Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Toyota Prius, Faulty Brakes, Sticking Accelerators and Prayer

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Sell your Toyota stock…Now!

Toyota has problems. Big problems. Not only do are the accelerators in millions of their cars prone to stick, they now admit design problems in the brake system of the Prius. When it rains it rains fire from heaven and hell…

No surprise. Stuff does go wrong. When we humans build things, even our best efforts hit a wall. Eventually, everything we do will need some course correction and recall. Even a company as renowned for quality as Toyota will fail to account for something. Human effort is doomed to failure.

The spiritual moral here is simple. Everything I attempt to build will someway, sometime run amuck. I wasn’t designed to “go it alone” apart from God, my Designer who made me to work in tandem with him. God invites a partnership in every venture I attempt. I can choose “yes” or “no” to this invitation, but without his involvement, the work of my hands will unravel. As Murphy put it, “If something can go wrong, it will.


In my book, The Karma of Jesus I talk about this obvious and foundational truth: Without God we’re destined to failure. With God, we’re destined for greatness. I don’t know if Toyota could have avoided this mess by praying to God for wisdom during their design process. Sometimes things are that simple; sometimes they are not. I do know that without prayer they were destined, eventually to face this kind of disaster. And so am I and so are you. If we go it alone, we’re destined for a recall.


“God, give me the humility and courage to invite you into the beginning process of every adventure I launch. The things I build and design and attempt need your participation. Today, I ask for your partnership in the tasks at hand. You promise that if I ask for wisdom you will give it. I’m asking. This is not guarantee that I will avoid all problems, but through all the challenges I know you will be with me. Thank you. In Jesus…”  




The Karma Dump

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I was lecturing once during a Saturday evening church gathering and five minutes into my talk a young man in his twenties spoke up out of the audience. 


“Does God really forgive sin?” he asked.


I stopped in mid sentence. Everyone else in the room leaned forward to see how the preacher might handle a direct challenge to his orthodoxy right inside the walls of sanctity.



“Well…” I stared at the man’s face trying to read his intent, and stalling for time in the hope that I’d think of something clever I could use to segue back toward my topic.


“The Bible says he does” I said. “I believe that.” “Not so clever,” I thought to myself and looked back down at my notes to find my place.


Ten minutes later he chimed in again.  “Doesn’t the Buddha suggest that there are many paths to God?” He smiled like a Cheshire cat well aware that he had the floor in a room of a couple hundred people. Over the years I’ve learned to overlook indifference to my talks. Sleep, boredom, and wrinkled brows all come with the turf. But I’d never had to deal with heckling.



“Sure,” I said. “Many paths, but in my experience only one leads up the mountain.” Everyone else in the room breathed a sigh of relief and silently cheered my clever reply. I cleared my throat and continued.


He waited. Then at a particularly poignant moment he added one more question. “Why did Jesus die?”


I swallowed whatever words were coming next. Then from out of nowhere an idea congealed. It appeared full and mature in one instant, like the moment when shaken cream becomes butter. I thought about dumping the full load then and there, but something checked me. “You know, this isn’t the best situation for the two of us to have this conversation. These are great questions, but we have a big audience eavesdropping on us. Come up later and let’s talk.”



He did. When I had finished the session the young man came and sat down in the front row. We introduced ourselves. His name was Andrew. He began telling me about his spiritual journey. Andrew had tried various traditional religions and found them all wanting. He’d fallen into drugs and had found help in a rehab program that taught a form of New Age philosophy. His mother had brought him to church that evening, hoping it could rekindle his faith in Jesus.


At a pause in the flow of his story I returned the conversation to his last question and to the new idea that had come to me. “So, you believe in karma?”



“Of course. We reap what we sow. What goes around comes around. There is no escaping it. Karma is simply the sum of all action and the leveling of accountability on everyone for their choices and the implications of their choices. Karma runs the universe.” He knew his stuff.


“So we are all accountable for all our actions?”


“Yes, this is the essence of karma, and karma is the essence of all religion.”



“I agree,” I said, suddenly uneasy about the path I decided to take up the mountain. “So what is your karma?” I asked.


He paused. “What do you mean?”


“If you are responsible for all your actions, have all your actions been good enough to ensure a certain good reward? Or are you waiting for the other shoe to drop?”



“I’ve been in jail for drugs and other shit. I’ve made mistakes I guess.”


“So if karma means you must reap what you sow, what will you reap?”


“I’ll cycle through my lives until I ascend to goodness.”


“Sounds like a long shot. Jesus believes in karma too. So do I.”



He looked suspiciously at me.


“I also know that I’m hopeless because of it,” I went on. “I too have done too much harm in my life to ever have the hope of escaping the vindictive dropping shoe. I’ve never been in jail, but I’ve broken promises and used my words to tear other people to shreds, and I’ve murdered people’s reputations. When I reap what I’ve sown, I’ll be in deep trouble. Christians admit this.”



“I never thought so.”


“We also believe that God cares about this problem. He has to abide by the law of karma, but it grieves him. So he did something about it.”


“I don’t believe in a personal god.”


“Okay. I won’t argue that now. But let’s say there was a real human from history, someone who lived and never failed in any way. His karma would be perfect, right?”



“Yes. And…”


“Christians believe that Jesus is that person. He was perfect in action and intent and therefore he could expect to reap perfect rewards.”




