Painful Reality

LISTEN to this post on the KevKast!

The word God carries many diverse connotations. It’s kind of a nebulous term. I have learned that when I use the term I end up confusing some people and thus it’s easy to misunderstand my point. You see, some people have a narrow and very particular idea about God while others have a wider, less determinant idea. Thus the term God isn’t helpful to everyone. I have found that using the term “Ultimate Reality” or talking about “Truth” are other ways to get at the ideas and theology that are behind the word God. Of course, some of my more religious followers mistakenly assume that I am conveying some diminished form of the Gospel simply because I opt for inclusivity rather than exclusivity. I simply prefer not to put up barriers for anyone. None of us ever start with the bar that high.

Our world loves reality whereas it may not love God. However, I think most of us are confused about what REALITY is. For example, we have reality TV. While the characters in these shows may not be scripting everything, clearly these shows are totally staged. Thus they are not really REAL, but contrived reality. Furthermore, watching a TV show is anything but real. Most people have a spectator mentality, and I think this is a key consideration in why we are confused about reality.

Reality cannot be fully known from afar. It must be experienced up close and personal. This is not to say we cannot learn from vicarious experience, only that learning and knowing are not the same.  Gaining knowledge is absolutely valuable, but it is not the same as experiential knowledge. Sometimes vicarious knowledge is all we can ever have, as in men who will never know (experientially) what it is like to be pregnant. A couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy) is as close as men can get. We can only get knowledge of our sun from a distance. Our best experience is 93,000,000 miles away; if we get too close, it’s all over. I think this why so many are confused about Ultimate Reality, because our default mode is to spectate and live vicariously. We learn about stuff, but we don’t get all in. We hedge our bets. We play it safe.

Talking about God is like this. Theology is like this. Churches, pastors and parishioners often are only spectators. Bible study and theology are great tools to help us get a glimpse at God, but they are not God. For example, a map of the beach is great, but it is not the same has having one’s feet in the sand. We learn ABOUT God, rather than EXPERIENCE God.

This doesn’t mean we should abandon learning for experience, nor vice-versa.We need sacred text to inform our experience, and we must have experience to inform our grasp of the text. What is amazing is that science is figuring this out. The quantum physics department is now beginning to talk to the biophysics department, and non empirical realities like consciousness are starting to be understood in new ways. Ultimate reality is no longer matter and motion, instead ultimate reality is an interconnected relationship between the cosmos and non-physical reality or consciousness. Science is saying what religion has been teaching, there is both word and flesh (John 1:1-7).

However, much of religious practice ends up as a spectator approach to Ultimate Reality. We wind everything up into a tidy little salvation narrative. We then assign a bunch of duties and requirements, or a particular yoga practice, or establish five pillars or ten rules and then if we keep our head down and suspend our unbelief long enough, then we’ll get a prize at the end. It is also exclusive to, and competitive with other perspectives. This means that each sees their perspective as having THE secret sauce.This is the message religion is giving the modern world. Is it any wonder the world looks on and says, “I don’t see God in there.”

Now I’m going to switch gears. There is one place where the entire world never lacks confusion about reality. There is one place where learned knowledge and experiential knowledge converge: PAIN

Pain is an entry point for the world to apprehend a bit of Ultimate Reality. Pain is a doorway through which we all pass. There is so much diversity of pain too. There is physical pain, chronic or acute, emotional pain, social pain, economic pain, and spiritual pain. It also comes in various levels. Some pain we get over quickly, others never. Protracted pain is called suffering. Pain is something we feel sympathetically for others via our Vegus Nerve. We are wired to connect to each other through this. We watch another get hurt and we experience sympathetic pain. Ultimate reality can be seen through this portal.

Pain illuminates my point here. When it comes to pain, none of us are spectators only. We all possess experiential knowledge. Though our toe may not hurt right now, nearly all of us know what it feels like to stub our toe. This should illicit from each of us a tremendous amount of compassion for others. Sadly our modern life anesthetizes us to this.  We are taught that we are born this way, that we are disconnected and distinct from others and from all aspects of the world. We are taught otherness. Pain is a shared experience and as such it has a greater purpose of bringing us together.

