God 101

GOD 101: The Shape Of Change

November 17, 2017

I have had periods in my life when I feel perfectly comfortable with a concept God has given me to study, but don’t know how to express it in ordinary English language.  It feels, sometimes, as though I think in one language, but speak in another. This is one of those times. If we go to church, or read the Bible to the point of knowing it, or even if we listen to sermons on television, sooner or later we run up against the wall that is God’s final day for us.  The Day of Judgment.  We might also start to wonder why or how there is going to be a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth.” So we might be able to find a kind of theme facing us down: I’m going to come and sort you all out.  Those who pass my [...]

GOD 101: From His Bookshelf, or, Watch your backs

September 29, 2017

More and more it becomes fascinating to me how old I am.  Both because most serious mystics die young (it is very hard on the body), and because I can sit quietly and trace themes and currents that have been with me all my life. One set of visions I have found mostly annoying, to be honest.  Until very recently. At a very busy point in my mystical adventures I felt a sharp poke in my mystical rib-cage.  Poke.  Sharp.  Repeated. It was the insistence that I stop what I was doing and read a certain book. Which I thought was absurd. Now I have thought God’s instructions ridiculous, even stupid, throughout my life, but this one so astounded me that I reasoned that it proved that my visions my whole life were nothing more than the [...]

GOD 101: On Belief, or Finally Managing to Get Our Shoes on the Right Feet

August 7, 2017

I have a suggestion. Before you read this, put a big, brown paper bag over your head. That way, when your head explodes from reading this, it won’t make such a mess. That someone else will have to clean up. Just trying to think of others. That’s all. Right. Ready? So, here goes. This Essay Is On Your Belief In God. Want to know what the truth is about Your Belief In God? Do you think it matters that You Believe In God? Well, if you do think this, You Are Wrong. It really doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not. What matters is if God believes in you. Take a moment. Walk around the block if you have to. I understand – really I do – Just How Important Your Belief In Your Belief In God Is To You. Really. I do. Before [...]

GOD 101: The Punishment Of God!, or not

May 28, 2017

This is a long life that we live.  Day in and day out. And given that we come here having been given not so much as a clue as to which end is up in terms of God and man, it’s a wonder we get through to the end at all. And not just combust spontaneously somewhere in the middle. From frustration. So why are we here again today? Well, it’s this frustration I have with people’s notions about God and his seemingly endless (well, he is eternal now, isn’t he) desire to Get Back At Us. When I listen to some people I get this picture of God, with his clipboards and dictates, taking it all down.  Looking it over.  Coming to an Ah Ha! about us. It brings to mind the question, Does God have a separate department for [...]

GOD 101: The Last Lesson

July 15, 2016

I was a young woman when the serious lessons began.  After my time of Rumspringa – or in my case, running away from God. Not long after I was hunted down and recaptured. Well, it wasn’t that dramatic.  But it adds a nice flourish to the story, don’t you think? It didn’t take me long to realize that the lessons weren’t like lessons in school: lessons I could apply myself to and learn easily and with a little time and effort. We’ll leave geometry out of the above equation. But, in spite of needing infinite time, patience, and the willingness to actually apply myself to these lessons, they just kept coming. The Lesson of Silence…. The Meaning of Patience…. The Lesson of Six…. The [...]

GOD 101: The Mechanics Of Love, or playing against type

November 13, 2014

“So, Joan,” he begins, leaning an elbow against a quasar.  “I’ve got this absolutely fantastic idea.” But he didn’t speak to Joan directly, did he? Instead he sent three luminous angels.  Saints, really.  But at that point in existence, what’s the difference? She was young.  So young. I remember being young. It wasn’t the content of the visions that mattered so much. It was the experience. The finding of the secret door at the back of the wardrobe and walking into a whole new land. And realizing that this whole new land was real. So did she understand what was being said to her? Really? Go lead a man’s army into battle and win the war for me. Of course.  Of course I will. It [...]

GOD 101: Finding Our Sin

October 30, 2014

This wouldn’t be the first time that I think the church has things completely backward. Back end front, and all that. Perhaps it’s the challenge of being a mystic that is at the root of this dissension. Don’t get me wrong, I think the church – any Christian church, really – does a great job in finding ways to point out to people how wrong they are. It’s just that they do this from a people perspective. And people aren’t God. This passion to point, condemn, and feel satisfied in the condemnation could be separated out into its own little sideshow and entitled, This Is Exactly What You Do That Pisses Off Others.  I think that would handle the phenomenon. And put it in its place. But the church, in [...]

