Monday, December 11, 2006

Religion Is Merely A Guide

The following was written today as I sat and waited at the eye doctor's office. I haven't really edited it much. It wanders a bit, though I did cut out the total non sequiturs.

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

Women are the stronger sex.

(This is not a continuation of the previous post.)

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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Happiness Comes from within Oneself

The beginning of the following was originally posted at Tapestry. I continued it here because I believe it falls under the general subject matter of this blog. It is a true journal entry -- writing to discover for myself what I think. As such it does wander from one topic to the next as my mind thinks. It is not a polished essay. It is neither perfect writing nor perfect thinking. I don't believe there are any major flaws in either, however. I welcome comments. Disagreement is fine, just be polite about it.

Something I've been hearing from different sources lately is really rather profound, if you think about it. "The only viable situation is a win-win situation." Obviously a lose-lose situation is not good, but a win-lose or lose-win situation will degenerate into lose-lose. This all seems pretty obvious to me. It fits in with my "be nice" rule or the golden rule. Alas, too many people are still thinking only of their side of the relationship and as long as that is win it doesn't matter what the other side is. But it really doesn't work because the people on the lose side of a situation are going to do all they can to get their side to win. If your win depends on their lose, it's just going to create problems. Life isn't a game. Everybody can win.

Related to that is self esteem or self love. Somehow we seem to pick up that loving ourselves is a bad thing. Being selfish is a bad thing. Loving ourselves isn't. They are not the same thing. It's pretty hard to put the golden rule into practice effectively if we don't love ourselves. It's also impossible without a win-win attitude. In fact, the golden rule is the rule for win-win. Paraphrased, it's "Help others to win the way you want to win." I wonder... maybe it isn't so much that you need positive self esteem to practice the golden rule as it is that you get positive self esteem when you practice it. If I could do only one thing to change the world, it would be to make people see this clearly. It definitely was a large part of Jesus's message.

Along the line of self love is the realization that happiness comes from within. Nothing and no one can make you happy except yourself. And this just hit me... That includes God (in whatever form you accept him)! On the surface it sounds blaphemous, but it's not! God could make us happy. I believe he doens't because that takes away our free will. We get to choose to be happy.

Have you ever thought that desire is a form of unhappines. I haven't thought about deeper levels, but it's definitely true on the basic level. When we want something we don't have, we are unhappy. Why are we unhappy? We aren't unhappy because we don't have it. Really it has nothing to do with having it or not. It's because we decided to be unhappy if we don't have it.

I think that everyone has known, or at least heard about, someone who should be miserable, but isn't. Everything bad that could happen seems to have happened to them. They've been beaten and betrayed. They're broke and are too ill to work and the medical bills keep coming. Maybe they've lost a child. Some have been tortured. It seems like God has just forgotten all about them and the devil hasn't. It seems that most people in that situation become bitter, angry and definitely unhappy. But there are those who don't. They are genuinly happy. Some people just think they are nuts. And if they are happy through every second of the misery, I'm still inclined to agree. Grief and anger are normal, acceptable, even healthy emotions, but I don't think you can be happy while feeling them. Happy people get over them. They deal with the issues and get on with their lives. In my experience, most of them find reasons to be happy. Ultimately it comes down to a simple decision. They prefer being happy to being miserable. They choose to be happy.

Conversely, there are those who have everything in life and are miserable. Some of them have only material things. It's easier to understand why they would be unhappy if you undestand the need for the spiritual things of life. Some of them have a faith, though. They have people they love and are loved back. But they are unhappy and they don't know why. It's because they have chosen to be unhappy. Certainly it's an unconscious decision, but it's a decision, nonetheless. In part it is because of their misconceptions. They think love will make them happy, having everything they want will make them happy, god will make them happy. Sometimes they blame god if they aren't happy. But god isn't in the business of making people happy.

If you think about it, what is god's purpose? I don't think we can fathom it. Whatever it is, it isn't to serve humanity. We are made to serve god. I don't think there's any question about that. There's a line in Man of LaMancha where Sancho says like 'Whether the stone hit's the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it's the same and bad for the pitcher.' I don't think this is true about serving god or god serving us. Paper can't write on the ink. This isn't a reversible equality. In the end, as far as out lives are concerned, it doesn't matter, except that once you realize and accept that god doesn't serve you, that only you are responsible for your happiness, then you can get on with your life and be happy about it.

