oh, for Pete’s sake

backlit-clouds-dawn-415380

Pete Buttigieg

A heckler yelling Sodom and Gomorrah at a Buttigieg rally in Des Moines, Iowa, was drowned out by supporters chanting, “Pete, Pete, Pete.”  Then from the podium came a response from the candidate.  Looking toward the heckler he said simply,

The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, ” 

and then back across the crowd to his supporters, “but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”

The amazing rise of the latest of Democrats to declare his candidacy for President in 2020, Pete Buttigieg has stunned pollsters by coming in 4th behind Bernie, Biden, and Beto.  Commentators have marveled that this scenario could never have happened just 10 years ago.  An openly gay man in a committed marriage standing in front of millions of viewers nationwide with the audacity to believe he has a chance to win the Presidency.  Unheard of!  Oh, how the literalists, infallibles, and inerrants must be flapping jaws .  Sodom and Gomorrah indeed.

“Did you see it, ” the thumpers must be muttering, “his husband had the nerve to give Pete a peck on the cheek in front of the cameras with the world watching?  What will people think?”

Just my personal and biased opinion, but I think the world might exclaim in gasps of relief, “Thank God those folks across the water have finally come to their senses.  The Yanks could possibly elect in 2019 an intelligent class act, a monogamous married man, a Rhodes scholar who served his country as a Naval officer in Afghanistan and then returned home to dedicate to public service.”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what our European friends are saying because Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor who publicly introduced his husband on national TV with a kiss does not rock their sensibilities nor ours nearly as much as the current political regime in the USA which protects a draft-dodger, a racist, a womanizer, and a liar.

The good news is that the condition of my soul (and yours) is in the hands Of God.  No man, no religion, no theology, no President, no world leader, no spouse, no friend, no pastor has a claim on what we know to be our truth.  Just let that resonate for a moment.  Do you feel the freedom, the assurance, the joy?  The chains are broken not because a priest or minister says so, but because the master of your life, and the God of my life have stepped into the picture and overruled all those who tell us that we are immoral, evil, misguided, unworthy and headed for hell’s fires.  That human assessment simply is not true.  If the book which you read for inspiration and instruction condemns you and if the people you choose as spiritual leaders condemn you, then you need to give up that funny book and its associated church, mosque or temple to find a  fellowship that speaks love and compassion.

unshackled-2

namaste rainbow

a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

Picture15

 

Imperium Romanum

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

roman empire

IMPERIUM ROMANUM

The Roman Republic (Roma) dated from 509 BC to 27 BC after which the Roman Empire was established.  It had a government headed by emperors and held large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia.  Until 285 AD the empire was ruled from Rome when it split into the Western Roman Empire based in Milan and later Ravenna and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Nicodemia and later Constantinople.  The West fell to Germanic Herullians in 476 AD, the East fell to Ottoman Turks in 1453.

In 380 AD Emperor Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the West.  Earlier, in 313, Emperor Constantine convened councils of bishops to define the orthodoxy of the Christian faith.  Ecumenical councils were convened at the direction of the ruling emperor to assemble ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice.  The 1st seven ecumenical councils of the Church were: 1) First Council of Nicaea in 325, 2) First Council of Constantinople in 381, 3) Council of Ephesus in 431, 4) Council of Chalcedon in 451, 5) Second Council of Constantinople in 553, 6) Third Council of Constantinople from 680-681, and 7) Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

 “Did you know that the first seven Councils of the Church, agreed upon by both East and West, were all either convened or formally presided over by emperors? This is no small point. Emperors and governments do not tend to be interested in an ethic of love, service, or nonviolence (God forbid!), and surely not forgiveness unless it somehow helps them stay in power.” cac.org

Fr. Richard Rohr, a follower of the Franciscan order, does not mince words when describing the formative years of Christianity as a time when Roman emperors exerted power and control over the population through religion.  Our liturgy in contemporary Christian worship services recites the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds which define what Christians should believe, but leaves the implementation of that belief unexplored.

“The Christ of the creeds is not tethered to earth – to the real , historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus of Nazareth.  Instead, this image is mostly mental abstraction with little heart, all spirit, and almost no flesh or soul.  Sometimes it seems like Christianity’s only mission is to keep announcing its vision and philosophy. This is what happens when power and empire take over the message.”  cac.org  (underlined emphasis is mine)

In my mind, the urgency for a renewal of Christianity according to the early writings of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth becomes ever more pressing when religious leaders endorse a government policy which clearly defies the teachings of Scriptures by stating those same teachings of love and compassion, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” do not apply to our interaction with people of a differing creed, nationality, or culture.  Furthering the incredulity is when those same church leaders dismiss government leaders from any obligation to moral discernment when dispensing their official duties. This coalition of church and state, both without a moral compass, foretells a broken American Empire. Washington Post – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Thanks to Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org for the quotes and inspiration for this post.  He ends with the following words:

“Humanity now needs a Jesus who is historical, relevant for real life….a Jesus whose life can save us even more than his death does….a Jesus we can imitate in practical ways….” cac.org

beggar and wanderer

beard-beggar-face-35015

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”  Harold S. Kushner in his foreword, Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press: 2006), x. cac.org

The ancient wisdom of Hindu teachings tells us that we, those of us in this human experience called life, will traverse through 4 stages.  First is the student.  We learn lessons from parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, peers, and life itself.  Whom we become as adults is instilled during this period.

