Love is What I Know

Darkness. We don’t sit there often. As soon as I get home, I turn on the light, feed the cat, and get the activity going. The dark seems empty. But it doesn’t have to frighten us.

Go back to what you know for sure. Those were the words that I heard when I was in my dark space. It’s taken me some time to understand their meaning.

tumblr_ldlfpavmov1qekgtho1_500Re-boot

In the Bible, there’s the story of Jonah, the man who didn’t want to preach to the people in a city called Nineveh. He hid on a boat until he was thrown out into the storm and he was swallowed alive by a great fish. Darkness. Crazily, he ends up back where he was supposed to be in the beginning.

I laugh because if you call the customer support line for help with your computer, the first thing they ask is, did you try turning it off and on again? Restart. That’s their answer for everything.

But start overs are impossible in real life. Aren’t they? A start over, a cleaning, a bottom level, that was the message I got when I heard the words, “Go back to what you know for sure.”  What did I know for sure? Love.

Where is the love?

I was uncertain of religion. I couldn’t tell you at that moment if I believed in God or the devil, heaven or hell. I didn’t know if the Bible was real or if the teachings I’d grown up with were true, but I did know there was a love that was buried deep inside of me that I’d felt all of my life and it wasn’t of any religion.

What does that mean? What does it look like? I had to stop trusting in everything else. I only had love. So I let myself sit in the darkness, in the emptiness with nothing to light me but the one candle of love. It sounds silly, but when you’re a traditionalist, and you let the old teachings slip away, the emptiness around you isn’t lonely or scary. The love you feel grows. There’s a freedom in that love. Joy unspeakable.

Can you find your truth?

Check out older post — My Skepticism on Religion  and Question It All

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To End Suffering

I grew up loving the candles, the quiet, the chanting, the sitting and waiting, that I found in religion. The ceremony. It was serious, pure, and poignant. Which to my mind as a child meant powerful. Like weddings and presidential inaugurations.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. Dalai Lama

To End Suffering

Humanitarians try to end human kind’s suffering by making the world a better place. To make society better. Can you feed your family? Can you get water? Education? Equal rights? Equal access to funding or resources?  Top 5 Humanitarian Aid Organizations – BorgenProject.org

The Buddha taught that suffering came from our mind. We resist. We think. We worry. Stop these and suffering ends. When suffering ends, we simply are. There is no more “I.” There is no more “Want.” All that remains is the stillness. Even when the good things in life happen, there can be suffering. Good days, bad days. The Buddha, himself, was a man. He also left his religion. He left his home and family. He left his gods. He never claimed to be a god. He only claimed to be awake. In this awakening, he wished to teach others. There was no conversion or baptism or cutting of the flesh.

The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism.  Killing the Buddha – Sam Harris

Buddhism vs. Humanitarianism

I’d always respected Buddhism with their mindfulness and care for others. Recently I wondered how it differed from Humanitarianism? Don’t they both with to help others? I didn’t know until I explored. There is religion in Buddhism. But how much you want to get into it is up to you and which version of Buddhism you study. Some are heavy on the Karma. Karmic debt. Karmic cleansing. It wasn’t as clean and simple as I had once thought it was.

I never believed in Original sin from my religion, so I can’t see myself picking up Karmic debt. I’ll be as good as I can and see what happens. I can’t follow a guru or wear a toga. I can be kind. I want to see society change. It won’t happen overnight, but I think it can happen. It can happen if we change who we are first. Because, isn’t that how all things start? You can’t make good coffee out of dirty water. And you have to pull the splinter out of your own eye before you can remove the board from another’s eye. At least that’s what I heard from another wise man.

My Take

Helping and giving is my religion. I don’t need people bend their knees at my prayer mat or light their candle with my brand of matches. I hope they can be well and help others to be well. You don’t even have to know my name.

Saddles

Ever see a cowboy dragging a saddle behind him? It doesn’t matter how well constructed the saddle is or how long the cowboy has owned it. It could have been in the family for years. Maybe it was his grandfather’s, then his father’s, until finally it was given to him. A saddle is a proud thing to own. Well crafted, hand tooled. I have nothing against saddles, but…

There’s no horse. Faith is like dragging a saddle. Old habits die hard because they’re familiar. And familiar feels right. That first Sunday you don’t go to church feels empty. I felt like I’d missed a step in the stairs and I was going to fall headlong. If you’ve ever noticed, people who have strong beliefs are afraid to let go of them. It’s been in the family for years. Their grandfather was a preacher, their dad a pastor, and they’re a Sunday school teacher. To leave this legacy is like spitting in the face of your heritage. It’s also how you define who you are. Sometimes you feel you’re not special anymore. I know this because I left this heritage myself.

