Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

Why Do I Hide in the Dark? 3 Ways to Living a More Authentic Life…

posted by smcswain

Why Would You Remain in Prison...I was reading again this morning the story of Nicodemus. You remember it, don’t you?  The fellow who came to Jesus at night, full of affection for Jesus, but full of questions and confusion, too.

Why at night? Why did he come at night instead of during the daylight hours?

“Because he was a secret disciple of Jesus,” I was told when I asked just this question after reading the story for the first time years ago.

It’s more than that, however. Much more than that.

Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening  nails it, when he observes, “…we each carry a Jesus and a Nicodemus within us; that is, we each have a divine inner voice that opens us to truth and a mediating social voice that is reluctant to show its truth to others.”

Whoa! Wow, Nepo. Ponder his words, my friend. They will rattle your soul, to say the least.

So true, they are, as well.

Why is it that many of you – I know you’re out there because I was one of you at one time and for a long time – but why is it that many of you read what I write, ponder the questions I raise, and, often, perhaps not always, but very often find yourself actually agreeing with many of the things I write?  There is a sound of truth to much of what you read, and so you keep coming back, albeit you come in the shadows, as it were. You read it on FaceBook or via BeliefNet or my own blog page but you never comment…no…no, you wouldn’t risk someone seeing you comment.

This is the telling part, isn’t it, my friend…you know, as I know, if you were to ever come out of the dark, out of the secret shadows where you question things just as I do…where you engage in conversations with your inner divine voice…conversations which you know, if you were ever to admit publicly…if you were to ever voice in the light of day the questions you ask in the dark night of your own soul…that, if you ever acknowledged publicly the spiritual doubts you’ve had, even the revulsion you feel for all that goes on in the name of religion…that you’re expected to be a part of but you almost always hate…you know, as I know, if you ever came out of the shadows with admissions like these, you are afraid you’d be ridiculed, reviled, rejected, and, maybe even jobless — if you are, like I once was, a minister.

What do you do?

You hide. You live a double life. In the light of day, you play by the rules. You say all the right stuff. You do your religious duties. You fulfill your spiritual obligations. You toe the line. You live by the beat of everyone else’s drum.

Meanwhile, you bury your real self, your inner self, the real you is kept in the closet. Which explains, does it not, why some Christians are so angry that gays and lesbians have come out of their closets of secrecy?  It’s not that these Christians know why they’re so angry. But I can tell you why. They’re secretly jealous they don’t have the courage to do the same. To come out of their own closets of secrecy and be themselves.

So, you survive in the daylight by pretending to believe things you know aren’t so. You even say or maybe you even preach things you no longer believe. Inside, you feel divided…and, how could you not?…Two-faced, which of course you are…and, disconnected even with yourself.

Why?

Because you are. Isn’t this the same thing the writer of James was talking about when he referred to the “double-minded person” in James 1:8?

Wasn’t James really just describing you?

Of course, he was.

And, my friend, you are mistaken if you think I’m judging you. I write these thing because I know you. For, I, too, lived in the shadows for decades. Sure, like you, I loved Jesus passionately. But I had very serious questions about things, too. Things the church believed I knew were not so. Things the church was doing I knew were not right. But I went along to get along. I was afraid. Afraid of losing my job…of losing friends…of being rejected.

The day came, however, when “the pain of remaining the same was greater than the fear of changing.”

It’ll happen to you, too, I think. I cannot say for certain. But the fact that you’re still reading this must mean something is rattling in your own soul, too.

Don’t you find it strange that we never really know what happened to Nicodemus? Of course, there’s the minor reference to him at the crucifixion, helping to prepare the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:38-42). But, even there, you don’t get the feeling he’s emerged…that he’s come clean with himself, much less anyone else.

But, maybe…just maybe…he’s making progress. Stepping out of the shadows.  Maybe this is John’s way of saying he was beginning to make peace with what psychologist D. W. Winnecott calls the “True Self” and the “False Self,” the innermost Nicodemus in communion and candid conversation with Jesus, and the public Nicodemus, full of phoniness pretending to be and to believe what everyone else pretends to believe, too.

“How do I set my inner Nicodemus free?” you ask. “How do I garner the courage to truly be who I am?”

Those are big questions, my friend.  But here are three things you can begin doing now to initiate the “becoming” within yourself…the journey toward authenticity…the “True Self”…”higher self…the real you, fully human, fully divine, complete, whole and at peace.

