Among the Many Names…

June 29, 2013

darkmatter

Scientists are studying a very large subject these days. It is also a very old subject.

They call it “dark matter” and claim it makes up 95% (give or take) of the universe itself. The parts of the universe they can see (and measure) are the remaining 5%.

So, why is science – who prides themselves on only studying what can be quantified – worrying about something they admit they cannot measure? They say the existence of the “dark matter” can be inferred in many different ways but they cannot get a hold of it.

In their researches, they have noticed patterns that imply something behind the tangible, parts of the processes that cannot be stopped and studied.

It’s actually a little humorous.

Early philosophers noticed patterns in nature that underscored such a concept. Pythagoras built his philosophy on the subject. Isaac Newton designed his calculus in the same fashion.

It is the reason why mathematics has always been known as the “universal language”.

But the ancients and renaissance thinkers did not call this stuff “dark matter”, they preferred the much more common term: God.

By whichever name you chose, it is the bulk of the universe surrounding us and establishes all the patterns we can measure.

It is this subtle interchange, this background interactive structure that I call our Conversation with the Almighty.

It has always been around us, awaiting our notice, acting as an invitation to join in the conversation.


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DOMA and Done

June 27, 2013

supremecourt

Now that the Supreme Court has rejected DOMA and the California Proposition, many people are coming out screaming “foul!”

One Senator from Missouri said the Supreme Court is going against the will of the majority. And she claimed it sets a very bad precedent.

It is always sad when our elected officials show such obvious ignorance of what America is supposed to be about.

Certainly the rule of the majority is the law of the land but only after the other boxes have been checked off. Legalizing discrimination, as Bill Clinton put it, is a very bad precedent and flies in the face of “liberty and justice for all”.

The very religious sector of our country appears to think that somewhere in their scripture they are commanded by Jesus to “go out and tell everyone else how to live” rather than worry about their own relationship with the Almighty.

Legislation of this stripe is what sets a bad example.

If this type of “majority rules” discrimination were allowed to run rampant, we would soon outlaw left-handed people, blondes, people who like cookie-dough ice cream, blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Neo-Nazis, gun owners, Catholics, and any other various groups trying to practice living a free life pursuing happiness as they see fit.

And there has already been legislation on each of those things at some point.

Discrimination should not be legislated.

Period.

No matter what percentage of the population wants it.

Perhaps they should find another country which allows such atrocities and move there.


Sin – the Big Enchilada

June 17, 2013

gardenofeden

Getting into the nuts and bolts of the Christian religion (and most others to some degree), the one thing that creates feelings of unworthiness is “sin”.

Most Christian are taught that we are nothing more than imperfect sinners. But what exactly does that mean?

We are told that because of “original sin” – think Adam and Eve living in paradise – that we are burdened by that sin from the get go. Somehow I cannot picture a loving God holding a grudge for that long, even if time was on a different scale. Maybe someone should tell Him to get over it already. (Yes, that was a joke.)

Beyond the “original sin” thing, our very presence on this earthly plane is viewed by others as sinful, because of all the temptations and shiny geegaws that can pull us away from the worship of the Almighty. But He is the one who put us here so it would seem like we had been set-up in sinning from the start. And that doesn’t seem to ring true either.

Religions, Christianity included, have codified different actions that they consider “sins” and they are arranged in hierarchies from venial (minor) to mortal (major).

But this listing has changed over time as differing regimes have moved to the leadership in whichever church you are using, and “tweaked” their interpretation based on what the current beliefs were at the time.

It is an interesting study to see the evolution of these johnny-come-latelies, but I doubt that was what it was in former times.

So, let’s go back to what the concept was from the very earliest times:

A sin was anything that kept you apart from God.

It is really such a simple concept. And the catch to this thing is the who that initiates the separation.

Is it God who causes it? Not likely. Is it Satan or one of his minions? Hell, no! It is you.

When you do something you don’t want another to see, it creates a rift between you and them; some secret part of you that is now “hidden” from them. A lot of marriages and other partnerships fall apart through this action. It creates separation – mentally, at first, then physically – and it started from… nothing.

So when you do anything you would not want God to be a part of, that’s a sin. And you are the one not only doing the action but making it a sin as well.

This is not to say you can carte blanche do anything you want in life and get off “sin-free” because there are laws and other people to take into consideration and they may require you to make some sort of payment or restitution for your actions. But it does not have to be something you will answer to God for. Believe me, He knows a little more about what’s going on down here than you might imagine.

One comedian lived by the line “the Devil made me do it” and a lot of people use that excuse for some missteps. One could as easily say “God made me do it” as He’s the one who is really in charge, not that fictitious guy with the horns. But in actual fact, God did not “make” you do anything, but He “let” you do it.

