Book Review: Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate. by John J. Thompson

Book Review

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate, by John J. Thompson.

Reviewed by Robert G. Pajer
John J. Thompson’s book, Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate, is about finding a spiritual basis for everything, our likes, dislikes, favorite things, how we live our lives, passions. And, Jesus invites this in his telling us, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) and Isaiah 41:10. Unfortunately, we think otherwise in this world, because we have chosen separation as a possibility. What we choose we can have, though not in reality. What God choses is the only reality. We struggle mightily with these truths here in the world we made for ourselves.

What is not created does not exist. What God created is all there is and it has never not been, nor will it ever not always be.

Thompson, as many of us has suffered deeply over this one thing, the only problem there is: our contention we have a will separate from God’s, which is an impossible state for our minds which are in God’s mind. And they will never leave their Source. All human suffering, which God does not cause, is our suffering because its cause is of our own making. We suffer and continue to suffer for this one reason.

Jesus never taught sacrifice. He taught us that forgiveness in this world, being a reflection of God’s love, is all we’re here for. It is our only function. We live in a deep ego trance that tries to deny this and replace our real purpose here with finding false gods, false selves that conjure up all kinds of nonsense about “developing” into something that will finally “get it.” We’ll be good, we’ll justify, we’ll defend ourselves against the enemy (which is within), we’ll finally solve our problems and live happily ever after. Or, we’ll make better what is “out there.”  Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a better result. In truth, there is only one problem and one way to solve it: the problem is our intention to separate from our Creator.  The answer to this insane thought is forgiveness, and it must take place where we find ourselves, because this world is the only shot we have at salvation (becoming entirely ready to return to God, while in the illusion of separation.) There is no forgiveness in the  Kingdom of God because there is no need for it. Our world, yes the one we made and act insanely within becomes our salvation. Jesus meant, I am with you always – meaning also,  all ways. He never leaves because he’s not going anywhere without us.

Thompson, knows much of this I believe, like many, he hears the call sent out to everyone. It is a matter of our choice to listen, or not. Eventually, however, everyone comes home, because we are in a state of mercy and grace, the never ending Power that brings us all home, no matter what the way.

Thompson, like all who take a breath here, falls into the pitfall of perhaps we can make all this better and not feel so guilty about it:  better bread,  better wine, better chocolate, better beer, better coffee.   This is not heaven, our world. Who would want to accept it, even after making better all of the above, for anything other than what it truly is: an attack on God. We are addicted to the better because we fail to realize we already have all there is.  All addictions are an attack on God, not just our addictions to alcohol and drugs. The addiction is an adoration of false gods. Any form of defense of the ego is an addiction. The ego has many special ways of covering itself, like any con. But the ego is always opposite of God. Or at least we believe it is. A false belief in itself, because God has not opposite.  We can’t attach to different and improved ways of making things as being superior to just making things. Whatever we do here in our made up world is like a little child making tea in tiny cups and serving it as though these cups contained a real substance. In a very real sense it does not matter that we live in a world that we seem to be destroying.  God does not create anything that can be harmed or destroyed. If He did, He would not be God.

Granted, it is much better to have happy dreams of His love for everyone, our mistakes and errors being just that, mistakes and errors. A world where we teach only love to one another, for that is what we are. A world that sees in one another only  how he or she was created: holy, perfect and one with a loving Father.

The world holds nothing we want. We do not need the best bread, the best chocolate, the best beer, the best music, etc.  We cannot create the best, because it has already been created for us to accept. We cannot create ourselves, although we try. What seems to be  out there, outside of our minds, is not out there. We only exist as Mind.  We already have all God gave us, which is All.  Our answer to such a gift is we separate from God and God in His mercy, let’s us go asleep for awhile. We are dreaming, as Adam is. God put him asleep and nowhere in the Bible is he awakened. There is no God who tries to correct humankind with tests, temptation, punishment — yet we are corrected by the very nature of what we are: as He created us. We are already perfect, holy children. His children. We will never need a perfect chocolate bar, perfect coffee, etc. We will never rest until we are back in His loving arms. That is difficult to accept.  We believe better something, is better than finding our way directly back to our home with God.  And our unwillingness to accept that is the cause of living in a world that is at best hearing God’s call, at worst gruesome.

Having said all that, which I mean only in the spirit Thompson has laid out, discipline, following Jesus word, meaning disciple, I try to accept living in a world that is alien to what I am by forgiving it. When I can see love in what I make of it, I’m at peace, because God is the Corrector, I’m not. Thompson says, “Even if you’re not an artist, your faith is a song the world around you hears sung every day.” Page 233. That is a lovely statement. As long as I have faith, I forgive; and when I forgive it is a part of God’s plan for salvation. His only plan. Like Jesus, I want to be with you always. In all ways. If I’m happy over a great cup of coffee and a few slices of fine Jewish rye bread with sweet butter on it, I’m happy for everyone.

