Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Charm from the Skies Seems to Hallow Us There

our house is full of boxes, even after we've hauled almost 500 boxes of various sizes to storage in our new home town.  all the decorative items that made our house "ours" are packed away, as are the souvenirs of trips we've made and things that remind us of our life as a family here.  we can begin to picture another family living here, and our minds have shifted from thinking of this as "our" house to realizing that soon someone else will occupy it.

despite the depersonalization of this home, it is still warm and protective, a safe haven, as it has been for us for the past thirty years.  i recall our first look at our home when the realtor unlocked the door for us.  when we walked through that front door, we knew immediately that this was "our" home.  everything about it welcomed us, and we knew our search for a house was over.

as i sit thinking about this wonderful piece of architecture, my mind goes to the new owners and what i would say to them about how much this home has meant to us.  it has embraced us, it has made us better people.  the architect and the first owners who worked together more than fifty years ago to create this place must have "gotten" each other, and the spirit of their collaboration lives on in the home they created.  we are the third family that has called this "home", and in a couple of weeks a fourth family will move in.

i hope that the new family will find the joy in living here that my wife and i and our two children found.  i hope that they will sense the warmth that their new home generates.  i hope that they will look forward to coming into this home at the end of each work day and feel that it their refuge, as it has been ours.  we will be sad to leave, but we know that it is time for others to enjoy this house as we have.  we looked at many, many houses in our new home town before we found one that spoke to us as this house spoke to us thirty years ago when we walked through the door that first time.  we are excited to find such a home there, and, as with this home, we knew as soon as we walked in that it was the right home for us.

may everyone find such a place to live, a home that embraces them and comforts them, a home that protects them--not only from the elements but also from the vagaries of life in this world.  may those who have no place to live find shelter and peace.  may we all work until there are no homeless, no hungry, no poor, until all people find a place to belong.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

our planning for our big move continues, and a myriad of details swirl in my mind.  there's so much to be done when undertaking such a move--bank accounts to be closed and new ones opened, addresses changed, business affairs put in order, all the arrangements for movers, closing out of professional and personal relationships--the list goes on and on.  on top of all this is the packing, the acquisition of boxes to pack in, the sorting and thinning out of possessions.  in addition, my wife is suffering from some health problems that we have to attend to, many of them brought on by the stress of the move.

amidst all the chaos, i began to feel overwhelmed a few days ago.  i am normally a very optimistic person, but some of our relatives who have been here helping us with our packing are very negative.  their pessimism dragged my wife down, and in my efforts to keep her spirits up, i suddenly felt completely exhausted, drained of the energy it takes to move forward with the joy and excitement which is my usual persona.  after our relatives left, my wife suffered a severe episode with her health issues, and i went to bed that night filled with anxiety.  the next morning, i sat for my daily meditation, focusing on my feelings of helplessness in the face of all the chores and decisions ahead of us.  as i sat, i explored my emotions and how my angst expressed itself in my body.  at the end of my meditation, i realized that all this was a passing phenomenon, one that i could deal with and come out happy and whole at the end of it.

i was able to admit that i'm no super-person who never experiences worry or depression, but i am a resilient person who can deal with these temporary problems.  i can be strong for my wife when she needs me, and i can see beyond the negativity of those well-intentioned folks who tend to see only the worst possibilities as they attempt to help us.  as i honestly owned my feelings, i was able to accept them as natural under the circumstances, that as the circumstances change my feelings will change, too.  my feelings are not me, but a transient reaction to transient events.

may we each live into our inadequacies and shortcomings, accepting our imperfections, while opening ourselves to the deep strength within us.  may we not confuse the stories we tell ourselves with the reality of who we are.  may profound joy and peace undergird us as we deal with the vagaries of our daily lives.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Love to the Loveless Shown

my wife and i are busily packing for our move.  we've begun the process of buying a home in our new town and must be out of our present home in about three weeks.  one of my wife's sisters who lives in the town where we're moving came to help us pack, and her two other sisters decided to drive up to help us.  one of them is controlling and is very free with her advice as to how we should live our lives.  she had not been in the door thirty minutes before i had to stifle the temptation to tell her to mind her own business three times.

when this sister is around, my wife is very ill at ease.  i soon realized that her fear that i would blurt out something in anger at her sister's meddling and my wife's  desire to do the same was causing my wife a great deal of stress, and i resolved to shrug off her sister's unwelcome advice so as not to compound my wife's trepidations.  we made it through the evening without any angry outbursts, and the tension headache my wife was suffering from had subsided by bedtime.  as i thought about the grief this sister causes those around her, i tried to think about how she must be suffering.  she pushes all those who want to be close to her away by her insistence that all things be done her way, and she has no friends.  her only daughter cannot get along with her, and her grandchildren spend time with her reluctantly.  in her loneliness she reaches out in the one way she believes that she can, by sharing her life experience to tell others how to conduct their lives, and in the process further alienates those she is trying to help.

over the course of that first evening with her, i resolved to look for ways to have compassion for her and to recognize that her bossiness was a symptom of her deep suffering.  it costs me nothing to refrain from angry rebuttals to her unwanted advice and benefits all those around us when i hold my tongue.  today, my goal is to look for all the good in her that i can and to remember the source of her need to help in the only way she is able, unwelcome though that help may be.  i hope to remember that she didn't have to travel 250 miles to help us pack and go another 250 miles to deliver as many of our belongings as her vehicle can carry to our new home.  i hope to respond in gratitude for her generous help and to shrug off the comments that so often cause me to become angry.

may each of us find ways to show compassion for those who cause us suffering.  may we be grateful for the opportunity to live more skillfully that they afford us.  may we love the most unlovely.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I Give Thee Back the Life I Owe

last week i wrote about a situation in our church that was causing my wife and me a great deal of anxiety.  that situation is moving toward a resolution, not the one we had hoped for, but a resolution nevertheless.  the aggrieved staff member is actively seeking employment elsewhere and, in the meantime, is making the best of a difficult working environment.  he hopes to stay on until he can complete some projects that will benefit the children and youth with whom he has been working, but it may be that a new job will present itself before he can do that.  i fear that his departure will make an already bad state of affairs in our church worse, but when he leaves he and we will know that we have done all we could to minimize the damage that has been done by other parties.

