Sunday, July 25, 2010
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I tend to think that most, if not all, religions take a particular element, or group of elements, to an extreme. From the little I have learned about several of them, the basics are all the same. Probably 99% teach a variation of the golden rule. Jesus was the living example of the golden rule in an active sense. Perhaps others teach a more passive version - not necessarily to go out of our way to do for someone, but to make a point of not doing anyone any harm. If we're going to take one element, this seems to be a good one. It makes sense to me, too.
The Bible teaches that God made man (male and female) in "his own image." It only makes sense to me that we honor God by treating his reflections on earth decently. After all, what other form of God will we ever see? We often teach our children that how we treat "A" is a true indication of how we'll treat "B" because we have seen the connections. It's no different in the God/people connection. That's why we have the golden rule. That's why Jesus told John "If you love me, feed my sheep." We express our love for God by showing it to others. (Matthew 25:40) When asked the greatest commandment (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.) Jesus also gave us the second (Love your neighbor as yourself.) and said all the law hangs on these two. (Matthew 22:34-40)
What people often (usually, it seems) forget is that love is an action verb. It is not simply a feeling. Loving God, just as loving our spouse, or children, or friends, requires us to show it in our actions. It can be as simple as feeding someone or giving them a drink of water. Jesus pointed out that doing this only for those close to us (family, friends), while still good, is very limited. Reaching out to those beyond our circle is more meaningful. Giving a glass of water to someone who is pretty much the antithesis of what we consider "right," because we do it for a love for God, shows Him that love... not to mention the person to whom we are giving the water.
To me, any religion that expresses this loving connection for God and man has the basic element necessary to be a true faith. Those religions that have lost this and put other, sometimes more trivial things first, are missing the most basic element. If I can't give someone a drink of water because they wear the wrong clothes, listen to the wrong music, even have different priorities, or call God by a different name, I've forgotten one of the most important lessons Jesus taught. If they say "My God is the only God" or even "My way to God is the only way," I have a problem with it. In the first place, there is only one God and, even though in polytheistic religions one may be worshiping a lesser "god," ultimately we all worship the same God. And to claim that anyone has it 100% right... well, I believe we can say it for ourselves, but I'm not sure how much we can say it for others.
If we do good things for others, but only as a means to "convert" them, we are missing the point, as well. It is true that when we show kindnesses, we help to create an environment that will open others' ears to our discussions of our beliefs. The problem is that, if we do them for this purpose, we are not doing it for love for God or man. If we are truly doing something out of love, God will use the opportunity. It's not up to us. To me, and I suppose this is a personal view, it's better to give the water with the attitude of "God, I don't like this person, but I'm doing it because I love you" than "I'll give this person the water so he'll listen and I can convert him and then I can like him." I'm happy to say that I've encountered some of the former, but, unfortunately many of the latter, as well. In my experience, God provides the love for others when we do things for Him.
Loving God is expressed by loving others. It doesn't mean we have to agree with them. You don't have to like what they do or how they believe. Simply treat them as you'd like to be treated. It's all really easy. Once you've committed yourself to it, God will give you the grace to follow through.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I only remembered the end of the dream when I woke. In the dream a man was on stage singing. I was with someone, though I don't know who, now. There was something about being there to learn to sing as he was, but I'm totally in the dark about what that was about in the dream. In the dream the singer was Willie Nelson, but that was not him. It was someone younger and with a clear voice. I'm not sure why I named him as Willie Nelson unless that was just the first name that came to my dreaming mind.
Anyway, he was singing and came to the chorus "and I did it all for you." My friend and I were following him as he walked along the stage. (We weren't on the stage, but were following right along the front of the stage as he walked out the projected part of the stage.) As he got to that line, a large picture of Jesus rose up before him, covering him from the chin down. I remember feeling a thrill at connecting his words to that picture.
It sounds like he was singing from Jesus' point of view, but that wasn't it at all. I woke up at that point and I knew what it meant. That's only one line from the song. I've been working on trying to put lyrics together that express the full meaning. So far, all I have are the leading lines of the chorus, which change from verse to verse, although the rest of the chorus is the same. Those lines are 1) I did it all for me, 2) He did it all for me, 3) I did it all for Him and 4) I did it all for you.
I don't know yet if I have the skill to write the whole thing. I'm certainly working on it. Right after I woke, I thought of MC Psalmist, but I don't know if it's a rap song or something else. Maybe it'll just be a poem. Maybe my son will create some music for it. (I, the dreamer, actually heard no music in the dream even though "Willie" was singing.)
