Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grape #6: The Sweet Joy Of Anticipation

As I've written about here recently, I'm in the midst of planning my first trip to Hawaii. Very exciting stuff! My partner and I don't leave until late May, but we've been planning it since before Christmas. And even though I'm still in New York, I'm totally loving my vacation already!

There's an anticipation that builds before a big vacation that increases your serotonin, that makes you happy just knowing it's coming. Research has proved that people live longer, happier lives when they keep planning activities, even well into their twilight years***.

So it's a clinically proven reality that anticipation itself can bring all the joy of the event that is anticipated. Who knew?! My 2 weeks on Maui is in some ways a six-month trip! Sweet! Enjoying a Mai Tai at my desk at work or sunbathing in the parking lot may not be a good idea, but boy am I enjoying looking at photos of where my physical form will soon be. And I'm truly jealous of my future self!

Anticipating a happy event or time in our life is a wonderful way to make us feel better no matter what our current surroundings may be. So if the work or laundry is piling up around you, or you're just feeling sluggish about someone or something in your day, keep a big old calendar or photo of the place or event you have to look forward to next. Just seeing an image in front of you is guaranteed to improve your mood.

And if you don't have anything to look forward to, start making plans today! It doesn't have to be Hawaii or anywhere else spectacular. It could just be a date with yourself for ice cream later in the week. And don't forget the hot fudge syrup with that serotonin! Mmm!

***Note to those under 30: The phrase "twilight years" represents that time in your life as the sun begins to set and old age is a reality. You will probably not turn into a vampire if you live past 80 years old. Results may vary.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grape #5: Patience Is A Grr Chew

I'm a man of many virtues, but plenty of vices too, and one of my biggest vices is impatience. It's probably why my parents taught me the short verse below.
Patience is a virtue,
possess it if you can,
seldom found in women,
never found in man.
No matter how much of a peace-loving, tree-hugging, happy optimist I am, my short temper has gotten the best of me more often than not. Sometimes mistaken for genuine anger, my temper is almost always just a result of a loss of patience. A coworker or friend taking FOREVER to tell a story, a driver going only 45 miles per hour on the parkway, a Web page taking too long to load, or even just a loved one who isn't the perfect person I want him to be: These are just some of the things that can make me go absolutely CRAZY!!! Grr.
It's so silly really; I mean how will those extra seconds or even minutes hurt me? Not at all! And why should I expect anyone else to be perfect if I couldn't come anywhere near to perfection even if I sought it? Silly.

And so in the pursuit of "virtue", I remind myself to take those "grr" thoughts and "chew" on them a bit more. When they arrive--which they always will--I need to take a deep breath and realize that this is absolutely not worth getting upset over. There are too many real grrs in life for me to overreact so easily to the little ones.
Perpetual patience is not the type of thing we just get. We have to work on it, chew on it, and we'll probably never achieve it anyway. Pursuing virtues like patience is wonderful, but sometimes the pursuing, the reaching itself is the real virtue, the proof that we are at least trying to be better. So when the grr moments inevitably keep showing up, we have to just chew, chew, chew on them, instead of behaving badly in the face of them. 'Cause honey, we're just not pretty when we do that!

Patience is a virtue? Yes. But if you can't totally keep your cool during an extreme, impatiently grr-inducing moment, try chewing on it just a little. Don't grit your teeth too bad now, but keep your big ol' mouth shut and do your best to stay patient! It'll still be hard at times for impatient folks like us, but give it a grr chew, and keep on trying your best! Happy chewing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grape #4: Loving The Road You're On

I'm in the midst of planning my first vacation to Maui. People keep asking me if I'm excited, and then they realize how silly a question that is. Even though Maui is filled with many beautiful resorts, the more you look at it, the more you realize just how much of a resort the entire island is. Plush rain forests, incredible waterfalls, gorgeous beaches with crystal clear ocean water: Maui's beauty is just astonishing. And I haven't even gone yet!

Apparently one of the coolest things to do on Maui is called "The Road To Hana", a long, winding road along the cliffs of eastern Maui that takes you into the town of Hana. But the town itself isn't the destination. "The Road" is. It's the drive itself that brings tourists from the comfort of their resorts on the west side of the island all the way to the other end.

Sometimes the destination we seek is already right where we are, if we take the time to appreciate the road itself. If we spend all our time expecting and hoping, we'll miss the real goal: accepting and coping. John Powell once said, "A person can grow only as much as his horizon allows." And I believe and love that kind of thinking! But if your soul is only focused on the end result, you'll miss a whole lot of the view along the way.

