Whether you believe Jesus is the only, holy son of God who came to save you, or if you believe he was simply a man who influenced people at a specific time in history, nobody can argue that his life changed the world. Whether his purpose was divine or the fortunate result of unintended consequences, his life made a difference to the future of humanity.
Ann Wilson Shaef - she earned my respect when she wrote When Society Becomes An Addict. Her original book, in 19—, Women’s Reality, she outed white men and their system. But her opinions had changed over the next few years, something rarely done in those days.
Not unlike the shocking approach McNeil Tylenol took when their product was tampered with.
Frank Schaeffer does it recently in his book too….
What is it that changes us and makes us suddenly see differently? Why did we take Christian faith at face value when we were children, and why did an entire generation or more hold on to it as truth without blinking an eye? Was it a collective cultural agreement that seemed believable? Was our blanket of faith influenced by our ability to respect authority, which shifted in the 60’s and 70’s when we decided not to trust anyone under 30, and “Question Authority” became our motto?
Or is it that the recent technological development that provide information at our fingertips about anything has made us more skeptical? Or has this data laden society created more critical thinkers? Are these critical thinkers more a product of increasing technology, minimal labor production needs, and a population that is mostly college educated, leaving the non-thinking for immigrants and learning challenged? Does this capacity for critical thinking create skepticism, or the inability to imagine something we can’t see or understand? Has it also affected our imagination, or is that still intact?
Do we now feel more comfortable in the idea of catch-all truths or the admission of uncertainty? Is the idea of uncertainty being popular grounds for more people of faith, or does it lessen the chances of churches returning to their pews filled because it’s only the illusion of certainty that makes people convicted and passionate enough to get up on Sunday morning?
When I go to sleep at night, my mind automatically turns to who I call God. I begin talking to God as if there’s someone listening. I think things through with God, I ask for changes I would like to manifest in myself, I argue with myself in God’s presence to have an objective listener. The one clear awareness I have of this nightly ritual is intention. It’s an almost unconscious ritual of setting and manifesting my personal intention each day. I don’t talk to God for this reason - not intentionally. Yet, it is exactly that which I manifest. Intention. It’s the place I take an inventory of my actions or lack of actions for the day. It’s where I set my goals and hopes for the next day and the future. It’s where I critically think about what I could do different, and admit how I’m not being honest with myself about something. It’s where I ask to be shown blind spots and denial about whatever is happening right now in my life. This ritual means something to me - whether I believe in God that night or not. Whether I believe in God or not is irrelevant to my experience of prayer. My experience of prayer simply is. It is real for me, and my conversation with God is meaningful. Do I think anyone is actually listening? I’m not sure I know what I believe. Mainly because it doesn’t matter whether I believe someone is listening or not. If there’s a collective consciousness of some kind that I am hooked into - whether it is the Holy God of Christianity, or a unconscious collective energy that simply is the balancing agent, perhaps, for humanity; or if I am talking to nothingness; my thoughts are being transmitted from me outward…or inward, as the case may be.
Perhaps this isn’t true for everyone. Some may pray full of faith every time they turn their minds and hearts to God. Or they, too, may be unconscious. I’m not unconscious however. I’m aware that I have no idea who God is. As I examine this recently, I’m aware that it’s comforting to talk to someone other than myself. I don’t really want to lie down in the dark and simply come face to face with myself. I try to do it. I lay there with just me there, and try to think about these things. There’s something dead end about it. It doesn’t feel right. And this feeling of it not being right has nothing to do with guilt. It just doesn’t feel right.
It’s true that it could be my own imaginings, my own ideas ingrained since birth that God is out there. These ideas that are deeply embedded in my psyche can’t separate from them and turn them into a fantasy. But why not? There are many other things that I can connect to and dismiss for being illogical - such as elements of worship service. Or the need to baptize a child at birth to ensure its admission to heaven. Or the idea that I don’t have to feed all the children in Biafra because I didn’t clean my plate.
There are many deeply ingrained ideas and beliefs that are easy to part from. Nationalism is another. My patriotism is not centered around my identity, even though I’m happy to claim I’m an American. The bottom line is, on some level, I think something is “out there.” This doesn’t mean it’s God as authority. But it is God as some collective something.
THREE MILE ISLAND AND TYLENOL
MARY TYLER MOORE EXPERIENCE
What matters most to me, whether Kyle knows the story of me and believes it; or that he unequivocally experiences me as loving him, and knows, in no uncertain terms, that he’s connected to our history, to our family - that he is part of something bigger than he is.
There was a time when Kyle went privately to Okie on one of their hunting trips or golf games, and said, “Dad, I don't know what to do about Mom. She says she’s either met or worked with of knows all these people…and that is just not possible! I don’t want to tell her she’s a liar though.” Years later when he met his birth father, he made a similar comment in passing to him. He hadn’t seen me in many years. His immediate response was, “She’s telling the truth. I knew her back then, and it’s all true.” Kyle’s perception of me changed, but his love for me or from me had never wavered.
