Category Archives: christianity

To Seek or not to Seek…?

Here is a dichotomy in my mind…

I can remain calm , through acceptance, self denial, and simplicity.  This will include being satisfied with what is, and refusing to desire so to avoid suffering.

 

Or I can live this life seeking for meaning through prayer, reflection, reading, and studying.  Being unsatisfied and wanting more in life, but feeling hopeful and maintaining faith that I will find more satisfaction .

I can let life continue to be without necessarily trying to “find ” God , or live by trying to discover who and what God is and hoping that a divine intervention will come.

What would be the correct path? I can decide to remain calm and accept life as it is, meditating and simply being.  I can do  this by being aware of the present moment.  Living in the here and now.  I can also remain calm by refraining from desiring and wanting.  Happiness would then be wanting what I already have.  Being a minimalist.  Believing that less in more.  Letting things pass through me… letting go…. without resistance… without judgment.  And experiencing peace.

But I am suddenly aware of the injustice of life.  I am aware of wars… hunger… terrorism …. and famine.  I then become more sensitive to the “evils” that poison this world.   I  start feeling anger…. frustration…. and disgust.   And then  I am motivated again to fight for justice and peace.

Which means I cannot just be. I have to move and do something.  So the question remains: Should I seek justice and peace?  Or should I simply be and accept?  Should I turn the other cheek, or fight for equality and justice? Should I remain calm, let go and let God…  or should I stand up and take action?

Blessed are the poor in spirit… but also are the ones who fight for justice.  Blessed are the meek, the ones who mourn,  and the peace makers… but also the ones who reveal the hypocrites, give to the poor, and speak the truth.

Maybe there is a time for everything.  A time to fight, and a time to make peace.   A time to speak, and a time to remain silent.

Perhaps we are called to act and not act according to the circumstances.  According to the needs at the moment.  But who decides?

Maybe it does not have to be a dichotomy, but a more fluid, mixed approach of seeking and not seeking according to our calling.

 

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Pain

I wrote this short story about ten years ago and decided to share it in this blog.  It is based on true stories of my personal life.   Hope you enjoy it.

Pain

I am awakened from a dream and I still don’t know if I’m still sleeping or having another dream. I look around and find myself in the most beautiful place I have experienced in the world: the shore of a tropical beach. On one side are the palms, bushes, green mountains at a distance, and even a fishing wooden boat parked on the sand.  On the other side is the  endless sea, with green and blue surface. It appears as if it’s later in the morning , right before noon. The sand beneath my feet is almost white and the waves caress the sand a few steps from my feet. I feel the presence of someone sitting on the edge of the boat parked in the sand. It is a young man with casual clothes and sandals, looking at me with a friendly smile, as if he knew me. I approached him with confidence and he invites me to sit next to him.

               “Who are you?” I ask curiously, remaining standing in front of him.

               “A messenger,” he responded while maintaining a smile. His hair is brown and has light skin.

               “What message do you have and from whom?”

               “A message for your life from the Almighty!”

               “I’m  listening…”

               “You carry a lot of pain in your heart that the Lord would want to take away. It’s a pain about many  situations in your life … “

               “I do not feel any pain. What pain are you talking about? “

               “A deep pain that you can not grasp. But that is causing conflict and sadness in your life. “

               I do not want to believe this man, but I am curious to hear what this strange messenger is about to tell me. The sea breeze caresses my face. The heat from the sun warms my hair and shoulders, while I decide to ask about this pain.

               “Let us start with the most painful experience you’ve ever had. Do you remember what it was? ” the stranger asks me as if talking to a student.

               Nothing really comes to mind. My eyes are on the sandy ground as I try to think what the messenger is talking about . When I lift up my eyes, I see the messenger sitting on the edge of the boat, but the scenery behind him is different. I see now a smaller palm behind the man. Behind the palm is a fence. Instead of hearing the ocean waves behind me, I now hear cars running. Then I look behind me and I find myself on the edge of a busy road, which is like 10 feet from where I stand. The sea became a neighborhood across the road where you see only the roofs of the houses because they are at the bottom of a hill. A concrete fence separates the house from the road.

