Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rules of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Before I begin, I wish to express that I reserve copyright on this body of text, however I grant permission for any other person to republish portions of this text, with the following conditions: 1) credit must be given to Charles K. Bilyue as the author/origin of the text; 2) no more than 3 complete sections of the text are posted on any other server, website, or other media. These conditions may only be waived by my express permission: if you wish to disregard them, please contact me for permission ahead of time. This is very important to me, and I have considered writing a book on the subject (probably considerably more lengthy, but even so).

I originally posted this material to the Science of Getting Rich NETwork forum at http://forums.scienceofgettingrich.net/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2616072454/m/1877053895 (tinyurl: http://www.tinyurl.com/myworldview ). I'll try to make it more manageable, later.

Realize that I am not out to offend anyone or, to the best of my knowledge, be biased or prejudiced against anyone. I quote some Bible text below, and my interpretations, or the inferences I draw from it, may be unusual, but it is done for the sake of learning, reasoning, and enlightenment. If you have an opinion, please consult my request for comments at the end.

I have a quite unconventional world-view. Since I was very young, before I can remember, I asked questions of how things work and attempted to find answers for them (one of the earliest stories I have been told about myself was removing a hinge from a door the day that I was first given a screwdriver), and eventually, I came to the question, "how does reality work?"

Due to contradictions and corruptions in religion, philosophy, science, etc., this is a difficult question, as many of you reading this probably know. (For those of you who are convinced that you have all of the answers, due to ascribing to a particular answer from a single source due to blind faith in that source - bully for you, if it works!)

After reading through the Bible, the Qu'ran, the Bhagavad Gita, numerous Gnostic Christian writings, countless writings on other religions and philosophy, recent scientific discoveries, legal studies, large volumes of self-help literature, and information from numerous other sources, as well as reflecting on some dreams that were influential on my life, I cobbled together a perspective of the basic rules underlying how things work. Some of the more influential sources not mentioned above are, as I mentioned in another thread, Abraham Maslow (and particularly a biography of his life, The Right to Be Human, which was based heavily on his own notes), Steven and Evelyn Boston ( www.reluctant-messenger.com ), Bart Ehrman (and other critical analysts of Christian texts), Wallace Wattles (who was one of the sources of inspiration to help get me moving on the path, out of a nasty depression).

1. Power and responsibility cannot be separated. Attempts to separate them, or to maintain them out of balance, result in instability and eventual collapse of whichever of the two is attempted to be kept greater than the other. For power without responsibility: the person who attempts to lift a weight without taking measures to lift it properly to avoid injury, will eventually injure themselves and lose almost all ability to lift. The person who attempts to drive a car without learning how, will probably wreck it, destroying the car and perhaps suffering injury. For responsibility without power: The person who assumes a debt, without ensuring that they will have the income and assets to pay for it, will likely default on it, and no one will trust them with such an obligation for some time. The person who dives in to save someone who is drowning without themselves knowing how to swim, rather than alerting someone better able, or at least calling for assistance, will likely do the person drowning little to no good. Tyrannical regimes (lack of responsibility) collapse due to revolt, coup, or accumulated weakness; the person who attempts to rob a gun store dies (lack of power).

2. All persons, and perhaps all life, have access to intuition, in a form not entirely dissimilar to Carl Jung's collective unconsciousness, though perhaps not as limited as that. People call it God, Formless Intelligence, muse, inspiration, or any number of other things - and it very well may be those things (and those things may be considerably more than intuition). This intuition is always true, correct, and not misleading, and knows everything about everything, and is not bound by time nor possibilities. This conveys an immense amount of power to those able to effectively direct it in their own lives, hence the importance of intuition in business success.

3. The subconscious mind is the seat of all accumulated 'permanent'/'faithful' choices made by an individual, and acts very similar to a program, single-mindedly directing the individual to carry out the program. Proverbs 16:9 (RSV) "A man's mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps."

That is to say, intuition is the way that we reach the goals that we have. In particular, all actions carried out by the individual are determined by this subconscious mind, not the conscious mind. This is an indirect process (God/Formless Intelligence 'directing the steps'), with the conscious self only able to direct actions through the subconscious as if by puppet strings. From this perspective, I am writing this here and now not because I now decided to write this, but because I decided that under the current circumstances I would write this. This model makes it quite easy to understand addictions and habits and the difficulty of breaking them, as well as cases where people do things without knowing why.

In addition, chaotic/unordered/conflicting thoughts/mental images interfere with reaching any goal, just as alternatively digging a hole and filling it does not a productive act make (James 1:6-8).

4. Because of #3, the subconscious mind acts as a filter or modulator of the intuition. This explains the particular danger of prejudice and other forms of bias. By clouding out the always-correct intuition, error is introduced. In addition, as the conscious mind obtains information from the subconscious, but the subconscious from the Source, the conscious mind often suffers from lower-quality and lower-volume information as compared to the subconscious. The conscious mind may often be unaware of what the subconscious mind is doing, and being that its role is in more deliberate criticism, it may not be able to handle the volume of information which the subconscious mind does.

5. Because of #3, methods that affect the subconscious mind, such as visualization, affirmation, goals, particularly those with great emotion attached to them, are far more effective on altering behavior than mere conscious 'decision making.'

6. Because of #3, it may be possible that the conscious mind itself is directed by the subconscious mind. If this is the case, then the subconscious mind could be said to be a dynamic, self-modifying program.

