“Experience is the teacher of all things.” –julius Caesar
It seems curious to me that, when we talk about what living the perfect life might be like, we think of life lived as we see in a Lotto 649 ad: exciting!–like diving off high cliffs into azure pools below, relaxing with invited friends on deck of our own personal luxury cruise yacht, laughing and partying with not a care in the world. Yet, when one hears years later about these lotto winners who’ve tried this type of life, the majority of them–or anyone, for that matter, who tries to live the good life as advertised by these get-rich-quick companies as the perfect dream-life, we see total disaster.
From all this I gather that such an artificial life–unearned luxuries–isn’t what we came here on earth to experience. Yes, dreaming big is part of our purpose, and it’s a noble purpose, but dreaming big involves effort and personal involvement on our part in order to accomplish those dreams. Then we can say to the Universe, “I’ve earned my accomplishments!”
I can clearly remember, many, many years ago when I was still a kid living my innocence on a farm in central Saskatchewan. It was the middle of the 1930s. The whole country was still agonizing itself through the Great Depression, and effects of that terrible time were present everywhere. But, still, we considered ourselves to be among the lucky ones: we lived on a farm where we raised chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, cows and had two teams of work horses that we used in working the grain fields, so if we had nothing else, we always had plenty to eat. Yes, our mother often had to sew patches over already worn out or torn patches on our clothes, but that was life in those days. Everyone was in the same boat.
Since we lived less than a quarter of a mile from the Canadian National Railway that linked Canada from east to west, we saw a lot of out-of-work Eastern “Railroad Bums” riding the rails to Alberta in search of a better chance at employment. Often thirsty and hungry, many would jump off the moving rail cars and stop at our farm to ask for a handout. Money, of course, was out of the question, since we never had any money ourselves, so we were unable to help anyone else, financially.
But mother always made sure that she had a pot of something on the stove so that our “temporary guests” didn’t leave on an empty stomach, and that usually included packing a tick, double-sliced beef sandwich on fresh, homemade bread to take with them for their remaining journey to a better future.
It’s funny … not like today, in those days, we never treated these “Railroad Bums” with suspicion: that they might want to rob us, or were perverts running from the law. We knew that they were someone’s husband, father, or son, who had the misfortune of being caught up in the Great Depression, and were looking for work–somewhere, anywhere, as long as it provided an income so that they could feed their families. It was our Christian duty to show compassion to those men who were less fortunate than we were.
It was exactly these hard, depressive times that taught our community compassion. But, it was a youthful experience during this depressive hard time that taught me, personally, the difference between showing compassion, and letting a person work out their own destiny in their own time, in their own way, without my interference.
As I said, we had chickens on our farm and it was usually us children’s job to go around to all the chicken’s hiding places around the yard and stables to collect the eggs for the day. Occasionally, the chickens were smarter than we were, and hid their laying nests so well that we didn’t always find them–that is, not until many days later when the hens had brooded their eggs to the point where they began to hatch, and we’d only spot the nests after little chicks were running everywhere.
I recall one particular incident when my younger brother and I were on an egg-gathering mission. We came across a hidden nest where some chicks were already hatched, but other chicks were still in various stages of breaking through their eggshells. My brother and I decided to give these partially hatched chicks a hand by breaking the shells for them, saving them the effort. Unfortunately, this proved a disaster! To our dismay, all the chicks that we tried to help, died while still in their shell! What went wrong? Weren’t we showing compassion?
It wasn’t until many, many years later, and weathering many of the bumps and bruises life has to offer , before I learned that God has a reason for giving us challenges: to break out of our own eggshells on our own, without outside help. He has a reason for making us apply effort to achieve anything worthwhile in life. We need challenges and setbacks in life in order for us to grow, spiritually!
I know of persons where, when everything is just handed to a person born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, that person became lazy and self-centred. They often just frit away the business worth that their father had built through his hard work. They often become selfish and uncaring, and before long, they’re spiritually dead, much like those chicks that we tried to help years ago, became physically dead because we tried to give them something for nothing.
