fix them to those who are problem deniers, always trying to make their symptoms "presentable" and "manageable". We're all in various levels of sickness. Let's just admit that right now. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you content with polishing up the exterior of the status quo? Or are you okay with a little constuction dust in your life while the remodel is being completed?

Do you have anger issues? Addiction issues? Chances are pretty good that those are NOT your problems - there's something deeper that's prompting you to respond with these behaviours. Fix that and most of the time the symptom goes away. Cover the symptom up, and the underlying issue consumes like cancer.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that no positive and permanent change ever occurs in a life without first experiencing the freedom that comes from humble submission. A person has got to be allowed to be free to fail and even to embrace failure. It is only in that free state can the truth in love be spoken and heard. And it is only in that free state that lasting change will ever come. There are a lot of things that people can point to that are "good" or "bad" but I think that kinda misses the point. Instead, we should be focused on submitting ourselves to God to be filled with his spirit. The presence of various symptoms merely let us know that we have not fully arrived, yet. Dwell on that, meditate on that, and the rest will fall into place on its own.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I asked my daughter yesterday what the word love meant to her. She gave me the typical dumb teenager look that means something like a mixture of "why do you ask me such stupid questions" and "I have no idea how to answer your question". Then she quickly glanced at me and blurted out, "I don't know" and just as rapidly looked away so as to indicate to me that she was fine with this conversation being over before it ever really began - and that I should not expect anything in the way of a cognitive response from her.

But since I know that she has been using this word with other people, and knowing that I need to be a father, I pressed her for a more specific answer.

"Not good enough," I retorted. "If you don't know what it means to you, you need to think about it and tell me. I'm waiting."

A bit annoyed at my persistence yet knowing she needed to say something to shut me up, she thought for a minute and then said, "Ummm, I guess when you really really like someone."

Although I can say that I completely disagree with it, I don't fault her for her response. Like and love are often confused and while they can certainly co-exist, they are NOT the same thing. Like is an emotion that is based upon feelings, particularly the feelings of how another person meets (or fails to meet) OUR needs. As such, it is at its core a selfish emotion. As soon as the person that you like stops doing things that make you feel good about yourself, you will stop liking them. Like is an emotion built upon receiving, whether that be receiving compliments, gifts, stature, or pleasure, it is something that you receive from without and not from within.

On the other hand, love is an action of the will. It is something anchored in giving, not receiving, grace and not expectations, and does not cease simply because one's personal preferences have changed. In fact, I do not see love as an emotion at all. I see it as a voluntary act of submission or surrender. I believe that God is love and without him, we are utterly incapable of displaying it. Allegorical scriptures mention humans as clay in God the potter's hands indicating that we need to be moldable, shapable, humble. Other scriptures compare us to a vessel that becomes filled with the life-giving water of God. I believe that we are born empty - pure yet devoid of goodness - but when we voluntarily submit ourselves to God, we allow his character to fill us, and flow through us like we are a conduit. The love that follows is an unconditional acceptance of another person regardless of what they can do for us in return. The conduit example makes sense to me because love is counterintuitive to our basic instincts - indeed it is unnatural. In order to love, we must be submitted to an outside force that allows us to do so. The process of this submission is what I deem one's "salvation experience" and is so life-changing and eye-opening that I cannot imagine a person who has had their eyes opened to it ever giving it up more than temporarily and returning to their prior devoid state.

I often speak to people who have claimed to have had that salvation experience, but then seem to maintain an attitude of pride and selfishness. If it is true that we are merely vessels or conduits, and what's flowing out of us is pride and selfishness, then it goes without saying that what fills us then is not godly. And if we are not filled with godly things, we should not expect godly results from our actions or efforts. If we want to see someone's attitude change, we should first change our own attitude. But to do so just to make them change is nothing but selfish manipulation, it is not love. Love drops our expectations of the other person and puts their well-being ahead of our desires. It does not seek to change a person for our own sake, but seeks to accept them the way that they are, whether they deserve it or (more than likely) not. It's not a glorified position to be in, it seems foolish to most people, and it's not very rewarding many times. But it does bring one thing to your life that nothing else can bring. Peace.

