I remember a television commercial for Eggo waffles. The tag line for the ad was “Leggo my Eggo” People aren’t after my Eggo. But, they’re after my ego. A lack of understanding of what the ego has led to a dangerous desire to “kill the ego.”

What Is The Ego?

The word ego in some “spiritual” movements has become a four-letter word. People have turned their egos into the enemy and trying to slay them. I’ve had people brag to me that they are egoless. Ironically, the more someone argues with me that they are egoless, the more I chuckle because it’s a self-defeating argument. An egoless person would not argue at all.

ego noun a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

PSYCHOANALYSIS the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.

The ego is our sense of self. In extreme cases, an out of control ego will lead to an inflated sense of self-importance that is maladaptive. I find it interesting that the standard definition of ego, as a sense of self-esteem is different from the psychoanalytic interpretation. Setting that aside, let’s look at the standard definition for now.

Survival Without The Ego

Without any sense of self-esteem or self-importance, we would not be able to survive. We would put others’ needs ahead of ours, deeming ours to be of no importance. Some with no ego would give away all of their money. They would leave their front doors open and let anyone who wanted to come in and use our homes. At best, this ego-less being would put everyone else’s needs on par with theirs and be taken advantage of. At worst, we’d feel our needs aren’t at all important. We would not protect our bodies or even our property.

This is extreme. But, this is what it means to be genuinely egoless. I think the problem is people have taken a couple of principles to extremes. One is non-duality. The ego gives us a sense of separation. Therefore, they think, it must be bad. We are all aspects of God/Source having a physical existence. In a sense, we are all One. But, it’s important to acknowledge we are having a physical experience. We are both all One and all unique, simultaneously. We have chosen to experience separation. While we are in these bodies, we experience separation, and we need the ego to protect our physical existence.

Redefining Ego

The other thing people have done is to re-define ego from a healthy sense of self-worth to an overinflated sense of self-worth. I’ve heard ego defined as “edging God out” (cute). A healthy ego is not only desirable, it is necessary. Until, I know my own inherent, immutable self-worth and protect it, I cannot understand your worth. I have worked hard to develop a healthy sense of self.

The Danger Of “Killing The Ego”

Working to kill the ego can lead to a damaged sense of self and even self-hatred since killing the ego is not possible. This misunderstanding is not harmless.

A Common Problem- Unhealthy Ego

When I embarked on my life-coaching career one thing I noticed immediately is many of us lack healthy self-esteem, self-worth, yes ego. Early surveys of potential clients showed this is indeed common. This is something I work with clients to overcome. Unhealthy ego can manifest in us feeling undeserving and cause us to sabotage our own success.
 
On the other end of the spectrum, ironically, a lack of self-confidence can manifest as an overinflated ego. If we are highly insecure, we might overcompensate by bragging about how smart we are, how rich we are. I can think of one very prominent example in a very high position in the United States right now. A virtual master course in unhealthy ego and low self-esteem. We continually compare ourselves to others. Some, ironically, even claim that we are so enlightened that we have left the ego behind.

I find myself standing on a ledge. The ledge is made of ice. It’s about six feet across. As I look down, to the icy water below, I see it’s 30-40 feet down. I’m in a pit that’s several hundred yards across. I look up. There is a sheer rock wall going up about 15 feet.

There is a woman in the water, doing a meditation practice I presume. She’s wearing a one piece black bathing suit and keeps going under and floating there. I noticed the water has chunks of ice in it. It must be freezing. But, I’m perfectly warm. I’m looking for a way out. I can’t climb the cliff. It’s straight up and rock. I can’t climb down, the iceberg I am standing on is also a sheer face.

I will have to jump. I can survive the fall. It’s higher than I’m comfortable jumping from. But, it’s not going to kill me. My concern is the cold water. Will I be able to swim to share in that frigid water?

How did I get here? I didn’t climb up. Did I jump down? Why would I do that? And why can’t I remember? As I look up at the sheer wall above me, Then, it dawns on me. This is a dream. I remember that if you find yourself in a place and you don’t know how you got there, it’s a dream. Easy. I’ll just wake up.

As I take my eyes from the wall back down to the water, I realize the scene has shifted.  It’s no longer 30-40 feet to the water; it’s several hundred feet. And the water isn’t water anymore; it’s a city block. It’s concrete. Now, there is no jumping off. There is a guy across from me on the same ledge which is no longer ice, but rock. I see him leap.

