Do We Really Want to Be a God-Fearing People?

lovewinsI went to a wonderful event at The Collective last weekend – their Threshold Weekend with Peter Rollins.  There was much inspiration and food for thought and Peachy and I enjoyed it thoroughly (Peachy came, too, even though she is already enlightened).

At one point Peter Rollins mentioned a book by Rob Bell called “Love Wins” and how controversial it was when it came out, how certain churches would vehemently oppose it and shout “Blasphemy!”  I hadn’t heard of the book and wondered how something with such a benign title as “Love Wins” could cause such a stir?  What is controversial about Love winning?

When I looked up the book on amazon I saw that the full title of the book is “Love Wins: a Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  Ah – Rob Bell wrote a book questioning hell, questioning the existence of some horrible realm of demons and suffering where people might get sent for eternity if they sin or even if they simply don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior, even if they have never heard of him.  He’s simply asking the question – Would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?

Again – why is this controversial?  Isn’t the answer obvious?  To me, it’s just common sense that a Loving God would not be capable of condemning anyone to an eternity of fire, damnation and torture with a red-hot poker. To me, it’s common sense that a Loving God would ensure that Happiness is Inevitable for all living things.  To me, it’s common sense that God’s love for us will ensure not only our eventual happiness but also the inevitability of World Peace.  Of course Love Wins!

I sincerely ask the question – why would anyone be offended and angry over someone stating that God loves us too much for a fiery Hell of eternal anguish to exist?  What is the attachment to hell?

inferno_purgatory_paradise_mapHell really doesn’t make sense.  I remember reading Dante’s Inferno in college.  It is a Medieval classic describing the many layers of hell (complete with a vestibule) with specific cruel punishments for specific sins, the torture becoming more and more atrocious with each level.  But oddly enough, the first layer of hell, called Limbo, is not such a terrible place.  In the first level of the inferno live Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and all the great minds of antiquity that Dante’s culture admired and revered.  Yet, they had lived and died before Jesus Christ, so they could not have been saved, no matter how intelligent or noble, and therefore they had to spend eternity in hell.  But because Dante liked them and they really couldn’t help it, he made the first level of hell an ok place to be – it’s just that they were technically eternally damned, so they certainly weren’t allowed into Heaven or even Purgatory.

Everyone can see the ridiculousness of that situation, right?  In order to conform to the non-sensical theology of his time, Dante invented a version of hell that wasn’t too bad for his philosophical heroes to dwell in. And we can all understand it – we don’t want our loved ones to burn in hell!  Of course not, even if we believe their religion or their life style choices to be wrong, we love them, we don’t want them to be damned for all time.  It’s heart breaking.  Shouldn’t we be glad to realize that a Loving God would never banish billions of soul to hell?

So why not just give up the idea of hell and embrace the reality that a Loving God loves us all?  Is it that we haven’t learned to love our unknown-23enemies yet?  Is it that we don’t like the idea of God loving those who we don’t love ourselves?  Is it that, even though we want a happy ending for ourselves, we’re not willing to give up on the idea that those we don’t like or disagree with will surely spend all of eternity in suffering?  Are we hanging on to hell out of our own anger, spite or vindictiveness?  That’s not pretty, is it?

Yet, here we are in 2015 and people are still clinging to the notion of God sending souls into eternal darkness and torment?  The idea of Love Winning and conquering hell is somehow controversial?  We are still hanging on to the Medieval sense of hell and of an angry God that will throw us in a deep dark dungeon and throw away the key.  What is the attachment to fearing God?

god-is-loveI’ve never understood fearing God.  I didn’t grow up in a religious household, which in this instance might have been a good thing.  I was never taught to fear God, I was never told that if I wasn’t a good girl I’d go to hell or God would be angry and punish me.  I had enough to deal with anger and punishment from my regular human parents, but at least I didn’t grow up with some kind of Heavenly Father about to strike me down with lightning.  Whenever I go to church and there is some kind of creed or prayer spoken about fearing God, I always abstain or change the words to “loving God.”

I remember at one point hearing a rather simplistic new age edict that every emotion was either from fear or love.  The theory was that every negative human emotion such as anger, hatred, envy or depression has fear as a root cause and all positive human emotions come from love.  I don’t know if the mysteries of the human heart and of all emotional energy in the universe is actually this simplistic, but it makes sense that fear is the opposite of love.  So, if God IS Love, how can we come closer to God through fear?  How can we know and feel God in our lives through fear?  Again, I ask, why would we want to be a God-fearing people?

hell-no-cd_thumbnailI saw that Richard Rohr also has a CD called “Hell, No!” questioning the existence of hell.  In the CD’s description it says:

“Until Christians deal with their false notion of hell, their capacity to love and trust God is seriously compromised. Such a belief aims the whole Christian life in a fear-based direction and with a narrow win/lose worldview that only appeals to the ego.  Love cannot happen through threat, punishment, or demand. God’s ways are much more subtle and true. The largely medieval notion of hell that many Christians hold to this day makes mystical union with God largely impossible and even undesirable.”