And that's something that's in pretty short supply in this world.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Just don't laugh!

Another in my series of what's wrong with religion.

I heard a comment this morning that stuck in my craw. The more I thought about it, the more that it bothered me. While I love it when a person's life is legitimately "changed" by God so that they become a seeker and follower of him, I hate it when someone is "convinced" that they need religion and equate that find with finding God.

The comment started innocently enough - he said that "God often tells us to do something but doesn't tell us what the consequences of our obedience will be." I can agree with this, and it makes sense. He then, however, followed that observation with "...because if He did, we wouldn't do it!"

While it's certainly true that God tells people to do things and many of them would indeed refuse to do those things if they knew the consequences, there is a deeper truth here that needs examining. If someone who identifies themselves as a faith follower of God would actually refuse to do something that God told them to do if they first knew the consequences, that clearly reveals that they have no faith after all. If they only obey to the extent that it pleases them to obey, then the question is, is that really obedience? It's akin to me asking my children to do their homework and them following through and pouring their heart into their homework in the subjects that they enjoy, while ignoring the subjects that they did not enjoy. It may be partial obedience, but it is not completing the task the way that it was assigned. It is indeed dis-obedience.

The condition of the heart is repeatedly what scriptures stress that we must change. With a pure heart, good works will follow, but the works themselves do not create a clean heart. This is surely why Jesus stated that someone who "hates his brother has already committed murder in his heart". It is usually the same religious spirit that I've already mentioned that will also tell someone that they shouldn't be laughing at filthy jokes. The way that I see it, if the jokes are indeed bad, and if a person would still find them funny, what's the use in repressing the laughter? Isn't laughter an outward expression of something that occurs on the inside? I, for one, am done feeling guilty because I listened to someone's off-colour joke and cracked a smile. There are many things that society has taken to label as taboo, dirty, or inappropriate that I don't think God has any issues with. Indeed, there are many people whom I have personally known who have been turned off from God because of the self-righteous attitude of a joke-hearer. Bottom line is that I am responsible for my thoughts and the consequences of thinking or acting upon them. If I know something is truly offensive to God, and I truly love him, I simly don't believe that I will find anything funny about it. It is my issue between myself and God.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, saying what appears to the be same thing over and over. But I strongly believe that what we are teaching as a path to God is really just a path to a religious spirit. Instead of teaching people to follow the law, we should be teaching people to know, love, and follow the God behind the law. If we truly are in love with the God of the universe, he will let us know when our behaviour is out of line.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The more time I spend with my teenaged daughters and their friends, the more I get to see first hand how the search for the perfect mate begins in our youngest years. Unfortunately for kids, they don't yet know what they're looking for and the attachments seem to come and go in a week or two - then on to the next search.

The search continues, though, well into adulthood. Like Ponce de Leon engaged in a lifelong quest for the fountain of youth, many adults have similar resolve in their search for their "soulmate". Many books have been written on the subject and many lives have become consumed with the search for that perfect "one". I guess the thought behind that is that God must have predestined "a" person for us, then blindly turned us loose on earth to "find" that one person that would make us happy. In that line of thought, if we choose wrongly, we are stuck living with our consequences for the rest of our life, never to find happiness. People who subscribe to this theory usually feel the need to engage in "serial dating" so that they can try out a number of potential mates "before they buy". I guess they figure that exposure to a number of potential mates increases their odds that they'll eventually find that special one.

I used to subscribe to that point of view, but as I have aged, I no longer do. Instead, I think that the account of creation in Genesis sheds some light onto the search for a mate. The story says that God created all animals with a male and female, but had not done so with man. After seeing that all of his creation was "good" except man, which is said was "not good", he created a helper for man from man. In essence, he split the singular spirit of mankind into a masculine part and a feminine part. The account goes on to say that when man and woman come together again, they form a bond that unites the spirit: "The two shall become one flesh".

