Want to Join a Cult?

What does it take to start a cult? What does it take to join a cult? Both of these questions are extremely interesting because they try to get at the heart of human behavior. We are social creatures who crave acceptance – sometimes this acceptance leads people to believe in bizarre things. For example, take the Mormon cult leader Warren Jeff who controls a group of fundamentalists from prison – even after being charged with sexually assaulting children and having 70 wives.

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How about one of the most famous cult leaders of all time – Jim Jones. Jones led a group of over 900 people to Guayana, South America to start their own socialist colony. This socialist experiment in Jonestown quickly turned into a horror movie after Jones convinced everyone to commit mass suicide. I am amazed at the ability of cult leaders to have total power over their followers; I barely can keep my chihuahua from peeing on the carpet. To better understand the birth, growth, and death of Jim Jones, I read The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn. This book is exceptional and really helps the reader understand the evil of Jim Jones. Jones was a charismatic leader who never backed down and desired complete control. Unfortunately, these traits were mixed with just enough moral ambiguity that followers thought they were being led to the promised land rather than their gravesite.

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Jim Jones was born on May 31, 1931, in a small Indiana town. He was raised by an eccentric mother who defied conservative social norms with her independent attitude, beliefs in reincarnation, and prickly personality. Jones’ father was a WWI vet who could not work because of his disabilities and who had no energy to raise an energetic boy. Jones was a loner and soon began to stand out from the other boys with his religiousness. On any given Sunday, he would go to several services, not to praise God, but to understand what preaching style worked best to energize congregants. By the time he finished high school, Jones was working at a hospital where he would eventually meet his future wife, Marceline Baldwin (not pictured below).

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Jones and his wife would quickly move to Indianapolis where Jones attended some college and preached at evangelical-tent events. Jones would eventually establish the Peoples Temple in the mid-1950s – a church that trumpeted racial integration, socialism, and community action. It was at the Peoples Temple that Jones discovered the power of deception by performing false healings and false prophecy; he would many times walk around the congregation with rotted chicken offal claiming it was cancer just removed from a member. Jones quickly gained followers from all walks of life who appreciated his message of social equality and marveled at his God-like abilities. Jones would eventually move this congregation to Northern California using the tool of fear – he claimed that there would be a nuclear holocaust in the Mid-West and that they were no longer safe.

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It was in Northern California that the Peoples Temple morphed from an eccentric Christian church to a full-blown cult. Jone’s began to have his members live communally and give large portions of their paychecks to the “socialist” cause. With greater wealth, Jone’s was able to expand his ministry and garner even more membership. Jone’s quickly began to stretch himself too thin and eventually, he began to take painkillers and amphetamines. His drug use made him more erratic and power-hungry – he would gradually start asking for sex from his female congregants. This sex was supposedly meant to lift up the women, and few members resisted; he would even have sex with several male members asking some if they wanted to be “fucked in the ass” after church meetings. This “uplifting” sex gave Jones greater control which eventually expanded to increased paranoia. Staged assassination attempts led his followers to believe that the FBI, CIA, and Fascists were after their happy community.

[Jim Jones, Peoples Temple Church Services]

The Peoples Temple morphed into a military compound with several members patrolling the grounds with firearms. This paranoia and the fear of nuclear holocaust led Jones to found Jonestown in Guayana. Jonestown was meant to be a sanctuary, but it actually represented the apex of Jone’s control over his members. In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan went to investigate Jonestown which led to him being attacked by a Temple member – Ryan escaped with 15 of Jone’s followers. Jones, in all his paranoia, told his members that the government would soon come to torture them and convert the children to fascism – to prevent this from happening everyone had to commit suicide. 909 people, including Jones and his wife, died from cyanide in the mass suicide – 304 were children.

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So how did Jone’s get 909 people to commit suicide? It began with his ability to twist the truth so that the majority of his followers believed he had special powers – all while an elite inner circle assisted with these deceptions. Why did the inner circle help him? Because they often believed in his message of social change and felt powerful being in the graces of such an influential leader. Most of the congregation was made up of poor-uneducated members who were entirely dependent on Jones for their jobs, housing, and food.

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It was hard to leave the cult because Jone’s would actively prevent dissenters and it was easy to rationalize that he was telling the truth – “If there are lawyers, teachers, and businessmen following him, then he must be the real deal.” Finally, Jones was an expert at fear which he used as a tool to further separate followers from leaving the Temple. All these things mixed to create a twisted peer pressure that propagated infidelity, drug use, bullying, harassment, corrupt morals, and eventually death. We need to study these things because there are cults today and leaders who use the same principles. Be wary of half-truths and always seek knowledge so that this particular past will never be repeated.