Let’s go one step deeper now. People often doubt the existence of God precisely because there is so much pain and suffering in the world. This is a valid question about how pain can exist if God is both loving and powerful. Hopefully now you can see why I started by talking about how we are confused spectators. I think the reason I am so compelled to the messianic story is that this is not a story of a spectator God. This is not Ultimate Reality that knows us from long distance. This God-story is acquainted with our pain and grief and suffering (Isaiah 53:3-4).  A God who has experiential knowledge of pain, most certainly has compassion for ours (Hebrews 4:15). This God’s pain story is a shared experience with ours and it has a purpose of bringing us together. God is quantumly entangled with us.

You could say this Painful Reality. As such it immediately cancels out any notion that pain is ever senseless. The worst thing that could ever happen to humanity, happened to God. That is Painful Ultimate Reality. This makes pain meaningful. Even beautiful. It’s not supposed to be enjoyable, but it does build us and helps us grow up. Pain is the very love of God coming to us in and as our pain. It is His/Her pain. Pain experientially connects us to Ultimate Reality. And no one is left out. All humanity is given this. It is a solidarity that is apprehended like no other means, and pain is only temporary.  When pain is gone, what is left in its place is a new kind of transformed humanity, because we are all shaped by our pain.  If we ignore our pain, we risk not learning from it. Those who have been through pain are responsible to reach out to those in pain.

Scars are beautiful because they are not contrived reality. Scars tell us we didn’t settle for the sidelines or a couvade syndrome pregnancy. Scars help us see God and others because they are the point where reality and ideas converge. It is the juncture between material and spiritual, nonphysical and physical, word and flesh, body and spirit. Both are ultimately and painfully REAL.


The issue is NOT terrorism. It’s otherness.

Many are calling the horrible events in France recently a Wake Up Call.

  • For some it’s a wake up call for tighter security.
  • For some it’s a wake up call for a dangerous religion.
  • For some it’s a wake up call for immigration issues.
  • For some it’s a wake up call to enlarge the war machines.

A wake up call is the light of truth bidding the fog to dissipate. Waking up is a spiritual reality because it transforms us from the inside out. It changes us at the core of our being. Waking up is not behavior modification.

Waking up to the Truth is not easy. Our default mode is to conclude that our beliefs are all that is true. Thus we see differing perspectives as untrue. We carve everything up into two buckets:

  • right and wrong,
  • good and bad,
  • valid or invalid,
  • same and other.

Each perspective is rooted in it’s own self-interest. Our perspectives reflect our fears, dispositions, biases, and prejudices. It’s unavoidable. We all relate to the truth via the categories we possess. Some have more categories than others, but no one has them all. The more we possess, the higher our potential consciousness, the more we are awake.

My hope is to wake more of us up to a new category. I have not seen anyone address this yet. Most are stuck on the main issues which I’ll list first. These are concerns, but they are not the main problem as far as I can see.

  1. We are not upset about senseless killing. We are upset with this particular type of senseless killing. We don’t mind killing in countless other forms. We love our death penalty, killing killers makes us happy even if it costs ten times than keeping a prisoner locked up for life. We don’t mind killing inconvenient babies. We don’t mind corporations that produce products that kill us so slowly that the makers can escape blame. We don’t mind cruelty and killing when it comes to our preferences for food and sport. In each of these cases we kill because of otherness. We are not as awake as we would like to think.
  2. We are not upset about refugees harboring terrorists. We are upset because we are atheistic toward their religion. Most Americans know very little about Islam and when a terrorist emerges out of that religion we discard the whole religion. Modern culture does this with Christianity too. The issue is otherness. We don’t believe in their god. We are atheistic toward their god-concept and it threatens us.  This is prejudice and ignorance. Are there peace loving Muslims? Yes, we call them refugees who are leaving the war instead of joining it. Are there radical Muslims who want to kill us? Yep. We call them terrorists. But like all religions, this is the most immature of all stages of religious development. The bible depicts the story of Joshua where our Jewish and Christian history is not at all unlike ISIS. Let’s not forget the crusades back in the infancy of our faith. All religions and atheism produces killers, it’s not due to the religion, but the fact that otherness took hold within the belief system. Clearly we are not that awake.
  3. We are not as afraid of terrorism as we are of change. We like our businesses, our happy towns, our families, our peaceful and prosperous lives. We should, these are immense blessings that are not afforded to most of the world. When a bomb goes off it erodes our consumer confidence and our prosperity and freedom diminishes. Fear undermines all well-being. Terrorists know this. Beneath it all we must recognize how fragile our happiness really is. It is evidence that our happiness is anchored in our externals and extravagant lives. We are leaning our ladder against the wrong wall. Because of otherness we have a scarcity mentality. We believe that if more people are introduced to the system, there will be less to go around. Of course the opposite is true. The only reason for the scarcity that most people experience in life is because of the otherness that we possess. Terrorism shines a light into how easily our house of cards can be toppled. We would rather learn about the Kardashians that grow depth in our souls. If we were awake life would be based on internals that can’t be taken from us. Many refugees could teach us this.

Think about it. Otherness is at the heart of all our problems.  Otherness builds the war machine. It divides and indexes people. We then define our world into dualities and end up anchored to one of two poles. We vote according to a party. We pick our news based on our preferences. Like seeks like. We define ourselves as other than those people, those things, those animals, those ideas, those practices, those beliefs. Every evil of the world comes from this.

So is there an alternative? Yes. Something happens deep inside our core being (soul) when we recognize that refugees seeking asylum are not unlike us in what we would do for our families. Something happens when we can see that the desire to eradicate others actually resides within ourselves and if we are honest, it shows up each on each morning commute. We all have a resident terrorist inside us. We’ve all bought into the lie that peace comes from conformity. Those who wake up have learned that peace is the byproduct of both diversity and unity.

To the degree that we resist the reality of our inner terrorist is the same degree that we will apply otherness in our life. This creates space for our inner terrorist to grow-that disposition of the heart that robs our peace. There is a spiritual breakthrough available and it is within all of our grasp today. Right now.

All religions at their highest, most conscious levels all uphold the golden rule, that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Luke 10:27). This is to love them as us not as others. If we get this, we get the whole sum of all religion. If we miss this, we miss everything.

Train your soul with this exercise. Fill in the blanks with any imaginable  word. Put that word on both sides and see if the statement is true. It will cause you to actually do spiritual work and examine something about your core being in relationship to everything else. If you possess enough categories, honesty will cause the otherness disappears. If you can’t make sense of something, then it means you lack the necessary category to connect the dots.

I hope you will continue this and be transformed by it. Our world has been waiting for us to do this for a very long time.

I’m not ____________ but I’m not other than ___________ either.


Fear, Red Bull, and Faith

LISTEN to this post on the KevKast!

My son and I are downhill mountain bikers. Like many sports, this one has extremely high consequence for mistakes. The speed, terrain, and technical features means that you cannot try a new trail or feature without riding at the peak level of your competence and confidence. Increasingly, this is true for many sports and this is rising to an amazing level.

In a recent video from Red Bull TV called The Benefit of Fear, a psychologist Eric Brymer said: “What is possible is always moving so we don’t really know what humans beings are capable of doing.”

Big wave surfer, Andrew Cotton says: “Fear is information like anything else, it’s telling you that you better take this seriously.” The Red Bull perspective, at least for sports like these, is that fear should be a close companion. “The closer we live to death, the more we understand it, the more we appreciate it in an experiential way, the more positive we can live life.” ~Eric Brymer

Fear of dying while doing a risky sport is perhaps the most positive use of fear. When you are dealing with a reality that will have no mercy, fear is always appropriate.

But fear has a bad side too.

In the life coaching space, many of us spend a large portion of our time helping people to get beyond their fears. Bad fear paralyzes us. It makes us risk averse, and thus we live lives far below our potential. As a result, many people have a deep dissatisfaction with life and it begins a cycle of depression and despair.  That is a horrible form of death, because it is a prison of existence while not really living.

So what does it mean to fear God? Proverbs tells us that receiving the words of wisdom begins a chain reaction which allows us to “understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:5

The end result is a full, abundant life (John 10:10). Truly living rather than just existing. Like the Red Bull film, this fear means that we need to take ultimate reality seriously, but unlike a gigantic unmerciful wave, God is overflowing with mercy. Once again, life is a metaphor for ultimate reality.

Those that avoid God are not risking hell, they are actually risking nothing. Their hell is living in a landlocked self that is never shaped by the wave. Hell is the fear of losing their small self or fearing the best self. The small self is temporal and corporeal. The true self is that part of us that never dies and thus can’t fear death.

Those believers that see God as unmerciful to sinners (rather than someone who loves sinners), will avoid the tremendous wave of mercy in a similar way. They will not risk anything. They will have a tightly wound, landlocked life too. Life is a defensive play, wasting years hoping to avoid something terrible when they die. All the while they overlook the fact that they never really lived. If the Fear of God keeps them from living, then its not God they are fearing, rather its the loss of the small self, or fear of the best self.