We make a trap for ourselves here, too, though. We try to do what makes us happy. The only thing wrong with that is it's depending, again, on something outside us to make us happy. This is true of everything! Helping others, and even loving god, though good things to do, won't make us happy. We are happy only when we decide to be happy. Period.

Part of me still resists a little. What about clinical depression, I ask myself. That's a physical problem of unbalanced chemicals in the brain. This is a valid question as far as I can see. Clinical depression should be properly treated. At the same time I remember my brother. He has multiple sclerosis. Although he strongly suspected before the actual diagnosis was made, it was a blow. Between the natural feelings of depression resulting from the diagnosis and the medications used to treat it (which are apparently fine tuned by trial and error), he ended up with a full blown case of clinical depression. Because of medical interactions, getting the right medical treatment for that took a while, too. When asked how he handled it, he had a simple answer. "I knew I was clinically depressed and we were working on it. In the meantime, I just decided to be happy and mostly I was." He didn't deny the depression. He simply recognized it for what it was and moved on. Amazing. At the time of this conversation, I thought he was a bit crazy. Since then I've come to recognized the value of what he said and what he did. All he did was make a choice.

I can hear the question "Well, what if you make the choice and you're still unhappy?" That makes me think of my Christian conversion. I felt the call of God, of Jesus. I wanted to believe, but it was so hard. Although there was always a spiritual element to my life and the lives of those around me (no athiests, that I'm aware of), I was essentially brought up humanist. Humanism resists evangelical Christianity. On top of that, I knew a lot of people made fun of evangelicals... 'holy rollers' was the common name. I agonized over it. It was hard. Very hard. But I believe it was God calling me to make this decision, so I chose Christ. As I explained it later, it was as if Jesus was at the door knocking, but there was a boulder in the way and I couldn't open it to let him in. Once I decided, however, the boulder evaporated and the door opened.

I think it's the same for happiness. Once we decide to be happy, the boulders in the way of happiness disappear. We realize things. Some have become cliché, but while there may not be originality in clichés, there is often truth. The thing is, those clichés become realities. You can't fake it. And it's not a sour grapes sort of thing. You don't negativize something just because you didn't get it. You don't say "Well, I didn't really want that anyway" just because you didn't get it. In fact, on some level you may still want it. It's just not that important at all, not to your happiness. Have you ever told someone about something you hoped to get and gotten a pleasant, but cool "That's nice." I have and my reaction was "They just don't get how important it is." Maybe they weren't really paying attention, but it may also be that they did get how important it was, that it really wan't important.

A choice for happiness also is not about glossing over harsh realities. If there are problems that can and need to be changed, you work on changing them. You don't give up or ignore them, but you are happy and don't make your happinedd depend on that change. If there are problems that really can't be changed, you recognize them,do what you can, accept what you can't do and be happy despite the problems.

Being happy isn't easy to begin with. You have to let go of a lot of long held misbeliefs. Once you do that, once you decide to be happy, you find true happiness. It's not power, lust, elation or any of the many other things mistaken for happiness. It's simple, abiding joy. I know. I have on occasion rested there. be continued

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Title, and Musings on Time

I changed the title of this blog to reflect the direction it's taking. "TongFengDeMao" has no spiritual significance.

I'm still trying to rein in my thoughts and tame them with my beliefs. This isn't particularly easy for my ADDled mind which is always trying to think a few hundred unrelated thoughts at once. And this particular thinking forces it beyond the conventional.

Twenty-six dimensions could be limiting God. That is not my intent. When I think about it, saying God and heaven are "up there" in the sky or wherever is also limiting. We have to limit God, in one sense, in order to understand even a little about him. Being the three dimensional beings that we are, we can't see much more than those three dimensions. It all goes back to the five blind men and the elephant.

We usually say that time is the fourth dimension, but time is essentialy one of the limitations of the third dimension (and perhaps others). Because we can't see all twenty-six dimensions at once, we need time to comprehend our world. That makes sense to me. I have such a hard time dealing with too many things going on at once. How could I possibly handle my whole life happening all at once?!

