Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:2-4

Sometimes when I sit down to write these posts, I can feel my mind trying to imagine the people who may view it.  But then I remember that in reality I do not know who is going to read this.  Of course there are a few people who visit it with some regularity, but really who am I to try and determine how they will receive what I write?  Even if someone called me and told me, “As soon as you post your next blog I’m going to read it,” the influence that that awareness would have on how I composed the post would still be some crap I was making up.  Even if I knew the person better than I knew anyone else in the world and lived with them every day of their lives, my thoughts about them would be nothing more than a highly educated and informed guess.  It’s all a guess what’s going on in the mind of people.  The fact is that there is no one around me as I am writing. Even you who are reading it now was not here when I wrote it, so if I tell myself I am writing for you or to you, I am lying to myself.  There is no audience influencing me that is independent of my imagination.  There is no objective audience.  Ever.

As I follow that line of thinking, I surmise that this could go for every engagement accept for those between babies and whatever or whoever they’re engaged with.  For them, they are only doing what they’re doing.  They’re not thinking about what other people think about what they’re doing–until we program them to do so–so there’s no need to project a made up audience onto the world to protect themselves from getting hurt or from or for getting approval.  I’m tempted to wonder if I make any sense with these statements.  But make sense to who? I am increasingly convinced that whatever I write and what someone else reads are two independent things. Much like with what I say. No one reads my blog ans no one is listening.  If they stumble upon what is on this page or get something out of what I said, they are simply seeing what they have prepared their minds to see.  They see their expectations reflected back to them in a form that, depending on different factors, can appear as either a very close approximation of what I put out there or something so foreign from what I created that it could have just as well been communicated in Martian.  This is a fancy way of saying that, in my opinion, most of us people see what we want to see, which actually results in us seeing very little of what is actually present.

Just now the saying, “So and so will turn over in their grave if they saw blankity blank”, came up as a prime example.  I’ll just say it; that saying makes no sense.  No one is turning over in any grave unless there is an earthquake.  All that silly saying says to me is that a person was oppressed by some person’s thoughts when that person was alive and now they are oppressed by them when the person is dead, because the power of the audience that isn’t there never dies.  If the person were an objective audience member and not a fictional character in our head their influence would end when they left the auditorium of life.  But since they were in our head in the first place them being dead or alive is of no consequence as long as the person projecting them chooses to continue to do so.  Death is just a minor detail for the persistent audience projector.  Even if they accepted that the person was dead and they weren’t using that line of thinking to say they would turn over in their grave, all they would do is find another living person to project that influence onto.  In my experience, that is what most people do on everything from their own children to God.

I think that is why Jesus said we can only enter the kingdom if we are converted into children.  I see him as saying, “Clean the lens through which you are seeing the world, because what you are seeing is not the world as it is–as God created it.”  To me that is what heaven is–the world as it is and not simply what we see based on our programming.  When Job got schooled by the God character in the Hebrew Bible for whining about his life all he could say after God basically let him know how little he knew was:

“I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.” –Job 42:2-6

In other words, “I don’t know what the h*** I was saying, I am turning around and going in the opposite direction of where my pride took me.”  I’ve heard that a lot of people have a difficult time with Job, but I like it because it keeps it real.  It calls out our cluelessness point blank. And personally I think wisdom begins with admitting when we don’t know something.  And the fact is when we feel compelled to project an audience that is made up in our heads onto others or simply into the world, we really know very little about what is really going on around us.  So here is a question to leave you or just myself with, “Who would you be if no one [real or imagined] was watching you?”

Dance like no one is watching–because they aren’t.

 

 


“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (vv. 21-26 taken from John 4:1-42)

Have you ever felt lost?  Have you ever felt alone in a crowd–invisible in a sea of faces, your voice drowned out by the noise of life, your body pushed and pulled by the demands of work, family, society?  Have you ever looked back on your life–the wins and losses, the accomplishments and failures, things that you’ve built and that have fallen apart–and wondered, “What’s it all about? Who am I really? Where is this all leading?”  Chances are if you are reading this post then you have at least felt or considered some of these things.  If I were a betting person I’d say that you are a seeker of some kind.  This is a blog on a church website after all. You wouldn’t be here on this site unless you were looking for something.  What are you looking for? Community? A place to belong? God? Yourself? Well I don’t want to be the one to disappoint you, but you won’t find any of that in this post. What you will find however, is an invitation to all of the above. It is not our church that is offering the invitation. It is God who does the offering. What we are doing is acknowledging that the impulse in you that leads you to seek is God-given.  It is a spiritual impulse. It is one of the things you have in common with the One whom Jesus referred to as Father.  Has anyone ever shared that with you–that you and God have similarities and that one of those things is that you both are seekers? Like they say, “The apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree.”
Consider that saying for a moment–the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Have you ever explored it? I imagine that most people familiar with this idiom understand it to mean, that a child is not very different from their parent. And it does mean that. But if we stop simply at the imagery of an apple that is in close proximity to the tree from which it fell, we are missing a real opportunity to touch the very nature of our being and God’s intention for us. You see, for most of us, an apple has a finite destiny that is fulfilled in it being suitable for consumption. If we can’t eat it or drink its juice, then we see it as worthless. But to someone whose eyes are trained to see it correctly–say a tree farmer–an apple is so much more. When he or she eats an apple, they know that within every apple is the potential for countless orchards. To many of us the most important part of the apple is the flesh we eat, but to the tree farmer what is most important is the part we throw away without a second thought–the core. To that tree farmer, to the tree from which the apple fell, to God the destiny of the apple is not simply to be devoured. It is to expose its core, give its seeds, and to create more trees like unto the one that brought it into the world. In other words, the fulfilled destiny of every apple is infinite expansion. And if that is true for the apple, how much more so could it be for the soul that is born of God?