Maybe the road from your house to your job is no "Road To Hana", and maybe the way you go to do your food shopping is hardly filled with waterfalls and sandy beaches. But if your soul isn't "on" during the workday, or on the drive to the market, or even when you're doing the laundry, you're missing an awful lot of life. Some people seem absolutely glued to the notion that life is about putting up with a lot of crap in between weekends. If we live life only for the weekends though, we're just living 2/7 of our life!

I like to believe that Heaven is just the beginning of many new adventures, and not just an end-game destination where we sit around and "rest in peace". So it makes sense for me that I'd make my life about going from adventure to adventure too. You can't get me on a zip line or a roller coaster, but I do like to find lots of little adventures in my life and in each new day.

There will always be days when you have to remind yourself to appreciate your blessings, when people around you and circumstances you're dealing with just weigh you down. But that's part of what "The Road" is by its very nature.

Interestingly, the word "Hana" in Hawaiian literally means work, job, duty, or activity. It makes sense, too, because even though a drive along The Road To Hana is incredibly beautiful, it's also very dangerous. Single-lane bridges and speeding drivers can make the trip really scary at times. While appreciating the beauty in every direction, you also have real work to do as you focus on the road itself.

So as you go through this day, and the next, and the one after that too, focus on "The Road". Honor its importance, and keep yourself safe. The destination will arrive when it's time, and we'll have more destinations after that. But for right now, appreciate the trip itself too. The journey to the "end point" is the end point on this circle of life, because there is no real end point! Do your Hana, your work, but always remember to love the road you're on.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grape #3: Other People's Sins

Anton Chekhov once wrote, "You won't become a saint through other people's sins." To which I reply, "Awww, c'mon! Please? I mean, just look at those sinful people!"

Today's "Grape" is a real gripe of mine. Not because I disagree with it though, but because I know it's right and I hate that I'm guilty of thinking this way far too often. It's not like I expect sainthood (okay, my ego might once in a while) but I do often look around at my fellow human beings and think, "Hmm, I've got a pretty darn good chance of making it into Heaven if these people are my competition!

Curved Logic

What I--and a lot of us--forget is that God seems to grade on a curve. And the scariest part is, we're not graded on how we measure up to other people's curves, but how we measure up to our own curves. My life's classroom lasts exactly as long as the time I'm alive on Earth, and no one else has exactly the same teachers as I do. So the final exam I take throughout my life is a completely different one than the one you take.

What does this mean in terms of the quote I opened this reflection with? It means I can't even cheat on your test, or do better on your test than you did, because we're not even taking the same one! Just because I answered 'B' on answer 9,856 doesn't mean it's the correct answer for the 9,856th question on your test. Ugh!!! Don't you just hate that?!?!

Interestingly, even though we are taking completely different exams, a lot of the same material has been covered for both, so we can still study together. As study buddies with one another, we play the role of both teacher and student. There will be things that you can learn from me, just as there are things that I can learn from you.

None have all the answers, but all have most.

We're on a scavenger hunt throughout our lifetime. On our list of lessons to learn are the names of people who live all around the world, each who can teach us something we have on our list. The trick is to find these people and then realize what lessons we have learned from them. And somewhere along the line we'll realize that we've been imparting wisdom to others as well.

The gifts, not the sins

So at some point, the lesson about "other people's sins" becomes clear: It's not their sins that affect our grade, it's their gifts. Their sins are their issue, not ours. And stepping in to help them with their sins is a dangerous business! Jesus said that the one of us with no sins gets to throw the first stone. I look around me and realize that not only can't I be first, I can't even be the millionth in line. So I drop my stone in the ground and move on. If we were to switch that phrase around, we'd see what else Jesus is saying: He who has the most sins will never get around to throwing any stones whatsoever. Annnnd if you have even one sin, you don't get to be the judge.

If the sins of others can't help us get into Heaven, what can help us? The gifts of others, their blessings. Not just the fact of their gifts and blessings though! The APPRECIATION and honest respect and love for their gifts and blessings!

Okay, you think, I love my mother's cooking, and I am wowed by my friend's talent at basketball. No, sorry. The tricky part is that it can't just be people we're really close with; it has to be strangers, preferably strangers we just don't like at all. Yikes! Really? Well I hate to spoil the party, but Jesus did also say we should love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. And I might be wrong, but I don't think he actually followed that up with, "LOL! Just kidding!"

Not easy. I know. I've only had a few people in my life who have hurt me so much that the word "hate" came to mind. Choosing to love these people, forgive them, and then go one step further and appreciate what gifts and blessings they have to offer me and the world--not easy, but it is what we have to do.

Put it another way? When we focus on other people's sins, we're bringing our soul down into the mud, and caking ourselves in the filthiest level of humanity. When we focus on the gifts of even the sinniest sinners, we're being Christlike, which I get the impression Heaven likes.