GOD 101: Making Choices, or the art of right and left

September 23, 2014

It hadn’t happened in a long, long time.  That tightening of the chest.  That feeling of being crushed by the people around me.  Not by their bodies, but by their words. I went through a period of making a lot of wrong choices, one woman said, sincerely, sadly. Then there was a gabbered explanation, the pieces of it spurted up with their accompanying emotion, yoked together by our understanding of life and its circuitous ways.  Also sincere.  Also sad. The fire in my chest leapt higher; nausea, a slight presence demanding attention.  At the least, I could excuse myself and go the ladies’ room. I could leave, I knew, but I could never open my mouth. A group of women discussing the choices they have made in their lives. [...]

GOD 101: Flow And Stillness

September 9, 2014

And so I looked into the eyes of God. Not God God, exactly, but God, the Father, who had taken shape in a vision and stood there talking with me. I didn’t hear any of his words consciously, not enough to remember them, or even to remember that I heard them. I remember a few of my words.  Just a few.  Nothing of significance. But I remember looking into his eyes. And then for an instant – not even as long as it would take to take a breath – I was behind the eyes looking out. Right before that instant began, as I looked into his eyes, he had the look of confusion.  He was confused by my statement: Something is wrong with this world.  It should be safe for children to live here. And then the looking out. At me.  At you. [...]

GOD 101: The Matter Of Authority

July 3, 2014

This wasn’t what I had in mind when I contemplated writing about authority and power.  The difference.  The balance. But it’s a start. And this start itself began while sitting in church a few weeks ago.  How do we share our faith with others? And I thought, Well, whatever we are doing now, it’s either inadequate or flat-out wrong because the nonfaithful don’t appear to be interested in the least. And so, in times when I could sit and think, I counted up the ways we promote Christianity. Catholics have it different from Protestants, granted.  And so I began there. Here I was sitting in a church that has continued the tradition of not believing in the ordination of women.  To my mind, just that alone would put [...]

GOD 101: Challenged By Satan

June 17, 2014

It shouldn’t shock anyone by now that I pretty much completely disagree with the way most writers – people who describe themselves as theologians – knock together a vision of God from how he behaves in Job.  To Job.  To the rest of Job (his family, et al.)  To Satan. God messes with Satan, it seems, because he has some unresolved issues to work out, and hey, who do I have to answer to anyway?  It’s a bet.  No one really cares.  No one is really watching. It’s my Bible, and I’ll bet if I want to. Indeed. Because, like, you know, God and Satan, they’re like *this*.  Tight.  So just hangin’ is cool. Right? What’s a bet between friends? Good grief. Can we just start with a [...]

GOD 101: The Leveling Virtue Of Gratitude

May 27, 2014

I was standing at the information desk of a very busy suburban library the other day.  Next to me was a breathless nine-year-old boy, impatient with the help he was not getting from the librarian behind the counter.  The librarian, in his turn, was making a nominal effort to sift through the assorted junk in an open drawer in front of him, letting one of his fingers draw across the surface of the contents like a lover hanging his hand over the side of a boat and lightly disturbing the smooth surface of the lake. Do you really need a pencil? sighed the librarian. NO! Just an eraser!  It sounded to me as though this, to the boy, had already been explained quite clearly. I watched the librarian, who appeared even to me to have no [...]

GOD 101: The Balance Between God And Man

April 29, 2014

Increasingly these days, I have been wondering if one of the biggest problems with church attendance and even with people’s general disbelief in God is the way chest-bursting-with-pride-Christians throw out statements about God, himself; the Bible; and Christianity in general that either have no real meaning and come off as gibberish or are so off the mark that anyone with even a bit of knowledge can say, yes, but what about this?, blink, and walk away. Not sitting back and admitting that understanding all the subtleties in the Bible, in God, in religion, is more than a lifetime’s challenge, or, worse, pretending to actually have answers to everything, as though it all can be reduced to some sort of formula, like counting [...]

GOD 101: The Language Of Silence

April 1, 2014

There are times – many, I’ll admit – when I find it almost impossible to explain something about God.  The worst is the phenomenon of how God interacts with us.  God is an interactive essence, yes, but God is, still, always God. So once I came up with a challenge: take your worst beef about God, or about the way God does things, walk out into your backyard and pluck a leaf from a tree.  Doesn’t have to be the nearest tree.  Just a tree with a leaf that appeals to you. Then, go sit on a bench and have at it. Tell the leaf all about your complaint. Go ahead. You’re there.  It’s there.  What more could you ask for? (There really is no good way to insert time into a blog, is there?  Pictures, yes. [...]

GOD 101: The Grace Of Locked Doors

March 18, 2014

Throughout our lives we close doors behind us when we have a change in place, a change in heart, a change in time.  Like a river constantly flowing, even over its banks from time to time, we move and flow and change. But, for the most part, when we leave someone or something behind, the door is closed graciously and with respect.  We know that at any point ahead of us, we can go back and knock on that door.  In spite of knowing that what might be behind that door may be dramatically altered. There are times, though, when a door isn’t just closed behind us.  It’s slammed.  The welcome mat is dramatically withdrawn.  And we are made to believe that this is nowhere where we are welcome. The phenomenon of the locked door. Now [...]

