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Archive for the ‘The Other Side’ Category

Every Easter, I would call my parents and my Father would remember to say “He is Risem” and I responded with those ancient words “He is Risen Indeed!”. But the past few years of Dad’s life, he would then go into an exaggerated version of the hymn “It the Bulb Ther is a Flower” and I would join him. We both detest that hymn but in each of our churches it is a favorite. The hymn has great meaning in celebrating springtime but the tune got stuck in our minds and we couldn’t shake it. So we laughed together instead. Ah, I miss that man. I miss his humor and his laugh most of all. I hope I will always be able to recall that chuckle and those outright roars of glee.
So this Easter, I remember and I know that the message of Easter is a very personal one. I will hear that laugh again.

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It wasn’t too many years ago that news of a recession and the falling of stock prices would have been meaningless to me, mostly because I didn’t have any stock in anything and didn’t own a home. Being healthy and able to work myself to death gave me a sense of self-righteousness about monetary wealth. I would preach, much to my embarrassment now, about trusting God for our financial needs and not depending on savings accounts and retirement investments. Easy for me to say to all those wonderful people who took time each week to hear me preach and to pay my paycheck. Ah the simplicity of being young and naive! I wonder why someone didn’t just slap me or try to not pay me and see how well I practiced what I preached.
There is a subtle difference between living with faith that God will provide and being just plain irresponsible.
God has been faithful in providing for me anyway. This would lead me to believe that God is less interested in my being perfect than am I. Sure I’ve learned some painful lessons about debt and credit and needing versus wanting. But in the end, God has provided what I needed when I needed it regardless of me getting it all right.
Here we are in the midst of a panicking financial world. Those with wealth in investments are feeling the pain. But those who have nothing, still have nothing. I may have been naive about financial matters, but I have to say that there is a freedom in having nothing to lose (I think that was Janis Joplin’s line in Bobby Magee….). Financial crisis does bring clarity about what is needful and what is merely materialistic idolatry. I may not have known what I was talking about but the truth is still the truth. If God is not on the throne of our hearts, no amount of material wealth will satisfy. Perhaps this current crisis in the marketplace is all a corrective to the god of market-based living and a reminder that God is not mocked.

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I have read that grade school children now dream of being famous rather than being a fireman or ballerina or cowboy or nurse or anything useful. Yesterday we witnessed a life unknown only in death with a wish to be famous. A young man who never quite found a place in life chose to find a place in death in a mall of Christmas shoppers. Like a dead canary in the mine, this may be a clarion call to wake up to our toxic culture.
A friend said to me today “I think we are beginning to see the errors of a culture without a foundation. I feel truly hopeful that our country is waking up and taking stock of what is important. I believe we are no longer willing to be divided into enemy camps of politics and religion.” She had no basis for this hope other than her own new-found faith and intuition. I believe her – she is a wise woman. Besides, her vision is a compelling one.
I was listening to a program on NPR recently (actually, I always listen to NPR not just recently). This program was about the writings of Karl Marx and his admiration for capitalist economy. That in itself surprised me but then I’ve never read a word of Karl Marx. According to this report, he coined a phrase called “destructive creation” which basically says that a capitalist economy requires the constant destruction of the present in order to create a future wealth. Basic to this way of living is the constant tension of everything having to become something else. There is no time for rest. No time for enjoying life as it is.
Perhaps this is the Achilles heel of our society. This constant requirement of change makes it hard to find a place to land, hard to ever just be, hard to find the silent night much less the bright day.
My prayer is that this time is a time of creative destruction of the ways of death giving rise to the way of being the human race, creatures of God’s image designed for one purpose only – to be the divine in human form. Namaste.

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There has been much attention to The Secret on Oprah and other talk shows. I have yet to read or see it. The little I have gleaned causes me to pause for consideration. Much of it seems like newly packaged power of positive thinking. Some of it seems like wishful thinking. Some of it seems dangerous to me. I found the following discussion with Deb Ford and Jean Huston especially instructive about these dangers.
http://www.passalongwebsites.com/secretcall/jeandebbie/
This danger is to me the fundamental danger of what is broadly known as New Age, particularly the “law of attraction.” The ancient traditions that come to us through the writings of Christian, Hindu, Sufi and other mystics, speak of the importance of paying attention to what you think about. Each say something like: “What you focus on grows.” In my own experience, I have found the thinking of Carl Jung who first spoke of our inner world creating our outer reality, to be true in my own life experience.
However, one must be very caretul to not flip this thought. In other words, not all that is in our life is of our own making. The person who has cancer or any other life threatening illness almost always asks “Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong to cause this?” And the answer, more often than not is “Nothing. This isn’t personal.” Or basically, Sh** happens! This too is truth. Jesus was often asked why this person was blind or that group of people were crushed to death in an earthquake. Jesus answer was that such consequences happen because we live in a sinful world (i.e. delusional, imperfect, temporary). His followers wanted to believe that each was caused by the victims sin. And so do we. And so do we. We want to think that everything is under our own control because then we can control our lives and make them in our own image.
It is not so. We live in a karmic soup – everthing that happens happens within a much broader context than our own thoughts or the consequences of our own behavior. None of us lives independently of the consequences of others behaviors or of past generations behavior or of our family heredity. Cause and effect is not so simple as the New Agers would have us think. Would that it was so.

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We often hear that this country was founded by Christians for the purpose of freedom of worship. We hear this so often that to question it’s historical accuracy is sometimes seen as apostacy. I recommend the works of David Korten to learn a more accurate history. In the American Baptist seminary from which I graduated in 1986, I learned a bit of this. First, we were not founded on the separation of church and state. The various colonies had their own state religion and the determination to force ones’ religion on the rest of the state (whether that religion be Puritanism or Catholicism or whatever) was a part of the plan. The Baptists were quite the minority out there in the dinky state of Rhode Island. They literally fought for the separation of church in state with their lives.
Thomas Jefferson was himself a Deist Deism rejected religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their understanding of God was God as the clockmaker of the Universe who then left the Universe to function on it’s own.
There is clearly a movement away from the separation of church and state in our current political winds of the USA. If we lose that, we lose the freedom to seek and to speak of God who speaks to us. A politically acceptable religion and sets of approved beliefs and ministers is not the Way of Christ. The god projected through a state religion is more like Zeus than like Abba, the Father God revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the Divine Lover who is not owned by any nation or any race, the Creator who seeks us, the One who cannot be captured by words or images but embraced by faith alone.

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“Did anyone notice that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not an Elephant?” (from my Democrat father)

“Chaos in life on the outside starts with chaos on the inside” (the Practical Mystic)

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I saw it on CNN so it must be true…according to astrological charts and astronomy, today would be the 2012 birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. This is known by the alignment of the planets and the meaning of this alignment. What is so much more important is that He is Risen! And all God’s people respond: He is Risen Indeed. Thanks be to God.

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