               “Where are we?”, I ask the messenger.

               “You’ll know in a moment…,” he answers with a straight face.

               I look again to the cars passing on the road and see a gray stationwagon slowly approaching and parks near me. When I look at who drives the car, I recognize that it is my mother.  She looks younger, but with a frown on her face. As she parks the car, I notice that her gaze is no longer on the road but a boy sitting by her side. The child is also sad. I  see tears on his tender face. I carefully approach the station wagon parked on the grass at the edge of the busy road.  I immediately recognize where I am. They do not seem to notice me, as if I were watching a movie. But it is a movie where I am in it.  It is very real.  I continue to slowly approach the car and watch the sad child’s face.  I acknowledge that the child is me.

               “Remember this day….?” asked the messenger behind me.

               I admit that I do, but I do not answer. I keep noticing the child and my mother. I feel my eyes watering. I know exactly what happens in this scenario. My mom had picked me up from school. She had turned the wrong way at a traffic light where there is a pizza place on one side, and some condominiums on the other.  I had to ask where we were going, since the direction was contrary to our home.  That day, we went to live at my aunt’s house because my parents were separating. I feel tears shedding down my face as well.

               “This is the worst pain you have. Correct?”  asks the man behind me.

               I can not speak. The emotions are overwhelming. Still, I do not want to admit the pain. I want to speak to my mother instead. I want to tell her to turn the stationwagen back to our home. I want her to give my dad another chance. But what did I know? I was just a child. What did I know about what was really going on? How did I know what was best for a family? Family? What is a family? Is this what it is supposed to happen in a family? I hated the moment that my parents separated! Damn the day they divorced! But whose fault is it? I don’t know. I do not think it’s a question of blame. It’s just facts of life that hurt, but serve for growth and maturing.

Pain? I remember the man is still behind me. But I want to ignore him and fixate on my mom while she is still parked in front of me. Then she turns her gaze to the road and drives off.  Then I look back where the messenger is.

               “Ok, I remember this day. I remember this pain, but that happened a  long time ago! “

               “Then why  are there still tears on your face? ‘”, questioned the messenger.

               I don’t want to answer. I immediately dry my face and I am now in dark  environment. I’m in the livingroom of a house. It’s night time and I see a total of five people watching television. I look out the front door and recognize the neighborhood and, accross the street, I see the front part of the house where I grew up. I’m in the neighbor’s house.   Now I recognize the neighbor and her daughter in front of me. Beside me is my brother in a wheelchair, a child, and my dad sitting beside the child. I realize that I’m the child again. The room is dark but the light of the television shows the people’s faces,  particularly the bitter face of my father. I see the brightness of his tears as he screams and curses while the child listens in silence. My father is  yelling and blaming my mother for leaving us at the neighbor’s house and going to church. This was always a typical argument at home. I feel fear and dread by being in this place.

               “Tomorrow, my world will end!” shouted my father while everyone else remained silent in the dark. His crying haunts everyone in the room, including myself, even if I am not really there. I remember as a child, I felt fear, sadness, and shame at the same time. What a horrible way for two children to spend time with their ​​father before a divorce! Yes, this was the night before my parents legally divorced, a disastrous proceeding in the family.

               “This was also painful to you, was it not?,” the messenger announced. I did not see him since I’m in this new environment. I do not not want to pay attention to him. He is reminding me of the pain I denied a minute ago.

               I want to be out of this nightmare, but I do not want to show my sorrow. I prefer to stay calm so that the messenger does not  see that  these experiences still hurt me. Why is it that this stranger is allowing these vivid memories  to resurface now? What is the purpose of reminding me of this pain? Although I admit it  in my heart, I do not want to reveal it. I decide to leave the house and walk towards the home across the street.  I want to get away from that situation and the voice of the messenger who created this nightmare. I’m starting to feel anger towards this strange person who seems to have pity on me.

