Who’s Running My Life?

This has been a truly monumental month for me, and it all started with the passing of spiritual icon and my personal (though we never met at all) mentor, Dr, Wayne Dyer on August 30th.

Like so many of the people whose lives Dr. Dyer had touched, I felt, and feel, his passing very deeply. I certainly don’t mourn him, but I mourn for the world that he no longer inhabits. Of course, many, many examples of his continued presence and influence have been reported, and we know that he never will leave, as none ever do.

Dr. Dyer spoke frequently and eloquently about what he referred to as “Quantum Moments”; those elusive, instantaneous awakenings when suddenly the universe and all its workings in your life are suddenly and blindingly clear. He was very open and public about these instances in his life, and how they so effectively altered his path and put him in alignment with his truth. His divinity.

I wish to be very open about mine now.

In the wake of his passing, and to honor his wishes for its maximum distribution, Hay House put up a link to view Wayne’s movie “The Shift” free of charge for a couple of weeks. Of course, not having yet had the opportunity to see it, I leapt at the chance. This was moment one. The movie itself is about these shifts in perspective, these Quantum Moments, and how they occur and what they mean to us.   I had mine late in the film, when (no spoilers here, please watch it for yourself) the young mother began to rediscover her love for her art, when I felt my own sense of renewed purpose, and it was in this very moment that I realized that this book had to be written. It was as if an enormous door had swung open in my mind and I knew immediately that I was to write a book, inspired by the contents and context of my blog. Write it, publish it, and reach out to the world through it. To use my gift with words to serve and uplift the world.

It was about a four minute scene in the film, but I had to pause it to catch my breath and dry my eyes. The joyous sobbing and pure, gobsmacking clarity of the moment had completely taken my breath away and left me gasping and sobbing.

I’ve watched the movie again with my wife since, and one more time alone. It is one I’ll likely watch many more times over the years, and I doubt I’ll ever fail to choke up just a bit at that certain spot.

So I immediately set to work on this book. Writing, studying book proposals and how to acquire an agent or to work directly with a publisher, even investigating self-publishing.   I currently have nine books from the local library sitting next to my writing space, serving either to inspire me or to help me to get published and inspire others.

My second moment came just last night, September 24.   While re-watching the memorial service broadcast from the Hay House “I Can Do It Orlando” summit opening, where many of Dr; Dyer’s colleagues, friends, and family celebrated his life with his many fans, again via a free live webcast and subsequent review link from Hay House, I experienced yet another blast to my core.

The speaker was Anita Moorjani, whom if you don’t know, is the author of “Dying To Be Me” (again, please read it; so stirring and incredible), her recounting of her death from aggressive lymph cancer and her subsequent, almost instant, healing. Anita has been to “the other side”, and she brought back some incredible insights, one of which is the non-linearity of time. Time, as you and I know it, is a straight, beginning-to-end progression, but in the Real World, in Source, it doesn’t move like that. Anita spoke of how she could see into any period of her life which she chose, and anyone else’s as well. Omniscience is real, as omnipotence, and it’s ours there, just as it’s God’s.

It was while watching this, and contemplating the myriad examples of Wayne touching lives from beyond the veil, that I had what was initially just a fun thought: “Who knows, maybe Wayne reached into my life and influenced my wife to buy Dr. Dyer’s “Wishes Fulfilled” book/CD/DVD set for me when she did, to make certain I got it when I needed it?”

Instantly, and I mean right that instant I knew that wasn’t the case. I KNEW, immediately and beyond any shadow of doubt, that it was me, myself, who reached back into my own past and influenced my Jacquelynn to stop and listen to that man in the silly hat on PBS. To order the full set, not just the book, but the CDs and DVDs as well. To help put me on the path I needed to be on.

I can not possibly emphasize the certainty with which this struck me. There is zero doubt in my heart that exactly this occurred.

I was at work when I was watching this on my computer, and I am SO grateful that no one came around the corner into my office at that moment to see the huge smile on my tear-streaked face.

