by María L. Trigos-Gilbert

[Author’s Caution: Religion is one of the most touching subjects which an individual may want to approach. Open your eyes as well as your mind while reading this article because it may take more than your attention. It may take your courage as well.]

Surprise, there isn’t a surprise. Don’t we hate that? Yeap, we do. That’s why we get bored about the tedious religious world. Religion becomes boring if you know what you will get, heaven or hell. That’s putting it in its most simple possible result, or at least in a pretty objective manner of approaching the two relevant issues which seem to scare or satisfy the most. That’s pathetic, but a close-naked reality.

Routine’s Burden
If you know that every Sunday, you will have for breakfast the same cereal Sunday after Sunday; pretty soon you will wish to never ever wake up UNTIL Sunday has passed. That’s not so abnormal, on the contrary, I find it pretty reasonable. This is the case with religion. On Sundays we wake up. We know where we are heading, the bathroom, the kitchen, and then out to worship. We listen, sing, say hello, and then out to battle with our deepest thoughts about what is taking place in our live like family, work, college (any kind of study), and so on.

Making One’s Routine Better than Agreeable
For the most part, life is a constant routine, but routine doesn’t have to be as tedious as it may get. We should have fun in all what we do because life on earth is said to be lived once and for all. Whatever we do, stays in one way or another. Whatever we left undone, no one would say what it could have been if we never finished it. So that’s the deal with religion. We should worship and stay in touch with God, cut the fat and give Him the fact. In the end, He knows what to expect and not expect from us. Don’t leave unspoken words up in the air because no one would say what they could have meant if they weren’t said in one time or another. God is self-sufficient, but even God enjoys listening to someone else’s talk rather than hearing himself over and over.

Our Meanness Trick
“Lord Almighty… blab, blab, blab.” That’s one of the meanness tricks we set in our mind. Do you really ask what you want? Or are you trying to be nice because you don’t want to offend God? What could be worst, telling Him what you think He wants to hear, or telling Him what you and He already know is in your mind? If He knows it all, I honestly assume He does, (though sometimes I act as if He doesn’t). I prefer to save my saliva or thought for what’s really important. He knows me more than the rest of the world, and just a tiny part of the world knows me! Therefore, I want Him to know what He already knows. Yet this time I want Him to hear my side.

Why Do Some People Have a Hard Time believing in God?
Finally I found an answer to this question. Some people have a hard time believing in God because of what they see on a daily basis! We think that atheists don’t believe in God because they can’t see Him, talk to Him, or touch Him. Yet the truth is far from this tentative assumption. The matter stays in what they see. For instance, I do believe in God, but at times I wonder about God’s existence when I see some supposedly Christian or religious people doing wrong things. I may have caused many people, with or without intention, to believe that there isn’t a God watching over us. I may have made such mistake through my actions. A rude answer, a bad look, or a thoughtless judgment from my part may have caused someone, somewhere to doubt God’s essence in us. That I regret, though perhaps absent mindedly, I have made such mistakes.

Excuses, We Are Full of Them
Some may say that if someone doesn’t believe in God because of a believer’s actions that shows the person’s weakness and lack of desire to know about God’s presence and power among and in us. Yes, this could be possible. Some non-believers find excuses like expert divers in the deepest of the ocean. Some of those excuses may be hard to find, but they go in and out (from the surface to deep ends) in order to get what they call reasons. Nevertheless, this isn’t to say that some of their faithless attitudes don’t seem to be well founded, according to what they see and get from the so-called Christians or religious people. For instance, TV worship programs make me sick as if I were about to throw up my stomach and soul. Some of those TV worship programs are mere shows. They relate quite well to dramatic comedies! Of course, there are some that I find okay or a bit better than okay. For instance, Joyce Meyer’s thoughts on TV are pretty decent. The 700 Club is pretty well updated. Both, Mrs. J. Meyer and the 700 Club, are quite nice. Mrs. J. Meyer on a scale from 1-10 gets 7. It isn’t that bad, right? The 700 Club gets 7 just like Mrs. J. Meyer. I don’t want to talk about the three remaining points that each of them are missing. It would take me another article, plus I don’t want to influence my opinions or likes on any of you in this matter. If you have watched both programs or at least one of them, I leave it to your imagination or to your curiosity. Mrs. J. Meyer and the 700 Club do not pay me to write well about them because I DO NOT SELL MY WRITING, it is that simple—period. I just happen to mention them because they seem to have better materials than the rest that I have heard, watched, or come across. In a simple sentence, they SEEM to have common sense, at least a bit.

