Category Archives: #religion

What do you live for?

I like to start my English classes with a warm-up exercise that will get my students thinking and speaking in English. Once they are warmed up, I transition into the lesson(s) of the day. Most of the time I warm up the language center in their mind with simple exercises such as, “Give me the name of a country that begins with the letter S … that begins with the letter L” … etc. Or, I might ask each student to spell a different word. Or, we might practice verb tenses that we have learned, for example we might practice the past tenses by telling everyone what we did yesterday.

But one day I decided to get philosophical on my students with the question,“What do you live for?” Several people said similar things such as “family,” “travel,” “God,“ “music,” and even “to learn English.” (I have some devoted students, eh?). As for myself, I had not thought about what I might say until the last person had spoken and everyone was staring at me waiting for my response. I thought for a moment, and then told them that I live for learning about human potential and for discovering how to live life to the fullest.

I’ve heard it said that we use only a small percentage of our potential … I am not sure how you measure that, but it sure seems to me that extraordinary things can manifest through each of us.

I love the entire genre that is variously known as self-development, personal growth, self-help, etc. Here in the Spanish- speaking world this genre is called auto-desarollo, auto-ayuda, etc. I cannot get enough of it, and since I don’t read books that often, I am usually taking this content in by listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and other audio resources on the iPods that I have with me. I even consider my Spanish educational resources to be part of this genre since they are helping me to develop personally, and helping me to live life more fully by enabling me to experience more profoundly the Spanish-speaking world. I don’t believe everything that I hear and read, because this genre is like any other genre in that some of the authors may not have the highest motives or could simply be mistaken, such as a financial advisor and author with a fancy title who is selling a lot of books with questionable if not dangerous financial advice. Each of us has to pick and choose what resonates with us.

I am listening to an audiobook right now that is one of the most extraordinary audiobooks that I have ever heard, it is by Anita Moorjani and is entitled, “Dying to Be Me.” Anita had what is known as a Near Death Experience (NDE), and in her book she shares how it has impacted her perspective and life. If you believe that NDEs are a bunch of bunk and that the thousands of people who claim to have had an NDE are all liars, you obviously would not be interested in this book. As for myself, I open to learning what I can from Anita’s story for a few reasons, one of them being that I too have had spiritual experiences that defy explanation but that have similar elements to what Anita and others have experienced. I’ve already told some people about one such experience, but this is the first time that I will write a little about it. By the way, any number of people throughout human history have experienced the miraculous, the infinite, the eternal, something that is beyond our ability to explain with human language, so while I will share a little about my experience, I will also admit that I cannot explain it like I experienced it.

One day many years ago I was with a friend and saw a vision in front of me. Since it was over 30 years ago, I will do my best to recall and explain what I saw. I was looking into a pathway of light, pure light, bright white light, as if I was looking into a pathway that led to heaven itself. As I gazed into the light I was explaining to my friend what I was seeing, and I was describing both the pathway and the destination. Since it was so surprising and shocking and exciting, unlike anything that I had ever experienced up to that time and even to this present moment, I just kept saying excitedly the same things over and over, such as:

I’m seeing a vision! I’m looking down a path of white light, pure white light … it is love and beauty and truth. I’m telling you! It is a pathway that is white and light and loving and beautiful and true. It leads right to the light!

I don’t recall how long this vision lasted nor how it ended … and who knows, it could have lasted a few minutes or a few hours – they say that at the speed of light, time stands still. In any case, while I was excitedly describing to my friend the vision I was seeing, all he could say to me was, “I don’t understand what you are saying, Keith – you are speaking in a tongue!”

To me a “tongue” is a heavenly language, something that does not apply to any particular religion or spiritual practice. Also, it seems to me that many devotees of various stripes have misused, misunderstood and overused that word “tongue,” so I mention it with some trepidation. For example, one time someone wanted to show me how to pray in a tongue, and they immediately knelt down and on command starting verbalizing a bunch of sounds … perhaps they were in fact practicing a heavenly language because who am I to judge, but my gut tells me that this is not something you can do on command but instead it is something that is given by God at a specific time for a specific purpose. As far as I know, I have not spoken in a heavenly language at any other time in my life.

So after I came out of the vision, I explained to my friend in human language what I had been seeing, similar to how I am explaining it to you now in this blog post. Words will never completely capture it, just like the word “water” can never fully capture the essence that is water, but nonetheless I have done my best to describe my experience. I don’t know why it happened to me at that point in my life, but what I do know is that it gives me a sense of hope and comfort and peace and joy. Moreover, it is similar to the many stories told by those who have had NDEs and by those who have had profound spiritual experiences.

As I understand it, God is Light and Love and Truth and Beauty. It follows that the names we use to refer to God are only glimpses of God, regardless of where those names originated. Names like Infinite Self and Source of All do their best to evoke awe, but again are only glimpses. The Spanish word that is most commonly used for God is Dios, which comes from the Latin word Deus, which they think came from the word Deiwos in a language that linguists call the Proto-Indo-European language, which is probably related to the Sanskrit Deva or Devi, which could have been a sound that someone uttered way back when at the moment they experienced what they believed was … God. Obviously, the word or words that we use to describe the One are inadequate, but we all know Who we are talking about. These words all point to the same Light and Love.

So, what do you live for? I could have said that I live for God, which may have sounded holy and impressive, or it could have sounded self-righteous and repulsive. But to me, to say that we live for God is obvious and does not necessarily need to be said. We all live and move and have our being in God … God is the Source from whom we came, the Source that enlivens us now, and the Source to whom we return.