If God is so large and in charge that He knows all, sees all, wouldn’t He already know whether you were going to have sinned or not? Or if you will be saved or not or whether you will suffer the eternal damnation… yada, yada, yada.

Church leaders seem to want it both ways. They tell you He knows the future but that you have some choice over what path you take in life. Why not just sit back and relax because that must be the path God had foreseen for you?

No, it doesn’t work like that, no matter what the Church may tell you.

But then, historically speaking, the Church leaders have been masters of the mixed message. They were very big on “thou shalt not kill” but then proceeded to do a bit more of that than their fair share.

Popular fiction has the effect of taking another’s life be extremely detrimental to the killer. But it is not something that is new to fiction. Nor is it new to reality. Soldiers have often displayed the after-effects of their killing many years after the fact. Many of them being haunted until their death by what they have done. Yes, even in such a supposed “noble cause” perpetrated by the ineptness (or greed) of their political leaders.

The effect to the killer causes a separation from God. It is, by every definition of the word, a sin. But the separation is caused by the person feeling somehow unworthy now because of what they have done.

If the Almighty is really in charge of the universe – and everyone knows He is the giver as well as taker of lives – wouldn’t you imagine that He already has some knowledge of you being put into such a position? Perhaps He is wanting to see how you come out on the other end? Will you turn it into a sin and let it come between you and the Almighty or will you be able to keep moving along on the path which He is guiding you?

Many religious think this world is and of itself sinful. I don’t really think the Almighty was busy creating sins for us, either in His creation or in His actions. He has always given us choice and that is the one gifted power we can always use.

Allowing yourself to become separated from God is the only sin there is. Whether it is the result of gluttony or envy or greed or any of the other ascribed “causes”, the separation from the Creator is the only sin on the books.

And it is all up to you to keep the “line” open to the Big Boss upstairs.


the Fairer Sex

June 11, 2013

weakersex1

When I was growing up in the Southern Baptist church, they had an organization called “the Women’s Auxiliary”. It was a group of – you guessed it – women who wanted to do some good for the greater church family even though they could not be officers of the church.

They tried to make some contributions to the greater cause and even got some recognition. Usually at the end of the regular service, the pastor would mention something about what they were doing. Almost as if they were something equivalent to a footnote in the greater service he was doing in the church.

Perhaps the church you frequent treats the role of the women a little differently. This is what I was given as a youth.

It never seemed right to me.

Women deserved better, I thought.

Yet we would hear the scriptures every week about the men doing this and that and the women being around to wipe the men’s feet, or brows, or find other ways to serve their lord and master.

And then there is the famous passages in Genesis where God caused a sleep to fall on Adam so He could remove a rib and create Eve therefrom. And, a few passages later, she causes the fall from Grace by her consorting with a serpent… or some such myth.

Is it any wonder that women get the short end of the scriptural schtick?

The early church had females in important roles but several of the early church fathers took exception to this. Even Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was not completely comfortable with the practice. It seems everyone agreed that women were the secondary afterthought of God and only created to serve man.

Then, of course, there are the rather uncomfortable passages in the texts that talk about one of the rulers of the Holy Land in the days of the Judges was a female. One of the greatest fighters against the Philistines was a woman. Several of the closest confidants to Jesus were women.

Scoffers will, of course, point out that these women were very few and far between because of the preexisting cause of the “fall from Grace” mentioned above.

And yet there is another take on the creation story in Genesis. In the first chapter it says He created them both, seemingly at one time. In chapter two it seems to amplify the story but it is actually telling a different story.

First He had created man and woman in His image, later He created Man in His image and Woman from Man. That is an entirely different take on the story. Almost as if two different stories were being conflated. One having Man and Woman as equals, one having Man being the First, the Dominant, the Forerunner.

And you can see where that latter tale has led us.

In our modern world, many people point out the roles that women are now attaining in government and the seats of power. But these women are very masculine women, having to fight like any male of the species to rise to the top. Those who can display all those wonderful male qualities can get ahead in this “man’s world”.

But surely, that is not what the Creator had envisioned, was it?

Men who rise into seats of power cannot be “soft” or seeming “effeminate” or even “emotional” or they get steamrollered.

Why would the Almighty create two halves of the race and somehow intend that one half should somehow be tainted?

The answer is, He did nothing of the kind. That has been Man’s doing over the centuries, over the millennia. And dressing it up in terms of righteousness to give it some sort of legality.

The Muslim world is just beginning to come out of this pattern but it had gripped the Western World for a very long time… and still the problem lingers.

This is not to say that women should be forced to bondage in the role of domestic partner. If they feel more productive in the business world, by all means go for it. Many men today feel better being a stay at home dad. I just don’t think women should become surrogate men to get ahead in business. I think that is taking the worst of both worlds.