Gregory Mayers, in his wonderful book, “Listen to the Desert. Secrets of Spiritual Maturity from the Desert Father and Mothers,” in  Chapter 10, “What is it Necessary to Do to Be Saved?”, cites the following:

“An old man was asked, “What is it necessary to do to be saved?” He was making rope, and with out looking up from the work, he replied, ‘“Your are looking at it.”’, from C. Stewart, OSB, trans. Apophthegmata, XX [91] World of the Desert Fathers (Fairacres, Oxford, England: SLG Press, 1986), 35.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers, saw in the growing incorporation of the early Christian church as a part of the Roman Empire, something they did not like, it’s leaving behind the very essence of Jesus’ message: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” (A Course in Miracles, T-6.III.2.4)

I have enjoyed reading this very well written book.  Robert G. Pajer

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part
255.

BOOK REVIEW

Abandon, by Tim Timberlake

This is a story of victory over adversity, coming to peace with one’s past, and acceptance of God’s creation by abandoning one’s self to God. 

Told from the standpoint of Jacob’s view of the world, (Gen. 32:28-29), including his view of God, author winds his way through the Gospels calling up Jesus’ view as Redeemer.  it is a story of a man who first sees God as outside himself, another entity we are trying to get to. This is a God who gropes with man, wrestles with him, to make real opposing forces.  Jacob’s story is told as though God has His own enemy to deal with while he tries to protect us, or make us pay for wrongs.  Timberlake calls the devil our enemy, another power who can actually lead us astray and be the cause of our mistakes.  God tests us, sends us places, predicts outcomes, and punishes us when we’re wrong.  Sin is a good term for making this false god real to us.  As Timberlake tells it from the Bible point of view, this enemy faces Jesus in the desert and tempts him.  I have no doubt Jesus was tempted while here.  But I can’t believe he ever felt there was something outside himself that tempted him.  He listened to one voice, God’s, as One.  He knew Christ in him and he knew where Christ is, God is. 

The Bible describe our journey from a man-made god to Jesus’ teaching that God is in us.  We are an idea in God’s mind.  We have never left this place because we can’t.  We can move a father aways from his son, but we cannot change the relationship.  Man’s only problem in the world today is separation.  The solution is one as well:  At-one-ment.  We have come to see it for what it is:  an attempt to leave God’s mind and discovering we can’t.  We can only separate for what it is, a mad dream, where we fight this one battle, thinking we have won or will win and then feeling the enormous guilt that goes with this.  Our guilt over this mistake is beyond our imagination, so much so we hide it, project it and dissociate from our own minds in doing so.  At least think we are hiding it.    

This is Jacob’s real story.  Jacob is, however, a good place to start our journey here, as our author does.  After the Garden we are hearing the words of an ego-god, set up and defined by man to carry on our human experience as spiritual beings, beings that can only be one with a loving Father.  Timberlake refers to his brothers and sisters as perfect holy children of God.  If that is true, and it is, there is no need to plough through all we do wrong and “roll up our sleves, and put it all on the line.” p. 17.  No.  We can put it on the line OK, just look around us.  We are living in a world of insanity.  The worst of our suffering is, however, our inability to come to grips with the truth:  God is indeed our Father.  Our egos are not.  God is incomplete without us.  All the rest is what we make up.  Fortunately, it is not God causing the suffering.  Although it is a part of God’s mind that deems separation as a mistake, which we do feel guilty for.  And guilt is separation in our minds.  Thinking our enemy is out there somewhere and our minds are minds need to be made safe from it, is both our best defense for the ego and our worst kind of thinking for salvation.  What we make has no power, yet unlike God’s creation, what we make is subject to change and the Holy Spirit uses it to to correct our thinking.  God’s power is changeless and we can be sure it is the very Power that saves us, as Timberlake says, by abandoning our ersatz and joining with God, from Whom we never left.  God does not allow His reality to suffer other choices but His.  We believe there are other choices, false gods, and that belief is used by God to see the difference between suffering and peace.  When we understand this, we are saved. 

This is an inward journey to place we have never left and forever remain, with our creations as a co-creator with our loving Father.  He could do no less, for He loves us.  It is sad to think we can do something differently.  Unfortunately, Adam’s answer to God was not from his spirit, for he would have realized God doesn’t condemn his children, nor does He change His mind about them.  We can’t disobey God.  We can ignore Him, we can block his Love shining through us, we can fear Him, and we can fight violently for what we believe about Him.  We can stop His love from shinning through us, but we can’t stop it from shinning on us.  The question in the garden is about ignoring Him, ignoring His counsel —  a mistake of course.  But instead of seeing God as his loving Father, Adam becomes ashamed and at that moment he blames Eve.  This is always our first act of separation:  blame the other person.  We can’t blame someone, judge one of God’s children in the the process, and not separate from God.  If Adam had just said, “Sorry, God, I messed up.” God’s response would be the same as it was, but we would feel very differently. 

From the moment this all happens, and Eve blames the snake, we are in a dream world, made up by us.  We dream this world because we want to be separate from God.  When we separate from each other, we separate from God.  When we separate  from God we live in a separated world that is purely miserable, although only real to us. God in turn has given us the grace to recognize love as is reflected here in forgiveness, of our selves as we forgive others.  Jacob, becoming Israel is a story of a person who further extends the garden story.  God does not test his children, does not harm any of them, does not punish them — only loves every single one of us.  That is impossible to accept by us, however, in a separated state of mind. Thus we have as Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit who knows God and also knows perfectly how the ego mind works.

In Timberlake’s words, “It is imperative that we visit this story in order to understand what Jacob had to endure to become the man God intended for him to become.  Like all of us, he was a person who had to make incredible sacrifices and abandon his will in order to follow the will of God.”.  p. 23.  Jesus never sacrificed anything and does not want us to sacrifice anything.  Making the decision to place our lives and will into God’s care is not a sac rife.  God does not want sacrifices from us.  He wants us to see again, out of the dream, away from the illusions we make up, to see how wonderful is His creation.  We haven’t lost one bit of that creation.  How could we?  If God is not powerful enough to create an eternal being, what is He?  I suppose the god of Genesis that forces his creations out of the place he made for them to roam the earth suffering.  Who is that God?   God simply and always loves us.  When we forget that, or don’t recognize it, in others, then in ourselves, we are just dreaming, where we wish something that is opposite to God, which of course is impossible.  Why does our dream seem so real?  Because the dreamer is dreaming with the same power given to him, in God’s mind.  We can wish all we want, see ourselves as sinful, feel terrible, harbor guilt and die.  Yet we have gone no where.  We are not out of the garden.  We are just sleeping in it.  When we awaken, by God’s plan, we will as in all dreams never understand how we could have felt it was so real, because we will be awake in our home. 

If Jacob saw his brother only as God created him, and everyone else in his life, he would have known himself to be the perfect child of God who neither wants or needs anything in this world.  This is the story he has to tell us.  Its not about real estate.  God only deals in truth which is eternal life.  The story of Jacob is about scarcity, which is our response to God who gives all to all.  Thousands of years after Jacob’s story is put down we are doing the same things and still seeking God to come down here and make nice, take away our guilt and finally build a world of our own and leave Him, our dear Father, out of it.  There are no scars left with our encounter with God, for His encounter with us is always the same:  love.  The scar is a bodily mark.  We are not bodies, there is no place to leave a mark depicting a lesson.  Our lessons are our own actions and thoughts that proceed them.  Each lesson brings us closer to God because the Holy Spirit corrects every mistake, accepts every loving thought as true and eternal.  God’s plan for salvation is just that.  When we can see nothing in our brothers and sisters that has not been redeemed, we will remember who we are and return to God because it is where we belong.   Jesus teaches only love for that is what He is.  We do the same as his younger and still unwise brothers and sisters, whom he loves as God loves us all.  Like Jesus, there are thousands of teachers of God who proceed relentlessly to remind us God has never changed His mind about us. 

Tim Timberlake’s message is an “Old Bible message, yet one to be listened to because it reflects the coming of the loving kindness that Jesus offers us.  I don’t think, however, he takes the idea of “Abandon” far enough, because it contains a sense of sacrifice, a dose of sin, the sense that God must somehow be appeased  before we re-join him, a shift in power from God as corrector, to us, and there being an outside enemy.  There is nothing outside us because it was all made up without God.  That tells me nothing is real.  I know, it  feels plenty real.  However, feelings are not facts, and we see “reality” here inside a thought system that is at its foundation, completely upside down and flawed only to see the false.  God has the facts.  We will come to see truth through the only way Jesus says it is seen, through coming to fully know what forgiveness is.  Bob Pajer 

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine, by Ann J. Timken.

Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine,

by Ann J. Timken. (Author)

As I read this book I felt caught up in a carefully crafted fugue, as in Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach employed the fugue form in his music as a way of ing seeking and expressing his connection to God. The voices belong exactly where they are placed to form a connectedness throughout the piece. Some fugues have as many as five voices meeting each other at each harmonic counterpoint, ever-growing in intensity and meaning. The fugue’s form is one of the most appealing musical for forms for the pianist.

Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine, by Ann J. Temkin, is in my opinion a memoir in fugue form. Many lives are woven together and their stories very skillfully told. Timken describes her spiritual journey from a Jewish background through her conversion to Catholicism, its many challenges and finally to an understanding of the world as a place where we can be comfortable in our discomfort. We can see differently once Jesus is a part of perception. Just as he promised: “Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.” (KJV, Matthew, 28:20.)

Just as in a Bach fugue, lives touch one another in Tekin’s book in many ways: discord and resolution, as my piano teacher used to say, “ouch” and “ah”. And as in jazz, there are no wrong notes, just better choices. Timken tells her story and Jesus’, entering and leaving at points like the fugue, beautifully intertwined to a sum that is greater than all the parts, our salvation and Resurrection. The journey is a series of experiences, counter experiences, episodes and a conclusion — always ending on a major (happy sounding) chord, Jesus’ Resurrection and ours. Indeed, when we follow Jesus as our teacher, farther ahead on the journey we must all take, we demonstrate our own salvation for the world.

Like the Jews who believed in Jesus as their Messiah were both happy and confused, for he taught another path, unknown to most, still unknown to most, Timken describes her own confusion along the way, our confusion, yet she finds her way through it, with Jesus at her side.

Timken, tells some very sad and disturbing stories about her life and the lives of others here, each meshed with Jesus’ story of his time and his crucifixion, then coming back into the world and picking up where he seemed to leave off. The counterpoint is beautifully and skillfully written, and it is heart warming to see Timken’s faith struggling as it comes through in her writing. Like Jesus, who cries out to God to please take, or postpone, what is about to happen to him, because he thinks it’s not his time, then succumbing to what is inevitable and then returning as triumphant to face his scared disciples who are still struggling with his message. She wonders, as many of us do, how it is possible that the church founded upon Jesus’ words, turns out to think and do what seems the opposite of his teaching. It is strange, as is our decision to separate from God, think we’ve pulled that off, and suffer terrible guilt for what we think we did, but continue to try. Jesus tells us everything we need to know about salvation, and we build a building, some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Yet, still fail to know he was speaking about changing our minds about our minds, not changing our illusions and our hallucinations to “better” ones.

If we did fully understand Jesus, we would, for one, not be here. The world is made for people who don’t understand, by people who don’t understand. It is clearly not God’s doing, but ours. We too often see the pain in the world we made and want God to come down and make it nice for us. God loves us, but he won’t (can’t) do for us what we must do for ourselves. Jesus told us, is continuing to tell us as we live with him, as he continues to be our savior, it is not about what we think should happen to save us, but what God does as we work out our role in His plan for salvation. We can’t fail, as we live Jesus’ commandment, Love one another as I have loved you. That is the tall order for established egos, guarding the citadel. We have the world we have today, a blood bath, a sad and cruel place, because we are as yet unable to really hear his clear message: forgiveness is the only way to God here. Stop trying to judge others and look at everyone in our life experience here as Holy Children of God, just as Jesus looks at everyone here. That is the love he is talking about. Yet, he brought God’s message here to us, and we killed him. If the second coming meant he would physically return here, we would kill him again. Fortunately, the second coming does not mean he is coming back. It means we are joining him to join our Father in heaven, Who welcomes His children home.

Connecting with Jesus, and other teachers of God, here is our only sure journey to God. In this book, Temkin has a close direct relationship with him and throughout the book she returns to the notes in her fugue that touch upon Jesus’ notes. That’s where the music gets exciting as she describes it. The entire piece may be in a minor key, full of discord, but the last note is always a happy one. He asks us to teach only love, for that is what we are. We realize it just as he said, through practicing forgiveness.

Can we aspire now to really hearing Jesus’ wonderful message, don’t dwell on the crucifixion. It was the last useless journey we had to make. It was an extreme example of the only way we can return to God. Jesus might say, listen to what I said, keep listening, look at what I did, and thus, what I must be thinking. And you will find the only question that does not need correction, and has the only answer there could be: would God sacrifice one of His children? If this is answered in any other way but “no”, we continue with our mad idea to separate from God. We can’t make that the answer and not accept the Resurrection as our awakening. There is no peace unless there is no opposition to peace. The message he gave from the cross was: you can tear apart my body and even in the pain I experienced you cannot kill me because death is your thing, neither God’s, nor mine. I will not condemn those who acted out of fear, because God does not; and, if I did I would not be teaching what I am, love.

Jesus probably would tell us, when I asked Peter, who do you think I am, listen to the question. I have always known who I am because I see you, Peter, as my brother and God’s treasured son. That is the question we need to ask of everyone we meet here, and say, Love created me; that is who I am. The awareness of Jesus who walks with us, is indeed our salvation. He teaches only forgiveness, a reflection of God’s love in the world. His teaching always has the same purpose, follow me and do what I do, for you surely can. Ann Temkin sees herself following Jesus, it seems, no matter what. Bob Pajer

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own. I disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.