Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

Is There an Unforgivable Sin?

posted by smcswain

unforgivable sinThe question: Is there a sin God will not forgive? What did Jesus mean by these words?

In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says, “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.”

I remember preachers saying things like, “When the Holy Spirit seeks to lead you into repentance from your sins and you continue to reject the Holy Spirit, He will withdraw, leave you alone, and, at that point, you have sealed your eternal destiny…you’ll never be forgiven,” by which these preachers meant, you’ll not go to heaven when you die. You’ll go to hell instead.

Is this what Jesus meant by “speaking against the Holy Spirit?”

I suggest a different reading, one I think is closer to the meaning Jesus wished to convey.

Shortly before his death, Jesus sought to comfort his troubled followers. As he spoke of leaving them, they spoke of going with him instead. Peter went so far as to promise he would defend Jesus to the death.

Jesus reminded them, however, where he was going they could not come. But he would be with them nonetheless, because the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, would come after Him and be that Presence in them and among them and all would be as before. (read the entire section of John 13 – 16 to get the full import of Jesus’ words).

What is this Holy Spirit?

Isn’t it the voice within? The inner impulse you feel? The Presence of God guiding you…leading you…prompting you…enabling you?

You’ve heard his voice before, observed  his messages, however subtle they may have been.

Can you remember the last time, for example, when you needed to make a decision and, in that moment, you knew what you should do but, for some reason, you did not do what you knew you should?  Instead of taking the hint right before you, you ignored the message from beyond and did something else entirely.

The consequences you’ve never forgotten. Maybe have never forgiven either.

The promise of Jesus is that you will know what to do…what to say…how to respond…the choice you need to make…what’s the right thing to do…at just the right time.  Maybe not long before the decision has to be made but, when it does have to be made, you’ll know what to do in that very moment.

The Holy Spirit is not some “hound of heaven.” He’s more like a “hint from heaven” instead. Not the wine but the aroma that hovers just above. The Holy Spirit provides just the right reminder, at just the right time, and, as you pay attention to these subtle messages from beyond…the tiny impulse and so “take the hint,”  you know you have made the right choice and that you are creating what they would call in the east “good Karma.”

When, however, you ignore the impulse, the inclination, the indicator, the invitation and so, do something differently than that which the message from beyond is quietly reminding you to do…that is, when you ignore the path to follow and so continue following your own path, you more and more silence this inner voice and you create “bad Karma.”

It is not that God’s Spirit leaves you or that you damn yourself to some eternal hell. That is to miss the point altogether. It is ignore and so create the conditions within your life that are not favorable, sometimes even hellish and unforgivable. When you ignore the prompt, the promptings becomes less pronounced over time. The Holy Spirit is like a prompter just off stage who gives you the word you need to pick up and go on with the play of your life. If you ignore the prompt, the drama becomes drama indeed. The consequences more and more profound, too.

The Boston bombers are an example. The irony in their choice of bombs cannot be overlooked.  Pressure cookers…the kind my mother used for the Sunday roast, potatoes, and carrots…these became filled more and more with the pressure associated with wrong choices and, as a consequence, when the pressure became too great, the cookers became weapons of destruction.

I cannot but wonder how many times those two young men ignored the messages from beyond…the impulse to take courses of action differently than the ones they chose to take?  In extreme instances, what is clearly wrong can even look right. Or, justified. Each time they ignored the subtle impulses to make better choices, the pressure inside the cooker of their own consciousness grew dangerously explosive.

The choices you make today may not turn you into some criminal or damn you to an eternal hell but they do create the conditions, the circumstances, even the climate within which you live out your life. Sometimes, these conditions can become intolerable, perhaps even unforgivable, if by no other than yourself.

The choices made by the two bombers in Boston have changed reality for many people forever. The consequences unforgivably altering. But, before we judge them too quickly, perhaps it would be wise for us to examine more closely the conditions inside the pressure cooker of our world that results in intolerable acts of violence.  Think of our culture as that pressure cooker. Is there a message here our culture might receive? Or, ignore?

Train yourself to listen to the messages from beyond. They will not scream at you. But they’re there. They are everywhere. Everyday, too. Perhaps even now through this little blog. You’re reading this and you are saying to yourself, “I know. I know what I am supposed to do, even though I’ve been trying to ignore it.”

You must remember that God is not “out there, somewhere.” God is here. Right here, even in these letters on your computer screen.

You have read this for a reason. And, you know what that reason is.

So what is God saying to you?

How To Question Everything and Be the Stronger in Faith for It!

posted by smcswain

The Birds are Singing“Doubt is no more disbelief than questions are compromise” (from, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).