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Buddhism for a Christian

As a Christian, I think it is important to have a working knowledge of world religions. Studying a different religion not only expands your understanding of varying beliefs but also helps you appreciate your own spirituality to a greater extent. Some people are wary of studying different religions because they believe it will tarnish their devoutness or lead them astray. In reality, the opposite almost always happens – for example, learning about Buddhism made me appreciate Jesus Christ to a far higher degree. Thanks to my physical therapist, I was recommended an excellent book on Buddhism called Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hand is a Buddhist monk, and a proliferate author – he wrote this book as a factual biography of the Buddha – heavy on doctrine and light on myths.

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It follows the life of Siddhartha, a wealthy prince who seeks the path of enlightenment and eventually becomes known as the Buddha. The word Buddha actually means “the enlightened one” and this book explains how Buddhism was initially spread throughout eastern India around 450 BC. At that time, many religions believed in various gods and degrees of asceticism – how much humans should avoid or indulge in pleasure. Siddhartha followed the greatest spiritual leaders but was never able to reach enlightenment until he understood the actual source of human suffering.

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What is the central root of human suffering? Ignorance. Not knowing the truth is the cause of all the pain in the world. Well, what then is the truth? The Buddha believed that…

“People were caught in endless suffering because of their erroneous perceptions; they believed that which is impermanent is permanent, that which is without self contains self, that which has no birth and death has birth and death, and they divided that which is inseparable into parts.”

Put in another way, people have the wrong perceptions of the world and hence inaccurate realities of truth. So the next question then is how can one fix their reality? Again the Buddha believed that…

“…the key to liberation would be to break through ignorance and to enter deeply into the heart of reality and attain a direct experience of it. Such knowledge would not be the knowledge of the intellect, but of direct experience.”

This “direct experience” is achieved through mindfulness of the present moment. Complete mindfulness requires one to understand that there is no “self” and that there is no permanence – all things depend on each other in a cyclical-eternal fashion. Understanding this interdependence of life – the Buddha was able to shed all the sources of suffering: fear, anger, hatred, arrogance, jealousy, greed, and ignorance. The Buddha taught his followers to meditate to reach this awareness and connectedness. In a way, Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion – there is no soul, higher power, or afterlife; the goal is to reach Nirvana which is complete enlightenment and the extinction of self.

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Buddhism is complex – especially with reincarnation – and what I have described are the main tenets; there are many different schools of thought just like those in Christianity. So how did I apply these Buddhist teachings as a Christian? First off, Christianity teaches that you can not earn your way into heaven and that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life. In Buddhism, the individual is responsible for their enlightenment, and the path to salvation is earned rather than gifted. Just that fact makes me want to shout “Praise the Lord for Jesus!” I did, however, find several parallels between Buddhism and Christianity in respects to suffering.

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Jesus, just like the Buddha, teaches that we need to love one another and that we are all interconnected – we fall apart because of fear, anger, hatred, arrogance, jealousy, greed, and ignorance. I also took away the important message of impermanence and mindfulness. Nothing on this earth is forever, and this life is just a blip on the map of eternity; we shouldn’t be sad about death because it is transient. We must be mindful of the present because it not only makes us more aware of our blessings but it gives us a glimpse of what eternity will actually feel like – no past or future. I actually have been meditating more, and it helps me with gratitude, calms my mind, and rids me of thoughts that cause suffering. No matter what you believe, learning about different religions will always give you a greater sense of the world and the human condition.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

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As I am writing this post, a Chihuahua is barking between my legs at a fly which is buzzing around the living room. My dog is far from the sharpest tool in the shed, and most would compare his intelligence with a goldfish; I swear he has selective memory – half the time I am Osama Bin Laden and the other half I am his best friend. For some reason Max loves to bark at my parent’s dog, Pebbles; Pebbles is a wiener dog who has the demeanor of Jack Nicholson after his lobotomy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A typical scenario with these two dogs involves Max smelling Pebbles butt and barking while Pebbles goes in and out of sleep while standing up.

