Hatred is getting a Bad Wrap, Let’s Wrap it in Love

Why not advocate for loving kindness, goodness, and peace

I have a friend, in our little town of West Stockbridge, MA, who wrote a book a few years ago and has a website by the same name:
“Goodology”.  My spell check says it is not even a word but it sure is a concept.

www.goodolgy.com

The essential message is that if you are at peace in your heart, soul, mind, and spirit you will naturally do acts of kindness in the world and others would be infected by those acts of kindness.

I was walking to get coffee at the Public Market and there was a man walking to his car he looked angry and grumpy as he walked iron faced by me.  He heard me say hello.  He turned as if shocked and say hello how are you.  I said, How are you?  He said “I am okay”.  No big deal you say.  I wonder.  If small hello’s would rid the world of anger and violence.

 

I hear the hatred rhetoric and it sounds like people hate those who act with violence rather than hating the act of violence.  I have a few friends who are fighting a losing battle with a disease and I hate those diseases, I hate looking on the suffering, I hate how it drains every once of life in the families, I hate every act of violence against anyone in our world, and I hate etc etc etc.  Hatred is a natural human emotion.  I think God hated the acts of violence done to his son on the cross and in life but the whole message of the cross is to look hatred in the face and love that hatred and watch it melt away.   In Malachi 1 God says that he hated Esau and loved Jacob.  I thought God hatred was bad.  Does this make God bad?  No it simply underscores my point:  God wants us to wrap hatred in love and watch it be transformed.  God had a part that loved Jacob and another part that saw his deceitfulness, craftiness, duplicity etc and hated those attributes but they were out weighed by a heart that sought after God.  Likewise, God had a part that hated what Esau stood for the violence behind his livelihood, the roughness of his countenance, that he was willing to sacrifice his inheritance for a cup of soup.  He did not treasure the sacred trust of his birthright.  God hated all of that.  Yet when they met in the fields it was Esau who with great compassion for his brother regardless of what he had done to him.  This was Esau’s compassion and God loved that.  At the same time it reminded him of the pain that He would suffer as his son would be treated so violently.  Yet it would be the compassion of God that would keep focus.  It also reminded him that his son would give up his birthright of Heaven and come to earth to live, struggle and die for the sins of the world.  Jacob conversely, was scared to death and had devised a “buy out” “pay off” to assuage the anger that he knew his brother rightfully must have toward him.  Yet as God does not hold our sins against us Esau did not hold Jacob’s anger against him.  What is hated by God is the hurt and pain of violence in the world, not hatred itself.  People hate for lots of reasons most of which are bread into them by society, trauma, or life experiences.  This is not an excuse for hatred and violence but it is a reason to call for an embracing of hatred and a focus of deterring and defering violence.

So let’s not “Wrap Hatred in a Bundle and throw it out” that will only frustrate those who feel they have a right to be hurt, angry and hate.  They do.  What they do not have a right to do, “is act with violence toward anyone for it is the act of violence the perpetuates hatred”.  Instead let us “wrap hatred in love” and watch it melt away into the wonder and witness of the power of the force of goodness to transform and triumph over every form of evil.

Maybe West Stockbridge is not just the Gateway to the Berkshires but a Gateway to peace and goodness.

The Truth about God’s Truth

What are the evidences of a true Christian

Last night I went to see the movie, “The Big Short”.  It was about the financial crisis of 2008.

We live in a day that of all the crises that we talk about like:  homeless crisis, poverty crisis, financial crisis, home land security crisis, etc.

As I watched the movie I began to realize that behind all crises is the “truth crises”.  Who do I believe?  Who is telling the truth?

A famous quote from my days at Yeshiva University where, Albert Einstein is venerated is from him.  He said, “Teach thy tongue to say, I do not know and thou will have knowledge”.  This implies that when people speak as if they know they may not really know at all in fact they may be revealing their need to act like they know  to make you think they are right.

Perhaps this is why the movie opens with the line from Mark Twain:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

In that movie the real crisis was a “crisis of truth”.  Who was being truthful?  Who could you trust? In the end the answer seemed to be “no one”.

