Category Archives: Religion: What??

Thoughts and ponderings related to religious and spiritual topics and ideas.

Christmas… So much pain… So much love

Christmas is such a beautiful time, but it can be wracked with so much pain.  Pain of loss, pain of suffering, pain of love.

As I think of the Christmas story from a different lens than what I normally think of, I see a story full of pain and suffering oozing with love.

It starts with the pain of not having a place to call home.  The humiliation of having a child in a barn, in the smelly, dirty, yet wonderfully homey manger.  We glorify it, but it must have been absolutely atrociously horrifying, in yet beautiful at the same time.  I love the smell and warmth of the barn, but it can also be overpowering as well.  I hope the barn was as clean and beautiful as we make it out to be in our Christmas stories, but somehow I doubt it.

Then, the process of childbirth.  It’s a bloody mess full of gut-wrenching pain.  Some women have an easy childbirth, I hope Mary did.  Most don’t.  It’s a sweaty, intensely painful process that some can handle, some can’t.  (Watch this story.)  The birthing process can be absolutely agonizing to watch, let alone experience.  In yet, for many, it’s a beautiful process with a wonderful outcome.  For many others, not so much.

I love how my friend is loving the experience of Christmas through the lens of a new grandma twice over.  She is a wonderful woman, a mom of 4 wonderful men and 2 up-and-coming-men and is now a grand mom to two beautiful little girls.  They are so lucky to have her in their lives.  There is nothing like the beauty of family.  And, now, she is reflecting on the beauty of Christmas through the beauty of the recent births of her grandchildren.  As a result, she is cherishing the beauty of Christmas in a whole different way as a result.

But, life isn’t easy.  For some it is easier than others.  I cannot imagine just how burdensome it would be to live a life knowing that your life was meant to be lived to be a sacrifice for the joy and peace of others.  If Jesus knew his life purpose was to die to save men from suffering starting from the very start of his life, what a burden to bear.

The responsibility of living a life for the sake of others is a huge burden.  Living your life for the meaning and blessing of others can be a huge blessing, aid in giving your life meaning, can keep you going through hell, but it is a burden.  I can literally feel the heavy burden that Jesus must have felt at the realization that his life wasn’t meant for his sake alone.

Then to realize that for some, people would take the meaning and reason for his life out of context, would misread his intentions, would not “get it” even though they proclaim they know him, understand him, believe him, and follow him.  That, too, would be incredibly burdensome.  It would give a hopeless feeling for sure.  All this pain and suffering in living life for the sake of others then for those people to misconstrue it?  I cannot imagine the heavy feeling that comes with this realization, the acknowledgement of this fact.

Then to live through experiences where you are not understood, blamed for things that are way-crazy and out-of-control madness.  It’s bad enough to be blamed for truth, but when it’s completely out from left field??  Then to live a life of the famous where people are stalking you and begging you for healing and words of encouragement and no matter where you go, you just can’t get a break.  And, you can’t help everyone.  There are thousands wanting help and others who just plain don’t and he wasn’t able to help them all.  Burden upon burden and he hadn’t even gotten to the part of his life where he was crucified.  An event that could only be described as sheer hell on earth.

Not only were people reeling, criticizing, his friends desert him, governments making the whole thing a huge big deal and using him as a political pawn, he then goes through the process of literal torture.  I just cannot imagine.  If he could forecast the knowledge of the event, the pain would be horrific to anticipate let alone to actually experience it.  Sheer horrificness.

Then, to feel the burden of sins.  Not necessarily yours, but the sins of others.  Rushing over you, rolling over you, pounding through your soul, the very core of your being.  Can you imagine the burden?  It’s absolutely no fun, that is for sure.  It’s not your fault, but you take it on because your life purpose is to heal others, to bring blessing to others.  So, for their sake you take on their burden so they can become free.

A life full of pain, suffering, and a burden that is completely unbearable yet he bore it.  For love.

The Christmas story is a beautiful story that demands to be considered.  From a lens that is different than what we traditionally think of.  Even if you don’t believe that it’s true.  Even if you don’t believe in Jesus.  Just the story from a human concept, a human perspective is something to consider.  We all live this life of pain and suffering to some degree.  But, because others take on pain, we don’t have to experience nearly as much as we do.  Take the soldier on the battlefield for instance.  Or your janitor.

