JCO’s Click

I met John Cave Osborne on Twitter shortly after Amy died.  After he learned the story, he reached out to me and expressed both sympathy and empathy.  He is the father of triplets, married to a beautiful and petite woman (just like Amy).  The story hit close to home for him because his wife had been through some of the same issues with early labor and bed rest as Amy had.  He has become a very good friend, spiritual companion, and cheerleader.  You can visit his blog, follow him on Twitter, and find information about his upcoming book “Tales from the Trips.”  Please enjoy the story below that explains the road he took to get where he is now!

The Jungle and the Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

I’m so incredibly thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. Above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

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The Human Filter

I’m reading a book right now that is a channeled book.  The first time I read a channeled book I was embarrassed to admit how much I loved the book without giving a disclaimer.  I can’t even remember what I would tell people before expressing my admiration for the material and it’s authors, but basically I wanted to let people know that I wasn’t crazy nor was the information in the book.

My new thought is that a lot of what you read that is of a spiritual nature (or not) is channeled.  Most authors will express that they received an idea and just began to write it.  Stephenie Meyer got the idea for Twilight in a dream.  The next day she sat down and began the saga.  There is no denying that her work has been a life-changer for many.  Because of the way the series has been received, I’d be willing to bet there is some truth and spiritual insight in it (I’ve only read the first book, so I don’t really know).  *Note: A friend who previewed this post has assured me there is no spiritual insight to be found in The Twilight Series.

There are a lot of books out that offer advice on how to live a better life and how to have a closer relationship to God.  Every person who writes does it because at some point they are inspired.  The very first definition in the dictionary for inspiration contains the phrase divine influence.  So when you sit down to write in response to a divine influence you are working as a channel for a message that is meant to be presented, which brings me to the title of the post.  Every piece of writing is created by a human.  Thus everything written goes through their personal human filter.

I have read the books “Conversations With God” by Neale Donald Walsh.  Portions of those books struck me as truth and felt very much like a pure message from a higher power.  But other portions of the book felt like a man trying to speak for God.  I could not swallow every piece of his message.  The same thing happened when I read the book “Mere Christianity.”

Every religion has it’s own religious texts, but all of those texts were written by human beings.  There is holiness abound within their pages, but they have also been through the filter.

I have said this before in various ways, but we all have an internal compass, a divine directive if you will.  We know in our beings when we are presented with truth and when we are assaulted with fallacies.  When something is untrue or misinterpreted we feel it.  Some people refer to this ability as a “bullshit detector.”  The key to utilizing this is to actually read, study, listen, and let the information in.  I think all too often in our society people simply accept what they are told, without letting it really sink it, and without questioning further.  We learn this at an early age when we are going through the “why” phase.  Eventually the answer “because I said so” is presented to us enough that we decide that it is enough.

It is not in our best interests to judge (good or bad) information if we have not first sat with it, taken it into our being, and deciphered it’s meaning from within.  Many people hold up bodies of information as truth or lies without first going through and weeding out the divine author from the human one.  Many people hold up bodies of information as truth or lies without every actually reading or studying them at all.

I know from experience that the human meaning you apply to divine guidance is not always right.  A while back I wrote a post titled Pain.  I had asked God during meditation what would be my next lesson.  The answer I received was “pain.”  If you reread the post you will see I put that guidance through the filter and applied it to physical pain.  I really had no idea in the moment that the message was a sort of “warning” of the coming unfathomable pain of losing one of my best friends.

I try every day, with everything I am presented with to use spiritual discernment.  I have been accused of blindly accepting what I read in books.  The reality is, I read a lot of books, I take the grains of wisdom and truth I find and apply them in my life, the rest I discard.  It is of the utmost importance to me not to confuse the message with the messenger….

Finding My Self

So I feel it is time for me to specify the title of my blog.  First and formost I will address the byline “Reflections on my path to self-discovery.”  On my “about me” page I say something to the effect of when I finally find my Self, I will not have traveled alone.  It seems that some of my readers have vastly misunderstood the meaning of that sentence.  I never felt the need to explain or defend myself before, but today I am compelled to do so.  Because simply put, the value of the words of this sentence do not just benefit me but anyone else whose heart might be touched by them.  I have an unwavering belief in the words of Jesus when he said “The Kingdom of God is within you.”  Just like I learned from the book “Mere Christianity.”  It is our connection to God that provides us with the feelings that guide us.  They direct us toward those things we should do and lead us away from those things that would be detrimental.  I believe we choose to be cut off from or in tune with that connection.  I call that connection, the divine guidance within me, my higher Self (always capitalized).  So when I say I am always searching for my Self, I mean that I am awaiting the moment where I can move beyond my egoic needs and wants and my worldly attachments and live always by the presence of God within me!  To further explain my point I will add another quote from Jesus.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
(Matthew 6.31-34 ESV)