1. Do not judge yourself, my friend. That’s the first thing. Right now, you’re reading this, thinking about how true these words are to your own experience but, inside, you’re spitting with disgust all over your soul. Stop it. Stop it now. Love and forgive yourself instead. Rejoice that you see the split. That’s the beginning of the shift. More and more, if you’ll keep moving in this direction, you will bring your outer self in line with your inner, divine self.

2. Start stepping slowly out of the shadows, my friend. Here’s what you’ll discover. Rather than all of the fearful things happening you have imagined happening, you’ll discover a feeling of liberation coming over you like you’ve never felt before and a freedom from the anxiety with which you’ve lived of being rejected. You’ll also experience little rejection. Oh, maybe a little. See below. But not nearly as much as you’ve imagined.

3. I love the advice Mark Nepo gives, too. This will be the third suggestion:  “Comfort the Nicodemus in you that it is safe to honor what it knows in the light of day.”  In other words, the illusion is fear and all its imaginary demons. If you will begin to acknowledge in the light the stuff you think about in the dark…the miracle is, most people will embrace you.

Why?

Because they’re looking for a way to be more authentic, too. Salvation is not becoming divine. You are that already. Salvation is the process of becoming more human. More authentically you.

“But what about those I know who’ll reject me?” you say.

OK, some will.

I know. Once, for example, I got fired from a consulting job by a pastor and right smack in the middle of the consultation. What happened is that a church member read an article I wrote years ago for the Huffington Post where I suggested there may be more ways to God than just through the Christian way. She was livid and complained to the pastor and demanded he must do something.

He fired me.

To this day, I know he regrets it.

You say, “How do you know?” Because the last thing he said to me was, “Steve, I am so sorry it had to end this way. But I promise to be in touch very soon because I want to meet you somewhere and hear your story…to know more about why you’ve come to the place you’ve come in your own spiritual journey.”

That was the last I ever heard from him. When, a year or so later, I wrote to tell him I’d love to meet with him, he wrote back, and said, “Yes, I want so much to do that. I’ll be in touch very soon.”

To date, now many years later, he has yet to contact me.

My own suspicion is, one day, when he’s retired, I’ll hear from him. And, I will be glad. Actually, I miss him and his friendship. So, I know he violated his own conscience by firing me. I know his actions were initiated publicly to protect his own image. He was afraid of what others would think of him if he did not “stand for the truth,” as I recall he put it. In the quiet shadows of his own heart, however, I know he lives in brokenness, not only because he betrayed me – which, of course, he had – but, worse, he betrayed himself.

I hope one day he steps out of his own shadows and into the sunlight of freedom. I know this much. To every soul who does, a joy…a fullness…a completeness will come over them, the likes of which make any words you use diminish it..

So I’ll just ask you this instead, my friend: What could be more important to you than living an authentic life? Today? Right now?

Or, to put it in the words of the Sufi poet, Rumi: “Why would you remain in prison, when the door is so wide open?”

The Song of Birds at Spring…

posted by smcswain

The Birds at SpringThe birds are singing this morning. Do you hear them? Or, are you dashing about preparing to plunge into the business of living on Monday morning?I will be, too, but the song I heard this morning stopped me right smack in the middle of the madness.

Were it not for the winter that remains…

…the ice and snow on branches still…

…were it not for the cold temperatures that linger still…

You’d think that spring had sprung already, by the sound of bird songs today.

Which makes me wonder, “Are the birds confused?” They sing like it’s spring. It feels like it’s winter.

No, my friend. The birds know something – creation knows something – but it has taken me a lifetime to learn it. They know spring follows winter as surely as summer is followed by fall. They are singing this morning as a little reminder of that cyclical and dependable fact of Life…

…that creation is perfect…

…and that, the secret to peace…to living…is to find ones place in that flow we call Life.

Why do they get it, my friend, but it takes you and me a lifetime to do so?

That is the mystery all religions have sought to answer.

And, frankly, not so well.

The longer I live, the more convinced I become that salvation, to borrow my faith tradition’s way of explaining the mystery, is not to clean me up so that I’m deserving to be around a thoroughly sanitized Savior who cannot tolerate the sight of even the slightest soiled soul.

No, that little explanation worked for the Church for centuries.

It works no more, however.

That’s not to say their explanation was wrong, any more than their explanation of the world as flat with four corners. Not wrong, just limited.

