All Articles by everett

46 Articles

All Articles by everett

3 Articles

prayer is not a “Let me tell you what I need for you to do, God.”

It has been noted that prayer is not a “Let me tell you what I need for you to do, God.”

No. Prayer is relationship. Prayer is relationship where you listen as well as speak. It’s called sharing. You don’t have to be religious to enter into a relationship with God through prayer. When we “say a prayer” we are really saying “May you and I draw close together. Speak and I will listen. Knock and I will open the door of my heart and let you in.” It is my experience that God honors that desire for relationship because it is what God wants too. I am convinced of that.

Now, here is something for you. The prayer called the Lord’s Prayer starts out calling God “Father.”

“Our Father” Since Jesus taught this prayer, He is reminding us that God is His Father and ours. So that makes Jesus our brother. Well that’s cool. But, so what.  Again, it goes back to relationship. While many of us have grown up without a father or have had a bad relationship with our father, the point still remains: God is like a good father. Keep in mind, God is not a person so the reference only goes so far. We do not know God or where God is. Truthfully, God is neither male nor female. Jesus is talking about relationship.

A good father cares. A good father does not dictate. A good father is there for you. A good father goes for a walk with you. A good father will hug you. Yes, these are my words, but I think they speak.

The point still remains. God, whom we cannot see is like an ideal parent. Jesus could have said “Our Mother who is in heaven.” You see, the point still remains. Approach God as someone who cares, who is not aloof or unapproachable. Within reason, if you have a better image of someone whom you can approach, who wants to enter relationship with you, go ahead and use that person’s name. We need to move away from gender. God is not made in our image. We are made in God’s image.

And the place called heaven. Sorry folks, but heaven is not “up there.” The Hubble telescope proves that. Wherever God is, God is. It is from wherever God is that God approaches us. We know that because in the person of Jesus, God lived in our space, experienced what we experience, completely and wholly as one of us.

Wow!

Prayer is relationship rather than request

Prayer is relationship rather than request

One thing I have spoken of over and over in my blogs is that God is real even though we do not have the capacity to know God as we might know another person; that this real God seeks relationship with us who seek a relationship with God. Recall that within every human being there is a hole deep down in our souls searching to connect with this God we know exists. Relationship between wherever God is and wherever you and I may be is universal. It just takes different forms in each person.

Prayer is crucial to this relationship. Many think prayer is something only religious people do predominantly in Church. NO! For many people, prayer is asking God to do something for us; telling God what we need and what we want God to do. It could be to keep us safe, keep us well, may we have enough to live nicely, be happy and secure. While it is certainly OK to express where we are in our life to God who wants to know, you will miss something about prayer if you just leave it there.

Prayer is about relationship. About opening and being open. About being quiet in your head and just listening with the heart rather than the head. It is about entering the deepest relationship of your life and one that will walk with you no matter what happens to you. But like any relationship, you have to work at it.

In your personal relationships you have friends. What makes a friendship happen is relationship and relationships happen when we spend time together and talk. Relationships happen because there is an opening up of ourselves to another. We listen and are listened to. I call it “connect.” “Connect” happens when two people put out their empty hearts and hold each other.

That is what happens in prayer. We are held by the God we want to hold. It is all about approaching one another because there is a desire and the door is open.

Stay tuned for more.

Personal Emptiness

One of the great Christian Mystics spoke something that blows my mind every time I think about it.He said that each person is created by God piece by piece; like putting together a puzzle. In a way, upon self-reflection it does seem like as persons we have many “pieces” which, when they all work together, make for a good time.

He went on to say this which is what blows my mind: Yes, God put the pieces of the puzzle called you together but God kept one piece so that we will forever seek to find it. Call it the “God piece”.

As a result, there is a deep hole inside all of us and God holds the piece which we know we lack. I have personally come to the conclusion that the search for God, the missing piece, to fill the hole inside, is universal. It does not matter what God you worship or whether you believe at all — but within each of us there is an emptiness.

We try to fill it in all sorts of ways. We try to answer the deep human search to be whole — to “connect” with God by making, to fill the hole, by making our own gods (small “g”). You know who the gods are that you have created; that are easier to see and thereby connect with. We all do it. It is because of this piece we desperately seek. We make our own gods and worship them. Or we act in such a way that we hint to others “please tell me how great I am. Then I will have arrived. No more hole inside. Search over.”

There are times I wish this were personally true.

Ever been lost?

Before we can get what GRACE is all about, we must explore some things first.

Have you ever wandered off course?

 I used to skipper sail boats when I was young. It is so easy to know where you are supposed to go — to be headed in the “right direction” — but over time, unknown to you, you begin to wander off the course you had set. This happens because I lose my attention to what I know I must do. To “wander off” means to know what’s what and where you need to go, but you don’t do it. Then all of a sudden you wake up to the reality you are not where you want to be. But here is the point. While you wander away from the course, there is really nothing that speaks to you and says “Whoa. You are wandering off course.”

OK. As humans with the ability to step aside and look at ourselves and where we are, we often say, “that is what I must be” or “That is what I need to make me happy.” or “that is the path I must follow.”  These change from time to time as we experience life. But what happens is that we wander towards those things as if we belong to them; as if they rule our lives.