When you fear someone, you basically just want them to leave you alone, not notice you – you want to go about your business, following the rules and hoping God won’t notice any sins you might commit along the way so you can just skate through and not end up in hell.  If you know someone who will severely punish others for mistakes or transgressions, who will inflict pain and suffering – is that someone you want to be close with?  Is that someone you can love deeply and intimately, even if you think the punishments are justified?  No – believing that God would send souls to an eternity of pain keeps us from even wanting a mystical union with God and keep us from truly knowing and feeling the all-loving and all-merciful God that only wants our absolute healing and happiness.

Quite contrary to an angry punishing God of medieval hell fame – I experience God as eager to love us!  Eager for our happiness!  Eager for us to open and receive His healing presence of Peace!

If we are a God-fearing people, then we can’t at the same time be a God-loving people.  So, let’s give up the idea of hell and punishment, let’s truly believe in the forgiveness of sins and the Victory of God and Christ and Love.  Let’s eagerly run into the arms of our All Loving God.  It’s inevitable anyway.  Love always wins!


Love-WinsContinue your contemplation of a Loving God with these posts:

Stand on One Leg and LOVE!  The Rest is Commentary

My Not-So-Secret Valentines

Valentines_Heart_by_ADJalbertAs Valentine’s is fast approaching, and as I believe that God is everyone’s Soul Mate, instead of worrying about if I will get flowers or a box of chocolates, I turn my focus onto my Eternal Beloved.  I have a good story to tell of the Valentine’s Day when God sent me a Valentine and pierced my heart with His arrow… and I’ll save that for Saturday, February 14th.

For today, I’ll simply share with you a love poem and the names of this year’s Valentine’s crushes.  Yes – as Love is a Wave and the Ocean, I have three secret crushes that I will reveal here now:

1. God.  Ok, that’s probably not a secret.

2. Peachy.  Again, pretty much everyone knows that.

3. Richard Rohr.  He is my new crush, my newly discovered Franciscan friar interfaith contemplative lover of God who I’ve been absolutely giddy about.  (Yes, I feel giddy over monks and nuns, sadhus and yogis – lovers of God make my heart go pitter patter like a teenage girl seeing a cute guy or a rock star.)

god-2Peachy love 2fr-rohr-franciscan

Honestly – I don’t know who is cuter?  (Ok, it’s pretty clear Peachy wins on that account).  In a way it seems silly to think of God or Franciscan Friars as cute – but why shouldn’t we be just as silly and in love with the Divine as we are with our high school sweethearts?

I do believe that all our expressions of Love stem from the same source – Love Itself, also known as God, Brahman, Allah, Krishna, Pure Consciousness and Quantum Entanglement.  I also believe that every human endeavor is an expression of our yearning to return to our Oneness in Love – from our high school crushes to the building of the world’s tallest building.  And I believe that every tree, river, bird and blade of grass is constantly expressing that same Love and Oneness for/with God.

So, the sweet love poem I want to share is from Thomas Merton and I just read it in my daily contemplation from my #3 crush, Richard Rohr.

My favorite part of the daily contemplation is actually from the description of Thomas Merton:  Merton wrote extensively about contemplation, and his own prayer practice “centered entirely on attention to the presence of God and to His will indexand His love . . . a kind of praise rising up of out of the center of Nothing and Silence” (The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 63-64). That is such a beautiful description of my favorite kind of prayer and meditation – putting my attention on the Mystery of God’s Love, the mystery of how my love for God makes me One with God as we merge in the midst of this experience of LOVE, and the deep gratitude and praise which rises up out of the silence of this realization.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy Joyous Love for God and from God AS God.

Here is one of Thomas Merton’s exuberant, joyous psalms:

 

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.

The distant blue hills praise you,

together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.

The bickering flycatchers praise you

with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.

 

I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,

and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.

We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

 

Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

-Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 131-132

Thomas merton God shining through it

Love is a Wave and the Ocean

ocean-wave_157798“Loving another person is not separate from loving God. One is a single wave, the other is the ocean” ~ Deepak Chopra

I read this quote the other day and it struck me as very true.  Not only that, but it applies to loving people with four furry paws, too.