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I only mention the behavior of these two beasts because my most recent classic was The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. The Island of Dr. Moreau was one of the first science fiction books, and it details one man’s remarkable encounter with the mad-scientist Dr. Moreau. Dr. Moreau is a combination of Dr. Doolittle and Dr. Frankenstein – he turns animals into human-like beasts for the sake of scientific discovery. The island in this book is home to dozens of Moreau’s creatures, and like most mad-science stories, the experiments backfire. The creatures – which once behaved like humans- regress back to their animal instincts – eventually killing their creator. What makes this book a masterpiece is the “reason” behind these unfortunate metamorphoses.

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The creatures were able to speak, forage, and form their own society. This society was held together by certain laws which were created by Dr. Moreau. These laws aimed to prevent the hybrids from partaking in their worst animalistic urges: walking on all fours, tasting blood, and slopping water among many others. The group regularly chanted the “Law,” and everyone was reminded that punishments and blessings rained down from the almighty Dr. Moreau…

‘His is the House of Pain.’ ‘His is the Hand that makes.’ ‘His is the Hand that wounds.’ ‘His is the Hand that heals.’

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There was a main “Sayer of the Law” who organized the group and regularly reminded the members of their duties. As long as these creatures kept the law, their animal anatomy and behavior did not materialize. This system only worked because the beasts believed Moreau to be supernatural – all was destroyed when Dr. Moreau died. The animals lost the law and lost their rituals which prevented their primal desires. As soon as the law was gone, humanity was gone. In a sense, mankind is no different than these creatures; we have the capability to be animals, and we have the capability to be civilized. Morality is what makes us human, and God gives us the tools to practice “humanistic” behaviors. Religion is never perfect, but it is our society’s bedrock; experiments in pure secularism never end well; remember Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and Social Darwinism? Wisdom needs to be anchored by a higher power…just don’t make it Dr. Moreau’s.

Don’t forget to check out my newest book Tackle the Library – The French Revolution 😉

War and Peace

Growing up the biggest book in the house was always the Holy Bible. The Bible stood above all other books in its shear mass – the thinness of the pages, the small font, and the endless footnotes made it formidable. Of course the Bible is in a class of its own but my third classic, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, gives it some competition in the size department: 1,400 pages of 19th-century Russian Literature. I always viewed War and Peace as the ultimate ego-trip – imagine some hipster guy walking down the street holding a copy while curling his mustache and listening to a Walkman. In all honesty, this book almost destroyed my sight; halfway through I bought a magnifying glass from Amazon that had in the description, “GREAT FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA.” It took me over three weeks to finish and I felt like a man waiting for his wife to give birth when the doctor says it will take all night – initial excitement, tears at the vending machine at 3:00 AM, and finally exhausted delirium at sunrise. Instead of a crying baby I was rewarded with a new found perspective of what art in the form of writing truly represents. War and Peace is not a novel but rather a philosophical treatise that has the added benefit of a great story. The general plot takes place in Russia from 1805 to 1820 and follows the family life of  a few Russians during the Napoleonic Wars. So what makes this book so great? The complexity of the characters mix with the backdrop of war to form a multilayered cake of delicious metaphor, behavior, and historical understanding.

As the title suggests, War and Peace, is all about contrast. The characters juggle life’s myriad curve balls: young love transforms into mature friendship, an engagement fails after an unexpected affair, happy families suffer with untimely deaths, once bountiful fortunes turn to meager incomes. The backdrop to these life events is a war that sweeps up the individual characters and the nation as whole. War that once seemed so glorious becomes surreal as the years progress. The war symbolizes both destruction and birth: taking the lives of some while bringing together people who may have never met. The philosophical theme throughout the book aims to better understand the meaning of life and man’s ability to express free will. The purpose of life, which is best expressed by the characters who suffered the most, is simply to “live” – every expression is a manifestation and glorification of God. This conclusion is simple on the surface but hard to practice: people seek money, respect, power, and control as their purpose, while “just” living seems inadequate. This purpose is mirrored by man’s desire to express free will while simultaneously being drawn by others into actions that are counter to life – war. Tolstoy makes the point that free will is not an absolute, just as inevitability (no choice at all) is also not an absolute. Thus, Napoleon – with his genius – did not impact his soldiers and the battle’s outcomes as much as he or everyone else thought. The same is true of the individual soldier’s free will – time, space, history, and infinite circumstances swinging the pendulum of choice. History, is not decided by the powerful few but is decided by a irreducible power which is wielded by innumerable individuals – always susceptible to the curve ball of life.

