I’m Right. You’re Wrong.

March 16, 2011

Everyone wants to be right about everything, pretty much all the time, most especially when it comes to religion. Some people take it to the extreme of being willing to write hateful stuff on signs and stand out shouting mean things, and others will fly planes into buildings for their cause. Just as convinced as you are that you are right, there is someone else with an opposing view who is more convinced they are right, and willing to do something far more radical to prove it. It seems the more right we try to be, the more wrong we become.

Some of the most nasty, disgusting behavior I have seen (regarding religion) has been related to people trying to prove to others that they are right, and “the others” are wrong. The interesting thing is often it seems like those people, trying so hard to prove their point, are trying to convince themselves about what they believe more than anyone else. They are also usually scared of any type of question that might challenge their belief in any sort of way. And these questions can cause them to totally freak out, become emotional, and ensue in heated debate about the matter.

We can become so ugly when we think we are right about something. I hate that ugliness because it puts huge divides between us. Surely if what or who we say we believe in is big enough to believe in, it should not shake our belief in that thing or being when others have opposing views. I have friends who believe many different things when it comes to religion, politics, world views, and life in general. I can have conversations with them, hearing their point of views and sharing mine, without feeling like I have to convince them that they are wrong and I am right, just because I may not agree with them. And most times, even though I may not agree with their entire view, there are areas where I can find common ground of agreement; and on certain occasions that may be to merely “agree to disagree”.

Now, I am not at all saying that we should all believe the same things, or not have strong opinions about things. I have very strong opinions, beliefs and views on pretty much everything, and I like it that way. Diversity in belief and lifestyle is what makes it fun to live in this world, for me. But I guess, over the years, I have just seen that the best way to tell someone what you believe, is to show them with your life, and if it doesn’t speak loud enough to convince them of your views, then your words will probably do nothing for your cause. One thing I know I am right about is one day we are all going to be very surprised about what we always thought was right and wrong, because we are all right in some ways, and we are all wrong in others. Until then, we all have the right to think we’re right but let’s try not to act wrong in trying to prove we’re right. Right?



Go to Heaven. Go to Hell.

March 16, 2011

Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” is apparently stirring up controversy. From what I can see, many Christians are thinking that he is saying that hell doesn’t exist, and that anyone, who wants to, can get into heaven, no matter what they believe. I have no idea what he says in his book, as I have not read it. I did however just watch a couple of interviews with him, and he didn’t seem to give any sort of really concrete, controversial answer in any way. His main point is just that God loves everybody, no matter what. I agree with that.

The funny (not “ha ha funny” at all) thing about all of this is, while people sit around and argue about whether or not there is a heaven or hell, and the location, and the guest list, and the cover charge, and all of that, there are people around them who are living in literal hell on earth. People often get so caught up in “what is to come” they forget about what is happening now. If this earth, and all of the people within it were created by God, is He not concerned about this life, now? I’m worried about it. I think Jesus worried about it too. He is my number one Christian role model.

Even people like Bill Maher, an outspokenly anti-religion, anti-Christian person, agrees that Jesus lived an incredible life; I heard and saw him say it with my own eyes and ears in a video just yesterday. Jesus’s life was a literal example of how to live, love, serve and accept. His words and lifestyle offended the religious who were blinded by pride and legalism, but His life and words touched and comforted those who were cast out by society. He lived a life of selflessness, that many of us in the modern-day church will never be able to grasp, or even come near to; not that we shouldn’t try. I mean, He had no home or possessions to speak of, at least that we know of. These aspects often get left out of sermons and discussion in and around church and Christianity. Probably, and mostly, because we are often self serving, and we like our “things”, and we especially hate to be inconvenienced.

I think it is fair to say that humans are innately selfish. We often like to know what’s “in it” for us before we get into something.  It is interesting to see different Christians’ reactions when you take the threat of hell and the enticement of heaven away from them; like, if you pose a question, which is very scary to them, “What if there is no heaven or hell?”. For some, it really puts the lives they are currently living in question, because the majority of their spiritual identity is placed on the afterlife. Maybe it’s a good question to ask ourselves, because I do not think it changes who God is; but maybe it changes who you thought God is, or how you have made Him to be.

And it is for this reason I respect people like Rob Bell, and Jesus, and Chris Boeskool (a Facebook friend who’s always challenging people’s beliefs and starting conversations on modern-day spirituality, and specifically wrote a note that got alot of feedback on this very topic). They don’t just accept the religious set-up as is, and they offer important questions to a continuous dialogue, and though some of these questions can only be answered with more questions, they are still not afraid to ask them. That is brave. Most people are scared to do that. And it is that fear in asking those questions that leads us to continue to guard our tiny beliefs with fury, while people sit waiting on the outside for us to respond with love. Because yes, often the lives those very people are living cause us to ask the deepest questions about God, life, humanity, and ourselves. Sometimes it’s easier just to defend what we already know, and ignorance is bliss.