It took a few moments to catch my breath and focus again on the present moment. It was during that process that the logical outgrowth of the revelation hit me: if I felt it important enough to reach back and affect my own life in that way, then it was obviously for a purpose. It tells me that I “got there”, that what I’m doing needs doing, and that I need to be the one doing it.   It further tells me that my “mantra” of recent months, that “everything happens for my best benefit” really is accurate, because I am making it so.

I am running my life. Now, and then, I am steering my life in the direction it needs to go, and I’m driving this train from both ends.

In all my life, regardless of what I’ve accomplished or whom I’ve encountered or loved, I have never, never believed that my life would truly matter. I’ve never even thought it. Sure, I’d live my life and maybe make another person smile and maybe someone would be happy with me, but to honestly matter, in the big picture? To be a factor in changing lives and helping people on a grand scale? It never even entered my mind that it might actually ever happen, but this tells me that it will. That it DID. That what I’m doing is important, and it leads to more important things.   That I really, honestly can seriously help people and serve mankind in an impactful way.

This is not an exercise in ego boosting, I assure you.   It’s a revelation and a confirmation that I can and will honestly help people. I can and will be of real service. Nothing could be more fulfilling to me. Nothing could be more holy to me.

My heart is full, and my mind is racing, and my fingers are flying across the keyboard.

Who’s running my life?

I am. I really am.

Just Imagine, won’t you?

Imagine a world where Love is the norm and hatred is rare.   Even the word “hate” is unknown by most people and appears only in ancient texts, seldom even accurately translated.

Imagine the anger we all sometimes feel just not being there.   In its place is compassion and understanding. Resentment never takes hold because we’ve never been exposed to it. Fear? What’s that? Caution, certainly, as you enter a hazardous situation, but fear? Never heard of it.

Just imagine.

Imagine blessing loss as true comprehension of “moving on” replaces the broken hearts we expect in this world.

Imagine no conception of grief. Seeing the very real beauty in what we call death with none of the angst and pain.

Just imagine.

Imagine leaving your belongings in the open because the idea of theft never occurred to anyone. War was never invented. Competition is peaceful and kind-hearted.   Violence is unheard-of.   Differences in complexion, geographic origin, religion, orientation, hair color and accent are embraced as joyous diversity.

Just imagine.

I do. Every day.   I imagine, for what we can imagine, we can create. Imagine with me?

Just imagine…

Perception=Reality

Recently, I had a very stimulating discourse with an old school friend as a reaction to my article “Everything Happens For A Reason” (read it here). He’s a brilliant guy, and succeeding even in engaging him is a feat in which I take no small amount of pride. He’s also a believer in a totally random universe, finding difficulty in, as he says, “squaring the circle” of a guided/supervised universe with a world of tsunamis and car accidents and other seemingly meaningless, cruel events.

“Does God/The Cosmos/et al really have a plan?” was his rhetorical question. Or is it all really in how you look at it?

The answer is yes. To Both. To All. Our realities are designed and created BY our perceptions.   No, I do not believe that “God” creates tsunamis or plagues or earthquakes. I DO believe that our expectations and reactions and even our emotional states create our individual realities, just as our reactions to the above-mentioned catastrophes serve to create our experience of those events.

For example, I understand and perceive that every seemingly random event carries something I need for my journey. Whether it’s a subtle lesson or a chance to shine as a teacher, a heart-softening glimpse at the special beauty of a smiling child or simply an opportunity to help another soul, there is nothing random in my world. Maybe, as happens so often now as I plan this book, it’s to inspire me to expound on a certain subject or lead me down a certain path of thought. As I constantly repeat to myself (and not always silently; ask Jacquelynn 😉 ), “everything happens for my best benefit”.   A very real side effect of this line of thinking is that I almost never (everyone slips, right?) find myself avoiding or resenting anything that happens. I take what the universe gives me.

I look for the value in every moment, every seemingly random event and vague happenstance. And I find it. Invariably.   Cynics will call it self-fulfilling prophecy, but if you look for meaning, it’s there. If you don’t expect it to be there, then it’s not.   Perception. My random-shit-just-happens friend stated his hope that it really is all in how you see it, and I truly love that I can tell him that yes, it really is. One hundred percent.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

I would add to the great Bard’s thought that there is room for more philosophies than any of us could ever imagine.

