Archive for May, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 5.36.22 PMFor the few I’ve told of spiritual experience, I am often queried about the grand design of the universe, even of the maker himself and the spiritual design of life.

From a space perspective, is it likely that extraterrestrial intelligences or multidimensional beings traveled across interstellar space to leave a crop circle in Jim Bob’s cornfield in nowhere Kansas? Why haven’t these interstellar life forms landed in downtown New York? I have no clue. Maybe these distant travelers wanted to save the city a huge traffic jam.

The more plausible explanation is that traveling the universe is not for the faint of heart. The real universe you see at night is 250 times bigger than Hubble Telescope’s visual capability, spanning some 14.0 billion parsecs (about 45.7 billion light years). Some stars you’ll see tonight require about 45 billion light years to get here. Thus, what you see tonight is actually a snapshot of life an infinity long ago.

For someone to say I was personally created by an all-loving God seems hard to understand, for certainly, I am not one whose life seems all that valuable. Evolutionist Neil deGrasse Tyson indicated that any notions of creationism and intelligent design ignore a fundamental and important problem—the fact that the universe, and most of the things in it, would never have been designed. No engineer would design things this way. As Tyson explains:

“Star formation is completely inefficient. Most places in the universe will kill life instantly—instantly! People say “Oh, the forces of nature are just right for life.” Excuse me. Just look at the volume of the universe where you can’t live. You will die instantly. That is not what I call the Garden of Eden, alright. … We’re on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy—gone is this beautiful spiral that we have. And of course we’re on a one-way, expanding universe as we wind down to oblivion, as the temperature of the universe approaches absolute zero.”

The inner solar system is a shooting gallery. Multi-cellular life evolved over 3.5 billion years! Empirically, that design strategy sucks. 99% of all life that ever lived is now extinct. The earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and one of Darwin’s favorites, lightning strikes has taken its toll. “None of this,” Tyson explains, “is any sign that there is a benevolent anything out there.”

If you somehow can explain that, then consider all the natural diseases, including leukemia, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, ALS and etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. Taken as a whole, the universe is against mankind.

But can there be a spiritual force?

If you are into an apparition only mentality, in 1996 a Tennessee baker charged five bucks a head to come see the “nun bun” till he got a cease-and-desist from Mother Teresa’s lawyer. Mother Mary has appeared on tree bark, the side of a glass window in San Paulo, a cheese sandwich, a building in Clearwater, Florida and countless other places.

As a Buddhist, Buddhism begins and ends in practice, not belief and doctrine. To practice Buddhist spirituality, one need not subscribe to a particular set of creedal statements. It is not necessary to believe in God or to deny the God’s existence. Buddhism does not ask those who would take its path to reject prior faith commitments or to adopt new ones. For living the holy life, says Buddhism, holding particular beliefs is not paramount. Clearly, noble persons have held all sorts of beliefs; saints have been Christian and Jewish, Muslim and Hindu, atheist and humanist. Buddhists, therefore, have no quarrel with other religions and philosophies on doctrinal and creedal issues. Because they understand the goal of the holy life to be freedom from suffering and the cultivation of compassion, Buddhists acknowledge that other perspectives and practices can genuinely mediate salvation.

However, in the wake of my spiritual experiences, while all of the above may be rationally correct, every one of us must confront the logical fallacy of claiming that any spiritual experience is impossible. While I am unwilling to give complete credence to every report, I could never found my theology upon any one single event.

So do I believe in a spiritual side of life? As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stated:

Our concern must be to live while we’re alive…to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.

Maybe there are no mistakes in life; all events are blessings given for our edification — our learning.”

House of Many RoomsThe husband of a dear friend of mine has an aggressive form of cancer. Thus, sometimes our conversations focus’ upon the inevitable trip from cancer to heaven. What’s heaven really like? What’s heaven really all about?

If I had the chance to relive any of those conversations I would say heaven is not so much a destination as it is love.

People whom are closet are the ones who love us deeply. And I know all of us, without exception, could use more time here on earth, but I believe we are very beautiful people; that we are destined to learn how to treat one another better. Once we learn that, we move forward. And the very people we are introduced too are teachers, yet during life we find ourselves both teacher and student.

