Archive for the ‘pain’ Category

Dear Jesus,
I’ve been thinking alot about anger lately. I think it’s probably because I’ve been angry alot lately. More so than usual, and it’s not some teen angst type of anger, it’s an anger you feel burning in your gut. You see, without divulging too much, about a month ago I found out someone I’m related to by marriage was doing something he shouldnt have been doing with an under age girl in the family (he wasnt doing what youre thinking he was doing, but it’s still pretty bad). When I found out, i wanted to drive over to his house and give him an old fashioned beat down, but my wife forced me to weigh the consequences (as she usually does in these situations). Now I’m normally a peaceful guy, who considers himself somewhat level headed, and allows things to slide off his back without bothering him too much, but this….. this has actually been boiling my blood for well over a month now, and when I think of this person, I get angry all over again. So I guess this brings me to my question, which is when does anger go from righteous to rotten? When does anger go from something that should cause you to act, to something that eats away at your soul and ultimately ruins your life?

I am intimately acquainted with living in anger. I spent most of my teens and 20’s living in it and glorifying it. Whether it be on a personal or societal level, i was pissed off. I was mad at my dad, i was mad at society, I was mad at fate. I thought i had a right to be angry, and in some cases i did have that right, but ultimately i started to learn that anger, while it may come from a righteous source, if not addressed or channeled properly, would eventually eat me up. And it was eating me up. I was not able to see the world outside of the context of my anger, and it crippled my ability to be open to people, to trust people or believe in possibility. It got to the point where it was affecting all of my most valued relationships, and I realized I had to reckon with it or I would slowly die a bitter, pathetic death. So I started trying to change my outlook and attitude on life, and sure enough, as I would take small baby steps in this, the universe would let me know I was on the right path.

Fast forward many years and here I am. I still have many challenges with anger, but it doesnt define my world like it once did. But then things like this guy doing his thing happens and I am immediately taken back to that place where I am anger incarnate, and although it is a righteous anger, I realize that this time something is different about it, like maybe this time there is an important lesson for me hidden inside it. You know you can usually sense when a life lesson is coming because there are signs pointing to it from all directions. Sign 1 for me came when i stumbled upon a quote from Hermann Hesse, author of the book Siddartha, which i finally read last year (20 years after it was assigned to me in High School). The quote was If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us. Something struck me about this. If i hate someone who does bad shit, who is a religious hypocrite, who does more damage to his family than good, how is it that I hate that in myself? I dont do any of that crap… I dont even want to be around that. But ever since reading that quote I’ve been asking myself “what about him makes me so angry, and what is it in me that i see a parallel to, and to a lesser degree, what about myself do I want to destroy so bad?”

Fast forward another few days and I stumble upon this website about Christian Meditation. I’m a big fan of eastern meditation, while being pitifully inept at it. I’ve always seen a parallel between meditation and a spiritual connection to God. In fact if you look at the great teachers of all our worlds religions, one parallel you can find in most of them is that they spent a good amount of time in meditative isolation, Jesus preferring solitude on the mount of olives, Mohammed retreating to the cave where he ultimately was given the Koran, Buddha Gautama under his tree and so on. Anyways, the site on Christian Meditation put some concepts together that were just kind of fumbling around separately in my head. One such concept was the idea of self mastery. Obviously when you think of self mastery, you think of disciplining your body to the will of your mind, but it really hit home the fact that I need to discipline my mind as well. in fact self mastery needs to start with the mind. And while I may go through this world controlling my anger externally, what good does it do me if it still causes havoc internally. So here I am hating this guy in my heart, and suddenly i have an epiphany about the true nature and purpose of meditation, regardless of creed or faith, which is to let go of the unhealthy desires of our hearts, for it is in these desires that we create our own suffering. I needed to let go of my anger. This was gonna take practice. But whenever I’d find myself hating this guy, I would remind myself of this epiphany and I found that i was hating him less as the days went.