The Christmas story is a story of pain and suffering oozing with love.  A love so we can live in peace, joy, and harmony – if we so choose.  But, even those who believe in the story still don’t understand the concept.  Still, love continues and oozes out full of love and grace and goodness…

Christmas: The Concept of Giving and Receiving

Christmas is a wonderful time to think about who, what, when, where, and how we give.  It’s a process that is best done with thoughtful contemplation – something that is very difficult to do in this day and age.  It can be incredibly overwhelming to know who and how to give utilizing a method that utilizes mindful caring and compassion that yields results aimed toward the greatest good possible.  Giving is a hot topic that pushes many buttons on many levels for many people.  

I understand the concept of the importance of giving both as a giver as well as a much-needed receiver.  I’m very blessed in ways many, many are not.  I’m also extremely lacking in ways that others are incredibly blessed with.  I’m naturally a giver, but some aren’t.  I’m naturally an empathizer – I understand things from other people’s points of view, but others are completely inept at that.  Many, many Americans are afraid to give in ways that once felt normal and natural.  We all need to be blessed and be a blessing at one point in time.  Both sides – giving and being the receiver – can be burdensome.  

I’ve been asking myself constantly:  Should I ask?  If I am supposed to ask, when and how?  Should I give even if I want to – or don’t want to?  When is the best time to give?  How?  When is it time to give and when should I receive?  Why is this whole concept and process so very, very difficult?  

Please read my blog Give Smart for ideas as to how to give.

“Status Quo”

I have never “fit in.”  I have never been “normal.”  I started as believing I was not supposed to be “normal,” “mainstream,” someone who “fit in” with the status quo.  Now I just don’t want to “fit within the mold.”

During my high school years, I strove to learn what those words/ideals meant and how to become that way.  Lately I have come to the realization that I have no further desire to fully belong, comply, and achieve within the ideals of the “status quo.”

For the longest time, I felt weird, strange, odd.  In grade school and middle school, I didn’t care.  I wanted to learn from the experience, label, and ideal, but I really didn’t care.  It was expected of me by my home and church to be different.  I was taught over and over that Christians are to be different.  The are meant to be shunned, be made fun of.  They are built to be stepped on.  I vividly recall someone stating something to the effect that “If you are a true Jesus-follower, you will be persecuted.” He also suggested that “If you act on Truth, you will be persecuted.”  “If you are a Light in this Dark world, you will be persecuted.”

I took that literally at the time and have taken the literal concept more and more as time goes by – only through a whole different lens.  I still want to believe, act, and preach what is “Right and True.”  However, then it was religious, now it’s philosophical.  It’s still based on religious ideals (preached but most typically not practiced), but has moved beyond – far beyond – the pulpit.

During those years of being in the church I was raised, I saw myself through the lens as being a true Christian.  I thoroughly believed their stance that we had higher status and greater truth than ALL other Christians and non-Christians alike — except the Christians who were affiliated from that particular Christian church system.  Thus, because of this higher status, knowledge, affiliation, and belief system, I was going to be persecuted.  It was a belief that I took as being fact-based.  Thus, to be “weird,” “strange,” and “different,” was “normal” and “good.”  It was a high compliment.

From the very first week of middle school to the very end, the insults and negative treatment became more and more blatant.  I immediately began to realize that the reasons for this treatment did not at all seem to correlate to how much of a Christian or Christ-follower I was supposed to be according to the church.  It seemed to be related to something else.  I’ve been on a quest to figure that out ever since.  Is it me?  Or is it the result of my act of proselytizing?  Was it because of the clothes I wore or the words I used that correlated with the church’s belief system — something that they believed to be a statement of faith that would bring others to Jesus?

This whole thing of being “weird” and “different” and not living within – or meeting the marks of – the status-quo started the continual persistent question that has never gone away:  What is it that I’m doing wrong?  Is it me?  Or is it something else entirely?  What is truly going on?

During the very last week of the 5th grade school year, I was sitting in the very back seat of the bus.  I was sandwiched between the window and a fellow female student.  Her brother sat in the seat directly across the aisle.  I told her that because she was not a Christian and did not believe in God, she was going to hell.  She was quite offended.  I explained that anyone who did not believe that Jesus died for their sins was going to hell.

