Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

“You are not upset that we have different boxes. You are upset because my box does not match yours.” ~Rob Lester

MovingBoxToo often we place God in a box, whether it’s a box of our own making or one belonging to someone else that we’ve co-opted for our own designs. We lift up the flaps, place Him in, and think things will be fine from then on because He’s there. We’ve defined Him by placing Him firmly in our own concept of where He should be, of where we think He fits, and we leave Him in there.

And the craziest part of it all is that we don’t realize we’re doing it. You know what I’ve realized, though, after all this time? I see now that the whole time I was growing up I did just the same thing. I placed God inside that box, and it has a name: organized religion.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) (The Bible)

It is this grace that is the key, not anything else. By placing God inside a box it means we believe we can decide what happens. It means we think our works will mark us for salvation. Organized religion the world around is based on this assumption. If we do good works then God will reward us. And each one is different, yet the same. Christians say that God will reward those who have been faithful. Hindus say we need to be dedicated to ceremonies and rituals for a gift from a God in the afterlife. Muslims believe in a God who gives us what we deserve based on our deeds.

In this way too many organized religions place God in this box. It’s understandable, too, because we like definitions. We as human beings like to be able to visualize and define everything. Instead of taking it all in faith, instead of simply accepting that undeserving grace, we look for validation from others, then we translate that validation into a blessing we believe we will get from whatever our version of God happens to be.

“Did man emerge from non-being through his own devices? Was he his own creator? Did mankind create the heavens and earth? Certainly they do not know God.” (52:35-36) (The Qu’ran)

This idea that mankind can know what’s best for mankind is ridiculed by the Qu’ran. This passage is another way of saying God knows best, that we must trust in God, and yet the beliefs espoused by the religion itself shows a God who does not accept all. It is once again not an idea of grace and an all-encompassing acceptance. The only way to know this God is to follow the teachings of the prophet and of the holy book itself. It is simply another way of placing God in this box.

For some people this is the only way for them to be able to understand God, by placing Him in this box, by placing limitations upon a being who is above even the idea of limiting. Even by just saying Him we place restrictions on a being we cannot ever truly contain. Nor should we be trying to contain Him, trying to bend our will and actions to this idea of a God that organized religion imposes on us. For a time it’s necessary, even instructive, to see God through a childlike lens, through that rudimentary belief system, but as we grow in Him we can see more the individual nature of the relationship that has no limitations. Because He has no limitations.

Then we battle over it, as if one religion is better than any other, as if God esteems one more than he esteems all the rest. We are of the “one faith,” the “one church,” the “essential elementary understanding,” and everything else we do to place labels of differentiation and judgment on everything and on everyone, including ourselves.

“What religion needs today is not more flying with God, or leaping with God, or jumping up and down with God, or going into spasms and convulsions and epileptic fits with God. What religion needs today is more walking with God.” ~Milo H. Gates

This idea of walking with God is one espoused by many organized religions, or at least they pay lip service to it. They agree that we all need to walk with God, but they don’t make it a personal walk. Just saying that our walk with God needs to take place alongside others (who are on their own personal walks) undermines the strength of that statement.

I remember when my youngest was in kindergarten, and one of the comments from the teacher was that Madeline was good at “parallel play,” which means playing alongside other kids without playing with them. She said it like it was the worst thing in the world, but it was peaceful. Madeline was doing what she wanted instead of destroying what the kid next to her was doing. I was good with that. It’s how I feel about the idea of having to be with others, to share the “walk” with others. It’s unnecessary, and it can be detrimental. We are all on our own journeys with God, personal journeys that could be disrupted by thinking ours needs to be just like someone else’s.

People often ask me why I don’t go to church now, especially those who I grew up with in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. They ask me what’s going on with my personal relationship with God because they fear for me. They’re worried that my lack of fellowship with “true believers” will be detrimental to my soul salvation. And to them I say they should focus on themselves, on their own personal relationship with God, that instead of putting Him in a box, they should actually walk with Him, free of those boxes. Allow for His grace, for His mercy, and for His overwhelming acceptance to help you see that it’s not about organized religion.

It’s about you and Him. That’s all it’s ever been about.

Sam

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A silent prayer
Thoughtfully applied
Yet condescending
In its attitude
Tearful in solitude
And full of pity
This sweet salvation
Attuned melancholy
Wistful in its keening
Yet serving purpose
On bended knee
Eyes turned inward
Like spinning plates
This delicate balance
Light across lips
Tender in supplication
To a supplicant god
Who cannot hear.

