Dear Jesus,
I often feel like I’m all alone out here. Spiritually. It seems like it is so hard to find others that think similarly, or even remotely close to how I see things. Maybe I’m whack, but I don’t think I’m that different. I go to churches and they, for the most part, usually disturb my spirit because they either grossly misinterpret the Bible, emphasize the donation of money a little too much, or they push their political agenda above the importance of the spiritual livelihood of their flocks. I’ve gone to a number of churches too and I always leave thinking the same thing “What does this have to do with the love of Jesus?” or “How does this make God more real to people who don’t know Him?”. I don’t get it, there seems to be a lot of religion going on, but not enough spirit. And that’s what I need, something to feed and challenge my spirit, because I also cant hang with the flip side either. The anti-religious, purely intellectual type that has no mental room for anything spiritual. The ones who cant or wont see the spiritual side to science, the ones who are condescendingly positive that there is nothing outside of our flesh and blood.

So I keep going. Keep learning, keep reading, keep growing closer to you. You transcend any labels or boxes that we try to bind you with in the form of religion. You are the immeasurable, unthinkable, incomprehensible. You manifest yourself as you will, when speaking to us, and it wont always fit in our nice, neat, safe definition of you. You will challenge us in our preconceived notions of you, and most of us will not choose to meet that challenge, because it’s too foreign, too scary. But you are a merciful and loving God and you love us despite our small mindedness. Or our mental fragility. We cling to our ideas because we feel safe in them. But you want to draw us out of that safety into truth, and truth can be scary, because we are not in control of truth. But you are merciful and loving, and i believe that even if we never take that step, that you will continue to love us for eternity, in our weakness and fragility, for “your power is made perfect in our weakness”.

Dear Jesus,
I was at the grocery store the other day heading over to the dairy aisle, when I saw two boys, both around 5 or so, pushing their parents shopping carts towards each other like on a two lane road. The boys had steered their carts a little too close to each other and slightly bumped each others carts. The boys looked at each other and then began trying to push the other’s cart to the side and it basically devolved into a pissing match between two 5 year olds whose parents had to come and force the kids to stop. Funny thing is that, when you think of it, we, as a species, never really outgrow that mindset of aggression and confrontation. Yes we may learn to curb it, or channel it differently, but mankind is still trying to smash his neighbor with a shopping cart in one way or another. Literally and figuratively. Yes, folks, for those of you who think that people are born naturally good, filled with goodwill towards his brother, think again. Don’t call me a pessimist, call me a realist. And while people are not born innately good, they are however not born innately evil.

It’s funny. Without getting into the semantics of defining “good” and “evil”, I think we are born with the capacity for both good and evil, and most of us spend our lives teetering back and forth between the two. I’m not afraid to say that I have done some pretty evil shit in my time, but I have also done some pretty decent stuff too. Now evil doesn’t necessarily have to be killing someone with an axe. It can be as simple as lying about something to affect a different outcome of a situation, or any number of things. I prefer to call a spade a spade, and can recognize my capacity for wrongdoing, and the struggle within to stay on the straight and narrow, and my often pathetic failure to do so. I recognize the comical condition we are born into for what it is. Our flesh vs. our spirit. Or the Id and the Super-Ego. I love how Buddhism recognizes that this is the eternal struggle, and that only by shedding the Id, or letting go of these desires within ones self, can one truly become enlightened or free. I think that this is what modern Christianity has lost or forgotten. There are parallels between Biblical Christianity and Buddhism that I think many would be surprised to find. Not just in the teachings of Jesus (who I think is the great Buddha), but also even in the old testament. In fact a very Buddhist like saying is attributed to God himself in Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain gets angry because Abel’s sacrifice is deemed more acceptable to God. The verse goes “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

You can easily find more parallels. You just gotta look. But I digress. Back to the discussion of being born good or evil. Sadly, like most things in life, it’s not so black and white. we are born into the grey area, and it’s the choices we make in life that either gradually turn that grey into white or black. Or it just stays grey. As for me, I wont pretend to be something I’m not. I’m a stumbling fool, who, like a dog returning to it’s vomit, has a terrible tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over, which I guess brings me to my point here. See Jesus, without you I think I’d be fu…… er.. screwed. Knowing the things I do WITH your presence in my life, scares me to think of what kind of shit I would do WITHOUT you in my life. I often think that when I first met you at 7 years old, it was really out of your mercy that I was so young because you saw what and who i would become without you. So much has happened since then too. I have been through times of great doubt, and times of spiritual discovery, and I feel you have walked with me every step of the way, and carried me for much of it. And it is in this knowledge and understanding that I see your existence and work as the gift that it is, because without you i’m lost, and i dont mean lost in some silly, feel-good superficial, churchy way, but lost in an “I’m sooooooo fucked” metaphysical, quantum mechanical, sub-atomic way. Knowing I’m such a screwup, I’m banking on you, and your mercy in the end. Because honestly, that is all i have to stand on. Nothing I do can undo the wrong I’ve done. But because you forgave for once and for all, for all time, I am free, because i’m not bound to my sin. And while I continue to walk with you and get to know you even better, I will continue to grow and change, and slowly my grey will not be so grey, and over time, the mastery of self, the letting go of the Id, will get easier and easier. And Christ will be in me, and I in Him.

