What made Jesus different than the rest of us?

Darla.Butterfly2

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Consider the possibility that Jesus invites us to understand ourselves inside of the truth of who he was and is.

In Jesus’ birth, we learn he had both a divine and human origin. In other words, Jesus was a mix of divine DNA (God) and human DNA (Joseph and Mary). This is also true for each of us. Our fundamental Self is an expression or manifestation of the image, likeness, and being of God. That Self is one with God – always has been, is in every moment, and always will be. There is no separation.That Self took on humanity through the process of being born into this world. Jesus was both divine and human, and this is true of us.

Jesus died. His death is a reminder that part of the “truth” he claimed about himself included the impermanence of his human body and mind. Why did Jesus have to die? Because every human being has to die. The body and mind we are born into and develop over the course of our lifetime is not permanent. There is nothing wrong with this. It is not a problem to solve or overcome. The impermanence of our human body and mind does not compromise the truth; it is part of it. Like Jesus, we all will die. In the Bible, Jesus refers to us as his siblings, together in one family. We all have a common origin in God, and we all share the reality of our humanity and the human journey.

Jesus never died. That seems like a contradiction to what I just said. What I mean in this case is that the essence and nature of Jesus is permanent. At the most fundamental level where Jesus and God are one – that reality has no end, and cannot be diminished, compromised, threatened, disturbed, or terminated. This was the basis for Jesus appeal to his disciples to accept his human death in order that they might embrace his underlying spiritual identity. Jesus discouraged others from becoming attached to his human personality, and instead challenged people to find the truth of who he was inside themselves. In my mind, this is what we are celebrating at Easter – the eternal nature of our true Self that never dies but always lives and one with God.

Organized Christianity memorializes Jesus in his birth, death, and resurrection. Jesus taught that the truth of each of these were meant to be claimed as truth for ourselves. What I think is especially different about Jesus was not his birth, death or resurrection, but the life he lived. Jesus gave full expression to the truth of God and humankind as one. We are told in the gospels that Jesus himself went through a process of self-actualization – fully recognizing and expressing the truth of his identity. And then that day came when Jesus spoke those words with full awareness, “I am the truth.”

These are the words that we must now claim for ourselves and live.

(Photo by Darla Winn)

I don’t read my Amazon reviews (and other strange habits as a writer)

JimPalmer

12 Random Things About Me As An Author:

1. It was never a goal of mine to become an author. My writing career started when a publishing house contacted me and asked if I would write a book.
2. I don’t read my Amazon reviews because I take negative reviews too personally.
3. The promotion and marketing side of publishing doesn’t suit me well. I have an aversion to self-promotion, which is not good since it’s a critical part of making a living as a writer.
4. Despite my publishing house turning down The Shack, I wrote the first endorsement that appears in the book.
5. Never learned how to type, but I’ve perfected the hunt-and-peck method, using my middle fingers.
6. Typically I listen to music as a write. Half of Wide Open Spaces was written to U2. Several chapters in my books have been written to film scores.
7. My publishing contract for Being Jesus in Nashville was canceled because the book was determined to be “outside biblical orthodox Christianity.”
8. I still play my cards close to my vest. There’s a lot that has happened in my life that has never made it into a book.
9. I wish I had thicker skin. Being an author isn’t such a good match for someone who wears their heart on their sleeve.
10. I secretly wish that the people who hate me the most will come around and we’ll be friends.
11. My best writing time is 3:30 a.m.
12. I consider myself a better speaker than a writer, but I don’t like being the center of attention, and I abhor being given any kind of special status because of it.

When the Gospel is a lie

ExcuseMe

Personal Enemy # 1 -> Shame

I’ve been pondering lately what holds me back on my journey. I know shame does. Shame is normally deeply rooted in a person, especially those who have endured severe abuse, whether it be mental, emotional, physical or sexual. Shame is the feeling and belief of being flawed and defective. Before you even recognize it or can defend yourself against it, shame severs your soul and pierces you to the core with feelings of distrust, ugliness, stupidity, doubt, worthlessness, inferiority, and unworthiness. It makes you feel different. It tells you something is wrong with you. It soils your divine identity. There are some days when I expend way too much time and energy in this conversation in my head about what’s wrong with me. At every turn I am finding something else I don’t like about myself or another way I’m not measuring up. On some days, the moment my eyes open and feet hit the floor, shame appears and follows me like a shadow. It can be the master emotion. It’s that internal voice, whispering words of condemnation. The pain of it can be so intense, that you learn to numb out so you no longer feel it.

