Wednesday, December 31, 2014

God, me and a new years chat.

 They took the whole Cherokee Nation
Put us on this reservation
Took away our ways of life...John Loudermilk (Paul Revere and the Raiders)

 I have always talked with you or at least since my late teens and young adulthood on New Years Eve. I think I started in my early twenties going out and just walking with you. It's been hard in recent times to make the annual excursion into the woods. I still remember going to Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama (city of my birth) and walking around Black Creek and praying and meditating. I had felt like as a young teenager that I was "displaced by divorce" and Noccalula Falls was my way of going back home and reconnecting.

 I have even been able to bring in the New Year in Hawaii on the North Shore so it's always been a special time for me to think about life and try to get perspective. Some years are easier than others to get in the mood and to take stock of life. 

This New Years eve I haven't been able to really gather and make that one big "just me and God hangin out" thing happen. I got up early and went to my favorite coffee shop. I had coffee, breakfast and then was pulling into a local park to walk along the hiking trail and had to hit my brakes. The park was closed and the entrance blocked by a metal gate. Oh well, no problem I would just meditate in my own back yard. My wife went to the store and my son was safely in front of a video game so out back I went.

Just couldn't get into it. It was cold and wet and I just couldn't seem to concentrate. So, I decided to wait and put in my ear buds and do a quiet meditation tonight. So, I quietly go into the bedroom and pull up a little meditation program on youtube ( Ain't technology grand?) My plan was to relax my mind and then to be able to talk to God in the quiet and maybe work on the grand scheme of life. I got to the part where the narrator said "Close your eyes."

I woke up after an hour or so and put on my glasses and announced to Cindy that I had fallen asleep. To which she seemed not surprised at all. :-0

I'm not much on religion these days. You outgrew the box I had comfortably placed you in a long time ago.

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?....Pink Floyd

But, you just didn't seem to be ready to perform on cue. I looked to authority, the people who could tell me what I needed to know to get you back in the box. After all, I needed you to make sure I had all the stuff I needed.

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb......Pink Floyd

Except now I'm older and I don't think the dream is gone. I think I need to wake up from the dream.

A dream as the thunder wakes her
And her highwayman disappears
On a life already lived before
In eyes welled with tears...Stevie Nicks

So now what do I do and how do I get you to send me a sign that my new year will bring me all the stuff I need. Favor with my employer and money for my bills and toys to distract me when I notice the lines on my face in the mirror?

 There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face
She pretended not to notice, she was caught up
in the race.....Eagles "Life in the Fast Lane"

Now those kind of lines (except for the ones on my face) are not my problem as I get older. I don't drink except for the occasional toast of wine on special occasions or a beer (Irish Guiness for my little Celtic soul on my birthday) and Columbian means good coffee to me these days.But, I still have my "distractions" to get me whistling past the grave yard.

I can peruse the internet and I admit that I do find the whole "flow of information" thing to be addicting. I constantly check my phone and I love having news and sports scores and stories at my fingertips. But, I don't know if I haven't lost some listening skills and the ability to think a little deeper about things.

 We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how...Same Old Lang Syne...Dan Fogleberg

So, I try to listen and I even find myself "liking" inspirational post on facebook. Trying to assure myself that I haven't completely lost the thread of my youthful religion and faith.  That I can make it all OK if I can just get the attention of God.

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?....American Pie (Don Mclean)

So, here I am again. A little more life worn and a little less sure of a one size fits all or theory of everything. But, still here and still honestly sure that I'm talking to you and not simply talking to myself. I no longer expect burning bushes or to get knocked off my donkey and told the secrets of life. But, I do remember one time when I actually did "know" I was under the protection of an Angel. But, that's one of those things that are between me and you and I go back to it from time to time when I'm feeling especially disconnected.

Hello, it's me
I've thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something's wrong
There's something here that doesn't last too long
Maybe I shouldn't think of you as mine...Todd Rundgren

Yep, it's me again and you just don't seem to fit in my little box anymore. I don't think I can define you anymore. But, on the other hand letting go and just "being her now" Yeah I know sounds a little new agey  ;-) But just being (to me) seems better than an absolute claim of knowing these days.

I remember being in General Forrest Junior High (yeah, we called it junior high in those days) in the gym. I saw a childhood friend from the old elementary school across the way. She was always one of those people that I would see from time to time in my life and even the passage of years didn't seem to make us strangers. Not lovers and not in a relationship. Just souls that seemed to recognize each other whenever we met. Since it's New Years I am remembering things tonight. I remember the song that was playing and the lyrics that day in the gym

Looking out from my lonely room, day after day
Bring it home, baby, make it soon
I give my love to you.....BadFinger

Funny how songs seem to define times in our lives. I play the guitar and I love music but I'm not one of those people that like to have music on all the time. But, when I do hear or play certain songs the times and places rush back to me.

Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away...Dobie Gray

So, this hasn't been the new year prayer that I wanted. But, it's been the one you have given me and shared with me so I'm good. ;-)

I hope to be able to "hear" you this year a little clearer. I hope to enjoy health and to be able to enjoy life and family and put work and even memory in the right order and place. I pray for the ability to see and experience every day as it's own special "Now." I pray not to wait for tomorrow to live. Thank you for this moment. Thank you for life.

I dreamed of a river once. Been a long time now but I still remember the dream. I was standing there and I heard "You have to go in." I didn't want to go in. I knew if I went in that I would die. At least I was afraid that I would. But, it seemed to be something I really had to do. So, I finally plunged in. It was so cold. But, I felt so incredible. My spirit seemed to soar even as my body was freezing and maybe even dying.

On Jordan's Stormy Banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye....Samuel Stennett

So, I will continue this journey with you until I reach that river. Not that I am trying to reach it this year. ;-) But, I think it will be like the dream. I'll be upon it and it will be time and it will be OK. But, for now I want to be in the moment and enjoy the journey.

Now, that I sneaked a hymn into my Rock and Roll I thought I'd end with a toast:

To my grandparents who raised me and have made it to the other side. To my aunt and uncle and cousins and brother in law. To a classmate from long ago in Alabama City. She had on a Mickey Mouse watch one day and I heard years later that she had passed. I will have to tell her that I thought she was really cute but I was a little too shy back in the day. To my friend who went way to soon that painted murals a long time ago in Altoona. To my classmates from West End who I remember as "good people." To a special friend "My girl" No, not my girlfriend and not my lover either. But, we will raise a toast to kindness yet. To that great cloud of witnesses.

Also, to those who are still my companions on my journey. Cindy who puts up with me and I guess as old married people we put up with each other. To my son Fox who is so much smarter than I ever was. I hope he finds the thread of his journey and his way of talking to you and listening. To my mother who had me when she was young and even though we have had some storms (still do at times.) ;-) she has been a inspiration in a hard headed get up and move on  way for me. To friends from my youth that I still journey with and to friends that are newer but are like "old souls" when we meet. To R.J. who is a brother and no longer able (in this world) to have talks and tell jokes. I miss you jerk and I will be able to tell you that one day.

