The Beat Goes On…

We don’t have a ‘rogue cop’ problem in America.  Let’s be clear on that.  It was caught on video.  That’s why it became of national interest.  

Mr Jacob Blake shot 7 times in the back as he went to get into his car is now paralyzed from the waist down.  Another side addition to the average of 3 police killings every day in America. We need our police and we need each other too.  But we don’t need the current violence now wedded into our policing system.

The police violence problem is NOT because we have a few ‘rogue cops’ that need to be weeded out.  I wish it were that simple. The Police Officers I know are the nicest guys.   But as in all jobs there is a culture built around the job. The police culture is built on past precedent and evolves over time.  Those on the inside experiencing the change evolve with the change about them.  

Cops are trained to follow the rules set out for them as part of their police culture.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Consultants and Police Trainers come with military experience from Afghanistan and Iraq – our endless wars, that portray human beings from the perspective of a human enemy. Just as police department use excess military equipment.  Be that true or not the police world view comes from their mountain top experience where the legal rules make their word and actions almost impregnable to question. 

There is both formal and informal training in any and all fields of learning and practice.  The formal training is the easiest to get at.  The informal training, the police culture is a harder to get at.

A now retired police officer friend of mine once commented that as he approached retirement he found himself classifying people that he met as either a victim/potential victim of crime or a perpetrator of crime.  After years as a hospital chaplain I recall classifying people as either hospital patients or preparing to become hospital patients.  These are parallel examples of a distorted culture view and a loss of ability to recognize our human relatedness to everyone we meet. 

Here are some practical steps to change policing efforts.

1).  Train police to DE-ESCALATE situations.  This means talking and negotiating until non violent interventions overwhelm the desire to remove guns from holsters.  A Change to non violent emphasis policing methods will increase the respect and support for the police.   Police receive more training in violent behaviors with minimal training in de escalation techniques.  

2).  Stop using chemical weapons against the people who pay for the police through their taxes.  Tear gas and other associated violence breeds violent self survival responses in return.  Ultimately counterproductive.

3).  It would seem logical that cops should live by the same laws as everyone else.  But they don’t. The law specifically exempts them. And City Contracts with police unions removes most if not all transparency and ability to remove officers from employment. Police Unions heavily fund political campaigns.  It will be hard to get serious changes made when the politician relies on the funding support of the police unions. This is clearly true in San Jose too. The public will need to press for this transparency and the Unions and the elected officials will not!

4) The relationship between police officers and prosecutors is incestuous.  Prosecutors rely heavily on the word of police officers to get convictions.  Now we want them to prosecute the very people they depend on. Will they do this without major political pressure?

5).  Non violent protest is important. But the pressure on political leaders in the political and social process is of even greater importance.   That means public demand for transparency, social media postings, letters to the editor and elected officials and candidates, participation in the political process, forums, public meetings with a well supported public voice.  Police and politicians are paid by the taxpayer.

The early Christians were encouraged to respect their civil rulers.  To defy them could mean instant death.  But they were also encouraged to live by the higher standard where ethics and equal justice ruled.  In our democracy we should encourage all to live by the higher standard.  It is possible.  And we don’t need to see three of our neighbors killed by police in America every day.  There is already enough suffering in our community and world

Changing the police culture and the racial prejudice that is part of it will go a long way in making us a community more representative of our ideals with less need to attend police inspired funerals of our friends and neighbors.

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THE PANDEMIC. HYPOCRISY, MOVING FORWARD

I’ve been ordained for almost 50 years.  Thought I had heard and seen almost everything.  Then the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic hits. I have more to learn.

You know the routine.  The CDC says we should ‘shelter in place’.  States and Counties say we must.  None of us really like it but we do prefer life over death. We resign ourselves to the reality.  

We all get restless and start moving around.  After all.  I haven’t died yet.  Bars and restaurants and beaches fill up with people. Then some religious leaders feel left out so they celebrate indoor religious services as a ‘God given Right’ to congregate shoulder to shoulder inside. They answer to a higher power ‘in the sky’.  (We all do of course.) Churches finally have something in common with bars and indoor parties.   

All this religious posturing is so biblical.  Pastors love their big pulpits and they want to be heard!!  I get that feeling.  We all feel like we deserve better than sheltering in place. (We do deserve better).

