About Michael Resman

I'm a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist. I now write books and serve as Clerk of the Rochester MN Monthly Meeting. I've helped helped edit WCTS and serve as the organizer for our gatherings. Since July 5th, I'm a grandpa!

Obedience

I contributed to these blogs primarily to help prepare participants for our second gathering of Quaker mystics. Knowing that a blog is a very public forum, I hoped to contribute in the wider world to supporting individual’s spirituality.
During our gathering, someone said, “It’s time to heal.” Someone else asked, “How do you spell that?” and many laughed. My mind jumped to the spelling ‘heel’.
For years, I strived to be God’s faithful dog – coming when God said come, sitting when told to sit, and heeling when commanded. Obedience has been one of the touchstones of my spiritual life.
I began writing when told to do so, and now understand that I should not write. Paradoxically, I have four spiritual children’s books in various stages of production and a spiritual autobiography that I’m supposed to shepherd to completion.
I will obey, and this will be my last blog – unless I’m again led to participate.
God Bless,
Mike

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Self Interest

I wish it were true that altruism automatically conferred security, comfort, acceptance and respect to all those involved. I believe instead that self-interest is what drives most of us, most of the time. That certainly is true for me. Questions then rise about what our self-interests are. What would make my life wonderful?

I read with interest the comments of a woman who works in the media. She experienced a health crises from working 18 hour days and concluded that she needed to examine her priorities. She decided that pursuing wealth and power shouldn’t take precedence over her health, and built more sleep and exercise into her week.

Caring for her health will increase the likelihood that she will be able to pursue wealth and power for longer, but will all her efforts result in a life she views as meaningful, joyful and satisfying?

What is best for us? What do we even use as a yardstick to measure the concept ‘best’. I’ve seen studies that suggest that wealthy people aren’t happier than the general population and it appears to me that those in power often don’t seem to be enjoying it.

We are animals, with the essential needs of any animal – air, water, food, an appropriate environmental temperature and health. We are here because of ancestral urges to procreate. We are social creatures with needs for companionship, community and communication. Our humanity adds layers of desire for beauty, meaning, respect, self-expression and love.

How are we to fulfill all of this – for that are is what we seek – to have not merely some, but all of our needs and wants met. We are surrounded by answers. Some from the media which tells us such silly things as buying a certain kind of toilet paper will bring happiness. More pernicious are suggestions that we need to look a certain way or own the correct objects to be worthy, accepted, important, successful, attractive.

As ubiquitous as these messages are, they probably influence us less than the fact that we are surrounded by people who act as if the media messages are true. Conversations with relatives, friends and colleagues include references to getting and wanting. If those we know and care about are focused on these methods of finding not merely happiness, but fulfillment, surely we should be focused on them as well.

The trouble is that none of this will bring lasting satisfaction. Think of your favorite food. Think of how good it would make you feel to eat a large portion. No matter how good you feel after eating it, in a short while you will want it again.

The same holds true for whatever purchase you feel will make you happy. It might, but it won’t for long. If you’re fortunate, in time that ‘thing’ will merely become familiar. Too often it will wear out, require effort to be maintained or protected, and will be replaced in your desires by something new.

Take a moment. What would make you happiest? Money? Power? Success? Each of those could also lead to isolation and insecurity, for each could be lost.

How about relationships – being part of a family, group or community? Put more simply, how about love? Not the romantic all-encompassing love with a mythical perfect partner; but companionship, concern, acceptance and respect that can connect friends, extended families and collegial groups. Caring about one another. Caring for one another.

For me, the best form of living on this human plane is this type of interpersonal connectedness. It requires significant time and resources. It creates complications and inconveniences. The older I get, the more see the importance of family and friends.

What I own, what I accomplish falls away when compared to a warm greeting from a friend or family member.

Where does loving God fall into a consideration of what’s best for us? To love God completely is to lose control of one’s life. God may demand hard things of us, including setting us on a difficult and lonely road. Why would we pursue a relationship with God?

I’ve known three gifts that flowed from paying attention to God – spiritual joy, serenity and tastes of heaven on earth. They come and go, depending on how wisely I’m conducting myself.

Spiritual joy is different from the exuberant happiness on the faces of the winning team’s fans. Spiritual joy comes from knowing God loves us. That knowing sparks an emotional response in our heart and soul that transcends human concerns. I can be ill, hurting, grieving or fearful – and yet joyful under those feelings because God loves me. That awareness can fade if I become preoccupied with concerns of this world. But joy will return when my life is more balanced.

Serenity comes from the experience of God’s forgiveness. A certainty that God will love me and that I will eventually be in heaven frees me from fear. So much of contemporary life, even in our affluent society, is tinged with fear. Fear of losing jobs, spouses, investments, possessions, status. Fear of failure, rejection, illness and death.

