The Last Season

Easy to write about. Hard to live.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

The last season of life
is not meant for pleasure
but for letting go of everything
of getting freed for joy
letting go of delusions
of importance
of great success
even perfect love
letting go of illusions
about life’s purpose
and rewards
letting go of dreams
of angels close at hand
of reaching
the promised land
until all that’s left
is the present moment
and no matter how hard
it may seem
to forget self                                                                                                                                                      …

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Can Misuse of Free Speech Be Considered Use of a Deadly Weapon?

A past blog post that seems appropriate for our own present political climate.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

In the 1950s our home in Houston, Texas was bombed, because my newspaper editor father had endorsed the first African American candidate running for a position on the local school board. Though no one was injured, as a teenager it was terrifying to feel so vulnerable to a hatred I couldn’t understand. So, I am certainly not an advocate for terrorism.  And as both the daughter of one newspaper editor and the mother of another, I am a strong supporter of freedom of the press, but not of a press without a conscience.

Words can be as inflammatory as bombs, as most revolutions have proven. Certainly sarcasm and ridicule are generally recognized as deadly for peaceful relationships, whether personal or political.

The violence involving the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France seems almost a chicken and egg situation with both sides shooting from the hip at anything they don’t like.  We…

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Religious Idols

One of my grandchildren asked me with horror, “Are you religious?!” She said the word “religious” like someone might say the word “pervert.” It broke my heart, but I understand it. Jesus was crucified by the “religious” leaders and their blind followers in his inherited religion.
Christians, we are doing it again. We have made Idols of our religions and in the process are crucifying again the one Albert Einstein described this way: “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene….Jesus is too colossal for the pen of the phrase mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot….No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates with every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance is the impression which we receive from a account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus….No man can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some of them have been said before, no one has expressed them as divinely as he.” *1
In another quote Einstein says, “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” *2
If our “religion” is focused on form, on the power of a hierarchy, on a claim that any one narrow denominational tradition is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we are idol worshipers.
Christianity is about the Love of God for humanity fleshed out in Jesus. God is Love and God fleshed out that Love for humanity in a human, who as a human grew in truth and holiness……to show us that we also can grow and change through experiencing the Love of God. Jesus, in his humanity, first thought God belonged only to his own faith tradition and that his life of ministry was just for them. As a human he was heartbroken, even weeping, when he realized that their religious idols were closing their hearts to him and the Love of God , the God that loves us at our worst and helps us still grow at our best, because we are unfinished even then. Jesus, as a man, finally recognized, that a God worth calling a God, loves all His creatures and creation. This is the “Way” of Jesus.
Christians, we are missing the point of Christianity. It’s a personal relationship first, not congregational or dogmatic. It’s not a spiritual country club or an insurance policy. And it’s not about being finished in just one moment of choice, but about an ongoing transformation empowered by the Love of God and being shown the way to a lifetime of growth in truth and holiness by the life and death of Jesus. Look closer at the actual growth process of Jesus. Recognize the huge leaps he took from tribal religion to a God of Love for all when he was challenged by the human suffering of a hated Roman conqueror, an unclean bleeding woman, and even Samaritan heretics, all of whom had no religious credentials.
Christians, we are being called to let go of our need for religious idols and to trust in a God of Love, who can both nurture and prune us into people who can grow in Love for all humanity as Jesus did.

*1 (Interview with George Sylvester Viereck, 26 October 1929; see also Denis Brian, Einstein- A Life /John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1996,/ pp277-278)
*2 (“Einstein and Faith,” Time Magazine, 5 April 2007)