our moving plans continue, and their pace is picking up.  our children were home this weekend to help us load a rental truck with all the boxes we have packed so that we can move them to our new hometown where we will store them in a rental space until we can find a new home.  while we're there, we hope to make an offer on a house so that we can complete our move by the end of next month when the buyers of our current home will take possession.  we are anxious about not having a home to move into and hope that anxiety will be ended by the time we return from our trip to deliver our packed boxes.  if that is the case, we can move forward with confidence in packing up the last remaining odds and ends in our present home, a house that has been our refuge for the past thirty years.

we realized as our son and daughter worked with us to move what seemed to be hundreds of boxes, though the number was certainly not as large as it felt to us from our aching muscles at the end of the day, how fortunate we are to have two wonderful children.  as my wife and i talked last night just before falling asleep, we marveled at their willingness to work so intensely without complaint and at their comments that this was the least they could do for us after all we had done for them.  they worked together so well, treating each other with great kindness, and we are so delighted that, though they are separated in age by ten years, they have such great affection for one another.  to have such children is a great blessing to us in our advancing years.

amidst all the changes that are coming in our lives, the great constant is the abiding love that we feel for one another and the close family ties that bind us, our children, and their spouses together.  as we look back on our lives and all the difficulties we've faced, it is gratifying that kindness and compassion for one another overrides any differences and obstacles, that we are united in love.

may each of us find such connections to other human beings.  may we recognize the power of love to heal the wounds and suffering of life.  may the love we feel for those close to us expand to include all that we come in contact with, and may we see each sentient being as our kin.  shalom.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

By Schisms Rent Asunder

some big changes are coming in our lives, my wife and me.  our home has been on the market for about three months, and this weekend it sold.  we are planning to move about 250  miles north of here to where we have relatives that we enjoy spending time with in an area that has great scenic beauty, an area where we've always wanted to live.  all of our close family here is gone, either through death or from moving away, and we want to enjoy our last years near relatives we hold dear.

during the past week, we have been preoccupied with a difficulty in our church which has taken precedence over our big move.  the relationship between our minister and another member of the staff has taken an ugly turn, and the head of the personnel committee of the church has taken the minister's side in this very personal conflict.  the staff member under attack is a kind and gracious person who is much beloved in our church, and the situation has become critical enough that a large number of us have felt that we must intervene on his behalf.  Trying to find a solution to this conflict and protecting his job has been at the center of our lives even with the upcoming major change in our lives.

now we are fearful that the divisions created by this crisis will be the death knell of our congregation.  this morning i am using this post as a meditation on what steps we might take to help heal those divisions before i go later in the week to meet with the minister to make some parting suggestions before we leave for our new home.  there have been an increasing number of participants in our church who oppose the minister, and she seems to have been unwilling to reach out to those who oppose her.  the first thing that must happen is that the hurts and acrimony caused by her attempt to remove another member of the staff have to be put aside.  she and the church secretary who has become her ally against him must go to him and ask his forgiveness and his assistance in leading a "save our church" campaign, honestly admitting that past differences have increased already-deep divisions in the church.

the lay leaders of our church must adopt policies that allow for greater input from the members-at-large in the decision making process, holding their monthly business meetings in a location that is large enough to accommodate more people and encouraging members to come to those meetings with their suggestions and comments, even if the meetings last longer and conducting business is slowed down.

a committee that is not made up of the official leadership must be formed, though one respected elected leader should chair it, someone who is viewed as being on neither side of the pro- and anti-minister factions.  this committee needs to focus on reaching out to those who have stopped attending and stopped contributing to the church.  one of the few ways our members can express their disapproval of the actions of the minister and leadership is to withhold their presence and their financial support, since most matters are decided by the elected leadership, rather than by the whole membership of the church voting on important decisions beyond the election of the leadership.  in reaching out to the congregation, the members of the committee need to listen rather than trying to convince the disaffected that they are wrong.

the church leaders need to look for ways to reduce the church's expenses without placing essential programs in jeopardy, and they must ask the congregation for suggestions as to how to do this.  we are on track to run a deficit of $100,000 or more for the year, and the depletion of the church's reserves is on everyone's minds, regardless of which faction one is a part of.  knowing that the church is undertaking a major belt-tightening program would go a long way towards convincing those who now withholding their contributions that the leaders are serious in addressing the problems we face, particularly if more of the general membership is given the opportunity of make suggestions.

more than anything else, the leaders and staff, particularly the minister, must begin to listen in a non-judgmental way.  much of the anti-minister sentiment has been created because people don't feel that their objections are heard or their view valued.  there is a sense, largely justified, that those in power have run roughshod over those who disagree with them because they could, so those who haven't been heard feel that they've been ignored and marginalized.  in a recent congregational meeting intended to convey information about the minister's contract with the church, one member rose to ask questions about the finances of the church and was told that, since her concerns were not pertinent to the purpose of the meeting, she was out of order.  she hasn't been back to church, and who can blame her.

the chief process for input from the congregation to the leadership is a system of advisory committees that deal with various aspects of the church's life.  the leaders need to make certain that those committee's are made up of congregants who are not elected leaders, with an elected leader chairing each committee to be an intermediary between the committee and the leadership.  as the committees are now constituted, one particular elected leader serves on four of the seven church committees, chairing one of them, and is also the church's treasurer.  this is too much power for one person to have.  the personnel committee is made up of four of the elected leaders, with only two members-at-large serving on the committee, leaving little opportunity for congregational input or a diversity of views.  these practices reinforce the sense of being ignored that many who are not in positions of leadership feel.

it pains my wife and me to think that we will soon leave this church where we have found so many friends, so many loving people who, like us, feel adrift in the midst of the controversy.  some have stopped attending because it is upsetting to them to walk into the strife every time they go through the church doors.  we understand their feelings and often have to force ourselves to be present, knowing that this undercurrent of animosity runs through the church.  we have little to lose by offering our suggestions, in view of our imminent departure, even if those suggestions are unwelcome.  we can then leave knowing that we have done what we could to end the church's divisions and move it toward healing.

may we learn to listen, to seek common ground, and to demonstrate genuine concern for the well-being of others.  may we not view questions about our decisions as attacks on them.  may we seek to step into the other person's shoes and look at things from another's point-of-view.  may we see differences of opinion as opportunities to learn rather than as threats.  shalom.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

To Be a Friend

Last week i wrote about the "flame of care," and this week i find that the demands of my life are keeping me from posting this morning as i usually do.  i hope to find time to complete a post for my blog later in the week, but the needs of a friend for support are more important right now.  i hope those who read my blog regularly will check back in a few days and find that i've found the time to post.  if that time doesn't present itself, i plan to get back on schedule next tuesday.  shalom.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Who Will Light the Flame of Care?

