Fear and God.  For a long time those two words seemed not to go together for me. After all, in the book of 1 John we are told “God is Love” and despite how we tend to think of hate as love’s opposite, anyone who has ever loved knows that is inaccurate.  Fear is actually love’s closest possible opposite. Therefore, in my mind tying fear to God was like putting together fire and ice.  Sure as an impressionable youth I heard in church that we should fear God’s judgment and read in the Bible and cringed at some of the gangster stuff that the God of the Hebrew Bible pulled.  What was worse to me was how God treated people who didn’t comply with “His” plan for elimination of offenders.  I was like “Woh. I don’t want to get on “His” bad side.  But then, I also heard these other stories about God.  I was told that God was all-loving, desired joy for all of “His” children, and would go to such extremes to show “His” love that “He” would sacrifice “His” own Son.  Then I was like “Woh. Are we talking about the same God?”  Needless to say, I loved the idea of God loving me and going to great lengths to prove it and had disdain for the version of God that was willing to just wipe out everyone and everything because “He” didn’t like the way people used the freedom “He” gave them. In my mind that idea of God was just as petty as little children who want you to stop being friends with someone because they no longer like them and bullies who take out their frustrations on people weaker than them rather than dealing with their own issues.

As I mentioned in the video, I have never done well with threats, so if God really wanted me to know “Him” or “Her” for who they are, threatening to destroy me or perpetually torture me or strike me with lightning was not the way to my heart and I let God know as much. And that is when I think our relationship really began. From there, I really wanted to get to know who my Creator was, why I was created, and what I was here for. And so I searched the Bible for answers, thought about these things incessantly, and tried to follow the program as closely as I could. But unlike how I was instructed, I didn’t do this out of fear of God. I can’t even say that I did it out of love for God. I just wanted to know if God was who people claimed God was and I wanted to know who Jesus was. If I learned to love them in the pursuit of understanding them, then all the better. Now of course, there were times when I was certain that I loved God. Like a lot of “good Christian folk” I thought that my ability to “be good” according to the world’s standards was somehow indicative of my love of God. After all, Jesus had taught that if we loved him, who was representative of God in this world, then we would keep his commandments–which was nothing short of loving God and neighbor as self. So that was what I tried to do. But by living long enough, being honest with myself, and paying attention to my thoughts eventually showed me that even in that, I was the ultimate aim of my “so called goodness”. Remember, my efforts were to know who God and Jesus were and perhaps love them, so in effect I was really just trying to get myself to love them and others so that I could get to know them and then decide if I really loved them. Did you get that? It was about me figuring God out and trying to see if it made sense that this God would do what people said God did. Have you ever heard people say with the utmost confidence, “God wouldn’t do this.” or God wouldn’t do that.”? Well I was on my way to being that guy if I would have continued to try to love God into submission so that God would reveal Godself to me. Is this making any sense? If not then let me give you one more analogy.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

So you know how humans are insecure as all get out? We always need to be reassured that we are loved. We can’t just accept that we are lovable even if no one ever demonstrates it to us. We need proof. And so when we get into relationships there’s usually this pretty silly game we play that I call “Show Me You Love Me and Then I’ll Show You I Love You”. It’s a never ending game that is very similar to stacking playing cards on a shaky card table. The object of your affection gives you these cards and says, “Stack ‘em how I need you to stack ‘em and then I’ll know you love me. And here’s the rules. If the cards fall for any reason I will take it as proof that you don’t love me. The only way that I will believe that you love me after that is if you continue to try to stack the cards under increasingly difficult conditions. For every mistake you make, I will make it that much harder for you to stack the cards. If you get tired, need a break, or even ask for help, I will take it as proof that you don’t love me. I will never believe you love me unless you stack the cards the way I am thinking in my mind or die trying. I will not give you any clues and the only guidance you will receive is my disappointment at your mistakes.”

That’s the junk I think we project onto God and it was the game I started out playing with God. I thought if I could prove to God that I was the master of love then I would get to the secret of God’s heart. But if you have ever been good at convincing someone that you love them for your own ends, then you know that sometimes when that person finally believes you and reveals their true unpretentious selves to you you sometimes find that you actually don’t really like the “real them” that much or you resent them for making you go through so much that by the time they stop playing hide and seek with their heart, you barely give a hoo hoo. Oh boy. We are COM-PLI-CA-TED. Anyway, this is my way of saying that I was putting myself through junk to show how loving I could be . I was making emotional and psychic sacrifices on the altar of goodness and it was exhausting and pretty pointless. When I realized that, I decided to stop myself and ask myself if I could love a God that I could never know. Could I love a God that loved me for no good reason? And the biggest question of all was could I love a God that was capable of such terrorizing madness that he was worthy of eternal, agonizing, and relentless fear? In other words, could I love a God that I could just as easily hate? And worse yet, One who I could not even begin to understand or figure out. Remember, we are insecure creatures. If you’ve ever loved an unpredictable person you know how scary that can be. But at least there is some limit to how much they can hurt you. Now imagine knowingly choosing to love the Ultimate Unpredictable and Infinite Being. Can’t you see how for someone who is insecure that can open the door to limitless opportunities to get hurt. What’s hell if it isn’t the idea of being eternal hurt?

