Archive | Spirituality RSS feed for this section

Doubters, Dreamers, People of Faith

4 Jan

Dreamers think of the “wonders and excitement of the opportunity, yet rarely act.”

Doubters begin to mount a list of “Why I can’t,” quickly dashing the notion of things most often quite probable.

People of Faith weigh dreams and doubt, sometimes over-analyze, make a decision, and then thank God for the direction.

When situations arise that present those marvelous and unique opportunities in life, we have to take personal inventory.  We must consider whether we are stuck in the “I just can’t” mode.  We must also consider whether our past choices and disappointments speak too loudly for us to even consider a choice by faith?  Consider that we only go around once in this lifetime and it begs the question, “How many opportunities do I have left to seize those moments?  I am curious about the reader.  So, let me ask you:  What is YOUR first response to new opportunities that come your way?  And what is your ultimate response to the same opportunities?

I would like to go on record as saying we should never make decisions based in fear, or doubt.  Neither should decisions be made by faith only, without using the God-given reason and common-sense, with which we were born.  But there are those unconventional moments, when the world is screaming “No, don’t!”  Those moments aside for a bit, here are a few things I remind myself about decision-making:

  • Making a decision by faith is not accomplished by a strong feeling
  • Stepping out in faith is seldom blind
  • There are promptings, assurances, confirmations, and definite affirmations for us to take another step, then another, and so on.

COMMON SENSE

Never in my life has God said, “Go ahead jump off that cliff unprepared, and I’ll bail you out.”  He has bailed me out of some dumb decisions I have made, but He never encouraged me to make a dumb decision.  He has led to some unconventional decisions and, in retrospect, I see clearly the reasons why.  Jumping off a cliff with a parachute is a bold move, but it is also a move that incorporates the common sense with which God graced us.

The difference between dumb choice and unconventional opportunity is found in the overall purpose and outcomes.  Usually, the former is about the individual and long-term insight is lacking.  Whereas, with unconventional opportunities, the focus in the purpose, but the medium through which the accomplish the purpose might take some special kind of action.  Personally, I have been at the junctures of both.

When it comes to the really big decisions in life, the life or career-changing decisions, I have found that direction and leading had been underway in my life, long before the big decisions occurred.  The decision is just the mechanism to move things along–the “yes button” that, when pushed, sets God’s will and our will in alignment.  I do make state lightly that I believe God is an integral part of the decisions–both prior, in the midst of, and afterwards.

GRACED WITH CHOICES

God allows us to choose, and He is often gracious to allow us second and third opportunities if we make mistakes, “or jump the gun,” as it were.  He knows us well.  Yet, there comes a time when a window of opportunity closes.  It is at those times I ask myself whether I missed the opportunity, did something wrong to forfeit the opportunity, or whether it was simply not meant for me.  Here is where I take consolation in considering God has at least three answers to prayers:  “No, Yes, and Not Now!”

Have you ever sought God’s direction and came to the conclusion that He replied “No,” or “Not now!”  I have been there before.

BABY-BOOMERS

We Baby Boomers feel way too young to be sedentary and irrelevant.  We are just a bit old enough to think about retirement, but we still have lots of zest and vigor left to both work and play.  Yet, many of us have thought about those big life-altering dreams–the “WHAT-IFS!”  I wanted to play professional soccer in the worst way.  I asked God what He wanted for my life and then a knee injury took away the drive for professional sports, at least for a time.  My focus and passion became education after that.

ARE WE AFRAID?

Dare I say, many of us are stuck in the ruts of life’s routines and comforts.  Another issue is the economy, where most of us are settling for what we already have, versus the unknown and what we would give up.  So where does this leave us?  Where does the conclusion, already drawn in our minds, place us in the grander scheme of our lives?  We wouldn’t want to hurt our families just for a selfish dream, would we?

For some of us we are left with unfulfilled lifelong dreams and goals.  Some of these have been voided do to unexpected health and family concerns.  For others, it is just too late to start over.  Still, others, are fearful of branching out, and find all sorts of excuses to stay put.  Those of us in the latter camp make me wonder “What are you waiting for?”  Easier said than done, I understand.

LIKE OUR PARENTS?

There is some truth that we are becoming more like our parents everyday.  The really disappointing part is that they have regrets about life and so will we, it seems.  Maybe regrets are simply a realistic part of life.  Could it be that we humans dream things into reality in our thoughts, and are disappointed that our thoughts weren’t as powerful as we “imagined” them to be?  I think there is some truth to this.

WALKING BY FAITH

A few of us seem to escape ourselves and reach that pinnacle of life’s experiences by choosing faith.  Examples of these kinds of persons are found in the Bible.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and other Old Testament saints–including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to walk by faith.

Our children have their futures ahead of them.  They look to us for guidance.  Where is it that “we” look?  And what do they see in us when they peer in our direction?  I am still working out these issues, and I am probably not alone.  Bit I am moving more toward faith than apathy.

