Imagine

ImagineImagine

I clearly and fondly remember John Lennon’s musical masterpiece “Imagine.” It was written and performed in a very caustic period in our history.

“You may say I’m a dreamer; but I’m not the only one.”

Wow! These words are so important to us today, considering the absolute chaos in US society. It is time for us to allow the Spirit to invade our imaginations, to reveal the truths that lie beyond our rational minds, searching the hidden depths of our very souls to understand that regardless of what is going on in our society, our feet are firmly planted in God’s Love and all-embracing arms.

To paraphrase the German professor Hans Joachim Iwand, our faith must begin where our near-atheistic leaders live and rule. At times, it seems that we are reliving the night of the cross, being abandoned by all practical realities. We are in a period of nothingness and nihilism that if left to fester will only grow and infect all of our society.

Being a retired educator, I can see the results of decades of cuts to support our public education; and with a leader in DC who is pro private education,, the masses will undoubtedly suffer. I remember touring the South in the 1970s, where the lower class schools were using history textbooks printed in the 1950s, which, as we know, omitted any reference to the Kennedys, MLK, and Vietnam.

I fear that we may be returning to these times when the individual is deemed almost worthless by our politics.

As we approach Memorial Day, I can hear the WW1 tune “The Caissons Keep Rolling Along.” Not only bringing cannons to the front, they returned the dead to the rear for burial. If our present NSA has its way, we could be involved in greater wars in the Middle East and Korea. I lost two very good friends, almost like older brothers, to the guns in Korea in 1952. I lost many Marine brothers in the rice paddies of Vietnam. I don’t want to remember my students who enter the military after graduation, only to sacrifice their lives again in the frozen ground of Korea, or the arid sands of the Middle East.

I know this is not a pleasant image this beautiful May morning; but, listening to Lennon’s “Imagine” on the way home from an early doctor’s appointment, brought these memories to rethink:

“Imagine all the people living for today;

Imagine all the people living life in peace;

Imagine all the people sharing all the world;

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

Amen, brother John!

 

 

 

God’s Love

Let all that you do be done in Love.

God’s Love –

I am writing this morning from the terrace at the Hampton Inn in Virginia Beach, facing the ocean with a nice ocean breeze to cool us. God has blessed us with little rain, sprinkles, at worst. Although, the weatherman says that we will have rain later today. No way he is going to countermand the word of God.

We awoke this morning to the wedding of Harry and Meghan; what a beautiful ceremony it was, filled with God’s Love and the awe and respect of thousands in London attending a most wonderful event. The unity, the love, the pageantry, and the excitement of the people without pushing and shoving, protesting and derision, was a sight worth remembering.

I absolutely loved the sermon giving the PB Curry. I have listened to him preach and talk on line; it was a joy to hear him live. He is such a dynamic inspirator! I drifted off when he spoke of airplanes and Facebook, but I absorbed his message of the fire of Life that brings us Love. Being a member of the Episcopal church, I can appreciate the service of the Anglican wedding. As a former Christian Scientist, I may have been lost. But God brought me to where I am today, and I am blessed to be where I am, physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Those of you who know me from years past may be confused about how I can so comfortably write about God’s Love. You may remember me as the outspoken person I was, and still am. I have always felt what I write about today; it’s just that living in NJ, I was uncomfortable expressing these thoughts. When I did, I received looks of great questioning, and sometimes ridicule. I pray that this was self-deception, and that it was anchored in my own timidity.

As a new-found Virginia, I am more comfortable expressing these views. Linda tells me that I’m becoming a southerner, because I many times wish people a blessed day. This was hard for me at first; but this changed when my students began wishing this for me, as they left my classes at Germanna Community College. I will admit that it was more my African-American students that blessed me, but Love is viral. When many people express this, it is impossible to resist returning the Love that God gives us.

No matter what I do; no matter what I have done, I know that I am blessed. The near-fatal injuries I received in the military, in a car accident, and then a herniated small intestine, proves to me that God has always been with me.

So, when I hear Bishop Curry speak of God’s Love, I can only close my eyes, reflect on the truth of his words, and bask in comfort that Bishop Michael passes from God.

One final note: witnessing the marriage of Harry and Meghan, I reflected on a blessed moment almost fifty-one years ago, when God brought Linda and I together, Loving us through hard times both physically and financially. There were times that I doubted God’s Love; I never doubted the Love he gave us, as we joined our spirits for eternity in that small chapel in Murray Hill New Jersey.

I am truly blessed.

More on Community

sharing a meal

More on Community

We are raised to live in community; yet we insist that we can go it alone. We cannot live a life of integrity without the support, knowledge, comfort, or camaraderie that we gain when part of a community. Our lives depend on it. We are made for each other; when we are together we all flourish.

