Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ants in a Rainstorm

It has been about two weeks since the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan and after viewing numerous videos of the crushing floods and whirling tempests raging against the innocents of Japan, one has to wonder why?

Again the thought turns to God. Why would a benevolent God allow the lives of countless thousands to be cast amongst the debris ? It seems utterly senseless. Lives destroyed. Whole families wiped out.

These types of natural disasters have been happening since time immemorial and will no doubt continue. No surprise there. It is just part of the natural process of the changing earth. But when one sees tens of thousands killed in such a disaster as this and others a couple of years ago, it makes you wonder.

The thought does cross your mind that God is punishing mankind for it’s “evil” behavior and I believe there are quite a few out there that prescribe to this thought. However, I do not. Church leaders, politicians and citizens worldwide have reiterated this thought and try to put a theological framework around it. People around me have stated this fact in one way or another. The prominent thought I hear is that these disasters are in preparation for the second coming of Christ and that they will be more and more commonplace. Another is the thought that they are part of the “End of the World” scenario of 2012. Nonsense.

If on the other hand your don’t believe in a “creator” or a God, what would be your opinion of the natural disasters be ? Are we as men just mere ants roaming the surface of earth, going on from design to design, adding hope to hope and laying out plans for many years all for naught ? Are we as men subject to the punishment of an angry and jealous God for our bad behavior and egos, as Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ichihara said recently and that the disaster is “tembatsu” or “divine punishment” ? I think not. God does not get “angry”.
That is a human attribute. Not my God at least.

I personally have a hard time with that. That version of God seems antiquated to me. I could understand a cave man having those thoughts about seeing such destruction because he would not understand the great forces involved and the actual “natural” causes for natural events. That makes sense. But science has provided the “how and why” these things occur, yet this thought still permeates the common consciousness.

I recently read (or should I say, listened to the audio book) Deepak Chopra’s “How to Know God”. In it, he discusses the seven stages of man’s ideas of God. I will not go though them here, but one of the earliest stages is that of “God the Judge”. I believe these people are attaching themselves to this early “God the Judge” version of God. For me, that does not hold true. The stories in the early Bible are also using “God the Judge” to put a framework around natural disasters by trying to equate them God’s punishment for man’s bad behavior. In certain cases the bible authors use “God the Protector” view. Which ever works best for the lesson.

If you believe God is the creator of all things, do you believe he is still active daily in the lives of men ? Does he know all that you are doing and keeps track of your every thought and deed ? Sounds a bit strange to me. Sounds like a way to force people to do the right thing because someone is watching. Doesn’t God have better things to do then be a mere note taker on my behavior ? Doesn’t he have worlds to balance and universes to create ? I would think so. But maybe your version of God, created this one and only world and universe and is now sitting back judging his creation and issuing divine punishments for a failed experiment. An experiment given free will to choose, but has chosen the wrong path.

I think I prescribe to a version where God created the world and set it in motion and then “walked away”. I guess. Not really sure. But the idea of a loving God who would strike down innocent children does not fit my model. I don’t feel God in that way. God is love, not hate. God is love, not anger.

To me, God is not some bearded ruler sitting in a chair in heaven, all knowing, all judging, all involved in my daily life and the lives of countless others around the globe. The truth is, I don’t know what God is. I just know he (or she) is.

One of my favorite quotes by Paul Frost, author, sums up my thought on the existence of God.

"What do you think of God," the teacher asked. After a pause, the young pupil replied, "He's not a think, he's a feel.”

The real question remains. Why do natural disasters happen ? Is it the “End of Times” as Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) said recently ? I don’t this so.

Disasters happen. When they are man made disasters, we know whom to blame. However when a natural disaster happens, we still blame ourselves. That’s just weird.

In a way, we are all just ants wondering the surface of the planet, unaware of the dangers of life.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Faith and Reason

Most days on the drive to and from work, I occasionally switch to the Christian radio stations broadcasting out of central New Jersey. Typically it is Bridge FM. I like to tease a brother of my lodge that I am “monitoring” his church like his church monitors the Freemasons. Most times I enjoy listening to the broadcast and try to glean some insight into the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But as of late, I have been noticing a trend that I find disturbing on a couple of levels.

Now, I know that some of the “modern” Christian churches that have been popping up around the country have a little different take on the “tried and true” Christianity that most Christians have been baptized and raised under. The standard Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, faiths etc., own the monolithic church structures that landmark any major town in America. But these new churches are very small for the most part and occupy school gymnasiums, fire houses and lodge buildings on Sundays. I don’t have a problem with that since I believe that these church-goers are reacting to the failure of organized religious institutions to answer the hard questions that a “questioning” believer might have. I find myself grouped into that category as well.