After asking myself those questions, I was surprised that my answer was, “Yes.” Yes I could love a God that I could just as easily hate based on what I had been told about “Him” and that’s when 1 John 4:18-20 clicked for me:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

I am capable of love because of Love created me. The fear that this world fosters is the antithesis of this Love. That which had no power of its own to create me is what threatens to destroy me. But the only way that it could destroy me is if it first convinced me that I was not lovable. It is an effect pretending to be a cause and out of its insecurity, it acts to deny me my birthright and make me work to receive what has been given to me freely. It feeds me lies and makes a liar out of me. “There’s not enough love in the world,” it seethes. “Whatever one receives is a threat to your own receiving. So get yours and screw every one else. And one more thing. You’re all going to die. AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!! Boogity woogity.” And that is the trick that makes us hate each other without cause and believe God cosigns our insanity. But here infused in the scriptures is that line, ” Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

So with that being said, why do I say fearing God is a privilege.  Well as I said in the video, most of us treat God like a person on drugs treats their mother.  If you have ever seen that, it is a crazy thing.  I could say, we treat God like a person on drugs treats everyone who loves them, but usually only a mother loves their addicted child so much that they will find the capacity to believe in that child no matter how many times they think it will take for them to turn around.  Only a mother will give up everything to try and save that child and even sometimes sacrifice their relationship with the other children to go after the one who went astray.  Only a mother will threaten that child with everything in their arsenal even down to kicking that child out, never speaking to them again, and calling the police when they come around while simultaneously being willing to die if they thought it would give their insane child a chance to turn around and go in a positive direction.  Only a mother will look at their ungrateful, thieving, lying, abusing child and use their last breath to pray for that child.  I’ve seen it.  It is possible. So if that is possible for a human, then what is God capable of doing in the name of love?  I don’t know.  But what I am coming to consider is that perhaps the fear of God is a gift God offers us as an alternative to fearing the world–the net effect of which is if we fear the One who loves us the most then we will find that we actually have nothing to fear.

As I mentioned in the video, today I was thinking about the burden of innocence that we all share and how Mary, the mother of Jesus, symbolizes that burden. Sometimes I imagine if some of us hurt folk were able to just pour out our hearts and tell the burdensome story of how we lost our innocence we would as easily be able to reclaim it.  But it seems the general fear is that if we share our story we will then be judged, so we end up either carrying the burden alone or we begin to judge ourselves as unworthy and then surrounding ourselves with people, thoughts, and vibrations etc. that legitimize that adopted point of view.  Of course, most of us who feel unworthy were taught to believe that about ourselves. And most painful of all is that we were often taught it by people we thought should love us like our family members, so called friends, or even ministers and religious people.

In my life I have met so many people who view themselves in a negative light because of their upbringing and surroundings. And yet blaming the environment does little to alleviate the pain–the burden of knowing that deep down, we are all still as innocent and precious as we were when we came into the world and yet we can’t get anyone to see it.  How frustrating?  How lonely?  It’s enough to make you want to scream.  But what good would it do if no one is listening? Who could we turn to be heard?

Now this is the part where I am tempted to explain all of the virtues of faith, but I am aware that many of our ears have grown deaf to that type of language. Still, I want to invite you to consider what it would take to release all that separates you from your true innocent nature.  And then I want you to imagine how difficult it is for most people to believe that they can ever reconnect with that root of who they are.  Can you feel your own innocence?  Can you see it in others? Do you live out of that awareness or are you settling for a life where everything about you has to be justified or judged by what you have done or what has been done to you?  These are just questions that I am posing for you to consider.  As I consider them myself, I see some very interesting connections to how many religious teachings are meant to function in our lives when we approach them from a place of faith rather than trying to understand them.

Man, I feel like crying because of my present inability to articulate faith.  But maybe that is how it is supposed to be.  Maybe we can’t explain our way back to our innocence because the whole contrary notion that we are otherwise is based on false explanations.  It’s fighting fire with fire. Perhaps the only way to experience the true sense of who we are in God is to begin by denying the lies of the judging and justifying world.  I don’t know.  All I know is that by faith I perceive that we are not the orphans we often experience ourselves to be and that at that very moment that we accept that, we will receive that strength that Mary would have needed to endure the burden of her innocence in a world of condemnation and that her son carried all the way to the Cross–that strength that enabled him to say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. And might I add that we don’t know what we do because we know not who we are.

This morning I found myself stuck on The Root.  For those of you who have never heard of it, it is similar to The Huffington Post, but with articles that are more tailored to the interests of a largely African American audience.  Some of the articles that I got mesmerized by were a 4 page article on African American Slave Holders, one on the push to get Dr. Ben Carson to run for POTUS, and an article about people’s reactions to the new version of Annie being cast with the little black girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhane Wallis. As I read the articles, I monitored my thoughts around the subject matter to see what I could learn about myself and how I relate to the world.  You see,  I have chosen to be a person who checks in with myself a lot.  If a thought occurs to me that I feel is questionable, such as, “Why is Ben Carson a Republican?”, I am inclined to examine it to see if I can determine where it came from and whether or not it is a thought I really resonate with or if it was one handed to me.  Like with the Ben Carson thought, I can distinctly remember my father telling me that any black man who is a Republican these days must hate himself or other black people. With that in my head, my mind immediately tried to tie Ben Carson to the black slave holders who I had just read about in the previous article. That led me to consider other so called, “black on black” violence and exploitation.  I say so called, because if people of other races exploit each other no one calls it anything.  I’ve never heard anyone say “white on white” or “brown on brown” crime. Anyway, after a single thought starts making too many divergent connections, I usually stop the train and get off and then ask myself how I got there in my mind.  From there I determine whether I want to keep going with that train of thought or move on to other things.

