Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

Let go

This is what is meant by following Christ. In this way, disregarding earthly gains, Matthew attached himself to the band of followers of One who had no riches. For the Lord himself, who outwardly called Matthew by a word, inwardly bestowed upon him the gift of an invisible impulse so that he was able to follow-

excerpt from a quote by Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD), Anglo-Saxon monk

This was my Lenten meditation for today:

In a given situation, act as if everything will work out. Allow this to influence what you say to others and what you say to yourself.

This was both terrifying to me and freeing at the same time. This idea of freedom is what we strive for, but in the context of the contemplative life is a much different idea. This freedom exists from materialism and worry, from earthly wants for heavenly gains. This freedom exists in believing in the notion that God works all things for the good of those who love him. It exists in the freedom the trees experience, swaying to and fro, in the birds of the air who do not worry and in the hearts of men who long to be there.

Our words influence our steps. God moves our hearts but we are afraid. We then tell people that we are afraid. Then they are afraid. This is not freedom.

This type of spiritual freedom is jumping off a cliff type stuff, diving into a deep body of water, embarking on a mission to a place you’ve never been, selling every possession you’ve ever owned for something more…

It’s dropping the net when He tells you, following when He tells you, not looking back when He tells you. It’s a forward movement, an awareness of adventure, a trust, a not being afraid.

It’s living not on the surface but below it, it’s individualized, it calls you to be different, it tugs at you and will not let go…

God does not give us time to plan, He’s had eternity to do that for us.

When it’s time it’s time.

This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

Exodus 12:11

Our lives are not our own, but we hold onto them with an undying and unrelenting grasp. Instead of holding onto Jesus for dear life, we are holding onto our own thoughts and ideals. We hold onto friends and houses, churches… we hold onto where we are and fight the forward movement. We don’t want to leave but we’re afraid to go. We’re not necessarily wrestling with God, we’re just telling Him not to move us…

But the spiritual life is forward movement, it’s a letting go of self, it’s a giving away and a taking on of a new life, it’s losing our tight grasp on things and grasping onto the cloak of the one who saves us from ourselves…

So ask yourself, what is it that you are holding onto, what is that you just can’t let go of? Release it, take your clenched hands and open them. Then turn around and clench onto Him.

Act as if everything will work out, because it will…

For the God I love

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My son Collin, a gifted student in the 2nd grade, won the county-wide haiku contest, beating out all students in the county up to 5th grade. Collin has been diagnosed with ADHD, a daily struggle for him. We have overcome, by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.

 

For the life that I was not supposed to live

For the days I spent doubting my existence

For the pain and suffering I could not explain

For the God I loved, and the God I let go of

For the many books I read about why bad things happen to good people

For the day I quit life, and the day I found out it again

For the God who just wouldn’t let me go

For the child he gave me who was never supposed to be

For the child that couldn’t walk, and lagged far behind

For the child that they told me would never be… anything

For the child they told me wouldn’t make it

For the one to which they said, give up… now

For all the days I chose to believe God over them

For the many nights I stayed up crying

For the days where I was slowly dying

For the pain to return in the form of my son

For the struggle I relived as if we were one

For the times God called me to move him

For the times I was afraid

For the face to the floor praying, and nights of waiting

For the child they told me would be, was  … nothing

For the life I believed he would have

For the Christ child to which he was bound

For the savior who he had

For the one that held me up

For the seven years of life

For the moment I’ve only dreamed of

For the disability that has been his greatest ability

For the thorn in his side that has been made strong in his weakness

For the God who loved me

For the God who made Him

For the God that just refuses to let go

For all of these things, He is, I AM

He is Here (Revelation 3:20)

jesus_knocking_at_your_door

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.

 

We no longer see what with Him we obtain

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our poison

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain.

 

Hold tight to the Vine, we’ll rejoice in union

Yet faith is belief, expecting in unseen

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our poison.

 

We say we want God, but there’s dogma between

He longs to come and with us break bread

Yet faith is belief expecting in unseen.

 

If we’d just focus on seeking him instead

The door only opens from inside to out

He longs to come in and with us break bread.