there are days when the responsibilities of life seem to close around us and weigh us down.  i had such a day yesterday, and i am hoping that this day won't be a continuation of it.  my wife and i have decided to make a move so that we can be near some of our family--all of the family that we moved to the place where we now live some thirty years ago are gone, either having died or moved away.  after so long in one place, living in the same wonderful house that has brought us so much joy and that is filled with wonderful memories, it is hard to leave.  yet we know that we will enjoy being near loved ones that we've longed to spend more time with, and we are excited about the prospect of beginning another chapter in our lives.

we've found that, since we've retired, we are called on to do a great deal of volunteer work.  it's difficult to say no because we know that the work we're asked to do is worthwhile, and we feel strongly that we should do our part to make our community a better place.  now we've reached a point where the work we are doing for others is consuming an inordinate amount of our time, so that we have little time left to take care of our personal responsibilities.  we struggle to make time for our household duties--washing, cleaning, making repairs, shopping for and preparing meals, tending to the yard--and have to sit down and prepare a weekly schedule to fit it all in.  yesterday, when we made our list for the week, we saw that there didn't appear to be time left for our own enjoyment of life; our obligations to various organizations and to keeping our home running would consume almost every waking minute.

i went to bed feeling overwhelmed, and, as i sit and write in the dark of the early morning, i'm not certain how we will fit everything in this week.  i know that it will all fall into place if we take one day at a time, but, from the perspective of looking at this week's list, the challenges of the week ahead are daunting.  this, coupled with our anxiety about selling our home and controversies in our church that don't seem to be moving toward any satisfactory resolution, makes me want to throw up my hands and declare myself no longer responsible for the commitments i've made.  i won't do that, though, because i'll let too many people down.

in the back of my mind, i know that the frustration i feel at this moment is temporary.  as i check items off the list, the sense of being buried under too many chores and not enough time will dissipate.  my normal sense of optimism will assert itself more and more each day.  at the end of the week, i'll look back with satisfaction at all that was accomplished and wonder how i allowed myself to feel discouraged.  even as i write these words, some of the burden is lifted, and i look forward to tackling some of the items on our list.  i can't solve everyone's problems, i can't force our realtor to go out and find a buyer for our home, i can't fix everything that's wrong in the world or even in my little corner of it, i can't step into the breach every time some job needs doing.  all i can do is keep plugging away, doing my part, helping where and when i can, leaving those things i don't have time for until another day.

may i recognize my limitations.  may i look beyond the mundane tasks to the good that results from doing them.  may i accomplish what i can each day and fall into bed exhausted with a sense of satisfaction at having done my best.  may we all find balance in our lives and reserve time to take care of ourselves in the process of caring for others.  shalom.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

E’er Since by Faith I Saw the Stream

one of the things that draws me to buddhism is the teaching of the buddha that one should not accept anything that is contrary to reason or that is not beneficial to all.   this is in contrast to the emphasis on blind faith in many christian traditions.  one often hears something like "God's ways are not our ways, so we must have faith and believe that God has a purpose in allowing, or causing, [something] to happen."  as christians, we are often told that we must place our faith in the bible as the word of God and accept the most absurd claims that it contains, seeking convoluted explanations to reconcile its contradictory teachings.  we are told that we should suspend reason and believe that, since God's mind is so much greater than ours, we must accept what seems unreasonable on faith.

if i had my way, i think i'd throw out all of the bible except the gospel of mark and the epistle of james as the bases for the christian life; the rest would be considered outside the canon.  certainly, there are helpful passages throughout the bible, but there are many books that are helpful to us, like the writings of ralph waldo emerson, but those other "uninspired" books can be taken for what they're worth, while christians are taught that we must uncritically accept every word of the bible as being the inspired word of God.

in buddhism one finds the founder of the religion encouraging a scientific approach to how to live.  gautama suggest that one examine any proposition critically, rejecting that which is unreasonable and not beneficial, and accepting that which proves to be reasonable and beneficial.  he teaches that we should accept nothing, no matter how sacred we are taught that it is, on blind faith.  because something is often repeated and believed by many, because something is found in a sacred book, because something is commonly taught by respected teachers, or because something is a part of long-held tradition is no reason to incorporate that something into our lives and beliefs, the buddha says.  instead, we must carefully observe the effects of a practice and analyze its reasonableness to see if that practice is a valid one.

there are many christian teachings that are incorporated into the tradition of which i am a part that fail to measure up to the buddha's standard, but the one i find most troubling in my advancing years is the teaching that humankind is inherently evil and worthy of God's wrath, that it is only by placing one's faith in the "saving blood" of jesus that one can be spared that wrath.  it seems to me that immeasurable harm has been done by this belief, including using it as justification for the most terrible child abuse, as a reason for terrible wars and persecution, and as grounds for unwarranted discrimination.  yet, i continue as a dissenting member of the tradition, because i find so many loving and lovable people in my community.  there may come a time when those who use the bible and the teachings they arbitrarily deem valid as weapons to so dominate our tradition that i can no longer remain a part of it, a time when i can no longer be a christian with buddhist leanings.  when that time comes, i will become a buddhist raised in a christian tradition, a buddhist who reveres the teachings of jesus rather than a christian who reveres the teachings of the buddha.

may we use our minds to reason and analyze.  may we not be afraid to reject that which is unreasonable and not beneficial.  may we go where the truth leads us.  shalom.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Not All the Blood of Beasts . . . Could Wash Away the Stain

the idea of sacrificial killing to assuage an angry god or gods seems to be implanted deep in our psyche.  we look at the vagaries of life, and we seek a reason for the good and bad things that happen to us.  the unexplained causes of drought, of catastrophic weather, of debilitating or terminal illnesses beg for underlying reasons.  we can see that our ancient ancestors who had no scientific understanding of natural phenomena that seemed senseless and threatening turned to supernatural explanations: the flood which drowned our kinsmen or the strong wind that destroyed our homes and crops must have come because the gods are angry with us, so we must make sacrifices to make amends.  the spilling of blood as a mark of repentance and reverence for the gods is common to many cultures, a way of pushing back the darkness of inexplicable mysteries.  the impulse to do something to ward off misfortune is natural to our species.

