guilty as charged

One of my favorite ladies in the whole world is a young woman whom I met while working at a nursing rehab center.  She was a 29-year-old nursing assistant when I first struck up a conversation in the laundry where I worked.  After several chats she offered that her 15-year-old daughter was having a birthday.  My brain, which sometimes simply works too hard, started churning.

“Good Lord, how old were you when you birthed this child?”embarassed

“Fourteen.”

From then on I was hooked on this child who gave birth to a child.  I wanted to know more.  What happened?  How did you  deal with it?  What did your parents say?  Are you ever sorry it happened?

We became best of friends.  She, at age 29, was a devout follower of Jesus, invited me to her church, “But, sweetheart, I would probably be the only white man there, and I can’t sing worth a hoot, and your church service gets pretty lively.”

She smiled and replied, “It is what it is.”

We don’t see each other much since I retired from that job.  I met up with her last year at a local MLK, Jr. rally and march; she walked with me, shared me with her friends, proudly introduced me to her son aged 6, and again invited me to her church.  From what I learned about her friends at that rally, I knew I would be welcomed at her church with open arms.

That doesn’t happen very often at the white churches I’ve attended.  There is a reserve, a cool reception, a distrust of the new guy coming to church by himself.  Where’s the wife?  Does he have children?  Why is he deciding to come to church at age 70?  I could see that attitude as a judgmental thing, but then I would be judgmental also, wouldn’t I?  My best reaction is to simply shrug shoulders and say, “It is what it is.”

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to approach life and all life’s challenges?  Our situation in Washington, D.C., which disturbs me every day, the insecurities of aging, the neighbor who flies his confederate flag…….none of this needs my approval or disapproval.  It is what it is.

The “path” described by Buddha focuses on an inner peace which allows each thought to enter the mind, say its piece, and then disappear into oblivion.  I am merely the observer of that thought, I don’t approve or disapprove, I don’t entertain a judgment.  When I am able to live my day following the Buddha’s teaching, it is a good day.  Unfortunately, I am not a perfect follower and I stumble.

The wisdom of Judeo-Christian scriptures tells us:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Luke 6:41

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1

Yes, yes, yes, I am guilty as charged.  I voice approval or disapproval at will, I condemn or praise according to my distorted world view, and I self-righteously judge things which I truly do not fully understand.

But, it is what it is, and I am better than I used to be.

namaste rainbow

 

Hatred @ University of Florida

hate speaks at UF

Unfortunately, we must endure this behavior and speech to ensure our freedoms under Amendment One.  Or must we?  Do we continue with the horrors of gun violence simply to ensure freedoms under Amendment Two?  Our founding fathers who penned the first ten Amendments had no possible insight into contemporary American society.  Perhaps we are facing a time of reckoning concerning freedoms.

My friend, a man who has no enemies, suggested facetiously that the speaker and his supporters should be given the entire stadium to hold their rally.  They could light their tiki torches, carry their placards of hate and bigotry, proclaim loudly their anti-Semitism laced with racist and anti-LGBT rhetoric and just have a grand old time marching around the football field. Afterwards, they could enjoy cookies and milk.  Oh, by the way, nobody else….not media, not protestors, not students…would have admittance to the rally.  The white nationalists, Nazis, white supremacists could enjoy a day of mutual mind masturbation and then go home.

Please read the link to the story and find a time in your quiet place to process what we are becoming as a society.  Apparently access to the event will be limited, the Governor has declared a state of emergency for Alachua County (Gainesville and surrounding area) and it is estimated we taxpayers will be saddled with a $600,000 tab for the increased security.  angry emoji

sledhead

 

CANDLELike many young people who follow the path of non-violence and pacifism, I was severely bullied during junior high and high school.  We were targets for the ‘big boys’ who were feeling their developing testosterone; most of us were labeled weak sissies because we were strongly encouraged by our families and church to resist physical and verbal conflict.  Today I look back on those challenges with a sense of gratitude for having been blessed as a young man with a sense of civility.  But unfortunately, back then, I took my seething anger and self-loathing deep inside resulting in a bevy of addictions which controlled my life for many years.