What struck me is the progression of those four lines. I believe this is the true order of a believer's life. We do things for ourselves. We see what God through Christ did for us. We are thankful and do things to please Him. Finally we realize the meaning of the Golden Rule and do thing for others.
This falls in line with a "vision" I had. Maybe "vision" is the wrong word. "Message from God" or "Revelation" sound too pompous and make me a possible candidate for the looney bin in the eyes of many. Perhaps "Vision" does too, but I'm not sure how to label it. Neither is it exactly an "answer" to a prayer, though it was through prayer that it was shown to me. Shown in the meanig of making me to see, to understand.
I have been concerned about not attending church. For a very long time I rarely missed and since about 2000 or 2001 I have not attended. Originally my reasons were based on how I felt physically. At that time I was always exhausted. I've come to realize since, that, at least some of that exhaustion was being depressed. But during that time I also came to see the fundamentalist churches a little more clearly. I see too much blind faith and I was born again out of seeing, not blind faith. Many, most of the believers I have known in these churches are wonderful true believers, but somehow, the fundamentalist church as a whole has become essentially pharisaical. The "silent majority" is still silent! I think most of these pharisees are still looking for that which they thought they'd found. It comes down to "religion," rather than people, being important. (And this is not to say that these people are not really Christian. Anyone can get lost along the way. God will bring his true followers around as He sees fit.)
My concern has been that I know I'm no better than any of those whose religiosity frustrates me. I fall short of the ideals I aspire to. I see myself closer to the woman I once imagined I would become, but further away from it in many respects. So I was frustrated at how to worship. How can I return to a church I feel so often has blinders on? How can I attend a church that ignores some of the fundamentals I believe are important? Where do I go? How do I worship.
It was with astounding clarity that the answer came to me. "Worship with your life." I know this is a true answer for several reasons. The first was the clarity of it as a command. Then, my gut reaction was a whimpering "No." I don't want to do that because it is not easy. It is uncomfortable. My life is 24/7, not Sunday morning, or even Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and special occasiona. It's also biblical. My holey (not holy) brain can't recall the exact chapter and verse, but I know it's in the Bible to live our lives in such a way as to let people know we are believers, in such a way as to reflect the true God in His mercy.
Besides those reasons, it won't go away! It pops into my mind in all sorts of places and situations. I believe that is what the dream was about. Not so much for me to write the lyrics of the dream song, but to comprehend the message they convey.
That final lines of the song expresses the golden rule. It says I care enough about you to give you what I want for myself. It also reflects the tale of the Good Samaritan. Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor. It is the scripture that the golden rule is based on. Jesus' expression of it points out that loving is doing, not a feeling or merely politeness.
It isn't easy. I'm somewhat of a hermit by nature. When I am around people, I tend to be shy and quiet. I still need to learn what to do and how to do it in terms of worshipping God by loving and doing for others. Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes it's obvious, but... (ie.: is it safe to give that person a lift?) Sometimes I haven't a clue even if I sense I should do something. I still have a lot to learn to become the woman I want to be.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
My own confusion apparently came through on my previous post. Comments I received all show a different understanding of what I meant. Or, perhaps I should say, different facets of understanding. As I say, I had, and still have, confusion about what I mean. I'm certain only that there is something important here. Perhaps only for me, perhaps for anyone else who will hear. It's something I'm on the verge of grasping, but haven't yet gotten a firm grip.
What follows may or may not be illuminating to me or my readers. I'm writing as I think, thinking as I write.
The element of connections was the start of it. I chose this word because what happened made me think of the television show called Connections wherein James Burke would take a modern concept/technology and say it was caused by a seemingly random, unrelated fact from back in history. Then starting with the historical fact he would lead the viewer through time and show how they were indeed connected.
I took an on-line quiz. I do these things for fun. I don't think such things are able to accurately determine anything about a person, although some of them do try to use valid research and psychological understanding. If I really wanted to know more about myself, serious introspection would prove more useful. The values of these quizzes is the entertainment. It's fun to see how close to my view of myself they come. Sometimes they make me think as well as laugh. Like this time.
When I got the results of this quiz, several things hit me all at once. Well, not quite "hit" and not quite "all at once." It was more like I read the results => I read something related => that reminded me of A => which reminded me of B, etc. These things happened over my lifetime and it is only now that I'm seeing any connections among them. They aren't quite a disparate as Burke's various facts, but the idea is the same... Because of A, B happened and that led to C... up to the present. (It's a lot easier to see how A led to Z than how A1 led to Z37.)