Life is not about getting an award, getting applause. It’s about contributing to others. I never tire of hearing thoughts of someone’s lessons learned, regardless of how painful they are. Yet I remind everyone that regardless of what lay in heaven, each of us must concentrate on this day, this journey, this moment and this life. We all can plan ahead … but we’re forced to live today.

So I challenge each of you. Do we ever say much that’s nice? Do we ever give others our time, a time of real emotions and love. What do we do for others? When you die, who will attest to your life? And whom will attest to mine?

From a personal viewpoint, others have made some of the finest golden footprints in life. I have little to show. How many times have I uttered, “Hey! I love you.” What have I given to others? What have you given to another?

All of you who read this are all precious and loved. Everything we do matters to someone. But remember, you can’t save everyone. More than likely, God put you here to ‘be present’ in their journey of life, including success, hard times, laughter, sorrow, birth and death.

So to all who’ve seen heaven, “Is it a must see to believe dwelling?” John 14:2 states Christ exclaimed, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Maybe we need to understand is that the place Jesus prepares is more relationship oriented than a specifically a home. It is these relationships that free us from the selfishness which blocks us from God and each other. God resides within a deep, intimate and abiding relationship. That’s where He wants us to live and love.

We always seem to get lost in the home. And it was never really about the home, i.e., the structure. What makes a home is the loving relationships existing within. I don’t believe Jesus is interested in finding us a building, complete with sofa, stove, toilet and front yard. He wants us to find the specific space in our life to create the same love He has in union with the Father and Holly Spirit.

Borrowing from the Kung Fu series, we are all wanderers in a sometimes-trackless land. Yet all of us can find that which is sought, and more. There’s also something of rare value for the one who shared his journey. Could you risk the loss of such a benefit?

Real heaven is living in Holy Communion with the spirit of love. Why can’t we do this here on earth as it is done in heaven?

proof-of-heaven-232x300Another in a Continuing Series of Letters to a Friend

Dear Ms. J:

I have heard of “Proof of Heaven.” But I prefer the material of Elizabeth KüblerRoss. As a reader, her work seems more relevant than Eben Alexander‘s.

What I think about God and God’s love is that people teach us so much of life. The trick is to be present to each other, listen to each and hear their stories. While I am here to listen you, to give you the love I possibly can, your life and courage has added to my faith.

I consider it an honor and privilege to walk with you on your journey. More importantly, the question I continually ask myself (or secretly to God) is where am I helping you go?

Some inevitably ask why do I run from God? Why have I, who’s seen heaven and Christ himself run from Him? If they knew me, if they really really knew and loved me, they would understand I’m not running from Christ … I’m running toward Him.

In truth, I am a humbled man. And as a humbled man, I can learn a lot. Every encounter, every conversation, every relationship or chance meeting is infused with the opportunity to bless one another. Deep down, we know this, but we get busy, making the dollar, finding love, and figuring out life’s problems.

Many of my nights are filled with voices from the past. I hear their voices from time to time, their reminders and confessions. I pulled out some old military pictures the other day. There within the halls of time’s gone by, I secretly sit in meditation with Christ and relive those moments.

I believe we are all connected – every thought, every word, every deed. Everything has energy that lasts forever. So, I suppose we are either influencing someone in a positive manner, or a negative one.

To that end, regardless of what you may think, I find you are a wonderful person. I believe you’re beloved beyond your wildest imagination! You an honor watch, a Celebration of Life. You seem to love all unconditionally; just the way God loves us!

Having been to heaven myself, I know the only thing we take with us is the love woven into our hearts. Thus the purpose of my letter Tucson is for you …. to never doubt you are here with great purpose.  The proof of heaven lies within us, not what someone says.

Courage To Reach Beyond

Nursing HomeEast of Tucson, Arizona is a retirement and short-term rehabilitation center.  There in room 205, lay father. Ten days ago a perfectly healthy man entered the hospital to have knee replacement.  Ten days later, a man was moved to this short term rehabilitation center have having stopped breathing, a heart attached and severe reaction to OxyContin, as prescribed by the physician.

The rehab center has four main wings. There’s long-term assisted living, a retirement wing, short-term rehabilitation and the disposable. The disposable wing is home to those solitary folks too sick and frail to leave.  On one hand, they have no family, no friends or soul mates. On the other, they await the angel of death. In strange way, they are comrades who abide by regularly scheduled activities and watch people go to and fro, surfing soap operas or sports while awaiting the angel of death.

