Maybe, I am a Unitarian..

I am often asked if I am religious or if I am a Christian. It is a question that I have grappled with due to having a contemplative and speculative mind. None of the current mainstream religions really work for me. That being said I have been searching for maybe a lesser known system that exists or may have existed in the past that I may be aligned with, because surely I can’t be the only person who thinks and believes the way I do. I believe in God, but not in the impersonal way that Deism offers. I admire the character of Jesus, but reject the idea that he was God. I had to find a Theistic path to follow so that at the very least I could answer the “What is your religion?” question. Well, I have found an older and re-emerging system that I have a growing affinity to – Unitarianism.

First off, let me be clear that when I say Unitarian, I in no way am referring to the Unitarian Universalist system.

So, what is a Unitarian? There are no official doctrines or dogmas in Unitarianism, which is one of the things I love the most about it. There are a few general precepts that most Unitarians accept and I have included them in the following “profession of faith”:

A Unitarian believes in ONE God and demonstrates their relationship to all of God’s creation with humility and love.

A Unitarian will accept no limiting doctrine or creeds imposed on them or seek to place labels on the way to worship God or seek to restrict how others may relate to Him. They observe all of humanity as one family under the loving care of ONE God.

A Unitarian looks upon Jesus as a moral standard-bearer and takes up their own “cross” rather than pass it off on Jesus or anyone else to bear it for them. They understand that Jesus taught and lived His life to serve as an example for all humankind. Jesus was the embodiment of love and showed us how to become one with God and with each other.

A Unitarian holds the Bible in high regard as an inspired text that contains historical narrative, mythology, archetypal characters, and the most sublime truths. Unitarians also accept the validity of other sacred texts as different interpretations of the same God. They view all of creation as the purest revelation of God.

A Unitarian holds the two-part law of love as forever binding and of the utmost importance: Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love everyone as you want to be loved.

It is an odd coincidence that one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson, was widely believed to be a Unitarian as well as some of the other founders. Aside from that, I find it to be one of the only religious systems that allows the blending of Reason and Religion without casting doubt or placing one as a higher authority over the other. Clearly as a reader of this blog you are a thinker (or maybe a hater who uses me as a heretical example) and perhaps you may have been searching for answers that your religion hasn’t been able to satisfy.

Did Yoda go to heaven?

The final computer-generated Yoda as seen in t...

The final computer-generated Yoda as seen in the film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I asked this question to a critic I was astounded to find out that Yoda never really existed! OK, all joking aside if you haven’t figured out what I am about to discuss then I will be more direct – Surely, we cannot be arrogant enough to believe that we are the only planet with life forms or that we alone are the only forms of life that our Creator has an interest in amongst the entire universe. That being said, if there is life on other planets are they too required to believe their Creator assumed the form of a being on another planet to atone for their falling short of the laws and ordinances handed down to a being on that same planet? Did these other planets have an Eden? Did they have and Adam and Eve? Do they suffer the burden of Original Sin and the threat of eternal torment because a serpent was able to derail the Divine Plan?

Science has advanced to the extent that we now know the molecular makeup of our bodies. We can fly on an airplane into the same clouds Jesus is said to have ascended into and see no heaven. We know the earth does not have four corners and the stars are not lights in a big canopy. We know that cancer doesn’t care if you are a person of faiths or a person of deeds and neither do deranged gunmen in movie theaters.

But the Bible says…

So much emphasis is placed on Biblical inerrancy and infallibility by mainstream Christianity that few people question it and even less actually read it. The claim of inerrancy and infallibility has on many occasions been refuted and the stance is highly illogical. The men who wrote and redacted the various texts are mostly unknown and no original copies exist. These 2 facts are enough to cast significant doubt as to whether they are true to whatever the originals said (not to mention the KJV Onlyist bunch). Either way, they are cryptic writings that express the opinions of the writers. Writers who openly admit to their own failings, fears, and biases. I am not saying the Bible is useless. That would be grossly irresponsible. It is an ancient text and when you can sort through the myths and the dogmas you do find inalienable moral truths and examples of historical failings that we can all learn from. It has been said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the Bible people are killed multiple times “in the name of God” and we see when people break the laws of morality than society suffered for it and received (per the Bible) Divine retribution. We should learn from these mistakes.