There is a reason for trials and shortcomings. They are not punishments from a wrathful or uncaring God. They are there to help one grow: to learn to love: to show compassion, so that I can, eventually, become the god I am meant to become!
A Bible Study help:
Read slowly and ask yourself, who is speaking, and to whom are they speaking.
I find reading Holy Scriptures fun and exciting, especially if you allot time on Sunday–the Day of Rest–for such a mind-expanding activity. I found this out quite by accident–well, maybe it was more by design, arranged for me by a Sunday School teacher that I had met–or, again, she “arranged” to meet me–several years ago. She showed me how to study Scripture, not just read it, which has, in the past, left me more confused than when I started. Like I say, I now find studying Scripture very thought-provoking, and I’d like to pass this little secret on to you.
The problem is, far too many Pastors and Teachers of all faiths emphasize only reading the scriptures– “have you read your scriptures today?“–while shaking a ‘naughty-naughty’ finger at you, without placing hardly any emphasise on studying–understanding–what you’ve read.
I haven ‘t conducted a formal pole on this topic, but I’m sure, if a study were conducted, it would show that this is the main cause why so many people leave their faith: they just don’t understand the doctrine, or why so-and-so prophet said this-and-that, and why it should also be important to me! A person who truly understands the words and actions of our spiritual leaders have lovingly and passionately given to us, will not do many of the things “plastic” Christians are accused of doing: warmongering, cheating, infidelity, hate mongering, stealing, indifference, etc.
Also, please don’t put too much hate and blame on, what we might call, “False Prophets,” the guys who are in it only for fame and riches, for leading people astray. They’re only filling a human demand: I’m too lazy to think for myself, so I’ll just believe whatever you tell me is right. Also, don’t put too much concern about your feelings that these negative people are getting away without judgement, and here I include both the so-called victim and the false prophet. They’re both in it together, to teach each other some real lessons in life, and they’re both united to their karmic fellowship until they’ve outgrown each other’s need. Forget about them, and concentrate only on the positive: on you, and you moving forward!
“For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” — Ecclesiastes 12:14
Getting back to my initial Sunday School teacher. let’s put theory into practice. Get your scriptures out and turn to 1 Peter, chapter 1 verse 21: “Who by him (Jesus) do believe in God, that raised him (Jesus) up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
Beautiful verse, but do you understand what it means? Let’s dig deeper and get more meaning out of this verse. Using my favorite expression, “define so-and-so.” In this case, “define” Who is it that has glorified Jesus? If you look more closely at verse 21, you will see a small “a” superscripted to the left and above the word, “glory.” Now, go to the bottom of the page and in the footnotes find, “21a.” Next to it, you should see: “Acts 3:13 (13-15).” Back to your Scriptures, turn to Acts 3:13, and you will read: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son, Jesus:” In other words, God glorified Jesus. Now you know more than you did by just reading the passage.
Let’s continue. Go back to 1 Peter 1:21 and you will see a small “b” superscripted to the left of the word, “faith.” Again go to the footnotes and find, 21b. You should see it just below 21a, where it tells you to see Galatians chapter 5 verse 5 and 6: “for we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Ponder that scripture for a moment, then turn back to your Scriptures and do the same thing with many of the other superscript letters that you see next to key words. It won’t take long and you’ll find scripture study very fascinating and an hour–two hours–will fly by in no time, and you’ll look forward to your next personal study session!
Do that for an hour or two each day for a week and you will have found the best Sunday School teacher on earth: your own guiding spirit–the spirit that “never faileth.” As a closing thought, read Luke chapter 2, verses 26 to 32.
“Bible study is like eating peanuts. The more you eat, the more you want to eat.”
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” ― Dr. Seuss,
The biggest iconic opposites polarity in humanity celebrating Christmas is between Jesus, or December 25th, the day we celebrate as Jesus’ birthday, and Santa Claus. To me, Santa Claus is little more than a sales gimmick created by Coca-Cola to increase their profits, and is an icon of the shopping frenzy that takes place during the pre Christmas season. Santa Claus is to the real meaning of Christmas what a plastic, ten cent diamond is to a real thousand dollar diamond: Artificial. It is the exact opposite of what the season is about.
