Archive for the ‘societal expectations’ Category

Jesus Feeds the Multitude–A Miracle Retold

It was one of those epiphany moments. It was an instant in which everything came into clearer view. Something I always thought I knew and understood suddenly shifted into focus. The outcome was the same, however the details of the process were different.

More importantly, my view of the message and purpose of Jesus shifted once again.

Imagine the scene. It’s easy. It’s a story with which we are all familiar. Crowds have begun to follow Jesus and his rag-tag bunch of loyal trainees. He was their guru. They were his disciples. Better than Connan O’Brian or Jimmy Kimmel, this Jesus guy was a boatload of contradictions: sarcastic and straight-forward, funny and serious, aloof and compassionate, wise and seemingly foolish, positive and cynical. People who could get close enough to him were forever changed.

He was simply irresistible.

It’s a typical day in the countryside areas of Judea. The crowds have found the guru. Everyone is gathered in close straining to hear what the guru called Jesus has to say. He’s not some televangelist asking for money. He talks about sharing, but asks for nothing for himself. He mentions loving not only neighbors and friends and family, but also enemies. He says a neighbor isn’t necessarily someone of the same race or clan, but the one who shows compassion.

He mentions how lucky the poor are (this crowd is full of peasant men and women) because they don’t have wordly possessions weighing them down. He shares how the kindgom of God is not something guarded by the priests, but rather is contained within and attainable by each and every person there. He even says little children already “get it” and that becoming like a child is a good way to experience the kingdom.

His words of wisdom continue until later in the day. The disciples begin to let the cares of the world move in as they lose site of the day’s message.

“Jesus, it’s getting late, and these people are bound to be hungry. What are we going to do? We can’t just send them away.”

Here’s where the story takes a turn for me. Most of us are familiar with the only miracle story that appears in all four of the New Testament Gospels. Jesus tells the disciples to see what’s available. They find a small boy with five barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus takes the food, prays over it, breaks it, and miraculously it feeds thousands with baskets of leftovers.

And then this morning, my epiphany.

What if the miracle wasn’t a “powerful deity” miracle, but a “changing hearts” miracle? What if the sudden appearance of plenty of food had nothing to do with the magical duplication of five loaves and two fish, but was instead the magic of an example of sharing as set by a small boy?

What if absolutely nothing supernatural happened to the food supply that day?

And so our story continues, my way.

The disciples reported back to Jesus that a small boy, a child too young to know better than to hide what he had brought with him, had eagerly begged the disciples to take what he had and give it to those around him who were hungry.

After all, his hero, Jesus of Nazareth, had just said the way to experience the kingdom of God was through giving and sharing.

Then Jesus gratefully acknowledged that little boy and showered him with love and adoration. “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'” Luke 18:16-17

Jesus blessed the small meal and began to share it.

And suddenly the hearts of the crowd began to soften. Jesus words about giving, sharing, and being like this little child affected them deeply. Many had brought along a lunch that day. It would have been foolish to travel out to the countryside empty-handed. They never went anywhere without at least a few provisions. Everyone present began to share what they had with the person next to them.

After the crowd had satisfied it’s hunger, Jesus asked the disciples to go around and gather up all that remained. Several more could have been fed from the leftovers.

Jesus made a beautiful point that day. If we take care of each other, share what we have and meet the needs of our fellow humans, not only will there be more than enough for everyone to be satisfied, but there will be plenty left over.

What good does it to do collect and store and stash and hoard if rust and moth ravage the loot? Mother Earth (God) is good to us. There will always be provisions enough to take care of everyone if set our sights on sharing what we have, not from our abundance, but from our very sustenance.

That little boy shared his lunch. It was all he had to eat that day. He didn’t know any better. By doing so, a miracle happened. His example opened the hearts of the entire crowd and everyone shared the little they had brought with them. Before the little boy opened his heart and his hands, no one seemed to have anything to share. Everyone was keeping the meagerness of their poverty lifestyle food to themselves.

One little boy opened his heart, and Jesus used it to open so many others.

Through sharing the most meager of resources, abundance was produced.The kingdom of God was experienced by everyone present, and  Jesus lesson was beautifully illustrated.

I like this version much better than the one that assumes deity must do some type of magic to turn five loaves and two fish into a banquet feast. It puts the power and the responsibility back on us……

….right where it belongs.

What if this were to happen today? What if we suddenly had no need for welfare because we simply took care of our neighbors?

It would take a miracle.

I’m pretty sure there’s a political statement in here somewhere. I bet you can figure it out.

2010: Looking Back So I Can Look Forward

Looking back is not something I typically do. There’s nothing a person can do to change what’s been done, and spending time dwelling on it is pretty much a waste of time.

This year, however, I think it is important for me to look back at the past twelve months so that I can recognize how much has changed and how far I have come, not to mention the many adventures that I experienced this year.

Twenty ten saw me take my first REAL yoga classes.

It was during one of those yogic moments of peaceful reflection that I made the decision to resign my job of 18 years.

That decision and its subsequent public announcement led to an energy shift in my workplace that was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t know who was more relieved, me or my co-workers.

It was the year we decided that maybe building a house at the farm wasn’t the best idea. We realized my in-laws wouldn’t be with us very many more years and that no one else in the family had a desire to live in their house. We couldn’t bear the thought of it sitting empty or being sold. We began to create a vision that involved once again restoring what we had rather than buying brand new.