To my sister Tammy: I'm so sorry and I know he was everything to you. He just went across the river a little early. No words will take away the sting. Take your time because we all have a day to experience and you have grandchildren to love and fuss with for a little longer. ;-)

OK, I think that's my new years "walk" this time. I started in 2014 and it's already over an hour into 2015. I can't put you back in that box. So, I'll just hold on to your hand and presence and continue this walk into a New Year.

Joel 2:25: I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.

I believe that. Just across the river.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jesus, Stephen King and Don Henely

  I just started a new novel by Stephen King called Revival. Now, I don't read as much fiction as I used to and I'm more into non fiction and enjoy period true crime stories. Not the gory slash and bash kind. More of the Hollywood or 1930's mob kind. Throw in some classic rock biographies and that's pretty much my reading list these days with a little ufo/alien abduction stuff for fun. But, I do read my favorite author when he puts out a new one. Often, people look for guru's or try to find some "one size fits all wisdom" in the things they enjoy. I'm to old for guru's and to experienced in life to think "one size fits all" be it religion, politics or how to win a million dollars through positive thinking. :-) Still, a new book by "Uncle Stevie" gets me thinking of my life and where I've been. Kind of like a certain song or a certain memory of being baptized when I was young. Well, there ya have it. I told you I was thinking of Jesus, Stephen King and Don Henley. But, I get ahead of myself.

I am a Christian by the family and culture that I was born into. I often say that my "Christianity" is like my southerness. I could hardly be anything else. I was taught to say Roll Tide and my prayers at about the same age. OK, prayer came first but not much more intensely. :-) I am not much of a right wing evangelical type these days. My dogma was ran over some years ago. But, I have the t-shirt and still love the folks who disagree with my political and spiritual "evolution." I tried to fit in most of my life and only in my late forties and into my fifties did I develop enough personal honesty to state even to myself what I really think and believe about life. I'm still careful because as a wise woman once told me "Steve, there are some things you don't tell anybody but God." Works for me. ;-)

Anyway, I have looked forward and been a little anxious about the new Stephen King novel. I knew from the title and the blurbs that it touches on religion and I am always conflicted about that. It's kind of a thing these days for people who are mad at religion to create and destroy straw men. I have seen the abuses of religion and the terror of telling children they are going to hell if they don't believe right.

However, I have also watched young mothers find strength to deal with the loss of a child or an adult deal with loss of a parent or loved one by holding on and looking forward to their faith. I know it's easy to say "where was god when something bad happens." But, on the flip side saying "we are all just brain farts and your loved one was nothing but a chemical reaction that is now extinct" just doesn't work well for me as a trade off.

So far (I've only completed a few chapters)the book hasn't slipped into a faith bashing frenzy and you also need to distinguish between a work of fiction and entertainment and getting uptight about world views. But, I have been thinking a lot lately about my world view. I no longer see "God" as an old man in the sky waiting to get me for my many transgressions. I tend to think that once you accept a view that we are more than the sum of our parts but that shit still happens. Well, you have to come to some kind of personal understanding of what reality is. I have a real problem with thinking that an eternal soul just pops into being by the seed and the egg. On the other hand I have a real problem believing that everything that I am simply pops into being by a chemical reaction inside an organ in my head. ;-) Both, seem a little off to me.

I tend to think that maybe, just maybe matter springs from consciousness and not the other way around. The eternal observer of which I'm part of makes sense to me. I don't always know how to fit my faith and my actions into the correct box. The one thing that I do believe in is treating everyone the way you would like to be treated. Stop thinking that life is your own personal movie and that other people are just bit players.

You know how in the movies a whole town or region is destroyed by the monster,bad guys, bombs or other mayhem. The posse is shot to hell but in the final scene the only thing that really matters? It's the hero kissing his true love and both riding off or driving off or flying off into the sunset. The fact that the sidekick or the other good guys were just gunned down and the heroic couple stepped over them on the way out of the last scene seems like a good payoff to us movie goers. That's fine for hollywood and I love to see Clint Eastwood gunning down the bad guys.

But, as you go into a week of family, work, friends and foes try to remember. Everybody counts and everybody has their own part in their own movie and walking over them as if they aren't important should not be an option.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

It's me again God.

Hi God! Yeah, it's me again. Ya know that little secret stuff I fret over so much? Yeah, I know you are never surprised with me. Still, I was  raised "in the church" as we say in the south. So, I carry around a lot of guilt whenever I check in with you. Liberal Christian? Well, yeah I do say that and I mean it. But, when I approach you I still kind of get the big daddy in the sky who judges me feeling. Just can't quite let that go even if I don't really believe all the dogma of my raising. Weird huh? No? Well I'm glad you understand because I don't. Oh yeah, the reason I'm here today? That would be you right? ;-) Well you did give me this sense of humor ya know. Theology? No, not today. I'm not real sure I'm up to it right now. I don't know the ultimate purpose of the universe. I think right now I'll just be.
You know this body has some tingles and pains and limitations I didn't even know about back in the day. Well, I sure couldn't do some of  the party stuff I did then. I do thank you that I didn't do any long term damage. I sure could have. Anyway, now where was I? Oh yeah, now I remember.
I do understand that people are afraid. I know that scared people can be heartless and even cruel. I understand that it doesn't always come from their "best selves." But, I am so frustrated at how good decent people speak so easily of turning children away or shooting people.
Yeah, I actually have heard the "put up a fence and shoot em as they cross over line." WWJD? Never that? Well, you don't have to tell me.

The Middle East thing? Yeah, they all are of the same part of the planet. Yeah, I know it sickens you when they act like it's a sporting event instead of a real world life and death struggle with real flesh and blood and real limbs being blown apart. Anyway, what about here?
Well, you remember Reagan? Oh, yeah I bet he and JFK are having a grand ole debate over who's the better Irishman. Ya know my family name has a bit of the old country in it's heritage. Point? Oh yeah, the point.
Well, ya see back in the Reagan years the U.S. did some stuff that Uncle Ronnie thought was OK at the time. Now, we are getting some refugees and the people who loved Uncle Ronnie don't love the refugees. Children? Millstones and better not to have been born than to harm one of these? I don't think that's for this situation. How do I know? Well, that's what the GOP "God's own party" What? Oh, I'm sorry. No, I will never say something that stupid again.
Well, anyway I did feel like I needed to check in. Sometime, I just need to rest. Sometime I just need to look the devil in the eye and not be afraid. So, I see heartless and ignorant statements in your name. I see death and misery and hunger and abuse. Why doesn't it make me turn away from you?
Because I also see you in every grain of sand and every drop; of spilled blood. I see you in the waiting rooms and the death and hunger in this world. I see you in my own doubts and I know that you are the place and being of my rest.
I don't know what else I would like to say right now. I just thought I'd talk a little and hang out with you for a minute. I'm looking at the road I've traveled. It's shorter in front than it was when I was younger. No? That hill up there, isn't that the home stretch beyond it? Trust? I have thought that. Maybe we are on an eternal journey and that hill will reveal the road isn't about to end after all.
Remember back in Walnut Park when I was a kid? Yeah, my ole banana seat bike. Man, I wish I could see it again. :-) I would "pull" the hill on Stonewall Avenue heading up to Chester Street. I would fly back down Stonewall later that day. Anyway, I'm pulling this hill and I wanted to make sure I still have you in case I need a push.
Always? Thank you. Do you mind if I kind of walk a little closer for a minute. Just until I'm ready to get back on my bike and pull this hill. Yeah, it feels good. You too? Wow!

