LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

AL FRANKEN, GIANT of the SENATE July 10, 2017





Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.

But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.

This is my 4th read by Franken.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir.  It’s humorous.  It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.

We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).”  All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts.  They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken

[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here.  So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]

Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.”  “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice.  And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone.  And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate.  An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.

“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter.  Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.”  But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.

We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction.  Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley.  “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”

The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.”  And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news.  This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”

There’s a chapter on healthcare.  The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing.  They fought and fought to stop it.  Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it.  Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now.  “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law.  They had offered zero plans to replace it.”  And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party.  That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part.  Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.

Another chapter discusses education.  Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble.  But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it.  McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”

In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.

“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman.  For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand.  I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”

Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him.  “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz.”

On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning.  “I know more that the generals,” he would say.  No, idiot – you don’t.

We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer.  Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve.  He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.”  So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others.  And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign.  “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”

As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book!  (And if you don’t vote, well…)

 

 

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

  • Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
  • We all do better when we all do better
  • My wife and I have a division of labor.  Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
  • McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

  • Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you.  But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
  • Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!!  Just sayin’.]
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
  • Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst.  This is going to suck for a while.  But not forever.
  • Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives.  That’s what makes us Democrats.  It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.

Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”


NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!

 

What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Good Christian Sex August 30, 2016

good

Good Christian Sex
Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option – And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex

OK.  As soon as some see “Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option,” they will stop reading and dismiss this book.  That will be their loss.  This is an interesting, challenging, thought provoking book.  At the same time, it is in many ways very traditional.

There is a lot of ground covered in these pages.  We explore the connection between our bodies, soul and spirit.  We look at romance novels, the “Disneyfication of our cultures ideas about love,” chemistry, desire, vulnerability, celibacy, knowing God, and social conformity.  We discuss Harry Potter, Plato, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jerome and Carol King.

Lest you think the author is promoting meaningless promiscuous hook-ups, or “cheating,” let me first mention Chapter 8: Be Faithful.  This section is all about fidelity.  We do look at some erroneous ideas concerning fidelity.  Especially those shoved on us by religion.  Ms. McCleneghan states, similar to what I said in my “Tribbles” article, that there is a difference between lust and “appreciating someone’s God-given hotness.”  (That’s a great phrase!) We are sensual beings, and that is not in opposition to fidelity.  We look at what fidelity is not, as well as what it is.

The 1st topic after the introduction is masturbation, or as Bromleigh likes to call it, “self-stimulation.”  Despite the cultural baggage, our author states that it’s “normal to touch your sex organs for pleasure.”  Here we’re told that such activity is a “premoral good,” and “a gift from God.”  We have addressed the oft misused Biblical story of Onan, as found in the 38th chapter of Genesis.  There’s also a good quote from Caitlin Moran about masturbation being a perfect hobby:  “It doesn’t cost anything, I don’t have to leave the house, and it isn’t making me fat.”

Chapter 2 talks about desire, and how desire is “love trying to happen.”
The Bible’s “Song of Solomon” enters here.  When we stop jumping through hoops trying to pass that writing off as a metaphor of God and The Church, we can see it is a very, very racy love story.  Here’s where probably the most controversial premise of this book is stated as “Some Christians like to claim that all sexual intimacy outside of marriage will necessarily feel cheap and damaging, but many of us know that that’s simply not true.”
So there’s the main premise that’s stated on the cover.  Chastity isn’t the only option outside of marriage.
Here I have to interject.
Many of us had grandparents who told our parents to wait to have sex until after they were married, even though they themselves hadn’t waited.  Then many of us had parents who told us to wait, even though they didn’t.  Then many of us told our children to wait, even though we didn’t.  And many of our children will tell their kids to wait, even though they didn’t.  It’s like some false standard we feel bound to keep passing on, even though we know it’s not usually the norm.  What we need is good  sex education where abstinence is an option, but not a hypocritical mandate.
     Now back to the book.
“Jesus came that we might have life, even pleasure, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)”

[Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

Chapter 3 gets into ethics, and why it’s not good to keep “banging everyone we possibly can from the moment puberty starts.”
That “sexual sin is less about particular acts…than the way partners treat each other; sexual sin is about a lack of mutuality, reciprocity, and love.”  We also look at some of the differences between the teachings of mainline Protestantism, and the fundamentalist evangelical religious right that I was a part of.  (There are many “Christianities.”)  There’s some great discussion of the supposed “clear and knowable will of God,” and we look at the books of Exodus and Luke in regards to that.