Unfortunately, most of us are not trained to see ourselves or others that way–even though at the core of who we are I believe we suspect as much. But if this is true, why don’t we experience ourselves or others that way? Well, I think it goes back to what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well–when it comes to God, we worship what we don’t know–if we worship God at all. If we knew where we came from then we would know where our destiny is headed. But like the apples, most of us only look for the immediate usefulness and not the infinite value of ourselves or others. To get an understanding of this it would serve us to know that the fundamental meaning of the word “worship” is to acknowledge the worth something has to us. In other words, to worship God is to acknowledge God’s worth to us. The thing is when we worship what we do not know, that means that we do not know what God is worth to us. Fortunately, God knows what we are worth to Godself. And that is why God continues to seek us even when we don’t know how to seek God in return. And in seeking us God shows us how to seek God. “How so”? you might ask. Well look no further than the passage above.

At the time of Jesus, a woman talking to a man like that would have been a scandal. Talking to a woman who had been with five husbands that were not her own and was presently in an adulterous relationship as this woman was would have been unimaginable. And make that woman a Samaritan, the people who good Pharisees thought were so unclean that if a person passed through their city they would be defiled, and you have a situation that is downright unforgivable. And yet Jesus, who we call the Son of God, is speaking to her openly and even drinking water that she gave him. How could he be so bold? Well in part it was because of who Jesus was and who God is, but it was also in part because of who she was to God–a child of infinite value. And that is why God would go to such extremes to contact her through Christ. And more than that. In all of the stories you read of Jesus encountering people, this woman was the only one that Jesus ever revealed himself to plainly and without any enigmatic air. He simply told her who he was. Just think about what that implies. According to the world this woman lived in, she was all but worthless and yet God sought her out. Why? Could it possibly be because of who she was at her core–in spirit and in truth?

In order to get a full grasp of what I am suggesting, it might serve you to read the entire story of Jesus speaking to this woman. But what I hope you take away from this post is this: What we seek in God, God seeks in us. When we look at Christ, we see the extremes to which God goes to find us. And when God finds us (not because God does not know where we are but because God knows we need to be found), God does not stop at revealing Godself to us, but goes on to reveal us to ourselves. As 1 John 3 says, we don’t know what we’ll be, but we know that when God is revealed we will be of a like kind because we will see God as God is. When we worship the God we know we simultaneously know what our worth is to God.

Who in life knows what is to come? Even when walking a path blazed by others who have come before you, there you might find unexpected obstacles. Surrounded on every side, though you remain on the path, the surrounding forest can be a hiding place for would be attacker or a temptation to explore. Who knows what you will find on this journey. All you can do is pay attention, learn as you go, and develop a respect for mystery; because the truth is we never really know what’s coming.

Lead me down the path
Since the truth is I don’t know
I have an idea of what I want
But I don’t where to go

I’ve tried to be independent
But the world is more than me
Even if I figure me out
I’m still a part of “We”

And the road is a major highway
Yet still a road we walk alone
Paths intersecting and interjecting
But when taken lead to home

© Copyright 2014 Pedro S. Silva II

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. — Mark 9:38-41

In the above passage we find Jesus’ apostles being set straight when they complain to Jesus about some person using His name to bring peace to a possessed person. The way they were thinking about the situation was with a gang mentality as if Jesus was the leader of their crew and that this other exorcist was from a different set or rival gang. Most of us have seen that mentality before whether it is with our sports teams (Red Sox v. Yankees), in the streets (Bloods v. Crips), between countries (USA v. the World), or religions (Christians v. almost everyone else including each other). The thought process goes, “If you aren’t with us, then you are against us.”  The gang mentality is a possessive and exclusive mentality.  It is designed to mirror family but without the presumptive idea that blood is thicker than water.  In general the gang compensates for some sense of lack in its members. As such there is a pervasive sense of indebtedness, entitlement, and a strong need for competition that is engendered.  Only by dividing parties into us v. them can the gang perpetuate its existence.  The gang thrives off of conflict.  Someone has to lose in order for them to feel like they are ahead. At least that is how I see it. And if you look through this lens you might see how the gang mentality is pretty much the mentality of the masses.  But from what I get out of the above passage that is not how Jesus lived.