Twenty ten was the year my sweet man helped move his aging parents to a nursing home. We didn’t realize how quickly our prediction would come to pass.

It was also the year we said “see ya later” to his handsome daddy.  We miss you, Charlie.

I realized this year that keeping forty years worth of mail and magazines is not a good idea.

I learned that while some things aren’t mine to discard, the rest of the family appreciates not having to do as much of it.

This year I figured out that it is possible to simultaneously be mad at my man for something he can’t fix and feel guilty for being mad at him.

I discovered that when meltdowns happen, I don’t really want anyone to fix or analyze the problem. I pretty much just want to be held by my man and allowed to blubber like a moron into total exhaustion.

I also discovered that sorting through 40 years worth of mail can trigger the aforementioned meltdown.

I messaged my dad and told him I’d haunt him in the afterlife if he left all his crap for me to sort through.

Sometimes having an entire week with no massage clients is a blessing to allow one to work on a more important project.

I really need to clean out my crap so my children won’t have to.

This year also saw the ongoing work on my wellness center progress from slightly nicer than trashy (requiring closed doors and plastic sheeting) to something that has become downright adorable.

My massage clientele has grown from about five on January 1, 2010 to about 75 today and from a few sessions a month to multiple sessions a week.

I have a gift. I don’t know what I do differently, and many times I feel very inadequate to help someone, yet people keep telling me I really do make a difference.

2010 was the year I realized how much I need to feel as though I am making a difference.

This year was the first year since 1992 that I have not attended August Staff Development.

I miss my friends.

I don’t miss the beaurocracy and protocol.

Twenty ten was the year I said goodbye to windowless cinderblock and electromagnetic fields.

It’s the year I discovered how amazing it is to give a massage in a thunderstorm.

It’s also the year I learned that the sound of geese flying over head is another sweet background symphony for giving a massage.

This year gave me time to can 100 pounds of apples, oodles of tomatoes, more jalapeños than I will ever need, and even make some apricot jam. I haven’t done that in probably 18 years because I was always back at work by the time the garden was ready.

This year we took our cowgirl to the state horse show, sent her off to horse camp, sent our oldest to Germany for a month, and then moved her to the far corner of New Mexico to go to school.

This year found daughter number two with a drivers license and an appreciation for the freedom even a 12 year old mini-van can bring.

It was the year my baby played on her first club basketball basketball team and decided she could live with an occasional bloody nose.

This was the year I told a man in leadership that I wanted strong female role models in my daughters’ lives.

It has also been the year I’ve had to remind myself that I got what I wished for and that everything else is secondary, even though there is some frustration.

This was the year I gave up on my hybrid car and helped my oldest get her first car.

This was the year I learned to be really really patient with licensing agencies. It took three months, but we finally got my oldest licensed to practice massage therapy in New Mexico without making any state agency enemies. The holdup was one of semantics. Terminology.

It was also the year I was glad my oldest didn’t have a job, because after completely missing Christmas last year due to work and snow, she has been home with us for a whole month. I kinda like having her around.

I hope she never gets a job, but rather finds a way to make a living on her own terms.

This was the year that 85% of my 18 years worth of retirement savings disappeared. In all fairness, it did a lot. It did things that couldn’t have been done if I had continued to work at my former job. It blessed my girls.

This was the year that I finally told my story.

And the year that I released some resentment in exchange for recognizing the gifts.

This year saw me let go of the guilt of “should” and simply enjoy “being”.

I learned that sometimes procrastination simply means the time isn’t yet right.

Twenty ten is the year I learned that there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple of a man named Jesus.

I don’t want to be a Christian.

I want to be  like Jesus.

This year saw my eyes open to the historical origins of the Bible and let go of my blind belief in its divine authorship.

It also saw another major shift in my belief system.

I think I might have been wrong about a few things.

Twenty ten was the year I found some amazing people who are also on a quest for enlightenment and truth: Ronna Detrick, Renae Cobb, Don Rogers, and Chris Ledgerwood to name a few. I am grateful to have made their acquaintance and experienced their encouragement.

It was the year of a broken leg for cowgirl and a broken nose for my mom. Note to both: Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you get your wish, but with a bit of an inconvenient side effect. Good lesson for me. I wonder if I caught on or if I’ll have to learn that one for myself sometime?

Twenty ten will go down as the year that I took a leap off of a cliff and had to build my wings during the free-fall.

My wings are in place, and now the ascension begins. There’s a pretty good climb ahead, but I have a hunch the view from the top of 2011 is going to be exhilerating.

That’s a big word that means really scary but very much worth it once the mountain is climbed.

Bring it on.

Observations on Love and Romance

The past few weeks have given me ample opportunity to observe the world around me.  It’s provided quite an education, or in some cases a bit of re-education.

It’s been fun to watch my kids, Christmas shoppers, extended family, my sweet man, good friends, movies, and more. However, I think the most intriguing observations have come from watching the many forms of love being played out in different settings.

It’s touching.

It’s frustrating.

It’s heartbreaking.

It’s beautiful.

There are a few things I have noticed that I think are important to mention.

Love is a choice. An everyday, wake-up-in-the-morning, get-through-the-day, because-I-want-to-love-you choice. It’s not a feeling that comes and goes. It exists through migraines, black eyes, busted lips, cash-flow-shortfalls, home renovation projects, crappy jobs, and more because we choose each and every moment to love another human being.

