And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, ‘Lo here!’ or, ‘lo there!’ for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
The week of Monday, April 15 2013 sure was crappy. I walked into the break room at work to see explosions on the T.V. I hoped it was a gas line accident happening in Boston, but the videos showed smoke and shrapnel, so it had to be bombs. The West, TX fertilizer explosion was an accident though, albeit a really huge one. People there are not only dealing with the blast, but chemicals in the air. Anhydrous is nothing to fool with; it sucks the water from your body just from contact. Imagine breathing it in! A U.S. Senator, then the President had letters laced with ricin mailed to them. I don’t think it’s political since they’re both Republican and Democrat- it makes me suspect foreign agents. I think the KGB used ricin back in the day, just saying. On top of it all, the rain fell nonstop here in Iowa, so we had flash floods. Minnesota and the Dakotas had snow, in April.
On a personal note, the weather gave me an overabundance of mucus, so the doctor had me on antibiotics and allergy medicine. I think it affected my brain. By Thursday night, I was disgusted with the world, especially the media for reminding me the world is rotten. I knew I had to play one of my yoga DVD’s, because that always calms me down. Yoga is a part of many fitness programs these days since it complements dynamic weight training with flexibility and isometric strength training. Holding the different positions for minutes at a time builds endurance and demands concentration. I do it once a week along with resistance training and Taekwondo class.
My favorite yoga videos end with a meditation pose. You sit cross-legged with hands folded in Prayer position or a mudra, and you focus your thoughts on your heart or spine. Yoga exercises were actually created by the sages in ancient India to help them sit for long periods and reflect. I admit I’m only an amateur, but I can report feeling inspiration and joy when doing this. Some of my blog ideas came to me while meditating.
After the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, I heard people say their thoughts and prayers go out to the victims. I hear that so often, I wonder sometimes if they really mean it, or just say it to feel better and go on with life. I also thought it was sad that it takes a terrorist attack to make the Red Sox and Yankees fans play nice with each other. Would it take a dirty bomb in Chicago’s North Side to make me hug the Cardinals? I told you the drugs are affecting my mood! I’m usually not this cynical! It’s a good thing I meditate, because I knew what to say after Thursday night.
Christianity teaches us that humankind, and therefore the world, are fallen. We’re messed up, in other words. God created the world and was pleased with it, but the first modern humans were deceived by Satan, the seven-headed dragon, into disobeying God. They became damaged by this Original Sin, and they passed this defect on to us. The natural order that the Creator established was turned upside down and our flesh, which should be under our spirits’ control, controls our spirits. So much agony comes from our need to eat, drink, and mate, and we don’t dare think we were meant for greater things.
If you want a reason why the Tsarnaev brothers (or Craft International, if you’re following that line of inquiry) planted bombs that burned and bloodied so many, you can probably find several. However, they all trace back to the fact that sin makes tyrants of us all. The first sin Satan taught us was pride- the impulse to put ourselves before anything else. Pride is a delusion because God is the most high, but we’re delusional anyway. This madness is the root of all the crime, corruption, terror, abuse, and cruelty we inflict on each other. It’s why human history is a long chain of oppression and injustice. Even America, founded on the principles of life and liberty, is always in danger of ruining liberty. Left to ourselves, we’d probably turn to beasts, and thousands of years from now, Charleton Heston will wail in front of the ruined Statue of Liberty, “You maniacs! You blew it up!!”
God won’t leave us to ourselves, though. If you take the Bible as a whole, it’s the story of God putting the world right. The work is ongoing, and we’re not the ones who really fix the world. God does it through us. When the part of God we call the Son lived on earth as a rabbi, His ministry centered on the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is a country that’s more just than any human government. The Roman Empire and its collaborators feared it, thinking it would take them over (in a way, it did), but it wasn’t a political revolt like they expected. It was deeper. There’s debate on what the Kingdom of God really is- the Christian church, Heaven, or something esoteric. I’ll go with it being a state of mind powered by God’s grace. “State of mind” sounds unreal, but our minds can make it real. Our minds were supposed to govern our bodies, if you’ll remember.