My friend, salvation is that lifelong journey, the purpose of which is to take you back to that place of eternal oneness…blissful peace…and total trust in the care and provision that is God…the Seen and Heard…yes, even in the song of birds at spring. This is what Jesus was trying to say, isn’t it, when he said, “No need to worry, my friends…Look at the birds of the air…” (Matt. 6:25-34).

This morning, he would have said, “Listen to the birds as they sing.”

I’ve been listening and their song is like the budding signs of spring on Dogwood trees.

Oh, today’s song is not the chorus…that’ll come later. It’s just the preamble…the teaser…the last chords of a hymn played just before the first words are sung. Just a little reminder of the perfection of all things and the secret to joyous, peaceful, and, yes, salvation living.

The goal of Life, my friends, of salvation…of enlightenment – is to help you learn again what all of creation knows already – what the birds sing about this morning – that you really CAN live in absolute abandonment of oneself into the care of the Creator herself.

Isn’t this really what it means to be Christian? To be Buddhist? To be Muslim or Hindu or nothing at all but just awake? Isn’t this what it really means to believe?

You can live without “beliefs.” You cannot live without believing…without trusting…without abandoning the incessant but meaningless attempts to control and manipulate life, to be in charge even of your own life, or to secure yourself and your future so there is no anxiety or fear.

Or, insecurity.

You can call this process of discovery…this journey of the soul…whatever you’d like, my friend. Salvation. Conversion. Enlightenment. Awakening. Waking up. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I’m pretty certain the Waker doesn’t either.

What I’m calling it this morning is this…

The Song of the Birds at Spring…

Or, is it still winter?

I suppose it does not matter. Ready for the second stanza?

Listen and enjoy.

Real Faith…Phony Faith – So, Which is Yours?

posted by smcswain

Nebula“What’s the point of human existence?”

“Why did people actually show up on earth?”

“What is the point of human creation?”

“What is the point of YOUR life?”

These are big questions and not easily answered. Anyone who answers them quickly is only admitting they have not explored them deeply.

I was told as a child in Sunday School that God created the world and that humans were the crown of God’s creation.  That of all the created things…the solar system, the stars and planets, the earth and all plants and animals…that, of all of God’s good creation, humans were the most important to the Creator and the crown of his creation.

Well, if that’s true, why did it take God so long to get around to creating humans…modern humans?

This universe, my friend, is more than 13 billion years old and modern humans showed up only about 250,000 years ago. Now, if  you’d like to put that into perspective – and, frankly, you might not –  give consideration to this disturbing notion that, on a geological time clock of 24-hours, what this means is that humans have only been around for the last few minutes in the great expanse of time.

Here’s how the Science Magazine depicts it:

Evolutionary Clock

 

Notice where modern humans appear.

Clearly, humans were hardly the point and purpose of creation. It is the ultimate ego-trip to imagine we are. Which makes the reading of our sacred literature so interesting to me. Scripture was written by humans who proudly depicted themselves as the crown of God’s creation. Go back and re-read Genesis 1 and 2, my friend, if you think I’m just making this up.

Read Genesis, however, from the perspective of humans writing about themselves. In other words, stop reading Genesis, or any part of the Bible for that matter, as a document dropped from heaven itself as if God himself wrote it and in the language of King James himself.

Not so. The Bible, as indeed all sacred literature, was written by humans who sought to make sense of their human experiences in light of their place in the world, a world much smaller than our understanding today. They thought of the world, for example, as a flat surface and that, to venture out too far, one might just fall off the edge into the pit below – what later generations thought of as the place of the dead, and even hell. The heavens above were just beyond the clouds. That was the abode of God. The stars they observed at night were like little lights on a ceiling of their house, the world.

They had no conception of the vastness of this universe. Which explains how they could write about the bodily ascension of Jesus, as Luke does in the Acts of the Apostles (Luke 1), and see no conflict whatsoever. Since heaven was just beyond the clouds, why it made perfect sense that Jesus disappeared on a cloud just out of their sight and into heaven on the other side of the cloud and took his seat at the right hand of God. You see, parenthetically, they even thought of God as a grand human who had hands, too.

We know today, however, that heaven — whatever people believe it to be and most still believe it to be an actual place in space and time — but, whatever it is, we know that it is not a place just above the clouds. In fact, we cannot imagine where it might be. Since we have a pretty good idea that heaven is not likely located on one of our planets in this solar system, then most Christians are inclined to say it must be somewhere beyond our Milky Way galaxy.