As I mentioned in the video, it is funny that the disciples even have the nerve to complain to Jesus about the man casting out demons in Jesus’ name considering that in Mark 9:14-29 which precedes that account, Jesus says to his disciples, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” after they themselves fail to cast out a demon from a sick boy.  The way it looks to me, is that the disciples did the same thing that children do when they get in trouble–they try to get someone else in trouble so that it takes some of the heat off of them. “Oh well, we might not have been able to cast out demons, but that guy is doing it without permission.” I bet it shocked them when Jesus essentially said, “So what?”  

One would have thought that Jesus’ disciples would have expected as much from Jesus after all of the other times that he did the very opposite of what they expected. But the disciples were on a roll in Mark 9.  First they couldn’t exorcise the demons, then they argued over which of them was the greatest among them, and then they topped it off by complaining about the other man being able to do what they couldn’t.  Jesus had just told them that the greatest among them would have to be the least and the servant to all and yet here they were trying to be better than someone else. It sounds so very….human. We want to be the best.  We want the recognition. We want other people to look bad so that we can look good. We don’t want to admit our failures or at least distract ourselves and others from them so that we can save face or whatever seems to be in our favor. But the thing about trying to consciously live the mystery of Jesus’ teachings is that they are constantly asking us to get pass all of that. Rather than build us up in the way that we want to be seen, in a lot of ways this religion is trying to break us down so that God can rebuild us in the way that we were intended to be. 

I can tell you from my experience that after 30 plus years of trying to walk this path, I am about as clueless as I ever was.  But I am encouraged by that.  I see it as a sign that it is working.  After all, didn’t Jesus teach that his followers have to be like children.  Children admittedly know a lot less than they know.  They have to constantly seek guidance and yet in general they feel so much safer and freer than we adults do.  And there imaginations are just out of this world, because they are not bound by the limitations what they have figured out like we are.  I think that is when we start to lose ourselves–when we start convincing ourselves that we’ve figured it all out.  That’s why I get excited about this walk.  It is always asking me to accept that there is always yet more to be revealed and yet no matter how much I think I know, I cannot exhaust the revelations of the all revealing God.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 8:16,17:

When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one’s eyes see sleep neither day nor night, then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.

Now for some people that is disconcerting.  But for me, I get excited.  Like when it really hit me that Christianity does not own Jesus the other day, I felt this tremendous joy. Even though I knew about many of the different extra-biblical claims on Jesus out there, I can admit that subconsciously I was looking at these things as borrowing Jesus at best and usurping him from Christianity at worst.  But the fact is that in the Bible I study John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world that He gave His chosen Son…  My point being that God gave Christ to the world not to just people who accept the label “Christians”.  Now if someone asked me if I thought that Jesus belonged to us Christians before my friend asked me to share with people about the ACIM teacher, Gary Renard’s, speaking event on May 3rd, I don’t honestly know what I would have said. What I do know is that Mark 9 popped into my head after I essentially said that I didn’t think it was politically correct for me to do so since I am practicing in Christian ministry and am associated with a particular denomination that does not recognize those teachings.

What struck me was the Christ-like way my friend graciously understood my position. Instantly I felt a twinge of what those disciples might have felt when Jesus said to them of the exorcist, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” I was humbled. Thanks God. From that revelation, I began to google some information about other people who practice different traditions but trust in Jesus and came across an article on Jesus Movements around the world.  I mention them in the video–people of different religious cultures who follow Jesus within the context of their religions i.e. Muslim followers of Jesus, Jewish followers of Jesus, Hindu followers of Jesus.  I couldn’t believe it. I smiled about it. There is so much more to this mystery.  As it says in Psalms 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.”

All this being said, I still think it is important for a person to pick a path and see it through. I choose Christianity.  But that does not mean that I have to make a rival of everyone else.  I know that a lot of my brothers and sisters who take on the label of “Christian” might disagree with me, but all I can say offer is what popped in my head when I learned about these other Jesus movements.  It is from John 10 and it is attributed to Jesus and it reads I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Other sheep that do not belong to this fold. Like I’ve said many times, I didn’t write the book, I am just trying to see what it is trying to show me.  

So this is where I am with this.  I belong to Jesus by choice, but Jesus does not belong to me.

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 who 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 eternally hurt?

After asking myself those questions, I was surprised that my answer was, “Yes.” Yes I could love a God who 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 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 everyone 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.


Pedro S. Silva II
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