By its very nature, most shy away, with many rarely venture this wing. There’s good reason: it’s the land God forgot. On face value it’s dreary. Patients come in to this area extremely ill, with such problems as sepsis, pneumonia, cancer and pancreatitis, etc. Only the early morning sunlight creaks the slightly drawn shades. Wheelchairs line the doorways and the air is perfumed with something dissimilar to urine or stool, permeating heavily.

After settling my father in, I ventured into no man’s land.  And by having the courage, I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to revisit history and lives of others.

Twenty steps in, I met Elias, a wonderfully entertaining elderly man who worked much of his life in now defunct Arizona copper mines. After leaving the mines, Elias started a landscaping venture with his “fat overweight son.” Remaining hearty at 62, he reached down to pick up a fifty-pound bag of dirt and snapped his back. Several weeks later, he has two steel rods running parallel to his spine, with steel screws every four inches. Long abandoned by his son, his only visitors are a church pastor and nurses.

After listening Elias, Sammy interrupted with her life. Sammy to friends and Samantha to family was a former dancer, who beautifully danced moved to choirs, orchestras and modern dance. In truth, Sammy was a former exotic dancer who self admittedly said “gravity’s won” but reinvested the cash she made and lives quite comfortably sipping tea as she pleases. She was clear to note that her youthful spirit of life remained alive, even at age 68. In fact ten years ago, Sammy was dancing in her living room while dancing to Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” She performed the split but suffered damage so severe she had two hip replacements.

Aileen is the resident grey tabby cat. And according to 92 year-old socialite, Ms. Spenser, Aileen is a little tramp and much “the to do” has been made over her affair with “Buster Weeds,” that orange tabby living on the other side of the washout adjoining the property.

In my few hours, I Charlie, Sandy, Barbara, Jensen, James, Cindy, Ms. Stemson and Carl.  I learned a little of Tombstone, local history of the Apache, Bisbee, the ghosts of Bisbee, the Copper Queen Mine of Bisbee, the copper mines of Jerome, Buckskin Mountains of west-central Arizona, politics, football and baseball.

For a few hours, history came alive. Each rolled back time and history relived as fresh and beautiful.  Because many of us simply refuse to reach past our own fear, real history is missed and much of history is lost.

Kneeling in the chapel I thanked the world for the courage to reach beyond the fear…to  listen, to laugh and to love. Maybe, I just couldn’t bear to see anyone move to another world without love. I am grateful for this chance to experience the impermanence of life. I am grateful these lives will continue on in me.

The Power of You

FriendTo A Friend Who’s Hurting.

Dear Ms. J:

There is a strange coincidence to this world, where people meet people and move on, others seemingly connect for only a moment and others connect for a lifetime. You and I are seemingly uncommon, for where we previously worked, we barely knew each other and now our lives continually intertwine.

While enjoying this uncommon bond I fear my own failures will weigh upon you heavily. This is not a burden I take lightly and guarantee that while my muscles work, I search for the proper way of service to both you and our clients. In doing so, I know of many who only search for themselves, yet I search for others, wondering if that’s my greatest gift and the curse to live with … is that I will always care.

I’ll admit our work has touched me deeply. As our communications of business shift to and fro our client’s work-site I find snippets of sheer courage to engage those whom seem bitter or angry. I cannot say our last engagement was easy, for there were many fatiguing and tedious moments. Still I found courage and strength from our conversations and these conversations bolstered my commitment to press forward.

Maybe my joyful experience in working with you means I am made more vulnerable to loss. Maybe, maybe not. But I simply cannot accept that. While it’s true both of us tend to place ourselves on the altar of corporate culture, yet unlike those who treat you shamelessly, I fly simply because you put a something wonderful in-flight and I’ve found flying in your dreams a wonderful painting composed of beautiful brushstrokes of love and compassion.

The negativity of this world tends to carve that which only resembles itself. Thus everything takes upon a deadened weight, neither rich for them nor their client. They seek power over life while you seek power through the experience of living. And to this end, I could not have envisioned my own personal growth and beauty without you. Remember, you have created something exquisite and rare. You fuel the transformation of the ordinary. This is the power of you. Never forget that.

Review: All Is Lost

BoatDespair isn’t unique to sailors. Every one of us is susceptible to despair. Perhaps we’ve lost a loved one. We can’t find a job. We see our children suffer or go astray. We watch as the loves of our life are pulled inexorably away from us. We try to fight through it, but it can be so hard sometimes. We can feel as if we too are lost at sea. Alone. Powerless. Destined to float, aimless, forever.

