The Hero With A Thousand Faces

“The Hero With A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell was recommended several times in Tim Ferriss’ book, and since I love mythology, I had to read that next!

The thing I love most about mythology is how similar all the stories are. I was a little worried about reading this book at first because we Christians like to pretend that our faith has no mythology, that religion and mythology are completely separate. This book describes ancient mythology along with Judeo Christian and some Muslim mythology as well and shows the patterns we humans keep coming up with. It is not condescending, and I very much enjoyed it.

It’s amazing how similar our ancient stories are across the globe and throughout time. He shows how stories reflect the human condition, that we all search for meaning in the world, that we all interpret the divine through our own experiences. There was a lot of storytelling, which I love. It didn’t just mention that this culture had a story about a dog, it told the story. Some were so bizarre! I can’t help but think those ancients were pretty strange folk.

And the epilogue really made me think about the future. Where are we going? With all our new technology and scientific research, is the idea of a spiritual God dead? Can we “create” a new religion of science and state? Can we survive on the idea that man is just another animal on this planet? I just don’t think so.

The further we look into our world and the further we look out into the universe, the more infinite it becomes. I’ve always imagined God continuing to move farther and farther out, creating more and more for us to find because His creation keeps getting smarter. And like a Father watching his young son explore his toes, He beams with pride.

I was recently listening to a podcast about different dimensions and the existence of God. It reminded me of a Star Trek episode (what doesn’t, right?!). It was TNG, they were moving some field of two-dimensional beings that they could only experience from a certain angle, but the beings couldn’t fathom three dimensions at all. They could feel the effects of the third dimension, but not know what was happening for sure because they could not experience it. They probably made up complicated analogies about what they believed was happening that got closer and closer to the reality as they progressed their thinking. And there were probably naysayers there that insisted there were only two dimensions and that everything could be explained in two dimensions if they just looked hard enough.

And here we are, us third dimension folk, wondering if the forces we feel in our lives are beyond our dimension, from a world outside of our senses, one that IS time instead of moving through time like us. And the scientists grumble about us looking beyond the world we can see and touch.

Will we ever experience that reality? I believe so.

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Saved

Two things, both church-related.

First, I started reading “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker on Friday. I didn’t think it would be so interesting but I’m completely sucked into the book and I almost finished it today. One line caught my attention related to church.

“She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not to find God.”

I found this to be pretty profound. God isn’t IN the church. He IS the church. We are the church. When we gather together in His name, we share Him with each other and learn more about His nature through relationships. And since those exact words were brought to my attention on Sunday morning, my decision to not attend church that day were overturned. I have a hard time with church attendance, mostly because I’m so ambivalent to people lately. I don’t feel like I “belong” anywhere, but reading that I decided that I’d go anyway in the hopes of making someone else feel like THEY belong. I decided to bring God with me.

At church, we sang “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”, which I love and sang boldly…until this line:

“Behold the Man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.”

That’s when the tears came, convicted of my own sin. I am not bold in the Lord. I do not speak out for what He has given me. I do not respond with “Because of God!” for all my blessings. I quietly take the credit, as if I had any hand in it.

Jesus said, “He who is not with me, is against me.” Matthew 12:30. I’ve heard it over and over again over the last few months. I know where my strength comes from. I know where my peace resides. But I hide it under a bushel, albeit one with many holes with the light peaking through so that people may ask and I may or may not answer depending on how safe I feel.

Today I give my fear to the Lord, like everything else.

God is so good. Jesus is my savior. My life and all I have belong to Him. I am happy to keep it for him as a faithful servant and use what He gave me in His name.

Meditation & Prayer

Do you meditate? I had heard about meditation as stress relief for years before I actually tried it myself and now that I have, I can’t imagine not having that time each day. I only wish I had started doing it years ago, like maybe during high school!

Something I thought of recently was how similar mediation is to prayer. We don’t do meditation, we practice it and in the same sense I believe we should treat prayer in the same way. Let me explain.

I learned early that you can’t fail at meditation. No matter how long you sit there and focus on your breathing, you will eventually begin to let your mind wander away. At first, those wanderings come quite frequently. Each time we realize our minds have wandered, we take a breath and bring our focus back. It’s practice and with each repetition, we strengthen our focus muscles, just like any physical exercise. As we get better at it, we can use that throughout our day, not just during our meditation practice. As the day’s stress builds, our mind races, information overloads take shape, we can take a breath and refocus ourselves, calming our mind and make better decisions. It’s amazing.

Prayer is very similar. You cannot fail at it. Each day we come to our prayer space or time, we practice focusing on the Lord. We can light a candle, read or memorize scripture, write out prayers and gratitude, or just sit and relax in His care. This is our practice. We are building up our prayer muscles. Throughout our day, each time those stresses build or decisions need to be made, we can go back to that focus by remembering our morning practice or taking that deep breath and pray. Each time we do, the length of time between our prayers gets shorter and shorter. We become proficient at looking to God when we need help instead of letting the stress build up until we’re a blubbering mess ourselves.

