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    What is Eternal

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 9:15 PM [General]

    Contemplative words...371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c

    AND HERE IN THE NIGHT
    AS I FEEL THE INFERNO
    I STARE IN THE DARK
    THINKING WHAT IS ETERNAL
    THE MAN OR THE MOMENT
    THE ACT OR THE REASON
    THESE THOUGHTS FILL MY HEAD
    AS I CONTEMPLATE TREASON

    THE DREAMS I HAVE HAD
    AND DREAMS I HAVE PONDERED
    WHEN LATE IN THE NIGHT
    MY MIND IT WOULD WANDER
    TO THINGS I HAVE DONE
    AND THEN QUICKLY REGRETTED
    WHILE DENYING VICES
    MY LIFE HAD SELECTED

    AND I THINK WHAT I'VE DONE
    OR HAVE YET TO BEGIN
    AND THE MAN I'VE BECOME
    AND THE MAN THAT I'VE BEEN
    NOW CAUGHT IN A WALTZ
    WITH THE ETERNAL DANCER
    I'M COURTED BY DEATH
    BUT DEATH ISN'T THE ANSWER I SAY

    ALL I WAS MEANT TO BE
    COULD I SUDDENLY JUST DECIDE
    NOT A THOUGHT WOULD SURVIVE
    COULD IT BE MY LIFE'S WORTH
    ENDED THERE WITH MY BIRTH

    NOW CALLING TO GOD
    FROM THE PIT'S VERY BOTTOM
    I PRAY HE FORGIVES
    EVERY SIN I'VE FORGOTTEN THIS DAY

    AND WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT
    THAT MY FATE IT WOULD CONJURE
    THIS TWIST IN THE ROAD
    ON WHICH I HAVE WANDERED
    EACH VISION AND DREAM NOW
    COMPLETELY DISMEMBERED
    TO GIVE ONE'S WHOLE LIFE
    AND FIND NOTHING'S REMEMBERED

    AND WHAT GOOD IS A LIFE
    THAT LEAVES NOTHING BEHIND
    NOT A THOUGHT OR A DREAM
    THAT MIGHT ECHO IN TIME
    THE YEARS AND THE HOURS
    THE SECONDS AND MINUTES
    AND EVERYTHING THAT
    MY LIFE HAS PLACED IN IT BETRAYED

    THE THINGS I HAVE DONE
    THE PLACES I'VE BEEN
    THE COST OF MY DREAMS
    THE WEIGHT OF MY SINS
    AND EVERYTHING THAT
    I'VE GATHERED IN LIFE
    COULD IT BE LOST IN THIS NIGHT

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    The Nature of Faith

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008, 9:57 PM [General]

    Do you believe in God... or in history?

     

    371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c"Jesus said, 'So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.' "

    ~John 20: 29

    This quote is one of the most famous in the Bible. It refers to the apostle Thomas, who was missing when Jesus first appeared to the apostles after his resurrection. Thomas was told about the appearance, but he doubted it, claiming he had to put his fingers in Jesus' wounds before he would believe it was really him. The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was with them. Jesus invited him to put his fingers in the nail wounds, and Thomas believed.

    Well, that's how it supposedly went, anyway.

    There's an interesting thing about this particular often-told story. It appears in only one gospel - John's. John's gospel is believed to have been written after Thomas'. There are several places where biblical scholars feel John directly refutes Thomas. Thomas clearly had a different view of Jesus' life than John did, and this was a major controversy in the early Church. So the question is... did the "Doubting Thomas" scenerio take place? Or is it just another example of John discrediting Thomas? We don't know for sure.

    This leads us to another question: Does it matter?

    Lately several books have come out with interesting theories about the life of Jesus. Most notably, Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" puts the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene in the forefront. Many Christians are offended by the thought. Some have even suggested theories on how Jesus "resurrected" - that perhaps he wasn't totally dead; that the apostles removed the body and proclaimed him resurrected; etc, etc, etc. People get very passionate in defending the biblical Jesus against these more "human" ideas.

