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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014

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“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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Picture This May 18, 2014

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Divine Nobodies October 25, 2010




This book starts off with two, that’s right 2 introductions. So right away you know you’re dealing with someone who’s a bit strange. This, for me, is a good thing. I like strange. With the first page I’m chuckling to myself.
Jim Palmer uses this section to share some personal information about himself. He’s “too self-conscious,” “a sucker for feel-good, tearjerker movies,” “obsessive-compulsive,” and his wife is his best friend. I’m telling ya, I could have written much of his first introduction.

In the second introduction (dubbed the “Real Introduction) he starts getting into the HUGE difference between religion, and loving Jesus. I completely identified with his statement, “Thankfully, on this journey God has provided the necessary epiphanies to save me from complete self-destruction and has opened my eyes to deeper realities.” Of course, this “eye-opening” did not come “through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance,” but through real life, and real “everyday run-of-the-mill people.”


The first of these everyday people we are introduced to is Kit, the drummer. This first chapter is about knowing God. “Kit had this silly notion that God just talks to people.” “Didn’t Kit know the Bible made all that unnecessary? God has already spoken…there is nothing left to say.”
This chapter asks, “How would you answer the question, ‘Who is God?’ if you could not use any information you’ve learned from the Bible? Describe for me who you have experienced God to be through your personal interaction with him.”

Chapter two exposes how our judgments of others can keep us from looking at their hearts, as God does. Those same judgments keep us from seeing the truth of ourselves, and often, from hearing what God would say to us. “I just never thought Eminem would be the one helping me grow closer to God.”

Next, in the third chapter we get to meet John, Judy, Michael, Candi and Wanda. Wanda is a waitress. She tells our author “about how over the years Christians were often her worst customers.” After one particularly tough group, she was left with only an evangelical tract as her tip.
Side rant:
My daughter-in-law used to wait tables. She confirms the above statements. I’ve heard it over and over in the service industry, that Christians are usually the most demanding, most rude, most unappreciative customers, as well as being the worst tippers.  They march in after “church” with their prayers and piety, and leave devastation in their wake. When my wife and I were part of the IC, we would often avoid the after-church group dinners out, specifically so we could avoid being associated with the rudeness we knew would be a part of the gathering.
Alright, back to the book.


“Chasing the phantom Christian” is the basis for the fourth chapter. It’s about this false ideal of having to be or do something for God. “I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups, and teaching classes) as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking, ‘What have you done for me lately?'”

At this point, I had been glancing through the index, and noticed a chapter about Mr. Palmer’s gay friend Richard. Being a subject of personal interest, I jumped ahead to read that chapter (8) before going back to chapter 5. I must say, reading this chapter was a bit disappointing. When I reviewed Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken, I gave it very high marks. It’s a great book. Nevertheless, there were a couple of chapters, one in particular, I found I should warn readers about. I said, IMHO, that those chapters would be better off skipped.
That is a little how I felt about chapter eight of this book. I’m sure it accurately reflects the experience of the author and his friend, but it leaves, I fear, an impression that gay men are all self-loathing, which can only be overcome by trying to not be gay. He doesn’t actually say that,  but the way he speaks of freedom seems to me to mean “free from being homosexual.”  I submit that many, if not most, LGBT people are not self-loathing. Many have reconciled their faith with their sexuality (For some great testimonies of this, watch: “Through My Eyes“).
Yes, some LGBT persons have had some self-hatred, but most of that is, I believe, not due to their sexuality but rather to the societal and theological brainwashing that tells such people they are not acceptable.  Those we feel this the most are usually from fundamentalist backgrounds. Maybe I’ve misunderstood Jim in this portion.  Maybe he realizes that wholeness for his friend can come from being “OK” with his sexuality.  I hope that’s the case.  It appears this particular individual has tried every approach with no success.
Certainly, as this chapter does point out, we ALL need healing.  Besides, I have to take heed to my own teaching about agreeing to disagree.


Now back to chapter Five.

If the writing in the first few paragraphs would have been “choppier,” and had only one to five words per line, I could have easily been convinced I was reading something written by Rob Bell.  (From me, that’s a huge compliment.)  There’s talk of other dimensions, quintessential metaphysical beings, The Matrix, and cookie-eating mice.  Palmer asks, “What percentage of knowledge about all reality…do you figure you possess?”  “Have you ever wondered what exists in that other percentage we don’t know?”  As Jim says, religion removes the mystery from life.  This chapter talks about what W.P. Young calls “The Beauty of Ambiguity (Mystery).”   About celebrating mystery, rather than trying to eradicate it.

Chapter Six is pretty short, but so very important.  It’s about depression.  Of course, “true Christians” don’t suffer from depression.  Yeah, right.
It needs to be read by all those people who feel they always have to have an answer for everybody’s problems, rather than simply learning to weep with those who weep.  When someone’s hurting, the LAST thing they need is to hear trite phrases or Christianeese slogans.

In the following chapter, “Don’t Mess with the EAMC,” we meet a couple who run a small auto mechanics shop:  Mr. and Mrs. Adams.  This story is one of the best at pointing out the vast difference between institutionalized religion, and the every-day real life that following Christ should be like.  For many, if not most, committed church involvement is simply “an adventure in missing the point.”  “It was like doing church was my relationship with God.”  The way the Adams live and run their auto shop is Christianity and it is church.  “I’m not convinced there’s any value added by a large group of believers gathering in one place at one time compared to the benefit of maintaining a few close relationships.”


