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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Santa Claus

 

picture1-pngstep9-2“If you’re not a good little boy, Santa Claus is gonna leave you nothing but a bucket of coal.”

Did your parents ever say that to you?  Yes, it was a form of blackmail and most often it worked.  After all, what would a little boy do with a bucket of coal? Couldn’t show it off to buddies, couldn’t play with it, couldn’t eat it like candy.

“If you’re not a good little boy, God’s gonna get you and throw you into the fires of hell.”

Any of you remember hearing that from parents, teachers and preachers?

The fear of the Lord was instilled at a very young, impressionable age.  Unfortunately, when that little boy grew up, he continued to greatly fear that bearded, white-haired old man setting somewhere in the heavens with a judgemental scepter……good little boys on this side, bad little boys on that side.  And then, as an adult, if he still allowed religion in his life, this fear which had now become a life-directing terror was often supported by an erroneous interpretation of Job 28:28.

And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord–that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:28

I finally bought a Strong’s Concordance because at a certain point in my adult life, I realized I could not uninstall or delete from my brain bank all that had been put in there by church and religion.  Reprogramming is not an easy undertaking.  For those of you unfamiliar with Strong’s, it is a compilation of every word in the Bible with a cross-reference to the original Chaldee, Hebrew or Greek words and their definitions.

I wanted to know what the original authors had in mind when they wrote the stories, parables, and histories of the ministry of Jesus which was later combined as the canon of the New Testament.  That is also true of the Old Testament which is an assembled canon of the writings of revered Jewish authors.  Neither of the Testaments was simply laid down before the people and declared to be the official word of God.  They were an assortment of histories, myths, folklore, parables and spiritual inspiration.   And I was told by a wise, old spiritual adviser that for he who seeks, those books can be a wealth of wisdom and truth.

Very simply stated, I could not continue in life with a headful of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”  teachings floating around in my head.  If indeed there was any truth in the scriptures which indicated a loving and compassionate God, I needed to find that truth, or give up the search completely, or go insane.

Slowly, by having the Bible and my Concordance open side by side and sometimes referencing each word of the verse I was reading, so slowly I was seeing for the first time in my life the beauty and true meaning of the writings of this book called the Bible.  Even more revelatory was the insight gained when I was able to apply this wisdom in a spiritual realm rather than the inerrant, infallible, literal interpretations of my childhood.

The KJV translation uses in Job 28:28 the words, “fear of the Lord.”   Fear carries a highly negative connotation.  Fear, actually terror,  is what I regularly felt as a young man who knew he fell far short of being the human he was meant to be.  At some point, men like me say “What’s the use?  I would sooner die being a happy sinner rather than a frightened little boy.”

The Strong’s Concordance also includes in its definition of the word ‘yir’ah’ (fear) the meaning “reverence”.  Does it take a college degree to see the vast difference between fear and reverence?  Yes, of course I revere, honor, cherish a power greater than myself; yes, I am awed by a loving, compassionate entity worth of being named God.  I can finally say in truth and confidence “Reverence for my Lord is wisdom.  To shun what is not of the Lord is understanding.”smiley 3

 

 

 

 

 

to facebook or not to facebook

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…..that, my friends, is the question of importance this morning.  On the one hand, Facebook is informational and I’m able to follow the groups and organizations such as SPLC, AU, Media Matters, and my Congressmen which keep me informed about issues of significance in my life.  On the other hand Facebook is filled with a litany of stupidity and ignorance that somehow also creeps into my daily routine.

Friends on Facebook?  Yeah, right.  I am “public”, anybody can read me.  Of those who follow me are 7 people whom I do not know, and one girlfriend from the foggy days of the 1970s.  She scares me more than any of the others.  Assuredly, I can access the privacy settings and make myself virtually inaccessible, but, what’s the point in that.

No, as a blogger friend has noted, it should be called “Fakebook”.  I like that.  It just rolls off the tongue and it is a much more accurate description of what a man can expect when he signs up.  Although, during the 2016 campaign, my cadre of Facebook “friends” showed their true colors and most of them deleted me.  Hmmmmmm.  maybe there is a redeeming value in Fakebook.

I am virtually friendless on social media but, I now know who the loyal people are in my life.

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FYI

The Reichstag (Diet of the Realm) was a legislative body of Weimar Germany from 1919 until the Nazi takeover in 1933.  The German Parliament consisted of two Houses, it was a bicameral body as is the Congress of the United States.  All adults, with only a few exceptions, were eligible to vote in a system similar to our electoral college.  As a minimal number of votes were required to gain a seat, it was a legislative body with innumerable voices represented and subsequently

“each political party wanted to pull Germany in a different direction and parties often refused to compromise with, or even recognize, other parties.”

wikipedia

In the election of 1928, the Nazi Party won only 12 seats in the Reichstag making it the smallest of nine parties in the chamber.  Four years later in the election of 1932, the Nazis and the Communists, both having been declared enemies of the parliamentary system, held an absolute majority of the seats.  From 1930 onwards , the parliament was often circumvented by two instruments not strictly provided for by the constitution.

  1. the extensive use of powers granted to the President by the use of the Emergency Decree of Article 48 of the constitution allowing that President to take emergency measures without prior consent of the Reichstag.  This power was understood to include “emergency decrees”
  2. the use of enabling acts of 1919-1923 and then in 1933 after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor.  These acts became an important building block of his dictatorship.  The  Enabling Act of 1933  was an amendment that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Hitler –  the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag.

With this latter enabling act, the Reichstag formally gave up its exclusive responsibility for the exercise of the legislative power.

Reichstag fire

An arson attack on February 27, 1933 at the Reichstag building (home of the German parliament) occurred just one month after Hitler was elected Chancellor.  It was blamed on communist agitators in general although it was later decided that it was the act of a lone council communist.  This, however, provided the fuel that the Nazis needed to sway public opinion in favor of Hitler and the Nazis.

The Reichstag Fire Decree imposed on February 28, 1933 less than a day after the fire, rescinded most German civil liberties , including the rights of assembly and freedom of the press.

Should we learn anything from this piece of history?

  • lack of compromise in the legislative branch
  • economic hardships in search of a scapegoat
  • extreme nationalism
  • civil liberties rescinded
  • freedom of press abolished

In a time period of one month in 1933, Hitler and his white supremacist, nationalist Nazi party transformed Germany from a deeply divided and troubled country, much like ours today, into the dictatorship responsible for over 6 million deaths.

 

that divine spark

CANDLE

I love to read about things that inspire people to become a closer image of the spiritual person which God has intended for them.  When reading or listening to others who are sharing their journey, I try to look for the nugget of truth that is intended for me, that divine spark which they harbor inside of them and that inspiring thought which is meant for me.  There are no coincidences in this experience.  You, my fellow human, always have something to teach me.

“Namaste” roughly translated means, “I bow to the divine in you.”  Shared with another in a position of bowed head and folded hands, this one word says to you that I may not agree in philosophy and “isms”, but, I know that the same divine presence which motivates and inspires me is also within you.  It’s a wonderful way to overcome the inherent prejudice and bias which we all endure.  Possibly it is the only way we can avoid species annihilation at the hand of hatred and intolerance.

Buddhism, for me, is a rich sojourn through the thoughts of the character of the Buddha.  The image given to us is that of a weighty man, sitting in the lotus position, transfixed in meditation.  According to the tradition of Buddhism, love, self-less behavior, and compassion are the essentials for a peaceful coexistence with fellow-man and with the entirety of creation.  The practitioners of this philosophy don’t necessarily see it as a religion, but rather, as a way of living.  They name it “the Path”.

Jesus, who historically came to us about 500 years after the Buddha, also referred to this devotion to selflessness as “the Way”:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

This idea of self-less, compassionate co-existence is not a Christian discovery formulated by Jesus and his followers, nor is it an invention of the Buddha.  It has existed forever in the heart of mankind since the beginning of time.  Religion and the “isms” will never capture it or copyright it.  That divine spark which dwells within, which leads me to try harder, do better, suffer with my brothers and sisters, hope for enlightenment, and realize I need a Lord and Savior in my life is inherent in all of us.

Choosing to acknowledge and follow, to recognize a higher power is a choice.  Whether I soar with eagles or mire in the muck is a decision I must make each and every day.  Come, fly with me today, the skies are spacious and refreshing.  Truth is awaiting.

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in the arms of an angel

“In the arms of the angel, fly away from here.                                                                        From this dark, cold hotel room                                                                                                          And the endlessness that you fear.”

Written as “ANGEL” by Sarah McLachlan about the heroin overdose death of Jonathan Melvoin of the SMASHING PUMPKINS

it’s a cake walk

CANDLE

Hardly a day passes by that I don’t look at this page and wonder,  “Do I really want to write another post?”

“C’mon Larry, you can do it.  Just get out of the boat and walk over here to me.”

The story in Matthew tells me that Peter did indeed get out onto the water and walk toward Jesus.  But, then, fear set in.  “What if the waves overcome me, what if the winds blow the boat farther away from me and I won’t be able to return safely?  What if Jesus disappears from sight into the depths of the sea?  What if Jesus is not who he says he is and I am left to fend for myself?  What if all those people on the shore see me and laugh at me?  Oh Lord, I can’t swim.”

What’s that you say?  You always trust Jesus.  Really?

Would you trust Jesus enough to drop your nets and your livelihood, leave your family and become essentially a homeless beggar?  Would you trust him enough to risk imprisonment and death by preaching his heretical beliefs?  Would you trust Jesus enough to move to the poorest of slums in India and minister to the poorest of the poor as Mother Teresa did?

Truly?  Well then, undoubtedly you would also have answered “Yes, I know this man, he is my Lord and Savior,” when questioned three times if you are not a follower of the man inside being sentenced to crucifixion.  The cock would never have crowed three times for you.

Aren’t we amazingly hypocritical?  I know I can be.  I can talk the talk but many times walking the walk is too difficult or dangerous.  I’d rather hang in the background with the crowds making small talk, small acceptable talk.  I’d rather focus on problems of the world instead of proclaiming the beauty of the universe dwelling within.  It’s who I am.

People will jabber incessantly with me about the price of potatoes at the grocery, the climate challenges we are facing, the lack of civility amongst Americans, but, when someone mentions Jesus and God, “Oh, I’ve really got to run,  my favorite soap is starting in 15 minutes,”  or, “I’ve got my own beliefs and we like our church.  See ya.”

No, no, no! I don’t want to talk about your beliefs or your church.  I want to talk about your faith and your heart, your good heart.  What makes you tick?  What gives you reason to get out of bed in the morning?  More importantly, what keeps you from walking on water?  (And if you can walk on water, please tell me how you do it.)

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:29

The writers of Matthew also tell me that faith as small as a mustard seed will move a mountain.  In the physical world that is virtually impossible.  But, within my inner sanctum a flicker of faith the size of a pinhead can overcome enormously mountainous obstacles of anger, aggression, depression, anxiety……addiction.  I don’t know anything about moving Mt. Everest, but let me tell you what just a smidgen of faith in Jesus has done for anger issues, depression, alcoholism.  That faith makes walking on water nothing more than a Sunday picnic cake walk.

Bingo!  Its’ an inside thing, isn’t it?  When I look over the side of my boat surrounded by despair and hopelessness I have two choices; 1) I can stay chained to my oars of self-doubt or 2) I can jump out onto the water and trust in something of much greater substance than me.  Call that hand extended over the water beckoning to you whatever you like;  I will call it Jesus.smiley 3

 

somewhere

Why “SOMEWHERE”?  Because tonight I want  to believe that I belong somewhere, that life is more than noise and chaos, that there is a place where peace and compassion are  celebrated.  Because tonight the world is a lonely, dark, unforgiving void trying to suck me in.  That’s why I write, that’s why I listen to music.  The darkness can’t touch me when my mind fills with words and beautiful music.  

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
Maya Angelou

on bended knee

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Many years ago I served my country during the height of the Vietnam War.  Just a hayseed off the farm, I signed up with the Navy to be a hospital corpsman not realizing my government was desperately needing men of valor and courage to go into the jungles with the Marines.  I merely wanted to serve in a role of service to others, not in any combat situations.  It was my upbringing as a pacifist that led me to this decision.

After boot camp, hospital corps school, neuropsychiatric school, and a year on the wards of Philadelphia Naval Hospital, I was due for my deployment orders.  On the psych units where I worked, I ministered to men shattered emotionally by the horrors of what they had seen and done in the rice paddies and jungles.  Nearby on the orthopedic wards I interacted daily with the men who gave an arm, a leg, sometimes all their limbs to a war which was becoming increasingly unpopular.

At the height of the protests in the streets of Philadelphia against the war, we were restricted to the base for our own protection.  It was then that I questioned our government, I wanted to know why young men and women were rallying in the streets.  Certainly, our approved government propaganda would not provide any truth so several of us began listening to “the underground radio”, a local radio station which aired anti-war music and anti-government dialog.  Our base command threatened disciplinary action if we were caught listening to this “commie-inspired”  nonsense in the barracks.

That was 50 years ago when I was a naively trusting 20 year-old.  In retrospect, I believe that I would have taken a more active role in the protest if I were not also battling my personal demons which Providentially shortened my military experience.  Today, I know on which side of the protest lines I would have stood.  My government was wrong, it did not deserve my loyalty or my life.  But, what does a hayseed fresh off the farm know?

In the news headlines we see professional sports figures taking a knee to express their discontent with a government that apparently has learned nothing from the horrors of the Vietnam conflict, the civil rights movements, the gay rights protests of the 1960s through the 1980s.  Many athletes are putting careers in jeopardy to show solidarity with African-American players who see an increase of racial injustice and oppression within America.  They refuse to honor an institution or a flag which denies them equality.

The current Administration is labeling them ‘unpatriotic’ for ignoring a symbol, a piece of cloth, or a song while attempting to coerce the NFL ownership to cave to the distorted concept that patriotism is defined by an unthinking adherence to tradition.  That tradition got over 58,000 American men killed in Vietnam.  Most of them were too young to understand the lies behind their government’s involvement in a conflict across the Pacific.  They could not fathom the corporate greed of the American military/industrial complex nor the powers that condoned a winless strategy.  They are undoubtedly true patriots whose sacrifice we should honor and revere, but we must learn lessons from their experience and never stop questioning our government’s agenda.

The one salient lesson I learned back then in Philadelphia is “you cannot trust your government.”  It was confirmed again during the Iraqi conflicts. Today that lesson is apropos when we consider the deep divisions brought about by opposing ideologies intensified by a contentious election amongst the people of America.  We don’t yet know what freedom-subverting designs are being implemented behind the façade of chaos and confusion.

The players who take a knee are doing so under the good graces of team ownership.  Like any job which any of us work, ultimately it is up to the owners what behavior is allowed on company time.  But this has become a much greater issue since the involvement tweeted by the POTUS.  He has negatively politicized the rights of each of us to express our displeasure with a government which we believe does not uphold the tenets of its founding documents.  He has denigrated the patriotism of the protesting players and in doing so he has categorized all of us who question the actions of government as being ‘unpatriotic’.  Choosing the playing field to voice discontent is debatable, but the right to do so is guaranteed by our founding fathers and is as heroic an act as participating in any military conflict.

Like the protestors on the streets of Philadelphia and Chicago during the Vietnam War, this voice of dissent must be heard.  Perhaps if our political talking heads had actually served their country in a military conflict as Senator McCain did, they would understand that saluting, placing hand over heart, removing hat, standing at attention does not a patriot make.  Patriotism goes much deeper than a superficial act of respect.

During Vietnam many died on the battlefields, many suffered, many were persecuted at home for expressing their love of a country which supposedly honors the free exercise of God-given conscience.  We were all brothers in spite of the government’s attempts to divide us.  Let’s remember that lesson as we face again a government which is lying to us and intends to split us to the core.  Don’t allow the lessons learned by blood and tears to be wasted on a corrupt, self-serving Administration.

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