When it is all said and done, I think most of our dreams are youthful and unrealistic desires–some even bordering on the lusty things of life, hence material and fleshly objects.  We all grow up and our dreams and goals change.  They also shift from “self” to “others,” which is definitely not a bad thing at all.  After all, love does change throughout the years, even if priorities do change.  Somehow, the word “vicarious” takes on entirely new dimensions and different meanings with the passage of time.

MAKING AN EFFORT

Instead of thinking, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do this or that,”  I have a novel idea.  Why not band together and state, “While I am still able, I will choose to do this, or that.”  Rather than live by “if statements,” let us make realistic plans and goals and strive for them.  Goals do not have to be life-changing.  They can be just as fun if they are routine-changing.

So, Boomers, what are we waiting for?  It has been said about our generation that we have given this nation a lot for which to be thankful.  It has also be said about us that we stumbled along in life, at times, seemingly aimless, self-absorbed, and fearful of getting old.

We have been accused of plowing through relationships, burying ourselves in work, and after the kids are raised we ask “What’s left for me?”  Honestly, what I have found is that it is quite difficult to stumble through life if we are spending time on our knees seeking direction.

Care to join me?  It might be time for that “Yes” answer from above!

People Come and People Go, But Persons Last Forever

31 Dec

The title of this blog might come across as redundant to some.  But it is not meant to be redundant.  I enjoy parsing words and drawing out certain distinctions.  Therefore, I draw a distinction between “people,” the actual humans that cross my path each and every day, and the impacts their actual “being” has upon my life.

Certainly, in some ways most everyone we come in contact with leaves an impression upon us.  Some are quick; some are lasting.  Others are fleeting.  But impressions, however memorable, usually do not mature into deep and lasting connections, or interpersonal legacies.  Allow me to elaborate.

Aside from the obvious eternal dimension, to which “remaining forever” often refers, there is something else to personhood in my mind.  It has been said that very few people cross our paths in life, with whom we find deep and soulful connections.  Whether it is the persons tone of voice, interests, passion, jovial nature, or spiritual depth, we find there is something quite deep that ties humans together.  In addition to the eternal realm, this is in the vicinity of what I mean when I say that “persons last forever.”

Hyperbole aside, no one lasts forever in the state in which we presently find ourselves.  However, not having gone on into eternity as of yet, and to exaggerate the point, we use our lives are the only forever we know.  This is just how we roll.  Therefore, someone who impacts my life is deep and meaningful ways remains “forever.”

Now, who exactly leaves such an impact in my life, and who does not?  You can relax.  There will be no specific names mentioned, with the exception of my wife, kids, and family–as well as my students, my church family, and my friends, both online and in the flesh.

Consistency and stability are hallmarks of deep relationships with loved ones.  Certainly, love takes many forms.  I think there is little disagreement that personhood is unique.  What I understand clearly is that close friends have a different depth with me, usually formed around an interest, or a passion about life or work, or some other area that complements my family.  People come into our lives for many reasons, and friends may be lifelong, or maybe last only in the short term.  I’d like to believe each had a divine appointment for just the right length of time.  What we do with the appointment is the “good stuff” and the stuff of human drama, at times.  But we take it and roll with it, don’t we?

People come and people go.  We all make choices and we all eventually realize the consequences of these choices.  Sometimes our choices are what make people go away.  Persons come into our lives to enable our growth.  They also come into our lives to knock us around and bring us down.  Whatever the case, we learn lessons from people.  But the real lessons that change lives are best learned from the “persons” in our lives.

Here is an example, so that the reader doesn’t think I have somehow lost my crackers.  Let’s say one of my students has an issue at home, and asks for assistance.  I do my best to assist.  The parents are thankful.  My student finds a solution and life goes on.  To the family and the student, I might have been the “person,” they needed at that moment.  But when the year is over, they and I move on.  The years roll on.

Students come and go, yet to some, what we teachers have done remains in their person, helping still to mold their character and their lives.  Unfortunately, there are some students who slip in for a year, remain under the radar, and whose lives simply move on into the future.  These are the people in life.

I guess what I am saying is that when people become “persons,” there is a connection beyond what is required.  This person-to-person connection is what remains.  It consists of more than an influence, or a few memories.  The connection is life-changing.  This is the same with God.  When there is a personal relationship with Him, “persons” last forever, eternally.

On a more personal note, the saddest part of all of this is when people exit my life.  Death is the worst.  But I am not referring to death.  Try as I might, I find it quite difficult to accept that people simply leave and are never heard from again.  I wonder if I messed up, or whether I offended someone, or whether there was no connection due to some sort of shortcoming in myself.  I have to admit that missing out on a connection cuts several ways.  But I ceased taking such wonderment beyond the cognitive realm.

We won’t connect with everyone in this life, certainly not everyone will desire such a “forever” connection with us.  To be honest, not every connection turns out to be a healthy one.  We are, after all, only human.