               I  jump the short fence of my house and walk towards the middle of the yard besides the house.   Suddenly it becomes daylight. It’s like instant daylight, but the sun is still on the horizon. I can breathe the fresh morning air. It’s a much better environment where there are no highways or people screaming in the night. I stand in the middle of the yard next to my house and watch the young palm tree that  a janitor from a private school gave me. The palm looks healthy but still has a few more years to be a full size palm tree.

               “This palm was a gift of great importance in your childhood, was it not?” The voice of the messenger comes back to haunt me.

               I ignore him completely. I wonder what he will prove me now about my past life. Doesn’t he know that he is causing more pain by doing this?

               “This palm was eventually torn out by the winds of a hurricane…” added the messenger.

               “God took it away! ‘, I decided to speak to clarify the situation. Now I feel more angry because the messenger perhaps wanted me to admit this other pain like I did in the previous two.

               “And what else did God take away from you…?”

               I hear footsteps coming from the front of the house. I turn and  see the same boy walking in the yard where I stand. He does not feel my presence again. I acknowledge that the child is me,  but seems to be younger than the boy at the other scenes. He has a plastic bag in his hand with  tiny seeds inside.  He walks past me as if I am an invisible ghost and goes to a wooden structure shaped like a triangle. The structure I remember  was a dog house that was being used now to house another animal. The little  house was lying on its side , with the only entrance facing up. A piece of zinc is covering the entrance. My throat feels like a knot, as I realize what is about to happen.

               “My God…!”, I begin to say aloud while the child stands up and drops the bag of seed in the ground for a moment to remove the piece of zinc.

               “Do not open it! Do not open it! “, I shouted trying to have the boy pay attention to me before I discover what was inside. “My God, do not open, you’re going to be frighten …!

               “Aaaahhhh!” The child and I scream at the same time. Now everything seems to be moving in slow motion.

               “What was inside the dog house?,” asks the messenger, knowing full well the answer. 

               I ignore the question of the messenger as the child screams in horror. I feel fear. I am afraid to go and see what frightened the child, or me. But I don’t need to see inside the wooden house. I see it clearly in my memory. A feathery little body, the  size of my hand, lying on its side. It has a line of ants going in and out of its eye socket. It’s a frightening image. My hands are over my head. I’m reliving another nightmare. I hear another scream, this time it’s an adult, coming from the front of the house. The boy and I look. It is my father. Running and screaming hysterically, as he usually did in dramatic moments.

               “What happened?, My father yells at the child.

               “Don’t say it, I do not want to hear it!” I yelled to the child, knowing that my cry is in vain.

               “The baby chick is dead !”

                Now I’m on the sand at the beach where I was before. I am kneeling with my hands on the sandy soil. I see tear drops falling on the sand.

               “Why did the baby chick die..?,” asks the messenger who appears to be again sitting on the edge of the boat parked in front of me.

               I keep crying and moaning on the hot sand.

               “It was because of your carelessness, wasn’t it? He died from lack of nutrition. It was abandoned and left to die. You thought of checking it the night before, but decided to wait until next morning. “

               “I was just an ignorant child …”, I try to justify between sobs.

               “But it was your responsibility. And you repeated the same mistake with your best friend of your adolescence. Your new pet was also carelessly abandoned and ended up dead… “

               “Enough!” I yell.

                “You want to blame your family, but you know very well it was your responsibility….”

                “I said that’s enough!! You got what you wanted! “

               “Shall I present the next stage of your life where other pain also originated …?”

               “No!” I cried immediately. My face is wet with tears. “I can’t see anymore!”  I have my hands covering my face.

               “This pain is what I meant when I spoke to you first,” said the messenger.

               Now I feel hatred  in my heart as I  yell,   “Why are you torturing me so much? What kind of abuser are you? “

               “You asked me what I was referring to by pain and I showed you. It doesn’t mean I enjoy it…. “

               I turn around and look into the beautiful clear sea while I’m trying to dry my tears without achieving much. The pain I feel is as deep as the sea I see at this time. The sea is beautiful above, but who knows how many things are  hidden beneath the surface ? This was exactly what I learned from my life with this man. My life may look good and healthy. But there are concerns caused by the past that are hidden, but affect in many ways.