A) Sometime between the ages of 8 and 18 I developed an image of who I wanted to be at age 40. I don't think there was any specific impetus for this. I generally admired wise, calm serene women and that's what I wanted to be. I don't recall ever doing anything to become this person. I merely decided that is who I would be. I'm sure I thought about it now and then, but it was never front and center of my consciousness.
B) About the age of 12 I read an article (in Guideposts, I believe) stating that we are all the children of God and we should not forget it. I took it to heart and decided I would always remember that I was indeed a child of God. I don't know if this is because of A or not. The what had much more impact on my memory than the why.
C) Just shy of age 19 I became a "born-again" Christian. Of course, other things in my life at the time influenced my decision as well, but already believing I was a child of God was very motivating.
D) I spent the next 30 years in Fundamental Christianity. The best thing I got out of it was some good Bible study. (Though I'm hardly an advanced Bible scholar, I am a Bible student.) Although I know the subject of faith cannot be proven (by definition) I don't accept things about my faith blindly. I don't question everything at once and I don't question for the sake of questioning. I want to understand all that I am capable of understanding. An awful lot of people of any religious persuasion take whatever they're taught without thinking about it. I honestly don't understand this. So, through these years when the church I was attending could not satisfactorily explain something, I learned to keep my own counsel. For me, the true fundamentals of Christianity are summed up in Romans 10:9-10 "9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (NIV) Anything else has room for disagreement. Most Fundamentalists don't agree with me on this, but they don't always agree with each other, either. I've seen either 5, 7 or 12 "fundamentals" that must be adhered to to be a Fundamentalist. That's OK. Nonetheless, most of the people I met in church through the years were very nice people. Very few fit the rabid "Fundamentalist" stereotype.
E) As I approached age 50 I did not see that I had become the woman I had wanted to become. I was a bit disappointed in myself, but simply kept it as my goal, believing that I was headed in that direction. (I even wrote a humorous poem about it in 2003 or 2004.) 2004 was a year of extreme stress for me, but at the end of that year (or early 2005) my son told me how much he depended on my serenity and calmness!! Evidently I'd moved closer to my goal than I'd realized.
F) My sister took me to a "Get Over Yourself" seminar. I didn't feel like I'd learned much new, but I appreciated how it brought it all together. I developed my life vision at this seminar: I see a world where all people accept each other as friends and neighbors and celebrate each person's uniqueness as a vital part of everyone's life, like threads in a tapestry.
G) My son was misdiagnosed as having ADD in 2004. In our efforts to learn more about it, it seemed more and more that it described my problem with focus and organization. In 2006 I saw the (only local) psychiatrist who treats ADD patients. He agreed that I have ADD, but his approach is quite different from any I'd read. I get frustrated that every year I set goals to become organized and every year I'm about as disorganized as ever (2004 and 2005 were among the worst organization years). I'd never had a goal in life other than that image that I never really saw as a goal. I never have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I simply went with the flow of life. At first, all I could think of was a 2 year old because he asked "Why?" to every thing I said. Why do I get frustrated? Why do I need a goal? Why do I need to accomplish something (since having ADD doesn't actually compromise my functionality)? (There were many more whys I don't specifically remember now.) Then he said something very profound. The only important goal anyone need accomplish is learning to love. And we must first learn to love ourselves in order to learn to love others. Now, I've heard this a thousand times just like everyone else has. I went home thinking that that was not what I expected a psychiatric visit would be like. But I kept replaying our conversation in my head and at some point and (((ring))) it resonated and I made a connection. Developing serenity, being a child of God, the Bible study, the life vision, these are all part of that process of learning to love myself and others.
H) In April 2007, I shared with the psychiatrist a transcript of a conversation I had with someone going through a crisis. His comment to me was that I was remarkably calm and therefore a good influence and help to this other person. I am still getting closer to my vision of who/what I want to be. It's one thing for a family member to say this, but for a trained professional to say it in the context it was in... can we say ego boost? :-) (And I don't mean that in the big headed ego sort of way.)
I) The quiz. I got a 100% on the positive quality of Peace! It's just an on-line quiz. It isn't accurate. I know myself well enough to say that. But still it's not 100% wrong either. It got me thinking. What is serenity but the "peace that passes understanding?" And I am a peace maker. I instinctively try to bring people together, to bring them to a calmness with each other despite differences. That made me look up the beatitude about being a peacemaker. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:8-10 There you go! I didn't make it to Z, but I've come full circle. I am a child of God!