Too often religion adds fuel to the fire by telling us that God shares this same disgust about who we are. After a childhood and youth of abuse, I turned to religion to save me from my prison. Instead, it threw away the key.

What people often hear as the so-called Christian gospel is:

“You are a filthy, dirty, incurable scumbag. God is perfectly holy. If it were up to God you’d be tossed into Hell to burn in conscious torment forever. That’s what you deserve by being you. That’s how bad you are. Thankfully, God worked this out by brutally executing his innocent son by death on a cross. If you believe and accept this along with other central doctrines, God will forgive you. God will never be fond of a scumbag like you, but at least you’ll make it into Heaven when you die. In the meantime, you’re off the hook because when God looks at scumbag you, God magically doesn’t really see scumbag you; he sees Jesus instead. You will never amount to much in God’s eyes anyway. But how amazing that God loves someone like you who doesn’t deserve it.”

None of the above is true.

You are not bad. You are not separated from God. You are not repulsive to God. Jesus did not die to save you from God. Please stop telling your children this.

Too often religion tells people that Christ is of the same substance as God but that we are a different class of being, inferior and unworthy, who deserve eternal punishment. By reinforcing this sense of separation and inadequacy, the church teaches us to think and act like sinners. The religious notion of our original badness is a ball and chain that prevents us from embracing our original goodness.

 

 

Moving on, letting go, and the conflict of religious holidays

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Let’s say you are standing on the banks of a river and decide that you’d like to live in the land on the other side. So, you find a canoe, start paddling, and successfully make the journey there. Once you make it to the other side, would it be necessary to strap the canoe to your back and lug it around on your back all the time? Of course not, the canoe did it’s job by getting you there; it served its purpose.

Likewise on our spiritual journey, there are many different tools that help us get unstuck, resolve or address something, or stretch out into new dimensions of freedom. Once you get unstuck, resolve the issue, or find the freedom, that tool (concept, teaching, understanding, practice) did its job and served its purpose. My point here is that it is okay to move on. You may start to feel a bit bored or empty with some of the concepts, teachings, understandings, and practices that were once very significant and worthwhile for you. It’s okay. That’s what happens. There’s nothing wrong with that. The letting go part can be a bit uncomfortable, and sometimes you’re not quite sure what’s next. But holding on too long when it’s time to move on will only deepen that emptiness, and make you sick inside.

I’ve been wondering this week if this even applies to religious holidays. The thought crossed my mind with Easter approaching. My personal interest in Jesus has steadily grown over the years as I have personally become less and less connected to organized Christianity. But despite my interest in Jesus, the idea of celebrating religious holidays doesn’t resonate with me personally anymore. Even for a period before now it seemed like I was simply going though the motions. Can anyone else relate to this? How has it played out for you? I don’t think this is a “right” or “wrong” thing. I’m just sharing where I am.

 

Everything I needed to know about God (I learned at Waffle House)

WaffleHouse

Chapter 3 of Divine Nobodies is titled: “Waffle House Theology (Wanda the Waitress).” Wanda was a waitress I got to know at a nearby Waffle House that I often went to. She was an important person in my journey of shedding religion to find God. I’m not sure I’d even be here if it weren’t for Wanda. I received word today that Wanda died of pancreatic cancer.

That’s all I have to say about that…

“For years, I prided myself on having right theology, but Wanda got me thinking about whether any theology can be “right” if it doesn’t motivate you to treat people with love and respect. For whatever you did for the waitresses, cashiers, and all the other invisible people we cross paths with each day… you did unto me.”

- Jim Palmer, Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to find God (and the unlikely people who help you)

Acceptance is not tolerance (and you are beautiful the way you are)

Darla.Butterfly2

“I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. If you could, you would see just how beautiful you are, and the extraordinary miracle of being you. If you could climb inside of me right now and feel what I feel for and about you, you would know you are accepted and loved… all of you… just the way you are, and you would never again doubt your worth or your place in this world. Don’t confuse the word “acceptance” with “tolerance.” It’s not that you are a tolerable you. You are that priceless piece of art, that song that brings tears to your eyes, that sunset that moves you, takes your breath away and satisfies every molecule of your being. I don’t “tolerate” you, I dance and celebrate you! I wish right now you could sink down into and bask in the warmth of knowing all that you are.

But you won’t believe this about yourself. Instead, you are seeking worth, love, acceptance, security, peace, worth and happiness out there in the world. So you live in fear.