               “My message is simple…. the Almighty wants to heal this wound in  your heart and take away the pain. You just need to ask with sincerity …”

               My anger made me more rebellious towards this man. I don’t recognize that my anger is not really caused by this strange man, but by my hidden pain.  A pain that was just revealed.

                “I do not need God to remove any pain. I need my pain!! My pain creates the person I am today.” I try to intellectualize my emotional state.

               “And that person is the one that keeps you away from the Almighty and His Salvation. You need to be born again; you need to  transform into a new person. You need to be a man without pain.  You are called to become a joyful man. ‘

. I turn around and face the strange man, “If God loves me, why did he let these things happen? Huh? Answer the  question! Why did he allow them  if he loves me so much…?” I ask the man with contempt.

                “For that same reason…, because he loves you.”  the stranger answers, “He allowed them so that He can be manifested in your life. He wants to make you a new man!”

                 “Manifest in my life? Where was God when my parents fought so much and ended up divorcing? Where was God when my brother almost died while still in the womb of my mother? Where was God all the times my mother struggled to help my brother improve  and all the prayers and religious events where it was believed that there would be a miracle for him? Answer me! Where was God when my older brother had diabetes and my mother was depressed? Can you answer my questions…?”

                 “In the same place  when your brothers laughed and played with joy, especially the one who does not walk, who was chosen as an instrument of spiritual growth for others. God was in the same place during your pain as when you happily  graduated from high school. In the same place as when you happily visited your girlfriend, celebrated your wedding, and bought your first home. God has been in the same place  when  your daughter was born  .God has been in the same place during times of pain and joy. He has  always been at your side.”

                  “That’s hard to believe …”, I reply.

                   “That’s because you don’t  want to believe it…., but it is true,” replied the messenger.

It seems that nothing I say serves as justification for my rebellion. Nothing I try to explain or excuse is enough to accuse God of being unfair or even cruel. This man tells me that God has been present in good times and bad times. That means that He allowed both types of experiences to  take place.  One was for us to enjoy life, and the other to learn from life, even if they were undesirable. One was to relieve pain, and the other was to cause pain, and give me the opportunity to be a new man. Both experiences are to give thanks to God for.

                     “I don’t want  to feel this pain anymore…..” I admit at last, with weary eyes.

The messenger smiles.

Why would I want to stay bitter with the painful experiences of  my life? Why do I   think I have to justify my pride and my self sufficiency, if  these are actually  caused by my pain? It is as if I wanted  to justify keeping the pain, manifesting itself in my arrogance. Why do I find it preferable to keep this pain, even it it serves as a barrier that prevents  others from entering in my life, including God? Yet I live denying the pain even if it is  deep in my heart.  What stops me from releasing this pain and be free from any emotional attachment?  The pride,… and the pain.

                     “Take away this pain…., please …”

The man’s smile begins to disappear. Instead of having a smiling face, I see now a face in pain and suffering. Big drops of tears fall from his eyes, followed by drops of blood coming down from his forehead. Then I notice that the boat  parked behind him starts moving and modifying on its own. Its shape changed from a boat to a vertical wooden pole . From the top of the wooden pole, two horizontal poles submerge on both sides. The man’s face is in torment as he extends both hands towards me, showing me his open hands . I look at them and I notice that they are filled with blood, as if something sharp had penetrated  them. Then the man reaches out to both sides and is elevated to the post that is erected behind him. I was amazed and terrorized as I see this man who remains tied up in this wooden post. I was going to ask what was happening. But I think I understand clearly what I see. Because I decided to give my pain away, this man then took my pain and hurt to the point of bleeding.