Until you question your faith, you have no faith. It is true, however, you might have beliefs. But there is a chasm of difference between a believing person and a person of authentic faith.

For many people, and I include myself in this group, much of our religious conditioning has discouraged us from asking questions, as if there was something wrong with questions or, worse, with doubt. Questions were regarded as off limits. Doubt was regarded as stepping into the unknown and would lead to all kinds of aberrant behavior.

I say instead, this is all just poppycock.

Whenever you meet someone who appears so certain of what they believe…so sure…so confident, it is right for you to be suspicious.  Do not judge them, but you should investigate.  It is possible they have arrived at a place of certainty.  But do not blindly assume this. If you feel suspicious, you may have good reason. I have learned, too, it’s best to follow your heart.

Usually, those who are absolutely certain that they’re right about whatever it is they’re advocating…that those who seem to know what they believe and have no doubts are often some of the most uncertain and insecure people – but, just below the surface. This is why you must keep an investigative heart – or, if that’s too heavy a word, an inquiring, curious heart.

For example, when someone defends their positions or their beliefs by saying things like, “Well, I just believe the Bible,” ask them this very important question, “What does it mean to you to ‘just believe the Bible’?”

If they respond with something like, “It means to just accept what it says and believe it’s true?” know this: you are most likely listening to a frightened person who comes across as if they’re trying to convince you of something they’ve become convinced of themselves.  Instead, they are really seeking to convince themselves that all is well with them because inside they are terribly frightened about something…whatever it may be…fear of being reprimanded for questioning things…fear of losing their faith…fear that what they’re trying to believe may not be so. Like Mark Twain used to put it in one of his characters: “Faith is belief in what you know ain’t so…” They want you to think they are at peace. They are really anything but.

Know this. But do not judge them. They are likely doing the best they can. Be compassionate toward them and understanding. Remember there was likely a time when you, too, hid behind the “Certain and Sure” exterior. The louder someone is about what they believe, the more argumentative someone may be about their beliefs, the surer you are that they likely know little of what they really believe and cannot at this time in their lives admit this to themselves.

So, what is the pathway to authentic faith?

1. Question everything.

2. Open your mind and heart to many possibilities.

3. Trust that God will lead you either to accept what cannot be known by you at this time or She will grant you the capacity to live within the ambiguity…the capacity to know an inner peace beyond the conflict. Authentic faith is trust even when you are doubting what you’ve been taught to believe. Reciting the Bible, for example, while claiming to know things you neither can know nor truthfully defend or pretending to be at peace when of course you really are not…these things will not serve you well, my friend.

Bertrand Russell’s words are a little harsh for my taste but the truth within them is worth pondering. Russell, British historian, said “the problem in our world is that the fools and fanatics are always certain of everything; the wise are those full of doubt.”

4. Finally, let go of your fear about questioning and doubting. The inevitable consequence of both is this instead: you will grow stronger, emotionally and spiritually healthier, and, you will be at peace.

The path of doubt is the pathway to peace.

I can promise you this. It is the path to authenticity, too.

The day I gave up defending my beliefs…trying to make others wrong by making myself right…the day I gave myself permission to doubt everything…it was on that day…

Faith was born. Rich and real, vibrant and alive.

Which is why I love the spring…such is the dawn of new life…a new day.

As they say in the east, “A bird does not sing because it has all the answers; a bird sings because it has a song.”

The birds are singing this spring morning.

Can you hear them? They are singing your song…

The Point of Human Existence? What Is It?…

posted by smcswain

The Secret to Finding God Is…

posted by smcswain

Do You Seek God?  And yet, no matter how hard you try, you do not feel as if you can quite make it with God?

I understand.  Which is why I write so much and so often about this. I have struggled most of my life looking for God…longing for God…but only occasionally ever feeling close to God. Instead, I mostly felt I was undeserving…not quite fit…missing something…as if I wasn’t doing enough…and, as a consequence, my sense of spiritual fulfillment usually left me feeling like a thirsty runner carrying an empty water bottle.

But then, one day, I unexpectedly understood something Saint Francis of Assisi was trying to say, when he said, “What you are looking for IS what is looking.”

“What did he mean?”

When you get what he meant, your life will change. Your religious life will end. Your struggles will cease. Your humanity will emerge. You heart will heal.

You, my friend, will experience a resurrection that causes those who do not yet know it to look for it in some resurrection beyond this life.  In other words, when you become aware of this single greatest spiritual truth, you will have discovered the mystery of all mysteries…what Jesus called, “the abundant life” (Jn. 10:10).