Dear Jesus,
I know you don’t generally care for politics too much but I’m somewhat perplexed about something that’s been happening in my country recently. Now as Son of God, you have strong opinions about how we should treat each other. Terms like “compassion” and “neighbor” you did not use lightly and you often illustrated your points by using parables, so that even the slowest of the slow, like myself, could grasp the concept. Now a parable that comes to mind for the present time is the parable of the Good Samaritan, and how the Samaritan had compassion on the man who had been beaten and left for dead by bandits. In his compassion, he not only takes the victim up on his donkey but he dresses his wounds, and then pays for his stay at an inn, until he gets better. The part of the parable that I think has relevance today for our country is that a person had compassion on is neighbor, no matter who they were, and gave of himself and his own resources to make sure that they were taken care of in their time of need.

In light of this parable, and pretty much most of the rest of your teachings, it really baffles me how people who proclaim to be your followers, would be against something like healthcare reform. Obviously if something is broken it should be fixed, right? See, i don’t understand why they are so angry and afraid of the concept of giving and sharing, when you were all about those things. They scream bloody murder and socialism. When it comes down to it though, Jesus, you were pretty much a socialist yourself, talking about giving to the poor, sharing what you have etc. In fact I think you would be all for social healthcare and that if you were here today living in America, you wouldn’t mind paying a little more if it meant that those who can’t afford healthcare could get the treatment they need. I know I dont mind. It’s the least I can do to help my neighbor who is in need. Or my neighbor’s children. Or my neighbors elderly father. See, I cant look them in the eye and say “Sorry, you cant afford it…guess you’ll just have to pray”, because, while I believe in the power of prayer, I also know that we are supposed to be the hands and feet of God on earth, and we are bound, no, obligated to be our brother’s keepers and to care for and love them. And since I can’t heal the sick like you could Jesus, at the very least i can help pay for their doctor’s fees or prescriptions.

Now Jesus, I’m a simple man, as you already know, and I dont know the ins and outs of this reform thing, but what I do know is that the current system is broken and it’s only benefiting the big companies, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that change, while probably not perfect, will at least be the catalyst that gets the wheels rolling towards the process of fixing things in the bigger picture.

So, Jesus, in the end I hope that you can touch the hearts of those who are so vehemently trying to stop the healthcare reforms while doing so in your name. I hope you can remind them of who you really are and of what matters in the end. Not how much less taxes they’ll have to pay so they can afford their SUV’s or Seadoo’s, but how much they can give to the needy, the sick and the widowed. That’s all I ask.

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! ūüėÄ ) 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.

Blog Resurrection

Posted: August 8, 2009 in christianity, faith

So, after more than 2 years I’ve decided to revive this old blog dedicated to my Israel trip to now be my occasional ramblings, ideas and general hypotheses on theology, the bible, religion etc. I tend to have these relatively fascinating conversations and discussions in my head and I always tell myself i should put some of it on paper. Purpose being to hash out what’s in my head and maybe document some aspects of the spiritual journey.¬† So without further ado, I make no claims to have any leg up on anyone when it comes to their relationship to the divine. I have my own ideas and biases and i make no apologies for them. Dont invite me to your church because i wont go. It’s taken me 36 years to find a church that only annoys me a little, and I can stomach that only so much. So with all that said, I’m just going to jump into it.