Love and Live Life. Wish not Death.

August 12, 2010

It really pains me to see how we humans often take life for granted. This ungratefulness manifests itself in many different ways; too many to count really. But to name a few, we do it through over-complaining about our trials, by being victims of circumstances rather than creators of new ones, by wishing death upon ourselves and others, or by using religion to rationalize reasons to not worry about this life so much because of more emphasis on the next life. I have recently been convicted of such attitudes towards life.

Honestly, I never used to struggle with being positive and loving each and every second of life; it seemed to just kind of come naturally. The past three years however have taken me down a path into the darkest season of my life and somewhere along the way, in that darkness, I forgot how to savor every moment life gives me. Maybe the ungratefulness grew out of necessity, using my mind, heart and will, in their entirety, in every minute merely trying to “survive”, leaving me incapable of much more than just “getting by”, much less joy. Or maybe I merely forgot how to truly live, and rather just settled for watching life pass by.

But, as I have recently written, I am relearning how to live life in its fullest, and I am speaking, if not shouting or singing, to my heart to live, love and be free. Last weekend was an amazing reminder of gratefulness for me. A group of kids from a family I am close to came over for the weekend. We watched dvd’s, cooked meals, climbed Lions Head Mountain, baked muffins together, jumped on the couch, and laughed a lot. They savored every second of the weekend, whether it was doing something others might consider mundane like taking a bath (they averaged two a day because at home they don’t have a bathtub or running hot water), or something as epic as climbing a mountain for the first time. They were excellent teachers in not taking any of life’s moments for granted. I learned volumes from them. I think we all can.

This morning on Facebook I saw two statuses, from two different individuals, that sit on either side of the gratefulness/ungratefulness spectrum. The one was from a friend of mine (I will call Jane) who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the other was from a healthy young man (I will call John). When Jane was first diagnosed we were not even sure how long she would make it, or if she would. It did not look good. But she fought, with all of her heart and might. She refused to accept death and has prolonged her life through positivity, love, and a healthy degree of stubbornness. Her status this morning boasted of the difference between the versions of “her” on the paper of the doctor’s reports and who she actually is and the things she is actually doing; striking contrast! Glorious!

John’s status, on the other hand, was wishing death upon himself. Sure, he has been through some difficult stuff in life, but nothing that could not be overcome. And he is now a strong, healthy, intelligent young man, with the world at his fingertips and the potential for a rich life on his horizon. But John basically cursed the day he was born, wishing he would have died on the same day he came into this world. Tragic! Here we see one person whose life has been threatened, fighting so hard to live, and another who does not see the amazing gift of life given to him, fighting so hard to die. Life is always a gift, and always significant.

I don’t think it should matter so much what we believe in how this world was formed, who runs it all, or how we got here. The fact that we are here is the significant part. And no matter what you believe about where you will go after this life, we cannot spend this entire life wishing it away, taking it for granted. Whether a person believes in eternal life, reincarnation or nothing at all, we can all agree that this is the one opportunity to live in this world, in this way, as the people we are in this life. And we owe it to ourselves not to settle for less, to not be victims of perceived negative circumstances, and not to be unappreciative of the amazing gift of life we have been given. Life is meant to be lived, and lived in the fullest.

Shame on those who wish it away and do not hold it dear. Shame on me for falling into that mindset. But as I said, I am relearning what it means to truly live. I’m trying to get back to savoring each and every moment. I don’t want to just “make it” from this day to the next! I want to make beautiful memories each and every day. And whether through pain or joy, I never again want to take life for granted. I want to use my life circumstances, whether positive or negative, to mould me into the best version of myself. I want to remember that each and every breath I take is a gift, but not a guarantee. God thank you for this life, and help me remember to LIVE.

