Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Christly Souls Are One in Him Throughout the Whole Wide Earth

last post i wrote about the intolerant tone of the current republican primary contest. today i write about the sexist character of the candidates seeking the republican nomination. first, let me say that i find the use of abortion as a method of birth control morally reprehensible, but my view is not what is important. i will never have to bear a child, i can never know what the effect of being pregnant will have on my body. for that reason, i find it impossible to support any interference by the state in the control of what a woman does with her body. women must have the last word in this matter, and no man has the right to tell a woman what she may or may not do in this regard.

if we take the position that no fetus can be conceived unless God wills it and use this proposition to argue that abortion ignores the will of God, we must also accept that such a god wishes children to be born with horrible, painful birth defects, that this god wishes children to be born unwanted and unloved to parents who are unable to provide for them physically and emotionally. this is not the God that i worship. i cannot believe that God would ever wish for any child to suffer, and the decision to end a pregnancy is a decision between the mother and God, not between the mother and the state.

the desire to control women's lives and to make women subservient to men is dangerous and wrong, and, from where i sit, the current positions of those seeking the republican nomination is more about men exerting authority over women than one that has a true moral foundation. the use of coercive laws that places the state in the middle of the relationship between a woman and her healthcare provider like those adopted in texas and virginia, the restrictive measures taken to deny contraception coverage through employee insurance plans, and other tactics in the name of "religious freedom" and the "right to life," have more to do with men who wish to maintain power over women than with theological positions.

my prayer today is that we see each other as fellow humans, not as threats to our positions of power that insist on others' positions of subservience. shalom.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teach Us to Care for People, For All--Not Just for Some

it's a rainy tuesday here, and, like last tuesday, my schedule hasn't allowed me time to compose a post until now. i prefer to prepare my weekly posts a day or two ahead of my usual tuesday morning posting time or to write in the early hours of tuesday morning, but that hasn't been possible for the last couple of weeks. in the past, this would have been upsetting to me, but i find that these days, i'm able to accept the day's schedule as it happens with less stress than in the past.

today, i'm going to comment on what's going on in the political arena. it's no secret that i'm a liberal democrat and have little in common philosophically with conseratives of either party. as i've observed the republican primaries and listened to comments of the candidates and their supporters, several positions have been disturbing to me: the intolerance for opposing ideas, the disparaging attitudes toward women and the lgbt community, the suggestion that the poor and the unemployed are in those conditions by their own choosing, and the underlying racism of the opponents of the president.

as i grew up observing politics in the usa, i was impressed by the respectful tone of the debate by those of opposing viewpoints. it was expected that accomodations would be reached between the majority and minority parties that allowed legislation that benefitted the country to move forward. those who wrote our constituion were wise enough to create a system that makes it more difficult for the majority to tyrannize the minority, and legislators worked together to find common ground, resulting in laws that could be supported by both parties, which is often the most sound legislation. now, we find ourselves in gridlock, where a republican majority in the house passes legislation that has no chance of becoming law rather than working to find a middle way that enables bills to be passed by a bipartisan majority. in the senate, rules enable a republican minority to hold the country hostage, even when the democratic majority seeks to find common ground that would permit bipartisan support. we've watched time and again as the president has reached out to the minority party, only to be told that republicans will support him only if he accedes to all of their demands. several legislators are retiring because of the poisoned political climate in the capitol, and from my vantage point blame for this situation can be placed at the feet of the republicans in congress.

i want to write about issues affecting women and the lgbt community and the thinly veiled racism in the current primary campagin in another post, not because these issues are less important, but because i make an effort not to write over-long posts. it is the attitude of intolerance for the ideas and perspectives of others and the role that many conservative christians are playing in promoting such intolerance that troubles me most, and these other issues largely grow out of that intolerance. the claiming of the "moral high ground" by conservative christians that asserts that "since i am right, since my view is supported by bible proof texts, since i am the inheritor the 'christian tradition of the founding fathers,' you must be wrong when you disagree with me" is particularly dangerous in what was intended to be a secular democracy, free of religious intolerance and bullying.

my prayer today is that we can return to the mutual respect and tolerance that has characterized our country during its best and brightest periods and that citizens of the usa begin to look toward the common good, that which binds us together, rather than dwelling on our differences. shalom.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Through Each Perplexing Path of Life Our Wandering Footsteps Guide

i am off schedule and am very late in writing this week's post (more about that later). there are several things on my mind as i sit down to write this afternoon: the transformative work of God in helping me to become less prideful and to feel less need to control, my lenten discipline based on the thirteenth chapter of first corinthians, and the disturbing religious tone of the republican candidates for president. while all three are powerful currents swirling through my mind, i feel the need to address the first in this post.

one personality trait that it seems God is working to help me change is my feeling of moral superiority to others. i often find myself patting myself on the back because i am not a worrier like a friend with whom i often talk or a complainer like another friend. the inner me frequently congraulates me because i am optimistic, unlike my pessimistic friends. God keeps bringing me back to the contrast between the pharisee and the publican about which i wrote not long ago, reminding me that i'm in danger of trying to remove another's splinter while i'm blinded by a log in my own eye. i believe God is teaching me that i'm not better than any of those i look down on through my "holier-than-thou" glasses, that we are all creatures with a propensity for both good and evil. each of us is dependent on others and on God for the vision to see life as it truly is, not as our tricky minds wish us to belive life to be.

my need for control often lands me in hot water. this is especially true when it comes to the ordering of the day. i want desperately to plan out each day in detail and then become anxious because circumstances interfere with my carefully made schedule. when this happens, i am curt with others and impatient when their demands on my time throw me further off-schedule. God keeps reminding me that if i just live the day, the time for everything that is necessary is provided. for example, this morning i went to practice early, but i was later getting away than i had hoped. throughout the meditation time that preceded my practice, my mind kept jumping into stress mode, telling me, "you don't have time for this. you're late starting practice. now you won't get through in time to accomplish the other things you want to complete." nonetheless, i kept bringing my attention back to my breath and the sense of God's presence in the quiet. when i did move to my practice, i refused to check my watch as i worked. as i ended my session and looked at the time, i was amazed that i had completed what i intended right on schedule, even though i had begun almost an hour later that i wanted. because my mind was finally at peace, the concentration to do what needed to be done helped me use my time efficiently, and i left the bench with feelings of gratitude for the gifts of the music and exhilaration for the swift accomplishment of the desired goals. the rest of the day has gone beautifully--i've accomplished all i intended and even had time to spare.

my prayer for each of us today is that we rest in the knowledge that we're all imperfect but capable of change if we put forth the effort with God's help. i pray, too, that we don't waste energy trying to control that which is beyond our control, but rather that we let life unfold with the joy of being.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

As the Sun Doth Daily Rise

for the past week, i've made a change in my daily routine that seems to be very helpful. i've begun rising at 5:00 to go to the church, where i spend time in prayer and meditation and do my daily service and rehearsal preparation. being in the church for my morning quiet time has been especially beneficial, and having my musical "chores" out of the way before 7:30 enables me to spend much more time at home helping my wife. i've always enjoyed rising early in the morning and find that for many activities, like practicing, i am much more efficient before daylight.

as i sat in the church a few days ago, hearing the sounds of our 1904 structure before the city noises drowned them out, i sensed the presence of God in the building and heard God saying to me that just as "I Am in the burning bush with moses, I Am with you here. I Am in every board, every piece of fabric, in the music that you will soon play, in the hymnals, in the bibles, in the very air you breathe." this gave me a great feeling of comfort and the realization that God is everywhere, in everything, including me, even when i don't acknowledge God's presence. God is more than a remote Creator; there is a part of God in all that was created. everything is sacred, in that sense, and the more we acknowledge the holiness of all things, the more God is honored.

as i played that morning, i had an awareness that the music i made was not only my offering to God, but it was God's gift to me, that God was present in the music. as i let myself enjoy the freedom of knowing that in the making of music, there was an exchange of ideas between God and me, and that i could "be" in the music if i let myself go without struggling against the difficulties the music might present. that freedom continued as i played the service on sunday, and the parts of the service that i improvise were especially enjoyable for me.

my prayer for each of us this day is that we become more aware of the sacredness of all that has been created and more sensitive to God's presence in everything. shalom