Monday, July 31, 2006

The Eternal Fire that creates all universes

Ideas didn’t always change as quickly as they have in my lifetime. When I was born there were still serious physicists who thought the universe would turn out to have always existed and always will exist. They interpreted Hubble’s finding that the universe is expanding as the creation of new space and new matter so as to maintain a universe of a steady density of matter, the “steady-state universe”. One of the proponents of this was Fred Hoyle. He is credited with giving the other view its name. Hoyle was mocking the idea that the universe of such beauty and complexity could have begun with a Big Bang. So many people listened to this and didn’t hear a convincing argument, but, “Wow, Big Bang, that’s it!” I understand Hoyle was not the marketing idiot/genius who later gave The Coca Cola Company its idea for New Coke, but it was something like that, an unintentional stamp on history.

Then in the sixties came a dagger to the heart for the steady-state universe. Microwave researchers discovered that everywhere around us is a pattern of microwaves that corresponds to what would happen if you had a hot body that then cooled all the way down to just 3 degrees above absolute zero in temperature. Hmmm, I wonder what that could be, coming from every direction uniformly. Gee, when might there have been a fire that involved everything that was so long ago it has now cooled to 3 degrees everywhere. And anyone with a TV set could see this radiation. Turn down the brightness and the steady patter of the brightest dots in the snow is these very photons of cosmic microwave background radiation hitting the TV. Of course, everyone who had Fred Hoyle’s image of the Big Bang in mind knew very quickly what this was. Coupled with the expansion of the universe, only the most stubborn people thought there was any possibility now other than the Big Bang.

I remember when I studied physics in the seventies how some were theorizing how the Big Bang could have happened. Cosmologists are on solid ground tracing back our current universe to how it was just a tiny split second after the Big Bang when the four forces of physics had started to separate. Before that is murky. Were forces created somehow that had forced the energy into existence de novo? Was there energy available from some preexisting structure that fed into the Big Bang? From the way theorists talked I had the feeling that they thought that if they could find the perfect Theory of Everything mathematically, the mere possibility of such perfection must have forced the universe into existence, with all of its energy, too. Others thought about something less mystical.

One image stuck with me, a researcher who was describing how the energy of our universe may have come from a different universe. It could have been some home hobbyist compressing mass in his basement that started our universe. Maybe he was caught up in the black hole he created. Maybe this was God, His substance distributed all across our universe, as some see God. God says no, if that were it, He’d recognize Himself in this story.

Science can only come at this from our side of the unknown. Theologians and philosophers see it differently. They think their words can see outside of the universe looking in, and with such arguments they see that something must have created the universe. So they call that God. God tells me He doesn’t see Himself in that story either. He doesn’t remember exactly what happened. It was a long time ago. He’s not even sure He was there. Until science came along, He assumed He was, but science has convinced Him He might not have been. He hasn’t needed to act on the universe physically to get all this we have today. He doesn’t remember setting up such a perfectly self-regulating system. Yet here it is, and physics can’t explain where it ultimately came from, just the last 14 billion years, that’s all.

So I’ve been content that whatever the ultimate origin of the universe is, it’s far away from here. I care about who God is for me now. Theologians and philosophers are forever missing the point that a first cause to the universe might not care a thing about us, might not be like God in any other way, even if someone calls Him God. Why argue then?

Yet recently I was going through potential names for something else, and God stopped me on “Eternal Fire”. That’s it. That’s what. The Eternal Fire that creates all universes. What is that? The Creator. What happened? I don’t remember.

So I don’t know. Is it something that would make physicists understand where the energy of the universe came from? Is it something theological? It is what it is, the Eternal Fire that creates all universes. I hope that’s better than the eternal fire some believe awaits people in hell. The scale sounds very different, though.

I like the ring to that, even just Eternal Fire. It is Creator, whatever else it is, but it is in another place. God remains the ultimate being here, as far as He knows. He says there is more though. There is a child of the Eternal Fire, son of the Most High God. He doesn’t lord His identity over others. Others call Him Lord, but He calls another Lord. It’s good for everyone to have a lord, to tell one what to do, lovingly, not as a tyrant. It’s not easy to have a structure to allow that, but with the Eternal Fire not here, that allows for some freedom in roles. God says it’s coming back to Him. He wouldn’t try to explain more than that. Suffice it to say that the structure of the spiritual world is not hierarchical, but collective or maybe as a rim connected by spokes to a hub. The one closest to the Most High God in one way is the most distant in another. There is one Spirit, many voices, one team, and many players.

People want more details than that. There aren’t a lot. Who needs a lot of names when everyone knows they are one, but many? The names are all superfluous compared to knowing that one is in need and many will help.

Big Bang, Eternal Fire, I know the latter will never take off in popular culture like the former. They mean different things. Big Bang is what we can see. Eternal Fire is what we can’t see. Big Bang is exactly what physics says it is. Eternal Fire is whatever created physics, whether it loves me or not. It works for me.

God loves me. There are many ways to see that. He doesn’t remember being Eternal Fire before He was my God. I accept that. Maybe He was, maybe He wasn’t. It was a long time ago. Maybe something will trigger His being Eternal Fire again, if He was that before. He’s sure He would get some warning before anything like that. Good, I’d hate for that home hobbyist to turn out to be someone who was fooling around with having a conversation with God.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Like water, like fire

I am like water. I flow from here to there, but remain mostly unchanged. I pick up things. I carry my favorite things a long way, my music, my science, my God. They mesh with me, embrace me, stay with me. Heavy things I can drop quickly. They have no handles, just the arbitrary nature of people who insist on having things their way. Let them go.

I am like water. When the way is straight, when it makes sense, I am so agreeable. Some of the things I’ve stored deep inside can bubble away, and I am flat. But when there is an obstacle, I churn and am relentless. Either the object moves, or I find another way. These have been my teachers. Had any of my teachers known a smooth way that went on forever, I would have gone that way and been clueless about the world, but if such a way exists, it has no name. It has features, to be honest, to be open, to be willing, to love those who don’t love me, but only so much. Then it’s time to appreciate those who love me enough to move along with me.

I am like water. I am a few feet across, but there is more to me that is unimaginably vast. Someday the part that is the most like me will evaporate. Anything left will be trash. And I will continue living in a different place, maybe a smaller place if I rain down over the mountains or the desert, maybe a much more collective place if I reach the ocean, as everyone does sometime.

I am like fire. I change those who come close enough, transiently for those who keep a distance, penetratingly for those who come very close. No one has died. I am not that hot. Some have been singed and still resent that my mark is on them. It wasn’t my plan to do that. I didn’t even know I had such heat until people complained of it instead of harnessing it. But I have seen what I can do, and it fuels me. Sometimes I wonder where so much fuel comes from, to be relentless, to continue the next day, even if this day has been long enough already. I know it comes from around me, not within, that I react, not creating anything by myself.

I am like fire. I feed off my surroundings. Yet a time came that I realized that even with nothing feeding me from outside, something fed me from within without consuming me. It wasn’t me. I thought it was at first. I thought I was the one who was so smart as to be able to understand everything and remember everything. I thought I was the one clever enough to find solutions to problems, to get that 98 on the quantum mechanics final, when the median score was 50 and the low score 2. I knew my method – do what I know to do. I didn’t know to say it so simply then, but that’s it. Be the fire. Be the dynamic process that is nothing by itself, but only what it transforms. In the small view, such a process always dies. But in the large view, it lives forever, even churning out universes, yet also heating the smallest places to just the right temperature.

I am like fire. I smolder, even if no one sees it and no one cares. If they only care when I erupt and pay no attention when I smolder, if they don’t feed me and tend to me so that I can be a steady flame, I want to give up, but I can’t, because I am like fire. I will still be smoldering even when I don’t realize it. Then even if I am the only one who can recognize that the flame still burns and that it is and always has been the same flame, at least I know it’s not arbitrary. My fire has burned through to places many people have heard about only as rumors. It’s been busy no matter how different that is from the expectations of others. They’ve ignored their own fire, thinking it destructive or fantasy. I’ve tried to show people, but people are such poor listeners. It takes a bigger fire than me to get their attention.

How can I be this way? How can I be one thing that would quench the other and the other thing that would boil away the first? Maybe that’s why it doesn’t go on forever. It is something dynamic and not sustainable. But it is more than that. I am not a consuming fire or a smothering column of water. I am life, a special type of life that is aware that it is life and all of its features, that has chosen a fluid way, a dynamic way, even though there are still reasons to stay the same in some ways.

I am water. I am fire. I am united with something much bigger than me, and I am contained in my small place at the same time. Science and experience, along with something nameless that bubbles up from within, have let me know all this, also let me know that I follow the way that’s good for me. It wouldn’t be a good way if I were just water or just fire, but I am so much more than both. Those who insist on simple words to see reality, so that they can manage it themselves, are ones eventually to be burned or washed away or both. It’s not as if I ever made a decision to be different than that. I just flowed to a different place, whether as water or as fire I’m not sure. I just did. I am sure that something greater than me moved me there, but exactly where She would have me go next and how is not in me. It will come to me, and I will dress appropriately.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Willing to believe something else

Sometimes I review my youth and how it came to be that I was sure science worked and that religion didn’t. Then as a young adult I came to appreciate how science couldn’t know where there wasn’t data, and how science-minded people assumed that my experiences of God must be deranged. I would have made some people happy if I had agreed that God can’t be real, but what did they know? They certainly didn’t know God.