Still, I kept thinking about the Hesse quote and spent time wondering how it was that i hated myself by hating him. Then it hit me on the way home from work one day. In my head i pictured myself trying to kill this person, and then asking myself why i hated him so much as to try and kill him, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I hated him, because I hated that same potential, that same possibility of doing every one of those bad things, in me. you see, this guy isnt too different from me. he’s a musician too. he’s a father. he’s actually a somewhat likeable guy outside of all the bad stuff, but the difference is he succumbs to his basic desires and impulses. And when i look at him, i see that same potential for me, because the only difference between him and I is that I chose not to do the same things he did today. Will i still choose this way tomorrow? I’d like to say yes. But who knows. I hate him because what he does, and what he is, appalls me, but on a deeper level i think it scares me because I fear making those same choices. And what does fear usually manifest itself as? Anger… Hatred… Yoda was right all along.

Strange thing the mind and the heart. After that day I found that i didn’t really hate the guy anymore. I actually feel more pity for him than anything. I know that he will continue to do things that will make me mad in the moment, but it will dissipate. I wont feel the need to harbor anything against him or fantasize about beating him up. I’ll remember that the only differences between us are the choices we’ve made which either build us up or destroy us. I’ll recognize my potential to choose the path of destruction, and pray that I choose that path of life. And then maybe I’ll pray that he stops choosing the path of destruction as well. The great thing about being who we are is that we have the power to change. Self mastery.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Dear Jesus,
A good friend of mine called me up this past Saturday morning to inform me that his sister had died. She hung herself in her house and her boyfriend of 10 years had come home and found her. I was shocked by the news but strangely not too surprised. I had known her previously and knew she was a sensitive soul who carried a burden. What I didnt know was that she had tried this before and failed. Not this time. My friend, Dave, now has no immediate blood relatives since he and his sister were the last ones left. I obviously expressed my sorrow and sympathy for him and his wife and their little year old son and during our discussion over why she did this, we ended up on the subject of God. (but of course!)

My friend Dave is a traditional guy, with very traditional biblical views, and one of those views, which is very common among most bible readers and believers is that people who commit suicide are damned. Obviously he is having a hard time dealing with this concept in regards to his sister.

What do I say? My best answer is “I dont know”. While I know what the churches and the bible say (and the bible isnt explicit when it comes to this subject), I have to go with what my heart tells me. For better or for worse my heart is my spiritual barometer when it comes to these subjects that are not clearly defined in the bible, and I believe that God speaks to me through my heart often(whether I listen or not is subject matter for another post some other time).

When i think of God i think of the greatest presence in the universe and how that presence is active in my life. I can say without hesitation that God is active in my life, because I’ve seen and felt God’s presence and action on numerous occasions and in different ways. And what i’ve seen and felt mostly is a great sense of peace, occasionally intense joy, and ultimately what i can only describe as love. Now this isnt everyday mind you. But it’s there and it’s real. It is from within these experiences that I cant imagine the God who sustains me, even in all my folly and hard headedness, maintaining a place of eternal torture and damnation. I guess you can call me a hippie, but that doesnt seem characteristic of my God. And it is in light of this, and my studies of scripture, that I dont see how hell, and even the devil, fit into the great equation. I guess the cat’s out of the bag now. Some people ask me how i can believe in God, and in the power of Christ, without believing in the devil and hell. It’s not complicated, and it’s even scriptural, but not all of my beliefs are dependent upon scripture. And it’s at this point where I lose many folks, my family included, because they might have difficulty accepting what has not been written down or difficulty trying to get a handle on the unknown, and ultimately want everything drawn out for them. And I cant blame them really, because at least then you can sleep at night thinking that what you believe is concrete, tried and true, historically accurate and proven truth.

But who here can claim to know the mind of God? Or who here can say they know with 100% certainty where they will go after death, and who can say with any certainty, where someone else will go, whether by suicide or not. You see, Jesus, I believe in you and your greatest act of love and mercy, and I believe that that act was done for all mankind, for me, for my family, for Dave, for his sister, for everyone, and it is in that great act of love and mercy that I believe that even those who didnt know you here, who never experienced your love, or even those who ran from you, will have a chance to meet you and experience you and your gift, because I believe that it is not your will or desire for any of us to be lost, as a shepherd leaves his flock to find the one lost sheep, i do believe you intercede for us even after our deaths. I know there is no scripture to back that up, but my heart tells me so.