Jesus’ birth–his gift to all earthly creation–is that there is hope, and that’s not what Santa Claus offers you! Jesus offers hope: a way to lift ourselves out of the hopeless misery that we are/were in, and the opportunity to turn hate into love, and be loved in turn; To replace wordly passion with compassion; To replace violence and war with understanding and compromise; To replace ignorance with true education; To replace selfishness with unselfish deeds that care for all creation, not just ourselves and friends; To replace punishment–prisons–with understanding and a helping hand.
A 2013 CBC report states that Canadian prison population has increased by 75% in the last decade. The report further states that, ten years ago, the number of inmates in federal Canadian prisons was nearly 12,000. It’s now over 15,00! Obviously, punishment doesn’t work! Until we start treating criminals as human beings that need help and not our contempt, our prison population will never go down!
“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ”
― Mary Ellen Chase
There was a time, before the Great Depression of the 1930s, that social assistance was provided by religious charities and other private groups. Today, welfare is big business and has migrated from the offices of Pastors in religious institutions to government, and a report by the National Council on Welfare indicates that there are 1.7 million Canadians on welfare–obviously a growing statistic! And the last “Ho ho ho” that I heard from Santa Claus, he wasn’t too concerned about feeding the hungry and clothing the sick as he flits to and fro between us and the North Pole!
In order to survive, primitive man had to think of himself first. As we to evolve, Jesus the Christ was born to us with a new message: it is better to give than to receive. Is the idea of Santa Claus’s popularity just an attempt from the Dark Side to keep us primitive, to think only about our own selfish wants?
Giving and receiving is fine. It’s a Christian tradition. But charitable giving and receiving is Christ-giving and receiving! That’s what Christmas is all about!
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
― Steve Maraboli,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience.”
— Teilhard de Chardin
I like Sundays. Call me old fashioned, but Sundays, to me, are quiet, reverend times when I love to reflect, not so much on where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished, but what I now am, and where I’m going. My self-reflective moments indicate, above all else, that I love my fellow man. That’s important. I can ‘go home,’ at any time, to my God, in peace, knowing that I hold no grudge against anyone and I have fought the good fight, and won!
“Good works do not make a man good, but a good man will do good works.”
On weekdays my thoughts are on making a living, providing shelter and food for myself and my family and keeping my house safe. But Sundays are a time to tuck away the cares of the world and reflect on my spiritual self. Sunday is the day I concentrate on my spiritual growth. What am I doing to make myself a better person? Have I stood as a friend to someone during their time of pain? Do I spend time with family and share their problems?
“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaved. And we all have some power to make wishes come true, as long as wee keep believing.”
— Louisa May Alcott
Standing still–not akin to resting and relaxing–is a terrible waste of time. Next Sunday, when I again sit here at my computer and reflect, will I have moved forward? Will I be able to say, “I am satisfied with myself!“? I will sleep well tonight, assured that an Angel stands guard at each corner post of my bed … I cannot be harmed!
“It is better in prayer to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” — Mahatma Gandhi
When it comes to prayer, there are two types of people: those who claim to always have their prayers answered, and those who, because replies to their prayers are so rare, deny the effectiveness of prayer and even go to the extreme of doubting the very existence of God.
Who is right? We’re told that “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”? (Matthew 7:7). So, why aren’t all prayers answered in real life?
I consider myself a religious person–basically Christian, although I also embrace the wisdom of all major faiths, and all these faiths have one thing in common: they advocate prayer as a means of communicating with our chosen “Higher Power.” Furthermore, they, like Christianity, also, quite confidently, state that all prayers are answered, so what seems to be the problem? Why do so many prayers go seemingly unanswered?
I don’t think the problem is because of an indifference on the part of God, nor is God selective in answering prayers. The problem lies with our misunderstanding of what prayer is, and our express role in prayer. Prayer isn’t just a one-sided communication–and prayer is communication!