GOD 101: Understanding Inscrutability

February 26, 2014

Do You Honor God? Hippolytus of Rome Translated from the Greek by Walter Mitchell Do you honor God? Do you love him —here’s the very feast for your pleasure. Are you his servant, knowing his wishes? —be glad with your Master, share his rejoicing. Are you worn down with the labor of fasting? —now is the time of your payment. The Laborers in the Vineyard For the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you [...]

GOD 101: On The Matter Of Blame

February 4, 2014

The blows to our self-esteem that concern us are the constant, insidious attacks upon our self-image from the blame that we experience every day.  Even though we don’t usually realize it consciously, our self-esteem is under a relentless bombardment of blame: blame from others; blame even from ourselves.  These internal accusations simply devastate our self-esteem, because they make us feel ashamed and guilty. (James E. Sullivan, The Good Listener) It’s the shrill cry of the atheist: Why believe in someone who just sits on his throne in Heaven and judges us? It’s the even shriller cry of our souls when we look down and see the blood of others on our hands: How can I go before God — or those around him — when I [...]

GOD 101: Love Without Pity

January 28, 2014

Recently, I figured out a way to organize the “categories” section of my blog.  As I was happily sorting through the various entries and putting them into subcategories – Raphael goes under Angels – I noticed something that I had never thought about. There were concepts that belong entirely to God.  Creation.  Death.  Final judgment.  And there were concepts that belong entire to man.  Sadness.  Motherhood.  Enemies. And, then, there they were: concepts that belong to both God and man.  Love being the biggest one I noticed. And so I felt confirmed in my “discovery” that love is not really an emotion: how could it be if there are different applications of it?  How could it be if at least one aspect of [...]

GOD 101: God, Free Will, and Evil

January 9, 2014

There are a couple of common, recurring comments that always get my eyebrows to exercise a bit. The first is when avowed atheists, those I’m-not-ashamed-to-admit-that-I-hate-God,-no-what-I-mean-is-that-I-don’t-believe-in-God-yeah-that’s-it twirling spewers of confusion who from time-to-time really go off the deep end and challenge those who they don’t like to explain why they don’t behave like Jesus. Why aren’t you good? they demand.  Why don’t you act like a Christian? It is the kind of question that sits just outside the circle of the those that can be answered. Then there is the I’m-a-theologian-except-I’ve-never-read-the-Bible,-or-go-to-church-but-I-can-tweet person who likes to [...]

GOD 101: The Imperfection Of Love

January 6, 2014

As the Ruin Falls C. S. Lewis All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you. I never had a selfless thought since I was born. I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through: I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn. Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek, I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin: I talk of love—a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek— But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin. Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack. I see the chasm. And everything you are was making My heart into a bridge by which I might get back From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking. For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains You give me are more precious than all [...]

GOD 101: Incremental Forgiveness

December 2, 2013

I have written before about the lesson of re-creation.  I’ve added a hyphen here, because the lesson is not about having fun on a beach, but of creating yourself anew. It’s about healing.  Deep healing.  Healing of wounds that have slammed into you and taken up real space in your mind and soul. It’s symbol is the number 8.  The top circle of the number represents going through the experience again with your mind.  The bottom circle of the number represents going through the experience again with your body. But it’s not like, OK, I’ll just go over this painful experience with my mind and emotions (top circle).  No, it’s a continuing process of being slammed, in little bits this time, with elements [...]

GOD 101: The Lesson Of The Rose

August 1, 2013

This is kind of a sentimental lesson for me.  It was my first, official, serious, put-into-words-so-that-you-will-understand-it lesson. My childhood visions had been more in the form of a conversation.  Albeit, a very one-sided conversation (with me not doing much of the talking).  But I did have a lot of questions.  And I did like to bend the concepts taught around a lot.  A lot. But after my few-years journey away from God (I’m on my own, now, so don’t bother me, Bubba), and ultimately finding myself smash right up against the wall that is God, a young woman now, able to get around the world on her own now.  But at every turn: God. So I surrendered.  I don’t know if I will go so far as to say [...]

GOD 101: The Problem With Prepositions

July 16, 2013

Our Father Who Art In Heaven All while I growing up, I was “taught” that the name of God was Heaven.  And this made a lot of sense to me.  For how could God, who is everything, be anywhere, even in a place called Heaven? And I came to shorten that first line into, Our Father Who Art Heaven. I was gobsmacked when as an adult I learned that ancient Hebrews also had that approach to God: that his name is Heaven.  It was such a relief, in a way, to know that my “knowledge” did not exist in a vacuum, but was shared throughout history. And, being an English major (sometimes first and foremost), the concept of limiting God to being the object of a preposition (well, actually, he’s the subject of a prepositional [...]

