Friday, December 19, 2014

A God of Love

I almost quite doing my blog last night.  All I wanted was to close the door to everything, curl up in a little ball and let the world pass me by.  I'm tired of religion, every aspect of it: tired of leaving mine, tired of talking to people about it, tired of hearing about theirs, tired of being asked questions, tired of thinking about it, tired, tired, tired.  Can I just say this has been a hard year.  Good-bye to 2014, the year from Hell.  Good-bye to you! 

So why am I sitting at my computer this morning?  ...why... because I can't let go of God.  And I frankly don't care who God is, male, female, a spirit, the trinity, three separate beings, I don't care, because until I die, I won't really know.  So, I'm just sticking with what I do know...God is love.  And when we miss that, we miss it all!  Who knew those four adorable mop heads with British accents held the answer all along..."all you need is love." 

There's something about God that I just can't give up on... and it's love.

That's my story and I sticking to it!  That's the God I know and that's the God I will defend.  Here's the kicker though, love isn't easy.   Like Christ said, its easy to love those that love you, but others it's a bit more difficult.  But, and here's the good part... when you know love is the answer, at least you know which direction you need to go, and that's half the battle!  The other half is actually doing it;  that's hard and God knows it, so this life gives us PLENTY of opportunities to learn it.  And when we fail because pride gets in the way, and we become miserable, we can turn to love and dig our way out of the mess that we created, and try again.  Always try again, and again, and again! 

Many years ago, I had this most adorable friend named Grace.  She was my next door neighbor and 30 years older then me.  I loved her; we had so much fun together!  Grace had the best sense of humor, we laugh and laugh, and Grace had style, let me tell you she had style.  She was just one of those rare gems that comes into your life and adds a spark that you cherish forever, and even though I moved a few miles away, we still remained good friends.

A couple of years into our friendship, Grace was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  We went to the doctors appointments together, I was by her side through chemo, she went into a short remission and then the end came.  My spark was gone, this adorable, full of life person was gone.

We had a neighbor named Natalie that was also our friend.  Sometimes we would have little luncheons at our houses.  One day, after Grace had passed away, Natalie stopped by my house.  I invited her in and we sat and talked about Grace.  Natalie seemed very emotional during our conversation and I wasn't quite getting what she was trying to tell to me.  (Oh...let me explain before I go on, Grace and I were both Mormons, and Natalie was a born again Christian, I don't remember which church she attended)  Natalie told me that she had vowed to herself that she wasn't going to let another of her Mormon friends go to Hell, and that she was here to warn me of the danger of me going to Hell.  Natalie had intended to warn Grace, but failed to do so and now Grace was in Hell and it tormented Natalie, so she vowed not to let that happen again and she was there to save me. 

I have to admit that at first I didn't grasp what she was saying.  But finally I did.  And I asked Natalie, I remember the exact words I used.  "You mean our darling Grace is in Hell?"  And when I realized that that was what she was telling me, I just said, "I don't know that God."  Let me just add here, that Natalie was not offending me at all.  I knew she was coming to me out of love and concern, and I respected that. I hugged her and told her I appreciated her coming, because I did.  But I also remember thinking to myself, I'm so glad I don't have to explain that God to anyone.  Really, more than anything else about our conversation, I was glad I didn't have to explain that God to anyone and that my concept of God did not send darling people like Grace to Hell.  You may recall in my last post that I said I don't believe in a pointless God and that in my opinion is a pointless God, it's the exact definition of a pointless God!

People confess God, say He is love...but sometimes miss the big picture.....GOD IS LOVE!  So anything unloving, like sending Grace to Hell just because she happens to be the wrong religion, isn't very loving is it?  Could it be that it's not God that isn't loving, but the religion that is proclaiming that Grace is going to Hell that isn't very loving?  You know the old joke... Christianity, isn't very Christian, or Gandhi's famous quote. "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Don't get me wrong, I do like Christian's, I consider myself one, but Christianity has a lot of explaining to do, and so many of its beliefs do NOT follow what Christ taught.

We went out to dinner the other night with our friends who are very kind, good people; after we ordered and were sitting chatting at the table, the wife asked us, "what do your kids think about your leaving the church?"  They looked intensely interested in hearing our answer.  The question kind of threw me a bit, I wasn't expecting it.  So I sat there for a minute to gather my thoughts.  Well first of all, two of our kids are not active members, so it doesn't bother them any, and the other two are very independent thinkers, especially our son.  He loves to discuss religion and would never be swayed by anything we said.  Our daughter, it has been a bit harder on.  Those were the thoughts going through my head, but I don't think I explained that to them; I think we began to explain our current state of thinking if I remember right.  But while we were talking, I asked them what they believed about why we were here, what was this life for?  I was very interested to know what they believed, as they are, I would guess Evangelical.  They said that God created us because He wanted people to return to Him that choose to worship Him.  He said, "God created us because He wanted people to worship Him and that free agency was important because He wanted people who choose to worship Him, God could have created people to worship Him, but God wanted us to choose it because that was more meaningful to Him."