That did not go over well.  Not at all.  She was deeply offended and deeply hurt.  From what I could tell and sense, rumors flowed rampant throughout the entire school.  I deeply personalized my interpretation that I was understood to be a Christian who hurt feelings and was a mean person because of sharing those beliefs.

My intention toward helping was taken a whole different way than it was intended.  I was told repeatedly growing up that explaining this theological concept to a “lost soul” would convert someone to “believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and thus “save them from an eternity of hell and damnation.”  If I didn’t share this with them, they would not have the opportunity to “go to heaven for all eternity, but instead would go to hell.”  However, instead of my classmate, her brother, and everyone who would be able to hear the message I shared converting to Christianity, the opposite came to pass.  They absolutely wanted nothing AT ALL to do with me OR Christianity.

I was confused.  I was taught “We are to be the saviors of the world.”  Instead, I had “cut someone’s ear off.”  I wanted them to go to heaven.  Instead, as taught from the traditional Christian point of view, they were going to hell.

This form of miscommunication has not stopped.  I try and try to help.  I try to help people, situations, organizations, employers, and more who literally and blatantly communicate the need and desire for help.  In a number of situations it works fabulously well.  In other situations it backfires.  And bites me hard.  Most typically, it works beautifully for the people being advocated for, but bites me in the butt big time.

Through the mistakes of not knowing how to communicate correctly and taking people literally, I am realizing more and more just how much “people really don’t mean what they say.”  People, by and large, are liars.  No matter just how hard we try, we all lie 99% unintentionally, yet another 99% intentionally.  However, according to what I’ve gathered so far, the more a person follows the status-quo, the less honest a person is likely to be.  But even so, this is really not true either.

This idea is incredibly harmful and destructive on many, many levels.  Us Americans are becoming more and more afraid because of this idea that we are all liars.  While we all lie to some degree, deep down, we rarely intentionally lie.  We just don’t know how to listen, communicate, and truly understand each other.  This lack of communication yields the sense that we all lie.

Those who internally lie, perceive all to be liars, and those who enable liars are the most likely to allow the effects of lying to win.  However, the majority of us humans really, really do not want to lie.  We definitely do not want to be lied to and we do not want to lie.  It strongly appears to me that the only time we lie is when we feel we have no other choice but to lie.  The frequency of lying correlates to the frequency and intensity of the fear.

In my grade school years, I noticed that they boys made a game of spitting at people from the bus windows.  They all seemed to wait for a particular time to start spitting.   I had no idea until many, many years later that these students made a game of watching for me to pass by just so they could spit on me as I walked alongside the bus line. I also noticed that there were times when my hair felt sopping wet.  I quickly realized it was from, was termed then as, gleek, but I never realized that it was intentionally targeted toward me until someone asked my sister to apologize to me.  I just figured they were doing what boys were meant to do, how kids were meant to behave when they were having fun.

I suspected I was targeted as the odd ball out by the greater population – including the teachers – when the only stuffed animals that were missing from a display cabinet were things I loaned for display.  They were stuffed bears that were unique.  They were gifts from my grandmother.  This idea was also deeply implanted when I lost 1st place on a school-wide “race” due to rules being changed last-minute.  Not only that, but the very same item that won the race (a rocket made out of Quaker Oat cereal boxes) was deliberately placed in front of the buses so that it would be run over.  Those incidences were the very first time when I felt literally raw and hurt to the core, as though I were internally violated.  I felt those sensations deeply as I internalized the feelings of the realization I was being intentionally victimized.  Instead of my “faith in God” – martyrdom – being the blame, I began to believe with more and more certainty that it was I who was the problem.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, those thoughts and feelings became more and more persistent over time.

Throughout those school years, I strongly believed this all stemmed from that single conversation on the bus.  Initially, instead of thinking I was a target from being “weird,” I took it to mean that I had hurt someone deeply for proselytizing.  I did not want to hurt anyone deliberately nor completely unintentionally, so I shut my mouth from further preaching with words until I could learn how to communicate without harm.  I’m really, really glad I did.  Preaching with ignorance along with self-righteous words and actions kills.  Preaching with grace, kindness, humility, action, and knowledge yields much more positive results.

As time went on, throughout the days in middle school and high school even up to this very day I realize more and more how “strange,” “weird,” “odd,” I am.