God created mankind in his own image, thus God possesses both masculine and feminine traits. Unfortunately, the "fall" of man happened when mankind decided to no longer wear the perfect spirit of God, i.e. he rebelled against God and his traits. The story of Jesus revolves around that reconciliation to our prior perfect state and a new harmony with God.

I believe that the spirit of God is drawn to the spirit of God. To the degree that a man submits his will, desires, and actions to God; and a woman submits hers to the spirit of God, when the two come together they will resemble God's original intent and have everything in common. They will be "soul mates". In that vein, I do not think there is "one" potential soul mate in the world - there are 3 billion potential soul mates. Realistically, though, most people have no desire to submit themselves or their spirit to God. Your 3 billion quickly gets narrowed down to an infinitesimally smaller field of choices.

Some might argue with this, suggesting that even those who have no desire to live a good or righteous life can still find a soulmate. I would suggest that those people may have found the comfort of commonality in another, rather than the unifying and completing bond of a soulmate. Everyone's psyche wants to be affirmed and when one finds another with the same desires, weaknesses, and passions, that affirmation occurs. But in the case of commonality, the focus is more on self-affirmation through the other person. This is vastly different from the bond of a spiritual soul mate where the bond seems to "just be". It is a result of who people are - their mutual submission to the spirit and principles of a higher power than themselves. It creates things in common, but is not based upon finding things in common.

To those who are engaged in the search for that "special one", I encourage you to stop looking and begin the process of laying down your own life to become the person that you were created to be, then "just be". The spirit of God is drawn to himself and he desires unity in his creation. If you find that soulmate, consider yourself to be blessed and thank God for his spirit of love. Then continue to seek to wear his spirit in your own life - for much as we may want to have expectations of others and try to fit them to our own mold, the only one that we really have any legitimate power over is ourself.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Browsing through the internet news today, my eyes crossed over the following headline:

"Attackers strike sect mosque in Pakistan, 80 dead..."

While unfortunately there's nothing shocking about reading such a headline due to it's common frequency, it's easy to detatch from such happenings and dismiss the violence and murder as mere political reprisals. A member of one sect killed someone from a rival sect so the rival sect responded in kind with a reprisal murder to "even the score".

The problem with this isn't hard to see. It depends on who is keeping score as to whether or not the score is ever "even". In fact, since the reprisal murder is usually based on killing any member of that group rather than seeking justice against the ones who perpetrated the original crime, a new "innocent" is killed each time. In essence, the score is never even. As Mohandas Ghandi wisely observed, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

When I was a child I remember hearing about the clashes between the catholic and the protestants in Ireland. The enmity and mistrust was deep and one killing inevitably was met with a counter-attack and so on. I recall asking my mother why these two groups of Christians were killing each other, as they both belonged to a larger "group" of followers of the same God and that God had firmly instructed them not to engage in the behaviour that they were engaging in. Similarly in Pakistan many muslims kill other muslims somehow thinking they are doing the work of God in the process. I know this is forbidden in the Qur'an teachings. India's militant Hindus also have their own back and forth battles against the minority Christians and Muslims. This type of reprisal is not condoned in hindu scriptural teachings, yet the battles are usually waged in the name of God and often focus on attacking people at their place of worship.

One of the reasons I am so drawn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is because of the wisdom and love that he displayed for all of mankind. He said "you have heard the expression 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' but I tell you this: Do to others what you would have them do to you." He followed that with a statement of old, reminding us that it is not we who do the work of God, but God himself: "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord, "I will repay." He went even further to say, "You have heard it said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. For even the worst among us can love those who show them love".

His words, if obeyed, literally break the unending cycle of reprisal. They leave the judgment of a man's heart to God, where it belongs.

