Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

Christian Mingle Dot Com

posted by smcswain

datingChristian Mingle Dot Com “Find God’s Match for You.”

What IS this?

A bit bothersome to me, frankly.

No, I think I would have to say, a “lot” bothersome. Like God actually has someone picked out just for you? No doubt, your perfect opposite, right?

You really believe this? Like God expects you to date only another person who is racially and religiously just like you?

Really?

So, Christians marry only Christians – your perfect “match” will only be found there?

And, Jews only other Jews and Muslims only other Muslims and Buddhists only other Buddhists and atheists only…

Don’t bother to quote Saint Paul on this one. I know what he said, too. He’s also the fellow who provided instructions on how slaves should treat their masters and vice versa. The same “inspired” guide who instructed the Corinthian Church on what to do with the sexually promiscuous persons in the pew.  They were to gather at Wednesday Prayer Service, turn his flesh over to Satan so that the Devil was free to kill his body in order that his soul might make Paradise and not the other place. If your church needs the specifics on how to do this, read 1 Corinthians 5.

Not one of Saint Paul’s saintlier moments.

Wonder what Christians would think if suddenly the ad went something like this:

“Muslim Mingle Dot Com Find Allah’s Match for You”

I think I hear the saints howling already.

When, my friend, are we going to end this madness?

People are people. All are created in the Divine image.

Rumi said, “Your task is NOT to seek for love, but merely to seek  and find all the barriers within your yourself that you have built against it.”

Maybe Christian prejudice is the first of those barriers.

Am I God? Are You?

posted by smcswain

GodSt John of the Cross…

“I seek God, but not because I think it is what I’m supposed to do;

I do it instead because I need to…

because of a longing that is not of my own creation.”

I suspect that explains it as well as I could ever express it.

“I seek God.” I might say it like this: I am both the seeker and the sought.

Meister Eckhart put it like this: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me.” My eye or your eye and God’s eye is as one eye…one seeing…one knowing.

The goal of your spiritual life is to see as God sees (1 Samuel 16:7)…in other words, to step up and out of the illusion of separateness. “Man does not see as God sees,” said the prophet Samuel.

Like we did not know this already?

That reality does not mean, however, that seeing as God sees is outside the realm of possibility.

What IS God, anyway?

When I say the word “God,” for example, what do you see in your “minds eye?”

I think I know.

It’s still the same with me, although after some years of practice, not quite as automatic or fixed. I see this big, benevolent fellow sitting in an even bigger chair and miraculously floating around on a white cloud, somewhere up in the sky. Versions of this common mental seeing vary from person to person but, that’s about it, isn’t it?

It’s also very limiting.  Indicative of the limited conditioning…the inadequate religious instruction that most of us received in Catholic, Evangelical, and Protestant schools of religious teaching…narrow, misinformed but sincerely taught nonsense…hasn’t that been the experience of many a follower of God? My experience? Yes. Maybe yours, too.

Jesus’ prayer in John 17, whatever you may wish to say about it, was a prayer…a hope…a longing he expressed that the day would come when “they would be one as we are one” (Jn 17:21). I used to mistakenly think his prayer was for unity among his followers. That they all learn how to get along. If that was his prayer, however,…his real hope…then his prayer was a dismal failure. Followers of Jesus have never been united. Today, they are more divided than ever. In fact, the history of Christianity is the history of disagreement and division. Try to spin it differently, my friend, and you’re just ignoring the facts. Kidding no one but yourself.

No, what Jesus prayed is that his followers would know unity with God…oneness with the Father…singularity with the Eternal – no separation. No God and Us. No Judge in the sky and the rest of us on earth. Know this oneness, this kind of unity with God and it does change your perspective toward others, as well as your view of them…experience of them…respect toward them. Not because you’ve managed to convert everybody to YOUR way of believing but because you no longer have to have conformity of belief to enjoy a unity with humanity.

Unity beyond beliefs. When you know this kind of unity with God, differences between humans can actually be celebrated.

Do not try to understand this mystery of unity, however…this oneness with God…or with yourself. Oh sure, perhaps when you’re able to explain the mystery of quantum mechanics, you will be qualified to talk about God. But, until then, stop pretending that you and your tribe know more than you could ever possibly know. Enjoy the Mystery instead.