Down and down and down he goes I wonder if he’ll disappear as he wakes up or if he’ll hit the ground and splat. What happens to him will determine what I do next. He strikes the ground feet first. His knees buckle. His hand touches the ground. Then, he stands up and walks away.

I’m going to jump… And, then I wake up. But, I wake up in another dream where I am telling people about how lucid my dreams have become.

 

There are three erroneous thoughts that will keep you mired in grief. These are extremely common and widely accepted. If you can overcome these three false beliefs, you will have gone a long way toward coping with your grief. They are very simple. Overcoming them will probably require some work. But, it’s worth it.

1.) “Death is the end”

Language is important. You will rarely hear me say that someone died. The reason is that none of us dies. We so closely identify with the body that we have the mistaken belief that we are our bodies. Therefore, we think, when our body dies, we die.

It’s more accurate to say we have a body. Your body is a lot like your car. It’s a vehicle you use to get around. When you get out of your vehicle, you don’t cease to exist. You move about differently.

While the body is necessary to interact on this plane, it’s not needed for consciousness or existence. When people cross over to the other side, a common way they explain the experience is “I just woke up.”. The reports are that we feel more alive than ever when our bodies die. Death is not the end; it’s a new beginning.

2.) I’ll never see her again

A common phrase among the grieving is “I’ll never see her again.” This belief is also inaccurate and unuseful. What you mean is your physical eyes will never see her physical presence again. That is very true. But, never is a long time. Eventually, all of us have our moment. We are not damned to live in these physical bodies forever. There will come a day that you will see her again. You will have a joyous reunion. And, on that day, the time that was in between will seem like only a moment. It will be a quickly fading memory. What you need to hold onto today is that this day is another day along the road to that reunion. When you close your eyes tonight, you will be one day closer.

3.) She’s not here anymore

We tend to think of the “dead” as either asleep or in some far off place. My studies show otherwise. Those who have crossed the veil are very much interested in and involved in our lives. There are here guiding us. They send us signs. They are coordinating synchronicities. I hear from Shayna regularly, in various ways, through all kinds of people and events. Shayna remains a part of my daily life. I wake up each day and tell her good morning. I tell her good night every night. And, while it’s not the same as having her physical presence, it helps me to remember points 1 and 2. Death was not the end of Shayna, and I will see her again.

Children we have it right here
It’s the light in my eyes
It’s perfection and grace
It’s the smile on my face
Tonight when I chase the dragon
The water may change to cherry wine
And the silver will turn to gold
Time out of mind (Time out of mind) Steely Dan “Time Out of Mind”

“It takes the edge off stupid, all-day reality,”Nic Sheff “Beautiful Boy”

Last night I watched the film “Beautiful Boy” a heart-rending tale that is sadly so common, it’s almost cliche. Nic Sheff is the beautiful son who gets caught up in the world of drugs and breaks his father’s heart time and time again. Nic is the prodigal son of prodigal sons. The son in Jesus’ parable left once and came back. Nic leaves repeatedly, putting his father in an impossible situation. Does he turn his back on Nic to save his relationship with his wife and the mother of Nic’s step-siblings or does he continue to support Nic? At what point does support turn into enabling? These are questions no human being should ever have to answer. As I watched, I deeply identified with David Sheff, the father. I don’t know what it would take for me to say the words “No, you can’t come home. I hope you get your life in order.” I agonized just hearing him say it. I think any parent can identify with David, even those of us who haven’t had a child go through this hell and put us through it. I have a close friend who is an even worse situation with her son. She was on my mind the entire time I watched.

But, many of us say we can’t identify with Nic. What is wrong with him? We think he should just quit. Why did he do the drugs in the first place? We wonder why someone would even start. No one has ever met a thriving, healthy crystal meth addict.  Nic said it beautifully, in just a few words. “It takes the edge off of stupid all day reality.” As I reflected on the movie, Steely Dan’s song Time Out of Mind popped into my head. I’ve never done heroin. I’ve never seriously considered it. But, I can understand why people do. This song resonated with me nearly forty years ago.  Who wouldn’t want a time out from this reality, to escape to a world where water turns to cherry wine? Chasing the dragon is slang for smoking a mixture of heroin and other drugs.

