Remember that you are but a man… — In Pursuit of Mastery

About as spiritual as I have gotten lately. My thoughts on contemplating and dealing with one’s own mortality. I hope you enjoy.

~Tom – LITQM / In Pursuit of Mastery

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being […]

via Remember that you are but a man… — In Pursuit of Mastery

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Take the Red Pill…Church

Morpheus: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain–but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. There’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I am talking about?

Neo: The Matrix.

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

Neo: Yes.

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

The Matrix, 1999

 

Maybe you, too, are here because you know something. Whether a leader or layperson, something is bothering you about church, about the system.

The emotionally manipulative song lists and endorphin inducing mini-concerts…

The threats of disaster or promises of blessing all depending on if you give or not…

The sermons catering to those who have the most influence or money…

The skirting around issues in order to protect the organization’s 501(c)3 non-profit status…

The “borrowing” of other pastor’s sermons…

The “spontaneous” baptisms…

The multiple “sermon series”…

The “five steps to Godliness” or “seven steps to answered prayers”…

The glazed eye look of most men in the church…

The pastor worship…

The lip service to the Cross…

The lip service to the Work of Christ…

The lip service to the “power of the Spirit”…

The pressure on teens and young adults to be “world changers” and “leaders”…

The obsession with Old Testament preaching…

The glossing over of the New…

When you have questions, you are told to get in line…

If you persist, you are divisive…

Deep down, you know of what I speak.

Deep down. You know.

 

Like Trinity speaking to Neo, there is a Question driving you to this place. You know the question, just as I did.

Is this it? Is there a better way? 

You are not alone.

A close friend of mine has been putting together something quite interesting. Something to give the “disenfranchised, disillusioned & ex-ministry leaders a roadmap for moving forward”. It’s going to cover a lot of ground and from speaking with him, it sounds like something that is needed. Yes, even I am interested in it.

I think it even has the potential to help those, like me, who are barely hanging on to their faith by a thread.

It might be just what you are looking for, too.

Take the Red Pill.

Adam & Eve: Legends of The Fall

Or… “Things I’ve been wrestling with lately.”

One of the oldest questions regarding the tale of Adam and Eve and the fall has got to be, “Why?”. More specifically, “Why did God, the perfect being, create imperfect beings in the first place that He knew would betray Him with seemingly very little coercion and then doom all of mankind?”

The answer of choice or free-will in the context of, “Well, God wanted mankind to have free will, so they could choose between good and evil.” makes it seem like they were set up to fail from the get-go when you simply ask, “Why wouldn’t God spend a little more time with Adam and Eve; teaching them about the treachery of the enemy and his ability to manipulate and twist words, cause division and then teach them about their own weaknesses so they would be prepared to defeat him?” As far as the book of Genesis is concerned, we don’t have any record, to my limited knowledge of that actually happening. He spends some time with them and just says, “Hey, don’t eat from that tree or you’ll die.” by way of instruction, and that’s it.

The answer that God planned it that way so he could show off his Glory through Christ makes about as much sense. Besides sounding absolutely terrible, basically He allows four thousand years of tragedy, betrayal, heartbreak, sin, death and destruction, etc., so He can then redeem and save mankind and show off how good he is?

I feel terrible having these thoughts. At first glance, I feel like I am putting God on trial and that I am a heretic, doomed for Hell. Who am I to question a Holy and Righteous God, the ultimate Perfect Being? Why can’t I let God be God and just accept what is written for us and obey? I just can’t. Sometimes I feel like I swing between Atheism and Christianity like I was a kid at on a playground.

As someone who feels this, believe me when I tell you that I still want to believe. To use an analogy from this current Christmas season, its like the kid speaking to the hobo ghost on top of the Polar Express.

“What is your persuasion on the Big Man, since you brought him up?”

“Well, I want to believe…but..”

“But! You don’t want to be bamboozled. You don’t want to be led down the primrose path! You don’t want to be conned or duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes, hoodwinked. You don’t want to be taken for a ride, railroaded! Seeing is believing…am I right?”