Now that he knew the truth, did I expect him to bow down to me, or treat me differently because I had come up a notch in his book, or his experience of certainty with me - particularly as it related to whether he could trust what I say or not, and whether or not I’m capable. Of course he shouldn’t treat me differently, or with awe. Simple respect in the way we’ve always shared it. Obviously the idea of God is a lot different than this, and each of us will have a different reaction about how we choose to relate to a higher power. It seems reverence and holiness is desirable for many of us - maybe not so much because God demands it but it gives us an opportunity to go/move beyond ourselves. Our higher selves are elevating and take us to a birds eyes view of life that we don’t see from groveling at the curb.
There are some who now ridicule those who shroud their spirituality in the word, mystery. Their personal confusion or inability to maintain their integrity while defending doctrine pushes them into a corner that brings them face to face with their own brick wall. For them, I think, it has always been this brick wall that kept them searching for something beyond themselves - because the brick wall just would not do. The brick wall wasn’t enough. Not because they weren’t willing to be in the moment of now, without a story of fantasy or some kind of illusion to make them feel better; but because there was a deeper knowing that said there is more. It is an unequivocal understanding that has no knowledge or scientific data behind it. Sometimes, no scientific data or concrete knowledge doesn’t make something untrue. It only makes it unproven.
I implore that those who hesitate to admit they believe in, at the very least, a mystery beyond their understanding, stand up in it proudly. Wear it for all to see. How can we possibly live in a world that doesn’t call us to its highest good, a good that goes beyond what we can see?
That is exactly what Jesus did. At the time, the world’s consciousness was primitive, relatively speaking, and humanity understood civil rights as an eye for an eye and stoning as acceptable, and murdering women for the smallest crimes were all acceptable. Love, compassion, and reverence for humanity was not considered the highest good, nor was it conceivable.
Jesus changed all that simply by speaking truth to power. He may not have changed much of anything while he was alive. It took 2000 years, gradually. In the midst of it, was violence, patriarchy, the abuse of power, lies, and all the other atrocities humans are capable of - are in capable of resisting. Be that as it may, Jesus’ life and message changed it all eventually. Even Gandhi is known to have said he followed Jesus’ example in his actions.
He believed in something more. He saw the authenticity of humankind as the root of all good - created by something greater than he. Whether or not he was God in the way Christianity holds him is almost irrelevant to the idea that he did, in fact, change the world.
To cast aside the holy and reverent for the logical and proven is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I believe in the mystery because I don’t believe we are done with understanding all that lies beyond us…or within us.
The experiences that have consumed me in my life - without drugs - are inexplicable, at best. The depth of emotion that consumes my heart and experience at times is far beyond the kind of love we feel in a typical relationship. Whatever these experiences are, combined with the ability to touch something other worldly, ethereal, in a community ritual or in the sacrament of holy communion - sharing these experiences that remind of of forgiveness, sacrifice, pain, suffering, continuity, love, community, and our higher selves bring us back to the best of ourselves - individually and collectively. How can we cast this aside simply because we don’t know why we do it?
Because it’s only through this over arching willingness to see ourselves for who we truly are, that we can continue to grow, evolve, change and continue on the journey to becoming. Becoming our higher selves….in a place we cannot even begin to see. Perhaps this is what God’s plan was all along. Even if God is happily living with us.
Does it matter that we don’t understand it, or have a hard time believing it, or disagree on whether the stories are true or not? Does it really matter? I say not.
If Kyle said to me growing up, “Mom, I am telling you my hopes and fears even though I don’t really know if you are my mom.,” or perhaps, “Mom, I am telling you my hopes and fears even though I don’t think you are really listening, or can hear a word I say.” would it make a difference as to my actually relationship or experience of my son? It wouldn’t. I would still love him just as much. I would still be listening with my whole heart. I would still be there for him whenever he needed me. His ideas about me won’t change my relationship with him. He is my child. That’s how I see or experience God. If God is there, then God is well aware of my heart and sincere intent. If God is there and he witnesses a lack of faith on my part, or a skepticism of a particular dogma, then he will clearly understand I’m simply struggling between my senses and my cognition. It’s impossible to conceive that he would be angry with me, or disappointed in me, or even impatient with me. God would know why I must see God as male and female, for instance. God would know why I can’t put all my eggs in one basket all the time - since I can’t know God. These seem to me to be no-brainer relationship issues for a man and her higher power.
KYLE VICTORIA’S SECRET STORY
Children Story of Kyle reading Victoria’s Secret Magazine behind door.
“Mom!” “Can’t you see that I’m having private time?”
kyle when told about birth father AT AGE 6
watching national geographic show on PBS. It vividly explained and demonstrated sperm traveling to the egg, the entire process. I said that’s how you were made. He said who had the sperm? I said the sperm dad was a man named Will.
Could almost smell smoke he was thinking so hard.
“Were you married?”
No, we weren’t.
“YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE!”
KYLE IN TANTRUM RUNS OUT THE DOOR AND UNDER LARGE EVERGREEN.
I follow him out there and try to talk him into coming out.
he refuses and is yelling.
Suddenly I lower my voice to a whisper and say
“God wants me to tell you something.”
All gets quiet.