To say I lost my faith is somewhat of a misunderstanding. I walked away. I walked away because I was going through the motions, which I could still do if I wanted. I could walk into church and still teach. No one would know the difference, but it wouldn’t be true. The horse isn’t there and I’d just be dragging a saddle around behind me.

 

I Rant Sometimes

I hate being negative. I hate being judgmental and I hate being on a rant, BUT, I’m going to rant anyway. You are free to skip over this one. No hard feelings. Or join me if you’d like.

I’m tired of the fighting and the political posturing. If the people in our government can’t do their jobs, maybe they need to step down. Can we sue the congress or the senate? And they’ll say anything almost. The most ridiculous things just to stir up the people.

And when do Guns, Flags, Bibles, and Republicans go together? In Oklahoma they do. Is it possible to think independently these days? I have family members who post pictures of Flags and Bibles. You’d think Jehovah was an American. Or is it Jesus-only now? Do they still include Jehovah as god. I’m not sure.

If Christians’ preach about love and believe in love so much, why are they not concerned about loving the orphaned children that came across the border? Yes, I realize some of the parents sent them here, but it’s not the child’s fault.

14 facts that help explain America’s child-migrant crisis

 Jesus told this story when speaking of the day of judgement,

The Sheep and the Goats Matthew 25

37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

 In the Old Testament

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I angered a SUV driving lady with a fish symbol on her car. She was upset because I let another vehicle into traffic. How dare I take up her time by being nice. What happened to just being kind?

My rant’s over for now. You may return to your regularly scheduled program. Thank you for your mercy and kindness.

The Promise of a Great Nation

"Jehovah" at Exodus 6:3 (1611 King J...

You would think that if you had a visit from the one and only true god, the one who created the heavens and the earth, and he gave you instructions to build a kingdom, you would think it would be the most amazing kingdom EVER.  This god could tell you where to find gold and diamonds. How to store your food and how to farm your land. Your walls would be built of the best materials. You would know the most effective fighting methods with very little loss of life on your part. I’m referring to Abraham and later Moses and the promise of a great nation made by Jehovah.

There was blood spilling everywhere (not love)

Would he really need to cause a plague to destroy half of the people because one person sinned? One person married a foreigner or kept a piece of gold that they shouldn’t have. Couldn’t he just tell you? Instead of grandeur or wisdom, we see hundreds and thousands of years full of strife, discord, internal fighting and struggles to survive. Famine, war and plague. The methods were no different from the other warring factions surrounding them.

It’s among the same traditions that existed of the day (nothing new)

Some would ask, why are you criticizing god? I’m really not trying to criticize any god. Not Jehovah, Ahura Mazda, Thor, Odin or Ra. What I’m saying is, either this “god” isn’t who he says he is, or more likely, there wasn’t a god that was instructing them to create their society. This could be a story made up by someone, since it’s really not a new way of thinking. Wouldn’t a great god come with a novel idea? Fresh ideas. Ways of acting that were helpful and wise? Maybe even create a society that was different from their neighbors? Like Cyrus the Great did? I take the stand of First John 4:20,

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.

If the word of god comes down from the god of love, it should show love. Which leaves me with the thought, maybe this promise of a great nation didn’t come from god, but a man and his ego.

If you’re into history of the ancient times, here’s a good podcast, Ancient World podcast.

 

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Talkin’ Around the Campfire

For all the many changes in humanity, there are some essential things that haven’t changed. We still like to listen to each other talk. Whether it’s on an old radio show, around the campfire telling stories, a preacher behind a podium, a book being read or a podcast. For some reason the tradition of speaking and listening is still strong. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m working. It’s either podcasts or music. I tried listening to books, but they are too distracting, after all I still have to work.

The oratory tradition

Stories are what we swim in, what we breathe, and what we consume. They are how we teach our children the values that are important. “Santa won’t bring you any presents if you’re bad.”  I couldn’t even guess how many times we watched 101 Dalmatians or The Lion King when my children were young. I can imagine my sons telling their children stories of a lion king and the evil brother lion who wanted the kingdom for himself. Very much like the Star Wars stories set my generation’s values, Disney has played a large part for the current generation.

The stories you tell, tell who you are

I’ve decided to search for other stories. My culture isn’t Jewish, but we adopted  the stories that come from a long line of Abrahamic tradition. Stories of a god that came to a man in the fertile crescent. A god that promised that man a nation of his own. These stories are about a group of people that were not my people. We as a Christian culture adopted them because we all want god to come to us and promise us glitter and gold, or sheep and children in Abraham’s case.