The fourth chapter talks about, among other things, being single.  “God is not a jerk” is a great quote from this section.  We’re also told “If celibacy starts to stand in the way of abundant life for singles, they can rightly let it go.  Straight, gay, bi, trans, intersex: we are beloved.”

“Naked” is the title of chapter 5, and tells us a lot about being real and vulnerable.  As in chapter 1, there’s also some sexist fundamental assumptions we need to discard.  On the heels of vulnerability, the sixth chapter speaks of Intimacy.  “Through sex we can practice attention, invitation, hospitality, and the means of grace.”

In chapter 7 we look at how to deal with our sexual history, and that “there’s no such thing as a perfect life lived with no hard lessons.”  (Chapter 8 we covered 1st.) The 9th chapter is about the theology of leaving and staying.  Some relationships last.  Some don’t.  Sometimes you need to leave.  And not just for “infidelity.”

McCleneghan closes the book with “The Nature of Love.”  God is love.  Love is God.  “Sex marks us; love changes us.  So does God.”  A great quote here is “I do wish…that religious people, if they must speak of sex, would cease and desist in the propagation of terrible theology and bigotry.”

I’ve barely skimmed the surface of the material here.  I do have one small complaint.  It’s one I’ve had with other books.  The title.  I hate the title.  And that’s not because I can’t say it without hearing it in the voice of Dr. Ruth.  Maybe (as is some other cases) it was the publisher’s mandate.  Of course, a small matter.

I fear that some who may need this the most will resist reading it.  There are many others who will find great hope in these pages.  I don’t know that I agree with everything here, but that’s no big deal.  And any book that kindly speaks of the great Anne Lamott has already gained some degree of my approval.

[Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

Note:  I’ll add some more quotes later, but I’m barely meeting my deadline, so…

 

The Zimzum of Love December 7, 2015

zimzumThe Zimzum of Love:
A New Way of Understanding Marriage
– Rob and Kristen Bell

My wife and I have been through counseling.
We’ve also had training to “do” counseling.
We have, in fact, provided counseling.
And we have 36 years (more or less) of marriage.
Just saying, I know a little bit about marriage and counseling.
From that stance, I can highly recommend this book.

This is a pretty short, easy read.  Yet, there are some great truths and principles here.  There’s a lot in these pages that is relatively standard marriage counseling, as well as some new ideas.  All of it, of course, has that trademark “Bell-style” way of looking at life; a style I very much enjoy.


stickAnd, you get stick-figure drawings!
Who doesn’t like stick-figure drawings?!?!

We are given, of course, an explanation of zimzum (originally tzimtzum, a Hebrew word), and how that concept relates to marriage. Chapters 2 through 5 expound on how marriage is Responsive, Dynamic, Exclusive and Sacred.
“The Zimzum of Love” is highly anecdotal. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Rob and Kristen.
Every marriage is unique, but a book like this helps us see how universal many of our experiences are. Just about whatever you may be going through, rest assured you are not alone.

This book is written from a Christian perspective, and thus incorporates a lot of spiritual language and understanding.  The associated actions could be easily adapted by non-Christians, as well.  I can’t imagine anyone not receiving some benefit from reading this book.  I think this would be a good hand-out for premarital counseling, as well as for those already married.
I’ve only done a few wedding ceremonies, but for future ones I’m asked to officiate I will be offering this book to the couple.