Sometimes I get a little passionate about uncovering the truth. I try to do so because the world is clouded with lie upon lie. If I believe a lie, I will adjust my behaviour accordingly. I sometimes see my own "group" engaging in activities that seek will perpetuate a new circle of reprisals - and new eye for an eye - oftentimes based upon questionable evidence to begin with. Whether it is credible or not, every action has a consequence and must be understood as such. If I seek to call myself a follower of Christ, I must understand that the enemy is not fellow man, but that I wage war against principalities in the spiritual realm that seek to blind men to the truth. This is true not just on a wider level, but on a personal level as well. When I am hurt by someone, I must learn to let it go and not try to even the score.

As an aside, I do not think that this doctrine precludes legitimate self-defense. It simply indicates that one should not hold a record of wrong against another. In essence, each day is a new day.

Something to shoot for, anyway.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of Truth and Deception

Few things make me angry anymore. I certainly grew up with many expectations of how things should be, and when they didn't turn out as planned - be that poor customer service, perceived injustices that I suffered at the hands of others, political wranglings that I thought were patently unfair, or simple opportunities that always seemed to land on someone else's doorstep - I was always ready to pounce with a well-rationalized righteous indignation against whatever perceived problem existed. Over the years, I've learned to let most of my expectations go and with those expectations, my anger has largely gone, too. But one thing still makes me very angry, and nothing can compare to my anger against blatant lies.

Lies are particularly offensive to me because they not only disturb our ability to trust (thus causing unnecessary disharmony), they distort our picture of reality. They make the truth relative, and seemingly elusive. And after a while, in the absense of truth, we begin to believe the lies - accepting them as defacto truth, even though we once knew differently.

The most profound lie is one whose seed implants in our soul and is watered by others so frequently that it takes deep roots, wrapping itself around our heart to the point where we see it as indistinguishable from who we are and who we can become.

Such lies commonly are planted from the words of others. Statements such as "You're ugly", "You're such a clutz", "You're an inadequate parent", "You're so prone to sickness", or "You just can't do anything right, can you?" permeate our thinking and after the initial impact wears off, we begin to accept these statements as truth. Once we've accepted the lie as truth, we begin to make other decisions in our lives that are based upon those underlying premises - and as such we then compound and validate the lie even more.

The longer we accept the underlying premise of the lie, the more decisions we take that provide validation to its existence, and the more it becomes a fundamental part of our belief and value system. What follows, then, is that once we have accepted the lie as truth for ourselves, we begin to propagate it to others. In essence, we harvest the fruits of the lie from our own life, then unknowingly plant it into the lives of others. Such is the consequence of not taking the time and opportunity to refute the lies in our own lives - we not only harm ourselves, but we also harm others.

So often these untruths initiate from a careless choice of words that another person uses in our presence. It may have been sarcasm, or it may have been said from selfish motivations or frustration by another, but the effect is the same. I believe that words are spiritual and that if they are not blessings, they are curses. Having seen familial patterns play out, I believe that many curses are generational. When we speak, we must realize the power that our words have to potentially effect generations of people.

I know from personal experience that the words that have hurt me the most, and the ones that have had the greatest impact on me, are usually the little things. Things that I have remembered for a lifetime, but the person who said the words probably forgot they said them five minutes after they left their mouth. This experience has led me to try and monitor the things that I say very closely, because once a curse is uttered, you can't take it back. All that's left at that point is the ability to ask forgiveness - an opportunity that not all of us will have. Will you ever really see that person in the Wal-Mart checkout lane again? Tell them they're ugly, though, and your words will potentially pierce them for a lifetime.

In the Garden of Eden, God created mankind "in His image". A mirror image is a perfect reflection of the original. Yes, God created us as a pure spirit. Our disobedience and pride has soiled that reflection. The lies that we have believed make the reflection harder to identify. But the good thing about a mirror is that no matter how soiled it becomes, when we take a little Windex and some old rags to it, it washes right off and you can see your reflection in it again.

