Things of Faith, Man and the Search for Universal Truth

My faith journey has come a long way.

From a theological perspective, I was raised in the Judaea Christian traditions within various denominations. Through the years I have been taught by the church, inspired, motivated, fooled, disillusioned, angry, resentful, ashamed of, and even restored.

Regardless of my personal experiences with dogma and the organization of religion my faith in the Supreme has never diminished. My belief system is simple and complicated, spiritual and natural, scientific and unexplained.

I could never subscribe to the atheist belief that there is no Supreme Being. To me atheistic thinking dismisses a serious explanation for the origin for life. In other words, I haven’t seen evidence of any life form without their first being life to reproduce itself after its kind. Even if creationism from a religious perspective is not a viable option, just a look at the sun, moon and the stars, all of the living creatures, the way the cycles of the earth rotates, lives, nurtures, replenishes and sustain itself with its inhabitants; I find it illogical that all of that which we behold and witness is without thought, planning and design. In this way I don’t judge the concept of atheism. What I can say is that I don’t get it.

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As much as I like Bill Mahr and admire his political satire, I think he sounds like a fool when he arrogantly dismisses any possibility of a higher power. His brain is so creative, that he can actually talk himself out of acknowledging his own lack of having anything to do with it. He depends on air he breathes to live, and yet it does not keep him alive. Think about it. Oxygen is all around those dying every day. At some point everyone will take in their last breath. And all the oxygen on the earth can’t give you another breath once that last one has been exhaled. With all the riches, wealth and resources in the world one cannot give him more life. Nor does anyone have the power to ask and receive it initially at the beginning of a natural life.

A study of the massive sophistication and depth of DNA alone should prompt one to believe that this world, this universe, even our humanity was intentional. This is why I believe the atheist argument comes up horribly short. There is just too much genius around us that we had nothing to do with to call it all random.

What Mahr and I share along with others who believe as he does however, is the disdain for those seeking to validate and promote ‘God’ only as they see Him in such a fashion that it boxes his breadth and scope down to moral, theological and geo-political bents. I too scoff at the limitations and lack of critical thinking skills people subject themselves to in order to follow a bunch of laws and standards written by mortal, flawed, and often agenda driven men. I can resonate with his frustration of people who refuse to observe and work through critical issues with a reality based point of view as opposed to choosing to hide head-in-sand and quote scripture so as to eliminate the need of such deeper or even more simplistic considerations.

I get it. But that doesn’t answer the questions of life, the potential and capabilities of the human mind and body, the spirit world, and the universe. The fact that in the wild a lion and a deer will drink from the same water brook and if the lion is not hungry, not only will he not so much as bother the deer, but that the deer instinctively knows it. Man, in all of his ingenuity, intellect, skill and passion have only learned and understood so much of it. He certainly hasn’t been able to define it.

My basic understanding of myself, my surroundings, my instincts, makes me curious, and awestruck on the subject of the Supreme Being. Though I have identified my beliefs through Christian lenses most of my life, I have studied various religions and beliefs among men. Lessons from Christianity as well as other faiths have helped me greatly. Still I’ve rejected many pieces of doctrines. Through it all here I stand; still seeking, still desiring, and still stretching to find the source of my own significance.

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As of now I don’t really claim any specific religion. Though if you pushed me, I would still lean towards a very loose and selective portion of Christianity. Not for any special reason. This is simply the environment I was brought up in and therefore most familiar with. It’s second nature. I love gospel music and can often find myself blissfully swept away in its messages of worship, submission and hope. One of my mentors the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a Christian man who lived the most dedicated and faithful life I have ever seen in a human. Yet I admire and respect the life of Malcolm X especially after he split from The Nation of Islam and went in a direction that he believed was more beneficial to his perspective of the way he saw his Creator. Am I to say that Shuttlesworth knew God because he called him Jesus or that Malcolm’s aligning himself with Allah did not? There is hardly no religious sect that does not have within it members who believe and have evidence that their prayers have been answered. There are unexplained ‘miracles’ happening everyday regardless of faith type. Thing begs to question, “Does the Supreme have an exclusive name?” Only religious people think so. Or is He so awesome and self-assured that He is not hung up on and limited by that kind of thing? – Man actually giving Him a name that will sum Him up. Even as I write this I only say ‘Him’ as a reference point. I don’t know that The Supreme has a gender.

