Joy

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Joy

The concept of joy means different things to people. I find joy in many things. We recently were gifted two more cats to share our house (with the one we were gifted last year). Our children are very generous when they gift lives of animals into our care. As much as I would love a pet-free house, I get great joy when one of the cats jumps into my lap. These moments are gifts that only pet lovers can appreciate. I love my pesky cats, and, love is the basis of all great joy. As Mother Teresa says, we must love to the point of folly.

We are thankful that our children and God have entrusted the lives of these family members into our care.

I am a sentimentalist when I think about other ways we are blessed with joy. Thanks to Linda, our back yard is filled with a great variety of birds; we also have squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs, all sharing the birdfeed she places in the feeders.

When we travel around Virginia, we are overjoyed at the unbelievable scenery that Virginia offers; this scenery is also a gift from God that we can enjoy but only when we take the time to stop and let the beauty of God’s creation flow through our very beings. Unfortunately, mankind is systematically destroying this beauty when man overlooks the long-range necessities of a clean earth to bring forth short term luxuries, luxuries that we call necessities. We give up chances for our own spiritual growth, such as enjoying the beauty of God’s creations, we retard our progress as children of God.

I love being joyful, but I also love being a part of the beauty of God’s creation.

I guess that joy and love go hand in hand; t be joyful, we must love. To paraphrase a poem by Philip Britts, love (and joy) is clear, simple, quick to ease our pain, and slow to leave our sides. Love is gratitude; love is faithful; love is patience and kindness; and, love brings us peace. What I mean by peace is inner peace. I look at the state of our society, and I am fearful; but, because I have peace within me, because I have love and joy within me, my fear is lessened. I know that I am walking on the path that God has laid before me.

This gives me the greatest peace and the greatest joy. It is not how much we love or how much joy we have; what matters is the fact that we practice these. Love and joy sustains our life, every day. We are created by God for God; we experience our greatest joy when we live these truths.

 

Anger

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Anger

I have been thinking a great deal about anger lately. Some of it even has to do with the condition our country is in and will be after the Trump presidency. But this is not the issue I want to discuss today.

Anger changes everything. I know; I am angry. I am angry about the fact that I am no longer young; I am angry about not being able to do the things I used to do. I am also angry about the fact that I have been diagnosed with COPD and have trouble breathing; and I am angry about the fact that the doctors are sending me back and forth between my Pulmonologist and Cardiologist and can only prescribe expensive medication that does not seem to alleviate the issue.

But this anger is not doing me or anyone else any good.

So, I return to my standing theme. I return to the message of love that the Bible offers. If we think about this message and try to understand its implications, I am sure that we can reduce our love of material things to a status more important in our lives than we make it. I return to what Jesus says in Matthew. Our first and greatest commandment is to love God. That means we must not only say we love God, but we must show this love by following the second commandment which is to love others as we love ourselves.

But . . .  maybe the problem is that we no longer love ourselves. Maybe, by loving material things so much we have lost our ability to love ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, that deep within us we realize that by placing money and other things above all else, including God, we are embarrassed by this, even if we fail to state this openly.

Maybe in my anger over my age and the limitations created by it, I have placed myself in with the masses who trust something other than God to be my mentor. My father was a devout Christian Scientist. He had accepted the poser of God’s Love to heal him when he was sick or injured; he led a life basically free from physical ailments until he passed just shy of his 85th birthday. I long to have this kind of love. I long to have this type faith. I meditate daily; I pray daily; I know that God walks with me no matter what I feel or what I do.

I know that I must return to the total acceptance of God’s Love and divine presence in my life and the life of all of my brothers and sisters, know and unknown, near and far. Maybe, just maybe, if I can claim the faith of my father, the one who parented me and the eternal Father, the one who nurtures me daily, maybe, just maybe, I can overcome these physical failings and return to sharing God’s Love with all. I go through the motions now, praying that my faith will carry me into truly sharing the gifts God has given me.

I pray that all who read this and all my friends who do not read this will share the true Love that only God can give.

 

Reconciliation vs. Formation

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We have so many problems in our society today, it is a wonder why we choose to fight between ourselves over what color we are, or what or national origin is. I am from British stock on my father’s side and Italian/Sicilian stock on my mother’s side. Having been a history and culture professor before concentrating on teaching writing, I am fully aware that there is a great racial mixture in my background. On my father’s side, I am English, which means that there is some German and French blood running through my veins, and Scottish, which means that I may also have some Viking blood in me, which could be Norwegian, Swedish, or even Russian. On my mother’s side, there is French and Italian, which could also mean some Austrian, or Hungarian blood, but it also could be some norther African blood, which means I could have a mixture of Greek and Black African blood running through me.

