Maybe Heaven Isn’t What You Think It Is

the kingdom of heaven“Our Father, who art in heaven.”

I’ve spent some time thinking about these words lately. Like the word “our.” OUR father. All of humanity belongs to God, not just a select few. Or “Father.” That we have the DNA of the creator of the universe.

Last night, I was thinking about the words “in heaven.”

I don’t think one word of Jesus’ prayer is meaningless. So why would He say that our Father is in heaven? It sounds like, “Our Father, who art somewhere in the sky where we go when we die.” What would be the point of praying something like that?

What does “in heaven” mean?

I think it means an alternate reality. The true reality. What we see here is an illusion. The kingdom of God is at hand, is within us. It’s a kingdom we can see if we just become as little children.

Think about God as an ocean, with us being the fish.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

I really, really want to find the kingdom of heaven, and stay there. I’ve experienced it before. It’s a feeling of absolute peace, like you’re sitting in the palm of God’s hand, and no matter what happens, nothing external can bother you. Unfortunately, I seem to simply visit that place and then return fairly quickly to this plane.

I think part of the reason might be because I have this tendency to have to try to figure everything out. This is something that children don’t do. If a parent tells her child that she loves her, the child doesn’t question that. Children generally trust their parents.

Once a child becomes a teenager, though, the questions begin. So does concern about what other people think. A five-year-old doesn’t care if he’s wearing his brother’s hand-me-down shorts, but later, he’ll want to go to Abercrombie and Fitch. And when was the last time you saw a teenager clapping hands and singing at the top of her lungs in the car? It’s like they’ve left something crucial behind.

It seems like everything that the child leaves behind is what we need to seek in order to enter the kingdom of God.

Trust.

Innocence.

Lack of concern about social standing.

Knowing the reality of unconditional love.

There is not a formula for reaching the kingdom of heaven, though, other than “Seek, and you shall find.” Or, “Ask, and you shall receive.” And I believe that we must seek and ask with our whole being, and not half-heartedly. Like we would sell everything we own for that priceless pearl. Everything.

The cool thing about God being “in heaven” is that He’s always here. We just need to open our eyes. I think there’s a reason why Jesus kept healing blind people. Sure, they needed to see, but why are those stories in particular told when the apostle John tells us that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” if he were to tell us of all the things Jesus did.

I think the reason Jesus healed the blind was to show us that we need to open our eyes.

There is a reality where you are okay, no matter what happens.

Where there is no hate.

No worry.

Where every single person walking on the planet is one of God’s beloved, and you can see that.

I LOVE just thinking about this.

A Lamp on a Stand — A Different Take

lamp on a stand
I like this teaching by Jesus:

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.

I don’t think this verse is referring to shining one’s own light or having one’s secrets exposed. I think God is the lamp who is not hiding under the bed, but rather, is offering knowledge for the taking.

As for the rest of the teaching, well, I’m thinking that when you have knowledge of God, embrace it and look for more, you get more. When you ignore the knowledge you’ve been blessed with, it goes away. It all comes down to personal choice.

There are some things which have been concealed that God will bring out into the open when you look for them. Sometimes those things are unsettling, particularly when they conflict with whatever religious framework you subscribe to. I often ask God questions and then become blown away with the answers I get. When that happens, my response is often to shut down.

For me, what “shutting down” looks like is my becoming very interested in shopping, the state of my manicure and making the perfect pan of brownies. When I get into that mode and stay there for a while, I look very well put together, but my knowledge starts slipping as I begin to feel disconnected from the Source. I usually reconnect myself pretty quickly, and then things start flowing again, with me attempting to not become too overwhelmed.

It’s a balancing act, and when I’m on that tightrope, I am learning to be brave in the face of uncertainty and theological lonesomeness.

Mind. Blown.

purple glass heart

Dreams have been a big deal in our house lately. A couple of days ago, my son woke up from a dream in which he had lived for a hundred years, gotten married, had a child and seen the world destroyed. In my son’s dream, he was living in an entirely different world. He was able to tell me what was in the history books of that world and spoke words in that world’s language, which was ancient-sounding and beautiful. It took him two hours to tell me things, and there was always more. It was literally like talking to a really old person who would tell you all the details about the good old days and World War 2, for example.

