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Page not found – Be the Change https://blog.clergy211.com Clergy 211 Official Blog Sat, 12 May 2018 17:22:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.11 A Message to Men on the Eve of the Hour of the Woman https://blog.clergy211.com/2018/05/12/a-message-to-men-on-the-eve-of-the-hour-of-the-woman/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-message-to-men-on-the-eve-of-the-hour-of-the-woman Sat, 12 May 2018 17:21:41 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=375 Our lives are often detached and hurried, and we are not empathetic enough to allow ourselves to really live, because we often forget that we are still connected to one another. We men need to take this time to reflect on our lives and what we emit into the universe. We must take stock of our lives and allow the shifting that is taking place in the universe to happen. When we resist the natural flow or order, we do violence to our souls, and that violence manifests itself in family and relationship dysfunction, in loss of empathy for humanity and earth’s other creatures. The energy that propelled us to greatness now threatens our very existence.

There is nothing inherently evil or untoward about the male force and the masculine energy, but it truly needs to be balanced by the feminine force and a real sense of humility. Hubris affects us all; but the masculine energy is far more susceptible. This is not meant to demean the masculine energy but to denounce the overall patriarchal spirit that prevails in the world. It may not be convenient or habitual for us men to feel deeply about another. But something needs to break in our world. We have to allow the feminine to take her rightful place to soften our hardness and our stubbornness.

I believe that my mother, with her endless patience, her great resilience in the face of challenges, and her sweet welcoming spirit inclusive of all, could literally rule the world, because she is everyone’s mother. The world needs the feminine energy, no matter the actual gender through which it is expressed. We desperately need healing and care-taking in our policy-making institutions and decision rooms, just as much as we need them in schools, kindergartens, and homes; in science labs and on boards of directors, on the Senate floor and in the Oval Office, just as much as we need them in classrooms and nurseries. The world is crying for the life-giving energy, for peace, love, diplomacy, and understanding.

The age of testosterone-driven machoism, with its brute force, calling for and waging wars, inflicting wounds, grabbing what it can, “man-eat-man,” “each man for himself” — this age is passing away, as it should. The next upward loop in our social — if not anatomical — human evolution is in honoring and welcoming femininity to take its rightful place — at the head and at the pinnacle. If we want balance, progress, and shift from the “same old” status quo, then what it would take is the feminine essence leading the way.

 

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Prophets Among Us https://blog.clergy211.com/2018/02/21/prophets-among-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prophets-among-us Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:19:08 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=353 Prophets and Injustice

“Let justice roll on like a river,
and righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

These powerful words are from the First Testament minor prophet Amos over 27 hundred years ago. Amos, who accurately assessed the signs of his time but who did not consider himself a prophet, dealt with a religious and political system that thwarted justice, took advantage of the poor, and disregarded strangers and the needy. Amos furiously denounced the hollow piety that took the place of moral responsibility. In his poetic rage, he prophesied that without justice there certainly would be judgement.

Amos understood what was going on in his day. As he spoke out against an increased disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor, he condemned the religious and any worship they practiced that was void of justice. He declared, speaking on behalf of God:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river, and
righteousness like a never-failing stream.”

In Amos’ preceding verses, the words are filled with wrath and cut deeply through the society’s moral fabric, exposing the depravity of those in power in his day:

Amos dealt with a religious and political system that thwarted justice, took advantage of the poor, and disregarded strangers and the needy.

“You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.

Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”

And yet, in the middle of the rage, denouncement, and stern warnings, one cannot deny Amos’ concern, hope, and even love for his people, when he pleads with them, Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.”

Are we going to be “prudent” or are we going to be truthful?

Samuel Thomas, associate professor of religion at California Lutheran University, writes the following regarding this passage in Amos, “Religious devotion is meaningless if it is accompanied by unfair taxes on the poor, backdoor bribes, and working against those in need. Because of these sentiments, this passage has become an important source for some observers of contemporary American religious and political culture. I think Amos would disapprove of the concentration of wealth and the corresponding increase in poverty, and he would rage against the displays of self-importance and exceptionalism in some quarters of American life. According to Amos, a nation is exceptional by the measure of how it cares for the lowest members of society; and a nation of religious hypocrisy and economic injustice is one that will perish.”

Amos clearly realizes the high price and dangers of speaking up. He states in chapter 5, verse 13, “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” What an intense statement! I think we all could identify with it at some point in our lives when we had to make a difficult choice. Are we going to be “prudent” or are we going to be truthful? Are we going to be quiet in the face of injustice or will we speak against it, perhaps even putting ourselves at risk? If the prudent won’t speak up, then who will? Amos’ desire for justice overshadows his need for safety. I am reminded of the words of a great parliamentarian Edmund Burke, who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So Amos took courage and chose not to be quiet or prudent. He answered the call, and his admonishments eventually resulted in his arrest. Yet, the devastation brought on by the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom shortly thereafter, in 722 B.C.E., secured Amos’ place among the biblical prophets.