This fits with my beliefs already. God said "I AM." He is alpha and omega all at once. There is no past or future with God. It's all now. He already knows what we will do in the future becuse he is there. I'm sure I grasp this imperfectly, but I do have some concept of it.

This fits with my concept of joy being totally in the now. This isn't the sense of thinking only of now, but in being aware totally of now. Living in the now doesn't mean ignoring the past or not preparing for the future. It's being aware of what is happening now, at this moment, and relishing it. I think this means even when what's happening now isn't very good. It doesn't mean accepting bad things, because living now in a bad situation means taking charge and doing something about it. Some situations require action. Others may only have an attitude adjustment necessary to be doing something.

My own personal difficulty with living now is that I find myself waiting too often. I'm just waiting until I have more energy. I'm just waiting until this or that improvement on the house is done. Whatever it is, I'm just waiting. As long as I'm just waiting, I'm not living. Those times when I'm not waiting, I feel joy. I'm alive! I am wasting my NOW with waiting. It's wasting NOW to worry about the future. It's wasiting NOW to fret over the past. (Later I'll see how this ties in with attitudes and emotions, more.)

A recent seminar I attended told us to believe what we wanted already existed, to see it existing in the future and then to act on that vision. Is this not "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matthew 21:21-23)?

Time. We are always saying we never have enough. I wonder if the real problem is that we look at it too much. We always have NOW!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Where's Heaven?

I suppose this is an odd thought. I read Michio Kaku's Hyperspace back in January, but the thought just came to me a couple of days ago. I think Heaven is the twenty-sixth dimension. According to Kaku, that is the most dimensions possible in the universe. It may be only ten.

It all gets rather complicated and I haven't had time to think this through, yet. Part of what led me to this thought is the story of the two dimensional world when a three dimensional person inserts himself into it. If a three dimensional person picked up a two dimensional person and moved him, it would appear to the two dimensional world that he disappeared and reappeared elsewhere. If a two dimensional person "sees" a three dimensional person, it is only a two dimensional slice. Obviously, this slice isn't a true view of the three dimensional person. Depending on what part of the body enters their world and what angle, it could be pretty much any shape. The 3-D person who moved the 2-D person would appear as two circles or ovals (fingertips).

How could we possibly understand what a twenty-six dimensional being is like? I can't imagine one and I have a pretty good imagination. "For now we see through a glass, darkly." Many currently inexplicable things could be understood. Explaining and understanding miracles doesn't make them less miraculous in this dimension.

I don't see science as an enemy of God. My only complaint is that so many scientists don't let God into the equation. I believe a true search for knowledge must encompass both. A true search must begin with the knowledge we know next to nothing about either.

I've started to ramble, so I'll end this post now. I'd love some comments about the idea. As I said, I haven't completely thought this through, and any input can be helpful.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Just As I Am

This hymn has come to my mind several times this week for various reasons.

The main reason is probably my own inner longing for a more religious life again. I have gotten away from church and regular Bible study. I had reasons, at least some of which were valid. I was in a bad depression a few years ago and an out-of-whack sleep schedule was part of it. Church at that time was not providing me with the sanctuary I needed and therefore sleep was even more important. Since I've moved, I suppose it's just laziness, bad habits, that keep me from seeking out a chruch in which I can find the sanctuary I need. I should get off my duff and get to church somewhere. Take me, Lord, just as I am.

Another reason this hymn, at least this first line of it, came to mind was some discussions on homosexuality. Why have the fundamentalists picked this as their agenda? Even for those who consider this a sin, it is no worse than any other sin! Let him who is without sin throw the first stone. Why not choose those that also destroy the body (drugs or smoking), or something a larger group (dare I say "majority") recognizes as a sin? Why stir up so much controversy? My frustration with this goes deeper than mere controversy, though. People become too polarized by this topic. Either you are for or against homosexuality. HUH??