 

I know that I can send for a DNA kit to show where my extended long-dead relatives originated, but I don’t care. I am part of humanity, you know, the one that God made in his image and likeness. I cannot imagine what God looks like; this is far beyond my capabilities as a mere mortal human. What I am certain of is that there is no color for God; He, or She, is beyond and far superior to an image of Him, Her, as a mere mortal. To me, the face of God is Jesus. According to my faith, and the faith of millions of others, Jesus is the Son of God, or at least the most important prophet placed on earth by God.

 

As I look back on the makeup of Jesus, as the Son of Mary, the granddaughter of David, many generations back.  If that is so, we know from the Bible that David co-habitated with Bathsheba the nubile Queen of Central Africa, which, in all likelihood, means that there is Black African blood in Jesus. The face of Jesus, as I portray Him, is not that of Max Von Sydow, or Jeffrey Hunter, who portrayed him in the movies. If I were to take a realistic stab at it, Jesus was probably a short man, of middle eastern, or east Asia complexion. I know that this next statement will offend many, but I must make it anyway. If I am going to truly think of what Jesus looked like 2000 years ago, he could probably look much like Yassir Arafat did when he lived. Short, but with a dynamic personality that attracted many poor workers to follow him.

 

I think that God had a plan for this; we cannot know what Jesus truly looked like, which is why, when you enter a Christian church that is not predominantly white, Jesus is portrayed as a man with dark skin.

So, when theologians, and people concerned with racial reconciliation, I truly believe that what they really mean is that as a community, we must re-form our thinking. This is a formation, or a re-formation of God’s society. Any reconciliation must come from within each person. We must reconcile within our own selves how we want to  live and who we want to share this wonder world with.

 

I apologize if I have offended anyone; my prayer is that I have planted a seed within those who read this. That seed should be to reconcile with yourself and God so that we can reform our society, the entire society of the world into a more open and accepting entity.

 

God bless you all. I Love you all.

Hate and Judgement

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Hate and Judgement

An interesting combination is hate and judgement. Can we avoid the only judgement that matters?

On this July 4th, the 242nd anniversary of the birth of our nation, I cannot truly call us the home of the free; there are entirely too many people of color and financial deficiency who are not truly free. Too many people are judging these people on their looks or economic status, using hate to put them down. I do not like or approve of this.

I sometimes become pessimistic about what our society is evolving into; but then I remember that the youth of today will become tomorrow’s leaders, and optimism replaces that feeling of pessimism.

True, at times we appear to be a spiritually impoverished nation, anger and bitterness control the headlines.  But the optimism of the youth of today encourages me to think that the evil that seems to pervade our society will be replaced by something more akin to what God wants of us. What we have created is failing; hopefully, what the youth will create will be more loving and caring, with less hate.

My generation has enlarged the dangerous weaponry that our fathers’ generation began; we perfected a way to kill us all, but something inside of us has prevented us from executing the inevitable. Sorry, Arnold, the world of the robots will not control our lives, causing eternal havoc and war.

Jesus’ last words to his followers was to put your sword back; his followers were not allowed to use violence to protect him. I pray that our future leaders will shun violence and look to love and peace. I see the youth demonstrating against the openness of our gun-enriched society. Prayerfully, I hope that when they take the reins of society, more level heads will prevail.

Love will win in the end; this I am sure of.

Sharing Kindness

kindness

Kindness

I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are. We seem to be destined to not view other people as equals. Most religions accept what is said in Genesis, that God created man in His image; that’s all men; not just those who are like us. It appears that a permanent state of class warfare of the rich persecuting and punishing the poor has been with us throughout history, throughout the entire world as we know it; but it is only called class warfare when the poor try to rise against the rich. Being a former history teacher, I accept that history is written by the victors; but, over the last fifty-plus years, more literature has appeared that was written by the repressed classes.

This is rich literature, written by the people of these different cultures. I am thinking of authors such as Louise Erdrich, writing of the Native American culture, and Zora Neale Hurston, writing of the African American culture. When reading this literature, I am not only placed in the stories as an interested observer, I am also engulfed by the beauty and depth of cultures that these stories represent. To truly comprehend this, I decided that I must share this inner light I received with my literature students when I taught in college. Comprehension begs actions, which in turn brings contemplation and understanding.

I have never had the opportunity to live amongst these different cultures in America, but by reading of them I have learned to appreciate the awesome wonder of all life. Our spirituality forms our inner lives and is then lived outwardly in the world, which is to live a life of love and justice for others. True contemplation must become action; so, I take it into my own spiritual being, being grateful that I can share it, taste it, and sense it. This is one way we can learn to Love and appreciate all people. When we Love all people, we appreciate and respect all people. Isn’t this what God wants?