In order for a community to be the “city upon the hill” … it must adhere to justice and be built on principles of fairness and regard for others.

Centuries later, in 1630, while on board the ship Arbella en route to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the New World, John Winthrop, an English Puritan lawyer who led the first large wave of immigrants from England to America, conveyed the need for justice in his famous sermon A Model of Christian Charity, also known as City Upon a Hill. Although not specifically referencing Amos, Winthrop echoes his call for justice, declaring a vision for America and stating that, in order for a community to be the “city upon the hill” and a “light unto the nations,” it must adhere to justice and be built on principles of fairness and regard for others: “Two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: Justice and Mercy… If thou lovest God thou must help [thy brother].”

333 years after Winthrop’s historic speech, on August 23rd, 1963, we heard Amos’ words, this time verbatim, from another prophetic voice: the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who appealed to the deep aspirations of oppressed people – a people who longed for freedom and equality. His answering the call would not only see him abused and arrested; he would suffer an even harsher fate than that of Amos and become a martyr for justice.

In times like these, someone must call the mighty to account. Dr. King, invoking Amos’ words, proclaimed, “No more! No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He went on to say, “We cannot walk alone, and as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

What Makes a Prophet

There have always been souls willing to go against the tide and do the hard and necessary work, and I would argue that the time of prophets is not over and that they are still among us, even if their words may not make it into sacred writings. These prophets are individuals who possess astute perception of their times and excellent moral compass, who care about people more than their own reputation or safety, and who call the people to correct their course. And what is a prophet but a truth-teller, speaking truth to power and calling us back to righteousness? And what is righteousness if not choosing and doing what’s right and, more importantly, what’s just? Today, that prophetic voice may be mine, and tomorrow it might be yours.

One thing is for certain: we will not be “prudent” in holding our peace; that it be not said that our silence on the important issues of our day was our tacit approval to keep things the way they are. Because then there can be no real change, and we may never experience true equality, reconciliation, and recovery, all of which are so desperately needed in our society.

Injustices of Our Times

I have often wondered about the generation that, whether knowingly or ignorantly, was absent and silent during the persecution and annihilation of over 6 million Jews. We now look back and harshly judge them for not only what they did, but more concretely for what they did not do, or perhaps, what they should have known to do but, for whatever reason, chose to remain uninvolved, uninformed, and unmoved, even by what little they did know. Will we too be harshly condemned by future generations for the things we did or didn’t do?

What is a prophet but a truth-teller, speaking truth to power and calling us back to righteousness? And what is righteousness if not choosing and doing what’s right and, more importantly, what’s just?

As a person from a historically oppressed culture, I don’t have to consider injustice; it it a daily-lived experience. I sometimes wonder why there is such a resistance to the uniquely American ideals and values of equality, fairness, and justice for all people. Up until the last couple of years, there were those who believed that we lived in a post-racial society, that racism no longer existed. Dozens of national polls in America, covering the previous two decades, and some polls from the 60’s also supported this view. Today, while racism may be recognized as a national problem, 56 percent — a majority of white Americans — say that racism is not really an issue in their communities, and therefore, they don’t feel empowered or the need to do anything to address it.

Yet, some have even gone as far as to declare that such issues are only fabrications of people who choose to play the ‘race card’ to get their way instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Many of them believe that the real problem is actually among minority communities and that all of the racial injustice and inequality talk is to guilt and place blame on someone else, rather than owning their own illegal actions or cultural and personal failings. I’ve heard it all and perhaps you have heard things as well.

Regardless of what people believe about minority communities, the truth is there is a great deal of suffering and pain in the lives of many but apparently for some, it’s all ‘fake news’; there’s no one being torn from their loved ones and deported to countries that they have never known. Some insist that there is no unconscious bias in hiring practices, that all individuals are hired on their own merit, education, and talent, despite multiple studies that indicate that people with ethnic names are more likely to be overlooked even when their skill set and education supersedes other, particularly white, candidates. Some refuse to believe that there are community covenants that exist in our time that bar people of color from purchasing homes in certain areas. Black and brown folks can buy wherever they want, they say. But we know that this is not true. Selective profiling of black and brown individuals by the police and then finding some excuse to arrest them also does not exist, according to them. There is no systemic problem with police shooting of mostly black and brown men. If such does exist, it is because they were stealing something or doing something bad, for it must have been something they did to deserve it. Likewise, racial disparity in courtroom verdicts and sentencing does not exist, they claim. Everyone gets their fair share and shake at justice; because they are often judged by a group of their peers.

While these things are the reality for millions of people, none of these facts actually exist for some. If it is not a problem in their world, then they refuse to acknowledge that such things do exist. And if our experiences of America go unacknowledged, then our struggles and our stories, along with our hopes and dreams, are being dismissed, denied, and ‘disappeared’. Because we know that if we are out of sight, then truly we are out of mind. And if out of mind, then we are irrelevant, and our full participation in this American experience can be denied. This is the heart of injustice.