There are attributes of the fairer sex that are supposed to be there for our comfort, our protection, our expansion, our return to Grace.

If Men can think they can climb that tricky slope on the shoulders of the females they deride, I think they’ll have another think coming.

And perhaps a major reason for modern Man denying God Himself is because the female has always been closer to the Deity than Man can ever get.

After all, God can create life.

And among us, only woman can duplicate that.

Jealousy is such an ugly beast.


Grace

January 7, 2013

One aspect of Christianity we are reminded of quite often is Grace, that ultimate act of forgiveness by the Almighty for whatever indiscretions in which we may have been involved. So many preachers tell us we do not have to be perfect to approach the Heavenly Father, Grace is extended even to the most egregious of sinners.

Grace. The Gift to Us All from the Father who art in Heaven.

What a pleasant thought.

But then, usually in the next breath, many will say “but you must first take Jesus as personal Savior and Redeemer.”

And some even go further and say you must also tithe, refrain from working on Sunday, partake of communion, not walk under ladders, step on sidewalk cracks, or sneezing without covering your mouth.

So, which is it?

Is Grace something given freely by the Almighty to everyone or does He have a team of lawyers to nit-pick the fine points of your adherence to a bunch of details?

Actually, it is unconditional and applies to people of any race, nation, age, or religion.

It is freely given so that we might, in turn, give forgiveness unconditionally to everyone by whom we might feel slighted or maligned. Forgiveness is not conditional or it is not true forgiveness.

And Grace is not really Grace with any conditions. Especially not something as minor as deciding which idol you want to interpose between yourself and God.

Jesus said repeatedly that you can easily keep in touch with God, the Father. He did not mention using any mouthpiece, go-between, or secret password.

That little notion was thought up by the early Christian lawyers.

How Inhuman

December 29, 2012

Recently, an Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, put up a statue in the Warsaw ghetto that caused a bit of a stir. Titled only “HIM”, it shows a young Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was consulted on the proposed placement of the art and said he saw value in the artist’s attempt to try to increase moral awareness in the viewers.

Many people who saw it were moved by it, some calling it provocative. Of course, there were detractors as is usually the case. The Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called it “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims.”

Cattelan’s series of works called “Amen”, of which this piece is but a part, explores our understanding of life and death, good and evil.

What this seems to be touching on is forgiveness.

It seems we normally isolate things that we conceive as “very bad” and term it evil. This has been done traditionally with Hitler and practically everywhere you see mention of him, it is as evil incarnate.

And we do this, quite naturally, to distance ourselves from him, and the evil. Well, we remark, he was not really human so we cannot be related to that sort of thing. He was evil, a devil, not a man.

Unfortunately, he was all too human, as are we, and that should be remembered. Otherwise the same trap may find another victim. All that was evil in Hitler can be found in each of us as well, that darker side, the demons within, that most of us can keep control over and keep from slipping into that “madness”.

If we can re-humanize the man, we might actually learn to forgive him – a lesson repeated quite often in that tome used by Jews and Christians alike – and move beyond the pain.

And perhaps we can all learn a lesson from that exercise.

There are parts good and evil in all people. Jesus, a very good person, some say “the son of God”, others call him God in the flesh.

Believe it or not, that is the same thing people have done with Hitler: dehumanization. Hitler was so bad that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility. But we claim Jesus was so perfect that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility.

We can never be as bad as Hitler because we are human, nor can we ever aspire to be as good as Jesus because we have made him more than we can ever attain.

How different it would be if we remembered Hitler was just a man – and guard ourselves by that example – and that Jesus was just a man, and realize that we can be everything that he was.

Yes, just as the Master said we could.

One Day at the Pearly Gates

December 28, 2012

This is a scene I could imagine…

A line of people stand waiting at the gate and God himself (not Saint Peter) opens the gate, steps forward and embraces the woman at the front of the line. “Welcome home, daughter!”

She looks nervously around. “I never expected to be here. I mean, my life has not been very good… I sold my body on the streets to get drugs… you know, that sort of thing.”

God smiles. “I’m sure you did the best you could. Come on in!”

Behind her a man steps forward, back straight as God hugs him. “I have dedicated my life to your service. I pastored a church for forty years.”

God smiles. “I’m sure you did the best you could. Come on in!”

The next woman steps forward for her hug and greeting. “I’m so glad to get here.” Tears come. “I’ve waited so long.”

God smiles. “I’m sure you did the best you could. Come on in!”

A man steps up next, trying to step back again to avoid the hug, but is unsuccessful. He shakes his head ruefully. “I never believed in you… this… I always figured you were some sort of myth.” He hung his head. “I don’t deserve to be here.”

God smiles. “I’m sure you did the best you could. Come on in!”