God and the Whiners

An imaginary story of God’s conversations with his best bud, Adam, and then more of God hanging out with various generations of Adam’s descendants through the ages. Adam is sitting around with God admiring God’s handiwork. Adam: Wow, God, this is a nice job you’ve done. Particularly this sex thing. That’s great. Thanks for thinking of it! God: Well, there’s another side to it. Sex creates new life, so you can fill the earth with people who will be my partners in creation Adam: Gosh, that will take a lot of women to do that. I better find me some more wives. God: And you better collect a lot more goats and sheep to feed all those wives and children. Generations later: Descendant: God, we’ve got a problem, we can’t keep dragging all these wives and children around with droughts everywhere. God: From now on just choose one wife, find water, and till the land. A later Descendant: God, we’ve got a problem. We’re getting a lot of cast off older wives who are starving. God: In this day, men must take responsibility for women and children. You must no longer cast off wives for new wives. Choose carefully, because you are stuck with the first one. Another Generation whiners : God, we are running out of good arable land and it’s causing constant wars. God: Okay, you can slow down on the procreating. Whiner: But, God, we men must work hard all day and come home to whining wives and children. Surely, you aren’t telling us to give up our one delight? God: I gave you a brain. Figure it out. And start taking one day in seven just for being thankful. I’m also tired of all the whining. New Descendant: God, women are getting pushy. When we go to war, they have to take over at home. When we come home they complain about the way we run things. Some even think they could run things better. Like maybe sitting around crying would solve the world’s problems! God: Well, it might cut down on wars. New Descendant: But, it won’t put food on the table or send the kids to college. God: I’ve given women the luxury of developing the gift of relationships. Technology has freed humanity from the heavy lifting. Women are now needed in the workplace to bring their gifts of nurturing into the larger world. It’s time for nurture to be valued as much as achieving. It is time for power over to become power for others, for ALL others. I am doing a new thing. Modern Man: God, these days it’s hard to tell women and men apart. And men are loving men and women are loving women. What’s with that? God: I know you are not going to like this, but life just isn’t about differences. In My world there is no male or female, no slave or master, no favored people, no favored religion, no favored nation. Life is about learning to love. The most advanced school for that is marriage, a monogamous intimate committed relationship. Haven’t you caught on why I still make sex so enjoyable, even when I don’t need you to keep procreating to fill the earth? Sex has the power to draw people into a stable relationship that can free them to risk being vulnerable in loving. It’s the appetizer, not the main course. Modern Man: God, this Women working thing is really a bummer. Now they expect us to take care of the kids ad do chores at home. God: Shared responsibility for both survival and nurture can bring balance to relationships and society. Dependency and need are not love. Neither is control. I created human beings with the capacity to love one another as I love you. My love is the healing, nurturing, challenging, life changing, sacrificial love that does not have limits or borders. I fleshed it out for you in Jesus. Modern Man: Well, Jesus wasn’t married. God: It is time for humanity to grow up. You keep missing the point. The greed that is destroying the world will lose its power when humanity recognizes that my love is for all. No exceptions. And that you are called to be the channels of my love for the world. God: Hear my plea! I am asking you to accept my love and let it fill you until the joy of being loved overflows to all those you encounter without being blocked by judgement or fear.

The Whiners

An imaginary story of God’s conversations with his best bud, Adam, and then more of God hanging out with various generations of Adam’s descendants through the ages.
Adam is sitting around with God admiring God’s handiwork.
Adam: Wow, God, this is a nice job you’ve done. Particularly this sex thing. That’s great. Thanks for thinking of it!                                                                                                                                      God: Well, there’s another side to it. Sex creates new life, so you can fill the earth with people who will be my partners in creation                                                                                                          Adam: Gosh, that will take a lot of women to do that. I better find me some more wives.                                                                                                                                                                            God: And you better collect a lot more goats and sheep to feed all those wives and children.
Generations later:
Descendant: God, we’ve got a problem, we can’t keep dragging all these wives and children around with droughts everywhere.                                                                                                              God: From now on just choose one wife, find water, and till the land.
A later Descendant: God, we’ve got a problem. We’re getting a lot of cast off older wives who are starving.                                                                                                                                              God: In this day, men must take responsibility for women and children. You must no longer cast off wives for new wives. Choose carefully, because you are stuck with the first one
Another Generation whines : God, we are running out of good arable land .and it’s causing constant wars.                                                                                                                                              God: Okay, you can slow down on the procreating.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whiner: But, God, we men must work hard all day and come home to whining wives and children. Surely, you aren’t telling us to give up our one delight?                                                                    God: I gave you a brain. Figure it out. And start taking one day in seven just for being thankful. I’m also tired of all the whining.
New Descendant: God, women are getting pushy. When we go to war, they have to take over at home. When we come home they complain about the way we run things. Some even think they could run things better. Like maybe sitting around crying would solve the world’s problems!                                                                                                                                                                        God: Well, it might cut down on wars.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        New Descendant: But, it won’t put food on the table or send the kids to college                                                                                                                                                                                      God: I’ve given women the luxury of developing the gift of relationships. Technology has freed humanity from the heavy lifting. Women are now needed in the workplace to bring their gifts of nurturing into the larger world. It’s time for nurture to be valued as much as achieving. It is time for power over to become power for others, for ALL others. I am doing a new thing.
Modern Man: God, these days it’s hard to tell women and men apart. And men are loving men and women are loving women. What’s with that?                                                                                  God: I know you are not going to like this, but life just isn’t about differences. In My world there is no male or female, no slave or master, no favored people, no favored religion, no favored nation. Life is about learning to love. The most advanced school for that is marriage, a monogamous intimate committed relationship. Haven’t you caught on why I still make sex so enjoyable, even when I don’t need you to keep procreating to fill the earth? Sex has the power to draw people into a stable relationship that can free them to risk being vulnerable in loving. It’s the appetizer, not the main course.
Modern Man: God, this Women working thing is really a bummer. Now they expect us to take care of the kids and even do chores at home.                                                                                          God: Shared responsibility for both survival and nurture can bring balance to relationships and society. Dependency and need are not love. Neither is control. I created human beings with the capacity to love one another as I love you. My love is the healing, nurturing, challenging, life changing, sacrificial love that does not have limits or borders. I fleshed it out for you in Jesus.                Modern Man: Well, Jesus wasn’t married.
God: It is time for humanity to grow up. You keep missing the point. The greed that is destroying the world will lose its power when humanity recognizes that my love is for all. No exceptions. And that you are called to be the channels of my love for the world.
God: Hear my plea! I am asking you to accept my love and let it fill you until the joy of being loved overflows to all those you encounter without being blocked by judgement or fear.