Too Much Religion Isn’t Good for One’s Soul
Religion doesn’t speak as loud as people’s actions do. That’s a fact. For example, if my parents tell me that to use illegal drugs isn’t right for one’s health and unlawful while their life style tells me different, I will find their speech more than ridiculous, pretty hypocritical. Of course, I’m not insinuating Puritanism since I don’t believe in such ideology. Ideal is to be blameless, but alas our imperfections seem to multiple themselves every time a birthday comes. How is it possible? The younger we are, the more open minded we appear to be. The older we get, the more we get set in our ways. How can we overcome this set of mind? Would you believe me that it would take a lot of practice? I hope so because that’s the root that cures our faulty willingness to see someone else’s point of view.

Case Example… Trying Different Things…
About five years ago, I wouldn’t try any Mexican food or Chinese. Let me start by telling you the situation I encountered more than six years ago with the Chinese cuisine. A friend of mine was going through a difficult time. Without asking me, she drove to a Chinese restaurant in Venezuela, and I was with her at that moment and a bit paralyzed when I read the Chinese restaurant sign. I didn’t have the adequate words to tell her how much I disliked Chinese food. I kept quiet; we entered the Chinese restaurant, and she asked me to order my meal. I didn’t know anything about Chinese food, and I still don’t know a thing about it, except for the very elementary stuff. It was my turn to make my order in front of the waitress and my friend. I just made it easier on me and ordered the same thing she asked. Even the smell made me a bit sick, but I pretended to be having a good time, in spite of the sad moment in her life. The truth is that it felt good to overcome my little sympathy toward Chinese food. I learned a giant and a forever lesson. We must get out of our mindsets just to make it easier on somebody. I know that you may recall many opportunities that you have had to opt for the same kind of good attitude.

Case Example Two
Where the Mexican cuisine was concerned, I went through a similar situation. A group of classmates decided to go to a Mexican restaurant, and I—like always—didn’t feel like tasting any kind of Mexican meal. Yet I acted just as I did with my friend at the Chinese restaurant. I ate with enthusiasm. I couldn’t ruin the entire meeting just because I happen to like some other kinds of meals, or have a difficult palate. In my trip to Mexico, I ate plenty of Mexican food as it was supposed to be. Guess what. I am still alive. I haven’t died for trying different things, or for going to different places, and a lot less from interacting with different people from different nationalities. Nowadays, I expend most of my time studying about Mexico’s history and present time due to the fact that it’s part of my work. I have to relate to the Mexican people on a daily basis. I have learned to respect their culture to the fullest extend. This would have never taken place if I didn’t make the choice to give things and people a try before saying, “NO WAY JOSE.” I have many other examples that could apply to these types of cases. I won’t mention all of them because I know that by now you get the point.

Settings Don’t Mean Religiosity
The perfect place, people, or time doesn’t exist when one wants to approach God’s favor. You may be driving and praying at the same time, or even at the bathroom—taking a shower as well as praying. You could be in a religious service while your mind is at work or at home, thinking about the ironing that is still pending or the phone call that you need to return. The service is finished, and you can’t recall what was said, except for the very obvious elements that were done or said. The rest, perhaps the most important, went by like the background. That’s what sincere religious people call Insured Attendance. The body confronts the mind, and the body overpasses the mind, even the tiniest and most insignificant detail seems to distract you from the HERE and NOW.