There are a couple of things I have learned over the years, and permit me to share these revelations with you.  First, I have found that connections that are based in negativity, abuse, or founded in a set of emotionally bad circumstances are probably not the healthiest of connections and will not last once a person finds his or her way out of the negativity.  Connections are meant to enhance, and not to subtract.

Second, try as we might, we simply have to allow the natural course of disconnection to occur.  Some people come into our lives for shorter periods than we would like.  So, allowing the presence of the people to dissipate, might just enhance the person’s legacy and lasting connection in our lives.  So, we need to learn to let go.  It is, after all, quite healthy for all parties.

There have been many people whose lives have crossed paths with mine.  I have had the privilege of working with thousands upon thousands, and my words both audibly and in print have touched a million or more.  Of this group, how many have I had deep connections with?  In addition to my family, there is probably a dozen, or two.  The number of people I have influenced is hopefully much greater.  But those who will remain forever . . . I am still wondering.  There is more life yet to live.

Yes, people come and people go.  God is good that way.  If we take the one as from Him, why not accept the other as within this same goodness package?  I am learning to do this better and better, with each passing year.  I suppose it will never be easy and the pain of letting go will be as real next year, as it is today.  But being open to the next set of deeper connections is one reason I exist.  That being said, I truly believe that connections last forever, because within the connections are “persons.”

May 2012 find us coming to terms with the differences between people in our lives and those who are there for deeper and lasting reasons?  May God help us to see those whom He has brought our way?  Finally, may we have the courage to let go of those negative and damaging people.  It is healthy for us and for them.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Here’s to Everyone’s Health . . .

Anger Misses Out

17 May

Has our human anger kept us from the very blessings of God?

A quick thought for the reader’s consideration: Is our anger the very thing we choose, thereby missing out on God’s hand of blessing in our lives?

I was having this conversation the other day with my students about why it is that man takes most of the credit for discoveries and inventions, while God gets the blame for “acts of destruction.” It’s just not fair that God gets blamed for all the evil and bad things that happen in the world, while man takes all the credit for the good things. It is a cheap shot to blame a higher power, especially when that is the only time His presence is acknowledged.

Critics allow their anger to get in the way of that which is good in this world. God often emerges from the conquest of evil. But oo often we cannot get beyond the pain of the evil. Critics claim that mankind cannot be the blame for something that God allowed and could have easily stepped into the dimension of time to solve. But critics cannot have it both ways. Either God is present in time when good occurs, or He is not present in time when evil occurs.

Human anger is imperfect and misses out on things that are good.

So I am just here wondering how many of us are carrying around internal anger and missing out on the good that awaits our relinquishing of the negative and self-oriented emotion.

Choices

1 Dec

Choices

By Ernie Zarra, 2010

They say it’s time to make a choice

‘Tween going right, and what is left

And with each choice, a still small voice

Emerges from the cleft.

 

Choose ye, O soul, which path to take

The marvel of the will

With good the outcome, it to make

‘Tis better than standing still.

Christian Ethics and Choices

30 Oct

The following survey questions were written with the Christian in mind, and are part of my larger lesson on “Christian Ethics and Choices.”  A fully informed choice is the responsibility of us all.  Ignorance can lead us into all sorts of choices that, at first, seem the only way to decide an issue.  However, the choice measured by “truth,” is the most informed choice.  But do we desire such choices?  Therein exists accountability morally, as well as spiritually and physically.  In a culture that seeks quick decisions and easy answers, I do not believe we always take the necessary time to find the best answers for our choices.  The question is out there . . . What is God’s role in our choices?

As Christians, we are called to live by different standards than those who are not believers.  Society glorifies individual “choice,” and the believer is called to glorify God.  There is serious biblical tension in trying to accomplish both. 

If truth is unchanging, and not subjective to relative changes in culture, then it is lasting beyond each generation, and serves as a measure for all generations.  There are “truths” that each of us live by.  But what are the ultimate principles that are unaffected by belief, or practice?  This remains to be seen.  Welcome to my lesson . . . [smiling].

Feel free to respond to any or all of the 13 questions that follow,  and let me know what you think.  I am not collecting data from this survey.  That is reserved for in-person activity.  Your answers are strictly for blog dialogue.

TRUE or FALSE

_____  1.  Life has value because society has added to its value.

_____  2.  It is morally wrong for a Christian to believe in abortion.

_____  3.  Human life begins at conception.

_____  4.  Being human implies personhood.

_____  5.  Human beings are eternal beings.

_____  6.  Abortion is always sin.

_____  7.  Personhood begins at conception.

_____  8.  There was a time when the Son was not God.

_____  9.  A Christian should have a choice over how he or she dies.

_____ 10.  If a Christian commits suicide he or she will still go to heaven.

_____ 11.  Physician-assisted aid in dying is sometimes the right thing to do.

_____ 12.  God has a plan for our lives and deaths.

_____ 13.  Abortion is murder.

The Dynamo

19 Sep

Just a few Sunday evening thoughts rattling around in my head . . .

Happiness develops from fleeting moments that result from pleasure and fun, but exist to mark an optimistic persona. 