We wander away from the path toward the God we hunger relationship with towards those gods we make that are easier to see and therefore make us feel good and proud. We bow before them, if you will. Because they work. Or so we think. Before you know it, that deep down hunger seems to disappear. Seems! To disappear.

No. It has just gone underground. We ease God out of our lives bit by bit; self-made god by self-made god. Before you know it, we have wandered far from the path we know we need to be on.

It is very easy to get very lost.

Are you?

Really? Be nice. Keep God happy. Get a place in heaven.

Let me begin with a question. Do we do nice things to each other just because? The answer is: Of Course!

What about people we don’t like? Or we know do not like us? What about people who mouth off about our life style, or attitudes, or values? What about forgiveness? How do we do that?

First of all, consider this. I know for a fact (because I have heard it said many times) that the reason many people do nice and good things is because it makes them feel good. I have also heard it said, –more than once—that a lot of people do nice things because it pleases God. The underlying assumption here is that we need to earn heaven by what we do — if that were even possible.

Here’s a thought. We don’t have to make or keep God happy. Don’t worry about earning heaven.

You may think me crazy (you would not be the first) but my faith tells me that when the God we cannot know joined us in our realm of experience as a real human being amongst real human beings, it was to bring heaven to earth right now. It is so easy to see God as judgmental and demanding, whose favor we have to win rather than the God who chose to leave wherever it is that God lives and come into our existence for the sole reason of connecting with us where we are. In the person of Jesus (according to the faith I adhere to) God was no longer limited to wherever God hides — that we have to wait until we die to enter. No, in the person of Jesus heaven and earth are united once and for all. In the person of Jesus God makes it clear that God wants in to where we are right now. You don’t have to wait until a later date.

Now here is the point. We do not deserve heaven. We cannot earn it either. Yet we have access to it right now. What a nice thing God chose to do for us. There is no way we deserve that presence even though it is what we seek. In Jesus God opened God’s arms and said “Enter relationship with me,” “I am with you,” “NOW”

So. Maybe we do “nice” things for others because God did them to us.

As if to say on the personal level, “God has given me heaven now by God’s presence with me in my experience.” “So I will be present to you, now, in your experience, whether I like you or not. I do to you what God has done to me.”

Stay tuned. We will take a look at forgiveness in two weeks.

Check back.

If God said it was “good”, how can I call another person “bad”?

In the creation story, as the story goes, the Creator said seven times “It is good,” referring to that which the Creator created.

Some people think Creation is God, that Creation reveals the nature and reality of God. While a beautiful sunset or a jumping dolphin can reveal the beauty of Creation, it must be noted that Creation is not God but the creation of a God who then steps back from it and calls it “good.” It is as if to look at a painting I painted and to say “wow, it is good.” That painting may reveal I exist, but that painting is not me.

It is the same thing with creation. God created it and then stepped back to say “it is good.” So, if creation is good, who am I or you to call it bad? Things may not go my way. I may have some things not work out right even when I try to live morally. Tragedy does happen. But that does not deny the goodness of Creation. Whenever I say in my heart that someone is not good — do I not close my eyes to what God said?

Whatever makes people do evil does not deny the fact that they are, like you and me, created good. Often what makes people do evil are the actions of someone else. I am not sure we can just say, “so and so is just born an evil person” for whatever reason we choose.

Ponder this then: Whenever you feel rising within you the urge to denigrate another human being for whatever reason may seem important to you, step back a moment and remember what God said about Creation.

Are you really who you like to think you are

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to learn where your limits are. Put another way, there comes those times when you learn who you really are and are not.

Each one of us likes to believe we can do whatever we want when we put our minds to it — that there are no limits when we apply ourselves.

I cannot go there anymore. My faith does not let me. Why? Because no one is equipped to be whatever they want to be or do whatever they want to do. This is because each person has certain gifts, talents, proclivities to do this but not that. The truth is to live with yourself in an open, honest and accepting way so that you can learn what those gifts are.

But here is the rub. It’s a common problem. Very often we get this notion that we need to be this or that. We get this notion mainly from the culture we live in: “X trait is better than y because I will shine more, it will set me apart from other people. If I am viewed is a certain way of my choosing, all will be well and good.”  Yes you will be satisfied if what you think you should be to succeed is really who you are. If not, you may be happy, successful, and maybe even famous. But you will also be very empty.

Sometimes the “who” God made us to be — and yes I mean it that way — is not the “who” we think should be. When I was called by God to enter the Priesthood in the Episcopal Church it was totally contrary to what I thought I wanted to be. Above and beyond that, I was petrified of public speaking. What was I to do.

Only one thing I could do. If I was going to be that which God created me to be, I would have to trust God’s grace to do it and not give into the fears I was letting define my life. And that is what I did.

 

Am I really who I like to think I am in my relationship with you and God?

As a nation, I submit, we are in a dark moment right now. Why?