My encouragement to anyone who reads this is to examine the utter shit that we have come to believe is truth. Discard it to where shit belongs. Then begin to live your life again modeled upon the truth...the truth that you have intrinsic worth - worth that does not come from the things you've done in the past (or will do in the future); worth that does not come from the attainment of some goal or the possession of some phyical feature; rather, worth from the fact that you are not an illegitimate spiritual bastard child, but that you were literally created in love. Your worth comes from the beautiful and utterly perfect creation that you are. Dusty as the mirror may have become from a lifetime of believing and acting upon deceit, the truth is that you are beautiful. Accept it. Then share it.

Seek forgiveness from whom you are led to seek forgiveness. Ultimately, though, I'm certain that that list of people will surely include yourself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Random thoughts

I had traveled to a distant Texas town over the weekend and got the chance to talk at long length to a type of person that I normally wouldn't find myself engaged in conversation with. He, in many ways, reminded me of my younger years. What I saw was a decent guy who seemed to have absolutely no sense of purpose in his life. He knew there was a right and wrong but was content not to worry about why it existed so long as he could keep chasing the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow. Until he found it, he would keep chasing the skirt of the woman in front of him. I was reminded that to have a blind or empty faith is as pointless as having no faith at all.

When I got home from my trek across the state, I decided it was time that I changed the oil in my car. It was way overdue and I still had some time left in the day, so I pulled the car up on the ramps, drained the dirty old oil from my car and replaced it with new, clean oil. Since we're supposed to recycle our used oil, I funnelled it back into the oil jug. I had some space in the jug left over and I remembered that I had an open container of used motor oil that I had kept on my back porch the prior year to lube my chainsaw. As I began to pour that oil into my jug, a big lump coalesced in the bottom of the container. On closer examination, I saw that it was a bird... and that bird's nest. I remember seeing a big splash of oil on my back porch last year, but I didn't realize the bird had fallen into the oil container and died. Apparently, the bird had built a nest just above the oil container and had seen the oil and thought it was a water birdbath. She went for a dip and then got covered with oil, so she couldn't fly. Her flailing knocked her nest into the oil, drowning her eggs and herself. It was kinda sad.

All my life I have been an "idea man". I've always looked at things and wondered "What if..." I consider that my gifting, my raison d'etre, so to speak. But I seem to see things so differently than the rest of the world, it's sometimes a bit discouraging that so few other people seem to give a rat's ass about my ideas. Well, tomorrow someone's giving me their ear. And not just anyone, but someone who can actually help my idea come to fruition. Maybe it'll be like all the other opportunities gone by the wayside, but at the risk of sounding like the 30 something that never found a mate, I'd like to think that this opportunity will be "the one". I'm certain that God has given me this odd brain for a reason, and I'm also certain that there's a reason why things happen the way they do, so I don't begrudge past "failures" if you will. I'm just ready for a success.

A while back, my good friend Rina introduced me to a book written by an Indian doctor/philosopher named Depak Chopra. In the brief amount of information that I have gleened from Chopra, some amazing new paradigms have formed in my brain. He speaks, for instance, of our cells and DNA - the essence and base building block of who we are as people - essentially being a story book of our lives, containing information about our past and our present and our predispositions of our future. From the study of these cells and DNA structures, scientists can often tell people what areas of one's genetics are weak and susceptible to disease. Chopra's basic assertion is that while our parents birth us with a copy of their DNA, we are continually in the process of writing our DNA with our lives. Thus, if we make a major life change, our DNA can actually change. This statement, to me, is congruent with the process of spiritual re-birth - a born again religious conversion, a revelation which can fundamentally alter someone's viewpoint on just about everything. It also backs up the statement of the Bible that says "the sins of the father are visited on the third and fourth generation, but the mercy of the Lord is everlasting." Negative patterns of behaviour do indeed often last for several generations, but the hope that I find in this scientific research is that the DNA predisposition towards these negative behaviours can actually shift when someone makes a conscious and meaningful decision to see things differently and align their lives accordingly. Thanks for the book recommend, Rina. I hope your back is feeling better.