There is very little that is more difficult and heartbreaking than watching someone you love more than life itself suffering in pain. It’s true even when the injuries are relatively minor and heal quickly. Watching a child, a parent, or a lover hurt creates an overwhelming urge to throw up. Where’s a magic wand when you need one?

It is entirely possible to be madly, passionately, uncontrollably in love with someone and still want to smack ’em upside the head occasionally. Doesn’t matter if you are 20, 45,  or 70. I’m not advocating the smacking, just acknowledging that the urge occasionally surfaces.

The urge to smack a lover upside the head is usually followed shortly thereafter by an equally overwhelming urge to disappear behind closed doors and “…have a little fun when we turn out the lights…” (my regards to the musical group Alabama).

First romance is adorable. Freakin’ crazy precious adorable….when done right.

Being overly rational where love is concerned can lead to missed opportunity.

Sometimes the first time people meet and fall in love, it’s just too early. Life has a way of bringing things back around full circle. The trick is to trust the process, without waiting on the process. Roll with life. Don’t burn the bridge that will carry you over the canyon.

When the standard of perfection has been set, it’s really a waste of time and emotion to toy with those who don’t meet the standard. Just keep your eyes on the standard and know that when the time is right, it will appear beautifully, romantically, and perfectly. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to sample the menu in small doses to establish a basis for comparison.

It’s important to know the difference between having a standard created by logic and having a standard created by your heart. The heart is way smarter than the brain. The brain tends to mess things up by over thinking. I am grateful to know this lesson first hand and to be the one who listened to my heart when my brain was telling me how stupid I was.

It’s paid off beautifully.

The stronger the reaction (even negative), the more likely it is that there is unfinished business. Recognize it for what it is, and shower it with gratitude rather than attempt to drowned it in an ocean of anger.

There is a window of time in which it is good to be a bit subtle, however, ongoing efforts to be subtle and coy simply mask true feelings. When your heart and soul are already in shreds, the best thing is to be honest. Sometimes that’s all the other person needs is to see you for who you really are. If they run, then so be it.

Never ask a guy what he is thinking. Odds are he’s not. It’s a gift they have.

It’s never a good thing to expect a man to be overly romantic. Often times the ideal image we create is completely incompatible with 24/7 romantic male. Prince Charming arriving to sweep us off our feet is usually in direct opposition to the strong, hard-working, silent type. If he is willing to change a baby diaper, push a vacuum, mow the lawn, fix the toilet, clean the kitchen, cook supper, build a wall,  or feed your animals when it is snowing, that’s the equivalent of being handed a dozen red roses and being swept off your feet. Face it, accept it, be grateful, and recognize the disguise.

And finally, I am so full of gratitude for having survived my journey into love, for having a lover, friend, and companion who is willing to tolerate all my weirdness and quirky behaviors, and for time we have had and the time that remains to spend together. Each moment is priceless. Funny thing…..when I see us in photos, I see how time has changed us. When I look at him face to face, I still see that gorgeously hot 29 year old with the amazing dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes.

As I watch my girls tiptoe into the adventure that is finding love, I am swept back 25 years to that roller coaster that they are now experiencing.

It’s a stomach-turning, hands-in-the-air, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs thrill ride, but what a rush it is.

What a rush!

What Would Jesus Say?

Most of us are familiar with the WWJD (what would Jesus do?) bracelets that burst on the scene a few years ago. They served a very useful purpose: To remind us to think about what Jesus’ reaction would be to a given situation. Were they effective? I don’t know.

They certainly made someone a lot of money.

I wonder if the vendors in the temple courts had a WWJD bracelet booth back in the day?

Anyway, it got me to thinking. Scary, I know. Me thinking is usually the equivalent to violently shaking a bottle of nitro-glycerin. Something’s probably going to blow up and someone could end up with a shrapnel (sp?) injury.

Lately I’ve been pondering what Jesus might say to us today if he were to suddenly appear before our eyes. There’s a lot we blame/credit him for saying that historically speaking probably didn’t come out of his mouth. There is very little we know with any level of historical confidence that can be attributed to him and him alone.

So I figure if the writers of first three centuries can put something out there and give Jesus the credit, I might as well give it a shot, too. Who knows? Two thousand years from now, maybe some archeologist will find a random hard drive at an excavation sight in Houston, discover my digital record of “What Jesus Said”, then proclaim it a divinely inspired writing. That’d be some serious irony.

And who’s to say my writing isn’t inspired by God?

So what WOULD Jesus say in the days leading up to Christmas 2010? What would he utter that would inspire us, direct us, even change us for the better?

I think I can do this. I have a cynical streak….a heavy dose of sarcasm and lame humor that runs deep in my veins. Jesus was apparently a cynic and a bit on the sarcastic side, too, so we relate well.

Jesus: “Note to self. Humans will make a god out of a tree. Why didn’t I see this coming?”

Jesus: “I think maybe you misunderstood a few things. I said there are ONLY two commands. Both start with the word LOVE. Where’s the confusion?”

Jesus: “How the hell did you manage to twist love your enemies into permission to commit murder and genocide in my name? Don’t blame me for that crap!”

Jesus: “That Paul guy? Why did you decide to do things his way instead of my way? He was way too friendly with the peyote stuff.”