That sounds reasonable enough until you consider what my good friend Brian Holley reminded me  (by the way – follow the link to Brian Holley’s The Enabling – he’s a modern-day Rumi mystic) about just yesterday. Had Jesus actually been caught up in bodily form at the Ascension, as Luke and other New Testament writers seem to assert, and had this been some kind of magical cloud that enabled Jesus to travel through space without the benefit of an atmosphere like on earth where he could actually breathe; and, furthermore, had this magical cloud enabled him to travel to heaven at the the speed of light itself (186,000 MPS), guess what?

We now know – something which Luke could not have known even though he presumably wrote under the “divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (whatever people mean by that) – we now know that our galaxy is so large, although, quite small compared to the billions of other galaxies that exist beyond our own, still yet, our galaxy is so large, had Jesus been traveling at the speed of light, He would, two thousand years later, even now, still be en route to the outer edges of our galaxy, but not yet in the presumed heaven that lies beyond.

A two thousand year flight? Heck, I can hardly stand the thought of much more than a two-hour flight.

My point?

If you ever want to figure out the reason for human existence…and, equally as important, the point of your own life…you’d better find, my friend, more real-world explanations than the simple, uninformed answers you got in Sunday School – and, unfortunately, many children will still be getting in some Sunday School classes today.

Otherwise, your faith is founded on faith-filled fairytales that have no connection to the real world whatsoever. Which explains why much of what passes as religion today is disconnected from the real world and, as a consequence, is powerless to change human life or this world.

Where do you find authentic faith? Real-world faith? Faith that will carry you and sustain you and actually enrich your life with the power that goes beyond the occasional spiritual experience people feel in a revival meeting or religious music concert?

1.  Start by being honest with yourself about your own questions and doubts. If you have no questions and doubts, that doesn’t mean you’re a person of faith. What it really means is that you have decided instead to be a person of “no faith” under the guise of actually having faith.

That’s right. Nothing is more phony and inauthentic than the religious person who says, “I just believe. I don’t question things.”

If you question not, you have no faith.

Let me repeat that for those of you a bit slow in using your God-given mind to actually think about things.

Until you question your faith, you have NO faith.

Period.

You might have religion. Pews today will be filled with religious people. I’ll be one of them. But there is a chasm of difference between being a religious person and being a person of authentic faith.

Do not believe anything any religious person tells you – which, yes, includes me, too.  You must, instead, find out the truth for yourself. Which is why the Buddha said…

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

This is where real faith begins, my friend.

2. Honor truth wherever it is found. End the senseless debate between science and religion. Creationists are wrong. Plain and simple. And, if you are Creationist, you are just plain wrong. I mean no harshness or judgment in those words whatsoever. But, the facts are the facts. If my child said to me, “Two plus two equals five,” I would say the same thing, “Son, that’s just plain wrong.”  No judgment. Just the facts.

So, you can understand why, at the same time, I feel often sick and tired of Christians making a laughing mockery of the Bible and who, in some twisted way, actually think they’re “saving” the Bible by making claims about Genesis that are just not so.

I got news for you. Not only are you not “saving” the Bible, you actually turning away people away from the Bible…and, hence, from the faith of the Bible. In other words, you are the hindrance to the very gospel you proclaim. You, my friend, are one of those about whom Jesus said, “Whoever would cause the least of these to stumble, it would be better if a millstone were tied about his neck, and he was thrown into the deepest sea” (Matt. 5:19).

Science and religion are not in conflict at all. They are actually just opposite sides of the same coin. They compliment each other. When I look into the vastness of space at night, for example, I am not put off by its expansiveness…its vastness that is larger than my little mind can comprehend. I do not, therefore, despair and feel as if it is all some random and accidental mistake.

I see instead orderliness.

I see mystery.

I see endless expanses of stillness.

I see you and me and just how inconsequential we are against all that infinity.

I see our interconnectedness with it all.

I see God.

3. Stop defending the Bible as if it is some perfect book of divine instruction. It is not. It is, instead, a very human book, full of errors and contradictions and inconsistencies and…well…the list of problems is almost endless.

Any honest person knows this.

“So, how can you believe any of it?” you ask.

Don’t even try.

Why?

Because the Bible isn’t looking for believers. It needs no believers. It needs no defending either.

The Bible is the record book of the human experience for those who primarily grew up in Judeo-Christian traditions. Not unlike the Bhagavad-Gita is the sacred human experience of those having grown up in the east.

Everyone should just stop making “truth-claims” about their scriptures that are not only not true but miss the point altogether. Give attention instead to the story…the stories…the experiences of the ancient people of faith. They were limited, yes, in their understanding of themselves and each other and the universe that surrounded them. So read their stories from their perspectives, as they sought to make sense of the world as they understood it and their place within it.