This kind of defiance reminds of Namaan the great Syrian Military Commander who knew himself to be too superior to dip himself in the lowly Jordan River for healing. We are above that.

Before we know it, we have blown our cover and the virus is having a field day.  We knew this was going to happen didn’t we?  But then again.  We all want to believe that everything is going to be alright.  Just fine. There are always some around who will tell you what you want to hear! (We shall shelter in place again, you’ll see.)

Viruses are pesky creatures that pay no respect to our thoughts and rules.  Whether you like them, believe in them or not, they will fight to survive by spreading ‘at will’. They appreciate our generosity.  They kill at will too. It may not be me who dies but it may be somebody at our behest.  Shall we bow to the virus and say:  ‘Let me show you the way?’

Indoor up close activities are reckless at best.  They are tantamount to what satan tried to do in the second temptation of Jesus.  “Since you are the Son of God, Jump off the pinnacle of the temple and the angels of heaven will save you.” So Satan said.  

And Jesus replied:  “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Our defiant behavior is just another way to tempt God to show power and authority.  That’s why it is pretty dangerous, reckless behavior.  Maybe God would save me if I was His son but then again…..?  Either divine response shows power and authority.  I don’t want to be tempting God.

Religious leaders are really in a pickle when they insist how God shall respond.  Pastors are more like Shepherds than gods. Although some Pastors have a hard time drawing a distinction. Pastors are shepherds who are there to protect their flock not to lead them into danger.  “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” type of shepherd.  Pastors are not called to lead people into unknown dangers as if they were warriors in a Picket’s charge.  Pastors are shepherds who lead toward doing what is right and honorable and good for all.  Shepherd Leaders do not to encourage their people to walk blindly into danger as a charge into potential death from an amoral virus.

What does a Pastor, the shepherd say to the church family if “even one of the least of these” dies because of the infection of the virus from an indoor worship gathering?  ‘Gee.  I’m sorry?’  Doesn’t sound like the wise actions of a shepherd.

Pastors spend a lot of time preaching and teaching about the workings of the unseen, the invisible.  But this is to reveal truth not to defy fact and experience. The virus is unseen but becomes real in illness and death.  Moments of doubt should lead us to visit an intensive care unit or a morgue.  There one might get a sense of the power of the invisible.  

Perhaps we are envisioning a warrior God in our communities?  We Christians like to make a big noise about King David.  Now he was a warrior who did all kinds of wonderful things and evil things too in God’s name.  His physical kingdom never went anywhere and historically, barely merits a mention.  And even in the Biblical books he is shown to be a rather fallible, self consumed individual like most people who want to be King. Hasn’t changed one bit even today.  “You don’t want a king”, the biblical prophets said.  I am beginning to understand what they meant.

You may be thinking of religious leaders as hypocrites with big egos?  Before you pass judgement remember that there are hypocrites in all professions, business, all forms of leadership; perhaps even in your own family.  The Bible tells us so.  Our task is to recognize hypocrisy so that we do not replicate the hypocrisy but learn from it. Even the hypocrite is a teacher.  I hope you learn from me too.  

The life quest is to become good listeners, good learners, productive citizens who love all people and hunger and thirst to share and to build – together- a better world.  “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”  

I pray you don’t need 50 years to comprehend what that means for you.  The solution begins by dipping ourselves in the waters of the lowly Jordan River (figuratively of course) and accepting what simple things we need to do to help and serve each other. 

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Knee on the neck of Black America

It would be inappropriate not to recognize the tragic incident in Minneapolis this past week when police officers killed Mr George Floyd, a 46 year old African American. Yet another example of police killing an African American in the United States.

The image of a white police officer with a knee on an African American citizens neck was an image of  America at its worst.  

This is a picture of the history of America’s attitude and action toward people of color fed over a 400 year history:  They need to know their place; they are to be held down; ignored;  and treated in the manner as prescribed by a white dude:  Whether it be a police Officer or someone else.

This prejudicial situation reminds me of the lyrics from a song in the old Rodgers & Hammerstein musical,  “South Pacific” 

The lyrics go something like this:

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year.

You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

We humans are NOT born to treat others inhumanely.  We are taught to discriminate with hate and fear.  We are taught to assume inequality, and to hate and fear others supposedly unlike ‘me’.