The next preacher you hear telling you he knows who God is…what God thinks…even what God believes because, after all he’s speaking from God’s book…know this, my friend…know this…well, never mind. I’m not going to say anymore. You know how to fill in the blank.

It’s why you were given a mind. Use it. Follow your gut, too. Ninety-nine per cent of the time it isn’t wrong. Treat the inner voice as if it were the Holy Spirit in you talking to you. Pretty good chance it is.

I could say more but you get the point, don’t you? My own experience has taught me that those persons who know God…who actually live from this place knowing…of seeing…of unity about which Jesus spoke – unity with God, the Father, the Mother, the I Mm – such persons, I’ve discovered, typically have very little to say about this Mystery. The more you know God, the less you have to say. The less you need to say. Think about that.

St. John had more to say…

“I seek God, but not because I think it is what I am supposed to do.” But isn’t that exactly how you have lived your spiritual life? It has been for me. I’ve lived driven by religious duty, obligation. I have been trying to make it with God for as long as I can remember.

And, frankly, I grew tired of trying. Which is precisely where scores of you are who follow my work…who read my books…who follow my HuffPo blogs…I put into words what you’re feeling, or not feeling, in your heart. I’m hardly a gifted writer. But it takes no special writing ability. I simply talk from my heart, as best as I am able. With as much transparency as I can muster.

Like you, I was tired.

Exhausted.

Spiritually empty.

This is so acute for some of you that you are not sure where to turn. About all you do know is what you want no part of organized religion ever again. I regret that for you, but I DO understand…the madness you had to believe in order to be…the stuff you had to do in or to be deserving…the burdens you had to bear to be worthy of divine favor.

Good for you, my friend. I mean it. Rise up. Walk away, if it takes that to secure your sanity. Know that you are one step closer to spiritual sanity. To your own healing. Ah, just the knowing your one step away means the step has been taken already.

Stop doing anything else. Just live into your essence instead. All of your religious “doings” – all of your performances…your religious practices…they were too often done just to secure forgiveness for the past…to get it “covered by the blood,” I think we used to put it…to get it all cleaned up. Or, your religious duty was done in a some futile attempt to take the bite out of the fear associated with your imaginary uncertainties of tomorrow.

You’re not alone. You never have been. You only feel alone because you’ve forgotten who’s in the desert with you.

Just BE. Enter into whatever it is you are feeling right now. That will plant you in the present…which, my friend who has forgotten, is the PRESENCE herself. In other words, stop seeking a God who sits on thrones and floats around on imaginary clouds…stop searching for God as if He were playing some cosmic game of “hide ‘n seek.”

“I seek God,” said St. John of the Cross, “because of a longing that is not of my own creation.”

Ah! That’s the secret, isn’t it?

Just give your attention to the impulse you feel for God. Yes, I’ve said it before. Many times before. So why do you keep complicating it?

I’ll say it again: The impulse…the thought of God…the desire you have in you to know God…

My friend…THAT IS GOD!

Why else would you desire her? Long for her?

The Divine is the seeker in you seeking herself.

Dare I take it further?

The Presence in you seeking you in this present moment.

Dare I say it one more way?

Even more mysterious? Inexplicable? Unacceptable to most?

The God in you is seeking the God you are.

What else could Jesus have meant? “That they may be ONE”…no separation…the eye through which I see is the eye that sees me…”even as we are” (John 17:20).

If this is NOT what Jesus meant, then please do explain what he DID mean?

What God, Church-Going, and Casinos Share in Common…

posted by smcswain

Slots“What must I do to experience God?” That’s a little like asking, “How can I win the lottery?” “If I drop more tokens into the Divine Slot Machine, won’t that increase my odds?”

Valid questions. But the methods? Not so valid.

It could just be me but I am inclined to feel more and more that knowing the Divine Presence…experiencing God…requires no effort whatsoever. No tokens. No winning numbers. That there are actually no conditions whatsoever you must meet in order to make it possible to know God.

“I need a job,” you say. So you fill out an application for employment.