Jesus: “Give me a hug. Free hugs.”

Jesus: “It’s amazing how many people you can feed with a small donation. You should try it sometime.”

Jesus: “Yeah…so….I’m really not into following rules in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Jesus: “Now tell me again why you keep looking for the kingdom of God in a church? I thought I was pretty clear that the Kingdom of God is within you, not outside of you.”

Jesus: “I tried leaving this thing in the hands of the women folk. The men just had to take over and mess things up with their my way or the highway methods. That one hasn’t worked out so well, now has it, Guys?”

Jesus: “Yeah, okay. So I really did like it when the chicka washed my feet with her tears and hair then put the smelly-good stuff on them for me, but these $20 million dollar church buildings are probably a little more than I had in mind.”

Jesus: “Uhm….yeah….so…..the keyword is love, not fear. What are you so afraid of? Hell? Here’s a tip for you—that hell thing wasn’t created until after I was gone. The ‘men’ in charge made that one up so you’d keep giving them money. And for Peter’s sake, how many times did I tell you ‘Do NOT FEAR?’ I fail to see how that was confusing.”

Jesus: “You people suck at translating. Seriously. If your language doesn’t have a word that means what the original says, then maybe you should just leave the original alone instead of making up something totally different and then blaming me.”

Jesus: “Y’all are WAY too literal. Chill out. Roll with the parable. Enjoy the mythology and mystery of it all.”

Jesus: “Moses is a cranky-butt. Abraham is the cool one.”

According to my twenty year old, Jesus would also be singing Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Now there’s a mildly disturbing image to carry around in your brain. Her edits: “I also think he’d smoke some weed. Every other male in Silver City with long hair and a beard does. Why not Jesus? The picture we paint is exactly that of a hippie stoner from silver.”  :)

What else would Jesus be saying?

Peace on Earth

That’s what Christmas is about, right? Wishing for “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men”?

But what would it take?

Really.

What would it take to bring peace to this planet?

Praying for peace obviously hasn’t worked. You’d think an Almighty God would be totally and completely into making that one happen.

Oh yeah. “He” gave us  free will. Darn the luck. Guess that means those prayers for peace on earth are pretty much wasted effort.

So what’s another option?

I mean, after all, if the Big Cahuna can’t make it happen (or won’t), that pretty much leaves it all up to us, doesn’t it? So much for an all-powerful God.

At this point we will pause for a minute to allow you to process that logic. Go ahead. Throw out all the “yeah, buts” you can muster. Explain how all is right with the world because God is in control and answers prayers, but that whole Peace on Earth thing is just not in his cards. Be sure to go down the road “God is a God of Love” right to the intersection of “God is a God of War”. Pause on the side of that road at the part where innocent babies suffer from starvation and women can be stoned or hanged in the name of God for opening their mouths (or showing skin for that matter) in public.  It’s okay. I’ll let you work through it.

Try not to lose your religion over it.

Or…..

Maybe that’s what it will take.

Maybe the path John Lennon “Imagined” is exactly what is necessary to finally achieve peace on earth.  Take a moment to listen and watch this. Focus on every single word and phrase. Ask yourself honestly what the world would be like if there was no religion. Set aside the knee-jerk reaction about “no heaven” and “no hell” if only for a moment.

Just ponder the possibilities.

Gives me chills every time I hear it. That’s the energy of the Universe coursing through my veins.

I get it.

Do you?

Special thanks to Christopher Ledgerwood for giving me reason to pause and consider this at a deeper level.

Truth and Terror

I am terrified to tell the truth.

Not average ordinary everyday sorta truth.

My truth. The truth about what I believe at this point in my life. The truth about my faith, my thoughts, and my passions.

It’s just not a popular stance in these parts.

And so, I tip-toe around my truth, throwing nuggets out into the blogosphere, waiting and wondering what type of response I will get with each post. Most comments are supportive, their authors apparently traveling a road similar to mine. A few are challenging, compelled by years of religious training to defend God’s honor and defeat the forces of Satan, which it seems I may have become to them.

There are people about whom I care deeply who seem quite agitated by the road my faith has taken. I think they fear my spiritual destiny will land me in hell for all eternity.

If not me, then my poor un-churched children, for sure.

Yet one of my truths is this: I no longer believe a place called hell actually exists. Neither do a believe in a fallen-angel-evil-spirit named Satan. I truly believe he/it is a creation of those who would lie to the uneducated to enslave their mind, their loyalty, and their money.

That much has been put out there for the world to see.

And it stresses those whose Sundays revolve around fear of spending eternity with the evil one.

But there is so much more. My truth is unfolding on a daily, even hourly basis. There is more to be told. More to be confessed. More to be revealed. More reactions to fear.

More reasons to hold back my truth.

And then an encouraging word from a spiritual mentor arrives in my email…questions prodding me to speak my truth and acknowledge my faith where it is today, boldly, fearlessly.

As I sat at my desk reading the words composed in Ronna Detrick’s newsletter, these words grabbed me and yanked my complacent brain cells back into reality. These words left me once again feeling the passion and fire that begs me to share my truth….my reality.