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Day in the Life!

 "Hallelujah" By Leonard Cohen:
 I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
A Day in the Life:
Beginning: Ground of all Being. Giver of breath, maker of suns, Watcher of Worlds. Coming forth a creature. A Being of pure light and consciousness. No being, Just Being. Look, intend, watch. A world out of countless possibilities forms out of pure energy. Another place to learn and grow and live and die. Why? Just to be. See the form that will “become” When does spirit meet matter? When does it start? It doesn’t start and it doesn’t stop. It’s all part of the same thing. The same ground of being. Worlds form and worlds die but the stuff of being continues but doesn’t start or stop. Look, incarnation in all it’s forms. Matter and creatures and all evolves and changes. Why is love? Why is life? Why, why why?. Being! 
Verse 11: Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Then: Start the day: Love, not mercy or sin or salvation. Just love. He just knows that he has always felt it. It pulses through his veins. It calls from the sea and sun and mountains and the moon. It’s in Mary’s eyes even though she isn’t “one of them.” It’s in the samartian he met that day. The leper he touched. Even in the poor horrible tormented ones that he had to cast out and in the pitiful creatures they drowned. Still, love and passion for the journey of those whose form he sees when he looks at a unclean one or a infidel or those thrown out of the temple as being unworthy. 
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Start the day: Brother Tim is up.  Man, is he pumped. Going to the rally to try and save the lost. The gays have an agenda and he’s going to make sure they hear of the “love” of Christ before they burn in hell. Also, she will be there and that’s always a bonus. He has “normal” drives you know. But, he doesn't go too far, not yet. He’s godly you know. Besides she’s he preachers daughter and he wants to make sure Brother Bob knows how “pure” he is when he takes her out.
Sally: Finally people understand her. She has felt what she feels her whole life. Would God really make her this way to punish her? She went to Brother Bob. He was her pastor and friend her whole life. He prayed with her when her mother died. He held her hand when she had to have surgery due to a polyp. He said God delivered her when it came back clean. So, she was confident when she approached him. She poured out her heart to him. “This is who I am.” Doesn’t God still love me? Oh God, what is the pastor saying? I’m going to hell because of a feeling? Christ loves me but he’s very disappointed in me? Cast it out? Maybe there’s no god then because I tried so hard to not be this way..I prayed and I fasted and I read all the books. 
Song "Hallelujah" .... Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Congressman Sims: Hot Damn the president is in trouble now. We can paint his butt as a anti war sissy now. I didn’t go to Vietnam but hey I had reasons. I did go through the ROTC Program in college. It was a legitimate deferment. Sure the president served. But, according to a person from that unit the president never “liked or agreed with the war.” How unpatriotic. Oh, yeah and the illegals. Also, the nimby panty waist trying to give amnesty to illegals. Why, they would give the land back to the Indians if they could. Savages and not Christian so they were driven out.
 Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Then: A garden. I do this because I love life, because it is important. But, it isn’t an end unto itself. I come, I come from the eternal. I have to lay this down to show how important it is to live this life but not to hold on to power. Not to hold on to status. You can’t lose what was never yours in the first place. This is the gift. To die and yet to understand that even death is a door and not an end. I loved her. I loved him. They nourished me and gave me life. It will hurt her. That is the main regret. Every man dies but a mother shouldn’t have to watch her son. Oh, God let her see it with the eyes you give her. With the eyes you give me…
 There was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
Now: Sally: I can’t believe anymore. I can’t play anymore. I have nowhere to go. I have this incredible feeling that I matter. That the world matters. But, according to my pastor I’m just dirt in god’s eyes. I can’t go on like this. But, I’m not brave enough to end it so I’ll just live until I die. That will be that. I’m not even going to try anymore. People are just biological meat sacks and that is that. This is the world that I will inherit. Christ? Buddha? God? Fairy tales. They have to be because I can’t bear the thought of trying to please an old prude in the sky with no real knowledge of what I have to go through.
Brother Tim: Man, we showed them today. We raised 10K for Congressman Sims. We also went out to witness but most of them were just drunks and prostitutes. God wouldn’t think twice about them unless they repent. It was a close one though. A young Christian (immature in the faith) was trying to give an old nasty bum directions to the church. But, Brother Bob reminded him that we donate to the Salvation Army every quarter and the poor people have church service there. 
 Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Then: I hope they understand why I’m doing this. It’s for the love of being. The love that I hope they will extend to all those outside the temple. The Samaritan and the gentile. The leper and the blind and the oppressed. The outcast and the wanderer with no home and no family. The temple can be the family. This dance of spirit and matter. They are just dust in some ways but divine in the eternal sight of the one with who we all have to do. Why are they laughing at me? Spitting? Surely, they will understand someday and just learn to embrace and unite. They are all made of the same stuff. Part of the same “Beingness.” At least when they think of me, they will understand that a cross is part of living this life. I feel it now…The pulse of fear and anger as they watch me….
 Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Now: Brother Bob: So sad. I watched Sally as she marched with “those people” that God despises. She doesn't know God. How dare she even say his name. They that reject Christ. Oh well, it’s her decision. I’ve got to get to the board meeting. I think I’m getting a raise and it’s just in time for our trip to “the holy land” this year. Man, will that be fun. I made a lot of great connections last time I went.
 Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
 You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Then: Father forgive them…They know not what they do.
 I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Black Creek

  I've been thinking of "home" in recent times. I've traveled a lot in my later years. Honolulu, (beautiful place) Colorado Springs (to cold for my southern blood, but my son was born there) Tuscaloosa, Alabama (it's Alabama, it's southern, I live and work here but it's not "home." ) 

Where is home? Where you are born? Where you grew up? Where you got your first kiss or your first crush? In that case it would be Gadsden, Alabama and more specifically Walnut Park in Gadsden for me. Where you remember family and going to church and ball games? Attalla, Alabama and Altoona, Alabama for me. Still it's all in Etowah County. But, I've thought about home recently. It's Sunday afternoon and I was on the "Welcome to Gadsden" facebook page. Looking at pictures of Black Creek and Nocculula Falls. I should have known. Throw an old county slow dance song on the old stero on Stonewall Avenue and let me head out the door because my mother will start singing along with Loretta Lynn any minute now. ;-)

I was talking with a friend several years ago. He is from Gadsden but not from Alabama City. He said the people  from that area and especially from Walnut Park talk about it with fondness. A fondness that seems a little more intense than the way some people talk about the old neighborhoods they grew up in. But, all of us remember the days of our childhood no matter where we grew up. I have some good memories of Altoona, Alabama too. I remember going up to Prince's Drug Store (soda fountain, tables and chairs, classic) and looking at comic books and going next door and getting an ice cream cone and heading back to my grandparents house to eat my ice cream and read my comic book.