You fear failure because you have a misplaced dependency upon “success” for value and worth. You fear rejection because you have a misplaced dependency upon others’ opinions and responses to you for acceptance. You fear financial loss because you have a misplaced dependency upon money for peace and security. You fear abandonment because you have a misplaced dependency upon others for love. You fear God because you have a misplaced dependency upon religion that measures your value against your performance. You fear aging or not having the perfect body because you have a misplaced dependency on physical appearance for worth and acceptance. You fear honesty because you have a misplaced dependency on an image of having it all together for a sense of identity. You fear being a nobody because you have a misplaced dependency upon being a somebody for a sense of purpose and meaning and value.

Listen to me. Even if you could achieve all those things, they would not satisfy or fill what you long for. Somewhere out there along the way in your drive to succeed, your game of image management and pleasing others, your dutiful religious obedience, your obsession with losing weight and being thin, and carrying that monkey on your back to be special and significant or at least not found out… somewhere out there along the way in all of that you are going to lose something invaluable… yourself.

Do you get that? You’ll lose you – the you I see right now… the beautiful you, the worthy you, the good you, the loved you, the extraordinary you. Do you see? Even if, by doing all those things, you gained the whole world, you would forfeit you.

I’m going to ask something of you that isn’t going to be easy because it’s going to require you to trust me. Right now you are carrying a story inside your head about yourself that isn’t true, and you’re going to spend your entire life forfeiting yourself and losing your life trying to fight or disprove that story. I’m asking you to start seeing you through my eyes. I’m asking you to be open to the possibility that there is nothing wrong with you and never was. That you have nothing to earn, nothing to prove or disprove, that you can bury that fictitious story, and start living the truth. They say the truth is always better than fiction. See that for yourself. That other story will kill you piece by piece until there’s nothing left. But living the truth of who you are is going to open up a life of possibilities you could have never dreamed and would have never achieved out there chasing the carrot of acceptance.

There’s nothing wrong with you. There is no obstacle to overcome here except yourself. You can do this! You can step into the real story of who you are. Part of the old story is that you can’t. Not true. I wouldn’t have asked if I knew you couldn’t. Sure, it’s going to be a process. You going to have good days and bad days. But then one of those days… somewhere out there along the everyday paths of life when you least expect it… it will sneak up on you and suddenly you will indeed see yourself through my eyes.

Then we’ll both dance.”

- Jesus, Luke 9:25, The Religion-Free Bible (Jim Palmer)

Sometimes the spiritual path is leaving your abuser

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“No little girl says I hope I grow up one day to be in an abusive relationship.
No little boy says I hope I grow up one day to abuse a woman.

But it happens. It happens every day, and you’re not the only one. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every day in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

You are not alone.

No little boy says he wants to grow up and beat women but this is what your husband or partner did and does. That’s not your fault. You can’t change that. That’s not your responsibility to carry. That’s not your problem to solve. You didn’t cause it. You cannot fix it. What he does or doesn’t do is outside your control and you cannot do it for him. This is something only he can choose and do for himself.

Your true Self that is one with God assumed a mind and body in order to have a human existence. You are here because you want to be. This is what you chose. You chose to be human.

There’s nothing you can do about any moment of your life that has preceded this moment. All that matters is this present moment. There is 100% of the rest of your life left. And the way forward is to be present to what’s in your life right now, and respond as the situation requires. This is your spiritual path.

You are in an abusive relationship and the situation requires you to separate yourself from your abuser and quite likely terminate the relationship. If someone has told you that you are obligated to stay with your abusive husband or partner for religious reasons, they have placed a burden on you that God doesn’t. Show me the Bible verse that says this. I have a Master of Divinity degree and have vigorously studied every verse in the Bible and have never come across one.

Sometimes what life situations require is difficult, and this is certainly true in the case of leaving an abuser. What it means right now for you to live a spiritual life is not going to church, reading your Bible, or volunteering your time to serve others in need. That you would feed the hungry, forgive an insult, or love your enemy are all noble and worthwhile deeds. The scriptures say that whatever we do unto the least of these we do unto Christ. But what happens when the “least of these” is you? What if the “least of these” is that woman who wakes up each day in fear of being controlled, abused, and battered? You hide it from the world and refuse to admit it to yourself that the “least of these” you most need to love and care for is… you.

You already know that the situation requires you leaving your abuser. But you also believe a story about yourself that isn’t true. The story is about how you’re not capable of leaving. The story says you’re not smart enough, strong enough, confident enough, or competent enough to make it on your own financially and successfully establish a life of independence. And so in your mind the option of leaving is an impossibility.