For a long time, if I came to realize that a person I was talking with was jut parroting what they were told by their family without ever taking a look at whether or not those thoughts actually served them, I would start the process of removing myself from the conversation.  My reasoning for this was that I felt like that tendency among people to just go on automatic pilot mode is what allows a lot of dysfunction to keep moving through the generations.  “My mother or father did it so I do it.” never sat well with me. And besides, I really don’t see the point of that line of thinking. In this way, I am like Socrates, who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The way I see it, if my life is merely a consecutive string of undisciplined reactions to my environment and conditions based on what I was force fed to believe through propaganda, then in essence I was never really here. That being said, I don’t merely limit myself to the Descartes[ian] ideology, “I think therefore I am”. I see thinking as a part of “who I be”, but not the whole.  Other relevant aspects of how I express my being are feeling, intuiting, accepting, and surrendering to just name a few.  But all of these aspects or faculties or facilities of my being fall under the umbrella of Consciousness.  For me, Consciousness is the essence of who I am. Consciousness is the intentional observer/influencer of my being and the channel through which I deliver my activities into the world.  In my opinion, without Consciousness, the world is nothing but vanity.

If I were to draw a picture of how I imagine Consciousness being, I would draw Consciousness as the Light of Creative Intelligence, my mind would be the slides or film I want to project, and the projector itself would be my body.  As I project onto the world i.e. the screen, the Intelligent Light of my Consciousness is also observing what I project and engaging with the receivers at multiple levels.  This creates an expansion in Consciousness which then brings greater illumination to the slides or film which represents the thoughts that occur in Mind.  As the illumination intensifies, there is more clarity to the thought projections. This continues until the projections become an ideal representation of the Conscious Intelligent and Creative Light.  When that happens the slides and/or film are no longer necessary because I will no longer have anything to project onto the world or onto others in order to justify my existence. At that point, I will be functioning as pure Consciousness–an uninterrupted and unfiltered, freely giving and freely receiving creative being. I think this is how it works for all of us. I believe that that is our true nature.  As I said in the post Switched At Birth, I believe that we all came here as pure being, and then, for many of us, the inaccuracies and sometimes flat out lies began, starting with the very names we identify with. But beyond our names are the other associations that become the filters through which we give to and receive from Life.  And for me that is where The Root came in this morning.  As I read the articles, I could feel my filters engaging.

Before reading those articles, I was simply Conscious Being. Besides, my dog and some lady bugs, no one was home. I had done my morning devotions, meditation, and prayer.  I had caught up on this campaign called The One Great Hour of Sharing with my daughter, which has the tagline, “We are One”  and was feeling grateful that I have another day to get closer to the Root of my Being–my Source who I most often refer to as God. I will admit that for some time now, I have “fallen off the wagon” when it comes to remaining sober to what I believe is God’s reality of Life.  That is to say that without constantly checking in with myself, praying a whole lot, reading the Bible and other expansive material, and talking about the Higher activities of life, I feel the temptation to get intoxicated with the smaller story of who I am, the roles that I play in the world.  I know that I am not my roles any more than I am my thoughts. I am not a fictional character. But as many of us know, sometimes it seems easier to play one.

Tomorrow, tomorrow I love you tomorrow, just as long as you’re not yesterday.

All this being said, I am confessing that my particular black filter was kicking in in every one of those articles. Of course there are purely human elements that I would bristle at such as slavery in general, Carson’s seeming disregard for people who do not identify as heterosexual, or people being overly critical of an obviously talented child actor simply based on her race regardless of what that race might be. Still I have more to examine about how my filter influences my work in the realm of Consciousness and how it effects my ability to give and receive freely.  It is really interesting because, while I believe that experience informs a considerable portion of how we engage the world, I do also believe that we are capable of transcending our experience thus enabling us to live in what St. Paul called the “newness of life”.  In the newness of life as I aspire to live it, everything about life is new and fresh and pure moment by moment, even our very selves and our relationships to others and the whole wide world. I’m not going to get into it right now, but what it basically means to me is that once we identify ourselves as children of God and citizens of eternity, then we live in a realm where as he puts it, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” and ” In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”  As a person I understand as having examined his own life, I can see Paul adding a whole lot of other categories that we hold onto into that list–married, single, heterosexual, GLBTQ, rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy, red and yellow, black and white.  I know that I am a citizen of eternity where there is no division among us and for the most part I live out of that space with everyone I encounter, but I’m still working on that tension between that reality and how I encounter events in time that seem to thrive in anti-consciousness and denial.

One of the words that freaks out many of my fellow liberal Christians and people abused by religion or even the people who qualify themselves as “spiritual but not religious” more than anything is “REPENT!!!” Sometimes I imagine myself saying it in a sermon and seeing people’s eyes bug out.  They might say, “Oh crap! Here he goes getting all ‘vengeful God’ on us.” and then either run out or shut down their minds so they don’t have to hear what they think is coming.  I guess the reason for this is because so many zealots of the past abused the word ‘repent’ and other words like ‘sin’ in their efforts to do mind control on people that the real flavor of those words has been lost.  There are such negative connotations to those words that open minded people or people who want to appear open minded avoid them or their meanings all together and thus consequently forgo the benefit of knowing how to apply those words to their situation for their betterment, development, and expansion of their consciousness.  I bet even some of you who have read my blogs before and know how I am are probably bracing yourselves.  So let me drop a little glossary for you so you can know how I am using those words and one other very important word–CONFESS.

Repent: the basic definition for this word is “to turn around or turn away from”. Simply put, when you repent, you are going away from one thing and toward another.  As it pertains to the injunctions in the Bible it is a prescription from turning away from evil to good, harm toward health, etc. The best representation that I can think of for this principle is the story of The Prodigal Son. That story ends with the grateful father explaining to the eldest brother that we was celebrating because his youngest son who had squandered his inheritance on partying and playing the big shot had somehow made his way home–he was once lost but was now found. The young repented. A lot of us think repenting has to do with guilt, but it really has to do with responsibility. Like I talked about in the video, the son accepted where he was–eating with pigs in a pigsty–and decided to turn away from that and toward his father’s house, even if it meant coming back as a slave rather than as a son. Of course the loving father received him as the son that he was. But consider this, the father never went after the son. He gave him what he asked for and allowed him to make his own decisions. How often do we make decisions that prove to not be in our best interest only to continue in that direction because we refuse to admit that we are lost–that we’ve gone too far in the wrong direction and that best thing for us to do is turn away from where we are headed and back toward our health?

