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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Conflicted and Troubled

Let me begin by saying this is where I am personally at the moment within dynamics of our wider culture. I speak for myself and have no way of knowing another's experiences.  I have no answers, mostly questions that lead to even more questions, but am trying to be vulnerable enough to ask.  

I'm deeply conflicted and troubled. 

On the one hand it is about time that women in our world are telling stories, too long in the shadows, of abuse, harassment, indignity, and oppression at the hands of men in their lives. Men are being held accountable for centuries of unacceptable behavior that has been accepted and tolerated.  Men are being forced to examine and re-examine our relationships and interactions with women at home, work, and the wider community. In light of such scrutiny, we are discovering that words and deeds that we once thought innocent, or even playful, and socially acceptable are actually harmful and destructive. Men need to be held accountable. 

What troubles me is how do we find our way through centuries of oppression, pain, and inequality experienced by women that can't even be imagined by most men? How do men begin to relate to women with equity and true respect and shed age old mantles of dominance?  How do we find our way through the quagmire of accusation, denial, and humiliation in which we find ourselves. How do we find paths that allow women the freedom to continue to speak out without fear and shame? How can men own up to our actions and not victim blame and rationalize?

We desperately need to find paths of confrontation and listening that allow full expression of fear, anger, and loss, as well as reparation, restitution, repentance, forgiveness - and yes, punishment when necessary. 

Human experience tells us conflict and trouble are necessary in order to find new ways of living together with equality, dignity, respect, integrity and love. 

We are living in such times. May we have the courage, humility, grace, and compassion to find our way. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Day to Remember - And Dream

Today is Peg's and my wedding anniversary.  Each year on our anniversary we spend time remembering and dreaming.  We talk about times past and dream of what may be ahead for us. As the years add up the remembering gets longer and the dreaming seems shorter, but one thing remains constant, whether looking back or ahead it all comes together in the time we have right now. Of course the same it true of every day, but some are more special than others and are naturally days to remember and dream.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Going to Seed

I don't know about you but some days I feel like I'm in the hand-basket, you know, that hand-basket in which our parents always said the world was going to hell.  What is going on? 

For many years I have been repeating a little phrase about the times in which we live - "the individual rationalism of The Enlightenment is going to seed." The revolutionary ideas of Descartes, Rousseau, Locke, Jefferson, and others have been parsed, twisted, and perverted so that individual appetites are consuming the common good of people and planet. The same can be said for the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Lao Tsu, as well as other prophets and sages. 

There also seems to be a toxic convergence of this demise with modern technology that only amplifies the perversion. With the Internet and "social?" media we have created a forum where every opinion, regardless of its origin, is presented and received as fact. Anybody with a computer or smartphone can slander, smear, and deceive with autonomy and, if desired, anonymity. To some degree we are all complicit in this demise. 

Sometimes when I face the empty page for this weekly blog I seem to have no words of encouragement and so I rely on others to encourage and inspire me. Today my wife Peg shared the following from her Facebook feed and I offer it to you:
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.  ~ L.R. Knost

It's true that when something goes to seed what remains are the seeds. So what we must do in the seeming chaos in which we find ourselves is look for the seeds of love, compassion, dignity, respect, honor, and mutual forbearance that are around us and, more importantly, within us. Once we discover these seeds we need to intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally nurture them into the next Gospel, the next Enlightenment, the next embodiment of One Eternal Presence - one seed at a time. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Same?

A friend from college over forty years ago reached out to me on Facebook.  He asked, "Are you the Andy" I responded, "The same" then went on to give a three sentence summary of my life since we last saw one another many years ago. I concluded quoting a Paul Simon lyric, "Still crazy after all these years."

Upon further reflection, of course I'm not "the same."  I've had many life experiences and relationships that have changed me, first among them 42 years with my wife, followed closely by our two daughters. My wife and I even quip that we have been married to at least three different (but the same) people.

How many times have we said or heard that in our minds we are much younger than our actual age? Psychologists and psychiatrist tells us we each have an inner child that needs nurture and healing. Therapy often reveals unresolved issues that literally haunt our lives. Some religions tells us we can literally let our past go, be born again, and become new people. As with most things each of these approaches have truth in them, but none really completely address the mystical connection we have to the person we each believe ourselves to be.

So, what is it in us that makes most of us think we are the same people we were years ago?

Mystics, sages, and prophets through the eons have revealed, taught, and called people to Truth that hides in illusions of who we think we are and what life is all about. One central teaching of perennial wisdom is that each of us has a "true self" at the core of whatever our illusion, past or present, may be. This true self is given many names such as "Essence," "Energy," "Source," "God," "Divine," "Presence." My own spiritual tradition of Christianity calls this Presence "God with us," "Incarnation," and "Christ." One biblical writer says "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow."  Whatever the name, it is a core awareness of something eternal within each of us.

Regardless of how much we may "change" throughout our lives we really are "the same." At our core we are eternal, mysterious, and sacred. Some who don't see this Truth may say it's crazy. If so, then perhaps I am "still crazy after all these years."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Saints Day

 On All Saints' Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own. 

~ Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey



An ordinary one takes longer
than the three-day miracle
but wait — it will come.
There must be time to cancel
the memory of oven doors
closing with soft pneumatic whoosh,
and artificial wreaths fade slowly.
Then there are possessions —
soft hats resembling their owners
and sweater pockets
still bulging with illegible notes.
But after six months or a year at most,
there begins the benign haunting —
familiar hum or whistle,
brush upon clothing, upon skin;
presence, remembrance.
You stand at wintered windows
and catch their images in your face
their gestures in your limbs
spirits reclothing themselves
in your flesh.
~ Shirley Graves Cochrane, Letters to the Quick, Letters to the Dead


My daddy (who died suddenly when I was sixteen years old) had an unconscious habit of hissing a tune. It wasn’t whistling, nor was it humming.  It was in between. Through closed teeth he hissed whatever tune he couldn’t get out of his head.  Most of the time he didn’t even know he was doing it because he was busy doing something else; driving a car, hoeing the garden, sitting under a shade tree. I remember it as a comforting presence, this tune hissing.
         One day…(many years after Daddy’s death), I was working alone in my study when I felt the undeniable presence of my daddy. I knew if I were to turn around, he would be standing there behind me. It was that real. Then I heard it, that old familiar, comforting hissing sound - coming from my own breath.   Resurrection comes in the most surprising ways.
         Dreams stop and memory fades, but some memories never go away. These memories live on; last suppers, last words, last laughter, last pre-dawn shadows of sound and light, last expressions of surprise. These memories live on because they are holy, sacred.  It is in these memories that mysterious, invisible, and absent become real, visible, and present. It is in these memories where the mute speaks, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the dead live.  Some of these memories are as close as our own breath. 

~ Andrew Walton,  “The Last Supper”