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.

smiley 3

 

dare to dream

“I have a dream today.  I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.  This is our hope.  This is the faith that I go back to the South with.  With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.  1963

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.  Jan 15, 1929 – Apr 04, 1968 (age 39)  en.wikipedia.org

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

IMAGINE 1971

JOHN LENNON Oct 09, 1940 – Dec 08, 1980 (age 40)

The following scene from WEST SIDE STORY also shares a dream.  Young lovers from different cultures fight the racism of their neighborhoods to pursue a life together.  Tony and Maria plan to escape the hatred of gang violence surrounding them; however, in the final scenes Tony is shot and dies in Maria’s arms.  She picks up the gun and screams, “Now, I can kill too because now I have hate.”  But, she cannot hate nor kill.

Martin Luther King, Jr., the preacher, John Lennon, the songwriter, and Tony, the gang member all shared the same dream to live peacefully in a violent, hate-filled society. They realized that dream prematurely through untimely deaths.

JOHN MCCAIN

I googled John McCain last night and was appalled by the number of results which labeled him as “Hanoi John”, a traitor, a coward, a friend of the communists in Vietnam, ad nauseam, etc.  They were no less distasteful than Trump’s loser quote during the campaign.  I never totally agreed with the Senator’s political philosophy, but the man has qualities which should endear him in the annals of politics and should receive words of praise rather than disparagement and anger.

“During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. While McCain was on a bombing mission over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. The wounds that he sustained during war have left him with lifelong physical disabilities.”          JOHN MCCAIN

In spite of the tweeting twat’s assessment of McCain as “a loser, I like winners”, and subsequent infantile outbursts about the Senator’s betrayal of party agenda, John McCain is a surviving POW, a man who made service to country his lifetime endeavor, and Senator McCain is deserving of our respect and honor.  I don’t care what your politics are, his courage and sacrifice cannot be deleted from American history.

In his remarks following Trump’s address to the BSA, Senator McCain stated:

“we are an important check on the powers of the executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and, in many respects, to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!”                                                                                                               the new yorker

With his nay vote on the health care bill, John McCain exercised his ability to cross party lines and vote his conscience.  To the consternation of Trump and fellow Republican butt-kissers, Senators McCain,  Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have shown the American voter that there is a smidgen of integrity, ethics, and compromise in the Republican party.

The choices are yours in the upcoming elections of 2018 and 2020.  As a veteran, I admit that I am biased when looking at a candidate’s service history.  That directed my vote in 2016 when we had a choice of Hillary or Trump.  Neither was off-the-chart acceptable but Hillary had a legitimate history of public service.  While Trump was berating a verifiable war hero, his service record was nonexistent thanks to 4 deferments during his draft years.  When questioned about his military deferments, draft-dodger Donald Trump once said that the danger he faced from getting sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam.”  HOWARD STERN INTERVIEW

In 1997 with shock jock Howard Stern, Trump talked about how he had been “lucky” not to have contracted diseases when he was sleeping around:

I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era.  It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Our political world today is disgusting.  Heroes are ridiculed.  Elected leaders who have the audacity to vote conscience are harangued.  We were asleep at the helm when a segment of Americans brought Trump and his cadre of billionaires and white supremacists to power.

In retrospect, Trump was indisputably ill-equipped to serve with the men of courage and valor during the Vietnam era.  He did not have the necessary integrity and sacrifice to serve others rather than himself.  The facts of life on Earth force most of us to grow up.  Apparently Trump has never faced those facts.  According to the oath of the Boy Scouts of America,

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

whom he flamboyantly and repulsively addressed, he doesn’t even make it to the starting gate regarding the race for wisdom and maturity.

We can do better.  We deserve better.  The elections of 2018 and 2020 will give us an opportunity for redemption.  Get to know your candidates and get out and vote.

 

 

 

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?

rainbow-solidarity

SERENITY CONNECTION: john lennon

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”    John Lennon

John Lennon was not the ideal poster child for the American boy of the 1960s.  The long hair, the music, the rebellion landed him on the watch list of the FBI which considered him a subversive and a threat to the security of the USA.  It was a contentious time in American history with the battle fronts at home entrenched in the Vietnam War protest and the civil rights movement.  Yes, John Lennon, the threat to the stability of a country rife with controversy, was loved by the Woodstock generation and despised by parents, politicians, and established religionists.

