It’s that simple

I believe in the Bible and I try to follow the Bible. I know I’m an imperfect person. I’m not making myself an angel because I’m not an angel and I’m not a devil either. I try to be the best I can and I try to do what I think is right. It’s that simple. I don’t just pray at night. I pray at different times during the day. Whenever I see something beautiful, I say, ‘Oh, God, that’s beautiful.’ I say little prayers like that all through the day.

Michael Jackson

Choosing compassion over condemnation

I have watched with great interest over the past couple of weeks as Whitney Houston went from being perceived as a washed-up addict to a veritable saint in the eyes of the public. As tributes began pouring in from celebrities and fans, many expressed their belief that she was finally at peace in heaven. Family and friends said they knew without a shadow of doubt that she was with Jesus. Where she had been ridiculed only days and hours before, she was now being proclaimed the newest angel in paradise.

We tend to do that when people pass away. It becomes much harder to pass judgement on someone when they are no longer around to defend themselves. Death also reminds us all of our own mortality, and of our desire that other people not be too harsh in their judgment of our lives.

The morning of the day she died, I spent several minutes perusing photographs of her looking rather disheveled as she left a recent event and thought to myself that she probably wouldn’t live long. I was heartbroken when the news came in later that evening.

I have been a fan of Whitney for several years, and although I wouldn’t describe myself as a “fanatic,” I did purchase her albums as they were released (I actually have over 20 compact discs of her music), watched her movies, and always rooted for her to overcome whatever demons she was fighting at any particular time. Even though I liked her a great deal and followed her career, I don’t think I realized just how important her faith was to her until this weekend.

As I watched her funeral on Saturday, Whitney’s personal friends and family members recounted over and over how she prayed constantly, read her Bible, and quoted verses. Her bodyguard said she refused to go anywhere without her tattered Bible, even leaving clothes behind in order to have enough room for it in her suitcase. In a television interview, a minister friend recalled how Whitney recently laid prostrate on the floor as she prayed and spoke in tongues while begging God for deliverance from her addictions. Even the last song she sang publicly just two nights before she died was “Jesus Loves Me.”

On Sunday night, Oprah rebroadcast the interview she had done with Whitney a couple of years ago. Whitney had just revealed her obviously painful battle with drug abuse and the dissolution of her troubled marriage to Bobby Brown when Oprah asked the poignant question “Who do you love?” Without a moment of hesitation, she replied, “The Lord.”

So, what I know now is Whitney Houston had an astonishing love for God. She might not have been living what some would describe as a “Christian lifestyle,” but she certainly didn’t have a problem with faith. She wholeheartedly believed in Jesus, salvation, and the hereafter. Despite many shortcomings in other areas of her life, no one can accuse her of not taking her faith seriously.

As society replaces its condemnation of Whitney with a more compassionate understanding, I wonder why we have to wait until someone dies to show them any mercy and respect. Maybe if we would look a little deeper, beyond the image projected on people by a ruthless and merciless media, we might see how each person we take so much joy in building up and tearing down is still just as human as we are. We all have flaws, we all make poor decisions, and we are all worthy of a little grace and compassion.

If I should die this very day
Don’t cry ’cause on earth we weren’t meant to stay
And no matter what the people say
I’ll be waiting for you after the judgement day

– lyric from “Your Love Is My Love” by Whitney Houston

Through the valley

I have been going through somewhat of a valley spiritually-speaking over the past few months. We have only been to church twice since Honey’s accident, and we are currently trying to decide which direction to take on that front. Being part of a congregation over the past few years has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, but I also enjoy lazy Sunday mornings at home. Even more so since some of our closest friends are no longer attending services.

One thing I’ve learned over the past several weeks is that many of the fellow worshipers I thought were true friends, actually aren’t. No cards, phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook pokes… nothing. I realize friendship is a two-way street, but a simple “We miss you!” can go a long way toward easing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Religion has never been an easy thing for me. It often feels like a handicap that must be struggled through in the hopes of attaining some eternal reward. I don’t like the monotony of religious tradition or the arrogance of doctrine. So much of it seems elementary – a jagged little pill I must swallow every week. I’m much more content to figure it out for myself, rather than allowing someone else to tell me which path the journey should take.

I read too much, question too much, and believe too little. I keep hoping a light bulb/aha moment will wash all of my hesitation and fear away, but the older I get, the less likely it seems that such a thing will occur.

For me, God has become a concept; a way to explain how everything my senses reveal came into being. I refuse to deny His/Her existence simply because it might not make logical sense to believe. Nothing really makes sense if you think about it long enough (space, for instance). Religion certainly falls into that category.

I take nothing lightly; in fact, I agonize over these things. It just seems like I keep coming back to the same conclusions time after time, which means that I have to eventually be honest with myself about what I believe – or don’t believe. Unfortunately, those moments of realization usually include a mixture of anxiety and sadness.

This post isn’t really going anywhere, but I just needed to get these thoughts on screen so that they might be a little easier for me to organize. I’ll try to write something a little more coherent next time. ;)

Michael Jackson’s thoughts on God

It’s strange that God doesn’t mind expressing Himself/Herself in all the religions of the world, while people still cling to the notion that their way is the only right way. Whatever you try to say about God, someone will take offense, even if you say everyone’s love of God is right for them.

For me the form God takes is not the most important thing. What’s most important is the essence. My songs and dances are outlines for Him to come in and fill. I hold out the form. She puts in the sweetness.

I’ve looked up at the night sky and beheld the stars so intimately close, it was as if my grandmother had made them for me. “How rich, how sumptuous,” I thought. In that moment I saw God in His creation. I could as easily have seen Her in the beauty of a rainbow, the grace of a deer bounding through a meadow, the truth of a father’s kiss. But for me the sweetest contact with God has no form. I close my eyes, look within, and enter a deep soft silence. The infinity of God’s creation embraces me. We are one.

Michael Jackson, ‘Dancing The Dream’

A couple of Bible verses I love

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:7-10

Pond ponderings

fall5

For some inexplicable reason, I am totally addicted to the pond that sits near our home. We have been living here for several months already, but I feel like I just recently discovered it. I knew it was there the whole time, but rarely ever took the time to walk down the hill, through the meadow, and up another hill to see it. That has changed over the past few weeks, and I am wondering why it took me so long to “discover” something I should have connected with months ago.

There is something peaceful, calming, and spiritual about bodies of water… perhaps because we supposedly evolved from water-dwelling organisms, or maybe because of our inability to survive without it. Either way, as I mentioned in my last entry, I feel much closer to God standing at the edge of the water than I do sitting in a church building. Maybe that is why I am so eager to make the short hike every chance I get.

Although we own 4.6 acres of land, our property does not encompass the pond. I am keeping my fingers crossed though, because the lady who currently owns it mentioned that she might sell it to me within the next few years.