My hunger for community involves a lot that you may not want to hear. This involves freedom, freedom from oppression, fear, hunger, and segregation. I am sitting in Virginia Beach on a much needed vacation with my wife. We have just heard of the mass shooting, another in a school, this time in Santa Fe. How can our community and its interests allow this to continue happening.

I just retired from teaching at a community college. The last few semesters I have feared for my and my students’ lives. At the back of my mind, I always worried about whether a student would react to a bad grade, or a failing grade in a way that would harm others.

It is not the reason I retired, but now that I am retired, I am more comfortable knowing I would no longer have that fear.

If we love our community, we have to act the part. We cannot allow a few people to override the safety and fears of others.

I pray that God will bless us with leaders that find the courage to stand up to the money and do what is right.

Accepting Others

sharing a meal

Accepting Others

We are not meant to be alone, work alone, live alone. By joining with others, we create greatness. Our society says that the individual is more important, but without others, we are powerless. We cannot build businesses; we cannot build community. My own father used to say that stupidity is the bane of mankind. He didn’t mean intelligence; he meant the ability to enjoy each other by being support mechanisms for each other. I add that in order to do this, we must examine our hearts, examine them to discover the beauty in everyone we meet. By joining our hearts, the greatness we desire can be achieved. By serving one another, by helping one another, we can avoid devastating sorrows.

Living in community means that we touch each other; we influence each other; we live in each other’s minds, allowing us to become brothers and sisters in love, brothers and sisters assisting each other in sorrow and hardship, rejoicing in happiness and good news. By learning to do this, any sorrows are shared, lessening the devastating impacts that these can bring us, if we are alone.

This means we must change the prescribed format of our society, you know, the idea that we are individuals who are the only ones responsible for what we do. This society is not built on community and cooperation. Many of us proclaim this on Sunday mornings, but by Monday morning we are back to accepted views. We return to individuality, and in many cases, our quests are controlled by greed. I got mine; you get yours, if you can.

This is not the way we are taught on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, depending on which religion we practice. All of these religions teach the acceptance of the stranger, the sharing of our food and hospitality with the visitor, with the stranger. Not close him out of our lives, just like an unwanted disease. The Jewish people have a longstanding practice of setting the table for the stranger; we never know when it will be God sitting with us.

As we mature in our God-given ability to know one another as ourselves, we are drawn to those we do not know; we are pulled toward our opposites to learn from them, to expand our knowledge and understanding. When we do this our energy, and the energy of that person strengthens to point where nothing is impossible for this new community. Any goal we have is achievable, achievable when we join together, especially with those we disagree with, to find a solution to a situation that neither enjoys or profits from. This dynamic community between us and those we disagree with can build a community of great energy and strength; and then we are all closer to God.

What many people today fail to realize is that acceptance leads to peace and happiness.

Living as One

Community

Living as One 

There is great agitation in the world today; we in the United States are undergoing a change we did not expect nor wish. This international uproar is upsetting to all, questioning how we can survive in this topsy-turvy world. Eberhard Arnold writes: “Situated as we are in the midst of a world that is so terribly unpeaceful, we need constant nourishment for our inner life. In short, if we want to avoid suffering inward shipwreck in the storm of public opinion and chaos, then our hidden inner being needs daily the quiet haven of communion with God.”

We have to search for a harmonious outcome; we can only do this through sharing the love we give to ourselves and our families, offering this same love to those people we do not know. We share this world with everyone, rich or poor, black or white, young or old. Nobody owns this world. The only way that we can appreciate this is to open our hearts and minds to God’s reality. We are all his children; He loves us all equally. We should mirror this example and treat each other this way.

 The upside of this is simple: going through these tough and trying times, we gain strength and endurance. Endurance brings forth character; and character, if allowed, leads to hope, hope for a better life, hope for a peaceful co-existence. Rose Kennedy has said, “Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?”

One of my favorite spiritual influences is Henri Nouwen; through him I have learned and am convinced that prayer can help us. Prayer helps me see new paths and new lights in my life. I get to hear the birds singing in the trees, calling to each other, letting each other know that the feeders in my yard are full, and that I have placed baffles on the poles to slow down the greediness of the squirrels. I love the sound of the birds; these new melodies in the air help give me a new breath to my life, a breath coming from God.

I try my best to look into each person I meet. I do not judge whether they are worthy; this is not my function in life. My job is to welcome each person as an equal, as a brother or sister who is suffering through this life as I am. Together, we can overcome our difficulties and both succeed.

I am troubled when I read statements, such as the one by Josephine Baker, “One day I realized I was living in a country where I was afraid to be black. It was only a country for white people. Not black. So I left. I had been suffocating in the United States…” This was years ago; things have not changed.

We are allowing our governments to separate us; arresting and deporting people of color, who do not talk or look like us. I always ask, “Are not these my brothers and sisters also?” “Do they have to seek normalcy and freedom outside of the United States?” I fear that the country I love and its future are in grave danger of becoming like other empires that have failed through intolerance. I fear that my grandchildren will not enjoy the freedoms we have come to love.

