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Keeping God at the Center of Our Lives


by: Roger Stratton


It's tough for anyone, I think, to truly keep God at the center of their lives. When the activities of our lives demand our attention and we drift away from the secure feeling we have when we are close to God, we begin to feel lost, insecure and alone. The everyday problems start to pile up and life is no fun anymore. For me, that's when I start to look around and ask myself, "why do I feel this way?" because I remember what it felt like to be loved and secure. Then I see it isn't God who has abandoned me, but I who have abandoned Him.

This used to happen a lot more often, before I really figured out who God was. I was raised in a nice friendly, loving church, not too much hell fire, so I knew God was good, but I thought He was much too busy being God, to have time to visit with me or help me with my petty problems. I figured if it were a matter of life or death, I could get in touch with Him, but what I had gotten from church was that my main responsibility to God seemed to be to worship and praise, and oh yes, pay. But God wasn't satisfied with that relationship, so He set about educating me.

Thank God for my mother. For all her idiosyncrasies, and mine, she will always love me, almost as much as God, who gave her to me. When I went away to college, my mother couldn't be there to watch over me (although, when I was home, I was still getting a lot past her), so she sent me a subscription to Guideposts Magazine. A regular monthly section in Guideposts was His Mysterious Ways, A short story sent in by contributors, about God performing miracles in peoples' everyday lives, "ordinary" miracles. By that I mean, He was helping regular people with regular problems, like helping a woman find her lost engagement ring, or helping a bus driver find a nut on the highway that fit the one lost from his bus. No life threats -- just life. So I thought if God had time for them, maybe He had time for me too. So I started asking, a major breakthrough for me. The very first time I did, BANG, I got help. I was trying to track a particularly illusive bug in the program I was writing for my programming class. I had been at it for awhile and it was beginning to frustrate me, so I stopped and asked God if He would mind helping me out. As soon as I opened my eyes and started scanning again, there it was! When I told a friend about it, he said, "you probably just relaxed and then you found it", and that might have explained it away, but I kept asking and I kept getting help. The more it happened, the more I expected it to happen, and the more it did, in ever more powerful and undeniable ways. But ... when everything was going fine, I didn't talk to God. A problem that very soon makes itself evident when your life starts screwing up again. If you aren't paying attention and let your problems get a foothold, like getting angry, resentful, vengeful, or worried and compounding the problems, then you have dug yourself a sizable hole that will take you and God some time to get you out of. But rest assured He wants to get you out of it. The sooner you recognize that your problems are because of your distance from the source of life, and return to right thinking and communion with God, the sooner they will be remedied.

In order to remain in communion with God, you first have to understand what kind of relationship you can have with God. Many people who want to please God, think as I did early on, that your responsibility here on Earth is to be a good person, and you and God will get together on the other side and you will get your reward. This is so indescribably inferior to what is actually available to all of us: Nothing less than union with God.

I began to recognize that God was not church or religion. Both of these are human constructs. Gandhi said, "in heaven there is no religion, there is only God." For me, God was a small percentage of life, usually a few hours on Sunday morning, then you went out into the "real" world. But then I discovered that God was the whole affair, not just some religious ceremonial aspect that took a portion of our time, kind of like Christmas. God was everything, friendship, sunshine, flowers, purpose, laughter, even sex, drugs, and rock and roll. God was everywhere and everything. It was such a profound, freeing realization. Then I began to visit with God all day long, as if my dearest friend were sharing every minute with me. God was not someone I had to answer to, or be judged by, but someone who loved me no matter what I did or who I was; someone who was there to help me anytime I needed it on even the smallest task.

God's greatest expression in our lives is purpose. God created each of us unique -- unlike any other creature that has ever lived or ever will live. You are unique in all creation. Uniquely suited for a grand purpose. I mean it. The feeling is extraordinary, it is the definition of ecstatic: To be in communion with God. The ecstatic moments don't last forever, at least not here, but having one every so often keeps reminding you that God loves you and that He has plans for you, if only you will ask for His guidance and listen to what He tells you.

When I was a child in church and the minister would ask you to dedicate your life to Christ, I would go through the motions, but I always held back. Giving your life to Christ to me conjured up visions of me standing on a street corner in a black suit with slick hair waving a bible at passersby. I was blind but now I see. I see that God isn't my judge or my king that I am to pay homage to, but my Father who wants only the best for me. When I realized God was about everything, then serving God didn't mean becoming a preacher or missionary. God needs all of us; every last one. The Earth is a single living creature, and just like the white blood cells that are independent creatures living as a part of us, doing their own special thing to make us healthy, so do we have to do our thing to make the organism whole. None is better or worse, more revered or reviled, all are perfect, but we must break free of our illusions. The illusions that tell us we have responsibilities to our employers or our government to uphold the economy. Illusions that tell us the more we make and the more we spend, the happier we will be. All of us will see through that illusion if the pain of our reality becomes unbearable. Most of us will endure a slow, steady, dull pain. We will plod along in a career we may have chosen when we were 18 years old. How much could we have known about life then? We will fill the emptiness inside us with stuff; things; toys. The excitement of buying something is real, but it is fleeting. We don't have to wait for life to hurt too bad to stand it, before we decide to make a change. I'm not saying that all possessions are bad or that money is bad. Possessions are neutral. They are just things. Money is a tool. But possessions or money will never fill the place inside us that God put there. It can only be filled by a relationship with Him that will provide us with purpose. Yes, a career, a job, a way of making a living is important. There is a job out there we will love enough, that doing it will not be a chore but a joy. Maybe when you were a child, you had a dream of what you wanted to become. If it doesn't feel like it would fulfill you now, then search the world and find out what would. Often one dream will just be a stepping stone to another. A different job that seems attractive may lead you to a contact with someone or something else that will take you further.