Second is the householder.  We hone our skills as businessmen and women, professionals and tradespeople and assume roles as parents and providers. We become engaged in the community, take leadership roles in civic organizations, churches and politics.  Asset building is paramount to many of us, while establishing ourselves within our vocations is important to many others.  We build credibility as successful  members of society.

Third is the retiree.  This is when our productive years in jobs and community leadership begin to decline.  If wisdom prevails, we cede control to our children and the younger generation who will inherit the goodness we have generated or the chaos and disorder we have created.  Many in Western culture refuse to move beyond the life stage of productivity and societal influence.  We are dragged kicking and screaming toward stage 3 of our lives, the retirement years.  It is not merely a refusal to relinquish economical or political control. It is a refusal to bow out and pass the baton to the next generation.  It is their world that we now occupy as transients.  They have the innovative concepts and fresh ideas that will resolve the world’s problems.

Lastly is the beggar or wanderer.  We detach from the things of this world and prepare for our pending physical deaths.  It is not a surrender to the uncertainties and frailties of old age, but rather, a search for comfort and security in that which is not earth-bound.  We look at the pending transition focused on the spiritual aspects of our being.  It is here that we can face a great sense of vulnerability and insecurity if spirit is not in balance within this human life experience.  Accepting that we have no control over what happens to us, realizing that there is no financial or physical security in life can mean the difference between a terrifying home stretch as beggar and wanderer or an indwelling peace beyond human understanding.

As with all situations in life, my response is my choice just as your response is yours.  Especially in the role of beggar and wanderer, we can be driven to emotional turmoil and madness when control is given to forces which are essentially beyond our control.  Why give brain space to a person, a political power, a religious tradition which does not pay rent for that space?  Why allow rhetoric and behavior which is not sanctifying and gracious into that inner sanctum of peace?

I can control my universe, so can you.  The decision is ours.

aquatic-plant-beautiful-bloom-612797

 

 

Who’s your Daddy?

 

Picture40

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

Where do you go when your world is being challenged from all sides?  I know you have been there because you and I are not uniquely different and, trust me, I have spent a lot of time begging the above verse penned by the authors of Psalms.  It is my signature plea to a timeless, Universal entity whom I name God.  You may name yours by another name, but when we cast aside man’s theological philosophies there is just one who is the I AM.

I like the word phrasing, “rock of refuge.”  It inspires in my mind a place, or state of consciousness, which is protected from the ravages of an insane world, a place where the intents of vile men cannot reach me, a sanctuary which can conceal me even from the evil which exists within.  The rock is strong, impenetrable and secure.  Amazingly, it does not erode with the forces of nature or the passage of time.  On the contrary, it grows and becomes stronger.

And, it is a “stronghold for my deliverance.”  As much as I would like to attribute all my factory defects to environment and circumstance, when I find that inner  place of honesty and transparency, I realize that I need desperately to be delivered from myself and the character traits which make my personal world insane and unmanageable.  “Turn you ear to me, rescue me quickly” from that which seeks to destroy me – anger, envy, greed, gluttony, pride, sloth, and lust.

Social injustice, poverty, oppression, national politics are also issues that can cause severe conflict if I don’t have a rock to sort everything and place priorities on those issues.  Approaching wickedness and uncivility with a peaceable intervention does not imply a lack of conviction.  I do not need to scream and rant to show the outside world that I am incensed by a corrupt political system.  Jesus overturned the tax collectors’ tables efficiently and forcefully, but I don’t see in the Bible any accounts of screaming, violence, and profanity.  Jesus also had that rock as his fortress and refuge.  He had his personal inner conviction guiding his actions, but he relied on the strength of the rock whom he called Father.

Many people want to contradict the existence of a rock, they vehemently deny with substantial energy that God is not.  That’s OK, I at one time was one of them.  Stridently ridiculing those of faith and defying them to prove their faith was a hallmark of my youth.  I was the intelligent one, they were the dupes.

Only when alcoholism forced me to my knees, did I decide to stay on my knees for a few moments longer and say a prayer, plead to the unfamiliar rock and fortress which I had ridiculed and discredited for many years.  With no more arguments, nothing to lose,  I was in desperate need of relief from myself and my atheism.

My church foundation as a young boy was based on old time preaching and music.  We sang “ROCK OF AGES” probably every Sunday.  “Rock of ages cleft for me.”  It’s a stunning visual for lost souls –  a fissure in a solid rock wall split to provide protection and comfort from the elements of our personal storms.  Why would anyone not want to believe?

ROCK OF AGES