    Again, I ask the question: Does it matter?

    As I read "The DaVinci Code", I was a little taken aback by the ideas suggested. But when I thought about it... whether or not Jesus was married, it really doesn't detract from the impact his life had in the world. As I continued to ponder this idea, which was in direct conflict with everything I had believed about Jesus' life before... I realized... it didn't really matter to me.

    Someone asked me if I believed Jesus truly did resurrect from the dead. I don't believe in pushing my believes on someone else at all - even this blog is more just documentation for my own journey to truth. But I realized something in deciding how to answer his question. I realized that believing in the biblical stories - in the chastity of Jesus and his resurrection, in all of those age-old tales that we've learned about since birth - believing those things amount to believing in historical events. It is no different than believing in the events of World War II.

    And I asked myself... Shouldn't faith be deeper than that?

    Faith - true faith - involves what you believe about God, about other people, about your purpose here on earth. It is a belief in a higher power and a higher purpose. There is no doubt the events described in the Bible can lead a person to a certain sense of faith. But believing the events took place exactly as they are documented is not the key. The key is reading those stories, contemplating their message about God and life, and developing an individual sense of purpose based on those thoughts.

    Faith isn't the result of a history class. Your faith is the basis for how you live - the choices you make, the words that you say, the way you treat others. It is individual and personal. You may choose to make Jesus' life your prime example, and that is definitely easier to do if you believe in the events of the canonical Gospels. You may choose to make Mohommad your example. Or Mother Theresa, or Buddah, or Joe down the street. But it is when you put more thought into it, when you pray (really PRAY - see previous entry) about it and really contemplate what those events mean to you - that is when that faith becomes a part of you and starts having a real impact on your life.
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    Random Memory...

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008, 7:56 PM [General]

    One of a small collection of random memories of experiences that affected my spiritual perspective.

     

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    When The DaVinci Code came out, several of my students (knowing I was a practicing, knowledgeable Catholic) asked me if I was planning on reading it. One student in particular, a fellow devote Catholic, was very wary of reading the book even though all of her friends had read it and raved about it. One day, she stayed after class and asked me if I would be bothered by the premise of the book. I responded that since I hadn't read it, I really didn't know the story. She explained that the theory promoted in the book was that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children, cringing as she said it. "Wouldn't that bother you? That whole idea?" I thought about it for a moment... only a moment... before I said, "Whether Jesus was married, had children, had a beard... honestly, whether he resurrected from the dead... none of that changes the example His life set for me; none of that changes the effect His words have on my heart."

    ==================================

     

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    The Jungle in My Mind

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 2:00 PM [General]

    It's not easy explaining to a perfectly rational person how an irrational mind works.

     

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    I crashed hard this weekend... to the point of convulsive crying while holed up in my bedroom. I'm still physically shaking as I write this. But for the first time, I've actually had enough time after the initial crash to think about what was going on in my head... along with someone close to me who truly cared to know. So I have been doing my best to explain it to her using metaphors and visualizations.

    Something usually triggers the crash, but it's not necessarily anything that would bring down a "normal" person in the least. Usually there is a build-up of things beforehand, and when I look back now I can see how various stressers piled on each other. I'm a fairly intelligent person; I can handle multiple things at once and handle stress fairly decently (better than many in my position, both professionally and mentally) as long as it's spread out a bit. I am a strong person (my best friend keeps telling me that... and keeps telling me to tell myself that). My mind can handle a lot, and when all my neuro-transmitters are firing well I can take on just about anything.

    But when they start misfiring... when they start shooting randomly around in my brain... everything goes haywire. And that's what happened this weekend. Something struck me oddly (nothing that should have); a neuro-transmitter fired randomly among all the transmitters that were firing in dealing with all those stressers that had built up; all hell broke loose inside my head.