We tend to look at drug addicts with judgment. But, they are doing what we all do. They are seeking transcendence. The explanations of how heroin, meth, etc. make you feel remind me of the feelings Near Death Experiencers talk about- an ecstatic, euphoric experience. We all seek this. The desire for Oneness is universal. This “stupid all-day reality” makes it difficult if not impossible for many of us to find. We have created a reality that is killing many of us because they can’t handle how incredibly stupid we have made it.

I think the actor who plays Nic did a fantastic job with his facial expressions as he’d shoot up. I could see the ecstasy on his face as the drugs coursed through his veins and lit up the pleasure centers of his brain. There are, of course, other ways to find the transcendence we all seek, to escape this “stupid all day reality.” Some of us look for it in success and money. Others become sex addicts. Alcohol is a socially acceptable way of escaping. And, there are healthier ways like meditation. For me, it’s family. And, there is serving others (which Nic discovers in the film). Let’s all do our parts to make this stupid all day reality less stupid so we don’t need to escape it.

Crowdsourcing is a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods and services, including ideas and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly-evolving group of internet users; it divides work between participants to achieve a cumulative result. The word crowdsourcing itself is a portmanteau of crowd and outsourcing, and was coined in 2005.  Wikipedia

Three Types of Reality

What is real? It seems like a question with an obvious answer. John Lennon said, “The more I see, the less I know for sure.” There are different realities or at least different ways of describing reality. First, there is subjective reality, which is the experience within each of our heads. There are as many subjective realities as there are people on the planet. We all see the world through different eyes.

Even events that are common to one or more of us, we experience slightly differently. We know our memories aren’t perfect. My wife and I argue all the time about what one of us said or didn’t say the day before. We each remember it completely differently. Our subjective realities are all we have. Neither of us can prove the other wrong.

We assume there is an objective reality. It’s one of the bases of the scientific method. We strive to design experiments that prove objective reality; that is a reality that is independent of the subject making the observation. An experiment should be able to be done by anyone, at any time, and come to the same result. This is based on the assumption there is a reality; that there is a common reality that is more real than our subjective experiences. And, that reality is the only one that counts. Objective reality is an assumption. We cannot prove it exists.

Whether objective reality exists or not, there is a third type of reality. Consensus reality is the reality we all agree on. We have agreements amongst ourselves that certain things did or did not happen. We use our common observations to agree on what historical events are real. We agree what things are possible and what things are impossible. I was having lunch with my friend Nico, and he commented that all things are possible referring to what humans can do. I said, “Well, it’s not possible for me to fly.” He gave me this quizzical look and asked: “Why not?” At the time I slightly questioned his sanity. I’ll come back to this later.

Referring to my example above about the arguments my wife and I have about what we said. We assume there is an objective reality where I said the thing we are arguing about me saying or I did not. It’s got to be one or the other. But, I’ll be damned if we can agree on what that objective reality is. We are each convinced that our subjective reality is the actual reality- the thing that really happened.

What Science Is Showing Us About Reality

Science is starting to blow my mind when it comes to looking at reality. The universe isn’t as simple as we once thought. Observers have an impact on experiments no matter how well the experiments are designed. Ironically, there are experiments that are now showing that. We are discovering the universe exists in a state of “superposition” where two things can simultaneously be true until an observer creates one reality or the other. Technology is allowing thought experiments (Schrodinger’s Cat) to be proven. See the Double Slit Experiment . We are finding until an observation is made, nothing really happens.

Maybe more mind-bending than the double-slit experiment, MIT Technology Review recently published an article with the provocative headline “There’s No Such Thing As Objective Reality“. Like most things concerning quantum mechanics, I cannot understand the science behind it. But, I think I understand the implications. Like Schrodinger’s Cat, this started as a thought experiment. The thought experiment was developed by Eugene Wigner in 1961 and demonstrated that Wigner and Wigner’s friend could experience two irreconcilable realities.

If this is possible, does it mean that objective reality doesn’t exist? Again, technology has allowed researchers to test this thought experiment. Researchers have designed and run an experiment that determined this is possible. They produced two irreconcilable outcomes. Here’s the money quote from the article:

“The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them,” say Proietti and co. And yet in the same paper, they undermine this idea, perhaps fatally.