We are mere humans here, fumbling through a complex world that often gets the best of us in this life. We suffer from so many self inflicted spiritual maladies that they ultimately add up to a lack of vision, which is why we do these self destructive things, one of them being suicide. When we get so lost in ourselves and so disconnected from ourselves, our loved ones and more importantly God, that we can rationalize destroying ourselves, without thinking of how it will affect our families, our friends, or without giving hope a chance to grow, or even refusing to see hope as an alternative, we have lost our ability to see outside ourselves. They say suicide is a selfish act, and I believe it is, but i cant judge, because I dont know a persons heart. That is between them and God. And it is my hope and prayer that when that deed is done, Christ meets their soul as healer and dresses the wounds that led them down their path of self destruction here on earth, and bestows the peace and wholeness they never found here on earth.

One can dream can’t he?

Dear Jesus,
I got this CD the other day and I’ve been listening to it non-stop, which is unusual for me these days. It’s that good.It’s by a guy named David Bazan, and the name of the CD is “Curse Your Branches”.

David Bazan - Curse Your Branches

I’ve been a fan of his and his band “pedro the lion” for some time. This is probably his best work he’s ever done, but that’s besides my point. I was giving it my first full listen while driving around doing errands with my 11month old daughter, when the last song came on called “In Stitches“. I sat in my car listening to the words, and wept as I watched my baby daughter sleep. This song breaks my heart in a way no other song has, because song deals with some of the most basic, spiritual questions we as humans have the capacity to ask. It also breaks my heart because this song, and to a larger extent this whole CD is a breakup letter to God.

Faith is a gift, yet it is also a choice, and we can choose to believe or not. Sometimes, when we see all the awful shit that goes on in the world we can’t justify in ourselves the existence of God. I’ve had my days of wondering myself, and I know things will continue to happen that will challenge the very foundation of my faith for the rest of my life. But I’m okay with that. Because I know that life is just that way. Life is tough. Nothing’s guaranteed, nothing is secure, but I do believe that everything is in God’s hands which are much more capable than mine, so I try to trust in God that there is a purpose and reason for everything. And it is in this thought that I wept for my daughter, because she, in all her present beautiful innocence, will grow to see horrors in her lifetime, and will grow to have her sense of God challenged, and will be faced with these same questions that she will have to either find answers for or be content with not knowing. And all I as her flawed and fallen father can do is hold a signpost for her that points the way towards God, and hope and pray that when she has done her questioning, soul searching and spiritual journeying, that she comes through it all with a sense that God is real and present in her life, even in the small things. And it’s not about her knowing God as defined by a particular religion, it’s about her knowing God as the omniscient presence in the universe, yet still concerned with, and active in her life. And that is a simple truth that i fully believe because I’ve been blessed to have experienced God first hand in my life when I was not expecting or asking for it. And i dont know why I’ve been fortunate enough to have an experience when others might not have. Maybe God knew my character enough to know that in my darkest hours, the only thing that would keep me from fully letting go of everything, was the memory of that experience and the fact that i can not deny it.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know that life is long and people change, and where I was 10 years ago is not where I am at now, and who knows where I’ll be in 10 years. So when i think about David Bazan and his breakup letter to God, I tend to think that they’ll get back together again someday, because I think he’s asking the right questions. And in time they’ll work things out. God is patient and always ready for us to talk to him again.

