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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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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renewal

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As always, my blogger mind, upon rising this morning, said, “Hmmmm, what shall we write about today?  Politics, injustice, evil, government, religion…..blah, blah, blah?”

And as always, I first read the posts from bloggers whom I follow.  The ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico from one, today’s challenge from another, a prayer for the world from another, and then, a post that nailed me between the eyes.

“Bingo, says I.”  Mike has bottom-lined where my life has been for several months.  The agony and frustration of living life on this earth, observing all the discord in the news and on social media, fussing with family and neighbors over things beyond my control and forgetting that the God I bow to everyday is totally and unequivocally in charge of the situation.  That higher power doesn’t need my help, doesn’t want my advice, and certainly doesn’t need me to defend its grace and authority reigning somewhere beyond my understanding and comprehension.

So, where does this leave me?  More importantly, where does this take me?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I am tired of second-guessing everything going on in this world and I am weary of chastising politicians and religious leaders who are seemingly out of step with the march which I follow.  It drains the soul, my friends.

The Buddha advises us to realize the impermanence of this life, to direct inward the actions and thoughts needed to change the world, and to be the observer and not the owner of life’s injustices and suffering.  We do that through the ‘right thinking and right behavior’ of the Buddha’s path.

According to scriptures, Jesus said he was the Way and the truth and the life.  His journey through the Gospels assures us, as the author of Philippians 4:7 says, that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds.


Going forward, all I have to take with me is that faith which demands nothing other than living a life of love and compassion with my fellow sojourners on this earth.  That’s a pretty simple directive and I know I will screw it up occasionally, but, it seems like a great way to travel the highway of life, hang out in the slow lane, and let my cup overflow.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”  Psalm 23:5

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roy moore versus truth

“I will continue to resist, and revolt against the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic leaders the Deporables and the Evangelicals support. They think they are doing the “will of God” when in fact they are playing God by their deeds, words and actions. These old white people will get the response from their Creator soon enough. Hopefully their time on earth has prepared them for the heat and humidity.” ENDS AND BEGINNINGS

JUDGE ROY MOORE

Please read the above link.

My heart grows weary in face of the accumulating evidence that America is regressing to the dark years of the 1950s before the advance of the civil rights movements.  Is it possible that Judge Moore truly represents the voice of Alabama?  Does this issue a dire forecast of where America is heading?

My friend at ENDS AND BEGINNINGS in today’s fine commentary illustrates the concern we should have with this potential Senator representing Alabama.

Some of Moore’s more memorable quotes;

  1. “Homosexual behavior is crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”
  2. “We have child abuse, we have sodomy, we have murder, we have rape, we have all kind of immoral things happening because we have forgotten God.”
  3. “False religions like Islam who teach that you must worship this way are completely opposite with what our First Amendment stands for.”
  4. “We have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Unfortunately, people who have not been reared in a genuine Christian home see this unholy assault on the moral compass of most thinking Americans as indicative of Christianity.  The faith has suffered immensely at the hands of fundamentalist evangelicals who spout their fears and hatred supported by a translation of our Holy Scriptures which they claim is literal, inerrant and infallible.  Many devout followers have been ostracized for questioning this interpretation.  Those who have been fortunate enough to escape this brainwashing usually walk away from any and all organized religions.

However, I continue to honor the teachings of the Christianity I knew as a young man.  It was a way of life based on compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and equality for all of God’s creation.  Yes, that came from the Christianity I knew.  Not all who profess the faith follow the path which Judge Moore advocates.  Although I no longer assume the label, I will always defend the pacifism and egalitarianism of the Christian faith which reared me.  It is the Way which Jesus of Nazareth defines in his Biblical character.  It is the Truth and the Life.

Firebrands like Roy Moore are doing a great disservice to the vast majority of believers who absolutely do not walk his path nor advocate his intolerance.  I often refer to the words attributed to Jesus and it matters not whether those words are authentically his for they are nonetheless verses of great wisdom.  The book of Matthew in chapter 10 speaks of the persecution believers shall suffer for speaking the truth of Jesus.

That truth, the brotherly love and compassion which is defined in the story of Jesus,  is not flowing from the mouth of Roy Moore and others like him.  Rather, it is gushing from those who live their lives in peace and inclusiveness shining a light on the darkened world of fundamentalism.  It is the enlightened faces in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism who endure persecution as described in Matthew 10 for daring to love unconditionally.  Truth does not emanate from the dark corners of racism, bigotry, homophobia, and sexism.  It never has and never will.

namaste rainbow

namaste

A friend recently observed that we (those of us who do not fit the WASP heterosexual mindset) have suffered tremendous oppression and discrimination at the hands of “believers” who profess the creeds and tenets of Christianity.  Historical accounts of this abuse can easily be googled and verified.  The legislation passed following the “rights” movements culminating in the equal marriage rights amendment under President Obama’s administration gave all enlightened people a glimmer of hope that such discrimination had been swept away forever in America.  Unfortunately, with Trump’s election and the advance of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians in the political scene, this celebration of social advancement was short-lived.