Marriage has been at the forefront of recent national discussion.
Some see marriage as a meaningless social construct, and think we’d all be better off without the legal commitment and ceremonial form.  Many of us, including Rob and Kristen, believe marriage is much deeper than that.  We believe that there’s more going on than meets the eye.    More than biology.  More than just synaptic brain activity.   More, even, than what it means for the 2 people who are married.  That marriage means “more” for our entire society.

“The Zimzum of Love” takes an in-depth look at this “more.”

– dave

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some thoughts from other readers:

“The Bells wield their heartfelt words and honest voices to cheer on couples of all kinds. . . . This is a ‘feel good’ book, not because it skirts the issues, but precisely because it delves so deeply into them. . . . Married or not, read this book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“After having stood on the cliff of divorce, I sure wish that our marriage counselor would have had a resource like this to share with us.” – Roger

“This is a book about how to people partner in life and create a special space between them–they zimzum. I’ve got a fantastic marriage, but I learned new things about my wife as we read this together.” – Mike

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

A few QUOTES:

– There are moments in marriage when you realize that some of the most profound truths of the universe are lying next to you in bed.

– Great marriages have an ease about them, a back-and-forth nonreactive, non-defensive, open, and ongoing flow in which you never stop talking and figuring it out together.

– Life never stops changing. It’s inevitable that these changes will affect the space between you.,br.

– Any thought – however trivial or fleeting it is – about who or what you aren’t takes directly away from who and what you are.

– Home is whenever I’m with you. [Recently stated by me to my wife during our recent move, before reading the book.]

– Out of 7 billion people on the planet, you decided to say yes to just one of them.

– Learn to see things from their perspective. When in doubt, assume that they are seeing something that you don’t.

– Few triggers are more explosive than the phrase “You always do that.”

– One of the primary ways you strengthen this bond is through shared experiences.

– Marriage -gay and straight – is a gift to the world because the world needs more – not less – love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.

– It’s easy to divide your experiences in marriage into the good ones and the bad ones. We are invited to transcend those binaries, becoming aware of the divine presence in all of life.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

Three For The Journey December 29, 2014

This is very unusual for me, but I’m currently reading three books at the same time.
Three authors.  Three different general topics.  Three points of view (at least).
Yet, the way the messages of these books compliment each other, and even overlap at times is amazing.
I’ve not finished any of them yet.  Still, I can already recommend each one.
The three books are:
Brian McLaren’s “We Make The Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation,”
Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So… – Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It,” and
Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of NOW: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment.”

walking

First up, the McLaren offering.  I briefly mentioned this is a previous post, “Left Behind.”  My ninth McLaren book, this is a “devotional” of sorts, meant to be read at the rate of one chapter per week.  It has suggested scripture readings to accompany each chapter, as well as discussion questions and ways to “activate” the principles discussed.  It’s great for an individual, but it’s even better for a small group. (We have 4 guys in our discussion group.)  If you don’t identify as a “Christian,” or you’re not really into reading the Bible, you may still enjoy the practical, real-world life lessons found here.  In fact, Christian or not, Brian’s book will help you see the Bible in a way you may never have before. These are discussions that have the potential to change the world we live in by changing the individuals reading the book.
I’ve just finished chapter 13, which concludes the first section “Alive In The Story Of Creation.”  The material just keeps getting better and better. So far, we’ve dealt with mostly Old Testament material.  We’ve looked at the stories, when and why they were written, what the authors were trying to convey, and how these stories can provide meaning for us today.  We see how, through time, the biblical authors express an evolving understanding of God. This explains so much as we see them move from a previous view of many gods, to a view of one “tribal” god, to the God Jesus spoke of (who was very different from what many OT writers thought!). Our group has had some really good chats, complete with some disagreements.  I’m certainly the most, well, “left-leaning” of our group.  We have some really different conclusions we’ve drawn, and can disagree very, very strongly sometimes. But we generally take the approach so wonderfully stated by Rob Bell:
“You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.’”
Find out more about “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.