What a blessing to be able to replace all of this with serenity. Yes, I will know illness, loss, failures and rejection. All that pales in relation so the fact that God will always love me. It’s a question of priority, and mine is God’s love.

While I can often feel spiritual joy and serenity, I have only briefly known heaven on earth. In those moments, I feel connected first to God, as well all that is on the earth. All is well, because I am right with God. I know joy, bliss and peace. What a blessing to be so aware of God’s presence.

This happens when my will is perfectly aligned with God’s. I want nothing other than what God wants. The trouble is that as a weak, flawed, damaged and selfish human, I so rarely can manage to align my will with God’s.

I want, I want, I want. And in that wanting is my frustration and misery. Buddhists have it right. Desire is the basis of suffering. If only I had the wisdom and self-control to put aside wants and reach for God.

Matthew 16:25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

HEAVEN

The notion of heaven seems distant, hazy and largely irrelevant to many Christians. Sure, it probably exists. Yes many hope – perhaps even expect – to get there. But they have no idea what it’s like, are not absolutely certain that it exists, and it isn’t something they base their life on.
Some religious leaders –past and present – have explained heaven’s details while others said that no one knows what it’s like.
I can refute some of that in my own life, for in a time of crises I was lifted to heaven and spent 10 minutes in the presence of God. That 10 minutes transformed my life.
I walked away from that experience with two understandings – that God is Perfect Love, and heaven is forever.
When in heaven, I was immersed in a love as big as all the love all that mothers throughout history have poured out for their children. And for the first time I understood the immensity of forever, for I could see that I would know this love for eternity.
God is love. God loves me. Two simple sentences, only three words each. When fully embraced, they are big enough to encircle our lives. What bliss! What perfection!
Everyone goes to heaven. Perfect Love wouldn’t send someone out into this life, knowing they wouldn’t be able to return. We don’t get to heaven because we deserve it, but because God is merciful.
How can we know whether any of this is true? My suggestion is to spend some time, every day, with God. Pray, meditate, contemplate. Walk, dance, drum, sing. See God in the eyes of a child or the beauty of a flower. Watch God at work in an emergency room.
Turn your thoughts to God however briefly, but deliberately, every day. And if you miss a day, start again. All that God requires of us is our attention. We can be weak, flawed, selfish and self-centered. In fact, we all are. All we need to do is turn our face to God.
God is love. God loves me.
But how is reaching out to God going to teach us anything about heaven?
Heaven is being fully in the presence of God. When we connect with God, in whatever small way, we sample heaven.
When we know that God is love – bountiful, wonderful Perfect Love – we understand that God is merciful. We can mess up again, and again and again. And God will forgive and love us. We can deliberately turn away from God for our own selfish desires. And when we crawl back, God loves us.
Knowing – absolutely knowing – that God is love and God loves us changes so many things. We don’t have to worry. What’s the worst that could happen? You’d die and go to heaven, to live in Perfect Love forever. That’s certainly nothing to fear. Pain, yes; the transition to death, yes because it’s unknown. But death itself? No fear.
I don’t fear failing – even at tasks God has given me. I don’t fear that I will behave badly. I’ve done both, repeatedly, and discovered afterward that God loves me.
A life based on the reality of heaven and facing God also leads to a great deal of soul searching.
I have seen that when we are on this earth, we are largely blind and limited. In heaven, we will see the totality of how we spent our time on this earth. It’s not God’s judgment that we need to fear, but our own.
We will watch how the ripples spread from our good – and bad – behavior. On earth, the only infinite capacity humans seem to have is self-justification. Now we will see inside ourselves, and know the spectrum of motivations – many ignoble – that fueled our self-centeredness.
This life isn’t fair. Justice comes in heaven when the scales are pulled from our eyes and we spend eternity aware of the harm we’ve caused.
There are those things we’ve done wrong, and the things we failed to do. Those of us in the first world are willfully blind to the sanctity of all lives. We choose to ignore injustice, poverty and starvation. I have glimpsed that all of us in this first world will spend eternity surrounded by the souls of those whose needs we ignored.
Doesn’t sound like heaven does it? Not a place many people would like to be. The only thing that could make it bearable is the overwhelming presence of a loving and merciful God. Bathed in that mercy, we will be able to carry the burden of harm we contributed to when we were on earth.
We will also see the good we have done, and will be surrounded by those we loved.
All this has lead me to live a life based on the reality of heaven. I look forward to dying, for I know what waits for me. It is sobering however to realize that I’ll be faced forever with the consequences of what I do while on this earth. I am keenly aware of the pain in much of the world, and bend my charitable giving in that direction.
Does all this make me weird? I suppose it does, for the question is constantly in my head, “What does God want?” I ask because I love God and want to live in obedience. I also ask because I know I will eventually be faced with the answer.