Snakes in Church 2

I found a video on another blog about snake handling in church. Add this to my previous comments on this strange practice, found here:

Snakes in Church I

I love these people’s passion and faith..but there are some gimmicks apparent here.

Repetitive, bass-heavy music, is always, anywhere in the world and in whoever’s name it is being played, conducive to a achieving a minor “high.” And spinning in circles is every four year old’s first taste of altered consciousness. This is part of that whole strain of Christianity that says one’s faith in Jesus must be evidenced by signs and wonders, of one sort or another. And if they’re not forthcoming, go get them.

I guess.

Thriller..Sometimes, Things Just Make No Sense

And this is one of them.

A group of prisoners in the Philippines practice for a production..of some sort. I laughed all the way through it- it may be the Most Ludicrous Video, ever..

There may well be some ontological, existential, surrealistic, neo-realistic, Jungian, Freudian, or post-Christian meaning to all of this. If there is..well, frankly, my dear, I don’t care.

Belonging..

The most consistently moving and poignant website- to me- is postsecrets.

In it, people anonymously are able to share their deepest secrets. Often, it is that One Secret that has has defined her or his life, that a person is able to share for the very first time. These secrets are shared on a postcard of the secret-sharer’s own design, and sent to an address in Maryland. Looking at the way these secrets are presented visually is sometimes even more difficult than reading the words of the secrets themselves.

forgive

A new collection is posted each Sunday. One of them this week is among the saddest I have ever read there because it represents, I’m afraid, the tip of an enormous iceberg of isolation and loneliness, being experienced by many, many people.

part

Years ago, at a prison ministry weekend event, at a point when the residents of the institution were relaxed enough to feel comfortable sharing real feelings, I heard a man named Monty say this (I am reconstructing this from notes I took quickly as he spoke, because I knew I was hearing something profound):

“All my life, I thought everyone was having a good time, except for me. When I was in the army, we’d go to bars and everyone was laughing. I’d laugh, too, even though I didn’t feel like laughing. I’d make jokes about women that I didn’t believe, because I thought they were what the guys wanted to hear. People liked me, but it was the pretend-me. It wasn’t me.

“It wasn’t until I’d been in here for several years, and finally made some real friends, that I found out that everybody in that bar felt that way. People feel that way everywhere. I was envying everybody, and everybody was envying me, and we were all laughing and none of us had a goddam friend in the world. Hell, that’s why we were in the army in the first place!”

In prison, irony of ironies, Monty had found a real group of friends. Their shared circumstances, and Monty’s own abilities to be vulnerable and honest, were the foundations of his new relationships. (Which would, because of the crime which landed Monty there, need to last a lifetime.)

Loneliness is a plague of the most widespread and severe sort. It is a plague born, in large part, by the viral cultural environment in which almost all of us live. We learn early on that it is our own bootstraps we must be pulling on, that the point of everything is winning, and that fun- good times- is the reason for living.

Our models in life are the two dimensional beings we see on television or at the movies who seem to have to have mastered those three ‘truths.” They’re happy like I wannabe, but can’t be. They’re on top, like I wannabe, but won’t ever be. They’ve got lots of friends, and I just want one.

The assumptions that most people begin to make, from the time they sit in front of a TV and are able to comprehend, are that there must be something wrong with them if they cannot be like everybody else. Insidiously, a solution to that personal assessment follows almost immediately: a person can buy their way out of their apartness. Thirty thousand scripted commercials into life, and the five year old knows exactly what kind of cereal, toys, soda pop, and clothing will make them happy, “like those kids.” (the two dimensional ones) Over the next 15 years, or so, they will learn that the thrill of purchased “victory” is either unattainable (poverty) or short-lived (there is always a new and better thing, looming). But by that time, the dies of American consumerism have been set, and the 20 year old begins his or her life as a continuing cog in the American Gross National Product.