My first thought was, what other stories cover that time? The Abrahamic tradition takes us back to the first herders and farmers. I’m thinking of The Book of Invasions (Ireland) Lebor Gabala Erenn, which was the inspiration for Karen Marie Moning’s writing.

Norse mythology, which might take me a lifetime to read it all speaks of Odin, god of the 9 worlds and lives in his heavenly realm of Asgard. Norse Mythology – Wikipedia and Norse history and culture

I also found loads of writings on this site Internet Sacred Texts Archive

I think I will start with Myths of The Cherokee

I’m not saying that the Abrahamic stories and the stories of Jesus aren’t important. I would like to find and compare them to other people’s stories. If you have suggestions I would love to hear them.

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Inconvenient Religion

“The reason you don’t believe in god is because he is inconvenient.” I have heard this many times as a rebuttal to why a person chooses not to believe in any gods, specifically their god.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 NIV

TruthConvenient. Not long ago the elite believed that only whites inherited eternal life. I’m not sure where that leaves the Italians and the Spanish, or even the Jewish who evangelized religion and the knowledge of eternal life. Of course, the white men believed this when facing the natives of the Americas and the aboriginals of Australia. Whites were superior, and all others had no souls. All others were beasts alive only to live out their lusts, like dogs.

Ironic. It’s ironic that today you can take your pooch and have it blessed at a local church. Fluffy can spend eternity with you. All dogs do go to heaven, right? That leaves cats outside the gates.

God wills it. Why were these things believed? Are there writings by God stating this? It was believed because it was convenient. The only way to conquer a nation is to wipe out those living there. To conquer, to subordinate, you have to put your foot on the other’s neck and show no mercy. If you see the natives as animals, it’s very convenient.

The question I want to ask other people is, “Do you believe what you believe because it’s convenient?” My lack of belief these last few years hasn’t been convenient for me. It’s been excruciatingly inconvenient. But the truth is rarely convenient.

Strange beliefs

  • Touching a dead body defiles you
  • Women and lesser men are soulless
  • Praying to an ordained man will make you clean
  • Water can be made holy
  • Holy water can save your child from hell

and this is the one that starts it all

  • People are born full of sin and must be saved

New beliefs

  • I was born loved and whole
  • Belief should be personal, not a militant stance
  • If I harm someone, I ask forgiveness of that person
  • Water is good to drink and to wash my body with
  • My body is holy, and it is mine to enjoy
  • Children should choose their lives
  • Sprinkling only gets babies wet
  • Some people are flawed and need help
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Crowns, Horns, and Thrones

Self Esteem

A friend repeated a phrase back to me that I’d used many years ago. My phrase or sentiment was that I had to take care of myself. That I needed certain things out of a relationship and if those needs weren’t met then I would move on, instead of clinging to the hope things would change. When it came back from another’s voice it sounded shallow. Callous. Selfish. Cold-hearted. But that’s not how I’d meant it. Maybe that’s what they heard. I wear the crown for my life. Only I can make me happy or sad. And that’s how I feel about religion, God, and spiritual pursuits. I have to take care of me. Living my life constantly wondering if a god or a man is pleased with me is self abusive. Waiting for someone to come and rescue me, to heal me, to feed me or even to talk to me when I can get up and take care of myself is harmful to me.

Those who grew up in moderate religions may not be able to relate. They probably can’t grasp the concept of denying my rights to make choices for the sake of “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.”  “He who loves his family more than me, is not worthy of me.” This is the burden of Christianity. Not a suggestion, a demand.

I believed. I gave up my life, which as a child I never really owned. So I never claimed ownership of my life.

I believed strongly in the scriptures:

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. http://biblehub.com/matthew/16-24.htm

This was my creed, my belief in who God was. These were my mantras:

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:39-40

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I was so blinded by what I believed the bible said and what I wanted it to say, that it was easy to overlook the verses that said something opposite. Like I heard once, I had my God filtered glasses on. All I saw was the love.

I now realize there are scriptures that say other things.

Matthew 10:38

37“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. http://biblehub.com/matthew/10-38.htm

I Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Do I disregard the verses that I don’t like. Pick off the offending vegetables? Maybe mark them out with a black marker? No, because there is scripture saying not to do that. Either I accept the total religion or move on. I no longer have to carry the burden of rescuing others from hell. My life is no longer carefully monitored to make sure I don’t offend. No one’s salvation is hinging on my behavior. I’m free to live my life.
Some articles I like:

Before you diagnose yourself with depression o...

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Teach the Children What?