The Bible is not the sole source of truth..

One can turn to the Kabbalistic texts, the teachings of the Buddha, the philosophy of Plato, and the moral code of Zoroaster to find inspiration and moral guidance equivalent to what they find in the Bible. When the printing press was invented the Bible became readily available to the common man. Is it merely a coincidence that the Age of Enlightenment almost immediately followed? As the Bible became less and less expensive is it coincidental that there was a spike in skepticism? This is not meant to be an attack on the Bible. While I am an advocate of studying it and do so myself regularly, I am not a fan of the dogma of inerrancy and the absolute authority some people feel that it has over every other text.

Back to Yoda..

The origin of the universe and its perpetuity point to a Designer. To me it is clear because something establishes the balance, authored the laws of nature, and weaves it all together. When you look into a child’s eyes you can see the Divine within the innocence. Love and compassion have an eternal thread and collective source. It is that source that according to the Zohar wishes to commune with each of us and makes us one.

Interview on “The Place”

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Michael Jones and his wife Rhonda.  I had a great time and look forward to going back on their show again in the future.

The Prayer of Manasseh

I have done some studying lately of the “Apocryphal” Scriptures and I must admit, a lot of them are better than some of the writings that are in the “official” canon.  Once such work is the Prayer of Manasseh.  This is an unbelieveably beautiful prayer that (like almost every other book of the Bible) has unknown authorship.  It predates the birth of Jesus by over 100 years.   According to the Books of Kings and Chronicles (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9), Manasseh was one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah .  According to Chronicles, Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians. (2 Chronicles 33:11-13) While he was a prisoner, Manasseh prayed for mercy, forgiveness and deliverance.   A reference to the prayer is made in 2 Chronicles 33:19, which says that the prayer is written in the “chronicles of the seers.”  While the prayer itself is lost to antiquity, this prayer is a result of what a Jewish sage likely felt was prayed.

The prayer was placed at the end of 2 Chronicles in the late 4th-century Vulgate (Pope Clement VIII wanted the prayer in an appendix to the Vulgate “lest it perish entirely.”)  It also appeared in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible in 1611.  My guess as to why the Jewish Canon excluded it was that it was a prayer of perpetual repentance which kind of nixes the Yom Kippur celebration (and the tithes and sacrifices that came with it).   

While the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches include it somewhere in their Bibles (whether within the context or as an appendix) and it does appear in the liturgy of some of the Eastern churches, the Protestant Churches reject it entirely.  My guess is that because it expresses repentance and forgiveness without a mediator  (this is true of Psalm 51 as well) that it somehow threatens the necessity of atonement by the Messiah.

The above being said – I love this prayer and I pray it every day now. 

Perhaps you may do the same.

The Prayer of Manasseh (RSV)

O Lord Almighty,
God of our fathers,
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous posterity;
thou hast made heaven and earth with all their order;
who hast shackled the sea by thy word of command,
who hast confined the deep
and sealed it with thy terrible and glorious name;
at whom all things shudder,
and tremble before thy power,
for thy glorious splendor cannot be borne,
and the wrath of thy threat to sinners is irresistible;
yet immeasurable and unsearchable is thy promised mercy,
for thou art the Lord Most High,
of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful,
and repentest over the evils of men.
Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness
hast promised repentance and forgiveness
to those who have sinned against thee;
and in the multitude of thy mercies
thou hast appointed repentance for sinners,
that they may be saved.
Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous,
hast not appointed repentance for the righteous,
for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
who did not sin against thee,
but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea;
my transgressions are multiplied,
O Lord, they are multiplied!
I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven
because of the multitude of my iniquities.
I am weighted down with many an iron fetter,
so that I am rejected because of my sins,
and I have no relief;
for I have provoked thy wrath
and have done what is evil in thy sight,
setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
And now I bend the knee of my heart,
beseeching thee for thy kindness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my transgressions.
I earnestly beseech thee,
forgive me,
O Lord, forgive me!
Do not destroy me with my transgressions!
Do not be angry with me for ever
or lay up evil for me;
do not condemn me to the depths of the earth.
For thou, O Lord, art the God of those who repent,
and in me thou wilt manifest thy goodness;
for, unworthy as I am,
thou wilt save me in thy great mercy,
and I will praise thee continually all the days of my life.
For all the host of heaven sings thy praise,
and thine is the glory forever.
Amen.