Heaven Now

May 1, 2010

Late last year I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, for the first time, and there were certain points he touched on in this book that really stood out to me and resonated with my spirit. One of the main things that stood out is when Rob spoke about the concept of bringing heaven to earth. I have often found Christians focus so much on the afterlife, whether heaven or hell, they miss out on what is happening in this life, also not taking responsibility to see true change come in the world we live (due to its “impermanence”). So as we Christians barricade ourselves in our comfortable Christian boxes, protecting ourselves from being “tainted by the evil things of the world” and waiting for the day Jesus rides in to save us, many people outside those Christian-bomb-shelter walls are living in pain, suffering, poverty, injustice, inequality, and a literal hell on earth. Rob says,

“When we choose God’s vision of who we are, we are living as God made us to live. We are living in the flow of how we are going to live forever. This is the life of heaven, here and now. And as we live this life, in harmony with God’s intentions for us, the life of heaven becomes more and more present in our lives. Heaven comes to earth. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to pray, ‘May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ There is this place, this realm, heaven, where things are as God desires them to be. As we live this way, heaven comes here. To this place, this world, the one we’re living in.

Now if there is a life of heaven, and we can choose it, then there’s also another way. A way of living out of sync with how God created us to live. The word for this is hell: a way, a place, a realm absent of how God desires things to be. We can bring heaven to earth; we can bring hell to earth. For Jesus, heaven and hell were present realities. Ways of living we can enter into here and now. He talked very little of the life beyond this one because he understood that the life beyond this one is a continuation of the kinds of choices we make here and now. For Jesus, the question wasn’t, how do I get into heaven? but how do I bring heaven here?

…What’s disturbing then is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth. Poverty, injustice, suffering – they are all hells on earth, and as Christians we oppose them with all our energies. Jesus told us to.”

I like this idea! And what I have seen, through reading about him, is Jesus is less interested in people getting condemned for the things we, and the religious leaders of his time, often perceive as “sin”, and more interested in how we are treating each other, and even more specifically how we are treating those less fortunate than us. You can read in Matthew 25 where Jesus speaks about judgment day, and the criteria with which people were judged were not the usual “murder, stealing, divorce, abortion, homosexuality” and the lot people often rant about. Jesus judged them on how they treated hungry people, homeless people, people in prison, the sick, and he went as far to say that if anyone does something for one of these people who are in need, they have done it to him, but if a person leads a life in which they neglect to look after those less fortunate, then they have in fact neglected Jesus himself.

I recently got invited to fly up to Rustenburg to speak to the youth group of Assembly of God, and in some of the schools in the area. As soon I found out the kind folks up there wanted me to come back up and spend some time with their youth, I began wondering what I might speak on this year. Last year they invited me up for the first time and I spoke in several schools in the area and then in a couple of youth services in the week. It was an amazing time. I enjoyed meeting the youth of the church, schools, and those who live on the streets of Rustenburg; but I felt a special connection to the guys on the streets (maybe for obvious reasons).

A few weeks before going to Rustenburg, when meditating on an appropriate topic for the Friday night youth meeting, I felt the concept of Heaven on Earth impressed on my heart. The ideas and concepts grew further in my heart and mind as my trip to Rustenburg grew closer. I got here Wednesday and have had an amazing time hanging out with the kind people up here. To my pleasure, I have gotten several opportunities to also hang out with the guys I met last year, and some new faces, who live on the streets. On Thursday Leseng, one of the youth I had lengthy conversations with last time I was here, said, “Obama (Did I forget to mention they call me Obama?), you know winter is coming and it is getting cold. I don’t have a jacket,” and another chimed in, pointing to his feet, “Yeah, and I don’t have shoes.”

I told them I didn’t have anything for them just yet, but that I was going to a youth service on Friday night and I would share their plight there. They were happy with that idea. So last night at the youth service I spoke on the concept of bring heaven on earth; ushering it in, in the hell that many people find themselves in. Many of the youth from the streets had also come to the service and they seemed to agree with what I was saying on a deeper level than most. In the end of my talk, instead of an alter call, I shared the predicament of Leseng and the others, and gave the youth the opportunity to bring heaven to that situation, right then and right there; I called for them to take off their shoes, socks, shirts, hoodies, jackets, scarves, caps, and yes, even pants, because many of them played soccer before youth and had an extra pair, and bring them to the front of the church.

I told them to only do it if they wanted to. And sure enough, little by little, the youth began bringing their items of clothing to the front, and the pile grew and grew. Some of the youth from the streets watched in utter disbelief. I watched in absolute amazement as the pile of, mostly name brand, offering grow and grow. How wonderful! After the service, when the shoeless youth cleared the room, some of the guys from the streets got a chance to have their pick at, not just what they needed, but what they wanted. They looked like little kids on Christmas morning.

Frank, wearing a brand new, name-brand hoodie and a new pair of shoes, approached me with teary eyes and said, “Eish! This was good Obama! Miracles happened here tonight!”

“Indeed they did Frankie! Indeed they did.”