Could it be that we are too consumed with our selves? In the Gospel, the witness to God-Come-Down-in-the-person-of-Jesus, we hear it said we must sell all we have to live a life of peace with God. I take that to mean we need to let go of who we think we are or who we think other people think we are and back off this notion that I know fully who I am; that I am invested totally in my self and that is all that matters.

None of us are ever totally aware of who we are. Things happen. Life has changes. We change. None of us are the way we were ten to fifteen years ago. None of us! Unless you are so self-centered that who you are right now is who you have always been and will always be. There is dynamism to life that in turn creates dynamism in who we call the self.

When Jesus says sell all you have so you may enter that relationship with God that God wants with you, Jesus is saying let go of our fixated sense of self and be open to change; open to the indwelling presence of God and open to others. You see, when I am so sure I know who I am, I draw big lines between you and the “me” I like to think I am. If you are not like “me” forget it. That’s the issue. None of us knows 100% who we are 100% of the time.

So. Why not set aside what I think is “my self, me” and make space for grace; take my self off the God throne and put the One who created me and you on it instead. And then be my self as I learn more and more as life progresses.

This openness, this tenderness towards my own self- identity will open me up to you. If I am learning to know who I am, then I can do the same with you. As I let my self be, I can let you be. And then we can be open to relationship. Not closed behind some sense of rigid identity but open to relationship with myself, my God, and my fellow human beings.

Heaven may not be where you think, part 2.

Where is heaven?, you ask. Well, heaven may not be where you think.

Jesus, fully the person of God, stood many times in front of his Disciples and said, “Do you not see who is standing right in front of you?” The point being that this human being, just like them in every way, was also the God who created everything there is and until that moment chose to stay distant from the creation God created. It was God standing there in the person of Jesus. God-come-down.

When God chose to leave his happy house to come down and enter our environment as one of us, something tremendously new began. No longer isolated hidden away in wherever it is that God “hides,” that same God now had to buy bagels where everybody else bought bagels. So if by “heaven” we mean being in the presence of God, well guess where heaven than must be with Jesus amongst us.

For many “heaven” is a place where you have to present credentials in order to get through the gate. There are standards which if not met, deny you entrance to heaven. The problem is, and let us be absolutely clear here; those standards are out of our ability to reach them. For instance none of us live towards others with the Grace God lives towards us and calls us to go and do the same. So. There you have it. Truth be told if heaven is “up there” and we have to buy our way to heaven, we are all left outside the gate. Some people may call this hell, but I can’t go there and I’ll tell you why.

I cannot believe the God who revealed great Grace towards us by coming to live as one of us amongst us would say “Go to hell.” More than that, this is the God who raised Jesus from the dead that you and I put him to because he challenged the gods we make and bow down to, this is the God who said “Hello. You may ease me out of your life but I am not leaving.” That, my friends, is what the Resurrection is all about: the continuing presence of God in spite of our actions. This is a long winded answer to the question about hell. Given all this I do not see how the God we are called to open our hearts to would say “Get lost.” It is called forgiveness and I believe from the core of my soul that forgiveness is what God is about in the Resurrection of Jesus. And let us never forget that God’s presence continued through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Let me tell you. No matter where you may be in your lives, no matter how far you may have drifted away, heaven is still here waiting for you now.

So. Maybe the way we enter heaven, if you will, is lighten up our felt need to earn heaven. Maybe what we need to do is open our hungry hearts and knock at the door and enter the presence of the God within us that we deeply seek.

Where is heaven you ask? Right here, Right now. You don’t have to wait until you die. It is your’s to enter right now.

Must I do good to gain a seat in heaven when I die?

I do good to others to gain a seat in heaven!

Many people believe God’s presence must be won by good deeds. In fact, many faith communities still teach this. It is as if you have to buy and pay for God’s abiding presence with you. After all, God can be bribed, right? Or at least so the thinking goes. One can only wonder, then, if we have to earn God’s presence now so that we will be assured of God’s presence with us when we die.

Does this all mean that God is not present with us now while we are alive?  Where is God while we are alive? Not here? Hiding? Asleep? Uncaring? Judging? Are we alone on our journey? That’s it isn’t it. Who cares what happens when we die? There is no God then or now. And if there is, I must earn God’s gracious favor. Utterly alone. Nothing but our own desires, plans, talents, drive. If we are lucky we have friends. But there is nothing else while we are alive. That’s it, isn’t it? Depressing.

If that is what you believe, let me offer you something else. God’s choice to live amongst us as totally one of us in the person of Jesus says something about this thing we call God. It says God chooses to be here. With you. With me. With us.

When Jesus was crucified by our inability to really see who he was, it looked like there was no hope for God’s presence ever again. Gone. For good. Bye bye. Nada! Nice while it lasted.

But God was not finished. God decided to keep coming into our world through your heart and mine if and when we open them up. We say the spirit of a person reveals that person’s presence with us. A spirited conversation is one where two people are present one with the other.

In the same way, God chooses to continue entering our lives through the Holy Spirit which entered the hearts of people who open them up to God’s abiding presence. It happened back then and it continues to happen now. God is present. Many hearts have been touched. “Aha. Now I see what I have sought all along. God is here. Heaven is right here, Right now.