When I realized I could do something about being weird, odd, and strange, I attempted to become “normal,”  I then realized I wanted to become “normal,” to “fit in.”  I wanted everyone to like me and to not be afraid of me.  More and more, I realize just how much I am “normal” to feel that way, yet in actuality I am a huge anomaly in my life experiences, thought patterns, actions, beliefs, and goals.  Who I am, was, and aim to be is just not “normal” nor will it ever be.

I need to fully let go of being afraid.  I need to no longer worried about being intentionally – nor unintentionally – misunderstood, ignored, shunned, and sabotaged.  All of this has happened to me – and more.  I’m still alive.  I’m stronger than before.  I know much, much more as the result.  I am much more kind, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic and compassionate as the result of being “weird” and “different.”  I no longer need to be that person who everyone “likes,” “respects,” and/or “believes.”  Do I wish for those things?  Hell, yeah!  Will I be able to advocate for those in need if I do this?  Hell no.

I was taught by my dad that as a Christians, I am to be a doormat.  He strongly believed that Christians are typified to be similar to the end result of the doormats made by some sort of plant that the Isrealites used in the Old Testament.  I cannot find the passage, but I want to say it was during the time of the Passover and/or the 10 plagues.  I vividly recall my dad reflecting on that passage then intentionally, directly stating to me:  “The more you are stepped on, the sweeter you smell.”

Most often, I was a doormat.  It has become a habit.  In the process of being groomed to be a “good Christian woman,”  I “lost my voice.”  I got “stepped on.”  I got “hated on.”  I was one of the most submissive, subservient, obedient, compliant, loving, self-sacrificing female Christian anyone could become.  I can honestly say that very few were as literally as kind, naive, and the epitome of what a true Christian woman is idealized by any fundamentalist – even Evangelical – Christian view could be.

It is because of my goal to be Jesus-like, I am who I am and who I was.  I want to know: “What is Truth?  Why?” – in relation to every facet, form, and aspect of every sector, belief, ideology, and more.  “What makes a True Christian?” “What does it mean to “Love your Neighbor?”  What does it mean to be a “Good Human Being?”  How do you identify, define, and advocate for justice, kindness, truth?”  What does it truly mean to “be Jesus’ hands and feet?”  What does it mean to “be an advocate,” to ‘stand up for what is right?”  “Why should I?”  And, “How?”

As the result of these quests and more, I no longer fit in the status-quo of mainstream fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians.  I do not fit in within the status-quo of society, of what it means to be a normal employee.

Do I want to be normal?  Yes.  But No.  Do I want to be loved?  Yes.  But not if that means the detriment of another.  Do I care about others?  Yes.  Do I care about myself?  Yes.  At times more than I should, and more often much less than I should.

As I become more and more mainstream, and find my voice become louder and louder, I fight more and more ferociously.  I want to be a voice.  I want to be heard.  I want to matter.  But more than anything else, I want you to matter.  I want your needs, wants and desires to be met.

I beat myself up for this.  Why should I continue to sacrifice myself for the betterment of others to my own detriment?  Why do I continually put myself in a position that makes other people hate me, misunderstand me, ridicule me?  Why do I feel I need to fight for truth, justice, equality?  Why do I need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves?  Why do I want to be a voice?  Why do I feel the need to advocate and speak up?  Why can’t I just be normal?  Why can’t I just be satisfied with fitting within the realms of the status quo?  Why do I have to take everything so damn literally?  Why?

Now I am changing my tune.  I now want to know:  How??  More than that, how can I do this effectively?  In a way that people will listen, will “get it,” and will not be feel afraid to listen?  How do I speak up in a way that compels unity in the fight for kindness, compassion, understanding?  How do I get the knowledge-base to be an effective advocate?  How do I attain the wisdom, assistance, guidance, and ability to be an advocate in the capacity I wish?

I am ready.  All I need to know is “How.”

And “How” means to do – and be – the opposite of the status quo.

Faith

“Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it – in ways you might not expect” – Father Ray

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

“Ask and it shall be given.”

“If you ask… Will I give you a stone??”

These past three months or so, I’ve had many prayers answered in amazing ways. It all started when I was flying back to the states from my time overseas.

I’ve always been a person of faith, but not until I thought and prayed outside the box did prayers get answered as quickly or as fully. I’ve learned that there is a method to prayer as incomplete prayers will bring incomplete results.

I’ve learned to hate – yet respect-religion, but have never been able to say there is no God.