7. Values may be a helpful model in explaining the subconscious mind and how it makes decisions. If so, this would suggest that, while it is difficult for the 'permanent' choices adopted by the subconscious to be changed, particularly as they may be somewhat self-reinforcing, incentives and disincentives should be helpful in long-term change, through value-remodeling. Incentives do seem to be effective in practice, as long as the definition of incentives is not overly limited (such as to money; money is too abstract to be a terribly effective incentive). Success is determined by these values, the 'beliefs' of the subconscious mind - rather, those beliefs are the 'success' you will have, whatever those beliefs are.

8. Incentives will not be as effective if they are not consistent, as inconsistent incentives may distort the cause-effect interpretation. By this method inconsistent incentives may distort the resultant values, as values and behavior may be altered around the structure of incentives in order to maintain the status quo as much as possible while optimizing for the costs/benefits of the incentives. (People often tend to push the bar when enforcement of laws/discipline is inconsistent, in attempts to derive benefits from the maximum tolerable disobedience . . . while dieting generally does not result in long-term weight reduction, often due to inconsistent incentives and application of the same.) Accountability, therefore, is integral to consistent and expedient value-modification/goal-setting and the obtaining of long-term results. (Accountability is for rewards, not just punishments; and is meaningless without the existence of some incentives or disincentives.)
The need for persistent thought ("sustained and consecutive thought . . . the hardest work in the world," according to Wattles, SoGR ch. 4) in influencing values results in a necessity for controlling one's incentives and holding one's self accountable to influence those values.

9. As a result of #1, people have as much power over their lives as they are willing to take responsibility. To the extent that they attempt to avoid responsibility, they convey power over their lives to others. Because of this, accountability and incentive structures can be used by anyone to influence - though not necessarily control - any person or institution outside of themselves.

10. People choose where and under what conditions they are born. They choose this based on the challenges they wish to face, the goals they wish to reach. This is done from a subconscious/spirit level, so it is 'automatic' and optimal according to opportunity. While not incarnated, people do not make 'critical' choices, as those are the domain of the conscious mind, which does not exist outside of the body. Combined with #1, #2, and #9, this rule makes people ultimately accountable for their life. On the other hand, if they have the power to wreck their life from the VERY beginning, then they can use that same power to remake it in a better way (hopefully without dying first, of course).

11. Governments, trade, and trust are all based on #9, and as long as people are vigilant regarding whom they are willing to trust with power over their lives, and the choices that they make for themselves, prosperity cannot be avoided for all involved. Unfortunately, people are often not so vigilant, so they end up oppressed, swindled, and betrayed. This is neither to say that people should not trust, nor that trade and governments are bad: rather, it is to say that they will all become destructive when people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own well-being.

12. Reincarnation is a fact of 'life.' If people can and do incarnate as other species, that would be their attempt to reduce their power or personal responsibility. Reincarnation is the path by which all of the created entities (or fragments/portions, as some may see it) of God return to the origin, through continual learning. This relates to the three gunas of Hinduism: peaceful light, restless life, lifeless darkness. The dead are in the state of lifeless darkness. Matter/conscious mind is the state of restless life. God/spirit/subconscious mind is the state of peaceful light - except when the spirit/subconscious is polluted with bias, prejudice, and other untruth, and then part of it is in contact with the All, while part of it is stuck in the life/darkness cycle as it deals with the untruth. This also relates to the Bible, where in Ecclesiastes, there is a statement along the lines of, "the dead know not any thing . . . have no portion of any thing under the sun." While in darkness, the critical conscious mind does not exist, and interaction with matter is essentially absent, except to the extent of the subconscious influence, which is directed to return to life. Because of reincarnation, people can and do learn from life (subconscious level) regardless of how it turns out. The 'restless life' of the conscious mind is what makes using it to change the relatively stable subconscious so difficult, and why stillness of self, through meditation and similar methods, is so valuable to enhance intuition (awareness of the 'still, small voice') and to expedite successful endeavors.

13. Because of #2 and #3, nothing occurs as a result of 'chance.'

14. Because of #1, #2, #3, and #9, death occurs when one's subconscious is ready for it. As I believe the Qu'ran said, numerous times, that if it is your time to die, you can be secure high in a tower and you will still die. Another perspective (not from a religious text): if someone tries to kill you with a gunshot and your subconscious does not believe you are going to die now, you will somehow avoid the lethal wound. As most people believe that external forces can kill them, they convey that power to those forces, and as a result suffer mortality. As to age - I suspect that it is the same mechanism, though I will not argue it. Health is determined in part by circumstances of birth (DNA, etc.), if it is impossible to avoid some of those consequences, it is due to the accountability of the power/responsibility connection.

15. No person can force another person to make a choice. The idea of free will is absolute. However...

16. The critical conscious mind is the gatekeeper for the subconscious mind. It determines what is learned by the subconscious mind, and therefore what 'choices' are stored in it.

17. Based on #9, #15, and #16, while a person cannot be forced to make a choice, they can be directed by another to accept something as true and be lax in their stewardship of protecting their own mind.

18. Because of #3 and #17, no person can force anyone to do any thing that they have not decided they would do, at least through their value system if not specifically, under some set of circumstances.

