Tag Archives: Faith

Goldsboro prayer

18 Jul

When I return to nature,  dear Lord, I reform in you. Give me strength to carry this peace into each day, and to not be distracted by the evil fear that drives men’s hearts to hate. Let me be a loving example to lead others back to you. And when I fail, as I surely will, I pray you show me mercy and grace. 

True beauty

30 Dec

The artist knows true beauty is not in the object,
but in the perspective.

The philosopher knows it is not in a changing perspective,
but in understanding.

The warrior knows it is not in a limited understanding,
but in sincere faith that there is more to true beauty than can be perceived.

Images of the day and comfort food

9 Dec

Tuna, noodles, cheese, and peas in a pot, that’s what I made for lunch today. It’s comfort food, just like corned beef hash, ham potpie, chicken and dumplings, and hamburger surprise – all things I grew up eating when there were ten of us living in the same house. They are also the things I ate when I was poor and on my own, things I ate when I had enough money for food anyway. Our mother loved food but taught us all how to eat cheap if need be. And at different times in my life, it needed be. My family and I don’t have to live like that any more, and I’ve enjoyed more than one exotic specialty in five star restaurants in far flung places.

…But it’s only sustenance and I love people more, even the ones who are hard for me to take. Besides, eating simpler is healthy. And over the years I’ve learned to be pretty imaginative in spicing up anything the body can digest. Eating doesn’t have to be unpleasant, but it shouldn’t be the center of your world either. I like my food like I like people – straight forward, honest, and real. Too much processing and you have to wonder what you’re really putting in your body. Too much of anything and you end up unhealthy. Not enough salt and whatever you’re consuming loses its appeal.

Sometimes I get the taste for those childhood favorites. Most of the ingredients are the kinds of things it’s good to keep around the house – dried noodles, canned goods, milk, you know the deal. After taking a year long sabbatical to get my head straight, I need to live simpler and cheaper anyway. Five star restaurants definitely aren’t the norm any more. But I like this simpler life, it’s rewarding. It’s full of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, imperfect people helping other imperfect people, time with family, simple natural food, and being true to myself.

This isn’t a poor man’s lament, it’s a rich man’s paradise because over the past year I’ve learned again what it truly means to be rich and free …and money isn’t part of the equation. That’s hard to appreciate when you’re working for big business, or reading the paper, watching TV, cruising pop culture, or paying attention to any thing else that distracts you from the here and now. Peace isn’t out there, it’s in you. God isn’t at church or temple, He’s right beside you every step of the way and in every breath you take. Well, there’s no closing to this, because life goes on. Think I’ll go enjoy a bowl of the chicken corn soup I just made – yet another comfort food from my childhood. It’s one my kids enjoy too… and they think mine’s the best, there’s a definite reward in that too. 😉 Here are some pictures from the beauty of the day. May your evening and your life be filled with peace.

Every single day

15 Oct

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Every single day I am confronted with yet more evidence that any bit of faith I ever had in mankind or its institutions is wholly undeserved.
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Fortunately, every day I also encounter acts of genuine heartfelt kindness performed by a variety of individuals.
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Not surprisingly, the ones who think they’re in the right generally fall into the first category. The ones who aren’t thinking about themselves or what they want to accomplish and instead ‘just do’ what’s right generally fall into the second.
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As a whole the situation pretty much explains politics, religion, -isms, and most other things that have gone so very wrong in the world. It also gives me hope that things can go right, that goodness is as possible in the hearts of men as bad, and that actions – not words or intentions – are what really make the difference.
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Columbus Day

13 Oct

Time with family,
Time with nature,
Time with God,
Time with friends,
And a new baby born.
It was a nice long weekend.
Peace be with you.

No greater purpose

12 Oct

There’s no sincerer faith
than
The simple acceptance of a child,

No more majestic temple
than
The simple beauty of nature,

And no greater purpose
than
This simple commandment of His:
“Love!”