I count myself as a “Christian” because I was brought up in the Protestant Church in my neighborhood as a youngster. I was married in a Methodist Church and when I do go to Church on “special” occasions, as many “Christmas Christians” do, I have chosen a church where the Pastor answers in his sermons, for the most part, some of those questions that I have. But not always.

To get back to my original point, I have found it a bit unsettling to say the least, how much time, thought and effort is paid to discussing and re-discussing the “Rapture” and the “End of Days” from the book of Revelations. Every time I listen to this radio broadcast of sermons, they speak in depth and answer call in questions from listeners and members. All of which is OK with me. I guess my real problem with this is that they seem to me to be wasting their lives looking to the “end” of it. They speak of how the “Rapture” will occur and how all true Christians will be “raptured” and in an instant, will vanish, bodily from the earth to be with Jesus in heaven and that all the rest will remain on earth to deal with the “end of times” and the Anti-Christ and his evil doings. All will vanish bodily in an instant. Poof !

Now, as a Freemason, I have learned that all religions have validity and that every man finds his path to God in his own way. Just because I am not on the same path as you, does not mean that I am lost. I am just on a different path to the answers in life.

y real problem with this extreme focus on the “End Times” is that is detracts from the art of living. It detracts from the zest that people should feel for life and the fullness that it can provide if God so wills it. It seems to me that someone that fears that God will separate them in an instant, from all their loved ones, is truly missing the real essence of the Christian faith as taught by the Christ. I feel that this view of Revelations is particularly disturbing to the children that inevitably call in to the station with questions about the rapture. “What will happen to my dog Fluffy ? Will he be raptured with me ?” “What age will I be in Heaven?” “Will I every see my Mommy again if she does not get raptured and I do ?”

These questions from kids make me mental. The commentators then have to make a long drawn out explanation and basically say that they do not know and that you must have “Faith” that all will be right. Seems to me they are putting all this unnecessary worry into the child’s head about an event (the rapture) that seems to me to be completely made up. They make the children “fear” God and fear God for their whole lives.

s far as I can tell, there is no mention of the word “rapture” in the Bible whatsoever. Never mind not mentioning what will happen to my dog and my Mommy. All the verses in the book of Revelation point to a time (they say) when the world will come to an end. I am sorry, but I don’t believe that. Call me a bad Christian, but I don’t buy it. I am a questioning Christian. I admit it. But Christians have been looking for the “Second Coming” of Christ from the moment Christ departed. Every age in Christianity, looks to the heavens and holds hope to see Christ coming down in a cloud of “Glory” to reclaim his faithful and bring them to the “Kingdom of God”. From Christ’s own mouth, he has spelled it out to all Christians that the Kingdom of God is not “out there” someplace. It is not some up in the clouds place that all believing Christians will someday meet to be together with God and be reunited with their dead loved ones.

In the book of Luke 17:20-21, it says directly, “The Kingdom of God is within you”.

o me, that one verse, puts to rest all the debate over the rapture and the end of times. Yes, maybe Revelation is speaking about the end of times, but not as a earthly civilization, but as an individual and our personal battles with our egos in our search for light and meaning in this life. But hey, it’s only my half-baked opinion.

think it is our duty as Christians, Muslims or whatever, to question the faith that is drawn out of the well for us by others. The late Pope John Paul said it best.

Faith and Reason are like two wings on which human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

I pass by this quote every day when I go to work. It is a bronze plaque on the University library wall.

Stop it already with all this looking to the end. Stop looking for the Temple of Solomon in Israel to be rebuilt. Think about the origin of the word Israel (“he that striveth with God”) and maybe you will have a different opinion about what the Bible is talking about when they are “rebuilding” the “Temple” or talking about "Israel" or the "Israelites". Stop it already looking forward to Armageddon and hoping for it. Stop it already hoping for hell on earth. You will surely get what you ask for.

ook to each day with excitement and thankfulness for this greatest of gifts that you have been given, Life. You were not put here to live out some man-induced notions of the end of times. You were put here to make this heaven on earth a better place. Find the Christ in you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"All things in their time..." - November 13, 2004

The past couple of days, I have been thinking about my late father. The date of his passing did not readily jump into my mind. Kinda strange I guess. I found myself searching through the morbid stack of funeral parlor cards that I keep. You know the ones that you get at each funeral. I have them stacked in my dresser drawer along with the church programs from the day. I looked through the whole stack and remembered each person that had a card, Friends, Grand Parents, Aunts and Uncles, neighbors, and lodge brothers.