19. Because of #2, #3, and #18, it is possible for people to use their choices - Clear Mental Image, faith, etc. - and their intuition - God, Formless Intelligence, etc. - to 'manipulate' others. This occurs because when person 1 sufficiently believes that an event will happen, and person 2's action is instrumental to the event happening and they have no belief on the issue, and no belief absolutely preventing that action: person 1, through perfect intuition, will bring about the conditions that will lead person 2 to commit the necessary actions to result in the outcome. This may occur on subtle levels, and the entire process may be (and often is) entirely unknown by the conscious mind of person 1. In essence, person 2's values set their external control panel, and if person 1 figures out how to use it, they can influence person 2; and if their subconscious mind is attempting to influence person 2 for some other end result, with its access to perfect information, it will know how, if such a method exists.

20. Based on #1, #2, #3, and #9, victims are ultimately responsible for their victimization.

If people do have power over their own lives, then when bad things happen to you, you're at least partially responsible as you had power over your life, and you can change things to avoid or mitigate ill occurrences. If you fail to be responsible and as a result allow someone else to take up that power over you, then they determine those conditions in your life, and those might not be in line with your conscious preferences.

The true purpose of law therefore should be not to prevent victimization, but to discourage the effort to abuse rule #9, that is, the goal of law should be to encourage people to take power over their own lives (though discouraging victimization would likely play a part in that). If this is done, 'victimization' would necessarily decrease.

21. Because of #19 and #20, subtle 'manipulation' will often occur even when unintended, and will always be successful to the extent that it can be, while conscious 'manipulation,' based on lower-quality information (#4), will rarely be effective, due to its basis in lower-quality information. As a result, conscious manipulation is generally folly (though conscious seeking of subconscious manipulation is quite dangerous, but may be rarely detected), and the stigma associated with manipulation, which at least in subtle forms is an unavoidable and natural practice, does not make sense, in isolation.

22. People use stigmas associated with accountability and manipulation to protect limiting beliefs: their self-perceptions of innocence (lack of responsibility) and/or powerlessness (lack of power); their perceptions that others do not have power over them, despite their refusal to guard and "rule" their own minds and thereby their lives (attempting to believe they can have power without responsibility); their perceptions that they can correct the natural order without paying some price (attempting to believe they can have responsibility without power, such as attempting to discipline an unruly child/person without consistency or meaningful incentives/disincentives); and the false notion that because people are not manipulating them, they can trust the leadership or guidance of those people implicitly (blind faith) rather than critically. These ideas are fundamental in politics and especially advertising, but also in many other areas.

23. You and Formless Intelligence/God/etc. are, at least on some level, the same. "I and my father are one." Because of this, knowing yourself is essential to knowing how to direct your life. This comes out of #3 and #6, and also the statement from the old Delphic oracle in Greece: "Man, know thyself, and you will know the universe and the gods." Ultimately, your results are derived from your subconscious, and therefore from your values, the 'filter' you have on the Source. If you want 'good things,' use a filter compatible with those things. If you want lack and misery, models for that filter are, sadly, readily found.

24. Successors are important to long-term change in institutions in the world. The Bible has three stories that illustrate this: Jacob and Joseph, Elijah and Elisha, and John the Baptist and Jesus. In all three cases, the first one (Jacob, Elijah, John) were fairly influential in their little part of the world; their immediate successors (Joseph, Elisha, Jesus) were immensely successful, in comparison. In the cases of Jacob/Joseph and Elijah/Elisha, however, there appears to be no successor after Joseph or Elisha, and the results in both cases are anything but pretty (Elisha attempted to have a successor, but... that fell apart well before Elisha's death). Jesus, in contrast, had numerous successors (of some form; though, unfortunately, the successors may not have entirely understood what they should pass down, based on the amount of conflict that arose not long after). The moral: if you want lasting change to an institution in the world, a stable system of succession is integral. Based on the other rules, to prevent it from becoming corrupted it must also have sufficient accountability to meaningful and appropriate incentives/disincentives, to keep it true to its values, one of which should be to attempt to ensure that the successors will 'know themselves.'

25. Based on #24, and something else from the Tanakh/Old Testament, a model of government is shown. In the Torah, there is an underlying bidirectional flow of teaching/taxation.

The tax system is something like this: conquered peoples would be tributaries to Israel, paying them tribute or serving as slaves. Israel would pay a 10% tithe of their increase to the Levites. The Levites would pay a 10% tithe, of the tithe they received, to the priests. The priests would sacrifice to God.

The teaching system is something like this (more implied than not, unfortunately): God would teach the priests; the priests would teach the Levites; the Levites would teach Israel; and Israel would teach all who were willing to learn. The tributaries had a great incentive to 'learn': if they converted to the Israelite religion, they would be considered 'one of the people,' one of the Israelite family, and they would no longer be tributaries/slaves.

Unfortunately, this model appears to have fallen apart, I suspect in part because, at least based on the Exodus story, the people may have believed that if they disobeyed the priests, God would slaughter them (like the countless who disobeyed Moses and Aaron), and therefore the people felt they had no recourse against impropriety in the priesthood; therefore, they were lax to hold the priesthood accountable, which ultimately became corrupt (see the sons of Eli in early 1 Samuel).