    My doctor calls it "mind racing". Thoughts start and I can't stop them, no matter what I do. They could be the most irrational ideas; they could be completely opposite of what I know in my heart to be true... but I still can't stop the thoughts. I get suddenly very suspicious of people I trust completely. I'm suddenly convinced I'm a horrible mother. I suddenly believe my colleagues at school are against me. I lash out at anyone who says anything contrary to my suggestions. I take everything in the worst possible way... because that is the road down which my thoughts take me. Over the course of literally five minutes, I can go from completely trusting my best friend to fully believing she wants nothing to do with me... all from one short, completely innocent conversation.

    People -- my friend, my husband, my mother -- tell me to just stop thinking the worst; to trust in them. The thing is... I do, completely. But I can't stop the thoughts. They tell me to just beat those thoughts back down; I can't. When I'm triggered and going through this, there is very little I can do to stop what's happening. I pray constantly; eventually I do come out of it, sometimes a few days later, sometimes a couple weeks later.

    I have found ways to avoid it most of the time. Confront people directly and immediately if I may have misunderstood something. Talk through everything before going to sleep at night. Pray constantly, keeping my relationship with God fresh on my mind. Enjoy nature whenever possible, which also keeps God on my mind.

    But it still happens.

    What does it feel like? Inside my head, it feels like... like thousands of small marbles mixing around with no pattern to the colors and no consistency to the movement. The inside of my head feels like it is shaking -- literally shaking. My body trembles as every muscle tense up, trying to stop the shaking in my head. Coherant thought is extremely difficult, if not impossible. I can't line up any of the marbles.

    I watched "A Beautiful Mind" the other day for the first time. Excellent movie. I could identify with John Nash. I've never been to the point of imagining people like he was, but as my friend and I discussed, I imagine problematic situations where there are none. Usually I have suffered through it without discussing my inner workings with anyone else; this time, I talked with her about it. She can't relate, but I think she's starting to understand. The best part is that she's sticking with me regardless of my intermittant insanity.

    Still recovering. Hopefully the shaking in my brain will die down soon. It wears me out; I get so tired from this... which seems so odd to people because all they see is me laying in bed. But there is all this activity inside that they don't see, and when rest can finally come, I need it desperately.

    Once I can slow down this marbles just a little more, I think I'll be able to rest. Sometimes I wish I'd just lose them; at least then my head wouldn't hurt so bad.

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    The YA Generation

    Saturday, October 18, 2008, 10:58 AM [General]

    This wasn't on Bnet -- it's an excerpt from a Jonathan Darman article in Newsweek. But it reflects a major shift in society that I've witnessed while teaching in the secondary setting.371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c

    Dear Young Americans:

    I won't tell you how special you are because you've heard it all before.

    I don't have to tell you how special you are -- which is good, because I don't think you're particularly special. Then again, I'm one of you, so I wouldn't. Born in 1981, I am part of a generation that is accustomed to being coddled and cheered and championed, even when we haven't done much at all. It started in the cradle when our baby-boomer parents gazed into our innocent faces and saw perfect, wonderous reflections of their perfect, wondrous selves. It continued as soccer coaches and ballet teachers turned into SAT tutors and career counselors -- people whose job was to make sure the world understood just how wonderful we were. The Internet sealed our fate. Our parents and grandparents, enthralled and a little terrified by the transformative power of technology, watched as we neatly picked up our lives and moved them into HTML. We learned to expect applause for simply showing up.

    And really, if we're honest, that's all you've done -- show up.

    ================================= 

    I really wish we could somehow change this about our currently generation. Economy, national security, energy... all of these are certain problems in our country. But no problem is more far reaching or impactful to the future of this country and our world than the selfrightious attitude of our younger generations.

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    The Turning Point

    Monday, October 13, 2008, 10:52 PM [General]

    I think everyone has a turning point in their spiritual search. Mine was a random visit to my doctor's office.

