Getting Out of Church

Photo by RC Designer
It has been a while since I’ve felt the need to go to church. Yes, I do go once in a while. In fact, I attended last Sunday because a friend of mine was speaking and I knew he’d talk sense. If he didn’t, at least I was confident that he wouldn’t drag things out to the point of boredom. But it has been a few years since I’ve really felt the need to “go to church” either for worship or fellowship or whatever.

Spirituality for me has become something very personal. It is not measured in how often I go to church or how involved I am in its activities. I used to think that way though, but no longer. Spirituality is in the moment. It is in the now. If you are not spiritual now, then you cannot be more spiritual in church (although it may feel that way). Spirituality is not a result of actions but comes by just being silent and still inside. It is an inner knowing of who you are — and a constant gratitude and celebration of your being.

When I was in high school (and still very much involved in church activities), I encountered a poem that I didn’t quite agree with at that time. But there was something in it that called to me. I kept that poem and even used it when I was teaching English literature a few years back. Reading it again now, I think I’ve come to understand it better, and I know why it called to me — because that was how I really felt in my soul.

Here’s the poem.

SUNDAY MORNING
by Oscar PeƱaranda

Here I am again
sitting alone in my car
nostrils and mouth sucking wafts
of wind rushing through open side windows
on a cliff hanging over the bay there is
music from the radio

that green monster of a gelatin sea
kisses white tongues of foam kneeling
to lick the shore serenading the lone
oak tree
atop the jagged crags of rocks
there is music there also
they drown the chimes of distant chapel bells
come, take my hand
roll up your sleeves
and bare your chest before the naked sun

but

what I want to know is where
they ever got the barbaric gall
to call me
an unbeliever

this is how I pray

Enlightened Leadership

true leadership
Photo by Kevin Dooley

There are 4 kinds of leaders.

The lowest class of leader is one who is despised – who gains authority by inheritance, position or political ruthlessness.

The next kind of leader is one who is feared – who rules with an iron hand, whose punishment and retribution is swift against those who oppose him.

The next kind of leader is one who is loved – who embraces the people and shares their joys and sorrows, who understands their plight, who is pure in heart.

But the best kind of leader is one who goes unnoticed – he doesn’t assert himself, but trusts in his peoples’ capacities and abilities and empowers them to fulfill their duties and responsibilities; his leadership creates more leaders and encourages others to participate.

This leader knows that in refusing to trust his people, he makes them untrustworthy; in refusing to love them, he makes them unlovable; in refusing to value their independence, he makes them dependent.

This leader doesn’t talk much, but he does much. He doesn’t need to say a lot, but lets his actions speak for him.

And when this leader is done with his work, when he has reached the apex of his success, his people will say, “We did it! And we did it all by ourselves!”

Inspired by the Tao Te Ching, verse 17

Be a Mirror

The preacher said, “The best thing that we can do is to leave everything in God’s hands. Realize that only he knows what is best for us. Don’t insist on your way but let God decide your path.”

photo courtesy of aloshbennet, Flickr
photo courtesy of aloshbennet, Flickr

Replied the master, “If I followed your advice, I would wake up everyday and do nothing. What you are seemingly advocating as courageous faith is really a cowardly act of avoiding responsibility. What your God would probably want you to do is to have some spine and own up to the decisions you make. Realize that whatever happens to you is no one’s fault but your own (yes, it’s not even God’s fault even though you’re too afraid to admit that you blame him). Realize too, that nothing is ever good or bad. It is only within a particular situation or frame of reference that they are good or bad for you.”

“This is the key to wisdom: Be a mirror. A mirror reflects but never judges whether what is reflected is beautiful or ugly. It simply shows reality as it is. Be a mirror. Be silent. Judge not.”

A Moon’s Reflection

Photo courtesy of clairity, Flickr
Photo courtesy of clairity, Flickr

Back when I was still unmarried and living in another city that was close to the sea, I used to hang out with my friends at the beach. Sometimes we would even spend the night there.

I remember this one night. It was near midnight and we were outside sitting on the sand chatting and feeling the sea breeze blow through our hair. One of us suddenly says, “Hey, look at the moon.”

It had been cloudy a bit earlier but now the sky was clear and the full moon hung like a big ball of light in the sky. The sea was calm and the moon’s reflection on it was quite breathtaking, the ripples of the waves caused the light to glint and dance. It seemed the reflection was even more beautiful than the moon itself.

Earlier tonight, I walked on the dirty, wet streets of the city I now reside in. The heavy rain from earlier on had abated. A passing car almost splashed muddy water on me as it sped across a small puddle. I glared at the car’s tail lights and was about to move on when I caught the moon’s reflection on the puddle. It was a full moon and it was beautiful.

Too often in life, we chase after those things that are beautiful and try to avoid those that are ugly. We run after prestige, money, power, good food, good wine. We don’t like pain, and we don’t like to experience hardships.

Yet, we should remember that the moon casts a beautiful reflection whether it casts it on the sea or on a muddy puddle. The moon is still the moon and its beauty is not marred by the medium of reflection.

Life has so many facets and forms but underneath it all, our substance is the same. We should learn to see the beauty in life, whether it takes the form of a rose or of a rat. These are just external manifestations of the same inner core and substance.

In the end, we should recognize the beauty of all things, of all people, and accept that we are all reflections of the one truth, that we are all part of each other, and that there is no beauty or ugliness apart from ourselves.

A Finger Pointing to the Moon

photo courtesy of scol22, sxc.hu
photo courtesy of scol22, sxc.hu

When the sage points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

Experts come and study the nature of the finger. They form theories and doctrines around it. They organize the Church of the Finger and create rules and laws about how the finger should point, when it should point and in what angle it should point.

Amidst all this, they do not see the moon.

Scriptures and religions are all pointers. The Bible is not God, and the Koran is not God. People have built entire belief systems and organizations, have fought wars and endured torture and hardships, for the sake of furthering their beliefs.

But they have missed God.

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