“I need God,” you feel. So you go to church and the preacher says, “Here’s what you MUST DO…” and, depending on which church it is, the laundry list, though different, will clearly spell it out – the conditions for employment, that is.  And, the pay…the reward…what you can expect in return.”

I could be wrong but, today, I feel that anything you must “DO” in order to “KNOW” God is questionable.

What do you think?

For example, when I was a young minister, and that was a pretty long time ago now, I was always saying and preaching things that began with a two-letter word “IF…”

….”If you believe…” and then, I would enumerate those things my Christian tradition taught me must be “believed” BEFORE grace would work.

….”If you are sorry for your sins…” and, growing up in our heavily judgmental religious environment, how could anyone not have been “sorry” for their sins?

….”If you will pray, God will __________.”  You fill in the blank.

I think you see where I was going. I was always about placing “conditions” on grace.  Coming to my church was a lot like going to the Casino on the river. People would come, and in great number, with their tokens of hope. They would drop them in the offering plate and I would preach to them, giving them hints as to the winning numbers. Their prayers were like pulling the  one-armed bandit and they would eagerly watch whether their lives would spin into success.

I was thinking about all of this because, just this morning, I was reading what was likely the preamble to a famous preacher’s sermon here in America who will be delivering it this very day. He was describing God’s Presence and whether it would be in each of our homes. A second in a two-part sermon series, his point was, and I quote, “If a family desires the presence of God in their home, then they should have an altar in the house.”

“Really?” I thought.

Are we really still preaching this stuff?

When will we get it?

It reminded me of the nonsense I used to preach. Eager patrons will fill his pews this morning…their pockets filled with tokens…ready to purchase a little Grace.

“If you’ll go to church, God will…”

“…bless you…reward you…be with you…”

Conditions. Tokens. Religious slot-machines into which we drop our tokens called prayers.

Is all of this true?

My friend, I’m inclined to think it’s a lot of religious wagering…spiritual nonsense…

Seems to me instead, the deeper your experience of Grace, the greater your awareness of just how effortless…how mysterious…how conspicuously absent is the struggle to know God. The longer I walk freely with the Divine, the more fortunate I feel to know this Immortal and Divine Other who has taken up my journey, instead of the other way around.

Saint Paul told the Athenians atop the Areopagus: “You men of Athens…I found also an altar…The God that made the world and all things within it dwelleth not in temples (or altars) (or, religious Casinos)…though he is not far from any of us” (Acts 17)?”

“…though he is not far from any of us.”

How far is “not far” from me? From you?

Why, my friend, would there be a reason to seek that which is nearer to you than the air you breathe?

You do not “seek” to breathe, you just breathe.

Why not practice remembering today, or as often as it comes to you, that, with every breath you breathe, you inhale the very Presence?

I gave up my search for God…the one I had been on for a very long time…the precise instant I experienced real Grace. Grace that is simply the realization…the realization itself a grace…that Grace is simply the inner knowing I could never find what had found me already.

When you know this Grace, my friend, you’ll have no need for the tokens, whether you’re under the steeple this morning or sipping a Cappucino in Starbucks.

Faith So Simple…As a Mustard Seed…So Why Does Religion Complicate Faith?

posted by smcswain

MustardSeedFaith is so simple. So very simple. It is religion that complicates it.

Why?

Control, perhaps. Distinction from other religions, maybe. I’m not quite sure.

What I do know is that faith is not about either control or distinction. Instead, it is about release, the turning loose of all attachments.

When Jesus said, “If you have faith no bigger than a mustard seed…” (Lk 17:6) he was not saying faith comes in varying quantities, as in 16 oz. sized faith, or 32 oz. or super-sized. Yet, this is how so many religious people have mistakenly understood his words.

It is a mistake easily made.

I have a friend, for example, who joined the ranks of the “nones” some years ago, even before the press began designating this rapidly-growing segment of our American population – the formerly religious who’ve given up on organized church or religion.  He, like many of us, was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church where they believed in degrees, or sizes, of faith. To be sure, faith the size of a mustard seed was better than no faith at all. And, they reasoned, according to Jesus, even this size faith could accomplish much. The really faithful Christians, however, or believers, were those who possessed a bigger faith than this. As a consequence, they were also the more favored by God and, without question, more spiritual than others, too.