Likewise,  “You’ve got to be taught” to love and respect others.  It doesn’t just happen. There is a process to learn how to treat others with respect. “You’ve got to be carefully taught”.

Anger and violence can be anticipated to flow from these tragic circumstances.  And in America, it seems that without the public expression of anger nothing will move.  

Otherwise it will be addressed by a Committee, Commission, a Board that will sidestep the inequity of law and justice and justify the current rule and order. And African Americans will continue to be killed by our police officers with impunity.

The police are key to the cultural transformation that needs to take place.  The Police are on the front line where justice is formidably tested. They have the power and opportunity to publicly display the equality and inequality that exists about us.

There is a simple antidote to our social dis –  ease.

We need to address and act toward each other as human equals.  

In all situations.  It is difficult. It will be difficult.  But practice of the right behavior creates the right habits, and the right thoughts of respect and appreciation and the love for each other.

“You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Our condolences to the family of Mr George Floyd.  Our prayers are with you.  And our prayers are with the United States of America.  The land we all love and are willing to live and die for.

If I might quote St Paul:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

The grace and peace and love of Christ be with you all. 

John Goldstein, Pastor

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How Are You Doing Now?

We have completed our first week of ‘shelter in place’. Our Santa Clara County is one of the ‘hot spots’ of the infection in the state. Our daily discipline has changed.  And everyone is saying:  Who would ever have thought that we would be in this situation?

Aren’t we tired of hearing that we need to wash our hands for 20 seconds and keep 6 feet apart?  The important question is:  Are we following this discipline?

It doesn’t take long to shorten, forget or give up on it.  All of a sudden we want to be close and to hug and shake hands now that we know that for the sake of those we love we shouldn’t be close or hug or shake hands.  

It’s that quiet voice in the background that keeps us at it.  Yes.  Thinking of the possible consequences and the impact on my children and my neighbor in addition to myself.  We grudgingly or joyously are resigned to keeping at it.

It seems that ‘caring for each other’ is a part of human psyche. It is as much as being human as it is to eat and sleep.  And helping each other is a way to feel better about self and place in community. The world changes one person at a time.  And what we do influences what other do too.

I am trying to create a list of things we can do to help others while we are in ‘shelter in place’.  I’m sure you have better ideas but here are some things that I have heard suggested:

-Call or text a neighbor and simply ask:  “How are you doing?”

-Call or text someone you suspect may be alone and ask:  “How are you doing?”  Don’t make the call a ‘one time event’!

-Contact a food bank and drop off when they are able to receive.

-Take a walk with your pet.  You need to get out, change scenery and exercise a little.  Maintain distance from others.

-Get into a comfortable position, read something inspirational, take a deep breath, and reflect on the meaning of: “God is with us”.

Religion pops up in time of crises as we search to find answers and reassurance.  Over the years I have found that religious people like myself, are restless people. They develop rituals and disciplines to guide them to experience beyond themselves.  Yoga is like that as we learn to abandon distractions and to focus.  The religious (not all religions) hunger to  see as God sees – all that is ‘seen and unseen’.  Not gonna happen of course!  But it is a wonder filled goal to enlighten and brighten the life path! And it does illuminate the heart not just the mind.

Our readings for Sunday turn our attention to this life journey.  Ezekiel provides a vivid description of the ‘dry bones’ of the desert taking on life when God speaks.  Jesus will bring the sleeping Lazarus out of the grave as a sign that God’s timetable is different from our own.  He will also demonstrate that we are all restrained by the limits of our ways of thinking, our restricted vision and failing expectations of what God can and shall do.  The journey of the godly person is a journey for place and meaning.  “We are restless until we rest in You!” 

The journey never ends until life itself is engulfed in the lap of God.

SELECTIONS FROM THIS COMING SUNDAYS READINGS

Ezekiel 37:1-14

14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

John 11:1-45

“Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

And for those who have said they find this helpful,  here is a prayer to reflect upon:

“Keep watch, dear God, with those who work or watch or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.  Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, comfort the afflicted, shield the joyous;  all for your love’s sake.”  Amen.

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Will You Help Me?