Well, as I said earlier, I am hopeful that tomorrow might be "the day" that this lifetime of dry ideas ends. I should get some rest for it. If you're so inclined to pray for things like this, I could use the favor of the Lord on my life right now. I will covet your prayers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I am blessed

Sometimes I'm blessed with the opportunity to just sit back and think about how many ways that I've been granted a wonderful life. Often times that opportunity comes when I get the chance to tell part of "my story" and I get to reflect on where I've come from and where I am today. Time has brought many people into and out of my life, in various capacities. Some were there in my youth, some in my early adulthood, and some are here now. Others have come, gone, and come back into my life. Regardless of when, the tapestry of experience that they all have brought to me is invaluable and beautiful.

Some have taught me what to avoid, while others have taught me how to overcome that which I am trapped in. Some have helped me to uncover just who I am while others have taught me who I am not and should not be. Some have given me a reason to cry for them and others have given me their shoulder as a means to transfer some of my burdens to them. Some have been the model of sacrificial love to me.

I am humbled by the people whom have come into my life. Humbled by the undeserved love that I have been shown, and humbled by my opportunities to share my life with them, and by the respect that I have been given. I have no question that there is a God, because I have seen him work through people in my life.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Empty Religion

Caution: This is a spiritual blog entry...

Philippians 3:17 Brothers, be imitators together of me, and mark those who walk this way, for you have us for a pattern.

Those words were penned by the apostle Paul to the early church of Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago.

There is a temptation among those in the church to deify the apostles and other biblical figures - or at least make them into mythological super humans. When Paul wrote that the people of Philippi should be imitators of him, he was urging them to adopt the level of belief, faith and trust that he had come to know in the Creator. He wanted them to live their lives in accordance with those beliefs. Fast forward 2000 years. A typical church service today will spend an hour trying to convince "Christians" that if they don't start living their lives differently, the "non-believers" will not come to know Christ and will spend an eternity in hell. They see the great commission as some sort of traveling Lincoln-Douglas debate in which evidence is mounted on one side to counter the evidence of the other side. At the end of the debate, the non-believing foe will either concede defeat or will somehow manage to present evidence that the believer was unprepared to defend against, and the believer will concede that the unbeliever has "rejected God". Then this pseudo great commission goes on, and another debate partner (potential convert) must be found. In this scenario, the believer's mission is to get the non-believer to admit that Jesus really did live, really was God, and if he prays a prayer that says he believes in Jesus, he's "saved", an event which, depending upon which church the evangelist/debater belongs to, may or may not be able to be undone...and the new convert will now be assured a spot in heaven. God forbid the non-believer actually be allowed to present evidence that's compelling and thought provoking, causing the believer to want to examine it. That's very dangerous, as faith is fragile and the words of our religious leaders should not be challenged lest the people be deceived.

Such is the church as I see it today. Totally detached from what the Lord Jesus was teaching - encouraging neither a true relationship with him nor a seeking heart after the truth. Instead we are told that "when we can walk on water, we would be allowed to do some of the things that Jesus did". Or we are told of our arrogance if we claim to be, like King David, living a life after God's heart, because no one can really do that until we "reach the other side in glory".

My main contention is that the whole concept of salvation has been bastardized and grossly twisted. It should be quite simple. To "believe in Jesus" is no different than somebody today asking you to believe in them. To trust in Jesus is no different than someone today asking you to trust them. The idea that salvation is an intellectual exercise that can be debated into existence is ridiculous and misguided. To trust in Jesus means nothing more than to examine what he taught, said, and did and believe it based upon the same means that we would evaluate whether or not to trust anyone else in the world. Test his message, test his statements, test his character. One simply CANNOT do that without knowing what his message is. To claim trust without doing so would merely be blind faith and blind faith in anyone or anything is unwise. Salvation, as I see it, is not when someone prays a prayer or says some words, or avows some historical facts. Salvation to me is when a person finally realizes that creator God is indeed trustworthy and they decide to submit their will and ways of understanding to the ways of God, even if they don't make sense at first. Even if they don't know of Jesus, salvation occurs when a person of any faith comes to humble their pride and submit in full to the creator God that is behind the rituals and regulations that their faith encourages them to practice (so long as those rituals actually reveal God's character). This is a way of being, a lifestyle. And while the decision to submit one's life may occur in an instant the experience of proving it out through personal testing cannot be taken away nor can it be debated away, because it is something that develops bit by bit over time. It is not some silly script from a biblical scholar.