Sin: All it means is to miss the mark. It is an archery term. If we miss the mark and don’t admit it, we will never be able to correct ourselves. If you are trying to get better at darts but you are way off, can you get better by just walking up to the bulls eye and placing the darts in there and then calling all of your friends to show them how good you are? Heck no! That doesn’t work. You can fool them, but you’ll know that you are full of it. That’s just how it is. It’s better to try and fail than is it to fail to try. So you missed the mark. So what. It doesn’t make you less of a person. I know that’s how we’ve been taught. That’s why so many of work so hard at perception management. It makes perfect sense to want to be seen as you are. But if you are trying to convince people that you are someone that not even you believe you can be or are then the pressure will tear you up eventually. We are all in a perpetual state of progress. Of course we’re going to miss the mark sometimes. Does this mean you have to go around screaming, “I’m a stinking sinner and don’t deserve God’s love?” I don’t think so. All I’m saying is own your mistakes so you can learn from them. I fail daily and am nowhere near where I could probably be if I concentrated more. But I’m putting myself out here so that I can keep course correcting until I get there.

Confession: The essence of confession is “acknowledgement”. Even though it carries a negative connotation with most people, it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence per se. It is basically the opposite of being in denial. But, because so many of us live in denial we experience confession negatively. It is acknowledging our denial. It is denying the presumed power of our denial in an effort to start the process of healing. And used positively, it is acknowledging that we are who we are and that we are where we are–whoever and wherever that may be–so that we can become who we want to become and go where we want to go. When we confess, we don’t necessarily have to confess to anyone else–although having someone we can trust is invaluable. What’s important is that we can confess to ourselves. My blogs are my confessions. Few people know that I struggle to put most of these out here, because I retain memories of being maligned for my unconventional views on scripture by some people I cared about at a time when I was too stressed to handle it. Although I don’t feel any guilt about my views, I often catch myself wondering what one of them might think about what I write. It’s an irrational concern and I acknowledge that. Hence me writing it anyway. However, if I denied my feelings around this, I might either be totally paralyzed when it comes to writing or out to get the people who I let get to me–people who are very likely not thinking of me anyway. This is knowing where I am.

Once we own where we are, the next step is asking where we want to be. Sometimes that is a really scary question. Perhaps that’s why we so often deny where we are–to avoid that next question. If we admit that we are not where we want to be then we must also accept that we are not doing the work to get where we want to be. Maybe we fear that if we try we may never even get there, so what is the point? Perhaps we don’t know anyone in our social and familial circles that have ever gotten there, so we don’t have examples. Perhaps we know where we want to go, but we fear that the people we want to go with us might not want to go. Whatever it is. When we admit that we are not where we want to be we are making ourselves vulnerable and we get tempted to make excuses and justifications. That creates shame or guilt for many of us and then 9 times out of 10 we fall back into denial and hopelessness and then we are basically lost again. If we let that embarrass us then we will likely resign ourselves to living in the land of the lost. We won’t call a friend, because we get too ashamed to admit that we are lost again.

People don’t be lost if you don’t have to be. Admit where you are. Don’t fear the vulnerability. There are those out here who will at least share with you how to get back on track. I write these posts because when I was lost I called out in the darkness screaming for help and no one came for a very long time. You see I was the prodigal son and the other brother too. I got myself lost on purpose because I, like the older brother, felt angry that the ones who seemed to do the worse things seemed to keep getting away with it. I also let myself get hurt because there were people who I loved in my life who I began to blame for being so fearful that they could not see me for fear that I would hurt them like someone before me once had. And then there was one person who I thought I could “save” if I could just get them to see that I loved them. When I realized there was nothing I could do I started to feel like it wasn’t fair so I decided to run away too, metaphorically speaking.

When I took off, I ran so far that I not only got myself lost, my vehicle ran out of gas, I was miles from civilization, and I didn’t have a cell phone. I had to walk back the way I came at night in the cold wearing dark clothes and a ski mask which decreased the chances of anyone seeing me or even being willing to stop if they did. The entire journey back I screamed for help I didn’t care who heard me because I knew where I was and it was not where I wanted to be. Let me tell you that once I “found myself lost”, my lost Self was found and I was humbled by how trusting and trustworthy life really can be when we surrender. It was when I learned this that the dawn broke, it started to warm up, and I started seeing signs that I was back on the road home. Soon Day Travelers started to appear and many of them let me hitch rides with them until I got to within walking distance of Home. That’s when I told myself that when I got settled back in, I woul go back down that dark road with enough resources for a return trip and leave signs and mile markers for anyone who may intentionally or unintentionally find themselves on that road. That’s what these blocks and upcoming materials and workshops are. I truly hope that they are of service to you and that if you come across someone else who can benefit from them you can share them. I do not propose that they will get you to the road you want to be ultimately want to be on. My best hope is that what I contribute will assist you in getting back to the The Rest Stop–the place where all roads converge and where you can choose the route you want to take Home.

In Love,

Pedro

For most of us, our name was the first lie we were ever told.  Many of our parents or guardians, good intentioned as they might have been, looked at us with their heads full of ideas of who we were and who we were to become and said, “Let’s name him or her _____.” And from that moment on that’s how we were identified. At first, we could not distinguish the sounds that we would come to know as our name from any other sounds.  But over time, as those particular sounds became associated with the meeting of our needs or helping to ensure our survival, we came to accept those sounds as part of us.  And in fact for many us, we have actually become our names.  After all, when asked who we are, more often than not those very sounds assigned to us at birth are what we utter.