Let me explain it this way. Envision an imaginary couch on which lies a gangly young teenager, spread horizontally and comfortably across it, occupying the major part of the couch, his two thumbs intently texting a message to one of his buddies. Let’s call this teenager, Tom. Tom is so busy texting–concerned only with the social affairs of his life–that he is unaware of his surroundings, including his father who is also seated comfortably in a lounge chair, reading the afternoon paper.
All is quiet.
Suddenly, Tom stops texting and glances at his watch. It’s four o’clock. He turns his head towards his father.
“Hey, dad! I’m hungry. Give me ten bucks so that I can go to buy myself a pizza.”
Dad puts down his paper and glances over towards his son. He knows that Tom’s been lying on the couch, texting, since about noon. “Why don’t you get yourself a part-time job so you can earn some money and buy your own pizza?”
“Aw, come on, Dad! Do you always have to nag every time I want something?” Tom sits up.
“Your friend, Jerry, has a job at Circle-Four drive-through, why can’t you–”
“Stop it, Dad!” Tom interrupts. “For one thing, Jerry told me that the Circle-Four isn’t hiring right now. Besides, it’s on the other end of town. How am I supposed to get there? I don’t have a car.”
“Try taking the bus,” father suggests. “I often take the bus. It’s fun. You get to meet a lot of interesting people–”
“In winter? Me, take the bus? You crazy? I’d freeze to death waiting for a stupid bus at the bus stop.”
“Well, there’s Nick’s Hardware. I know he’s hiring, and he’s just three blocks from here …”
- Do you see what’s happened here? Tom sent a request to his father–a prayer–he needed ten bucks.
- Father responded, but not in the way Tom expected, and Tom wasn’t about to agree with his father.
- Tom didn’t agree with his father, nor did he want to put any of his own effort into having his desire fulfilled–the desire to have his father buy him a pizza. He didn’t want to listen to some wise counsel that would ultimately help him become more independent and less reliant on others for his sustenance.
- Has Tom ever thanked his father for the comfortable living and blessings that he has already received in the past? Tom didn’t live to become a teenager solely through his own merits. He had a lot of parental love, care and help along the way.
God answers every prayer. God talks to us constantly, in innumerable ways. The problem is that we’re not always willing to uphold our end to help us experience the fulfillment of prayer. Thus, it seems to our stubborn, often limited reasoning, that God isn’t listening–and, in extreme cases, we even accuse Him of not even existing!
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”
― Roy T. Bennett,
Consider the ocean as universal consciousness. I am part of that consciousness. As part of that individualism, I have individual abilities: to see, to hear, to taste, to feel and to smell. God, who has granted me that individuality within His ‘ocean’ and, because of His love for me, has added and additional feature to that individuality: awareness and learning ability: a great tool by which I might advance myself and consciousness (the ocean) as a whole.
Consider this tool as a stick. I can dip it into the ocean and disturb the otherwise ‘calmness’ of the ocean (consciousness). I can be artistic. I can create tiny ripples whose waves barely make it out more than a few feet, or I can really stir up the ocean and make giant waves whose ripples will travel for endless miles. I can make calm waves: gentle waves that ease and sooth troubled waters. I can be creative. In short, God has given me the ability, with my ‘magic’ stick, to create whatever I want in His ocean of consciousness.
Today, my ‘stick’ — my consciousness, has given me hope. Hope I can, with my ‘magic stick,’ I can bring about whatever I wish to create.
As a committed philanthropist I often like to add a personal prayer to help fulfill the desired need of my ‘targeted’ person or group.
Prayer, if managed correctly, is one of the most powerful tools ever given to us by a loving Creator! Sadly, many of us don’t know how to pray properly, therefore we dismiss its effectiveness and its ability to help ourselves and others. Thus, unfortunately, many considered prayer to be no more than religious hocus-pocus–superstition.
To make prayer effective, the first point to consider is, how unselfish is our request? Praying for your spouse to make lots of money so that the two of you can all live the lottery dream is not praying unselfishly, and your chance of getting there by praying in this manner are one in tens of millions. Again, it is this type of prayer that far too many people pray and when they see no results, they dismiss prayer as useless in their lives.