Many years ago I wrote an article called, It Takes A Team. I admit, I was coat tailing Hilary Clinton’s book, It Takes A Village. I wrote about things that I still believe firmly in, that children and teens learn from all the people around them. It doesn’t matter if you were the one to teach them to tie their shoes or if it was their classmate, your little one learned an important lesson.

A friend asked me recently what she should teach her young daughter. The grandparents are religious but she, the mom isn’t. My kids are raised and at that time I was religious, but I’m happy that they are not. Although I did put them in the middle of some indoctrination, I also raised them to think. For that I am happy. What would I want them to learn if I were raising them now? Would I raise them in a religion or not? 

  • I would teach my children to think. Compare. Look. Explore. I would teach them that messing up or being wrong is just another step in learning. It’s more important than getting an A+ on their spelling test.  The trying, failing, and trying again keeps your brain active.
  • I would teach my children that we are all living beings. We are made up of tiny parts and those tiny parts make up the entire universe. The water that flows from my faucet at one time may have been at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps or in a stream that touched the feet of Alexander the Great. The same water, the same air, the same dirt was here 1,000 years ago. It was here 10,000 years ago.
  • I would teach my children to show kindness. But not only kindness. I would teach them to show anger and fear. To see people for what they do, because that’s who they are. Not to be deceived by pretty words or words that they want to hear, but to listen to the other person’s actions as well.

If children know these things, they can know people. It’s not necessary for people to know the facts of all religions or beliefs in the world. Most adults rarely stray from the religion they were brought up in. They also believe it’s the right one. I heard someone say that he believed his religion was the right one so it was important that he preach to the others who unfortunately were born in the wrong religion. Really? That seems so arrogant. Being arrogant is the first step to being deceived. This world we live in now is not a world for the sleeping. It’s a world that we and our children need to be awake and ready to live in. Most of all, I think I would teach my children to enjoy their life and if it’s not how they want it to be, change it.

Resources:

http://www.skepticmoney.com/breaking-the-cycle-promoting-critical-thinking-in-children/

http://evolvefish.com/fish/kidsbooks.html

I must admit, I want to read this book, K-PurpleDragon.gif

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Ruthless

There’s a time when we have to face the truth. Ruthlessly walk through the fog and never look back. There’s a time to cling or to fight without mercy. If only we knew when those times were. Because just as there’s a time for ruthlessness, there’s also a time for mercy. For kinda-sorta-maybe. Gentleness is strong also.

I know ruthless. When I was growing up in a small town, I tightly gripped my faith and would not let it go. I believed. And no one could shake it from me. It wasn’t that I was afraid of punishment. No, I believed because I loved. I loved what my faith stood for, the God of all creation and all the stories of redemption that I learned. The prophets that spoke to me from pages of paper and ink. The stories were real to me, more real than any story I could read in a history book.

I was aware of how different I was at that time. Different than the other students in my classes. They let me know with every word and every glance. By the time I was in junior high I knew not to talk about these things. This created a cycle of hiding and shame. I connected to the stories of the lone prophets more and more. They were different and when I read passages like, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb, Jeremiah 1:5 or…Do not say, ‘I am too young, Jeremiah 1:7 ..I felt they were speaking to me. They brought me courage.

It’s hard to say what came first, the hiding or the connecting to the solitary. Maybe if it hadn’t been the Bible, it would have been another story or book. Harry Potter is a favorite of many kids because of his uniqueness. He’s misunderstood. He has special abilities. And in the end he triumphs.

When I was in therapy a few years back, my therapist talked about how common it is for children to connect in this way. It helps them cope. Helps them find a way out of their fear. Sometimes they believe they are adopted. Or they are an alien child. In the old Irish tales, people believed that fairy children were sometimes switched with human babes. Changelings.

As I step away from the religion I grew up with, I’m not yanking my roots away. All the same I know I want to let go of the tradition. I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. In a strange way it served it’s purpose. Like an imaginary friend, the stories kept me company. As I learn more truth it’s easier to let go, a little at a time. I can’t relate anymore to the lone, orphaned child or the misunderstood prophet of truth. That’s not me. And no, it never was, but somewhere inside I felt like that.

When you’re involved in Christianity, your life is constant abandonment. What does God want for me to do? It’s constant proving that you are loyal and dedicated. Jesus said to follow him and forsake all others. Pick up the cross and lay down your life. Anyone who loved their family more than him was not worthy of him. It was ruthless. It was constant. It was merciless.

I’m now picking up my life. I’m dusting myself off and standing. Even if no one understands, I feel stronger just by doing it. I’ve decided to learn more about the world around me. Physical things. Science things. People and humanitarian things. This time of gentleness feels so much better.This is true compassion and love.

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