bible

I purchased “The Bible Tells Me So” based on a recommendation by Rob Bell.  Many people, usually non-Christians, think the Bible is a really, really awful book.  I totally get that.  But, as Peter Enns points out, the Bible isn’t the problem.  People not knowing how to read the Bible: That’s a BIG problem.  I love the Bible.  It’s a wonderful book.  But I believe with all my heart, many “christians” need their Bibles taken away.
Yes.
I said that.
And I mean it!
They simply do not know how to read the book.  And that one but powerful truth has been the source of untold tragedy, suffering, violence, hatred, prejudice, injustice  and death.  With scholarly adeptness, spiritual respect, and no small dose of humor, Mr. Enns offers a gold-mine of biblical information that is sorely needed.  Again, this is a great read for anyone wishing insight and understanding for what is arguably the most famous, and most misunderstood book in all of history.  If I was king of the world, I would decree that no one reads the Bible without reading “The Bible Tells Me So…” as a companion piece.  Of course, the Catholic tradition already has books in their Bible that Protestants do not.  So, maybe we could just stick Peter’s book right in between the Old and New Testaments.  (No, I didn’t think that would fly.)
It’s clear through the parables of Jesus, but we actually see through the entire Bible that “God likes stories.”  There’s a reason the Bible doesn’t lay out everything in bullet points.  A story does not need to be 100% historically accurate to be “true.”
The Bible has often been wielded as an object of terror. When approached and read responsibly, the Bible is truly an awesome book!
Mr. Enns helps us to quit jumping through all the hoops, trying to make the Bible “behave.”  We learn to accept the Bible on its own terms.  Part of that is admitting there are blatant contradictions.  And that’s fine, because we can also clearly see that each writer had their own viewpoint as well as their own agenda.  One of the strong take-a-ways (which many Christians acknowledge verbally, but certainly not in practice) is that “Jesus is bigger than the Bible.” The material here is fascinating, educational and entertaining.  Put this on you “Must Read” list.
Get more info on “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.

now

The 3rd entry here is one I’m reading due to the impact Barry McGuire said it had on him.  It’s had a similar impact on many others.
I recently reviewed a book called “Notes From (Over) The Edge.”  I’ve little doubt that the author of that book has read “The Power Of NOW.”  A lot of information in that book could have come directly from this one.

The message/theme of this book is one I’ve been hearing many places, from many sources; Christian, Buddhist, and others.  It is a message that Christ also proclaimed.
Essentially: Life is Now.”
We spend (waste) so much time reflecting on the past, or projecting into the future that we truly miss life.
It’s not just that life is now, but also that “God” is now.  Any relationship I have with the Divine is now.  It’s in this moment.  It’s in this breath.
Eckhart Tolle helps us connect to that breath.  That breath that is now.  We learn to “listen” to our bodies.  We are taught the benefits, and limitation of our “minds.”  We become able to step outside our conscious thoughts and look at them objectively.  We start “watching the thinker.”  We  recognize that we are not just our thoughts.  There is a “true self,” an authentic self that is beyond the mind.  “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”  We can start to observe our thoughts without judgment or commentary.  This higher dimension of consciousness is what the author calls “presence.”
These are also principles my wife and I were taught in our recent meditation classes.  Accessing the power of now is said to be seen in the words of St. Paul, “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.”
I believe there is a “oneness” to all that is.  If “all” came from one God, then all must inherently be connected to that single Divine… well, Divinity.  At least part of living out our oneness with all else that is one is accessing the power of now.

I’m writing these thoughts and reviews right now from the hospital.
My wife is currently in surgery.   A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Today, we hope that will all be soon behind us, as she is having her “port” removed. (You can Google info on that, if you don’t know what it is.) She’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, and there will be pain, but it’s still a step forward.
Anyway, it’s been a rough ride at times.  Though some may belittle our faith, and others may think we’ve lost it, I can’t imagine going through this without it.