Jesus forewarned His followers that they would face opposition when establishing churches and missions, but they shouldn’t fear because the Holy Spirit would give them guidance. The book following the Gospels in the Bible is titled “The Acts of The Apostles”, but its real protagonist is the Holy Spirit. He pours out over the general population during Pentecost and gives them the ability to connect with the other members of the Trinity. The first Christians perform miracles in Jesus’ name, as well as speak eloquently in defense of their faith. The Holy Spirit is the source of their power and words. “Acts” cuts off abruptly after Chapter 28, when the Apostle Paul arrives in Rome. The implication is Chapter 29 continues to this day.
Churches are very concerned with mission. The donations church members put in the offering plate during worship go to charity. My church, the United Methodists, are working to treat and eradicate malaria, for example. The Church, whatever the sect, is concerned with doing good works by God’s grace and establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth. The view growing in my mind is that politics has grown out of control in our society. However, the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement followed periods of widespread faith. The answer to America’s problems isn’t political- it’s spiritual.
So how do we find God’s guidance? It seems to me the Holy Spirit doesn’t get enough attention in America currently. Paul said we’re all temples to the Holy Spirit, so I’m guessing the Spirit is our go-to. Connecting with God was well established before modern times. It’s only recently that I learned that quieting your mind and waiting for inspiration from God is a long standing Christian practice. It has this Anthropology major thinking of Zen Buddhism, where devotees sit still and hope for enlightenment. Can the Eastern traditions help us out? While Westerners have identified the source of enlightenment, has the Orient retained the methods of connecting with the source? Is it a coincidence that Buddhists and Catholic Christians pray using beads?
Civilization has advanced in countries outside Christendom, though whether those countries are as just is a topic for another day. But when Christian missionaries tell a new area about Jesus, the natives are known to say “So that’s what you call Him?” Jesus said He’s a shepherd with more than one flock, so He may be active in places we don’t expect.
Revelation may be how the Shaolin monks developed their system of Kung Fu, beneficial to self defense, health, and character development. Like yogis, they meditate by thinking only about their breath, or about energy centers along the spine. It seems that since our flesh took over our spirits, we need our bodies to improve or spirits.
Shaolin teachings spread to other Asian lands and mixed with their fighting styles. The results aren’t just shared technique, but creating ethics like the Five Tenets of Taekwondo in Korea and the proverb “There is no first strike in Karate” in Japan. Martial artists meditate and search for the “center” inside themselves. The center is a source of calm and guidance during battle. Fighters cultivate a way of thinking, what the Japanese call “mushin” meaning “no mind”, and what Bruce Lee described saying “I do not hit- it hits all by itself.”
Eliminating the ego is critical in martial arts meditation. Ego can be linked to pride, which Christians know is the Original Sin. Denying yourself is the first step in doing good; it’s how you know your actions are inspired by God instead of your selfishness. The Zen state of mind can be a big help to our police and emergency responders. If they follow their, which I suspect is where the Holy Spirit meets them, imagine how effective they can be. And if they spend more time in prayer and meditation they (especially police and military) can work out their true allegiances. The highest allegiance goes to the Kingdom of God.
As I close out, the sun is out, the bombing suspects are in custody, and my illness is cleared up. I’m feeling a lot better than the week I just described. But I wonder how much my mood is affected by earthly events, or God’s doing? I engaged in some volunteer work for my church. I also had some breakthroughs in meditation. Every human being you see is connected to the Lord. That’s why freedom and individual rights are important. The connection each person has is direct and personal. Also, God won’t let us crumble. We’re His image bearers. The apes will not take over and use us in experiments. The politicians and media are as vain as ever, but they don’t really lead us. The Kingdom makes their plans irrelevant. It has won over the earthly powers before. If enough people engage in thoughts and prayers that really help, America will still be a free country, because the Kingdom is free. Namaste.