A Full Confession
I must confess that this has happened to me—present in body, but mindfully traveling. I wouldn’t be writing this article as if I were an angel or a spotless saint. If I have felt this way from time to time, someone else besides me has had to feel a bit or a lot like loosing the religious grip. Once again, how can we overcome this feeling? A simple and an excellent answer is to be as much honest as it’s possible, even if it means that it will hurt you, your relatives, or your friends. If they really love you, they will help you. They will help your journey just because you’re important to them. If they don’t seem to comprehend your need or lack of religious necessity, then you have to go on alone. Wait for someone or something to pitch in the note that will make your heart click, in what God’s business is concerned.

If laughter Is a Fine Medicine, Time Is Its Main Ingredient
Life is time’s result. Ask time for time, and time will give you time. In Spanish the previous thought is a famous saying which would read like the following, “Al tiempo le pido tiempo y el tiempo, tiempo me da.” Don’t forget that time is made up of events. If you find yourself wondering around, get busy. Take action no reaction. If you act, you are on time. If you react, your time is running out; your life is missing the best part. Since I have taken time first into consideration, I must say that some laughter has to be part in our own religiosity because it makes the journey easier. Everything makes sense when we find some humor in all what we feel—all our five senses, including the extra sense that seems to keep us creating and recreating ourselves day by day.

That Thing Called Church, Lives in Us
Many people think that the church is the building. If you think that I am mistaken, then read what some people say, “I’ll be in church if you need me.” “I am going to church.” “I just came from church.” “I couldn’t go to church last week.” Those are just some of the numerous examples of people’s way of talking. I understand that deep inside they know that THEY CONSTITUTE THE CHURCH because the church lives in us. Nevertheless, we learn through repetition. The more we say something the more we believe it. No wonder, we have so many spectacular buildings called churches. Even more, we get mortified when there isn’t enough money to keep them well furnished and this makes our worshipping a lot more difficult. I’m not implying we don’t need a place to meet with those that we call brothers and sisters in our faith. I’m saying that we concentrate TOO MUCH in how “the church” looks, what “the church” has, or lacks.

House Assembly
Some countries prohibit Christians or any other types of religious meetings if they aren’t the national religion that each of those countries profess and approve. This has made many religious people creative enough to avoid any kind of tangible settings around those countries. Some of them have been meeting in people’s houses. Their numbers spread out in different houses. Spiritually and perhaps by meeting almost secretly, they stay well connected. It’s true that here in America, including Latin America, we have been super privileged to worship even Satan if that’s one’s desire. So we may debate the idea about having house meetings, rather than having an established building that we keep calling it our “church.” Please, don’t throw this idea out before you get the whole picture. If we meet in houses rather than in idealistic buildings, we may get to know each other better. We may start being a lot more useful to our church members, besides to our society’s needs. Let’s not forget the money saving that meeting in brothers’ or sisters’ houses could do for a church’s budget.

The Problem with Big Numbers
When a religious group has a large member attendance, it seems pretty nice. Though the question is the following: Do we really know our brothers and sisters? Or does it help us to avoid any real relationship? Being honest, I think that it takes us apart because it’s almost impossible to know so many members as individuals should be known—by their jobs, studies, aches, joys, and the last, but not the least, by their most inner concerns. Usually small groups are more effective than larger groups because they form a special bond. They hold each other accountable for their actions which makes their journey a bit less difficult, lonesome, and boring. Don’t think I pretend to set a new pattern of worshipping. Actually I do think that this is what Jesus intended. Yes, He was surrounded by many people a lot of times, but He also spent a lot of time with his disciples. He related to them. He taught them. He showed them the cool way; we may say the holiest way. Jesus is the perfect example in all senses because He knew that big groups tend to loose sight of what’s expected. Even more a classroom with 100 students, is a classroom heading toward disaster. A couple with more children than they can afford, is a family heading toward poverty and ache. This is common sense. I know that you perhaps have thought the same thing in one time or another.