Unselfish love is the prime mover in making prayer effective. Our problem then becomes, to understand what “unselfish love” really is. Let’s say you have a friend who is quite sick, so you’re going to pray that s/he gets better. On the surface, sounds like an unselfish act, and if the friend continues to be sick, we dismiss prayer as ineffective. But, if we really had true, compassionate love for our friend, it might be more proper to first ask, why is that friend sick? Is s/he living an unhealthy lifestyle? If so, our compassion then should focus on helping that friend to live healthier so that the body can repair itself–oh, and confronting the friend and ‘point out’ their unhealthy lifestyle and insist that they change, isn’t exactly ‘compassionate love’ either!
Humanity is unique in that each and every one of us have been given the Universal Power to make our own decisions, and reap its consequences. Therefore, not even the Power of Prayer can force an idea or thought onto that person. But, what Prayer can do is surround that person in an aura of influence–that influence being not what we think is best for the person, but what actually is best, and let our prayer, our aura of love, become a shield that, when the person is ready to receive, will then benefit from that prayer.
Let’s go back to our sick friend, and let’s assume that it’s from living an unhealthy lifestyle of eating too much junk food. All the arguing and insisting (and praying) is not going to change your friend’s lifestyle until s/he, on their own accord, desires to make a change. At that moment, when the desire is there for change, there isn’t another power in heaven nor on earth that can prevent that aura of compassionate love –that Prayer that you offered, to manifest itself and have a positive influence on your friend. It may take a month, it may take a year or most of a lifetime, but manifest, that prayer must!
“… Be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity…” Doctrine and Covenants 12:8
And one should include patience. As Julius Caesar said, “It is easier to find men who are willing to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”
And, herein lies the undefeatable power of Prayer!
If I Google the word, “Prayer“, I’m greeted with oodles of sites that offer 24/7 prayers to anyone requesting them. Again, if I Google “What is prayer?” I again get some very interesting results, like, “Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made.” See: https://carm.org/christianity/prayer-ministry/what-prayer.
Or, “Prayer is a communication process that allows us to talk to God!” See: http://www.allaboutprayer.org/what-is-prayer.htm
I doubt that there is a person on this planet who hasn’t, almost on a daily basis, initiated a deliberate prayer-ritual, or just silently prayed for something–wished for something to use that word, if the word, “prayer” bothers you. But, why is it that, most of the time when we pray, it’s because we’re either super elated and want to give thanks, or we’re desperate for help. Shouldn’t prayer be a daily ritual in our lives? I mean, if our prayers are mostly a thank you when we’re feeling really good, or a supplication–petition, when we’re desperate or in need of help, isn’t that sort of, like, saying, “ God, when you’re really good to me I’ll thank you, and when I’m in need of your help I’ll call you. In the meantime, stay out of my life.”
I’m going to assume that most of my readers who are reading this blog are parents, so I ask, if one of your kids developed an attitude like this, how would you feel? How would you deal with a child that recognizes you only when lavish gifts on him or when he’s desperate?
We know that, as a parent, we are more pleased with the child that is grateful for what they already have, and are inclined to often give ‘a little extra’ than requested. God–the universe–works much in the same way.
The Universe loves gratitude–genuine gratitude.
I was sitting in meditation on Grace, when it dawned on me how important a role Gratitude plays in our lives. We cannot receive more Grace until we are thankful for all the blessings we already have. “For whosoever hath [Grace], to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hat not [Grace], from him shall be taken away even that he hath“. Matthew 13:12.
Rather than show Gratitude, when God/the Universe closes a door on us we get frustrated and often blame Him for being mean to us, but we really should give thanks for that ‘closed door’ and start looking for the other ‘open door’, the door with greater opportunity, that God has provided. How can we find that open door if we continue to constantly grumble, moan and cry over the closed door?
Thank you, God, for your Grace–for opening new doors–providing new opportunities for me, that I may continue to grow and come closer to Your presence!