In religious circles people spin in circles around truth.  It makes me think of Matthew 24 in which Jesus says that in the last days people will say “here is Christ”, “there is Christ” and he cautions us to not go after them who claim to be the true Christ for that very claim is deceptive.

What if being truthful about being uncertain was the most truthful statement I could make.

When I was an evangelical pastor one of the truths presented was that you can know that you have eternal life.  The way to know that was presented as “confessional faith” that is you confess that Jesus is the Christ and that you have invited him into your heart”.  Millions of people have accepted this “Way of believing” as the truth about believing which is not true.  The evidence of this is that many of those people who believe in that way have not experienced repentance or change while may have.  At the same time many who believe a more “compassionate faith”, who believe it is not what you believe but how you live, and not that you know you are going to heaven but that “living on earth as you will live in heaven” is the ultimate testimony of faith.

I was asked many times as an Evangelical if I knew I was going to heaven and the answer I was suppose to give was “yes”.  Today that sounds so arrogant potentially accurate, yet I am more sure of going to heave than ever.  Today my answer is that I am sure that the God of Love who sent His son to die that all who believe in Him might have eternal life, is a God of fairness, justice, truth, and redemption so I trust in the singular truth of Who God is not in any singular act of confession as prescribed or post-scribed by  anyone.

The truth is What sets you free to live the truth, to be the truth, and not to just claim that you know the truth.  The Truth then sets you free to live truthfully, honestly and humbly before others a witness to the wonder of the grace of God that is for all.

It is about “content of character” not Resume of Achievements

A Strong Man among men of Good Character

12 years ago I met a very humble man and his wife in the church that I attended.  A while later I preached in that church and discovered that, that man I met, was a man of great stature in the World of Theology and Church Life.  A professor at the time at Princeton Theological Seminary with an impressive resume of achievements.  In that role he was strong, opinionated, and even a bit harsh.  In his role as a person he was strong yet at the same time impressively a humble, soft-hearted  but clearly an articulate man, of great Christ-oriented courage and compassion.  The following quote speaks of the strength and gentleness of this great man.

Image result for there is no strength as strong as real gentleness, There is not Gentleness

I recall the first time I preached in that church before I knew who he was.  He lovingly, humbly but sternly charged me to do a little more research on Jonathan Edwards and his sermon:  “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.  What impressed me most was his ability to balance being a challenger and an encourager simultaneously.  I think that may be the very character of the heart of God.  God is constantly challenging us while at the same time encouraging us to grow through the challenge.

Max Stackhouse, the name by which he is known, is facing the challenge of his life as he faces both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s concurrently.  I visited him and his wife recently and reminded them both of what they already knew: “The one who in the beginning created the world, who came into that world to suffer with and for us and to be with us in our suffering, said “I am with you to the end” also said, in the closing book of the Bible, “I make all things new”.  So the summary, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, in life Jesus said “I am with you always even to the end” of the physical world, and John reminds us that in the end “there is no end, only a new beginning”.  In this current challenge of sickness he is displaying great faith and courage and remains an encourager, filled with compassion for others.  He genuinely, like God, just cares about and for people of every nation, tribe, kindred, or setting regardless of anything.  While we have disagreed on some small points of theology, we, more importantly,  discovered that we shared the same compassion for people and passion for truth, justice, and the Christ-oriented way of being, living and doing.

Max is, still, in his latent condition and even unconscious state,  a great influence on my heart and life.  When I was going through depression and he was dealing with the onset of his own deterioration he always asked me how I was doing? what is the problem? and how can I pray for you.  A man’s man, perhaps God’s man, I say, the kind of man I am privileged to have had touched my life.  So before you close your eyes into eternity please Max hear my heart.  Thank you for being you.

5 years ago Max Stackhouse was presented106_2958.JPG an award, by the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC was presented to him on Saturday, for 50 years of Outstanding Service as an Ordained Minister of the Gospel.  The next day, having been there as a church delegate, I represented that plaque to him during the morning Worship Service at First Congregational church of Stockbridge MA, his community of faith and where our life paths first intersected.

