Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “god”

Time to Misbehave

Let me start with this disclaimer: In the words of Captain Mal Reynolds, “I aim to misbehave.” So if that bothers you, read no further.

You can accuse me of overreacting but the resent ban on refuges is the worst possible thing that our president could have done. If we as a people, allow this to stand we are in grave danger. As I have made the case in a previous blog, the sacred writings of the Jewish and Christian peoples abound with warning form God to protect those in danger and aid those in need or he will get pissed. Toppling of kingdoms level pissed. For those of you who are God fearing people (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) this should terrify you.

If you are not God fearing people, you should mock those of us who claim to be if we do not react to this. Any inaction on the part of those proclaiming to believe in God is true validation to you that we are nothing but a pile of hypocrites. Or at best a bunch of mindless idiots who have sold our souls for the safety of group think.

I feel the hymn Rise Up O Men of God fits this moment.

Rise up o men of God

in one united throng

bring in the day of brotherhood

and end the night of wrong

We need to rise up. We cannot remain silent when something this egregious happens in our land. The consequences are too dire to stay silent.

Shame on me for not raising this call in the heat of Black Lives Matter, for not screaming louder about Standing Rock. Both of which fall in the same category of what makes God pissed.

But this latest move scares me. Truly scares me. I hope it scares you too.

So much of Jesus’s teachings revolve around caring for those in need. He even states he came to preach good news to the poor and to free captives. If this is not core to what we are doing as people proclaiming to follow him, trying to be like him, then we are taking the name of Christ in vain.

I believe that an approach to God and faith must come from an inclusive place. It must start that all are equally loved by God. If my understanding of Christian theology does not start with Christ dying for everyone, then it falls apart completely. If ALL are loves and ALL have been redeemed, the ALL must mean ALL. Including my Muslim friends and brothers. They cannot be excluded. They cannot be cast out.

Jesus’s directives to are for those in need have no qualifiers. It is not limited to North American Christians. It is to anyone in need. Especially refugees. Even Muslims.

If any of you want to call this nation a Christian nation yet refuse to allow Muslims in, you have ceased to have Christian nation.

In face of this move by our president, I call to you who call on the name of God, in the name of God to push back against this. Our God desires we side with the oppressed. The founders of this nation have provided us the means to prevent our government from trampling us. Use your voice. Use your pen. Use your computer. Let those in power know this cannot stand.

Mario Savio stated my sentiment well.:

  • There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

When reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it astounded me as it did him, how little people responded to the actions of Hitler once in power. So much passivity lead to so much anguish. We can’t let the same happen here. If we remain quiet, it will.

Don’t passively let our government perpetuate hatred. Rise up people of God. Proclaim freedom for the captives. Chose brotherhood over oppression. Join me, and misbehave.

Advertisements

Every Breath a Prayer

I have been exploring meditation. Trying to learn to slow myself down and do little more than just breathe a few minutes each morning. Most days, of the days that I do it, I can do about five to ten minutes before it becomes a struggle.. Occasionally I can last a little longer. And some days, I just can’t/won’t even start.

Sometimes this feels like when I was a kid trying to learn to hold my breath longer and longer so I could swim farther underwater.

The days that I meditate tend to go better than the days I don’t. The obvious value is physiological. I slow down my life a little. I slow down my breathing, which slows down my heart. It helps relieve my stress. Less stress, even if for only part of my day is a good thing. Doing this in the morning helps me prevent my stress levels from getting a good running start before my day really gets going. If I start worrying about work problems, or a crowded schedule or something I forgot to get done yesterday right as I get out of bed, then I will feel overwhelmed before I can do anything about resolving any of those problems.

And physiologically I don’t need that. I have enough health issues without compounding them with stress. Without creating new health issues born of stress.

But is it something miraculous about meditation? Perhaps. I do believe in the spiritual realm and the power of spiritual disciplines to make our lives better. I think that part of the value derives from the spiritual act in itself.

Richard Rohr talks about the importance of breathing in the spiritual realm. He explains that the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH) is traditionally expressed as the sounds we make as we breathe. The first syllable equates to an inhale and the second to exhaling. Thus every breath we take is calling upon the name of God. Literally, every breath is a prayer. Our lives depend on God so much that we are repeating his name over and over and over each day.

