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Loving Our Enemies
Overcoming Our Anger at God
Letting Go of Our Fear
Keeping God at the Center of Our Lives
Living as a Whosoever
Blessing Our Persecutors
Who Do You Say That I Am?
The Empty Tomb: What Does the Resurrection Mean?
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
The Beloved Community
Living in Gratitude
Bringing Heart and Mind Into Harmony
God, Humans and Animals
Embracing the Mystery
Who is my Neighbor?
Revealing Our Glory
Spirituality of Music
God and Politics
In the 6th century AD, over 500 years after the death of Christ, Emperor Constantine, was the first Christian emperor of Rome. Constantine was having trouble with the different religious factions in his kingdom. There was much squabbling and infighting over various points of Christian doctrine. This left Constantine with a divided kingdom and a divided power base. He needed to settle these arguments and unify his kingdom. Constantine called together all the varied religious factions for a meeting, the first ecumenical council meeting of the Catholic Church, the Council of Nicea.
Each group was given time to read their scrolls aloud and each was voted on using a process we may not be familiar with, but have no doubt used in conversation. If a council member agreed with and accepted as true, the scroll that was just read, he dropped a white ball in the basket as it was passed around, if he did not agree he dropped in a black ball. The scroll was included in the new Bible based on the shade of the mix. As you can imagine, there were many gray areas. Much was excluded, including the gospels of Thomas, and Peter, the one of whom Christ had said "on this rock, I build my church." Peter, considered to be the first Pope, had been "black balled." At the conclusion of the council meeting, Constantine told everyone this new compilation was the final word on the subject and there would be no more discussion.
The new Bible was considered by the early church to be a complex sacred document that was too holy and complicated for the common man. It was also feared that improper interpretation was a sure ticket to hell, so the church allowed only their own clergy to read it, and provide interpretation to the common man. It was the sole property of the church for the next 1000 years, until it was wrenched away in a sea of blood during the Protestant Reformation, in 1517. As you can imagine there was much editing and translating going on in those 1000 years.
One notable editorial was added to the King James version of the Bible in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew, chapter 5. Where it said, (21) Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." The "Without a cause" was apparently added by some scribe who certainly thought it must be OK to be angry with your brother if you have a good reason, but doesn't everybody think they have a reason, no matter how trivial or rooted in prejudice? This phrase was removed in all later translations.
If any fundamentalists began reading this, they have probably already stopped and judged me a heretic on a sure road to hell, but my understanding of the Bible's origins does not diminish my faith in God, in fact it allows Him to be all the more Godly. God needs no man made prop to be God. In fact the early superstitions of God being angry, jealous, and vengeful clearly diminish the true loving, compassionate nature of God.
This does not mean that guidance and direction cannot be gleaned from reading the Bible in a true quest for understanding. If you listen to Jesus teachings they all ring so lovingly true. God made you, and He gave you everything you need, to be able to know Him. You have within you the capacity to know the truth when you hear it, if you are truly seeking the truth and not an excuse to condemn another; but if that is what you are looking for, you will be able to find that as well. Jesus told you, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. He also said, in Matthew Chapter 7, "(9) Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? (10) Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (11) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
We can learn from the experiences of others, but we have to use the mind that God gave us. As Paul said, "we must have in us the mind that was in Christ Jesus, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Use your mind. No one else can find God for you.
Excuse me, God would like to speak with you
Human beings are creatures of habit. We live by routine. This serves a valuable purpose. We need routines to keep us from having to relearn everything every time we do it. Have you ever driven somewhere only to arrive at your destination and realize you weren't paying attention as you drove there? Our beliefs are a result of routine too. We have settled into patterns of thinking that define how we think the world works. These patterns are for the most part given to us by the society and culture we grow up in. If and how we celebrate Christmas, what we do in our spare time and what we think deserves our attention. What we give the majority of our attention to is actually a waste of time. We babble incessantly inside our heads about what menial task lies ahead or us, or if it is an automatic task, like driving, we babble about something else. Perhaps a recent bad experience we keep replaying, or a possible future event we either dread or hope for, but we aren't very selective about these choices. They more or less just come and go on their own. Many of us seem to dwell at length on the negatives. The negatives of the past, or the possible negatives of the future, worry. When we do actively chose a thought, it is usually about how to get by; what tasks we have to perform in order to earn an income, and what we must do with our time and income to avoid adding complication to our already over complicated lives. We try and maintain the steady flow of sameness.
Many of us claim belief in a deity, an all-powerful spirit that created everything. We may profess that our God is omnipotent, but that He resides in a far off place, and has very little to do with our daily lives. We believe God has deposited us here as a test, and once our time is completed in this place we may be allowed to go live in this magnificent miraculous home of God. Here, in this place, the test life, none of the things that happen in Heaven are possible. If we do believe in miracles, we believe they are rare occasions when God steps in, or allows His angles to step in, and interrupt our ordinary, plodding, day in day out existence here on God's farm. Here, everything is ordinary. Meaning that if something happens, it has to have a physical cause, or it is a complete accident, as if we were so many dominoes waiting for the wind to blow something over.
So let me summarize what we believe. We were created by an all-powerful all knowing being capable of making anything happen, simply by thinking about it. Then we were placed in a world where none of that goes on; where all our actions are scored to determine if we get to move on to a place of miracles and eternal happiness, or a place of eternal torture. With our belief that this world and the next are so totally different, it is no wonder that many people chose to say that the other one doesn't exist, because it is too different from this one to be reasonable to believe. I must agree that these two definitions are too different to be reasonable. But… there are people who don't see this world as ordinary. There are people who look around them and see God everywhere. They see "eternity in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower," Before we got "civilized," when we were "ignorant" tribal people, we had no difficulty at all seeing God all around us. The Sun came up each morning and warmed our lives and our earth, and caused the seeds to sprout and grow. Seeds; portable capsules of life created by all creatures in one form or another. Water falls from the sky. Can you imagine? Stop thinking with the conditioned mind of a worker bee, and see if you can see with new eyes. Be born again, and see the world anew, without your training… as if you had just been born.