“Lies were perpetuated; lies that have existed for thousands of years; ones that (we are) asked to bear the weight of. Though not spoken nearly so blatantly, this is what was ultimately being said: A woman only has value when connected to a man, when submissive. A woman is dangerous. A woman should recognize and acknowledge that her gender, through the sin of her forebear Eve, is single-handedly responsible for The Fall and all of humanity’s subsequent separation from Eden, God, and all that is good. No pressure. All lies.

And that is when I realized that I am not wrong. I am not evil. I am not dangerous. I am simply seeking the truth…..telling the truth……accepting reality rather than myth.

There is nothing wrong with myth until it is accepted as absolute truth….as law….and is used to abuse, confine, restrict, and terrorize people in their ignorance.

The truth is, I cannot understand why otherwise rational, skeptical, and even occasionally suspicious people have allowed themselves to accept as legally binding ancient traditions that require suspension of the known laws of nature and common sense. I cannot understand why even I did this for years.

We have adopted traditions and beliefs about a period of time that cannot be corroborated by historical evidence, and in fact in many cases has been shown to be an embellishment by writers with an agenda and an authoritative mandate.

That mandate certainly didn’t come from divine inspiration delivered by an omnipotent God.

The truth is, I would love to see a restoration to the original purposes and intentions  of a human being who lived 2000 years ago whose name is translated into English as Jesus.

The truth is, this thing we have created called Christianity isn’t/wasn’t his doing.

The truth is, we are not inherently sinful, but inherently good. Those ideas of sinfulness were created by men to financially support their temples, their churches, and their religious dynasties by creating fear in the masses and demanding payment for forgiveness of sins. Yes, Jesus hoped to end the insanity, but alas, the old enslaving ideas were re-created using his goodness as justification.

The truth is, we would probably come closer to understanding the teachings of Jesus by studying the teachings of Buddha, not Paul or Moses.

The truth is, the Jesus portrayed in most of the New Testament probably isn’t the Jesus who walked the earth. The Christ of the New Testament was created by men some 100-300 years after the legendary man made his escape from a physical body. I doubt Jesus would even recognize that creation as himself, nor would he approve.

The truth is, resurrection has become a distraction from the true purpose of Jesus’ life and message. We have made it about resurrection and salvation when in fact, it is about imitation and service to others.

…..because believing, accepting, and proselytizing is much easier than giving, doing, and becoming.

The truth is, we are all connected. That “one body” stuff isn’t church talk. We are interconnected like the cells, tissues, organs, and systems that make up the human body. We are parts of a body that is God. God is not something we seek. God is within us. We are God and God is us. When we take care of hungry, homeless families in Honduras, we are sending life-giving blood with it’s oxygen and nutrients to a part of our own body that is suffering.

When we attack each other through wars and abuse, we are nothing more than a cancer or autoimmune disease within the human race.

I am tired of the lies that divide the cells of the body that is the Universe. I am tired of believing the man-made myths that were never intended to be taken as divine truth. I am tired of feeling as though I must either love “The Church” or love people from all walks of life, but not both.

I am tired of persecution and destruction in the name of God. I am tired of being afraid of those who disagree with me.

I want to heal the body (the world) as Jesus did.

This is my truth, terror and all.

Several Things I Might Have Gotten Wrong

Fate landed me in front of a TED Talk video of Mike Rowe this morning. At first, I thought we were going to celebrate those who had broken free of the 9-5 (or around here 8-5) “prison” that seems to suck life right out of its hostages.

Boy was I wrong.

And apparently that was the point of this 20-minute video shared by Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth.

After watching the full 20 minute presentation, which is odd since my attention span rarely tolerates 20 minutes of anything, I asked myself:

How many times have I gotten it wrong?

Ouch. This could be a real ego-buster. I mean, MOI???? WRONG????? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

But alas, it is true. There is a slight possibility I might have been wrong about a few things in my life. I’m thinking a top ten list might be in order, so here goes:

Top 10…I mean…Several Things I Might Have Gotten Wrong (Darn list keeps growing.)

1. Farm life is for the birds. I wanted to be a city girl. (Age 17-22ish) Today, I’d love to be out where the only people who would think of cutting across my yard to get from Point A to Point B were likely birthed of my loins.

2. Picking the right church and following the right rules are necessary prerequisites to getting into heaven. (Birth through about age 37.) I now wonder if we are looking for heaven in the wrong place. Didn’t Jesus say the kingdom of God is within us?

3. The Bible was written by God (er…uh….men “divinely inspired” by God?). That one survived to about age 41. The more I study, the more this notion dissolves and I feel like a victim of terrorism and manipulation compliments of Constantine and his goons. That’s not to say there isn’t good stuff contained therein. Just a note to self regarding origin and authority.

4. A college education is a necessity. Okay, advanced training is a good thing, but I’m no longer convinced it has to come in the form of a 4-6 year degree and $40K in debt.

5. A big house is a blessing. The older I get the more I long for simple and cheap. Big = Expensive + Liability

6. Energy healers and new age crystal-loving types are quacks. It’s amazing what personal experience does to shift one’s perspective. Don’t knock it if you’ve never given it a decent chance.

7. Seeing is believing. What’s that phrase they holler out when everyone’s dancing to The Cotton-Eye’d Joe? Yeah. That one. The one I can’t use on my blog because my mom reads it. Anyways, there are now lots of things that I accept as possible, yet cannot “see”. Sometimes that which we think we can “see” and prove is merely an illusion.