So I’m currently reading the book of Samuel. I’ve always enjoyed reading the stories of the rise and fall of Saul and the introduction of David as king, as God’s anointed. Everytime i read anything in the bible something new always jumps out, and this is what struck me most recently. So we all know the story of how Israel wanted a human King instead of having God as king so they could be like all the neighboring countries. (talk about penis envy). I guess having God wasnt good enough and even after God tells them that he will grant their wish but that it wont come without its price (basically taxes, slavery, indemniture – reminds you of modern American life right?). So even with that knowledge they say yes give us a king… so God picks a guy through his prophet Samuel, and the king starts off OK, but ends up being swayed easily by human influence and his own desires so God says he will strip the crown from him and find a worthy person to be king, one who is after his own heart, and this fellow is David. Anyways to the point, I reread the story of David and Goliath and found a couple thing interesting. So Goliath, who is around 9feet tall, is challenging anyone from the israeli army to 1 on 1 combat. And the whole army is chicken, all the way up to the¬† king, and a shepherd boy is the only one who tells the armies of Israel, the armies of the living God that they shouldnt stand there trembling, with all that God has already demonstrated to them in the not so distant past, they should be bold and rady to go. So the shepherd boy, David, accepts Goliaths challenge and enters into the challenge with the mindset that God will deliver Goliath into his hands. Basically entering into battle on faith alone that God will provide victory. What’s interesting to me is that before he actually enters the Valley of Elah to face off with Goliath, he selects 5 smooth stones from the river bed and puts them in his bag. The stones and his sling are to be his weapon. So the bible goes on that as Goliath is coming towards david with his sword and spear, that David breaks into a full run towards Goliath and slings a rock and hits him in the forehead and downs him, upon which time David grabs Goliaths sword and cuts his head off with it. (adding insult to injury, decapitated by your own sword!). This got me to thinking about the 5 stones, and how David is known from the bible as a great man of faith. I began to wonder about the five stones and what if David actually missed a few times before hitting Goliath. In fact I began to think that that could have been a test of faith for David, who running full steam towards a giant enemy, firing off his first and second shot and possibly missing. Would that rattle my faith if I was in the same position. Did it rattle David’s or did he just keep going expecting that one of his shots would be the one, because he knew God was with him. Yet one thing we know about God is that he is not afraid to test our faith. And he has always demonstrated to Israel that their deliverance is from him and always in the most dire and almost impossible situations. So part of me thinks that David might have missed 4 out of 5 shots. But he kept going because he had great faith and knew that it wasnt up to him and his timing but God’s, so each time he missed, he fired off another one knowing eventually God would connect the rock to it’s target. If i was in the same situation probably by around the 3rd rock I’d have pissed myself and began running full steam the other way filled with doubt. But not David. And that’s why he was worthy enough to be called the Lord’s anointed.

It’s been almost a week since I’ve been home and I’ve given myself a little time to let it all sink in and reflect upon my experience. There is no place in the world like Jerusalem, for better or for worse. It’s a city of paradoxes, a city of collided ideologies, a city¬†in which there¬†exists a fragile balance between these ideologies. I have seen with my own eyes how this city exists, and on a smaller level, how¬†the nation of Israel exists. I have seen with my own eyes the extent of interaction and also the lack of interaction among these varying ideologies. There is an unspoken uneasiness in the city, and it can spill over into something much bigger at any given time.

I came to Israel firstly because I felt an urge, or a call, to come and build upon my faith. To see the where and the how can sometimes help with the why. I didn’t come to “find God” but I did come to experience God in a way I hadn’t before. And experience God I did,¬† in my talks to monks, cab drivers, Beduins, and more personally in my time alone by the Sea of Galilee. Cliche as it may seem I did have a spiritual experience that I will carry with me forever and the memories of who and what I encountered will also remain, just as the image of the vine growing in the desert will.¬†

I also came because I am looking for the common ground. I consider myself something of a universalist in that I believe God is for everyone, race or creed aside, and that God is much larger than the boxes we put him in called religion.¬†I am¬†a follower and believer in Christ, yet I won’t subscribe to the idea that only those who are Christian in this life will have the blessings of God in the end. I have seen the spirit of God in others enough to know that God is universal, and just as a parent who loves their child will do anything to take care of and bless their child, I believe God in his infinite wisdom and love has a similar plan for us. I believe that for those that seek God, God will find them and meet them where they are at. So I sleep easy at night knowing things are in much more capable hands than mine.¬†

Another reason I came to Israel was to see with my own eyes the true state of affairs between my Jewish and Muslim brothers.¬†For a long time now I have had the suspicion that the political and social problem between them was not humanly reparable, that the¬†hatred that goes back thousands of years¬†could not be fixed by diplomacy or political processes. I am convinced now more than ever that this is the case. I do not believe the problem can be fixed¬†by human means. The hatred is too old and¬†too ingrained and neither side¬†is really willing to compromise.¬†In the end, only God in God’s timing will be the solution, and unfortunately,¬†I think that things will get much worse before that happens.¬†¬†

The ironic thing in all of this is that the 3 of us, Jew, Christian, and Muslim, are all waiting for the same thing. Christians are looking for the return of Christ, which I also see as what the Jews are waiting for, the arrival of Meshiach (Messiah). Muslims are also looking for the return of Christ in not too disimilar ways the Christians are. What I see happening in the end is the 3 separate paths converging into one, uniting them all.    

In the end my experience there has opened my eyes in both spiritual and political ways. There is good to be seen there, but there is also alot of bad. I have seen the open and giving spirit of Christ in people and I have seen the exclusive, self-righteous, legalistic Pharisaical spirit as well, and have been on the receiving end of both. As I stood on the Mt. of Olives and looked down on the city of 3 colliding ideologies, where a struggle for primacy is still going on today, the only words that come to mind are the words Christ spoke long ago in the temple, the place where the Dome of the Rock now stands:

Matthew 23:37-39
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”