I just woke up from the most amazing dream myself. Often, when I go to sleep at night, I am asking God to show me the truth. I don’t think ALL of the truth is to be found in church or even the Bible — at least not how it is often interpreted. And sometimes the truth is distorted or twisted. I want the real thing. Last night, I believe I got some answers.

This dream began with me going to visit my son at the treatment center he’s been at three times in the past year. My son would have a pass from the hospital and be out on the street rescuing people from the most horrendous situations. He would ask a helper to escort him back to the hospital when he got tired. There was so much darkness in the world where he was helping that even the maggots from the dead were black. I began to help as well. We had to avoid the maggots and the dead people, because they would contaminate you if you spent much time in contact with them. It was very dangerous to help, because very evil individuals would try to attack you if they so much as saw you helping to rescue other people from their world of child rape, lethal drugs and murder. Perhaps spending too much time with people who are spiritually dead will rub off on you and you will begin to lose your sight. Perhaps my son is helping people (or has demonstrated that potential) and he gets worn out, and yes, attacked.

I spent time out on the street giving balm (coconut butter) to people. You’d rub it in and your skin would look clean and new and be protected. Some people would leave dirt in the balm when they scooped it out, but that was okay. If you have something that can help people, you should give it away freely, no matter what.

The people/spirits who were rescuers had super-powers. We literally flew through the air to rescue some people. We were so joyful, and the reason we flew was to show people who we were. Oprah was one of them, and when I woke up, I realized that she raises people up in life by showing them love and support.

All the destruction and killing meant that pets had been neglected by selfish and blind people or were trapped in hotel rooms. In most cases, they had been living without water and had to be put down. I cried and cried as I rescued these sweet bony animals that had either been woefully neglected or had failed to find a source of water (even though sometimes it was right in front of them in the form of a bathtub having been left full of water, for example.) I felt so heartbroken when I had to give them to the loving people to be euthanized. When I found an animal that had found a source of life, they were in good enough shape for them to be eligible for the shelter to find them a new home. Some people have the source of living water right in front of them, but don’t see it. Others are not provided with it — they are neglected as others carry on their hedonistic, selfish lives. It breaks God’s heart, I think, when he finds people in this state. God rescues them from their hell one way or another, but it makes him so sad.

I got to meet the emperor of this world. The emperor was very concerned about his worldly standing. His son was among the many people that were injured in the general destruction and badness, and the dignitary informing of this gave him a hint that he knew his son was a gay IV drug user. (He had been found with pink peppermint in his veins, lol!) The dignitary gave him plenty of opportunities to admit the injured man was indeed his son, but the emperor continued to deny him, preferring to let his son die rather than to risk losing people’s respect for his standing as emperor. He denied THE SON. This also makes me think of preachers who get on the anti-gay bandwagon because it increases their standing with their base of support. The emperor did not choose love or truth. He chose fear.

After this encounter, I was walking down a staircase admiring a beautiful glass sculpture that had belonged to the emperor. He no longer wanted it. It was very expensive, but I was able to use all my money to buy a small piece that the seller broke off. He took care to break me off the very best piece. It came off in the shape of a light purple heart. When I turned it over in my hand, it made a beautiful musical sound. It was the sound of diamonds being thrown and musically hitting the ground. When I held it in front of me, I got so much power that all I had to do was stretch out my hand and doors were open and walls came down. I didn’t even have to move under my own power. A golden light lit the way as I went far away from the emperor and his men. This was a good thing, because the emperor had realized what he had given up, and was chasing after me for it. Love will break down all barriers.

As we were surveying the absolute destruction, the promenade we were on collapsed, and we began to fall the long distance to our death. A bunch of ugly art was falling alongside me. I was afraid at first — I was falling so fast, and I was thinking about what it might feel like when I hit bottom. Then I took a deep breath and said, “I love you, Lord.” Then the Lord’s peace came over me and I woke up.