Our stories and the people behind them are real, and these stories must be told, even if others choose to ignore, deny, dismiss, or ‘disappear’ them.

If someone with nearly ultimate power tries to silence your peaceful protest, ignoring the reasons behind the protest, then you are being ‘disappeared’. When those in power dictate your motives and redirect the narratives to affect your own story negatively, you are being ‘disappeared’. As a person of color, all that I know, all that I can see and hear, and more importantly, what I feel tells me that many in our nation have conspired and pitted themselves against the uniquely American core values of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and justice for all. But our stories and the people behind them are real, and these stories must be told, even if others choose to ignore, deny, dismiss, or ‘disappear’ them.

The Church and Its Founder

One would expect religious leaders and institutions to be first to recognize the injustices of our time and then rise up to answer the call in this very important moment in our history. But what we are witnessing from mainline churches is silence and tacit approval. They have aligned themselves with a political party and appear to have cast away the tenets of faith and righteousness. It is as if the Bible never spoke to them of caring for the poor and embracing the strangers among us; treating others with respect and dignity, and even loving one’s perceived enemy. And when a group denies its own creed, it becomes complicit in the injustice that we are seeing daily. Because when their words and deeds go directly against the words of Jesus, the founder of their faith, one might think that Jesus himself is being ‘disappeared’ from amongst those who claim to be his followers. Those on the outside look at the church and can hardly see Jesus, if at all.

A fresh approach to biblical doctrine is taking shape in the way that the life and passion of Jesus are viewed. It is posited that it wasn’t for the sins of the world that he gave up his life, but out of complete love for and solidarity with the poor and disenfranchised, for the widows and strangers, for the voiceless and disabled. Jesus carried in himself the pain and anguish of the disinherited. In biblical scriptures, Jesus is not a high priest, removed and devoid of empathy with our weaknesses; he is one who was despised and rejected; a “man of sorrows” and one “acquainted with grief.” His suffering to the point of death was in solidarity with those who also suffered.

When a group denies its own creed to love and care for the marginalized, it becomes complicit in the injustice.

Jesus told his followers in Mathew’s Gospel, “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; I was naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.” Then the the righteous asked him, when did they do all these things. He answered, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

In contrast, Jesus condemned the religious who failed to live out his virtues. He remarked, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In fact, he was paraphrasing the words of the Rev. Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister and prominent American Transcendentalist born in 1810, who called for the abolition of slavery and stated the following in one of his sermons: “Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.”

The universe bends toward justice often through the choices and actions of regular people, like you and me.

I personally believe that the “universe bends toward justice” often through the choices and actions of regular people, like you and me. In the end, will it be our silence and our inaction  or will it be our passionate and committed service to the idea of justice and equality, aligned with the sense of our own purpose and solidarity with those who are most at risk in our nation, that wins the day? I pray that it is the latter. I pray that it will be our love for one another that overwhelms the darkness, ushering us into a new marvelous light of healing and reconciliation.

And so, the next time we witness or realize the presence of injustice and receive the proverbial call from the universe, or from our conscience, I pray that we answer that call. I pray that we find the courage passionately to stand up for justice with love in our hearts, because this is the stuff of which prophets are made.

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Ode to Mother https://blog.clergy211.com/2017/05/14/ode-to-mother/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ode-to-mother Sun, 14 May 2017 02:58:44 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=325 She is worthy of a good name. She is not just the nameless nurturer of Job’s ten children or the temptress of the susceptible masculine identity. She does not reckon herself to be the antagonist to the sometimes fragile male psyche; she refuses to be a casualty, nor will she be a victim of any testosterone driven wager between God and his earthly image. Culturally, she has been considered the physically weaker vessel but emotionally and intellectually she is always the stronger. She has rightfully earned her space and her power. She is woman, nurturer, protector, and friend.

Her greatest obstacles are often the walls and constraints that the masculine erects around her… to still and to silence her. But she will not allow her words to be wasted. She has claimed her duty and has owned her voice. And, yes, that voice is soft and supple, gentle and feminine. And yet, she is so much more. She’s patient, kind, and honest; she’s faithful, reliable, and firm; she’s stable, tried, and tested. Certainly, she has proven herself worthy of her calling. She is woman, nurturer, protector and friend.

The earth groans with anticipation, for her time has come.  It is not a birthing but rather a revealing. She has patiently waited for this moment to fulfill her destiny, that is, as Beyoncé says, “run this mutha’’ to rule the world. She’s the fresh breath of a new spirit, a new era of peace and progress in the earth. If there’s ever been a time that we’ve needed the feminine, it is now. In this hour she is the woman, the nurturer, the protector and the friend.