$3 Worth of God, Please.

A rerun that seems appropriate for our times.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

I’m reminded of those great lines from Wilbur Rees:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
through John Hayes Howard in post on his Face Book Page

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The Homeless and The Immigrants

People are homeless for diverse reasons. One major one is that the pay for unskilled work will not support even one person. In our rural county we have 200 children in our school system who are homeless. Some are actually living in cars, others in homeless camps in the woods, and whole families are living in one room in cheap motels. Some are going from friend to friend for shelter. A cheap hotel may only charge $35 a night, but for a month that comes to $1,050. For many that’s disability or social security pay for a month with little or nothing left over for food, clothes, transportation, or medical expenses. Federal and Tennessee minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. A forty hour week for four weeks earns $1,160. Once you no longer have good credit, the motel is your best option because you don’t need a month’s rent and utilities’ deposits. However, you have no refrigerator or stove and cannot legally use a burner because of fire codes. You can’t afford to use a laundromat, so you are hand washing clothes in the tub and drying them on the shower rail. If you do not have a car or it breaks down, you walk to your $7.25 an hour job in all kinds of weather. In our town, the industrial park is nowhere near the cheap motels. Since personnel directors can now go to jail for hiring illegals, most of our industries struggle to keep their shifts fully employed. Only large cities have public transportation.
We are now serving meals in the summer in the schools, the public library, and the projects, and I believe they are working on using school buses to bring children to the schools to eat. But budgets are strained. Public housing in some cities have waiting lists up to a year.
Other reasons for a large percentage of people being homeless are alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, mental and physical disability, old age, and veterans with PTSD. Most of these people are unemployable with very little possibility of ever becoming self sufficient.
Almost all of our churches, the YMCA, government agencies, and other charities are involved in some way with feeding, housing, clothing, and transporting the homeless. The problems are almost insurmountable. One charity has been working for six years to acquire a building to house families, do drug testing, provide child care, and job training with the goal of helping them become self sufficient. Over and over the codes and the local government have blocked their acquiring suitable buildings because citizens in the area protested. My husband had volunteered free architectural services for remodeling. This was not meant to be just a vagrant shelter. One large building, that they had tried to acquire, which had first been a hospital and then a drug rehab center, has now become uninhabitable from roof leaks, mold, and lack of care.
A large church here does have a house for men and a house for women with drug testing and job training and strict standards and oversight. But, when they wanted to use their much larger church facility for Room at the Inn during winter months, codes and citizen protest defeated this effort.
Churches offering meals have small response even when offering van transportation, because the homeless have acquired survival items too bulky to transport and unsafe to leave unprotected. Also, in the camps, personal spaces can be lost if not occupied. The local YMCA offering a warming station on below freezing nights had a very small response for the same reason. Food trucks are a workable solution to feeding, but are very expensive, requiring committed personnel along with liability insurance and maintenance costs.
I know first hand from friends who are personnel directors doing the hiring for industries, that in the past, many, if not most, legal and illegal immigrants were employable, hard working, often working two jobs, willing to go through all sorts of discomfort to get to a job site to be dependable. They also formed communities that helped one another. I assume some of those seeking asylum may not be like that, but in the past many have been. They are not homeless for the same reasons as many of our home grown homeless. They are seeking a better life.  A very large percentage of our homeless are either unable to work or have succumbed to escapes from pain.