“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”
-Leo Tolstoy War and Peace

Conditional-Christian Love

If you are in a relationship, then you understand the game of love. Sometimes you do things out of the goodness of your heart and other times you do things to acquire bargaining chips. For example, you give your woman a back massage because she has had a long day at work and you want to genuinely make her feel better. Alternatively, you give your woman a back massage because you’re horny and you want some action-thinking that the wiener is somehow a panacea for her tiredness. With women it is a little more subtle. Christina many times gives me a hug because she wants to make me feel better if I am stressed. Other times, she might give me a hug to selfishly look at my fine backside. The point is, unconditional love is a very hard concept for humans. We treat love like we treat our finances: commonly using metaphors of investing, growing, and fostering exchanges to meet our needs. In marriage, there is a make-believe unconditional love that we try to carry around like a sneaky cat. When things are going good, we know where the cat is and we can admire it without any fear of it running away. During bad times, the cat has escaped and gone into the crawl space where you spend the next 3 hours trying to coax it out using sardines and foul language. If I were to cheat on Christina with a big-busted blond, the proverbial cat would not be in the crawl space but instead it would be running around the house on fire-National Lampoon’s style.

There is one type of relationship where the cat is always on your lap-the unconditional love of God. You may find it odd, but I don’t like to read the Bible. I love reading tons of books and analyzing them. Why not the Bible? Well, I think to be an effective Christian I need to keep it simple. When I start reading the Bible I get all caught up in the details and forget the most important message-love. God sacrificed his son for all of us and He loves us unconditionally. We are called to try to love others unconditionally no matter their beliefs, sins, or attitudes. This is fricking hard!!! I can’t stand the majority of frickers and I judge people on a hourly basis. God doesn’t want us to judge others and put conditions on them. I hear the common phrase, “I love the person but not the sin.” Well, there is a flaw in that comment. Everyone sins so why are we putting “conditions” on “certain” sins. We can’t say to a gay person that we hate the sin but love the sinner and not expect that person to feel judged and isolated because they sin differently. Every Christian sins so why are we putting conditions on certain people? It is not our job to judge but it is our job to love. We need to do our best at unconditional love whether a person is a liberal, gay, Muslim, Atheist, gambler, gossiper, average Joe, pastor, etc. We can never reach the point of unconditional love but at least we can stop purposelessly putting conditions in the way. I say all these things because we always need a reminder to keep things simple. I know that this message can be polemic but I think that many Christians, including myself, need to keep it simple. Accept people, love them, and get that cat out of the crawl space.

Made in Brazil-Paulo Coelho

Just this last Christmas my Mom bought me a very interesting book-Paulo Coelho: A Warrior’s Life. My lovely mother had the best intentions with this book but I don’t think she knew exactly what the book was about. I say this because my Mom and I had never heard of Paulo Coelho and she didn’t realize the book was a biography of his life. So, the book has been collecting dust on my shelf for the past 5 months and I have honestly had no desire to crack it open. Knowing that I would eventually have to read the book, to ensure future Christmas presents from my Mom, I decided to read some of Paulo Coelho’s fiction. I went to the library and checked out The Alchemist, Veronica Decides to Die, and 11 Minutes. As most of you know, I am not the biggest fan of fiction and it is rare that I get into books that do not teach me about philosophy, psychology, or history. Well…I devoured these three books like a fat boy devours cake on his birthday. Paulo Coelho is a amazing writer and his books dig deep into the human psyche. His writing is very philosophical and intricate while simultaneously entertaining. It is no wonder that he has sold over 200,000,000 copies and has published over 15 award winning books. I currently have 9 more of his books checked out from the library and have finished reading the 500 page biography my Mom bought me for Christmas. Thanks Mom for introducing me to this awesome author!

Paulo Coelho de Souza was born August 24th, 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was a very eccentric, odd-looking young man who grew up during the tumultuous times of dictator rule. Coelho came from a wealthy family but he was a problem child who disobeyed his parents and lived life on his own terms. His parents would eventually have him forcefully committed to a psychiatric ward on three separate occasions where he was given electroshock treatment and a myriad of psychotropic medications. Coelho did have many quirks about him but he was not mentally insane-just a rebellious kid raised in the hippy-era of the 60’s. Eventually, he moved out of his parents house and began a bohemian lifestyle that included copious amounts of drugs, sex, and counter-culture activities. He would become a amateur Satan worshiper in his 20’s and publish many articles for magazines with hidden messages about alternative societies, UFOs, and psychedelic beliefs. Brazil at the time was very strict about media censorship and on two separate occasions Coelho was apprehended by the police for his publications. On one occasion he was thrown into a car with a black bag over his head and subsequently threatened with torture during a week long interrogation. Following this scare, and a supernatural encounter with the Devil, Coelho denounced Satan worshiping and went back to his Catholic roots.