She’s no novice; she is wise, and aged, and is mother to us all. Her wisdom is sustained in the multitude of her experiences. She dares not seek to arise to the attitude and ambition of the masculine; she has learned from his folly. She seeks not to imitate his ways but to show creation the power of the feminine path; and she is mightily persuasive. She worries not that she’ll be taken as too emotional or too sensitive; she honors her innate ability to feel deeply. She is woman, nurturer, protector, and friend.

No longer denied her rightful place, her mission is to mend, to heal, and to love unconditionally. Her greatest strength is that she possesses the truest essence of unconditional love, which is the rejection of indifference and the choosing of forgiveness and of letting go. And we have beheld her glory, and we have loved her because we know her and are known by her. She is woman, nurturer, protector, and friend…

And she is Mother!

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Source of All Life… https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/05/22/source-of-all-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=source-of-all-life Sun, 22 May 2016 08:36:30 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=320 Source of All Life, today we pray for peace, as for millennia now we have been waging wars with one another and within ourselves. We need more benevolence, kindness, decency, and more peace inside and between us.

We ask for the strength to seek and to grant forgiveness from those we’ve wounded and to those who’ve wounded us, including our own selves. We need the strength to be authentic, vulnerable, and merciful. We need to acknowledge honestly, to restore willingly, and to start healing together. We need more forgiveness.

Oh, You Who Hears Prayers, give us balance, for in the world we built for ourselves, power often comes without humility or integrity, and we tend to esteem our own well-being over that of others. We need more compassion and holistic solutions to our problems. We need more balance of the mind and heart. Grant us balance, oh Lord.

We pray for the unity of a noble purpose, without which we cannot achieve our fullest potential. We realize that it is in the context of a community with others that one finds one’s greatest value and purpose. We rise and fall together. We need more unity, and may our purpose be benevolent, Lord.

Teach us to love ourselves properly, so that we could in turn learn to love others in the way we love ourselves. True love elevates. Thus, we acknowledge that if we had truly loved ourselves, then we would have tried harder to examine who we were, inevitably perceiving how intimately we are connected with everyone and everything else. If we had truly loved ourselves, then we could not have perpetrated, perpetuated, or tolerated the injustices of the world. Teach us to love ourselves in a mature, wholesome way.

Oh God, although we have the ability to show, give, and multiply love freely and to invite it into all dimensions and situations, we often choose not to. Perhaps, we are too scared, misled, or distracted. May we recognize the divine spark in everyone we encounter and discover sooner rather than later that loving the other and loving oneself are precisely one and the same. May we always choose love. May we be saved by it.

May our self-awareness lead to a collective greatness that comes from humility, gratitude, and responsibility. We thank you, Eternal Spirit, for the enlightenment of the soul freely given to all seekers.

Amen.

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Ken Shupe, A Bad Samaritan? https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/05/05/ken-shupe-a-bad-samaritan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ken-shupe-a-bad-samaritan Thu, 05 May 2016 22:45:56 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=305 As a minister, it has been my goal to avoid getting into the gutter of what as of late has become of American politics. But every now and then, there are the occasional occurrences that compel me to respond, and the case of the South Carolina tow-truck driver – who refused to help 25-year-old Cassandra McWade, leaving the disabled and stranded woman who had just had a car accident on the side of the road because she was a Bernie Sanders supporter – happens to be just the sort of thing to get me going.

“The New Testament leaves little place for doubt when the question comes up about helping someone in need, whether they are a friend or a foe.”
The refusal of service could be a topic of discussion by itself, but it has been reported that Mr. Shupe gave the reason for the refusal: his being a “conservative Christian,” as a result of which he felt he had to “draw a line in the sand” and not associate or conduct business with a Bernie Sanders supporter ( as reported by Huffington Post).

Now as a Christian, I asked myself, “What would Jesus do?”

We know that Jesus never uttered a word on a number of hot-topic issues of today, but luckily for us, the New Testament leaves little place for doubt when the question comes up about helping someone in need, whether they are a friend or a foe. And it is in the gospels that we read that the only line Jesus drew in the sand was when a woman, supposedly caught in adultery, was about to be executed by a mob. As he was drawing in the sand, he dismissed the woman’s accusers by asking who among them was without sin.

Of course, most of us know about Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. The passage starts like this:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

I think the point is clear. In this parable, the good Samaritan went above and beyond to care for the stranger – something you would have expected from the priest or the Levite.

If we are looking for what a follower of Jesus should do, the New Testament is full of such examples. Take, for instance, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, verses 41-43, where Jesus admonishes those who refused to help a stranger, implying that whatever one does unto the “least of these” has done unto Jesus himslef, which is akin to the Golden Rule (found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31) that requires one to “do unto others as one would have done unto them.” Another verse comes to mind, John 13:35, where Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Certainly, Jesus was talking about a love that is beyond loving those who love us back or those who agree with our particular views on marriage or our political affiliation. His is a love beyond belief, even to the point of loving one’s perceived enemies. Why? Because he said so when he said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44).

