Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

Well, I guess it’s something like

If I die in bed tonight,

There’ll be something left of mine.

Then my baby boy will know

That I really love him so,

And I made it my one goal

To make this world into his home.

I want his future to be bright,

And even in the darkest night,

I hope these simple words I type

Can be for him a source of light.

And for every one of you,

No matter what you’re going through,

It’s the least that I can do

To offer words of love and truth.

Now why did I write

This little poem here tonight?

I guess I gave a reason why,

But I have something else in mind.

When you turn and walk away,

And you have to face the day,

Make what you do and what you say

A legacy to celebrate.

Sometimes

I had a moment today. My son had some lightly bloody stool (it happens), and the “new dad” worry combined with my old wounds to form a monster of grief. When my mom passed away, I was 10 years old. I’ve recently learned that an ambulence came and got her from the house because of how sick she had become. She died on the way to the hospital.

The worst part for me, for all this time, has been that I didn’t wake up. I didn’t hear anything; I have one blurry memory before I fell back into deep sleep. The night before, I made her a toy boat that said “Get Well Soon” on the sail, gave it to her, and she said, “Goodnight” as she shut the door. That’s the last time I ever saw her face.

Reflecting on this today, after shedding some needed tears, I arrived at an important truth.

Sometimes you don’t wake up.

Sometimes life is hell. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, sometimes it’s all out of your hands, sometimes the whole bloody world just comes down on your head and there is no solution, reason, plan, or meaning behind it.

Sometimes life is just hard…

And that is perfectly okay.

As humans, we are subject to the laws of nature and the will of others. Sometimes this means we get extraordinarily unlucky. Sometimes that means we get broken.

I am of the belief that there is no divine plan in any of this. Suffering is a part of being mortal. It’s a consequence of being subject to death.

I do find divinity, however, in the fact that life goes on. The world doesn’t actually stop, and we don’t have to either. There is always the option, the hope, that what we go through in life can change us for the better. We can become stronger, more wise, more compassionate, more self-loving, more aware of the blessings every moment has to offer. If we decide to, we can tap into the power of Life and grow from our pain rather than remaining broken by it.

This is why I love the resurrection story of Jesus. The pain doesn’t have to be the end, and if we face the darkness with faith, hope, and love, something better will come of it.

That being said, sometimes this truth is hard to see or accept and that’s okay. My point here is that wherever you’re at, whatever pain you are caught up in, it’s okay to acknowledge and feel it. It’s okay to admit that sometimes, life just isn’t good.

Just remember, that doesn’t mean it never will be.

Peace be with you!

Self-Acceptance

I’ve been fighting myself a lot over the last few weeks, maybe even longer. For a long time, I’ve thought that being a Christian would make me narrow-minded, and that it would mean accepting dogma and doctrine, else I would just be “faking it.” As such, I’ve tried to drop it all and carve out my own spiritual identity.

The problem is that I’ve already friggin’ done that.

There was never a time in my journey as a Christian/Quaker that I accepted all of what orthodoxy mandates. I’ve never believed adherents of other religions went to hell, just for being different. I stuck to 6-Day Creation theory until I was in 5th grade science, then I left that behind too.

In seminary, I realized I don’t believe God is some external being or person, and I rejected the idea that signing off on the metaphysical DNA of Jesus was necessary for discipleship and connection with God. I joined the Quaker tradition because I reject divinely ordained hierarchy/priesthood/pastoral ministry. I believe all righteous paths are valid, and I believe God communicates with others according to the language they will understand, even if it means meeting an atheist with the silence needed for them to fully live out their path and keep the rest of us honest.

I believe Jesus is a pattern for all of us to follow, not some item on the checklist of orthodoxy that gets me into “the good place.”

My language of spirituality has always been Christianity, but I never allowed that identity to negate my mystical experiences of the divine in myself amd in others. That is, I never did until recently. I have been so preoccupied with finding “the truth” that I completely forgot about my own experiences with that truth and all that those encounters have done for my life.

The truth is I use Christian symbols and tools to express my spirituality. What I’ve learned is that this doesn’t mean I have to swallow all the crap that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with power. This experience has taught me not to read the Bible, pray the Rosary, or attend services in a way that replaces genuine experience of and communion with God.

Am I going to do these things? Yes, but only insofar as they edify and inform my spirituality rather than becoming idols that dictate it. The same can be said for my Tarot cards or the silent worship of my Quaker Meeting.

All are tools, none are God.

The fact is that Christianity is the faith of my people. It’s what I know and understand. Is God bigger than this religion? Oh yes. Does that mean I need to reject all specificity so I can make some kind of statement? No. Does it mean I need to swallow all related doctrine and dogma to be authentic? Also no.

There comes a point when we must accept ourselves. We all come from a specific location in space and time, with our own culture and spiritual language. Instead of fighting to make something new, find something new in your own rich tradition. You have the authority to reject that which is harmful or confining as you embrace that which is healthy, life-giving, and liberating. Recognize that as long as you live with love at the center of your being, your own specific way of relating to the universe is perfectly acceptable and will yield beautiful results.

Peace be with you!

Looking Within

I was really angry today. I was angry because all the belief systems I have subscribed to and crafted over my 28 years have come crashing down, mostly because I kicked the pedestal out from under them. I was angry that I was raised within one system of thought (Christian), not realizing until adulthood that there is a whole world out there and that God is beyond all of what I had been taught.

I was reminded of a teaching by Meister Eckhart. Seeking peace and seeking God externally will keep such things elusive. Only when we seek them within can we find them and know wholeness.