“But what about this train?”

“What about it?”

“We’re all really going to the North Pole, aren’t we?”

“Aren’t we?”

“Are you saying that this is all just a…a dream?”

“You said it, kid! Not me…”

I feel like this train called Life is going somewhere. I still believe there is more to this life and that the destination called Death that we all are approaching together is a gateway.

But it’s hard.

So, back to Adam, Eve and God.

In all of this, the question beyond the question isn’t “Why does God let bad things happen?” Although a valid question to wrestle with, the question beyond that, I believe is something along the lines of, “Do we really have an accurate picture of what happened?”

I believe God is misrepresented. We attribute to Him some of the most idiotic and horrific shit. Misrepresentation must be a part of the answer.

Maybe the purpose of the story of Adam and Eve is similar to other stories and legends: to reveal truths about humanity.

Just a thought.

So, I won’t unwind this onion any further. This is just the layer I wanted to reveal today.

Can I accept the story of the Fall at face value? Not anymore, I used to, but not anymore.

I believe there is more to it than that.

I believe there is more to God than that.

I hope so, at least.

Among the Barbarians…

I’m done. Finally. The withdrawal period from Churchianity ran its course awhile ago.

If your church teaches things I don’t agree with, I don’t care. You will believe what you want to believe and you will see what you want to see. I no longer feel a need to create a blog post regarding something that I see as “incorrect” with the church. I no longer feel the urge to engage in an argument over the same stuff all the time on Facebook. What’s funny to me is that I notice people still argue over the same things: tithing, worship, dress code, alcohol, cussing, legalism, etc., ad infinitum.

Literally, same shit, different day.

It reminds me of the song lyrics of “What it’s worth” which go, “Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, hooray for our side”. That’s what it feels like and I just don’t care anymore. It’s a big joke and I’m not laughing anymore. Not even going to listen to the same old lines.

Literally zero fucks given.

 

Here’s the thing: I want the real thing. The real Christianity. I haven’t found it. I’ve seen glimmers of it, like the sun being reflected off the water in a fast flowing stream. Here one moment, gone the next, here again, gone again. The closest thing I have come to in regards to a real “picture” of our Lord and Savior, our Elder Brother, our One True Reflection of the Father, is in the book “Beautiful Outlaw” and in the audio series “The Life of Jesus”, both by John Eldredge. On the whole, they are a “retelling” of the Gospels. It’s the most riveting description of Jesus that makes me want the real thing. I’m not saying it’s 100% accurate, either. There are things I don’t necessarily agree with him on in his writings, or teachings, however he has been a great help over the years. This isn’t a book review. This isn’t even to praise John Eldredge. I mention those things here on the off-chance that you even care about what I am getting at.

You see, I don’t see that Jesus being discussed and shared in the Institutional Church. When I was a leader, I tried to bring that Jesus in. Some took to it, the majority didn’t. They wanted gentle lover, school boy, creepy religious Jesus. Enough, it’s not about that.

Inside and outside the Institutional Church has profited me about the same, spiritually, within being outside profiting me slightly more. Why? All I know is that I know enough to know that I have more planks in my eyes than I thought I did when I was in the IC.

Let me try it this way.

The early converts to Christianity from Ireland used to call the Holy Spirit, ‘The Wild Goose’. Because the call of the Wild Goose was haunting and to follow it over the moors and foggy areas into the Wild could be dangerous. Forgive me if I am slightly inaccurate here, just stay with me. In ancient Greece, the term “barbarian” could refer to anyone of a different culture. In Roman times, it was used for many peoples, Germanics, Celts and Gauls to name a few. They were the people “outside” the protection and borders of the empire. Outside the city gates.

Those outside the gates of the IC are barbarians.

I don’t hear any semblance of the call of the Wild Goose inside the borders of the “kingdom” of the IC. Once outside the city walls and in barbarian territory, venturing ever outward, away from the IC, I could barely, barely hear it carried on the wind.

Does the word picture make sense?