Then came the conversation with my brother. He considers himself a christian, with a small "c" because he's pretty unorthodox in many ways. He believes that Jesus died for our sins, but questions his divinity. He loves the Catholic Church in one sense, but thinks they really need to get with it and realize that the message needs to fit the age. He was confronted by the devil many years ago and chose God. (:-) Is there ever a more appropriate time to say "Hell, no!") What has been bothering him, what we were talking about (among other things theophilosophical) was the question of prayers. Why, when surely more people want and pray for it than not, do we not have world peace? Why are children starving to death every day? Why are poor children in Argentina (I think I have the right country) being killed merely because they are a nuisance to those who have the money to help them? Of course, we didn't get all the answers, but the main thing to come out were:
Matthew 25:39-40 (KJV)
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
and John 15:10-12 (NIV)
10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
And he ended with the questions "What are we to do to bring world peace?" "What are we to do to save the starving children in the world?" "What are we to do to stop the killing in Argentina and help those children?" Unspoken was "What are we to do to about all the other problems in the world that the people, ordinary followers of Jesus can do?"
This is all part and parcel of the foregoing. The feeling of resistance is because doing something often means sacrifice and that's something we all resist (even Jesus asked the cup be taken away, though he had a much better reason since I don't think I'm going to be asked to give my life).
Also tied to this somehow, I think, is three nights of very restless sleep with dreams of death, and then waking up to an awareness of God's love. Death in a dream needn't mean an actual death, but the end of something. I don't think I'm having any premonitions. (I certainly hope not!) This does not mean, as I was asked, a change in my beliefs, but it may mean a new understanding. Romans 10:9-10 still holds true for me. I don't know what, specifically this change will be, if it is, indeed, related.
The mix of Bible versions is because I learned quotes from different versions at different times, and when I look them up, I find them using the words I remember.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Some of these ideas have been bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I recently finished reading a book called The Lost Secrets of Prayer by Guy Finley. In it he talks about much the same thing and it helped begin to clarify my own thoughts.
I welcome any thoughts or comments on this (subject or writing).
The path to God is not only stright and narrow, but lonely. I'm not so sure about straight, but that is perhaps because no one has really managed to stay 100% on it. In part, this is because that lonely path goes through the wide path of life. There is no other place for it to go! We must travel on the life path and we may go where we will on that path.
We find the narrow path in may ways. Religion is one way. Some find it accidently. Others may be looking for signs and find it. The thing about religion is that it is a wider path. Those who cling to it may possibly not be on the narrow path. This is true if they insist on not going alone. You cannot walk beside someone who is on the narrow path and be on that path yourself! The gathering together of Christians (or any other faith) is a good and helpful thing, but it is not being on the path in itself. One (maybe the only) reason the path is single file is because when we are on that path all we see is God. We don't see others. We don't look to others, only to God.
But the path is through the whole path of life. To focus solely on God is not to ignore life around us. Focusing on God provides us with the lens through which to see what is around us. If we have focused on God, we will see the world as it really is. If we are focusing on anything else that will tint how we see th world. Through God, we will see the need and the need to respond with love.
Mother Theresa was fully focused on God. It led her deeply into, not away from, life. She didn't lose her focus. It helped her to see what she needed to do in life -- to love and care and do what she could.
If our focus is wealth, we will see everything in terms of money and monetary value. The bottom line becomes the most important thing. In the end, however, no one has ever been fully satisfied with wealth -- no matter how much. If we focus on "the good life," we see things in terms of our pleasures of various kinds -- "This is a good thing" and "That is not a good thing" both based on how they please us. Ultimately, any non-God focus is a focus on self -- even those that appear selfless. Taking Mother Theresa as an example again, if her focus had been on anything but God, she could not have done what she did as well as she did, would not have been the saint we see her as. Focusing on "helping the poor," though it sounds noble, is for the self if the real focus is not on God. Why else to do any good thing except to be thought "good?" Doing something to influence how people think of us (or to get what we want, or to feel good) is a self focus. The only other reason that exists is because we love God, becaue we are focusing on God.
Whenever we do something with a self focus we are building on sandy ground. Most of the time we don't know who we are. Even when we do think we know, without God's lens we don't see things as they really are. We may have a sharp view through a false colored lens. Self without God is nothing. Yet, with God we are everything! It goes contrary to logic, but we must forget ourselves to be worth remembering. We must see our lack of value to find our true worth.
When it comes to staying on that narrow path, focusing only on God, everyone has ADD! Life remains all around us and both the sweet and the bitter things grab our attention. I suppose personality determine, in large part, whether it's the sweet or the bitter that gets more of our attention. Personality and circumstances determine how selfless or slefish we are, but without focusing on God both are about self!