                    “You took the pain from me…,” I say out loud while the man seems to start to lose consciousness in this horrible situation. Suddenly, the pain of this man seems to be so large that he takes a deep breath and then breathes no more. I recognize who he is now. There are no more tears on my face. The memory of my past is in my mind, but the pain is no longer in my heart. He took it off and stayed with it. I kneel again and raise my arms thanking the Almighty for this man that took away my pain and took it to him to death. I then fix my eyes on some letters written in the wood above where his head is. The letters  are clear and they say :”Jesus.”


Worshiping America

We the people of the United States,  like to worship the god America. Our pledge of allegiance serves as our daily prayer, and the national anthem is our hymns.

The American flag is our idol, and the American seal is our religious icon.  The Fourth of July is our religious holiday . The Constitution serves as  our Holy Book.

George Washington is the Messiah.   Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are our prophets and holy teachers.  We fill ourselves with patriotism, the same way we fill ourselves with a divine spirit.

We find comfort in excluding ourselves from the rest of the “anti-American” world the same way we exclude and condemn other religions.   We police the world and spread American democracy, the same way we try to convert the world.

We strive for American freedom and liberty, the same way monks escape the world through emptiness and surrendering. The American dream is our promised land.  American citizenship is our Salvation.

America is chosen among other nations. America is the greatest, the strongest, the most beautiful, the richest, and the most desired.

America is our god.

“Our America who is on the top of the earth, great is your name, your government will rule the rest of the earth as it is done in American soil.   Give us this day our daily dose of American dream.    And disregard our lack of patriotism, as we ignore those who try to remind us about our arrogance.  And lead us not into anti-Americanism, but deliver us from socialism, communism, and anything that threatens our American tradition.  Yours is the government, the power, and honor, forever and ever.  Amen.”


Religiously Correct

I sometimes have been tempted to be “religiously correct”.  By this I mean that, in spite of my continuous spiritual growth and evolving journey in life, I sometimes tend to regress and think in a traditional, exclusive, and religious way like I used to.  Of course, there are a lot teachings and customs in the Christian faith I grew up with that are still a huge part in my spiritual life, not because others have taught me to believe them, but because I genuinely believe them to be true.  But I wanted to share a list of old beliefs I learned from childhood which I accepted without question until recently, which now I consider “religiously correct”:

“I shouldn’t be angry  at life… or at God.”   I have always been taught that we should not  be angry at life or God because He knows everything and loves us, and that life is a gift.  This is true, but it does not dismiss the fact that this life can sometimes be painful. Besides, acknowledging the pain is also healthy.  God also at times seem unfair and distant.  I tend to feel fearful in expressing my true feelings to God.  But if I don’t, I would not have a close relationship with Him.  Thankfully I have learned in my spiritual journey that we have the right to be angry at God.  The Bible has stories such as  Israel, Job, and David whom disputed and questioned God on the injustice they experienced.  Even Jesus once said “Why have you forsaken me?”, citing Psalmist, while slowly dying on the cross.  So, yes, being angry at life and God is natural, even healthy, because expressing this honest feeling to the Omnipresent Being is better than having no relationship with  Him at all.

“People who are not Christians are living in sin, and therefore, not ‘saved’.”    This is one of the most disturbing beliefs of the Christian faith.  Jesus said “Do not judge…for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)  Who are we to determine who is “saved” or not? Jesus taught that many will claim to know Him but He will say to them “I never knew you…! (Matthew 7:23).  How am I to conclude that people like Gandhi, Dalai Lama, and other inspired people who lived serving others,  are burning eternally in hell unless they agreed with my faith? No, I cannot embrace this exclusiveness anymore.

“Behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and tattooing are sinful.”  I have witnessed the damaging results of drunkenness and smoking cigarettes in my family. Many close families have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and I recently lost someone to lung cancer caused by heavy smoking.  So it is easy for me to agree with those who automatically link these behaviors to spiritual shortcomings and sin.  However, I have learned that true spiritual growth relies on what my genuine attitude about life is and how I treat others.  I can be completely sober, never touch a cigarette, and have a clear skin, and still practice adultery, gossip, lie, manipulate, be greedy, and discriminate others, which is broadly done by many Christians. Jesus himself said that  what truly defiles man comes from within (Mark 7:15).  So no matter how much junk I put in my body, or how much ink I use to decorate my body, what comes from  my heart is what defines how I truly am.

