Why Searching for God Is Pointless

“You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!”
― Rumi

In my latest dream, I wandered around from place to place.

The first place I went was to a fancy hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, where there were many pools of water. I was asleep, and a preacher I knew lovingly set me in the shallow end of a pool, carefully covering the deep end so that I wouldn’t wake up. Once I did awaken, however, I saw that some people were in pools that were almost entirely shaded from the sun. Others were in a pool fed by a glorious, towering waterfall, but when I drew near, I saw that the waterfall pool had been encased in glass, given artificial lighting, and had slowed to a mere trickle. There was an uninspiring choir singing on a stage in front of the waterfall, and a couple of people were watching. It was blah, so I left.

Then I went to a chapel. It was dark inside, and the church had their own bibles in a translation that doesn’t exist outside of my dream. The people were nice enough, but superficial. I told one lady that if “Christians loved as much as they feared, the world would be transformed.” Walking out, I made a new friend. We walked down the street, and I told her that I was glad to have her along because I wasn’t familiar with the city. We made our way to another friend’s house and ate lunch. Then I went exploring in the neighborhood.

I visited a run-down store in an alleyway where a swarthy snake-like man eyed me threateningly as he tried to conceal the dark magic happening in the back of the store. I was afraid, but the friend I had eaten lunch with was there watching out for me. I became even more afraid when I realized that he might judge me for my presence in such a sketchy place, and I went and hid. He came and found me, comforted me and didn’t judge me at all. We walked along together in companionable silence.

Then I went for a boat ride in an underground river. It turned out the river didn’t actually go anywhere but in a circle, like an amusement ride. At the end of the ride, the operator told me that I was worthy of a Koran, and handed me the book. I got out of the boat, and my friend was waiting for me once again.

I felt such angst over all my searching, but my friend simply looked at me with bemusement. I couldn’t believe how accepting he was. I tried to justify why I was exploring all these things, but he didn’t really seem care one way or the other. He was the kind of friend who is there for you no matter how much drama you create.

Thinking about the dream, it was pretty obvious what it was saying about religion. But I couldn’t figure out why I kept dreaming about this friend who kept popping up everywhere. Soon, however, I realized that the friend was Christ. I was running around like a lunatic in this dream, filled with such anxiety over finding the “right” belief, but all the time, Christ was there. (Rumi calls God “the friend,” and I read him a lot, so that helped me to figure it out!)

It was really cool to realize that God loves me no matter what direction I find myself wandering in, and that if I want, I can just hang out with Him, take off my shoes, and not wander — or wonder — at all.

The Early Disciples Were Stupid and Naive. Oh Yeah, and Crazy, Too.

stoning of stephenSo what are terrorists? Could they be, perhaps, a group of people who go around stoning people who disagree with their beliefs? Who imprison others who publicly voice different spiritual opinions? Can we agree that at the very least, living under this oppression would be undesirable? That we should, perhaps, do whatever it takes to keep such individuals far from our shores?

Wouldn’t it be better to bomb such people rather than risk yet another innocent person getting publicly murdered in a gruesome fashion?

Two thousand years ago, some folks in the Middle East had an awful problem with such people. These folks were called law-abiding Jews. The book of Acts does an excellent job describing the oppression that the early Christians of the day suffered living under these folks. The apostles were imprisoned, whipped and stoned.

In Acts 8:4, the writer describes how Peter calls for retribution after the stoning of Stephen. He talks about how it would be unjust for even a single other innocent to be killed, and how the Christians, as God’s new chosen people, should not allow a group of religious fanatics who worshiped God the wrong way to limit their rights.

Oh wait.

I got a little carried away there. That must be out of my Americanized version of the Bible. Here, let me check out a traditional translation. Let’s see. The NIV says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

Hold on a minute.

They didn’t engage the these crazy Middle-Eastern religious fanatics in warfare? They kept on preaching Jesus? Stephen’s last words asked the Father to forgive them for gruesomely stoning him? What the heck kind of book is this, anyway??

Something is wrong here. This book I’ve been reading is anti-American. No God-fearing person could possibly be okay with Middle-Eastern crazies running rampage all over God’s people without putting a stop to it, right? Shoot, these people don’t know what they’re talking about! Didn’t they read the scriptures with all the smiting?

They preached Jesus. What unrealistic nutcases. Totally out of touch with reality, they were. Didn’t they know that they would end up being dead?? That their loved ones would suffer as well? Talk about fanatics!