I looked on as we jammed parking lots and cleared off the shelves of ‘life essentials’ from supermarkets this week. We call it getting prepared for an invisible enemy that has sent fear if not outright panic through to the bones of many.

The question my conscious kept asking: Will I share what I have purchased with my neighbor if they come down with the Coronavirus? Or is all this just for me? The other deeper question is how do we take care of each other psychologically and emotionally during this situation?

The Public Health system works on the basis that we are all in this together. Yes! Evergreen is a community and we are all in this together. What is good in health practice for me is good health practice for you also. We all benefit! Transmission of a virus between us is limited by the limitation of interaction between us. We are asked to create and maintain an isolation from each other to slow down – even defeat this enemy. This makes sense from the Public Health perspective to control the spread of a virus.

But on a social level, as a community, how are we to respond to the isolation we are creating?

Are Seniors living alone more distanced from the community now? Are they to be without conversation or in sight of another person to ‘defeat the enemy?’ Are Families struggling to make ends meet now determinatively left alone to fall into a psychological depression, fear and panic because they can’t join the rush to the supermarket? Are our minds to be filled with fear for our own health, real or unreal to be panicked and filled with anxiety over something we cannot control?

We all need emotional and spiritual support in a time of crisis whether we have a lot or a little.

What do we need to support each other in the community when we are in isolation from each other? Do we need an old fashioned phone tree to simply ask: “How are you doing? Or…..

Reflect on what we can do to strengthen emotional and spiritual ties during a time when we are so tempted to think only of our closest and to lose sight of ourselves.

For those with a spiritual depth I include the following prayer. And for those who may feel a prayer is ‘over the top’ in the social realm, perhaps you could read it as a moment of reflection or meditation on our place in the universe. After a Yoga session would be a great time to read it.

“God, our peace and our strength, we pray for our nation and the world as we face new uncertainties around coronavirus. Protect the most vulnerable among us, especially all who are currently sick or in isolation. Grant wisdom, patience, and clarity to health care workers, especially as their work caring for others puts them at great risk. Guide us as we consider how best to prepare and respond in our families, congregations, workplaces, and communities. Give us courage to face these days not with fear but with compassion, concern, and acts of service, trusting that you abide with us always.” Amen.

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It’s A Messy Business This Christmas Thing

It always seems around this time of year there is some kind of global crisis and tragedy that counters the message of the Christmas story. Don’t you have the same feeling?

The Christmas story portrays Mary and Joseph with their God given son.  It is a moment when peace, hope, joy are part of a beautiful experience of God and mankind joining together.

Then we get those horrible human tragedies juxtaposed.   Aleppo is a case in point.  Aleppo is the human tragedy called by some ‘a holocaust’. The opportunity to prevent this tragedy passed a long time ago.  We all know that even if we don’t say it. We hesitated. Now, how does one claim ‘victory’ when you have destroyed the lives of your own people? It must be difficult to sit at that victory table with such human cost.

Life is always messy.

The contemporary fanatics of the world refuse to accept the fact that life is messy. Religious fanatics, cultural fanatics, scientific fanatics, philosophical fanatics are all cast in the same cloth with slightly different colors.

These fanatics insists that their way brings justice and correctness to life so long as their rules are followed. They are correct, of course.  Fanatics beat everyone into submission so that all mouth the same message, look alike, think alike and die alike in their emotional, spiritual poverty and desolation.  It is okay because everyone agrees to be miserable, despondent and hopeless together aghast at the thought that life could be any other way.

The Christmas story has no fanatics.  Joseph and Mary wouldn’t make it in the Middle East of our ‘modern’ world.  They would be executed as unfaithful to ‘The Law’ .  A young unmarried couple about to have a child do not fit into the strictures of a controlling religious culture.  Joseph and Mary would also be sanctioned today by the very Christian religion that tells their story. Joseph and Mary as parents without marriage push the edges of Christian values too.

The Christmas Story about Joseph and Mary has all the tension of the modern world intertwined into it with the hint of a brave new world.  (Perhaps it isn’t so brave but I like to think so.)  It reminds us that nothing ever is smooth sailing.  It takes God to organize the story so the facts point toward something great.

Most religions would bury the story of Joseph and Mary because it is nested in the messiness of life.  God should be found on the highest mountain with the best parents humans could create.  Instead the birth is placed in the valley where most of us live.