I could not find his and I could not remember the date. I know that he passed around this time in November, but the exact date escaped me. Does that make me a bad son ? Maybe. But I try not to dwell on death, even my father's. Death is as important as birth, and probably just as trying on the individual, in my humble opinion. Death or "transition" is really a beautiful thing. Really. I can truly say that because I had the honor of holding two close relatives hands when they transitioned this earth. My father's and my Mother-In-Law's. One moment they are here, the next, not. A truly moving experience in every sense of the word. But I don't dwell on it, ever.

The events of my life "re-aligned" the week of his death. The day that he passed, was my last day at a 20 year career at AT&T. It all seemed to come down at once. It happened the same way for my brother too. He lost his job of 15 years with a few weeks. But these types of things have a way of working out in the "Grand Design" of it all. If it where not for both my brother and myself being laid off, we would not have had the time to organize his home for sale and settle his estate properly. We needed that time, to work through our grief, our loss. It was a "Grand Design".

Most people have the opportunity to live a long and fruitful life. To see their children grow and marry, to see grand children born, to see the fruits of your life's labors flourish. But tragically, some do not. Some children are not long for this world. Truly heart wrenching. One always asks "Why?". Why would God allow an innocent to be born with cancer ? Why would a benevolent God allow someone to die suddenly when some much life is yet to be lived ? No one knows the answer. Is there really a God then ? A God that would allow such things to exist ? Each man must answer that for himself. To find God. To "forgive" God. Or not.

Families who have endured this type of tragedy sometimes question their faith in the midst of such overwhelming grief. Some times they find their faith, ofttimes they loose it. They seek help from their church leaders, their synagogues, their friends. But no one can answer the call of grief. It is a grief that must be endured. Or not.

My father endured this type of grief in his life. Twice. With two sons and again with his wife. He endured and pulled the family in. He was the silver cord that connected and held the family together. Pulled tight. The family made it. We endured in our own way. But each of us carry with us, some remnant of the death experiences through our lives daily. It effects they way you live on a subconscious level, how you handle things. Are we afraid of living ? The better question is, "Are we afraid of dying ?". I for one, am not because of these experiences. Death is a "Grand Illusion".

As much as I miss my father's physical presence, I still carry with me daily the thoughts of him. I find myself looking, sitting and sounding like him more each day. I catch myself. Funny really. But my father was not one of those "touchy-feely" kind of fathers. I can not remember a time when he said that he loved me. I know he did in his way, but it would have been OK to hear it. But that was not the way he rolled.

The last few weeks of my father's challenge with cancer, brought the family together in a different way. We saw my father as vulnerable and dependent. He did not like it, at all. But he enjoyed eating my omelettes for breakfast and being around the family. We enjoyed him too. Great memories amongst the pain.

I know that at some point he knew that he would die soon. I know it. I could tell by his light. But this meat suit that we walk around in every day during this life time is truly vulnerable. Vulnerable to stress, to "dis-ease", to outside circumstance. Some of these things we have the power to change, to make a difference in our own lives. By eating better, by not being angry, by letting go of stress, and most importantly, by loving. Love heals all. Always. But sometimes, death happens unexpectedly to the most vulnerable, to the most innocent. Its' the way, sometimes.

My brother asked me once "Why Dad could not beat the cancer ?", seeing that he was always studying metaphysical things. I can't answer that. I don't know. The reality is that it was his time. His last words to me when I told him that I loved him and that I did not want to see him die, was "All things in their time".

Time is all we have as humans, this man made object of our stress and worries. It does not really exist. But our brains need order, need structure. "Timelessness" is too hard to grasp, but it exists, in each of us. The truly "advanced" amongst us have tapped into this timelessness. I think Dad did. It allowed him to "Let Go and Let God".

Let go and God will.

Friday, October 02, 2009

God is a Garden

Since the completion of my garden fence and arbor two years ago, I have been wanting to paint the phrase "God is a Garden" in gold paint on the arch over the entrance to my garden. I just haven't found the time to do it yet. But you may say that is kind of a weird thing to say about a garden. What does a garden have to do with God ? Everything, absolutely everything.

o be in the presence of the "ease of growth" is a very humbling, and eternally spiritual experience, for me anyway. It teaches patience when you get anxious for the fruits of your labor. You must "allow" the garden to do what it does naturally. It reminds you of how beautifully intertwined life is with the environment and how little control you actually have over the outcome.