This proves that the biggest hindrance to understanding The Supreme is defining the revelation of His presence and purpose solely through a religious bent.

I have learned to settle in and take what I believe one step at a time; one lesson at a time; one experience at a time. And with those I focus on that which I am comfortable with. Which are a basic set of principles that I live by. (At least try to live by most of the time.)

Faith

Faith is first just an acknowledgment and recognition of a centralized presence. I don’t believe He/She/It needs to be called Jesus or any other religious or secular name. I believe in this Power that is so brilliant beyond measure, beautiful, and peaceful. The Universe has been created in such a way that it would take perhaps a million lifetimes just to scratch the surface of what is really going on out there. Names are too limited to describe The Ultimate. That is about as far as I am willing to take it as of now.

Do I believe this Universal entity cares about what happens to me personally? Yes. This is because I don’t believe all of this is by chance. If I’m correct then there has to be a purpose. Anyone who is aware of his purpose cares about fulfilling that purpose. With that I am able to give thanks and blessings many times per day to The Supreme for all that I am blessed to behold.  Sometimes, I even submit a few prayer request along the way.

Personal Purpose/Destiny

This is a tough one. Because most people either believe that they have a specific purpose on earth that a higher power has in mind or they don’t. Others believe we make our own decisions no matter what. I fall in the middle of both world views. For example, none of us had anything to do with us being here. That includes when we were born, where we were born, or to what family. We couldn’t decide what color we were going to be, whether male or female, and so forth. There are so many things that were not in our original control.

And yet as the species on earth we call mankind, we have the ability to create, build, reproduce, expand, grow, and it goes on and on. Our decisions shape the direction of not only our lives, but those around us as well as those who come after us. Decisions made by only a few throughout history have led to generational worldwide rewards and consequences.

With this I believe that many, but not every aspect of my life has been fully intentional. I am thankful for my time, my space, and my opportunity to do whatever it is I am supposed to do. I am abundantly grateful for everyday believing that my universe is saying something to me and beckoning me to respond for my own benefit, and the benefit of others. I believe that if enough of us do that, we will experience even greater awakenings, recognition, and access to this Universe.

            Islam7

Morals

Morals are a very subjective from person to person. I believe that morals must come from within, not just what is taught within a society to preserve order; though order is necessary. Some people are comfortable with doing things and living by certain principals that others are not. My morals are a combination of what I have been taught as a youth, as well as what I have grown to understand as an adult. Since I am still growing, segments and pieces of my moral code are still being refined. What has remained consistent is to live by a standard in which my conscious remains clear of guilt and that my life is one of freedom and not bondage. I believe that many of the unhappy, unsatisfied and destructive people on earth are ones whom live against their own conscious. I can’t speak for those whom seem not to have a conscious at all. Still I have to live by my own. I desire that my life continues to project that which is less harmful but more liberating to me as well as my environment.

Who is The Supreme Being/God?

I absolutely don’t know the answer to that. I believe that God is spirit as I am though much greater. I don’t believe God is fixated by what we call he/she/it like most organized religions i.e. Christianity, (Jehovah, Christ) Islam (Allah) and so forth. I believe that mankind has had various reasons for wanting to segregate God into something they are comfortable with. Certainly having a book such as the bible for instance, makes following God or expressing faith more focused. For now I choose experiencing and receiving whatever it is I may learn and absorb whether it be from a religious context or not. My trust is that The Supreme knows how to get a message to me when it’s time. And that I will receive it as long as I stay open. I’m not afraid to fail at this. I embrace all of the possibilities and resources imaginable at this point.

Organized Religion

In spite of my critique, I am not down on organized religion as a whole. I believe that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zen, and many others has served millions well over the centuries. Organized religious morality has influenced many peaceful societies as most of them promote treating one another in a loving and civilized way. Most promote growth and spirituality. Most promote submission to a higher authority and less self-seeking. Most emphasize sacrifice and giving towards something much bigger than the individual person who claims its faith.