A man of goodness, kindness, justice, gentleness, grace, self-control, joy, love, and peace, as his character reflects the very character of God.  The fruit of the Spirit is the character of God.  That is impressive.  That is Max Stackhouse (Galatians 5:22-23).

Who is an Evangelical

What is in a word

We use words to describe people, places or things.  Then that word gets defined differently over time but different groups all of whom think they are the definition.  this is true for the word Christian.

In 2007 I delivered a paper at the International Conference of Social Workers in Hong Kong’s Civic Center.  My opening lines to that talk was:

“I know a lot of people who say they are Christians who do not live like a Christian should live and I know a lot of people who disclaim Christianity who live more like what a Christian should live.  So what is a Christian to do?

Our actions so often speak so loudly they discredit our convictions. Our convictions convict us of falsehood when that is not our intention at all.  We need to examine our intentions, our actions, our reactions, our hearts, our minds etc.

Similarly, I recently had someone ask me if I was an Evangelical Christian.  I answered “yes” but found myself needing to qualify and clarify that “yes”.  The word “evangel” is an angel or messenger of good news which I definitely think I am.  In short I think the good news of the Gospel is “there is not pit so deep that God’s love and grace is not deeper still” (Corrie TenBoom, from “The Hiding Place”). www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/corrie_ten_boom.html

The evangelical is then not a theological postulate, scriptural position, or doctrinal belief system but a “message of grace toward all, mercy for all, forgiveness for all, justice for all, peace for all, goodness and kindness toward all and life most fulfilling and everlasting.

An “evangelical” believes that the Gospel is not the property of any particular religious system, or particular group of people, but belongs to all people regardless of anything about them.  I am part of the UCC church not because I think they are right in all things but because I think their heart of compassion for people, and their passion for truth, justice and the Christ oriented way of living and doing, is right focused.  Welcoming everyone regardless of where they are on life’s journey, what they believe or do not believe, what they do or do not do, how they feel or if they are without feeling, etc.

The Gospel of Jesus was just as welcoming, just as not focused on religion or theology, and just as focused on compassion for people and passion for truth, justice and the Way that is the only way that leads to heaven:  that is the way of “love and peace”.  Please note as the opening statement reflected that those who live the way of peace may be more Christ centered and in the way of Christ than those with what they believe to be “correct theology”.

Christ oriented Living

the narrow way of deepest truth about open heart and open doors

As I walked my dog this morning in the cold, calm air I mused about my senses that were taking in all the wonder of winter.  My eyes were seeing the snow covered hills, tees like a blanket upon all nature the snow seemed a refreshing reminder of the blanket of God’s love and grace.  I was filled with awe, thankfulness, appreciation, affirmation, and a sense of God’s desire to blanket our selves and our world with love, joy, peace, and hope.  God is or was reminding me that there is goodness in all the seasons as long as we keep our hearts and minds in the right place.  Oriented not to our selfish desires for the moment but our appreciation for the moment.  I mused:

What is Christ oriented being and doing?  the question from a comment I made, about a friend, filled my mind.

Maybe “Christ oriented being and doing” is being open hearted (filled with compassion for and passion toward justice), sound minded (not closed minded but also not easily swayed), sure footed (taking a firm stance), wide eyed (seeing all perspectives), controlled will (not impulsive in reactions or actions), affirmed self (not arrogant or timid), and doing things out of all those characteristics.

 

 

Weapons that really win for all sides and create Justice for ALL

Literacy is the Key to Peace

Have you ever been misunderstood.

Language can do that as we try to understand or even be helpful to the new immigrant.  I was in a 1st grade class that had a new student form Japan who barely spoke English.  Other students were trying to help her but she wanted to struggle to learn and they were really getting in her way. She was getting upset that they were not letting her do it herself even if she did it wrong.  They were just trying to be helpful but language was not there and body clues were being misunderstood.