Paul encouraged people to act like him. We are told that to say a similar thing would be arrogant and completely out of line. But I tell you that those "Christians" who cannot say to you that you should act like them (and believe it in their hearts) are liars and do not know the God that they say they have a relationship with. They use the cloak of imperfection as an excuse to remain lazy and unaffected by God. They claim that Paul was a superhuman man of faith and we will never achieve his stature - after all, he did write half the New Testament Bible. This cop out is a damnable lie and encourages people to declare and proselytise a faith in a God-spirit that they indeed do not possess.

I want people to act like me. I've spent a number of years proving the gospel, and I now know that the laws of God are good laws, designed not for punishment, but for order, not for restriction, but for safe boundaries in freedom. The faith that I have in my God is not blind faith. I have read the words of Jesus and have tested them in my own life. They are true. Following them brings me peace, even in the midst of extremely difficult times. I have not become perfect, and I do not desire to deify myself - that's not what this is about. I do seek forgiveness, however, when I know I've wronged someone. I do not try to gain at the expense of others bit if I do, I seek to make it right. I want people to do these things. I want them to know the freedom that I know. I want them to seek the God that I have sought, and find his peace and direction for their life, and to know the depths of love that he has for us.

When I believe in, and live out (submit to) the message and teachings of Jesus, God is lifted up and draws men unto himself. THAT is the great commission. People come to God because they have seen his work in my life and want the same for their own. Not because I'm a compelling orator...not because I'm a good debater and can wow people with my facts...not because I'm something "special"...but because they can see the evidence of change in my own life. They can see the power and hope in my own life. Any other reason for coming to a declaration of faith is misguided, built on a sandy foundation, and doomed to fail.

I want you to be like me. If you claim to be a person of faith, ask yourself the question "Can I say that about myself?" If you can't, why not? Perhaps its merely a misunderstanding of the faith that you're trying to represent. Put away your list of do's and don'ts and check the condition of your heart. Do you submit yourself to the teachings of Jesus Christ because you realize that those teachings ARE life? If you do, then you have found salvation. If you don't, if you don't trust him, then no matter what words you have said, what aisle you have walked, what prayer you have prayed, you have nothing but empty religion.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

As one political cycle has just gone and the primaries for the next are now being held, my mind, lately, has been focused on freedom - what it is, and what it isn't - and why the founders of my country worked so hard to ensure that the role of our government was largely limited to guarantying the freedom of its citizens.

It is human nature to seek to deny others their own freedom. One need not look too hard to see the examples of this. The obvious examples of slavery, the sex-trade, and ruthless dictators come quickly to mind. But lest we point our condemnatory finger of blame at others while washing our own hands in innocence, let's consider some other ways that we deny freedom in socially acceptable ways.