That means every breath is a cry for God’s mercy and compassion to keep me alive. It is then very much a quiet thanks for that incredible gift.

Scripture gives stories of God breathing into Adam, or the reconstructed bodies in the valley of dry bones. His breathe brings life. The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of breath, of God or Jesus breathing on people and they receive the inflow of his presence.

The very word inspiration, to breathe in, also means to take in spirit.

For a few minutes everyday, I try to be aware that this is happening, to slow down, calm down and just breathe. In those brief moments I do find peace. I do feel closer to a God that I am calling to every few seconds and who responds to me each time. A conversation that continues when I am not aware of it, even continues as I sleep.

Take a deep breath now and enjoy knowing that you and God are connected.

Wrath of a Merciful God

For years various Christians, some claiming to be prophets, have warned of God’s wrath falling on America because of our immorality. We have been very, very naughty and we need to be spanked. You know, in a righteous, not sexy way. No fetish indulgence here.

But is immorality truly the America’s worst sin? If God were to punish us, would that be the reason?

By my reading of scripture, it seems the two things that seem to piss of God more than anything else, and I mean, really piss him off to the degree to bring famine or economic collapse or invasion by enemy armies, that top two does not include immorality.

The things that made God lash out at his chosen people, seem to be idolatry – placing other gods ahead of him, and injustice – not caring for the poor, the needy, the outcast, the destitute. The stories in scripture where God lashes out stem from these.

Scripture teems with calls to care for those with less. Typically this comes as providing food to the hungry, but this has far more manifestations. Those with are expected to share with those without. If you have food and someone doesn’t, share. If you have power and someone else does not, protect them. If you have strength and they are weak, use that strength to help. Freely dispense your wisdom, knowledge and justice.

The real struggle of this roots itself in personal wealth. Conceptually we may agree with this but to actually take my money and give it to someone else is hard. It seems like it’s hard to give away my food. Yet I throw food away. As a nation, we throw out an obscene amount of wasted food. But I feel like I don’t have abundance to share, that my margin is too slim for real generosity.

Fatherhood taught me a lot about justice. It is not making sure that both have the same number of cookies, although that can be part of it. It is holding and comforting the one that has been hurt. It is redirecting the one who has hurt the other. It is teaching them to share and take turns. It is teaching them to help each other.

And, from the place of power and abundance, it is me lifting them to places they can’t get. It is me preparing meals, or providing food. From my excess, I meet their needs.

According to Christian and Jewish scriptures, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. This only second to loving God. Basically these two commandments sum up the triggers to God’s ire. When asked, Jesus defined neighbors, he told the parable of the Good Samaritan; his response stood religion and cultural convention on its head.

Jesus wants us to love those we chose to reject, those we despise and deride the most. He expects us to love and serve those we would reject if they tried to help us. As a society, we do not do this. In the wake of the election, it appears that much of our nation is running the opposite direction from this.

If there is any reason for God to kick America’s ass, it is the lack of justice. Racism runs rampant. Poverty continues to grow. LGBTQ people still suffer abuse, hate and violence. My friends of Mexican descent now fear being deported, even if they are citizens. We stand on the brink of repeating the sins of the Nazis by registering Muslims. Collectively we fear helping refugees from war torn countries more than we fear the repercussions of rejecting them.

America used to be the land of opportunity. For everyone. Just like the words on the statue of liberty proclaim, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Now, America is only the land of opportunity for the privileged.

This is a land of abundance. A land of wealth. A land of power.

And a land of injustice.

We should be terrified that God might call us into account for that imbalance. Many want to call the United States a Christian nation but we are not. A land that so blatantly and arrogantly dismisses those in need and Christ’s teachings about that cannot call themselves his people. That would be taking his name in vain. For those of you who aren’t aware, that’s early on in the list of big bad things not to do. Jesus said we can experience forgiveness to the degree we are ready to dispense it. What if the same is true of mercy?

If it is, we are in a world of hurt.