I helped a lot of people and animals before I left that place.

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is our helper. That He is the Spirit of Truth. I’ve asked God to help me to understand things better, and this dream is what I got. I’m not going to worry about whether or not other people agree with me or not. I’m not going to read other people’s interpretations of scripture and worry about fitting them into my worldview. I am going to trust in God.

The Kingdom of God Is Here!

kingdom of heaven

I have good news!

The Kingdom of God is here!

It’s not just later, after your body dies. It’s right now!

This is what it looks like:

People love each other for real

People turn the other cheek

People pray for their enemies

People are not judgmental about the blindness of others

People are delighted to serve other people

Meek and gentle people, people who are sad about the way things are, people who are seekers, people who show mercy and make peace, people who are maligned for doing the right thing — the type of people who don’t “fit” into the world — these people are blessed in God’s kingdom!

If you could find a place like this, wouldn’t you leave everything you have to live there?

The good news is that if you look for it, you will find it!

Hint: Jesus points the way.

(This message brought to you by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.) ;-)

A Perfectionist, Unprepared Bride

let your light shine before men

“Let your light shine before men.”

I just woke up from the most convicting dream.

It started with an explosion of a mountainous building where some beasts of some sort had been living. Somehow they wreaked havoc, although they had been living dormant in that space for a while. These alligator-like creatures had names, and I knew them.

But the main part of the dream consisted of getting ready for a wedding — my wedding. First of all, I was decorating the hall. I was going to use my art, and I began to frantically paint more paintings, as the ones I had weren’t good enough. I soon realized that with the wedding only an hour or so away, I wasn’t going to have time to paint all new paintings, so I had to use the ones I had, which I realized were perfectly adequate.

A porter at the hotel the wedding was at warned me that I should go to my room and get ready, as otherwise I would be late.

With less than an hour left before the wedding, I decided that I needed to wash my hair. I then took my time agonizing over which undergarments to wear. I worried about my weight and got out the scale. The porter came to my door and instructed me to leave immediately, as the reservation at the hall where the banquet was to be held was about to run out.

I put on my wedding dress, which looked like something Cinderella would wear in Disney’s “Parade of Lights.” While the dress fit perfectly, it felt uncomfortable and awkward. Nevertheless, I left the hotel room and walked to the banquet hall where the wedding was to be held.

Other hotel guests were already beginning to sit down and eat, as the reservation had pretty much expired. My guests were able to eat, but they had nowhere to sit. There was also not a space to have the ceremony, since the place was now filled with people who were not invited to the wedding.

I walked up some stairs where there was a space on the landing that overlooked the people at the banquet. There was only a thin, low railing protecting me from the empty space behind me, and that made me nervous. I backed away a couple of steps from the abyss.

I don’t remember the bridegroom from my dream, but he was there, and we got married.

After the wedding, a man came up to me and asked if I knew the names of the beasts who had caused destruction in the city earlier that evening. I told him, and he gave me a large amount of money — more than enough to pay off my credit card debt and live life to the fullest.

After I woke up, I thought about it for a while. This dream makes sense to me on so many levels.

I am a perfectionist. I never feel good enough. A classic example of this has to do with my art. I always feel that I should learn another technique, use a different medium, or something, so that it is “good enough.” I have some sweet friends who tell me that my art is already “good enough,” but I have a difficult time believing them.

This way of thinking also carries over to my knowledge of Christ. I tend to believe that I don’t know enough to really do anything. That I might mislead people. That I don’t know enough of the Bible. That I’m not sacrificial or committed enough to count myself as an effective follower of Jesus.

The irony is that it is this very way of thinking that makes me ineffective, both at art and as a Jesus-follower. The dream clearly showed me that I need to show my light now, not after I’ve learned enough theology, for example. To continue to agonize over not knowing enough is to cause people to miss out on the banquet, and in my case, ironically miss being prepared for the bridegroom.