Could this be the end of the scientific method? Can the scientific method be used to disprove the scientific method? The method we have created and that has served us so well is completely dependent on the idea that there is an objective reality. It gave us all the wonderful technology we have to today. We are completely dependent on reliable, predictable outcomes. However, when running the experiments that led to all of these great breakthroughs there has always been the problem that we have to experience this “objective reality” subjectively. Someone has to observe the results of the experiment. Scientists, developers, and researchers sweep aside the problem with the phrase “Shut up and calculate.” Now, we’re finding out there may not be an objective reality to experience.

How Flexible Is Reality?

It may be inevitable to come to the conclusion that objective reality is a myth. These quantum experiments are impossible for most of us to understand. They certainly aren’t things we experience in our daily lives. However, we experience cases where our subjective realities don’t line up. We disagree on what the objective reality is. Each of our subjective experiences is “real” to us. For the most part, we agree on reality. Again, what we agree on is what we call consensus reality. We rely on consensus reality. Anyone who disagrees with the consensus we call mentally ill. We chalk up the differences my wife and I have about what happened yesterday to faulty memory. We chalk up other variations to different perceptions or perspectives.

There are notable examples of how reality is malleable though. There is something known as the Mandela Effect named after Nelson Mandela. We agree, and history reflects, that Nelson Mandela died in December 2013. He was released from prison and became President of South Africa. There is a significant portion of the population who seem to recall that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s.  Do you remember the Berenstein Bears?  Or, do you remember the Berenstain Bears? The Mandela effect is so widespread there is a website documenting and collecting these memories that many people share that don’t line up with recorded history.

The Mandela effect refers to us misremembering history which calls me to question the objectivity of memory or even the past. But, what is more intriguing is how our minds might shape the future and the present. There was a time when the consensus was it was impossible for a human being to run a four-minute mile. And it was, right up until Roger Bannister did it in 1954.  Two months after Bannister broke the four-minute mile two runners did it in the same race. Today, a strong high school student can run a four-minute mile. The four-minute barrier was obliterated right after the first person did it, and we believed it was possible.

Lynne McTaggart, an author, has worked with scientists to do some fascinating experiments with group thought, getting people to set the intention to change large and small scale events in the world. In some experiments,  intentions have changed outcomes in laboratories. In other experiments, thoughts and intentions have lowered violence in certain regions.

Is Reality Crowd Sourced?

Back to where we started; what is reality? Is it our subjective experiences? That’s all any of us, individually, have. While my subjective experiences are important to me, I cannot make myself wealthy simply by believing I am wealthy. I cannot fly just by believing it. My subjective reality cannot be projected out into the universe making it true. Is the real reality what we all agree on- consensus reality? We’ve learned there either is no objective reality.  At the very least, it can be molded.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reality we live in is crowd-sourced. Reality is not individual. But, it’s also not something completely independent of consciousness. Reality is formed by consciousness. We create it together through our thoughts and intentions.

I think we live in a universe that is much more magical and malleable than we have dared to imagine. Is it possible we’re all in a sort of lucid dream where we agree to a set of constructs and are only limited by what we all believe we can do? Back to my lunch with Nico, is he right? Is it possible that we could fly if enough of us believed it?

Beyond This Plane

My studies of the afterlife show this. It seems the greatest difference between the reality we live in and the afterlife “places” is in the afterlife our thoughts and intentions are either more powerful or the environment is more receptive to them. The physicality of that world bends to our will easier than here. In that existence, we think it and it happens. Here, at the very least, there is a lag. People have demonstrated that thoughts and intentions can mold our reality. The effects, however, tend to be subtle and take time. I do believe our thoughts and intentions have true power in this plane of existence; and I’m working on mine to create a better future. Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” I’ve always taken this figuratively. Could He have meant it literally?

Until a seed is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many plants—a plentiful harvest of new lives.

John 12:24- Brian’s Translation

 

Grief2Growth’s mission is to help you transform what you feel might be the worst that has happened to you into growth that will make you a better person. I will provide original content, links to resources to help you, offer one-on-one support, and eventually hope to offer classes. All are designed to help you discover who you truly are, a powerful spiritual being having an earthly experience for the good of you and all you come into contact with.