Most have had their downfalls as well. So many wars, forms of oppression, and crimes against humanity result from religious beliefs and zeal. This is not only true of Christianity and Islam. Human sacrifices for instance took place long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas. Nobody’s hands are clean. There has been and continues to be both good and bad.

            Tian Tan Buddha

Afterlife

Since I don’t believe that our lives are our bodies, I don’t believe that life ceases without the body. I believe our bodies are Earth suits. With them we move about upon the land or the sea. The earth is our bodily home. We live here for a time and season. It is here that we eat, sleep, love, share, learn etc… Perhaps our earthly time is training for something else that has nothing to do with our bodies. I just don’t know. And I don’t know that anyone really does.

I know many people whom I trust said a relative who have died or have been released from their natural bodies visited them in a spiritual form. Perhaps those who are ‘dead’, in body, help watch over us who remain. Perhaps there are differing dimensions that continue in cycles past our earthly lives. I don’t have a clue!

But I’m OK with that right now. For now I want to concern myself with the form of life I am experiencing now. And I will have to let the other work itself out. It’s definitely outside of my pay grade. If I can make this one count for something good, then I trust things will work out in the end… well, if there is one.

In Faith, Me

 

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Guilty Pleasures, Or Simptoms of a Workaholic

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Genesis 2:2

Most of us understand that these economic times are challenging for most of America.  Far too many of us are looking for work and not able to find it.  As of now I am blessed not to have that problem.  I am employed by three different companies in addition to being an independent contractor myself.   As of now, having work to do is not a problem for me.  (knock on wood)

As a matter of fact to the contrary, I have been working in abundance and even more than what normal people do.  The two days I was off in February were the two days that I purposed to be off for my birthday.  Otherwise its been non stop.  Part of my business is seasonal so I have to grab many of the opportunities afforded me while they last.  Yet despite the lack of rest and constant running, the payoff is an attempt to try to get ahead, have savings and at least some sort of options for fun.  Then there are the occasional unexpected and expensive  items such as having to get a car repair.  I have all sorts of good reasons to justify getting my hustle on. 

And yet equally true is that I find on a day like today, an evening when I am actually off and purposed to rest and chill out for the evening to catch up on the rest that I have neglected, I find that very difficult to do.  On my way in from the office I stopped at the bank to make a deposit, and then to the store to pick up dinner.  I wanted to maybe get on the computer, or hop on the couch to watch some TV, (something simple and mindless as a matter of fact) enjoy dinner and chill out.  I wasn’t supposed to clean the kitchen or take out the trash.  Not supposed to wipe things down or police the area.  I’m tired for godsakes!  My mind is weary and my body is holding on for deal life.  But for some reason I find it hard to settle down and take advantage of the rest while I can.

It’s called being a workaholic.  And workaholics tend to feel guilty for having time off.  We feel unproductive when we aren’t accomplishing anything.  I got it bad.  When I was off for my birthday weekend, I was so tired for most of it I didn’t get to enjoy it quite as much as I should have.  I fell asleep early and was tired often.  At least then because I looked forward to it I purposed my heart to rest and relax.  I did for the most part.  Though I still ended up doing a bunch or errands.   After all, when your off work there lies the opportunity to do the things you never get to do when work is constantly calling such as pick up the items I dropped off at the cleaners a month ago or washing clothes before I run out of clean underwear.

Sigh.  I know that rest and relaxation are a part of having a balanced life.  I should embrace the restful times and take full advantage of the breaks I get.  I’ll work on it.  Been through this before.  Whenever my schedule gets this busy, there is an adjustment period where it takes me a while to get used to actually sitting still when I get a break.

In the meantime, I can’t allow guilt and the difficult times of America to NOT allow me to enjoy the blessings in life.  I’ve had hard times before and know in my heart I am thankful.  If I don’t enjoy my rest, I will be no less guilty of a lack of faith in God and His provisions.