I do know what’s up. I know the names of the beasts of destruction, and that’s good, but isn’t enough. I’ve got to let my light shine no matter how uncomfortable it feels. That dress was made for me. I need to learn how to wear it with grace and confidence. And the only way to do that is to put it on.

The Kingdom of Heaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field that a man found and hid. In his joy he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.”

This is true on a level that I never understood until now.

First of all, the Kingdom is hidden. You will likely not find it sitting in church, no matter how good the pastor is.

Second, you have to look for it and find it. Don’t worry, Jesus says, “Seek and you will find.”

Finally, when you do find it, everything else will completely pale in importance. You will want to help other people to open their eyes, to know

Who.

They.

Are.

We Are All Mentally Ill

we're all delusional
It’s easy to get a diagnosis of mental illness today, especially with the release of the American Psychiatric Association’s new manual, the DSM 5, which pretty much labels all human behavior as maladjusted. The DSM 5 has been subject to massive criticism because of this, but the thing is, maybe this manual gets closer to the truth than those of us who maintain that most people are sane.

The fact is, we are all suffering from a massive delusion. Collectively, we seem to be under the impression that violence is a solution to violence, for example. We have taken this idea to such an extreme that we are willing to risk the annihilation of the entire species (and several others, certainly) because of this belief.

We’re very quick to label mass shooters and someone who drowns her baby as crazy, and rightly so, but what about the rest of us? How are we any different? Going into a school and shooting fewer than 40 people is small change when compared to the carnage that our culture endorses on a regular basis.

We do psychological and theological flips to justify our behavior. After all, we reason, they might get us first if we don’t do something. They might take away our freedom. They might hurt us, somehow. They.

Earlier today I was trying to figure out what, exactly, the message of the Kingdom of God was that Jesus preached. I think I finally figured out just a bit of it. I think this is what Jesus was basically saying:

I’m the Messiah.

I will transform this earth.

You will be born again into the Kingdom.

I will transform your mind.

Do not sin. (Do not commit acts that are unloving, exploitative and dehumanizing.)

I am what God looks like.

The message of the Kingdom has been lost today. Jesus didn’t go around preaching that he had risen from the dead and was a sacrifice for our sins. He showed us how to be born again — transformed into a being that transcends the cycle of violence and retribution.

You hear a lot of stuff in church about accepting Jesus as Lord. What does this mean? I don’t think it is supposed to mean that we should think, “Well, okay, I’ll believe what you say so I can avoid pain later on.”

No way. Jesus as Lord means that we treat him as our Lord. A Lord is someone you respect and obey. You follow his rules.

So if Jesus is my Lord, that means I must obey the Sermon on the Mount, for example.

If Jesus is my Lord, then I will be a peacemaker. I will be light. I will set aside anger and judgement. I will love my neighbor. I will not put my perceived material or sexual needs above treating others with love. I will pray for my enemies.

And this, right here, is the cure for our collective mental illness. We don’t have to be crazy people who bomb those who don’t agree with us, threaten us or have resources we’d like to have. We don’t have to have violence in our personal lives, either. This is a delusion, and Jesus showed us how to overcome it. He showed us how to be. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. We just have to decide to do it instead of searching for a magical formula that will somehow grant us eternity or blessings without growth.

Vision of Hell

When my son had his vision of heaven, that wasn’t the only thing he saw. He told me that God also showed him hell. The reason was that he would then see why missionary work was so important.

Hell wasn’t like the popular depictions we see in cartoons or movies. It had streets, and there were rich people and poor people. There were demons, however, and there was torture.

In some ways it sounded a lot like earth, only with the evil and pain made more visible.

He saw a divide between heaven and hell. He told me that people could cross over from hell to heaven.

“How do they do that?” I asked.

“The people who are in heaven LOVE them until they can cross over,” he said.

I’m aware this is not considered to be a biblical concept. However, in recent days I’ve thought about that vision. Whether it is literal or not, it contains truth.

vision of hell

If we love people here on earth, they too can learn to love and be a part of God’s kingdom. And it’s really hard for people to love others if they haven’t themselves been loved. So we have to show them.