26. The health of relationships between people (or people and animals, or anything else, perhaps even between subatomic particles) are based on something I like to call value synchronicity. If your values are in agreement, the relationship will do well. "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3, NKJV). If they are not, then they will have conflict. As people grow, their values will often times grow in different directions, therefore maintaining that synchronicity, the synchronization of values, requires effort, diligence, discipline. If the people in the relationship do not make sufficient effort, then they will grow apart. Eventually, the mere dissimilarity of their values will pull them apart more than together. At this point, it may be more work to attempt to save the relationship than to scrap it, particularly if there are 'irreconciliable differences' - that is, if there are values that they neither agree upon nor are willing to compromise on.

27. Based on #26, the reason people are attracted to their values/goals may simply be based on resonance and the creative force; this idea is that values create a resonance with the conditions or path compatible with those values. In a way, the 'created future' attracting the 'present' to itself. I wonder if the idea of magnetic attraction is similar to this: it isn't so much that opposites attract and like repel, so much as that the conditions compatible with flow are attracted by the 'desire to flow,' the path of least resistance to the flow; or for that matter, superconductivity. If I actually knew anything about physics, maybe I'd have a clue about this. Red Face

28. Also based on #26, dependency is not a stable, healthy foundation for a long-term relationship. Dependency encourages power-tension and resentment due to differing values and dissimilar interests. Trust is the only stable, healthy foundation, and true trust can only be ensured through effort to maintain value synchronicity. However, as life is growth and stagnancy is generally entropic, maintaining trust by maintaining value synchronicity can only be beneficial if all parties involved are consistently helping each other to grow, else maintaining synchronicity would be due to mutual stagnation or decline, both of which result in entropy/decay. If someone refuses to grow, they likely will not be an asset in a relationship and as a result likely cannot be trusted.


Eventually, I might get into my personal experiences as to why I believe this is true (such as a week of related dreams that I had when I was younger, that convinced me of reincarnation and left me with related memories for a long time). Suffice it to say that these rules have worked exceptionally well for me in understanding and dealing with life since the most important ones came together (the power/responsibility rule, and the idea that people choose where they are born, more than any others), though this has been a developing work-in-progress for quite some time. The main barriers I have had to realizing all of my goals and dreams are the practicality of time (some things just take a long time to accomplish, such as education), and my own issues with doubt and unconfidence, which have been more or less steadily diminishing. (Success is great for doing away with doubt and unconfidence!)

I personally consider myself Christian, though my beliefs are probably more in line with Gnostic Christianity than any other form.

Questions are welcome, as are any thoughts (as long as they are not inflammatory or the result of simply being offended). Constructive criticism is welcome: if you believe something in this is wrong, let me know what and why, and I'll do my best to better explain it or reconcile it. I'm not trying to be 'right,' here, as much as I'm trying to know what is correct.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Joseph, Joshua, Solomon - A Common Thread?

I had a few realizations tonight, and they concern God's plan in Adam, Noah, and Abraham; and a pattern that I seen in common between Joseph, Joshua, and Solomon. The revelation regarding Adam, Noah, and Abraham I will have to write on later, for I have obligations and my time is limited. The one concerning Joseph, Joshua, and Solomon follows.

I believe that the art of meditation, practiced sufficiently, is the way to open ourselves up to listen to God and to hear his still, small voice; to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

I believe that Abraham communicated with God through the likes of meditation, and that the Bible shows numerous examples of this. I believe that Abraham taught Isaac of God's goodness but was not successful, for whatever reason, in teaching Isaac to use meditation to communicate with God. I believe that because Isaac did not learn, he was unable to teach Jacob; but that Jacob, when he was fleeing for fear of his life from Esau after deceiving Isaac into giving him Esau's blessing, 'let go' and surrendered himself, if briefly, at the Bethel stone, allowing God to give him the dream of Jacob's Ladder. I believe that Jacob ultimately developed this ability to communicate with God to some degree, and then taught at least part of it to one of his favorite sons, Joseph.

I believe that Moses communicated with God, again through the likes of meditation, though perhaps not until after his 'burning bush' encounter. If you read Exodus-Deuteronomy, it is not difficult to see that Moses kept Joshua around him a good deal. I believe that Moses was actively preparing his successor. At one point, it is clear that Joshua's understand of God is lacking (Numbers 11:24-29) as he tells Moses to forbid two men to continue their prophesying, to which Moses reveals to him his error, that prophecy should not be considered constrained to any one person. I believe that Moses taught Joshua in the ways he knew how; the first verse of the book of Joshua shows a communication from God to Joshua.

The Bible gives numerous occasions of God in communication with David, and David makes no secret of his 'meditation' concerning God and his ways. I believe that David taught this to his favorite son, Solomon; after Solomon was raised up king, there are a few examples of communication between God and Solomon.

Why are these three important? What are the connections?

Jacob's influence on the world in his life does not seem particularly notable. Joseph, however, states very briefly and succinctly the impact on the world that his life had, in helping Egypt stockpile before the famine, "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life." (Genesis 45:5, NKJV) However, it appears Joseph did not have a comparable successor, leading to the degeneration: "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." (Exodus 1:8, NKJV)

Moses had no small influence on the world - yet it was Joshua that led Israel to take the bulk of their promised land of Canaan, a sort of crossroads of the ancient world. Unfortunately, Joshua had no similar successor, leading to the period of the Judges, where the leadership of the people was not nearly so well organized or lasting.

Similarly, David had no small influence on the world in resecuring, or perhaps completing the securing of the promised land. However, it was Solomon who built the First Temple, and who showed great wisdom, peace, and prosperity for a good part of his reign. Did Solomon have a comparable successor? The bungling of Rehoboam, Solomon's son who became king after his death, led to the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah!