Which is to say, my friend’s viewpoint is perfectly valid.   That is the world he chooses to see, and it shows itself to him. Being the rare person that he is, he wonderfully refuses to judge those who disagree with him, and finds value in the diversity of thought and opinion that fills this world. That very diversity is one of the things that makes this world so precious and beautiful. Like him, I embrace it and celebrate it with every breath. My self-professed “contrarian” schoolmate has even stated his enjoyment in watching me find and walk my path. Finding joy in the joy of others rather than berating them for not thinking exactly as you do? Very novel.

Yeah. He’s further along on his path than many of us. Fills my soul.

F#!@ Ego.

Ego and the lifetime of “failures” it has created tells me to shut up and stick with selling cars. Fulfillment and service are for those born and educated to it; you have nothing unique to offer. Get over yourself and get to the failing, as you and everyone else already know is bound to happen.

Yeah, well…Fuck you, ego. This isn’t about you, this is about getting you out of the fucking way and creating a life in which service and helping people isn’t a dream but a career.   A life in which my sleepy evening affirmations of “I AM an inspired, prolific and successful author.   My books help millions of people.” become truer every day. A life in which ego has no part.

EVERYTHING good and enduring in life comes from getting ego and self-importance out of the picture and asking “how may I serve?”.   I was shown my answer, and I know that this book and those which will follow will touch lives and change lives and help people. That is why I’m here, after all. This task is why I was presented with the challenges I’ve overcome in my life. It is why the scars, both the visible and the hidden, exist. It is Dharma and Destiny and Fate, and I will not fail it.   I CAN not fail it.

So I will write. I will write and I will publish and I will continue to do so. I will follow my path and I will touch lives and I will serve in my way.

So, yeah, fuck ego.

Two Ears, One Mouth

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey

There’s an old, old quote that tells us that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we talk. I’ve done a cursory search and been unable to turn up a reliable accreditation for it, but we’ve all heard a version of it many, many times. I think the first time I heard it was Marine Corps boot camp, but I’m far from certain of that.

At any rate, the intent is clear; we talk far too much and listen far too little.

Why is that? Why are we driven to interrupt and interject? Why do we feel the need to be heard?

This is a battle I fight constantly. Generally, I have my ego fairly tamed and under control, but it is in just this conversational context that it rears its ugly head most often. I have an experience that relates to the line, and I can’t wait to share it! I begin, knowing I should really just keep my mouth shut and allow others their time in the spotlight, but hey, my story is KEY to this, I swear! So, I start to interject, battling my knowledge that it’s really my ego asserting itself, and someone else cuts in just as I was about to.   Dammit! Wait…yes, this is me understanding that I should just listen…   Until the next lull, then…crap.   The conversation moved right past my point. Better that way, I guess…darn it…

This is especially true when we’re gossiping or rumor-mongering. The opportunity to belittle someone else is one we seem loathe to let pass. “The guy that trained him was a total crook, so I bet he’s no better…” or some such. Any chance to show ourselves as better or more deserving (even though it actually proves just the opposite to be true) is one we rarely let slip away.

But whom do we serve with these little “insights” and quips? Are we saving the world? Are we helping someone? Are we accomplishing anything whatsoever?

Or are we feeding our own ego’s need to elevate itself in the eyes of others?

As I said above, I struggle with this mightily, but it is with but one focus that I try very hard to temper my inputs and butt-ins: “Is it necessary?”

If you look back at the last few group conversations at work and examine your part in the circle, how much of what you said was necessary? Even the sports stories and child-rearing exploits. Was what you said necessary and helpful to the conversation, or was it the contextual version of “mine’s bigger”? Did your story bring enlightenment to the subject at hand, or did it just bring you a moment at center stage?

I’m not judging you, I promise.   Nor should you. No recriminations whatsoever. I just wonder how many of us honestly remember what was actually said in those office nattering sessions? Did we actually listen and seize the opportunity to learn?   Or did we just jabber?   Yesterday, I just jabbered.   Aimlessly. And, aside from those directly affecting the business at hand, I honestly cannot remember what a single one of the dozens of conversations I was part of were about.

Why does any of this matter?   Where is the harm in empty chit-chat?

Very possibly it doesn’t.   Very possibly it was just five minutes or so of general (and important) male bonding. But was the chattering really harmless? Or was there maybe a little venom in there, just a little nip at someone “outside” the group? More importantly, did I miss an opportunity? Was there something in the context that I could have picked up on that signaled a subtle call for help? Is one of my friends secretly in need?

I’ll never know now. I didn’t listen, I just talked. I laughed, which is very important and wonderful, but why didn’t I listen? What might I have heard if I had just listened?

What I’m writing and why

As I mentioned in my last entry, I’m writing a book. It will be based upon much of what I have and will continue to publish here, and may hopefully touch, or even help someone in their own quest.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, God rest him, has been an incredible influence on me, as have Neale Donald Walsch, Deepak. Ester and Jerry Hicks, too.   Nearly every day I pick up another book and my eyes open a little further. While their part in my development undeniably influences and inhabits my writing, I think my background helps provide me with a new perspective, and may provide a new voice that will resonate with a new audience.

Some people feel, well, spoken at rather than spoken to when they see “M.D.” or “PhD” or “Dr.” on a book cover or a seminar ad. Maybe they’re intimidated, or maybe they’re self-conscious and uncomfortable around people they perceive to be of elevated station. My origin is a bit more humble. I don’t have a PhD, I sell cars. I don’t even have a degree. I’ve lived a life of self-loathing and self-destruction; personal worthlessness and despair. I’ve hated and hurt and spited and spat at life and all those who loved me, and who continued to love me through all of that. I’ve swallowed the bottle of pills and cut stripes into my flesh and broken my hand punching walls. I’ve been used and abused both mentally and emotionally and let it happen because it was better than being alone, and because (in my mind) I just didn’t deserve any better.

I want to touch people who have walked similar roads. I want to leave this world, whenever that happens, having made it a better place than when I arrived. I want to speak in MY voice, a new, different voice coming from a different perspective.

God lives in and of me just as God lives within you and everyone else. I’ve chased success and abundance away all my life. I’ve railed that I would never be happy. I’ve touched greatness and rejected it, knowing it couldn’t possibly last because I felt unworthy of it.

And I’m writing a book about personal redemption through the discovery of my own perfection and my own beautiful Godliness. I’m writing a book about your redemption. Your perfection. Your beautiful, unique, wonderful Godliness. Because you know something? We all sometimes feel as if wee need to redeem ourselves. We all occasionally feel worthless and irredeemable. And none of us are. NOBODY is. No one actually needs redemption, but knowing that, knowing and embracing that at your core, is a journey.   This will be the story of one way through that morass. Not the path, for I no more believe in only one path than I do in only one hair color. My path isn’t your path, but just maybe my path can teach you a little about your path. After all, like the hair analogy earlier, there are as many colors and shades and paths and destinies as stars in the sky, but we all return to where we came. We all find our destiny and our clarity. Just as all hair eventually fades or falls out, we all end up the same. It’s not the destination that matters, because the destination is inevitable.   You can’t fail. It’s all in the journey.

I’m as far from perfect as a human being can be, and I am totally perfect and absolutely beautiful as I am. I want to share with anyone with whom my voice may resonate that they are perfect and whole and complete right now. Without making a single change in their lives. The only flaw they have, the only flaw any of us have, is our own limited understanding of ourselves and our potential and the total divinity that is our birthright. Owning that perfection and accepting it is all anyone really needs to do, and I want to help them DO that. I want to change a life. I want to be part of the paradigm shift in perception that is needed in this world. I want to be here when human understanding reaches critical mass and the collective consciousness of humanity finally awakens with a gigantic gasp!

This life may not last long enough to witness that, but if I can help it along; if I can help just a few or even only one soul awaken to their purpose and potential, then I will know that MY song has been sung. When I close the door behind me on the way out, I will know that I did my part; I lived my dharma.

I’m writing a book.

Everything happens for a reason.

Heard that before, have you? Yeah, me too. The cliché meter just pegged, didn’t it?

Thing is, it’s 100% true. There are no coincidences, friends. No mistakes, no accidents.