When I left religion behind and reached out to all of who God is and might be, leaving behind what seemed safe, comforting, and “reasonable,” that is when my faith was strengthened and things started to happen.

I’ve learned that I am extremely sensitive to prayer- be it Darkness or Light. I learned that in nursing school. I found it amazing and have been wondering about it ever since.

Right now, for me, it is a time of seeking and searching, a time to reach out to the Unknown. A time to reflect, let go, and let God, the Universe, the One, the Source, the Alpha and Omega/Beginning and End, the Light have its/their way.

“You are not alone.” ” I am with you.” “You are mine.” Have been powerfully wonderful.

We cannot go through life’s journey alone. We need each other, we need community, and some – like me – need a Higher Source of Light and Love and Goodness to give hope, encouragement, guidance, direction, and a sense that we are not alone in our struggles in life.

And so, I continue my quest to seek the Higher Power, the Source, God in all glory and might, goodness and peace to shine Light, love, grace, goodness, mercy, hope, and all I need and desire my way.

All I can say is: “God is good – all the time.”

And now this quote: “THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THIS IS ALL MORE THAN GOOD ENOUGH, ALL OF IT. Now. Let us turn our focus onward and outward. There is WORK TO BE DONE and JOY TO BE HAD. – Love, G”

Miracles Happen. Goodness Exists.

Just when I reach a dead end, have no more ideas, and become afraid, miracles happen.  Time and time again.  This is why I cannot say there is no God.  Miracles happen.  Goodness does exist.  There is always a reason for a smile and a thank you.  Why?  Because God is good.  All the time.

I feel worried at times.  But at the same time I know all is well and all will be well.  I get afraid at times, but then I remember, everything has worked out.  It always works out and right now is no exception.  I am extremely grateful.

My life is much different than the norm.  My experiences are extremely unusual.  It makes people question, wonder, learn, and gain hope – for me and them.  That’s the whole point of my life.  Make other people’s lives better.  This is my goal, my hope.  Always has been, always will.

It’s always comforting to know I am more than normal, I am more than competent and capable than many I know and encounter.  Everyone goes through life’s ups and downs.  Some buckle, some persevere, others float.  I’m bound and determined to persevere, overcome, and succeed no matter what.  And, I am confident it will happen.

Why?  Because God/The Universe… is good.  All the time.  God is much greater than anyone can imagine.  God wants the best more than anyone can know or realize.  We suffer because we need to learn, we’ve chosen, or we’ve given up on something or ourselves. It’s really all a matter of choice – ours or someone else’s.  However, when we ask – and expect it to happen – it will happen.  Maybe not now, maybe not in this lifetime.  But sometime, somewhere, somehow, it will.  God/the Universe… doesn’t create suffering.  God/The Universe… doesn’t create mayhem.  We do it to ourselves.

I’ve learned it, lived it, experienced it.  Hell happens and so does light, love, and goodness.

And so, I ask, pray, and live.  I persevere, overcome, achieve, get set back and bounce back with the knowledge that “All is well.  All will be well. No matter what.”  It might not happen immediately, but it will happen – just in time.  And so, miracles happen.  Goodness does exist.

Why?  Because God is good.  All the time.

Gratitude – It absolutely works

I’ve been working on gratitude through the book “The Magic.”  I’ve always made it a point to be grateful, but this book takes it to the max.  Not only do you go one step higher, but you climb the ladder – and sometimes the mountain.  Today I’m on top of the mountain.

It’s so much fun to be grateful for the small things and the big things.  The things that are seemingly “bad” and those that are “good.”  It’s wonderful to be thankful for friends as well as a perfect parking spot just waiting for you to park there.

It’s absolutely fabulous to be thankful for things that haven’t happened yet, but that you desperately want to have happened.  It’s good to know that there is a solution to being “down in the dumps,” scared, alone, or just finding some sort of reason to hold you down.  Being grateful for the down days and making things happen to make good things happen through gratitude is just plain awesome.  The book is right, it gives you a higher-than-life feeling.

I met a couple who run a business.  They seem discouraged, depressed, and in the dumps.  Their marriage needs some spice to it.  They were commenting on how huge of a smile I had.  It would be fun to have the opportunity to encourage them to go on date nights, spice their life a bit, and read “The Magic” book.

I love smiling.  I love hope.  I absolutely love happiness.  Gratitude makes this happen and it’s fabulously wonderful.