****

The Heavenly Father, as most people refer to Him, is just that: a parent. To think that He would refuse entrance to any of His children for any past behaviors, is denying “grace”. There is no hell, no Satan, only the loving Father of us all.

Why then do so many Christians prefer to believe that the wicked, the evil, the grossly sinful, will not make it back into paradise? Why believe that this physical plane should in any way take precedence over the higher spiritual planes when it runs divergent to rational thinking?

Probably because that is what some religion wants you to think: that you can only get to the Father through their intervention. Only they have the ear of God.

It’s a nice fairy tale.

For them.

I suppose they need some reason to feel they are important, making a difference. We all need that sort of thing. It is a very human need.

And this is not to say that the world’s religions have not done good works. To many people, it is the only way they feel they can touch the Divine. That it makes no logical sense, matters not. Logic is an earthly thing, not based in the spiritual.

But we are all children of God, regardless of mindset, health, race, or religious conviction.

And we all get to go home.

Seeing the Really Big Picture

December 26, 2012

There is a Brandon Heath song, “Gimme Your Eyes”, that repeats an age-old prayer for us to be able to see the world as through the eyes of the Almighty.

It is really not that difficult to do.

First you have to set aside all your preconceptions about what is right or wrong, good or bad, and all the learning you’ve done about how things in the universe work (science) and how people are (psychology).

Then you silence the thoughts in your own head… on all the various levels and sub-levels of your thinking.

And then, you make yourself completely open, willing, vulnerable, accepting, and all that without the slightest hint of judging anything you see or hear, or attempting to “analyze” the data… realizing that nothing has any real value to express or compare to anything else.

Finally, you actively love everything you see. Not the passive attitude that “everything’s okay” but the full-fledged admiration for everything, loving it just the way it is. And most important of this is yourself. Jesus said to love your neighbors as you love yourself and most people forget that loving yourself is the beginning of that process. Until your cup is filled, you can’t pour it out over anyone or anything.

And that’s really all there is to it.

It pretty well sums up what Jesus was talking about and everything we learn about God in the Old Testament… the real God, not that Yahweh character.

a Gift of Pain

December 23, 2012

When tragedy and heartache strike, it is easy for many people to turn to God for comfort.

And here in the west, our first plea is to have the pain/heartache/suffering removed. It happens so often that it is probably the most common prayer He receives. That and the prayer for something we want from Him, quite like the child that goes away to college and only calls when they need money. I’m sure God is used to His children doing such.

A recent author on books about prayer said that in other areas of the world – peopled by those less fortunate than us – petitioners normally pray for the strength to get through the hard times. Here we merely pray for those times to end.

It is very telling.

So many people seem to blame the dark forces of evil or Satan himself for the troubles that plague them, regardless of the scale of devastation.

What is being forgotten here is that the Almighty Himself is in control of the world. There is no input from Satan’s small corner (even if the fellow actually existed!). So who do you think brings the events that cause such pain? If the Creator of the universe is truly in control, we do not need to look further for someone to “blame”.

Praying to be rid of the pain, the suffering, is to ignore the need for those very things. We are made stronger by the troubles we confront and overcome, signaled by the degree and depth of grace and forgiveness we can give to others even under such duress.

If there was never any hardships for us, we could never have any growth. And calling out our lawmakers to try and remove all possible causes for such pain/heartache/suffering is trying to deny God the chance to work His changes in you.

Rather than try to find the quickest and easiest fix for our suffering, would it not be better to face our demons and grow through our struggle?

Yes, the pain is hard, but by doing the hard work now, the next hardship may not be so hard on us.

That is His gift of pain to us, and why we suffer such.

It is confusing that He should bring the message against so many young innocents but – like many have often said – He works in mysterious ways. But, rest assured, Satan did not bring this to pass (if he exists) without the permission of the One who is really in control.

Knowing

December 20, 2012

Nicholas Cage starred in an apocalyptic film a few years back by that name about a character who had foreseen the end of the world.

He has to sort through the clues to make the discovery for himself and the knowledge makes fundamental changes in his psyche.

And, of course, he can do nothing to avert the destruction of planet Earth.

But what his character learned was that there are things more important…

Coming out of Connecticut are a few stories that should truly awe everyone.

Apparently, some of the victims seem to have known in advance that their time was almost over.

Some things they did, things they said, and even messages written in their journals seem to indicate they knew the end was near.

Perhaps being as young as they were, they could not fully articulate what they felt on the horizon.

Or perhaps, like Cage’s character, they understood that existence on this plane is really so fleeting, for all of us.

I would like to think of all of them as “old souls”.

The question that remains is what can we take away from this?

If nothing more than bitterness, regrets and recriminations, I am afraid the lesson was lost.

And must more than likely be repeated.

How sad.