Isn’t that all we really need to do with the scriptures?

Of course it is.

It is here that we make the point of connection with the ancient stories of faith. When I read the Bible I know I’m reading about a people just as scared shitless as I am at times about the world they live in and how they’re going to survive in it. As I read, I observe how they coped, the mistakes they made, as well as the occasional right choices they made from time to time, too. Out of that observation and inquiry, I find real inspiration and transformative lessons I might apply to my life.

Do not be content yourself, my friend, with just defending an “inspired” Bible that, in reality, you do not know as a transformative inspiration in your own soul. Opt for the latter instead and give up meaningless rants about the Bible. They are useless.

4. Finally, Jesus promised, “Seek and you WILL find…” (Matt. 7:7).  But only if you seek.

Seeking doesn’t mean glibly saying, as many Christians do, “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it.”

That settles nothing, my friend. It is a diversionary and delusional tactic used, not by a persons of authentic faith, but just the opposite. It is the kind of thing a person does who has “no real faith” and is quite content to live with a religion devoid of all power, too.

Is that what you want? Then, go for it. I assure you, you are not alone.

As for me, I want the truth, however.

Why?

Because it was only to truth-seekers, Jesus promised, “the truth you will find and that truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The “4” Myths about Prayer: Pathway to More Meaningful Praying

posted by smcswain

The "4" Myths about PrayerRecently, I pulled up to my local bank drive-though, opened the “pneumatic tube carrier,” as it is known, placed inside the container my bank transaction, and pressed the “Send” button.

The little elevator doors closed and I watched as the container began ascending the tube.  First, slowly, and then it began to pick up speed. All of a sudden, however, instead of increasing in speed, it began to slow to a stop and there it remained suspended, as it were, at least for a few sections anyway, between the teller behind the glass and me.

Finally, the suction gave out and the container dropped back down the shoot, hitting with a thud, and the doors reopened.

“What was that?” I asked.

The teller smiled and said, as if she anticipated it, “Oh, it does it often. Just hit the “Send” button again and it should work this time.”

I did.

But it didn’t.

In fact, I made repeated attempts and only after about the seventh try did my transaction reached the teller.

She processed my transaction and then said, “Will that be all?” I nodded and drove away. As I did, I thought to myself, “I’ve just witnessed a real life example of what prayer must be like for many people. The analogies are all too apparent.

Isn’t it true, for example, many people say their prayers with the same sort of bewilderment, even frustration, that I felt with the pneumatic tube carrier?”

I think so.

Furthermore, I think this is because, what many people have been taught to believe about prayer is just plain wrong.

Here are four myths about prayer and what you need to know that could actually help you discover prayer to be a more meaningful and productive exercise.

Myth # 1: Prayers are requests we offer down here to God up there. For many people, God is like Cosmic Teller somewhere in the heavens and their prayers are the little requests they offer up to him in hopes they’ll actually make it.

Prayer is like a bank transaction at a celestial drive-through. The believing person offers up his prayer like a customer trying to send a bank deposit to the Grand Teller behind the glass…all the while, feeling helpless at whether the prayer had just the right amount of “Oomph” so that it could actually reach God.

Remember this, my friend.

God is not “out there somewhere” in the heavens. Admittedly, the people who wrote the Bible believed in a kind of three-storied universe – the surface of the earth on which they lived…the atmosphere above them with its many clouds…and, just beyond the clouds, there was heaven, the abode of God.

Though many believed this for centuries, even a school child today knows differently. Not only is heaven not above the clouds, one cannot be sure where heaven could possibly be at all. As a matter of fact, just trying to comprehend the infinity of space can leave one wondering not only where God is but if God is.

Here’s what I would suggest: Stop thinking of God as “out there,” but in here instead.

“In where?” you ask.

Inside yourself.

In other words, stop thinking of yourself as separate from God. There is no truth in believing God is a Cosmic Teller located somewhere in the heavens to whom you offer your prayers in hopes they’ll actually reach him.

Prayer is a conversation with you.

That’s right. It is a talk you have with yourself, as one in union with the Father (read John 17).

By the way, “a talk with oneself” only feels weird if, instead of feeling at one with God, you still think of yourself as separate from God. Let go of the separation mentality. It’s a myth.

Myth #2:  The more prayers you offer, the more likely the response.  I must have hit the “Send” button a half dozen times before the container finally reached the teller.