It is so easy even when you share the same language to be misunderstood through projected inferences, atypical assumptions, and introjected injuries.  Tones change the meaning of a word or phrase and those tones can be heard differently by my ear or spoken differently from my mouth than I intended or thought.  Like wise they could be heard differently than they were spoken.

Perhaps this is why “story telling” not the written word was so effective and effectual for so many centuries and now is so ladened and layered with misconceptions.

Think of the first spoken word and the inferences we have read into those words and what it might have sounded like to Adam and Eve.  Was, “you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil for in the day you eat of it you shall die”, softly and compassionately spoken with empathy or was it spoken in a threatening and “Darth Vader” tone?  When God came into the Garden after they had eaten of the tree did he come in saying, “Where are you” ladened and layered with anger, disgust, or laced with the  compassion that would keep them connected even if only by a shoe string to the Creator because of the creator’s mercy to them and the peace  of the creator in themself.

So reading literature without ladened,laced, or layered inferences helps us to treat one another without the prejudices contained in such inferences and extend to all people the justice, liberty that all deserve as created beings in that same love, peace, freedom and justice.

So what if the next time there is a behavior problem in a classroom we asked the persons to pick a book, go to a time in spot for reading and read for 10 minutes.  Would that change anything?

Or what if in our prisons we required prisoners to read and write essays on what they have read. What if we had volunteers listen to their stories or read to them stories.  Would that change anything?

Or what if we began peace talks with each side reading to themselves for 10 minutes.  Would that change anything?

Would reading touch the hearts and change the behavior in an indirect but efficient way?

I ownder.  I wonder.

 

 

Free at Last Thank God Almighty I am Free at Last

Freedom from Fear, Tyranny, Injustice, and Ego-centricities

“Free at Last Free at last thank God Almighty Free at Last”

Free from what:  Oppression, Suppression, Alienation, Abuse…..Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.

The tyranny of these are great and need to be stopped.

Rosie Parks began the movement with the freedom of fear.  She came to a place where she no longer feared what anyone would say or do to her she was making a statement of her dignity and worth second to none.  When we are free of fear we act in more righteous ways.

She also stood up against the injustice of being made to sit in the back of the bus just because of the color of her skin.  Where ever and whenever you can act with righteousness and justice in your heart and behavior toward another you are free.  Here is a hint and truth,  The person who acts out of fear and does injustice to another is not really free though he may thin he is.  The truth he is in bondage to his own ego needs not his God given sense of brotherhood.  We are our brothers keepers and we are responsible for our actions of injustice and murder.  cf Genesis 4 and the story of Cain and Abel.

The ego says if I let all people be treated equal and have all things in common then I will no longer have more than my neighbor,  Exactly and your neighbor will not have less than you.  The Global Village idea of raising a child needs to come together in raise a Global Community of Equity and Equality.  That is not communism or socialism that is Christianity.

So do not just thank God that you are free, Live to God and toward your neighbor the freedom from want, desire, tyranny and fear itself.

The role of Literature in Changing the world

Seeing more not less

Yesterday I watched a Ted Institute video. Amazing.

https://www.ted.com/watch/ted-institute/ted-state-street/suzanne-case-could-moby-dick-prevent-the-next-financial-crisis

Had this quote from Charles Dickens’, Great Expectations:
“I looked at the stars, and considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or compassion (pity) in all the glittering multitude” How sad to be in need of help and have no hope that help is here so maybe we all need to let people know that we are here to be of help. Maybe that is why the brother of Jesus, James told us that true religion is to help the widow and orphan, people who maybe cannot see hope or help until we are there for them. So let’s go to it or get to it.

She makes the point that reading literature nurtures sensitivity and compassion for self and others.  More on this later.

The Essence of the King

The Message in the 21st Century of this 20th Century Man

We celebrate Martin Luther King Day on the third Monday in January.

This year there are scheduled marches, peace vigils, story telling vigils, light ceremonies, interfaith services, “Black Lives Matters” rallies and dialogues.

Was that the dream of MLK?  Not so much.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I am for all those things.  I think they are all great.

For MLK it was about “Character”, about the “content of your character”, about doing it not just talking or marching about it.  What was the “it” he dreamt?  People of every tribe, or every nation, of every ethnic group, of every socioeconomic status walking hand in hand.  As in the song “Sweet Caroline”, hands touching hands reaching out, touching you, touching me.

So here is my challenge for you and me for Martin Luther King Weekend, 2016:

Attend any events you can that are planned for this weekend but in addition and more specifically:   Touch at least 10 people from 10 different groupings noted above

 

And the world may for a moment or two “Be as One”, thank you John Lenin

“That they may be as one”  thank you Jesus.

Confessions of a Non Reader, emerging from Adversity

How reading opened my heart, or how my heart opened to reading

This is a personal witness to the role of reading in life, what gets in the way, and how to regain the natural capacity for reading and nurturing empathy toward self and others..

As I young 4th grade I was made to feel (my inference) that there was something wrong with me because I could not read at the same pace as my classmates.  I was put in a remedial reading class that only reinforced my fear that this indictment and it did feel like an indictment was true.  I read less and less.  Actually faked reading often as a way to cover up for this deficiency.  I never thought, that if I was able to listen intently in class to all discussions and lectures that I could get enough information to pass tests and write papers, that there was nothing wrong with my comprehension skills or reading.  You only get better at something you practice. You only practice something you want or think you can get better at.  I deeply wish someone somewhere said, “Don, that was really good you got that and did that well (even if it was slower than others).  Maybe they did and I did not hear it.  Regardless, I made it through high school and college with pretty good grades, reading occasionally for research papers etc.  When I had to do it I did but always felling inadequate to the task.

I recently went through a season (18 months of depression) during which all the inadequacies and incompetency messages of my different parts hammered away at me.  I was unable to read anything.  I actually shook with anxiety to read anything.  I feared that I would read something that would make me feel more incompetent or less confident than I already felt. I ran away and hid.  Maybe that is part of what depression is. I never thought for a minute that reading would make me feel competent and confident.  As I was going through this negative jungle I recalled the words of my wife, “you are a better reader than you give yourself credit for”. Even as I heard the words I rejected them.  I had worked hard, had earned degrees and certifications but none of them made me feel any different.  In fact they clustered in the “zone of negativity” far afield from the “judgment free zone”.  I was lost in the seas of sadness. The  thought, that I was more than “the parts” that felt so inadequate, had not only escaped me, they had so vacated my presence that they were no where in the vicinity of my own mind.  Vacancy was the only sign hung over my head. It was all I could see when I looked in the mirror so I stopped looking in the mirror.  There was nothing there.  So I felt like nothing.

Then on June 30th.  Forced by my loving wife to go on vacation to a secluded island with no electricity and only some books to read.  I stood at the end of a dock from which we would launch a magnificent boat with the capacity for 5 people and a 9.9 hp engine on  massive river.

I stared out into the cove and heard a voice from heaven.  No, it did not say, “you are my son in whom I am well pleased”.  Maybe that was because I could not hear that.  If I could have heard that God might have said that. Today, I believe that God is well pleased in a lot of us who are not perfect because as with David, God sees our heart. In that moment God made my heart see and hear the most tender and soft messages of hope I could ever imagine.  I am not sure I can put it in words as it was not in words that night.  It was late, the sun was setting, the clouds above were reflected in the still “cove of glass”  below, and the sense of calm, compassion, and constancy I felt more than heard, “I am the maker of heaven and earth  (just look out and take that fact in and also note that I am lovingly compassionately, calming and without judgment speaking to you a message of love and grace, peace and mercy), so exactly what is your problem”…..(in that tender moment it was not a harsh, “what is your problem” or even a questioning it was more like.  If you know which I know you do know that I am the maker of heaven and earth, the sustainer of life, and so on and so on, help me to understand why you even think you have a problem except that you do think that.  I thought in the moment: “nothing”.  I thought it is not that I am the problem, or that the problem is me, it is the me that I am thinks I am a problem.  It hit me in the head with the tenderness of a feather and the strength of iron,  “I could, maybe, change my thinking part or exchange it for a new thinking differently part.  I could take all that was “in my mind” “on my mind” carried by “parts of me”, all my problems or burdens, and send them to the “lightness of being” (the light in the dark) let them float on the water of peace and cove of stillness, where God is. Where all is transformed and burdens are made light in the light of hope and peace. So onto the “water of all that I am, I set sail that night, not arrogantly but authentically”, I felt my burdens of depression and despair evaporate into the heavens above and dive into the deepest waters below.  And Peace began to be a new piece in the sense of me.

The stuff, parts I had tried to bury, work around, massage,that had nearly overwhelmed me not for any other reason except that they wanted to be heard, were finally heard. Things I had covered up for so long began to come into view then float away.  Then that which felt so good. I was alive again.  Confidence and competency that wanted to do it all, be right in everything, began to take me to another new extreme.  At first I thought this is all good so was feeling great.  I began to read and felt good about reading.  I began to do projects and felt good about what I was accomplishing.  I was sleeping less and working more whereas I had been almost sleeping the days away.  Then I began, over the next few weeks, more intently the next few months of  “I am that I am” began to overtake the timid say nothing, take it all in part. I gradually realized that this was a part that had been smothered and un-nurtured for so long that it was like a bull in a china shop.  the problem with a bull in a china shop is that fine china, with all its delicacy, does not go with a bull with its color-blind, insensitive, strength.  The Self was just now getting visible in the horizon of these parts polarized parts.

I hurt the wife who loved me in the depression out of the depression no  In the next few months I have been able to identify this swing as in a good sense the celebration of coming out of darkness into light but in an another sense as arrogant and self-centered part that while thinking all is better is behaving in a self and others destructive way.

As an illustration of this, soon after I began my recovery, while my wife was trying to tell me I was being belligerent, I was telling her, I was not. I had no sense that I was negating her the way I had felt so negated.  In my mind, she began to attack me so I had to attack her with words in a cutting way.  Like a “firefighter part” my fearful part had taken over. I did not recognize or realize that  I was mutilating the very person, my wife, and the very thing my marriage that I loved the most.  I accused my therapist, and her and later the crisis team who wanted to hospitalize me.  In my mind they were using my honesty, about my at risk behavior, against me as they wanted to hospitalize me.  Self was able to bring in enough calmness for me to realize how my actions might be perceived and more importantly to reframe that they were using my honesty for me not against me. Upon my acknowledging I was able to present a treatment plan that satisfied their concerns.  I also accepted the psychiatrist recommendation for a medication change.  He was right. It has been helpful. The work is still my work to do.

During this time, I began to read with amazing speed and retention as just one form of this extreme.  I read fast and wrote fast but did begin to realize that going 120 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone is not good for me or anyone around me. I realized, that I tended to not stay in the moment but want to run to the next moment or m=next thing.  While I may get a lot done that way I may also leave a lot of debris and injured persons in my path.  that I do not want to do.  I did not get all the nuances of what I read.  In other words I was reading to read not for the enjoyment of reading. Enjoying and being in the moment are about balance and harmony in the inner system of the Self and Parts.  I get that now in a deeper and fuller way than ever.

I am trying even when I write to be more focused, no surprise, as I sometimes go off into a tangent.  I am working on that as this blog shows but it also shows I sometimes do not know when to stop or how to mark a finish line.

So here is the dual-finish as I think I have had a dual focus:

On reading:  The practice of reading as the practice of listening is an art form that always is increased the more you do it.  So read more listen more is my commitment for 2016.  What would change if you make it yours?

On Living:  The manager parts and firefighter parts need to be given attention.  If not they can get in the way of the Self that is always there waiting patiently and persistently to shine forth dispelling or respelling love, peace, hope, justice and faith in new ways for new experiences. Being attentive to all parts in me and others with intention to honor and honestly be present with and for them is paramount to healthiness in relationships.