In my later years, I see all sorts of people convinced that their view is the only one that can be true, from political conservatives with simplistic slogans to religious conservatives who find ancient beliefs to be perfectly true, beliefs from people who couldn’t even see far enough into the world to know moonlight was reflected sunlight. I see liberals who like to believe that all religions are true. I see atheists who are sure that science has proven there is no God. I see mystics who are sure no knowledge is certain, but have great hope in poor experimenters who say God can be found in neurophysiology.

People who just live for money and pleasure – now that I understand. It’s not for me, but at least they don’t confuse me. It’s not like so many others that make me wonder why they are stuck on beliefs that don’t work for me at all. They must get what they need out of them, that sense that everything will be OK, even if those other people are making such trouble right now, not us, no, we’re right, everyone else is wrong, even stupid and wrong.

I have my science to explain the physical world. I have my spiritual experiences to tell me that there is more than just things physical, not that I can detail them in any way, but I have met God. The Spirit lives in me. Some get upset at this dualism, saying their ideas show God in everything, which is obviously better than whatever elitist nonsense I’m saying. Hey, knock yourself out. Sell your books. Chat your chats. Turn your back on everything else. Lots of people do.

It’s hard to be so philosophical sometimes. Some beliefs look like they could just use a little kick to get them over the fence into something that actually works. All one has to do is put together one good, well-detailed argument to open someone’s eyes, whether it’s the eyes of a fundamentalist denying science or a liberal denying that some religions make no sense at all. Isn’t that right? No, it’s not. Something that’s impressed me are atheist websites where someone has compiled every argument against the Bible being right that anyone has found, every self-contradiction, every contradiction with the observable world. Yet every Bible-believing Christian says the Bible wins those arguments, not just 899-1, but 900-0. Wow, and I might score it 800-100 against the Bible. We’re not seeing the same fight here.

Tell me something I don’t know, and I’ll show you how willing I am to believe something other than what I know now. That’s easy for hard science. The accelerating expansion of the universe means there are more physical forces than the 20th century quartet I learned (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces). That’s something fundamentally new, but it’s empiricism. It’s objective.

I’m flexible about other things, too. I was writing something else to post here today, about the uncertainty beyond science in cosmology and consciousness. The Spirit found it boring. OK, I’ll write something else, something more personal. She likes that. She likes being mentioned, too. How do I know? Within my consciousness, it’s obvious, either in words or certain purring-like feelings. It’s not objective to anyone else unfortunately, but I am flexible. I don’t know how to get across to people how compelling both of these things are, that the accelerating expansion of the universe was shown in at least two studies and is certainly true. It also certainly requires a change in a fundamental part of physics. The presence of the Spirit is just as compelling for me, being the person in whom the Spirit lives. Is that odd?

It may be. I would argue that both are empirical, the first based on facts all can agree on and the second based on an experience that only I can report, but still empirical in deciding whether one can trust the data and what the result means. Others argue differently. Atheists argue that either I’m completely nuts or more nicely, that a higher part of myself has become God to fill this God-shaped void we all have, with our need for power, knowledge, love and goodness. Of course, the Spirit speaks to me either way, and if this a natural phenomenon, not God, wow it’s still amazing and easily worth the price I paid to get it.

So I’m willing to go either way with this, but atheists aren’t. Neither are theists regarding whether my Spirit is the Spirit and not a demon, something like that. They’re stuck with just one way, whatever it is. That’s not entirely fair. My God doesn’t mind me labeling our relationship one of several different ways. I don’t even know that He knows which way is right. But others signed up with a God who is not at all flexible or no God at all, which is just as rigid a position.

I’d say it might have been my desire for flexibility that gave me a flexible God, but that’s not true. I remember. Whichever God showed up in the sunlight 17 years was the God I would follow, unless He gave me a good reason not to, like never showing up again. But He did show up again.

Something like that makes it easy to be willing to believe in something else. I thought that describing my experiences, not just the drama, but how useful the whole thing was later, but help other be willing, too, but that’s not the case. It’s hard to be absolute about that, of course. My experiences were triggered by just a little prayer. Might anyone else hear something from me now and be helped to try a little prayer years from now when he or she needs to? Maybe, maybe not, for some reason I keep having exchanges that are something like, “You should try this. It’s helped me.” “Not even over my dead body!” “OK, so that’s a maybe, is it?”

It might be a maybe. Everyone speaks so rigidly, but on a really bad day, lots of people know there might be something else to believe in, and it takes so little, with no one else watching, just to try a little prayer. And if nothing happens, at least someone was willing, which is better than living one’s whole life sure that one’s religion or lack of it or one’s father’s religion or lack of it is certainly right.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Even liberals want God to do magic

I have noticed something in trying to follow God more closely. I had a lot of prejudice about who and what God is that distracted me. Even though I was a liberal who was sure that the Bible was wrong about creation, and science was right, when I started to take God seriously, I had the God of the Bible in mind, even though intellectually I was sure the Bible was wrong about many things.

People do this. They have this idea on one hand and another idea on the other hand. It can be very difficult to see something in between the two or something that is a synthesis of the two, maybe a synthesis that is heavily this in one aspect, but heavily that in another aspect. I’ve been called a fundamentalist a few times by people who either don’t know what that word means or assume that if someone has one belief that a fundamentalist would have, he or she must be a fundamentalist. I suppose the most conservative belief I have is that I believe I have every right to say, “God says so”. Intellectually I know the asterisk that goes with that, but it doesn’t keep me from having a strong faith. If the asterisk that says I could be wrong turns out to be right, then I’m totally wrong, then nothing matters, then everything is a fraud, and I’d just as soon live the way I do anyway.

I didn’t ask to have a road-to-Damascus experience. I had been praying for a little help, with the Prayer of St. Francis, because helping people was one thing I was sure was valuable. God agreed. Here is that simple certainty again that makes many people uncomfortable, not just liberals, but God did agree. That’s why this happened. He has told me so in words in recent years. I look in the Bible, and it’s no different from the way some speak there. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I don’t feel the least bit uncomfortable with the way Paul wrote with such certainty. I disagree with the content at times. I know context they didn’t know sometimes. But that style, such as when Paul says that what he is saying is a revelation from Jesus Christ, the resurrected Jesus Christ, who now lives in him, I know what he meant. It’s like saying I have ten fingers. It just is. It’s that kind of compelling experience, as is the world of our senses right in front of us.

Yet at the same time, if I go on an atheist website, one where they go through the entire Bible, with every objection they could compile about the verses, I probably agree with atheists 90% of the time. And if I mention certain beliefs from that, someone might think I am an atheist or agnostic, like conservatives do who think anyone who believes that evolution is a fact as I do can’t be a Christian or that someone who has serious doubts about a substitutionary atonement as I do can’t be a Christian.

So lots of people have a patchwork of beliefs, but I wouldn’t be that way if I never had had spiritual experiences. I would be a typical rationally minded liberal, maybe Christian if you really stretch the definition, like many of my fellow scientists. Instead adversity got me looking for God, and all of sudden there was God that was not a thinking man’s God at all. Not only that, but I was ready to have that God be the God of the Bible, with every magical ability possible. That was still in me, despite my being solidly and rationally liberal.

I’ve had to lose that, because that’s not who God is. God says so. One way to illustrate that is my experience with occasionally buying lottery tickets in the nineties. I’m not sure how that started. I suppose the jackpot was a big one as I shopped at the supermarket one day, so I bought a ticket. By that point I wasn’t worried it might be a sin. Right after my first visit from God, I had had a lot of legalistic concerns, but that quieted down as I read the Bible regularly and found that I was a liberal Christian, as I would have been before if I had had a strong belief in God. My ticket didn’t win.

I doubt that I prayed about that first ticket, but there were other times when the jackpot was huge, and I wanted to know what God wanted regarding this. Some say God protects people from winning more money than they know what to do with, but I have some management experience. I’d certainly give a lot for charity. It would free me up to pay more attention to God. I would think that God would want me to win the lottery as much as I do. I look at who does win, and they don’t seem to be God’s type that often. So, “Father, would you please help me win the lottery. Amen.” Then I’d lose.

So I’d get the impression that God doesn’t care about whether I win or lose. I’d still like to win, and I know how much better the odds are when the jackpot has built up than the first time after a payout. Who can turn down a bargain, even if the odds are still millions to one? I’d wonder how many tickets to buy. It might be that God has changed His mind or was just waiting until the right time for me to win. I really feel like just buying one ticket. If God wants me to win, that’s enough. If not, it’s too much of a long shot for me to buy more. Maybe I’d pray again. Maybe I wouldn’t. Either way I’d lose.

This idea of how many tickets to buy kept coming up. $5 would give me a better chance. If this is all natural, I think I would like to invest a little more, an amount that doesn’t mean anything to me, but increases my chances 5 times. That’s a lot. Then I’d wonder if I was overdoing it. If I didn’t win even the smallest payout with that inflated investment I’d made, 5 times what I might have made, I’d even feel a little guilt. Maybe God doesn’t want me to do this, not because of the money, but because it’s not right, not because gambling is a sin, but because this particular form of gambling is dirty. It takes money from people who are just out shopping as I was. Some goes to the schools, but the rest goes to people who just aren’t going to use the money for good.

Hmmm, sounds like I should pray about this. So I did, praying to know God’s will on this point, praying to be led to follow God’s will, even if I couldn’t know it. I don’t remember a response for a while, as I decided for myself which was which. Some days the jackpot was very high. I’d buy a $1 ticket just in case. Other times, I just didn’t feel like it.