“If it somehow involves Jesus and his teachings, then it must be good.”  Whenever someone preaches or talks about how God inspired them, I tend to show admiration and trust because it is commonly an expected response. I used to listen to people “of faith” without a filter, simply because they admired and worshiped Jesus.  I thought “Surely Jesus is backing them up for their arduous commitment to Him…!”  Not necessarily.  There are thousands of churches and denominations that claim to be the true church, but are actually based on self-service and worldly ambitions.  Ever wondered why the Christian church is so divided?  John wrote in the book of Revelation about Jesus preaching to various ancient churches that were short from being righteous (Revelations 2-3).  So if people claim to have a message from God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, or any of the so-called “saints”, my suggestion is not to believe them.  Do your own research and follow your guts.

“All we need is prayer.”  Saying that I will pray for those in need and even myself is  usually the first thing that comes to mind.  I tend to tell people in need, “I will keep you in my prayers”  Again, this is a nice thing to say because it is religiously correct.  Well, this is easy for those who are doing the prayer, but not for the ones having the need.  I am not implying that we should have no faith and simply rely on our own strength. But prayer should not be the only thing we do.  I agree that actions speak louder than words.  To me, prayer is not what I have been taught.  Prayer to me is like reflecting, meditating, thanking, and doing all the things that helps us to be more connected with our true self and our creator, not simply requesting for things.  So reflecting on life is not sufficient for good things to happen, we should also put into practice what we pray  or reflect on.  The book of James in the Bible beautifully describes how faith and work should go hand in hand (James 2:17).

The following beliefs continue to be a strong part of my spiritual journey, which I do not think are religiously correct, but rather  teachings we should all follow as fellow human beings to maintain peace and genuine love and care regardless of religious background.

Deny yourself and be humble.  This is one of the traditional teachings I still long to accomplish  on a daily basis.   It is the initial step we should take to begin our journey towards spiritual maturity. We should be like children, “born again”, and begin a new life of simplicity, selflessness, and God-centeredness. (Luke 9:23, John 3:3, Matthew 5:3-5)

Love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is a simple teaching to understand, but not to practice, which is probably  why it is seldom done.  Jesus identified himself with those in need, and wanted us to do the same.  Loving ourselves more than others is easy, but loving others the same way as the self is true Salvation. And not only loving those who are easy to love.  Jesus said that if we love only those who love us, what is so special about that?  We should be perfect as God is perfect, not because it sounds good, but because I honestly believe it is the way to spiritual purity.  (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, 47, Galatians 5:14)

Forgive and don’t hold grudges. Letting go of hurts and resentments will surely free us from any bondage that keeps us from growing spiritually.  I still believe strongly in this. My personal life has taught me how liberating it is to truly forget past hurts and simply live.   (Matthew 18:22)

Fight for righteousness, justice, and peace.    These are strong teachings most people believe in, including myself.  Fighting  for what is right in today’s world should be one of our priorities. There is too much injustice, wars, famine, and suffering for us to cross our arms and simply pray for what we wish for.  No, we should act and fight for what is right.  Jesus taught this and it is our obligation to follow this commandment.  (Deuteronomy 16:20, Matthew 5:6, 9)

Following certain teachings simply because they are popular or because they sound religious does not necessarily make them right.  I had to learn this in my life.  It was not easy breaking away from traditions and customs that people taught me all of my life.  It is not easy being unpopular, discriminated, and singled out because of my decision to be genuine and truthful to myself.  But I rather be honest and continue to grow spiritually, than to continue to be “religiously correct.”


It’s not all good

Sadly, it is not all good.

Speaking with my wife today, it was a harsh reminder of the reason for my existence.

She has always felt she is here to help orphans.

Since she was a preteen she felt it in her heart.