Some of us are what some would consider lucky in the name department.  Even if there is no relation at all, if your last name is something like Rockefeller, Wozniak, or Pitt-Jolie just the association alone could open doors for you even if it is just a conversation starter.  On the other hand, if your parents were the type of people who saw no problem with naming you something like Adolf Hitler, Freddy Kreuger, or Beelzebub, it wouldn’t matter how nice you are, people familiar with the the infamy of those names would take a step back when talking to you.  Then in between these extremes of names you have all of the familial, social, and cultural associations that come with our monikers that we regular folk have to deal with.  For example, let’s say that you were named after someone in your family that someone didn’t like.  Well, it is not too difficult to imagine that the person who held disdain for the one after whom you were named may find it challenging not to look for similarities among you and their rival.  And there you have it, an innocent child born into a lie from day one.  Just doesn’t seem fair does it?  And we’re just talking about associations with names.  After our names have sunk in then there are all sorts of association with which we must continue to contend if we are to hold onto just a glimpse of the person we truly were when we entered the world.

When I was a child, I had a difficult time accepting my name.  Even after I was able to talk and even read, I still couldn’t understand why people kept calling me “Pedro”.  Seriously.  Well, into my school age years, whenever people would call me this name, in the back of my mind I would frustratingly think, “WHY DO THEY KEEP CALLING ME THAT?!”  It was as if I was aware that this was not really my name, but rather something people were calling me just to get my attention.  My experience was that when no one called out to me I was fully being who I am. But as soon as they called out, “Pedro” like some magic spell where a person is changed from a human into something like a toad, I was reduced to whatever the callers thoughts were about this “Pedro”.  I don’t know if this makes any sense to you readers.  Perhaps a better illustration would be something like how Kunta Kinte from the book Roots by Alex Haley, grew up knowing himself by his true name, but then had “Toby” thrust upon him by a system that had no interest in who he was, only in who they wanted him to be.

In the book of Jeremiah, God tells the young prophet to be, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” What if that is true for all of us?  What if the person God knows us to be–the person we were when we came into this world–is the person we were always intended to be.  What if “underneath” all of these layers of association that person still remains, untouched and undefiled by the world that knows not who we are? And what if accessing that true being that you are is just a thought away?  These are questions I asked myself when I first heard this scripture.  I decided then and there that I wanted to know myself as the person God knows even before a body was associated with my being.  My strongest desire is to know myself as I am.  And the closest route I can think of to know this is to go back to the Source.

Friends, We are all children of God. Despite how we might perceive ourselves right now or the conditions that may be appearing in our consciousness we are not less than the person we were when we came here. We cannot uncreate ourselves.  We can only choose to deny the gift that God  the Giver gives.  Fortunately, it is never too late to be born into God’s wealthy family. If you don’t know yourself to be a child of the Creator of All then perhaps you might consider that you were switched at birth. I know that it may difficult to accept.  The greatest temptation to accepting this gift is the temptation to blame those who came before us–those who may have involuntarily led us to forget who we are because they forgot who they are. (Like the slave who beat Kunta Kinte.)  But this is folly, because to blame anyone is to deny ourselves the power to reclaim our true lives and our inheritance.  This is the light of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, loving our enemies, and giving to those who cannot repay us. In order to see our innocence, we must accept the innocence of our brothers and sisters, which in some small way sets a portion of them free from the lie of who they aren’t and sets ourselves free to the same degree.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  Imagine that in this one statement you are graced with the gift to set us all free.

 

This weekend my wife and I will be facilitating another session of Coming Out of the Dark in Quincy, MA.  Shortly after the last time I did it and posted the above blog in an online group, I was labeled by a reader as a Prophet of the Wishy Washy Gospel.  His comments gave me a lot to think about.  Was he right?  Am I wishy washy?  Is my refusal to condemn what I do not fully understand and my openness to have my heart opened–broken if need be–to know more of God’s loving grace make me wishy washy?  This was something I needed to reflect on and repent upon if necessary.  And so I confronted it and made peace with my journey.  Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a former classmate to see if I could stand in for a cancellation at his church on World Communion Day.  I prayed about it and said, “yes”.  The above sermon is what emerged.  I hope that your encounter with it stirs you to new thoughts even if those thoughts put you in disagreement with what I expressed, because at the end of the Day, believe that God is so loving that, even if we are never sitting beside each other, there is still room for each of us at the table of grace.

As a youth, I remember people saying in church that God was a jealous God while at the same time saying that God was the only God.  That was confusing to me, because I did not know who God could possibly be jealous of.  To tell the truth, it made God sound like a schizophrenic.  No offense to schizophrenic friends.  I’m just saying that how can someone who is unique ever be jealous–let alone an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present someone.  Trying to reconcile that was a painful mental exercise.  I did get some comfort out of the idea that maybe the way they used the word jealous in ye olde Bible writing times was different then how we used it now.  I saw on an online Bible site that positive jealousy means – a passionate commitment to something which rightly belongs to one. So for God to be jealous makes sense because we belong to God.  But it still didn’t cover the who God was jealous of.  Over time I came to a point where the thought of a jealous God was incompatible with my faith and my experience of and relationship with God, so I just don’t say things like that. However, as I paid attention to my relationships, I began to notice how important jealousy is to many people.  I see people using it all of the time in subtle ways and so now I have come to see the idea of a jealous God as more of how some people need to interpret their experience of God.  I’m not saying it is right or wrong.  I just perceive that saying God is jealous tells us more about ourselves and how we are with each other than it does about the nature of God.  But hey that could just be my bias talking.