It has a snowball effect.

If everyone loved like Jesus said for us to, there would be no more war, no more gangs, no more bullying. All kinds of hell would be wiped out.

I think this is the main thing we need to remember. All this arguing people do about how to worship God and so on is ridiculous. The command is simple.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

I believe Jesus was God made visible. He showed us how to be. Then He left. He gave us the task of being him in the world. Therefore, we have no excuse for being anything but loving — loving people out of hell and into the Kingdom.

He Answered the Phone

Bob Goff Love Does

I cannot recommend this read highly enough.

I’ve really been enjoying the weather these past few days. My younger son and I have been lying out in the sun while the dog gets muddy in the creek. I’ve been reading Bob Goff’s wonderful tome Love Does to him. It has mud splatters all of the pages now from the dog racing around wildly from the joy of being free to play in the creek.

I saw that Goff had put his number in the back of the book with an invitation to call him if anyone wanted to talk about ideas. I took him up on it.

I told my son, who was laying on the ground toying with a piece of grass, “I wonder what will happen if I call this number?”

No way did I ever think he was going to answer the phone. I thought perhaps there’d be an answering machine with a friendly invitation to leave a message about the idea I liked the best. Something like that. But no, he answered. One the first ring, no less, with a jolly, “Hello, this is Bob!”

So I asked him about his Bible Doing groups. He told me how the idea was to spend less time agreeing with what Jesus said and more time doing it. I agreed. He told me that his group had been together for a few years and that they didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about doing things, but went and actually did stuff.

When the call ended, I was all excited. I told my son, “I just talked to the author of this awesome book!” Keep in mind that for a writer, getting to chat with a New York Times bestselling author is a bit like a normal person getting hang out with Brad Pitt for a while.

My kid just looked at me and kinda rolled his eyes.

I’m excited though. A few other people are on board with this idea, and instead of meeting at my house on Mondays, we’re going to meet at Java Jacks at 6:30. Maybe we’ll move it to living rooms after people are comfortable with one another.

I can’t wait to see how Jesus will pour out of our lives.

Laying it Down for Love

pure religion is this

I hope yesterday’s post didn’t come across as arrogant. Because I don’t know all the answers. I don’t even know a few of them. I just have this overwhelming feeling that I need to somehow break free of the culture — go barefoot, live in a tent in the desert, pour myself into something else besides my mortgage and the bills I ran up while not knowing how to celebrate Christmas.

Sometimes I feel angry because it’s so hard. I always imagine myself dismantling culture — taking apart the scaffolding that holds it all together and seeing what lies underneath. Living that thing, whatever it turns out to be.

I’d like to ditch the anger and live entirely in love. I definitely need to quit worrying about what other people are doing and focus on living my life in the manner God directs.

Today, my eyes lit upon a verse in the book of John. I’ll bet you’ve heard it before.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love have no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Whoa.

First of all, it’s a command. From God.

Next, Jesus says to love as He loved us. Frankly, that part blows my mind.

Finally, he tells us that love is laying down our lives.

When I read that last one, the first thing that comes to mind is throwing myself in front of bus while knocking someone else out of the way. I don’t think that’s what He meant, though. At least not entirely. I think He means that we are also to give up our lives in this sense:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

Life perhaps partially being that temporal comforts with which we surround ourselves. Our house, our car, our grandmother’s Persian carpet. Our dreams for the future. Our present activities.

So if I’m right, and this is even a little bit what He means, then I should be willing to lay it down if it will show love to a brother or sister. Maybe it can be picked up again later, maybe not. And yeah, maybe it even means jumping in front of a bus. Although I’d rather not.

I think this is how people are able to live in mud huts after having grown up in suburbia. It’s how people can risk their lives spreading the gospel in New Guinea. It’s the reason a lawyer chooses to represent the poor instead of raking in six figures in corporate law. These people have laid down their lives for Love.

I want the same. Because ultimately, we all lose this life whether we want to or not.

Photo credit: Public Domain Photos