Joy is a foundation and a soulish steady-state, from which character develops, while unaffected by circumstances, yet marked by inner peace. 

Put the two together with faith and there emerges a dynamo. 

All I can say is “Stand back!”

The Other End of the Spectrum

8 Sep

This evening, I would like to open a little of my life to the reader.  I don’t practice transparency all that often, particularly about my years as a youth.  However, tonight I find doing just that is most apropos.  I have learned a lot about myself over these past many years.  I realize the obvious:  Choices have consequences.  I also learned that consequences can be used for good in the long run, if channeled into something productive.  Suffice to say that I am who I am today because of some concerted efforts on my part, coupled with the direction and grace of God, and rounded off by some very important personal mentors in my life (my awesome wife and family, friends, professors and coaches).

I have titled this blog “The Other End of the Spectrum” because those who know me today–and only today–have absolutely no idea what I was like in high school.  My high school friends know.  In fact, there is shock that registers on the faces  of those who know me today, when I share the person I was those many years ago.  I am not any more special than anyone else.  But this is MY blog so permit me to recap those earlier, formative years, and you will see why I gave this blog its title.  **smile**

As a teenager, I was quite shy.  I was shy with the girls and i was shy in front of my peers.  I was deathly afraid of public speaking and I felt threatened by those with intellects.  For some reason, I remember having terrible crushes on girls, yet always fearing rejection.  I must say I was almost a functional illiterate and a social nerd.  In those days, vocabulary avoided my conversation, so I avoided conversation as a result.  Quietness was my security.  I had a few friends, yes.  I am thankful for their acceptance.  We all wanted to be accepted, didn’t we?  So all was not lost.

Academically, I was a bit challenged and I do think most teachers has pity on me.  This pity carried over into college.  Yet, there were a few in high school teachers and college professors who saw something in me that I did not see.  Thank God for the few teachers and professors who saw into the future though optimism and hope.  Two special men in my life who took me by the hand and walked with me are Drs. John Warwick Montgomery and Dallas Willard.

I recall a lot of angst and frustration over not being a risk-taker.  I also know that I missed out on so many wonderful opportunities to meet people and get to know so many others as close friends.  Academics were not my forte.  In sports, I would have rather passed the ball than shoot it, and share resources with others rather than horde.  Social networking was not my strength.  Confidence was not a strong-suit of mine.  No poor-me stuff.  Just the facts.

But if I stopped this blog right here, I would dishonor the wonderful people who walked with me into adulthood and helped to shape the person I am today.  In addition to the men mentioned a moment ago, there are so many people who have helped to stitch the fabric of my being.  Who said “You can never go back”?  Some goofy non-risk taker, that’s who!  It has been fun reconnecting with high school and college friends and acquaintances.  It has been like night and day to share as a colleague with former professors–the very folks I admire so deeply to this day. 

Becoming a teacher has taught me more about myself than I could ever have imagined.  I have become a very different person since high school.  I changed again in college, when I got married, and then again after I earned some college degrees.  Responsibility and a broader understanding of life certainly do help to bring people out of their shells of insecurity.

Where once there was shyness.  It has now been replaced by gregariousness.  The lack of vocabulary has yielded to verbosity and vigor.  Where confidence was lacking, security in knowledge and persona  produce smiles held high.  I could go on, but I think the reader gets the point.  I am now at the other end of the spectrum.  When once I was laughed at and ridiculed by some.  I am able to point out my own flaws and identify with the laughter we all share about ourselves.  I can turn most anything negative into a positive. 

Looking back, I can see clearly why I went into teaching.  Many of the reasons surround the fact that I wanted to stand in the gap for kids like me, when I was of high school age.  I wanted to be a bright spot for some teenager trapped in his or her shyness and apprehension with fellow students.  I desperately wanted to educate young people about the value of making good choices and mentor them accordingly.  Even when I fall short of my own personal mores and expectations, those with whom I am genuine lift me up and forgive my humanity.  And off I go again!  I wanted to share my story to motivate others to achieve beyond what others predetermined for them.

In reality, being on the other end of the spectrum is a great place to be.  Just talking about it does not cut it.  God has brought me to a place where being genuine, open, and honest has grown new friendships I had only dreamed about in my teen years.  I am still amazed at how many felt and thought as I did.  What is it about the baby-boom generation that just never gives up?  Learning from the negatives does produces positives.  Experiencing kind personalities, and observing how others relate through optimism and hope are catalysts for myself, and others, to take certain risks we’d otherwise avoid.  Thank God for you all!

I know enough about science to state that one end of the spectrum is cold, while the other is hot.  Thanks to Mr. David Byrne, my chemistry teacher, I saw this in action.  In high school, I tended toward to “cool,” side.  I wasn’t cool at all, come to think of it, but you know what I mean.  All indicators are that today I am at the other end of the spectrum–HOT!  Now don’t get ahead of yourself here.  I don’t mean like THAT!  DO I REALLY HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT?  😉

ROYGBIV . . . Where are you when I need you?