You see, I’ve never been good with jealousy. Whenever I was in a relationship with someone and I could tell they were trying to make me jealous, my response was generally, “BYE”.  My thoughts were, “If I have a reason to be jealous, I don’t have a reason to be around you.” That was often translated into, “You don’t love me” or some other misinterpretation of my sentiments, to which I would again undoubtedly respond inappropriately leaving the other person feeling abandoned. At the time the way I felt about it was that it was their problem if they needed multiple people vying for their attention in order to feel loved and that I was not put on earth to make people feel secure.  But over time I came to look at people trying to make me or others feels “jealous” as a form of communication.  Instead of just kicking people like that to the curb (do people still say that?), I started asking myself, “What are they trying to communicate with this behavior?” Whether it was projection or not, I cannot tell you, but I came up with several translations that helped me be more patient with people who communicate to me this way.  Here are my top 5.

Possible Translations For Why Someone Would Try to Make You Jealous

  1. I want you to pay attention to me. In this case, the person really only wants your attention even though they may seemingly be fishing for attention elsewhere.  They just want to know that they are important to you, but are not able to be vulnerable enough to come out and say it.  In their minds it seems easier to have you chase them or fight for them than it would for them to come out and say what they want and take the risk of you openly denying them. This usually happens when you have been spending a lot of time paying attention to other things.
  2. I’m not lovable. Somewhere somehow this person was taught that they were not worthy of love.  Even if you give them all of the attention in the world they will probably continue to feel this way until they come to see themselves as lovable.  In fact in these cases, the more you show them attention and love, the worse they often get due to something labeled cognitive dissonance. CD is the discomfort a person feel when they try to hold onto two contradictory beliefs at the same time.  They believe they are unlovable, but they know you love them.  In an effort to make one of them true, they may take the path of least resistance and seemingly more comfort and either make you work to prove your love by trying to make you jealous or push you away so that when you finally give up they can maintain their belief that they are unlovable.
  3. I know you can do better. Sometimes you may find yourself in a relationship where the person knows that with a little work you could be so much better.  Unfortunately, you may not see your own potential and so they figure the best way to show you is through something called negative motivation (google it).  Basically NM is a way of pushing you toward something better for you by threatening you with something you don’t want.  As it pertains to jealousy, it could manifest as your boss telling you about a coworker who performs better than you, but who has less talent.  Or in a romantic relationship, your partner could subtly suggest that if you were more like so and so then… or a parent might say, “Why can’t you be more like…?”  In these people’s minds they actually think they are doing a good thing even though to the recipient, it can often have the opposite effect of what the initiator is going for.  Just know that in their minds they are usually trying to do a good.
  4. I have other options. Sometimes the person is safety motivated and they just need to know that they have other options open to them.  Sad but true.  If you are a little jealous then you will keep working hard to make them happy and if you end up being a dud, well at least they have other options.  In this situation, the clock is always ticking whether it is with a job or a significant other.  They are always calculating and hedging their bets to prevent loss.  They are never “all in” and if you don’t prove yourself to be a sure thing within a certain window, they will cash in their chips.  If you can accept this and are a person that likes the feeling of “winning” then this might work for you for a while.  Just know that if you have too many bad days, they are out of there or you are going to be fired.
  5. I don’t like you anymore, but I am too scared to tell you so I just want you to get mad and break up with me or quit. This is the cowards way out and you just need to accept it or suffer.  They will never tell you how they feel really, because they would mean that they have to take too much responsibility for their emotional lives and chances are they were hurt or something so long ago and it goes so deep that their default is to avoid confrontation.  All you can do these situations is to resolve yourself to suffering until circumstances end it. i.e. the company downsizes, your partner just disappears one day, your parent passes away.  These relationships will always end painfully.  The only way to lesson the pain is for you to take responsibility for both sides.  If you have that kind of juice then go for it.  But if you are waiting for them to own up–fuggeddaboutit.  The best you can hope for is that they will send someone else to tell you.

Well that’s it for my top 5 translations.  I have a lot more but I charge for those, because they get increasingly complicated and make my body hurt just thinking about them. While these translations are most easily applied to romantic relationships, I think that with a little creativity you can see how they can run the gamut of human relations from family to work.  If there’s one thing I have discovered about people it’s that many of us have a limited amount of tools in our emotional toolbox (no offense) and little interest in picking up new ones.  It seems to me that we typically use whatever emotional access we developed as children and use it even in situations where it doesn’t apply. I am calling this out, because I think we have the ability to move beyond jealousy and into responsible communicating, but in order to get there more of us are going to have to be willing to take the pain.

This French dude probably knows what he is talking about.

Ok people.  I am aware that this message may confuse some of you so I am going to piggy back off of Jesus because whenever people want to sound authoritative they validate it by saying “Someone smarter than me said the same thing a long time ago.”  So in the tradition of other people who try to push their agendas using religious references, I am going to suggest that when Jesus said “shake the dust off your feet” it was another way of saying “Some bridges need to be burned”. What better way to validate myself than to put my words in the mouth of Jesus, right?

Sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

But don’t agree with me because I’m trying to say that this is what Jesus meant.  In fact you don’t have to agree with me at all.  Just search your heart when you listen to this video and ask yourself if there are some bridges in your life that would be better burned than standing.  Some people will have a hard time with this and project their inability to reconcile this feeling onto me or secretly agree with me by laughing at the video while simultaneously continuing crossing those bridges into needless pain and suffering.  All I am suggesting to you is that you don’t have to.  If that suggestion is new to you, I understand.  Most people don’t say things like this and a lot of Christians and spiritual people are notorious for taking on more than we can handle.  And of course there is virtue to bearing one another’s burdens.  But at the end of the day some people have made choices that no amount of your suffering can undo or rectify.  That’s all I am saying.  And I am saying it in love.  I hope you get something out of it.