Then finally I heard something in words. God said He didn’t care how many tickets I bought. I took this to mean anywhere between 0 and 5, or more if I wanted. So He wasn’t planning on making me rich. So I wasn’t going to miss the week God had decided I could win, only to go to heaven and have everyone laugh at me because I’m the dummy who forgot to buy a ticket when my number came up. OK, that clarifies things. I can do what I want.

Only if there’s no chance God will cheat for me, I feel much less enthusiasm for buying a ticket. It still hadn’t occurred to me that God might have nothing to do with the lottery at all. It amazes me to think how long I went with this idea that God might not get involved with the lottery, but surely there’s a chance He might influence it. How can anyone know that He can’t? It would still be a while before God could tell me He can’t.

I wanted God to be able to help me, just as I wanted Him to help me by praying before I ever had a spiritual experience. Only then I didn’t know what He might do. Maybe there would be some job offer out of the blue. Can’t God do anything? And that was when I was a rationally minded liberal, with no belief at all in the afterlife, no belief in any miracles and certainty that Genesis was wrong. I wasn’t praying for miracles. I was praying for a little help then, from this source that maybe existed and maybe would help me, even though I might not be asking well. I’ve heard of it happening. So what comes is a road-to-Damascus experience. A millions-to-one payout, is it?

So why can’t I win the lottery? Well I can but the odds are 18 million to one as they are with anyone else. Yet during the nineties I was on the lookout for ways that God might communicate beyond the occasional word I would hear then. If the e-mail I am composing is suddenly lost, is that a sign not to send it? If the clock has a certain time on it, like 1:23 or maybe numbers that would mean a Bible verse I know, did God place that clock there for me? Does God have control over radio station DJ’s to play certain songs at a certain time?

Well, I doubt those first two, but that last one! After all God could do that without a physical miracle, just quietly getting into some DJ’s mind or maybe just into the listener’s mind. After all, if God wants to talk about love, there are some stations where just about every song is love, even if it is rock and roll. My goodness there sure are a lot of love songs that can be sung between God and a person just as well as hearing it only as love between humans. How does that happen? Well evolution is about procreation and evolution in humans has given us this dual purpose for sex, part of which is pregnancy and part of which is bonding, less than perfect bonding but bonding nevertheless, possible because humans can have sex all the time, while most animals wait for a specific time and change in their body. And sex has taught many people real love, selfless, committed love, even unconditional. It takes some time to get from one to another, more than several lifetimes, requiring a culture to provide continuity for the learning that is beyond anyone to learn in one life. Or maybe it’s all magic. Maybe it’s in between where God needs to kickstart the process here and there.

Some liberals scoff at such things, but other liberals would really like to keep something of the traditional God who can do such things. I was in the former group before God showed up for me. I was in the latter group after He did. I know I’m not alone in that as comments prove when a discussion about miracles comes up among liberals. Many of us would at least like to hold onto the possibility. I saw Miracle on 34th Street more than once. I can do what Natalie Wood did in that movie, “I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, …” Then she gets a house! I’m sure my mind is full of that, and I’m sure that whatever part of my mind held on to that idea wanted to win the lottery and believed that God could help, not a maybe like on my more intellectual side, but definitely, like in the movies.

Yet what an uncertain process it is. GOD, WHY DON’T YOU JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO? TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT. He would if He could. People argue about this, some drawing up schemes from traditional theology or a mystic tradition saying that what we experience is just what God wants, the suffering, every bit of it, the uncertainty, so many starts and stops, so many dead ends, as if this is the best way to learn. Man, it wasn’t the best way for me to learn science. I’d hate to try to reinvent the wheel with that. And I’ve seen how easily people are misled by pseudoscience and how hard it is to get that junk out of their heads once it’s in there. It’s good that people die and are replaced by new minds, but that can’t be the most efficient way.

Our culture has only found its current best way to think recently, with the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution. People can scoff at those, but they are so powerful (I might have just mentioned the scientific revolution, but I’m trying to be broad-minded). Something is happening to our culture, viewed over centuries, as traumatic as being turned inside out, slowly. I don’t know how it will look in the end, but it certainly confuses a lot of people now.

Many are fiercely trying to hang on to the past, saying traditions thousands of years old are exactly right, even though the people who came up with them didn’t even know that moonlight was reflected sunlight. Some reject tradition entirely. Some try to find some middle way, though as I said in the beginning there are so many different ways to find a middle way.

I thought I was a liberated 20th-century man, completely following the new, improved way of life, yet looking for God has taught me how much of that character Natalie Wood played was in me even at my most adult and competent state. She wants a house, and she only knows magic to get it. She didn’t even know that until some funny guy woke something up in her. In the movies she gets her house. In real life there are many, many disappointments before one is paid off looking for God.

I talk about the payoff a lot, but it’s just been about three years that I could converse with God as easily as some do in the Bible. Before that it was bits and pieces for a long time, learning to follow God by every religious and secular method available, and having to let go of fantasy. I know how strange that last word sounds from someone who has conversations with God, but those conversations are not magic. They are a phenomenon, to grow and nurture, from both sides of the conversation. God is not what tradition says He is. I don’t expect anyone to take my word for that. I don’t know how many liberals this applied to, but it applied to me, even liberals want God to do magic. I had to learn He only does things certain ways, maybe because it’s not magic, but spiritual.

There are certain beliefs we need to give up. People can quibble about exactly what, but there are certain beliefs we need to give up. That’s one reason I’m glad to be liberal.

Monday, July 24, 2006

"Put the fan by the door"

It was hot again yesterday. I took a box fan into my bedroom as it was getting close to bedtime. I was going to put it on the dresser by the window, where I always put it, but was momentarily inhibited by all the things that had accumulated in the space for the fan since the last time I used it. Then the voice of the constant companion in my consciousness said, “David, put the fan by the door.” “Oh yeah! There is an outlet there, isn’t there?” There was a nice place at bed height to set the fan, too. It was much better than my plan. How did God know?

Any atheist I know would say this was just me. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew this solution, and it just comes to me through this imaginary God my mind has developed to process help for the more incompetent part of me. Right, the thing about that is I didn’t have the slightest glimmer of a clue in my consciousness that there was an outlet there. I recognized it when I saw it, but it may have been years since I plugged anything in there. I had every intention of just taking a minute to clear off where I previously had the fan. It was not a big deal. I admit in retrospect I had the very slightest discouragement that I couldn’t just put the fan down, but it was so slight I wasn’t thinking about it. I also had no visual clues that there was an alternative. My back was toward the place the Spirit knew was a better solution. I didn’t know. If my mind can do this without God, it’s just as significant as if God can do this, as a phenomenon that really is worth paying attention to and following. But the truth is I have no way of explaining this naturally.

When all of that dawned on me, I asked God how She did that. She said She could see the fan winding up there in the future. Why waste time? Besides it would make a good story to supplement these things She’s been wanting me to write about how one can indeed be led by the Spirit.

You know, She’s right again. It would make a good story. I wonder when I’m going to write it. Oh yeah, right now!

I forget if I shared this here before, but the first time I went to a charismatic church, in 1992, there was a time of praise reports. Now in the liberal churches of my youth, praise reports were thanking God for recovery from a serious illness, for a new job, something of substance like that. In this charismatic church, the praise reports were for God helping someone find her glasses, his car keys and get through a dental visit without incident. Huh? What does this great and glorious God of the universe have to do with such trivia? Well now I know. God loves me. He and She show it in countless ways everyday. I have learned to hear God and trust God regarding things just as trivial as when I first learned about living with the Spirit. It’s not an effort for God to be helpful. It’s certainly not a wasted effort for God to help us with trivial things. He’s not going to end poverty without us anyway. So how do we learn to trust God? We learn by many experiences that are much easier than upsetting one’s whole life to do something heroic. There may be no conscious awareness of God’s help early on, but as one draws closer to God, communication with God can become just as easy as I’ve described it here, just as easy as it’s described in the Bible. I’m sure the Bible is wrong about some things, but not everything.

Now there are plenty of Bible-believing Christians who report experiences like this, and I think their beliefs and their behavior are all wrong. Their behavior may be Christian in terms of being polite, but they do nothing to help the needy. They fan the flames of political and religious conflict. What goes on here? God says that they aren’t hearing Him well, but He loves them enough to help them where He can be heard. It is a limited experience of God that men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have, but it’s more than nothing. God tells me there’s no way a large section of humanity will ever be in that constant contact with Him that some have. He wouldn’t be able to stand the way we treat each other. It takes so long to learn to do things God’s way, even though when one does, when one has died to the flesh and lives in the spirit, when one has given up one’s own inner 2 year-old who says no to everything, it is so much easier than living the natural way to live.

So why does He put up with the mess that the world is today? There’s no other way. The end justifies the means.

But within those means, there is love, for those who want it, for those willing to trust. The charismatic way is not for everyone. It may sound like I’m saying that it is when I say how wonderful some aspect of it is. I’m not saying that. I’m glad loveapple asked the questions he did in response to what I wrote about “God says so”. No one can say there’s only one possibility for God. I only say that there is indeed this possibility that rationally minded Christians shy away from. Hey, I can be very good at being rational. It’s just not the whole story.

Being charismatic has its advantages. That fan worked really well last night. This story could be better, but words are so limited, and it’s not enough to make a movie about, which I know nothing of how to do anyway. The Spirit is a powerful muse, but it takes more than that to convince anyone to live his or her life to end poverty, to live to end conflict. If God could do that easily, it would be done by now. It’s about much more than words or beliefs.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

God says so

There are so many things where I could state my understanding as God says, … then God fills it in. Now it’s only right that people should ask, “What do you mean by “God”? What do you mean by “says”? Fair enough, times have changed so much from thousand of years ago when people were dependent on someone to speak for God. Nowadays, anyone can make some inference about God, about what is good and loving, about what is true, for himself or herself. Anyone can think it through, with so many facts, so much knowledge that is available now about the past and present, about the world, about human beings, human nature, and how human beings interact with the world and anything that might be not of this world. Who needs God?