“So, I reap what I sow, which is not good; Jesus reaps what he sows, which is all good. What if there were a way for us to trade destinies?”



“Can’t happen. That’s against karma.”


“True. But most ancient cultures talked about something called a blood covenant. In a covenant two parties exchange destinies by exchanging blood oaths. It’s a powerful act. Christians believe that when Jesus died, he made a blood covenant with us. He took on the karma of the world – all the accumulated garbage – and absorbed it. Karma of course says there is no magic in the world. God couldn’t just pretend the bad karma wasn’t there. The corruption had to go somewhere. So it went into Jesus. We say Jesus became the toxic waste dump of the universe. He took our karma… and he gave us his. In exchange, we get all his blessing. That’s what the blood exchange in our communion meal is all about. It’s a blood transfusion, a covenant, life for life, destiny for destiny, karma for karma.”



“Is this really Christianity?”


“I’ve never thought of it this way before you asked your question, but yes, I think it is.”


Andrew stood, shook my hand and walked away. I’ve not seen him again.


This makeshift conversation became the genesis of my book, The Karma of Jesus. Writing and now releasing the book has been an interesting adventure that has openned up many other amazing encounters with others, like Andrew. Though all my conversations I’ve come to believe more and more my own need for Grace to trump Karma. I need a place to dump all the toxic waste of my life. Jesus is the place. Even this morning, before I have time to screw up in any major way, I need to “dump” my load of shit on Jesus. He takes it. And he gives me himself in return . Some deal!


The Eucharist Diet: Hybrid Food

posted by Mark Herringshaw

February 3, 2010

Day 32

Weight: 198 lbs

Weight lost: -8 lbs


I don’t believe in magic; I do believe in miracles. I don’t believe in luck; I do believe in favor. I don’t believe in Karma; I do believe in Grace. I don’t believe in mystery; I do believe in wonder. I’m not spiritual; I am a follower of Jesus. I believe in the power of his name and the power of the presence of his words, down to earth, here and now. I eat his words as the food of my soul.


The New Testament uses two Greek words to describe “life.” Generally – most often – bios, from which we get “biology” means physical, animal life. Bios is the lifeforce that drives our bodies, and the bodies of moose and groundhogs and tiny ameba and redwood trees and the green algae on our backyard pond. Bios is what distinguishes mushrooms from rocks. It makes us common kin with chimps. I feed my bios with the food I ingest and digest. Breakfast, which I’ll down in a few minutes – probably a bowl of fresh baked granola and a scoop of yogurt – will go down and then break down. The chemicals in my digestive system will chop up the oats and almonds into calories and then set them on fire to fuel the bios systems that keep me at 98.6 degrees when it’s -4 degrees outside in Minnesota. Bios burns food fuel to keep alive.


But I also have a different life force in me. In the New Testament the Greek work zoe often means “spiritual life force.” Zoe is the unique energy system I share, not with animals but with beings of another universe parallel, but synchronized with ours. We call those beings “angels” both light and dark. Zoe is the life force of the angelic, and humans, evidently, were created to live in both worlds. We were designed as hybrid creatures, with two engines running on two fuels. When humans rebelled against God our zoe faded and fell. We needed Jesus to come and reignite that power in us. He did.

Now, I feed my bios with hamburgers and milkshakes; I feed zoe with food of another kind. The words God speaks are zoe food. Jesus said, “Humans don’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s lips.”  God’s words are the food source, the fuel for the alternative life force zoe that burns in me. I need physical food because I have a physical body. That’s well and good. But I also have another kind of life that isn’t nourished by even the richest feast.


Today I’ll be spending the morning studying and then teaching to students some selected sections of the Bible. This is a great honor. I’m like a cook that gets to eat the meal as I go. By examining and then explaining what I know about the texts I have a chance to deliver on a platter some of the words that God gives us to nourish our zoe life. I’m hungry and I need to fill my stomach. But if I confuse one hunger for another, I’m prone to try to feed myself with a food that won’t satisfy. The key, it seems is to stop for a moment and ask, “What do I really want here?” I have a desire, but am I really hungry to feed my bios, or is my hunger deeper?


Many times I eat too much physical food trying to satisfy a hunger driven by my zoe. It’s matter of feeding the right food for the right hunger.

My “Eucharist Diet” adventure is my six month experiment taking daily communion and tracking and posting the results in my personal life, relationships, health, and body fat percentage. Communion is really a kind of “hybrid” meal, the way I myself am a hybrid creature. Taking in the body and blood of Jesus, as wine and bread feeds both my body (the food gets metabolized just like any morsel) and my spirit.


“Lord, thank you that you provide food for every bit of nourishment I need. You give me calories and proteins and the like and you give me spiritual sustenance. Thank you. You satisfy me. You give me enough; you are enough. In Jesus…”  


The Eucharist Diet: Rebounding

posted by Mark Herringshaw

The Eucharist Diet: Rebounding  

February 2, 2010

Day 31

Weight: 200 lbs

Weight lost: -6 lbs


Just a quick report for anyone still interested: I’m parked at 200 lbs, down from my original 206 lbs. I’m staying true to my experimental discipline. “The Eucharist Diet” adventure is my six month experiment taking daily communion and tracking and posting the results in my personal life, relationships, health, and body fat percentage. I’ll keep you posted…

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