  

I would be remiss not to mention the place God and my family have played in the development of who I am as a person.  The “Light of the world” refracted through my regenerated soul, empowers and enables me to be the person I am.  The love of our Lord through my family and their unconditional forgiveness and acceptance buoy my soul.  One of the best illustrations of this process is found on one of my favorite classic rock album covers . . . Let’s see who reads these goofy blogs I write . . . Anyone recall the band and album title?

In closing, I just want to say that CHANGE is a good thing–as long as it is accompanied and marked by clear indicators of the following:  (1) Positive change FROM something TO something else; (2) Change for the better, and not just for change’s sake; and (3) Change that results in higher virtues than before the change occurred.  No one wants to be worse off because of someone else’s notion of change forced upon us all.  (I will not get political . . . I will not get political . . . )

I’d love your thoughts about your teen years, at your leisure.

Honoring Our Parents

8 Sep

As many of you know, I am working on this brand new class for church–and I am excited about its direction.  It’s no secret that we assimilate and emulate a lot of what we are taught, and we appropriate to our lives the things which our parents also have appropriated.  Yes, it is true that we all must live our lives for ourselves.  However, when things go wrong, there is this popular notion that we should blame our parents for our problems.  Well, I am here to say that rather than cause dishonor to our parents by making ourselves victims, why not see things and practice things differently?

Taking personal responsibility for actions and words brings honor to our parents, for it shows the quality of ownership of one’s humanity.  Being unable to stand back and accept full responsibility without also saying, “Look how imperfect you are too,” is a dishonor to our parents.  Standing back and saying “I was wrong, forgive me,” is an honor to parents. 

There are those of us whose parents messed us up royally, or at least we think so.  OK, but so what.  Show me an average human who is not messed up somehow.  I think we’ve messed up enough because of our own choices as adults, that we can now let parents off the hook.   Show me an average human who does not yet have choices in life to move away from one thing, or another.  Show me a human who is honest, sincere, and willing to come alongside others without pointing out another’s “second-hand humanity,” and I’ll show you someone who honors his or her parents.  We need to focus on ourselves and get off the side-taking and finger-pointing.  Those things are dishonorable and childish.  Our own kids will do to us what we have done to our parents–including the blaming part.  We need to break that cycle.

Whether our parents are still with us, or whether they have departed this earth, our words and actions continue to demonstrate honor, or lack of honor for their roles and memories in our lives.  I pray that one day when I am gone, my own children will carry on the legacy of honorable living for themselves and for the honor with which they presently live. 

I am not a perfect man.  It just seems that way to negative people who cannot, or will not change to change.  In many people live by negative emotion rather than common sense.  They are used to the negativity and are addicted to it. 

Piety is not notoriety.  It is humility.  Efforts to change on our own are often met with futility and it’s easier to tell the world to celebrate its foibles than overcome them.  I am an overcomer, a victor.  Most of you are too.  There can be no greater honor to our parents than evidencing in our daily walks the Godly qualities by which they lived.  The second greatest honor is getting it right for our own kids to appropriate into their lives, and so on.

So, to those of us who are moving forward, getting a few things right each day by the grace of God, we are living in honor to our parents.  Those of us who are not are probably not living an honorable life in the eyes of their own families. 

Break the negative cycle with each and every choice to do so.  It is so freeing.  If a friend is a bad and toxic influence, break the friendship–or be a better friend and a better influence than the negative one.  Make the choice.  It will bring US honor.  It will demonstrate honor to our parents, which should never stop just because they have left this earth.

Thanks for reading!

Life is a part of Death

5 Sep

We all seem to think that when death occurs that life is over.  Let me flip this whole notion on its head.  Do I have your attention yet? 

We all use phrases such as “That’s life,” or “Death is a part of life.”  We even use the phrase “Life’s not fair,” as our bumper-sticker philosophical and theological default. 

These phrases, and others, have small places in our minds and realities, to be sure.  But are they true?  Are they true as long as they “happen” in another person’s life?  Do they become unfair and an invalid statement, losing it’s truth, when something happens in OUR lives? 

I am wondering today, “Where is the truth about death these days?”  Are we avoiding it for the universal reality that us really is?  Or have we just accepted its reality, sort of like the elephant in the room no one wants to address?

Excuse my Political Incorrectness.  It is not vogue to discuss death and dying.  As my mother used to say, “If you talk about it, you might cause it to happen,” and “Stop being so morbid.”  I’d swear she thinks reality hinges on my words and that I somehow have the power to cause mayhem and malady upon the world.  Let’s face it.  People who avoid discussions of death simply do not want to consider the emotional aspects of what we all know will occur to each of us.  Welcome to my blog addressing “This Journey Called Death.”

Our Upbringing.  We all were raised with parents who said things like, “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”  We’ve all teased and told others, “Come here, I’ll kill ya.”  I could go on.  But we don’t seem to have a problem addressing the issue of death when it comes to power play and humor.  The sheer fact is, death is real.  Death is eventual.  Humor and extreme language may help to defray the deeper issue of its reality.  However, none of us make it out of this world alive, in the body as we know it.  Besides, would YOU want this body to make it out into another life?  Talk about torture!