Coelho started his artistic career as an actor and producer in small production plays. He would eventually move on from the theater and make a large amount of money writing lyrics for popular Brazilian songs. From the time he was a young boy, he wanted to become a famous writer and throughout his young career he never lost the desire to write. It wasn’t until he was 35 that he published his first book and it wasn’t until he was over 40 that he became famous with The Alchemist which sold over 80 million copies and has been translated into 67 different languages-the world record for most translations of a book by a living author. At current, Coelho has published 30 books which are published in 170 countries throughout the world. I admire his tenacity and ability to maintain his passion for writing; it is no easy feat to continue a dream as you get older. The sad fact is that I never had heard of him nor any of my friends. I highly recommend his books because you will gain a deeper appreciation of life, relationships, imagination, and your own passion. Start with The Alchemist-you won’t be disappointed.

Worry Wart-Remover

Have you ever been called a “Worry Wart?” I have on several occasions and throughout my life my worries have grown. As an adult there are a million things to contend with which can induce worries: paying the bills, keeping up with health, climbing the social ladder, maintenance of relationships, etc. Then there are the irrational worries that are usually propagated from movies or news: flesh eating diseases, serial rapists hiding in the bushes, razor blades in candy, movie theater shootings, sex-slave kidnappings etc. And to my luck, I live in Flint, so now I get to worry about consuming toxic water whenever I turn the tap on. So suffice to say, we must grapple with our worrisome thoughts everyday. How can we let go of our worries? To be truthful I don’t completely know but there are a few key things that help me get through storms of mental despair.

  1. Prayer: Release your worries to God because He has your back. Talking to the big man upstairs is not only therapeutic but strengthens your spiritual relationship. I know this the Sunday School answer but it really will lift a weight off your chest. You don’t have to formally pray or say anything at all-just clear your head and notice God’s presence. You’re not alone. We didn’t worry nearly as much when we were children; be a child in God’s presence and know He understands the big picture.
  2. Yoga: I’m a huge fan of Yoga because it forces you to be mindful of the present. Yoga is not meant to be some ab-shaping-calorie-scorching workout, it’s meant to bring you more in tune with your inner self. My favorite instructor is Tommy Rosen and he focuses on breathing throughout all the movements. When you learn how to breath you learn how to listen to yourself. Your true self is constantly being bombarded by outside influences that many times create negativity and anxiety. That may sound like a bunch of hippy crap but I promise if you practice mindful meditation/yoga you will make it priority in your daily life.
  3. Watch a TV series: I love well made TV shows: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Wire, Mr. Robot, etc. There are so many great series on TV right now that you can find the perfect show that fits your personality. Why would a TV series reduce worries? One word-Flow. When you get into a show you forget your worries and enter into the emotions of the characters. For a short moment you aren’t focused on your worries but rather the story unfolding in front of you. Of course, any flow experience is good but I like series for reducing worries because my problems are nominal compared to my beloved fictional characters. Walter White’s worries of selling meth to pay for his cancer treatment trumps my worries of not having pooped in the last two days.

These are three tangible things that you can practice in your life that will help reduce your worries. I love this quote…

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Let us let go of our worries by seeking God, being more mindful of the present, and realizing that our worries really aren’t that big of a deal in respects to the big picture. Your thoughts can make your life like heaven or hell. It’s all up to you, your thoughts are your own-what will you choose?

Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.

Psalm 50:15 NLT

Revisit: The Preposition of God

Question, should you live your life from God, over God, for God, or under God? Confused? Well, it was a trick question, you should live your life with God. Still confused? Don’t worry, I was to when I first started reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani which uses the above mentioned prepositions to explain how most of us relate to God. This book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to religious and non-religious people alike. Alright, let’s define Mr. Jethani’s prepositions…

Read the full post here.
The Preposition of God

Love Does

There is a phrase inscribed on my wedding band that reads-“Love is Action.” Simply put, love is only a feeling manifested through the actions of each individual in a relationship. A relationship with two people who do not act lovingly towards each other is destined to fail. I try to “love” Christina through many actions each day (of course I screw this up many times): giving her hugs, leaving her notes, providing her advice, motivating her, etc. My coworker, Ashley, told me about a book that she really liked called Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff. “Love Does” sounded a lot like “Love is Action” so I eagerly borrowed it from her. Bob Goff is an inspiring guy who has a lot of cool stories to tell. He actually reminds me of Jim Carrey in Yes Man where he has to say yes to everything asked of him. Goff says “yes” because he believes that we need to love each other through our actions. Jesus was a man of action and he simply just wanted to go out and love people. It seems all to often today that we get hung up on religious doctrine that causes us to judge others and not love certain people. Jesus was not a religious man and took in all sorts of misfits to be in his group of close followers. He chastised the religious leaders of the time for being righteous and overly obsessed with the rule book. Jesus told his followers to leave the judging to God so we could focus entirely on the loving part. Sadly this key piece of teaching is lost among many Christians today.