I end with something Leo Tolstoy wrote: “I knew before that God gave life to humankind and desires that they should live; now I understand more than that. I understand that God does not wish people to live apart, and therefore he does not reveal to them what each one needs for himself; but he wishes them to live united, and therefore reveals to each of them what is necessary for all. I now understand that though it seems to people that they live by care for themselves, in truth it is love alone by which they live. He who has love is in God, and God is in him, for God is love.”

 

 

Patience

easter lab

Being patient is many times extremely difficult. Patience takes courage; patience is not waiting for something to happen or waiting or someone else to do something. Patience is living for today, to be completely present in what we are doing in the present time; this means forgetting what was done or needs to be done. To enjoy live, we must taste life, not just let it fly by.

On April 1st, I awoke to the realization that I would teach my last class on the 30th. I could not wait; I was anxious for the month to pass a quickly as possible. I completely forgot that the next four weeks would be the last weeks of a 24-year teaching career, that on May 1st, I would no longer be guiding immature voices in their writing. Don’t get me wrong; I am happy not to be facing the grading of 40 essays a week. I may not miss that aspect; but I will miss the students. So, I tried to savor every minute I had left with them. In my life outside of teaching, my anxiety to retire began to disrupt other enjoyable things.

Perhaps the reason we cannot exercise patience is because we live anxious lives. Sometimes we live fantasy lives. We get so uptight about what is occurring outside our immediate domain that our everyday lives get upset. For instance, I can do nothing about what is happening in our government. I attend meetings and I vote, but other than running for office myself, there is little I can do. This upsets me, but I refuse to let it govern my life. I am unhappy with what is going on, but, I must live my life. And right now, my life is centered on what I will do now that I retire. I have many options and I am taking my time to decide. I am in no hurry; hurrying will only make me tense, and I will lose patience with all other aspects and the people I meet.

Truly, there are times I feel that I am living in darkness, total darkness, and this does make me anxious, and I lose patience. It is at times such as these that I stop what I am doing, meditate, and try to let the anxiety pass. I know that the light will return to me. Maybe what I am trying to say is that I am doing my best to be a truly present human, living for the moment. I don’t ignore the past or future, but today is so important.

When I look to God, I pray that God looks at me. This belief, this trust, helps me settle my anxieties so that I can live for today, practicing patience, patience with all whom I meet. I cherish the special relationships I have created in my life. When I was an independent retailer, I made many close friends, those who worked with me and those who shared downtown Summit, NJ. When I taught at New Providence High School, I also made many friends, from my peers to my students who are now dear friends. And, finally, those professors and students I worked with at Germanna community College; these most recent friends are also people I cherish. I pray that my patience with those I meet add to these deep friendships.

I also like to spend time watching the birds and squirrels feeding at the feeders Linda has placed in our yards. Now that spring has arrived, I am loving the time I can observe God’s nature at work. This is important time for me, but not nearly as important as the friendships I have made in my life. I believe that these friendships have only come about through our mutual patience with each other. I cherish these.

Every day and every hour, let’s walk with patience in our hearts. We’ve tried the other way, and failed; maybe it’s time to try something different.

Seeking True Satisfaction

a- sophia

Seeking True Satisfaction.

Things that once brought us meaning and happiness may longer satisfy us. We then try to create artificial fullness through many kinds of unnatural behavior, but still feel empty and nothing. This just demonstrates that we are in fact imperfect and must forgive ourselves for this state of mind.

The duties of the day invade our cores as soon as we awake each day; more than likely these duties have also interrupted our sleep. We don’t know how we can do it all in one day, accomplishing little, if anything. When we are fully agitated, we race around, running in place. This is the time to remind ourselves to stop, let go, and readjust our thinking.

If we don’t begin to get away from our false selves, no matter which way we turn, we run into obstacle which get us further into the same rut. We keep looking for ways to overcome this, without re-examining what our values are.

This is when I look to others for help, no that they will solve my problems, but they will change the way I think. Many of you know that I am a prayer minister at my church. When I am prayed over by the priest and sent to listen to others, my entire focus changes. I stop listening to my inner voice and listen to others. I then open my mind to God’s words and share these with my prayer recipients.

Before I realize it, my troubles are no longer valid. By getting out of my own rut, to help others cope with their lives, I improve my own existence.

I realize that not all of us can be prayer ministers, meaning we must find ways to take our focus off our failing attempts to cope, and open ourselves to the realities of our true selves, not those created by society. Jesus teaches that we should do as he does, seek others who are also broken and lost. Listen to them with compassion and see their difficulties as your own. By accepting that we are all broken, enables us to heal.

I don’t believe we can do this on our own. I know that God helps us. I know that god helps me.