I argue that we are all really good at evaluating the circumstances of others, but get quite blinded when similar circumstances strike close to home.  Un fairness never looks so “unfair,” as when it is delivered unexpectedly to those of us who expected to remain unscathed in this life.  I think one of the reasons for this, quite honestly, is that “living vicariously through others’ experiences is easier than living through our own.”  Because we wouldn’t do to others what life has just done to them, or us, we claim life to be unfair.  I totally understand these emotions.  It feels as if we died while we are still alive!  But where does that leave us? 

That’s Life.  (“Oh, that’s what people say.”  Remember that song?)  What do we mean by this?  Do we elevate life to some deterministic boogey-man, or is the statement a natural admission of our cluelessness about what is going on in our lives?  Moreover, is the phrase an acquiescence to a force that is outside our control?  Do we then relinquish our wills to the “whatever we cannot control” forces of life?  In my mind, the phrase “that’s life” is stated most often toward others, and not ourselves.  It is used as an attempt to ameliorate the impact of life’s stuffus upon others.  We should just say “Relax and accept what took place” in their lives.  The notion that we all face similar experiences sooner or later is a commonality and point of identification for us.  But we’d all like to defer the bad stuff, or hope it avoids us and our loved ones. 

The phrase “That’s life,” is shallow, indeed.  But the truth of the matter is, “Life happens”–another colloquialism used by the masses.  Life happens because life is not under our control. 

Death is a Part of Life.  Nothing is farther from the truth, with respect to life as we know it here on this planet.  Death is the cessation of life, and not incorporated as a part.  If it was a part, as such, it would be occurring in the string of life and be evidenced in one’s daily existence.  Death affects life–ultimately for those of us who experience it, and those who are left behind to grieve. 

Now, instead I like to use the phrase, “dying is a part of life.”  I think this adequately reflects the truth in a decaying world.  This implies that we are aging, getting older and things are literally less alive than they were in months and years past.  Somewhat interesting in all of this is that feelings are not normally affected by this process of decay, but the body certainly is.  Does that not imply that living on as a conscious, aware, and feeling individual is expected–even for those dying?  As the body ages, the “person continues to grow, apart from this process.”  In my mind, this is an evidence of life after death.  It is not the strongest evidence, and certainly not the only evidence.  But advocates of “death is a part of life” ideology–whether knowingly or not–actually provide an argument for “eternal life being a part of earthly dying.” 

Life’s Not Fair.  Define fair.  My experience is that life is fair and that are consequences that occur, along with unintended consequences for most of our actions.  If life is fair because we all get the same size piece of birthday cake, then we must be careful what we wish for.  Life is neither fair nor unfair.  It is not life’s fault that death occurs.  Is it?  Is life not fair because death, disease, and dying are mixed into the equation?  If these were a PART of life, as advocates state, then they ought to be accepted as such. 

If we were all honest, the reason we do NOT accept them is because we know the truth.  Life is of great value.  Death does not diminish life or its value–regardless when death occurs.  Life is a natural right granted by our Creator.  Life at any stage does not have the right to claim “unfair.”  But people do.  Is it fair that a person chooses abortion?  Is it fair that a baby is born with Down-Syndrome?  Who decides “fair?”  If life happens by our choices, and death is a part of life, then “life’s not fair” is to be accepted as well.  But is that the case?

With all the talk of atheism and evolution, there should be no squawking about whatever comes our way.  Yet, when things do happen in this dying world, we blame God.  Sounds a little like the way politicians like to blame predecessors for the current messes.  It is just another way to deflect responsibility for our parts in creating this mess on earth.  We wanted free will.  We got it.  We argues that we can create our own truth, contrary to life.  It is irresponsible to blame God for gracing us with what we deeply cherish. 

Do We Know?  Since none of us knows for certain, by personal experience about the existence of life beyond this physical realm, we really can’t say for sure that life is completely over at death.  In fact, the only reasons we would ever imply that life is over at physical death is (1) we know for certain that nothing exists after death, (2) that life as we know it is the ultimate, (3) life as we know it does not have an eternal aspect, viz. eternal life, etc.

I am not a proponent of universalism.  It is not popular these days to believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell (place of eternal torment).  But may we be reminded that we just didn’t sit around making up these beliefs.  Christians, like myself, are followers.  We place our trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.  So, the beliefs for which we are judged as intolerant come from Him.  Is Jesus intolerant of people choosing to reject Him? 

I find it quite intolerant to judge a follower of Christ as intolerant, for just holding a belief and obeying the command of sharing this belief.  Life does not remove ultimate truth.  But show me a life that removed the ultimate experience of universal death, then I am paying attention. 

Not believing something doesn’t make it less true.  Discarding as intolerant does not remove the fact that Jesus taught something and followers believe it.  Now let me move this provocation along a bit by the following statement.