The Christmas story is in the face of everyone.  Life is messy down here in the valley.  We don’t have it all. We don’t know it all. We just know that God shines a bright light so we can find a way through the messiness. We desire to love ourselves. Our families. Our neighbors.

The anchors we throw at social institutions, programs, education are eventually recognized as landing in styrofoam.  There is never any security or certainty in our human structures. We humans are restless to improve the world of our creation. Only the God story enables us to move through the messiness.

And despite the violence of Joseph and Mary’s time, the inhumanity to man, the imbalance of power (and every other ill you can think of) there is someone there to remind us to “not be afraid” of the known or unknown, to seek the goodness, gentleness, the power of godly thought and spirit that changes the world through kindness, service, love, opportunity, true wealth.

Read the Christmas story with delight.  It talks of your experience and my experience finding our way through a messy world without the fear that stalks the human heart.

A blessed Christmas to you all

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No Peace. No Justice

The tragic experiences recently in Dallas TX, Baton Rouge LA and Falcon Heights MN has spurned a heightened feeling that perhaps we are on a path toward social collapse.

We are now marching in the streets and shouting about inequalities. We all know that inequalities exist. In the Vietnam War era I was among the Protesters and marched also calling for peace and justice. I never saw the contradiction of protesting for peace while engaging in the violence of shutting down streets and schools and complicating lives. Nothing much has changed today.

When the sun sets there will be calls for new social programs to solve the problems of inequality. The truth is that the solutions of inequality are never found within social programs as good as they may be.

Our problems are more fundamental, grounded in basic human issues of self.  We all need to find place, the sense of belonging, mutual acceptance as equal members of our community.  The sense of ‘belonging’ is the nurturing place for community justice.

It is not ‘Just’ that police must fear for their lives when they stop a vehicle or detain an individual.  Likewise, It is not ‘Just’ that the citizen must fear for his or her life when stopped or detained by police. Surely we can agree with that.

Fear can lead us to do the most absurd things. Fear is the emotion we feel when our sense of personal self worth and respect are threatened.  We want respect. Its tough to extend respect when we don’t trust each other.

We are not addressing a Race War.  There is only one race.  The human race.  The pigment of one’s skin has nothing to do with race. How refreshing it will be when all music and discourse reflects this.

In spite of protestations, we are all capable of doing what the ‘cop’ does out of fear or reprisal. In spite of protestations we are also capable of behaving like the angry, wayward citizen whose behavior defies comprehension. There is always danger that we will use the arrogance of our power to shut down a street or fire a weapon. It becomes increasingly possible when we feel disconnected from our community and seek haven in vengeful anger and self righteousness.

One clear message from these ongoing tragedies is that we, together need to find a better way to police our communities.  Our Police Officers should not be at risk in their daily activities as they seek to serve. Likewise, we should not fear our police.  We all need respect for our respective roles in the community. There is a better way and we can find it together.

The non violent protests of the ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’ eventually exposed and transformed the governance of Argentina. The Guatemala experience had similar results.  The silent marches and protestations became deafening and powerful. The actions led to discussions and Commissions and meaningful dialog and change.  A silent march or candlelight vigil promoting ways to work together to build a better community will ultimately move us miles further ahead than physical group protest.  At heart, it cries out for us to come together to respect each other as members of the human race – and to find a better way.

Someone once gave this advice:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other. ..put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Whoever wrote this was of the opinion that we are to look out for each other. Not just ourselves.  This would be a constructive place to begin our dialog with each other to build a safe and just America. Peace to you.

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Now The Silence

Frankly speaking the Orlando atrocity created a stunning silence.  It is too painful to mention.

It is incomprehensible that anyone would want to kill, hurt, maim anyone let alone the LGBTQ community. Everyone I know who tries to speak is stunned by the enormity of the offense. Words don’t flow.

‘America the Beautiful’ is such because we focus on freedom of life and liberty.  We learn from each other.  The miracle of the constitution is that it allows us to recreate the meaning of democracy in each generation upholding basic principles that feed each generation.  But this type of behavior…?

The pundits will come up with fancy words to help ameliorate what has happened.  Words like deranged’, ‘terrorist’, ‘homophobic’.  This might make us all feel better. But the words are meaningless.  We don’t need explanations nor excuses nor defense of our Rights. We hunger to rediscover the simple basic human tenet of love for God and respect for each other.  They are pretty synonymous in many ways.