 

We’re filled with self-made doctrine leading to doubt

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

The door only opens from inside out

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.

Sometimes theology isn’t complex

candy-caneThe Legend of the Candy Cane

A humble man wished to use his candy making art
to make a Christmas gift for Christ
that came straight from his heart.

First he shaped the candy into a shepherd’s staff, a “J”
to stand for the name of Jesus,
who was born on Christmas Day.

He used white stripes to symbolize Jesus’ virgin birth,
and His sinlessness and purity
during His time on earth.

Finally, he colored the candy with stripes made out of red,
to represent the scourging
and the blood that Jesus shed.

He had created the Candy Cane, to remind us during this season
that Christmas is a sweet gift of love
and Jesus is the reason.

Author unknown.

What is Sin… Really?

accountability pageYou see this article on “Accountability”, and read this Inventory List for Conscience. It helps you know how and when you’ve “sinned” so you can get forgiveness for it. And your heart responds that there’s value to this, it isn’t “bad”… but somehow you feel it hasn’t quite hit the mark.

USCCB You do more research, you find a Catholic treatment for the Examination of Conscience, and you look it over. Again, not that it’s “bad”, but it just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch in your spirit as you ponder the questions of living in righteousness, versus committing sin. Somehow, virtue and sin don’t seem so cumbersome, so convoluted.

You decide to teach on this topic, and so you begin…

Sin… righteousness… love… peace… one day you are sitting and pondering, studying, working on a lesson or a sermon, and you find yourself grieving, praying, seeking how effectively to communicate something you see in your heart as so simple… You lean back, your brow furrows, your eyes close for a moment…

And suddenly, you no longer seem to be at your desk… You realize that God has heard your heart and your prayers, and He is going to teach you something, show you something, to help you understand and teach…

You find yourself standing out in a large empty space, dim but not utterly dark, neutral neither warm nor cold, with just a sense of vastness, not fearful or threatening. There in the distance you see light on the horizon and you choose to walk towards it. Startled with surprise, you find that each step moves you very far, as if your will moves you forward by thought, not physics.

As you approach closer to the light that a moment before was on the horizon, you realize that you are about to look upon the Father… God… the Almighty over All. Somehow, you know you are at the very Beginning, the Before the Beginning. This, is the Void, the Formless Void, and God (in whatever form and manner you perceive Him/Her) is smiling in welcome at your arrival. Amazingly, when He smiles, He smiles all over… His eyes, His hands, His heart… all welcomes you, and you stand just steps away from Him, unsure of whether to look up or down, to bow or to stand.

He takes your hand, raises your chin, smiles, and simply says, “Behold…”

He turns towards the Void around Him, extends His arms, and the radiance from His heart moves outwards reaching to touch all around Him. You realize, you are watching Creation. As you stand there, awestruck, you know that matter and energy have come into Being.

With another sweeping gesture, His arms raise again, and with a pulsing motion forms take shape all around you, near and far. You see planets, stars, sand, rocks, the forms of grass, trees, even animals. But all seems still.

“Now watch…” He says with a smile, as He turns to you, then back to His work.

You see a richer glow begin at His heart, as it flows upwards and outwards through His arms and fingers. You know, without knowing how you know, that He has just brought forth Life… and you see all these living things now begin to move.

Then, in a way you cannot describe, you see Him touching all of this… Everything… all at the same moment, and you realize that He is loving, He is feeding, He is upholding… All that is. All that He has created. That all of this is from Him, part of Him, has come from Him and is yet Him and His.

He turns to you again, and says… “Here is the best part…”

Again He faces His creation and the glow from His heart moves out through both His hands and His lips as He sings forth music unspeakable. Now there appear… “children”… is the word that goes through your mind. You hear Him sing, “My Children”. And you see that He is singing forth everyone, everywhere, everywhen. The beauty of it all leaves you breathless.

He turns to you again, reaches forth, and puts His hand on your chest.

You are filled with warmth, as a glow lights you up and flows outwards from your heart through every part of your being. You can feel and see that this warmth, this glow, are extending themselves from your heart outwards to your hands, and upwards to your tongue and lips.