I want the real thing. The real Jesus of Nazareth. I know more “of” Him than I actually “know” Him. Do you know him or are you just leaning on your theological degree, or your latest euphoric worship experience? Just because we know His words in the Gospels doesn’t mean we know him. Do you know him like you know your best friend, or your close neighbor, or your brother?

Isn’t that the offer? To know Him?

Why would He say, “I never knew you.”, if that wasn’t the offer.

And honestly, it should scare the living shit out of us that we do not know Him!

I think I am looking for a different kingdom, a different city. Where the battle hardened soldier and the young choir boy can agree on the character and nature of Christ, because they know Him. Where the career criminal and the old lady who sits in the second row of your church can relate to each other about their experience of Jesus, because they know Him.

It’s probably out there, amid the lands of the barbarians. And I am content being out here in the wild, among barbarians for now. To paint another word picture: Their lives are unfettered, their communities are close-knit, their words are true, their mead is good, their feasting is magnificent and their tattoos are pretty damn epic.

The truth is that none of us escape this life alive. The only one that we know of that has come back from the grave is the one we place our mustard seed of faith in. And all we know is that He is preparing a place for us.

That’s it.

You and I have to deal with this black wall of Mortality that creeps ever closer to us each and every day. Not a single one of us knows the day that we will meet our end. We just know it’s coming. And if we are truly honest with each other and ourselves. We would admit that none of us, not a single one, can see past that curtain. You don’t get to. I personally suspect anyone who boasts of being able to see through that curtain as trying to manipulate or sell me something.

If He truly is preparing a place for us, then we need to know him. Really know him. He would be our only glimpse of what is over there and only because He came back.

I can’t settle for anything less than actually knowing Him.

Really.

I can’t waste my time on anything less.

I won’t.

Easter Morning 

He sat looking out of his window on Easter morning. “Holy”days had began to come and go without notice and time had passed. He was older now, much older, spending the years trying to live a life worth living. Fighting, striving, pursuing, reaching, attaining and moving on to the next goal.After all these years of being unplugged, a small part of him ached for he old way. The show, the concert, the participants. Even if it was all it was, a show. 

Too late for that now.

The rain fell, meeting the ground below him. Raindrops occasionally having their trajectory changed by the wind met his windowpane with gentle taps. The house was quiet save for the rain.

He thought on death, as he found himself doing at least weekly.

“Is this all there really is?” 
“Is there more?”

He had acknowledged years before that, despite what faith he had, he could not see past his own death. Some, maybe more “faithful” than he, would say that they could see heaven or some other nonsense. But he couldn’t. It was just black.

Blackness.

Not of hell or torment. Just black.

Like a wall, barring him from seeing the other side.

He accepted this as it is. Mortals do not get to see beyond that wall. It defeats the purpose. You must accept death as inevitable and move ever closer to that wall day after day.

But what of The Man? His thoughts would always drift there. The Friend, The One. His heart could not let go of Him no matter how much he faced. This one that had so long ago broken back through the wall. Or at least that’s what the tales said.

That is what his heart had accepted long ago.

And that was his only link. His only lifeline that reconciled whatever was beyond the wall to his life now.

Most times he felt like that lifeline was as frail as a child’s kite string. But it held. Was he holding on to it, or was it fastened tight to him? He couldn’t tell. But it was the only thing anchoring him to The Friend. But it was there, as always. No matter where his thoughts and actions took him, the line was always there.

“Is it still true?”

The man bowed his head and spoke from deep within his heart, words barely audible. There was no great vision, no angels, no light from heaven. Just the rain and the words to his Friend.

He breathed in deep and let out a sigh as he stood from his chair and walked into his kitchen for a few moments. Coming back, he kneeled before the window and looked out at the beauty of the morning. In his right hand was a piece of bread, torn from a pre sliced loaf in his fridge. In his left was a cup of water.

In the quiet of the morning, before the rest of the household woke up. He kneeled there with his Friend and acknowledged Him once again.

“this is Your body, that was broken for me, I take this and remember You… This is your blood that was spilled for me, I take this and remember you…”