The Beatles foray into the discipline of TM sent shock waves across the oceans to shake the traditional values of WASP America.  On the evening news we saw video of the four cavorting with the Maharishi pursuing Transcendental Meditation much to the chagrin of a white Protestant population back home in America.  The social and political mores of a system built upon an inerrant Bible linked to unquestioned patriotism could not adjust to interlopers from a heathen religion in an ungodly region of the earth.

Lennon was murdered in 1980, but his lyrics and music are timeless.  john lennon “imagine”

“When asked about the song’s meaning during a December 1980 interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine, Lennon told Sheff that Dick Gregory had given Ono and him a Christian prayer book, which inspired him the concept behind “Imagine”.

In that interview Lennon continued with this dream:

“The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.”

“….not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your God thing-then it can be true……”

We can only imagine.  We can dream.

 

me, a philosopher? tsk

It is often too easy to get mired in the realms of religious philosophy.  No credible source whom we know or about whom we have read has physically sat down with God and discussed the kingdom, heaven and hell, salvation, etc.  Some claim to have special insight and it is these whom we should distrust the most.  When there appears video and audio of this personal God meeting on YouTube, then maybe, we could agree with the philosophy which a religionist proclaims as truth.  The preceding words are, of course, somewhat facetious and tongue-in-cheek.  But, truly, nobody knows with certainty what awaits in eternity.

Therefore, we must rest on the assumption that maybe your theory on things eternal is valid and maybe another’s theory is valid.  Maybe your interpretation of scriptures is true, maybe another’s interpretation is spot on.  Certainly we can agree that of all the creations attributable to mankind, religion has probably been the most devastating in numbers of human lives murdered and in souls lost.  When any religion or any religionist lays claim to having the inerrant, infallible, indisputable word of God, then that religion’s adherent must surrender his innate God-given ability to figure things out for himself, i.e., THINK.

Recently, a fellow blogger posed the question, “Why are you here?”

In spite of all suppositions set forth by theologians, religionists, your theory, and my theory, it all boils down to this:

what am I willing to contribute in forwarding  the evolution of mankind to the intelligence and compassion which the universe demands as a condition for continuation of the human race?

 

 

 

 

GOD, a verb

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My story is not unique.  Millions have shared it and millions have conquered alcoholism.  A great many of us approached our first AA encounter with extreme trepidation about a spiritual experience.

“What? You going to preach at me some BS about God and religion?”

But, the alternative was a return to the insanity that had consumed our lives and absolutely deprived us of self-respect and intelligent choices.  So, we obligingly sat through the reference to God in the opening ‘Serenity Prayer’ and a few mentions of God by the group and then the closing ‘Lord’s Prayer’.  It wasn’t too bad but, don’t be talking that God stuff laced with theology and thou shalt and thou shalt not.

At my first meeting I learned that the only requirement for membership was a desire to stop drinking.  “I can handle that”.

Subsequently, they talked about a higher power.  They said it could be anything I recognized as a greater power than me.  Well, I already knew alcohol was a greater power than me, so I totally understood that concept.  The older, wiser group members suggested that I use the group as my higher power temporarily until I had some sober time behind me.  That worked just fine.

But, after thousands of meetings and a few years of sobriety, my inner self yearned for a more definitive God picture.  I began the search for deeper meaning and resolution to that initial “God as I understand God”.

My church experience as a young boy indoctrinated me into a theology of an old, bearded, vengeful and wrathful man sitting on his throne somewhere in the heavens just waiting to judge and condemn me for being human.  Indeed, as that God promised, I went to hell.  As I learned from hearing the stories of other recovering alcoholics, that church experience was not unique and equally damning.

During recovery there have been numerous epiphanies but, the most recent and possibly most significant occurred from reading another blogger’s post sharing the concept of God, a verb.  https://cac.org/ .  Amazingly, after several months of studying Fr. Richard’s writings, spirituality for me has returned to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What can be more Godly than a group of bickering, diverse, sober drunks coming together in a unified effort to spread the theology of sobriety to a suffering world?  It’s the Gospel in action.  It’s exactly what Jesus proclaimed to the oppressed and downtrodden.  And miraculously for those of us who have rejected the old, judgmental, heavenly seated man of our youth, this God does not demand a list of thou shalt and thou shalt not.