There is No Such Thing as Universal Afterlife.  We are all NOT on the same path, moving in the same direction.  We all die at different times, so the path is not one.  Is there REALLY anyone who lives as if loving someone deeply as another human is a ticket to ride?  Is there a human love that can override truth?  Are there wrongs that are just wrong to us, but not to God?  Are there “rights” we possess and act upon that are wrong to God?  You know, where all is said and done, death is universal.  Then what?  Do we even care?

Where are we Headed?  Our spiritual GPS is not loaded and focused on the same destination.  One religion has the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Birth, another does not believe in the death of Jesus, but allows for dozens of virgins for eternal pleasure.  Wisdom for the ages is good to live by, but terrible to die by.  The path we take does matter.  Who and What Jesus is does matter.  Do you care?

Again, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I submit my understanding to His exclusive statement.  John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  Either statements like those are lies, deceptions, myth, or sheer ego-mania.  Statements like those are exclusive to Jesus. No other religious leaders, founders of religions, etc., make such claims.  Could it be that this uniqueness is worth listening to, or rejecting?  But if statements like those are true and we reject them, then what?  

Life is a Part of Death.  No one can reject away death by one’s beliefs.  One’s beliefs will be proven true, or not, in the end.  Scientology and Christian Science can “believe away,” or even pay for the privilege of “feeling cleared” of all past baggage.  The stuff is still there and its effects just as certain.  Death happens.  L. Ron Hubbard and Mary Baker Eddy are proof.

As a guy, I am told that I do not stop and ask for directions when I am lost.  But I am atypical then.  I ALWAYS stop and ask for directions.  If I reject the directions and try to find a shortcut, or believe all ways lead to my destination–or that my way is better, then I must accept the consequences.  Today we blame the direction-giver for why we chose to get lost. 

Where is the Hope?  I think we have it quite backwards in society.  We no longer provide hope for people.  We have taken hope and called it tolerance, thereby reducing truth to levels of “truth for you,” and “truth for me”–as long as it is watered down, so as not to cause a stir.  As long as it works for you and me, truth is subjective enough to be elevated to THE truth.  Once that occurs then the argument is made, “all truth is subjective.”  This is pure nonsense, in my thinking.  Just think about applying this principle to a marriage, or to justify a behavior to a boss, or whatever.  Is all truth subjective because YOU say so?  That statement alone seems like an exclusive and objective claim.  How then can ALL truth be subjective by a universal declaration that is objective?  Do you see the way we elevate ideas in our culture?  Here is an example.

“Jesus cannot be the only way to God because there are many ways.”  Pure nonsense!

Faith has its Place.  We place faith and trust all in the here and now, for fear of offending someone else.  Then we get bummed out when life doesn’t pan out like we expected.  In terms of our nation, in reality, minimizing Jesus’s deity equates Him to the rest of religious leaders.  But they have no answers of security for the next life.  Now what? 

Likewise, placing faith in men and elevating all the other religious leaders to the level of Jesus Christ places them in positions which they did not intend as mere humans.  Now what? 

How does either of those attempts help anyone in the long run?  If the words of Christ and His promises are false, all Christians have done is validate that all religions are essentially the same, and that He was truly a mere human.  Christianity then becomes just more religious stuff to do as humans, then we die.  But is that the case?

Non-Exclusivity?  If all religions get us to the same place, then all the “unfair things of life” in the name of religion are honored by some brutally sadistic universal power . . . That doesn’t work.  If it does, then I am heading off to the most selfish of religions and living for myself right now–ATHEISM!

All roads cannot lead to a place that is exclusive.  If they do, there is no exclusivity.  That would be like saying all political beliefs lead to the same political party, or the same political candidate.  Simply makes no logical sense, let along practical sense. 

If practicing a religion is the key, we are all in–assuming a few thing are in line.  

  • How much does one have to practice? 
  • Are we trusting another mere human to keep the tally and tell us? 
  • How much good one must do? 
  • Who or what defines good? 
  • If good is enough, they why would anyone do better? 
  • And what about doing our best? 
  • Is it just pass-fail? 
  • Who defines “bad,” and is there a subtraction factor from the good?

Here is where the ludicrous enters the universalist salvation philosophy.  

  • What if a person does good for a nation, and not the world, does he or she get in? 
  • Who is keeping the tally? 
  • And if a person does one good deed in life, or gives the most money to a cause, is that good enough? 

Universalism does not work, because people were good Nazis for their nation, good terrorists in the name of Allah during Jihad, and good murderers in the name of God throughout history.  Would you like to share an eternal life with these people?  If there is no eternal life, or punishment for anything, what is keeping all of us from destroying each other?  Would others like to share an eternal life with ex-spouses, or abusers?  Based on things done, universalism has no answers. 

Religious practice simply doesn’t cut it.  Religion may be universal in belief, but relationship is not.  If all roads led to the same place, then Christians practicing Buddhism, along with adhering to Jihadist ideology, and Roman Catholicism, etc., etc., along with polygamy are just fine and dandy. 