Many mistakenly believe the more times they offer a request unto God, the better their chances of getting the prayer answered. These same people tend to also believe, the more people they can enlist to pray with them about a particular concern, the less chance there is that God will mistakenly overlook their need. If one firecracker can make a loud bang, setting off a whole pack at one time is sure to get God’s attention.

How often have you heard sincere but misguided people say, “I need lots of prayers.”

Whenever I hear that, I want to respond, “What for?”

Do many prayers make the one’s need appear more valid?

Are prayers mere tokens dropped in a celestial slot machine? The more tokens you drop, the greater your chances of winning?

Does it take lots of prayers to overcome lots of reluctance on God’s part to answer them?

In every instance, the answer is “No!’ These are all myths. Jesus said, “Do no recite the same prayer over and over like some do who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him” (Matt.6: 7-8).

Myth #3: Those who believe the most get the most.  Some believing people mistakenly think that the stronger their faith, the more likely their prayers will be answered. Which means, if it feels your prayers are getting no where – like the container straining to reach the teller – it can only mean one thing: your faith isn’t strong enough.

That’s a myth, my friend.

Yet, surprisingly, many believe it. Their belief is based on a misreading of Jesus who said, “And, when you pray, believing, you will receive” (Mark 11:24). “Believing” is objectified, as it were, into a kind of “belief” system. Further, it is quantified. In other words, if your prayers are not being answered, either your “beliefs” are incorrect or your “believing” is insufficient.

Both are myths.

There is no proper “belief” to which you must subscribe before God will hear your prayers. Furthermore, there is no minimum amount of faith you must acquire in order to deserve Divine attention. God is not gasoline tank into which you pump the fuel of faith and, after having reached the proper limit, the pistons fire and the answers flow.

Let go of all such thinking. Instead, think of “believing” as “trusting.” Offer your prayers but make “trusting” your practice.  It won’t be easy, I admit. Which is why trusting is a necessary practice. Praying to God may take no effort but trusting God will take a lifetime of practice.

Myth #4: God hears all prayers but only answers a Christian prayer.  I have one particular bank that I go to and I have for as long as I can remember. In fact, it is the same bank my parents used and in which I opened my first checking account when I was but a teenager.

Now that I am an adult, I know my bank is not the only bank. There is another bank just across the street. I am neither naïve nor so arrogant as to suggest the other bank is merely a replica of a bank, built only to look like a bank when actually it is something else altogether. Oh, I suppose I could make such silly claims but who’s to say their customers are not just as convinced that it is my bank that’s actually the phony one?

Some Christians mistakenly think they alone hold the keys to the vault of heaven. But this, too, is a myth.

God has many banks…as well as religions or spiritual traditions. They’re known by many different names. All are legitimate. Only the naïve, even the arrogant, would suggest God hears only their prayers.

I have always loved the way the Catholic nun, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, put it, when she said: “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.”

That’s the proper spirit, my friends. That’s genuine humility at work. It is the kind of attitude that will make prayer more meaningful to you even as it makes room for all other prayers.

And, all other people, too.

This is…

Your Best Life Now!

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Ever.

Transformation

posted by smcswain

spiritual path

The 4 Ways Life’s Little Interruptions Help You

posted by smcswain

The delays…interruptions…to your important life, as well as mine, are quite frustrating, are they not?

Who hasn’t experienced a flight delay? A mechanical problem? A cancelled flight? Or, a traffic jam? Or, having to wait in the checkout lane?

They’re everywhere. They’re a nuisance. They interfere with the best laid plans. They’re a pain in the you-know-what.

Right?

Well, of course, that’s one way to look at them. But there might be another, suggests Mark Nepo in his wonderful The Book of Awakening. Maybe these delays and interruptions that interfere with and disrupt our very important schedules, instead of being life’s little and frustrating interruptions, maybe they are Divine interventions…messages from beyond…or, perhaps God’s invitation to pause…to slow down…to pay attention…to reflect…to enter into the very Presence of God.

What if, my friend, you were to practice this day viewing every delay, every interruption, even traffic jam or even the wait at the restaurant for a table…what if, you decided to enter into the flow and, instead of reacting, you slowed down? You paused? You paid attention to your surroundings? You entered into the moment?

What would happen? Here are the ways life’s interruptions help you…

1. They offer you the opportunity to actually slow down.  And, who of us would not benefit from this? See if you can feel your heart beating. Observe your breathing. Use this delay as an opportunity to dial-down the frenetic pace of your life. See what happens.