I know that this is really, and I mean really easy to dismiss, but hang with me here…

My life honestly changed in a drastic manner when I embraced this. I stopped dreading inconvenience and avoiding things I usually found unpleasant.   I go from “dammit I can’t wait for this to be over” to “let’s see what the world wants to show me now”, and all of a sudden I’m de-stressed, have much more diverse experiences every day, and, oh yeah; making more money.

No. This is not a “think your way to riches” essay, nor should it be read as such. That said, every time I let my old pessimism and bitterness creep back in, I lose money. Deals fall through, customers don’t return calls, and stuff generally goes to shit.

So, I work very hard to keep “old Matthew” at bay, and live by the knowledge that (God/The Universe/Tao, etc) is leading me on the most advantageous path possible.

Like being lead to write.

To be clear, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. Even as my artwork took center stage in my life, I wrote. Poetry and verses of love for my Jacquelynn; cards and notes for friends and family; long notes to editors of magazines; I’ve even plotted and structured a few novels over the years without ever completing a single chapter. Fifteen years ago, I even entered a SciFi short story contest. But many of you here know that these last few years, my art took over more and more of my life. I loved it, too. I grew and developed quickly in my media of choice, and was juried into shows and sold calendars and t-shirts and prints online while building a fairly impressive inventory of originals. I had some limited success with commissions, too. Then, rather abruptly this spring, I found myself unable to settle into the studio.   Almost repulsed from it, honestly.   My established patterns were impossible to hew to, as I found myself reading and writing in the pre-dawn hours when I’ve always done my best artwork.

This was not a decision I made. I felt totally and irresistibly pushed away from the artwork and unable to step away from the writing. Simply put, I was being led, though I had yet to figure that out. I was being pushed and drawn to writing like I’d never been influenced to do anything since drill instructors stopped shouting at me to run faster and do one more pull ups.

Of course, this is a lot more fun than USMC PFTs

I felt horrible for neglecting the artwork, too. I’d been rising at four a.m. and dedicating the first 3-6 hours of my day to the work for three years like clockwork. I was as dependable as the sunrise, but more obsessed.   Then suddenly, nothing. Three key projects died unfinished or barely even begun.

But I couldn’t stop writing. In May, I started this blog to share my thoughts and insights, and I’m very grateful for you who read and listen and attend. Giving of your time to read my words is a very intimate gift, and I can only hope not to squander and waste it.

Now this blog and the thoughts behind it are becoming a book.

Yeah, I’m writing a book.

Some of you probably read on my Facebook page about my “Quantum Moment” last week while watching Dr. Wayne Dyer’s The Shift, a movie about just such moments. These quantum moments, according to Dr. Dyer, have four immutable characteristics:

1) They are very vivid. It’s impossible to mistake them for something else less significant.

2) They are invariably surprising. These aren’t moments you can plan or engineer. They happen suddenly and without warning.

3) They are always benevolent. They just feel right, and can bring no harm.

4) They are lasting. This is no fleeting “aha” that’s gone as quickly as it came. It stays with you forever as vividly as the instant it happened.

It was in that moment (which was actually about 90 minutes long, lasting from the final 45 minutes of the film to about that long after it ended) that I realized that I’d been writing a book all along. Again, I’ve always known I would write and publish a book. When I was young, I figured it’d be a comic book (who knows…still possible); I prepared a book proposal about how to draw dinosaurs once, and later I thought it would maybe be a book about my about my scratchboard work; but I absolutely knew I’d write a book.

Now I know. I know what and why and most of how. And I know that if I just continue to write, it will all happen.

Because I listened. I knew there had to be a reason for what was happening to me.   Why my precious, divine gift of drawing was no longer of use to me and my path. Even as I was doing what I considered to be by far the best work of my life.

And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m bursting with energy. I’m even, as I alluded to above, doing better at work.   And I’m touching people. The message is trickling out, and the book this will all become will help the trickle to become a stream, then a wash, and maybe eventually a flood. A Shift.

Not an accident, all this. No mistake. Not happenstance or coincidence.

Design. Intent.

Reason.