In conclusion (you're welcome)

You can't get into Heaven based on other people's sins, and you definitely won't be considered a saint in Earth's or Heaven's estimation based on your superiority in moral matters. It's just not the way things work. Our egos think this way, I know because mine sure does. But it's just not Godlike and really very unhelpful. This "gripe" of mine really isn't one, but it is something I struggle with, so this little homily is for myself as much as for anyone who might ever read it.

Another grape on divine looked at and thought about. Many more to explore!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grape #2: Harps in Heaven

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying that they do not want "to spend eternity playing harps." ... People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs. --C.S. Lewis 'Mere Christianity'
I recently read these lines by C.S. Lewis, and they got me wondering how many people really think this way. My mother used to tell me she imagined Heaven was just filled with souls in constant prayer, because when you're with God, you just want to praise Him all the time. Hmm. Doesn't sound right. Why would God create us just so we could sit around and worship Him? Sounds a bit too much like something Caesar or Rush Limbaugh would do.

I prefer to believe--there's a phrase for you--that once you get to Heaven, resolve your life's issues, and meet all the famous people (Jesus, Shakespeare, Elvis), there's lots of work to be done. God needs thousands of souls just to help the newly dead get used to life off Earth, train them in the ways of The Source, and help them become the soul they've always wanted to be. I like making this stuff sound colorful, but that really is what I believe!

Besides the transition team, there have got to be tons of souls in charge of Earth matters. I completely buy into the concept of God as an absentee landlord, but I feel like we must get *some* help from Heaven now and then. The case workers are sent out all over Earth, observing and tending where they can, and planting tiny seeds of wisdom in the ears of those who strain to hear and heed.

And assisting God in the really, really big matters is a team of souls that changes often (though that's a relative term for the Divine timeline of course). This group is known to my mind as The Ethereal Council. Their job is to watch over Planet Earth--and maybe some other locales too--and keep an eye on the really important issues. How many near-death experiences will be remembered, and of that number how many will write books about it? How many ghost/spirit sightings should there be? When to step in once humans start playing God too much? To what level should God and Heaven ever reveal itself to humanity? I really do believe that once God had created enough souls with the wisdom and love necessary to "run the shop" so to speak, it turned into a beautiful group effort. Everything I have learned about God tells me this is true.

So can you have a job like one of these in Heaven and also worship God Almighty? Of course you can, and I imagine Heaven is some version of exactly that, worshiping and serving God at the same time. But to imagine that the God you love would create you merely as a slave to serve Him is nonsense in my opinion.

And if we were just pets to the Divine, one step up from slaves, wouldn't that get old fast too? After all, having a dog fetch the newspaper or do a trick for you is fun, but isn't the best pet the one who becomes your friend? That's what I believe God has created us for, to be fellow friends in the universe. It will be impossible to ever forget our manners with the Divine, or to misunderstand the generosity of the friendship granted, but we will in fact be friends and indeed beloveds of a being made of pure Love.

A brief look at the model of True Love here on Earth is all that's needed to understand something of the nature of the relationship we will have with the Divine. When we love someone with all our heart, we do things for them. We serve them and care for them, we pray for them, and yes, sometimes we even play harps for them. God loves us so much, and the adventure that awaits us in Heaven is no boring church service or endless homily. It's a dance of spirit, a triumph of joy, and an endless relationship filled with the greatest love you could ever imagine.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Grape #1: Divine Thinking

As you go through your day, how much do you stop and think about the really big issues? I don't mean financial security, housing, and health. Bigger than that. How much do you think about God, Heaven, Hell, Life itself?

Never? Rarely at all?

In this new blog, I'll periodically post my reflections and essays on a huge variety of spiritual topics. A lot of it will be the closest thing to Absolute Truth I can share. And a lot of it may be complete nonsense that in my opinion just seems right. It'll be your job as the reader to cipher through what I write, and decide for yourself whether you agree or disagree. I'll be looking forward to your feedback on any piece you choose to reply to. Sometimes we'll be on the same page, and other times it'll be clear we're reading two (or more) completely different books.

What matters most is that we begin a dialogue, because I don't think we do nearly enough Divine Thinking. As a human race, we're great at Divine Praying and even Divine Living at our best. But we rarely stop to actually think about our faith and our existence.

Grapes On Divine will be a place for me to reflect and sometimes rant on every topic imaginable--from a divine point of view. "What Would Jesus Do" is a phrase many Christians use to understand what the best course of action would be. We'll do something similar here, as we learn to see ourselves and one another with Divine eyes. Because the more we look at each of the Grapes On Divine, the more we'll come to a better understanding of Divine itself.

Please click "Follow" at the top left of this page to be alerted of postings in this new blog.