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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Focus On Faith

Mark 16:1-8  New International Version (NIV)

‘When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’

The Easter story may seem ‘anti climactic’ with an empty tomb and some bewildered women running away in fear. Especially so, as human drama is spelled out daily in the meditations of the past week.

Who hasn’t experienced the euphoria of success, failure, disappointment, deep friendships, great company, great moments, betrayal, disillusionment, exasperation, hope? We can easily relate to these. The meditations are anchored in our experience.    But an empty tomb?

For those who are having difficulty with the last story:

Let me put it this way. We have choice in life.  The women chose to visit the tomb. They didn’t want to ‘let go’. It was their choice to do something which they believed was the right thing to do. They were hoping to glean something from the experience.

Hope is the active force that provides the opportunity to create life or life opportunity from every moment.  Even the last moment. Even the moment that appears to be on the opposite side of death.  That is why the refrain is repeated, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”  The emptiness of the physical space, the void does not offer life opportunity. The hope in the Christ offers opportunity. The Christ does not dwell in empty places.  For the living it translates like this.  We have a life. We can build it with a purpose in mind or we can trash it through arbitrary experience. The choice is always ours. Much anger is expressed in life because the choice is our own. There is comfort in blaming others for giving us ‘thirty pieces of silver’. Those thirty pieces are never sufficient. They never satisfy. And as Judas discovered, they cannot be returned.

It’s very simple: ‘Don’t allow the interests of others define what  you are going to do or who you are to become. Own your own life! Go and do something with your life. Make something of your life. Let it be a life guided by a purposeful mindset that leads to a meaningful life not just a multitude of experiences.

The Holy Week meditations give a taste of the Christian life mindset. Christ teaches us the most meaningful and worthy perspective on life and all that it involves. A Christian mindset is founded in eternal principles. You will need more than a week to understand the Christian mindset and to reveal what it means in your life. It starts with focus on your life.

Seek your life purpose or renew your purpose and go for it!  Don’t be afraid of your purpose. Fear only what is holding you back. And it usually is fear. Get out of the empty tomb. Go for it with Christ’s blessing! Common experience runs away from faith and belief in what God enables us to become. It is a short step to make ourselves the center of the universe with our priorities. It is a shorter step to discover self as the victim of the world around us.

Jesus could have blamed everybody too. But there is a difference between describing the world through the eyes of our circumstances and describing the world through unchanging principles of truth. Jesus says ‘Forgive them’. This means we can always start over our ‘life choice’. We can ‘make it’ or ‘trash it’! Jesus describes the world through principles that are eternally true not circumstances which are subjective and changing; temporary.

The resurrection story invigorates. Its richness is not found in the written words. The story’s richness is found in our lives as we meet or read about those who start over everyday and create a world filled with God’s blessings. The resurrection story is proved true every day in the living of Christ’s example. Life truly is in the living. The simple words of the story are rather dull until you place your own life in the mix. Add the Christ. Then it comes alive.

Have a wonderful life in Christ!

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Daffodils

The Daffodils are in bloom. Already!

There was that saying, ‘April showers. May flowers.’ It may still be true but so is ‘February sprinkles. March blooms.’

Plants grow in spite of everything that could impair their success. We are in drought. Moisture is low. We see dew, fog, perhaps an occasional sprinkle shower that entices us to want and plead for more. The daffodils say it is time to grow. Survival and growth are possible. We see problems. The daffodils see solutions.

I read somewhere that ‘every problem has its solution.’ This is certainly true. The solution requires that I take ownership of the problem. Even if I don’t believe that I caused the problem!

Ownership gives control over circumstance and allows one to move forward with resolution. Casting blame on someone else removes the ability to control both circumstance and outcome.

The global cultural milieu today is looking for someone else to resolve our problems. Whether it be government, imperial powers, wealthy corporations, tycoons, nationally mandated programs. But no entity can resolve personal life issues.

Jesus said ‘Take up your cross and follow me’. He didn’t suggest that we should throw the cross on someone else’s shoulders nor cast it on the ground for someone else to pick up. It’s mine.

The path to salvation begins when we accept ourselves and our situation as it is and commit to transform from that time forward. It is personal. Individual. It involves ownership. The decision moves us on to places that we have never been following an incredible life model!

And if the daffodils decided not to break forth with life? We wouldn’t know. We might recollect that the daffodils haven’t come forth this year. That would be it.

Similarly, those who decide against owning their problems can be reassured of only one thing. They have arrived at the pinnacle of their life experience. It will always be more of the disappointing sameness.

On the other hand the Daffodils come forth and allow us to experience their brilliant color, vibrant strength moving in the wind. They trumpet the message that every problem has its solution. And the solutions surround us.

The Jesus story is colorfully filled with rich stories of life solutions. ‘Take up your cross and follow me’. The solution may be difficult and hard but it does exist. We all need hope that our life challenges are resolvable. We all need hope that we are building the character to move us onto the next level of greatness. Lets follow together!

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