8. God only speaks to us through his written word. All other forms of direct communication with a divine source are probably the devil or some level of psychosis requiring hospitalization and pharmaceutical drugs. Wherever shall I start hammering on this one? If you wish to continue believing this, that is your choice, but don’t put ME in the straight jacket for seeing things differently.

9. There is an evil spirit entity called Satan that loves to slyly entice us into doing evil things like suggest there is no Satan or that the Bible was not actually written by God…er…uh…God-inspired men. Yeah. Right. And Zeus impregnated how many women to bear his half-god, half-human offspring? You believe that, too, don’t you?

10. Christianity is about following Jesus Christ. I wish. Most Christianity is about following Paul…..and Peter….and the guy on TV….and the guy at the front of the auditorium/sanctuary on Sunday morning. If it were about following Jesus, things would look a whole lot different. Actually, it would probably look like this and this and this every day. It certainly wouldn’t look like this.

And a bonus (or two)……

11. Scientific research has proven………. (see my response to #7 above). If there is anything I have learned it’s that the only correct response is “…based on the knowledge we currently possess, we now think this is how it is.” Ain’t no such critter as “proof”. Just ask Christopher Columbus, Galileo,  Pythagoras, Socrates, and a few other guys that dared question the prevailing “proofs” of their time. Oh, and while you are at it, Stephen Hawking might appreciate some acknowledgement, too. Possibilities, Baby. Possibilities.

12. Humans are inherently evil and need to be saved. Yeah. Not so sure about that one. We aren’t born evil or sinful or bad. Kids learn bad or good from their environment. Some seem to actually posses an incredible and almost super-human level of compassion.

13. You simply must go to church every time the doors are open, or you aren’t a good Christian. Uhm…..no. I’ve got nothing against a get together, but that whole guilt and terrorism thing is just dumb….and very un-Jesus.

14. Children need church to become good people. Children need parents or at least some type of decent role models who are good people. Church does not make good people.

15. Check back. I’m sure I’ll think of more.

Yes, there was a time when my life pretty much existed as black or white. I almost miss those days, yet I really do like the freedom that evolved once I began to realize that I just might be wrong about a lot of things.

For that matter, maybe I am right. Hmmm……now there’s a twist.

PS: While I welcome your thoughts, comments, observations, etc., please know that I’m not interested in being preached at or proven wrong….mostly because your proof is no more solid than mine (see #11 above) and quite frankly I get downright cranky when someone tries to suggest I am wrong. My husband and children would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t contribute to that mood swing.  Besides, if your education has never seen the outside of a religious library, you probably don’t have anything to offer that I haven’t already heard in the way of “proof”.

If you find that your chest tightens and your face turns red when you read this, or you feel an urge to grab a Bible and pound your fist on a piece of wood, you may be defending something that you can’t prove or something that you choose to believe because someone in authority taught you to believe it without question, and…well…doing otherwise would simply be an ….ahem…..abomination.

Naked Jesus Stuff

Recently someone close to me asked if I had yet found that for which I am/was searching. My answer was, for the most part, yes. Then again, life is a journey full of new discoveries every day. I think the entire process is a combination of balancing the search with contentment.

What is it that I seek in my moments of discontent?

…A simple message stripped of rules, legalism, how-to’s, and guilt.

I stopped in at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago in search of some recommended books related to that topic. I did not find the recommendations, yet as typically happens, three books found me. The usual sign indicated to me that these were in fact going home with me. It is a shudder, a chill, that runs full body as I hold and read a few pages of each. No chill, no book. Very simple.

I began with the shortest easiest read. The deeper I delved into that one, the more I wondered if my shudder signaler was out of whack. Why the heck did that one need to come home with me. It was leaning in an almost opposite direction from the one I was searching. It’s message: Religion has been made complicated by those who would cling to Old Testament regulations as their governing force. (Actually that fits well within my “men have complicated what God made simple” theory.) But then it went on to suggest that even that which Jesus taught and practiced was not ours for today and that Paul had shared what we need to know.

Ugh.

I am NOT a Paul fan. Or a whomever-wrote-that-stuff-fan. Or a whomever-decided-that-he-was-writing-to-people-two-thousand-years-later fan.

I guess maybe the point was made to reinforce my instincts of how off base the whole Pauline Christianity thing has become.

Then I started on the second book. It is Rex Weyler’s The Jesus Sayings: The Quest for His Authentic Message. It looks at the available and emerging historical information as well as current religious texts in an attempt to find what is truly creditable to Jesus. Through a comparison of the oldest and most duplicated sayings attributed to Jesus, the author has arrived at the following which appear to have been recorded long before any of the so called gospels made it to public light:

Seek the truth.
There is a light within; look and you will find it.
Know yourself.
When you find the light within, share it with the world.

A divine kingdom is within you and all around you.
Speak out. Teach others about this kingdom.
This kingdom is like a small seed that grows.
It is like leaven in bread, a tiny force that affects everything.
Observe the world before you, here and now.

Commit fully, now.
Act on your knowledge.
Your understanding is revealed in the fruits of your actions.

Be generous and merciful.
Share what you have with others.
Help the poor, hungry, and grieving, and those who have no home.
Don’t worry about your own comforts.
Your poverty and sadness bring you closer to the divine kingdom.

Remain humble; don’t exalt yourself.
Don’t judge others, but rather improve yourself.
Be as a child, open, curious, authentic, and modest.
Love your enemies and those who rebuke you.