Sorén Kierkegaard put it this way: “When death is the greatest danger, one hopes for life; but when one becomes acquainted with an even more dreadful danger, one hopes for death. So when the danger is so great that death has become one’s hope, despair is the disconsolateness (inconsolable reality) of not being able to die.”

Thus the forward path then is to fearfully place the small self at death’s door so that the true self can emerge from the experience with that which is greater than us. Many small deaths lead to a very rich life.

Two people look at the giant wave. One’s fear allows him/her to explore their limits and lives in balance with and is formed by the power that is in and through the wave. The other lives on the beach and only knows the power from a distance and thus has no real experience with it and will not be shaped by it.

As a metaphor for faith, who is the real believer?

Shedding Confusion

LISTEN to this post on the KevKast!

If I were to imitate this scene with my own fan, it would only be funny to some people. It would be confusing to others. This funny clip is not only one to the movie Star Wars, but more so to the movie Tommy Boy and the hilarious comedy of David Spade and the late Chris Farley. At minimum, a person needs to have seen at least one of the two movies if they were to get even a partial reference. For this joke to have a full impact, a person needs to have seen both.

If we break this down a bit, we can learn something that will really help us in life. In my book Oblivious I talk about how culture is a shared understanding of a particular set of categories that a group has in common.  Using our example above, this is a joke because it taps into a cultural reference of popular movies and comedians. Knowledge of categories equates to cultural knowledge. Cultural knowledge locates us either inside or outside a particular culture.

Maturity in a particular area is defined by the number of categories we possess in that area. If I understand a lot about drywall then I possess a lot of categories to make sense of that subject. If I know about jewelry, taco’s or spleens, then I become mature in those areas.

Confusion then, is not possessing enough categories to understand a particular topic. Confusion is immaturity in a particular area. As children, we possesses very few categories and thus we are not tuned in to the adult world. As we grow we gain categories and the world and life opens up to us.

So far so good? Ok, so here is my point.

We all want certain aspects of life to open up to us. As we grow we want a great career, a wonderful spouse, a loving family, deep friendships, and enjoyment of life. Unfortunately, these aspects of life are not open to all comers. They require prerequisite apprehension of certain categories or else they will elude us. They can also elude us if we have knowledge of a category but ignore that knowledge.

The lesson then is that all humanity is always learning despite our confusion. In scripture this is called being a disciple or a “Student” and it says only the students will know the Truth and that truth will make the free (John 8:31-32). This is because the student is humble and learns from a teacher. A teacher is a “logos” or a Word. It’s way more than that, but its at least that.

Of course learning stops at the moment of certainty. Certainty is not the same as confidence. We can have confidence that what we know is correct, while still possessing humility to learn more. If we become certain, we lose humility and stop growing and the world and life closes to us. A student who is certain will try and teach the teacher, thus no humility.

We can test if we have become hardened by certainty by watching our reaction to information that at first seems contrary to our present understanding. If we reject it, we have become certain and have lost humility. If we are open to consider how it could also be true then we are a student. Certainty is a byproduct of spiritual immaturity. We see it in the very religious and the supposedly non-religious. All learning is transformation from the inside out, thus all learning is spiritual growth.

Now do you see why politics, sports, academics, and religion are so divisive? When they lack spiritual maturity, they polarize and become exclusive.

I know that many of my posts and blogs have content that rubs people the wrong way at first. I don’t do this for shock value, but to help widen our categories. With a diverse audience like mine I’m sure to offend both sides as I introduce a third way.

  • Religious people desperately need wider perspectives to view their faith, but they are extremely fearful and distrusting if an idea falls outside of their religious establishment, thus they grow their faith in exclusivity.
  • Non-believers desperately need wider perspectives in order to recognize they actually do possess a faith, but they are extremely fearful and distrusting of the religious establishment and are content to leave their faith in its larval stage of development.

See, it does not help us to leave one camp and join the opposite.

I didn’t start out with these perspectives. I won’t have them forever either. As I gain new and wider categories for understanding, my perspectives will change just like yours. I’m confused about things now that soon I hope will be much clearer. The shedding of confusion is truly a spiritual process regardless of the subject. There is no difference between growth and spiritual growth-everything is spiritual. Learning is the very definition of spiritual growth. It is the key that opens the world and life up to us. That is why I desire for us all to gain spiritual maturity, for it is the hallmark of the emerging world.

Thanks for growing with me and becoming a part of the movement. If I can answer any questions, pleased don’t hesitate to ask.