For those that wonder, I usually wake at 4 am to write. For those that wonder, I do this when the house is quiet and there are few matters from the day prior or the day ahead that affect my thoughts. There is still an excitement that comes with Sundays for me. It is not that I am preparing for a religious service (I am not), but when you are from the southern United States, it was just bred into you that Sundays are special. Maybe I feel like a rebel because I am not going to church, maybe it is the thrill and excitement of contradicting those that would suggest I should not mow the yard on what they consider “The Lord’s Day”, or maybe it is that I know my family and I will have the day together. Regardless, I still find myself considering the role of religion in my life. Below is some of what I thought this morning. If you enjoy the reading of these words, share them. If you find them blasphemous, share them and say bad things about me.
We are not in high school anymore.
What I found most exhilarating and frightening about my first days in the university, was the fact on my first day, I received a new type of responsibility. When I was running late and tried to explain to the professor how it would not happen again (it did) and what traffic had done to my ability to arrive prepared and on time, the professor said plainly, “that is up to you”. She was not interested in my reasons or excuses. She was not concerned about keeping a record when I was late, how late I had arrived, or what I needed to do for punishment or making up the work. My professor fulfilled her obligation to teach the material she understood, at the arranged time, and it was up to me to take advantage of what was being taught.
That type of approach to my behavior was new to me. It seems to me this is how God teaches us in our lives. There are, with the invention of the internet, and with the compulsion of leaders to establish foundations and religions, millions on millions of those that believe they are teaching what God wants you to know, available at any given moment. This blog is a drop in that very, very, large ocean. Take them all, even this blog, with a grain of salt. Beware of those that want to govern your behavior and keep a record of your shortcomings. Those things have nothing to do with now and certainly not the only ways that the Divine is able to help us learn about our experience.
Back in my day…
Anyone can see that the world is not the same today as it was years ago. This is not to say that there are not eternal truths, that our Source has changed, or that we should not learn from the experiences of those that came before us. Generations of humans have always offered critique of other generations. Groups of people have always been ready with an assessment of other groups of people. This is all wasted energy. In doing these things, we waste the time and the resources we have been given to do good things, on the things we have little control over. Living this life is not like the living of lives years ago, but usually the meanings are the same.
The world is different, our approach to the world, and learning about the Divine, should be as fluid as the changing times. We must be bold and we must be open to possibility. We must not rely only on reason, but we must also not accept concepts and theologies blindly. If we are ever tempted to say we do things “because it has always been done that way”, rather than, “because it makes sense to me”, we should pause for reflection. Most of what matters in our lives mattered to our grandparents also. How we care for and cultivate those things have changed, but it is for us to find ways of learning the same lessons in different ways.
It is not about you, but really, it is only about you.
Often, I am tempted to hug a person and say, “snap out of it… the world is a beautiful place”. Sometimes I am tempted to share my worries and woes with another, in order to get rid of my negative energy. Both of these are selfish. The former serves only to prove to myself that the world is indeed a beautiful place and the latter only transfers the negativity I have allowed my mind to generate to someone else instead of changing it into something positive.
There are things in the world that are worth celebrating. Enjoy them as long as you can. There are real troubles in the world that cannot be ignored. Fix them when you are able. When we tell a story of the good or the bad, we are only working those things out in our minds. And again, what advice is this, coming from a person writing a blog, without any real debate or discussion on what was written? I am working things out in my mind. This blog is simply a window into my thought process, which, believe it or not, I hope will show the inconsistencies of thought over time, which might indicate growth. It is good to help others see Light, but we should work to see Light in ourselves, first.
Oh Lottie, Oh Lottie Moon…
Lottie Moon was a missionary for the Southern Baptist Church. She must have been a good one, because they named a fundraiser after her. I have little issue with missionaries, or even Lottie Moon, but I tend to have issues with fundraisers. Not the raising of funds so much, as what the funds are used for after they are collected. What would have been a better use of the funds that were used to send me to Africa might have been paying for someone from Africa to come to Tennessee. I suspect that Lottie had it right, but that religions may be missing what seems to me to be a glaring promotion of culture rather than of Love.
What should be our mission? It is not up to us to prove Love. It is up to us to be the Love a person will process on their own. It is not only for us to teach, but also for us to learn. Businesses have mission statements. Business men and women have goals. Religion has not cornered the market on missionaries or ambassadors. What they have in common, however, is that most religions and most businesses, do not include in their mission statements, things like, “create brand loyalty and lots of cash”. If we were honest with ourselves, and looked at it in a different way, these are the two underlying motives of both. Regardless of the good either do, these are the underlying motives of both. This is stated as a matter of fact and not a criticism.
Recently a preacher asked me if I had “gotten back in church”. I said “no”, but I did ask if he had any sermons online, on tape, or on the internet. I have a genuine interest in what he might have to say about God. My experience of him is that he is a good man, happy, and always nice to my family. He was compelled to tell me, after inviting me again to his church, that he spits fire. It was almost a warning. He seemed to be saying he was, as we called it in my childhood home, a “hell and brimstone” preacher. My mother called them “breathing preachers”. In fairness, I have not heard the man preach, so I do not know his style, but he was somehow and for some reason compelled to let me know he spits fire. Perhaps he meant that it was the fire of the holy spirit that he was spewing… that would make more sense from my knowing him.
In truth, any sermon I want to hear from this man has already been preached to me. They were not preached in a church and he was behind a pulpit. I have heard it in his smile, week in and week out, in a bowling alley, for years. I have heard his sermons in the way he shakes my father’s hand and seems to genuinely care for his well being. I have heard his sermons in the way he reacts to rolling a ball that did not go the way he wanted and in the happiness he shares when he speaks of things other than God. He was not, in those times, spitting fire, but he was sharing Love, and that for me, is what matters most. Whether he thinks I need a good tongue lashing from a religious leader never came up, and for that I am grateful.
Five Simple Questions
Have you considered what a miracle of creation you are? Is there at least one thing for which you can be grateful? Do you understand how fragile and at the same time how strong you are? You have had your whole life to get ready for this day, are you excited? Would you consider donating to our current effort to raise money for the plight of those who suffer from the lack of affordable exotic ground coffees?
Okay… that last one was not real… so maybe there were just four questions. My hope is that you find peace when possible. If there is something you are going through which cannot be changed, and in a real way, creates a bit of chaos, I hope you are able to find peace with that chaos until it subsides. You are worth every bit of energy the Creator has put into making the world not only good, but better. Yes, even better. Enjoy.