2. Life’s little interruptions are portals into the present moment. The main reason you and I so often feel disconnected from life is because we are disconnected from NOW! We’re thinking about where we’re going, what we have to do, the activities of the day. Or, we are remembering the past, the argument we just had with our spouse, the employee with whom we had a disagreement the day before…the…

Well, you get the point. What if, when you catch yourself today racing about, running here and there, preoccupied with all the important, earth-shattering stuff of your life…what if…when the interruption comes – and, it is likely to come – what if you viewed it as an opportunity to enter into the portal of this present moment?

3. Life’s delays can be occasions to connect with others. I was reminded of this on a recent flight through Atlanta. Unanticipated harsh weather literally shut down the busiest airport in the world. Flights were cancelled by the hundreds. Passengers were stranded and I was among them.

Such occasions can be opportunities to complain, gripe, fuss, and fume and there was plenty of that to go around. But they can also be opportunities to engage…to share stories with complete strangers…to make new friends…to connect with others. And, in the end, my friend, what could be more important than this?

4. Here’s the fourth thing to remember about life’s interruptions: they are Divine reminders that the Divine Presence is with you…and with you always.  Much of the displeasure we feel at many of life’s disruptions stems from our disconnected feelings with the Source of Life itself.

So, next time you see the red rear lights on the cars ahead of you all brighten and you quickly discover the interstate has slowed to a near stop with traffic, instead of reacting…reeling inside…

Instead of responding with curses and cries of frustration…

Open your eyes my friend and look for the Presence.  God is in every moment…every experience…even in every disruption.

This is…

Your Best Life Now!

– See more at: http://www.stevemcswain.com/?p=3704#sthash.opYSIWnW.dpuf

earth

What’s Your Mantra for Living?

posted by smcswain

“Mantra” is a sanskrit word made up of two other words: “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “instrument.” Hence, a mantra is an “instrument of the mind.”

Not mental gymnastics or a kind of pattern of positive thinking. More like instead the philosophy by which you determine your life…the guidance principle or the underlying motive that motivates your actions, behavior, priorities, and life.

If you were asked to sum up the overriding philosophy…the guiding light of your ambitions…the prevailing objective or principle both of how you live and the way you life, what would it be?

Could you state it?

Articulate it?

Share it?

I think you could. And, I think you should. You’d be surprised at the power of a Mantra when, not only have your articulated it, but, when it comes from your heart and you regularly repeat it, it becomes an instrument that, like the rudder of a ship, guides your life or like a GPS system, it’ll provide direction, helping you reach your life destiny.

Here’s my Mantra for Living…

Mantra for Living

Creationism vs Evolutionism…When Will this Debate Ever End?

posted by smcswain

adam_and_eveWe could not be luckier here in Kentucky. We are that state that promotes religious quackery. Oh, in case you don’t know or are making thinking of traveling south to warmer climates, on your way through Kentucky stop and see the Creation Museum. It is our pyramid to primitive faith.

Soon the Museum will serve as host to what some are saying is the debate of the century – Creationism versus Evolutionism. Not since the days of the Scopes Monkey trials has there been another more important debate.

Are you kidding me?

I am so weary of this nonsense. This madness just won’t go away, will it?

I suppose not. At least, not as long as there are Christians who mistakenly think that the infallibility of scripture all collapses if Genesis is not regarded as a scientific treatise on the nature and origin of the universe.

The story of Creation in the Genesis account of creation is the story of Adam and Eve, the story of human community. Or, the lack of it.

That’s about it.

What the Genesis account is not is a historical account of the creation of the universe.

Why can’t puny little minds let this primitive notion go?

You’ll have to answer that.

If, however, you were taught in Sunday School, as I was, that Genesis is all about how God created the world in six literal days of 24-hours duration and that Genesis is the explanation about how “original sin” came to be on this planet as a consequence for the sin of Adam and Eve, then you will understand just how conflicted I’ve been most of my church life after learning the truth that Genesis is not about any of this nonsense at all.

Furthermore, the madness misinformed Christian zealots taught me as an impressionable youth – “brainwashing” might be a better description of it – and so undermined my natural capacity to live by faith by saying stupid things like – “If you don’t believe Genesis…if you have doubts about its authenticity…you are not living by faith” and other such maddening and heretical faith statements – then you can understand my consternation over debates like this one that just won’t ever go away.