It doesn't happen all at once. We have to begin by learning what we have to learn right now, where we are. You are where you are for a purpose. If it causes you pain or sorrow, then get on with learning from it, so you can move on. Once you realize that God is on your side and He wants to help you realize your dreams, once you begin to trust Him, then when things come along. You will know that God is there with you and no matter how bad things look. God will show you how to navigate it and learn from it and it will benefit you, or He would not have brought it to you. There is no evil in the world, only ignorance. Once you say to God, "I guess it only makes sense that since You made this place, then my greatest purpose has to be something You are already aware of; take me, I'm Yours!" then every event in the entire universe will line up to show you the way.

When I was an opportunistic me-first individual, I found myself surrounded by people just like me, irritating the piss out of me. If you look at the thorns in your side and say, "I'm not anything like those people!" perhaps they are exaggerated images or your own shortcomings, or perhaps they are just there to teach you to love unconditionally. Before God can make you a part of His plan, you have to clean yourself up. God showed me my ignorance about things one at a time, and waited on me to fix them.

Other than being a jerk, most of what I had to learn wasn't things I was doing that were bad, but things I didn't understand, many things I thought were wrong weren't wrong, they just were. You have to let go of your idea of how things are "supposed" to go. Once you have hitched yourself to God's wagon, don't try and grab the reins, just watch for your queues.

Know this, many things aren't as they seem. History shows us that society as a whole is usually wrong about a great many things. Those on the fringes figure out the inconsistencies, usually under persecution, later to be revered as heroes and great thinkers, usually after death. Then just as stubbornly society sets all ideas in concrete once again and says, "now we really know it all."

If you are reading this, you at least acknowledge the existence of a God -- a God who can create universes, and life, which is a most amazing thing. But yet we suppose that we live in a world of cold hard facts, that everything should be explainable by our tiny minds. That nothing should be magical or mystical, that everything is just chemical reactions governed by unfeeling laws of physics. Why? Why can't we speak with angels, why can't we see through the eyes of God, why shouldn't the people we see in our dreams be just as "real" as those we see when we are awake. Why can't we talk with the Earth, and have it talk back to us? Where does it say that on one side of the veil is all this magic, and on this side it is all cold and dry?

I encourage you to begin a quest. A quest to know what you are and why you are here. A quest that God has been waiting for you to undertake. He has nominated guides to teach you. Some you will see as people, some you will not. Thousands of people have journeyed this path before you. A path that in many ways is the same for us all, but in certain ways will be perfectly unique to you. Many of those before you have written about their experiences. Many of them were collected in the Bible. Many others were not. One of my first revelations on the magnificent possibilities of life came from reading "The Sermon on the Mount", by Emmet Fox, given to me by a friend. This book was at one time required reading for AA. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was equally enlightening. There are thousands of authors to chose from, Joseph Chilton Pierce, Wayne Dyer, Peter McWilliams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marlo Morgan, Carlos Castenada, Ram Dass, Ken Carey, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and on and on. Some will appeal to you and some will not. Something I had to learn early on was not to throw out a whole author because I disagreed with some of his or her assertions. The truth is a vast puzzle, and you will get tiny pieces from absolutely everywhere, from chance encounters on an elevator, from movies, and certainly from nature, who has not forgotten how to listen to God. "The Secret Life of Plants", may be a great place to begin to recognize the wonder of God.

An ancient parable tells of a person who wanted to have wisdom, so he sought out a great sage living in the mountains. When he found the sage he begged him to teach him. The wise man told him he could not help him. Again he pleaded, saying he had traveled for many days, and assured the great one that he was indeed committed. Reluctantly the wise man asked the novice to follow him down to the stream. Once there, he asked him to bend over and put his face in the water. The novice complied. Then the wise man put his hand on the back of the novice's head. The novice thought it must be some sort of blessing, but soon began to run out of air. When he tried to come up, the wise man continued to hold him under. Finally after struggling violently, the wise man released him, and the novice came up gasping for air. Then the wise man said, "When you want knowledge as much as you wanted that first breath of air, then you shall have it", and he left him.

Do you really want bliss, purpose, and unparalleled fulfillment, or are you too busy getting by?

Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Books:

The Secret Life of Plants

Peter Tompkins, Christopher O. Bird

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Robert M. Pirsig

The Sermon on the Mount

Emmet Fox

God's Best for You : Discovering God's Ideal Purpose for Your Life

Marilyn Morgan Helleberg

God's Best for You : Discovering God's Ideal Purpose for Your Life

Marilyn Morgan Helleberg

God's Best for You : Discovering God's Ideal Purpose for Your Life

Marilyn Morgan Helleberg


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Other Articles By Roger Stratton:

To Hell with God:
Overcoming Our Anger with God

Overcoming our Fear


Also In This Issue:

Falling in Love Again

Practicing the Presence of the Living God






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