For me, it was like waking up. I woke up to the realization that grace comes to those who stop struggling.  Which is why, in the little novel, Why Is God Laughing, one of the characters says, “When it finally sinks in that there is nothing you can do to find God, he suddenly appears.”

That’s the mystery. Perhaps even, life’s greatest paradox.

Remember this, my friend.

You can make knowing the Divine Presence into a problem if you’d like.  You can let your religion brainwash you into thinking that you’re undeserving of God…or, God’s grace…or, that your ugliness is so ugly that God had to kill his own Son just so he could look in your direction.

You can believe in madness if you wish…but, if there is something in you that feels as if there may be more to this story of God’s grace than the limited version you’ve heard, then I’ve got good news for you…and, I mean, really good news…not bad news peddled across a religiously misguided marketplace as if it were good news.

Want to know what this good news is?

A Course in Miracles puts it like this: “When we are finally ready, God will take the final step in our return to him.”

Lama Surya Das, the most highly skilled western lama in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, put it like this: “The finding of God is inseparable from the longing for God.”

If you’re a Christian, here’s how Saint Paul put it: “Saving is all God’s idea. And, all God’s work, too. What we do is trust him enough to do his work in us…” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In other words, anything you do to add to what God has done is, of course, the problem. You cannot add anything to grace.

Why would you? How could you?

Even following some prescribed formula for activating this grace – like reciting the Four Spiritual Laws or some “Sinner’s Prayer,” as it is sometimes called – is little more than a great big attempt to add something else to the nothing else that needs to be done. Why would you add your icing to a perfectly decorated cake created by a skilled bakery chef? What, the chef needs your help?

No, my friend, the secret to knowing God is to quit trying.

“The day you stop looking for God is the day you discover God has found you already.” (From The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).

That IS…

Your best life now!

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God – Video Blog # 4

posted by smcswain

The Enoch Factor: Video Blog # 4

What’s the difference between “beliefs” and “faith”? And, what kind of internal environment is needed for my faith to grow?

1. Question Everything (Video Blog # 3)
2. Today, I would suggest…

Going Within…Changing Your World!

posted by smcswain

Nepo says that when he was young he talked fast and loud.

Sometimes, I still do.

What he did not realize until much later in life is that “I kept talking faster and louder to the world around me because I couldn’t hear the world within me.”

A profound sutra.

When I read those words, I shuttered within.

Why? Because he was kind of describing me, especially when he warned, “Do not mistake the need to hear with the need to be heard.

Wow!

Don’t you think that sometimes we do not enter the world within – what Jesus referred to as “the Kingdom within” – because we do not want to hear the messages coming from there…or, maybe it is that we’re afraid of what we will hear.

My friends, here’s what I’ve been learning, having regularly visited my inner world for several years now. I now go there daily and I can tell you, unequivocally, there is nothing to fear. There is nothing you’ll hear that won’t heal you.

Easterners call it meditation; Christian Benedictine monks call it “praying without ceasing” (1 Thess 5).

You can call it whatever you like.

The fact is, going within is the way to transformation. It is the only way.

If you want your outer world to be different than it is, something has to change internally. Your outer world is only ever a reflection of your inner world. If it isn’t working around you, it isn’t working within you.

Oh, sure, you can blame your circumstances, other people…many do. You can complain, criticize, and so judge others and the world as if it all one huge, unfair place toward you. You can say things like, “He makes me mad.” “If it wasn’t for her, my life would be peaceful!”

Think the world sucks?

I assure you, the world without IS your world within.

Others may push your buttons, to be sure, but you, my friend, control the volume.

Nothing will ever change around you until something changes within you.

“But,” you say…

No “But’s!”

“But, if I could just win the lottery…just get a better job…if I had not married him…I would be happy!”

You really believe this internal message?

You, my friend, have much to learn about life…much to listen to that your voice in the head mistakenly believes. You, my friend, have many beliefs that need questioning.

The world around you is but a reflection of the world within you. It has only ever been this way. Which is precisely why Jesus taught, “The Kingdom is within you” (Lk 17:21).

Learn now to go within and watch the world without transform before your very eyes.

Start today. Take a walk within. See where it leads. You will not be disappointed. That’s a promise.

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God – Video Blog # 3

posted by smcswain

Do you ever long to know God?

I have come to believe that knowing God is both an art and an art that is sacred. That is to say, knowing God is not difficult. But most of us make it difficult. Sometimes, the difficulty comes from within ourselves and, at other times, our religious conditioning.

There are things you can learn that will help you step beyond the hurdles you have either created within yourself or inherited from our religious upbringing and reconnect with God. That’s why I call this, “the sacred art of knowing.” Once you learn how to reconnect with your inner self and your spiritual Source, you will restore the sacred side of your life. You will have rediscovered the secret to peace and happiness.