Water falling from the sky. Sunlight, born on a ball of fire 93 million miles away and landing softly and gently on our shoulders, but not for too many hours each day. We need our rest, so the Earth turns to give us night. The Earth, a beautiful ball of minerals rocketing around the Sun at around 60,000 miles an hour. Does this sound ordinary? Creatures that draw their nutrition from the world around them and create copies of themselves. Creatures that all serve a purpose. One creature provides food for another. One creature provides material for us to build shelter and cover ourselves. Creatures that swim and feed in the water without ever coming out. Creatures that fly in the air. My God, My God! Look at the miracles that surround us every day! We call what surrounds us every day, "ordinary", because it is common to us. If we were born with the ability to fly, we would think nothing of it. It would be ordinary.
Many years ago a NASA scientist came up with a theoretical design for a space probe that would travel for years through space in search of a mineral rich body to land on. It would then harvest the minerals found there and make a copy of itself. Then the two would fly off and repeat the process, I presume sending back data to earth on their findings. The estimate of how long this reproduction would take was a mere 10,000 years per copy. My, aren't we intelligent? I don't know if they even estimated how long it would take us to build this thing and what it would cost. But God does it a billion times a day, and what is more, His are intelligent, more or less. Life, the ultimate miracle. From the tiniest single celled organism to the totally self-absorbed human, to the largest living thing we know: the earth. Unparalleled magnificence. But we don't see, because we don't look. God wishes to speak with us, but we don't hear, because we don't listen. We don't believe we live in a world where the Creator loves his creatures enough to want a relationship with them. We may say we believe it, but we don't live as if it were true. If God weren't speaking to us every day, then we wouldn't be alive. God is life. God is moving the blood through our veins and drawing the air into our lungs. He is the blood and the air. Acts 17:28 says: " For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring."
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." If you truly want to find the living God, you will find yourself on an undeniable journey unlike any you have ever undertaken. If we want it, we shall have it. Again from the Sermon on the Mount: "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Jesus says we can see God, if we will purify our hearts. In my own experience, once you have decided you want to know God, and that you can know God, God will begin to point out your shortcomings, those things that are standing between you and Him. If you ask yourself now, "what am I doing that might prevent me from getting closer to God?" God will show you. First and foremost, the one thing that sometimes eludes the would-be faithful, are the judgments we hold about others. Jesus says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It is not our place to judge. We do not have the capacity or the wisdom to understand God's plan for someone else, only our own. We must begin the purification of our heart by releasing all those we hold in judgment, and love them. Jesus says love you neighbor and your enemies, that doesn't leave anyone out. The Bible also tells us how to communicate with God. Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." Be still. Listen. Know. As I said earlier, our mind is usually filled with trivial babble. If you try and sit still a moment and quiet your mind, you will see that your mind never seems to stop. It will comment on anything and everything. This babble is a result of our belief that everything exists in words, language. Language serves a purpose, primarily the ability of written language to record the events and learning of those who lived before us. We may believe we need it to communicate with each other, but I think this too is just habit. We try and say that the animals have language, because we know that they must communicate, but do they use "words" as we do?
We have tried to reduce all the experiences of life into a set of symbols, words, but how accurately does the word "tree" represent the billions of magnificent creatures that God has growing on the earth? So we must learn to think with the mind God created in us, using the language God uses, a language without words. A language of pictures and feelings. It takes practice to quiet the chatter. There are a thousand methods. Some you may have engaged in and not known why they provided you with such peace. Some people find a quiet mind while knitting, or doing needlepoint, or fishing, activities that don't require thought. For me, I get closest to God when I am alone in nature. There, I am surrounded by nothing but God, no manmade distractions. There I release all my worries and concerns to God. Even if I have issues that I must deal with, I will give them to God for a time. Then I release the rest of the world from my judgments. Then listen to the sounds of God: the wind, the birds, the water. Invite God to speak to you; Ask Him to help you to understand something that is troubling you. Speak to Him, but then listen for His response. Often times, I find that I begin to speak to myself, or so it seems, and I answer the questions in my own voice, but with intelligence I don't posses. God is real, God is here, and God wants to speak with you.
Perhaps you sang this hymn growing up as I did.
If you have come to the conclusion that God is real and God is present and has the time and inclination to communicate with you, then you have made it half way already. Then, find a place in nature, preferably where you can't hear the highway or anything else manmade. Empty yourself of all concerns and worries as they will keep you separate from God. Likewise empty yourself of all judgments against everyone and everything.
Accept for the moment that everything in the world is just as it is supposed to be and under the divine guidance of your loving Father. Sit quietly and stop the flow of babbling thoughts through your mind. Listen to God, feel His warmth on your face, and hear His voice in the wind through the trees. Then feel yourself becoming a part of the nature that surrounds you. You are a part of the earth, you always have been. Your body is made of it. Your soul is of God, and it infuses the landscape around you.
The breath you feel moving in and out of you, is the breath of the earth. You are the eyes and ears of this place. Be. That is your only function. Be this place. Feel it enfold you. Feel the height of the trees and the wind as it sways your branches. Feel yourself growing as the Sun nourishes you. Project your mind up into the trees. Visualize your mind expanding out to include all you see and feel. Stay with this for as long as you can. If you establish this connection, this place will begin to speak to you. It will begin to share its knowledge with you. You will be in communion. The Hindus call it rumijetna, or unity consciousness.
From here it is between you and God.
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