My Husband’s Friend
My husband once asked a friend of his to please talk to some of his church members to see if they could be interested in doing some business with my husband. This was his friend’s answer, “I really don’t know too many people there.” My husband said, “Well, but what about the people in your choir? Don’t you know them?” He said, “No, no really. I sing, worship, and then go home.” My husband told me, “The membership there is about 1,000 people, and he doesn’t know even one.” Of course, we may say that my husband’s friend was unwilling to help him out, period. Yet the truth is that most of us don’t know the majority of the members that worship with us on Sundays or weekdays. That’s reality. We see faces, but don’t take the require time to know people’s hearts. This is what big numbers do. They give us a lot of color, a lot of background, a lot of choices, but they don’t give us the meat that we need to survive in a world that craves spirituality, though runs in a different direction. We could change that by forgetting buildings and start to meet in houses. That’s a challenge not an invention!

Bible’s Simplicity Overwhelms Us
Haven’t you heard the thought “The Bible is so simple that overwhelms us?” For those of you who don’t use the Bible as your guide, please forgive me. I mention it because this article is more in a Christian tone than anything else, though I do respect your religious book whichever it may be. It doesn’t mean that I may or may not agree with it. Back to the point, the Bible is simple, but goodness grief the interpretations overpass my brain’s capacity and acceptance. I could talk from Genesis to Revelation, but it will be longer than a well grown anaconda snake. From the most simple part, the Bible is divided in two testaments, the old one and the new one. Its synthesis is based on love, sin, and forgiveness. Now the most important deal among all the Bible’s deals, or thoughts, is its pragmatism for our today’s world. For instance, if you read the book of Proverbs, you will find good advice that worked during that time… and will work today, tomorrow, and always. Why? Because that advice truly make sense, and I mean it does make a lot of sense. It isn’t difficult to understand that Jesus got out of his way, his paradise, just to make a point and gave his life for 33 years on this earth (which at times was hell).

Making a Big Deal out of the Crucifixion, But Leaving Out the Best Part?
It’s a lot easier to die for being a Christian than from time to time live aching for being a Christian. That’s what I’m trying to say about the crucifixion. Yes, Jesus died for us, but he did also LIVE and still LIVES for us. So what about that? We love our parents because they have lived with us and in us. It isn’t an isolated well done act that makes us appreciate and respect them the most, but their CONSTANT examples time after time. Jesus’ crucifixion is very important and a big deal for most Christians as it should be. Yet, if we forget his WHOLE life to remember his death, we have missed the biggest point, his constant good acts toward those who believed as well as those who didn’t believe in him. Take note AS WELL AS those who didn’t believe in him. Let’s not forget this tiny-giant detail.

Who Am I to Speak Up So Religiously?
I profess my Christian believe. I don’t intend to start a new group just because I happen to think that things should be different. Of course, this isn’t to say that I can’t speak up my thoughts in any given time without offending one’s religion. If we start thinking and acting according to how our worship should be, we may have less trouble believing in God, even when hard times hit us with little mercy, leaving us with little chances to act before overreacting. Usually that’s when calamity knocks our doors, it hits hard not hardly. Yet, as it’s said, “I give you in exchange a soldier with hope, for a troop of thousands without hope.” The one with hope has a lot of more chances of surviving that the one without it. So I speak up. Maybe there’s someone out there who will be willing to say—”Yes, I think so too, right on!” Like the movie, it would take a BRAVE HEART to righteously persuade a bunch of hearts. Of course, this would require a brave heart, no a weary one.