Jesus said: ’Peace I leave with you’. Peace to appreciate who “you” are. Peace to appreciate the distinctiveness of your neighbor.   Peace to share beneficial wisdom.  Peace to comprehend the difference between right and wrong.  Peace to comprehend that some ways of living are better than others. Peace to forgive the sins and shortcomings of neighbor. Peace to forgive yourself for your own shortcomings. Peace to live with yourself and the memories of past actions that you may want to erase from personal history. Peace to celebrate the wondrous gift of life. Peace opens up life opportunity.

Life opportunities change whenever we meet and talk with each other.  The world is transformed through a humble acceptance that we are all tenants on this planet.  It is loaned to us by God.

Some humility and sharing between us never hurts.  Thoughts, prayers, tears are with the LGBTQ community in Orlando as they sort through this horrid experience. May we discover the  commonalities between us so we can all appreciate each other in all our idiosyncrasies and differences.  Who knows. Perhaps you and I will change through the experience?

And for our elected leaders:  There is no reason that persons cannot have the right to bear arms. And there is no reason that a Congress elected by the people cannot come up with a gun control law that restricts access to these deadliest weapons to protect us all. 99.9% of us don’t want to walk around with arms to protect ourselves from our neighbor.  We want to enjoy our days with our neighbor!  America is the country that went to the moon and is exploring beyond the limits of space. We have the capacity to create a meaningful law and process.  Our elected leaders need the will to do it. And if they don’t want to do this. We don’t need them. We need leaders with a passion and commitment to serve the common good. To serve the people so we may live in peace.

Now the Silence.  Now the peace. Now the empty hands uplifted.

Now the kneeling. Now the plea. Now God’s arms in welcome….

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Only The Beginning

Some Scientific Leaders are finally willing to say with confidence that the concept of God has run its course.  We don’t need it anymore because science has led us beyond it. Thank God someone is confident about something.  We can now all relax and relish in the ‘brotherhood of humankind’ as we go – together ‘arm in arm’ where we have never gone before. Variations on this theme has been repeated in billions of ways over the length of human history.  Sadly. They all eventually die. Somehow though God won’t go away.

I have tremendous respect for science and scientific discovery.  I love science and the study of science. But opinion is just opinion. Scientists can speculate about God as can anyone.  Thank God that everyone does!  But you wouldn’t ask your surgeon to fix your computer would you? Or your baker to fix the leak in your roof?  We would normally seek out those who have more experience in the area of our need.

Okay. Science might show some of the inadequacies of religious tendencies and beliefs when they drop into the science arena.  Of course, it is easy to point out the inadequacies of religion. At times religion has been used to fill a black hole of scientific knowledge. Then science finally discovers an indisputable fact that is in its area of expertise. The religious ‘stand in’ goes down the tubes. Like the world is more than round. It’s more like a globe. Or how about the universe is more complicated or spacious than just a few several layers. It appears to go on beyond forever. We probably all know that by now.

Every generation needs to challenge the God concept. Especially the story of God taking on the form of human flesh and dwelling among us.  This is not an easy story to understand, appreciate and believe.  I am among the doubters too – as all believers over time.

In retrospect, I’d rather have this God dwell among us than the secular ones we hear about every day on the news. That is, the ones dedicated to violence and destruction and ending human life in one way or another.  Some use the guise of religion to justify their social theory. It doesn’t take much genius to see through it.  Like the social science gods who give us concentration camps and genocides. Other scientists who take a scientific advancement and immediately find a way to make it into a weapon of mass destruction. How about the nondescript gods who traffic in people in modern day slavery.  Not to mention those who convince people everyday that they have no choice in life, victims of social conspiracies with no opportunity before them but to demand the glorious state to provide for their needs. The lines of followers are long in these areas.  It is almost always someone else’s fault. These are the black holes of human god seeking achievement.

I prefer a God of life myself even if the concept is antiquated for some.  But it does give life over death. It is only the beginning. You will see.