At this point, I can hardly put the words together to make a sentence.  "You mean to tell me that your God, created all these people knowing that some would not choose to worship Him and would be cast down to Hell as a result and suffer there, just so He can have a group of people who choose to worship Him live with Him in heaven, even though He could have created people to worship Him, He wanted those who chose it because it is more meaningful."  And if the cost of that meaningfulness is to send some, many actually, people to Hell, so be it, that's the cost.  Okay, I have heard this same scenario too many times to just say, "I don't know that God."  This night I had to defend my purposeful God, from this pointless God, and I said, "I would not worship that God."  Is that so bad?  I wouldn't worship that God.  I worship a God who loves all of His children and shows that love to us by creating a world and experiences for us to grow and learn to Love as He does.  I believe He's bringing us all back to Him.  What all that in tells I don't know, He's the one that's Omnipotent not me, and if Christ's atonement is necessary to do that, then I believe in that.  I have a hope in Christ.  But I have a bigger HOPE and trust in a purposeful God that has a bigger plan that includes our becoming like Him, meaning learning to love like Him.  And where that all leads to in the next life I don't know, I think that is where faith comes in, we don't have the whole plan, but I have faith in it. 

Let me pause here, to say, I really mean no offense to our friends, they mean well and that is their belief and I don't want to be disrespectful. I really don't!  That's why I don't like religion.  It divides people, it causes arguments, it destroys family and friend relationships.  I have no ill will towards anyone and their beliefs and to quote Mormon doctrine, "let them worship how, where, and what they may."  I really believe in that.  And I know the hearts of Christians are good, very good, as are the hearts of Mormons, who are Christians.  And I know that born again Christians would take exception to the way I explained their God, I'm sure there is a lot more purpose and meaning to their beliefs, but you should hear what it sounds like to an outsider, this really is what it sounds like.  So now that I have made a lot of enemies, let me again say I love you all, I simply choose to believe in a bigger God, or at least a bigger plan.  And if I'm wrong you can come visit Grace and I in Hell, I'm sure we will need ministering to.

So I guess for now, I'm sticking with the Beatles... all you need is love.  Hey why not, I like their music too!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What Do You Believe Now?

I have a dear friend that joined the Church when she was in her late teens.  She was raised Jehovah's Witness, then joined the Mormon Church, then left it in her mid to late twenty's; I would call her Agnostic now, I think she would agree with that.  I contacted her the other day to tell her I too had left the Mormon Church.  She asked me some questions about what I believe now, and since I had been wanting to do a post on that I will include some of my answers to her here.  Not that what I believe is that important, but I think it's helpful to share with others our beliefs, even though beliefs are not a stagnant thing and they change as we grow and experience different things in life.  That's a good thing.  We don't want to become stagnant in our thinking.  So if you are in a stage that is difficult because your belief system has been challenged, just look around at all the gifts that is bringing you.  You are no longer stuck thinking a certain way, you are now free to experiment, to question, to challenge, to ask hard questions, to peek behind a curtain, uncover that stone.  You can now get down and dirty and fall of the pedestal that says, you own the truth; it's called humility, and it's a very powerful tool for learning, growing, loving, and finding happiness.  Don't ever be afraid of humility... it's God's best tool.  As hard and challenging as it is to admit to yourself that you have been viewing life through biased lenses, (and we all view life that way) and as grave and disturbing as it is to question one's faith or to lose that faith, the fears you will loose, the compassion you will gain, the joy of questioning, learning, seeking, experiencing life in new and exciting ways, far out way the price.  Just try it on, take it for a test drive, you will love it!  You might think, it's too dangerous, too frightening to question your views.  Let me just reply to that with:  it's very dangerous to stay stuck in a mindset that isn't correct, and no matter what your mindset is, I guarantee there are things in it that are not correct.  Why live life thinking that they are?  And as for it being frightening to exam your beliefs, I guarantee that you are frightened right now, about something.  There is something in your belief system that is frightening you: the government, society, your children's choices or potential choices, global warming, the Second Coming, Obama, terrorism, racism, the economy, the future, death, illness, salvation, or a million other fears. and the sad part is, we come to these fears with a biased mind, in which we have staked everything, and we let these fears play out in our mind and life for maybe no reason.  I read a book once called, Loving What Is, it's a great read, and the author says she puts anything that is out of her ability to control into "God's" category, even if you don't believe in God, she calls it that, just to remind herself that, "I have no control over that, and I will not waste anymore time worrying about it," I will leave that up to the powers that be.  But, if your belief system is so strong and you think you are so right, you will still buy into your fears, thinking that you are wiser and know more, I guarantee it, I have lived it.
Now to my friend's questions: she asked if I had lost faith in a Heavenly Father?  At first, I felt unsure about everything, which is a good thing, leaving the Church gives you so much compassion for others and their beliefs.  I totally get atheists now, I respect where they're coming from, and I don't think they are the evil people I grew up believing they were.  I get agnostic's, everyone, I respect them, even Mormon, especially Mormons,  I am a Mormon... I understand their beliefs and the commitment they have to them.  When people say that the Bible is not factual, I get that too, it falls apart under scrutiny, just like the Book of Mormon does, I agree with you when you say you don't have any confidence in organized religion, I agree with that, but I also see the  good it does, along with the bad, but the good out weighs the bad in my mind, but an argument can be made the other way too.  I do believe there is a God, and since my concept of who God is... is Heavenly Father, yeah I guess I stick with that.  Why switch that out for another God, since I don't really know for sure, why switch out the one I understand and have prayed to my entire life, and have a history with?  Did prayer get hard for me? Yeah, it did, but there is still that desire to thank God at the end of the day for all the wonderful things in my life, and gratitude is such an important facet of happiness, that I don't want to not have gratitude.  And if God, is really responsible for all the things in my life, which I think He is, I would hate to be ungrateful.