Otherwise, avoid rules, and follow the truth you discover yourself.
Act from awareness, not habit or convention.
Don’t blindly repeat rituals.
Don’t trust those with spiritual pretensions.
Question those who presume to speak for God.

If you have two good ears, listen to what I am telling you.

I knew there was a reason I liked this guy, especially stripped down to what is his and his alone. I have a few of these areas mastered well. Others need much work before I can be like him.

Funny how much of his message sounds like the sages and prophets of several other …ahem… “evil” philosophies.

I’m looking forward to the next chapter on Mary Magdalene.

I Would Have Been A Floater For Sure

Cowgirl has been laid up for over a week waiting on the medical establishment to get her leg bone secure enough to rejoin the rest of the world. That means she has been home from school for seven days now. Don’t get me started on how dumb it is for a high tech school to not be able to patch my kid who’s sitting in a high tech home directly into her classrooms. That was my previous rant.

In an effort to keep her on top of her studies, I’ve been retrieving her assignments from school, cracking the “git ‘er done” whip, and returning said assignments to the school upon completion.

One of Cowgirl’s assignments has involved reading a novel for her English class. Apparently Cowgirl was accustomed to having the novel read out loud to the class, so I was obligated to continue the learning experience precisely as had been her in-class experience.

The book is called The Witch of Blackbird Pond, an historical fiction novel about a girl in the 1600’s who lands herself in the midst of Puritan religious legalism and is accused of being a witch. Interestingly enough, there probably isn’t a twelve year old on the planet whose attention has ever been grabbed so quickly nor emotion stirred so intensely as what this 42 year old’s was. An English teacher could only dream of engaging a student at the level I became engaged.

For many readers, I’m betting the most significant parts of the story were the emotional highs and lows of romance blossoming and the terror of being placed on trial for being a witch.

For me, the intensity lay (lied, lain, ???) in the realization that not much has changed in 400 years. I identified with Kit on so many levels. Her experiences were much wider than those of the mostly uneducated Puritans. Her view of the world was so much more positive and trusting. Her ability to see past human differences was so much greater.

The Puritans were convinced of what was God’s will and what was evil. They were so sure of themselves, they were willing to kill those who did not believe or conform to their religious ways. They feared and reviled that which was different. Quakers happened to fall into the category of different and thus evil.

I know what it’s like to be part of a religion that’s convinced everyone else is wrong and destined for hell.

It occurred to me while reading through the story that I likely would have been ostracized, singled out, and possibly drowned, hanged, or burned at the stake had I lived in that time. I’m pretty sure I would have been a floater, and floaters were automatically guilty. A pure woman would be accepted by the water and God according to their beliefs.

Sounds like I’d be dead either way.

That’s got an irony all of its own. You end up dead if you’re following their life-sucking religious rules and you end up dead if you don’t. Either way you’re “Dead Woman Walking”.

Because I choose to challenge what I perceive to be ignorant, blind belief of things that I see as being far from real evidential truth, things that do not promote charity and love, but rather promote divisiveness, isolation, and hatred, I would likely be killed.

That’s what happens when legalistic religion is allowed to trump love for humanity.

Jesus recognized it in the Jewish religion. He saw how harsh and cruel and loveless the Law of Moses was and how much worse it had become under the enforcing eye of the Pharisees and the Priests of the day. He tried to be different. He did his best to love and teach love. He healed wherever and whenever needed regardless of the religious laws. He fed people who were hungry wherever and whenever necessary, even breaking the religious laws so his followers could have a few grains of wheat on the Sabbath.

And they killed him for being a trouble-maker because he interfered with the religious status quo.

And then they deified him and made up a whole bunch of new rules and said the new rules were given by Jesus himself.

And then they killed people who didn’t follow the new rules. And they killed people who saw things differently: People who attempted to find the truth and enlighten others, and people who simply chose not to participate in their legalistic game.

And it continues today. Not so much the murdering part (although there are still plenty of people right here in America who are murdered by religious extremists for choosing not to be bullied by extreme religion), yet every day people are isolated, shunned, and disowned because they choose love over religion. They are labeled and branded as trouble makers or worse, all because they have been blessed with the gift of sight and a voice of intelligence. Their eyes are no longer clouded by tradition, fear, and loyalty.

They call it for what it is, and they are hated for it.

Nope, not much has changed in 5,000 years.

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I believe in reincarnation. It really doesn’t matter. I am here. Now. In this place. At this time. But I have a hunch that if I have lived before, I was probably every bit as challenging, every bit as sighted, every bit as annoying to the religious legalists as I am now. I’m pretty sure I would have been tried as a witch and likely convicted along the way.

I’m pretty sure I would have been a floater.

And I have a hunch that even then, there were those who stood by my side, much like Kit’s Uncle Matthew did, knowing that the challenge to the status quo and hand-me-down beliefs was long overdue.

Thankfully, no one has tried to kill me this time around. Even though things pretty much remain the same, there are more who have allowed love to trump religion, even when they are employed by religion.

Imagine how incredible the world would be if everyone could simply release the religion and just be pure love.

What If It’s Us, Not God?

I just came upon a religious website that is quite a ways from the theological roots of my faith heritage. It had a paragraph explaining the “Basic Beliefs” of the religion that triggered an AHA moment for me.