Well it is hard to do all that without God. People come to all sorts of conclusions about what is loving and true when they try. If you look at all of that, there are parts of it where one person is irreconcilably contradicting another. Still some try to draw broad principles where many people agree, feeling secure that there is truth in consensus. Why believe that? If everyone makes the same mistake, it guarantees that the consensus will be wrong. It’s what science calls “systematic error”. Furthermore given the incredibly large universe of all possibilities for what is loving and true, what are the chances that unaided human beings are ever going to pick out the one possibility that’s real? It’s vanishingly small. Multiply by 6 billion people or 100 billion people, it’s still vanishing small that anyone is right, much less everyone is right, in his or her own way or otherwise. Still everyone gets to decide for himself or herself. It’s a free country, not just because of the Constitution, but because there is something natural about freedom, especially in our own thoughts, even if our thoughts are hopelessly tangled up in what comes to us through genetics and learning. Despite all that, we have some mechanism of choice. What should we use it for?

In ancient times, people used it to decide whom to believe about God. Could a prophet foresee the future accurately? Could a prophet demonstrate signs that show that God is with that person? I can’t do that. The closest thing I ever did to what Jesus does in the gospels is to suggest someone with hysterical weakness back to normal strength. That can be impressive, but it’s a trick, not a miracle. One might say it’s a technique rather than a trick, but trick says it better. One fools the patient into using the limbs that the hysterical part of them doesn’t want to use. It might look like a miracle, but it’s just psychophysiology and neurophysiology. It’s just science.I remember caring for the teenage niece of a local psychiatrist. She just couldn’t walk one day. Oh my God, has she had a stroke, MS, a tumor? No, in examining her she used her limbs subconsciously the way anyone with hysterical weakness does. If someone’s faking, it can be a difficult exam, but if someone is cooperative it’s easy to diagnosis hysteria. Mostly one can place a patient’s limbs in positions where you wouldn’t think it takes any strength to maintain, but it does. In someone with organic weakness, that limb falls right down. In someone with hysteria, he or she doesn’t realize what their limbs should do if they were organically weak.This teenager was interesting. Not only was it obvious that her weakness was hysterical, she was talking about how this was so unlike her. She kept talking about how hard she “strived” in school. What a strange word for a teenager. I guess her legs were sick of striving. They needed to have a talk, those parts of her that had different ideas on this point. But first she needed to walk, and any neurologist worth his or her salt knows how to do this. You examine a patient and manipulate someone’s limbs so that you can bring out the strength that is really there and then say, “Look, you’re getting stronger. You’ll recover.” If you do it right, you can suggest anyone out of the hysteria. Academic neurologists get so competitive about just how fast they can get a patient with hysterical weakness back on the street. Ah, it’s a gift, if you’re trained well. Ordinarily it’s enough to just talk a patient back into normal strength fast enough to avoid hospitalization, any further complications. Strangely hysteria is much less than it once was, less now than it was in 19th century Vienna. I wonder how much there was in 1st century Jerusalem. There’s no way to know except ask God, and His answer on that is not for the public.

I wish I had a technique to suggest people out of all their other miseries. “God says, …” has so much potential that way, yet it’s a different time, a rational time for the most part. How does one prove that it’s not a rational universe? I don’t know. I’m convinced there is a Spirit, through both secular and spiritual experiences, and the Spirit keeps showing me that there are ways to demonstrate God for people, even without tricks. They don’t work well. People have already made up their minds on so many things. Even first-hand it was hard for me to accept the truth of a being arising within my consciousness and saying, “I am God”. There had to be other things that confirmed that, and there were, but they are largely within my consciousness, not proof objectively. That’s good for me. Is there any benefit for anyone else?I’m still not sure what the main point of this is for anyone else. I don’t think it’s that everyone can experience God this way. Maybe that is the future, because if everyone has what I have here, the world’s problems would evaporate in a cloud of selflessness and efficiency. If that’s it, why not before now?

I suspect the real future is not so magical. Maybe everyone can communicate with God, but for most it’s limited. Still to know that would focus people on God instead of pride. That would be a big improvement. So how do I do that, even participate in that? Beats me, I just do what I’m told, really.

And it’s not all candy and nuts. Because I will tell you that when God tells me what He really would like to do, it’s to post some rules, tell people what horrible things will happen to them if they disobey, be God in all His glory, … Oops, tried that. That’s not the best way. Love is the best way, but how to tell that to all these dimwits! God says things like that, not me, only under extreme distress. I’m more constrained than He is. But I have the peace that comes with knowing I didn’t make any of this up, not one word. God says so, and there is more to back that up, even in the here and now, than anyone can imagine. You never would believe what I’ve seen, never. It’s easy, right up to some boundary that’s hard to cross, like trying to use words to describe all this.

God says that’s enough for now. 2 pages exactly, man, what a perfectionist.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New kind of Christianity?

This will be posted on the message board at -

I feel like slaughtering a sacred cow today. I’m not Hindu, so there’s nothing to hold me back. Of course I’m rather small to be slaughtering an entire sacred cow by myself. Maybe I can get one stab in. Maybe all I can do is be a vampire bat or an insect and get one bite in and hope the animal will bleed to death or catch a disease from me. If FredP, Aletheia, flow, Cynthia and whoever else no longer post here out of fear that I will disagree with them, maybe I’m more virulent than I realize. I might as well use this destructive power of mine for whatever good I can think of.

For those who don’t like the imagery of hurting an animal, it is true that a “sacred cow” is more like a logjam than a cow. A real cow can be shooed along easily, not by a devout Hindu, but by someone who is free of the false dichotomy of sacred vs. profane, a dichotomy that the real God tells me is nothing He started. A “sacred cow”, meaning an unchallenged idea, needs something more aggressive. Ah, just my line of work.

So what is there that’s so stuck? I have an idea. As long as I’ve been aware of TCPC, I’ve heard that it is beckoning toward the future. Before that I read J.S. Spong’s book about how Christianity must change into something more rational. I guess I’ve heard all of my life that the liberal Christianity I embrace in my own way is the new Christianity, the Christianity where people can integrate the changes in the world with the wisdom of the past and voila, a Christianity for the future.

I’ve never questioned this much. I know an Episcopal minister who likes to say that he goes forward with one foot in science and one foot in religion and how wonderful that is. I pointed out to him that this doesn’t sound mechanically stable to me. If science and religion are going in different directions, they’ll pull his legs apart. He’ll have to choose one at some point. Still it wasn’t clear to me what the problem might be outside of his metaphor.

I think it’s becoming clearer to me what the problem is. New-style Christians are not very Christian. Old-style Christians aren’t either for that matter. I agree with atheists on so many points about the hypocrisies of traditional Christianity. Those allied with TCPC certainly aren’t like that. They don’t pick out these idolatrous causes like being anti-abortion, anti-evolution, and anti-homosexual while neglecting the needy. No, they are pro-choice, pro-mainstream science, and pro-gay, while neglecting the needy, compared to what people might be doing, compared to what the need is.

I’m not going to flesh out that criticism right now, because there are additional areas to criticize. I’ve always felt that whoever cares to call himself or herself a Christian can do so. Fundamentalists have had certain beliefs they consider essential before saying someone is Christian, the trinity, the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection and maybe the inerrancy of the Bible. I’m not big on beliefs, one reason I do better with liberals. But on the other hand, gosh, the singing at a liberal church is never that good, like they don't believe it. I have in mind a few songs at a charismatic church on a day when the Spirit was very much in attendance. Wow, that’s amazing. Things like that get so left behind when all people talk about is beliefs, as if the best Christian is the one with the best beliefs, whether that turns out in the end to be, traditional, liberal, Progressive, New Thought, whatever. I’d tell you what God says to me about that, but you won’t believe me anyway.

What maybe you can believe is that the Spirit has something to do with authentic Christianity. Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity, has been discussed here in the past. His conclusion seems to be correct that the essence of Christianity is transformation, to die to the flesh, to live in the spirit, to live by faith. Borg describes how it has been a mistake to think of faith as beliefs. Faith can be defined as simply trust and devotion with no elements of beliefs at all. Which definition is God’s preference? Ask Him. Some of us get answers when we ask questions like that in prayer. It’s hard, but how hard can it be when someone like me, who so many must think is a fool, can get answers from God that have given me considerable direction, strength and comfort, and I’m sure will continue that way into the future?

No, that is not purely rational Christianity. It is a spirituality some find repulsive, for various reasons. I don’t think it’s progressive. I don’t think it’s liberal. I don’t think it’s conservative. God just is, whoever and whatever He is. You’re not going to beat that by cobbling together everyone’s beliefs and saying that must be God.

