Time away

I won’t be posting for a few days because I’m going to a camp.

I like camps, they give you the opportunity to get out of your usual surroundings. In my case, to worship and learn and focus only on God related things. which sounds boring but it isn’t. Few things are more interesting and exciting to me than God-things. But every person needs time away from their routine. Sometimes our little worlds just seem so full of noise. And demands. And people who know us too well. Getting away from all that gives us a chance to expand, to find out things about ourselves we didn’t know before, to relax and remember the beautiful things in life. To stop focusing on our own lives and take a look at the big picture.

Sometimes you can’t afford to leave your house, but you can set aside a day for no work, no plans, just leisure time (or fun). It’s not selfish to rest if all that’s going on is the normal cares of life. Though it can be tough because the phone is sure to ring, you’re sure to remember a ton of things you should be doing, you may even feel lost with nothing to do. But persist and see how much it does for you.

So with that thought, I leave you to plan your day off.

Red?

(I hate that I have to do this.) Disclaimer: I just want to state that all colors used in this story are used by right of having eyes, no colors in this story are symbolic of any race or country or other group of people, any connection with any of those things in purely in the reader’s imagination.

Once upon a time all the colors of the world worked together. They got along splendidly; mixing when needed and other times merely sharing a space. All went well until… one day the color Red decided it didn’t want to be Red. At first the other colors were shocked; who had ever heard of such a thing? They immediately had a council. Red defended the position, saying it wasn’t its fault it was Red, that Red was such an angry and harsh color, and the other colors just didn’t understand how terrible it was to be Red when you wanted to be another color. The other colors began to feel sorry for it, although White did ask, “If you aren’t Red, who will be?” But Black hushed it. The other colors voted to let Red be another color. “I’ve always wanted to be Blue,” said Red. The colors suggested Blue give some of its color to Red, and if enough Blue was put in Red, Red would turn Blue. White cried, “I object! We all know Red and Blue just make Purple! And if there’s no Red, how am I going to make Pink–” Black again muffled White. “If you can’t be nice, White, perhaps you’d better go out,” Yellow said. So White was sent out. Well, after that the plan was put into practice. More and more Blue was put in Red every day. Red also developed ways of fading its own color while Blue was made stronger. But no matter how many times they put Blue in, Red was still merely Purple. Darker and darker Purple. It didn’t concern them at first, but after a while Red began to be impatient, then frustrated, then at last depressed. It was  now a very dark Purple, almost black. “I don’t like it, I can’t color anything.” Red told the Color Council. “Well, it isn’t my fault,” said Blue. “I’ve done all I can, and I’m sick of your demands. I won’t have any color myself soon. I quit!” The other colors weren’t sure what to do. Then Yellow suggested adding some of each color to Red and perhaps darkening the purple till it was blue. Red agreed, and as White wasn’t there to object, it was put in practice. This made things worse than ever. Red really wasn’t sure what color it was now. Eventually the other colors grew disgusted with it. “You’re nothing but a mess now,” said Brown. Red–or Mess–was excluded from the council. Miserably, Mess went about looking for something to do, but it had nothing to color now except the worst things, like muck. “Alas!” Mess wailed. “It was better when I was Red. I could color roses, or tulips, or salmon, or rubies, or rainbows with my friends. Why did I ever call Red an angry or harsh color? I’d rather be Red than nothing in particular.” Mess was startled to see White, busy coloring a cloud. “You were right,” Mess said bitterly. “No sunsets,” White muttered. “Huh?” “Since you changed your color there’s been no sunsets. No Pinks or Reds. The humans are quite tired of it. And the roses are certainly more bland as well, and–” “I get it,” said Mess. “I should have been content to be what I was because then I had some use, and some fun, and now I have neither. Sigh. I just wish I could be Red again.” “You can be,” said White. “What?” “You see, to a certain point, adding White to any color makes it lighter. I’m a base for other colors. (Ever hear that white light is the original of colored light?) Now, if you’ll let me strain out all the other colors, we shall have you yourself again.” “Oh, please do,” Mess begged. It took a very long time, but eventually the other colors were strained out and Red was Red again, just a little wiser than before.

Is it oppressive or restrictive for Red to be Red? For air to be air? For your lungs to work as lungs? Can you hear with your eyes and see with your ears? Is it wrong then for a person to be content as they are? Disliking your sex, hair, eyes, or body is as silly as Red wanting to be Blue. Red’s whole molecular structure would need to be different. This story was a fable about not trying to change what you are, or step outside the right design.