Like Redford, all of us fight against that kind of despair, and our will to survive is often unbelievable, even inspirational. We do everything we can to live. And though All Is Lost does not specifically portray the typical Christian movie, there’s something profoundly spiritual. In the end, we need a hand from above. All of us need help. At some point, someone has to reach down and pull us from our isolation.

Most Christians believe that Redford’s saving hand was ultimately God’s. But for most of us, God often comes from those around us. Even though I survived for many years, you saved me – saved me from the continued solitary journey of life. Through your efforts, I now don’t have to live life alone. All of us must be part of the community. We need friends and family to pick us up when we’re down—sometimes literally.

Like most we encounter in life, we know little about the character. We deduce Redford was an American, male, affluent enough to undertake ocean voyage, and that he had loved ones ashore. But most of us simply don’t bother knowing the homeless dude in a back alley, the family down the street, the kid serving latte’s at Starbucks, the mail clerk, our car mechanic or sadly … even our spouse or children. And most will wander through life not caring at all.

In the end, the conversation for all of us is that final thought of acceptance, that internal conversation with our creator. Redford’s character strove for artificially created search for authenticity and challenge. It’s something all of us strive for, finding that meaningful life walk is extremely tough. But at the end of life, it’s God and you who start writing your own ending. There will be no cries of “Why me?”, “No, God!

In the end, God will extend His hand and lift us upward.

Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
~ Old Breton Prayer ~

AnnaDavid Brooks posted a wonderful editorial (Love Story) in the New York Times.

Twenty years older than Isaiah Berlin, Anna Akhmatova had been a great pre-revolutionary poet. Since 1925, the Soviets allowed her to publish nothing. Her first husband had been executed on false charges in 1921. In 1938, her son was taken prisoner. For 17 months, Akhmatova had stood outside his prison, vainly seeking news of her son.

Berlin met Akhmatova in 1945, almost by chance. The brief time spent together one long November evening was a transforming experience for both. For Akhmatova, Berlin was a “guest from the future.” This “most memorable” meeting spawned an internal love with tragic consequences: the Soviet authorities thought Berlin was a British spy. Thus, Akhmatova became concerned she’d be considered a suspected enemy.

And with that, Brooks noted, “Berlin’s life “came as close as it ever did to the still perfection of art.” He finally pulled himself away and returned to his hotel. It was 11 a.m. He flung himself on the bed and exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.

I ponder upon Isaiah’s and Anna’s love, reminiscente of my own “once-in-a-lifetime” moment, when I too exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.” I remember the beauty of her smile, the love that bore between us and the moments lived in each other’s presence. Locked within my own time-capsule, she remains beautiful today as yesterday. Four years have passed between us, she love continues to reach beyond time and touch me, molding my heart, making a more thorough, more complete the man ever imagined.

Still, many of us experience that once-in-a-lifetime love and let it go. Why? Is it because life gets in our way? Or do we implode upon our own sense of the cosmos, the love of nature or the love of God? Do we causally fling ultimate love for the here and now, only to sit upon the bench of life’s autumn morn’ and look past our wrinkles, faded hair and life regrets hoping to once more dance a ballet long past due?

Oh ye young lovers, poets and romanticists at heart, love challenges. Wanting love is not enough. You must hunger for it. To overcome it, your motivation must be absolutely compelling. You must fight time … the illusion we live forever and remember life’s limitations. Had we, many would be in love with those whom God intended.

It’s important to note that Berlin tried to visit Anna again, but was refused, as Anna worried that her son might be re-arrested for associating with an ideologically western philosopher.

So, to those suffering from loss, I can say there are little Bodhi tree revelations. What I learned of moving is rather anti-climatic. Simply put, life goes on … with or without us. I chose not to let go of my moments with her simply because many of them were so blessedly beautiful. And what she loved in me can be given unto others every day.

Listen to Anna:

        And there is warmth in his hand – 

        My Guest from the Future – a light 

        Turning left from the bridge, tonight?

So if one ever comes close to the “perfection of art,” that Promised Land of love, open it, accept it and never let it go. For the remainder, the Promised Land of love resides on the other side of your own wilderness. Are you willing to cross it to get there?