“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!Matthew 10:11-15

PS

If you are a person who feels like someone should burn the bridge that leads to you, I just want you to know that you have the power to take responsibility and cross that bridge over to the other person or people and then burn the bridge that leads to your self condemnation.  There is often more love on the other side than we think.

Whenever I go to the grocery store or the mall I think about what Jesus said in Matt 6:25, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Seeing people with their shopping bags and basket loads of food, I wonder to myself what they would think about that statement.  The fact is Jesus probably would have lost most of us at “Do not worry.” According to a bunch of statistics that you can google if you want to, Americans are generally stressed out people, which makes us susceptible to disease, which puts more stress on ourselves and our families and so on and so on.  So the question is, what are we stressed out about.  Well according to my philosophizing, we are stressed out about food and clothes–the very things Jesus suggested we not worry about.  And sadly when we are stressed, many of us want to go eat and shop.  So for me that begs the question posed in the title above, “Is Life More Than Food and Clothes?”

At this stage in my life, I think it may be safe to call myself a Jesus Freak because that’s who I look to for most of my guidance on what is really worth my attention in the world. Now I am not a Jesus Freak the way some people use the term.  I don’t know how to explain how I am yet.  I just know that if you sat down and had a conversation with me and really listened to what I was saying you would find that I’m pretty reasonable and that I actually think the “so called world” is in a lot less trouble than we think it is. This is primarily because I see God as being a lot closer than we tend to want to see. Now this doesn’t mean that I am blind to all of the obvious issues that we all know about.  By most calculations we are pretty jacked up creatures as a whole and it looks like we are going to destroy ourselves for sure (cynicism to make a point). But the good news is we are just as jacked up now as we were thousands of years ago.  And for some reason that gives me hope.  You see, despite the fact that we are pretty freaking selfish and insane and project our problems onto other people and kill the people that say love one another and then honor them years later and give them statues like it does something, people like Jesus who see what is really going on still keep showing up.  People still dare to speak up and say “something isn’t right here” even when they see large masses of people walking around like zombies and robots not even trying to know what’s going on.   So I’m a Jesus Freak, because in my opinion he is the king of knowing what’s going on.

When you look at a simple statement like, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” you might not think it is that profound. But, when you really think about how much of our time and resources go into food and clothes you will find that we really do worry and stress about this more than almost anything.  If you honestly think about what we go through for clothes, it does not take a rocket surgeon to see that we are nuts.  I remember some kids tried to jump me and rob me for a pair of black suede Champion sneakers outside a D.C. mall one time.  In that moment I was wishing I had my ProWing Eagles from Payless or my fake Adidas called “Jox” from a store called ThomMcAnn. What made it worth it to those kids to try and rob a stranger over shoes?  First off, it is because we try to look good and impress people with what we wear.  Like the Emperor in the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, we get tricked by the latest fads because we think that the clothes say something about our value.  They don’t actually, but we judge people by what they wear so it is safe to imagine that they are doing the same thing to us. If we don’t have the “right” clothes we don’t even want to go to some places because we are ashamed.  It is a straight up prison and most of us are criminals.  And don’t even get me started on food.  Oh my God.

If you’re on a fixed budget like me I imagine you might get sticker shock from some food.  It is ridiculous and actually unnecessary. The food prices don’t have to be what they are at all.  Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but there is a conspiracy with the whole market.  The prices for almost everything is manipulated and people go for it, because we have to eat.  But if we could see how much food is wasted, it is easy to see that the money saved on waste alone could  cause the prices to go down.  And that doesn’t say anything about the different tactics used to control the market. For years I had a hard time going into these massive stores with all of this food like it is in endless supply with prepared foods sections that are still full at the end of the night, because I know how we do things like kill cows to control the dairy and beef markets and other shady stuff and toss food in dumpsters to keep homeless people from getting it.  I worked at two places when I was younger where I was asked to destroy food and shoes to keep it from getting to poor people.  And shamefully I did it. So I am not just saying this stuff to be sensational. But that’s beside the point.

The point is that it seems like life really is food and clothes for most of us and apparently Jesus thinks there is a lot we could do to make the world better if we didn’t worry about those things so much.  Now am I saying that we should all change our diets or start protests against fashion or whatever.  Nope.  I’m just asking you to be more conscious about what you worry over.  One stressed person can contribute to global catastrophe and one person at peace can still the waters and calm the wind.  So I’m just saying that if you catch yourself worrying about either food or clothes try examining yourself.  I think that alone could contribute to a less stressful lifestyle for the whole planet. Of course, if you find yourself in a situation or know someone who is literally without food and clothes then you might experience this request differently.  But the fact is that most of us in this country are not in that situation.  We are stressing over fashion in both of those areas and allowing that man made stress to run our lives and allow us to participate in some evil that we can avoid.  Not just evil outside of us, but the evil we do to ourselves when we let our stomachs and our need to be accepted by made up industries make us forget about what life really is all about.


My thoughts are strong on this point. Listen with caution. Excuse the blurriness.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen several people reposting an article from the blog, Diversity Chronicle, entitled POPE FRANCIS CONDEMNS RACISM AND DECLARES THAT “ALL RELIGIONS ARE TRUE” AT HISTORIC THIRD VATICAN COUNCIL.  My first thoughts when I saw this article were “when was there a third Vatican Council?”, “this can’t be real” and “if this is real, the Pope better get some extra thick bullet proof glass on the Popemobile because somebody from one of those religions is about to go off.”  At first I was going to ignore the posts, because I wanted to make sure it was real before I commented, but when I read other people’s strong comments on either side of the spectrum I chimed in with:

Has anyone heard the story about the six blind people touching different parts of an elephant and describing what they felt? Each person thought they grasped the whole and with confidence proclaimed as such and argued their points to the others. This is the way of relative “truth”. Everyone is “right” according to their own method of reasoning. We call it a matter of perspective. But what about the perspective of the All Seeing One looking at six blind people groping an elephant without knowing it. Is the Truth relative to this One? Or is it Absolute? If this One tells the six that they are touching an elephant they will very likely protest if they build their identity on being “right”. They may even kill this One if they built their lives on what they believed they knew. The best thing then for this One to do is to teach the blind to work together so they can get closer to the full knowledge of what they are groping at. Even then, they will never “see” the whole picture. But they will see a lot more than they would by arguing with each other over partial knowledge.