In Stitches – David Bazan

my body bangs and twitches
some brown liquor whets my tongue
my fingers find the stitches
firmly back and forth they run
i need no other memory
of the bits of me i left
when all this lethal drinking
is to hopefully forget
about you
i might as well admit it
like i even have a choice
the crew have killed the captain
but they still can hear his voice
a shadow on the water
a whisper in the wind
on long walks with my daughter
who is lately full of questions
about you
when Job asked you the question
you responded “who are you
to challenge your creator?”
well if that one part is true
it makes you sound defensive
like you had not thought it through
enough to have an answer
like you might have bit off
more than you could chew

Baby Brianna

Posted: September 3, 2009 in faith, pain
Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Jesus,
today I watched a short video about a baby who was murdered by her mother, father and uncle. Her name was Brianna. This video made me cry because all i could see was my 9 month old daughter in that little baby. Apart from the firey anger that grew in my stomach towards the family of this child, I felt a deep sadness for this baby because I know she never knew what it was like to be loved before she died. She probably never felt the security of her parents embrace, never felt the joy of uncontrolled laughter when a parent plays with or tickles her, and probably never felt the bond between parent and child that is critical to help a baby grow. Even a child that young has the capacity to know love, joy and laughter. This child probably only knew sadness, fear and pain. Dear Jesus, what happens to her now that she is in your hands? who welcomes her into paradise? Do you welcome her and embrace her, allowing her to feel the warmth, and joy of love? I always desired in my heart of hearts that when we die we are welcomed into paradise by our families and friends past and future, since paradise exists apart from time. Yes I know these are all feel good thoughts that we honestly can know if it is real, but it would sure be nice wouldnt it? I know that God loves his children above all, and that sustains me. I dont need to know the details of the afterlife or the beginning of it all to know what I know, but it sure is nice to imagine what it could be like. Dear Jesus, if indeed we are greeted warmly by our friends and family into paradise, if I am so lucky to get there, I’d really like to give baby brianna a hug and play with her and hear her little laugh. Until then, please take care of her and give her all the love that she should have gotten here. And more. I know you will because you have a soft heart for children like her, so I know that finally she is in good hands. The best of hands. And I thank you for that.
Thanks Jesus, I know that despite all the bullshit that happens here, you are in control, and nothing escapes your eye. I hope to see you someday (but not too soon! 😀 ) and I hope you consider me a friend at that time. Looking forward to that day.
Love
Me

P.S. Tell my grandma that I miss her. She would have loved to meet my daughter. Somehow though, i think she already has.

Dear Jesus,
I’ve been kind of down lately. Been thinking alot about the plight of mankind, and our obvious inability to not continually smash our heads into a concrete wall. Meaning, our inability to not make the same stupid mistakes over and over. Wasn’t WWI supposed to be the war to end all wars? Great marketing, but poor execution on that concept. Why is it that there are living breathing people just outside my door who not only dont have a place to live, but dont have anything to eat today. And why am I not tripping over myself to go out and help them. Am I that calloused? Is my heart that hardened? There is a voice inside of me that tells me that everyday I go to work and make my little bit of money and come home, I am being duped by the ways of this world; that I am accepting a less meaningful life. Of course now there is added meaning to it since i have an 8month old but still, there is a part of me that says I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. That I should be doing something to help people, that I should be being more like Jesus. That reminds me, I dont get all these “Christian” right wingers who are violently opposed to healthcare reform. They are spitting such virulence about how Obama is going to make this a socialist country by introducing social health care yadda yadda yadda. All I have to say is wouldnt Jesus want you to help your neighbor? Even if the bill was socialist, which it isnt, whats wrong with that? Whats wrong with helping those who need it? You say you follow Jesus right? then do so. Hate to break it to you guys but Jesus was rather socialist himself. So follow him, or not. Dont pretend to be one thing and do another. Thats what I hate about America and why i dont go to church. Because its phoney, sleight of hand, bumpersticker theology, with wolves leading the sheep through fear and hate. Mainstream American “christianity” bugs the shit out of me because I dont see the “christ” in it at all. maybe i’ve just been to the wrong churches, but I feel more at home with honest to goodness, devout muslims and truth seeking buddhists than the self professed “christian nation”.  Anyways, back to the subject. I dont think this world will improve it’s situation without divine intervention. It’s nice to think about everyone getting all Star Trek like and the world uniting under knowledge and science, but it wont. as long as there are humans, there will be greed, unmet desires, and ultimately atrocity committed upon each other. God help us all. God help me.