Which is why, when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, the members of his fundamentalist church gathered around her and prayed for her healing. They had big faith. They were certain, if they prayed, believing the cancer will be removed, it would be removed. She would get better. So, they prayed. They believed.

But she got worse.

So, they prayed more and harder. They pleaded God for bigger faith. They believed that some among them may not have had faith even the size of a mustard seed, otherwise her healing would have come sooner. Some pointed fingers. Others continued to pray. All of them kept pleading for God to grant them more faith…greater faith…faith enough to be big enough to result in her healing.

She grew worse instead.

On the night before she died, my friend described the scene this way: “It was as if the whole church family was gathered outside her hospital room in prayer. Some on their knees. Others with raised hands. Everyone was wailing and believing and seeking to turn their mustard seed-sized faith into something bigger…something more deserving of God’s attention…something that would finally get results and  heal Mom of her cancer.”

“We’ve got to have more faith!” our fundamentalist preacher insisted.  ”Everyone join hands,” he directed, “and let’s pray for more faith…let’s pray her through to healing!”

She died at 8AM the following morning.

My friend quit going to church altogether after that religious fiasco. And, only recently, has he begun talking about God at all. For many years, he just lived with his resentment toward the whole matter, offended as he has been toward the minister and church family who regarded him as the culprit…the one not having enough faith or adequate faith to be deserving of God’s compassion and healing for his mother. It is understandable why he has lived with much guilt over this regrettable experience.

In time, however, he realized the futility of their thinking…or believing. His guilt turned him against this church, and every other church, too. I have my doubts that he’ll ever return. Why? Because he had been misled to believe that, if he just had enough faith, she would have been healed. When she died instead, he was left with no other conclusion but that his mother’s death was his fault, the consequence of his little faith.

This is such a perversion of what Jesus was saying through this beautiful mustard seed metaphor of faith.

So, what was Jesus saying? He was saying that…

  • The capacity to believe…or, a better word here is “trust”…the capacity to trust is a Divinely-endowed capacity. I suspect, as do many others, this capacity is written into the genetic code of your DNA.
  • As that capacity is reinforced by caregivers and others, it naturally grows…it expands, just as the mustard seed germinates and grows into a Mulberry tree. Infants and children who come into this world, for example, come endowed with this believing capacity in tact.  Which is why they are not only totally dependent but completely trusting. Undermine that trust, however, and this natural capacity to believe…to trust…is weakened, harmed, or hindered.  In some cases, the damage can be so severe, it may take nearly a lifetime to restore.

Do you see how, for example, the reported incidents of clergy sexual abuse of children can undermine and perhaps even destroy the natural capacity to believe in these who are now adults? The incidents of abuse must number in the thousands…maybe even the millions…and is so unimaginable that you can understand why Jesus would say, “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

What do you do, then, if your natural, God-given capacity to trust…to believe…has been undermined? Damaged? Even if you have not be sexually abused by clergy or a parent or caregiver, you’ve grown up in a family environment where love has been conditional; Or, a religious environment where the things you’ve been taught to believe are just not so, as in the situation with my friend…

…what can you do?

If you’re finding it difficult to live in trust…to live by faith…it is little wonder that life for you is filled with fear, anxiety, and very little inner peace and  happiness. These are the natural consequences of living under the illusion of control – and control is an illusion – instead of living free…instead of living from a place of trust. To live by faith is simple, thought it will take a lifetime to master: it is simply releasing the illusion of your control and the inner permission to allow life to unfold naturally…as of course it will.

So, here’s what I would suggest.