The Apocalypse Revisited

It is always darkest before the dawn. So if there is to be an ending in which evil falls and good finally prevails, then an apocalyptic showdown is inevitable. Much has been written on the matter and none of it comes without some level of allegory or esoteric context. Whether they be Biblical, natural, or philosophical, any prophecy or prediction of how it will all end is merely hypothetical. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the concept that the same essence that created life, the cosmos, and the intricate laws which govern it, did so with the intent of destroying it all at some point. However if that be the case, I would like to offer my view as to how this final showdown will play out. I will use as my reference the themes found in the following Biblical texts: Genesis, Job, Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew, John, Revelation, and personal inspiration (quite possibly divine in nature).

The world is in darkness and immorality reigns supreme. The rejection of the Creator is commonplace and people worship money and put faith in themselves. Then suddenly there was a windstorm coming out of the north —an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light and the earth is unraveled and laid flat. Then from within the light a royal court appears. There are 3 thrones, a large throne and 2 smaller thrones, one to the left of the large throne and one to the right. In the larger throne is a being that is made of pure Light. The body is like gold and silver and the face is unable to be seen due to the brightness emanating from it. Seated to the right is a man in a white robe with gold piping. He looks as human as everyone else, with a gentle and familiar face. The throne to the left is vacant and made of pure gold with red velvet padding. Then the being in the center speaks and the voice booms like thunder “Where is the Accuser, the Prince of the Earth?” Then the man in the throne to the right rises and says, “Father, Sovereign of the Universe, he is roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it”. Then he said, “Prince of the Earth, come forth.” Suddenly another man appeared seated in the throne to the left. He looked very similar to the man in the throne on the right except his robe was worn and ashy. He spoke, “Eternal One, what is your command?” Suddenly, the people realized that the being in the center throne was God and to his right was Jesus, the Prince of Heaven and to his left Lucifer, the Prince of the Earth. Then God said, “All will be judged”. Then Jesus and Lucifer rose up from their thrones and faced God, both bowed and Jesus spoke first. “Eternal One, I have the righteous and plead their case. They fed the hungry, provided drink to the thirsty, and comforted those who fell by the wayside.” The God said, “What of the faithful?” and Jesus said “Faith without works is dead”. Then God spoke to Lucifer, “What say you of the condemned?” Then Lucifer said, “You commanded me to test the faithful and to lure the weak. This I have done and many have strayed from your ways.” Suddenly there was thunder and lighting and a smoldering abyss of fire and smoke appeared. “This will be the eternal place of torment for all who have fallen short of my ways.” God said. Lucifer fell to his knees and cried, “Eternal King, I did your bidding. You sent me to tempt and I tempted, you sent me to accuse and I accused. Their souls were weak because of me. Show mercy on them.” Then God said, “They showed no mercy to the poor and destitute. Why should I show mercy upon them?” Then Jesus said, “They rejected my teachings and served themselves. Why should they enter the kingdom?” Then God said to Lucifer, “Do you take the blame for those you have deceived?” Then Lucifer bowed again, “I do”. Then Lucifer said, “I have put every evil thought in their mind and prodded them to do evil. It is because of me that all have failed”. Then God said, “I gave all of them the Prince of Heaven too. Yet, they chose you over him. Why should I not condemn them?” Then Lucifer said, “If it be your will condemn them, but you must condemn me as well”. Then Jesus said, “Father, I shall take this cup.” Then God said, “My son, you already have”. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than of the one who will lay down his life for his friends and the Prince of the Earth has offered to pay their price just as I did. Should the price be paid again?” “Now, in the final hour are all are to be forgiven?” said God. “You created every living thing and when man chose to take the yoke of knowledge of both good and evil, many times they choose evil.” Jesus said. “Yet, the Prince of the Earth was tempting them the whole time, making the path of evil easier than the path of righteousness. How are they to compete with the power of the Prince of the Earth? He was the craftiest of all your creations.” Then Lucifer said, “I am powerless before you Great King. For aeons I have suffered separation from you and tempted your creation. I did your bidding and now I take this yoke and accept their punishment.” Then God said, “My children, all will be forgiven. Those of who have done evil must first be cleansed and then they will enter my kingdom.” Lucifer bowed to God and then bowed to Jesus. Jesus picked Lucifer up and embraced him. The final battle is ended.

I have quoted several lines of scripture in this story. I have also written it in 3 layers. To many of you the surface layer may contradict what you believe to be church doctrine. You are going to have to look past that and dig deeper. As always comments and emails are welcome.

Never gonna give you up..

 Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…  Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song.  For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post.  My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog.  It also had a good number of comments and email responses.  It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings.  That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone.  Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“,  it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love

So, is God love?  I believe so.  Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality.  So what exactly is love?  The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love.  The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13.   As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version.  The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV.  (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations)  The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity.  To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me.  Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love.  When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation.  There is no doubt that is love.  So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God.  For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of  the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):

The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.  The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.  The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I ask you again: Is God Love?  If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be.  Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often?  The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.  It seems that for many people it really is the other way around. 

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31

Why am I a Mason?

Recently someone questioned me as to why I am a Mason.  At times this question is usually followed up with the ridiculous accusations that we are some kind of a cult or New World Order.  Since Masonic philosophy makes up a significant portion of my own philosophical views it seemed relevant to share my reply to them:

I am a Mason for a number of reasons. Mostly because after leaving the military there was a camaraderie void that I deeply needed to fill. Contrary to a lot of public myths, Masonry is not a cult or an anti-christian organization. We aren’t a New World Order, which to me is the funniest of accusations because we can barely organize a BBQ. It is not a religion either. Anyone who claims it is really doesn’t know anything about it. It’s pretty much a fraternity with some deep philosophical roots. The description “A moral institution veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols” simply put just means we use the Bronze Age method of teaching moral truths – we tell stories (or parables) and use symbols. The problem that the big churches have with the Masonic Fraternity is over our stance that we require belief in Deity, but that the choice is up to the individual who they believe in. So we have Jewish, Christian, Muslims, Deists, and others amongst the membership. When you have multiple faiths gathered together like that and you require all men to act in a moral way and be held accountable to their God, an invocation, or prayer, is required when we open and close our meetings. So, in order to not offend the Jew or Muslim by invoking the name of Jesus, or offend the Jew and Christian by invoking the name Allah, or confuse the heck out of the Christians and Muslims by saying HaShem – we simply say Grand Architect. It’s not a made up God, it is just a universal name that is used because as Masons we consider each other as equals and builders of an allegorical temple of human morality and brotherly love. Just as builders get their directions from a blueprint (or Bible) and the designer (or author) of that blueprint is the Grand Architect (or God).

To me, as well as other Masons who actually study the philosophy and theology behind the fraternity – religion is not what the public perceives it to be.  Religion actually has a Biblical definition – “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

I hope this answered your question and perhaps cleared up some false impressions you may have of us. We actually have some great guys amongst our ranks. Guys like – George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, FDR, Harry Truman, Gen. McArthur, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), John Wayne, Dave Thomas, Walt Disney… I could go on but, that should give you an idea of the type of organization we are.

Who is in control?

The notion that we are all sinful wretches worthy of punishment and that the physical world is the dominion and under the tyrannical control of a being known as Satan, is a dogma that I have always opposed. Satan, as Christianity perceives him, did not originate until the Gospels and Epistles. The very few references to Satan in the Jewish Scriptures paint this being in a far different way then the mainstream belief of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Satan is not the serpent in the creation account found in Genesis, nor is he the Prince of the Earth (whatever that means) that we see portrayed in gospels and epistles. Satan, in Jewish Scripture, is the “accuser” and “tempter”. He is not a fallen angel, as some wrongfully interpret Isaiah 14:12 (which when read in full context is an allusion to King Nebuchadnezzar). Satan, according to Jewish Scripture, is and always has been a servant of God. The servant who test one’s faith and resolve, but as clearly displayed in the book of Job, Satan acts and operates at the will and pleasure of the Almighty God.

So where did the concept of the evil, horned, red body-suit wearing, pitch fork carrying sovereign of hell come from? Well, truth be told, the devil that billions of Christians despise and the Hell they hope to avoid by having faith in Jesus are NOT Biblical. Both of them find their origins in a fused interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, the Divine Comedy and the Greco-Roman character known as Hades. The very few references to hell that exist are all in the Gospels and Epistles and they are better translated as the “pit” or Gehenna, which was an area outside the Jewish tribal camps (and later Jerusalem) where the worshippers of Baal and Molech would sacrifice their children by fire. This was an area that the Jews knew physically existed and they feared it. If Torah observance was not strictly adhered to one could get thrown out of the camp or city and face the threat of the “pit”. How a physical place was spun into a place of eternal torment is the crafty work of Augustine and it’s purpose, one could argue, was to scare people into conformity.

Let’s now apply reason and a rational view here. If God is all-powerful than he is all-powerful and the Sovereign of the Universe that Abraham claimed the Almighty to be. This means God and only God is in control and not a rebellious servant in the fiery bowels of the earth. If we are created in the image of God, than we have all the attributes of the Divine. We could not therefore be insignificant wretches that are full of sin and because of poor choices we may have made are somehow worthy of ETERNAL punishment. Let’s think for a minute about this gross implication of injustice. Most people live less than 100 years. What kind of justice is displayed where the mere lack of believing in something for the decades we spend on earth would somehow justify an ETERNAL sentence to torture and punishment? Not a life sentence, but a relentless and unending sentence with no hope for reconciliation or even parole. Where is the grace mercy and peace of the Father? Would the very Creator who created all things and imbued us with Reason and intellect really require that faith and faith alone ensure eternal bliss? Would the divine inspiration that is claimed to have been revealed to a small number of sages in the most primitive and ignorant corner of the earth, be the only source of this critical message? If this be true, why would the message be so cryptic and have so many examples of injustice within it?

Let me propose the following:

  • You are not a filthy wretch.
  • You are not unworthy of love.
  • You are not flawed.
  • You are not a disgrace.
  • You are not worthy of punishment.
  • You are not under an inherited curse of a sin that someone else committed.
  • You are not under the dominion of a powerful evil being who’s out to get you.

What you are is a living, breathing, and beautiful person. You have good attributes and you have bad. You have the freedom to choose how you use the strengths you possess and how you surrender to your weakness. If you have read this far, than you have a contemplative sense of reason and are willing to go behind the veils of dogma and uncover the purest source of truth. Everyone has the need to feel a sense of hope and an element of higher purpose. The idea that we are merely a carbon based collection of molecules and cells that act in repetitive and sometime meaningless ways and are destined to be inanimate patches of dust, is hardly inspirational to most people. This is why people feel deep within the recesses of their mind and soul that there must be something greater than ourselves. How can the wonder of time and the majesty of nature be the product of a Divine Judge that places matters of thought over physical actions?

Am I speaking against Scripture? No. I am merely providing my view of the Divine, just like the authors of the various books of Scripture did. Call me heretical if you want, but we know a lot more now about the universe, earth, the human genome, physics, medicine, human psychology, and a host of other quantifiable facts than any of the Bronze Age authors of Scripture ever knew. There is a strong argument that Biblical inerrancy is only in context not in content.

But Nelson, my pastor says this or Joel Osteen says that, or Joyce Meyer advocates this and Rick Warren wrote that… Well, why don’t we compare their motivational factors to mine. What exactly am I asking you for? Have I passed around an offering plate? Have I told you to call my prayer line and contribute to my ministry? Have I told you that I need you to “give all you can” and promised a ten-fold blessing from God in return for your offering? Nope. I am just on a quest for light and have welcomed you to accompany me on it and nothing more.

All I have ever asked is for 2 very simple things:

That you think with an open and rational mind.
That you love one another.

Ask yourself this question:
If this is the only life you will have and there is no resurrection or after-life, are you living life to the fullest?

One more question:
Why not?