I personally have extreme difficulty reconciling my belief system, which is based on Judeo-Christian ethics, to what the politically vocal minority of Christian believers led by a cadre of so-called American spiritual leaders is foisting upon America “in the name of Jesus” and within their concept of God.  Where are the men and women of faith who are tolerantly, inclusively driven by compassion and love for all of creation?  Why are they not speaking out in defense of the Christianity which speaks for me?

Whenever I reference scriptural verses to support a viewpoint invariably someone will dispute my interpretation of those verses as not “proper within the framework……blah, blah, blah.”  Screw your framework.  The Spirit dwelling within me is as valid and as real as your theologically correct, fundamentally sound, and hypocritically driven gibberish.  I trust that spirit which drives me while many of you are still searching for the right gear to engage.  Let’s begin a dialog which tells the truth and invites unbelievers to join in the conversation.  That is how our faith can become a beacon for the lost and hurting.  It’s time to give up the proselytizing and simply join all of mankind regardless of race, creed, sex, and orientation in creating a better world.

One of my favorite writers, Ethan Walker the 3rd, opens his book THE MYSTIC CHRIST with the following words:

“And what is wisdom?  Wisdom is knowing that we are all one.  Love is what it feels like, and Compassion is what it acts like.”

From 1 Corinthians 13:2 in the NIV we are advised:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

There are several thoughts I can share with my friend who is as challenged as I am by what is being passed off as Christianity.  First of all, no man has a free pass to heaven.  The doctrines he supports, the creeds he professes,  the name he chooses for his god will get that man nowhere if he doesn’t trust in the truth of wisdom, love, and compassion.  Furthermore, as a non-believer, my friend should never be intimidated with the threat of eternal damnation because the bottom line is that any theology whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu is nothing more than a philosophy born out of man’s need to express spirituality.

 

 

silver lining

silver lining

Hello from Florida, the land of the powerless and sweat-soaked.  Nice to be back.  I once again have AC and internet.  Yes, those conveniences were missed, but, the days without them forced an adjustment in daily chores and in priority thinking.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people being courteous, washing dishes in the sink, turning t-shirts inside out for another day’s wear, and cooking campfire coffee somehow take a man back to the truly important things in life.  Providing for basic comforts and needs is relearned from a childhood spent dealing with the capriciousness of farm life.  Summers without adequate rainfall meant sponge baths in the sink instead of a tub bath because the scant water supply was needed for the livestock; a poor corn crop meant no  new school clothes; sinking commodity prices meant repairing the old worn out refrigerator rather than buying a new one and making the 20 year-old-tractor last another year.

My grandfather and great-grand father with whom I lived as a child knew a hard life.  Farming was never accredited with the appropriate respect for the risks taken to provide food for their families and the city folks.  There were no guarantees back then on investment return and we were all called hicks and hayseeds.  But my forefathers were as dedicated to their life’s calling as any college degreed professional.

They were devout men.  They were earnestly sincere, devoted, godly, reverential, genuine, ardent, and true.  They were not religious although they supported the local church and its ministries.  They were pacifists who rejected the ideology of war and the country’s war machine.  They quietly raised their families to be loving and compassionate.

When times like this past week enduring hurricane Irma strike and force us to our knees, I catch glimpses of many years ago living in better times in a benevolent community of godly people that understood who they were and what their purpose was on earth.  The religious pomposity and hypocrisy we witness in today’s sects can’t hold a candle to the goodness of my people.  The corruption of today’s government would have been a mere side note in my grandfathers’ daily life.  They had more important things to consider.  They had families to enjoy and communities to build.

Irma has shown a silver lining to this simple farm boy.  I hope to return to those boyhood times more often now, to draw upon the wisdom and compassion of my folks, and to hold in proper perspective the noise and stench of our world today.  Even as the internet lights up my computer screen again, I will seek the inner knowing and the wisdom of my forefathers to maintain a grasp on the truly important things.  They were a happy, content community poor in materialism but wealthy beyond any of the glitz ruling our society today.

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Namaste

“We need to be more concerned with following Jesus, which he told us to do numerous times, and less with worshipping Jesus—which he never once told us to do.”

richard rohr

Whomever we name as Lord and Savior has to be the guiding essence in our lives.  As one brought up in the Christian tradition, I of course have Jesus as my reference point.  I believe the teachings and the words attributed to this messenger of God are the entirety of what a person needs to live life successfully and compassionately.  His disciples addressed him as “Rabboni” meaning teacher or master.  He was not viewed as a preacher, a figure we are more comfortable with in Western Christianity.  He did not chastise his followers with threats and condemnation from his pulpit.  No, the Jesus we see in the Bible was always in the midst of everyday life, enjoying the company of fellow Jews, partying at weddings, consoling hurting friends, and practicing what he knew as the truth.

That is what western Christianity has lost in its zeal to convert the world.  It exhorts proselytes to bow and worship before crosses and man-created theologies rather than to get out there, rub elbows with all of God’s creation and humanity, and be a light in a darkened world by following the examples set by Rabboni.