God, a verb, is not a new or faddish concept.  Buddhist monks, Jesus and his followers understood it.  The mystics of ancient times practiced it.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob resurrected it calling it Alcoholics Anonymous.  This God’s only requirement is a desire to live sober, productive lives, and “practice these principles in all our affairs.”

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TREKKING WITH THE MYSTICS

brilliance

Peggy Lee, a popular contemporary vocalist of the 1950s and 60s, recorded a song which reached into the top of the charts in 1969.  “IS THAT ALL THERE IS” expresses  disillusionment and disappointment with a life which should be filled with unique experiences.  She suggests that we “break out the booze and have a ball—if that’s all there is”. Peggy Lee died in 2002.

Sometimes our life’s experiences parallel the lyrics of this song of hopelessness and melancholy.  We strive to achieve, to find acceptance within our communities, to perform according to the edicts of our traditional religion.  We fear the god of vengeance and punishment portrayed by exhortations from the pulpits of our churches while we fervently pray to that same god for forgiveness and redemption.  Yet in the secret recesses of our inner selves we intuitively know that the god of our religions and churches somehow misses the mark of truth, compassion, and relevance which we earnestly desire in our lives.  This inner search drives us to search for another day when we can sincerely say “yes, Lord, I will follow”, when we can finally change the word god to a capitalized God.

“9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Luke 11:9 KJV

That day of transformation from god to God reveals to us an inner trek which fills our lives with the beauty, mystery, awe, and inspiration which God intended for us.  It is not a new realization; rather, it has been practiced for thousands of years by Teachers sometimes called “mystics”.  They and their followers shared the wonderment of God residing within and without, present in all beings and all creation, available to any who would seek.  The Kingdom of God is not reserved for the righteous; it is not a distant, heavenly sphere of religious correctness; it is not the eminent domain of any of the world’s religions.

“21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  Luke 17:21` KJV

The writings of the New Testament attribute the above verse to Jesus, one of the Teachers who understood the mysteries of the inner search for truth.  When his sayings, as recorded in the Bible, are processed in the realm of spiritual rather than worldly understanding we become keenly aware of the depth of inner communion with a God who becomes intensely real and personal.

Luke 17:21 is the essence of “TREKKING WITH THE MYSTICS” and the basis for a necessary life-changing redirect.  If our “rock and fortress” dwells within then surely hatred, bigotry, intolerance, government agents, worldly oppression shall be powerless in the presence of the great “I AM”.  We are proclaimed to be instruments of and witnesses to that which is Truth and Light.  We are destined to walk the earth fearlessly pursuing for all people equality, social justice, and personal liberty.  Doing so is our birthright and our Supreme duty.

THE HAPPY MYSTIC

Have you ever momentarily experienced in your meditation a time of absolute serenity and peace?  All trains of thought have stopped.  The world around you is non-existent.  It is tranquil and quiet within.  All is well with your soul.

You try to hang on to it as long as possible but, the phone rings, the kids scream, and the dog barks. Poof! It’s gone.  That brief, unearthly respite was a God moment.  For a mere second you and the God within were in communion.  This mysterious indwelling essence became the Lord of your life on the day you made sobriety the top priority of your life.

We alcoholics are not unique in this discovery.  Many before us, many who are not addicted to any behavior or substance have also known the God within and have fully experienced the pure joy and peace of inner communion.  Buddha and his followers, Jesus and his followers, Muhammad and his followers all exercised the mysticism of an inner experience of meditation and contemplation.  The Kabbalist Jew in his esoteric practice also embraces mysticism.

This has nothing to do with his God, her God, the church’s God.  This is your very own, very personal Higher Power which has no need to be translated by religionists or theologians.  You don’t need dogma or faith creeds or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not”  because it is within the deepest recesses of your soul’s being that the God of your understanding can be found.

Faith in this inner God experience of the mystics does not negate or diminish the presence of spirituality that is enjoyed by worshipping with others corporately in the church, the mosque or the synagogue.  This time of singing, prayer, and teaching only enhances that which we know within.  However, we can experience an exhilarating freedom when we understand how and where to find a personal God of our understanding.  Scriptures which we have learned and known for a lifetime come alive with new and deeper meaning.  Our journey is no longer hindered by questions concerning the right pew in the right church with the right congregation worshipping on the right day of the week preaching the right gospel with the right Bible, Torah or Koran in hand.  That spiritual experience which is deep within is always right.

“To thine own self be true.”

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