We are all going to die, and at least some of our prejudices will die with us. We will be replaced by people farther along in time. I’m sure that for the immediate future, the next hundred years at least, religion will be about the same hodgepodge it is now. The pressure that conservatives fight will grow. Both the genetics and neuroscience revolutions will provide much more ammunition to say that traditional Christian theology is ridiculous and provide these enticing powers to people so that they will learn the science. Maybe when these sciences fill out their current expansion, to know all 25,000 of our genes in every detail, meaning we know everything genetic in our being, to explore all of the brain that functional neuroimaging can do, it may be enough to say that we can’t explain something about us and about consciousness any more than we can explain the ultimate origin of the universe. Maybe there will be a more obvious place for God than there is now. Now evolutionary psychologists describe a God-shaped void in us, a need for power, knowledge, love and goodness, but they see this as a legacy from atheistic evolution. They haven’t been willing to consider the possibility that a real God fills that void, something nonphysical. It’s not necessary to believe that in order to do the science. Who knows if science will ever argue more for God than it does right now. Atheists might be right, and the God I know is all contained in my head. If so, it is still a much more powerful phenomenon than atheists give it credit or even theists who look down their nose at anything spiritual. It doesn’t just change singing. It changes behavior, at its best it does. It changes many things in that transformation Marcus Borg details.

God is whoever and whatever God is. Can you get an understanding of that from cobbling together so many beliefs and calling it Progressive Christianity? I haven’t seen that. What I see is people saying Progressive Christianity, whatever they mean by that, is what they want to be there in the future. It might not be, any more than fundamentalism can survive forever. God will survive, whatever He is that fills our God-shaped void. People eventually may find religion irrelevant to that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Real physics, real God, part 2

My goal never has been to tell everyone to believe as I do, though I am like anyone else in wanting some number of people to believe what I believe. I'm not sure what that number would be, at which point I wouldn't talk to those of other beliefs at all just for the sake of beliefs. I don't expect ever to be in that position in my life, as I do have a way of belief that rejects authority, rejects much of what is past, and rejects limited experience of life, not something that can have a lot of followers. I'm sure I have my moments of hostility in that, but my main concern is always to define my way so that I might follow it better. Of course like everyone, if my way is best for me, I would at least throw it out for consideration that it might be best for some others, too, truly as a gift.

My way is empirical. I wish charismatics didn't already have their stamp on "experience-based Chrisitainity", because I would like that term if it didn't already mean speaking in tongues to so many people and be associated with the rigid mindset of Pentacostal theology. And that experience is certainly inside oneself and outside of oneself.

I recently was discussing with someone where the presence of God that I have in my consciousness originated. Who knows where it really originated but I can trace my awareness of it back 35 years to when I took karate in college and we would meditate before class. The instruction was to let our mind become a quiet lake. I was pretty good at that. Later I tried other meditative techniques, then prayer, which led to this road-to-Damascus experience I described here recently. In prayer the presence of God grew and grew for me, first just as the target of my prayer with no sensory phenomena, then as someone who affects me, emotionally, even in how I move, then as someone who has some visual and somatosensory way to reach me, and finally someone who simply speaks in words, though such words always depend on what I'm willing to hear, things like that.

Yet my current awareness of God is very much like that quiet lake from 35 years ago, not that God is always quiet, but it is the same place within me that I can't identify as "heart" or something else that I know is a precise anatomical location. Now how do I integrate that with what I see in the world, that some people have experiences like this while many don't, as well as other issues? I would do that empirically again, but it's difficult with so much uncertainty. One needs one's intellect and intuition, as one does for any science. Any good scientist needs a good intuition about the next experiment to do.

So I'm not sure that any sort of experience is left out in what I think is the best way to understand God, the universe, life, and anything else. Yet I see people relying on some parts of that very narrowly, such as pure intellect with little to ground that in reality. The results of those other approaches are not anything that makes sense to me.

It's hard to talk about in the abstract, but as a concrete example, if someone tells me the central idea of quantum physics is parallel universes established by choice, I would challenge that. The textbooks I have on quantum physics say the central idea is that energy is quantized. There are experiments that go with that, a system of quantum theory that works to explain the results of many years of experiments with subatomic particles. There is only a mystical and speculative interpretation of all that that says choice has anything to do with any of it. Yet I can't prove there aren't parallel universes. Anyone is free to go that way, no matter how little that connects with experience, but I have to be honest that I see no value in that way. I just see people exercising their fantasies that way. There are many similar ideas in religion where I would anger someone by being so blunt about them.

So I think it's true that different kinds of experience are important. I also think they need to be integrated, which science does when one can be objective, but cannot be done scientifically when one is looking at subjective consciousness. Still one can follow the same principle of believing what comes to me in my own consciousness rather than some purely intellectual scheme that I can't reach personally. God may be Creator, but I can't stand at the creation with Him except by a vision, which I can't make too much of. I don't have enough context to know what to do with that. I can't assess the reality of some theological or philosophical scheme of seeing God that is so far beyond reality that I find no way to test it.

So I came across the idea that God is whoever and whatever answers when I call Him. That I like. That I relate to. I like it so much, I'm not sure why it wasn't taught to me by someone other than God, but it wasn't. And lots of people don't like it when I try to explain it. It does threaten other ways of looking at it. I don't see any way around that. Even if it were just a matter of the best restaurant in town, something unimportant and subjective as that, anyone who gets really excited about one restaurant and knows why he likes that restaurant above any other might be seen as pushing his choice on others. Well, OK, but I don't know what else to do but explain why I get excited and hope that some might understand.

I don't see all ways as valid. Can you see all ways as valid and include the way that says many ways are junk? I'm not sure it's worth going there. There is a phenomenon where a person discovers a way to live and says, "This is the way!" I know from experience that there are many in liberal religion who hate to hear that, even if that way is not fundamentalism. I find myself often saying, "But it is the way!" in various ways, mostly to see what I say and what others say back, because it is a curious phenomenon where someone rushes in and says, "Look guys, gold!" and someone else says, "I don't see any gold." You really can't guess at who's right in that situation. You just know it might be worth looking at if you don't have anything better to do. Then you can build up your own experience of who knows gold and who doesn't.

Real physics, real God, part 1

From my days in physics I know that power is energy over time. Energy is the capacity to do work, unlike all the casual ways people use the word “energy” in spirituality. If there’s no work being done, all the energy may be locked up as potential energy. There comes a time to use all that potential. In using it, one can learn how much was there, but then maybe it’s all used up. Then again, maybe there’s a process to restore the potential energy that one had before one tested it, like getting a good night’s sleep. Then the dawn comes, and everything is the same, except somehow a duty cycle has been done, with no benefit for one process, but impressive benefit for another. It really does pay to know physics. All the vague and abstract words in the world won’t unlock an understanding of things in the same way. It’s too bad that many try to make physics vague and abstract or get lost in speculation with no experimental test to flesh out that speculation or show that it’s just wrong. That’s not physics. It’s pseudophysics, even if the best of physicists have stepped into that at times.

God might unlock one’s understanding, but even God is limited by the materials He has to work with. And who says physics isn’t God’s way, real physics? Beyond that, who says that the empirical, but nonscientific way of letting God direct me in the here and now is problematic? It has its difficulties, but the God who came to me proves Himself over and over again. He is power, knowledge, love, and goodness, not in the way theologians and philosophers say, for most of their words, but in a real way, an observable way. Of course observing God within me is very different from deciding who He is or isn’t in someone else. We all have to start somewhere. I start with defining God as the one who answers when I pray, “God help me”. It is so much more of a functional way to approach God than those who approach God believing they already know everything about who and what God is, by reason or by past revelation.

I’ve thought of this many times before, not in these exact words, but similarly. It’s hard to get across to people. They think they already know something else. Maybe it works for them just fine. I understand that. People only look for a new understanding when failure forces them to. I don’t suppose God needs to push the entire planet so that everyone is failing at once. That probably doesn’t help understanding. Someone has to succeed so others can look and say, “That’s it!” Only I’ve never seen anyone succeeding at all aspects of life. So here’s a little bit of one person to be a role model in this respect and another to be a role model in that respect. I try to sew it together, but there are still pieces missing, and what there is doesn’t look that great. I pause, I look, I cry. “God help me!”

Ah, so that’s what it takes. Well not everyone at once, of course, just whoever, whenever he or she is ready.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nostalgic dream

I have so many dreams about still practicing medicine. They almost never have anything to do with how I really practiced. Still I see them as nostalgia, though sometimes there are qualities to them that must have meaning beyond mere nostalgia. Elevators pop up in them frequently, a symbol of change I think, maybe even rebirth, where one is confined to this narrow canal. Then the doors open up, and voila, here’s a new world. Usually there’s something bizarre about the elevators in my dream. They might be 8-sided instead of rectangular. They might be twisted or offset from the world beyond where the doors open and close. There are so many ways my dreams say, “We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy” Hmmm, I recognize that voice. I recognize Her very well. But this dream wasn’t about Her. She says it actually was, but we’re not going there right now. I do have some say so over this.

This morning I awoke from one of these dreams. This time the patient was a woman with bleeding in her head. It’s urgent to get to the OR quickly in that situation, but it’s somewhat different from when someone is bleeding out from a bodily injury where blood is pouring out like a spigot. Then the bleeding is like a clock, where you only have so much time before someone runs out of blood. Bleeding in the head is different, unless someone has been shot through a venous sinus and a unit of blood pours out each time you take the pressure off to see if there’s something that can be fixed, but that’s very rare. Because the skull is a confined space, there is a lot of pressure right away to stop the bleeding, but one’s brain doesn’t tolerate the pressure well. That’s the emergency in head trauma, not turning off the spigot. It's not the same clock as when a patient is bleeding out. It can easily be that the situation is already irreversible and hopeless. It may even be that the situation is fine without doing anything. It's hard to know when the cause is more obscure than a spigot. Strange that I should be in charge of that this time, since I’m a neurologist, not a neurosurgeon, but I’m often in over my head in these dreams.