In all three cases, you have a person who communicated with God, walking in his ability with God; and I believe that the Holy Spirit was on all of these, in some degree (I suspect Moses most of all; in his case, more similar to degree of the successors). You have that person teaching their successor, who does not have a lesser or weaker impact on the world, but a greater; and I believe in all of these cases, it is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit with power. Finally, you have no similar successor afterwards, and the momentum leads to a stop and a reversal if not an outright crash.

What does this show us?

I believe it shows us, first, that it is possible for someone to learn how to communicate with God (the frequency of the command 'hear', 'hearken', or 'listen' in Deuteronomy 28 shows that merely 'listening' to God is critically important, something that I fear has been lost throughout a greater part of history than not).

Second, if I am not mistaken, it is possible, perhaps easier, for someone who already communicates with God to teach someone else how to do this.

Third, that God has, in great actions through these three 'successors', shown that it is important for us to take note of it; that it would be empowering if only we would practice it.

Fourth, that failure to carry it on to the next successor, even and perhaps especially after a case of such increased 'success', leads to failure it not catastrophe.

If one can devise sin, and teach it to their children, then why can't one learn how to communicate with God, and pass that along?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Meditation, Your Children, and You

Some time ago, I posted that I intended to write on the potential of meditation to help the behavior of children, including in regard to adolescent rebellion.

I am only expressing this from my personal opinions, reasonings, and experience.

I have had numerous experiences with meditation in the past. In all of the times when I have successfully practiced meditation, it has helped me in numerous ways: it has calmed me; it has helped me to think with greater clarity; it has helped me to sleep better and to need less sleep. More recently, I believe it has helped me in learning, in the retention and understanding of information I have studied.

Recently, I read through a book named 'Jose Silva's Everyday ESP.' Don't get too stuck on the title. While it discusses elements of ESP, and to a great degree intuition, it has exceptional meditation exercises, and if for nothing else but that I highly recommend the book, or similar materials from Silva International ( www.silvamethod.com ). You don't need to spend hours struggling to meditate, it is not that difficult. The practice sessions may take you some time, 15-30 minutes at a time, or so. As you practice it will come easier, and I can not list all of the benefits.

The book and some other Silva materials also explain some of the workings of meditation, such as physiological effects, namely on brainwave frequency. They state that meditation encourages the brain to act at a slower but more stable brainwave frequency, called 'alpha', similar to that which is common in children aged 7-14, and also notes that these frequencies are associated with better creativity and intuition. The book also states that ~90% of people, from the age of 15 on, begin to 'naturally' think at a higher but less stable brainwave frequency called 'beta', which is associated with physical activity. The exact ages vary from person to person, of course.

The Silva methods are claimed to be able to help children escape getting 'stuck' thinking at beta frequencies and help them to continue thinking at the more productive alpha frequencies. They also claim to help adulted get 'unstuck' and to regain the ability to think and function at alpha. Silva International has also done and funded a lot of research on these methods, and from my own experience, I agree with their claims at least as far as creativity and intuition go.

When I read that the idea of beta brainwaves being associated with physical activity, it reminded me of a time when I first became diabetic and was reading books on diabetes. One described the problem that young children have trouble measuring out their insulin dosages because they have not yet developed fine motor control, something that tends to develop roughly around their teens. Perhaps a connection to beta brainwave development?

I ask you to keep an open mind as I suggest an idea. If alpha brainwaves of pre-adolescent children give a degree of intuition, then perhaps it gives them a 'sense' of how to communicate with people around them. If ~90% of children lose the ability to operate at these brainwave levels, then they would lose this intuition. Then, to these children, it would appear to them that people aren't paying any mind to them, that people aren't trying to communicate with them anymore.

If this is true, then the problem with this perception is that other people have not changed - the children have changed. They have changed, and perhaps they did not need to, perhaps they changed only because noone showed them how to keep what they had while they had it. I believe this to be a major contributing factor to the rebellious attitudes associated with adolescence.

After I came to this suspicion, I decided to see what I could find connecting meditation and adolescent rebellion. I didn't find anything directly on the issue, however I did find a study that Silva had done on Silva Method's affects on behavioral problems in children: the results of that showed that Silva Method was beneficial.

Meditation is easy. I do not believe that it is able to hurt anyone, though my opinion is not a professional one. The benefits that I have experienced, and that I suspect others would also, are surprisin, and likely better than many activities you could engage in. Meditation also takes less time than you may think, and it gets even easier with time. It doesn't take a lot of time, and you can decide how much time to spend on it. Even professional opinions show that, if nothing else, meditation helps in stress management and can help with insomnia and hypertension (high blood pressure). It doesn't require pills, chanting mantras, or saying 'aummmm.' For your happiness, for your peace of mind, for your health, I ask you to consider it.

If you will not for yourself and you have children, then I ask you to at least look into it for their benefit.

Disclaimer: I have no personal and no professional affiliations with Silva International.

Missions, Their Costs, and of the Needs of a Church

(EDITED: 26 July 2009 - see end of post)

In an earlier post, I mentioned a question that concerns many who want to give of their substance to a religious organization. This post will address that, and some related principles.

Should we support a religious-appearing body when they seek financial contributions?