Chapter eight was covered earlier.  On to chapter nine.
It’s titled, “Daughters,” and is about parenthood. Jim learned a lot about himself and God through his interaction with his little girl. It’s about the faith of a child. It’s about being child-like, which we sometimes confuse with childish. His statement “There are parts of me that somehow were stunted by the hurts of life back there as a little boy” certainly had the deepest ring of truth. I fully believe the vast majority of immaturity in adults is due to being emotionally stunted in their youth.

Chapter 10 is about reconciling our view of God with the hurt and loss we suffer. For me, this chapter was reminiscent of “The Shack.” The question posed here is “How can suffering and healing, brokenness and wholeness, despair and hope coexist?” When something bad happens to us, we often ask “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me?” If we’re going to ask this kind of question, then we need to ask it every hour of every day. Bad things are always happening to someone, but we don’t usually question it until it affects us. In this chapter we’re reminded of a hard, hard truth. It’s one that is often avoided or denied in many religious circles: “I am vulnerable to loss and suffering, and knowing God doesn’t change that.”

Next up: A chapter on politics. It shows how labeling people is not the best way to go. “I found my stereotypes didn’t accurately describe the ordinary people I knew.” And a quote I really like, “Talk radio is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
Also read, The Myth Of A Christian Nation.”


Chapter twelve was a very sad, hard chapter to read. I’m sure it was hard to write. Our author goes undercover in South Asia with the International Justice Mission to investigate and “rescue victims of horrific human rights crimes, usually involving children.” At one point, he has to keep it together while a group of ten- to fifteen-year-old girls are paraded before him for his selection. “The littlest girls didn’t come out. You had to specifically ask for them and show you had that kind of cash.”
“Where was God today? Where did he go?”

Religion is the topic of chapter 13. Our author, a raised-Catholic-turned-career-protestant-turned-institutional-absentee, ends up giving a teaching in a Catholic church and becoming friends with a priest. He learns that “Since no church has a final and unambiguous grasp of divine truth, the true church of Jesus Christ can never be fully represented by any single one.” “Maybe we are all a little right and a little wrong and can get closer to the truth only by coming together.”

In “Left Behind,” Jim not only deals with his own scars, but comes to see that we are all scared individuals. “For the first time in my life, I was seeing these people who wounded me as wounded people themselves.” “No longer afraid of them, I feel sadness for them.”


The last actual chapter, 15, starts out with “Despite all the denominational distinctions I’ve come across along the way, for the life of me, I cannot find any other litmus test Jesus insisted upon to authenticate his followers except love.” Here we meet Rick, the tire salesman. “Rick has no Bible degree…does not attend any local ‘church,’…likes a good cigar, has a beer every now and then,” and his “greatest passion in life is knowing God.” We cut to the chase and see in this chapter the importance of just living life. Living life in love. In love of God, and in love of others.

We started out with two introductions.  Fittingly, we end with two epilogues. Well, [OK, then there’s the acknowledgments and “About The Author.]
“Divine Nobodies” has shades of Donald Miller, shades of Rob Bell, but is nonetheless clearly distinctive. It is another sign post on the road I’ve been traveling, pointing me to greater freedom, truth, and love.


Buy the book. Click HERE.


Some Quotes:

“My suspicion was born that a fair number of people in professional ministry are psychotic and unstable.”

“I tend to distrust people who claim to speak for God unless I know they have waited tables when shorthanded or operated a cash register during an early-bird special.

“These past few years I’ve been stumbling into questions that seem to be leading somewhere important.”

“God opened my eyes, not through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance, but through the unlikeliest people–people I, well, just kind of ran into along the way.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Every good evangelical knows that for all practical purposes, the Bible is God, and you don’t rely on something as subjective as personal experience.”

“One day I realized my Christianity was essentially a glorified behavior-modification program safely rationalized beneath a waving WWJD banner.”

“Turns out in the end, the main thing God asks of us on the road to wholeness is truth.”

“After a long week on my feet at the cafeteria, I realized how overrated sex is compared to the ecstasy of a foot massage.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“One of my spiritual gifts is teaching, but I don’t need to stand on a stage before a crowd to use it.”
[I believe that applies to all  gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve been questioned about how gifts function if you don’t attend an institution.  I believe the error was to associate them with that context to begin with.]

“The whole drill seemed to be to strive hard to fulfill God’s expectations and play your 1 John 1:9 card when you failed, earning you the right to start over and try harder.”

“Our church boycotted Disney, signed petitions against gay teachers in public schools, and judged those heretical denominations that sealed their fate with God by accepting gays.  In my world there was no such thing as a “gay Christian.”

“My religion provided way too small a wineskin to contain all that Jesus want to give.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Many of the premises of institutional Christianity…are suspect, given this one cold, hard fact:  Christ indiscriminately, fully, and equally establishes his very presence and life within every believer.”

“God’s parting of the Red Sea seems like a big deal until you experience the miracle of your child sleeping through the night alone in his or her room.”

“Maybe ‘us’ and ‘them’ is an illusionary tactic of the real enemy, and there is really no ‘them’ but just one ‘us.'”

“Rather than a relationship, my Christianity morphed into some sort of divine self-help philosophy, problem-solving plan, and life-improvement strategy.”


Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

 
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