The only real fulfilling relationships in life are with life. My personal circles of inclusion are almost crazily without boundaries, so what I say may be skewed for you, but I think all living things have the capacity to ground us as individuals in that which is fulfilling, meaningful, and satisfying. All living things offer us the opportunity to belong, “to be a part of something.”

And belonging really is the point. (“Let us make humankind in our image.”) It takes vulnerability to be able to say, out loud, even in secret, “I need to belong” because false bravado and superficial happiness are sub-strains of the infections of American individualism and consumerism.

Here are some living things to which persons can belong. I’m mentioning only a few, as keys to unlock what everyone already knows, but which is often buried under an avalanche of advertising and other cultural bullsh*t:

Belong to the forest, the ocean, a field of wildflowers. They are as alive as you, they will listen to you, and they will sing to you in return. Don’t go to them with any expectations. Listen. Stand still. And listen some more. (I learned from a local rancher- bless him- that if you sit very still for about 25 minutes, the animals- birds, rabbits, deer- will start coming near again. They were watching you; now you can watch them trusting you. It feels good.)

Belong to a living God. God’s not stuck in a book like many of God’s followers. God is still creating. Plant some trees, some tomatoes; learn how, if you don’t know how today. Help God do what God does! There are fellowships of people all over the place who are talking about God, often without even using God’s name. Garden clubs, rose societies, shoot- even cemetery auxiliaries maintain what is often the beautiful place in town. Clean the yard of the old lady across the street who can’t. Call the local Senior Center and find who needs a ride. Re-present God to someone who needs it!

Belong to animals. There are thousands of dogs and cats within a hundred miles of anyone that need adopted, taken care of, or whose cages at their shelters need cleaned. A dog’s love is unique (my personal prejudice) and I’ll shout for the rest of my life that a person can learn as much about God’s love from a dog as anywhere else. But I’ve got two cats I’m fond of, too, and I’ve heard that some people do, against all odds, prefer them over dogs. IMPORTANT: There is NO NEED to buy a name brand pet! In fact, please DON’T! Pick the goofy hound/shepherd cross that licks you through the cage at the pound..you belonged to him before he was born. And you know that.

Belong to people. Big Brother/Big Sister. Mentoring. Downtown Soup Kitchens. Habitat for Humanity. Et al., et al., et al. You will develop relationships in those endeavors, over time. You will belong. It may take a few weeks, even months, and those relationships may lead elsewhere besides the places you thought or falsely hoped they would at one time in your life, but you will be doing vital, necessary, important work. You can even be doing revolutionary work as a volunteer, by demonstrating to others that it is possible to jump off and stay off the treadmills others have designed for us to spend our lives on.

Y’knowwhatI’msayin?

I know you do. Or will. Monty figured it out. I figured it out. If we did, then there is loads of hope for you.

 

 

 

 

If it rains or freezes..My Plastic Jesus

My Pink Plastic Jesus !

IMG_4441

This was in my mailbox this morning- put there by a friend who knows me well enough to know that I would have fun with this all day..and I did.

It’s about 12″ high, and was constructed with appropriate reverence and awe in China of very durable plastic. I don’t know what area retail establishment Pink Jesus (known already and lovingly as PJ) manifested in, but I’m glad he did- and honored that he now has a hallowed home in Texas.

PJ has a secret, too. He is no mere ornament for the backyard garden sanctuary, no! He answers questions! Turn him upside down and he becomes this generation’s Magic 8-Ball ! Same setup: there’s a clear glass window at the base, and bobbing around in some blue liquid within, there is a polyhedron, each face of which is a different answer to whatever one’s questions might be!

Today at lunchtime I asked PJ if I should eat watermelon at home or go to Subway for a sandwich. The answer was “Have a nice afterlife!” I took that to mean I should go to Sonic, instead, and have a cheese dog.

Later, I queried, “PJ, so that I don’t have to go look, do I have clean socks for tomorrow?” Prophetically, he answered “No chance in hell.” Really! And, glory be, he was correct!

A little while ago, we took some pictures together around the house and yard. I’ll share those later. Right now, PJ and I have to discuss tomorrow’s sermon.

My life has suddenly become so uncomplicated ! From now on, I’ll always know WWPJD?

(Thank you!)

A Community of the Spirit..Rumi

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in the circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd’s love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don’t accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.

You moan, “She left me.” “He left me.”
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

My favorite poem by Rumi is always the one I have just read, but I do come back to this one more than the others. Each verse is a proverb, a koan, a meditative point which will change one’s present mood for the better, if it treated as the true spiritual nourishment it is.

(Thanks to Coleman Barks, This is his translation, rendered with love)

Reflections on..Kafka (again)

From The Essence of Wisdom, page 7

Franz Kafka: “The fact that our task is exactly as large as our life makes it appear infinite.”

I read something recently that enabled me to think- at least a little- about the concept of time on a universal scale. If the 13.7 billion year age of the universe were compressed into a single 24 hour day, do you know how long one of our 80 year old lifetimes would be?

1/10,000th of a second.

That doesn’t give me much time to get the things done which I’ve been putting off today, let alone those things I’ve delayed doing for forty years. It also emphasizes to me the time that I’ve wasted being angry at others or myself, regretting and wishing regarding the past, and worrying and fretting about the future. Those were all dead issues to begin with but I have worked overtime many weeks keeping them alive and hot on the front burner of my mind.

“Someday, someday,” I would mindlessly mumble to myself in the past when I considered learning Spanish, writing a novel, learning French, or sending a thank-you card to Auntie Helen for a cake she mailed to me in 1971. (She died in 1985, never having gotten that card, either). But the “somedays” these days, are a whole lot fewer than when I was 14 and told a friend who wanted me to play bass in his band that I was too old to start taking guitar lessons. I have a sense of the finity of the somedays left to me at this point, even without knowing the specific number of them .

When we are five years old, next Christmas is 20% of our lives away- a long, long time; when we’re fifty, it is only the equivalent of 2% of our life away! It really does come around faster and faster each year, according to our body clocks. And that realization sends many of us the refrigerator for another beer, to the couch for another thirty minutes of a sit-com we’ll remember for ten minutes after it’s over, or into yet another mental bouillabaisse of leftover regrets, worries, and wishes, with a dash of salty tears.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, better and better, over the last several years, that has involved lots of time- not a second of which I consider wasted, misused, or lost:

  1. Looking around: There is not a single hour during the day when there is not something new, interesting, or weird to be discovered in a tree, in the yard, or under a rock. Today I watched Zero, one of our cats, try to catch a hummingbird. She didn’t have a chance and I decided that hummingbirds may be the most fearless birds on earth. And I saw (and am still watching) three toads on the back step eating June bugs (who don’t know it is July. And didn’t care, right up to and including those moments they were being swallowed.)
  2. Looking up: I can’t keep my eyes out of the sky, because my imagination follows right behind them. I am not an astronomer. I am physically starstuff and somewhere out there are my physical ancestors. And they are backlit by 13 billion year old light. And they are big, and faraway, and mysterious, and we’re getting to know each other just a little bit better.
  3. Reaching out: Every single living thing is programmed, gifted, destined, and trusted enough to do that all the time. But I, like many others, learned somehow- perversely and dangerously- that it’s better not to touch, embrace, speak, or be vulnerable to others in any perceivable way. Now, if I can put two people together into the beginnings of a community, or stimulate the growth of any real community in some way, it has been a glorious, God-perfect day.

Follow me around for awhile and you might think you’re following a four year old, and maybe you are. I’ve missed too much. The somedays will run out before I’ve seen it all, but that- I know now- is absolutely the last reason to stop.

God’s gotten much, much bigger during this whole process, too. God doesn’t follow me around quite as much as I thought; it feels more like I’m following God in all of this.

What a concept!