Sam

Read Full Post »

“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” ~Luke 10:36-37

good-samaritan-childrens-Bible-storyI’ve always loved the parable of the Good Samaritan, where two citizens high up in the society pass right by this poor man who has just been robbed and left for dead by the side of the road. Then a lowly Samaritan stops and takes pity on the downtrodden man, nursing him back to health, and even getting him a place to stay while he recovers. The lesson is plain: every man is your neighbor, no matter where he is from, what he looks like, or how different his idea of god may be from yours.

But how are we at following that simple lesson today? When was the last time you truly did something for someone else without expecting something in return, and it wasn’t a holiday, or their birthday? It’s gotten so that we truly marvel anymore at someone who does do that, so much so that we’ve created a term for it, called “Paying it forward.”

“Paying it forward” means doing something good for another person because someone else did something good for you and expected nothing in return. For example, a friend of mine was a dollar short toward getting her coffee at Starbucks, and the gentleman in line behind her generously paid. The next day she bought a bagel for a complete stranger at Dunkin Donuts because he looked hungry. She “paid it forward,” the generosity that was shown to her.

Somehow, though, I don’t see this as being a Good Samaritan, as doing our part for our fellow man (and woman). It’s just another way of expecting something in return because the term implies that we’re taking part in this give and take, even if the person who gave to us isn’t the same person who eventually takes from us. It’s interesting to me how that happens, how rare true spontaneous gestures really are. Or maybe that’s just the way things are now. Instead of dusty roads with beaten and robbed strangers to take care of, we have smaller ways we help others out every day.

5e86ac08b8439fcc6ad90f2939b36cbdBut then I looked in my Facebook newsfeed and I was reminded of something I had somehow allowed myself to forget. I have an old friend who was truly debating whether or not she should travel to a war-ravaged country to be of any possible assistance. She’s done this before, and I know she’ll do it again, even though it’s a huge risk to her own safety, simply because she feels a pull to help others in need, wherever they are in need. These souls are few and far between, but their glow could light up an arena. These are the real Good Samaritans in this New Age, unconcerned with the past, focused on what can help right now, and on what can help in the future, and DOING IT.

And I envy them because I know I will never do that. I just can’t bring myself to go beyond my comfort zone for people I don’t know, and if it makes me a selfish person then I guess I am, but I can send money, and prayers, and I do. But I always feel that it’s never enough, that it can never BE enough because there is so much that needs to be done, and so many people who need to be helped. But my friend, she is making a difference, and every single instance is important to those people who live there and are affected personally by her and by her mission.

Because while this is a new age some things remain the same. Have mercy on others. Go and do likewise.

Sam

Read Full Post »

52f29d839786d977bccd12da8064f857Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in some nondescript building in Nazareth shortly after the conception of Jesus Christ. Think about it. She was already engaged to a working man, a carpenter named Joseph, who already knew she was a virgin when they were courting, and she had to find a time and place to explain to him that she was pregnant. It was obviously not his kid, and she had to know how ludicrous it would all sound, but there were no options for her. It was like a Band-Aid. She had to rip it off quickly and hope he wasn’t grossed out by the wound.

Mary {walking in the door}: Joe, we need to talk.

Joseph: Let me guess. You want to call off the wedding? I already called the dove guy. He’s got 100 birds ready and waiting.

Mary {shaking her head}: No, no. But you might want to call it off yourself after you hear what I have to tell you.

Joseph: The last time you said something like that it was because you sold your prize goat that was supposed to part of your dowry. But that was cool with me, and I’m sure this will be too.

Mary: Joe, this isn’t even remotely like selling a goat. I wish it was, honestly.

Joseph: Okay, Mare, now you’ve got me worried. Just spit it out and we’ll deal with it. Together.

Mary: Just remember that I’ve never lied to you before. Please keep that in mind because this may be a bit fantastic to hear. Heck, I would think I was crazy if I wasn’t there myself to see what happened.

Joseph: Mare, have you been drinking the mead from behind the temple again? (more…)

Read Full Post »

faith-does-not-eliminate-questions-but-faith-knows-where-to-take-them-589980I guess we all go through our lives thinking that others know what we’ve gone through, assuming that our experiences are tacked up on our faces like so many notices on a board, or at least we don’t really think about where others come from so we assume the same when it comes to them. Regardless, the time comes when we get close enough to another person that we feel the need to explain, when all the questions come, the excitement of getting to know another person’s history.

