Is God Love?

Why is it that Christians say Jesus was crucified to pay the price we as sinful human beings cannot pay for ourselves?

Love does not seek repayment. Love gives and goes on giving even in the face of disappointment and disrespect.

It seems to me that the Biblical notion of sin arises from the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of God as wrathful and judgmental–especially at the national level.

Hebrews were freed by God from the slavery of Egyptian tyranny–was this not love? Was this not the overflowing of justice? Yet the Hebrews did not automatically enter into the promised land. They wandered for forty years in the wilderness. Was it love to let them wander? Perhaps they needed tough feet! Perhaps they needed to learn how to become a nation.

Yet, even after they finally made it into the promised land, their greeds and misdeeds doomed them to be overthrown and become dispersed far and wide by their enemies.

Does God do this to those he/she loves? Is God the enemy? God did not condemn the people; rather their choices resulted in calamitous effects.

Evil choices and evil thoughts return more evil.

So, why was Jesus crucified? There is no simple answer. This was a multifaceted event that speaks to humanity in myriad ways.

Jesus arrived on the Hebrew scene to tell the people: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 9-12 NIV).

The Dalai Lama, in his book, Beyond Religion, says “…how people treat their fellow human beings, and indeed the world around them, largely depends on how they conceive of themselves” (p. 21).

God is good and will give to all who ask, but such goodness comes from a life lived through loving others. Yet first, one must love oneself.

When Jesus calls his contemporaries evil, he is reiterating their own negative view of themselves and emphasizes that when it comes to love of their own children, they are capable of good and thus they are capable of participating in God’s love which brings wholeness to everyone.

The sacrifice of Jesus was not God’s way, but the human way. It was the way of ignorance about God’s love. Those that perpetrated the crucifixion were caught up in their needs for power and control. Those that allowed the crucifixion also held responsibility for their lack of action to prevent injustice.

If we are to become one with God’s love on a national and international level, then we must hold up the loving God through our actions and thoughts in our everyday lives.

It is the task of all people, beyond our religious beliefs or lack of them, and beyond our cultural/societal boundaries, to find the means to bring goodness to one another–not merely to those people we find easy to love, but all those in other cultures with other belief systems, no matter how alien they may seem to us. 

This is where spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation come in–such routine practices enable us to become aware of ingrained prejudice against others and against ourselves, so that eventually through awareness of how and why we are acting poorly, we are empowered to free ourselves from the chains of tyranny that enslave ourselves and those around us.

A simple meditation is to sit quietly for twenty minutes every day with your hands folded on your lap. With every inhalation, think peace for me, and with every exhalation, think peace for others.

Visualize your life filled with the most peaceful moments you have ever experienced, and pour those same moments out to everyone else, beginning with those you love, and moving on to those you know, to those you don’t like, to the people of other nations, and to all of nature too.

And pray to understand how others who seem so unlike you are really more like you than you realize and that you might see the world through their eyes, and that yours might become the eyes of compassion.

Being Now, Now

I woke up this morning in the wee hours with my mind racing (Buddhists would call this a monkey mind) in plans on how to furnish the house my husband and I are buying. Where would I put the couch, the occasional tables, the lamps? Would we be able to get the bed up the stairs? Where could I place my pots and plant my flowers?

It is very exciting.  Yet I don’t want to spend my time in planning ahead and speculating.  Much more important to be here now, present to the moment, else the experience of life is lost in a sea of vague unformed ideas that might never come to pass.

Jesus remained rooted in the present moments of his life, healing others, teaching, laughing with his friends, suffering with his friends, praying on mountaintops. He did not waste his time worrying about what was to come nor what had been other than to recognize how the past (Torah) informs the present, and the present (how we think and act) informs the future.

Allowing our minds to wander takes us out of the center of our being. We often lose ourselves in past moments that are gone or are galloping ahead into moments that may never come.

We must train our minds so that we might direct them in right-thinking, rather than become a victim of a particular thought, lost in the past or carried away into a frenzy. 

Thoughts, Eknath Easwaran tells us, are like balls being bashed around in a game of tennis. Everyone knows it takes practice and skill to play tennis successfully, lobbing the ball within the bounds of the court.  It is the same with our thoughts–we practice meditation so that we might become aware of where the thoughts fly in order to direct them wisely.

So, in the middle of the night, I first prayed for God to help me calm down and then I began to meditate, paying attention to my breath.

When I inhaled, I noticed the passage of air through my nostrils, and I thought Being Now.

When I exhaled, I thought Now.

I became aware of the warmth of my body, the feel of the clean sheets, my husband next to me sleeping deeply. I enjoyed the feel of the fan blowing air down onto us. I rejoiced for the health of my body at this time. Slowly I drifted back to sleep.

I awoke refreshed and grateful for the day ahead, wondering what it might bring, excited at the possibilities, but grounded in reality, aware that no matter if there is pleasure or no pleasure, excitement or routine chores, when I attend deeply, all is well, and I am rooted in an eternal and everlasting flow.

Prayer and Healing

Excerpt from Ziggy, a Little Book of Healing

Three Signs

After Ziggy was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor when he was only about seven years old, I became incredibly aware of the preciousness of his life. I did all I could to make it enjoyable and to appreciate every living moment we shared. It seemed to me that by living in the now of our time together, his passing would not cause me sorrow. I have no doubt there is an afterlife for all God’s creatures. I expected to breeze through Ziggy’s dying and move on sprightly, feeling joyful. How wrong I was. Henri Nouwen once remarked about the agony of loss. Even though I had buried my parents, and many other dogs and cats, I had not understood. Until now. Perhaps, the reason this loss is so painful is because now my heart is more fully open than it ever was in the past.
In the Bible the rainbow is God’s covenant, God’s promise of abundant joy and life for his people. The night when Ziggy was put to sleep, I prayed to see a rainbow as a sign of Ziggy’s well-being. The following day, on my way to the Wednesday evening Bible study at the church where I was the pastor, I saw a rainbow flashing across the Industrial Parkway. I was not comforted, nor satisfied. That night at 3:00 AM, I awoke. My mind filled with torment. How long, I wondered, had I hung onto Zig? Had I been in denial?

This is a true story about my dog who received a miraculous healing. I adored him, willful wretch that he was.
When he was given a death sentence, I was devastated. I couldn’t bear for him to die so young, so I began praying and doing Reiki on him, and I asked friends to pray, to send healing, to visualize him healthy. Thus began a journey to wholeness for both the dog and also for me.
This account is the story of Ziggy intertwined with memoir.
Anyone who loves dogs and cats, is interested in healing and the power of prayer, might find this book helpful.
It contains an Appendix with seven touch healing prayers based upon Reiki and Lectio Divina for individuals or groups.

Buy Ziggy, a Little Book of Healing from  $4.95