Similarly I have felt that the reason for my existence is to serve the needy.

Should I perceive our individual callings as a sign from above?

Strangely we both feel we have wasted most of our lives with selfish agendas.

Simultaneously we have seen how much suffering continue  in this world.

Sickness, hunger, injustices, poverty, natural disasters…the list goes on.

Since when did we humans forget that we are all the same?

Strangely  I hear some people say “it’s all good” when it is not true.

Selfish lifestyles keep us from seeing the truth.

Sincerity and humility is what we need to practice.

Spirituality and not religion is exactly what we should endorse.

Sitting down with my wife and discuss about our calling is my next plan

So that we can finally start living the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sensitivity to the suffering is my urgent message to my readers today

Simplify our lives and Serve the needy

Surrender to the realization that it is not all good.


Is this all there is to Life?

I admit it. I am the man that is double minded. I feel closer to God one day, and farther away the other. I have faith one day, and doubt the next.  I feel encouraged to pray or reflect today, and tomorrow I don’t want to hear anything about God or Jesus. I am easily influenced by circumstances. I am the man described by the book of James in the Bible which says that “because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (Ch. 1:7-8).”

I need to be honest about who I am, I don’t want to do what I used to do in the past.  I used to pretend that I firmly believe in everything that other Christians claim to be the ultimate truth.  I used to force myself to pray in certain ways simply because it was what was expected.  It was strictly religion.  But what I do now is to be open to various interpretations.  No, I am not creating my own religion, although I may be doing exactly this without noticing it.  Neither am I agnostic, because I believe there is a God. But I am not sure who or what this God really is. Although sometimes I can feel Him very close to me.  And sometimes I do not.  I am inconsistent.  The book of Revelation  claims that Jesus says “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Ch. 3:15-16).” This is a strong message, stating that Jesus will reject me when I am inconsistent.  It says He wishes I am either hot or cold.  Does this mean he will accept me if I am consistently away or close to God?  I don’t believe so.  But this same chapter continues with Jesus saying that people who are lukewarm say they are “rich”.  I don’t claim this, although I sometimes fall under the erroneous presumption that I am already heading towards that right direction, failing to be “poor in spirit”, as Jesus said he prefers us to be in order to have the Kingdom of Heavens (Matthew 5).  I understand also that this chapter refers to a particular early church in Laodicea. Should I interpret it pertaining exclusively to this historical church, or also to the present lukewarm church, like myself?  Don’t know.

But I read further in this passage, and feel a strange inspiration when I come across the statement that says “  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  Sometimes I hear the door knocking, but I am afraid to open it.  I am afraid that when I open the door there is nothing on the other side.  I am afraid of living an illusion.  But I am also afraid of not opening the door, because I might miss the greatest opportunity ever.  You see, I have opened the door before, or so I thought, and the joy was there, but with time, it disappeared, because of my double mind.  I feel tears in my mind while reading this passage, because I don’t want to reject God/Truth/Life.  But I don’t want to fool myself with empty hopes.  If God truly loves me, then He must be rebuking me and disciplining me, like this last verse says.  This is probably why I going through a spiritual tribulation.

I am also like Thomas, the disciple who doubted until he saw the resurrected Jesus. He told Thomas that those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).  Could this mean that I am not blessed if I keep looking for evidence instead of having bling faith?  I am certainly not completely happy and content.  But at the same time, if I am content, then I will not feel motivated to seek more of God.  I may be blessed and happy to simply believe, but I will not know more of God.  I also recently understood that having faith like “a seed of mustard”,  will enable me to do great things, which also means I don’t have to have great  faith (Luke 17:6).   I am not necessarily underestimating God’s power by looking for evidence, I may actually be glorifying Him even more if I keep searching to know more about the nature of His power.