When disasters happen, and grief comes, we feel buried. My fifteen-year-old daughter passed over in her sleep, suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015. For me, there was no light, no air, no hope. I couldn’t breathe. Darkness and cold surrounded me. Grief was all around me, over me, below me. It seemed impossible that I would ever see the surface again. Is this how a seed feels when it falls to the ground from a tree and is covered? Does it know it will one day emerge or does it think it has been forever hidden and forgotten?

Eventually, I felt some warmth. There was no light yet. But, the heat prompted the putting down of roots, anchoring me into this new environment. At this point, things cannot be rushed. The seedling can’t just sprout forth into the air. Cold winds will come along and kill it. It hasn’t gathered the energy to sustain sprouting forth. The seedling first establishes a root structure that will support it for what’s to come. The ground grows warmer and warmer. Finally, the seedling reaches upward toward the source of the warmth. It takes a risk and pokes up above the surface to find air, light, and even more heat. It draws from the soil it was planted in bringing in the dead materials and transforming them to build itself into a vigorous plant. It continues to grow eventually sprouting leaves, flowers, finally fruit, and then, eventually, more seeds and more plants.

We can let the tragedies that befall us bury us, or we can burst forth from the disasters better than we were before. To mix metaphors, we can allow those things that have fallen on us sit on our shoulders and keep us down, or we can take them off and stand on them to reach higher.

The intention for Grief 2 Growth is to be the fertilizer for those who have been buried.

I’m going to pat myself on the back here. Not even two months ago a friend suggested I take a life coaching course. I had never spoken to her about life coaching. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. I took this as a sign of something I should do. Within a couple of weeks, three or four more people would bring it up- after I purchased the course. The course was about twenty-five hours of material. I set a goal of finishing it within the month, and I did. I started working on my website. And, last night I had my first paid client meeting.

I had given my new client an introductory half hour session to be sure that they knew what they were getting into. I gave them some homework that we went over in that first session. When they said they were ready to book a paid session, I nearly panicked. The free meeting wasn’t threatening. Taking money makes this for real though. I have to deliver. As the time for our appointment approached, I wondered what we’d talk about for the full hour we had booked. I think I’m a pretty decent conversationalist, but I’m not a natural born bullshitter. Besides, when I decided to do this, I  committed that I would never waste anyone’s time or money. If they’re not getting value out of our sessions, I’m not going to do it. I was over-the-moon happy when a couple of day after our first session, my client emailed me and told me they had begun exercising regularly again, prompted by our conversation.

Still, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind about doing this work. No one in my family has mentioned it, even though I’ve been posting it on my blog. In my family, no mention is equivalent to disapproval. If they support something, they might say it. If they don’t, they’ll just stay silent. Tywana has been very encouraging. Strangers have been encouraging. My mentoring group has been very encouraging. I’ve got to draw confidence from myself and ignore what others say or don’t say.

When the time came for our hour together, I was prepared to talk about the second homework assignment that I had given them. But, first I wanted to touch base with how things had gone since our last talk. My client is new in sales and is doing great in her new job. They were hoping for a promotion, and the promotion came through since our last session. However, there were going to be some issues with the transition into the new position. This is something I felt very comfortable helping with since I was a sales professional myself for over two decades, trained by IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others. I was able to offer advice that, if it pays off, will smooth the transition right out. We also came up with two backup plans. I felt like I had earned my hourly fee many times over and that feeling of having deserved my money several times over is what I hope to feel like after every client session. I didn’t feel like the imposter I felt like at the start of the hour. I felt very comfortable with what I was doing. Our conversation continued touching on a couple of other areas of their life, and we made plans to talk about some other things in later sessions. We barely touched on the program I had planned, and it was just as it should have been.

I was pumped up when I got off of the call. Maybe not Tiger Woods winning the Masters pumped up, but pretty pumped. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing what I’m meant to do in terms of earning money. I’ve heard it said that the ideal job is one that doesn’t feel like work. This doesn’t feel like work at all. Even preparing the materials and building the website are things I enjoy doing. All of those years in training, all of that experience, all of the grief, all of the hardships, are tools I can use to help others and I’m more than happy to do that. I’m ready to see where this goes.

Following up on my conversation with my buddy Bill about my faith and Jesus, Bill texted me and hoped our discussion about the “person of Jesus” was meaningful (to me).  Of course, it was meaningful, and I told Bill that. I also reminded him that I was intimately familiar with all of the doctrines he had discussed with me since I was raised Pentecostal from before I could speak, had been evangelical for decades, served in church leadership, taught a Christian fundamentals class at the Vineyard, taught Sunday school, was baptized and spoke in tongues.  Bill replied that it’s not really about doctrine. He said he thought doctrine and other ancillary representations of it had hurt and wounded me over the years and suggested I take a fresh look at the “person of Jesus.”