From the Christian point of view, I know the arguments, but I have struggled with them. Recently I have read thoughts of another true Christian who also struggled with this issue. Unlike me, he did some Bible study on the topic and found the common arguments against homosexuality debatable. Debatable, not wrong. Open to discussion, not definite. Apparently the Biblical references are vague on the subject, not as open and shut as so many fundamentalists would like us to believe. (I've often thought this when given a quote, but haven't done the Bible study to back me up.) Biologically, I guess things are just as vague. There are unquestionable differences between gay and straight men and women, but apparently, there is no gene or other marker scientists can point to and say "This is what makes a person gay."

In all honesty, the thing that turned me away from the homosexuality-is-a-sinful-choice attitude was seeing a man cry with genuine anguish because he wanted to be "normal," to have a wife and family and that he had tried to do that and had just made more people miserable because he just didn't "work" that way. So why don't we accept people just as they are? Don't give the the argument "Then should we accept murderers just as they are?" I'll say yes, actually we should, but it's as a protection to society that we also lock them up. Homosexuality does not present a danger to society. They do not "recruit" straight men or children. Promiscuity and pedophilia are separate issues and as a society we should deal with them, not blame one group for them. [And here, again, I believe we should accept people as they are, but pedophiles should be locked up because they are a danger to children. The promiscuous don't need to be locked up, but because they leave a wake of hurt people behind them (not to mention disease and unwanted children), this is something we, as a society, need to address.]

God loves us just as we are, while we are still sinners (any sin, all sins). If he wants us to change something about ourselves, he lets us know. We can change no one but ourselves. Change comes from within, with God's help. Let God do his work. We need to learn to love one another and accept each other. Help us, Lord, to love one another and accept one another just as we are.

A third thing that brought this hymn to mind was an article on perfection. The article was called "Set Yourself Free."

I suppose there are people who don't care about perfection. I'm not one of them. I was brought up with sayings like "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right." It took me years to realize something still might be worth doing even if I couldn't do it "right," but it still means I have to give it my very best. I get very frustrated when I see things that have been done shoddily, when I see people not even trying to do well. This article pointed out that as human beings perfection is beyond us. What perfection we may experience is only momentary. We are constantly changing and part of those changes is bound to involve mistakes.

A lot of people are afraid of change because they see the mistakes and problems change brings. To remain stagnant is an imperfection that leaves no room for the momentary perfection, therefore change is good. It dawned on me, we need to accept oursleves as we are, now, not when we lose those 50 pounds, get our degree, or sell a novel (fill in your own goals). We want to be perfect. We need to realize we aren't perfect as we are, but that's okay. Once we realize we aren't and can't really be perfect and allow change to be part of our life, we are free of the tyranny of perfection. We open ourselves to those moments of perfection. Help me, Lord, to accept myself, just as I am.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What is Spirituality?

In my effort to organize all my blogs, this one will be what I loosely call my "spiritual" blog. Here I will record my thoughts about various things of a spiritual nature. This will include both "religious" and philisophical thoughts.

Spirituality is, to me, that Something more than science can prove, but just as real and important to our lives. It's more than just religion and faith. My personal religious beliefs are Christian, but I believe that most religions have picked up some elemental truth. I also believe that no religion (including Christianity) has all the truth. Mankind, being what it is, insures that.

This entry is not a deep thought, or even particularly thought out. I just wanted to get started. Now I need to go think, which is not as easy as some people believe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Today I wrote a longish piece for my Memories book at I feel good about this. I suppose that only my son will really be interested in it, but I'm mainly doing it for him anyway. I hope that my mom will work on her memory book also. She told us a lot of tales when we were growing up, but I'd love them in writing. So would my son. (And possibly my nieces and nephews.)

I didn't get much else done today. Woke up late, talked about two hours to my mom, made dinner, watched a movie with my son, read my e-mail, cut son's hair and did this writing. Actually, for this ADD disorganized person, that was a pretty good day!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Stir fried thoughts

Life is being pretty good right now. Nothing exciting of any kind is happening. It's good, but somewhat boring, also.

As usual, I struggle with my writing. Knowing that the problem is ADD doesn't really help until I can see if there is something that will help. I'm only half convinced that medication will make any difference. Something that also makes it hard is lack of adequate quiet time. Some of it is my own fault -- getting caught up in reading blogs or doing puzzles. Part of it is because someone always seems to need me for something. It's nice to be needed, but...