My Amish Ways, or the Last of the Technikans

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 I admit it.  I am always one of the last of the converts when it comes to technology. 

When CDs first came out, I remember my friends raving about how great they sounded.  Or how one can skip from one song to the next without waiting on the cassette to go forward or backward to the next song.  But oh no.  I didn’t want to give up my cassettes.  For one thing, as a notorious music lover and collector of tunes I had a serious amount of tapes I had amassed over the years.  I even had my own mixes that I put together and gave to buddies of mine who wanted to,  ummm let’s just say have something romantic to listen to with their girlfriends or wives.  If I switch to CDs, what would I do with all of these tapes?  And damn I can get Ice Cube’s new tape for $11.99 but the CD is like $18.99!  When CDs first came out, that was what they were costing off the top.  Puuleeeese! 

Then I bought my first CD player.  It was a single Sony model that I hooked up next to my double cassette high fi model.  It was a whole new world.  After hearing the sound that was the most crisp I had ever experienced, I went to the music store and bought almost $300 worth of music.  The first order was to buy music I heard growing up, and then get the ones to match the best of what I had on tape.  I now have thousands of CDs from Miles Davis to Boney James, from Stevie Wonder to Dan Fogelberg, Pat Benatar and everything in between.  I had it made right?

Nope!  Then they came out with MP3 players.  It took quite a while but eventually someone gave me an Ipod and between pod-casting the Jim Rome show and downloading much of my personal music collection, along with music from the library that I didn’t have to buy, I have over 12,000 songs at the touch of my fingers.  This must be heaven!

One would think I would learn my lesson and  get with the times quicker.  Most of my adult life has been spent working in areas where technology was the way we got the job done.  And new system upgrades were the norm.  But I’m still slow to personal technology change. 

I won’t even get into DVDs.  I have plenty of them but only after I amassed hundreds of VHS tapes full of old basketball games, movies and PBS documentaries. 

When I really think about it though,  I’ve learned that there are two reasons for my slow progression in embracing these helpful and often better tools.  First, I am just a person who is slow to change.  I can get set in my ways and set in the comfort of my habits.  Once I learn a thing and can operate it well, I don’t like changing it.  The second reason is that I am afraid of the technology.  I don’t feel confident that I can pick it up quickly. 

I am reminded of how people created these myspace pages years ago.  I heard about them over and over but just refused to mess with it.  I was afraid that I could not navigate through it proficiently.  By the time I got around to it, it was all but outdated.  My boy Rich for instance was already doing a blog.  I recall leaving a comment on one of his blogger friends blog, and I left my myspace page link.  She commented back to me,  “Man, your still on myspace?  You need to get a blog.” 

Sigh… dang!  I must be 5 years behind on everything!

Rich tried to show me the blogging ropes.   But you know how that is.  Richard is very technologically savvy.  He has a natural talent for it.  So he ran through it as if I were in college rather than the Sesame Street level of teaching that I really needed.  Eventually I stood up and faced the learning curve necessary to start this one. 

This morning I decided to go ahead with the next step in my personal technology growth.  The GPS!

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Yes indeed for years I thought I was the man with my Yahoo and Google map directions.  Too often however they are difficult to read especially in rual areas, or when I’m in another city.  Sometimes the directions are the long way to get somewhere or flat out wrong.  Of course driving and looking at directions isn’t the safest thing to do either.  It’s stressful trying to figure these directions when they name a street that doesn’t have a street sign on it when you approach it.  Or when you have a street that is also named a number.  One major artery in St. Louis for instance is called Lindbergh Blvd.  But it’s also called Hwy 67.  (Though it’s not a highway.)  If someone told me to go to Hwy 67 I would know where to go.  If I were not from here, I would be like, “Dammit!  I don’t see no 67, I see Lindbergh!”

Sports officiating has really brought me down to my directional knees as I go to these schools and ball fields in places I have never been to in my natural life.  So once again as Usher would say, “Here I Stand.”  Today I will make the step, pay the financial cost, and learn the ways of technology that will help my life run smoother.  I just hope the salesperson is not a jerk and will explain the basics to me without being condescending.