What struck me is this is precisely what I have been doing. Because of the wounding, I have taken a fresh look at all of the doctrines, including the person of Jesus. The words “Who do you say that I am?” rattle around in my head all the time.  Jesus is still a big part of my life, and I suspect always will be. Over two thousand years since his fleshly life ended, people still struggle with answering that question.

The church tells us it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is our ticket to heaven. All we have to do is “believe” in Jesus, and we’re in. Well, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean that we believe he existed as a physical person? Does it mean we believe he is the Son of God? Does it mean we believe he died to save us from our sins? If we do believe that, is it enough to merely assent to that fact? Is belief enough or do we actually have to do something?

As I’ve re-examined Jesus’ words, I realize he never said all we have to do is believe in him. He spoke of doing. He said to take up our cross and follow him, daily. He talked about giving up our lives to save them. He told parables about people who paid lip service but didn’t do what was asked.

Matthew 21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go.21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”

As I have taken a fresh look at Jesus, here is what I see. The belief we are supposed to have is that God/Source, is our father/mother/creator, just like Jesus’. The Christ consciousness that Jesus demonstrated in fullness is available to all of us. Buddhists call this same thing Buddha nature. We all have this innate property because we are all part of the Source. What we are called to do is to live this to its fullest. In this world, that means “crucifying” our base nature that many refer to as the ego. To follow Jesus means to consciously allow the Christ consciousness to flow through us to be the hands and feet of God in this world. We are to make ourselves as pure a channel as we can be to bring the Love of God into the world. We can follow Jesus without ever having heard His story as long as we tap into the consciousness He demonstrated.

Christians talk a lot about salvation, as in us being saved from our sins. They emphasize the goal of accepting Jesus as our “personal Lord and savior.” Then we can rely on the work He has done.  Wait a minute. That’s just the beginning. What about sanctification? What about the work of improving ourselves to become more like the man we claim to follow?

After I got beyond the notion that Jesus had done the work for me and that all there was left for me to do was wait to die and slide into heaven on his work, I realized it doesn’t work that way. My job is to improve my connection. As a Christian, I would pray when I needed something, or I’d say a rote prayer at night or when I was taking a meal. To spend time in daily prayer, really trying to make a connection to Source or my higher consciosness is something I didn’t consider. Now, I’m in meditation 25-30 minutes a day. I continually think about how I can be more “Christ-like” all throughout my day. When I look at other people, I try to see the Christ-nature in each one of them. Some have it masked better than others. But, I know it’s there in all of them. Now that I know Jesus didn’t do it all for me. I’m working on doing the heavy lifting that is necessary to become like Him.

I appreciate my talks with Bill. They prompt me to think deeply, and anything that makes me reflect is a good thing. I don’t want to leave the religion of my youth just because it hurt me. I know there are those who would like me to come back into the fold. I can’t see that happening though. I still follow Jesus, the way I understand Him to be and with I think is a broader perspective on “the person of Jesus.” I agree with Bill. It’s always a good idea to take a fresh look at the person of Jesus.

Today was a good day. It was a balmy 60º in April. Gotta love that. My friend Bill and I went for a walk. We are opposites when it comes to politics. So, we usually avoid that topic. We met at an evangelical church back when I was an evangelical. He’s still attending the church and is a former pastor. So, let’s say our religions don’t exactly line up either. I respect where he is. I think he thinks of me as lost. And, since I’m someone who is lost, it’s his duty as a Christian to get me back into the fold. I respect that. If he didn’t try, it would mean he doesn’t care.

He asked me where Tywana and I are going to church now. He wanted to know if we were still attending the “universalist” church. It’s an understandable mistake. I tell him no. We stopped going to the Unity church. I have more than enough social interaction with friends and neighbors and online. I don’t need church for that anymore. In fact, in the years we attended the Unity church not once did we do anything with anyone outside of the church service. As far as religious instruction, I get that via podcasts and reading. Tywana listens to Super Soul Sunday. When we were in Phoenix, we attended the Unity church there. Tywana listens to their podcasts. So, as far as the functions that church serves, it’s not something we need to get up for on Sunday morning and spend two hours, including drive time, to do.

