On Spiritual Matters

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith.

Laird Smith

On Spiritual Matters

Auntie Kay and Wally Smith attended the Oliver United Church the whole time they lived in the Oliver district. They and a number of fruit grower families as well as the odd teacher and town businessmen and their families also faithfully attended and supported the Church. It was that same Church where we children heard about Jesus Christ and God.

My understanding of God was limited to a great peace I sensed when I was in our dew or rain laden garden one morning at the age of four. How “church” related to that peace, I did not know. Even as a teenager I was unable to understand how God related to where I was at. For me it was all very confusing, but I was always a seeker of that elusive peace.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a series in ODN (a news aggregation site – rjb) about my experience with a Christian control church which influenced me for 27 years. My summary of that 27 years, 5 of which were spent reprogramming myself so I could live apart from the control church, was that I have not been able to define who God is. I just know there is something greater than myself. There is a goodness in the world which we can either fight or do our best to live with ( for lack of a better word ) the entity.

Leaving the control church was the best move for me at that time. I was reintroduced to the real world through driving taxi at night. Dealing with intoxicated people awakened me very fast to reality. In fact, I would say that the intoxicated are on the same level as the religious radicals, in that you are unable to reason with either of them. They both have their minds set and that is the way it has to be. As a taxi driver, trying to get everyone home safely, those opinions cannot be discussed even if they are so prejudiced and so wrong and so damaging, I just had to ignore them and get on with the job.

When I belonged to Toastmasters International, we were taught that constructive criticism is the foundation of change. The formula was in two parts; first point out a problem and second provide a solution. If only the problem is pointed out then we are just complainers. If no solution is provided then don’t bring up the problem. In the three control churches I attended ( in three different cities ), none of them taught their members how to provide constructive criticism. When criticism was leveled at the leadership, and it had spread, they blamed it on disgruntled, sinful members, and charged the whole congregation as being guilty so all had to pay. That came in the form of repentance as a group. For the incident I’m thinking of, the senior Pastor commanded seven hundred people to rise from their chairs during the morning service, and stand side by side ringing the sanctuary. The Pastor told everyone to kneel, I could not, being a critically minded Toastmaster. I remained standing trying to melt into the wall because I was the only member left standing. The Pastor commanded all to repent, I could not, again because the whole event was faulty. When all was said and done, I was never reproached for not participating.

One Biblical concept that I try to live by is to “be my brothers’ keeper.” We can also extend that to being a keeper of this good Earth. Help when you can, let someone drive in before you, open a door, pick up paper off the street, help paint a fence, walk a dog, etc, etc.

Several years ago I had two TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks,) known as mini strokes. After the first one, I experienced life in a way I’d not seen before. Every day was a delight! Being alive was wonderful! I had moments when a stream of euphoria would rise up from somewhere within me, absolutely delighting me, then something would interrupt me and the euphoria would be gone. I sensed a closeness to a divine presence unlike anything I’d ever had. The peace was there constantly, no longer elusive. I could think clearly when tackling a problem and then I knew the solution. That lasted twenty nine days then the second TIA took it all away, not that I’m unhappy with being alive, just that being alive is more difficult than it was, and the peace is back to being elusive.

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to spend time in a different frame of mind. I’ve always known there is something greater than us humans. To actually experience it in such an unusual way through a brain altering stroke is a miracle. I count myself fortunate to have come out of the event in one piece.

Laird Smith

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