Again With The Empathy? Yes, and here’s why…

I’ve written repeatedly about empathy. The deeper I get into writing and exploring the concept, the more and more certain I become that empathy is the central theme in a spiritual life. The ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes is the driving force behind every kindness and philanthropy we commit, and if we as a race could but embrace this simple concept which even the most unexpected of nature’s creatures inherently grasp, universal peace and prosperity would be the inevitable result.

By now, most of us have read the story and seen the photos of the mother leopard who killed the mother baboon only to hear it’s infant crying and screaming in the tree. The pictures made headlines and were an internet sensation, chronicling the leopard’s climb into the tree to retrieve the baby ape, then nursing it. Empathy, folks. Recently, another similar but more debated video made the rounds showing an immense hippo cow helping a struggling zebra calf across a fast-moving river.   Many weigh in about what we don’t see, what happens next, etcetera, but I say that none of that matters. Nature is nature, and baboons are prey for leopards, just as hippos are just as likely to kill anything in their section of river as they are to aid (or ignore) it. So what? These acts prove the power of empathy and heart-based decision making. And if human cameras have captured these events, just imagine how many such things happen that human eyes have never beheld?

Why is it so difficult for us to walk by a hungry, homeless person and not help? What drives the guilt with its nasty undercurrent of disgust? Because we see ourselves there. That’s why some get angry and why some can’t look them in the eye and why some simply can’t walk by without trying to help. Because we know in our hearts and souls that it’s really us sitting there, hoping someone will help. This connection we all feel, this immutable, undeniable recognition that we really are all one, all individual cells in the one being that is creation, this is what drives charity and compassion, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s why we invite dogs and cats and birds into our families. It’s why firefighters run toward the danger.

It’s Empathy, and it’s built in. Hard-wired into our systems. It’s why we cringe and run to the window when we hear the tires squeal and the metal crunch in the street behind the house. It’s why we hold hands and hope (or pray, if that’s your thing) that no one’s badly hurt, and why we applaud and cheer when we see the victims walk away.

But somewhere along the way, we learn to ignore it, to turn the volume down and work around it. We walk past enough homeless people that it becomes easy. We replace our prayers for safety with muttered curses about damn crazy drivers. We wait in anticipation for the leopard to rip the baby baboon’s throat out.

And we push the “close doors” button on the elevator as someone is rushing toward us shouting “hold please!”. We avoid the contact that causes us to feel connected. Avert our eyes. Shut ourselves out. This is how we separate. This is the origin. This is war and persecution and divorce and racism and every difference and every rift we perceive in humanity. And it’s all an illusion.

There is a Native American phrase that pops up frequently in New Age thought (I couldn’t tell you which of the First Nations is its source) which tells us that “There is no tree whose branches are foolish enough to fight amongst themselves”. The tree knows it’s branches are all connected, and the branches know it too.   Their quest to survive and thrive is a cooperative effort. Internecine war would impede that survival. The trees also provide shade and oxygen and fruits and nuts for the rest of the forest. Symbiosis.   Awfully similar to the concept of empathy.

All this may seem kind of rambling to you, and a bit left-field, “airy-fairy” in nature. It is a nebulous conversation, I admit. I’m grateful you’ve stuck around and read this far. Now allow it to sink in just a bit if you would.   Contemplate your own feelings and explore precisely why you react the way you do when the homeless person sticks their hand out. Whether you look away or cross the street or slip them a fiver or sit down next to them and strike up a conversation. Ask yourself “Why?” If you’re afraid or intimidated, look at what causes that feeling. Is it because you feel that you’d be bitter or angry in their shoes?   Are you embarrassed that you don’t have any cash to give them and you’re sure that they wouldn’t believe you if you said so?

Just look inside. That’s all I’ll ever ask of you here. Allow yourself to experience the connections. Open yourself to a connected, shared existence. Feel it.  And think what humanity could accomplish if everyone felt it.

The Atheists Have It Right (well, partly, anyway…)

In my reading last evening, I was reminded of the close-minded nature of many versions and types of monotheistic religions. I was raised a Protestant Christian, for example, so I’ll speak only from my own experience:

“The only way to salvation is to accept Christ as savior and achieve forgiveness through him.”

“We are born in sin.”

“In Heaven only perfection exists, and we are all imperfect.”

The restrictions and limitations go on-and-on, but you get the idea. It’s likely that everyone reading this was raised, regardless of which church you attended, with similar ideas.   It seems that there are as many “Only Way”s as there are religions, or even denominations. From my youth, I’ve had a very deep issue with these ideas. Even infants, we’re told, are impure and unworthy unless cleansed in Christ’s (symbolic) blood. So, the God whom I’ve been taught IS love and “so loved the world” damns even those who have had no exposure to His word? Third world children born into hunger and filth deserve damnation simply because they were born? Ancient aboriginal cultures across the world have been sent to hell for millennia simply because they didn’t know?

We’re even told that eternal damnation to the fiery pits of hell for our sins is PROOF of God’s love. For his love keeps Heaven pure and perfect, and gives us mere sinners something to strive for.

Is it any wonder that so many people rebel from the idea that they are inherently flawed and unworthy of existence? Can it really be considered surprising that millions recoil from in-born exclusion from eternity?

It is my thought that atheism was born from this “my-way-or-the-highway” dogma that’s prevalent in so many of the world’s monotheistic religions.

One can hardly blame people for backing away from the concept of a vengeful, jealous, insecure deity who doles out his gifts and favors only to those who worship and prostrate themselves before him. Sounds like a pharaoh to me. Or any earthly demagogue. Certainly not like a loving, benevolent Creator.

Could it possibly be that humans have created, in their need to justify their own unsavory and base emotional needs, a “God” with those very same needs? Could it be that churches the world over, regardless of which “god” they’re built to follow, use this need for a god who shares our instabilities and weaknesses to cow and control their flocks? Is it just possible that the richest institutions on the planet came to be so through the gifts of those they shepherded into “tithing” of their personal fortunes?

Many, even most, churches do wonderful work in this world with the moneys tithed to them. Saintly, Godly work. I’m not questioning that and I’m certainly not condemning it. Any good, charitable work is worthy of my and your gratitude and support. The idea that the institutions may be flawed in concept does nothing to diminish the many, many good works they do.

Still, in their withdrawing from the idea of begging for forgiveness and in taking personal responsibility for their place in this world, the atheists have it right.

Not that there isn’t a God, for of course and obviously there is, but the idea that God is separate from us, and that God is some grandfatherly white male sitting on a heavenly throne doling out his favors according to who gives the most or sacrifices more greatly is one of the most heinous and limiting lies ever told, and we as a people, always ready to believe in our own limits and flaws, have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

God is EVERYTHING. God is the air you’re breathing right now. God is the dirt you planted your bell peppers in. God is the pigeon cooing on your window sill.   God is you. And me. God is the inimitable sunrise and the terrifying storm. Even Christ said  “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”‘? (John 10:34).

Every night, as I drift off to sleep, I affirm verbally my status as a part of God. I have the same creative power within my life as God has. I accept responsibility for every negative event in my life and I give myself credit for every positive event as well. I live in and constantly express my gratitude and therefore am continuously presented with more to be grateful for.

God lives in me, and God lives in you. I don’t care WHO you are. God lives and lived in every human and every rabbit and every tree that ever existed. Each lived their manifestations on this earth and then moved on, just as do we.   Our human need for punishment and justice is just that, a human need.

I’ve heard it said many, many times in my life: “There’s a special kind of hell reserved for _____.” My personal take is that to believe that is its own special kind of hell. To darken your heart with a desire for another to suffer eternally is a hell all its own. Instead, choose (it is always a choice) to love and forgive. Your hatred and vengeance and lust for another’s suffering doesn’t punish anyone but yourself, darkening your own path and affecting no one else’s in any way.

There is a God. God loves you. God loves atheists. God loves dictators. God exists in all of us, including those in whom we perceive only darkness. Consider making the effort to see God in everyone you encounter. Seeing God in the soaring hawk and in the changing leaves is relatively easy, but try seeing divinity in the jerk who stole your parking spot. Look for God in the guy at work who swipes your lunch from the communal fridge.

See holiness in the dead eyes of the murderer on trial on network television.

God is there. As surely as God is in the sunset, God is there as well. Don’t hate even there; don’t spend the glory and beauty of your soul on hatred. Not even there.