If I am wrong for being double minded,  I can accept that.  What I cannot accept is that knowing God is simply believing everything that other “believers” claim.  I want more from God.  I want to actually feel closer to God, not be content with a few doctrines that is convenient to our selfish desires and cultural norms.  I don’t want to claim to believe certain things in order to be politically correct.  My goal should not be to please others, but God. I live in a constant spiritual struggle, which many might say is the “evil” versus the “good” in my body, like Paul describes in the letter of the Romans (Ch.7:1524).  But, is my doubting an evil thing?  I cannot accept this either. My understanding of evil is to be selfish and to exclude other people.  Doing good is to be inclusive, to love others regardless.  If I claim that my faith is the right one, and everyone else who thinks differently is wrong, then this is true evil.

So what I still have firmly is the thought and belief that I must serve others to live the Kingdom of Heaven.  This I don’t doubt.  It also does not mean to expect a reward, like this world only knows to do.  But to simply and genuinely reach out and help the poor, the hungry, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the mentally ill, the handicapped, and everyone else who is considered “the least of these”.  Jesus identified himself with these people.  I still hope that, by doing this, I will know God more, in spite of my many doubts.  In spite of my double mind.  Because what I see with my physical eyes cannot be all there is to Life.


 


Can Faith and Reason Coexist?

More on faith.  I was reflecting today more on the story of Jesus when a follower asked Him to increase his faith, and Jesus said “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain to move and it will move”.  I reflected that Jesus was teaching that whatever faith I have, it should be enough to be able to do great things.  I don’t have to try to have more faith in order to be able to do things, whatever faith I have should be sufficient.  Accepting my doubts is ok.  Accepting my limitation is fine.  This will allow me to let God do the rest through me.  One of my wonderful visitors confirmed this in her comment to my previous post.  Maybe I have been losing faith in my own effort, losing faith in my own strengths.  It is a matter of letting go, rest in Jesus (“come to me all of those who are tired, and I will make you rest”) and allow God to give me the will and the faith to continue serving in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have also noticed other blogs where people are talking about the importance of faith.  Is it a coincidence or God trying to tell me something?  I have  encountered situations in my current life where my faith has been tested even further.  I have felt a few times to simply get on my knees (which I have not done in a while) and simply cry out to Jesus.  I have felt sometimes that maybe God is allowing me to go through difficult situations in my personal life, job, and external family  members’ lives to give me the opportunity to turn closer to Him. I have been asking for a more profound spiritual life.  Not a more religious life, but a more transcendent, genuine, and profound approach towards spiritual growth.  But, of course, I did not expect to go through difficult situations and worries as part of this growth.  But at the same time I ask myself, how else am I supposed to grow spiritually if it is not through tribulations?  I am reminded of Jesus’ words “In this world you will have tribulations” but he promised that He was going to send the Spirit.

But while I am reflecting on all of this, my rational side of the brain starts questioning again.  My reasoning starts turning its wheel which makes me think that I should not go back to the “superstitious beliefs” and “fantasy world” of waiting on an invisible God.  And this is what I have been living for the past year or so, a non-traditional spiritual lifestyle, but a different kind of spirituality. And it worked for a while, or so I thought.  I have learned to serve others as the way to live the Kingdom of Heaven, and I am starting to so this more at work.  And I sometimes question why did I ever follow a doctrine that kept me away from living the Kingdom of Heaven.  But my reasoning tries to dominate and tells me “Because you were blinded by wishful thinking”.  My faith and my reasoning are almost combating.  But then I question myself, should they be opposing each other at all?  Can’t faith and reason coexist?  I have a mind that questions and reflects.  Why should it be wrong to do this?  It is not the same as lusting, hating, or lying.  Questioning and doubting is simply my mind’s way of wanting to learn and to experiment.  Why should it be regarded as a sin?  But at the same time, why should believing in an invisible God be considered a fantasy or fairy tale?  Don’t we believe in the government, what the newspapers say, and other entities without evidence or proof?  I think there should be a time for faith, and a time for reasoning.  I am afraid of going back to useless religious doctrines.  But I am also afraid of slowly drifting away from God.  I simply want to find the Truth.  I recognize it is a journey, and it takes time.  I just hope I am in the right direction.