My classmates called me “sledhead”.  It was, to them, an endearing term describing my naivete; to me it was condescending and painful.  My faith in an entity which would allow this pain was severely tested.  Today, some folks, not all of them friends, see my faith as an uneducated devotion to my imaginary friends, God and Jesus.  I’m sure you also in your faith walk have encountered the same.

“So you talk to Jesus, do you?  Have your ever seen God?  Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead?  And oh yeah, that story about him healing the blind man.  Hmmmmm.”

You can see the wheels churning within their brains.  Nutcase, delusional, hallucinating, foolish…..sledhead.  I don’t, anymore, attempt to explain my faith to them.  I don’t share my experience walking with my Lord unless they initiate an interest.  I don’t expect them to understand, just as the bullies in high school did not understand my commitment to non-violence.  I endured name-calling, shoving, and punching with words like sissy, wimp, momma’s boy, coward.  Sadly, by the time I could call myself a young man, a high school graduate, I agreed with them.

That was 50 years ago.  But, baby, take a look at me now!  Check out what I can do with the power of Jesus and God ahead of me, within me, and behind me!  We have put a hurting on the addictions which controlled my younger years.  We have shown the world of aggression and oppression that there is strength and courage in the words of peace and compassion, the words spoken by Jesus before he was taken by the cowardice and hatred of a bullying, hypocritical, self-serving theocratic society and was nailed to a wooden cross.

Don’t get me wrong.  The negativity of people who try to bully me with their condescending air of superiority, their need to ridicule my “imaginary
friends, and attempts to discredit my truth does sometimes bring doubt into my life.  I am the character of ‘doubting Thomas’, show me the nail holes in the hands and feet, I want to see the pierce scar in the side.  Let me touch you, Lord.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27

Recently, I heard a comment on NPR regarding world poverty.  The woman being interviewed stated that the predominant characteristic of humanity was “goodness”, but, it was often quietly unseen and unheard.  The thought that we are predominantly violent and selfish is assumed because that is the loudest voice in our civilization. Therefore, we hear the raucous noise of intolerance, bigotry and injustice over goodness, mercy, and compassion.

Goodness, mercy,  and compassion.  That’s who my friends Jesus and God are. That’s whom I commune with every day.  I see them in people on the street helping other people.  I hear them on the radio when listening to a contemporary Christian artist singing his heart out for the Jesus he loves.  I feel them in a sanctuary with other worshippers praying for the homeless, the poor, the addicted ones, the forgotten, the discarded, the downtrodden.  I can touch them in an AA meeting when at the end of the meeting everyone stands clasping hands and reciting the “Our Father”.

My faith is in the inherent goodness, mercy, and compassion of humanity.  Therein is Jesus, therein  is God, and therein is nothing imaginary.  Real, visible, omnipotent!

Edward Mote, 1797-1874 “My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

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envy

Does everybody know the seven deadly sins?  They are sometimes called the cardinal sins.  And if you don’t like the connotation of the word sin, let’s call them defects of character.  Ok, here’s the countdown and they are not listed in order of severity.  Each one of them can be deadly if allowed to run rampant.

  • anger
  • greed
  • lazinessembarassed
  • pride
  • lust
  • envy
  • gluttony

I am entertaining envy today.  No, it’s not related to materialism or physicality or status.  I am envious as hell about those folks who can maintain an aloofness from the shenanigans being foisted on us as religion and politics.  Yes, I am dead serious.  If for just one day I could not hear the news, read the newspapers, and view the screens depicting another episode of name-calling in Washington, D.C., another horrible act of violence in Syria, or another Hollywood celebrity enmeshed in a tangle of sexual wantonness, then I might be content.  If I could limit my social media time to nothing but wholesome, heart-warming stories of man’s goodness toward man, then I would be at peace.

