Exchanging Peace

Posted: November 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

Veterans Day in the United States was first Armistice Day, a time to commemorate the treaty of peace at the end of the First World War. The blood of Europe had spilled in ghastly ways upon the earth and making peace was the final tourniquet on a gushing hemorrhage. One of the great ironies of the Treaty of Versailles was that its terms contained the germ of the next war; the creation of emotional and economic conditions in Germany that gave rise to Hitler and the Third Reich. The way we make peace in the present often insures its undoing in the future. The means really are as important as the ends.

On this day I would like to move from the European theater to the Middle East. There is a story begging to be told and such stories should not be kept waiting..

At the conclusion of the Six Day War in which Arab neighbors laid siege to the new nation of Israel and Israel prevailed in dramatic ways, a surviving Israeli soldier, Ronen Mizrachi, was searching through a bombed out Egyptian bunker for spoils. He noticed a bulge in the breast pocket of one of the dead Egyptian soldiers and, thinking it might have been cigarettes, opened it. What he found instead was a pocket sized book written in Arabic. It was a Koran. He pocketed the book as his souvenir without a second thought.

Days went by and a terrible emptiness entered into Ronen’s heart. War was not glorious. However necessary it might be the reality of war was simply grizzly and brutish. And he had been a part of it. His soul seemed to have disappeared.

At the end of his tour his platoon came across a lone Egyptian soldier hiding behind a sand dune. He was filthy, bloodied and gaunt. His hands were raised high. They took him to the personnel carrier as a prisoner.

There were about thirty men in the carrier and the dazed man was seated beside Ronen. He opened his canteen and offered the man water and he drank it in huge gulps. The man blessed Ronen in Arabic.

There was something in the Egyptian’s breast pocket and Ronen ordered him to take it out and give it to him. The Arab reached into his pocket and slowly pulled out a small leather-bound book embossed with Hebrew letters – a Jewish Torah.

Ronen stared in disbelief. His mind raced. And then he slowly, instinctively, reached into his own breast pocket and removed the Koran. The Arab stared in disbelief as he read the words on the cover. He looked at Ronen, their eyes met – two worlds, two cultures, two enemies – yet at that moment, speaking the same language.

Ronen looked at the Torah and knew how it had fallen into Arab hands; just as the Koran had fallen into his. And he knew what to do next. He stretched forth his hand and gave the Arab the Koran, and the Arab gave him the Torah. The Arab put the Koran in his pocket and Ronen looked down at the Torah in his hand. He turned to the text that read: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One …”

At that moment something opened up inside of him. The heart that had been empty opened and received. As days went by he turned to it more and more. It spoke to his heart. And slowly his soul was returned to him, one prayer at a time.

Ronen eventually married and settled down to build his home. And the thing that was meant to be a spoil of war now sits on the bookshelf in his study, a souvenir of the most important battle he ever won.

Based on a story from The Face of the Waters by Eliezer Shore

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Room for Love

Posted: November 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

I drove through a light dusting of snow this morning to preside at a friend’s memorial service. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was: This packed gathering took place in a wonderful social hall, a room filled to the brim with love and spirit. It was more moving than any funeral I’ve ever attended in any church. So free, personal, and real.

Blessings come in many forms and this was one of them. The least religious space was the most religious space. And faith filled it to overflowing. There was room for love.

The Spirit is everywhere in everything, not at all limited by our human constructions. Love is God and God is love.

The Day after the Day after

Posted: November 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

There was the day after the general election in 2016 when unreality plunged into the consciousness of most Americans. Some were happy with that unreality, of course. But most were baffled and remain baffled still. What was worse were the ways that unreality unfolded, which was terrible. We thought that surely the obscenity of TrumpWorld – its greed and every ism imaginable, the rhetoric of division, the motivation through fear, the teasing out of the worst among the masses, the blatant favoritism toward the rich – would be tempered. Surely governance would be qualitatively different than campaigning. But no. There were too few in power willing to do that tempering. The majority party danced around the idol and bowed down, especially those in the so-called religious sector. Was it possible that people of faith could sell their birthright for a mess of porridge? Yes, yes they could. Could a corrupted and treasonous elected official attract equally corrupted and treasonous people around him?  Yes, yes he could. Could truth fall as collateral damage to lie after lie after lie. Yes, it could and has. The America we thought we knew was turning into an America that reflected the worst of what we could become right before our eyes. Democracy began to hang in the balance and democracies are fragile. It is not inconceivable that ours could be replaced with an autocracy.

But there was another day after and that is today. Americans who actually number in the majority rose up to say no. The changing demographics of our country actually continue to march away from trending fascism. Though some critical races were lost for Democrats in very red zones the House of Representatives was regained. This, this alone, restores checks and balances in what had become a rogue right wing state complex in the party of Trump. Danger is forestalled for now but only for now. The forces that allowed it to happen in the first place are still very, very present.

Yes, we need to take into account the realities and shifts that provided for the victory of TrumpWorld. We need to attend to the disenfranchised wherever and whoever they may be. But I do not exaggerate (because I do not need to) when I say that there is evil knocking at this door and only good can overcome it. Democrats, Pre-Trump Republicans, and Independents of all colors, religions, classes, geographies and philosophies – patriots all – must activate our longing for democracy, stand for the values and principles that have made us Americans at our best. We must appeal to our higher angels. And we need to search out hopeful leadership among our rising generations who have the ability to break us out of our old schemes, polarization and dead-end non-solutions.

This is a critical time. We have temporarily blocked the marauding horde that has laid siege to our land, a force that has eroded us from the inside. But if you think the war is over you are most sadly deceived. This will be a long, protracted struggle. Sacrifice will be required. And if the arc of justice is long – and it is often very long – we must settle in for the long haul.

Take heart and do not give up. Help is on the way. In fact, that help is already here. It is among us if we will dig down deep into the strength that has already been provided.

Vision. Hope. Courage. Persistence. Justice.

Remember to show it

Posted: November 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

Today I received a thank you from across the years, a token of appreciation for service I provided many years ago. Sometimes we forget or don’t remember what impact we’ve had on people’s lives until someone thinks to tell us.

Remember that key person, mentor, leader, lover, partner, associate, family member, classmate, teacher, or coach who made a real difference for you, was there just at the right time, contributed to your personhood, vocation, or even life and death survival?

Tell them. They might not even know what they meant to you.

Tell them.

 

Mr. President, Stop

Posted: October 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

Mr. President – Stop listing political enemies by name in your rallies, encouraging fans to chant “lock ‘em up.”

Stop encouraging and rewarding acts of aggression and violence among your tribe.

Stop naming the free press as the enemy of the people.

Stop projecting your sins onto the personages of your opponents.

Stop the pretense of Presidential statements when you drain them of meaning with your later real statements of partisan politics.

Stop using our tax money to fly to your rallies – not the whole American people – Airforce One and all the secret service.

Cease and desist. We will be rid of you and your tribe as soon as possible. We will  never stop resisting you. We will save democracy from you.

Stop.

On Facing Adversity

Posted: October 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

None of us are spared – not one – from the onslaught of suffering that comes knocking at our doors. If the knock hasn’t yet come you can be sure that the hand of adversity is patient. It can wait us out and it does.

Adversity comes as the result of our own foolishness. Adversity comes because of the evil intentions of hearts that went dark. Much adversity seems little more than random; the weather pattern here, the timing there, our place of birth or some radical gene that until now has been out of country on holiday. For whatever host of reasons the time finally comes. We don’t seek it, we don’t want it, even if we threw the first rock that created the waves.

Our greatest inclination in the face of adversity is to cling tenaciously to the past. That’s where our moorings used to be. Used to be. But life before the arrival of the unwelcome guest will never be the same again. It’s gone. No matter how many times we sort through the assumed reasons things took place, the stories we or others concocted to explain what it all means, it is little more than a vapor. Which is why we have to discipline ourselves to see differently.

The quagmire of memory obscures our view of the real time trees waving in the fall breeze, the leaves falling right now as all things do fall. To be present, truly present, requires a certain defiance. To be present requires shaking a determined fist toward tired definitions that must discarded like a snake sheds its skin. Shed the valuations of others first; they are the least important. Then shed your own old worn out props. Drop those chains and let them sink to the bottom of the sea. Did you see and hear the bird greeting the morning? That is the voice of authority.

The real answer lies in the future – a shrouded future, to be sure – but the future. Every new possibility lives in that future house. If you’re going to take out a mortgage, let it be there, in some property on the edge of tomorrow. Sit on the deck that faces east and wait for every new rising.

At the same time that we become alive to the present – its every sense, movement, and unfolding – we orient ourselves to the future. It’s always arriving with gifts, the future is. And we know new things as a result.

And what? We learn a whole host of things all at the same time. We discover who are and who are not real friends. We identify and discard the superfluous. We don’t let the perspectives of others move into our house and take over the the living room. Since time is fleeting we don’t waste it on the unimportant. It doesn’t matter what people think or say: You decide. And you’ll be glad you did.

Adversity carries crystal clarity in its vest pocket.  That clarity reveals what direction the next chapter requires even without a detailed itinerary. There is freedom. Take it and don’t apologize to anyone for doing so. Take courage, too, for we have to stand tall with wonder in the present even as we look to the mystery of the future. For God’s sake don’t let anyone tell you what the ultimate meaning of the universe is. Don’t let anyone lecture you on God. And when people do bad things in this sorted world stand against them. Whether you stand for yourself or for the good of others do stand. Let the scars of battle be your teachers. Let them talk.

But wait, we must wait. We have to wait for joy. It creeps up from the dark side of the moon and spreads into a half-smile. When joy creeps over that lunar landscape it must be ridden, like a wave. The triumph of joy is that all the other categories by which we used to define ourselves start groaning and creaking, falling apart. Just let them, watch them, they’re not real.

Do you notice that well of energy and light that seems to flow at the same time from the center of you and from the still point at the center of the spinning universe? Yes, that’s it. That’s the joy that has been unmasked by adversity. Thank God, unmasked.

Now we’re ready. For anything and everything.

 

Clean Missouri

Posted: October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

On this November’s ballot there is a special initiative – Amendment 1 – which is referred to as Clean Missouri. This amendment is essential to ridding our state of corruption in the political process. Though we cannot undo the tremendous damage that the Supreme Court inflicted on our country with Citizens UnitedClean Missouri can take some very positive state-wide steps.

Clean Missouri limits the gifts of lobbyists, puts caps on the amount of campaign contributions, requires open “sunshine” laws applied to all our politicians, sets a two year pause between when a legislator finishes a term and begins as a lobbyist, and establishes fair an impartial methods to overcome the gerrymandering of district lines.

Missouri has been corrupted by big money. Our politicians draw district lines so that politicians choose constituents rather than constituents choose their politicians. That can all change. Make sure and vote YES on Amendment 1.

For more information spend some time on the Clean Missouri website exploring Amendment 1 for yourself.