We lived all over Walnut Park. I remember taking my wife and touring the old neighborhood before we got married. We started on Chester Street. I said I lived there and right next door and my grandparents  lived there and right across the street. Then we headed on up to the corner of Chester and Stonewall and I said I lived right there. My best and oldest friends lived right over there where we just passed. Their neighbors that we played with lived right there. We headed down Stonewall and I said I lived there and then there. Wow, she said. You lived all over this neighborhood.

My stepdads parents lived on Webster Street. I walked to school sometime because back then walking to Walnut Park Elementary was not a big deal. My friend tells the story of getting sick at school one day. They let him walk home because he didn't feel well. No endless forms or phone calls or even worries. Just "go home." Much different time and place.

Black Creek: We lived on the Alabama City or Emma Sansom side of Black Creek. The snooty Gadsden folks lived on the other side. ;-) I transfered to West End my sophomore year and graduated in 1976. I missed a lot of the old classmates that went on and graduated from Sansom. But, I also met a lot of cool people at West End. Like I said it's all home to me now all these years later.

I am just in one of those nostalgic moods today. I think about the people that I've known and the people that have gone on and the people that I miss. I used to read more fiction than non fiction but I don't read as much these days. I still read non fiction and will on occasion pick up a novel. I remember something Dean Koontz wrote for one of his characters. He wrote "The only way back is to go forward." Something along those lines it's not a perfect quote. But, it has stuck with me and I like the idea. Why?

Well, because maybe, just maybe this isn't the destination. Life is part of the journey and the ties and relationships and apparent coincidences of life are part of a larger picture. Maybe somewhere there is another version of home. A brighter, truer version. Maybe, just maybe we really do come from afar trailing clouds of glory. Maybe it is just one eternal moment.

So, I'll keep going forward. I'll look in the mirror and think "wow, where did those lines come from?" I'll look at my hands and be startled that they no longer look like the hands of a nineteen year old or a twenty five year old. I'll talk to my mother while I can on the phone and "see" the firey, tempermental brunette woman that sang country music and could bust ya one if you messed with her. Until, I go back up to Gadsden and see the greyed haired aged old lady that still sounds like her but certainly doesn't look like her. I try to remember that when I talk with her on the phone and she says something that sets off the old mother-child conflict alarm. :-) I find these days it's easier to forgive and love than to be mad and self righteous.

Some people say that there are multiple universes. I don't know that I believe that but I think about it. I went ahead and graduated from Sansom in one of those and my mother stayed with my step dad in Walnut Park, On the other hand the car that hit me when I was five had to have killed me in at least one of those universes and missed me  completely in another. Ouch, makes the ole noggin hurt to think about it.

I haven't always done my best. I have tried to do my best when I really believed in something though. I haven't hated and I've tried and still try to treat others the way I want to be treated. I'm not in a hurry but I honestly do look to a river and a more real home. Peace

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah...Leonard Cohen

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Right/Left Wing

I have recently been reading a book called "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God" by Frank Schaefer. I am thinking of doing  a review of it once I complete it. Frank Schaefer is the son of one of the icons of the "Evangelical Movement" in the 70's and beyond named Francis Schaefer. I have recently had some uncomfortable talks with my wife about the "religion" we were both raised in. I'm still sympathetic to the concept and find myself trying to defend the core of the faith while agreeing with her that much of the dogma is ...well, lets just say illogical. I still maintain the core reality of the Ground of all being putting on flesh and partaking of this world and dying with us is the very essence of love. I understand I'm perhaps, maybe adding my own worldview to the gospel story but I really think  that is the essence of what Christ was and is doing. Still I'm a heretic so what do I know?

I am really concerned with  the direction my nation is going right now. We seem to be split apart between political parties. I have a friend on facebook who is also a friend and a person I used to go to church with. He was funny and polite and good natured. Quick with a joke and could laugh at either your or his expense as long as it was funny and not cruel. ;-) Yet, I have seen a side of my friend that I didn't think existed back in the day. Now, we never really hung out and I'm not saying we knew everything about each other but the vibe was positive and I always enjoyed the conversations. But, in recent years and on facebook he seems (to me) to have gotten rather bitter.

I think (damn, I start a lot of paragraphs with "I")  Sorry, I get distracted easily. My wife says I've developed Adult ADD. :-) But, anyway, I notice that politics and the extreme right wing has taken much of my friend and the faith of my youth over. There is a bitter and sarcastic edge to it. A real and bitter hate for President Obama in particular and the left leaning folks in general. I remember some of the comments when Travon Martin was murdered. Some of the "devout" people I had gone to church with back in the day. They made fun of hoodies and light of a young man (in the image of God) being killed. But, it was OK because they were fighting for a cause don'tcha know? They had to defend "god, guns and country" even if a few heathens died, what was that in comparison to bringing the "Kingdom of God" to earth? Or at least to Jesus favorite nation the U.S.A.? Not to mention his other favorite Israel (most of who are going to hell anyway because they don't accept Jesus and keep their Jewish or secular beliefs. I know you might be saying "But, Jesus was a devout Jew" Well, you think too much. Pick up the original bible written in God's own language (The King James version of course) and hush.

I do think that Christianity as a faith is getting a bad rap from the "mainstream" media and hollywood these days. You couldn't get away with talking about Islam or Mohammed the way the name of Christ is thrown around. But, you also have to consider that the excesses of the church. The televevangelist and the politics that bomb countries and try to rewrite the political discourse has a lot to do with it. Somewhere, in my fundi youth I remember a passage from the bible. I remember it said something about "Judgement starts in the house of God." So, maybe the "right wing church" needs to check itself. Just saying.

Anyway, (Holy keyboard Batman, He started a paragraph without "I." ) Anyway, there are some things that I do think about our political situation. To my conservative friends: Yes, I do think health care is a universal right. I do think putting a price tag on a human beings health is evil. Yes, I do think civilians in Iraq are just as important to "God" as Americans and Israelies. Yes I do think a nation as rich as America should build houses for the homeless and provide food for the poor.