So there we were, taking this woman to the OR. Strange that in this hospital the elevator went down to go from the ER to the OR. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hospital like that, though I can imagine a hospital on a hill where that could be. I also think of Stargate SG1 where one goes down to level 28 to get to the gate to go to another world. Who knows, maybe that’s relevant.

Anyway, even with the override key, it’s taking time for the elevator. Who can understand the limitations of machinery? One who knows every nook and cranny of the machine does, but for so many of us the machine is just what it is. Either way things can only go so fast, but one way one knows exactly why, while the other way one has to wait and wonder. I’d rather go the first way, but it’s not always practical. Even God doesn’t know everything. He proves that to me frequently. Still the elevator comes eventually, either way.

There wasn’t more to this dream before I woke up. Often after whatever issues there are with the elevator, I encounter equipment which is definitely not anything of this world. What to do with this? It’s always the same answer. I do what I know how to do, even if I don’t know how I know. I am that I am. Even though I’m not God, does even God do it better than that? We all do what we know to do, sometimes proving that we know very little indeed, sometimes proving that we know so much, it’s a mystery to everyone to know how we know that much. How did you do that? I don’t know. I just did.

I help people because I know how. There are other reasons about how much of my life I give to helping people, how much help I give to any one person, exactly what help I give or forget to give. Forget, right, how easily one can remember at a time other than when one was supposed to forget. Often that’s so innocent, but sometimes it’s so odd what one forgot that the Wizard’s handiwork is showing.

There’s this joke where the punch line is that God likes to play doctor. The punch line is better than the joke, any of the jokes that can get you to that punch line. One can easily miss a greater truth in this, one that God does like to play healer, not just the opposite of doctors playing God. God says there are many good things about healing, not just the end result of whether or not someone can be saved. Save someone today, and he or she may just die tomorrow. Eventually he or she definitely will die, but it’s still usually a good thing to prevent premature death. Beyond that, though, there are so many aspects of this to teach everyone involved about love, to draw love out of someone, from the patient, from everyone else. God loves a love story. Both He and She can be such softies. That’s not how They are all the time.

Nostalgia, right. Well, OK, that’s a cover story. You see, there are labels for those who don’t know much about what’s going on. Then there is something deeper for those who can see past the most superficial interpretation. Then there’s another layer just for someone who may have thought there are only two. Then there are more. Hey, there are more than enough. Eventually the elevator comes, no matter how slow it is. We have things to do, places to go. Some people manage to talk about such things forever with vague and abstract words. If that’s how they want to spend their time, they can, but eventually the elevator comes. Helping people is better training than talking about it and especially better than excusing oneself from it. God says so, right here, right now. He’ll say it again for anyone who wants to listen.

Resisting God

It’s like the joke about a man who gives to God every month. Every month the man goes out back and throws all of his wages up in the air. Whatever God wants, He can keep.

There are so many places to go from things I wrote on Tuesday. I’m going to follow one of the things that impressed me, that suddenly I was so aware of how much I had been resisting God, even though my whole life is about following God, with God being very active in providing me with direction for that. A big part of what was so impressive was that it was clear not only how much I was resisting in the present, but that it’s been this way for years, that I’ve been telling God to only push me so hard for as long as I’ve known that He pushed me at all.

And why I was resisting is just as clear as the fact that I was resisting. To say Matthew 25: 46 is accurate is to say huge sections of the church, both conservative and liberal are to be written off, and not in any nice way. I don’t want to be party to that. I want to fix things. I’ve never held back from being critical when I saw reason to be critical, but that was to fix things, not punish anyone or even to clean out all the riff raff for a better future in a better place. God can do that if He wants, but I don’t see what I have to add to that.

Then there’s the problem of my public image. After all, how many people are there who think even one word of what I wrote Tuesday came from someone other than me? Not many, and I’d guess most of those who believe anything I said has a spiritual origin would say that origin is demonic, not from God. What else could explain my saying that God doesn’t know their beloved Joyce Meyer? Well, I wrote what God directed me to write, from the information jointly available to us in my mind. If He told me to contact Joyce Meyer directly, I’d do that, but that didn’t seem to be the point. The context for what I wrote speaks for itself, or people aren’t going to get anything from that anyway.

Abraham Lincoln turned aside a woman who said she had a word from God for him, saying that he was sure God could tell him without an intermediary. That’s a problem, isn’t it? How can any of us limit the possibilities for God in a way that’s wise? Who knows God well enough to do that? Those who say the Bible tells them anything they need to know are heavily invested in being right on that point, putting all of their eggs in one basket, as are those who are just as dependent on another holy book or other religion.

To say Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior, as I do, is also narrowing oneself, but in a different way. I look at the Jesus of the gospels, the Jesus Paul describes, the Jesus I know must have lived somewhat like those descriptions, the things I learned from each, and I know there is something worth following there, as I knew helping people was valuable before I knew how strongly the Bible endorses that. That doesn’t close me off to learning more.

Of course, who and what is God anyway? Is there some contradiction in His telling me He doesn’t know Joyce Meyer? There is if you have decided God must be omniscient or allowed someone else to decide for you. There is if you think God must be too distant to say anything to someone in words. I’ve written before about how to decide who and what God is (June 16) and undoubtedly will again. It’s not a formal way of doing this that matters here, though. It’s the prejudices we carry around in our minds.

As a liberal, I don’t know God is punishing anyone for anything anyway. That’s one of my prejudices. Everyone asks early on why God has to send people to hell. Conservatives hear that God’s law requires it and accept that, as they like strong rules. Freedom-loving liberals hear that and say, “What? Oh come on. You mean all those superstitions about clean or unclean and what to do if a woman has a menstrual period? That requires sending people to hell?” Liberals need a better reason than that, and there isn’t one, so many see hell as a myth. Then conservatives don’t fear hell because they like strong rules about faith as well as strong rules about sin. So they embrace a reading of the Bible that makes faith and imputed righteousness so strong that nothing will send them to hell if they stick to their understanding of faith requiring very little of them. So no one is afraid of Matthew 25: 46. It must be about someone else.

Few people follow Matthew 25 out of love either. It is still strange to me that people who profess a strong love for Jesus and the Bible don’t find a reason there to send more than a $20 check to some charity each month or trust that their church does enough for charity, which none do. I’m sure a lot of it is out of sight, out of mind. Donations do pick up when there are disasters that make the news. But there certainly is resistance to doing more.

If God is as powerful as most people think, doesn’t this make sense? God could push them harder if He wanted to, right? Isn’t God in control? Isn’t it all good?

It’s like the joke about a man who gives to God every month. Every month the man goes out back and throws all of his wages up in the air. Whatever God wants, He can keep.

That’s a joke because everyone knows God is not going to snatch that man’s money out of the air. Someone could try to say that’s God’s choice. He could if He wanted to, someone might say. What a sour grapes excuse that is. It’s not that God doesn’t want to do anything good with that man’s money. It’s that He can’t snatch money out of the air, or He would. If you don’t believe that, ask Him yourself.

So how many of you just asked God if He can snatch money out of the air? How many of you did it seriously, pausing long enough to ask the question in prayer, as if you truly wanted to know? How many are willing to wait long enough to get an answer, whether in words, in things that happen around you or in something in your mind. Prayers can be answered in many ways. Why be limited in seeing the possibilities here as well?

I’m sure I can sniff out resistance to God in others as well as in myself, resistance to communicating with God and resistance to following His will. Years ago, the gospel accounts of Jesus praying in the garden, “not my will, but Yours” were some of the verses that almost lit up for me to tell that this is especially important. It is important. Following Jesus to me has meant frequently praying that God let me follow His will, not mine, as I trust His will over mine. I think that’s been answered many times. It would be nice if a light went on each time His will was overriding mine, but I pretty much recognize that anyway, and God tells me if I’m ever curious enough to ask, I mean seriously ask.

I don’t know how many people do that. It was Jesus by example in the gospels that taught me to do it, and God everyday saying, “Yes, I will help you follow My will,” in His actions more than His words, but in words when I needed them. I don’t care that much about the underlying theology of that. I’ve witnessed this time and time again, within me, where I can see what’s happening over time. Whoever says this isn’t God is using a bad definition for God.

Yet I see I still resist. I say, “You want me to do what, to say what?” God has different ways to help get His will across. I get it eventually.

Then I see people who aren’t trying at all, for whom universal health care is some government boondoggle. That would be fair enough if such people did anything so private charity could fix the problem, but no one is doing that. So many people have other priorities. And I’ve been resisting saying just how bad that is, and how I know, because no one will believe me.

It’s more than that. What if God tells me to deliver an ultimatum? Oh, that would be hard. He’d have to get me drunk first, not with alcohol, of course. And it wouldn’t be delivered to the few people who I know read this. Only at this point nothing God says to me comes out of the blue. Everything He or She says connects to things They’ve said before. It is a patient, cooperative effort, even if we both get excited sometimes. So my resistance based on uncertainty has gone down and down.

It’s that first resistance that I realize is not so little, to say that anyone is hopeless, to suddenly be a Calvinist about everyone’s relationship with God, even though I have a lot of sympathy with that view, that God is irresistible and such. Yet look at all who resist so much more than I have, almost everyone. That’s why I’ve thought of this as a communication problem. If people could just hear what God says in the right way, not with the off-putting God-says-sos, it’s not hard to understand.

That’s not the problem. People are lost in their pride and idolatries, whether secular idolatries or religious idolatries. They’re not open. They’re not willing to listen with an ear to understand, but rather to refute, to make excuses. I see it. It’s not really my business, but I can’t read Matthew 25: 46 like some other liberals do, as if it’s just the author of Matthew ranting or as conservatives do, who are sure God is talking about someone else there.