It’s a good thing that we have better wisdom today. That we can stop terrorism in it’s tracks with a few well-placed bombs. Those folks two thousand years ago had no idea what was up, obviously. Maybe all they really needed were better-developed weapons. Today, there wouldn’t be a need for all that wimpy forgiveness and passivity. They could press a few buttons, roll up in a tank or two, and BAM — problem solved.

That must have been the reason, right? Why else would they have let these terrorists run right over them like that? Weren’t they afraid of DEATH?

Or were they just naive? Conquering terrorism and oppression with nothing but preaching and prayer — LOL.

Or maybe they knew something we don’t.

Just a thought.

Dandelions, the Ego, Karma and Jesus

flowers1

This morning, I took the latest clothing that I sold out to the mailbox and was simply astounded at the beautiful day. So I plopped down in my front yard and laid there for a while. While I was down there with a bug’s-eye view of the dandelions growing in our yard, I felt thankful not to be rich in the typical sense.

I mean, I’m sure the overgrown yard with the dandelions and the woman with dirty bare feet lying in the front yard would go over really well in a ritzier neighborhood. I like not worrying about these things.

I feel really rich in the sense that matters, though. I am abundantly blessed. I cannot think of one way in which I am not blessed.

……………………………………………………………………

Sage had a horrible dream last night. It was his brain torturing him again. I’ve noticed a pattern in his life and my own. Whenever we are glorying in the beauty and goodness of God, the ego throws a fit. The more the ego is denied its way, the more it behaves like a small, evil little child. It’s freeing to step back and simply watch while it has its tantrums instead of thinking that’s who I am. I think I got that point across to Sage as well.

……………………………………………………………………

I’ve been reading Sikh scriptures the past couple of days. They’re really beautiful.

Endless are His Praises, endless are those who speak them. Endless are His Actions, endless are His Gifts. Endless is His Vision, endless is His Hearing. His limits cannot be perceived. What is the Mystery of His Mind? The limits of the created universe cannot be perceived. Its limits here and beyond cannot be perceived. Many struggle to know His limits, but His limits cannot be found. No one can know these limits. The more you say about them, the more there still remains to be said.

I know God is in those scriptures.

There’s a lot about karma there, as well. Karma makes sense, but ultimately, the whole idea bothers me. If I am being nice only in an effort to increase my own karma, then my actions are not coming from my heart. And if I believe that an abused child was an abuser in another life, then that thought kills compassion.

I’ve wondered if Jesus came to obliterate karma. After all, we no longer have to sacrifice lambs to pay for our sins. I was sitting in the yard thinking about this, when the parable of the vineyard workers came to mind.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

To me, this sounds like Jesus might be saying that there never was karma in the first place. After all, he told this story about the Kingdom of God before His death. Karma doesn’t exist if a worker for the Kingdom can be hired at the last minute and reap the same benefits.

I like the idea of no karma for me or anyone else. No karma…only open eyes.

Do Not Oppose Evil: A Counter-intuitive Idea That Works

tomato oppose evilA few days ago, I made the mistake of reading an article about the corporate cartels that run the country and which are destroying the world. I felt a huge anger well up inside me. I snapped at the people close to me and when I went grocery shopping I felt like running over the people in my way with my cart.

I thought, “Surely this is a righteous anger. After all, innocent people are losing freedom and being killed because of these practices.” The fruit, though, was not righteous. My husband had to listen to me rant when he wanted to relax after work. I didn’t smile or have any nice conversations at the grocery store because I’m sure I had a visible black cloud over my head.

I decided that the anger wasn’t good. After all, I had deliberately set it aside a few years ago in favor of better mental health.

Yet I’m not a fan of inaction. I don’t want evil to win.

Fortunately, I came across the Tao Te Ching yesterday. I started reading it, and found this:

Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.

I thought about it and thought about it. I read some more of Loa-Tzu’s writing. I started getting really excited, because I realized that God had revealed The Way of Jesus to the Chinese before Jesus made His earthly appearance. I remembered that Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. To give someone who takes your coat your cloak as well. To go the extra mile after being compelled to go the first one.

He is teaching us to not oppose evil.

It took me a minute to wrap my head around this. After all, in our culture, Christians tend to be first in line to oppose perceived evil, often standing up for the death penalty, protesting abortion and lobbying for marriage laws to stay unchanged.

But.

What would Evil do if we gave the person on death row a big hug? What if we held a woman as she cried after having an abortion? What if we applauded love and simply lived our lives according to The Way so that if someone was doing something wrong, Evil would skulk out of his life, ashamed of itself?

I know that Lao-Tzu’s statement was God-inspired, at least as much as I, a mere human, can know anything at all about this sort of thing.