Plants grow without struggle and just do what they are spiritually designed to do. You think that "you" are planting the garden and "growing" the plants, when in actuality, you are just "allowing" the process to happen in your semi-controlled environment. A definite model for how to live your life.
Everything about a garden reminds me of the spiritually in life. For example, this time of year is a particularly poignant time since the plants in the garden are beginning to wither and die. The plants have given up their fruits and vegetables and some have gone to seed. The dirt becomes quiet and rests. It is sad to see this happen when just a few weeks ago the plants were at their height of beauty, development and production. The greens of youth give way to the golden browns of maturity and then to the withering frosts of age. It reminds me of part of the Masonic lecture in the Entered Apprentice degree. "but earth, ever kind and indulgent, is subservient to his wishes. Though constantly taxed to furnish the luxuries and the necessaries of life, it never refuses its accustomed yield, but spreads his path with flowers and his table with plenty, and returns, with interest, every good committed to its care; and when man is called upon to pass through the 'valley of the shadow of death' , it once more receives him, and covers his remains within its bosom. This admonishes us that from earth we came, and to earth we must shortly return".

But aside from the obvious cycle of growth and death apparent in gardening, quite a bit more is displayed during the growing process if one takes the time to observe.

I am always amazed by the geometry and mathematics observed in plant growth. I can, by no means say that I was ever good at math or geometry. But one who has struggled with it can easily observe and appreciate the underlying geometry in plant growth. It is beautiful, educational and magnificent. Maybe if classes in geometry and mathematics featured plant growth and development as part of the examples, a few less "thick" students may appreciate and understand the reason for the study. I still don't understand it, but I enjoy seeing it in action. I could write a blog just on the observation of the golden ratio in plants alone, never mind in other things in nature. I love observing it. It is beautiful.

Needless to say, I think gardening is like a "little bit of heaven" for sure. When I go there, whether physically or in meditation, I feel the presence of the divine all around me. It engulfs me and surrounds me with it's pure holiness. God is a garden and so am I.

But I still hate weeding......

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Of sleeping Angels

Every once in a while, I stop myself from the daily grind and routine to realize what life is ultimately really about. Every day, we go on, from design to design, hope to hope and we layout plans for many years.

But once in a while, I stop. And look. And listen.

I stand at the door to my angel's room. And look. I look at how fast she is growing. How fast things are changing. How fast she is "becoming". I look.

I listen.
I listen to her breathe while she sleeps. How calm, how quiet, how perfect. What is she dreaming ? Where is she going ? Where has she been ?

I continue with my day. But I stop.

Once in a while.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Time marches on

The other day while going through and looking for photos for my first blog post, I was struck by some of the photographs that I came across from only a few years ago. It seemed to me that time has been slipping away at an ever increasing pace. I was looking at photos of when I was dating my wife, photos of when my daughter was born, photos of the early years in my new home, trees have grown from saplings, the house paint seems crisp and fresh, may face shows a few less wrinkles and my belly was non existent. Life has been good and tough at times. A lot has changed. Trees have grown so that you can't see across the properties any longer, relatives have passed on, cars have been replaced, vacations finished and my nieces and daughter have been growing up. Where did my little daughter go ?

I guess its inevitable that time marches on. They say (who ever "they" are ), that you are only "old" when you look
back on life more than you look forward. I try not to look back too much, other than to try and discover why I am that way I am: why I loose my temper at certain things, why I get annoyed when the phone rings during dinner (thanks Dad), why certain people aggravate me. Strange.
But one thing is for certain. I look forward to many more years in this life. I hope to someday look back at the photos of this part of my life and say the same thing. "Where has time gone ?" After all, time is a man-made thing. It doesn't really exist at all. Time is now. Make the most of it. Cherish and love your family, love your friends, love GOD, and most importantly, love thyself. It's all good.

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pooper Scooper

This past weekend, my brother and brother-in-law, stopped by with a large trailer load of, you guessed it, horse manure. The first words out of my mouth, naturally are, "You guys are definitely full of sh*t now. About a half dozen other ones followed. "You can definitely shovel the sh*t, Stop giving me your sh*t" , " I hope you didn't steal this stuff, that would make you a turd burglar", etc. etc.

Anyway, we then began to unload the load wheel barrow by wheel barrow on top of the rows of growing plants in my garden. My brother calls it "dressing the rows". He has always had a green thumb and has been reading gardening books for as long as I remember. The load of aged manure came from a horse farm local to my brother. He and my brother-in-law had done the same thing with their gardens weeks before and I had commented to my brother how well his plants were growing. So they brought me a trailer load for my garden. Awesome.

We "dressed the rows" with about 3 to 4 inches of the manure and stall sweepings. We shall see how things grow now. The garden has been going very slow due to the weather this year being so wet and cool. The manure keeps the rows covered from weeds and adds natural fertilizers to the soil. I also dressed the raspberry bushes with it too, for next year's harvest.