Foxhole Prayers

There are no atheists in a foxhole, or so I’ve been told. Mike Warnke, before his fall from grace, told a story of a Marine in Viet Nam who was Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox/Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu, just in case. He wanted all his bases covered in case things went bad.

People often talk about the desperation prayers that soldiers say when facing tragedy, imminent death or terrifying circumstances. The movie Guadalcanal Diary from 1943 captures this beautifully, when a marine named Taxi hiding in a bunker confesses to the chaplain that he doesn’t pray because he changes things but sometimes like the horrendous barrage they are under makes him realize that he needs someone bigger than himself, someone God big to do something. He then details what kind of prayer he would say if he knew how to pray. When taxi stops talking, the priest crosses himself and says, “Amen”.

In the church I grew up in, these weren’t considered real prayers. They felt that a relationship  with God was necessary to have real prayers. Prayers sent up by nonbelievers and sinners had no value. They were the equivalent of spiritual barfing.

But I wonder if the emotional realism of those prayers are more significant that properly theologized prayers given by the faithful.

The counter argument is that relationship builds a better prayer life. The closer you are to God, the easier it is to pray and the more meaningful the prayers. Based on my experience, I agree that those are both true statements. Neither, however, negates the value of the desperate prayers of desperate people. Those prayers have power too.

The counter argument to this is that these prayers are the equivalent a friend or relative that only calls when they need something. They reach out in the time of need but never to just connect, or to see if they can help you. Those people are annoying. And it sucks to feel like you are nothing more than a contractor to resolve their issues, that you get nothing out of the relationship. And it’s worse when you want to have connection but it only comes when fixing their problems.

And I’m sure that as much as people like that annoy us, they also annoy God. He desperately wants relationship with us. He wants the connection of everything all the time, like the daily (or weekly)call back home when you first move away. The family wants to know everything that’s happening. God wants the regular, connected prayer that brings us closer.

But he is far more patient with  us than we are with each other. Jesus tells us to forgive far more often than we want to. Scripture tells us that God is ready to forgive us even more than that. If that is true of forgiveness, wouldn’t also be true of requests for help?

The thing that pissed Jesus off more than anything else were those instances that people prevented others from drawing nearer to God. Religious rules that made it hard to connect with God riled him up. Perhaps telling people that their prayers are lacking blocks them from God. Maybe we should be crossing ourselves and saying “amen” instead of assigning bad grades to the attempt to call out to God.

What if, every prayer we say is a foxhole prayer? What if our lives are in dire enough situations that every request for God’s presence or providence is an act of desperation.

We are all in the process of dying. Sure, we are living but we are also dying. The trick is to live as much as possible before we die. Some of us are closer to death than others, but we all face a significant risk of dying today. And tomorrow. And the day after. Prayers to get through today or to be done with today are as much foxhole prayers as they are anything else.

As simple as it is, a prayer of “God, help!” is significant. It is reaching out to someone cares and can do something about it. But most of all it is reaching out.

And that prayer may just connect you to a God who is already reaching out to you.

Graven Images

I recently read The Serpent’s Shadow the third book of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. These stories play around with Egyptian mythology overlaid on modern culture. In this installment, a key magical element are shabti, statues that can be used to capture a shadow and then control the being whose shadow is controlled.

Suddenly I had different understanding of idols. Up to this point, I only considered them as artistic renditions of gods people loved or feared. They only served as a focus of worship. But with grasping the concept of a shabti, I now get that to the ancient Egyptian culture, the culture that Moses and the Hebrews left, idols where not just foci but actual tools to control the gods.

When reading the Ten Commandments, I always struggled with the differentiation between the first two. 1 – Don’t have any other gods. 2 – don’t make graven images. It doesn’t’ take much digging to separate and understand the nuances of what is being prohibited in each. But the two of them seemed mildly redundant.

But shabti revealed a new layer.

We are commanded to not try to control God. He is beyond that. And to live in faith means that we are to trust him. Demanding, commanding, trying to force our will upon God aren’t ways to relationship.

Of course, trust is harder. Harder but better.