That story is a lie.”

- Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge 

Is it okay to be sick? Do I lack the faith to be healed?

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I often receive emails from people about the subject of healing, which motivated me to write the below post.

Our original, fundamental, eternal Self is a manifestation of the image, likeness and being of God. That Self is complete, whole, and permanent. That Self cannot be improved or diminished. That Self is in no need or improvement, transformation, or enlightenment. That Self took on a human mind and body in order to have a human experience, and to give human expression to that eternal Self. Unlike that Self, our human mind and body are not permanent. Our human body and mind changes, is shaped and impacted by our environment, circumstances, conditions and a variety of influences. The human mind and body deteriorates, is susceptible to illness and disease, and eventually stops functioning. Ultimately, we all die. This is part of the deal with respect to being human.

There are several things to recognize about this:

1. The impermanence of the mind and body is not wrong.

A characteristic of the human mind and body is its impermanence. Is the sky wrong for being blue? Is a fish wrong because it cannot live outside of water? Is a turtle wrong because it is slow? Of course not, those are simply their particular characteristics. The human mind and body are capable of extraordinary feats, but a characteristic of both is that they are impermanent. The limitations of the human mind and body is not a spiritual problem. The deterioration of the human mind and body is not a spiritual problem. Illness and disease is not a spiritual problem. When your human mind and body stops functioning, that’s not a spiritual problem. We should not make these realities of the human mind and body wrong.

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Sincerely, Tired Tony

DearJim

“Dear Jim,

I’ve got this problem. How do you balance and live in the tension of relationships with fellow Christians, and yet being focused on non-Christians?

Sincerely, Tired Tony”

***

Dear Tired Tony,

I’m thinking you might have become a victim fo the “us” and “them” mentality, in this case, “Christian” and “non-Christian.” You might be surprised to learn that such labels were rarely if ever used in the Bible. Even the label “Christian” was originally born out of a derogatory reference people used to identify Christ followers, making fun of how they imitated Jesus.

Tony, who really is a “Christian?” Is it someone who has all the proper “Christian” theological answers? And who’s to say what those are exactly? I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are many different interpretations of the scriptures, each person claiming their view is correct. But even if someone could claim having correct Christian theology, what if that person’s life didn’t resemble anything like the life Jesus lived? Would that person be a “Christian?” And what about a person with an intellectual or learning disability? Can they be a “Christian?” Is a “Christian” someone who prayed the “Jesus prayer”? And what if their motivation for doing so was to make their girlfriend happy?

And Tony, who is the “non-Christian?” As far as i know, every human being deep down desires the abundant life Jesus spoke of – a life of love, peace, freedom, and contentment. Also, every human being (consciously or unconsciously) is seeking that life one way or another. Tony, have you arrived yet in living that life? How far do you or anyone have to go before you jump out of one label into the other? Does it change moment by moment – you live in alignment with the spiritual teachings of Jesus and you are a “Christian,” you live out of sync with Jesus’ spiritual teachings and you are a “non-Christian?”

Tony, try this. See every human being as a living, breathing image, reflection, or expression of God. Keep in mind that every person you know or meet desires what you desire, and, like you, is seeking them the best way they know how. People also fear the same things you do, Tony. You’d be surprised by how much alike we all really are at the deepest level. Assume that every person has learned something valuable on their journey that you could benefit from. Whoever it is, focus your energies on affirming and encouraging the truth you see in other people. Forget about trying to find the right label to pin on them. Instead, desire love, peace, well-being, and freedom for every person. Have compassion on every person you meet, and be a tangible expression of God’s love as you go. By doing this, you are living in the way Jesus lived.

What Tony, are you going to relate differently to people based on whatever label you suppose is right for them? Did Jesus do this? Did he treat the people labeled as “sinners” as less than other people? Tony, while you’re at it you might as well drop all your other human labels by which you judge people. Instead, just go with this: every person is 100% human; every person is 100% and equally created as an expression of the image, likeness, and being of God; every person is 100% loved and accepted by God; and every person is equally 100% invited to embrace the spiritual abundance that Jesus lived and offered. We are all here to help each other shed the obstacles that are hindering us, and to live the truth together.

Hope this helps.

Jim

Is the kingdom of God Utopia?

WeThePeople2

“Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labelled naive, utopian, starry-eyed, or idealistic. That’s the big lie that prevents us from accepting the teaching of Jesus that the kingdom of God – love, liberation, and harmony – is here now, fully intact, invincible, and waiting to be born through your life.”

- Jim Palmer

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