No, I don't think the Hispanics coming across the border to try and find a way to feed their families is a giant threat to truth, justice and the American way. No, I don't think God Almighty gave this nation to the Europeans and drove out the savages before us. NO, I don't think Jesus esteems the American Constitution above all political law and thought in this world.

No, I don't think just because a millionaire or a billionaire built a corporation that it gives them the right to take advantage of their fellow men/women and pay slave wages. Yes, I do think if you take a people group and put them in chains. Tell them they are subhuman and feed them with the frickin livestock and sell their babies that you do spirtual and financial damage. It doesn't just go away because it happened a long time ago. Time? Not much to it in the concept of an eternal moment. But, that's just me or as somebody once said "My Bag."

To my liberal friends: No, I don't think removing all concepts of an eternal purpose and relationship to our source is a great idea. No, I don't think there is any one entity that answers to the name of "Science." that replaces the need for a spiritual connection. No, I don't think everybody who disagrees with my president is a racist. No, I don't think we should take money from white people and give it to black people. No, I don't think we should keep dividing people as "People of color vs whitey."

Why not raise all people up? If you feed the poor and most of them are brown then you have already uplifted the minority. But, you have also uplifted all the poor and so the resentment of poor white people has also been addressed. I don't have guru's. I don't "believe" in a one size fits all religion, political system or world view.

With all that said I will say this. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my hero's. Know why? Not simply because he marched and sang Kumbaya. The reason he is a hero to me is the strength of his convictions. He didn't step back when the police came and say "Well, I'm the leader so I need to stay free. Take one of these little people and I'll do a soundbite." No, he stepped up and said "take me, I'll go to jail." Also, I believe he was coming to the conclusion that a rising tide lifts all boats. Let's lift up all who are poor and downtrodden. But, that message gets lost. Instead we divide people. It's the economic divide and not the color divide that oppresses humans. Poor people fight rich peoples war. 

No, this isn't meant to say I have the answers. There is plenty of room for debate and searching for answers. It's just some of the things that I have been thinking of this morning and this week.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Journey so far.

"Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh..."

- Leonard Cohen
I stand by a river. "I" meaning me, being, spirit, I Am. It's cold and I am so afraid to enter it. I turn and say "It will freeze me and I'll die."  You have to go in. I'll be there with you and I'll meet you over there. "Trust me." But, it's so cold." I step in....

Sound and fury...temper, she has one. She's really young and I feel the pulse of her heart but I don';t really know. What is this? I can't really find it but there is a thread...I was just there and...I'm born!

I lie here and look much sound and light and noise...That looks like a face that loves me...His hat is a little crooked and he calls himself granddaddy...I don't know for  sure where or what this is.

I remember faces though. As I get a little older.

I close my eyes right before morning and I see faces. People that I know but I don't remember who or how right now. I can almost remember  that I started somewhere and I am here to...what? I don't know but I am here and I was put on the journey.


I had a dream when I was a little boy. In this dream I saw a staircase. There was someone beside me. Walk up this staircase. Every time you make a mark with your foot you are getting closer to God.I started out and looked down...There it was! I kept going up the steps until I reached the top. I made a mark on every step and this was the top. I stepped up and I looked down. There it was...You belong to God!

I remember going to Walnut Park School...My friend lived right up Chester Street. Just right up the sidewalk. We went together to get our vaccination. I hope it doesn't hurt too much...

I am over at my grandparents house. Not so long ago my sister and I found some paint that was open in a room. We thought it would be great fun to help the grownups and we started painting everything...They were not as pleased as we thought they would be...

I'm about to cross the street. My mother is over there on the porch and she has an apple. I really want some of that apple.
Where am I. I hear a siren and I have bitten my tongue clear through. My mother is over me and she is crying. I don't think she cries that often...I was about to go across and a car came from...really? It ran over me? Oh, it hit me.

I remember being in the school lunch room and I would look at all the kids and it seemed I really should be here. It's funny but back then it seemed as if we were all in this together. Some of them were so familiar to me. It's funny how you are drawn to some people in life. Not all of them return the feeling. But, you know somehow there is a connection

Not in entire forgetfulness,. And not in utter nakedness,. But trailing clouds of glory do we come,...William Wordsworth

High school. We were going on a field trip to see some department or other at Gadsden State. There is this girl just sitting there in the sun eating lunch. I don't really know her but I do go to school with her. She looks so peaceful right there. The sun is slanting just so. I feel as if I could walk over there and sit down and talk and just be. It reminds me of "home."

Interlude II:
I can't remember the year. I know I was young. How young? Teenager? young man? preteen? Been a long time. But, I was troubled one night and couldn't sleep. I was living with my grandparents. They lived in a big old house in Altoona, Alabama. I was scared in that house. I always felt like somebody was watching me. There was a chair by the bed. Now, this wasn't a "dream." I felt, knew that someone was there. All of a sudden I just knew. It was an "angel." I didn't look over to verify it. I didn't need to look over. Do you look over when you are a child and your parent comes into a room and looks in on you? Do you need to look over when you know a loved one is there? I slept. I was safe..

What is life? I'm not sure. I really think that if I could just close my eyes and be still that the "universe" is right there. I have it all within me. Silly? New age gobbledy gook? No, I really do think it's there.

I wonder about life and relationships. Some people think we are just here by chance. Some win the sperm lottery and some don't . Others, think that "if" we are in the right place at the right time. If we are drawn to it and pray a certain prayer that we are then "in the club." If, we don't screw it up we will then be accepted in when we die. Others think we do this over and over until we get it right. You draw everything to you and you are the one who benefits and loses according to "karma." Me? I think it's a more complicated and more wonderful and more simple process and reason than we can realize. 

Now don't get me wrong I don't have mystical dreams or angelic visits every night. I'm in my later fifties now and so the ones I remember were somehow so meaningful to me and inscribed on my psyche that I carry them with me. But, most of the time I don't remember dreams and I don't get angels swooping in to chop off the heads of the bad guys. At least I don't see them there with my eyes or even feel them. Stuff happens. But, I don't believe it happens in a vacuum.

Interlude III:
I am standing in a dream and I wake up. I see my body "there." It's back there. The sky is red and he is walking beside me. I turn and ask a question. He can tell me. I want to know. What is the dream? I really need to know. I need to know why I am here. What does it mean? What is life? He answers me. "You ask too much." A tear starts down my cheek and I'm back in my body...I wipe the tear off as I "wake up." 
I have thought ever since then that life is the "dream." We don't wake up very often during the dream.
I am getting close now to that river..No, not yet (I don't think it's quite that close yet.) I think I have miles to go before I wake up completely. 

I dreamed last night I was talking to a long ago schoolmate. No, not a visit from the other side. she is still with us and I'm still with us. It was a dream that you sometime have about people that you have known or met. But, it did get me to thinking about connections and life and how we come into orbit with each other. Sometime for a lifetime and sometime for a moment. But, it does matter and it's all connected. 