Books like the ones listed here, or rather the paths to which they’ve led, have been an integral, sustaining, life-affirming part of the journey.  The platitudes and somewhat blind devotion of my religious past would have been hard-pressed to sustain me through these times.  I’ve often seen them fail people while the people they failed engaged in some major cognitive dissonance trying to maintain what they falsely perceived as “faith.”
I thank God for those who are able to put their thoughts and insights to paper, including the ones mentioned here.  I’m thankful for my friends and associates, of various faith traditions, with whom I can have the “hard” conversations without feeling we’re in competition or trying to convert each other.
My biggest “thank-you” going out to Divinity is for my wife.  We can’t choose how long we’ll be around for each other, but we have each other NOW.  And whether we’re living in “this” now, or a now in some other form of eternity, the truth is Now is all we ever really have.

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

Quotes from all three books, intermixed, more of which will be added later:

– We are in the early stages of a new moment of emergence, pulsing with danger and promise.

– Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.

– Canaanite genocide is par of Israel’s story of the past – not a historical account of something God did.

– I believe that the Spirit of God works everywhere to bring and restore aliveness.  Sometimes institutions welcomed this nonviolent spiritual movement and were strengthened by it.  Sometimes they co-opted, smothered, squelched, frustrated, corrupted, or betrayed it.

– Before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, it claimed that everyone, not just a select few, had God-given gifts to use for the common good.  It exposed a system based on domination, privilege, and violence and proclaimed in it place a vision of mutual service, mutual responsibility, and peaceable neighborliness.

– Christians today have an obligation not to “follow the Bible” here.  For Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.  The story of God’s people has moved on, and so must we.

– Eventually, through the biblical library, we find a beautiful new vision of God being revealed.  God desires justice for all, not just for us.  God is leading both us and them out of injustice and violence into a new way of reconciliation and peace.

– Jesus was living by a different interpretation of the old stories.  He freed [people] from both passive, pious complacency and desperate, violent action [for] something better: faithful, peaceful action.

– God comes off as a bit touchy.  When provoked, God wasn’t bashful about killing or plaguing his own people.  If we read this anywhere else, we would call it genocide.

– You believe this mind-made fiction is who you are. You would rather be in pain than risk losing the familiar unhappy self.

– Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations isn’t a pious act of faith.  It’s actually thinly masked far of losing control and certainty… a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.

– Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith.  In fact, I had the growing sense that God was inviting me down this path, encouraging it even.

– Enlightenment means rising above thought. You still use your thinking mind when needed, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue.

– My decision to go through door number three would eventually come to make me an outsider in my own community.

– I gained a Bible – and a God- I was free to converse with… disagree with.. [instead of a god] like an abusive, drunken father you don’t want to wake from his nap.

 

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

 

Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014

notes
“Jesus basically did only two things – he showed up for life, and he lived authentically and true to his nature.
Guess what?
You can do that too!”

      “Notes From (Over) The Edge
      [Unmasking the truth to end your suffering]
      — Jim Palmer

OK.  First. the negative.
About a third of the way through the book, I almost stopped reading.
Why?
Redundancy.
There’s a lot of that here.  A lot of redundancy.
I’ve made that complaint about one or two other books.
For me, it’s a bit off-putting; the redundancy and all.
To be fair,  this is a book of “Notes,” and many times our thoughts have reoccurring patterns as we re-visit and clarify our own understanding.
FYI, I didn’t stop reading, and neither should you.

The second negative isn’t really a negative.  It’s more of a where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from thing.  There’s a particular idea that Mr. Palmer asserts (and repeats a number of times).  Of course, I’m not against believing something “just because I choose to believe it.” Which, bottom line, pretty much covers most, if not all, of our beliefs.
He does, also, advise the reader to “take everything written here loosely like a breeze or a whisper,” so he’s certainly not claiming to have things “nailed down.” That’s a big sign he’s worth listening to.
I considered mentioning the concept I’m referring to here, but I’ve decided to let you discover it for yourself.