Part of my upbringing was the need to be validated by a god, by a system, that existed outside of me. I needed to conform, to match up. This habit of looking for some system of thought, some religion, some practice to define me has continued into adulthood, and it’s produced nothing but heartbreak and misery.

Odds are that many of you get what I’m saying because you’ve experienced the effects of broken systems and beliefs. You know what it is to spin out of orbit because the center of your spiritual universe betrayed you or revealed its inadequacy.

Many Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Neo-Pagans know what it’s like to see that their system can’t fully satisfy them. There will always be a human element of deception or manipulation involved at one point or another. Agendas run rampant, and the Divine often has little to do with it.

This is why we must view all external religious/spiritual realities as what they are: tools of expression. Expression of what? The Truth within.

Only when you can find peace, enlightenment, and wholeness within you, and only when we acknowledge that each of us carries the presence of what we might call the Divine, can we make good use of the tools before us. Otherwise, the tools become idols by which we divide and mistreat the human family.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be religious or spiritual. Hell, I’m a Quaker. Community is important for discernment, as our beliefs always have practical implications. What I am saying is that if you focus solely on the external for your hope, validation, salvation, and enlightenment, you’re only going to be disapointed.

Now, looking within is not a process by which you will find some cleverly hidden answer to all the questions of the universe. Rather, it’s a means of recognizing and honoring your own value and agency. It’s your ability to affect positive, life-giving change and achieve peace within the life you currently occupy.

With all that said, know that you are enough. You have all you need to know peace and transformation. Your mind, your soul, your consciousness is an incredible gift from the Source by which you may discern a way to live at a blessed oneness with the world and those who share it with you.

Peace be with you!

Crafting A Kingdom

“… For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.” — Luke 17:21, JB

I hope someday we all will see
A much improved reality

Where together every soul abides
Not bullied into choosing sides

Where with each other we sojourn on
Not tripping over lines we’ve drawn

Where words are said in kindest sense
Not wielded just to cause offense

Where all are loved and feel at home
Not judged because of where they’re from

Where people are the point and cause
Not religious texts or backward laws

Where we begin with what’s within
Not with the color of one’s skin

May we all help today to be
A much improved reality.

Taking Stock

Abraham answered, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets they will pay no heed even if someone should rise from the dead.” — Luke 16:31, REB

In Luke 16, Jesus offers us a parable encouraging generosity, hope, and repentance. At the end of this parable, there is also a truth about the nature of change. So let’s take a look!

In the parable, the rich man wants Lazarus to rise from the grave to warn his brothers not to live as selfishly as he did (16:27). Ironically, this is selfish, as the rich man wants to make a servant of Lazarus even in the afterlife! It’s at this point that Abraham drops the bomb of free will on the poor fella.

Free will dictates that life is made up of choices. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them” (16:29). All the tools are available in life for us to seek out and embrace the will of God, to change and grow as people. We just have to choose to make use of those resources. No one, not even God, will do this for us.

It’s important that we take stock of our lives and listen for what God is saying to us here and now. We can’t sit around waiting for God to wave His wand and make us into more faithful people. Doing so would violate the very agency He gifted to us from the beginning.

I used to pray and pray that God would just fix all that was “off” in my life. What I failed to realize is that the burden was on me to actively seek and embrace God’s transformative presence. God has done His job by leaving a part of the Divine Self in all of creation, like a spiritual hand extended toward us. But we are tasked with taking hold of it.

So let’s all take a moment to assess our lives and whether or not our practices align us with the will of God. If not, let’s make time to listen for what God is calling us to in this life, and let’s get after it!

Peace be with you!

In the Dark

“He called the light day, and the darkness night. So evening came, and morning came; it was the first day.” — Genesis 1:5, REB

When God creates the universe in Genesis 1, He begins by bringing forth light. We tend to understand light as being positive. God is light (1 John 1:5), Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and we are called to be children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). We get it: light is good.

But life isn’t all light and sunshine.

There is darkness in this world, both physically and in a spiritual sense. We experience pain, suffering, violence, and oppression. People starve, fall ill, are attacked, make mistakes, and leave us too soon every day.

Darkness is often portrayed in Scripture and religion as the enemy. It is the sign of evil, ignorance, and suffering. Yet all God makes in Genesis 1 is called “very good,” and in the initial verses God doesn’t eliminate darkness.

Darkness is kept, named, and maintained as an ever-present aspect of reality. As such, it is part of God’s “very good” creation. We may not like it, it may hurt, but it’s also how we are aware of light.

When a light is turned on, shadows immediately emerge. This is a law of life. What we know as “good” and “evil” are only definable in the context of each other. Both are necessary for wisdom in life.

Sitting in silent worship last night, I looked at my candle and asked for Christ to teach me wisdom. What I received was a message I have needed for a long time.

You see, I hated my darkness. I have a past, and though I’ve accepted that it happened, I hadn’t accepted that the person I am today doesn’t deserve to constantly be punished for that past… until last night.

What came to me was, “You cannot be the better man you are now if the worse man had never been.”

Have I made mistakes? YES! But paying for those and learning from them has led me to a place in which I am proud of the person I am now. I am not perfect by any means, but I am learning to love myself, and my love for others is enhanced because of it.

This couldn’t be the case if not for my darkness. The same is true for you and for all of humanity. Our darkest moments help highlight (and even produce) our greatest ones. Does this mean we strive to promote evil so that good may come? Of course not!

Rather, this message should serve as a reminder that where darkness is, light is close at hand. By the same token, where there is light, shadows fall. Therefore, we should neither be hopeless or complacent, but ever watchful for what God is calling us to.

Peace be with you!