He moved on to ask me what my relationship with “Christ” is like now. That is one of my pet peeves. Why is it Christians, and I think mostly evangelicals, call Jesus (Yeshua) Christ? They say they know him and they have a personal relationship with him. But, they refer to him by a title. Even worse is “Jesus Christ”. Jesus the Christ would be more accurate. Christ is not his last name. I had to ask

Me: “Bill, why do you refer to Jesus (Yeshua)? as Christ? Christ is a title, it’s not his name.”

Bill: “Christ is the Greek.”

Me: “Yes, Bill, I know, but it’s still not a name.”

Bill: “Christ is Greek for Messiah.”

Me “Yes, but Messiah is also a title. Like your name is Bill.You are a father, you are a husband. Those are titles.”

Finally, he relented. On to the meat of the conversation. I told him I view Jesus as a Master teacher, as an Ascended Master, if you will. I view Jesus as someone who perfected his relationship with God (Source). Jesus was a pure channel. It’s my goal to be like Jesus and become a pure channel for source. I do not view Jesus as the son of God. We are all sons of God. Jesus told us we can do what he did (and greater). He said that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yes. Because Jesus had become so much like the Source (God) that they were inseparable. Bill asked me my source(s) for these conclusions I’ve come to. I explained to him that I have studied a lot of extrabiblical materials. In a previous talk, I tried to refer him to a book that I had read, and he refused me saying that he only needs the Bible as his source. When I brought up today that he had said that, he say that he reads other sources. Anyway, the idea that Jesus is an Ascended Master comes from channeled communications, NDEs and after death communications; all sources Bill would not take as credible.

Then, I got into what I definitely do not believe about Jesus. Jesus did not come to pay the penalty that God was owed for our sins. That is an insane notion. I told Bill that God commands that we forgive seventy times seven. To forgive is not to demand payment. Why would God tell us to forgive when he cannot forgive us? I said if God is love, how could God torment any of his children? Bill explained to me that God is not just love; he is a complex being. Bill explained that sin has consequence and God is also justice and punishment is a part of justice. My eyes rolled so hard, I thought I was going to pass out. OK. Slow down. Sin has consequences. We agree. Natural consequence. Sin damages our relationship with God. OK. I agree with that. But, we’re not talking about natural effects or a damaged relationship. We are talking about torment. I said to him: “If I owe you money, you have a choice. You can demand payment. Or you can forgive the debt. Either is within your rights to do so. Right? You can forgive my debt without demanding payment.” He countered with the relationship between the two of us and the relationship between man, and God is different. Yeah. OK. God is supposed to love me infinitely. So, God is so constrained by his own “godness” that he cannot do what man can do, forgive?

I continued. OK. This brings me to my next point, Bill. God also is demanding a double payment. He looked at me quizzically.  I continued. Jesus paid our debt.  So, let’s say it was a bajillion whatever that’s the cost to cover the whole debt of humanity for all time. God’s got his payment. But, wait. Here I come, and I haven’t “accepted” the payment. God torments me eternally as payment for my sin. But, he’s already been paid. Besides, in what justice system eternal torment for a short lifetime of sin a just payment? I tell him I read many decades ago the answer to the question of how Jesus could have paid billions of lives times eternal torment in just three days in the grave. The author even diagrammed it out how Jesus, being a multi-dimensional being, could simultaneously absorb all of that torment in a finite amount of time. That makes the movie the Passion of the Christ look like a walk in the park.

Things were getting a bit heated now. But, we kept our mutual respect and continued. Bill acknowledged that I had had bad religious experiences as a child and he thought that’s why I’ve rejected my faith now. I admitted I did have bad experiences as a child and that is a huge part of who I am today. He is spot on. I said, the pain of my religious upbringing forced me to look for answers that made sense. When I was about eight years old I wished I had never been born. I was told that I was born with God hating me for my “original sin” and that only Jesus loved me. Only by being “covered in Jesus blood” could God even bear to look at me. It made me feel worthless and ashamed. And I was told I was supposed to love God because he created me. I didn’t ask to be created. Uncreate me. Put me back where I was before. Then, when my uncle was murdered and they told me he was in hell because he hadn’t been saved. But, he couldn’t be saved because he was gay and the church wouldn’t accept him the way he was, that set me over the edge. Up until then I passively accepted this notion of the angry sky God. I was OK because maybe he wouldn’t torment me if I could keep up the charade until I died. But, I couldn’t accept he was sending billions to eternal torment anymore. Yes, Bill, I have rejected the faith of my youth. It would have been easier just to accept I was saved and move on. I was baptized. I spoke in tongues. And, I was taught eternal salvation. I was all good.