When I first met the woman who would become my wife I remember the first question was, “What exactly is Seventh-Day Adventism?” and I had a hard time answering it past the obvious “We went to church on the seventh day instead of the first.” Then I really took the time to think about it, something I realized I had never truly done before, and the answers weren’t coming easily. It made me think of that quote I’ve often used on others: “Always question everything because the answers might surprise you.” So I dug deep and I told her Seventh-Day Adventism is the belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ, in the faith that God never changed his holy day, in the confirmation of the miracle of immaculate conception, and in the promise that God will come again to save us from ourselves.

Of course that seemed like a pat answer, like one I had rehearsed more than once, like propaganda from God-fearing folk to explain Him to the unwashed masses, and it felt like mud coming from my mouth. But it was the answer, for better or for worse, because it was what I had heard time and again while going to church, the “party line,” if you would. So when I thought about it, really thought deeply, it was all I could come up with, which was a sad commentary not just on my upbringing in the church, but also on my lack of understanding and depth of something I was supposed to be expert at.

It wasn’t about others from the outside asking questions. It should have always been about me asking questions from within, so I wasn’t merely going through the motions. But I had been going through the motions, toeing the “party line,” and understanding exactly nothing. I realized I needed to do some research, some real research, not just going to the SDA website or simply listening to the pastor preach it from the pulpit. It had to be real to me so that I could make it real to someone else who hadn’t been there with me from the start, who hadn’t gone to Sabbath School, and church every Saturday, and Vespers every Saturday night, and Vacation Bible School every summer. So I went back to the beginning, for me anyway — my mother.

Say what I would about my mother, I could never deny her complete devotion to the church, but I had never asked her any of the questions that I should have growing up, back when I was blindly following the religion by rote and not by faith. When I went to visit her one time while I was back in Philadelphia we had the talk we probably should have had when I was younger, and I asked her pretty much every question I never knew the real answers to, the ones that were most difficult because they were most essential. You have to understand, it physically pained me to admit that I didn’t know, to let anyone else know that what I had in the church had been built on shaky ground, not on a true understanding of my faith.

That’s what it comes down to, she told me by way of an answer to my biggest question, the understanding that even though it’s a religion it’s at its base about the individual, not the collective. Seventh-Day Adventism, according to her, is a connection of individuals who believe in God, who believe that he will come again in glory, but who also believe that their individual connection with that God is paramount above all else. It’s not about the song and dance, and no one else need know where you stand, because God knows, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about being demonstrative, even though many Christians believe that “works” are most important. It’s about the questions and the answers, and not from you to others, but from you to God. Wow, that blew my mind, to think that the whole time I thought it had been about appearances when it should have been the exact opposite.

And I knew I had to start living what I preached, that I had to question everything, whatever I built my foundations on first and foremost though, because building on shaky ground is never a quality proposition, and not understanding where you come from and what makes you YOU is inexcusable.

Sam

Growing Up Seventh-Day Adventist Archive

Read Full Post »

th“Well, I used to stand for something. Now I’m on my hands and knees, turning in my god for this one, and he signs his name with a Capital G.” ~Nine Inch Nails

You know god, the guy in the sky who looks down over us and says stuff like “It’s good.” From the time I was little I was well-acquainted with the big G, or at least I thought I was. My father was a preacher, and my mother was heavily involved in the church too, so I thought I was positioned closer than most to a true knowledge of the true god. I figured if anyone was going to be saved in the long run it was going to be me. I mean, it had to be me, because I had a close personal relationship and everything. I knew to spell his name with a capital G.

But somewhere along the line I realized that my father’s personal relationship, and my mother’s personal relationship, they didn’t equate a single bit to my own personal relationship with God. I had to figure that one out on my own, and that made me exactly equal to every other bloke on the planet who was also clueless about how to go about doing that. Sure, there’s a manual that starts with a capital B, but it’s so old and the language is so dowdy that I had no idea what any of it meant anyway, and the things I thought I understood could have easily been misinterpretations as well.