I’m sick of it. And, I know that this is just another reason why scores and scores of thinking Christians have left – again, not their faith or their devotion to Christ – but the churches and parishes that promote this heresy. This Creationism craziness is indefensible and only ever succeeds in making Christians look like a a bunch of intellectually-bankrupt nitwits.

That there are still Christians promoting Creationism is actually more unbelievable than the illogical nonsense in Creationism they wish everyone would just believe.

What is this story in Genesis all about?

The story of Adam and Eve, my friend, is really just the story of you and me.

You are Adam and I am Eve and together…well…that makes we.

Genesis is the Jewish version of the mythical stories of creation found in virtually every primitive culture and religion. Its emphasis is on the Creator, creation, and community. It isn’t about proving the existence of God. It isn’t about proving that God created the universe in six literal days. And, it isn’t about how human beings all got inflicted with something it calls “original sin.”

It’s not about any of this at all.  It is instead, and mostly, about the failure of humans to guard and grow the community God created.  Just ask any Hebrew. Which might be a good place for Christians to start anyway, since the book of Genesis comes from their scriptures, not ours.

The creation story is about human community or, more accurately, the propensity of humans to destroy the potential for community.

When you get this simple truth about the purpose of Genesis, you will begin to grasp the point of the Jesus story – which is all about the creation of a new humanity and the potential for a new community. Which is why Saint Paul called Jesus the new Adam (Romans 5:12-18).  In other words, Jesus’ message…the Genesis message…is that we are one human community, one new humanity!

Jesus did not come to create some new religion. Bishop Desmond Tutu is right when he says, “God is not a Christian.” Jesus no more set out to begin “Christianity” than Buddha set out to establish “Buddhism.” These religions, or philosophies, were creations of the followers who came after these spiritual masters. Both groups have done much good, as one might argue with all religions. But virtually all religions, including the Christian religion, have been responsible for incomprehensible evil throughout history.

If all of this sounds like heresy to you, think again. Much of what you and I were taught as Christians about Christianity…about other religions, and much of what many Christians are still being taught today, is where the real heresy lies. And, creationism is just one of its many heretical ideas. It may have been helpful in pre-scientific periods of human history. But to argue that the creation story in Genesis is a literal, historical account of the origins of the universe is to make yourself look to the rest of the world as an ignoramus whose words, and I would add, whose witness, cannot be taken seriously at all. If you’re an Evangelical Christian and reading this, is that what you want?

The story of Genesis, as well as the story of Jesus, is the story of the creation of humanity and community and a new humanity and community, respectively.  When you get this, my friend, every Adam and Eve you meet, which is to say, every person you meet, will be a member of your extended human family…your human community.

This is what Saint Paul was pointing toward when he said, “There is no Jew or Greek or bond or free male or female…”(Gal 3:28). In other words, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Churchgoers, those who’ve left the Church, insiders, outsiders, black, white, yellow and red, gays and straights, lesbians and transgendered…indeed everyone you meet…we are all just different Adams and Eves and, as such, we are all brothers and sisters.

This IS the Gospel story. If this is not, then what is it?  If this ideal is not realized, worked toward, then what else really matters?

When you get this truth, then you can appreciate Genesis for what it is. But you will also have a new appreciation for the story of Jesus as well. Furthermore, when this truth grips you…and, when it does, it will transform you…you will stop the blind and ignorant labeling of people…the categorizing and judging of people as “believers” versus “non-believers” or “creationists” versus “evolutionists.”  You will also give up the silly notion that the Bible needs your puny and primitive rants to protect its sacredness. Most importantly, however, you will suddenly, almost magically, start seeing people everywhere, not as enemies to be eliminated, but as brothers and sisters, even as your family members, who must be loved, forgiven, even redeemed.

Why?

Because stuff like this is the proof of real conversion…real salvation…real enlightenment.  Not the little rants disguised as Christian apologetics by less than intelligent-thinking Christians.

The day will come – and not too quickly – when the Creation Museum will disappear like the dinosaurs in it. What will remain will be people of faith who have not rejected evolution in favor of creation but have rejected religious ideologies and beliefs founded on fairytales and primitive thinking.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge,” warned Einstein, “will be shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.”

It took the Church nearly four hundred years to admit its stupidity and apologize to Galileo.

For centuries, the Gods laughed.

On February 2, 2014, the Creationists will stand up to declare their Truth and Knowledge…

Meanwhile, the Gods…

And, I’m wondering, “When will their madness, and the laughter of the Gods, finally and forever end?

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