     

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    My doctor is the wife of a Lutheran minister. She's an awesome lady; very down-to-earth, gives it to me straight, talks to me like two people going out to lunch. I've been going to her for 15 years now, ever since she moved into the area. Her kids go to the school where I teach. You would think we live in a small two-church three-bar town in the hill country rather than the suburbs of a major city.

    Anyway, like most doctors, my doc has displays with pamphlets. Pamphlets on just about any medical ailment you can think of. Breast cancer, depression, cataracts, lymphoma, the once-a-year pill...you get the picture. She also has a few self-help things... mostly little books by Max Lucado or Rick Warren.

    So I went in for something -- I'd guess a sinus infection, since I get them chronically -- and I saw something different. It was "The Gospel of John in Contemporary Language". Now, first of all, gospel and contemporary just don't even seem to belong in the same sentence. Second, what I remember of the Gospel of John is that it was always my least favorite gospel. I mean... Mark was the short one; Matthew was the long one; Luke was the story-telling one that I liked the most; and John was the reeeaaallly long weird one that I never really understood.

    I stared at it. It stared back at me. I didn't touch it.

    A couple months later, I had to bring one of my kids in for something -- probably an ear infection *rolls eyes*. We're in a different room this time. But there it is again. Staring at me. Like this... big cyclops eyeball on the body of the pamphlet display.

    I didn't want to touch it. But the darn thing kept staring at me.

    She finished with my daughter and left the room. As I was leaving, I stared back at it. I told myself I'd grab one if it was there the next time I came in.

    Well, darn it all, next time I came, there it was... staring at me. So yes, I took one. The only one on the display.

    That evening, I read the entire thing...cover to cover... three times.

    I highlighted. I dogeared.

    And I still carry that very same small copy of The Gospel of John around with me everywhere I go.

    What struck me so hard in that little paperback?

    "It is who you are and the way you live that count before God. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him. God is sheer being itself -- Spirit."

    "How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?"

    "The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen."

    "Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal."

    Suddenly, my belief system started to form in my soul. It doesn't follow everything in John, but there are several parts of John that inspired my thoughts...particularly the idea that God is Being Itself.

    I have since ordered at least twenty of those little paperbacks directly from the publisher and handed them out to family and students. They have told me similar stories of spiritual epiphanies upon reading it. I don't know what it is about that little book, but it packs a punch to the soul.

    Told my doc about how that book affected me about a year later. She just smiled.

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    Broken

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 9:02 PM [General]

    it's just like last time
    i try to deal with it; try confronting...but that just brings down a storm of blades...
    so i take shelter, but in doing so, lies start...and no one believes the truth anymore

    i know i shouldn't care what anyone thinks of me.
    but when it happens again...when there's more loss again... again and again
    it's obviously me that's the problem
    doesn't matter what I think, what I meant, what I said, what I feel
    only what they think, say, feel... people believe them
    i'm invisible again... a much bigger cave

    may as well stay "invisible" and save people the trouble of throwing the blades at me again. i've been stabbed enough...i'm bleeding to death

    tell me, Lord... in the end, is it the one who cries out the loudest that gets saved? because that's what this life is teaching me

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    Blame

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 7:02 PM [General]

    Realized something just now.

    As soon as I stopped blaming my mental illness for the way I was acting, I started being recognized by those outside of this MI world as a functioning member of society.

    Though my disorder is dehibilitating, and I'm in the depths of a setback with very little support, I am glad that no one outside of those I've told know I'm suffering. I feel like that's some sort of small success over this damned demon.

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    Commentary on America's Spirituality

    Thursday, October 2, 2008, 7:39 PM [General]

    The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary. 
     
    My confession:
     
    I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees..  I don't feel threatened.  I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are:  Christmas trees.
     
     
    It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me.  I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters
     celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in    Malibu   .  If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away. 
     