Some religious organizations, such as the relatively well-known example of Jim Bakker's past indiscretions, appear to abuse the idea of 'prosperity gospel': 'give to us and God will bless you', 'if you don't have enough, give to us and you'll get all that you need', etc. Even less overt statements state or imply the same basic premise.

Others are far more conservative of their approaches: 'give your offerings' (some even going so far as to say - give your second offering, give your third offering...); 'give your tithe'.

You feel moved by their message. In some cases, you think they're doing good work. So... should you give?

Probably the best test to answer this question is, are they actually doing good work? Are they at least attempting to make good use of what they have, or have been given? In cases where such donations are abused and squandered, where huge overpriced houses are built (and in some cases, virtually never lived in), where expensive private aircraft are secured, and even in multiplicity, by those receiving donations - is this a use worthy to be called God's work? I think not.

Then, there are cases where good work IS being done. Helping people in times of need (such as the Bible's storehouse principle, mentioned elsewhere on this blog; helping people with food, shelter, or finding jobs [and hence purpose and potential]), or emergencies (such as Sabbath Grace Fellowship's 1stResponse Disaster Team Ministry), missions to lands to help other peoples be more self-sufficient, teaching people how to live better lives by showing them the example that God and Jesus teach us, these are all things that we would have a hard time discounting as worthy of support; and if this were all that we were asked to support, perhaps we would give more freely.

Then there are things such as publications, political activism, and the like. In these areas we often differ in some of our opinions.

There are other things to be considered, though; there are other expenses. If there are services that a church provides for its members, then those services have a cost, and somewhere that cost needs to be paid. If a church owns a building, or uses a building that is used primarily for another purpose, it may suffer less in the way of related costs and taxation. If a church rents a building, however, this can be quite expensive - and hence something that should be avoided whereever possible, as 'the power to tax is the power to destroy' (paraphrased from Daniel Webster and John Marshall: McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819, 17 U.S. 327), and no man (and by extension, no church) can serve two masters (Luke 16:13).

In most churches, there are other costs. There are costs of adminstration, of publication, of electricity. In some cases there may be paid staff. The Bible does not object to this, necessarily - in the Law of Moses, the tithe was to pay for the maintenance of the tabernacle, and to provide for the priests and the Levites, those in service to the temple who were otherwise relatively indigent for they had no inheritance, no land. On the other hand, Acts 20:33-35 shows us a little of both sides. Paul says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive", but he also says, "that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me." In Galatians 6:4-5, we read, "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden."

However, God desires outreach. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus declared, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Is there no expense in bringing the message to others?

Further, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, "And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself." Obviously, there were needs that Paul had when he was ministering in his mission to the Corinthians - and someone paid for them, the brethren from Macedonia.

Are you taking part in God's mission? There is something I read recently, I believe it was in a BaptistWay Press quarterly, "Participating in God's Mission", which talked of two people meeting in an airport. My paraphrase follows:
Man 1: "What do you do?"
Man 2: "I'm a pilot."
Man 1: "Oh? What do you fly?"
Man 2: "Oh, I don't fly anything."
Man 1: "So, you're retired?"
Man 2: "No, I don't think that's for me, not yet."

Now, the first man is confused. The conversation stalls, because it doesn't make sense for a pilot to be a pilot, not be retired, and not fly anything. Similarly, a Christian who isn't taking part in God's mission doesn't make sense.
What is God's mission? As I have heard stated by Ted Noel, and can not recall the original source from which it came, God's mission is his "passionate pursuit of people." Therefore, any action that helps to bring people to God and to not drive people away from God is a participation in God's mission. These things should be first to be supported by us, and by our means.

A church should take care not to seek from those who do not have, however. It is not good for us to offend those of a weak conscience (Matthew 18:6; 1 Corinthians 8:12), nor is it good for us to shame those that have not (1 Corinthians 11:21-22).

Further, when receive a benefit from a church, we should do our best to give of our own, of what we have to give (and not that which will cause us to be unable to keep to the agreements that we have made; faithlessness is not appealing to others, and no way to bring people to God). Often times we take so many of these benefits for granted: a church building and the expenses of its services, including but not limited to things like lighting, heating or air conditioning, the time of people, just to name some more notable and common examples).

Further, if you have a problem with your brother or sister in Christ, or with your church (which is merely a problem with those who are holding those offices, unless you have a problem with God or with Jesus), do not merely withhold when you might otherwise give when there is a good need; neither should you give when it will offend your conscience. Rather, set aside your offering, address and resolve your problem, communicate with those who you are offering your support and encouragement toward; then make your offering (paraphrase of Matthew 5:23-24).

We can lessen the expenditures, the burdens, of our church or assembly by contributing more - and not just in monetary forms, but by taking more action, giving more of our own time and efforts. When we give of our own to our church or assembly, to that organization that should be made up of those who we would be willing to call Christians, that set of members of the body of Christ, we should do our best to give not for mere restitution, but for the enrichment; and not for the enrichment of ourselves, or for any member or leader, or even for the church alone, but of all.

To summarize, if you find a group, church, assembly, or other organization that you believe is doing good, worthwhile work and you feel desired to help them then contribute. If you have problems with them, or with anyone, do your best to resolve those first. If you do not believe the organization is doing right and cannot resolve your issues with it, do not offend your conscience by continuing your support.

If you can, do not limit your contributions to money. If you have not money to offer, do not think that you have nothing for all can contribute something, even if it is only what seems a small thing such as greeting people, or participation in a Bible study class.