The Quest: Part five.

I’m back, now preparing to look at the question “Where am I going when I die?” I’m splitting this article into two parts. Part (a) is wrapping up a loose end I didn’t get to in the interlude and part (b) will serve as a preface to part (c) which will be the question. this’ll be long I’ll warn you, I’m at over 1400 words.

The Quest: Part 5 (a) Good=Evil?

In my  Quest interlude, I quoted C. S. Lewis about the moral law, and common moral points people agree on, such as fairness.

However, we really have no cause for morality if good and evil are equally powerful as some believe. I actually find this belief growing more and more popular. People have the attitude “Yeah, good and evil exist, and I wish good was around more, but sometimes evil wins, sometimes good wins, and we can’t do much about it.” We can try to promote good, but then it seems like we’re in the minority, so what’s the point? Besides which, we aren’t even sure which side we’re on, we do good things, and bad things, and many of us fall into the habit of weighing ourselves to see which side is heavier.

I’ll get to that in a second, but first, why do we suppose good and evil are of equal power? That’s just not true. It’s like saying lead and gold are of the same value, they may weigh about the same, but they are not alike. (And there were learned men who thought they could turn lead into gold, so this equal–no difference nonsense has appeared elsewhere than morality) Let me give a more modern illustration: Suppose a sports team won by cheating and the Referee knew it, and let it stand. The bad (their cheating, his ignoring) would seem to have won. If we go by only the physical circumstances. But good and evil are matters of the mind, and the opposing team would complain for a year about it, just as if the bad did not stand, even though it was enforced. (If it was the Super bowl, some people would probably complain for the next decade.) I’ll bet you that Ref wouldn’t stay in his job for long. You see it’s not a matter of wins or losses, otherwise good and evil might indeed be equal, it’s a matter of men’s hearts. Of what is most real to man. A good ref would play by the rules and we would agree he was a good ref. You see my point?

So, no one really considers good and bad to be equal. If good is greater, than I’d expect the Supreme Being (the greater power) to be on the side of good. Therefore the afterlife would contain rewards based on this premise.

But is there a set of rules to get there? Is there punishment if you disobey these rules.

The Quest: Part 5 (b) Needing a bridge.

It is engrained in the human mind that the most powerful person is not only the rule maker but the rule enforcer. So we can expect God to enforce His own rules. The only way to enforce rules is through punishment. Hell is a horrible punishment, so some might say “Why have rules at all? Why not just let everyone into heaven?” Rules (a crude term but I lack a better one) are the map to get into heaven, but why make it so hard to find?

I think there’s a misunderstanding in that. If Heaven is where God is, of course it is good; but good doesn’t stay good if even a tiny bit of bad is let in. Think of a garden. A good place, beautiful, relaxing; but if even one root or seed of a weed is let in, it grows, spreads, and if not checked it destroys the garden. God is a faithful gardener and will not let any weeds in His garden. Now consider, if people don’t want to follow God’s rules even on earth, and are unkind to the people who do (even one selfish act is unkindness) how will they be when God is constantly before them and they are surrounded by people who want to obey him. The rebels would be worse than ever and try to blot out the good. Some might protest that surrounding people with a good environment would change them;  okay, it might; but good soil flourishes weeds as well as flowers. The protest will not hold up. Pastor’s kid’s rebel and the children of criminals can choose to be honest people. Men cannot be measured as to how far they’ll go on either the good or bad side of the tracks, at least not by other men.

So if we follow the logic I used, no bad person should be (or could be) allowed into heaven. We might even agree on that, but then we still have a problem, no one of us is innocent of wrongdoing. If even a shred of badness can spread, then God could not risk letting a person with even one sin into heaven. (And that’s laughable because nobody has ever stopped at one.) It wouldn’t be wise. Or would it? If there was some way to guarantee that goodness would win out, then God could show mercy.

Here’s where we reach Christianity. Since we all find ourselves guilty and we cannot erase our bad deeds, we seem to be stuck. Yet we are almost compelled to try anyway, or to wish it were not so. To be doomed to eternal punishment and to be able to do nothing about it, that is the worst fear man can have. No–there’s one worse, that it wouldn’t matter. That we mean nothing to this God we don’t know and once we mess up, we fear that our death will not be mourned. The one thing worse than pain and punishment is being forgotten. Invisible.