  1. When you feel insecure…suspicious…fearful, or out of control, practice releasing the control of your life to Life itself. See if you can trust, even if that trust lasts but a few seconds, when Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom…all these other things will be provided” (Matt 6:33), he means what he says and you need not be overcome with worry about life. Again, even if you are only able to sustain this release unto God’s care for a few seconds or minutes, live into it and feel the joy of release. In the beginning, it will likely be but seconds or minutes before the fear or worry returns. With the return of anxiety, the illusory belief you can control things kicks in, too. Controlling life is an illusion. Yes, of course, you can control a few things…such as, what time you get up…whether you are going to hustle to find a job…what you’re going to eat for lunch…how you’re going to react in a certain situation…or the choices you will make in life. But, there’s much about life you cannot control. Trust is that God-given capacity to step outside the illusion of control and, as a consequence, live peaceably in the ambiguity and awkwardness of uncertainty–the uncertainty that is your life and mine. Practice releasing control and so trust that all will be OK. For, it really will be OK.
  2. Next, you must make this activity of releasing control unto the unseen Father a regular spiritual practice. Which is partly why I write as I do about the spiritual path. I write for others to read and so learn. But I also write to help myself. I need help. The discipline of writing about the spiritual path keeps me between the lines, so to speak. Life is filled with perils. Those who practice the spiritual disciplines that Jesus taught, or the Buddha, or Lao-Tzu or Confucius or any one of scores of other spiritual masters throughout history, discover that their capacity to trust, though small like a mustard seed and temporary at first soon grows into the size or capacity of a Mulberry Tree. This is the process Christians call growth in Christ, or “salvation,” what Saint Paul called “working out your own salvation” (Phil. 2:12). It is what the Buddha referred to as the pathway to “enlightenment.” Stay on your path.
  3. But do not be hard on yourself when you stumble. For, you will stumble and fall. Let’s suppose, for example, you are meditating or, as Christians sometimes call it, praying, and you feel the joy of releasing all illusions of control. As you do, the anxiety…the worry disappear and, in their place, joy and peace fills your inner soul. You feel free. Soon, however, the thoughts return. You slip or stumble. You start thinking again about all the things you must do to make your life more secure. The conversation in your head takes over, incessantly commenting to itself on the conditions of your life and what might happen if you don’t take immediate actions to correct things. With this mental noise-making and scheming on how to be in more control, fear and anxiety stealthily return. And, with their return, the feeling that you’re a spiritual failure, too. Well, my advice is that you STOP feeling like a failure. You’re not. We all stumble. Be done with judging yourself. Instead, recognize that you have succumbed, as we all do, to the little ego in yourself – the one who loves to Edge God Out, so to speak – and, so, sit in the driver’s seat of your soul, pretending to be in control of all the circumstances and conditions of your life.

It is not in control, my friend, and your awareness of the return of the ego is all it takes to remove it to the backseat once again and return God to the driver’s seat. In other words, awareness of your stumble is to automatically restore you to the spiritual path.

That’s all it takes. The challenge is to make this your spiritual practice.

In this case, “Practice makes perfect,” as my mother used to counsel. Practice will make your current but limited capacity to trust to grow, and so your inner peace and joy to grow, too.  It may be slow but that’s OK. You are making progress. Like the beautiful tree my wife and I planted in our front yard just three years ago, you will rise one morning, as I did this morning, look out the front window and marvel at how much the mustard seed of faith has grown…or, how your capacity to trust and believe looks very much like a Mulberry Tree.

You, my friend, are living…believing…trusting…

and so discovering the peace and joy of living…

Your Best Life Now!

The Single Greatest Spiritual Truth

posted by smcswain

Seek

What Is the Single Greatest Spiritual Truth You Have Ever Learned?

I got asked that question today and, after thinking for a moment, I suppose I would have to answer like this:

“As soon as you are disposed to being alone with God you are…no matter where you are: in the city, in the monastery, in the country, in the woods. At the precise moment it would seem you are in the middle of your journey, you have actually arrived at your destination already.”

I’m not smart enough to have stated it so eloquently, or so clearly, so  what I have quoted above is something I memorized years ago. It was Fr. Thomas Merton who first spoke those words.

They have become my mantra – my “instrument of the mind” – words that I use as an instrument to train my mind and so warm my heart. I repeat these memorized words to myself, and have done so almost daily, for as long as I can remember.

And, why do I?

Because, in my opinion and experience, there are no more important words for me or for any person of faith…any person who would seek to live a spiritually-connected, Divinely-rooted life of profound consciousness.

The moment you feel a longing for God, my friend…

No, the instant you are inclined to seek after the Divine…

Know this: At that precise instant of longing…that momentary impulse…that deep desire – at that instant, you could not be closer to God – you are, in fact, ONE with the fullness of God.

What could you possibly ever know…or long for…or ever, ever need that could surpass this inner knowing? This inner confidence? This inner reassurance?

You, my friend, are the NEW incarnation…God in human flesh.

If you know THIS…you will not only live your best life, but you will know a joy unspeakable and a humility as unto Christ himself.

In fact, I think it is safe to say: You will have discovered the greatest Mystery of life.

Near Death Experiences…Heaven? Hell?

posted by smcswain

HeavenNDE – Near Death Experiences.

Heaven.

Hell.

Questions about whether there is actually life beyond the grave invite such debate.  Immense emotion, too.

Express doubt about whether there is a heaven and you’d better be prepared for the barrage of negativity that will come your way.

Raise question about whether there is a hell and you’ll get a mixed response.

But, in either instance, you should be ready for an immediate response and, generally speaking, the response will often show up drenched with emotion.

Frankly, I have little interest in either one, anymore.

And, why should I?

Why should you?

Jesus said, “Take no thought for tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34).

I take that pretty seriously.

I am infinitely more interested in learning how to live in this life now.

That might be the right thing to do. Or, some may think a reckless and naive approach.

This is what I have chosen – and it is a choice I have made, just as you must make the choice about your own life. As for me, I have chosen to give my attention to the only life that is…the only life I know…the only life I’ve ever known…and, as far as I can tell, the only life I can know for certain that I have…

…and that life is THIS LIFE NOW.

In other words, I make it my daily practice to make heavenly my earthly life right now – this very instant.

And, as much as it is within my power, I wish to so live as to create a heavenly environment around me, too…an environment that would make it more heavenly for those who know me and interact with me.

I do not succeed at either of these ambitions perfectly.

By living this way, however, I am able to better fulfill what I understand Jesus expects of me when he taught followers to pray and, so, by implication, to seek to live, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

My friend, I invite you to give sincere and thoughtful consideration to what I am suggesting.  When Jesus described his mission on earth with these words, “I have come to seek and to save the lost,” (Luke 19:10) from what was he seeking to save people? From some imaginary tomorrow? Eternity?

Many think so. Many preach this regularly. And, for those who know me, when I was a minister, I used to do the same.

Not any longer.

Why?

Because I think I missed his point entirely.

Today, I’m pretty sure Jesus was infinitely more interested in saving people from how they were living, or, in many cases, failing to live, life NOW!  That is, more precisely, in THIS present moment.

Consider this:  If there is a tomorrow…if there is a place called heaven…and, I’m inclined to believe there is, although there is no PROOF OF HEAVEN, not even when a surgeon writes about it, so do not waste your time reading books about those who’ve been “beyond and back,” so to speak because their experience will do little to eradicate your own fear…but, if there is a tomorrow…if there is a place called heaven…

…heaven

…tomorrow

…will ONLY EVER…

I repeat…

Tomorrow only ever shows up…

as…

another…

TODAY.

Get your living of life RIGHT TODAY…

and, as Jesus said…

“…tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matt. 6:34).

This is…

YOUR BEST LIFE NOW!

THERE and HERE…

posted by smcswain

here and thereWhy am I so seldom satisfied with where I am?

Why does over there always appear more enchanting than right here?

Why is it that I look forward to vacation…make plans…detailed plans…imagine the fun, the relaxation I’m going to have…the stuff I’m going to do or not do and the consequential rejuvenation I’m going to feel getting away. Then, after months of planning, nights of dreaming, the vacation comes…and…

…it is anything but what I imagined?

I think I’ve lived a good portion of my life – and, you probably have, too – looking for something beyond that could only ever be found beneath.

I have long suspected the real reason religious people look for heaven out there is because they’ve given up hope of ever knowing one here. In fact, I’m pretty sure the more you wish for something to come, the more you’ve lost of what’s arrived already.

You don’t have to agree with my thoughts. You can keep looking, longing, and living for something that isn’t. Good luck with that.

Or, you can begin living instead…living INTO what is.

Mark Nepo puts it like this: “Here is always beneath there.”

What you “believe” matters. And, a lot of the stuff you and I were taught to “believe” is just plain wrong.

So I’ve been trying to question everything in the last few years. For example, whenever I feel discontented, I take pause and remind myself that what I’m looking for out there is the contentment I could know right here.

Here’s another example: whenever I feel disconnected from God, I know what I’m really missing is a deep connection to myself.

Why?

Because God lives in me, my friend…she lives in you, too. So, get this: you can’t get much closer than that.

If you cannot feel God here…

…there’s a pretty good chance you’re looking there.

The Authentic Search for God

posted by smcswain

imagesIn an authentic search for God, the cosmos of inclusiveness just keeps widening and expanding, not unlike the ever-expanding universe in which we live.

That’s a bit of a paraphrase of something Fr. Richard Rohr says in his book Immortal Diamond.    It has been my experience, too. It seems the more aware I become of the Immortal Presence, the wider my heart stretches to include all persons…all faiths…all traditions.

Without judgment.  With love.

It also seems the more threatened some religious people become toward me, especially regarding some of the conclusions to which I’ve come and comments I make on Facebook, as well as through both my Huffpo blog and BeliefNet blog.

You should read some of the emails I get. Especially from threatened Christians…the very persons whose leader was the most inclusive, ever-expanding person when it came to others, especially those the rest of the world distanced from themselves.

It could all be very discouraging to me were it not for the equally expanding compassion I feel toward those whose faith is so weak, misplaced, and confused. Instead of it strengthening them, they mistake a catalogue of beliefs for the context of authentic faith. So, rather than their faith broadening and becoming more inclusive, their beliefs and belief systems seem only to narrow more and more into that which is stifling and stuffy even to them.

Know this, my friend…

Whenever you attempt to put your God into a straight jacket, it is you, and only you who will feel its insufferable effects.  God will not be incarcerated by your beliefs, no matter how hard the little ego in you tries to cling to them and vigorously argues for their correctness and their rightness over the beliefs of others.

You would be much better off not being fooled by your own fragile self who confuses authentic faith for beliefs and then hides behind oft-quoted, but dismissive clichés, as in, “Oh well, I (we) just believe the Bible and accept by faith.”

What the fragile little ego in you really means is that you and your tribe believe “your version” of the Bible. What it cannot admit is that equally sincere people of faith do not accept your version of the Bible but believe instead a dramatically different interpretation of the same Bible.

All of us should be a bit more humble in what we say and how we say it when it comes to our faith and beliefs. Otherwise, the religious world just becomes a war between collective egos.  This is, in fact, much of what the religious world has become.

Furthermore, when people say, “I just accept things by faith,” what they often mean by that…too often, in fact…is this – “I can’t handle ambiguity…the contradictions in my own faith…I feel unnervingly uncertain when I’m forced to face indisputable discrepancies in the Bible…in my own faith…So, there is something I find comforting   in hiding behind a pillar of my faith.”

All structures…all pillars of faith….in other words, all beliefs are uncertain, temporary, and they are not…I repeat…they are not the source of authentic faith…

…if authentic faith is what you seek.

Faith is authentic…genuine…most real…when it has nothing upon which to stand. Which is why I’ve always liked the picture at the top of this page.  It is neither what you say nor what you claim that determines the genuineness of faith. It is instead your willingness to let go of everything…even every one of your closely held beliefs…and take a step into the oblivion…

…the Oblivion that IS God.

When you can do this, my friend, you will no longer need anything to hold you up. No belief, no confession, no creed. For you will have made the grandest discovery of life – the Eternal in yourself.  It is THAT who takes hold of you.

The step you fear taking IS the step you need to take into authentic faith.

So, let go of all attachments. Fall INTO the authenticity of your own inner doubts. You will not go wrong. You will not lose your faith.  You will, paradoxically, find it.

So said Jesus. “He who would lose his life will find it” (Matt. 16:25).

I know. I’ve been there.

I took that step, not certain where it would go, unsure of what would happen to me.

What I discovered, however, is that the very thing I thought I’d lose, I actually found.

This, my friend, is the REAL good news.

Even Your Best Life Now!

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