Remember, Jesus said, "I, if I be lifted up ..., will draw all men unto me." God's mission. Not all people have been drawn to Jesus, likely not even a majority of people. Jesus did not lie to us, so this must mean that we have, as yet, failed to lift Jesus up.

How will you help God in his passionate pursuit of people?

(EDIT: 26 July 2009)

There was a point that I realized I had missed mentioning in this post, one that I knew needed to be post at the first but had forgotten before posting.

That point is the test of Gamaliel of Acts 5:34-39. I believe attempting to use reasoning such as this as reason not to support a group effort, of the type discussed in this post, that you consider otherwise worthy of support is folly. On the other hand, if you are not moved to extend your support to such a group, if you have doubts and are not moved to either support a group or depart from it, perhaps it is worthy to keep in mind.

The Unbearable Cost of Maintaining Taboos

Good day, everyone. It's been quite some time since I've written in this forum, and for that I apologize. I have had thoughts but I did not well keep them. I have been busy with many things but, tonight, I find that there are some things which move me that I must write.

The things that I will attempt to write upon in the coming hours, days, or weeks, follow:
1) taboos, and how they perpetuate destructive behavior;
2) whether or not to support a religious-appearing body that seeks financial contributions;
3) meditation and its potential to aid in children to mitigate or avoid the tendency toward adolescent rebellion and poor behavior.

First, taboos. What is a taboo? The word taboo refers to something excluded from use or mention. This can include all sorts of things: cannibalism; recreational drug use; sex; the failure of the FDA to regulate dangerous drugs resulting in countless of unnecessary deaths; the disregard of our national well-being by those we call our public servants; or, for an extremely minor example, even something such as having your elbows on the table at a meal.

If you are completely satisfied with every aspect of your life, of those people around you, and all you know of in your world, you can stop reading now. Why waste your time on seeking improvement if all is well and nothing can be made better?

If you are not satisfied, then let us look at why. Taboos are things generally not spoken of and that can reflect, depending on their severity, issues that need to be addressed and, perhaps more importantly, that our youth may need to be taught about. The last of the examples may seem of little import, but who wants their 15-year-old daughter to get drunk or high on drugs and have sex with three men that she barely knows, without even being reasonably aware of what goes on; potentially exposing herself to life-threatening STDs such as AIDS or Hepatitis, in addition to the likelihood of getting pregnant and not knowing who the father is? Perhaps worse, who wants such a child of theirs to be consenting to it?

Addictions are another, private, example. If I were an alcoholic, I would have an addiction to alcohol. I would desire to drink it, and drink it in excess. I would keep going back to it despite it incurring destructive effects upon my health, well-being, or lifestyle. How would I perpetuate it? By denying that there was a problem. I would be making the idea of alcoholism a taboo for me. I wouldn't discuss alcoholism, mention it, and I would keep out of my mind any association with the idea. What is this, if not a taboo?

Those of us in the USA, who wants our nation to be $12 trillion in debt and increasing so much by the year that there is no way to ever climb out, which is what our public servants have been and continue to be condemning our nation to? Those of you in other nations, you might not have those specific numbers as the problem but, at least in most places, the problem is still there. This can only lead to insolvency, as in the hyperinflation of Zimbabwe. Is that what we want for ourselves, for our children?

The reason that these problems happen, that we see them from day to day, is because of taboos. It is the same reason that we have gone to wars on foreign soil when popular opinion is not supportive, sometimes when the popular opinion is clearly in disagreement. It is why when someone in authority, a politician on TV or a preacher in a pulpit, says something that we disagree with, something that we, in our hearts, find important, we stifle our opinions. It would be a taboo to disagree with our leaders, and others might condemn us for that - we fear this, so we accept the bondage of the less righteous and honorable path.

It is why, historically, we so easily accepted the official lines for events leading to the USA's entry into World War I and II, lies about the RMS Lusitania and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (not that these events did not happen - for they did - but the lies were that we had no fault in them, that we did not encourage these tragedies).

It is part of why when our leaders say 'let's give $XXX billion to ____' (fill in the blank; over the past year, there's been no shortage of examples), we feel disgust, perhaps say little, and ultimately do nothing.

We exhibit desperation for approval in our divided society and have resigned ourselves to the idea that this is an acceptable and reasonable way to live our lives. It is why we, for so long, remain in denial about these and so many other lies. Meanwhile, all spins out of control.

Our children, what of them? Some decide that certain things we should not discuss with them, so as to prevent them from being exposed to those things. We do not find God to be very much in agreement with this, though. In the garden in Eden, God warns of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, that it leads to death; out of doubt for God's honesty and out of our own curiosity, we take and eat, and gorge ourselves on death. God tells us what will happen, because he wants us to be able to see the problems before we get to them, so that we may never have to suffer them.

We seem to disagree with that idea. We think that we can shelter our children from the realities of sin and deception and immorality and death; despite the fact that our societies, our world, is practically submerged in this. Why do we so often not warn them? I suspect it is similar to our response in the garden - we're ashamed, so we hide in our shame. We went down some paths that we aren't proud of, so we hide these things, rather than revealing our experiences to our children. We don't protect our children this way, we attempt to protect ourselves at their expense.

Similarly, we're ashamed that we don't have the answers for dealing with problems in our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations. Out of shame, we hide. What we should be doing is seeking out the better way, finding the answers, and making sure that something is done - and not just some thing, but the RIGHT thing.