My Lord

I know many Christians that serve God because they know he is powerful and that he is going to win. They don’t seem to particularly like him. Their description of God makes it sound like he at best tolerates them. Love isn’t really part of the equation. They say he loves them but the practical application of their faith doesn’t demonstrate that. It seems like they are betting on what they think is the winning side with the expectation that things will go better for them if they do.

God gets portrayed as a taskmaster, or at least a mean boss. He will reward good work. Maybe. He definitely will punish shoddy work. It is almost as if the purpose of serving such a God is to avoid being fired. Or stuck by lightening. Fear is the driving force relationally, not love.

And if this truly is God, then perhaps there is logic in trying to be on the winning side. You’d hate to be punished by such a God. After all, the wrath incurred for failing to serve him well can’t be as bad as that for opposing him. Can it?

Obviously, I am exaggerating the extent to which people serve God like this, but when fear drives the relationship rather than love such an exaggeration is not that far away. It is the way a victim stays in an abusive relationship. As wrong as that is when it’s two humans, isn’t it worse when the abuser is supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving and divine?

The best picture I can think of to this approach to God comes from Harry Potter. This is the way Voldemort’s servants respond to him. They fear him. Often, they hate him but he is the most powerful being in their world. He is the one they expect to win. Best to side with him than oppose him. As vindictive as he is, the punishments he will one day dole out will be horrendous. When his evil reign ensues, his friends will be ill-treated but not as ill-treated as his enemies.

What a lousy platform for faith. I don’t want a Voldemort for my lord. Jesus speaks of God being a loving father. I sometimes struggle to understand what that metaphor means, but I much prefer it to the mean boss.

I have to think God would much prefer not to be treated as Voldemort as well. I wouldn’t want people to think that of me, no matter how much power I could derive from it. If God truly is the fullest manifestation of love, then this has to tick him off. Love wants to be freely received and freely returned. Fear driving a relationship can never get to this place. God wants us to know him as loving, to engage him as loving, to wallow in his love. That is the lord I desire.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 13

A recent musical discovery for me is the song “39” by The Cure. Sure, it’s been around for awhile, I have even had it in my library for a few years, but it just never made it into my rotation. I have a lot of music by The Cure and I listen to my favorites all the time, rarely digging into the wealth of all they have to offer me. Finally, I played my full arsenal of The Cure and I discovered “39”.
This song could have been my theme song for the last few years. I love the lyrics about how everything in life used to be fuel for the fire that burned within. Everything fed the flames. That is/was true of me. There was a time when everything, good bad or everything that fell in between served as fuel to keep a massive fire burning inside my spirit. But, like the song, I am now in the place where the fire is almost out and there is nothing left to burn. All that happens around me, even the good, even the exciting, seem feeble fuel for such a fire.
And that hurts.
Breaking a vow is a terrible thing and it crushes us. That is part of the power of vows. It is easy to disregard them as mere words, but vows lock into our spirit. They can be horribly heavy to carry at times, but breaking them steals something form our souls. We are somehow less.
I have become a man I vowed I would never be. When the fire was raging and everything fed it, it was easy to believe I could never become this man. It was easy to despise others who were where I am now. The vow was such a tiny, tiny burden then.
But it almost feels like there are forces out there that attack vows. Forces that want to destroy us and destroy our spirits and they know the power of vows, so they use them against us.
That is part of why it feels so hard to get the fire going again. I shouldn’t be here. My soul has been injured in landing as awkwardly as I have in a place with so little fuel for a few dying embers. But I don’t want to stay here. I want to have that raging fire in me again. So, I nurture the little fire I have left. I feed it what fuel I can find and breathe all the life into it that I can.
I think I need the breath of God to give some serious life to these embers, like when god breathed on Adam and Eve and gave them life. Like when he breathed into the all the carcasses in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel, bringing hem back to life. I think this might be the only way that the fire within me becomes a raging blaze again. I think that is the only way that everything in my life will become fuel for the fire again.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 7

In the Vineyard (the denomination that I attend) they often bounce around this phrase: Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.  Actually taking some sort of a risk is promoted, typically in a realm where it puts our faith on the line and we have to expect God to do what scriptures say he’ll do.