So we’re in a pretty wretched state. People ache for a  place of complete goodness, no pain, no sickness, no sadness, and on Earth we never find it. If we are ever honest enough to admit we don’t deserve Heaven, we are worse off than before. Worst of all we fear there’s no hope. I believe this is the real reason behind the high suicide rate we see today. Also the many addictions (distractions really) people find themselves trapped in.

The Good News is Christianity provides hope. It says neither are we invisible nor are we forgotten. We are not stuck. Because Jesus–God in the flesh–died for us, took the price of all our bad. Which means we don’t have to be punished, then he rose again, which means we can have a new life. Start over. When I was little a Sunday school teacher illustrated this with a paper chain, first broken, and then fixed. Jesus is the real Missing Link. Our bridge across a chasm. I can’t understand it very well myself, but what the Bible teaches is that Jesus will cover us with  his righteousness. What that means is, sort of like delicious icing on a bland cake, God will see not our bad, but Jesus’ good when he looks at us. Covered, but with our human form intact.

(c) Where to go from here.

Concerning Heaven, Jesus said he would go to prepare a place for his followers. I find this a unique idea, only in Christianity, that I know of. It makes so much sense. Having a personal place. Picture it like this, you arrive at a beautiful vacation spot and the owner actually knows you, knows you as well as if you were related; and your oldest and dearest friend is there to welcome you and takes you to a room done just how you would do it if you could, only even better, because they added some stuff they knew you’d like, now imagine every other person there is someone you know, and the food is so good it makes other food taste like sand. Now imagine that this never has to end, and there’s never any mishaps. I believe Heaven will be all this and more.

I want to go, and I wish everyone did, but I’m well aware that the choice is every individuals. All that’s required is an agreement with the Owner, it’s his place after all. It’s funny that some people think they can go to God and say, “I did this and this good, so you need to let me in.” You pay how the owner wants to be paid. All he wants to start with is faith but that’s another story. One that I can’t fit in this series. Keep reading because I’ll have more good stuff posted soon.

The Quest: Interlude

(This will be a purely religious article, just as a fair warning.)

In part five I will be covering the question “Where am I going when I die?”

This question ended up being so huge I had to split it into parts, so this post is actually covering the lead up to the question.

Perhaps it seems like a leap from my previous topics, but it’s really not. Every religion in the world deals with this question; and they fall into three broad categories:

1. Atheism. You go nowhere, become nothingness.

2. Almost every other religion. There is a heaven (and usually a hell but not always) and you get there by doing what certain gods (or God in at least three religions) wants you to do.

3. Judeo-Christian. Heaven and hell exist but man cannot attain heaven on his own merit, but must accept the help and mercy of God Himself, through Jesus Christ.

I can’t know which group you fall into, but I will explain why I believe as I do.

In the broadest category are other religions. When man acknowledges good and evil, usually the next step is to prevent what they think is evil and promote what is good. Which is where religion and government come from. A religion is government of the soul. The trouble I have with this, is that religion is without fail Man’s attempt to reach God, and no two people agree on everything. Especially right and wrong. Man trying to reach God on Man’s terms is so silly. Think about it. If a Supreme Being is really interested in us (and He made us) then if he intends for us to reach Him, He’d have to give us the means Himself. Imagine it like this, you want to meet with the President of the U.S.A. But you have no means to contact him, you can’t just look up his number in the phone book or waltz into his house. He has guards, security, he’s about as far above you (if you’re an ordinary Joe) as can be. You may obey his laws but that doesn’t make you any different from millions of others. But what if he wanted to see you? Suddenly it’s a breeze, you have ID, you have an appointment and instead of keeping you out the guards escort you in. That’s like reaching God. We really have no means in and of ourselves to reach God, but if He wanted to reach us, who could stop Him? Hold that thought.

Before we even go there, the issue of morality must be discussed.

(A brief teaser: So, if God is interested in us, likely He has rules. No one agrees on what they are, but He must have them. We humans consider certain religions barbaric and others more civilized. I am all for that, but my point is, if we’re the ones trying to figure out what God likes, it’s like looking in the yellow pages for the Commander-in-Chief. We need Him to find us. I’ll get to all that in Part Five.)

That being said, there are some things common to all men that I think show us something about God, since He made all men. (From conception.) I feel this is beyond me, so I am going to quote one of my favorite authors C. S. Lewis:

“Everyone has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–“That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.”

People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed.”– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter One.

I strongly recommend the whole book since I can but touch on the subject. Until next time, think on the values that everyone shares. Such as fairness, all people do not agree on what is fair, but all people agree fairness exists. Or courage. Honesty. Loyalty. Respect.