Yes, my Peachy is a person.  She is my person.  And loving her brings not only joy but also healing and a deeper connection to life and to God.

I wrote about how Peachy Keen is a force of Love in the world – a Light Warrior.  And I wrote about how Peachy is also a teacher of living life to the fullest.  But this post is about my own internal meditations of love inspired by my little furry friend.

Every day and throughout the day, my heart focuses on Love.  My heart, as the center of my being, resonates with the vibration of Love every time I look at Peachy.  I internally meditate on Love every time I even think of Peachy, even as I sit at my desk at work.  I also sit anIMG_0427d close my eyes or gaze upon a picture on my altar in more “formal” meditation and I can absolutely feel how much more easily I can slip into a focus of loving God from all the time I have spent in my day loving Peachy.

You see, love is love.  Love is love is love is God is love.

Just as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, if you are putting love into what you are doing, then you are in essence focusing on God – God is Love, so focusing on Love is focusing on God.  The same is true for any form of love.

If I am loving Peachy, my heart is vibrating in a state of love.  If I am loving Peachy, my heart and my body are in a state of positive resonance and I am moving in the direction of healing.  If I am loving Peachy, my heart is open and I am open to receive love from life all around me and from God.  If I am loving Peachy, I am lifting my consciousness up into the feeling of Love and that feeling of Love connects me directly to God.

loving-kidsA sweet friend of mine, who is leaving tomorrow to see his guru for the first time in 11 years, said last night that it doesn’t feel like it’s been 11 years because he has had his two sons and the love he feels for them is the same as the love he has for his guru, the love he has for God.  My heart was really touched as he spoke this, because I could feel that continuum of love that is the wave and the ocean of God.

In fact, this is precisely why God sent us gurus and saints and little baby Jesus.  I suspect this is also why God gave us cute little puppies.

Sometimes it is too far of a stretch for us to love GOD.  The ocean of God is so vast, how do we connect?  I am a drop of water, how do I love the ocean?  How can we know how to love something so perfect and mysterious?  How can our little hearts love something bigger than the universe?  So, God gave us Her waves to love.  The waves are not as vast, but just as beautiful, and the waves are something our hearts can open up to embrace.

Years ago I heard an explanation of the Christ Consciousness that pertains simply to consciousness, not to one religion or another.  I don’t even remember where I heard this explanation but it stuck with me.  You see, the “fall of man” wasn’t really about evil or us doing something terrible, it was just a fall into separation.  It’s just that we lost touch with our Divine Selves, we forgot about our oneness with God and were in a sense “lost” (though if God is holding us at all times we can’t ever really be lost, but we can feel like we are lost).

Jesu KrishnaFrom this state of forgetfulness, it was too large a leap for us to get connected to God again.  God Consciousness is PERFECT.  Everything is perfect in God Consciousness and there IS no separation, there IS no suffering, there IS no pain – so how can we get out of the suffering that feels so real to us and go directly to the perfection of God?  So, God created Christ Consciousness as a bridge.  The Christ Consciousness is One with the perfection and the absolute Love of God, but is also connected to the apparent suffering of humanity and reaches out to us in our state of forgetfulness with compassion.  The Christ Consciousness is a form of God’s Love that we could see and accept and open up to in our state of fallen consciousness.  And once we are open to the Love, the Christ can lift us back again into our connection with the perfection of God.

It is the birth of this Christ Consciousness that I contemplate and celebrate every year at Christmas.  For God so loved the world, that She gave us the Christ Consciousness in the form of Jesus, Krishna, Mohammed, Buddha, Quan Yin, Rama and yes, cute little puppies.  It is this connection to God’s Love that I see every time Peachy wags her little tail at me. It is this love of God and guru that my friend has seen every time he has looked at his sons for the last 11 years. It is the love of God that we experience whenever we love our neighbor as our Self.

20141209_215756_HDRThe feeling I have in my heart when I love God is the same feeling I have when I love my sisters or my Peachy and the love flows seamlessly back and forth in either direction.  When I look at Peachy with her furry little 7 pound body that breathes and beats and runs around with her nimble little jazz paws, I am struck by what a miracle she is.  Her sweet puppy eyes that look at me with that puppy love soul opens me up inside.  Feeling my love for Peachy flows right into feeling my love for God.  Feeling Peachy’s love for me reminds me of God’s love for me.  I feel like God created her as a gift personally for me, God’s love manifest as a cuddly little wave in the ocean just for my tiny soul.

Sometimes it is easier to love a single wave than to love the whole ocean.  Yet the wave is not separate from the ocean, and the entire ocean is loving us in each wave.

Loving the Mystery of God

10672338_10152726873927731_7471678598811948582_nRecently, when I was writing my post on Mystical Christianity, a friend of mine made a comment about the word “mystical.”  He wondered if I really wanted to go the “mystic path,” because to him that word implies a distance or a separation from God, as if a person on a mystical path will never arrive because God will always be, at least in part, unknown and mysterious.  I can see his point.  To someone who is wanting to clear all limitations from our human mind and to know God with the certainty of experience, I can understand that calling a path mystical can seem somewhat ambiguous.  But for myself, I love the wondrously vague, magically ambiguous and often ecstatically paradoxical mystical nature of God.  And I don’t think that being mystical means that I cannot know God absolutely – I just don’t ever expect that I’ll be able to know God in some way that my mind will be able to grasp and explain with certitude.

A few weeks ago, in a Sunday service at my sweet little St Cyprians Episcopal church, Father Ted said in his sermon:  “I believe certitude is a spiritual danger.  If we claim to know God’s ways without question, we limit God to the shape of our own minds.  As St. Augustine put it 1700 years ago, “If you think you understand [God], [then] it isn’t God.”

I agree with both of them.  Anyone who spouts religious conviction with certitude does not feel like God.  When someone claims they know God and all others will be condemned to an eternity of hell, like the preacherman on the sidewalk last week, it definitely feels like they are speaking from something that is decidedly NOT God.  And it doesn’t even need to be that extreme.  Some people are more subtle in their certitude and just  think that all those Buddhists, Hindus and Jews might be nice people, but it’s a shame, if they haven’t been saved, they aren’t going to Heaven.  Or if the person is a Buddhist they might think Christians, Hindus and Jews mean well and try to be good, but they just don’t yet understand about the nature of Pure Consciousness.  Certitude on any path can manifest itself as spiritual snobbery.

meditationHowever, I don’t think this is what my friend meant when he brought up his concerns with the word “mystical.”  Having certitude in this rigid judgmental kind of way is not at all the kind of certitude that my friend is aiming for.  He is dedicated to truly knowing God and not placing anything between himself and God.  In wanting to end the separation with God, he doesn’t want to place some kind of barrier of mysticality or unknowingness that keeps him from living a life of Oneness with the Divine.

And I agree with him.  I want to merge into God and live in the most sweet delicious closeness with the Divine that I possibly can.  I don’t want to put any limitations on how deeply I can know God.  But in doing that, I don’t want to “limit God to the shape of my own mind” either!  So, instead of not placing the barrier of mysticality between me and God, I want to dive through the mystical and JOIN God on the other side with awe and wonder.

loving godFrom my perspective, the only way for me to know God is actually to embrace God’s mystery.

God is amazing beyond anything I can comprehend.  God’s Love blows my mind – literally.  The only way I can hope to begin to “know” God with my mind is to allow it to be blown over and over again so that it can expand ever wider to embrace the wondrous vast mystery of God.  And then be blown away again.

God’s Love is so vast and so intimate at the same time.  God’s Love is all encompassing and personal, eternal and immediate.  God loves ALL of creation and every single being through all of time, past and future – yet somehow God also loves little me right here and right now in every moment of my tiny life.  God’s Love is both ancient and reverent like the timeless holy Temples and Holy of all Holies.  Yet God’s Love is also fun and modern, silly and giggly, joyful like the deepest belly laugh and bubbling inside of me as a teenage girl crush on God. God’s Love is deeply silent like the most Shivic stillness and profound meditative pure Peace imaginable.  And God’s Love is viscerally personal like the Beloved God of Your Being loving you from the inside and the outside at the same time in a Divine Union of the Self that is explosively ecstatic beyond your dreams.  And anything that I experience as God’s Love one moment, it is deeper and vaster and MORE the next moment.

God’s Love is so huge and yet It enters my heart in such a beautiful tender way that I overflow.  The gratitude and amazement at God’s love is more than my little being can contain and that is why I expand and become bigger.  I overflow.  This is why I cry every time I enter a church or a shrine or a temple.  This is why tears stream from my eyes when I see compassion in action, when I see God’s 117148615Love in the world.  This is why I cry when I chant God’s name.  This is why I cry at every Sunday service.  Everyone at my little church knows this by now.  When I visit other churches I always get very sweet little ladies who come and put a comforting hand on my back and tell me everything is going to be ok – but really I’m not crying because I’m sad.  If only I could somehow share with these sweet gentle women that I’m crying because not only will things be ok, things ARE magnificently gloriously perfect!  All I can ever think to say is simply “I love God” and they nod and smile back at me.  I’m crying because God’s mystery is SO beautiful that it overflows my heart!