Life is a blessing, not a curse

Sometimes it is all to easy to forget just how lucky a person is to just be alive and well.  The fact that we are even born is nothing short of a miraculous event.  It is a hard-fought battle just for the seed to make it to the egg to begin with and then once it does, there are so many things that can go wrong before the embryo actually becomes a little person.  Even then a myriad of other things varying from irregular heart beats, to slowly developing kidneys, to autism, and even death can still occur while in the womb.  If by chance you are lucky enough (blessed is a better word) to be born, even more challenges lie ahead as one goes from infant to toddler to child to adolescent to adult.

With life itself, being the miracle that it is, why do some people seem to be more concerned about an “after-life” instead of enjoying the every day miracle of life?  Why do some religious teachings harp on how wretched we are or even worse, that we are cursed at birth due to someone else’s impulsive dietary error?

Life is a blessing. To deny that is to destroy the basis of all religion, natural and revealed. The very foundation of all religion is laid on the firm belief that life is good; and if this life is an evil and a curse, no such belief can be rationally entertained. – Albert Pike
And why hope for an after-life?  Why not enjoy the life you actually have?  We have no guarantees in this life, so the idea that there is an everlasting one that follows defies reason and logic.
 
Wait, don’t panic…. I am not saying there is no life after death.
 
What I am saying is that regardless of what religions teach, we really don’t know what comes after death.   So we should focus a lot more on this life.  If you are reading this then you probably have a computer or a smart phone (or a friend does and they printed it for you).  You probably also live in a house with running water and electricity.  Did you know that those very simple things alone – things that you can’t imagine living your life without – make you wealthier than at least a BILLION other people on this planet?  Yet, there is little doubt in my mind that you probably wish you had more.  I am guilty of wanting more as well sometimes, however I have gotten a lot better at appreciating the things that I have and not “coveting” the things I see that others may have. 
 
If people spent more quality time with their families and less time at work, more time outdoors and less inside watching trash TV, more time being thankful for what they have instead of always wanting more; maybe, just maybe life can be seen as the blessing that it actually is.
 
Typically a cancer patient wants just one thing – to live.   Why should a healthy person be any different?
 
Life is a blessing.  Live it!
 
 
 

I went to church today…

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR)

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a while since I walked into a church, today I broke that streak.  My ability to write this blog rules out any indication that I was struck by lightning for walking in those doors.  I also regret to inform my Christian friends eager for me to be born again that that didn’t happen either.  I did enjoy the service very much though and as with any occasion when the person in the pulpit is actually well-educated in scripture in a non-dogmatic way, I learned something and was impressed with his perspective.  The service focused around Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how it was a testament to the importance of prayer.  The pastor wove the necessity of prayer into how it can affect our relationships with other people.  I don’t know if the folks were listening, but he pretty much blasted the notion of self-serving prayer and crisis hotline prayers – this was a very good message!   Naturally, I went on with my day and was looking forward to everyone going to sleep so that I could take the time to read the entire Letter of Paul to the Philippians just so that I could get the complete context – yes, I will always be skeptical of another person’s method of scriptural exegesis.  It is a very short epistle and I will have to admit it is one of Paul’s better writings.  I read it in its entirety in both the KJV and the NIV and was happy to see the pastor didn’t spin it out of context.  This was a nice discovery because my kids really enjoyed the youth activity that was going on while the “big people were in the big room”.

So why did I go to church?’

Well, to be honest my kids need more stuff to do and they have some really good friends that go there and my wife and I figured it would be a good thing for them.  Mind you my wife is about as secular as it gets so if she is telling me we should go to a church, it has to be divine intervention.  The kids had a blast and want to go back so we will.

What happened to me converting to Judaism?

I can’t go through a conversion because I refuse to go into anything halfway.  This means a conversion to really be legit, I would need to go Orthodox.  That kind of thing affects more than just me, it affects the entire family.  And while I thoroughly enjoy Torah study, I do not believe any writings of man to be infallible and I still found a lot of value in the New Testament and it is really hard not to admire the character of Jesus.

So am I a Christian?

If being a Christian means that I revere the character of Jesus, respect his teachings above all others, and believe that by following his example is the manner in which a person can live a moral life – than the answer would be yes.

If being a Christian means that I believe Jesus is God and should be worshiped, and that faith in his death and resurrection will wipe away all my sins and that is all I need to go to heaven – than the answer is no.

My mind is full of ideas for more posts – this may be a busy week here at The Quest so stay tuned.