When we Love, we leave our self-centered hearts behind. We share our personal gifts; working together, our sense of community grows, and our selfishness dies, a difficult death, but a worthwhile one. I believe that when we stop living for just ourselves, a culture of brotherhood and sisterhood replaces jealousy and contempt. We are made as individuals, and in that light, we are different; but this differentness does not mean we are not alike in many ways, owning the same dreams, sharing the same pains. By creating these loving communities, we all gain; we all create the heaven within us that Jesus so often spoke.

 

 

Be Non-violent

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Be Non-violent

Violence comes in many forms: it is ugly and awful. It is a sadness that permeates our society. We choose to be violent; we also choose to be non-violent. When we choose non-violence, we do so because of our love for all people, regardless of who or what they are. There is no space in our hearts for violence when we love.

Violence rears its head in many forms. It is not only an act of physical aggression; it is also an act of psychological attack, such as what is going on at our borders today. Violence against a family can be as horrific as separating mothers and children. This is not what God wants of us. Jesus preached that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The word must is much more emphatic than the words should or may be. Must is a commandment.

I have to agree that if we love God, if we love our families, we cannot close our love, or keep our love from people we do not know. If we open our hearts to the stranger, God will do the rest. Is this so hard to do? My wife often chastising me because I use terms of endearment to people I have just met, or a server who brings me my breakfast at our local diner. I respond by saying that God knows I mean nothing demeaning by calling her love, or him brother.  

I admit that I am not always diligent in my relations with others; I also believe that we all share in this shortcoming. If I do not live as we are supposed to live, I cannot say that I am a true loving person. If my thoughts begin to revolve around my own pleasures and happiness, I may be excluding others. It is times like these that I do not have “a heart at leisure from itself.” It is times like these that I am ignoring God’s message to me and to all.

I try to be attentive to what God is asking me to be today; even though I am relatively weak to change national events, I can work to change our local position to be in alignment with what God wants from us.

Is it so difficult to love one another? Is it so difficult to respect the humanity of others? If our answers are yes, then we are not the God-loving people we profess to be. As I look back on my life, I recall that for the first thirty-five years, I neglected any participation in anything that reeked of racism; but I also did nothing to combat the racism I grew up with.  My sister was an activist, marching in Washington to protest our country’s violation of human rights; she participated in the demonstrations in D. C. which included the march when MLK gave his I Have a Dream speech. I was proud of her, but I did not join in, maybe due to the fact that I was too involved in my serving and history with the Marines in the early to mid 60s.

Since then, I have been more active, but behind the scenes, non-violently. Presently, I work for social justice, banishment of the death penalty, and economic stability and equality for the less-fortunate members of our community. I also write long, factual letters to our congressmen. Being a former history teacher, I am able to include many historic trends.

I pray the what I now do is pleasing to God. All members of my family, all six billion of them, deserve God’s grace.

Loving and Living

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Loving and Living

Some people look at world events and think that the end is not far off. Nuclear war could destroy us all in a matter of minutes. I question this; no matter when or how we live, the end for us can come at any time. I had a high school friend who died in an accident at age 18; another had a massive heart attack at age 32. I don’t know if I will live another year, or week, or day. It’s not my position to determine when God will call me home.

Knowing this, we must not let our problems create difficulties for others. We must consider all people in our decisions. We cannot forget to love those around us. By loving them, we allow them to live as they see fit, or as they can. I will do nothing to make their lives any more difficult. I will do everything to make their lives better, if only spiritually through prayer.

By loving people, we show them what we believe; by living a life of love, we allow people to live and love as we all should. I will not allow any of my former egotism to get in the way; I will all Egoism to be present. (I hope you know the difference). By living a life of Love, we strengthen and renew our own and others’ hearts. When fear and doubt invade our lives, we cannot allow them to mislead us into doing harm to others. In Matthew, Jesus says we cannot love money and God. I wish all would understand the meaning of this.

I find it upsetting that we in the United States have plenty of money for war, weapons, and bailing out banks, but never have the money for health care, education, or welcoming our neighbors, which is taught in all religions. I pray each day that things will change. One truth of Jesus is that we cannot praise both God and money. Many of us in the US have forgotten this. By praising wealth, we short-change ourselves and society. Nothing good ever comes from praising wealth – only more greed and less caring for our neighbors, or as I say, family members.

I pray that things change; I pray that things change. By praying this, I comfort myself, which in turn, allows me to serve others as best as I can. What we do we believe; what we believe we do.