Want to know where to start? There are loads of meditation apps out there. The first one I used was Calm https://www.calm.com/ It is not a Christian source. It’s definitely more of a Buddhist base but it does give you a good start if you don’t mind.

A Christian based one that I found very nice is Abide https://abide.is/ I haven’t used this one as much but I did enjoy it for a few months. I enjoyed the scriptural focus but felt I didn’t need as much guidance as it provided. After all, there are only so many apps I can pay for each month!

And for you skeptics out there, the ones that don’t want all the “hocus pocus” of spiritual enlightenment but would like to try out some meditations anyway, try 10% Happier. http://www.10percenthappier.com/ I’ve actually found this one to be the most help getting started and really learning how to use meditation on a daily basis. For those Christians out there, it’s definitely better than the Buddhist focused ones and it isn’t condescending either.

All these apps charge a monthly fee but have a free trial portion. I’ve found the fees to be reasonable and VERY much worth it.

Notes on “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein

I loved this book! I’m not a big fan of the science fiction genre. I’ve said this before and I’m starting to wonder if that is really true because I haven’t failed to love one yet. The ones I don’t really enjoy are the ones that get technical. I like the books that focus on the people, the lives and relationships of the characters instead of the scientific aspects of the travel. This one was full of all the stuff I love most. What makes us human? What would be different about a person raised on another planet by another species without contact with his own? I started to describe the story and my sons instantly blurted out, “It’s some kind of space Tarzan!” I didn’t even see that until they said it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really thinking when I’m reading.

I don’t think I’ll write out all my notes on this book. Instead, I’ll do my best to wrap the story up in my mind and talk about the individual characters and how they touched me. Let’s see. There was Mike, the “Martian”. The men who brought him back from Mars. Ben, the newspaper reporter that wants the story but is changed by it. Jill, at first she is Ben’s girl but she really falls for Mike and well, the relationship gets complicated at the end, or is it less complicated in reality, only complicated by our human social contructs? Jubal, he’s my favorite character. He’s older than the rest. At first you feel like he’s just this cynical, rich guy that really just wants to be left alone by the world. He brings only people he can trust and put up with into his circle and I feel like Jill and Mike are a huge burden to him at first. But really they, and what Mike is trying to bring to the world but doesn’t know it, are really what Jubal wants.

There are things that Mike says that I just loved and now use in my life. The idea of “waiting for fullness” is an ancient one that we all try to achieve. In all our meditations and prayers we are asking for patience to wait on what will come in the future. If something bothers us or weighs heavily on our minds, aren’t we told to wait and see what happens? Mike puts this idea into perfect words. Every time he doesn’t understand something, he says he must “wait for fullness”. Only time will tell if something is wrong. When you’ve waited long enough, you can act on something once you know that it is a “wrongness” that needs to be eliminated. The Martians themselves live a very long time, forever really, and they are strong. They don’t need to act prematurely to protect themselves from a potential threat. They wait and react when they know. We could be waiting out whole lives to understand something and die not knowing, but then, did we need to know? It probably wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things and we should let it go.

The whole story feels like one of those old “His Girl Friday” movies but you can feel a deeper story moving underneath. When I finished the book I thought, “I don’t get it?” What just happened? Who are the Martians? Why do they keep going back to this Digby and Foster characters that I thought were dead? Is Mike just a front man coming to scope out Earth for conquest by the Martians? I put the book down and wondered as I went to pick up my son at the gym. It swirled around in my head for a couple days and then it hit me. I think I get it!

Spoiler alert, in case you haven’t read it, don’t read this last part!

The Martians put their eggs out in the cold and only 1 in 10 survives. Then they bring them in and raise them up until they “discorporate” and become “the old ones” which are still around, not in just spirit. They are actually there guiding and teaching the younger corporate ones. I was lost until it hit me. They are angels! Someone (God?) creates the eggs. They are not born. The eggs are humans on earth. One in ten survives that ordeal and becomes an angel (Martian). They live their lives on Mars learning about the universe. Much like “A Miracle on 34th Street”, the angels must earn their wings and when they do they discorporate and become “old ones”. That’s some pretty cool stuff. Mike was one that survived and so were other religious leaders before him. His origin was different but his path was the same. He spent his time on earth trying to understand humanity and show them a better way of living that would bring them closer to the spiritual world he had already begun to learn about on Mars. Other religious leaders do the same, although they only glimpsed that spiritual world. Did God send the angels to talk to them? Did the angels come to Earth? It didn’t seem like it in the book. It seemed like they never got involved with the “eggs in the cold”. They just waited to see if any of them survived.

Are we born on this earth cold and alone? Do we all have that spark within us that makes us want to search out who ultimately created us? And do most of us set it aside for earthly things and never make it to the spiritual world? Is that what Heinlein was trying to tell us?