The one thing that I can say I DO know with certainty is that God is LOVE. My mind explodes whenever I try to understand the vastness of that love, and when my mind coalesces again so that I can do things like drive and speak and feed myself, it is just a little bit bigger to contain a little bit more love as I go about my life. So, that much I’ve figured out – God is Love.  Therefore, the only way to know God is to love.  I can contemplate God and speak about God and pray to God.  I can meditate and feel God’s Presence and commune with God.  And in all those practices, it is only in the active VERB of LOVING that I can start to know God.

As Father Ted put it: “Jesus never seemed to care very much whether his followers thought alike.  But did they love?  Did they love God with all of their hearts, and souls, and minds?  Did they love each other as they loved themselves?”

In the reading from Matthew’s gospel that day, a lawyer asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  In response Jesus quoted the Shema, the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  To me, this is what Jesus meant and what all the prophets before him meant, and what all teachers on all paths mean when they say to love God.  Loving God is HOW we can come to know God.

God gave us minds for realizations and understandings and insights, but our human minds can never fully know the vastness of God.  God cannot be limited to the shape of our own minds. God is a wonderful mystery.  And beginning to know God is loving the mystery of God.

Love god

I Am an Everything & God is not a Christian

All ReligionsI have had people ask me “are you a Christian?” or “are you a yogi?” or “you’re a Hindu aren’t you?” It almost strikes me as a strange question. It was the same when I went to my first meeting with my new Interfaith Women’s group. We have two Muslims, one Jew, one Buddhist, one Hindu, a Native American and a smattering of various Christians – but what am I? I guess you could say that I am actually an interfaith woman. So, if asked, I usually answer “I am an Everything.”

The bottom line is that I just love God! I love God so much I couldn’t contain it to just one WAY of loving God. I want to chant like a Swami, I want to meditate like Buddha, I want to pray like Jesus, I want to melt into Mother Nature like the Native Americans, I want to teach like a Rabbi, I want to dance like a Sufi, I want to shout out God Allah Lord Jesus Christ Shiva Shiva Om! I want to praise God in every way humanly possible. I love God in all religions and I see God loving us through all religions.

God’s love is so immense – to think that God would constrain Herself to only love us through one savior at one point in time at one location on the planet… or that She even COULD! It doesn’t make any sense at all.

I was recently reading a speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “God is not a Christian.”

“We should in humility and joyfulness acknowledge that the supernatural and divine reality we all worship in some form or other transcends all our particular categories of thought and imagining, and that because the Divine is infinite and we are forever finite, we shall never comprehend the divine completely. So we should seek to share all insights we can and be ready to learn from the techniques of the spiritual life that are available in religions other than our own… That what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians, inspiring and nurturing women and men in the ways of holiness, bringing them to fruition, bringing to fruition what was best in all.”

All religions tell us that God is eternal – God was certainly there in paleo times, in Jurassic times, from the very beginnings of the universe with the big bang to the birth of humankind – God was there. Of course God was loving us all along the way in every civilization and every culture – inspiring and nurturing us in the ways of holiness.

Think of a soul who lived on planet Earth in the year 30 B.C. and after he dies he comes to find out – too bad, if only you had been born a decade or two later you might have had a chance for heaven, but alas, eternal damnation for you. Or to think of a rainforest tribes woman who lives with a heart full of love and reverence and then dies and finds out, too bad those missionaries didn’t reach you in time, off to hell you go. I cannot imagine a God who would create such scenarios.

I love the way Bishop John Shelby Spong puts it in this interview:

“Every church I know claims that we are the true church and they have some ultimate authority… The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me. God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. All of those are human system which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t believe my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.”

▶ Bishop Spong Interview – YouTube. The quote is after the first part about heaven and hell.

That is one of the keys, isn’t it? Having the humility to realize that God cannot be contained by anything we could create – no religion, no book, no church. Isn’t that obvious?

So, I honor all paths, all religions – including all the individual ways of connecting with God and living here as a soul that anyone can come up with. And I honor all those who choose to follow ONE path – I have no interest in starting a religion that believes you have to embrace all religions. A person can just simply be a Muslim or a Christian and take that path all the way to God. Sister Margaret Ann, my catholic nun friend, is not interested in anyone else but Jesus and she has the purest dedication to follow him and that is enough. There are plenty of people who say they honor all religions but do not behave as if they honor any at all. It is sincerity and humility on whatever path you choose that makes all the difference. Bishop Spong need not say a single Sanskrit chant to know God.