“When did Christianity become so politicized in our nation that people struggle to see the person of Christ in our brand of Christianity?”
Consider 1 John 3:17, which reads, But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” What’s more, the entire 2nd chapter of James admonishes the believers to express their faith through serving others.

What’s your brand of Christ-likeness?

Surely, by adding adjectives to our Christianity, albeit “conservative” or “progressive,” we place a distinction on the type of “Christ-likeness” we feel called to exhibit. The irony is that by identifying as a “conservative” Christian, Mr. Shupe put his conservatism before his Christianity. I ask, when did Christianity become so politicized in our nation that people struggle to see the person of Christ in our brand of Christianity?

Certainly, the heart of our mission and calling is in the service of others, even including a perceived enemy. Those who think they own the “Jesus franchise” often appear to be afflicted by a sort of cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency between what they say they believe and how they live out their (Christ-likeness) Christianity. One need not have a seminary education or adhere to any particular religion to recognize people who attempt to be like Christ, those who aspire to his exemplary life and work, from those who do not.

Perhaps Mr. Shupe’s greatest failure is not in “drawing a line in the sand,” but rather in overlooking Ms. McWade’s humanity and then in neglecting her need – incidentally, a need that he was particularly equipped to meet. In this, he truly missed the mark. And by missing this obvious opportunity to serve, he also missed Jesus.

“Those who think they own the “Jesus franchise” often appear to be afflicted by a sort of cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency between what they say they believe and how they live out their (Christ-likeness) Christianity.”
While this one incident should not be an indictment on an entire faith tradition, it is important to note that there are similar occurrences playing out all across this nation, and they do expose the breakdown of civility and common decency. Whether it is the bathroom issue or bakers and florists’ denial of service, in each instance we should ask ourselves, how should we treat one another; how would we want others to treat us; what would Jesus do?

Mr. Ken Shupe may contend that he hasn’t done anything wrong. He believes that his stand is a righteous one; a position of which Christ, himself, would approve. But anyone who has ever read the New Testament would disagree.

Although the newly avowed Donald Trump supporter may not be, as he has reportedly claimed, “a bigot or a racist,” whatever guided his decision to refuse helping a vulnerable, disabled person on the side of the road was not based on Christ’s teachings. Certainly, his actions were not those of a good Samaritan.

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Spring Is Here! https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/03/17/spring-is-here/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=spring-is-here Thu, 17 Mar 2016 05:01:09 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=288 Spring is not just a rebirth of the same life or a return of what was. Spring is a sign of new beginnings that come only after the “thief,” that is winter, has claimed its prize. And then with the warmth of newly bursting sun rays and the maternal touch of gentle spring rains, working in concert with the rest of nature, new life is birthed; not just mere change, but rather a transformation of what was before. Truly the saying, “old things have passed away, and all things are now new” (2nd Cor 5:17) is realized with each new bloom. 

Yes, spring is here! It is the real new beginning. We may have already made our New Year’s resolutions and tried to start over. But January is not the best time to make real and lasting change. Just look at the promise of spring. Should we not rather work in concert with nature to effect change, or, should I say, transformation in our lives? We must resist the weight of yesterday and the harshness and death of winter that has now passed. We can reset, rebirth, reignite, rejuvenate, regrow, and start over this spring. We must use the strength of nature and the momentum of all the new life that is around us to build something new for ourselves. Truly, we are alive for such a time as this.

A lovely poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow well articulates this marvelous event:

“Ah, how wonderful is the advent of the Spring!—the great annual miracle…. which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!…”

Let’s embrace the wisdom and promise of spring!

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Curve Balls & Gratitude https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/03/16/curve-balls-gratitude/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=curve-balls-gratitude Wed, 16 Mar 2016 01:28:14 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=267 Visiting my office is always an interesting experience.

This is probably more so when I am not there, and you can wander about and look at all of the interesting little things that surround my work space.

One of the many items that can be found is an old, worn, battered baseball. No, I’m not a sports fan. Nor am I athletic. In fact, the extent of my sports related athletic feats is tossing that old baseball up in the air and – hopefully – catching it as I focus on a problem that needs to be resolved.

“In order to keep us awake to opportunity and to teach us equanimity, the universe throws us the occasional curve ball.”
It’s a reminder that Spring Training starts down south while winter holds its grasp on the northeast. It encourages me to trust that, when life throws a curve ball, there is always hope for new beginnings and trust in fresh starts.

When the unexpected happens, we always have our trust and faith. That can never be be taken from us.

In life, we are always setting goals for ourselves and working to make them happen. This gives us focus and ensures that we use our time and energy efficiently and effectively. It also provides us with a sense of purpose and direction. We know where we are going and what we want to do. But quite often, due to forces outside our control, things do not go as we had planned.

There’s the flat tire on the way to the wedding, or the unforeseen flu virus. We then have to adjust to a postponement or create a whole new set of circumstances. 

Even positive turns of fortune, such as an unexpected influx of cash or falling in love, require us to be flexible and to reconsider our plans and priorities, sometimes in the blink of an eye. 

This is what happens when life throws us a curve ball.

The ability to accept what is happening and let go of our original expectations is key when dealing with these unexpected turns of fate. We have a tendency to get stuck in our heads, clinging to an idea of how we think life should go, and we can have a hard time accepting anything that doesn’t comply with that idea. 

The simple fact is that life is unpredictable. 

“The ability to accept what is happening and let go of our original expectations is key when dealing with unexpected turns of fate.”
The trip you thought was for business, but the deal fell through and you became depressed – actually landed you at the airport two days earlier than planned so you could meet the love of your life. 

Your car breaks down, and you are late for an appointment. While it’s true that you never arrive at that important meeting, you end up spending a few relaxing hours with people you would never have met otherwise.

In order to keep us awake to opportunity and to teach us equanimity, the universe throws us the occasional curve ball. 

Remember that curve balls are not only life’s way of keeping us awake, which is a gift in and of itself; they are also often life’s way of bringing us wonderful surprises. 

However, when we receive wonderful surprises, we often find ourselves feeling as if we don’t deserve it. 

Whether it’s a car, a new job, or a date with someone wonderful, we suddenly feel as if we are not up to it. 

Something in us wants to reject this gift from the universe, perhaps because it requires that we think of ourselves in a new way or makes us question why we should have something that others don’t have. 

When these feelings of unworthiness are not consciously acknowledged, they can lead us to sabotage ourselves out of the gift being offered. 

Perhaps the best way to avoid rejection and sabotage is to simply shift into a state of gratitude, bypassing the question of worthiness altogether.

“Accepting the gift with gratitude and using it to the best of our ability is true humility.”
The question of whether we, or anyone else, deserves something is not really in our jurisdiction. These themes play themselves out in ways we can’t fully comprehend – on the level of the soul, over the course of time and lifetimes. 

What we do know is that the universe has its own way of shifting the balance over the course of time so that all things are ultimately fair. 

We can trust in this process and understand that when a gift comes our way, it is because we are meant to have it. Otherwise, it would not be available to us. 

Accepting the gift with gratitude and using it to the best of our ability is true humility.

When we receive a gift and find that feelings of unworthiness crop up, we can simply acknowledge the feelings and then remind ourselves that they are beside the point. 

As we allow ourselves to accept the gift, we might feel tenderness in our hearts that naturally shifts into a deep feeling of gratitude. As we sit for a moment, consciously holding the gift in our hands or in our hearts, we say “yes” to the universe’s many blessings, and we also say “thank you.”

So, the next time a curve ball comes your way, take a deep breath, say thank you, and open your mind to a new opportunity. It might just be a gift.

Play ball!

Rev. Rob

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The Art of Compromise https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/02/14/the-art-of-compromise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-art-of-compromise Sun, 14 Feb 2016 08:34:20 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=238 Marriage is very much like a work of art in that after many strokes and much time it reveals its truest masterpiece.

Many enter marriage with an unhealthy understanding of what sustains long-term relationships. Many believe, like the song says, “love is all we need!” and fail to understand that love will be tested and that there is a chance it will either grow weaker or stronger because of the testing. They believe somehow that their love will supersede the pain and pitfalls, the resentment and regrets that so often befall couples, eventually leading to divorce. For them, love is a perfect and unchanging gift. But for many long-term couples, marriage has been a continued effort toward mastery, forged by many trials and errors.

For many long-term couples, marriage has been a continued effort towards mastery, forged by many trials and errors.
The concept of love can be broken down into two distinct categories – that which is sustainable and that which is most likely to fade away over time.  An unsustainable love is undoubtedly the kind of love where, after the feelings subside, as they often do, there is no lasting foundation upon which a couple’s vows remain realistic. Unresolved guilt, hurt, and resentment build, eventually overcoming the kind of idealistic love that makes up many of today’s marriages. A sustainable love is certainly the kind of love that endures all things as described in 1 Corinthians 13:7. It is freely giving and not a love given on demand; it trusts and hopes in all things. It is unconditional and it seeks out conditions that promote its health and sustainability.

A successful marriage relationship not only demands a realistic love but also requires the commitment, discipline, and fortitude that many artists employ to bring their masterpieces to fruition – the very things that every couple needs to have their “till death do we part” realized.

A successful marriage relationship not only demands a realistic love but also requires the commitment, discipline, and fortitude.
Commitment is the dedication to an obligation, promise, or a goal. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” It does appear here that Jesus is equating love with actively committing oneself to a set of objectives. But we must not overly simplify the nature of love by defining it only by action. Not all actions that are done in the name of love are in fact received as love. Some actions that are thought of to be derived from feelings of love can be so abusive that they blur the lines of what active love should actually look and feel like. Action is more than doing what you think your partner needs but rather doing what your partner actually prefers done. This requires a special kind of fortitude and discipline.

Fortitude is defined as the mental strength and courage that allow someone to face danger and pain for the sake of something greater. It is about being reliable and dependable. It is determining to stick with it when the going gets tough. It is being reminded of the vows of ‘for better of for worse.’

Discipline is what your partner is relying on when you are not with them or when it comes to spending or sharing your gifts, time, and talents with others. And it is not about controlling your partner or spouse; it is about self-control. It is about one’s own willingness to keep, protect, and serve the agreements and conditions of the marriage covenant. Discipline is being aware of the threats are out there and avoiding putting the marriage at an unnecessary risk.

In addition, couples who desire a sustainable love in a sustainable marriage must also be open to patience, forgiveness, and compromise.

Couples who desire a sustainable love in a sustainable marriage must be open to patience, forgiveness, and compromise.
It has been said that “patience is the ability to persevere and maintain composure in situations that necessitate understanding, entail a tolerance for delay, and incite emotional intensity.”[1] Some have defined it as the ability to wait without complaining or voicing one’s dissatisfaction. I like to say that it is the ability to practice a non-anxious presence in the face of a perceived crisis. But in all these, patience is indeed a virtue that must be practiced and perfected. It is essential to having a functional and healthy relationship. It will take time to develop. But it must be a continual learning process for both, you and your partner.

Forgiveness is key! It is the ability to accept each other’s faults and to pardon your partner’s mistakes. Forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting, but it is in remembering what you learned from past mistakes. Forgiveness is not necessarily avoiding the occasional revisiting of the pain associated with mistakes, but it is in not bringing them back up once you have released them­– understanding that every time you bring up past faults, there’s the potential or likelihood of assigning blame, which is the antithesis of forgiveness.

Compromise is king! Marriage is for any willing heart, but a long, happy marriage is for the faithful, the courageous, and those who master the art of compromise. As each partner learns to navigate, adapt, and adjust to the other’s quirks, styles, and habits, they have the potential to become master negotiators. Love and marriage are upheld by often ‘giving in’ over the pull toward ‘giving up.’ One might say it another way: the frame of love is compromise; if you don’t learn this art, you will never see the masterpiece.

Love seeks out the risk takers; it romances the adventurers; but it snares the fools that take it for granted. True love is the one thing that can supersede pain and heartbreak, but it must never be taken for granted. Love demands vulnerability, and the odds are that you will get hurt. But a real and sustainable love is well worth the risks!

 


[1] http://www.wikihow.com/Learn-Patience-in-a-Relationship retrieved 2/12/2015

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Love Changes Everything https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/02/12/love-changes-everything/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=love-changes-everything Fri, 12 Feb 2016 08:37:06 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=230 We are living in a time of great change.

Many thinkers and seers agree that humanity and the planet Earth are evolving at a quickened pace, and that this evolution will be severe and seemingly chaotic at times. It is natural for people to react with fear, because these changes will doubtless bring some level of difficulty and loss to many of us. However, it is essential that we all remember that our souls are here at this time and are a part of this process.

“Regardless of what actions we choose to take, the essential element will be the internal gesture of choosing to remain in love. This is all that is needed.”
Every movement in the universe can be a movement toward love. This is true even in situations that appear on the surface to be the opposite of loving. When love is allowed to be manifest in our lives, we are fully capable and ready to rise to the challenges in which we find ourselves.

It is often helpful to reflect upon our own lives and make any changes necessary to fully support humanity and the planet into a state of love. It is when we open our hearts in love instead of closing them in fear, that we serve the divine process.

We are all powerful spirits who take form at this time in order to serve our fellow humans, our planet, and the universe. As we find ways we can serve – to love – our fear dissipates.

We may serve love by remaining calm and loving with our children and our families, even as situations seem dark.

We may serve love by sharing money with people who need financial assistance.

We may serve love by going out into the world and actively helping to rebuild lives.

Regardless of what actions we choose to take, the essential element will be the internal gesture of choosing to remain in love.

This is all that is needed.

At times, it may seem difficult to remain in love. It is then that we may call upon our unseen helpers; the spiritual teachers and guides who are always with us. All we need to do is ask and then trust that we are being helped. The guidance we receive is love itself, showing us the way.

Throughout recorded history, love has burned in the hearts of composers, writers, painters, and playwrights, and seared in those of parents, children, and friends.

Love – primal, passionate, and pure – has been dissected, revered, praised, and derided. It has been called complex, ethereal, and mysterious. We long for a definition but fear that the feeling called love would be less exhilarating, were it to be defined.

Much of the mystery is rooted in the incomprehensibility of love’s purpose. Self-sacrifice, procreation, caring, and romance can each exist separate from love. It is possible to have intense feelings for others but not define those feelings as love. And yet love remains a powerful and universal force that uplifts, inspires, and is strong enough to bring about great change.

Like the wind, which we cannot see yet know is all around us, love is often more easily perceived through its effects.

As we transcend the boundaries of ego in order to love and be loved, we put aside self-centeredness and experience unity with one another. Compassion, peace, joy, excitement, and fulfillment are the inevitable results. It is irrelevant whether the focus is a partner, a child, a relative, or a friend. The results are both familiar and novel, more so when love is returned in kind.

“As we transcend the boundaries of ego in order to love and be loved, we put aside self-centeredness and experience unity with one another. Compassion, peace, joy, excitement, and fulfillment are the inevitable results.”
It has been said that “to describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavor of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavor. So with love.” Those who have tasted of it often equate love with jealousy, bitterness, resentment, lust, or aggressive attachment, but love is none of these things. Love is both a feeling and an action, for as it brings us into the light, so do we strive for the happiness, safety, health, and fulfillment of those we love. It is true that love can be fleeting and accepts few controls or conditions. The strongest loves blaze into being and wither away in an instant or last lifetimes. The one constant is the release of emotion.

Love is not learned but brought forth from within because the basic nature of the human animal is love. It is only fear that causes the need to love and be loved to be buried. When we accept our worthiness and reject indifference, it is then that we are able to become outlets of love, where love can always be found, and always shines forth.

Love is life’s greatest blessing. We need to give thanks for every heartbeat of those we love, and for the gift of love when it is sent upon us. Most importantly, we must be willing and eager to accept their love and allow it to grow within us.

So, it is with much love & light that I offer what love I have to you,

Rev. Rob

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Pain Therapy https://blog.clergy211.com/2016/02/10/pain-therapy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pain-therapy Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:18:57 +0000 http://blog.clergy211.com/?p=280 I used to feel like it was my “duty” to make a loved one feel better when they were going through tough times. Like it was my personal responsibility to squeeze a smile out of them, or let them know that it was all “going to be okay”.  What I’ve come to realize is that while it is absolutely natural to want to ease the pain of a loved one who may be suffering in some way, sometimes the most important value comes in just (as corny as it sounds) being there.

The gray area is in our independent interpretations of what “being there” actually means.  For many of us (and I was included in this number), it means trying to go to battle for our loved one.  If we deem that they are having a temporary setback, and it has weakened their ability to maintain the person WE know them to be, we want to do whatever we can to try to make THAT person “come back”.  And on a very surface level, it’s sweet.  You know, to want to help a person keep from bottoming out and feeling and experiencing what actually usually are very real emotions, thoughts, and realizations about a situation with which they’re faced.

“It is one of the greatest challenges of our humanity to share carrying another’s burden of pain … if they trust us enough to let us in during such a time.”
But if we REALLY think about it, it’s kinda selfish.  Of course, that’s not usually our intention though.  But it’s really wanting to numb or relieve their pain so WE can feel better, knowing that they’re okay…or at least pretending to be.  Why?  Because when a loved one is hurting, so are we.  When they’re in pain, it hurts us.  When they’re otherwise wounded, it pierces our hearts and makes us uncomfortable.  It reminds us of how little control we have and how much our peace of mind is tied to what’s going on with other people – especially those with whom we share strong connections.

We listen…to a point.  Then starts the “encouragement” talk.  We hear the pain…for a minute.  Then we try to find a way to turn around the conversation and make it lighter and to distract them from the hurt, the disappointment, disillusionment, or whatever is the ailment of the moment.  It is one of the greatest challenges of our humanity to share carrying another’s burden of pain.  It tests our own fortitude because it’s not even OUR issue!  But because we’ve chosen to exchange intimate energy with them, we get to experience what they go through…if they trust us enough to let us in during such a time.

“The real opportunity in that moment is to be a listening ear, a loving bosom, and/or a gentle and non-judging caregiver.”
Of course not all of our efforts to provide relief to our vulnerable counterparts stem from selfish motives, but the purpose of this post is to spark reflection the next time a loved one trusts you with such a tender moment of opportunity.  Because the opportunity in that moment may not be to tell them everything’s going to be okay.  Sometimes that only exacerbates matters and deepens a sense of alone-ness and misunderstanding.

The real opportunity in that moment is to be a listening ear, a loving bosom, and/or a gentle and non-judging caregiver.  Not every observation of a “crack in the armor”, if you will, is a cry for help or for us to fly in and try to save the day.  Oftentimes, we save the day just by being there to honor them in their moment of truth.  Now, don’t get me wrong, some folks need a swift kick in the ass and some tough love, or to be dragged out of a drunken stupor of self-pity.  And is there value in hearing comforting words of wisdom or concern in moments of crisis?  Aaaaabsolutely!  But many more times, we’re unable to distinguish or make an accurate assessment because we’re blinded by our own discomfort and the need for things to be “normal” so WE can be okay.

So the next time you find yourself being privy to someone’s nakedness, in whatever way it happens, challenge yourself to “do” absolutely nothing except let them feel that you have brought all of yourself (or at least as much as you can honestly offer) to the moment and that you’re willing to ride it out with them.  And truthfully, that speaks more volumes than any encouraging words you could have mustered up anyway.

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