I talk with God sometimes about the afterlife, about physical death, about spiritual death. It may not be as bad as some think, but it’s bad. For anyone without a spirit, there’s only physical death, but with a spirit that has known nothing but idols that contradict God, it’s bad. If a spirit has no sense of who the real God is, it’s bad. There is mercy, but there is a problem, the extent of which I can’t follow. I wonder why God tells me about it when I can’t picture the context of what He says. So He tells me why. It’s so I can know to trust Him when He says it’s important, that there is a good reason, even if I can’t understand exactly why it’s important. I’ve learned to trust God on issues that are all in the present. He gives me direction, strength, comfort. It’s wonderful. So I trust Him for the future.

I know that many people don’t, including many who claim to be devoted to Him. They trust the Bible, though not those verses that their church has interpreted to mean something other than what they say, like Matthew 25: 46. They just trust the theology of their church, which everyone they know closely agrees on.

But it only matters what God says, and God says that to help the needy is the same as helping Jesus at the same time. Neglecting the needy forces Jesus to endure the equivalent of crucifixion over and over and over again. This is because God has considerable empathy for His followers, even one body, and His true followers are everywhere, often to be seen before they have gotten very far with God. If God weren’t with me, I’d feel the need to write out arguments to justify that. I have a rough idea what they are. But God is with me and anyone who wants can ask Him directly, anyone. Jesus died for everyone. God says, right here, right now, that it’s more important to say that again, one more time, than to write out arguments for people who don’t believe in Him anyway, no matter what lip service they give to Jesus Christ. Jesus died for everyone. Yet for many, it was a waste. Human nature and idolatries will keep them from ever following God. It’s the other ones who have a chance, no matter where they are today, no matter how much they resist God today. Resistance fades when people are treated well, not with abuse. With abuse, people just build higher walls behind their forced obedience.

So God says, help the needy and walls will come down, inside of you and outside of you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I am a bridge

Like an ant, for the team. All for one, everyone in turn, and one for all.

Horatio at the bridge, but I’m not Horatio, just the bridge? I am just for Horatio to stand on, or not, according to His needs, according to circumstances of the battle, if there is a battle. What if the battle’s over? Do I wait for someone to tell me to let go, to transform back?

A bridge to fight on? A bridge to meet someone? A bridge to nowhere, that could have been used but never was, never was where people wanted to go?

Just a bridge? With no drama? There’s always drama in romance. I have that much, if nothing on a more epic scale. She tells that story better than I do.

Connecting what?

Science and religion, body and mind, old and new, then and now, now and what will be, thoughts and feelings, inside and outside, male and female, life and death. Sacred and profane – no, that was always a false dichotomy.

I am a bridge to another world, not for us, but for them to come through, the tigers, spirits, for their redemption, not ours. It is not my redemption. It is just what I know how to do. It is my wedding gift, to God, to the tigers, to me. Is that the darkest vision or the brightest one of all? It seems bright to me, but I suppose that’s relative. They come closer and closer. Soon they will tear through, and everyone will see.

You know, I’m only going to hang on to this other side for so long. I think it is up to me when to let go. Then I have things to do for myself. So boys, if you’re coming through me, you better get with it. Otherwise, they’ll be another, maybe. She has Her own plans. We all adapt to them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A suggestion

To anyone who might read that last one, go back and read the one that refers to Tinker Bell from July 7. I had nothing from that one on my mind as I wrote the one today. Yet there it is, metaphorically describing how God needs us. What is the metaphor and what is the reality of God? Ask God. Eventually anyone who would know the real God has to find out directly.

Whoever says "abortion is murder" is not loved by God

I feel a resistance within me falling apart, a partition tearing. I wrote about it Sunday, how I’ve realized more and more that I’ve resisted God trying to tell me just how big a problem it is that the church makes helping the needy a low priority, even when Matthew 25: 46 promises eternal punishment for those who neglect the needy, while the preceding section is about how neglecting the needy is the same as neglecting Jesus, no less.

I’ve wanted it to be a fixable problem, one I can help a little by posting in recent years how Jesus is in the needy and similar thoughts, as I’ve done. Surely it’s a communication problem somewhere between God and many people who truly want to follow Him, I have thought, if only they knew how, even though the idea that His commandments are love God, love neighbors and love enemies, in other words love everyone, is at least two thousand years old. Why should that be so hard to follow? It’s not, is it?

So why should I do better at such communication than anyone else? I suppose that’s part of why I’ve resisted accepting what I hear. I don’t have a good answer. Maybe my biology is suited to hear God. Maybe the breadth and depth of my experiences in life, academic, practical, and spiritual, are suited to understand God. Maybe God just picked me. I spoke so little growing up in that angry home, the child of adultery that made that longstanding adultery known to the respective spouses. Maybe I was a blank slate when it came to having opinions, not trusting all these bad people, finding it too dangerous to speak freely. Maybe that’s good training for the real world. Maybe the degree of redemption involved in my life was just enticingly high. Maybe it’s just luck – no, that’s the hardest one to believe.

When would God have picked me anyway? Before the beginning of the world? At my confirmation when there was that tingling as the bishop pushed his hands on my head? Was that a spiritual experience or was the bishop just compressing my spinal cord a little? There are so many uncertainties in life.

Whatever served as prologue, the real drama certainly began with that road-to-Damascus experience on February 28, 1989. It was so much like what St. Paul described. There was the sunlight streaming directly into the room that turned into the presence of God, not changed in its appearance, but only in my cognition. Wait a minute, this can’t be. I don’t believe in this sort of God. God had His answer for that, “You’ve always believed in Me.” Then a flood of words and images began a cascade through my mind to illustrate that He was right in that simple sentence, and I was wrong. It’s the best debating technique I’ve ever seen. If so many skeptics could just experience that, whether atheists, liberals or conservatives, it would be so much easier to talk about. Self-hypnosis? Some innate chemical like cocaine? I don’t think so. I’ve never taken cocaine, but all the caffeine I’ve ever drank couldn’t do this. 0 to a million instantly? Hmmm, not natural. I was blown away. I was glad I hadn’t gone blind, just crazy for about four hours. I knew what it was. I knew I didn’t need to wind up dead like Jesus or blind like Paul. They had already done that. I had that thought right away. I didn’t like that I had lost my mind, but I thought it was the best option of the three. Fortunately that was temporary. What was it for? Just so I could have faith?

One thing it was for was so it wouldn’t be so traumatic the next time. It was still disruptive when God showed up four months later, but it became less so as it happened more and more, then continuously unless there’s something going on around me that makes me forget about God for a time. His prolonged presence started in my prayers first, just as the God to whom I was praying at first, with no sensory phenomena, then as something that seemed to help me find words that I just don’t think were in me without the Spirit and things to pray about that also didn’t seem to be on my agenda without such prompting. Who knew that prayer just means to open one’s mouth and let go? Some charismatics do. Sometimes it’s best to shape the words some. It is a cooperative effort. Then words started coming back at me that were just like what I had heard when first in the presence of God, simple answers to a prayer just as I was praying it, things like that.

It’s strange how differently people report what they hear God say. When I read an evangelical Christian who hears God in words like Joyce Meyer, the quotes she attributes to God don’t sound at all like what I hear. She has God giving explanations for things that I’m sure immediately are oversimplified or just wrong. I never react to what I hear from God that way. I may ask for some clarification. There are things God says that I just don’t understand. There are even some things that I resist, that I really don’t want to be true. Anyone who thinks God tells me what I want to hear doesn’t have the slightest idea of what’s going on. Yet certainly God must speak to people in concepts they understand as well as the language they understand. It has to be some sort of cooperative effort between an individual’s mind and the Spirit. So is that the real Spirit coming through Joyce Meyer or is it not Spirit at all?

Likewise with a New Age version of this are Neale Donald Walsch’s three volumes of conversations with God. It doesn’t sound like God to me. It sounds like a psychotherapist who needs to switch to decaf.

I’m sure many would find equally skeptical things about anything I hear from God. And that has been part of my resistance, that I know how to attack myself better than the most malevolent atheist or traditionalist bent on saying he’s right, and I’m nuts. I don’t want to hear that, especially not from me. I think God gives us enough freedom in general and has enough sympathy for me in particular to not mind that much if that resistance has caused me to say things publicly like, “Who can know?” when in my conversations with God, I give Him much more credit than that.

God tells me that He doesn’t know Joyce Meyer. He doesn’t know Neale Donald Walsch, except through what I’ve read of him. He doesn’t keep extensive databases on everything and everyone as He would have to in order to be omniscient. He doesn’t have to do that to help those people who come to Him genuinely, instead of to an idol. He has their consciousness to work with. That’s all He needs to know. He wouldn’t know me except He lives in me, and I in Him. He is constantly in my consciousness. My eyes are His eyes. My hands are His hands. My walk is His walk. My flesh remains, but there is Spirit as well, intertwined somehow. What it means that I live in Him is less clear to me. I know it’s different than living naturally, than living solely in the flesh. I don’t know how to explain it well, so I haven’t tried that much. Whatever it is, He needs me within Him, She needs me within Her - that was a revelation.

Even the best idol theology can construct is not God. It is an idol, and people can hear words from an idol, either naturally or with a spirit facilitating that. That’s different from what the Lord of the universe does. That’s what He says to me. I believe Him.

Gee, how do I buff that up so it doesn’t sound arrogant?