You feel moved, without knowing why, and you embrace Him… God… the Father… the Lord of All. Fear doesn’t even enter your mind, though you’d never have imagined doing such a thing before. And He returns the embrace, kisses you on the top of the head, and you are filled with a fullness of love, safety, and nurturance such as you have never known before. You realize, for the first time all the way through you, that He is truly, utterly, and only Good… and you never need doubt, never need ever but to trust Him completely forevermore.

He directs your gaze to the world we know. And He bids you observe His children, their hearts, hands, and lips.

As you look at the world, you see people. Myriads of people… good, bad, young… old… confident, frightened, hurting, healing… You see all kinds of people, doing all the kinds of things people do.

You see some people with dim hearts, laying hands on other people who glow a bit, and where they touch their hands glow as the object of their touch grows dimmer. The heart of the takers has a reddish dim glow, while children start with brilliant white and gold.

Here and there you see clusters of brilliance, often among whom are hearts that reach out with pulsing connection with this heart of God alongside you. You see that God continues to touch, to nurture, to maintain all His children, all these people. But there are vast differences among individuals how they respond to His touch.

Some people welcome, embrace, and reach towards it. Others simply receive it without response or seeming to notice Him. While still others, those with the dimmest glow, seek to avoid His touch and His love and life (for you realize these all are one in Him).

But as you watch longer, you see that everyone, even the most golden or brilliant, have moments when their hearts flash red, and they touch others with a dimming effect. And much touching seems not to have impact. And some touching, brings light to others and eases their way.

“What am I seeing, Father? (or Lord?)” you ask.

“You are seeing the answer to your questions, My child. Righteousness, sin, virtue, love, life… all of it. It is as simple as ‘relationship’… with Me, with others, with yourself. I, and Only I, give life through love. That is all I do, always. And life only comes through love. But children of free will as you are, you may choose at any given moment to GIVE life through loving another and giving from Me through your heart, your hands, your words… to love another and so give them life. Or, you may choose to TAKE life from another, deprive, neglect, injure, or wound another… diminishing their life, feeding upon them, to love yourself.

“It is quite simple, but very difficult to put in words. Nothing living stands still. Life requires consumption. I Alone am the source of life. I alone can feed you with love, life, and being. When you feed from Me, (I once expressed this as ‘eat My body’), I can fill you utterly and beyond. Water that you never thirst again, bread that you never die. To let Me fill you, and then to pass along such love, such life, such abundance to those around you through your heart… this is love, this is righteousness, this is virtue.

“But to choose instead to feed on others, to love the self at the expense of others, is to deprive them of life. This is to consume others for the sake of the self. Whether materially, or emotionally… to feed the ego by belittling others and making them smaller, is no less a taking of their life as to wound them physically. This is predation. This is vampirism. This… is sin.

“Not only is it wrong, for it takes life from another. It is also ineffective. You cannot truly live on ‘second hand life’. Only I Alone can give full life through love. To steal the life of another will never fill or sustain a person. It can barely maintain them. Eventually, such predation leaves only the empty shell of a life.

“Sin leaves you empty and hungry, no matter how much you grasp or take. Like ’empty calories’, there is no real life to it. The hunger gnaws, and will continue to do so until real life, real love, real Light is found.

“So there you are, Blessed child. To give life to others through love of them and Me, is righteousness. To take life from others for love of yourself, without Me, is sin. Any questions?”

You shake your head, a bit bewildered. This really is quite simple. He hugs you again, kisses you atop the head, and your eyes open…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are again seated at your desk wondering how in the world you can ever find the words to explain this.

Then you remember, Jesus said,Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:17-20]

And you get it… everything is sacred. It is ALL held together in His hands, His heart, His love. To treat anything, especially ANYONE… as less than sacred… to fail to love anything or anyone that He died to redeem in the greatness of His love… Yeah, that’s just not OK. You get it now. Righteousness is treating sacred things that He loves as precious. Not to do so… well, yeah, that’s sin. And we do it, because sometimes we choose to… but still He breathes us, He touches us, He loves us… and thus, He lives us.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”  you ponder, silently…