Thursday, March 27, 2008

And Another Thing

The Old Testament's theme was "be good" but the New Testament's theme is to also "do good".

I agree with Ken R. Vincent, author of The Golden Thread: God's Promise of Universal Salvation when he writes that one of the arguments against Universal Salvation in both ancient and modern times has been that if everyone goes to Heaven -- as us Universalists claim --there would be no motivation to do good! However, modern scientific research into human development proves the opposite to be true. Love is a more powerful motivator than fear, and knowing that God is our ultimate parent inspires us to embrace the good and reject the bad.

I've found that since realizing Universal Salvation, I have contemplated God more often and more deeply than I ever had while following Catholic doctrine and attending church. I have removed the middleman and have achieved a closeness with the Spirit that I have never before felt. Having realized Universal Salvation, I don't feel compelled to go out and do any "extra sinning". On the contrary, I WANT to do better. I would love to volunteer at a food pantry or shelter, should I have the opportunity to move back to downtown Chicago (hopefully soon). And in light of recent events, I feel like I would like to write to my friend once he does go to prison to tell him about this Good News. I've never felt compelled to get "preachy" but the sorrow I feel over this situation can only be even mildly allayed if I do something good to offset it, something that would be 'good works'. I imagine that the isolation of being in prison will be a cloud of utter darkness, loneliness and despair for him and that he will have little to no contact with his family. And, let's be honest - his time might be short in prison as it is a fact that other inmates do not take kindly at all to child molestors. I feel pity for both parties. I feel pity for that entire family as they lost their oldest daughter in a plane crash in the late 90's and basically lost another child. I feel so overwhelmed with this message of Grace that if I can pour for him a little hope in correspondences, I will. If I can get an address, I will write to try and minister by mail.

We aren't expected to be perfect. It is actually in God's plan that, right now, we're not. By our downfall, God's mercy is shown and glory is given to Him through the love he shows sinners. Imagine that if one is perfect and God loves those who are perfect, the extraordinary and merciful characteristics of God are not really visible. Everyone loves those who love them. It is a bigger deal to love those who sin against you.

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all (Romans 11:32).

I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' (Matthew 25:26)

Coal & Diamonds

When the chief priests and the elders question Jesus' authority, he declares that, "tax collectors and prostitutes are going to the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Matthew 21:31)

The key word here is "ahead" not "instead", asserting that ALL will reach the Kingdom.

"All flesh shall know the salvation of God." (Luke 3:6)

Very recently, it came to be that a family friend whom I grew up with and considered my brother was arrested, confessed and found guilty of multiple counts of child molestation of four children within his own family. He is looking at serving 25 years to life. In many ways his life is the very early age of 28. Everyone is devastated and never thought in a million years this would happen. It has torn his family apart and has hurt the hearts of those who have known him. No one can conceive of what would compel him to commit such a heinous crime.

I think that, while we have many questions, and, in a time like this, can easily doubt the existence of a just God who would permit this to happen, we are also looking at the situation through a very narrow lens. If we were able to pull back far enough to view the scope of the entire, say, next 25 years in a single scene, it might be different. We don't have the view and the blueprint of time past and future that God has. I think that evil can only be the means used to bring about the end --good. These are the contrasts of life. This is how we are educated in the art of pain. We need to know pain to appreciate the bliss we will all eventually come to know through God's grace, otherwise it wouldn't be called grace. The medicine tastes bad but is for our benefit. And one day we won't need the medicine.

It is often when we look back at a series of unfortunate and seemingly unforgiveable events, that the eventual outcome is something positive and those trials can be credited for bringing about a greater good. I have faith that the blackness of the cheap coal times that cause indescribable pressure will always produce a diamond in the end. This is nature's way. This is God's way. And these diamonds come in many forms. In this heartbreaking situation, I'm confident that the diamonds are still in the formative stages. [Sidenote: this young man had lived and was arrested in a town called Coal City...which is right next to a town called Diamond. An ironic coincidence?]

As Universalism is the Truth I have come to know, I believe this misled young man who I still love like a brother will come to be purified and redeemed. No act on this earth warrants a punitive eternity. Not Hitler's act, not Saddam Hussein's, not anyone's. Our time is limited and the idea to punish finite evil with eternal evil is irrational in terms of unconditional love...which is what God is. The idea of an eternity in "hell" is simply man's idea of justice. That concept comforts those who don't have the capacity to forgive. It is a damaging stance to take, but understandably a human one. Admittedly, it is easy for me to declare these ways as an outside party to this situation. If I were involved directly and had children who were violated, it would be a much, MUCH more jagged pill to swallow. I think limitations were put on our capacity to forgive in order for our eventual full completion of grace and forgiveness to be like the finale in a fireworks display. It is cliche, but everything does happen for a reason (just not our reasons) including the most rock-bottom devastating events. We can't see it yet, we weren't meant to see it yet. It hurts so much because it is supposed to.

For the Lord will not reject forever. Although He causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. (Lamentations 3:31-33)

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Compassion is hidden from my eyes (Hosea 13:14). I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them (Hosea: 14:4).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Delightfully Biased

My husband left on Good Friday for Paris for work. I spent Easter at my parents' house and had a nice time. At one point in the day, my sister was holding her 7-month-old son, Toby, and we were all gushing over how adorable he is and my mom commented that all her kids were and continue to be "that adorable". I laughed and said, "You're biased." And she said something that stuck.

She said, "Isn't it nice to have someone who is biased?"

And here it is yet again, the comparison of God's disposition to that of a loving parent. We can all take solace in the fact that God is biased in favor of us. As His creation, it would be "counterclockwise" to the nature of the God who fashioned logic, reason and things that are "natural" and "consecutive" to be indifferent to His own works. Again, as God loves, the love of parents pale in comparison to His.

Whenever I finish a drawing that I have put lots of work into, I feel a connection to it that it is a part of me. I have a really hard time letting go of or selling my artwork because of that creative connection. I imagine God feels that same sort of kinship with us. He is the potter and we are the clay...which He continues to shape through our days.

He is delightfully my mom : ) It is nice to have someone biased like that and I feel blessed that I can be aware of it. We all have a cheering section in God and if we quiet ourselves enough we can hear Him chanting our name.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Opiate of the Masses

Recently, one of the major newspapers had this headline, which I circled in red.

My response: So what?

My problem is that the underlying headline here is:

Which exclusive club does Obama belong to?

America is obsessed with titles, with class and with being able to box up someone's beliefs and stamp it with a label. "I don't care about your spirituality...what CHURCH do you go to?"

There is a huge chasm that separates religion and spirituality.

Religion is an organized, compartmentalized, notarized, approved-by-the-board, budgeted, ice-cream social that insists on turning a very intangible part of a human's life into a scheduled business-like PTA meeting with God, where brownies and coffee will be served. Religion is the free vacation, that, at the end turns out to be nothing more than a time-share sales pitch. At first you were thrilled and thought this was the best thing ever. Then the bill comes. Religion puts a pastor /priest in front of you who dictates to you what you should think. Each of their homilies and eulogies are skewed by their own human flaws and perspectives, but you take it as the Word. And, by God, don't disagree or ask questions. They don't want challenges, just compliance.

Spirituality is inward and so very different from religion, whereas it deals with the individual's ethos, feelings, intuitions and experiences. Internal reflection that results in an inner journey of prayer and contemplation to find a clear, unique and transcendental Truth. It is free-form, organic and cannot be added up so you get a statement with your yearly tithe amount to write off on your taxes. It is more of the Henry David Thoreau version. Simple and natural and without distractions, crowds, guitars, podiums, sound systems, or sign-up sheets.

Jesus said "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Jesus was speaking about money, not one's mind and soul. A person's spirituality should not be a commodity that is commercialized, nor a revenue stream for a corrupt institution, diocese or papacy. Today's Caesar is the Church...and I refuse to prostitute my beliefs for a smartly robed pimp.

I don't deny that Obama's beliefs should be taken into consideration when inspecting his candidacy because life is a cake that is hard to separate. However Obama believes, there will unfortunately be much scrutiny if he is NOT part of an institutional church that the media can put their hands on and interview. He will be viewed with suspicion if he is a maverick believer. The media should ask"What do you believe?" rather than "What church do you go to?" It is like asking, are you a Ford or Chevy person. It doesn't matter what brand vehicle you drive if you secretly wish for a Honda. The heart of the matter is being missed and the kidney is being hit!

It is not easy to rip off the heavy church bar code from the inner self, IT HURTS, especially if its been there since birth. I personally have found my spirit to be so much lighter without it. And without that heaviness, I have found peace, and with peace comes clarity to recognize Truth, and with that clarity comes happiness. And for anyone reading this, I wish for you the inner ability "to recognize" and thus attain this same happiness.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy See, Not Always Holy Do

"The unanswered questions aren't nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers."

This will be my first year not attending mass on Easter Sunday. When asked how I feel about this I will tell you that I feel at peace and feel (not to sound arrogant) ...really enlightened. Things ideologically line up now. My experiences line up with my great epiphany: Universal Restoration. In lieu of Easter mass, I will spend some quiet time meditating and sending out my prayers of gratitude.

I went to an early Easter family get-together yesterday. I come from a family of hard-core churchgoers. I happened to overhear two of my very religious aunts talking. One is Catholic and one is a non-denom Christian. The non-denom was telling my Catholic aunt under hushed tones how the pastor had openly called someone out on their sins in front of the congregation during church. I tried to lean my ear in and listen as closely as possible, but someone else was talking to me. I can't imagine how anyone, sinner or not, deserves public humiliation in a house of worship?

Many churches these day, which IDEALLY should be places of love and peace, are being turned into venues of political soapboxing. Now, as a church drop-out, I can only look at these situations and shrug...and return to my own moments of solace and meditation to find balance. But I can recall being in church many times when the priest would scold the congregation left and right. I would leave feeling down. I feel bad for those are psychologically tethered and obligated to go to church, despite the abuse and guilt that, week after week, gets heaped upon them. I wish I could hug those people whose cheeks are red and hot with the shame of being called out publicly on their private I can joyfully tell them what they are needing to hear from church: The Good News.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Last night my husband was listening to Terry Gross on the NPR show Fresh Air. He said an evangelical leader was interviewed and when asked if he thought Hurricane Katrina was punishment sent by God, he said YES. He said God sent Katrina because of the gays in New Orleans (allegedly, because a gay parade was to be held the week after).

If there is one thing I have a hard time with - it is intolerance. Do you think God is intolerant of His own creation? Do you think He stamps his foot in anger to cause a flood to wipe out a city. Do you think He issues early punishment?


Wasn't it in Genesis (as Revengelicals follow the Old Testament pretty closely) that Moses was speaking with God over the fate of the "wicked" city Sodom and that if a whole 10 righteous people existed in the city that God would spare it? Apparently they think that there were less than that in all of New Orleans.

Since when does God go around selectively smiting his own children. And of all the so-called evils in the world, why, of all things, target gays? What about war and genocide? Where are God's Hurricanes when you need 'em, eh?

If a person is born gay, how can they be faulted for being "sinful"? I think like myself (who does not feel the want for bearing children) that gays as well as those born sterile, are God's GENIUS way of controlling the earth's population. So, Revengelicals, if you have a beef with gays, consult God and tell him He is wrong. Send Him back to the drawing board with specific instructions on using the #2 Heterosexual pencil only in his designs. The Old Testament is full of inconsistencies and it is often forgot that Jesus came with a NEW covenant and a NEW commandment: to love thy neighbor as thyself. This command trumps any fuzzy Old Testament declaration about who is allowed to sleep with who or what.

Newsflash, Revengelicals: Gays have been around since the beginning of time. This is not a new concept. If you know anything about history, do you recall ancient Rome and Greece? What about all those Catholic priests who are afraid of being outed? What about Revengelical pastors who wave their bibles and spew tales of hellfire and brimstone by day and troll for gay male prostitutes by night? If you want to play that way, know that modern-day "Sodoms" are not always cities.

A movie that I think sums up the brainwashing, hysteria, ridiculous dogma and misdirected intentions of the Revengelical Business that is one of the scarier sects of Christianity is called Jesus Camp. I recommend anyone see it who wants a closer look at those who fail to see the log in their eyes.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are locking the kingdom of the heavens in front of men. For you are not entering, neither are you letting those entering to enter.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are cleansing the outside of the cup and the plate, yet inside they are brimming with rapacity and incontinence.

Concordant Literal New Testament
Matthew 23:13 & 23:25

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Art of Obviousness

I have used this quote by Hosea Ballou before, but it is brilliantly articulated with regards to the absurdity that God would cast a soul into "hell" for eternity.

As to the justice of endless punishment...Such justice is evidently predicated on the false principle and ungodly practice of rendering evil for evil.

God gives according to each of our needs. Not equally, but fairly. We cannot be equal because we are all created with a spectrum of different aptitudes, perspectives, weaknesses, talents and spiritual needs.

Believing God consistent, we are also given to according to our need for atonement and enlightenment. A finite yet fair and temporary state of purification, administered medicinally, not vengefully. Vengeance is human and is administered for selfish purposes. A purification, as is a jail sentence, is administered for the rehabilitative benefit of those being purified or sentenced.

Human applications of eternal vengeance do not apply to the Divine. It is a narrow and laughable view to think that God operates with such temperamental human emotions.

Vatican, listening?

And speaking of the Vatican - they just released a "New List of SINS" (see article below).

Pay particular attention to the third sentence: Modern times bring with them modern sins. If then, Vatican, you choose to pay attention to the modernity and invention of 'new sins' how can you refuse with indignance (whilst clutching ineffective dogmatic tradtion) to update your means of "saving the world"? No women priests have yet been given clearance to emerge from the Church to address the MODERN needs of dwindling priest populations. Vaginas must still too modern for the church. But by God, you had better get praying that God will send more men to become priests by vocation. How ridiculous.

Vatican lists "new sins," including pollution

By Philip Pullella – Yahoo News – Edited by Keith Weir – 3/10/08

Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight. The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils. Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics. "(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said. The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning. Girotti, in an interview headlined "New Forms of Social Sin," also listed "ecological" offences as modern evils. In recent months, Pope Benedict has made several strong appeals for the protection of the environment, saying issues such as climate change had become gravely important for the entire human race. Under Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively "green." It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference to discuss the ramifications of global warming and climate change, widely blamed on human use of fossil fuels. Girotti, who is number two in the Vatican "Apostolic Penitentiary," which deals with matter of conscience, also listed drug trafficking and social and economic injustices as modern sins. But Girotti also bemoaned that fewer and fewer Catholics go to confession at all. He pointed to a study by Milan's Catholic University that showed that up to 60 percent of Catholic faithful in Italy stopped going to confession. In the sacrament of Penance, Catholics confess their sins to a priest who absolves them in God's name. But the same study by the Catholic University showed that 30 percent of Italian Catholics believed that there was no need for a priest to be God's intermediary and 20 percent felt uncomfortable talking about their sins to another person.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spinning Matthew

I've been thinking about the context of the following famous bible verse:

It is easier for a camel to enter a needle's eye than a rich man into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:24

Most priests will interpret this passage as it is difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God because if you are rich, it means you have not given to those in need as you should have.

I have a few problems with this interpretation:

1) It is a stereotype that a rich person does not give or is not generous.
2) The writers of Matthew were likely very poor scribes who took issue with those around them who were wealthy as the caste system was much more stringent in those days. This would have been a very good channel to "stick it to the man".
3) It does not say it is "impossible" for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
4) It neglects to note that with God all things are possible (a superior passage to this one, in my humble opinion.)
5) It does not qualify that only poor people can enter the Kingdom of God
6) The Bible is chock full of vague verses, obscurities, and passages so thick that you need a large comb to weed out the possible messages. In saying this, the black and white interpretations of the Bible are to be scrutinized as largely dependent on the perspective and character of the interpeter.

Here's another possible interpretation I have been thinking about.

This life is difficult. We often think we are "in hell" when going through difficult life situations. I think that we are made vulnerable on this earth to purposely experience the whole spectrum of pain and suffering. We are here to know what love is, too. It is necessary for us to experience these contrasts in order to gain an appreciation of what true relief lies ahead of us. I think that when we can know hardship, peace and days of plenty are all the more sweet. That's why I think this life is MADE for the education of our sorrows. So that we can fully embrace happiness in the grace we receive in the next life.

So, when God inspired the writers of Matthew to refer to the "rich man" I think that perhaps it is possible that the reference is to those who are catered to and have no worries, stresses or pains in this life. The plush life that is nothing more than a one-shade even keel for someone. Sure, lots of times a "rich person" is one who is financially wealthy, which aids to this lifestyle, but not necessarily always. I can see the context of the "rich man" as someone who never knows the extremes of falling onto their knees sobbing because of hardship that is out of their control. I think it would be an injustice for someone of this "rich lifestyle" to enter into the Kingdom of God without having experienced "the lows"...because their appreciation of grace would be stunted and dulled without it. I think that perhaps any suffering put onto the "rich man" after death is purely to their advantage - purely medicinal - and purely necessary for their eventual happiness in the fullness of grace. So, while I feel and know in my heart that ALL will eventually enter the Kingdom of God, I do believe that we will all relish in the highs of grace only after knowing what rock bottom is. And if one has not reached those depths in this human life, I think they would be put through it in the next prior to joining in the fullness of grace. Of course, it would be only a temporary experience - nothing eternal in that respect - but purely of God's usage to reveal His grace. And once they come out of the other side, they will be eternally grateful for it.

Perhaps Mother Theresa, who advocated as well as served the suffering, knew this to be so. Perhaps the verse "happy are the meek for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs" are those who currently experience hellish suffering each and every day (Darfur comes to mind) - perhaps they will get "a pass" directly to the Kingdom of Heaven as they surely will be able to immediately celebrate being rich with happiness in the presence of God, for their suffering was so very heavy in this life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Friendly Reminder

Unconditional means "not limited by conditions".

God's love is unconditional, hence we are not required to "do something" in order to earn it.

Not even believe.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Life is so much bigger than we can fathom. What is amazing about lifeforce is that we have virtually no internally willed ability to stop or start it. For example, the ingenuity that is the involuntary response; the heartbeat, the need to breathe, the need to sleep and dream, etc. God engineered us so that we largely operate on autopilot. This is a great example of how we are loved through the gift of autoresponse as well as reminded that we are not in control. We like to think we are, but really, what minutia are we really in control of: what we eat...what we drink...what we say...who we hang around we use our time. [Time: yet another example of what we are not in control of, but subject to.] The actual energy of life that flows within us is not really ours, is it? It is lent to us for least, on this earth. Then, I believe our energy changes form (as it is neither created nor destroyed) to return to its Creator. God casts our lives out there to cut through time like a kinetic human boomerang and we eventually circle back to reach His hand in a very different state.

When we are babies, ideally, parents provide the clothing, the food, the warmth and the care. When we become adults we often fail to realize the continued care we receive from God in the form of friends to warm our hearts and break bread with, Good Samaritans and skilled workers to provide help when we need it, spouses to lean on and family to take joy in. The indirect care we receive is so immense that we are hardpressed to see the trees for the forest. Our cups runneth over creating a veritable ocean that we often don't realize we are floating in. And I thank God for it every day.