On Faith

5 Oct

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I have no more answers than you. I simply believe. Having the answers requires no faith or greater understanding, merely the acceptance of fact. But discernment of fact from belief, that is difficult. Most think they know, when all they do is believe.

Men have always built temples and institutions to honor what they do not understand. Science and religion, despite their differences, are the same in this regard. They hope that their efforts will bring them favor and closer to truth. Perhaps if they get close enough, they will clearly understand the mystery of existence, or so they believe. I have little faith they can succeed, but I would not discourage a sincere seeker of truth.

To require proof of higher truths is a fruitless demand for that which we cannot have. What proof would you accept? If physical evidence, it is all around, though you refuse to see. If a thundering voice rang from the heavens, you would ask where it came from. When tenderness warms the heart, you call it instict or a creation of your own. Yet you have no answers as to why or how these might occur, only that it is not what I believe. But when something goes wrong, when nature fails or humans clash, you blame the One for allowing it to happen and curse what you are unwilling to accept.

It is what it is, beyond our wisdom, experience, or ability to understand. It is not what we expect, not what mere words can describe, it is even beyond what we can imagine.

Whether myth or fact doesn’t matter. Man, with his limited perspective, can never know the whole truth. One recognizes the truth in the story, or not. I believe that’s why Jesus spoke in parables and so often repeated, “those who have ears, let them hear.” Striving to prove to others is a matter of pride – not salvation. Striving to prove for oneself belies one’s faith, and without faith we cannot see.

Seek truth where you find it… you will anyway… we all do. Learn to recognize belief for what it is, appreciate the beliefs of others, and stay open in faith. The truth and faith will set us free.

Now, let us move on to lesser things…

Peace.

Reflecting on Jesus

2 Oct

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Ministry by walking around, isn’t that basically what Jesus did? He was a Jew, his ‘religion’ a birthright. Although he attended temple and partook in the most common traditions, he spent much more time wandering around, out with people or taking time alone. He both loved and had unparalled compassion for people, those with genuine faith anyway, and yet at times grew very frustrated and angry with people, especially those who made a show of their religion or lacked genuine compassion for others.

Drinking at a wedding, and enabling others to do so, consorting with lowlifes, protecting harlots, eating grain straight from the fields – on a Sabbath no less! Even his biggest fans say that’s the kind of thing he did. He had no job despite some technical training and there’s no indication he even tried to find one. He went as far as encouraging others to leave their own productive work, and disappeared for over a month without explanation simply to ‘find himself’. Eventually he quit going to temple altogether except to criticize it or stir things up. And he had the audacity to claim to have a personal relationship with God, and to speak as with authority about God without even having the proper pedigree or training!

This poor uneducated man from a questionable family dared question the authority and sincerity of the chief priests. This rascal who told his followers to arm themselves, and yet also to submit to a heathen government (that politically backed the chief priests by the way), publicly mocked the temple’s respected leaders. He dangerously ‘healed’ the sick without adhering to the generally accepted practices, and cast out demons simply by telling them to go. Who did this impudent bumpkin think he was?!

Well, the church can thank their lucky stars they don’t have anyone like that causing problems or leading people astray today. We’ve got that old time religion. Good pious, god-fearing missionaries and evangelists who study the book – Christian believers every last one. Why I bet that guy wouldn’t even come to one of our special fun meetings. Doesn’t he see what we’re trying to do here? Where’s his sense of propriety? We don’t need some insolent brute like that asking questions and doubting our faith, no sir.

Or maybe we do. Maybe he did see exactly what the chief priests were trying to do, maybe that’s the problem and why he isn’t here today. Maybe he did have a direct line to God. There were a lot of gods in Jesus day, he knew they were nothing to fear, just empty idols. Likewise with the self-appointed authorities in the temple. He knew who his real father was and what he believed. It was his life, he lived it and didn’t need other people to see or approve. But some did anyway, mostly others who felt aliented or questioned the accepted ways. And the truth and their faith set them free. Not their religion, religion just got in the way. Jesus was a Jew – not a Christian – because of ethnicity and who his earthly father was. He was a child of God because of who God made him. He lived his life in the beautiful, loving way he did not because he was told to, not because he had a political or activist agenda, certainly not because it was a good career choice. (They killed him for heaven’s sake!) He lived as he did simply because that’s who he was in his heart.