My parting thought is that this is the evidence of God’s rules, (though that term is rather crude,) but does this provide the way for us to reach God, and get into heaven? Is heaven worth believing in, and is Hell worth even thinking about? I’ll be considering that in the next section.

The Quest: Part four

The continuation of part two, today’s question: What is worthwhile?

After wondering what our purpose is, the next logical step is to wonder what is worth investing our lives, time, and money, in. World cultures each have different and yet strikingly similar answers. Wealth, power, and pleasure are common to nearly all, if not all. I even made up a saying ( I’m the kind of person who does things like that,) about the skewed value-system. Here goes: “We value too much what has little value, and we undervalue what has real value.”

For example: Beauty. We value a face and body, making a goddess of the woman who has what we think is the perfect look. (Ever notice that the perfect look changes from century to century? And it’s always what only a few women of the era can attain and not the mass population of them.) Chasing after the woman with the perfect look is something both men and women do, by the way. We then undervalue and even completely ignore whether a person has good, loyal friends whom she can pour out her soul to, or if she has the ability to be such a friend. And so on. Outward beauty is good, but it is not everything.

You probably knew I’d bring up that as an example, and you probably guessed sports would be next. I won’t go into a lot of it; and, again, I’m not saying either beauty or athleticism is a bad thing; but let’s just say it like it is: Just because the guy can do amazing things with (whatever kind you like) a ball, doesn’t mean he’s a winner in other areas of life. Do people care? I don’t know. Probably not, at least not all of them. Nonetheless sports, though great for many things, do not in of themselves make a man a man.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop at two examples.

Thankfully, cultures also share good qualities they value. The media and entertainment have done their best to destroy our values, and sense of right having any meaning, and wrong being an avoidable thing, but some values are indestructible.

Honestly is one. No one likes a liar. Everyone respects a person known for honesty (oh, except criminals, whose opinion I would hardly count as worth it.)

Loyalty is another quality you can’t help loving. People may exploit it, but that kind of loyalty is usually faulty, and a true friend will stick to all the good things in their friends and try to prevent the worst. (Not by being a fair weather friend, or trying to change people, but by bringing out the best in them.)

Generosity, when seen as genuine, is a quality most everyone is awed by. Because it does go against the grain. Even more so then many other virtues.

There are more, but you get the idea. I really hope you’re asking “So how can I apply this to my profession?”

Well, I confess to not personally having a lot of answers in this area, but I’ve heard good advice from people who have experience. (For a more thorough list please read my “Life Tips” Post.)

I’m going to start this off with a Bible verse that is perfect for the subject. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:3.) This means do everything as if God Himself ( Perspective: An All powerful, VIP, Super-genius,) had told you to do it. Not complaining or criticizing, but with a sense of honor. I hope you believe in God, but if you don’t, keep reading because this is still good stuff.

You must have values, everyone does, you can’t help it. Perhaps some of yours are ones I’ve already mentioned. I want to clarify what I mean by value. A value is any state of being, or trait, that you respect and admire in a person, place, or thing. Core values are the major values that govern your life. If you find out what yours are, and then apply them to every little thing task, it’s so cool how it’ll change the way you feel about it. Martin Luther King Jr. said this:

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music… Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

If I might add a modern twist to that: you can scrub toilets and be great, if you do it nobly. If you realize every little thing done for another person can be a noble and unselfish act. Don’t complain because that devalues it, do not do it half heartedly because that denies importance, do it to the best of your abilities because that is who you want to be, and you will feel good about your work. I know this sounds like a tall order, and no one follows this advice (and I’m not the first one to give it) perfectly; but if you start trying, eventually you will see a difference.(Eventually sounds like a weak word, but it’s the truth that change can take time, so don’t be discouraged.)

If you still think that what you do is truly a waste of time then perhaps a different application of your occupation is in order. You can learn life skills doing almost anything. Being a waitress or waiter may seem like a waste of time (thought I don’t think it is) but take those skills to the next level. Wait on people like they’re royalty. Be creative. Or there’s always quitting, if you are honestly convinced it the wrong place for you. Nowadays quitting can be pretty risky, so unless you’re well-off it may not be an option. If it is, all I can suggest is to get into something you enjoy, or at the very least believe is important. That’ll be different for everyone.

So, when it comes down to it, almost anything can be worthwhile, this is one area where attitude makes it; (and personally, I want it to be God’s will.) I do encourage you to check out “Life tips” for some more suggestions on improving your situation. Or get some tips from wise people you know, whatever will work out for you.