So, I offer you these videos to guide you…that is, to help you in your spiritual journey with God. I hope you find them useful.

“I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why)…”

posted by smcswain

I’m in a hurry and don’t know why…

I was on a flight yesterday morning from Louisville to Sarasota to visit with clients. Sitting on the plane just before takeoff, I looked out the window at the massive wing reaching out on either side of the fuselage like a mighty eagle stretching its wings before taking flight. I marveled at its size…its strength and weight…the fact that inside its wings resides the unseen fuel that gives engines the thrust so the wings might effortlessly do their work.

I understand little about aerodynamics. What I do know is that the wings are just the right shape, size, and length to enable this jetliner to lift from the earth to the heavens.

It’s a spiritual lesson and one I almost missed.

I returned to my Delta brewed coffee with a splash of Baileys when the thought occurred to me: “As human beings, we, are equally complex creations, are we not? Mysterious in design and capability, too?

Think about it. We are an immaculate design, providing temporary residence to trillions of cells that flash on and off like lights, each performing its momentary but momentous function and all the while orchestrated by an unseen Conductor who leads this perfectly tuned symphony we call human life.

Whatever this Mystery is, it enables my mind to think, my heart to beat, my lungs to breathe, my hands to grasp, my fingers to move, my knees to bend, my feet to walk, my tongue to speak, my eyes to see, my ears to hear and on and on and on with  a myriad of millions, even billions, of unseen functions all occurring within and simultaneously and without any involvement by me.

It all just happens and I am completely unaware of it. It is one breathtakingly majestic mystery.

Can you think of anything more magnificent? Must you and I stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon before we feel the majesty, mysteriousness, and magnificence of this creation? Of you, yourself?

What I’m talking about my friend is God in human flesh. Only this time, the human flesh is YOU!

Your life.

If you knew who this was IN YOU, doing all of this unseen stuff, of what could you possibly be afraid?

If you were even remotely aware of how extraordinary you really are, how could you ever again regard your life as too damn ordinary?

Know what our problem is? What my problem is at least?

I’m too often spiritually unconscious!

And, if salvation isn’t awakening you to greater consciousness…more alertness…a larger awareness, what good is your religion anyway? Really now! What good is it?

The reason you’re reading this and can’t stop reading it is because something in you knows that what I’m writing about is true and it feels to your thirsty soul what soil must feel whenever the spring rains descend upon it.

So, you don’t feel so majestic either? You don’t feel wonderfully made, as the Psalmist put it (Ps 139:14)?

Maybe you and I don’t see the mystery that we are or the magic that we are…or, for that matter, maybe we do not recognize the many messages from beyond because…

… “We’re in a hurry to get things done…Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun…”

Heard that song today, too, like a message from beyond, just as I turned on the radio on my way to have the car serviced. The song is a bit old indeed, but its message is just as relevant as the day Alabama first sang it.

I know. I got the tune stuck in your head now. So, go ahead take it for a moment. Hum the tune with me and words, too, to the next line.

Remember how it goes?

“All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

“…I’m in a hurry and don’t know why?”

Do you know why?

If you’re like me, sometimes I need to be reminded that “all I really gotta do is live and die.”

The tragedy about life is not that we die; the real tragedy is that we never really live.”

The mystery is missed because the mind, rather than being present…rather than being conscious – which means “alert” “awake” “aware” – rather than observing what’s right in front of its face, as in the wing on a plane…rather than hearing the many messages from beyond that quietly speak to us from everywhere and through everyone, even through everything…the mind is “here” but wants to be “there”…wherever “there” is.

Which may explain why Jesus described people like you and me as “lost”…

Lost…

“…like sheep without a shepherd,” lost…

“…like a coin carelessly dropped to the floor,” lost…

“…like a prodigal son trying to survive the stupid choices he’s made of his life…” lost…

“…like a ‘goodie-two shoes’ who’s in church but whose heart is far from Father and resentful toward everyone.”

“All I really gotta do is live and die…”

Live…and…Die.

That’s really all any of us “gotta do” and, come to think of it, we do not control either of them…neither our birth nor our death. So, maybe the lesson in all of this is that we should just be still today…slow down a whole bunch…pay closer attention to what’s going on around us…perhaps even say a prayer of thanks for being so wonderfully made…

And, oh, while you’re at it, do you think we should be grateful, too…

For those messages from beyond that come through old country songs we haven’t heard in a while?

And, what about a word of thanks today, for those unseen Wings that carry you…

…even when you’re not aware?

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