    I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from that  
      America   is an explicitly atheist country.  I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. 
     
    Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the  
      America   we knew went to.. 
    In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke;  it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
     
     
    Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
     
     
    In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.
     
     
    Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he's talking about.  And we said OK.
     
     
    Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
     
     
    Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
     
     
    Are you laughing yet?
     
     
    Funny how when you relay this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
     
     
    Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.  Pass it on if you think it has merit.  If not then just discard it... no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.  
     
     
    My Best Regards,  
    Honestly and respectfully, 
    Ben Stein

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    My version of Prayer

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 10:50 PM [General]

    Another passage I wrote in October 2004... this one regarding the nature of prayer.

    ___________________________________________________________

    371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him."

    ~ John 4:23 from "The Message Remix"


    The value of personal prayer has always been stressed in religious teaching. But the nature of that prayer tends to be very vague. People say, "You should pray - it will make you feel better." But exactly how does one go about the act of praying in a way that transcends mere recitation of age-old words?

    Nearly every organized religion has prayers - flowing pre-written verse praising God, confessing sins, and asking for mercy. Religious people recite these prayers dutifully because (a) they believe strongly in what they profess; (b) the process of recitation puts them in a calm, comforted mood and focuses their mind on the more important things in life; and/or (c) they have simply been doing it for years. Personally, I am no exception to that -- I recite several traditional prayers regularly. I have found that the mood inspired by the recitation of those traditional prayers lends itself perfectly to the engagement of the spirit that John mentions above... provided one is open to the concept of true prayer.

    Ever take the time to say a "non-traditional" prayer? A prayer straight from your heart, thanking God for something or asking Him a question? Do you feel you hear an answer? Not the next day; not eventually... do you feel you hear an answer right then? Have you felt that way maybe once or twice, but been unable to recapture that feeling?

    The first time I felt that way, I wanted to hold on to the moment forever. It was the most serene conversation I had ever had. And it WAS a conversation, not a one-way recitation. I was so completely focused on the subject of my non-traditional prayer that thoughts just started coming to me. I contemplated all the thoughts that were coming... and they were jumbled, as thoughts about disconcerting subjects always are. But as I considered these thoughts, I realized there was one line of thought that seemed slightly different from the others. Describing it with words is impossible, but the thought seemed "lighter", more distant. It seemed the thought was coming from outside my own mind. It wasn't saying what I wanted to hear, but more I considered the thought, its nature intrigued me. Every time I prayed after that, I "listened" for that kind of thought. Provided I was calm and focused, I realized I could always hear it. It wasn't the loudest, and it definitely didn't always say what I wished it would. But it was there - that lighter, more distant thought would always surface if I waded through the confusion that was my own mind.

    Understanding this prayer was the first realization of this philosophy that I've adopted and continue to refine. I felt there had to be some reason why those particular thoughts seemed different than the endless parade of thoughts my own mind produced. I attribute that difference to the source of the thought. I believe those thoughts are coming from the spirit of God. I believe that when I pray now, a connection is opened between my mind and my spirit, and it is through that spirit (as through any living spirit) that God communicates. But the mind must be open to this channel of communication. The process of praying in this manner - of taking oneself to a level of calm and focus that allows that unique type of thought to reach the mind - is my interpretation of John's concept: "Engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth."

    I still recite traditional prayers. I use them as a tool to reach that state of calm and focus that I need to have that conversation with God that I have enjoyed since that first time. In fact, I recite the rosary on a daily basis... but often I cannot remember saying the entire thing after 30-45 minutes (the rosary usually takes me about 15 minutes to say). The prayers of the rosary calm me, and my thoughts open to my spirit and therefore God's spirit... and the conversation takes off. I enjoy these conversations so much that when I get to that state of openness, I literally cannot feel my body and I'm oblivious to anything in the "human" world around me. It's a wonderful escape, and the answers that come during those times spill over into my "reality" and provide me with a happiness I did not know before.
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