Let me just pause from my conversation with my friend for a moment here to add: I don't think we have a pointless God.. meaning that I think there is great purpose to our life. I believe in a God that has the same destination for all of us, and our life's purpose is to learn and grow.  It's called progression in the Mormon faith and I very much believe in it.  I don't believe in the Mormon idea of progression, if that means we will eventually end up in one of three  kingdoms and remain there for eternity.  Hey, but lets give Mormon's some credit, at least they aren't sending people to Hell to dwell forever just because they don't say a "sinner's pray" (that isn't biblical anyway) or they don't "confess"
Christ just the way some Evangelicals think they should.  Mormon's believe in Christ, and they love Him, they worship Him, and they are grateful for His atonement in their life, they view Christ's atonement as:  their means of salvation, what enables Christ to forgive our sins, and Christ's ability to change our nature.  They believe all of that in spite of their church's attempt to usurp Christ's authority, so that the Church speaks for Christ, the church is Christ, basically in a Mormon's eyes.    That's why Mormon's hold to the Church so strongly, the Church is Christ's gospel, they love Christ, so they of course love His Church, and reverence their leaders way too much, because it's one in the same to them. 

What do I think of Christ?  That question actually comes from Mormon scripture, "what think ye of Christ?"  Well... I have a hope in Him, I love his teachings, I think they are a good way to live your life.  I think the Biblical Christ is hard to prove, but I have a hope in Him, and in His saving ability, if that is necessary, which it might be, but I don't think the purpose of this life is salvation.  Was a Savior necessary for God to send us to this earth so we could progress and learn?  I have always been taught that, and for all I know it may be so, but, like I said, scriptures fall apart under scrutiny, so that just leaves you with faith, doesn't it?  And if that is what you are left with, then I have to give the person who wants to believe the Book of Mormon as scripture as much respect as the person who wants only to believe the Bible as scripture.  They are both a matter of faith in my mind, and cannot be proven as fact or historical.  That maybe where faith comes in, but not about KNOWING, like Mormons like to say they "know."  Mormon's don't "know" anything... anymore then Christians "know" things for sure.  It's all based on faith and teachings and your own personal experiences.  And I'm not slamming anyone's personal feelings, experiences, or faith, it's not my place to do so.  It was Christ that taught us not to judge. 

My friend asked if we felt betrayed by the Church?  I told her yeah, we do.  We feel like we were the faithful spouse, we were loyal, we did everything we were supposed to, we upheld our end of the bargain, and the Church played the harlot.  It lied, it wasn't faithful.  So you are constantly sorting your life out, the good, the bad, that came from spending your entire life in the Church.  I used to see everything good in my life, as a result of being a member, and that may be so, but there is a lot of bad too, mostly in attitudes and in the way you view things.
She asked if I thought Joseph Smith was mentally disturbed?  No, I think he was a brilliant con man, and self-aggrandizing womanizer.   But I could be wrong, and I hold that possibility out there.  Did he see God, and translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates?  The evidence strongly suggests that he didn't. Did he bring some truth and enlightenment to the world, yes I think so.  So that's where I give him a little possibility of being... what I don't know, a prophet? I would have to have a new definition for prophet to call him that.   But I certainly don't know all things, and I don't know how God works, remember, our ways are not His ways, and there are the mysteries of God. 
We just don't know exactly how God does things, do we?   It's kind of the mystery of it all that leads you right back to faith again, not knowledge.  I was listening to someone the other day and she was saying that she had to learn to live with uncertainty.  Uncertainty sounds a lot like faith, this life may be based on uncertainty, perhaps faith... why?  Why would God design it that way? I don't know but my thinking is that uncertainty gives you the ability to think, test, and grow, and to come to conclusions, rethink and come to new conclusions, test and grow.  All in all, not a bad plan after all.