Goff, truly understands the idea of loving others and he makes a great point that we should strive to be secretly awesome. When you perform acts of love, don’t show those actions off and boast. Don’t love others to make yourself look better, love others so you can have a closer relationship with God. Whenever you love others you create a positive feedback loop that improves your earthly and heavenly relationships. This loop is the catalyst for a secretly incredible life; I know this sounds kind of corny and like one of those cliché Sunday school answers but read on. I have struggled with this idea of having a relationship with God because I always felt it was an obligation-just another thing to do. Furthermore, God never said “I love you” back whenever I talked with Him. Here is the thing though, I have slowly began to speak with God in my own way and my life is becoming secretly awesome. How so? Well, just as we should love others without boasting that is how God loves us. God doesn’t just bust out a barbershop quartet that sings “Jon you are the man and I love you so much.” He places things throughout our day that shows His love in subtle ways: the beautiful sunrise, the warm house, the hot meal, the changing leaves, the smile from a friend, etc. He loves us but doesn’t want to boast because that type of love is self serving and doesn’t require reciprocation. As I get closer to God, each day brings new realizations of His blessings and less worries because I know He truly has my back. I urge you to talk to God. He is your friend, He is your champion, He is your creator, and He wants you to have an awesome life.

The Preposition of God

Question, should you live your life from God, over God, for God, or under God? Confused? Well, it was a trick question, you should live your life with God. Still confused? Don’t worry, I was to when I first started reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani which uses the above mentioned prepositions to explain how most of us relate to God. This book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to religious and non-religious people alike. Alright, let’s define Mr. Jethani’s prepositions…

-Life from God: “People in this category want God’s blessings and gifts, but they are not particularly interested in God himself.” Think of the person who only seeks God out when they need something.

-Life over God: “The mystery and wonder of the world is lost as God is abandoned in favor of proven formulas and controllable outcomes.” Think of the person who uses the Bible as a complete resource manual for life and believes they have control as long as divine procedures are followed.

-Life for God: “This most celebrated of religious postures…The most significant life…is the one expended accomplishing great things in God’s service.” Think the uber-religous type who devote their lives to the service of God because they want to have a greater purpose and please God through their accomplishments.

-Life under God: “[this] posture sees God in simple cause-and-effect terms–we obey his commands and he blesses our lives, our families, our nation. Our primary role is to determine what he approves (or disapproves) and work vigilantly to remain within those boundaries.” Think of people who always focus of sins and think that blessings or calamities are a result of behavior.

In the real world, most people fit into all four of these categories depending on the circumstance. The correct way of relating to God is just being with Him. What the frick does “being with Him” mean? Well it means having an actual relationship with God and realizing that a relationship is the only thing He wants from us. God just wants us to hang out with Him because we are his creation and He loves us. It’s like any relationship you have with friends, family, or a loved one; you want interaction with each other because both individuals enjoy each other’s company. Sin is not something that God is tallying against us but is rather a barrier to us having a relationship with God. Sin is a punishment in of itself because it prevents us from spending time with our Creator. God doesn’t care what we accomplish in this life-all He cares about is spending time with us. God’s love for us has no strings attached and that is why all the previous prepositions fall short of a healthy relationship. We cannot control God and once we realize God cares for us then we can let go of that control and enjoy His love more completely. Of course, the idea of releasing fear is easier said then done, but it should be our ultimate goal if we desire a closer connection with God. How do we have a relationship with God? The best way is to just talk to God and try to listen. Prayer does not have to be a formal thing that happens at church or before dinner. Prayer is just the communion between you and God. Sit down and just say “What’s up God?” Personally, I combine prayer, yoga, and meditation together to help deepen my communication with God. It isn’t formal, boring, or strained. I just listen and speak to God as if He were a friend sitting next to me. This stuff isn’t easy but it can transform you into a more relaxed, loving, and peaceful person because you know that nothing is in your control but its okay because your BFF will help you through everything.