Thursday, September 19, 2013

Suchness and Is-ness is Serious Business

I'm not a Buddhist, but I like the things many of them say, and I like the way they think. The teachings of Zen and other walks of Buddhism have a ton of treasures for those of us who may not subscribe to the totality. Recently, I have been--how to articulate this--overcome spiritually with new ideas. The thing about these new ideas, is they were a lot like older thoughts I had, but I just didn't know what to call them. The idea of 'Thin Places' from Celtic Christian mysticism, places where heaven and earth are just a little closer than in other places, that's something I'd always known to be true, I just didn't know what it was called. I'm still reading everything I can about 'thin places,' because I think it's going to be a life changing discovery. Another topic I'm working through now is the Buddhist concept of tathatā, or "suchness." The fellas over at wikipedia define it as, "the appreciation of the true nature of reality at any given moment." 

This recognition of the beauty of reality while at the same time understanding moments as fleeting and precious is a beautiful teaching, and one we Westerners need desperately. Life is as short and as long as this breath, we can't take it for granted. Finding the connection to the beauty of a flower or tree with your own suchness is an all-important step towards Truth.

The Truth is that God is in all things, waiting for you to see Him. Maybe He sets the bush on fire to get your attention, but maybe He's in the bush already, waiting for you to notice. Normal, non-burning, bushes are extraordinary in their own right. The more you see God in the external world, the closer you get to seeing Him in the internal world--you. 

Christian thinkers have been on this for a long time. One of my favorite, Meister Eckhart, said: “What is life? God’s being is my life. If my life is God’s being, then God’s existence must be my existence and God’s is-ness is my is-ness, neither less nor more.” 

God's is-ness is my is-ness.

This is what inviting "Jesus to live in your heart" must mean. He's there, but maybe He has been all along and we just fail to notice Him. Grace isn't invasive, but it is powerful. Once you stop resisting Grace, it seems to find its way everywhere, and you start seeing it everywhere. Once you stop waiting for God to do the miraculous, you start realizing He is doing the miraculous.

I'm reading a book called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and it is challenging, encouraging, and rearranging my mind. In it, he writes, "To be aware and alert to the presence of God manifested in a piece of music heard on the car radio, a daffodil, a kiss, an encouraging word from a friend, a thunderstorm, a newborn baby, a sunrise or sunset, a rainbow, or the magnificent lines on the face of an old lobster fisherman requires an inner freedom from self created through prayer. Gratefulness is born of a prayerfulness that helps us notice the magnalia Dei, the marvels of God—the crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar and fire, and so forth." 

One Zen master wrote, "People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle."

In everywhere we look, in everyone we meet, in every blade of grass, we find God. We appreciate the suchness of life, the reality of Truth as it suffocates us in a big hug. The sights and smells of the world add to the experience of God in everything. The same God who created all things, and is in all things, and holds all things together loves you so much to make flowers pretty. The universe displays God's glory, and You are the fullest expression of God's glory--the glory of The Lord which was revealed in the coming of His Son who exists in the same person and of the same substance as God who loves you enough to make cool breezes on hot days. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

God is not mad: What I believe about jesus and Why it's Important

I think we have entered into a strange time in American Christianity. I know that isn't a super revolutionary thought or a new idea, but I really think if we take the time to assess the landscape of our faith we will notice how bizarre it has all become. 

In America, politics and sports are beginning to become so similar people cheer for political parties the way they do NFL teams--with no regard for policies or morality, but simply judging success on wins and losses. This stinks. It stinks because allegiances to political parties at the expense of the common good is moronic. It stinks because nothing can get done in a representative democracy as long as no one is willing to work with members of the other "team." It stinks because it is seeping into our spirituality.

I'm noticing a celebrity-worship culture brewing in modern Christianity. People are becoming followers of this one guy or that guy and saying everything the other guy says is crap because he isn't on our team. People only buy books written by people they already agree with and criticize the things the other side writes without ever reading a page of the very book they are criticizing. That's intentional ignorance! You can't abandon reason and logic just because your "leader" says this other author is a "heretic." 

I have several friends who have come from a place where they felt God was mad at them. This is troubling to me. It's troubling because of what I KNOW God to be. George Macdonald, an author who influenced the life and work of C.S. Lewis once said that he believed that God is just like Jesus. Think about that statement. God is just like Jesus.

Why is that controversial?

Why is that revolutionary?

Why would I even blog about that statement?

Because too many of us are convinced Jesus snuck out of heaven to save us from angry Mr. God, who would rather kill us all than let us into His presence. Why do we think that? Because there are a lot of people (some of them really smart people) who make a lot of money writing about how we should live in fear of God's holy wrath and how we should consider ourselves lucky because Jesus saved us from this wrath which God is going to pour out on all the poor jokers who weren't picked to be in the club in the first place.

I believe that God is just like Jesus.

Jesus loved everyone He came across. Jesus looked at a man being executed for his criminal lifestyle and told Him "see ya in Heaven, brah." Jesus asked God to forgive the people who were killing Him. Dallas Willard once said to a room I was in, "Don't be surprised to see those Roman soldiers in heaven." Jesus breaks down walls between heaven and earth, heaven and hell, good and bad, slave and free, Jew and Gentile, because HE LOVES US. Christ's love for us is the motivating factor--the gas in the engine--of everything He does. 

I believe God is just like Jesus.

God's motivating factor is His inexplicable, downright silly love for creatures who resist His grace and love every single day of their lives. He loves us. I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that I have been overcome by this Love and have come to know it on a personal level. It is deep and rich, thick and bold, it smells and feels and is vivid and fills up all of my senses all of the time. God's love for me is the only thing I really know. It doesn't make any sense, but it comforts me. I can't figure out why anyone, much less the Infinite and Immortal One would love me, but HE DOES. 

And He LOVES you. He loves the snot out of you. Don't try to reason with this love. It's a tidal wave of grace and your insecurities are the last palm trees blowing in the wind. He loves you. He isn't mad at you. He probably should be, but He isn't: Grace. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.