It is this quote that brings me to the next point.  The title “Waiting for the Click” is the expression of my search for enlightenment.  One teacher I have studied the works of is Joel S. Goldsmith and he described this moment as a “click.”  With that click his Christ consciousness was awakened and he truly experienced the meaning of the above statement made by Jesus.  Once he reached that level of consciousness he was aware always that God goes before him and all his needs are met.  I know this at an intellectual level and hope to one day reach the point where I feel it within every cell of my being.

So to any who have wondered, my path to self-discovery has very little to do with me and everything to do with following God’s will for my life!

And to further show the point of the similarities between religions I will re-post Sunday’s quote from Autobiograpy of a Yogi.  This quote came from a Hindu Yogi, not a Christian, but it is the exact same message that Jesus put forth in the above quote.

“Never admit that you live by the power of food and not by the power of God!  He who has created every form of nourishment, He who has bestowed appetite, will certainly see that his devotee is sustained!  Do not imagine that rice maintains you, or that money or men support you!  Could they aid if the Lord withdraws your life-breath?  They are His indirect instruments merely.  Is it by any skill of yours that food digests in your stomach?  Use the sword of your discrimination, Mukunda!  Cut through the chains of agency and perceive the Single Cause!”

God is that Single Cause!

Religion

These days I feel as if I am caught between two worlds.  There is the rational/scientific world in which many people are atheist, agnostic, or just completely hiding their belief in God.  Then there is the Religious world where people wear their strongly held beliefs on their sleeves and walk around with an “if your not with us, your against us” attitude.  I feel very grey in this black and white world.

I grew up in the south, but unlike most families in our community, we didn’t start attending the Baptist church (or any church) until I was 12 years old.  By then I had been a blank slate too long to be indoctrinated.  Or it could have been that I felt so much like an outcast amongst the kids in my church that the true message of the religion could never quite penetrate all the other stuff I felt while there.  (I still find it quite interesting that no matter what church I  attended -there were 3 in all-I always felt an off the charts level of discomfort amongst the other congregants that I interacted with.)

I was “saved” at some point, while attending my first church.  My cousin and I spent a quiet moment with our dear great Aunt (who was an amazingly spiritual woman, truly connected to God) and asked Jesus into our hearts.  I know I felt something in that moment and I carried it with me for a while.  I began to read my bible and would talk for hours on the phone with a friend who wanted to be a minister.  But instead of being taught how to nurture that spiritual relationship  in myself, there was pressure to put it outward and save others.  Since I was such a shy and quiet person, this wasn’t something I was capable of and I began to scrutinize what I was taught at church.  I had a difficult time believing in a God that would pick and choose based on people’s behaviors.  I didn’t understand how, with all the billions of people in the world, only those that asked Jesus into their hearts could go to Heaven.  The questions began to outweigh my beliefs and as soon as I went to college I left religion and God behind.

Flash forward fifteen years or so and Mark orders the book “Mere Christianity” and encourages me to read it.  I was not happy about it, but I read it and something in it struck me.  In the book C.S. Lewis says something to the effect of God being your conscience and that the feelings you get of things being right or wrong is God communicating with you.  I didn’t agree with everything in the book (in fact parts of it made me feel quite yucky), but that was the one thing I needed to hear to understand and believe in God again.

Since then more spiritual doors have been opened to me.  I have learned a lot about other religions and what is most important to me now is finding the similarities, the basic principles that they were all founded on.  I love so many aspects of various religious traditions that I don’t feel I can choose just one to call my own.  I enjoy practices such as yoga, meditation, and chanting that are associated with Eastern religions.  I send my daughter to a Jewish preschool and am grateful for the exposure she gets to the religion.  I am fascinated by the healing practices and speaking in tongues associated with the Pentecostal church and the miraculous stories of the Saints in the Catholic tradition.  I feel that Jesus is my highest teacher and truly a way-shower.  The underlying message of all mystics is the same no matter what religion they become the symbol for.  And I would say that a true mystical message is to seek within for your spiritual identity, because ultimately it is about feeling the connection for yourself not following a path laid out for you by someone else.