We become what we focus our attention on. If we focus our attention on shame and protect it, we will become shameful and remain ashamed. And I say that it is at least in part for this cause that we fear death, that we feel that we 'do not make the cut', that if there is an afterlife that we are not good enough to have any good thing in the hereafter.

If we focus our attention on what is right and good and pure, on the ideal, and protect that, we will become more like this; we will not be ashamed any longer, and our children will learn this from us rather than shame. Then and only then can we live with and leave behind something that we can be proud of.

Don't be ashamed to reveal our mistakes to your children, unless you would rather they make the same errors that you did. Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." As children begin with little of their own past, they must make all of the mistakes anew to learn from them if we fail to teach them of our pasts.

Don't be ashamed to make mistakes in the sight of others, for anyone who has succeeded at any thing knows that only through the failures encountered during practice, during attempts, has a person ever been prepared for any success. In this, failure can be a sign of progress, as long as you would learn and improve, and why should anyone be ashamed of improvement?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Do you meditate on God, his works, and his testimonies?

Good day, everyone.

Today, I write about something that I believe we have lost in the hustle-and-bustle of the contemporary fast-paced life.  That something is meditation.

Numerous verses in the Bible reference it, and in the Old Testament a few different Hebrew words are used, but they seem to share the elements of meaning that I mean to focus on.

First, three verses which mention the practice:
Psalm 104:34: "My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.";
Psalm 119:99: "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.";
Psalm 143:5: "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.";

The Hebrew references I have been through indicate that these all refer to 'meditation' or 'muse'.  These terms have similar but slightly different meanings.  Both carry the element of silent thought on a subject.  Meditation, I believe, is more focused on the pondering element while muse tends more toward the inspiration which is received in such silent contemplations.

Why is this important?  I have heard of stories of many artists and inventors receiving their inspirations from quiet contemplation or dreams.  I recall seeing statements that Edison often took afternoon naps, after which he often had inspiration for his inventions; and others of people who, from either dream or sitting in quiet contemplation, proceeded to write out detailed inventions or music that had been unknown to them prior.  Am I saying that meditation is some sort of magic?  Not at all.  However, my perspective will be more clear after visiting this passage about Elijah listening for God, from 1 Kings 19:9-13:

"9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?"

Carefully note that Elijah did not find God in anything but the voice, here - and, more importantly, verse 12 describes the voice, the only thing not discounted from being God, as being a still small voice.

If we attempt to 'keep up' with today's fast pace, we often fall short.  In trying to do so, our mind is filled with that clamor, so that we can hear nothing else - some people often even go so far to say that they cannot even hear themselves think.  If we are so overwhelmed by such things, how can we expect to hear a still small voice from God?

Similar, from Acts 13:1-4:
"1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."

God can keep up with the fast paces of these times or any other.  Such things are even easy for Him.  He has the answers, and He wants to give them to us, but He will not force us to hear.  He tries to tell us how to prosper, how to cope, how to overcome.  When we do not listen, we do not know what to do, so we walk in fear the unknown paths we follow.  We often walk these paths alone, and we feel the painful solitude.  This practice consumes us and leaves us empty.

The solution?  Meditate on God, His works, His testimonies, His instruction, and be glad in Him.  How?  You don't have to become some Far East guru to accomplish this.  Set aside a quiet time to be with God, without external distraction.  Some time every day is preferable though God's plan was to set aside a day every week (the day of rest, the seventh day, the Sabbath), and I believe it was to be a blessing not a burden, as from Jesus in Mark 2:27, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath".  If you do not make a choice to do this, it will not happen.  You will not find time if you do not set it aside.

God listens to you and He wants to hear you but He also wants to talk to you.  He wants to walk with you and to fill you with His love, His character, and His instruction.  Why not let Him help you out by giving Him some time to be heard?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why Some People Feel Alone, Even in a Group

Good day, everyone.

I was talking with a friend earlier, and she told me, "I'll be happy when I move," and, "I hate being lonely."  Interestingly enough, though perhaps not surprising to some, she did not live alone.

I responded about how unfortunate it is of how lonely you can get even when people are around.  She attributed it to them not being the same or having to 'act different'.

This struck me as flawed immediately.

I denied those issues, that they were not the cause.  I said more, and in reflection I did not know where it came from, but knew that they needed to be heard by more people.  My friend also told me that others needed to hear it, without my suggesting it... hence, the reason for this post.  What I said would probably fit in 3-4 lines; what follows is a bit longer, as I am trying to clarify it.

The cause of feeling lonely around people is that people often act in ways that are not very approving.  You do not approve of them or their behavior, so you do not trust them.   

This can emanate from your own undue prejudice, in cases where they have not behaved in a way that they should not have.

When this is not the case (and sometimes, even when it is), it is because you feel that they judged someone or something wrongly, so you judge them in an attempt to protect yourself.  This arises out of how you perceive their behavior, in that in some of your past experiences with them, that they have not been approving of you or of some aspect(s) about you, whether you have revealed them or not.  Similarly, it may be that you feel that they have not been approving of other people, behaviors, traditions, attributes, or whatever else without good reason, without justification.   

Your conformity, the conformity of other people, or the lack thereof, is not the problem.  That is never the problem.

The problem is the unwillingness to embrace, accept, or even allow the unavoidable, which is that people are, and shall be, different.