To Live Only For God...
By Michael Goodspeed
14 December 2004
Nothing is more painful than the loss of a loved one. The grief that comes from the inevitable deaths of our family, friends, and romantic partners often leaves us feeling as if the entire Universe has collapsed. It is an inescapable heartache that cannot be remedied by "happy thoughts" or affirmations or random "pleasures." Death is sometimes a mercy for the dying, but for those left behind, it is a thief to be hated.
We grieve the dead because we miss their presence in our lives, and we mourn in empathy for the end of their hopes and dreams. But also, we grieve out of a sense of obligation and loyalty. To not grieve would be akin to betrayal, an insult to the dead and a desecration of the love and good times we've shared. We honor the dead with our tears, a testimony that they are remembered and will live on in our hearts and souls.
The physical death of loved ones is not the only cause of grief. We mourn the loss of anything that gives us a sense of who we are. We mourn our defeats and setbacks and blows to our self-esteem. We mourn the death of goals and ambitions that give us direction and purpose. We mourn the end of friendships and romantic relationships as though a part of ourselves has died.
This sense of loss is at the root of all human suffering. What could be more painful than the feeling that a necessary piece of oneself is LACKING? To not be whole and complete is our worst nightmare. When we lose the things that we cherish most, we are left hollowed out like an empty canoe, adrift with no map or compass.
Unfortunately, loss is an intrinsic aspect of the human condition. Nothing on Earth is permanent, not even the earth itself. The world is in a perpetual state of transient flux. Everything that is born must die. Therefore, everything we value that is OF the world must eventually be abdicated. The only thing we can control is how we respond to this.
The first step is to identify the root cause of all sense of LACK. If we truly felt whole and complete, we would never want for anything. Yet desire is the defining characteristic of Homo sapiens. Virtually all of our behavior stems from the "need" to acquire something outside of ourselves. But what of the radical possibility that we were made perfect and complete, and hence, in need of no external acquisitions?
Many religions and spiritual thought system warn us against ascribing value to anything impermanent, i.e. everything of the world. The apostle John said, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Buddha taught that the world is an illusion, and that the root of all suffering is desire. This message of worldly abdication is profoundly compassionate. It is a wake-up call to those sleeping not to be enchanted with the happy dream, or tormented by the nightmare.
Unless God is capable of making mistakes, the world as we see it cannot be real. Only a cruel or insane God would create a reality where his sons and daughters are forced into a state of perpetual SEEKING, always in need of obtaining things outside of themselves. But God is neither cruel, nor insane, so it can only mean that our perception of a world that requires external acquisitions is FALSE.
This fallacious belief is the root cause of self-destructive and harmful behaviors. It is a tool that the ego uses to ensure its survival, by convincing its owner that rewards do not exist in the present moment, but must always be sought in the future. When one lives in the present, the ego becomes irrelevant, as one realizes that nothing external is needed.
The solution to this sense of lack is to re-discover our own completeness. Until this is done, we experience life as a rollercoaster, and ourselves as helpless victims being tossed about by an indifferent Universe. Without completeness, our emotional wellness is easily and consistently upset by circumstances beyond our control. Life's little "victories" and "conquests" send us into euphoria, while life's inevitable "tragedies" and "losses" leave us emotional cripples. Without completeness, our goals and ambitions become a desperate and unattainable quest for fulfillment through external rewards. Our relationships are poisoned by possessiveness, and invariably degenerate into games of manipulation and inflictions of guilt.
There is only one method to re-discover one's completeness. And that is to lay down everything of this world (i.e., everything impermanent, and hence, not real), and live unconditionally in the Divine presence within. This act may seem difficult or even impossible, but it can be as easy as breathing. The first thing that one must realize is that nothing REAL is excluded from God. The notion of a God that demands sacrifice of His children is the great blunder in the history of man. He is all-inclusive, and bestows nothing but love and all His sons and daughters.
This laying down of worldly "things" is less an act of literal abdication than a disposal of a destructive thought system. This thought system is a way of seeing the world, our selves, and others. Fundamentally, it is the idea that happiness can be obtained through things outside of our selves. When Jesus warned us against the making of "false idols," he was referring to everything that obscures our spiritual identity. All false idols are created by the notion of acquisition, which is a denial of the reality that everything one needs is already present. At the core of this denial is the false perception of separateness from God. Through the ages, God has been presented as a transcendent figure "up there," when in reality, He is inseparable from you, and you from Him.
When one recognizes his intrinsic connectedness with God, his focus shifts from "getting" what is "out there" to extending what is inside of himself. External rewards are contracted, limited, and impermanent. But internal rewards are infinite, all encompassing, and eternal. One does not hesitate to share these rewards with others. The ego experiences this as loss, because it cannot "win" unless it keeps its rewards for itself. But any pleasure that is derived from the "triumphs" of the ego pales in comparison to the joy of radiating all of one's internal gifts outward.
True devotion to God makes the experience of loss impossible, because none of God's gifts can be threatened. He only offers what is real and lasting and truly satisfying. In the presence of God, we recognize our completeness as incorruptible and eternal. The nightmare of loss finally comes to an end, and we awaken to the reality that everything real is with us always.
Michael Goodspeed (a.k.a. Stuart Andrew Talbott) is a 29 year-old writer and radio personality living in Portland, OR. He has been a student of A Course in Miracles and many of the books of its devotees since the age of 15. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org , but may NOT be reached through the Thunderbolts website.
The War Prayer
by Mark Twain
It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms,
the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the
drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched
firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the
receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of
flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide
avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and
sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion
as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to
patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which
they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears
running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached
devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His
aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every
listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash
spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its
righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their
personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more
in that way.
Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front;
the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight
with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum,
the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult,
the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the
war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory!
With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the
neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the
field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of
noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament
was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that
shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes
and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation
*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for
passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its
supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would
watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in
their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the
hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident,
invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them
and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main
aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe
that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a
frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even
to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his
silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood
there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence,
continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words,
uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our
God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the
startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed
the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light;
then in a deep voice he said:
"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words
smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no
attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will
grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have
explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is
like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who
utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.
"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken
thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both
have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and
the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a
blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon
a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your
crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon
some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am
commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part
which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed
silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You
heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is
sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant
words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you
have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow
it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words.
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to
battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from
the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God,
help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to
cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help
us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded,
writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane
of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with
unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to
wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and
thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter,
broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the
grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their
hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy
their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the
blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is
the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all
that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The
messenger of the Most High waits!"
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no
sense in what he said.
Mark Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his
publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts.
It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe
The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American
War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed.