Monday, July 6, 2020

Bringing Down statues

      I have been giving great thought to history and the role of statues as of late. On a minute level, I wonder if after I die, someone might come along and scan some of my writings, look at my life and think that I am some sort of hero. Maybe, they’d want to erect a statue of me.  Of course then someone else might come along and say, I knew that guy, he was no hero and then produce a litany of all my faults, mistakes and sins. There are many. Does that diminish the good that I may have done?

      In the play Hamilton, there is a scene where President Washington announces that he will be stepping down, not seeking re-election. The speech that he gives is quite telling to me.

This in itself reminds me of another play called Wicked from which I quote from the song called Wonderful.

                      A man's called a traitor or liberator
A rich man's a thief or philanthropist
Is one a crusader or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist

So the question that I am asking myself is where do we draw a  line between honoring someone for their historical relevance and stature or consigning them to history by literature and texts alone where we can, theoretically, learn from our mistakes – or theirs as the case might be?

     Looking at the example of President Washington who has given so much of himself to lead and literally help create this nation, what do we do about the fact that he was a slave owner of 123 living souls? Do his good deeds warrant dismissing his bad deeds? Should we demolish any statues of him? Remove him from our currency?

Again the question arises as to where to draw a line. I am of a belief that such discussions should be made in public as well as in the halls of government. In no cases will their history be deleted.  We, the nation or we the world, will not, nor could we possibly ever, delete the body of knowledge that is written and archived as history of our nation.  By removing a statue, we are not ever denying or suppressing history. The question is this, what does that statue represent? Is the presence of a statue what the cross was meant to be for the Roman armies, a sign of intimidation, torture and punishment? What value does a statue of a Confederate military rebel hold who fought against the very founding ideals of this nation?

      The facts seem clear to me that statues are too powerful an entity that evoke too much power and too broad an interpretation so as to invoke not just a sense of history but also fear, intimidation and even a desire to ‘keep people in their places’. This is anathema to the very foundation of our nation and all we stand for, all we have fought for.

      Let the discussions begin, let the self evaluation, introspection and examen start in favor of growth and an unlimited inclusion that this nation was founded on. Destroying a statue does not destroy history and the process itself is one that speaks to our glorious tradition and purpose as a nation.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter in a Pandemic

Acts 10:34-35

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 

       Somehow I got hooked into teaching religion classes. It will only take an hour a week! It is amusing just how many times I fell for that line. That may very well have been the beginning of the rather long journey to wholeness and coming out. That is not to say that I am nearly finished with my journey - I hope and pray.  I did have some crucial insights to pass along to the kids and I am familiar with a syllabus and following direction.

        One of the things that I wanted so very badly to impart was just how much God loves each and every one of them. It was a two pronged approach for me. One is to note that if each person were the only soul on earth, Jesus would still have willingly become incarnate and willingly be placed on the cross for whatever sins we have committed, thus freeing us from the tyranny of sin and damnation. The second was a bit more complex. Invariably I would pick a child from class and ask "what is your name?" The child would immediately say Johnny, or Joe, Kathryn or Mary, whatever the correct answer was. The point is that one's name is something we are certain of. When asked we know it without any doubt and we answer without hesitation. I would point that out to the children. Their name was something they "knew" without question. I told these youngsters that one of the purpose of these religion classes ws to impart a similar truth, a truth that they could always rely on without hesitation, without doubt, without question and it is always true. God loves them, each and every one with unique and unabashed specificity. Ok, I didn't say those last words exactly but I think you get the idea. God loves us each without question. I AM certain of that. It is true for all of us. Lest we forget it, know also that God loves the other bloke, at least as much as God loves me. Those were my two goals.

        It seems a bit ironic now that the world is in lock down and most of us are essentially in solitary confinement for the duration. Communal services cancelled and we are left alone - or so it might seem. We have to remember first of all that God is always with us, perhaps even closer when we are sitting by ourselves.What a wonderful, scary and beautiful opportunity to know that it is you and God alone together. You have ach others ears - and heart and soul. Nothing to stop you from praying now. Of course all sort of services are available on line. My own community is using YouTube as a platform for services. In that sense there may be an acute awareness that in some respect we are not alone. You know that there are others out there in the same boat even as you might seem to be maddenly lonely, hungry for human companionship.

         So here we have the essence of so much of Easter.  God loves you, just you. God still would have gone through this whole embracing of our humanity and dying just for you and you alone. It's important to know that as an adult just as much as I wanted the kids to know that.  Then too, as we know there are those others in the same boat, God loves them too. The prayer that Jesus left us does not begin, Heavenly Father. The prayer begins as OUR Father. We are really not alone at all - ever. In fact, perhaps the real challenge of this confinement is to live out a life of love when the only venue for human love is communal - in relationships.  Our worship is communal - relational. 
The Trinity is purely relational. Genesis notes that it is not good for man(kind) to be alone. Relationships and our humanity are difficult when we are alone or at leasts 6 feet apart.

       On Easter we celebrate the joy and hope of the Resurrection. We celebrate the joy and power of humanity in Jesus and the hope of eternal life. We celebrate the path Jesus showed us in how to live and love. All this is before us. Perhaps this year, more than any other in recent history, we can comprehend the resurrection but also the uncertainty that the Apostles felt when those first witnesses to the resurreccion, those three women, came and spoke of the risen Jesus. That news , our news today is still filled with uncertainty and doubt because we are in the midst of this pandemic.  The Apostles were in doubt for a different reason but we know the feeling for sure. What will become of us? Has Jesus really risen? We are saved? We don't really feel it yet - and so we wait in solitude, perhaps even in a bit of doubt.

         One thing each of us do know for certain - God does love me. God died for me. God is risen and there is great joy and hope in that - it is the basis of our salvation. 

         Keep the faith. Know God loves you. Live in hope and joy. Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Down time, airplane mode, whatever it takes.

Matthew 11:28

     "Come to me, all of you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest".

       It was a 3 hour flight from our Island retreat to the glitz and glamour that beckoned outside McCarran Airport. My husband turned off 'airplane mode' and was immediately struck by pings and alerts. There were so many e-mails and phone messages awaiting.  One person had left at least a dozen messages in that 3 hour window. Hello!!?? Are you there? This is a real estate emergency!!!!

       In my husbands line of work, people have an expectation of immediate gratification or they will seek out the next professional in ther line of sight. It seems everyone actually wants to be tethered 24/7 to their phones and the world.

       How interesting it is now that so many of the entire world are quarantined to their homes.  I myself posted  a meme on facebook about preparing a large batch of cocktails for this evening. Well, let's make that for lunch, say 10:30 am? Times are tough indeed. And yet, we are all seemingly still tethered to the outside world by social media and the telephone. I suppose if you 'turned yourself off' or turned on airplane mode for longer than an hour, people might call 911 to have someone come and check on you. Did they succumb to the virus? How come they aren't answering their phone? I know they are home.

       One of the unique features about this year that people have not experienced in generations is that public services and the communal celebration of Easter has essentially been cancelled. There will be no Easter service, not even with fist bumps or people spaced 6-8 feet apart in church. There will be no Easter egg hunts and no shopping for Easter outfits or even Easter bonnet, no Easter Lamb with the fixin's and family. We are stuck at home. Sadly, we are not taking any of our 'down time' to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God.

        This morning, with all sorts of recreational activities here at home cancelled, no pickleball, no tennis, no pool, no golf or gym,  we will be try to find some exercise and relief from containment by going on a bike ride around the community. We can easily get in 10 miles which is a pleasant jaunt among the water, palms and alligators.

        I am acutely aware of the problems the world is in. The problems cannot help but intervene in our lives as we are hunkered down only to hear of who died of the Covid-19 virus or say silent prayers for those loved ones on the front lines of care. How about we take some solid time for real prayer ad some quality down time. I mean, let's put our lives on airplane mode. What gift have we be graced with, by whatever horror we are truly experiencing it, we can now truly be silent and pray to God. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for your peace and unending love.

         All we need do is stop and listen; stop and ask.  For downtime and airplane mode, I give thanks and pray.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Tree bark and body positive

Luke 24:32

       I started a new novel yesterday, something that has become quite commonplace in these years that mark my retirement. I have many interests and reading for pleasure is one of them especially after years of detailed religious treatises and volumes of medical journals and continuing education. The latter never really made my heart burn the way today's passage relates. 

      In my current book I came across the word "cachondo" which in the book, the protagonist does not even know what it means. I certainly did not. It is later revealed to mean "Funny.Rowdy.Sexy.In heat". Basically, horny. It seems to me that is something that people are often passionate about.

         A part of my 40-day devotional, this passage today has the author, our leader or muse, speaks about the beauty of a tree bark. As an outdoorsy person, I have often looked at trees in wonder and appreciation. I will confess that I have never quite shared the enthusiasm or 'the burning of the heart' over any particular tree bark. And so, I begin to think about the things that make my heart burn and whether I burn over simply the superficial.  As a member of the gay community there are often unrealistic standards set for the body beautiful. It is so superficial and I think a standard whose time has come - to be edited, curtailed or deleted. What is it we wish our hearts to burn over - simply the superficial?

          I was thrilled to see that Abercrombie finally has embraced this idea even to some small extent with the addition of new models that shun it's body shaming past with body positive models. ( You can google it )  Perhaps a bit more like my husband and myself who have seemingly perfected that 'dad-bod' that seems to have gained some acceptance.

          I am going to confess right here, and in Lent, that what makes my heart burn 
(yikes, yes, horny) is my husband. He has it all, the intelligence, the personality, decency, witt and a great dad bod. Yep, he makes my heart burn. While the rest of the world burns for eight pack abs and the like, I snicker to myself because I have got the real deal, the entire package, the best there is. I have the tree and the bark and I know it!

         This may seem too sex oriented for a Lenten reflection but really it is spot on. First sex is a magnificent gift that God created and made an intricate part of us. It is a part we should revel in. But also, know that in more general terms and especially in Lent, we should perhaps look at the world in more than superficial terms. 

          Is it possible that in this time in the world where we are all sequestering and placing ourselves in voluntary quarantine, we can take the time finally to sit and look around at the beauty in the bark all around us? It seems Abercrombie is coming around and that is a huge plus.  What sights and gifts are right in front of you that you may simply dismiss from familiarity or busyness?

          From Dad bods to bark, let us look, see and appreciate.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Body perfect

       Jesus was embodied, incarnate. Bodies must be important. This is a selection from my Lenten devotional series. It is not a passage from scripture but it is a jumping off point I chose, as the author chose a selection from Jeremiah about us needing rest 
( Jer. 6:16 ).

       I have long held a personal belief that God is totally available and revealed in the world. This belief may have come from the fact that I grew up in a religious tradition that excelled at philosophy, intricate thought processes and treatises which I often call 'circular logic'. That 'faith' goes to enormous lengths to justify, rationalize and concretize their positions about God. It would seem that only the intellectuals can truly understand God. God is revealed in the religious intellectual elite. Not so!

       I believe that the entirety of creation screams out as a witness to God. I believe that you do not in fact need a formal education to see God, She is revealed in for every single aspect of creation to see.  From the rising of the sun, to the magnificence of a flower, to the wind that comes and goes, ALL are a witness to God. Everything reveals a facet of God's created world. No treatises required.

        It is with this thought in mind that I think of our terminal human bodies. Terminal yes, like a leaf or a flower but a witness to creation none the less. What do our bodies say to us?  They need sustenance and rest. Very important points. Our sexuality is an intricate part of our bodies as well. That too is very important, it is very telling about God and it needs to be expressed. Our bodies reveal so much about God, all good, all should be explored, expressed and revelled in. In case you see the writing on the wall here, revelled in, cherished, expressed but NOT abused or disrespected.

         When I contemplate the need for our body to rest, I am not far from the realization that our body's sexual needs are normal, beautiful and should also be expressed. It reveals so much about God.  How many of us grew up though with complicated and guilty thoughts about our sexuality? Mine certainly played a role in why it took me 50 years to come to the realization that I am a gay man.  I really tried to be such a good Roman Catholic boy! In the simplicity and joy of our sexuality, we need not get caught in the mire of religiously created stigma and overly 'thoughtful' rationalizations for what our bodies are for or not for. Overt and covert religious involvement of our own personal temples actually disrespects God and is more about an agenda that allows and promotes male dominance and control over everyone else's genitals.

          This Lent, as we try to come to a more full understanding of our humanity, we should not dismiss a crucial part of our humanity which is our body. Our bodies are intricate mechanisms that need to be discovered, cherished and respected. They are a gift from God and reveal so much about the nature of God herself.

             Vive notre sexualite!


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

When you are smiling

Phillipians 4:4

       Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice

      I really like the profile picture of my FaceBook page. I have a gentle smile that speaks to the fact that I am really happy ( or really dopey ). I am in fact, very happy.

         I had occasionally made note of individuals that seem to smile 'too much'. I couldn't put my finger on it but they seemed to be rejoicing at something, they seemed to be in on a joke I hadn't heard, they might just be crazy fools who smile at everything - even when the world is crumbling. I didn't get it. So much crap going on in the world and these people are smiling away like Forest Gump or Gomer Pyle. 

       One of the side effects of discovering, admitting to myself and publicly    acknowledging that I am gay is that it made me a much happier person. I had worked at the same medical facility for over 35 years. People who had seen me for eons noticed how much happier I was. I was nicer to be around, I seemed to be a better person. To me it seemed that all of the pieces that I had at my command, within myself, gelled better when I came out. I had studied theology, taken countless courses, had a spiritual director and been on countless retreats. It wasn't that they were for naught but outcomes seemed shy of successful until one of the seemingly most elusive puzzle piece was found. Dan is gay. The smile on my face is genuine and deep.

      The world is still far from perfect. So many people fight against thier very nature to be good. People run around like a dog chasing their tails for goals set by someone else for someone else. Materialism is a pox on humanity. Yet, I still am smiling. What the story??

        I have heard the secret joke, I am "in" on the seemingly hidden story. The story is how much God loves me. I can tell you with assurety that God loves you too. I can say it many ways to try and convince you. I am not sure what would convince you, God made you so purpose built and with such love and devotion, it is as if you were the only creation he was working on. There is no other like you for sure. God perhaps woke up one morning, stretched his arms, groaned a bit from a good nights sleep and said, "hmm. today I think I will give the world what it needs, I am going to create you". The rest is mere biology. The quest then becomes to discover the essence and beauty of you that God created, intended, wants you to be.  In the acknowledgement, in the thankfulness comes great joy. Yikes, then you have that 'affliction too" , that smile, that deep abiding smile. An appreciation of yourself, a thankfulness, great joy.




Friday, March 6, 2020

Daily prayers

Psalm 55:17

       This may seem the exact opposite about which I wrote yesterday. I am not talking today about keeping the Sabbath and trying to ( for at least one day ), remember God and be attentive to creation and yourself.

       In today's devotional for Lent, the tables have been turned on me. The thought presented is the admonition to pray unceasingly as I was taught in Seminary. It truly was a joyous time. We would gather several times a day in the chapel with the seminarians facing each other. We would responsively read or chant our prayers, the resulting aural bouquet rising to the heavens. It was glorious.  The "Liturgy of the Hours" became a great strength to me, the chapel a cozy place to sit and pray and simply 'be' with God.

         The idea of praying to God  multiple times a day is an ancient tradition that was likely a practice that even Jesus did as a devout Jew.

         I recall the period of my life when I was working a hectic job and unhappy with myself, the cracks in the wall of my  sexuality beginning to appear ever so slightly and I was an ordained minister too. My spiritual adviser had already convinced me of the need to set time aside each day for prayer.  The more I had resisted and explained my plethora of daily tasks from cooking, cleaning, child care, work in operating room and then continue the domestic routines after that each day, the more he insisted and explained that he wasn't telling me when or how. He simply noted that if I am serious about this relationship ( with God ) I had to make some adjustment to commit to the task of listening and speaking to God. I wound up getting myself up and doing 'the hours' at a seemingly ungodly 2:30 or 3 am. I would get to the operating room at 4:30 or 5 a.m. fresh with a commitment to God, my fellow workers and my brothers and sisters ( our patients ). By eight a.m. I likely would respond to my coworkers with a grunt and a scowl. My early morning peace did not always last too long. Is this a confession?

          Taking the time out at multiple points of your day, either formally as with the Liturgy of the Hours or informally as you give God some time as you drive or walk down the hallway, is an admirable, ancient and proper practice.  It might be something you want to do in Lent if not the rest of your life. God does not love us only while we participate in Mass or do some extra holy act of love and generosity at a given point of the day or week. God has our back 24/7/365. God loves us with such reckless abandon that we might find it almost incomprehensible if we think about it as we should.  My 'confession' is that in speaking to God we are not made perfect - at all. Maybe we will even be more consciously aware of our faults. We may still harbor ill thoughts or wave to the other drivers on the road with less than 5 fingers. What we will have started though in consistent daily prayers is a conversation with God. God will speak back if we then take time to listen. God always responds to us in Her unabashed and total love. No, prayer will not make us perfect but it helps keep us on a path to wholeness and holiness, ever mindful of our role in God's plan of love, thankful for all the graces we have been granted.

For unceasing prayer and our Lenten, if not life journeys we pray.