Religion guides us to make God our focus. In the best sense of religion, it leads us gently and lovingly (even if it uses a little fear!. But the problem with religion is that it too often becomes the focus. In its reminding us to turn to God, it directs us to itself. The rituals become the focus rather that why they were instituted. Even those religions that developed against the ritualistic formailty that replaced God too often end up with a non-God focus. This is when religions become fanatical in a negative sense. It's no longer about God but about (fill in any religious group).
Even as I write this, I am vaguely aware, though I started with my focus on God, I am drifting. We can do nothing without God. Just because we get started with God, it does not mean we will continue. It's like trying to move upstream without using the paddle -- in the dark! We may be facing the right way, but we will not be going the right way.
Test everything through a God focus. No religion, no person (not even Mother Teresa) is immune from drifting. We need to be reborn only once. This is when we set our hearts and minds to follow God. Our commitement, however, must be renewed daily -- perhaps several times daily. Without this renewal of commitment we can too easily drift from our God focus. Because, at first, anyway, our outward actions can remain the same, no one else can tell us we have drifted. Perhaps it will only be our dissatisfaction, frustration, lack of inner peace that lets us know we have drifted. At the worst end, we become totally absorbed in self either by giving in or by trying to fight our demons by
ourselves. In any case, rather than draw others to God, we end up repelling them or, at best leaving them neutral.
Without God, we can do nothing and we are worth nothing. With God we can do anything (even move mountains!) and our worth becomes infinite (or priceless). We do not give up our freedom or limit ourselves by our trust in/focus on God. It's just the opposite. God doesn't force us to focus on him. Everyone knows Godless people who live well and have all they need, maybe more. We can't even know for sure that they are unsatisfied. We can only assume that because we feel it ourselves without God and many people have expressed it whether or not they ever turned to God. But if we choose to turn to God and make the minimal effort to keep returning to him, what we get in return for giving ourslef up is beyond measure.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
We know this is true. More male babies die than female babies. Women live longer than men. Generally, women hold up in a crisis better than men. Generally, women are better able than men to multitask (compare mothers to fathers for this one -- and this is one where HoneyBear and I are the exception). Women have more endurance strength than men. (I'll have to look this one up,* but I remember reading about it.) Women can handle more pain than men (think childbirth). The only strength where men excel is brute strength.
Men are afraid of women! Yes, they are. That is why we have patriarchal societies. By using their brute strength and also psychologically overpowering us, they control us. As long as they control us, they don't have to be afraid of us. Now, it wasn't only our physical strengths that frightened them. Women don't tend to be aggressive, so we have more to fear from men than they from us.
Gosh, we're scary! Well, we are. Matriarchal societies aren't necessarily any better than patriarchal societies. In all honesty, a matriarchal society can put men down as badly as the patriarchal society puts women down. And for the same reason: Fear! An interesting thing I've found while researching this is that most matriarchial societies apparently** tend to be egalitarian. This article is quite adamant about it.
Egalitarian societies make sense. After all, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." .-- Genesis 1:27 My emphasis) So, if women aren't aggressive and a physical threat to men, and if matriarchal societies tend to be egalitarian, why do men resist them? Simple answer:
Greed... Yup. Somebody wanted more than his or her fair share. And when we have "stuff" we are afraid someone will take it from us... especially if we think we don't really deserve it. And women were as bad as men. They gave up something good for everyone for the benifit of themselves. Men also took violently (probably more often than women did).
Ruined... And for our greed, what do we get? Society, as it is and has been for a long time is all about greed, greed or money (and the material possessions money provides) and greed for power (which is often just another monetary purchase) "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." -- 1 Timothy 6:10 (My emphasis)
Our lives. We also get patriarchal societies : "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." -- Genesis 3:16 (My emphasis again) and have to work like a dog for what we would have been freely given: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground," -- Genesis 3:19
We need a "do over." I won't be arrogant and say that everyone has to be a born again Christian. I don't exactly even believe that, because I don't believe that churches today are what Jesus was preaching and I've seen all too often that "born again" means doing it their way. I will say that everyone needs to listen to the call of God in their lives and not try to bend God to our own will, or create him their image. If we genuinely seek God, we will find him. If we turn away at his call, we may not have another chance.
This is the natural progression of my thought. I find it fascinating how my mind goes from one thing to another. I can't even remember what sparked that first line. It's been several hours. I've been in and out of the room, doing little things around the house and stopping here in between. I feel myself constrained to point out that I am a Christian, but other than "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15), I don't believe it thrusting my beliefs on others. Today, however, the Bible quotes were an integral part of my thinking.
*I wan't able to find anything in the time I had to look.
**My research has not been extensive on any of this.
Crossposted at Tapestry