What I’m asking is … What is it that makes you feel most alive? What is it that is uniquely you? What is your divine purpose for being? Or, in the words of Anita who has attempted to express what she saw on the other side — How do you express your magnificence?

We are all beloved in the eyes of You-Know-Who … so go ahead and be that which God has empowered you to be!

What is Devotion?

Your religious body does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God … not your history, not your traditions, not your ceremonies, and not your religious writings.

Your personal religious practices also do not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. You can be at every meeting, know the words to every song, have all the ceremonies memorized, pray at all the correct times, dress the way you are supposed to dress, and do everything that is expected of you apart from the body … and in spite of all that, your heart can be far from God.

Similarly, your position in your religious body does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. Whether you’re the curate, or the rabbi, or the apostle, or the pope, or the shaman, or the minister, or the elder, or the mullah, or the vicar, or the prophet, or the teacher, your position does not define the condition of your soul.

And of course, your reputation does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. People may bow down and worship you, or on the other hand you may be hated and ridiculed by all around you. What people may think of you has nothing to do with how your innermost being is tuned.

Fight Like a Girl

I know what it means to fight like a girl. Having watched my wife fight cancer for several weeks, I know more now about what the fight looks like for countless women, men, and children who receive a diagnosis of cancer.

God only knows what the fight looks like for those who have no access to health care, may God have mercy … but if you are like my wife who does have that access, it means discovering something wrong and calling the doctor. It means that first trip to the doctor, and then another, and many more. It means that you get to meet a steady stream of receptionists and medical assistants and nurses and technicians and doctors and benefit specialists and many more people who all seem to put on a brave face for you, and yet you know that some are smiling painfully for you. It means being poked and prodded and inspected and touched and x-rayed and stabbed and injected and cut and operated-on and samples and having medicine that seems more like poison injected into you in the hope that it is smart enough to find and kill all the bad cells while leaving alone all the good cells.

To fight like a girl means feeling sick, really sick for several days at a time. It means not even being able to look at many of the foods you used to love eating. It means losing all your hair. It means headaches and nausea and experiencing many other heretofore unforeseen aches and pains, and it forces you to take a lot of pills and medicine that you don’t normally take. It means eating when you don’t feel like eating, walking when you don’t feel like walking, working when you don’t feel like working, and being civil when you don’t feel like being civil. It means sleeping a lot, and sometimes it means not being able to sleep at all.

To fight like a girl means that many friends and relatives come along to fight with you, to do what they can to hold you up and help you out. It means receiving gifts of friendship and love and food and hats and letters and giftcards and transportation and visits and tears and words of encouragement and love … it means receiving lots of love. In spite of all the challenges, it means feeling very blessed to have so much in life to hold dear.

To fight like a girl – well, it’s not a fight against anything or anyone. It is a fight for health and hope and life and love … and my lovely wife wins that fight every time.

What Religion are You?

I suppose that life is much simpler if you are born one religion, live one religion, and die one religion.

There have been millions of Catholics who were born Catholic, lived Catholic, and died Catholic … millions of Jews who were born Jewish, lived Jewish, and died Jewish … millions of Pentecostals who were born Pentecostal, lived Pentecostal, and died Pentecostal … millions of, well you get the picture.

The same applies to your religion, however instead of millions it might be thousands, or hundreds, or even fewer.

Of course, it is something of a misnomer to say that someone is born a religion, for infants don’t really practice a religion. But the socialization into religion for many starts at such a young age, you may as well say you were born a religion.

I did a quick Google search to see if I could find any research that indicates the likelihood of staying in a particular religion, but I could not find any data. For example, what percentage of people born into a Unitarian Universalist home will live and die UU?

The likelihood that you will stay in a particular religion varies from country to country, and from religion to religion. Some religions are so laissez-faire that they don’t know (or don’t care) whether you float in and out, but other religions will deprive you of your existence before they let you leave.

I’d also like to know, by religion, the degree of total adherence to the complete creed. For example, what percentage of Methodist doctrine does the average Methodist believe? Is the average Methodist … 90% Methodist, 5% Baptist, 3% Catholic, and 2% Other? And, what all goes into that Other category?

(As you can see, I am using the term religion to refer to each distinct religious group).

I suspect that most Americans are a mixture of various creeds, even if unwilling to admit it. And again, how mixed you are depends on what religion you were socialized into.

So admit it, my Buddhist friend, you got a little Rastafarian in you … don’t you?

Now if you are a mix, and admit it, don’t believe that your mix is the ONE TRUE religion … and don’t try to proselytize the world into your mix. It is good to have firmly held beliefs, and even to share them with others … but when you seek to superimpose your entire belief system on another, you do not love that other like God does.

So then, what religion is God?

SARCASM ALERT – HERE IT COMES! Surely God is my religion, the one true religion, and everyone in my religion will be in Heaven, and everyone else will go straight to Hell. THERE IT GOES – THAT WAS SARCASM!

We all know that is absurd, right? Go ahead and shout it out loud, it is absurd to believe that:

God is your religion
Your religion is the one true religion
Everyone in your religion will be in Heaven
Everyone else will go straight to Hell

Go ahead and feel the love. Shout it out loud. Be free.

Your religion is not THE religion. My religion is not THE religion. Your mix is not THE mix. My mix is not THE mix.

Come on, let it out. It’s in there, just waiting to spring forth. Don’t be afraid, for if you let it out, it will never really leave you … for if you let it out, it will be out there AND in you.

Embrace, truly embrace, your fellow human being. Accept them as they are, listen to them, and learn from them. There is strength in diversity. Thank God for each person in your life, and endeavor to love them as God loves them.

Go into your innermost being, into your heart of hearts … and feel the love that is God in you.