Post Script:

After listening to what passes for discussion on political issues,  I have realized that there really isn’t any point in even discussing things like immigration, homelessness, war to protect oil sources, or Health Care, across party lines, because they all come back to money. The poor on welfare, we call lazy. But we won’t tax the billionaires, who don’t pay their workers enough to live on. Capitalism and Democracy have long been bed partners. But they are not Siamese Twins. They can be separated. And Christianity has persevered under all types of governments, even hostile ones. It’s time to admit that unfettered Capitalism is simply licensed greed.

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One Un-Civil War Was Enough

Today we celebrate the birth of our nation with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. When a group of people decided that only the people should have control over the government. That we were born with certain inalienable rights that no ruling body could revoke.

The men who wrote and signed this document were not perfect by any means. Some were slave owners and believed in slavery. Some were known philanderers. Some proved themselves to be untrustworthy. Many felt that women had no right to participate in the running of our country.

The men who wrote and signed this document did not get along. Later many of them would become the bitterest of political rivals striving to undermine the progress and beliefs of the other at every turn.

But they had a shared vision of a country where the people would rule themselves without fear of being persecuted for differing beliefs and ideas.

Today as we become what seems ever more divided in our beliefs, it gets hard to agree on much. That’s perfectly fine. Our system is built so that people can express their views equally and choose for themselves whom they want to represent them and their values. Democracy is messy. Two party systems are messy. But it’s that very friction of disparate views that allows for us to build a country that embraces freedom for everyone at its very core.

So today, let’s try to embrace that idea. Let’s take a break from the mean spirited memes. Let’s take a break from the bait click headlines. Let’s remember that all those people we may think of as “libtards” or “right wing nut jobs” are Americans. Our neighbors. Our friends. Our family.

Instead of unfriending or unfollowing that Facebook friend with the different political view as you, wish them a “Happy 4th of July” and tell them that you love them. Remember that they are a person just like you just trying to make it through the day as best they can. They are not evil. They are not “ruining the country”. They just want to be happy and healthy and live a good life. Just like you.

Look at that person. A person you love. A person you want to see succeed even though they have diametrically opposing views as yours. Think about how you would never get in their face and curse them. You would not ever physically assault them. You would not disparage them in front of their friends and family.

Then remember that most people in the opposing political party from you are just like that. They are a person. They have friends and family who love them. They are just trying to do what they think is right. Everyone is the hero in their own story.

And then maybe. Just maybe. The next time you want to post that mean spirited political meme. Or when you want to post some disparaging comment. Or “like” someone else’s meme of comment. Think about the person on the other side of that. Not the political party. The person.

For my friends with different political and religious views, think about how when you post something against the LBGTQ community you are posting it about MY son. He is a person whom I love dearly. How do you think it makes me feel when I scroll through Facebook in the morning and see that?

How about instead of posting something mean spirited that will most likely hurt someone you love, you reach out and ask for some understanding. Have a conversation. Seek to understand before you try to be understood.

You don’t have to believe what I believe.  We don’t have to convince each other that one way is right and one way is wrong.  We just need to get at least a little shred of empathy for the opposing person and their idea.  Give a little to get a little.

If a bunch of slave owning, misogynist, rebellious white dudes could do it in 1776, why can’t we do that today?

by  my youngest son.  Share if this speaks to your heart.

Albert Einstein on Jesus, Science, and Religion

As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. . . . Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot. . . . No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus. . . . No man can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he. (Interview with George Sylvester Viereck, 26 October 1929; see also Denis Brian, Einstein — A Life [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1996], pp. 277-278)
What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.(“Einstein and Faith,” Time Magazine, 5 April 2007)
The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. . . . (“Science and Religion,” cited in Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, pp. 41-49; from an address at Princeton Theological Seminary, 19 May 1939. It was also published in Out of My Later Years [New York: Philosophical Library, 1950] )
GUEST: I have a letter that Albert Einstein wrote to my father in 1943. In 1940, my father read a “Time Magazine” article that stated that Einstein was quoted as saying that the only social institution that stood up to Nazism was the Christian Church. My father is a Presbyterian minister in a little northern Michigan town called Harbor Springs. And he quoted Einstein in a sermon, and a member of the congregation wrote my father a letter saying, “Where did you get your information?” So my father wrote “Time Magazine” and “Time Magazine” wrote him back, and I have that letter, too, but they didn’t give the source, so my father wrote Einstein and he wrote back, saying, yes, he did say that the Christian Church was standing up to Hitler and Nazism. [ . . . ]
Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind. What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living. (From a written statement [September 1937] as quoted in Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, editors, Albert Einstein: The Human Side [Princeton University Press: 1981] )
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force. In “Moral Decay” [1937], also published in Out of My Later Years [1950] )