It’s when I got outside of the Bible, which is primary, if not exclusive, for people like Bill, that I began to see the big picture. I studied church history. I learned how the Bible was cobbled together. I learned about how the books of the canon were chosen (by men who had a political agenda). I discovered how Constantine early on co-opted and corrupted Christianity. And, I began to read other texts- the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the tao de ching. I looked at contemporary sources.

All of this changed how I read the Bible when I came back to it. I see it through new eyes. For example, if God could speak to Paul and John, why can’t he talk to Neale Donald Walsch today? I related to Bill that Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus sounds just like an NDE. He saw a bright light, he heard a voice from the sky. He was blinded and later regained his site. Bill said “Except Paul didn’t die.” How do we know Paul didn’t die? What we do know is he heard the voice of a dead person (Jesus). Paul was blinded by the light and subsequently ended up with new vision. I told Bill I absolutely believe Paul’s experience. But, you know who else I believe? Michelle Clare who I spoke two days ago who had three similar experiences and came back with messages. Why do you believe Paul’s experience just because it was written down 2,000 years ago and is in your Bible? And, when Paul had his vision where he was taken into the third heaven “Whether it was in the body or out of the body- God knows.” sounds an awful like an astral travel or out of the body experience. Why don’t we believe people who have those experiences today?

For years, I tied myself up in knots and believed things that defy logic and common sense. And, the wilder the thing, the more “faith” you were supposed to have had. I told Bill this to sum up. “You began by asking me about my faith and immediately tied that into Jesus. My faith is stronger than it has ever been. In fact, it’s not even faith anymore. It’s knowing.” I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I like where I am on the road.

It’s April 7th and spring has finally arrived in Ohio. Tywana’s out of the country on a cruise. So, I have a lot of solitude this weekend. This morning I’m up early out for my walk because I have a full agenda. The temperatures in the morning are above 50º, warm enough for me to go without a jacket. There are buds of leaves on the trees. The daffodils are in bloom. The birds are chirping and waking me up with the sun. And, it feels good.

I’ve always loved spring, maybe even more than summer.  I am definitely a summer kind of guy. But, there’s something magical about spring. The death in winter, in contrast to the new life of spring, makes spring all the more special. Seeing the Earth wake up after that sleep is a reminder that nothing truly dies. Living in Ohio and Kentucky all of my life, I’ve always experienced four seasons even though I have no love for winter. Fall only reminds me that winter is coming. So, I don’t particularly enjoy autumn. But, there’s an added bonus to spring now. The change of the seasons is a reminder that everything changes. There are times in the winter when it seems it will never end. There are gray days end on end. I find myself looking at the long-range forecast for an appearance of the sun. I search for that day when the temperature will finally climb above 32º and melt and snow. And, I often wonder if I can make it through.

This change of season let me know I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve made it through another winter. The gray and cold can’t last forever. The times we look forward to that sometimes seem like they will never come, always eventually come. Time’s inexorable march goes on. If we hang in there, things will change.

As I walked this morning, I had to listen to George Benson’s “Everything Must Change” which was released in 1977. I was sixteen years old when I began listening to this song. Of course, I could not appreciate it at sixteen. Tywana, Kayla, and Shayna weren’t even possibilities to 16-year-old Brian. I was just learning to drive, I hadn’t even begun shaving. I had no idea that 42 years later I’d be listening to the song again, and how these lines would have so much deeper meaning now. I am the old, mysteries have unfolded and 42 more winters have turned to spring. This wounded heart is healing. As humans, we tend to resist change. We want to lock in and stay wher we are. Some will find this song melancholy. Not me, not anymore. Bring on more change.

The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.
There are not many things
In life you can be sure of.
Except
Rain comes from the clouds,
And sun lights up the sky,
And hummingbirds do fly.
Winter turns to spring.
The wounded heart will heal.
Never much too soon
Everything must change