My Parents’ Words About Hope and Discouragement
I have never forgotten what my parents used to tell me when I lived with them: “The tiniest thing is discouragement, but the highest in price. Hope is ALMOST unseen, but the most rewarding.” Discouragement is like a mustard seed, tiny super tiny, but the effect burns one’s tongue just like any hot pepper would do in a Mexican meal. Have you ever been to Mexico and felt how miserable they had been with you for giving so little sauce to pour in your taco or your salad? That was my friend’s case in Mexico. When the meal arrived, he complained about the little sauce he got for his tacos. Oh yeah, he turned red like a tomato just by pouring a little of it in his tacos. We don’t have to wonder why he didn’t ask for more. I laughed quite a lot because I knew it all along. I just wanted him to get some of the hot sauce taste. That’s what happens with discouragement, just a tiny bit and it makes us miserable. At first we think that we are being charged by a super natural power, but all of a sudden we lose the power that seems to motive us greatly. That doesn’t happen with hope. Hope is almost like an unexpected and well desired visitor. When it arrives, it relaxes all the stressed muscles just by becoming tangible to our senses. So that’s when things start to make sense, perhaps no before but after time has played its part like in all life’s events.

The Backbone
Okay, let’s imagine that you are a Christian or a God’s believer. Well, now… let’s revise this verse from Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” This is taken from the NIV version.

Now, I will give different intonations, various linguistic pitches to the above verse. EVERY TIME a capitalized word appears, give it a higher pitch than the rest of the previous words, or the ones that follow. Try to make a reasonable pause after the capitalized words. This will give you time to ponder about what you just read and about what you are about to read.

A) “THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; you need only to be still.”
B) “The Lord will fight for you; YOU NEED ONLY TO BE STILL.”
D) The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

That’s a nice thought; beautiful would be to put it in practice. So the first problem that some believers of a higher power than themselves face, is that they truly trust in God… BUT they have a hard time letting things take the course they may. OUCH, that hurts. I am one of those who believes in God’s existence, but have a hard time letting Him do his job and mine when I can’t get mine done. In Spanish this would be a situation like the following, “Ni lava ni presta la batea.” OUCH again. Let’s translate the previous Spanish sentence, “Neither does he/she uses it (the washing machine), nor does he/she let anyone else use it.” Therefore, it’s a no win situation. Whatever we do, we lose because we consciously or unconsciously decide before hand that NO IS NO. We may not understand our attitude, but we seem to respect ourselves more than we respect what God has in mind for us in any particular scenery. As if we totally comprehend what’s out there as well as what’s inside, futility whispers the most amusing thoughts, though doesn’t give us the real usability that we need to make it like Homo sapiens should.

Get in touch with God before late too late comes. When is late too late? When we can’t breath with our own lungs’ power, that’s when. When we need a machine to keep us breathing, or otherwise we fell in the deepest dream that one is able to imagine. I remember when my uncle died. The very first thing I thought, was the following: “I have traveled so much, but he has taken the biggest and the most fearful trip a person can make. From the known to the unknown… Alas I’ll remember him, but it’ll come a time when I won’t distinguish his presence from a long dream because time will cause me to forget how I have come to be part of his existence on this earth. Though I’ll remember him at all times, I’ll wonder if he indeed ever existed as I think he did” I’m very sure that my uncle was born and grew in this world. What I’m not so sure is about the most fearful trip that he has taken because the thing that I have wished to know about him, is the one that has always remained like a tremendous mystery, his soul. The soul is what makes us people, thinkers, but the one that we can’t see or touch from each other. That’s why a prisoner may be in jail, though his/her body may be far gone. That part no one can’t touch, but it can be deteriorated with our actions or words. That’s the part that should be on diet the most. Because we don’t see it, we overlook it to an extent that’s difficult to understand our souls. I guess that poets have a real sense of it. At times their thoughts drive then crazy, in the best sense. Some other times, though thoughtful, the unknown remains unknown. Yet, what about the part that we know or comprehend? That one deserves our fullest attention because it may help the one we ignore. WOW, believe me when I say that these thoughts are complex, but sounding speech makes us some sort of responsive and attentive to what’s in and out.