GOD 101: Value

May 13, 2013

I have been rooting around in a bunch of ideas lately.  And continually, my attention is drawn to just one concept: value. It’s as though I am in my garden and I keep seeing a little, shining piece of gold in the dirt, and as I shift the dirt to find it, it disappears, only to reappear again, winking at me.  A charm that’s fallen off someone’s wrist.  But doesn’t want to be reattached. It’s a fascinating concept, value.  Now that it has caught my attention, I keep finding it peeking at me wherever I go, whatever I am contemplating.  It’s there, facing me. I keep having the thought: in the end, it’s all about value. Not The End, mind you.  Just the end of whatever it is I am mulling over. [...]

GOD 101: The Importance of Being Seen

May 3, 2013

Sometimes, well, actually pretty often, I come to think that we live our lives upside down and inside out.  What we appreciate in life, I have come to think, may be just the frivolous rosettes on top of the cake’s icing. On the other hand, what is most important, I’m not sure we recognize at all. At all. I remember receiving my “last” lesson (even though it wasn’t my last lesson in time, I guess it was the last lesson in God’s manual for me).  I was in my twenties.  Fairly young to be receiving the “last” word of God, in my opinion.  Although at what age do you think a person is fit to receive anything from God, last thoughts or otherwise? Anyway. The “last” lesson goes [...]

GOD 101: Back To Basics

April 22, 2013

I have spent my entire life listening to God.  And for almost that entire time, I have been taught about the basic tenets of God’s love: three things, respect, courtesy, and gratitude.   I could run them off my tiny child’s fingers probably even before I could talk. And, for the most part, I saw this lesson as something that belonged in Every Child’s Book of Virtues, that is to say, for me it was a lesson that received something akin to, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Respect, courtesy, and gratitude. Whatever. But I found myself the other day, now gray-haired with achy knees, saying to someone else, The older I get, the more I am impressed by that seemingly simple lesson.  I can’t get over how important these three [...]

GOD 101: On The Nature Of Doors, closed and otherwise

December 7, 2012

What happens when you ask someone to talk with you about something important, and they say, no? In my world, that means a door has been closed.  The conversation will not take place. Not today.  Not tomorrow.  And if I’m true to my “way,” then not ever. I’ve been thinking a lot about the phenomena of doors recently.  Of doors that have been closed on me that I wish I had the ability to open.  Or even to have the freedom to knock on again. If I asked you again, will you speak to me, would you change your answer and say, yes? It’s a question I can’t ask.  Well, I can’t ask this question or any question like it. It’s a way of showing respect.  Not just for another person, which it [...]

GOD 101: Man’s Massive Misunderstanding of Judgment

November 27, 2012

Throughout my life I have heard the most amazing things said about God slip out of people’s mouths.  Christian people.  And I have had to stop myself quite a few times from saying, um, what are you talking about? what God are you describing?  have you ever heard of Jesus? But even when I’ve slipped one of those questions (in much more polite form) into a conversation, the response has pretty much always been, what? no! what I am saying is right! and true! And I have wondered.  And wondered.  And wondered. Where do people get such ideas? They get them from their bodies, of course. We as mortal, vulnerable, humbly created, frail, and at times feeble humans, without really knowing it, always put our bodies first in our [...]

SATURDAY READING: What Really Matters, by John Taylor Gatto

November 17, 2012

From The Plain Reader Going to the moon didn’t really matter, it turned out. I say that from the vantage point of my six decades living on Planet Earth but also because of something I saw not so long ago.  It was at Booker T. Washington High School where I watched an official astronaut, a handsome, well-built black man in his prime, dressed in a silver spacesuit, with an air of authentic command, try to get the attention of an auditorium full of Harlem teenagers.  It was the board of education’s perfect template for dramatic success — a distinguished black man leading ignorant black kids to wisdom.  He came with every tricky device and visual aid NASA could muster, yet the young audience ignored him completely.  At several places [...]

GOD 101: Instructions—The Principle Or Foundation, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

October 11, 2012

Homo creates est — creation, the making out of nothing, bringing from nothing into being: once there was nothing, then lo, this huge world was there.  How great a work of power! The loaf is made with flour; the house with bricks; the plough, the cannon, the locomotive, the warship, of iron — all of things that were before, of matter; but the world, with the flour, the grain, the wheatear, the seed, the ground, the sun, the rain; with the bricks, the clay, the earth; with the iron and the mine, the fuel and the furnace, was made from nothing.  And they are made in time and with labor, the world in no time with a word.  Man cannot create a single speck, God creates all that is besides himself. But men of genius are said to create, a [...]