“What?” he asks gently.
He says he has great plans for you. God has a very special purpose for you in this life. For very important work. You purpose is important and you are needed…..
The branches part quietly and he looks out at me.
He vulnerably approaches me and we hug.
An amazing moment.
how does a child know this when we didn’t have religious household? God was not an everyday word. But, somehow, he understood what that meant…and that it had meaning to him beyond what was in front of us right now. Somehow he was connected to some kind of knowing that went beyond our ordinary day to day relationship that was higher. It was bigger than both of us. Nothing will ever convince me of anything different because of the various factors surrounding this incident. And his lack of exposure, understanding, and beliefs about who or what God is.
KYLE HAD VISITS FROM MY FATHER BEFORE HE KNW OF MY FATHER.
HE CAME AND LAID DOWN WITH HIM IN BED AND TALKED TO HIM, OR COMMUNICATED ANYWAY. HE TOLD HIM MANY DIFFERENT THINGS. KYLE DESCRIBED HIM PERFECTLY, AND REMEMBERED SO MUCH OF IT. THERE WAS NO QUESTION WHETHER IT WAS HIM IN MY MIND.
THINK OF ALL WE DO NOT KNOW
My old friend, Lois Heymann, is a speech pathologist. She has worked to develop a theory about hearing and learning disabilities for years. A condition particularly prevalent among young elementary age boys went ignored for years, psychologists and teachers writing off this resistance to learning to ADD, or Mental or Learning Disabilities. It turns out these boys have a hearing disorder that causes them to hear more than the brain can process at once. As a result, they are observed having particularly low frustration tolerance in ordinary situations, when in fact, they are struggling to manage all the input they are receiving which causes them to appear excited, nervous, fidgety, and unable to decipher what is being taught, no less retain it. Her work with Rosie O’Donnell’s son allowed this disability to get some public attention and is now being diagnosed after decades of going unnoticed.
This is something hidden. Something we couldn’t see or understand. Until we could see and understand.
Learning to Live a Life of Self Disclosure.
or a severe case of S.D.D.
When hired for each job in Idaho, and having owned and managed hospitals, treatment centers, taught holistic management and facilitated conflict and community shared experiences, it had become second nature to be totally transparent. Whether it was learned with Christina Ricci’s father, or with rancher in the middle of nowhere, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or Ernesto Sirolli and his stories of the Zambezi, I wanted to walk the walk all the time. When someone asked me on a job interview, what my strengths and weaknesses were, I told them. I also told them I subscribed to a particular theory that all businesses need passionate people in the roles of marketing, product, and finance….and it was a waste of money and energy and time to put someone without passion in an area they have none. In other words, hire me but let someone else do the books, taxes, etc. I will do a better job for you that way because I hate being distraved by those details unless there’s no choice. I thought this was respect worthy and admirable.
Apparently, later on when I’d been there a while, it seems an assistant of mine found it not as redeemable. The same with Ann…and my desire to have professional brochures….with high standards, not high dollar signs. My commitment to professional materials was a reflection of my years on Madison Avenue. I was trained to do this well, and if anything other than professional came out of my office, I couldn’t live with it. My standards were what they were. If we didn’t have the resources to create something good, so be it. But we did, and I wasn’t willing to compromise that for the sake of someone’s ego who had never in their life produced a brochure.
MORE ON SDD
The more authentic we’ve become, the more real we’ve become to one another. The less formal we’ve become, the more honest we’ve become to each other. The more we’ve pictured the people in the audience with their pants down on the toilet when we speak, the more we’ve broken down the idols, the images, the false impressions… As each barrier is dismantled, we see one another’s authentic nature. The more we create lynch fests to accuse those in authority of dishonest and corrupt behavior, the less we hold people in authority. And when we do, we look for ways to watch them fall. We no longer tolerate human imperfection in leaders, while setting up expectations of perfection. There’s no logic to this game of insanity. In the same breath, we see each other’s humanness, yet expect them to be more than that.
If we no longer have those we can hold up confidently, how can we hold up a God that is All Love, All Perfect. If we have no human models for what God looks like, we have no one to see God in. Unless we change our standards for God.
When we decide we can’t believe in God, are we really saying we’ve finally given up on the idea that perfect humans exist? Are we really saying we are all broken? And dare I say, separated from God?
It seems logical to me somehow that our upside down, de-faithed culture is actually finally admitting that the theology of original sin is in fact, true. And we are in worse shape than we thought we were. The irony in this grand design is that all that’s old becomes new again, and there are no new ideas. It reminds me of the Law of Attraction. No matter what we give our energy to - whether positive or negative - if it’s coupled by a charge of emotion or passion behind it - we will give it the fuel to draw it to us. The more we have tried to disprove our separation from God, or that we are broken, the more we are proving the very point we are trying to disprove.
In other words, the very idea (original sin, brokenness, fall) that the current population rejected because they didn’t like the idea of it, they created by rejecting God and ensuring that all people fall and break, leaving no more authority and reverence for other humans, which in turn makes it difficult to hold God up too. We’ve become our own worst common denominator….while manifesting the very thing we were rejecting.