Those AHA moments are dangerous ’round these parts.

For a good while now, I’ve held the belief that the fiery place called hell is actually a creation of the human mind in an attempt to control and acquire money from other humans through fear of death and pain. My reasoning behind this belief lies in the difficulty I have accepting something as absolutely black and white when so many contradictions surround it.

I can rattle off several examples, yet the one that packs the greatest punch for me is the God is Love vs. God is a vengeful God argument. You see, the same people that preach God is love, God is the ultimate Father, God so loved the world he gave his only son, yada yada yada, also preach that God destroyed his creation once because they became so wicked he hated them, and he’ll do it again if we don’t do things exactly right, like vote for the Republicans who won’t allow gays to marry because that’s an “abomination” (Bleah!) or get dunked appropriately in the watery grave of baptism–just as soon as we can agree on what is “appropriate”.  Not doing things exactly right will cause us to spend an eternity being punished in a fiery furnace of torture.

So, this tells me that there is a supreme being, a man that isn’t really a man, but, well, he just is sorta male (according to those who think they know because we all know men are better leaders, right? Double Bleah!), who is the ultimate loving compassionate father figure, who essentially birthed us all (let’s see a man do that one!), gave us free will because he wanted us to love him by choice and not by command and fear, then issued a bunch of commandments and said if we don’t follow them, he’ll pout and withdraw from us and we’ll spend an eternity being burned to a crisp without burning up while he says, “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo—you didn’t play by my rules!”

Uh, excuse me, but where’s the free will in that? And where’s the divine supreme loving entity in that?

That folks is what I call a contradiction. There are several others within religion, many of which I began to recognized long before this one, and which led to my awakening and departure from my faith heritage.

Besides, as a daughter, a mother, even an animal care-taker, I can say with a good bit of confidence that no sane entity, especially not the supreme God of Love, would or even could do this to someone in their care. I mean, I know for a fact that there were times when my dad’s blood pressure probably blew out the top of the sphygnomanometer (or however you spell that thingy), but I don’t think there is anything we could have done that would have pushed him to the brink of going out back and building a bonfire for the purpose of chunking me or my brother in it. It might have crossed his mind a time or two, but nothing would have caused him to actually follow through with his momentary frustration with us.

And I realize mine is quite the extraordinary dad, but this religion thing has preached all along that God is supposedly SOOOOO much more loving and incredible and giving and caring than even the most wonderful dad that has ever lived on earth, including mine.

So where’s the logic in preaching/teaching this loving father theory then scaring the crap out of us by reminding us that if we don’t love him and obey him, he’ll throw us in the big bonfire he’s built for his naughty children because he is a vengeful God?

Then there’s the whole bit about the divinely inspired Word of God that is THE AUTHORITY on God’s will for us. Except that it contains all this contradictory crap that religious people try to explain away or conveniently dismiss when it interferes with their views of what God intended for us to believe.

Oh yeah….and it took how many thousand years for THE Bible to be written? And HOW MANY different people? And HOW MANY different agendas? And how many supposedly inspired writings were dismissed when the ruler of the entire world decided to have them assembled into one book that he liked? And how many people died through the centuries because they didn’t agree with the emperor and his mignons? And how many years AFTER the death of Jesus were THOSE “eye-witness” accounts written? Don’t know about you, but my story gets better and better (and wilder and wilder) as time passes. Oh yeah….God possessed the writers’ bodies, glazed their eyes, and wrote HIS words through them.

Yeah…..Right.

I’m thinking the almighty supreme God would have made it a little less contradictory and a little more clear than the mess he is credited with creating that we call Christianity. Messes are usually made by men, not supreme beings. The only things I believe to be divinely inspired about the Bible are the egos of the ones who assembled the writings and proclaimed it as Divinely inspired. I’m pretty sure their Divine was no one any higher up than than a Roman ruler.

Religion is apparently the only acceptable field where otherwise rational, skeptical people can suspend all logic and intelligence in defense of their beliefs and get away with it. Hence, we have hell because the Bible says so, and because Mommy and Daddy said so.

And if the Bible says so (and Mom and Dad said so), then it must be so. Even if it doesn’t make any sense.

Which takes me back to the paragraph I found a religious website that appears at first glance to be significantly different in its teachings than my faith heritage preached. Paraphrased, it says that the the Holy Spirit purifies one of karma (sin), making it possible for him to accept the full love of God in this lifetime. Then he gains wisdom, charity, and freedom.

In other words, we CAN’T accept the incredible fullness of God’s love as long as we think and act in ways that are anything other than full of love. Only through fully connecting with Spirit (which requires stripping away the rules and laws created by religion) can we begin to see the possibilities for accepting the fullness of God’s love.

Remember that guy who said there are only two commandments? I believe he was a prophet named Jesus, and I believe he said to love the Lord your God with everything inside of you, and love your neighbor as yourself. Pretty short and sweet and simple.

What if it’s been us all along, and not God who invented hell (and religion and its laws)?

Maybe we’ve been blaming God for creating the hell that we have created for ourselves. Maybe hell is right here on earth (down below?), living out eternity one lifetime at a time until one day we understand love to the point that we can release the religious crap in favor of both giving and receiving love unconditionally. Maybe the Buddhists and Hindus are smarter than we give them credit for being.

Maybe this shoots the hell out of the hell thing.

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