I've spoken many times about my own experiences with religion. I was raised in a church-going family and have been active in my faith from the time I was four years old. I attended a Christian elementary school, a Christian college, and a Christian seminary. During that time there was never a shortage of well meaning people who were quick to point out when my actions were offending God. They presumed to know what was gonna piss God off and what was gonna be pleasing to him and they were sure going to get me straightened out lest I take the wrong path and spend my eternity in hell. Some would even quote bible verses to make sure I knew that their words were actually emanating from God's lips himself. They would tell me what to eat and drink, what to wear, what to listen to, how to keep my hair, how to worship, what emotions I could feel, who I should tell my "sins" to, what words were acceptable and which were not, what to think, what not to study, who to talk to and who to avoid. They even told me how to think politically and which way that I should cast my vote. Frankly, there isn't an area of my life that they did not try and control. It did not make me a loving follower of a kind God, it made me into a judgemental, arrogant, condescending, blind and soulless follower of a rigid rulebook that could not be challenged. This being all I knew about God, I was controlled and made a slave to my "good" religious mentors in the hope of escaping a damnable life in hell. Worse than that, I was told that I needed to "convert" my friends and neighbors to believe the same way so that their souls could be spared.

It was not until I started speaking (actually listening) at length to people of other religions that my eyes were opened to a central truth that seems to escape most. God is. Yeah, I suppose I should have already known that, since he called himself "I AM". But God is. He's there in the midst of the Muslim who seeks his face and there in the midst of the Buddhist who may have never heard of Jesus, yet still seeks to know and merge with "the source" of all that is good and right and full of life. His character can be identified in Hindu mythology, seen clearly in their scriptures, and witnessed in practice through the great servant leadership of Gandhi. God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. Yet despite being found in all religions, like the modern Christian church, each of these other religions contain vast leadership structures that widely twist Him and make discipleship more about following a rigid set of rituals than about seeking the spirit of the God who is behind those rituals. Truly, as Jesus said, wide is the path that leads to destruction but narrow is the path that leads to life and few shall find it. People the world over are more interested in controlling others according to their own perceptions, desires, convictions, and beliefs than they are in encouraging freedom and teaching people to seek after the spirit of God for their own life. In the end, what suffers is the relationship with God. It becomes tainted by rigidity and people end up rejecting Him - when they should instead be rejecting the religious systems. We can control a person's behaviour through threats and force, but only through voluntary submission does a person's heart change.

Yeah, let's bring this on home. I've talked to a lot of people over the years about relationships. If there's one thing that I see that negatively affects a relationship more than anything else, it's one partner desiring to control the other. Manipulation schemes can be overt or covert, direct or passive-aggressive, but the end result is that one person usually wants to force the other person to be or feel differently than they currently are and is willing to go to extreme measures to make sure that it happens.
"Love me, damnit! Or I'll make your life miserable!"
Sounds kinda silly, but how true is it?? A woman is caught flirting so the husband responds by scrutinizing her phone records then sequesters her from other men so she'll be true to her husband and her heart will be his only. Really?? A man has wandering eyes so the spouse quickly cancels their internet service so he won't be "tempted" to look at porn. This way his heart will be true to his wife. Really?? A significant other decides to have lunch with a friend of the opposite sex and is subsequently put on a short leash so that they can be closely monitored.

If the end result is to have a person that we love, love us back, none of these things work. There is not a person in the world that becomes trustworthy by not being trusted. There is not a person in the world that falls more deeply in love with another because they are told they must. Just like with religion: We can control a person through threats and force, but only through freedom - voluntary submission - does one obtain another's heart. Anything else is just fake and pretentious. Is that what we desire? The human soul not only desires freedom, it will have it. The question is only when and how will it be obtained?

Freedom is so misunderstood. People think that if you give someone else freedom, they will run amok and abuse it. While that might indeed be true with some people, I would much rather be in the company of a person who tells me to my face that they hate me than to be in the company of those who stroke my ego while wielding a knife behind their back. There's an old saying that if you love something you should set it free. If it doesn't come back it was never yours to begin with. While that may be cliched, there is nothing more true. Putting it into action simply requires a huge amount of faith in something higher than us to begin with. Something that has a plan for us and will not abandon us regardless what circumstances life deals us. Faith that we actually possess value in and of ourselves. Faith that we will not be abandoned or forsaken or without purpose. It is likely that lack of faith that causes us to take things into our own hands and try to control our circumstances and the people around us to begin with. True change may be affected from without, but it only happens from within.