Later I checked snopes.com and found out the article was definitely a fake and reported back to the group that it wasn’t real. But no sooner had I gone back to post my findings then more friends were spreading the article.  Some people were filled with joy at the thought their  beliefs were supported by the Pope.  Some said things like, “It makes me want to go back to my Catholic roots” and “this truly is a man of God”.  Others were not so happy.  They said things like, “The Pope needs to be excommunicated” and “next thing you know he will say we don’t need the Bible”.  Some stuff was uglier.  I think the hardest part for some people was the part in the article where the Pope supposedly said there is no literal hell.  That really pissed people off and their anger came out.  And all I could do was shake my head.

Even after I posted the snopes.com article saying that the Pope never said this, some people were so caught up in their joy or fury that many of them didn’t even notice.  What is about people that we want to be right so such that we can’t admit that there are things we just don’t know?  So what if the Pope really said all religions are true?  If you already believe it, the Pope saying it doesn’t make it more true for you and if he says otherwise does he make it less true for you?  And for those who are so sure that their religion is the one and only true religion, if you know you are so right, why do you need to refute the Pope so adamantly and condemn him even if he did say it?  And now that you found out the article is false, will you go back and recant your previous statements?  Will you say “Oops, my bad Pope, you are not really a pawn of Satan.  I thought that article was true when I said that.”?

I have to admit that it is so frustrating trying to communicate to people who have an agenda of being right rather than having an agenda of learning something.  The fact is that it is impossible to know with certainty whether or not all religions are true, because ultimately religions are practices of faith not of certainty.  We believe them even though they cannot be proven objectively.  The only way a person could really know the full breadth of what all religions offer in order to truly compare them without bias would be to be born in every single religion independently in the culture out of which those religions emerged, dedicate themselves to those different religions over multiple lifetimes and every time they died they would have to record their findings.  Then when they successfully lived lives in every religion they could compare them all by using the data to determine which religion yielded the result they were looking for.  If every religion led them to heaven only then could they make the comment that so many people love to say, “All religions are different roads to the same destination (which I suspect is a way of saying, “all religions agree with my religion or non religion”).”

The fact is that no one can prove in any verifiable way that all religions “go to the same place” or anywhere for that matter. IT IS A MATTER OF PERSONAL FAITH. Only this made up time traveling religious reincarnate would be able to say that for certain if that was his or her experience.  But if that wasn’t the case then the person might say something like, “Three religions sent me to hell, four sent me to heaven, one sent me to limbo, there is no purgatory, and after living out this other one I came back as a daffodil.” Or maybe they will find that each life just ran right into another and at the end of them all God was laughing and saying, “You’ve been Punk’d!” Or maybe they will go on and on never find the answer because after trying to live through every different denomination and sect, offshoot, and new religion that pops up they would get tired and just pick one and take their chances.

I know some people may think I am making light of religion with my comments above but I don’t know any other way to express how ridiculous we sound sometimes trying to prove the “rightness” of our beliefs over the beliefs of others.  I imagine that there are also some people who might think that the fact that I have chosen to call myself a Christian automatically means that I think I have the best religion or the “right” religion and all of the others are good or bad as they compare to my religion. But I don’t. Christianity is the religion I chose because it offers me the best tools to become the person I hope to be in the world and because as far as I know, I am not a time traveling religious reincarnate, I felt like I only have the time and energy to try and understand one religion in a lifetime and since I already had a background in this one I decided to go with it as far as I can before I die and find out what I can’t see from here. I will willingly tell people why I chose Christianity and if they tell me they are dealing with certain things I will share my understanding of Christianity, and try to explain what I get out of a relationship with Christ.  But I am not going to condemn their path, because only God knows where God is leading us.

I’ve had arguments in the past with other Christians who believe that condemning other people is a part of our religious practice.  But the fact is I do not have the information required to judge other people’s faiths.  Back in the day when I used to hand out tracts with cartoons telling everyone they were going to hell  for not believing what my grandmother told me to believe, I thought I was doing the right thing.  But the more I read the Bible the more I realized how little I knew about my own religion.  As I read and studied, I decided that I didn’t want to waste my time condemning others for not believing a faith I couldn’t fully grasp myself. I thought it made more sense to try to learn it better myself and then I’d be better equipped to really share it (getting the beam out of my eye).  Once I started doing that the more I noticed how uncomfortable many people were with the very beliefs they were trying to push on others.  Why would we be doing that?  I also realized how much time in church was spent celebrating that we weren’t another religion instead of getting better at practicing our own.  I thought it funny that we could feel comfortable handing out tracts to people about our faith, but if they tried to do the same thing to us we’d run off or see them as somehow violating us.  Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

As I said in the video, we really have no way to substantiate our claims of rightness.  All we can do is live into our religions the best we can and hope for the best.  Some of will be blessed with experiences that prove our faith to us, but other people can make the same claims.  As far as I can tell, the only thing we can prove is that most of the major religions have a version of the golden rule.  I wonder what the world would be like if we concentrated on practicing that rather than trying to prove we are right.


Pedro S. Silva II
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