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My Story. Your Story. Our Story

It has been a challenging week.
We all have them.  I set some goals for myself and set out to accomplish them.  This is a constructive practice for me.  I get more accomplished this way even if I don’t get to everything. And at the end of the week I have something to look back on and to measure what I accomplished. I am pleased with where I am even if everything did not turn out exactly as planned.  I know that next week will get me further along the way. Hope your week was okay too! You just have to keep at it.  As someone once said, ‘Perfection is not possible but you will find excellence along the way’.

Opportunities are always found along the way just as frequently as obstacles and problems. Some think I say that just because I have read it in books. Not so.  Results from experience speak more than a thousand words.  Books confirm what I have learned from my life experience. The confirmation excites me because it tells me I am on the right track! And if the written word contradicts I know that either I’m on the wrong side of experience or the book is off track, based in theory and not practice. There is more of the latter than the former.

I confess. I missed a mountain of opportunities over the years. Wow. If I only knew then what I know now!  But it doesn’t matter because I still can learn and adjust and latch onto the opportunities I come across today.

One day I want to tell you my personal story. Perhaps then you will understand why I think the way I do and why I see opportunities where others see mountains of formidable difficulties and challenges. You have never heard my story.  I know you would better grasp some of my idiosyncrasies and why I talk the way I do.  Yes, you would know me in a very different light. And in the sharing of course, I would get to know you in a brighter light!  I hunger for that.

I have a friend here who owns several music stores.  He sells all kinds of musical instruments from guitars, drums and every band instrument you can think of.  He has the ‘classical’ instruments too.  I never knew that his true love is repairing fine, antique musical instruments.  Instruments like violins, cellos, bass and the like.  He currently restricts his practice to repairing instruments for collectors and antique dealers.  He is a dedicated Artist.  This is his Calling in life.

He plans to shortly open his repair to the public. He hasn’t done so previously because collectors will gladly wait.  The public wants and need their repairs ‘now’ as they are using the instruments.  Management of the Music stores, not his true love eat up a lot of his time. But not for much longer.

I found all this out by chance.  I had taken my violin to him for new strings.  He brought me into his workshop and the rest was history!  It was beautiful to see antique instruments in pieces finding their life again. Others would have given these instruments up ‘for dead’.  But of course, he knows what they can do and will do when they come back to life. He even told me the history of my violin. Its origins. Its mercantile purpose. Almost how it came to be in my hands.  He is quietly looking for people to work with him in this craft.  What an opportunity for someone who may want to share in the love of this craft from the ground up! Is this not an opportunity for someone who shares the same love for instruments?

Life is filled with all kinds of circumstances that are setbacks and simultaneously extend the seed of opportunity.  If you ever get to a point in life where you feel like quitting because you are overcome by setbacks try keeping this in mind.  If what you are currently doing doesn’t work for you it probably means that you weren’t meant to do just that.  Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by it. Be thankful that you have learned ‘that’ much so you can go and focus on something that will get what you need to get out of life. This is one reason I love to associate with Business owners.  There isn’t a business owner in the world who doesn’t have setbacks in multiples areas on multiple occasions. They wouldn’t be in business if setbacks dictated their reaction to their craft.  They have to find the opportunity in the midst of their circumstances. Get close enough to the best ones and they will teach you how to read the setbacks as opportunities or messages of a ‘cease and desist’ order, if you know what I mean.  It seems that we would all benefit from a similar approach to the setbacks in our own lives. Learn how to read the  messages and focus on where the light ahead of you shines. Not the darkness.

The often ‘chance meetings’ I make during a week that lead to new associations and friendships often appear as happenstance or serendipitous.  They may be that at the moment. But I believe there is a Divine will at work providing opportunities for me to meet people and learn new ways at looking at old things to get where I need to go. Looking back on life I cannot believe that it just happened by chance.  No. I have beautiful children. Beautiful wife. Wonderful associations and experiences over many years. Not all the experiences were positive nor efficacious. Probably my own fault that they didn’t all turn out the way anticipated.  But they all brought me where I am today. I don’t regret where I am today.  I couldn’t be here without all those experiences. I thank God for that.

I know this is happening to you too. It happens to everyone.  Only those with a heart for life sense that something needs to change.  The first step to resolution is somewhere in the realm of ‘stop’, ‘look’ and ‘listen’. Someone is talking to you and showing the way. That someone is Divine.  Just know it!

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