About a year ago, I had a dream. In the dream, God said, “You are going to be martyred.”

A door opened, and I found myself in a prison cell with two malevolent witches. They had every intention of killing me. I wasn’t too happy about the situation, but I felt resigned, since God had already told me what was going to happen.

I looked at the witch across from me. A feeling of great compassion came over me, and I reached out my hand and gently caressed her face. The anger completely left her, and she was transformed. I woke up before the other witch could kill me.

I think this dream was God’s way of showing me that softness transforms hardness, that love conquers evil — at least some of the time. Sometimes, evil is pretty resistant to love, I think. But you become what you focus on, which is why people who subscribe to running magazines, buy running shorts and run every day often become marathon runners. This tells me that focusing on evil is not the right thing to do.

So I will not rage against the machine. Instead of protesting Monsanto, I’ll take joy in growing my own tomatoes. If I have an opportunity to give some to my neighbor, I will.

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.

Vision of God or Schizophrenic Hallucination?

rainbow around the throne of God

This will never look the same.

I will never ever forget what my younger son told me when he was twelve. He said that he had visited heaven and had a talk with God. God had even given him a tour.

He went into a lot of detail. He described how God’s face cannot be seen because it is such bright white light. He said he saw Jesus, and that there were marks on his wrists. He told me how there are colors that can’t be seen in this world, and that there is a feeling of such indescribable peace that there are no worries or fear whatsoever. He talked to my Uncle Bob, whom he has never met. He saw hell because God wanted him to know it was real. God let him know that Love saves people from hell.

At the time, I was understandably thrown for a loop. Sage grew up fairly obsessed with Pokemon cards and being read the stories of Brer Rabbit, not the Bible — a fact I am not proud of. I had no idea where all this was coming from. It seemed odd content for a hallucination that would arise out of prior knowledge or interests.

I told his doctor about it, and he told me about the book If Heaven Is for Real. I told my mom about it, and she mentioned the same book. I bought it.

It is about a 4-year-old boy who sees heaven during a life-threatening surgery. I’ve always been pretty skeptical about these things, and it wasn’t on my reading list.

The book was a quick read, and after I finished it, I remember lying on the bed feeling almost paralyzed. I called Sage into the room. Having read about how the boy saw a rainbow around the throne of God, I asked, “Did God sit down?”

My son said, yes, he was sitting on a throne. “What did it look like?” I asked. He told me about how a rainbow went around it.

At that point, I my mind did a flip and I started to feel really afraid. My son said, “There is a dark presence in this room. God wanted me to tell you that we are going to be in a very large spiritual battle.”

Note that I don’t recall discussing things like spiritual battles with my son at that point. I remember I had just started attending church, after the dream he had where he was quoting the Book of Revelation to me.

So there it is.

I’m convinced this was a true spiritual vision — God forgive me if I’m wrong. I really think that if all this was only neurologically based, then the vision would have been of something else entirely. Like Pokemon characters. But no, his visions have never had that sort of content. It is always God, Jesus, angels, demons, and things like exploding nuclear bombs and parched earth.

We don’t watch the news and never have. We don’t have television since I discovered that watching it was causing him to stutter several years ago. So I can’t attribute this to something he had watched a few days prior.

I am so thankful for this. This vision caused me to completely desire to follow Jesus, to give my life to God. I count myself as very fortunate, as my intellectualism had set up many arguments against much in the Bible being literally true. Being a part of this experience has forced me to put my feeble human arguments aside and simply praise God that he permitted me to see.

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. Revelation 4:3

Beauty and the Beast Is a True Story

beauty and the beast
I woke up this morning with two things on my mind. The story of Beauty and the Beast, and this verse from John 1:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Beauty and the Beast is not an ordinary fairy tale. The rescuer is not a prince on a white horse, but a woman of virtue and a pure heart. This fairy tale has been around for years in the oral traditions of several cultures. I believe it came from God.

The beast is selfish. He demands a human sacrifice for Beauty’s father taking a rose from his garden.

Beauty offers her life in return for her father’s.

She lives with the Beast, and eventually truly loves him, which destroys the beast, revealing the prince within.

True love conquers all.

This is what the gospel is all about.

This is not the gospel that is being preached. The gospel that is being preached has a lot to do with having the right beliefs, which vary from denomination to denomination. It often has to do with following a set of rules that we probably aren’t even supposed to worry about.

Jesus and his disciples were not preaching Jewish Mosaic law to the people. They were preaching — and showing love. They were eating with the undesirables of society, challenging hateful judgementalism. Love permeates the gospel. Jesus’ feet were washed with a woman’s hair and today’s equivalent of $35,000 or so worth of perfume. What love.

Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. What love.

Jesus cast out demons easily. I think love had something to do with it. Darkness can never, ever overshadow light. Light, on the other hand, is a different story.

The Beast Prince was overtaken by a demon, it seems. What caused the demon to break away from the prince? Love.

Love heals. Jesus didn’t mind “breaking the Sabbath” to heal a blind man. He followed the law of love, which as He says,

“‘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.”

All the laws have to do with love for God and other people. If you commit an act of adultery, you are not being loving. Stealing and killing are not loving. Worshiping idols (money, good looks, other people) is not loving towards God. Sleeping around tends to be exploitative and selfish, not loving. Lying/gossiping about others — not loving.

Much of this seems to have gotten lost in our quest to understand the Old Testament and reconcile it to the gospel, however. I know that many, many people will disagree, but I’m not convinced we were ever supposed to worry about it. I don’t think Paul went around preaching the 10 Commandments and the meaning of the book of Daniel to the Gentiles. He was preaching the salvation of Jesus — what I think of as the “Law of Love.”

Hundreds of years ago, people didn’t have access to books. They had to listen to the word of God preached by priests, who had an investment in making people more afraid of their sin than the underlying lack of love, because this gave the church money and power. Thank goodness for an oral tradition that nevertheless revealed the truth of God.

Many Christians today have several translations of the Bible on their bookshelf. Why then, does the tale of Beauty and the Beast ring more true than the message one hears in many Christian churches today?

I have much, much more to write about this subject. Dreams, supernatural experiences, friendships — all of this is coming together to form one cohesive story of love and freedom in my life.

Come, and You Will See

Today, the doctor sat down on the couch where my son was sitting, held his hand and looked at him with utter compassion.

“You’re going to have to deal with this the rest of your life,” he said. “I’m sorry. We will help you learn how to manage.”

The words sounded like a curse. I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream, “No! He will not have this problem the rest of his life! Your words have power! Don’t speak this curse!”

All sorts of things were whirling around in my head. The power of life and death are in the tongue. What does that mean? Will saying it out loud make it true? God can heal him. But will He? Where is my faith? What am I supposed to think, do, believe?

God felt so far away.

He wasn’t, of course. But it felt that way.

I felt so alone. Because no one knows the answers to this. Except for God. And at that moment, the doctor’s voice was my only reality.

following JesusIt doesn’t have to be that way, though. I create a different reality when I choose to follow Jesus. To immerse myself in His presence. I don’t always make that choice, though. Today, I mostly chose to follow several design blogs in Google Reader. I spent most of the day looking at Scandinavian furniture and modern art. It was escapism, only it didn’t help me to escape a thing.

If I don’t make a daily choice to follow Him, I won’t get to where I need to be. Reading the Gospel of John tonight, these verses spoke to me:

They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:38-39

I find it interesting that Jesus did not say to these two disciples, “The last house on the right before you get to the market. Why don’t you stop by later if you have the time?”

If I want to know where Jesus is, I have to follow him. Not later. Right now.

I want to see.

The world behind me,
the cross before me.
No turning back,
no turning back.

Photo credit: Naria Nadal

Becoming a Beautiful Snowflake

Okay, so maybe saying that I think I’m turning into a snowflake doesn’t sound quite right. But it’s an apt description for this process that I am experiencing. Here’s an illustration showing how to create a really fancy snowflake. Check out all the intricate cuts you have to make to get it right.

intricate paper snowflake

Becoming beautiful can be a slow, laborious and painful process.

It’s easier to fold the paper and just make a few triangular cuts, of course. But then you end up with a rectangle with some pretty holes in it. It’s not beautiful — just something to do to fill the time. It won’t stay up on the refrigerator long, either. Your mom will toss it as soon as she knows you’re not looking.

I think a lot of us are content to be that rectangle with the awkwardly placed triangles. I know I often am.

The thing is, I prayed this really scary prayer. I asked God to use me to advance His purposes, to get “me” out of the way. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to pray that prayer, but God is not interested in lukewarm servants. And I’ve seen enough of what God can do to know that I want to consciously be a part of His amazing work.

I know I’m going to be a really beautiful snowflake. The parts of me that are being cut away are immense. It hurts.

But you know what? Before I met God, I would have a greater emotional reaction to having my car break down than I am now with all this business going on with my sons. My friend Deb said, “He is carrying you.” Oh yeah. There is definitely only one set of footprints in the sand.

I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give it all to You, God,
trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me.
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open…