My last post here I mentioned that I want to try to take more risks. So, as a good Vineyard boy, I should be doing churchy things to accomplish that. And in some ways, that is a good place to start.  The idea of praying for people and expecting God to make a difference always stretches me. Even if I’m comfortable with the concept, the environment and the person being prayed for, I still feel a little worried that it won’t turn out the way I want.  The way I want shouldn’t be the issue, but what God will do for the person we are lifting in prayer should matter, but I focus more on what I want. Like not looking stupid.

So, again, this is a decent springboard for me. If for nothing else, taking the risk of looking stupid in order to see if God will interact in someone’s life.  But I think some slightly bigger risks might be in order. Like accepting the opportunity to preach in two weeks.

I am one of those odd people who like to speak in public. I get nervous and I worry about what to say, but it’s fun to d while I’m doing it. I look forward to it. But there is always the fear boiling inside of me that I have nothing of significance to say. Or that even if I do that my audience will not understand it or care. In short I fear that my efforts, though fun, will be pointless.

But beyond that, and maybe this is one of those for the future things, is meeting people. Quite honestly, I’d rather speak in public than meet people. I hate meeting people. It is too personal. Speaking to a group is a bit removed and not as risky because of that. If they don’t like me it’s they. If I meet you and you don’t like me, that is a tangible real person; you are not they. So someday, as this “taking risks to develop the ability to take bigger risks to tell a better story grows out of me trying to get a life”, I will have to meet some people. I will have to man up and make some new friends. Or enemies. Or more likely, acquaintances.

So, baby steps. Risky baby steps aiming toward that eventual big leap. God, have mercy on me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 5

On the way home form work, Old Man by Redlight King played on the radio. I love the Neil Young original but this remake connected with me.
The last time I wrote, I talked about how I observed my kids and learned about how to live my life better. This song warned me that they are doing the same. They look to me to figure out how to get through life. Sometimes by asking questions but more often by copying me.
How much fear and lifelessness am I passing along without intending to? The stuff I hate about my life, the things that are motivating me to write this blog are the very things that will be my legacy unless I am deliberate about changing them. I don’t want my kids to learn to fear the world, life, God. More, I don’t want them to learn it from me. They will grow up one day to be a lot like me, for better or for worse.
This change, this embracing change and choosing to live, that’s what I need to pass one. Hopefully I can give them enough that they can learn to do it better than me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 4

I recently heard a pastor make the case for fear being the greatest sin we can commit. His reasoning basically went this way. He felt that fear was the opposite of love, that it drives us away from others and from God, preventing us to take the risks of faith, hope and loving others. Therefore, since loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, then the thing that prevented that the most proved the worst sin.
I don’t know that I agree with him fully, but I agree with it enough to comment on it here and let it shape my quest to live. When I look at my kids, the thing that bothers me the most is when I see them act out of fear. I hate when they do that. I don’t want them to create a pattern of letting fear make the decisions in their lives. Sometimes they are scared by something that should scare them, something that is threatening or surprising. Those things are easy to recover from. A car racing by too close to the curb is a real threat and elicits real fear. But some comfort and reassurances that they are ok allows them to move on. But the moments when they pull back from trying something because they fear that they might fail or what others might think of them – that’s the stuff that drives me nuts.
I want them to know that can fail as freely and as frequently as they want and that I’ll still love them. I may get frustrated if they don’t learn how to adapt and overcome, but I’ll not stop loving them. And I’d rather have them try and fail than never try at all. I want them to know freedom. I want them to be capable of taking big risks.
I know, somewhere in my heart that God feels that way about me. He wants me to live and to love and to be free. He wants me to taste life and enjoy it. He wants me to be bold and not worry about what others think. He wants me to be myself as fully as I can. And every time that I let fear kick me in the balls and abdicate my freedom, God gets pissed. Not a hate me and will never talk to me again pissed, but I’m sure there is a deep growl in the back of his throat. I can here they thought of “don’t let fear do that to you.”
I’m pretty sure God wants us to turn the tables and kick fear in the balls.

Post Navigation