“Relationship with Whom,” you ask?  With God Himself–not religion.  I did not make this up.  Again, I trust the words of Jesus:  “I came to the world that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  In the final analysis, I am placing my trust in the next world, right here and now in.  But I place it in Someone Who has been there, conquered the very thing we all cannot escape, and Who accepts me as I am. 

Religion enables my conscience to have a one-way relationship with a continuous grasping upwardly set of beliefs and practices.  Jesus Christ secures a relationship downward and validates it by His death and resurrection.  You know, come back from the dead on your own and  You, sir, at least have my attention–if not my soul. 

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

“Eat, drink, and be merry.  For me to live for myself is the ultimate.  There is nothing after this life.  For tomorrow we may die.”

Which one of these gives hope both now and later?  And do you even care?  The choice is yours.  It always is.

Peek-A-Boo

2 Sep

The human soul has been likened to many things and analogized quite beyond reason.  Likewise, its existence has been questioned and its essence explored by means of countless conclusions, notions, beliefs, and behaviors.  Conclusions have been drawn as to whether humans are eternal, spiritual creatures, or not.   Theologians and philosophers the world over have speculated what comprises this “essence” of humans, whether man is bipartite (body and spirit/soul), or tripartite (body, soul, and spirit).  Many still question whether there is one essence in the universe, or separate, unique ones–or whether trees and other parts of creation all join in a cosmic dance.  To this end, there are advocates that maintain animals have souls, adding even further to the conversation. 

Lest the reader think this blog will be an in-depth treatise on the dialectical denominational differences of the soul, or that Calvin, Luther, and various other Reformers are going to weigh-in, you may relax.  That is not the purpose.  Too bad though.  Calvin’s Institutes are resting on the shelf near my desk–so is Luther’s Catechism.  All that aside, to offer a triple alliteration and not follow-up is sermonic teasing at best.  You may smile. 

Regardless your personal view of the soul/spirit, I think we can all agree of a few things.  Let’s see if this is the case.  First, humans are animated creatures and possess emotions, feelings, intuitions, and even humor.  Second, we reason and think (I hope you don’t mind that I placed myself in the category of being human).  Third, we love on levels not even we can put into words.  Fourth, we are good at expressing and we are good at covering up.  The point of this blog is to ask the question “To what extent have we actually taken a look deep inside ourselves? 

Allow me to challenge the reader, as I also challenge myself.  When was the last time we peered deep into who we are as humans?  When did we last dive straight into the painful parts of our past to confront them as adults?  Too painful you say?  Well, we tuck those areas away when we are younger and then bring them out to “feel” them as we did when we were much younger.  The only problem is we are no longer that age.  So, what is it that causes us to keep those areas of our lives hidden–yet filled?  I already stated it might be pain–but a pain unwarranted for the present.  May I suggest another reason?

I think we humans have “holes in our souls.”  I truly believe that rather than confront what has fallen into the vortex of the unknown, we simply place an emotional lid on that area of our souls and rationalize it away and move forward.  Pain does that to us.  So too does emptiness. 

I also believe that in dealing with that “holey-souly” stuff the depths spring to the surface and can then be dealt with.  Would you agree we’ve become accustomed to holding that “soul-plug” firmly in place, avoiding the issues that rise to the surface and be dealt with?  But that is the emotional part of the soul to which I refer.  Counselors deal with folks every day in these areas.  But how about the “spiritual side?” 

I have lived long enough to know myself well enough to understand that I had a “hole in my soul” that only God Himself could fill.  Solomon was right, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Activities, knowledge, work, people, and even ministry could not fill what was needed.  There is no high, no stupor, no pleasure, and no self-motivational pep-talk that would ever last long enough to fill the hole within us.  I truly believe this.  We love to be loved and accepted.  We long to have the “God-sized” hole in our souls filled.  At least, this is my view and my experience.  However, it is either a universal reality, or it is not.  Either there is a hole there or there is not.

I would like to hear what has filled your soul to provide you with the realization of the “way” of life both here and after, the “truth” of life now and later, and what completes your “life” once-and-for-all.  What has been sitting in that “soul-hole” just wanting to see the “Light of the World”?

In closing, I’d like to believe that my soul has been plugged, my spirit exchanged for a new one, and that I am evidencing this just a bit more each day.  Only time will tell whether people judge me as being what I claim, or not.  Suffice to say, it is true that when climbing mountains, it is not how many good steps you take to ascend.  It is the one misstep that causes the fall.  Judge me if you must.  But judge me not by my falls.  Look at the entire “trip”!

Now, where are you in all of this?  I would love to know.  Thanks for the personal mails and comments off-blog.  I enjoy knowing there are people being challenged by my thoughts.  Now, plugging the soul is one thing to consider (even though such language is more intentionally colloquial than biblical), I sure wish I could plug these holes in my head.  The draftiness is annoying.  Duct-tape anyone?

“Whooooshing you all a good evening.”

%d bloggers like this: