Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Job It’s that time again – a time when for reasons mysterious and unsearchable, God is working on me.

Now, when someone says that God is working on them in their life, I always cringe, because what that means for me in my experience is that a whole lotta old fashioned, Old Testament pain and suffering are coming along for the ride.

If God is going to deal with you, chances are, he is going to humble you in the process. Nothing is more humbling than being shown how little control we have over what happens to us in life, and how little value we have if that value is self-created, not creator-given. In the modern vernacular, “You may think you’re ‘The Shit’, but you ain’t shit!” You’re nothing without God, and he will make this clear to you before he will lift you up – at least in my experience.

Scripture backs this up in many places:

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

“Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.” Proverbs 29:23

“The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” Proverbs 147:6

In other words, God will have nothing to do with the lofty in spirit – they are not his people. As he is humble, so will his people be.

This is an important distinction to make before one decides to become a Christian, because once you apply your Free Will and say “Take my life, Lord”, being humbled is one of the main works God will embark upon in your life. You will be humbled in so many ways.

Why is that so important?

First, because God is himself humble, as stated above. Second, because humility is required for compassion. If one is haughty and puffed up with pride, it’s next to impossible for compassion and empathy to gain a foothold in their life. They are untouched by suffering because they have little to none, and don’t much care about the suffering they see others experiencing, if they see it at all – which they probably don’t.

These are not things which need psychological studies to bear out – this is just plain common sense, something that is unfortunately becoming extinct these days. One simply needs a bit of life experience to appreciate how this Biblical wisdom rings true.

One needs to be humbled, sometimes repeatedly, before they understand the truth of the scriptures quoted above, for it is the arrogant that are blind to this truth, not the humbled. Most are born with a tendency towards pride, so that is a given in life. Humility is not. That is only earned through suffering and the patient hand of God.

When going through this humbling process, it can feel like God is just beating the crap out of us for no reason. And I’m sure we feel like that because we’re all innocent, right?

Wrong! Take Job. He thought he was an innocent victim in his sufferings, and that was the cause of his complaints. But he was shown by God that he had no right to complain – inferring that he was not above humility and the suffering that created it. Job was correct to not curse God, but where he erred was in his feelings of victimhood.

His real problems started when his own body was struck with sores, when he was ‘cut to the quick’ so to say. His response was to curse the day he was born. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been brought to that point more than once in my life. Oh Job, you are a brother to me!

“Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ ” Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. – Job 3, 3:4

Because of God, Job has become afflicted, and he doesn’t understand why.

Sometimes I wonder if God just picks someone out of the blue down here on planet Earth, and just starts to slap them around for no reason that is readily apparent (which is NOT to say there is no reason at all). Some poor soul like Job gets occasionally tapped to be made an example of, and everyone that knows them gets to be a witness. I believe it’s for the benefit or detriment of those witnesses that this happens.

Maybe God is simply fishing for his children – testing the waters for any flicker of compassion that may be there. As he is mopping the floor with this poor soul he has selected for abuse, he is looking around saying “Does anyone see this? Does anyone care?” If compassion exists, it will reveal itself, and those will be known as children of God. And where compassion doesn’t exist, it cannot be revealed because it doesn’t exist, and those will be known as the children of perdition.

Isn’t this exactly what God did to his own son?

Christ, entirely innocent of all accusations against him, was destroyed upon the cross, and God allowed it. Was part of the reason why the same as for Job – was he allowing his son to suffer and die a horrible death in total innocence so he could gauge in that moment the true quality of those alive at that time, and thereafter? When people would hear about the story of his son at later times, was part of what he was looking for simply a compassionate response?

Because, for me, I cannot understand the person who can hear that story and respond mockingly, or not at all. I just can’t – I think that person is not entirely human. I think they are a child of perdition.

And God will then, in that moment of testing, say to this person, ‘to my right – you are saved’, and to another, ‘to my left – you are accursed.’ They will have been sifted as wheat by this test of compassion, and the wheat will be saved, and the chaff cast off into the wind. And the chaff will probably have no idea they’ve been tested at all. Not until it is too late to be corrected. Not until their souls are being destroyed with extreme prejudice.

And what is to happen to all the Jobs of life? What is their fate? I’d like to think that special rewards are reserved for these pitiful ones, the ones chosen to serve an unfortunate but required task mostly for the benefit of the ones that would witness their cruel treatment by life. If God is fair – and I truly believe he is – then this will certainly be the case.

Read Full Post »

This was re-posted here from a blog entitled Hermit’s Thatch. I was unable to find a link with which to ask permission before posting it here, but I hope that the author, Meng-hu, won’t mind me sharing it with a few more people. These are words that cut to the quick of the matter in a way that only the scriptures seem able to do. I guess that’s the mark of truth. May God have mercy on us all.


Thoughts of a homeless man

by Meng-hu

Fictional, but based on an actual conversation, with the interlocutor here speaking.

Homeless Man 1I’ve been homeless for ten years. I made some mistakes and I paid for them, but I lost all my friends, and my family refused to ever see me again. Jobs are scarce; I have no skills of value to anyone. But like Siddhartha in the Hesse novel, I can think, I can wait, I can fast. Many days I go hungry. But I have infinite patience. And I can think, but usually think myself into a self-righteous and ethical stalemate.

I decided to give up trying to make it, you know, to give up trying to be a square peg — or is it round? It was just too hard: trying to pay rent or a mortgage, trying to pay insurance and debts, trying to guess what pleases people.

I imagine average people would say that it is my fault, that I am dysfunctional. But wasn’t it Freud who said, “Who wants to be functional in a dysfunctional society?” Not just dysfunctional — modern society is basically sick. All the values are upside down. What is celebrated is greed, exploitation, violence. What is scorned is simplicity, nature, the slow, and the quiet.

homeless-man 2Being homeless, I know this firsthand. Homelessness is being criminalized. Simplicity is being criminalized. The Native people of this continent didn’t have property deeds and legal documents, so everything was stolen from them, and when they insisted that this was their home and that everybody had free access to the water, the land, the forest — well, they were pushed out of the way, or were killed outright.

Today it’s average people, the poor people. The simple people. And many just don’t see how they are being abused by society. Homeless people are society’s front line, the soldiers that were put on the front line to die first. The average people, the wage slaves that carry on, they don’t realize what society has done to them. They don’t resent or understand, they just admire those who abuse them. They want to be rich, and they think the next lotto ticket is their pass to that stairway to heaven. John Steinbeck, the writer, called them “embarrassed millionaires.” That’s what they are, still groveling for a chance to sit at the boardroom table.

Homeless_Man 3Of course, homeless people have a bad reputation. It’s true that many are alcoholics, addicts, mentally ill. They smell bad, wear ragged clothes, talk loudly to themselves. They scare me plenty of times when I’m out there. But that’s the difference: I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs. I have no behavior problems, travel with a clean kit, bathe and groom, and get clean thrift shop clothes when I need to. I stay in shelters and missions when I need to eat and rest, but I prefer being outdoors and on the road. I dumpster-dive for most food and sleep under the stars when I can, which is why I tend to stay in climates where there are beaches and woodlands. I don’t like to panhandle because then you immediately lose respect, and self-respect. I have money for small things because I will do odd jobs, though most people are suspicious of me. Many towns have centers where men gather waiting for a job. Once in a while I will get something, enough to keep me going, but I avoid groups. They can be dangerous to a peaceable person like me.

My health has been good. Maybe that’s because I eat very little, walk a lot, get fresh air. If I was religious I could be a wandering preacher. Jesus was a wandering preacher. Doesn’t the Gospel say that birds have their nests and foxes their dens but that he was homeless? Don’t people realize what that means, about God taking care of the flowers and birds? I think Jesus was homeless in every sense: no property, no relations, no friends or kin, no career. And that’s how he figured out everything, how he became wise. There isn’t any other path for a solitary.

homeless man 4You make no demands on life, if only because you aren’t around long enough to see the conclusion. Yet sometimes there is something that bubbles up inside of me, that you want to tell people, even shout to people, something like: “Don’t you know that you can be free? That if you could open up to everyone, you won’t need all this fear, this terror, insecurity. That all this control is a grand charade, a phantasmagoria to fool you into never going your own way, never daring to, never learning what life is all about. Isn’t that what Jesus might have said, and Buddha, and probably everybody else you would call wise?

So, you know, the town to where I am heading next is poor but has water and lots of trees. I’ve been there years ago. But every day is new. I feel like a deer or a bear or a turtle. Every day I have to find food, get some sleep, wash myself, protect myself. At least I don’t have anyone. It’s an odd blessing, though, or a curse of sorts: sometimes I get very lonely and wonder if it’s all wrong. Successful people don’t think that way, they just assume it’s all just right, just the way it should be, themselves, the world, the universe, it’s just dandy because they do what they want and nobody stops them, so therefore the universe favors the arrogant and the sociopath and the fittest. That’s the thinking of the mind serving the body and calling it success. But I don’t think like that. I think like the deer, and the bear, and the turtle. Life is tough but they are free.

It’s probably better not to think. Everything I know is from my intuition, my wits, my gut feeling. Not from thinking. Better not to think, really, because then what you know comes naturally, you come into knowing that is more natural instead of just assuming things because someone told you or because everybody else thinks that way, or because your life is ordered just so. In that way, my mind becomes very settled, very peaceful. It’s like finishing a journey that went well: you might remember and regret losing the good of it, but you are ready to finish and rest, satisfied weariness. That’s how I want to go, really, when that day catches up.

But no rest yet, no end yet. Say, I’d best be going on. Thanks for listening to me.

Read Full Post »

It was a day like any other.

A day filled with the business of life – tasks that kept me running all day long.

I was enjoying a short break from these tasks while sitting, waiting for a bus at the terminal. This was in Albuquerque in September, and the terminal was open air, so I was enjoying a smoke while I waited.

As was common in this city, a young man came up and asked to bum a smoke. I obliged, and as he began rolling a cigarette I struck up a friendly conversation about mundane things – the weather, if I remember correctly. I loved to talk about the weather in Albuquerque because the weather there was almost always perfect.

Talk then turned from weather to the natural landscape. He commented that he never used to give litter a second thought, but lately he had changed and adopted a certain stretch of outlying road as his own to tend and keep free from litter, a job he said he did for “him.”

I had concluded that this man was Native American – his new predilection reminded me of that old commercial of the crying Indian, made distraught from the pollution of modern society.

“Him?” I asked.

“Yes” he answered, simply. “My Majesty.”

My Majesty? What on earth did that mean?

“I saw him, you know” he said. “I took his hand.”

Then understanding flooded in. This sounded familiar. This had the ring of the supernatural to it. Was he talking about Christ, I wondered?

“You mean Christ?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yes” he said. “I saw him.”

Wow. I didn’t see that one coming. Especially from a Native American. Aren’t they supposed to be animistic in belief? Shows how much I know.

He went on to explain how this supernatural encounter came about.

A car accident – a bad one – left him in a coma for about 90 days, each day of which he assured me he was fully conscious and awake, but in a different realm. He was most definitely not on earth. Where he was could not be comprehended by an earthly mind.

There were fires burning everywhere, and bodies crawling past him, some complete, most partial. And there was a material he could only describe as lava, but it wasn’t lava. It was something else. This he dared not even look at, because, as he said, “I knew that if I looked at it I would never leave that place.”

Then he came. “My Majesty.” This being offered a hand to the young man, but he hesitated to take it. “I didn’t feel… worthy.” But, overcome by fear and a desire to be rescued from that awful place, he did take it. He took the hand of Christ himself.


He then asked Jesus where they were, and his response was, for me at least, a confirmation of the authenticity of this man’s story. Christ told him that this was the “underworld.”

I had expected him to say Hell, or Sheol, the biblical terms for this place. Maybe even Tartarus. But the underworld? That was the mythological term, the ancient Egyptian and Grecian name. Did Native Americans also use the term underworld, I wondered? Probably, which was why Christ used that term in this instance – he met this man where he was at, and spoke the language he would understand.