I read a book once about a person who died and found himself on a road. He would visit and rest and talk with people and interact with places from his lifetime. He would stay in a home for a time and then continue his journey. 
I wonder about that. Maybe, there is a tree somewhere and the light is slanted just so and I will sit there for a little while and talk with a friend and relax on my way down the road. 

Interlude IV:
A river, it's so cold...I'm afraid to get in there. I will freeze if I go in there..."Relax, I'm with you." But, it's so cold and I am so afraid that I will die if I go in there..."Relax and know I'll be waiting on the other side for you" I always have and I always will until you wake up.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dream State.

I don't know how to honestly look at you. I've heard about you all of my life. The thing is you get shuffled somewhere between the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and an old angry deity in the sky that needs constant adoration just to keep from hitting me with his hammer. Oh, wrong deity, but you know what I mean. I don't know about this. Where are you going? Over there? But, what will these guys do? Wait? Wait for what? Surely you aren't really mad at them for falling asleep. I mean what else is there to do while you go off and meditate or pray or...Oh? Yeah, I'll wait. It's my dream but I'll still wait...

  Jesus, what was that sound? Oh, no I didn't mean you...I meant ...well you know when you get put in the same catagory as Elvis and mood rings and...well, you know it's just slang for "Oh my god." Really? You would never even write the letters much less think of using the sacred for a curse or yell of surprise? Well, yes it did startle me. You really yelled out that time and....Oh, lord help me I can't believe the intensity I'm feeling right now. Can I just walk with you a minute?

They say the just touching the hem of your robe could do this. I never really thought about it....except a Sunday School story but Wow! Take up my cross? You mean go to church and be religious and tithe and have a say in who will be "saved" and who will be doomed? That cross?

No?, Well, give me a little more time. I need for my finances to be in order and I need to make sure my child is grown up and I need to take a vacation. I mean, it'll just be a few more years. Like 30 or so...What? just live now?

Where are you going? Wait! Don't you want to live? Well, I know it's temporary but sometime I worry. What if it's all a crock? What if we really are just a by product of a soulless pointless universe? What? Well, I have wondered. But, according to most of what I learned in Sunday school back when I went to Sunday School the only temptation you really faced was when the guy with horns just said "bow down and worship me."

Well, yeah I do admit I never thought that was much of a temptation either. It would be as if Donald Trump had a son and a McDonalds manager tried to tempt him. Wasn't like that huhh? He told you you were crazy? He told you that when you died you just ceased to be? Oblivion? Now, that would be hard to take if you could have been convinced that the cross and the blood and tears were just useless. Yeah, that would be much harder than the Sunday School narrative.

I can't walk this last mile this time? Well, I'm kind of  relieved to be honest with you. OH, I will get my own mile in time? Well, to be honest I always knew that. I saw a river once in a dream. It was so cold when I entered it. I didn't want to get in there. But, I had to. My soul was soaring once I got in there but it was freezing my body to dea...Yeah, there is time for that a little later.

Hey, before you go can I tell you something? I've lost a lot of my dogma and my faith is bruised and torn and I just can't identify these days you know? What do I need to tell you?

I still love you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


What is prayer? When I was growing up I thought prayer was asking God for stuff and also asking him to forgive me for all my sins. Which were (I was sure) many. As I got older I saw prayer as an ongoing dialog between me and the Holy Spirit. I was able to find my balance through prayer. I didn't have to pretend to be anybody else or even to bring my "list" of stuff I want. I found that at times prayer was just "being" stillness and even walking and listening. I also found that instead of getting more religious my prayer life allowed me to be more open to the idea that God really was love. Not that God "had" love. God didn't "have" being. God didn't even have gender. I was able to see "God" in hope and in tragedy. I had a radical thought but it came later in life. I still remember reading the "Gadsden Times" that's the paper from the city of my birth. Back in the day when people still read the "paper" to get news and information that they wouldn't otherwise have. Anyway, I was young and I came across an article. It was called "The Wild God." Must have been one of the Sunday religious sections or something that the paper used to have.

Anyway, the Wild God! What did that mean? Could God be wild? I mean I knew that Walnut Park Baptist from Vacation Bible School back in the day. Cherry Street Baptist where I was baptized as a youth. The Church of God of Prophecy where my Grandmother raised me. These places didn't really teach a "Wild God." There was a very proper method for understanding "God" and it involved reading the bible and going to church and asking forgiveness. But, if God could be "wild" then all bets were off. Lets have a little decorum here. Still, that phrase stuck with me.

I found God wasn't a fortune teller or an angry old man. I found that the very source of my being was in a state of rest and motion and living in God. He/She/Holy Spirit wasn't "Out there" or "up there" I was one with my love, my being. There were no "secrets" But there was a sanctuary where only the Holy Spirit had the "right" to be with me. I didn't have to be good or leave my unclean thoughts at the door. I could be myself and only the holy spirit had the authority to enter this sanctuary of my inner being.

I sometime think that we are on an eternal journey of discovering new aspects of God. Maybe that's what eternity is. Not a static place where we know everything. But,, an eternal quest or journey from knowing to knowing as we find more aspects of the one we call "God." I mean, I don't know but it makes as much sense as any other kind of evolution.

Back to my "radical" thought. What if real love wasn't always the hero "rescuing" his/her beloved from danger. What if real love wasn't always the firefighter rushing into the building and dragging somebody out just in time. What if real love was...Well, remember the cross? I know we say things like "Jesus will save us from tribulation or Jesus will keep us from getting sick." But, what did the Devine do? If you are a Christian and I know there are some these days that would question my use of the word. I'm not a very fundamentalist Christian these days. I think gay people have a right to marry if they want too. I think women have the right to choose to be a mother ( a holy choice to be sure, but still their choice.) I don't vote conservative republican and I find most of the conservative agenda to be more "Anti Christ" than Christian. But, back to the  cross. This is where I get my radical thought from.

Maybe, true love is laying down (remember the cross?) one's own safety and power. Maybe true love is going into the building and seeing that you can't just pull the person you love out. Maybe true love is setting down beside the person that you can't pull out and just being with them. Even to the point of giving up life or riches. Even to the point of death.

So, when I go to a funeral or I hear something bad happening to good people. Sure I pray. I pray for justice and balance and hope. But, I don't feel anger at God. Because I know that in the midst of the funeral or the hurting of an innocent that somehow "God" inhabits that. God doesn't balance the books every Thursday at 5:00 PM. But, we will get there. And in the grief and the quiet and the noise if we can just "listen" and "Look" Love will be there.

I honestly do feel that the day I shuffle off this mortal coil and cross that icy stream that I will walk into the sanctuary where only "love" has authority.


Monday, February 24, 2014

People, places and things I like.

Sometime I think about the things and people that have made me laugh or entertained me. I think about what has made my life worth living. Maybe, it's the influence of social media on me, even at my age. You know. The "I'm having cornbread and drinking Pepsi tonight" Then 10 people hit the like button. :-) Well, maybe not in my case. I'm not even that popular in cyber space. But, some people... well you know who you are. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-) But, anyway here is some of what I have "liked" in my journey through this land...

Religion: Surprised? Well, even though I'm skeptical of religion these days. The one size fits all and God'll get ya for that type. I have found great strength in faith through the years. I know the thing to say (I say it a lot) is I"m not religious, I'm spiritual. But, somewhere in my mind I know I'm religious. I'm not dogmatic and I'm not sure of the 'mind of God" but I still think somehow that it matters how I live and what I do...Anyway, if not for religion then I might not have ever thought of being spiritual. So, religion for better or worse gets on my list of things I mostly like.

The Bible: I may not "believe" in the inerrancy of it. But, I have found great strength in passages and hope in verses that have gotten me through and still get me through tough or difficult times.

Rock and Roll: Grew up on it. Lived some of the lyrics of it. I also like Motown. I have told my wife (and I'm not kidding) that I would love to have "Midnight Train to Georgia" playing at my funeral. The original with Gladys Knight and the Pips. Here is a list of my favorites as I grew up:

Eagles: My all time favorite band. Knew every lyric on every album. Certain scenes and certain people would and will always flash across my mind when I hear the songs.

Stevie Nicks: Dreams, Silver Springs, Landslide, Highway Man, Rhiannon.

Linda Ronstadt: Long, Long Time, Faithless Love, Willing (cover of Little Feat)

Styx: Grand Illusion. Nuff said

Queen: New of the World. See above "nuff said."

Doctor Hook
Foghat: Slow Ride!
Pure Prairie League
Rolling Stones
I know I'm leaving out several but this is just a quick list.

Favorite albums:
Rumors: Fleetwood Mac
Hotel California: Eagles
One of These Nights: Eagles
News of the World: Queen
Heart Like a Wheel: Linda Ronstadt
Belladonna: Stevie Nicks
The Grand Illusion: Styx

Alabama Crimson Tide: Born and raised. The sight of the Crimson Jersey is a part of my life. Grew up on Bear Bryant and  the wishbone.

Atlanta Braves: "Our team" I get irritated when I hear some sports person on the radio say "Alabama doesn't have a pro sports team." Hey, bud we aren't out in the middle of nowhere. I grew up in Gadsden, Alabama and we drove over to Atlanta pretty often.

GreenBay Packers: I grew up watching Bart Starr and Paul Horning and became a Packer fan.

Cleveland Indians/Browns: I had some family in Cleveland and some of the first pro teams I thought of were the Indians and the Browns. Also, my mother was pregnant with me in Cleveland so maybe I have a slight connection even in my southern blood.

Country music: I hated it as a child. My mother sang it and my step dad played it and I hated it. But, as I got older I started to really listen. Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash and of course Willie Nelson...Yeah, it's OK at least sometime.

Books: I've often said that I don't see how a person that doesn't read has a worldview at all. But, I've known some smart folks that don't read so who knows. I read comics and I still remember reading the Dick and Jane books from my elementary school. I also loved the scary stories and ghost stories ordered from my Weekly Reader. That being said:

Stephen King: I first read Stephen King when I picked up a copy of Salems Lot in the Gadsden Mall. The clerk said there was this new writer and some people  thought he was going to be pretty good. I always thought the small town Maine and New England of his books were a lot like the small town Alabama and south of my youth. I read and have read many writers and books. Both fiction and non fiction. I would never limit myself to just one author. But, if I had to go to an island and have only one writer I could read it would be Stephen King.

I also like Chocolate, Butter beans, Cornbread and Sweet tea. Ham and eggs and coffee. I like Hawaii and I like Buddhism.  I like Christianity and I like agnostics. I don't like atheism because I think it's a complete lack of hope but I like not being a slave to religion. I like blonde haired women and I like bar b que. I like coke as in Coca Cola, not drug and I like Pepsi. I like Mountain Dew and I like movies.

Haunting of Hill House (original 1960's version)
Hang em High
Pale Rider
Good the Bad and the Ugly
The Rose
Good Fellows


Mary Tyler Moore
Bob Newhart (both shows)
Mork and Mindy
Hill Street Blues
Ripper Street
Walking Dead
House of Cards
The list could go on and on

Sports or games I would love to see:

See a baseball game at Yankee Stadium
See the Packers at Lambeau Field

This is by no means a list of everything I love or cherish. I thought of so many people that I love, miss and long to see. But, this is a light hearted list of "stuff I like" It's not everything I like but it's a fun list to start with. :-)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Talking with God.

I've had an inner dialog as long as I can remember. I am the observer. I am. I have been challenged by atheist to "define god." I've been challenged by fundamentalist about how I can pick and choose which bible verses are relevant and which are not. It's all the same book. Well, actually it's not. But, to the first argument. A definition of "god" that would assign gender, emotions, reaction and "waiting" on a decision from another being would not be god with a big G. It would be god with a little g. Superman, as it were.

The best definition of god I have ever heard is in the Old Testament. God answering Moses. Who are you Lord? I AM! That's why religious people were so angry at Christ when he made the same type statement. I am is also a good definition of "me."  Did he just say he was "god." No, I didn't. But, I did say that I am pure being. The dance of Spirit and matter. Consciousness. One aspect of the eternal. As for the other statement of how can I pick and choose out of the "same book." Well, it's not "one book" for one thing. Many people in a search for God and some in a search for reason and even politics wrote many things over the years. Rabbi's passed word of mouth and generations came to hold a community image of who they were/are. The folks with funny hats (the ones that certain fundamentalist call the false church today) met and debated and included and excluded which writings were "inspired" and which were not. Anyway, I didn't do this blog to start a fight or lose life long friends. I simply do this blog to put my thoughts out there and if it resonates with another person then wonderful. If it causes another person to point me to wisdom then that is wonderful. But, I mainly do it to continue my own inner dialog and as a release valve for my own thoughts and questions. I don't do it to make other people mad or attack the faith of my youth or to fight with an atheist.

Anyway, talking with God. We talk about many things and I even manage (though not often) to listen. I have come to a place where I see the divine in all things. The way a mother looks at a child. The way a beggar looks at people passing by on the sidewalk. The way a scientist looks through a telescope and the way a preacher studies scripture and the way a Buddhist meditates. But, I also see "God" in a personal way.

I have a story that goes back to my childhood. I have told it often and maybe even somewhere on other blog post. But, it does illustrate a point in my personal journey:

I grew up in Gadsden, Alabama in the part called Alabama City, in the neighborhood called Walnut Park. There was a church bus that came through the neighborhood from a local church called Cherry Street Baptist in Attalla, Alabama. My sister and I along with other kids would pile on and go to church. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY does youth church like the Southern Baptist. ;-) My mother was raised in the Church of God of Prophecy and my step dad had not real religious affiliation (neither did my mother by this time.) So, we rode the bus. The preacher was a good man with a wonderful family and the following is by no means an indictment of the church, the people or the pastor. It's just the feeling of a 12 to 13 year old child in the late sixties to early seventies in a southern church. Also, I was a rather "serious" kid when it came to God, and I may have been a little too serious but that's another story. This one started me on a life long dialog within my own sanctuary. So, here goes:

 The pastor had talked about sin and redemption and the youth were in attendance. He talked about how forgiving God was through Christ and the importance of prayer and asking for forgiveness of sin. But, he said one thing that my active imagination quickly ran away with. he said that all sin can be forgiven except the sin of blasphemy against the "Holy Ghost." Now remember I said my mother had been raised in the Church of God of Prophecy? Well, my grandmother who helped raise me was a devout member of that church. The Holy Ghost was no joke and no laughing matter to be taken lightly in a pentecostal church. He was a very stern figure that read your mind and knew all the things you did and you didn't want to insult him. So, when the preacher said "Holy Ghost" my ears pricked up at least internally. I was under immediate assault mentally, emotionally and spiritually. After all imagine trying not to think of a pink elephant. What is the first thing you think of? So, you can see my dilemma. I was certainly going to hell because the worst thoughts in the world were going through my little mind.

The above is also why I don't take sanity or mental health for granted. That could have been the start of a life long mental problem and I'm not joking. But, a wonderful thing happened. Now some will say I'm pumping up a natural process of my brain. Some will say I am remembering what I want to  remember. Some will say "God was striving with me but I'm still not  theologically correct and still in danger" All I know for sure is that the very foundation, the very source of my being brought sanity to me and I am lifelong and eternally thankful. Here is how it happened.

I was in my backyard telling the Holy Ghost that I really didn't mean all those bad thoughts. Then a calm thought came to me. "I'm not a fortune teller." "I don't look into your mind from outside and get mad and judge you." "I am your maker, not somebody looking in from outside." Then I saw a room and a couch and a door. I then heard "Sit here and I'll get the door." "They are calling my name and not your name." So, every time you worry or have a thought that is harmful just sit here." I'll get the door."

The one who I dialog with has been getting the door ever since.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Life and Death "A Review"

  This is a book review of "Death & Eternal Life" by John Hick (c) 1994

I have been reading ebooks recently. I enjoy being able to adjust the print and the back light and read in the dark. But, for old times sake (The book was out of print and not available in ebook form) I ordered a used copy off Amazon and actually read the physical copy. It brought back memories. The thick binding and the smell of an actual book. I can remember going to the public library in Gadsden, Al and spending times (I'm a nerd) in the stacks. The excitement I would feel as I put the latest Stephen King novel on hold and would rush to the library when it came in and heft it proudly and bury my nose in it.

So, even though this was non fiction and contained no Vampires in Main or haunted cars or aliens in the New England woods or haunted towns that were so familiar that they could have been set in Rural Alabama as easily as Rural Maine I still enjoyed it. The subject matter was after all still pretty fantastic in an age where we are told on one hand that we are just the chemical by product of a temporary brain or that we can't accept scientific fact such as an old earth and the evolution of the species and still be spiritual. So, ya either have to be a stone cold atheist (which I'm not) or a religious fundamentalist (which I'm not) and ignore what your instinct and life experience teach you.  So, here I go with a review of a book by a British writer who now knows more about the subject (he's shuffled off this mortal coil) than he did when he wrote the book. I invite you to google John Hick if you would like to know more about the author. We truly live in a time with more knowledge and facts than wisdom. But, I digress. :-) Still, here goes.

First a little background from me. (Hay, it's my blog.) ;-)
I have always, even from a young age thought about what will happen when I die. I do admit that I think of it a little more personally at 56 than I did at 25 or 19 but still I've always been interested. I have my own thoughts as to what happens at death and reading this book didn't actually change any belief that I already have developed or am currently sympathetic to in my 56th year on the planet. But, I did enjoy and even learned some things during my journey through this tome.

The writer talks about the reasons why we can actually confidently consider the reality of life after or before or before and after death. He does touch on humanism and atheism and the stark and useless nature of being if all we really are is extinguished at death. I have my own thoughts on this and I will say I agree with the writer on this point. He truly does a brilliant job of talking about the different major religious beliefs and a really good job of tying it all up at the end. He discusses Buddhism and Hinduism and the many different schools of thought within each. He discusses Christianity from a protestant and a catholic perspective and the Christian mystics and what a world might look like after we pass from this body.

One of my favorite sections is when he talks briefly about the philosopher HH Price. Price believed that perhaps the afterlife would consist of mental, dream like imagery. The person could draw upon his earthly life and create his environment just as he/she does in the dream world. Only we would be able to interact with each other and create or own heaven or hell or even a more mundane existence. Now, on the surface that might seem a little silly. But, I have had dreams where I could float or fly and I would wake up and honestly not understand why I couldn't actually float. It seemed so real to me. I've also dreamed of future events on rare occasions and even had reason to believe a separate personage (not just created by my own psyche) So, even though I'm not buying into it, I'm also not throwing it away as rubbish either.

The writer also talks at length about Ian Stevenson who was the Chair of the Department of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and went on to do extensive studies on Reincarnation. Dr. Stevenson did not come to an absolute "belief" in reincarnation but did feel that some of the cases he studied strongly suggested it. He was the first person to attempt a scientific study of the subject with really detailed statistics and case studies. He also studied birth defects and past life trauma experiences or I should say "alleged" experiences. Again, google is your friend if you would like to know more about this work and the books and papers of Ian Stevenson. 

The writer also makes short work of the "so called" evidence of Christan reincarnation in the bible. No, it isn't really there although there are some statements that some people take to be referring to it. On the other hand he doesn't find the concept as such to be at odds with the Christian mystics or the Jewish concept of a resurrection. He does go into detail on the different Christian schools of thought and just what Saint Paul might mean as to the resurrection of the body. Really good stuff here.

The writer goes at length about Buddhism and Hinduism and the different schools of reincarnationist thought. It's not as cut and dried as you might think. He also goes into detail about Nirvana and the concept of nonbeing as well as how one might "be" and still be absorbed back into the light or person or being of the creator. 

All in all a journey well worth taking if you would like a none dogmatic and fairly open minded discussion of the possibility of what might happen to all of us as a people or as a person once we leave this short, sweet, kind, cruel, happy, sad world. It's not a quick read and it's not for everybody. I do think it's worth the trip and I do recommend it for people who are seriously asking themselves about the logic and the possibility of the final leg of this journey or the beginning of the next stage. Which is how I look at it.