Don’t be mistaken. It might have been the Pharisees who turned over Jesus the man for slaughter, but it is the earthly church and the sactimonious hearts of Christians that kill Him every day. There’s more to gathering in His name than calling it a church group. There’s love and compassion and integrity and self honesty. Whenever two or more gather in His name and have THAT, like he did, like He does, then…and only then…there is Love.
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Skipping church to get right with God

29 Sep

Three days in the dirt and grime. I hadn’t expected it to take so long, but it was cleansing both for the garage and for me. The garage part, at least, is finally finished.
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The family and I skipped church on Sunday to take a much needed pause. In the afternoon the wife and kids met friends at a farm, and I got some quality time alone to continue cleaning the garage and reflect on things. Old music reminded me of a former lover I was once head over heels for. Our paths diverged, but our time together was a true blessing and she is a wonderful person. We stay in touch via shared posts and an occassional brief personal message on social media. She is now married to a good man, they are happy, and have a lovely family. Thinking of her, I realized I wasn’t reminiscing about us, but appreciating what a good person she is and how happy I am that she and her family are happy. That is a true Christian woman. She brought me closer to God and helped me become a better person both then… and now.

So the most important thing I did this weekend by skipping church and Sunday school was to get closer to God. It isn’t supposed to work that way, is it?
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When we first joined our current congregation we felt welcome and gradually at home. Attending services was uplifting and the extended coffee hour that served as adult Sunday school led to some great discussions. But lately church has become more aggravating than inspiring. Internal congregational politics and showmanship have been growing over the course of this year (or perhaps I’m just more sensitive to it now). In addition, the strongest voice of reason in the group recently moved away. And with that, more divisive personalities have siezed the opportunity to push their own agendas.

I admit I have not handled the situation well, and have become increasingly frustrated in much the same way that I am with more overt politics. After a long discussion with my wife, we decided to skip this past Sunday altogether. She also suggested that if Sunday school is bothering me so much, but I still like to hear the sermons, maybe we could just go to worship service and skip Sunday school like many other parishioners do. It sounded like a plan.

I’ve never been particularly religious, but have been more and less active in the various congregations I’ve been a part of over the years. (I used to move a lot, mostly due to the Army.) If I felt I was spiritually growing with a particular group, I stuck with it. If not, I would let go and simply read, pray, and study on my own.
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Either way, two ideas have always stuck with me concerning church-going. The first a friend of a friend posted eloquently on Facebook last week. As she wrote, “remember it was the religious people who were the real enemies of Christ.” I’ve never liked the idea of the Pharisees or their modern inculcation in the Christian church. (Remember Jesus was a simple Jew.) I have much more respect for someone whose faith I can see in their eyes and feel in their heart, than I do for a scriptural scholar or simply a licensed minister. I’ve had the privilege of befriending several very devout and genuinely loving chaplains. I’ve also had the misfortune of meeting some very self-righteous career-oriented ones on their own power and ego trips. Preaching afterall can be a lucrative profession for money and/or prestige. Although many ordained ministers make little to no money at all, it begs the question of each whether one is doing it simply as a vocation or truly for the love of God.

The second idea is one expressed in various ways throughout the Old Testament and which Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians: “cast out the wicked from among you.” Now, to be sure, many have used this passage as justification for exclusivity and judgmental divisiveness in the church, but as with many teachings its real meaning has been twisted. On one level it does mean to separate oneself from those who would lead you astray. On a deeper level, however, it means to separate out the evil in oneself. So on one hand, skipping church did help put distance between me and those who would use the church for political activist means. It alleviated the accompanying frustration and allowed for a more relaxing Sunday afternoon. But one of the hardest things to do is to recognize and face the corruption of evil in one’s own heart. By skipping church, I reflected more on how I contributed to the growing tension in the congregational body. It helped me see myself and my antagonists for the simple, flawed, very human creatures we are. Coming from a fairly large family, I learned quickly that you can love some people dearly up close, some others are much easier to love from afar. So it is in the church and with the greater family of Man. By separating myself from certain people, I could better appreciate them as human beings and more easily recognize and drive out the evil from my own heart.
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We’ll see what the wife and I decide to do on Sunday. I did miss hearing the sermon, and so listened to it last night before going to sleep. (The church webmaster records it and posts it to the web.) It was interesting and I could recognize select voices responding to the pastor, but it wasn’t the same as being there in person. Maybe we’ll do as my lady suggests and just go for the service next Sunday, then come back later (after Sunday school) to pick up the kids. We’ll see.

Some things still bother me. I feel the purpose of the church is to bring people closer to each other and to God. If it doesn’t do that, it has no reason to exist. I question a church body that searches for another role, or longs to put itself ‘on the map’ in the community, the larger corporate organization, or the world. It also bothers me that I no longer feel welcome by certain members of the congregation. My wife is a very good person, the kind who when you look into her eyes you feel as if you’re looking deep into her soul. It isn’t just me, others have said the same thing about her. Even she has said that the few people in this congregation who aggravate me have always given her an uneasy feeling too, and struck her as cold or insincere from the start. Looking into their eyes I see only darkness and pride and bitterness, the empty heart of a Pharisee. But when I step away from them and my own burning pride, I see a person afraid and in pain, struggling to make sense of a confusing world. I feel the kind of genuine sympathy I think Christ would feel…but I’m not Christ-like enough to feel that up close. So like I said, when it comes to attending next Sunday’s service, we’ll see.
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Thus begins shemitah and the latest leg of my spiritual journey. For most people it might seem strange that skipping church could bring one closer to God, but it helped me, at least temporarily. I’m still not very religious and don’t see that changing. But it would be nice to feel a sense of community with fellow believers. There are some really good people in that church, quiet, who don’t say much, but sincerely believe. I missed seeing them on Sunday. I just don’t want tension between me and others make the sincere ones uncomfortable. Like I said, it is hardest to see the evil in our own hearts, and maybe – likely – I’m the one who’s screwed up, at least in part. Anyway…

What do I believe? Well, that is another story – one that cannot be found in doctrine, observation, science, or even scripture alone. I think God is an all-encompassing living Being, both us of It/Him and Him/It of us. He/It must be felt to connect with, not studied, but whether felt or not, He is still always there. He/It is the all-knowing, unknowable Existence of the universe, the One and only Truth of all. But no words can describe it. And none of us holds exclusive rights to it or has perfect knowledge of it. Right or wrong, life and this year of getting closer to God have begun. So far it’s off to a great start, as time marches on we’ll see how it goes. Peace.
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My return

2 Sep

As loyal readers may have noticed, I took a brief respite from blogging. I just checked in and was rewarded with the beautiful images and words of so many talented artists. The thought below began as a comment to a post by a friend of mine, Rising Hawk, but I decided it would be a good way to jump start my own dormant blog instead. Thanks for the inspiration Hawk. (Rising Hawk is a fellow veteran, a quick-witted entertainer, and a gifted writer. Check out his blog The Fires Inside, you’ll be glad you did.)
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So it is. My god, or definition of god, does not seem to match anyone else’s. And yet I believe with all that is in me. Ultimate truth – like the blind men and the elephant. Peace.

The things I need

25 Aug

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God,
Grant me the courage to see this life as a gift,
Patience and understanding with man’s hypocrisy and his inhumanity to man (including my own),
A continued sense of wonder at the glory of Existence,
Forgiveness and appreciation for all that I have been,

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Fortitude and discipline to set a good example,
And enough wisdom to learn the right lessons from experience.
Asked with sincerity of heart and imperfect purity of soul,
Amen.
Your aspiringly faithful and humble servant as only you know me – me.
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