Twenty-two years ago when I moved into this house in which I now live my next door neighbor was a saintly woman who had lived many years in the far country and, by the grace of her God, returned to marry a good man and raise a brood of decent kids.  They were all skinny because she was a strict dietician, and they were all cheerful and kind-hearted.  The woman read her Bible every day.

During an extremely active hurricane summer, we spoke to her about the imminence of an approaching hurricane.  She knew nothing of it.  “Oh no,” she chortled, “we don’t have a TV in the house and we only listen to Christian music on the radio and we don’t receive a newspaper.”

I’m sure she recognized the horror on our faces.  Sweet lady, you are so out of touch.  Don’t you realize the danger that could be approaching?  Don’t you care about the world around you?  What in the world will you do when calamity strikes?

Smiling sweetly, she responded to our unvoiced questions,  “Jesus will take care of us.”

OMG! What faith!.  She had been in the world, she knew the inherent dangers, she had lived life on the edge, and now she firmly believed that her Lord and Savior would protect her and her family.  It did not matter if she was living in a fantasy existence because in her world she found contentment and peace.  And maybe, just maybe, her fantasy reality is the truth we all envy and desire.

Yep, I am harboring envy today, but I know the fix.  I often use an analogy of sobriety to make a point.  There is a fine line between me, a committed sober-living man, and my brother, a man caught up in his alcoholism.  One step across that line into his world and I have a slip, a relapse; one step across that line into my world and he has a recovery, a miracle.

Both our worlds are a reality, but that fine line which I call Jesus makes it a living hell or a blessed journey.  Nah, there’s no place for envy on this journey.  Now, if I could just get a handle on gluttony!smiley 3“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”Psalms 51:10

 

 

OSLO, 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepts the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” isaiah 11:6

Dennis Baxley

Remember this name.  Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley.angry emoji

I was very privileged to grow up in central Pennsylvania in an 8 bedroom, multi-generational farmhouse.  It was built in the early 1900s by my great-grandfather and his father.  Had I come onto the scene a few years sooner than I did, my house would have been home simultaneously to 5 generations of  the Snyder clan.  The Waltons of TV fame had nothing over us Snyders.

On special occasions all of us took a meal together, but, the house had two kitchens which allowed the womenfolk to be somewhat autonomous.  My grandfather, who raised me as a son, inherited the farm which had been family owned since the Civil War times and provided an income to support the entire assemblage.  Additional income was earned by part-time jobs in the community.

As a very young boy, we had no television and the crank phone hanging on the wall connected to an operator several miles away who had to “plug” the line into another party’s line in order for us to speak.  In years when crops were good, we would pile into the old Desoto and drive 15 miles to the movie house for Saturday night entertainment.  Sunday morning always found my mother, aunts, grandmother and me at the country church a few miles away.  For some reason my grandfather and his father did not attend church.  Any activity away from the house required special provisions for someone to tend the livestock.

My great-grandfather died in 1962, his wife died in 1970 and my grandfather died in 1976.  As their ancestors before them, they all passed to the other side in bed at home. Their needs were attended to by family members.  Probably they did not receive the best medical attention in dying, I’m sure there was pain, but, that’s how we did it back then.  Pharmaceuticals and medical specialists did not keep them alive beyond a natural demise…..and they undoubtedly were grateful for the full lives afforded them by the faith they professed.  I have vivid memories of Grandpa reading his Bible up until his last day while sitting in his favorite chair which afforded him a view of the road which ran by the house.

Some times during his last days he would turn to whomever was with him and let us know that the undertaker has just passed by wondering if the black hearse was going down the road to pick up old Mrs. Turner who had been ailing badly.  Towards his own end, Grandpa would jokingly ask, “is the hearse stopping here for me?”

It was a wonderful time to grow up.  The old people were never insecure in their future.  They trusted their God and their own family to provide the needs for a dignified end to life.  They believed fearfully in an afterlife and prepared, as my Grandpa did, for that promise from the Lord which told them where eternity would be spent.

Do we have that today?  Probably not.  All of us have experiences with the facilities which we who are unenlightened call “old folks homes”.  Today they are “nursing rehab centers” or “assisted living facilities”.  Some of them are nothing more than warehouses for old people waiting to die.  We no longer allow our beloved mothers and grandfathers to experience a natural progression of life’s cycle.  And as a society we no longer hold the elderly of our nation in high esteem and honor.  The government sees them as a burden to the taxpayer while corporate America sees them as nothing more than a commodity to be exploited.

Oh yes, Dennis Baxley.  Recently, during Hurricane Irma, 12 elderly residents of a nursing home in Miami ‘baked to death’ because the facility did not have a functional generator to maintain the AC system.  Governor Scott and a handful of legislators pressed for new legislation that would require all facilities of that type to have an emergency generator.  It was debated in the State House.

“We keep getting new deaths attributed to the storm, because they came from the nursing home, when in fact, look at the population you’re dealing with: they’re 90-somethings.  Some of these deaths would have naturally occurred, storm or no storm…….eventually everyone who was in that nursing home would die.”

Baxley went on to say that part of the resulting outrageousness was a lot of misinformation and drama as a result of media coverage.  Dennis Baxley

Perhaps we must agree with Rep. Baxley that old folks do die, but most of them do not die in a bake oven.  Many of us remeber a time when our elderly loved ones died with dignity and comfort.

Representative Dennis Baxley

  • instrumental in changing Florida’s voting laws which subsequently prevented many Florida college students from voting
  • father of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law
  • favors ending gun-free school zones
  • ardent supporter of the NRA

huffington post

 

 

the world in black and white

“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.”  WIlliam BlakeCANDLE

When we, her students, got restless and inattentive, our English teacher in 11th grade would line us up, one row of classmates against the wall and the other row against the window.  Then she wrote on two slips of paper the exact same word or short phrase and handed a slip to the beginning student at the head of each line.  That person was instructed to whisper the writing on the slip of paper to the next student and pass it in the same manner of whispering on down the line.

It was a great lesson in life when the last student in each line repeated what had been whispered.  Never was it the writing on the paper and never, ever, were both lines in agreement with the word or phrase that our teacher had written.

So it is with anything I read.  My life’s experiences, my upbringing, my inherent prejudices, my likes and dislikes all temper the reading material at hand.  Where I see black, my best friend may see white.  Where I see a tragedy, my partner may see hope and renewal.

I try to read scriptures with an open mind, but, even then where I see black, my neighbor across the street may see white or many shades of gray.  In the best of circumstances we simply agree to disagree.  However, the civilization in which we participate today does not provide us with the best of circumstances.  Brothers are driven to disagreement and divisiveness by what they read.

In the realm of religion much of that division is fueled by theologians and Biblical scholars who justify their credentials in the world of philosophy by theorizing and then naming that theory “truth”.  Whose truth is it?  Yes, it is their truth but, it must be tested by the litmus test of “inherent rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  This is not an American invention, rather, it is confirmed by the centerpiece of Christianity, Jesus whom Christianity titles as the Christ.  Therein is the caveat of religious theory.  Every bit of it is man’s philosophy based on interpretations formed in man’s mind.  Where I see black, you may see white.

So, what do I do?  Do I simply give up passing a message down the line because the end result will never be agreement?

No, this is where the God-given innate traits of logic and reason come into play.  I need to apply the standard which Jesus taught in the message of the Gospels.

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

Does my message honor my Lord?  Does it promote the well-being of not only myself, but, all creation?  If not, then that message is not logical or reasonable because the bare, minimal truth of anyone’s life is survival.  Every one of the 2 billion+ people on this earth is driven by that spark inside which says, “I will survive.  I have a right to live in freedom, liberty, and happiness.”

That drive has nothing to do with religious doctrine.  If I apply this basic right of all humanity to my message and that message doesn’t cut the mustard, then I am wrong in my faith assumptions.  In my mind that is the nugget of truth which religionists have missed.  God is undefinable by human standards.  God is indescribable by human words.  God simply is.  No religion owns God.  God is that ultimate mystery which terrorizes some men while other men rejoice.  Where some men read black, others read white.

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BIGOTRY IS NOT AN AMERICAN VALUE

SPLC WEEKEND READ

On this day in 1979 over 100,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to demand rights for LGBT people.

But nearly four decades after the march on Washington , Attorney General Jeff Sessions is intent on rolling back their rights.

“The impetus for this assault on LGBT protections certainly did not come from the public. Seventy percent of Americans now believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. That’s 7 percentage points higher even than last year – and a major step forward from a decade ago.

Where the attack on LGBT people likely did originate is with groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, with whom Sessions consulted to draft his religious guidance.

Today, many of the most vocal anti-LGBT groups are in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated as a hate group by the SPLC.”

Please take time this weekend to read the link SPLC WEEKEND READ, go to your quiet place and reflect on whether the VVS represents your values.  Is this hateful rhetoric the legacy you want to leave to your children and grandchildren?

weekend in prayer

CANDLE

As followers of Jesus and the teachings Jesus established of love, compassion, tolerance and egalitarianism as presented in the Gospel writings of the Bible’s New Testament, we are commissioned to present to the world a faith which espouses the truth of Jesus of Nazareth.  We stand in solidarity with all faiths which promote non-violent interaction with mankind, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, we stand in solidarity with those who do not profess any faith but also choose to live in peace with the world’s humanity.

Our truth is under attack by a minority who claim Biblical inerrancy.  Their values advocate violence, intolerance, bigotry, and oppression in the name of their god.  Please pray with me.

Almighty God,

Men and women are meeting this weekend in our nation’s capital under the guise of VVS, Values Voter Summit.  They claim to hold godly truth in their rhetoric of hate and bigotry.  They advocate violence against their fellow man in the name of their god.  They claim exclusive knowledge of the will of the eternal Being we all name as God.  

We can only rely on the wisdom gleaned through your teachings in our scriptures.  We stand on the words of Jesus when Jesus told us to love the Lord God above all and then to love our fellow man as ourselves.  We believe the words of Jesus when Jesus told us that love and compassion were the only way to walk with you.  We accept into our souls the Spirit of the Holy which leads us in non-violent coexistence with all of God’s creation.  

We will not judge the actions of those opposed to us.  We cannot wish harm to those who hate us.  We can only ask you to remove the scales of intolerance and hatred from their eyes and the festering of darkness from their hearts.  This is our right and duty as children of God, as purveyors of your Holy Spirit.  

In all things may we be grateful for your unending grace and protection .  AMENnamaste rainbow

Following is a reblog of the post ‘A GATHERING OF BIGOTS’

The Family Research Council (FRC) is hosting its annual Values Voter Summit Oct. 13-15, a rogues’ gallery of the radical right, this year keynoted by President Trump himself.

The FRC is an organization that has relentlessly vilified LGBT people – portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to children and the nation. Because of its demonizing lies about the LGBT community, it has been named as a hate group by the SPLC.ORG  Like its host, the Values Voters Summit claims it stands for “values.” But whose values?

Key leaders in the established anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim movements will gather this weekend in Washington, D.C., for the annual Values Voter Summit (VVS), along with President Donald Trump and his former strategist and Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon.VALUES VOTER SUMMIT 

 

Among the CONFIRMED SPEAKERS at the Value Voters Summit October 13-15, 2017 in Washington, D.C., will be a who’s who list of conservative right religious and political figures.

STEVE BANNONTONY PERKINSJERRY BOYKINLIBERTY COUNSEL, ACT FOR AMERICAFRANK GAFFNEY, JRROY MOORE (Alabama candidate for US Senate),

Bigotry is not an American value. You can stand up for equality and speak out against the bigotry displayed by the Family Research Council. Here’s how:

Let people know that President Trump is lending the legitimacy of his office to a hate group that relentlessly demonizes LGBT people and works to deny them of their equal rights. Share this message on social media.

Expose the Family Research Council’s true values.

Educate yourself. Read our profile on the Family Research Council.

Take action against hate in your community. Follow our 10 Ways to Fight Hate guide.