And now, the positive:
“Everything else!”
This is a powerful book filled with powerful concepts.
If “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” then get ready for a boatload of freedom.
This is going to have to find somewhere to fit in my top 5 list of books, which means it will have to knock something else out.
This is not a “Christian” book (as if there were such a thing), though it is certainly about the life and teachings of Jesus. Nor is it exclusively for those of a Judeo-Christian background. If you’re a human, you can benefit from reading this book.

You should know that an “end to you suffering” is not synonymous with an end to pain, misfortune, or other troubles “life” may bring your way.  The suffering Jim is talking about is the kind caused by not accepting life on life’s terms.  It’s always been hard for me to “flow with it” without giving up hope.  There’s an old Steve Taylor song called “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better.”  There is a lot of truth to that song, and for me, those were the two options:  Struggle with life, holding on to hopes and dreams, or just give up and say “The hell with it.”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” helped me continue on a path I’d already started, where I can see another option.  An almost hidden (to me), yet painfully obvious option called “living.”
Something I didn’t see (or couldn’t admit) for most of the years I spent in institutional religion was all the baggage.
So much BS.
So much dung passed off as godliness.
So many yokes that were anything but easy.
So many burdens that cannot possibly be considered light.

Jim Palmer, too, was an active, educated, bible-preaching “believer,” who, in many ways like me, lived and taught much he now knows was not just less-than-helpful, but downright damaging.  Damning, if you will, to both the speaker and the hearer.
But we were where we were, and now we are where we are. And life is what life is. And “God and life,” Jim reminds us, are inseparable.

Jim’s understanding, as relayed in this book, seems to incorporate teachings I’ve learned from some Buddhist meditation classes that my wife and I recently attended (which have also been very beneficial to me).  It’s my belief that some other traditions (possibly Ancient Greek thought and/or Islam) are also represented here.  (Jim can correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course, truth is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.
Truth, as Jim tells us, is simply “the way things really are.”  Much suffering is experienced when we, knowingly or not, fight that truth.

There’s no way I can “review” all the ground covered in this book, but one of the most important for those who have been involved in the Christian religion is section 3: “Christianity’s distortion of the person, message and truth of Jesus.”
I’ve said before, many/most people in Christianity (and the principle is probably similar in other religions) are read to from their scriptures, and at the same time, hand-fed a meaning said to be attached to those passages.
Once that is done, it can be nearly impossible to read those passages differently.  But, if you can detach what you’ve been taught something says from what is actually written, well, it’s like being born again.
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” can assist greatly with that rebirth.

And maybe a certain amount of redundancy isn’t all bad.
Maybe we need to hear truths over and over until they replace the lies in our own minds.
I can only hope more and more of us join Mr. Palmer in going over the edge.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs.” Correct beliefs are the Booby prize.
– Your mind creates a preference, makes an attachment, constructs an interpretation, offers a response, and each of those responses conditions your way of thinking, acting and being in the world. [But] you are not your mind. You are responsible for managing your mind. The mind doesn’t always get what it wants.
– The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones.
– We exist within a sea of energy that connects all atoms. Everything we experience has a single interconnected source.
[Doesn’t that line up with the Christian concept of God being “in all and through all?”] – ed.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Repent is another term that is often misunderstood. [It’s not] being sorry for your past wrongs, turning from your wicked ways… “Repent” means a deep and profound shift in perception. It’s like the scales of ignorance fall from your eyes. [It] literally means “beyond the mind.”
– Jesus would have never signed off on the modern and made-up gospel of the Christian religion.
– People knew the reality of God long before there were sacred texts. Enoch “walked with God,” and yet there was no Bible or prescribed set of doctrines to govern his experience of God.
– One does not have to be able to read the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, etc. to be enlightened. You can be illiterate and one with God. There is something to learn from this.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Jesus did not launch into heady theological diatribes or pedantic teachings about God. Instead, he invited people to notice the birds of the air and lilies in a field, or told stories about a father and his sons or a hidden treasure.
Instead of accumulating more theological information in your head, return to your regularly scheduled life and start living it as each moment requires — nothing more, nothing less.
– Fundamentalism doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve met progressive and liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. [They all think] someone has to be “right,” which means someone has to be “wrong.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The “will of God” is simply to be your Self, and to be in the present moment and respond as the situation requires. Just live your life. The fundamental way Jesus lived his life was that he simply did the next thing and responded to situations as they required.
– There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity got ahold of him and did their extreme makeover. He was a much better Jesus than the on Christianity produced.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
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Left Behind October 4, 2014

left_BFirst of all, this post is not about the ridiculous books, movie, or the bad theology they represent.
Not mostly, anyway.
This is about things I’ve left behind.
More than that, it’s about some of those things that I’m reaching back to pick up again.

There’s a small group of guys I meet with about once a week.
We are “Comrades.”
We share our life experiences, discuss “spiritual” issues (which means everything in life) and we often are somewhat of a “book club.” Books and audio we’ve delved into so far include, “The Naked Gospel,” “The Misunderstood God,” “The Idolatry of God,” and “Living By The Indwelling Life of Christ.”

roadWe’ve recently started the Brian McLaren book “We Make The Road By Walking.”
This is my ninth book by that author.
Basically, the book is made to be read and discussed one chapter per week for an entire year.
Each chapter also contains some suggested Bible readings.

Now, I used to read the Bible every day. I’ve been through it cover to cover a couple of times, read the New Testament dozens of times, and many passages, well, possibly hundreds of times. I am, after all, a [clears throat] “licensed minister.”
In my spiritual journey out of the cult of right-wing fundamentalist evangelicalism, reading the Bible is one of the things I pretty much left behind.
I also, for the most part, left behind biblical terms like “sin,” “salvation,” “hell,” “redemption” and many others.
Now, I’ve never stopped appreciating the Bible. In fact, I can honestly say I appreciate and respect those holy writings more than ever. A large part of that respect is realizing how disrespectful it is to take it all literately, or as some kind of historical or scientific text book.

Most of the reason for dropping terms like “salvation,” and the others, isn’t because I’ve stopped believing in them. It’s just that I’ve come to better understand them, and how differently they are actually used in the scriptures than I had been taught and believed. The misuse and abuse of those terms, as well as the Bible itself, led me to no longer refer to such because I knew that when I spoke them, what was being heard by others was not what was being said by me. Sadly, that’s still predominately the case.
So I needed a clean break.
A break from that kind of language as well as a break from even reading the Bible. Organized religion has brought so much baggage and destruction that the christ it presents is nothing like the Christ we read of in our holy book. I’m still aware of the limitations of using certain terms in public.
More and more, though, people are seeing that many (maybe even most) who believe in Jesus are not biblical literalists.

With help from authors like Philip Yancey, Peter Rollins, the amazing Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren (along with many others) I’ve been able to rediscover the beauty of The Book, properly understood. I’ve been able to see that terms like sin, salvation, glory, heaven and hell are all valid terms worthy of discussion when understood as the original audience understood them. Which, of course, is not how we’ve heard them used for centuries. Well, not from those most vocal who have falsely claimed to be speaking for God.

I know people often have to set aside things that have been an important part of their lives, re-evaluate, and then see what remains.
I actually missed what we called “worship music,” but so much of it was filled with such bad theology I could no longer listen to it.
Groups like “The Choir,” and “Gungor” have helped with bringing that back into my life.
Music which helps me contemplate The Divine.
Meditate.
I’m now able to pick up some of the things I’ve left behind. But I’m picking them up with the respect they deserve by not making them into something they were never supposed to be. I’m picking them up having shaken off the garbage I was told was inseparable from them.
Still, there’s much that remains behind me as my journey continues.
Some ideologies to which we’ve given birth need to be killed off.
Some babies actually should be thrown out with the bathwater.
Some cherished beliefs and doctrines really should be left behind.
better ahead


 

 
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