When do we use capital letters anyway? I mean, in our society they’re superfluous even when they are used. Generally I only see them anymore when someone is trying to write “scholarly,” not even in emails or text messages. Some people don’t even use a capital letter when signing their own names. I’ve seen more and more of that lately, so when we do use capitals it really is for special occasions or for special people. So this capital G that set God apart even before all this technology, even eons ago, it serves to set him apart even more now. When I use that capital G I know I’m talking about the one and only, not just some people’s approximations of who they think he is. Because it’s not about our perceptions. It’s about who he is.

Wow. So it makes sense that getting a personal relationship with God wouldn’t be an easy endeavor. I’ve spent nigh upon 30 years working on that one, and some days I don’t think I’m any closer to comprehending him, much less to having a relationship, some kind of give and take, with him. But I do know that it all starts with humbling myself, because God doesn’t go for all that confidence stuff. Why would he? None of us have done anything that’s worthy of his love, of his answering our prayers. He loves us in spite of ourselves, so going into it thinking that I was a preacher’s kid so God would take notice, that was entirely off point.

Maybe that’s the key. We can’t assume with God. We just need to be still and wait. It’s not about us, and it never was. It’s about him and his gift to us, his sacrifice for us even though we did nothing to deserve it, any of it. That’s how we get a personal relationship with the maker of all things, perhaps. We admit that we can’t do anything, that it’s all him, and we humbly bow and wait. It’s in the stillness, in the acknowledgement that we can do nothing, that’s when we can truly appreciate our God.

Because he is indeed awesome.

Sam

Read Full Post »

11-wharariki-beach-the-space-between-b“But this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I would not lose my follow through between the altar and the door?” ~Casting Crowns

There is a space between spirituality and religion. It is the space that I inhabit.

Ask most people  and they can tell you where they stand on religion. There are 4 options really…

  1. The Highly Religious. These are the folks who go to church every week like clockwork. They are the “names” in the church, the ones who always help out with services, with seeking offering, with outreach. When people think of prominent church members these people always come up in the discussion. They believe so strongly in their own religion that they think people who aren’t in it are going to hell.
  2. The Lukewarm Religious. These people do not believe in going to church in order to commune with God. Sometimes they go for whatever reason, probably for mostly social reasons. They are often mentioned during prayer group and prayer circles because either they used to be highly religious or they’ve been pegged as possibly getting there if they just get more prayer oin their behalf.
  3. The Non-Religious. On Easter these proud few aren’t even in a church, anywhere. In fact, for them Easter is simply about a bunny, if that, and that’s okay with them. Usually the folks who fit here are the ones who have been disillusioned by church and by church folk. They disagree with the teachings of religion so they don’t follow them at all. They may be highly spiritual but it’s their own definition they subscribe to, and it’s their own rules they follow.
  4. The Proudly Atheist. Have you ever noticed that you generally know when there are atheists around? That’s because for the most part they like to advertize, which is just fine. They’re proud of their belief in things other than God. They have no place for traditional religion because it all revolves around God, and that’s not their bent.

Then there’s spirituality, the belief in a higher power, that the soul is more important than the body and needs to be nourished just as the body needs to be nourished. The options for someone who is spiritual are legion. Being spiritual can mean…

  • Aspiring to a deeper understanding of the universe and our place in it
  • Challenging accepted norms about who we are as individuals
  • Focusing on a higher power who can help us grow and change
  • Communing with that higher power as we see fit
  • Nourishing the soul through meditating in some way, shape, or form

Being spiritual is a state of mind while being religious is a state of belief. Religion revolves around a central meeting place for people who share those same beliefs, be it a physical or mental place. Spirituality focuses instead on the individual, and not the group, on redefining as we go along, just us and the higher power, whatever or whoever that happens to be. Keep in mind these are all my opinions. You could be both highly religious and highly spiritual, but I think it would have to be extremely difficult to be both. I think most people do fall in the space between the two.

And I’m comfortable being there. It means I don’t define myself by any church’s rules, but I do commune with God and strive to be better than I am, to understand my soul and my final destination in an ever-changing world that has many more questions than it has answers.

Sam

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

greengatephoto

A great WordPress.com site

Cozy Corner

A Writer's Journey

Whose Wine Is It Anyway?

Exploring life, love, lifting, and (almost) literally everything else, frequently aided by laughter and libations

Dr. K. L. Register

Just a small town girl who writes about Christian stuff.

Sara Furlong

Strategic freelance writer specializing in online content, articles, web copy, & SEO.

Bree Paige

Bree Defined

%d bloggers like this: