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Escape from the Hotel California

10 Oct

Escape from the Hotel California

The Eagles – Hotel California

http://youtu.be/BjIJGxULpgo

Welcome to the Hotel California, 
Such a lovely place, (Such a lovely place) Such a lovely face
They’re livin’ it up at the Hotel California,
What a nice surprise, (What a nice surprise) Bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
and pink champagne on ice, and she said:
“We are all just prisoners here,
Of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast,
They stabbed it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door,
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before,
“Relax,” said the night man, “We are programmed to receive,
You can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave”

Island of the Dead Arnold Böcklin  (Swiss, Basel 1827–1901 San Domenico, Italy)

Island of the Dead
Arnold Böcklin (Swiss, Basel 1827–1901 San Domenico, Italy)

Suffering is acknowledged and discussed in Christianity, Buddhism and many other worldwide faiths. Suffering does endow us with wisdom beyond our years. I think suffering brings us a degree of wisdom, understanding and compassion only available to those who have gone through and come out on the other side. But the key words are to come out from the land of suffering and not stay living there. Let’s not take up residence in our own personal “Hotel Californias.”

Look to find Joy in everyday life. That’s why I Love taking photos. I Love writing poetry, stories and commentaries. As many of my friends, family and co-workers I also have a ridiculous sense of humor. I’ve learned to laugh at myself. I love to hear people’s stories. Not to make fun of them but to find the common points in life that we all share, no matter if we are Christian, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist. We have to find laughter in the midst of our greatest tragedies, triumphs, victories and even our defeats. Our respective faiths do not ignore or make believe suffering does not exist but our belief systems help us to transcend the mutual trials and tribulations of life.

Let’s look at two different scriptures from the Holy Bible that deal with suffering. Let’s also keep in mind that Biblical scriptures also have a historical and social context. While Biblical characters may or may not have been actual living people the dilemmas, emotions, and feelings are very real and very concrete.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

New International Version (NIV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

We are all a little broken. The cracks & chips cannot always be hidden nor should they be. We wear our scars like Warriors. These are the battle wounds that give us character and grace for living. Suffering can produce clarity of the mind, purity of the soul, and a different perspective on living.  At one time or another have we not all been Fallen Angels looking to be restored to the Kingdom?

 

Psalm 42

New International Version (NIV)

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

 

The people portrayed in the Bible aren’t Super Heroes. They are everyday folks like you and me. If they did not have the foibles and fragilities of the human condition we could not and would not be able to relate on our level. Times change and the modern world has encroached upon our 21st lives but we still possess the same frailties’ and vulnerabilities of soul and spirit as our Biblical ancestors. They are real people with real problems. Sometimes they achieve good solutions sometimes they mess up totally but provide an example for us of what not to do.

I agree with the Buddha’s teachings that becoming too attached to anything, idea or philosophy can lead to suffering. However suffering in and of itself is not a character flaw. In fact some suffering helps to build your character and gives you a greater ability for compassion. That being said there is external suffering which happens through no fault of our own and there is self-imposed suffering caused by bad decisions and errors in judgment.

While watching a TV show about the late writer, author and playwright Tennessee Williams I felt such sorrow that a man with so much talent was derailed from a productive pathway.

He did have plenty of success with such plays as, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and many other famous plays and stories, however he was done in by the effects of a dysfunctional family, depression about his mentally ill sister Rose, and eventually he was done in by drugs and alcohol. The suffering he felt regarding his sister Rose was the sadness and frustration of seeing a beloved sibling encased within the walls of mental illness and being powerless to help her. His internal self-imposed suffering was caused by bad choices regarding substance abuse.

I too am a writer and author but through my Christian faith and Buddhist practice I will avoid the path of destruction that seems to plague many famous, writers, musicians, actors, and artists.

Suffering should invite self-examination of our lives. Are we repeating destructive patterns in our lives? Am I living right? Am I a blessing towards others? Do I negate others feelings or emotions just because they may not be in line with my own experience. In addition to prayer what are some practical hands-on ways I can help my sisters and brothers in need. Am I so fixed into my own suffering that I’m allowing “Wounded Soldiers in the Household of Faith” to fall on the battle ground.

The ultimate question is, “Is it time for us to change course?”

Unmasking the Secret — Exposing Errors of the Secular Prosperity Gospel

26 May

Unmasking the Secret

Exposing Errors of the Secular Prosperity Gospel

Proverbs 23:4-5

New International Version (NIV)

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

What is money but a necessary tool to buy the things that make life a little more comfortable? After all our economy is not based on the barter system, we can only receive food, shelter and clothing through monetary means.

Skeptic

Can reciting or believing specific affirmations make us more financially prosperous? Possibly, if these affirmations are coupled with hard work and financial savvy, we might be rich in houses, land, cars, techno gadgets and various other trappings of modern life but in the process we might become increasingly spiritually bereft. An abundance of money does give one a kind of freedom. All desire freedom from material want and lack something that is central in all societies, but too much concentration on the acquisition of money can be the ball and chain the binds us in servitude to the “Almighty Dollar”.

James Arthur Ray is the perfect example of how the Bible based Law of Attraction can be taken to the extreme and beyond. Mr. Ray is a false prophet who has turned what God meant for good into a systematic formula based on greed.

For people like him everything in the world can be reduced to a series of numbers, values or phrases. But I don’t just blame Mr. Ray after all he was not in this by himself. His followers chose to worship him and his phony techniques to their ultimate detriment resulting in some cases in the loss of life. Mutual motivations propel both the followers and his congregation. Mr. Ray’s flock like him are seduced with the promise of wealth, peace, unlimited prosperity in a series of gibberish culled from various philosophies which only transfer money from their pockets to his.

Just like certain phony preachers crowding the airwaves of The Word Network and TBN these self-help gurus take time honored principles from the Bible and Native American traditions, mix them all into a New Agey hodgepodge mumbo jumbo designed to suck in the needy and the greedy.  Truly these preening posing coxcombs embody every one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Like the ill fated protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach from the novella A Death in Venice written by Thomas Mann both the gurus and their followers march to their demise along a pathway which only leads to destruction.

Much like the “Prosperity Preachers and the Prosperity Gospel” those who don’t manifest immediate peace, insight, revelation or prosperity often endure from feelings of worthlessness. But that’s okay. Just give the Prophet or Guru another $500 to $2000 and we can go on another Vision Quest and try it again until you get it right. These seers or mystics prey on peoples’ weaknesses by bringing them to their breaking point.

There are many wonderful programs that assist people in terms of setting goals and meeting with like minded people on plans and strategies that will help the individual accomplish their goals. But none of those programs should involve blind obedience to a program or an individual.

Today’s Self-Help Gurus are only the latest incarnation of brainwashing cults intent on manipulating minds and emotions of searchers or those seeking to fill a void in their lives. These men and women just cobble together a philosophy that on the surface appears to be sound since it’s supposedly based on ancient wisdom, but in reality is has more holes than Swiss cheese. A workman is worthy or his hire, however he/she is also accountable to his flock and ultimately to God.

All faiths have sought to explain, prevent or relieve suffering but as human beings we know suffering is part of the human experience. We cannot avoid some suffering but on the other hand there is no need for us to going chasing after it either.

The Law of Attraction, by now we’ve all heard about this Biblical and Universal Law to some extent. As a man thinks so is he, Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue, confessions, profession, affirmations, speak life, etc… You get the gist of the message. Yes to some extent your thoughts and words do create your world but simply speaking or thinking right thoughts is not a barrier to the issues of life. In fact Jesus said that we would have trials and tribulations in this life but He would be with us always. So the measure of a Blessed Life is not a big house, fine car or lots of money in the bank. How many rich people do we hear about daily who are unhappy, on drugs, alcohol, been married ten times or who just give up and commit suicide? So does money or the worldly version of success bring happiness or joy? No. Of course extreme poverty or serious illness is not a happy experience either but life is cyclical. We’re supposed to have ups and downs.

Beware any pastor, minister, or self help guru who makes promises that if we just follow their specialized guaranteed Twelve Steps to Success we will all be singing and dancing like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The only people whose wealth is increasing are those false prophets whether they’re wearing a clerical collar or a designer suit.

The hidden unspoken message behind their declarations are that people who don’t experience success, i.e. folks who get sick, lose their job, home, fall on hard times or die did not have enough faith or didn’t follow the so-called steps for the “right results”.

Skeptical Believer

Redefine success. Your own personal success. Little did I realize that I was successful when I lost my good high paying job five years ago; when I found myself in the E.R. of Roosevelt Hospital, November 7, 2008 due to extreme high blood pressure; when I lost my vision in my left eye for over a year until surgery partially restored my sight January 2010, when I nearly died from an addiction to prescription medications, when I found myself penniless and unable to pay my rent or other bills I was still successful. When I hit rock bottom that’s when I lost all my pride and was forced to ask for help. When I prayed to God and asked him to send me help, my prayers were answered. I’m still not where I want to be in life but I’m on my way there. Why? Because I’m right where God wants me to be in life.

Philippians 3:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/19/james-arthur-ray-sentenced_n_1102753.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-6186963-504083.html

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20504662,00.html

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Thank you and God Bless.

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