In completing his account, the young man revealed that what transpired next was essentially a life review, whereby Christ allowed him to see key points in his past while pointing out the parts he approved of as well as those parts that still needed some work.

Then, without warning, Christ commanded, “Awake!”

Instantly he awoke from his 3 month coma to find himself in a hospital room. As was clear from talking to him on that day in Albuquerque, he has never been the same since.

This type of story is not new to me. Talking directly and in person to an experiencer is, though. Over the years I have read countless near death experiences from people all over the earth. I’m weird that way.

This account has all the classic characteristics of what is called a “negative” NDE. A “hell” experience, essentially. But I would say that the effects are anything but negative – which is typically the case.

These experiences have a transformational effect on those that have them, and none more so than those where the subject comes face to face with Christ at some point during the NDE. When that happens, that person will often become a dyed in the wool Christian then and there and will so be for the rest of their lives.

What is it about this being that simply standing in his presence can have that kind of effect on a person?

Christ Glorified

Christ Glorified

My Majesty….



1. impressive stateliness, dignity, or beauty.

2. royal power.

I had never before heard anyone refer to Christ this way, but the guy absolutely hit the mark. It is perhaps the best descriptive title for Jesus there is.

The most amazing part of this story is this:

Although a true believer myself, my faith had really been flagging in the weeks before this encounter. I had been struggling in vain to secure employment and, with funds depleting and no prospects in the offing, I started to doubt that God cared about me anymore, or maybe had simply forgotten about me completely.

He hadn’t.

And in the most unlikely place, from the least likely candidate, God once again demonstrated that he is always faithful and true. Through this young Native American man, he proved yet again that there is absolutely nothing he cannot do and that he is ever watchful over all those who call upon his name.

God is so amazing.

Read Full Post »

According to the Online Dictionary of Etymology (http://www.etymonline.com), the word “gratitude” comes from the Latin “gratus,” which means “thankful, pleasing.”

In my novel The Translation of Daniel (available soon), the main character has an awakening after his life totally falls apart. As he begins to understand and embrace the change that has happened to him, at one point he says “That is the posture I wish to assume regarding my life, an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ Create some soil that will not tolerate the weeds of fear and loathing.” He says this upon waking up after sleeping in the park, finding that children have blanketed his body with picked dandelions. He is homeless, and could find many reasons not to be thankful, but he chooses to focus on the gift of those flowers. He focuses on what he is grateful for in that moment.

That, I think, is the key. Our thoughts are “things.” They become manifest. Or, as  Wayne Dyer has said, what is inside comes out – squeeze a lemon, and you get lemon juice. Squeeze a thankless person, and you get a heaping dose of ingratitude, because that is what is inside them, and also, of course, because you just squeezed them. No one would like that, but you get my point. Wayne Dyer has said many wise things – I think I need to dedicate a post to some of his quotes soon.

So then, we cultivate gratitude by – Tadaaaa! – practicing gratitude!! Simple, right? Oh, if only it were so simple.

Actually, the process is that simple, but that’s not to say it’s easy. I know that, perhaps more than many out there. There was a time in my life when I was so consumed by all the things I hated, all the things that were wrong in the world, that I had no ground in my mind left for one grateful thought. Again, it’s about focus. I was focused solely on the negative. Why? That’s a good question, and perhaps best left for a subsequent post. But for now, the simple and quick answer is ego. Unchecked ego. It thrives on the negative, because it thinks it has control and can improve the world to suit itself. Tisk tisk. Silly ego.

So why not do what serves us best? Why not do what makes us better, happier people? The choice is clear, but the way is rocky. And we are forgetful creatures. It never ceases to amaze me how, moment by moment, we can so easily get lost in the machine of mind – the endless thoughts and worries – worries first, then thoughts that attempt to solve the problems that cause the worries in the first place. Kill that machine. Stop the thinking. Stop the worrying.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is really about, after all? That’s why it’s a holiday – a break from responsibilities, a chance to pause, to become mindful, to bring our focus back to gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: