the beast vs beauty…and the winner is?

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…..instead it should be that or your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

How’s your good heart today, how’s the beauty of your inner self?  In today’s trying times we cannot give in to ugliness; if we do, then ugly has won the battle.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all allude to a creation (yes, that includes us)  that is made in the image of God.  We are made in God’s image.  We are created beautiful.  Our inner selves are made of nothing but beauty.  Let that beauty outshine all the ugliness that the world throws our way.

beauty and ugly

from tinybuddha.com courtesy of unitarian universalists

 

MIGRATIONS

migrant: wanderer, drifter, gypsy, nomad, itinerant, transient, wayfarer

Our lives are migratory.  When we accept impermanence, fear and insecurity will be replaced with a peace beyond understanding.  All of Creation, including mankind, consists of evolving, migratory species.  The violent events of our nation, the worldwide pandemic are leading to unknown horizons.  We move with the changes under the direction of our moral compass or our souls die in the fires of turmoil and anarchy.  Heaven or hell – we can choose what our inner reality will be.

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There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and an time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

ECCLESIASTES 3:1-8

 

the JOURNEY

Not knowing the answers is a wonderful experience leading to asking more questions, continuing the search for wisdom and knowledge.  We often look to the ancients who also walked the paths we are on.  They were often labeled heretics and blasphemers for proposing thoughts and ideas contrary to established cropped-speaking-truth2.pngtraditions.  They were the holy men, the mystics who searched the truth which lies within each of us.  Not claiming to have unraveled the mysteries of the soul, they lived lives awed and amazed by that which was not meant to be understood, but merely accepted and practiced.  That is who we are – when we believe we have arrived, we have only begun the journey.

LIES

Fibs, little white lies – we are all guilty.  However, most of us have transcended into people recognizing the immaturity of the hurtful, harmful, hateful lies permeating our social media screens with a rhetoric that jolts us, scars our inner souls.  How should we speaking truth2navigate the waters of a society which not only accepts this perverse lying, but actually promotes and endorses that which most rational people know to be untrue?

Today, especially in the USA with an approaching election, this untruthfulness begins with the 1st news story of the day and does not end until the screens get shut down in the evening.  My friends, that’s the secret – shut off the screens.

“What?” you say.  “Turn off MSNBC, CNN, FOX NEWS, RUSH and ALEX, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, etc.?”

“Unthinkable!”

Fine, then deal with the garbage being spewed in whatever way works best for you.  But, do not be deceived lest you be devoured.  One side is not squeaky clean while the other is like fetid sewer water in the summer heat.  Both sides are guilty of lying and deceit. We are nothing more than hacks in their game-playing.

Back to the question – how do we navigate these waters and maintain sanity?  First, we need to recognize that in the historicity of this world, today, May 15 2020, is little more than a blip on the radar screen, a tiny speck that will probably be forgotten a century from now.  Secondly, we need to find comfort in the ancient wisdom of all religions, faith traditions, and spiritual philosophies that confirm one of my favorite verses from the Judaic tradition in the book of Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 8, which suggests that:

“Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster.”

King Solomon, known as the wisest man among  the wise in his culture, affirms others who have modernized the words to say, “What goes around, comes around.”  Say it however you like, this sentiment gives comfort to those of us who believe that someday, somehow, the injustices of this world will be addressed.  Otherwise, we have no reason to believe in the goodness and mercy of this Creation.

It’s a choice, isn’t it?  You and I decide each day what we will accept as truth and reality.  Will it be the tirades and lies of our political world or the blessings gifted to us by the wisdom of ancient traditions?  Which will it be?sow love

 

 

the American way

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“Turn your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Worldwide, these are difficult times for all of us.  It is interesting to observe what or whom people turn to in times of adversity.  The following is my response submitted to ‘letters to the editor’ to this morning’s local newspaper headline.

Yippee ki-yay, buckeroos. Citrus County residents must be planning for a range war that would make the wild, wild West of yesteryear look like a cake walk at the local church picnic. Today’s Chronicle headline reads, “Local gun store sales soar.”

Surprising? Not at all. This is the American way – solve insecurities, fears, and differences with a gun. I remember an old western movie in which the hero manned 5 guns at one time thus eliminating the band of bad boys who were threatening him. Maybe that’s what fellow Citrus residents envision? Or perhaps they foresee a government intent on confiscating their weapons? Now fellows, I am not the brightest light bulb in the package, but if your government wants your guns, then it will swoop into your neighborhood with more firepower than y’all ever dreamed in your worst nightmares. And guess who is going to be dead? Probably you and I plus a multitude of peaceful neighbors caught up in your cowardly shenanigans.

One of the most obscene bumper stickers which I have seen reads, “God, guns and guts.” Is this the mindset of a nation which boasts a heritage based on teachings of a man advocating peace and compassion for all humanity? We have become myopic, extremely short-sighted regarding diverse cultures and faith walks promoting peaceful co-existence with the world. An outside observer could rightfully believe that many Christian Americans have chosen violence and guns as their God.

The Dalai Lama once said that there are no Muslim terrorists, no Buddhist terrorists, no Christian terrorists. One cannot be a man of violence if one truthfully and faithfully professes to be a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian; conversely, one cannot truly be a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian if one promotes violence as the answer to adversity.

Two quotes, from men much wiser than I, have greatly influenced my life’s philosophy:

1) “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  GILBERT K. CHESTERTON,

2) “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  MOHANDAS GANDHI

God, guns and guts. Really? Will this be America’s legacy? We are all facing severe insecurities regarding food supplies and other available resources. We face financial hardships unknown since the Great Depression. Will your answer be a gun or will it be faith in goodness and mercy?

Do I expect that my words will stop a neighbor from buying a gun, or from using that gun on a desperate man in need of food, or keeping that gun loaded by his bedside, or mistakenly pointing that gun at me?  Hell no!  But, I know that guns do not kill people; therefore, I am not afraid of guns.  Rather, it is angry, insecure, unpredictable people brandishing guns who kill people.  For today’s times I choose to entrust my life 🙏 to a universal force of goodness and mercy that comforts and consoles in all circumstances.  Sorry, 2nd Amendment people, guns do not translate into security and safety in my world.

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a Better Way

Today we celebrate what many Christians including Franciscans believe to be the most significant day of the Christian year – the birth of a new nonviolent world.  Jesus was all about nonviolence.  His ways and life, encapsulated in the Gospels, breathe a better way for Christians to engage with brothers/sisters of Hinduism, of Islam, of Judaism, of Buddhism, of all the great religious persuasions pursuing peace on earth.  Over a hundred years ago, Gandhi observed that every religion is rooted in nonviolence.  May we also, in our Christian faith walk, begin the Christmastide celebration ushering in 2020 with the peace of Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus on our hearts.  Namaste. 🙏

FROM MATTHEW 5:1-7, 27

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

three kings day

Your Vote – does it matter?

“Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God’s beloved, but so is everyone else! If we believe God wants what is good for us, how do we not understand God wants what is good for each and every living thing? What would it mean to vote as if the very presence of God were in our neighbor and the stranger alike, which is simply what Jesus taught?”  CAC.ORG – Fr. Richard Rohr

Namaste – not the word Jesus used, but it certainly means the same.  A follower of Buddhism would bow to you (and all of Creation) and say namaste – “I honor the divine in you.”  Jesus said, “Love your neighbor (and all of Creation) as yourself.”

What’s so difficult about that?  Why can we not believe that Jesus from Nazareth, during the time between ages 12 and 30 when no historian can provide an account of his activity, met up with traders from the East who followed the teachings of Buddha.  Even non-believers in the historicity of Jesus or Buddha will have to admit that namaste is certainly a great way for earthlings to conduct themselves.  It could be the key to the survival of our species.

Let’s give this idea a shot in our 2020 voting.  Rather than endorsing candidates who claim to be God-sent, or candidates who claim to have the inside track to God, or candidates who attend the ‘right’ church, or candidates who profess the tenets of an intolerant and exclusive Christianity, let’s try “namaste.”  Let’s try “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Let’s vote as if the earth and all its creatures (including us) depended upon it.

Fr. Richard Rohr of the Franciscan order is an outspoken critic of the political and religious status quo.  We agree that somehow Christianity, as envisioned in its early genesis, has missed the mark of its founders.  We agree that the purpose of Christianity is not to look heavenward for salvation nor to follow a reclusive lifestyle.  Christianity was meant to involve Christians in the nitty-gritty of the world’s disadvantaged and oppressed people.  We are designed to focus downward upon earth’s sorrow and heartbreak, to participate in the world rather than seek escape in heavenly promises.

Buddhism calls this life “dukkha” – suffering.  It is suffering which stems from our human tendency to want what we don’t have and not appreciate the blessings we do have.  I can relate.  How about you?  We have houses which would be palatial to many of the world’s people, but want even larger and more luxurious homes.  We have closets full of clothes whereas many people have nothing more than rags to wear.  We eat to the point of unhealthy obesity while many babies are starving.  We are coming into the Christmas season where the mantra is, “shop till you drop.”  Yet this extravagance of material blessing does not eliminate dukkha.

Externals will not eliminate suffering.  Only by resetting the internal defaults will we ever reach the heaven described by Jesus or nirvana promised by Buddha.  It’s an inside adventure which each of us can undertake.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?”  AA PROMISES

WE THINK NOT

Get out there and vote.  Jesus did not give us THE WAY and Buddha did not give us THE PATH  for us to twiddle our thumbs and be recluses uninvolved in the planet’s survival.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob did not give us recovery through ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS to muddle through life uninvolved in the lives of still-suffering fellow man. god bless america

separation of church and state

Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments in public schools. According to the sponsors of the bill, “all state and federal laws and guidelines maintaining religious neutrality” would be maintained.

One can easily favor this endeavor to educate students regarding religious doctrine because the writers of SB 746 guarantee that such studies would not “endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.”

Certainly it would be educational and advantageous for students to learn about man’s trek across the numerous religious philosophies created throughout history by holy men, theologians and scholars to instruct, comfort and control the masses. However, knowing the history of our state’s policy-makers, can we be assured that their explicit guarantee of neutrality will be followed? It sounds reassuring today, but, what will our teachers, students, and public schools face 5 or 10 years from now? Would it not be wiser to focus this Christian educational effort in the hands of the experts in religious education – our county’s esteemed parochial schools where children are educated in an atmosphere conducive to their family’s beliefs?

Of course, should these religious studies include all the major faiths of our world including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam among others worthy of study, then, perhaps this bill could provide a well-rounded education to young people regarding various man-created philosophies of religious belief.

The key word in SB 746 is public – public education system. It is our duty to oversee and maintain this public system serving the diversity of religions, races, creeds, and lifestyles which make us a strong melting-pot nation. E Pluribus Unum, on the Great Seal of the United States, was a motto included on the seal in 1782. It means “out of many, one.” That is who we are. We are one people, one nation worshipping or not worshipping as conscience dictates. We are church people and synagogue people and mosque people and temple people. I applaud our legislators’ work to introduce religious studies into our public schools, but let’s include all faiths as worthy of study, not just Christianity and Judaism. I would enjoy a course in Buddhism, my neighbor favors Islam. Red-blooded American citizens, we are E PLURIBUS UNUM.

we are One

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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  GENESIS 1: 27

Millions of Christians are obviously dyslexic.  That verse does not say that man created God in man’s image.  OUCH!  Have I deflated any egos, yet?  If not, keep reading.

In Western culture, many of those who profess a God, especially those of Christian persuasion (and I honor 🙏 any who do not profess), conduct lives led by ego and personal advancement.  Individualism is lauded, winning at all costs is admired, the boys with the most toys win.  The comparison game runs rampant, many egos are shattered upon realizing they don’t measure up to that which is considered success and prosperity.  I know what I speak of because, yes, I have been there and done that.  I can still go there today if I am not mindful of the fact that I am created in the image of God, I also am Spirit.  Let that sink in.  You, me, all of humanity and all of Creation are made in the image of God, the permeating life energy which is our reality.

We are primarily spirit and our physical existence on this earth should not be what defines us.  This body, this life we have created embracing materialism, this set of prejudices we harbor, this ego we strive to protect is not reality.  The spiritual persona, which is exactly what God was, is, and always will be, is most often reserved for Sunday morning church and Easter time reflection, yet it should be the everyday, 24 hour a day endeavor to align with what we know to be truth – the Life proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth or the Path advised by Buddha.

In Hindu teachings it is enlightenment, Christianity calls it salvation, Buddhism names it the end of suffering (dukkha).  It is the surrender of egoic and self-serving lifestyle to a transformative and liberating awakening.  It is when Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Nirvana, Buddhahood and God, in whose image we are made, becomes reality and this earthly life is known to be illusion.

A deflated ego is a good thing.  It removes any need to attain material wealth, to strive for social status, to always be right in religion and politics, to proclaim my God better than yours, to be judgmental, to fear and hate, to be anxious about tomorrow.  A deflated ego ushers in enlightenment, salvation and the end of suffering.  Namaste. 🙏

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NAMASTE – is it really so difficult?

“The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a richard rohrmystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.” MATTHEW FOX  cac.org – Richard Rohr 

Do I do that – walk the talk and talk the walk?  How about you?  Those of you who have read my ramblings over the past few years probably realize I have a serious issue with religion and religionists.  Many of them talk a great spiel from the pulpit and the pews of their churches, but then don’t walk it in their lives or in their behaviors.  That is not real; it is not empowering.  If not embraced in lifestyle this pretty rhetoric becomes just more trash on the pile of religious deceit.  Preachers are guilty, parishioners are guilty, black and white are equally guilty, politicians are guilty.  Me too.  I do not always walk the talk.

But I highly esteem those mystics who have.  The four named in the introductory quote are just a few of the many men and women who discovered their inner truth and then lived lives accordingly.  Buddha was human, Jesus was human, Gandhi was human, and Martin Luther King was human, all acclaimed mystics were humans who acknowledged the Divine center of their beings as the most consequential and significant reason to talk the walk and walk the talk.

Our world is racing to the annihilation of the human species.  Accompanied by rabid politics, fear-mongering politicians, greedy capitalism and heretical religions, the voices of those who pursue social justice, peace, and inner searching seem lost in the insanity.  That which could turn the tide and redeem civilization from a sure demise is often obscured by conversations of victory at any cost rather than sensible compromise embracing the rights of all mankind and all earth’s natural resources.

We must come to realize and surrender to the premise that this planet is not a hodgepodge of several billion humans intent on survival as individuals, but rather, an ecosystem which includes all mankind, all animals, all plant life, all resources interdependent on one another and living together as one cohesive environment.

Learning to love ourselves and others begins from a place of reverence for all of life.  This reverence flows forward in the Buddhist greeting, “Namaste”, I honor the divine in you.  Not only other brothers and sisters on this earth, but every part of creation should be viewed and greeted with namaste.

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth.
Four-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.” 

(Native American prayer for the earth)