Jesus endorses freedom of thought and justice for all humanity through actions of love, peace, compassion and inclusion.  I must believe that if Jesus and Buddha had met , they would have smiled on the world and greeted each other with Jesus saying, “God’s peace be with you.”

Buddha would have folded his hands, bowed his head, and returned with, “Namaste”, meaning I bow to the Divine in you.

What a wonderful world we could have if we all pretended to be Jesus and Buddha bowing and respecting each other’s chosen path to enlightenment.

bends, turns & detours

As with any journey, the destination is not always what we imagined it should be and quickly we discover that there are bends, turns, and detours to negotiate.  Such is the quest for sanity and serenity in sobriety.  When I had accomplished what seemed impossible, one year of continuous sobriety, I thought, “Aha, this is it, I have arrived.”

Yes, in a way, I did arrive.  But, I soon realized I had just touched the surface of what sober living entailed.  Thirty-six years later, I have yet to arrive.  The drinking is no longer the problem.  It’s actually easy now.  Don’t drink and I won’t get drunk; one is too many and ten is not enough; I won’t drink even if my ass falls off.  No, it’s not the alcohol anymore, it’s me and all the baggage stowed away in my head which continues to need an inventory and cleaning.  I suppose all of us are like that and the main difference is that we recovering alcoholics are fortunate enough to have a program geared specifically for us in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Perhaps the most difficult clean-out of the brain is releasing the religious indoctrination of our early years.  Today, as an old man approaching the septuagenarian decade of life, I no longer judge harshly the experiences of a childhood overwhelmed with a theology of condemnation and hell-fire although those experiences were definite contributors to my addiction.  I don’t harbor anger and resentment over injustices done in the name of a vengeful God.

But, I also do not forget.  The quest I am on leads into new and exciting ventures in the realms of spirituality, it leads into exploration of varying faith communities, it leads into appreciation for the ancient religions established long before the advent of Christianity.  And I do this comfortably because my mainstays are  love, compassion, peace, and nonviolence.  If, in the scriptures and writings which I encounter, those four companions of universal Oneness and solidarity don’t jump off the page and fill my brain with a sense of completeness, then I must move on.  I trust that inner spirit today.  Where it leads, I will follow.

And so, I try to walk the path of Buddha, worship corporately with Lutherans, and fellowship with sober people.  It’s a fine mix of all the best things in life when I maintain priorities and always remember that my name is Larry and I am an alcoholic.

hate in the good ole USA

(reference links for this article)

*FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL

 *AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION

*LIBERTY COUNCIL

THE PRAY IN JESUS NAME PROJECT

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

The groups listed above would appear to be benign, American-values organizations dedicated to advancement of spiritual principles and family affairs.  In truth, they are poster children for bigoted, intolerant religionists.  These groups are on the watch list of the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center).  All are considered to be anti-LGBT+.  The three with asterisks are listed as LGBT+ hate groups.

All came forward with statements praising Trump’s transgender ban.  Their agenda is obvious and their methods and scare tactics are in line with the man who won the White House with their endorsement.  They have put a justice on the SCOTUS giving the evangelical Christian movement the necessary clout to repeal a woman’s right to choose and the marriage equality Amendment.  You’ve heard them on radio, television, and internet whining about the persecution Christians are suffering at the hand of a liberal, hell-bent population.

Link to the SPLC website to learn more about hatred in the good ole USA.

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grease (not the musical)

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cac.org

“If we would imitate Jesus in very practical ways, the Christian religion would be made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for creation.”  Richard Rohr

Is your particular denomination, sect, or theology greasing the wheels of human consciousness?  Does your particular denomination, sect, or theology emulate the love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity and care for creation which all of your scriptures attribute to Jesus?  No?  Then how dare you affirm your interpretation of your holy writings as the inerrant and infallible word of God?

I have never been one of those “in your face” promoters of any particular faith walk.  You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?  Someone in your church, in your neighborhood, on your media screen?  My way is the only way, my way is Biblical, my way is God’s truth.  Maybe I’m describing you.

Again I say, “If your faith does not affirm Jesus (or any of the other of God’s messengers who brought us the same message) as a reservoir of love and compassion, then perhaps that faith which demands blind obedience to creeds and tenets is not genuinely Godly.  No, I’m not “in your face”, I’m simply posing a question

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

matthew 10:34

That sword of which Jesus spoke could be a reference for the need then to excise the law-ridden, hypocritical theology of the Jews.  We have the same scenario today.  Religionists who have abdicated their moral authority to celebrate equality and justice for all of God’s humanity regardless of  faith tradition, politicians who have bedded down with those religionists to rein in a sizeable voting bloc, and voters who have transgressed their profession of morality to gain political favor by electing a man who has shown absolutely no moral fiber or integrity….all are destined to fall to the sword Jesus carried into the theology foray.

No, I’m not here to be “in your face”.  Having suffered a torturous and humbling journey through the jungles of “Christian fundamentalism” and having survived that journey with a deeper and more sustaining faith than ever in my personal quest, I am here merely to ask questions.  Does your church/denomination grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for the creation?

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