we persist in confirming the ancient myth when we affirm the necessity of an atoning death to "wash away our sins."  many of us who call ourselves christians perpetuate the belief that an angry god required the sacrifice of jesus to allow our sins to be forgiven.  during this season of lent we are constantly reminded of the intense suffering of jesus during his crucifixion.  we hear the scriptures which speak of an innocent lamb being sacrificed on our behalf, of the suffering servant, of one who was despised and rejected, and hear the beautiful choruses from messiah which tell us that "surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him," and "with his stripes we are healed," quoting the words of isaiah 53:4-5.

we are reminded that jesus and that angry god that required the death of jesus to atone for all of humanity are one, so that it was god who died on the cross in roman palestine.  we are told that this horrible death was necessary so that we could see how much God loves us.  yet, isn't this a continuation of the age-old story of unfathomable deities who afflict us with random acts of violence and destruction in order to explain away that which seems impossible to understand, gods who require blood to be spilled to quell their anger, when we have to invent reasons for that anger and methods to alleviate it?

wouldn't it be simpler to believe that bad things often happen randomly or because we have interfered with the natural order of things, that floods come because we have destroyed the vegetation that slowed the flow of the waters over the land or because we have built dams in the wrong places, that our abuse of the environment has created storms of increasing frequency and intensity?  we repent of the wrongs we have done by taking steps to undo the harm we have done.  we accept that sometimes bad, or good, things happen for no reason, and we seek the tools to deal with them.  if we believe in a loving God, that God doesn't require the spilling of blood by way of atonement, rather God requires us to share the love that is poured out on us.

may we cease participating in a myth rooted in our ancestors' inability to explain that which happened to them.  may we embrace a God of love, if we embrace any God.  may we accept that bad things happen for no reason.  may we support one another when those bad things come.  shalom.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our Earthly Rulers Falter

during the past several days donald trump has continued to claim that he was spied on by president obama during the last presidential campaign.  the director of the fbi and other security officials past and present have denied this took place, and members of mr. trump's own party are convinced that this spying never happened.  next mr. trump's press secretary repeated a report from fox news that the british government tapped mr. trump's phones at president obama's behest, an action vehemently denied by the british.  when meeting with angela merkel, mr. trump said that one thing the two had in common was that their phones had been tapped by president obama, repeating his false claim.

these falsehoods are the latest in a long series of lies that mr. trump has repeatedly put forward.  he claimed that president obama's presidency was illegitimate because the president was not "native born," and repeated this lie over and over.  he claimed that he had not supported the invasion of iraq, even though he did so publicly and his taped words were played back ad nauseum.  he repeatedly insisted that the crowd for his inauguration was the largest ever, though live coverage of the event proved otherwise.  after claiming that the electoral system was rigged against him, donald trump was the winner of the election, only to claim that the reason he lost the popular vote was that millions of "illegals" voted for hilliary clinton, an unsubstantiated claim denied by members of his own party and for which he could offer no proof.

mr. trump has a skewed view of the world because of his reliance on news sources that are biased in the direction he favors and is ready to accept as fact any preposterous conspiracy theory these sources put forward.  he relies on advisors who have been a part of the "alt right" rumor mill and has the former head of breitbart news installed in an influential position.  his lies have damaged and continue to damage the credibility of the united states in the world, and his willingness to repeat absurd claims put forward by unreliable news media and propagandists makes the country an object of ridicule on the world stage.  one wonders how long the congress can allow this state of affairs to continue.  how can other governments trust what he says when lies fall so easily and readily from his tongue?  His disingenuousness in making false statements and then saying that he's not claiming to believe them, but only quoting other sources, make him all the more culpable in perpetuating lies because it is the president of the united states who is bringing them to the attention of a wider audience.

he claimed to be on the side of working people in the united states, but the cabinet appointments he has made belie that claim.  he promised a new health insurance law that would provide coverage for everyone, but he is promoting a plan that will actually decrease the number of people who have insurance.  he has proposed a budget that will harm the most vulnerable segments of the population in order to increase spending on the military and security, taking food out of the mouths of the elderly to build instruments of war.

may we call donald trump what he is: a liar and a charlatan.  may we have compassion for him, but may we oppose his policies in every lawful way we can.  may we acknowledge that only someone with great suffering at the core of his being can be so insensitive and callous and wish that his suffering would be assuaged, while at the same time working to prevent his harmful policies from coming to fruition and to counter his lies with truth.  shalom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Justice Lingers into Love

i've been trying to imagine what it would be like to be an undocumented immigrant in the usa now.  i read of a young woman in mississippi who came here as a child, a mother in chicago, a father in arizona, and think what it might be like to be in their shoes.  the young woman grew up in the usa and is one of the "dreamers" protected from deportation under the deferred action program instituted under president obama.  the mother is married to an american citizen and her children are american citizens, and the father's children are american citizens.  i read, too, of another father who was taken into custody as he walked his daughter to school.  to be undocumented and to live in constant fear that one will be ripped from one's family, from all that is familiar, must be terrible.  to put a face with these fears, that of the young woman in mississippi, daniela vargas, makes the terror much more real.  she watched as other members of her family were taken into custody while she was left.  only after she spoke publicly of her plight was she apprehended by immigration control and enforcement and sent to a detention facility.  she has since been released, but it is unclear why or if she will be deported at some point in the future.

i am trying, too, to put myself in the place of those who are apprehending undocumented immigrants and beginning the process of deportation.  i find this especially difficult to do.  i know that these government employees have families that love them and, like most americans, they are doing what they can to support themselves and those they love.  what does one feel when one's job is to arrest fathers, mothers, and young adults whose only "crime" is to have entered the country illegally, when one is responsible for taking parents away from their children?  certainly, it's easier to apprehend those who are known criminals and take part in their deportation.  but do the "ice police" have difficulty taking into custody those who are living normal lives, free of criminal activity, caring for and supporting their families, being good neighbors, doing honest work?  could i convince myself as one of those "immigration enforcers" that the work i did benefited the country or anyone in it?

on the one hand, we say that undocumented immigrants are in the country illegally and are therefore criminals, they have broken the laws of the usa simply by being here.  on the other hand, we see that the vast majority of these "lawbreakers" are living productive lives and have come here to help their families.  they are contributing members of society, often doing jobs that many native-born citizens don't want to do.  perhaps one's attitude toward these "illegals" is driven by one's worldview, whether one sees the world in blacks and whites with no gray shading: "the law is the law, and, if we don't enforce it, society breaks down."  or whether one sees the law as the servant of a just and merciful society that looks out for those who are disadvantaged and judges each case on its own merits, considering all the mitigating circumstances.

i think of draconian laws in the past that made criminals of those who stole food to feed themselves and their starving families, that sent those who could not pay their debts to prison, that sent the poor and orphans to live in squalid "workhouses," that put the children of those who could not support those children on "orphan trains" to be sent to other parts of the country to meet an uncertain fate, that seized the land of native americans and sent those natives to live on reservations.  history is rife with instances of laws that blamed the weakest members of society for their situations and that took advantage of the powerless.  just because something is "the law" doesn't make it right, nor does failure to abide by unjust laws make one a criminal, except to those who hold "law" to be more important than humanity.

in the name of securing our safety, we are treating others inhumanely, making criminals of those whose greatest concern is the well-being of their loved ones.  one has to ask if such a course truly makes us safer, or are we creating enemies that did not exist before.  the surest way to create terrorists is to corner the helpless so that their only choices are to give up or to lash out.

may we see the humanity in every person.  may we never see a great mass of criminal "others," but may we see each individual as worthy of our compassion and respect regardless of where each was born.  may our laws protect the helpless and the powerless, and may justice always be tempered by mercy.  may the law of love be our highest law.  shalom.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Height and Depth Beyond Description

this past sunday, we sang this hymn by new zealander shirley erena murray in church.  the hymn begins with the words, "loving spirit, loving spirit, you have chosen me to be," and goes on to describe God as "mother, father, friend, and lover" in its five stanzas.  i was struck by the imagery in the hymn and by the fact that the word "god" is not used once in the hymn.  i love the lines about God, as a father, hoisting me onto his shoulder so i can see from God's perspective.  in so many ways the hymn captures my thoughts about the nature of God as an all-pervasive Spirit that is a part of everything that exists, the very ground of our being, the essence of the universe itself.  we are each a "sign" of that Spirit/God, called into being by that which is beyond being.

we create our own gods that are like us, imagining gods that exist separate from us, gods who manipulate history so that a pre-determined outcome comes to pass.  we christians often reduce God to a great rule-maker and record-keeper in heaven making marks on a score sheet that will be tallied at the ends of our lives to determine the winners who get into heaven and the losers who do not, or we envision God as the great santa claus who gives us everything we ask for and constantly says to us, who see ourselves as perpetual sinners, "it's ok, i forgive you, i know you can't help yourself because you were born in sin."  we reduce God to what we want God to be, a God that we can blame when tragedy strikes--"i don't know why this happened, it must be God's will"--or an "american" God who is on the side of the usa: a white, protestant, heterosexual god for a white, protestant, heterosexual united states.

but God is much more than our narrow image of God.  God is the essence of good, the origin of compassion and lovingkindness, the presence that vibrates in each particle of matter, beyond knowing and comprehending, yet a part of each of us.  may we not reduce God to what we want God to be.  may we not attempt to use the god of our own creation against those with whom we disagree.  may we not set boundaries on God by trying to contain God in a "sacred" book.  may we worship God by our actions toward ourselves and our fellow creatures, sharing compassion and lovingkindness as the sign of God-in-us.  shalom.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sweet Bonds That Unite All the Children of Peace

this morning as i sit to write, many thoughts run through my mind.  i find it difficult to quiet the busy chatter in my head.  i flit from thoughts of the fear that many who fear apprehension and deportation must feel to thoughts of the attacks on journalists that are coming from our present administration in washington to the meditation class i'm taking now.  as my fingers move over the keyboard, i am hoping that the act of typing this post helps to calm and focus my mind.

i feel my breath slowing and deepening and look at the black letters beginning to fill the blank white space in front of me.  i focus on the benefits of meditation, on how turning my attention to my breath stills my mind and allows me to sense the place where i am.   i feel the support of my favorite chair and the touch of my upper arm to the arm of the chair.  i feel the weight of my right ankle as it crosses over my left with my left foot resting on the floor in front of the chair.  from the corner of my eye i see our little dog resting in his bed in front of the fireplace.  i hear the roar of the fan on the heat pump as warm air flows into the room.  to my left is my glass of water on the end table and to my right my reading light glows, the only light in the room right now.  in sensing the present, my mind calms and the apprehension about the policies of donald trump fade, though just the thought of his name revives a sense of dread about the future of our country and the pain many are feeling because of what may be in store for them.

i embrace the feeling of anxiety, recognizing that it is a part of the present moment just as the calm that concentration on my breathing is.  the two exist together.  i know that the tension i feel rises from compassion for those whose suffering is increased by mr. trump's policies, and i know, too, that the tension motivates me to actively oppose those policies.  i am filled with hope as i see the protests taking place across the country, the demand that our elected representatives examine the havoc that their policies will wreak on people's lives as anxious citizens fill town hall meetings across the country.  i am filled with hope as i hear of those willing to take risks to shelter those who fear deportation and as law enforcement authorities refuse to cooperate with the federal authorities in apprehending those who are undocumented.  i am filled with hope as those in the "intelligence community" speak out against policies that make our country less safe in the face of double-speak that claims those same policies are intended to make us more safe.

in many ways, we see the unfolding of orwell's novel in the political language we hear.  as federal regulations that protect our environment--our water, our air, the plants and animals that are essential to our well-being--are dismantled we are told it is for our own good, since we will be more prosperous as a result.  our health is less important than our wealth we are told, but the wealth will flow to those who are already wealthy as the great mass of us become poorer and sicker.  targeting those coming into the country because they are from certain "terrorist" countries will make us safer, though no evidence exists that such a policy will do so.  detaining those whose skin is the "wrong" color, whose first name is "suspicious," whose religion is suspect is a prudent exercise of authority we are told, as a british teacher is refused entry and sent back to the united kingdom, as a french academic is held in the airport for hours and is afraid that he will be escorted onto a plane back to france in shackles, as the son of a great american sports hero is held despite ample evidence that he is who he claims to be.  we are supposed to believe that these actions are the acts of a just government, a rightful exercise of authority, examples of the application of the rule of law.

as i write of these unconscionable actions, more indicative of a fascist dictatorship than a free country, the tension level rises and i return to my breath.  my anger is a good thing.  it reminds me that we cannot allow these policies to go unchallenged.  the calm that focusing on my breath and this present moment brings is a good thing, too, helping me to see that this anger, though justifiable, is not who i am, just as mr. trump's policies are not who we are as citizens of the usa.  the anger has to be channeled into constructive courses, it must be tempered by reason and compassion, focusing on helping those who are harmed by what has happened as a result of the last election.

may we who are citizens of this country see that, in order to help ourselves, we must stand up for the values on which our country was founded--that all are created equal with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  may we not tolerate a country where so many live in fear, where the rich become richer at the expense of the poor, where support for the weakest among us is withdrawn in order to build more weapons and train more soldiers, where people are belittled because of their race, religion, physical appearance, or sexual orientation.  may we breathe deeply, behave rationally, and exercise our right to protest the wrongs we see taking place around us.  shalom.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

So Much to Be Thankful For

this has been a difficult couple of weeks for my wife and me.  we have worked hard to make some repairs in our home and to do some decluttering.  none of the repairs were major but they required some diligent labor, and my body aches from them.  as we look around the house, we are pleased with what we've accomplished.  this morning, my mind turns to the sense of gratification one feels after the completion of a series of goals and the gratitude one feels for having the strength and perseverance to see a job through to its end.

gratitude is an important attribute, one that i often overlook.  there is much to be grateful for--health, clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, an abundance of food, more than adequate income, freedom to think-say-write-believe without fear of arrest or persecution, loving family and friends, a nice home--the list could go on and on.  i think of the many who are unable to make such a list, those who are hungry, homeless, poverty stricken, afflicted by disease, those who live in fear, the lonely, through no fault of their own.  they were born in the wrong place or to the wrong family.

why?  why was i so fortunate and they so unfortunate?  i did nothing to deserve the wonderful life i enjoy.  sure, i've worked hard, but without the luck to have been born in this country to a loving family and to have grown up not knowing real want, in many ways to have life handed to me, if not on a silver platter, at least on a pewter one.  without the advantages of my birth and the opportunities that came to me unmerited, my hard work would not have led me to the life i've enjoyed.  it is too easy to condemn those who don't enjoy the privileges that i enjoy, to say that they didn't work hard enough, that their culture is deficient, that their circumstances are of their own making, and sometimes that may be true.  but, too often, those of us who live lives of privilege forget to be grateful and to realize that our privilege results in large measure from blind luck.

so this morning, i think of all that i am grateful for, so little of it earned by my hard work, and i suffer because of those who work just as hard and see so little reward for their labor.  may i never think that i deserve this privileged life that i lead.  may i gratefully acknowledge the fortunate circumstances that have been mine and mourn that all beings have not had such good fortune.  may i do what i can to extend the benefits i've enjoyed to more and more beings, thus living out my gratitude for the blessings i enjoy.  may all be well, may all be happy, may all live in peace.  shalom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Grant Us Wisdom, Grant Us Courage

i am becoming increasingly aware that the focus of our church's approach to life is unhealthy and misguided.  in every lesson that is taught at wednesday evening bible study, every sermon that is preached, and every prayer of confession in corporate worship, we are told how unworthy we are as human beings.  the calvinist doctrine of the total depravity of humans is a recurring theme that we hear each time we enter the church for study or worship.  i am sure our minister is unaware of how her emphasis of human frailty when compared to God's greatness beats us down as a congregation.

i long to hear words of encouragement and to be reminded that we are created in God's image.  i want to hear joyful words that celebrate the richness and beauty of creation.  i need to feel loved, valued, and comforted inside the doors of the church.  we spend too little time studying the teachings of jesus and too much time on the failings of the ancient hebrews and paul's criticisms of the early christians.

in the background there is constant sniping and bickering between those who believe our minister should leave and those who are loyal to her.  behind the scenes there is a struggle for power in the church and a demand that other staff members demonstrate absolute loyalty to the minister.  it has come to the point that those who continue to have personal relationships with the critics of our minister are on the "naughty list" of the minister and her allies in the church leadership.  my wife and i have tried not to engage in this infighting, as have many of our friends, but it becomes increasingly difficult to stay above the fray when it is suggested that a staff member may be fired if he talks to members of the wrong faction.

this is not what church is supposed to be.  our participation in church should bring us joy and renewal.  the church should support us as we seek to follow the teachings of jesus.  the church should be honest rather than teaching old myths as fact, while ignoring the valuable lessons that those myths preserve.  we should see each others as sisters and brothers in the family of God, not as members of one faction or another.  as more and more of our members flee this atmosphere, i fear for our congregation's survival as a church.  i don't want to be one of those who abandons the church, but something must change soon or my wife and i will no longer feel welcome.

our minister is a good person at heart.  she wants our church to flourish, but i fear that her inability to reach out to those whom she has hurt and offended stands in the way of healing our divisions.  those who have befriended and been most supportive of her have engendered an attitude of intolerance toward her critics, many of whom have valid points.  bullying of those who dissent by some lay leaders will not bring us together.  it is heart-wrenching to witness the upheaval and bitterness and to be told at every turn that we are unworthy of God's love, that God's grace is all that keeps us from damnation, that we have no redeeming virtues.  where are the words of love that jesus taught?  where is the good shepherd who cares for the sheep?  where is the call of jesus to come to him to find rest, to carry the yoke of his easy burden and bear his light load?

may we who are christians stop dividing one another into sheep and goats.  may we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  may we worship a God of love rather than a god of wrath.  may we abandon petty squabbles and power struggles and embrace one another as members of a family.  may we regard all those who seek to do good and to love others as part of our family regardless of their religion or lack of religion.  may we acknowledge that all suffer and long for love, compassion, and respect.  shalom.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Clear the Chaos and the Clutter

this past week i stayed home most of the week.  i attended two rehearsals, but other than that i had no commitments to any group or organization.  i had no appointments.  i ran few errands.  instead, i accomplished some major projects in my home and yard, and i feel a great sense of satisfaction.  i had forgotten what it's like to live several days in a row without the call of obligations to church, civic organizations, and volunteer duties interrupting my daily routine.  it was wonderful to get up and know that i had the entire day to do what needed to be done at home.

i realize that i've allowed the needs of the community to overwhelm my life.  i suppose it's the desire to be needed by the larger world that has caused me to become so involved in organizations that make great demands on my time.  because so many others have no trouble saying no when called on to help, i always say yes, and that's not a good thing.  in the process of being the one that others can always count on, it's too easy to lose one's way.  this week of pretty much withdrawing from the world has been good for me, and i'll try to discipline myself to do more of it.

i've checked my calendar for the coming week, and there is one civic organization meeting and two musical rehearsals on it.  i have one big outside project at home that i want to attend to, so i'll build my week around that project.  if it works out that these outside responsibilities interfere, i'll skip some or all of them.  it's time i reclaimed my life!  the little voice inside my head that tells me that i'm being selfish is mistaken.  the organization and the musical groups will go on if i'm absent this one time, but the big task i have to accomplish at home won't get done without me.  that job needs to be done now while i have a few warm days to work outside during february, which is often the coldest month of the year here.

perhaps these simple decisions are trivial ones.  they don't address the destructive policies of donald trump and the republicans in congress.  they don't alleviate hunger or homelessness.  they don't reverse the increasing income equality in this country, promote peace and understanding in the world, or help with the myriad of other problems that are larger than my day-to-day schedule.  yet i feel good about my decisions.  maybe focusing on my little corner of civilization for a couple of weeks will give me a better perspective on how i can use my time wisely for the benefit of myself and others.

may each of us take time to evaluate the effectiveness of our busy lives.  may we step off the merry-go-round of meetings and the constant demands of volunteerism once in a while and focus on what is and isn't important to us.  may we set priorities and boundaries that enable us to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Swords of Scorn Divide

the evil continues to grow.  i want to cry out to the world that our country is not like this.  we don't believe in turning away those who need sanctuary.  we don't believe in betraying those who have been our allies in far away battlegrounds by telling them that they are not welcome here.  we don't believe in condemning entire groups of people because a few of them have become radicalized, often because of our own arrogant actions in their countries.  yet this is exactly what our president is doing with this awful executive order that has created chaos for those who had been given permission to come here and are now being stopped when they arrive, only to be sent away.  he has destroyed the lives of so many desperate people in one stroke of the pen.

thank goodness that federal judges have put much of this decree on hold until saner minds can reason through the mess.  the majority of us who voted for someone other than donald trump watch in bewilderment as he tries to muffle the voices of scientists who work for the government and as he puts forward his panel of billionaires to head important government agencies, most of whom are not qualified for the positions for which he has nominated them.

last week i wrote about how much this man must be suffering and i still believe that he has to be in great pain in order to do so much harm in such a brief period of time.  he can only ignore the damage his presidency is doing to so many if he is completely focused on himself and convinced that he alone is right.  each of us must do whatever we can to rail against the horror that the next four years may bring if donald trump's power is not  held in check.  i hope that those from other countries who read my words and the words of others who write condemning this president's actions will realize that the usa is very different from this man who has become its leader.  he attained his position from an archaic institution that allows someone to become president even though a majority of voters voted for someone else, and now he behaves as if most of us support him.  i can't say loudly enough that we don't.  i've never participated in a public demonstration against any elected official before, but now i must.  we must resist this man in every lawful way that we can.

may those in power see that most americans are opposed to the positions and actions of the president.  may our senators, our representatives, and our judiciary hold his powers in check.  may each of us do whatever we can to stand up for justice and mercy, for compassion, for using the wealth of our country to improve the lives of those who need our help rather than for building walls.  may the next election defeat the forces of fascism.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Somewhere in the Darkest Night a Candle Glows

a dark day occurred a few days ago, a day that haunts me just as much as the day my mother died, as much as the day our son announced that his wife had fallen in love with another man and had asked him for a divorce.  i could not bring myself to watch any of the inaugural proceedings on that day, knowing that seeing the spectacle of this man becoming our president would make the day even darker.  i wore a black shirt that day, my version of sack cloth and ashes.  i'm certain millions of others around the world felt much as i did on that terrible day.

now we watch as donald trump and his cohorts began dismantling much of what barack obama accomplished.  one of his first acts was to increase the cost of buying a home for young home buyers who rely on the federal housing administration.  when he went to the headquarters of the cia, ostensibly to repair the damage his insulting tweets had done to morale there, he devoted much of his address to lambasting the media for accurately reporting the size of his inaugural audience when compared to that of president obama's.  here is a man more concerned with the size of many things that relate to himself than he is to the well-being of others.

our conservative-leaning local paper had one of the most offensive political cartoons i've seen in my lifetime in yesterday's paper.  it showed a desperate president obama digging his fingernails into the top of the presidential desk in the oval office as several men tried to drag him away.  here is a man who has been nothing but gracious to the egomaniac who has succeeded him, who spent his last days in office doing what he could to protect the country from the ravages to come and freeing those who deserved clemency, a man who reveres our tradition of a peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next, a man who did his best for eight years against incredible odds.  yet his enemies, even now that he is no longer in office, cannot resist belittling and insulting him.

as president obama said, we will be ok.  we will get through these next four years.  many who are already well off will be even better off at the end of donald trump's first term.  many who are struggling now will have to struggle harder for four years.  we will see that most of the promises to take the side of the great mass of people in our country were empty promises, as the rich-becoming-richer pattern of our economy will accelerate.  the "others," that faceless mass of non-white, non-gender-conforming,  non-evangelical-christian population will be scapegoated as the cause of all that is wrong.  hard working people with brown skins who have come here to better themselves and their families will live in fear, never knowing when the rug will be pulled from under them.

in the face of all this, how do we regard donald trump and his ilk with loving kindness and compassion?  should we regard them in this way?  i keep reminding myself that great suffering must be the cause of their disregard of the needs of so many at the bottom of the economic ladder, the cause of their rejoicing that they now have the power to take away health insurance from so many who could finally secure it through the affordable care act or to enrich themselves and others at the expense of some of our most precious and beautiful public lands or to interfere in difficult decisions women have to make regarding their bodies or to intensify the denial of climate change, the cause of mr. trump's need to have his ego stroked constantly and his fear of accurate reporting that calls facts that are inconvenient to him to the public's attention.

the inability to see the suffering they are causing must be a result of their own great suffering, and we must wish that their suffering may be alleviated.  we must extend our compassion to them in the hope that they will see that we are all in this great struggle of life together.  there are not good guys and bad guys, not black and white and brown, not gay and straight, not muslim and christian and jew and buddhist, only people who deserve to live lives of dignity and respect.  there are only people who need to be cared for and cared about.  there are only people who need meaningful work and adequate wages.

may we honor the accomplishments of the great man who just left office and those of his family.  may we have compassion for the man who succeeded him and for his allies.  may we stand up for what is right in difficult times, fearlessly and with loving kindness.  may we be filled with the hope that everything, as president obama said, will be ok; we will make it through these next four years.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

That My Heart Will Be Peaceful and Calm

i am, like all of us i suppose, a creature of habit.  i want to live my life with a certain orderliness, to organize my days after a certain pattern.  i follow a routine upon wakening:  i open our dog's kennel and together he and i leave the bedroom, i close the door from the bedroom so as not to wake my wife as i putter around the house, i turn off the house alarm, i grab my phone and stick it in my pocket, i get myself a glass of ice water and take my early morning medicines, i get my computer, i sit down in my chair in the den, i meditate, i practice my german, i read the blogs i follow on that day of the week, i feed the cats and the dog.  by that time my wife is usually up and breakfast preparations are begun, or, weather permitting, we go for a walk and then begin working on breakfast.  after breakfast, our day together begins.

usually, our day was planned the day before.  when we finish breakfast, we have our plan of action determined.  my wife is a great list-maker, and she has her list for the day which we begin to follow.  i, on the other hand, avoid writing lists at all costs.  somehow, once something is put on a list that is written down, it becomes an obligatory action, and failure to perform it is a moral failing.  sure, i have lists in my head, but for me those are not as binding as written lists.  if i'm not able to tick something off my mental list, i can push it over into the next day's list without feeling guilty.  between my wife's written lists and my mental lists, our days are pretty productive.

at the end of the day, we sometimes have very different perspectives on how the day went.  my wife often feels as if we didn't accomplish enough--there are items she was unable to cross off her list.  i then begin to recite all the things that we did accomplish and, by the time i've reminded us of all the tasks that were completed, we both feel pretty good about our day, and we have the start of the next day's list with what remains on our to-do lists for this day.

when something happens and my routine is disrupted, i have to psyche myself up or the change spoils my day.  it helps if i know in advance that i won't be able to follow my usual routine so that i'm mentally prepared for it, but, if i oversleep or some emergency occurs, it's hard for me to keep from feeling as if my day has been ruined.  sometimes i wish that i could be more spontaneous about how i live my life and wonder how people who don't follow a pattern in their daily lives get anything done.  what must that be like, to have no ritual at the beginning of the day, no set plan for how the day is to go, no goals for the day?  i am envious of such people, and yet i am comfortable in my regimen.  i enjoy the feeling that each day is productive, that i get some important solitary processes done at the beginning of the day, and that my wife and i work together to achieve our predetermined daily tasks.

i have the fifteen-or-so blogs that i read each week organized into bookmarks for each day of the week so that i generally get around to them all.  i have my pills for each day in pillboxes that are prepared two weeks in advance.  i have timers on lights inside and outside the house that i want to come on and off at precise times.  we always begin thinking about what we are to cook on the weekend early in the week, so that by thursday we have a menu worked out, and on thursday or friday at breakfast we make our grocery list based on that menu and do our grocery shopping after breakfast one of those days.  we cook enough on the weekend so that we don't have to do much cooking for our dinners during the week.  we have a set time each month that we sit down together and pay our bills.  on sunday morning i write my weekly blog post and refine it on monday and tuesday before posting on tuesday morning.  during the summer, thursday is yard day, so grocery shopping has to be done on friday morning.  this is pretty much how our life is organized, and i suppose it works well for us.  not much is left to chance and there is a precision to our days that is quite satisfying.

i know that living this way would be maddening to many, just as living without a set process for getting things done would be maddening for us.  we each are so different and yet so much the same.  we yearn for stability, but we achieve it in diverse ways.  some of us are planners, some of us "fly by the seat of our pants."  for some of us each day is a blank canvas to be filled in as the day goes by, and some of us have all the puzzle pieces laid out for us in advance so that the day is a process of putting the puzzle together.

life is wonderful that way--so many varied approaches on how to live it, and all of us wanting the same things in the end.  love, respect, appreciation, food, shelter, clothing, contact with others, times of rest and activity.  if we have those things, life is good.  may we each have a good life, regardless of how we approach it.  may  we not judge others for living life differently from us and may we celebrate our diversity, appreciating each other for it.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We Blossom and Flourish as Leaves on the Tree

i am thinking lately of acceptance and change and the interaction between them.  so often we humans have a preconceived notion of how things ought to be.  we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration when things don't live up to our preconceived ideals.  i think of how a friend's marriage fell apart because his wife had an idealized conception of marriage.  she believed that their relationship ought to be like what she had seen in movies and read in romance novels that were far removed from the realities of life's daily give and take.  when their marriage wasn't fairy-tale perfect, she was filled with anger and disappointment and began an affair with another man, bringing their marriage to an end.  she went on to marry what she believed would be her perfect mate, and now they, too, are divorced, because of her unrealistic expectations.

life is seldom as we wish it to be.  reality intrudes on our image of how things "ought to be."  a child gets sick, and our plans for the day go out the window.  the car won't start, and our schedule is shot.  one phone call turns our day topsy-turvy.  our candidate loses the election, and we believe we are doomed.  change is the one constant in life.  i am not the same person i was a moment ago.  a moment from now i will be another person, and yet i am still me.  circumstances change and i react to them.

does this mean i shouldn't make plans?  life would be chaos without some thought for what i must do to give life order and to accomplish what needs to be done.  but i must hold those plans loosely and not feel as if disaster has set in when life interferes.  if i insist on following my plan rigidly, the outcomes are anger, frustration, and disappointment, and i injure those around me.  life is not my plan for the day--life is change.

must i, in the name of acceptance, put up with the wrongs of the world?  do i just say, "oh, well, donald trump won, and i have to accept his ideas about how our country and the world should function"?  must i abandon accomplishing what i had planned for the day because some emergency has intruded?  acceptance of how things are and acknowledging that change is inevitable doesn't mean tolerating that which we believe to be wrong or giving up on our plans and dreams.  acceptance of how things are and acceptance of change means that we accept the flow of life and adapt to the bumps and hurdles that are inevitable.

we live in an imperfect world and are ourselves imperfect creatures.  sometimes the vagaries of life that interfere with our "perfect day" are serendipities that stop us from making mistakes or lead us to an epiphany that would not have occurred otherwise.  the lemons of life that mysteriously become lemonade remind us that, while change is not always beneficial, it is the stuff of life.  railing against change is futile; working to bring it about is our mission, if we accept that there is no straight course to the changes we seek.

may we live lives of acceptance of impermanence.  may we understand that what is will not be in the next moment.  may we embrace the flow of life, sometimes allowing it to carry us along, and sometimes swimming strongly in its current.  may we work to change that which needs to be changed while accepting the reality of the present moment.  shalom.