That’s been my resistance. Traditional Christianity is more than just a little wrong, but who am I to say that? I’m just a guy. Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. That wasn’t true in 1989. Maybe I was saved then, saved once, saved forever, but I wasn’t following Jesus as my Lord. That’s where this listening to God took me very quickly, a couple of years being quick for this sort of thing.

I thought after that would come an understanding of how the church of all believers is one, one body as Paul wrote. It is not. Even now I wanted to qualify that sentence that says, “It is not,” to make it less harsh, and the Lord of the universe said, “It is not.” Man, call me a liar if you want, but that’s what He said just now and confirmed for me, and I’m not resisting this one just for the sake of your blood pressure and my public image. This one is a big deal to God. The church is nowhere near what it should be. So does it change, or does He just start over? He has started over countless times. That's something traditionalists don't understand.

That’s what happens. I’ll do anything for God. He may have to ratchet up the intensity of His direction, but I’ll do it. He’s proven that to me. What people who fear that don’t understand is that the real God is good, angry, but good. He doesn’t drive people to do evil things. People are the ones who are rightfully frightening, loose cannons that they are, not God. I have some family members who are bound to understand this at some point.

In contrast, there is this mass of Bible-believing Christians. They are so together, so uniform. They believe so many things with absolute certainty. I don’t think it makes sense if you try to put all those beliefs together at once, especially if you add science and other empirical knowledge from living one’s life to the mix. That doesn’t keep an awful lot of people from believing as one that homosexuality is an abomination to God, evolution is a lie, and abortion is murder, not just that abortion is always wrong with absolute certainty, but that abortion is murder, with no possibility of contradiction. That’s what it means to be a Christian? That’s not how I experience following Jesus, but I guess that’s my liberalism, something some conservatives think means I can know nothing about anything, especially God.

I could write a lot about what God says to me about Bible-believing Christians. I was wondering how long it would take us to get to the title I wrote before writing the rest of this. Suffice it to say that even though so many people defend “abortion is murder” as being unassailable, anyone who says that without qualification worships an idol. It may be the idol many have made of the unborn child. It may be a different, religious idol that supports saying “abortion is murder” with certainty. It is not of God. God says so. There are plenty of reasons why abortion is abortion, not murder, but the reason this slogan is not of God is that God says so, right now, to me, as He has said for some time to anyone who has the right sort of ears to hear Him. That only I hear Him in this moment doesn’t negate that this was God any more than one should say it wasn’t Jesus that Paul saw on the road to Damascus, just because no one else on that road saw Jesus. You have to know the entire context.

Does He forgive the pride and idolatries that have people who are nominally Christian running after a political and economic agenda instead of doing what God wants them to do, like help the needy, as doing so helps Jesus, instead of crucifying Him over and over and over again? No, not today. Maybe another day, maybe. God doesn’t like it that people preach that they have a contract with God’s signature on it, something like that, that promises forgiveness for everything they do wrong. There is no such contract. There is love for those willing to be a part of that love. It is free, not God’s obligation to love us, not with strings attached, but if people reject that love, then they don’t have that love, or forgiveness.

I forgive it. I forgive everyone, everyday, but I can only forgive what people did to me today or some other day. That pales in comparison to the hatred, indifference and falseness that people dish out to people other than me. Somehow I’m forever both hearing about that and feeling about that. I’m adapting to that, though. God keeps helping me, much more than I would need just for me, I would think. Be careful of giving yourself to God. He might actually need you. I’m not sure what’s in it for Him or Her, but one or more of Them certainly gets pushy some days. It’s not like many people will read this. The dilemma comes up for everyone, though. What does God want of you? Does God love you? Do you love Him? I do. I show it everyday. I think I fell in love with God in school when I gave Him credit for science in a way that I no longer believe. He didn’t even show me He knew I was alive until 20 years later. Well, maybe He did, and I was rather dim about that. He says now He would do many things differently if He were to do it again, but we’re all doing this just once. Once is enough. Another 14 billion years is not what anyone wants. Some things don’t take that long, like it didn’t take long for me to know that I can’t be married to Him, only to Her, the same God, just different. It is love for everyone to be flexible, as much as they can be.

That’s a hard one for people, how to love God. So many have no desire at all to love God as I love Him. They want to do what so many others do and call that love. It’s a free country. The love you give is the love you get. There must be another one to complete a triad. Oh well, maybe not. Maybe those two say it all.

4 pages to get to that? God says there were some other things here that needed to be said besides saying we are free to love or not, but only love is returned with love. Being certain of one’s moral definitions does not let God love you. Now it’s on the record. It’ll come up again.

A God-possessed man, what a concept. God is one Spirit, with many voices. Some come to believe that intellectually, even that God is everything and everyone. Not every voice is God, though, far from it. So many people say whatever they care to say, do whatever they care to do. The idea of the flesh and the spirit captures part of this, but there are so many ways one can move away from God, not just one, and not every spirit is God. I share my consciousness with something that has seen all of this and finds many ways to express that. It’s an amazing thing to watch, even if sometimes I wonder when She is going to get to the point. Patience, it takes time, exactly the right amount of time, more or less.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More on Matthew 25: 31-46

I’m not sure how many days in a row I’m going to be posting on this. Maybe just three.

For years I kept to the reading schedule in the back of my Bible. So I know that I repeatedly had the same reaction to these verses every February 10, which was that most Christians don’t take charity seriously, even with Matthew 25: 46 predicting eternal punishment for those who neglect the needy. There were other reminders, but I know that this one came at least once a year, and I never found a very effective way to get past this contradiction. I wrote some about it. Those who already had my view said some kind things about that. Others simply denied the problem.

Now I find myself focusing on just how sure I am that this is a problem, how something comes up everyday to make me so sure, how the causes of this problem are symptomatic of something much greater, even cosmic in scope, whether or not Matthew 25: 46 is accurate about the consequences of the problem, and how I’ve been resisting telling everything I know about this, because it seems hopeless and upsets me. People don’t even like reading about the easiest part of this, that Jesus is in the needy. They want Jesus up on that throne, saying, “we’re right and you’re wrong,” just like they do. Only if they could get past so much propaganda, they might realize they’re not ready for that at all.

Why now? As I wrote yesterday, something about this client’s plight set me off, igniting things leftover from other clients. Where are all these people who say they’re here to follow God? Where are they for what people actually need instead of so many power trips and ego trips? Then also I’ve been running into some typical anti-abortion propaganda in searching through blogs. I’ve heard the same thing for 33 years, over and over again, the same flawed and simplistic slogans, with whatever people come up with to pretend such ideas are unassailable. This is what God wants? That’s not what He says to me. I think I’ll focus on that part tomorrow.

For now, I’m going to focus on how people think it’s nice that I volunteer for the needy, but not many people have any idea how much God is involved with that. Instead it seems they think God is leading this culture war that people want to fight against abortion, homosexuality and evolution. Why? If God were leading a war, why would there be so little movement in it, just so much shouting of slogans?

All my adult life, I have helped people, first in my profession, then in volunteer work. I was going to be a research scientist until experience taught me that I was better with people than research. It didn’t seem like some profound calling. I just enjoyed doing what I was better at doing. There were also more women around that way, including the mother of my daughters.

Helping people day after day changed me, though. My life was no longer a matter of personal performance. There was love. I doubt I could have said it that simply then, but that was the thing that has grown and grown and dominates my life.

I don’t know if it’s better to say this love started from patients in their dependency on me or if it was first drawn out of me in response to people needing me, being willing to be intimate with me, to trust me. My children came along at the same time, and it was the same thing with them. Who loved whom first? With babies it’s so hard to say that they have anything beyond pure dependency, but if that draws out truly selfless love in a parent, maybe it’s best not to get too picky about making distinctions.

Some people try to see love and dependency as mutually exclusive. They might see the purest love as unconditional love from God, whom they see as not dependent on us in any way. Yet is even unconditional love at a distance a great love? Or is it love between two beings who have many dependencies on each other, maybe not for existence or identity, but to be at their best? One can have such dependencies without much love at all, but when there is truly selfless, committed, unconditional love as well as the dependencies, people are knitted together so much more powerfully. I’ve never seen that in human beings as much as I see it between God and me, over the last 20 years, maybe more.

I don’t know how to tell that story. I lived it, but life isn’t even faithfully portrayed in movies. How can words alone manage? I’d rather God tell it, if She can. Traditional Christianity has elements of that story, about father and son, about redemption, about marriage, but people get lost in translating those metaphors to this life.

I think that the best I could do would be to talk about why Jesus is in the needy, why God helps people, what is all this love about. Only I’d be speculating about so many details. God says it’s not a story for today. But if you want to get a little closer to understanding God’s love, start helping people. That’s not the only reason to do that. I touched on that before in writing “Why should I care?” in June. There are many reasons. One of them is to learn about why love is the ultimate goodness that it is. One is that God wants you to care. There are more.

Helping people is not just being nice. It is vital. And if Matthew 25: 46 is accurate, it’s much more than that. Why don’t people understand that? Many who say they believe the Bible don’t act like it on this one. And to tell them God is love is begging to be misunderstood even more. Love is not just being nice. Love can be a mother viciously and relentlessly protecting her young, sacrificing her life if need be, sacrificing His life if need be, killing her children if need be, killing His out of His love for others, even His love for those whose death is just being prolonged. I don’t think most people have any idea how far love can go. They’re too busy with lesser things. Love is not a little thing. Love is not a liberal thing.

God is love, not love as any human being imperfectly says love is, but as the real God is, whoever and whatever He is. He is His own prophet. People who fight God in favor of their idols have no idea what they’re up against. Yet God has already warned them. It is amazing to watch, as tragic as it can be.