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Christ Christianity Spirituality

Tuesday Tuneup 74

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Sorrow.

Q. Sorrow over what?

A. Past behavior of mine.

Q. Isn’t it past?

A. Evidently not.

Q. How so?

A. I wouldn’t be so cocky if I weren’t in such denial.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. I have been denying that my misfortunes down in California had a whole lot to do with me.

Q. But doesn’t stuff just happen that’s beyond your control?

A. Sure it does.  People get deadly diseases.  They get hit by cars.  None of that is their own doing.

Q. But didn’t you have some kind of mental health breakdown in 2004?

A. I harp on that — and yes I did.  But still, lots of stuff that happened, especially in terms of valued friends rejecting me, was entirely my doing.

Q. How so?

A. I found some emails I sent to some of my friends in 2015 when I was homeless.  They were pretty vitriolic, downright hateful, accusational.  I was accusing everybody of being uncompassionate.  There were expletives involved.  So it’s no wonder they all fled from me.  Nobody wants to deal with that.

Q. But weren’t the circumstances that led to those angry emails really beyond your control?

A. The circumstances were.  But a lot of us were experiencing those same circumstances.  How many of us sent angry emails to our friends and family members?

Q. I don’t know – how many of you did?

A. I don’t know either.  But they couldn’t have been as bad as the ones I sent.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because I type about 120 wpm and so my emails were longer as well as angrier.  My anger was more detailed.

Q. But you don’t send those kinds of emails to people now, do you?

A. I’m not homeless.  I have no reason to.  

Q. Can’t you just be thankful for that and move on?

A. Probably, eventually. This doesn’t seem like the kind of guilt that will destroy me.

Q. Is there any kind of guilt that doesn’t destroy people?

A. Yes, there is.   There’s the kind of guilt you get when you realize that you’ve done something wrong.  It makes you want to never do it again.  

Q. So your sorrow is actually a good thing?

A. Yes it is.  It brings me closer to my God, rather than further away.   In the Bible, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, this is called “godly sorrow.”  It’s the kind of sorrow that leads to a change of heart — and it is not to be regretted.  But the other kind of sorrow, that contains the other kind of guilt, is called the “sorrow of this world.”  It leads to despair, and ultimately, to death.  It’s best I mourn the death of my former self, and proceed with the Self that’s New.  

The Questioner is silent.  

Growing Up In The Word : A Contrite Heart

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Christ Musical Piano

I Don’t Know How to Love Him

The famous ballad from Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.  

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Art Christ Homelessness prayer

Dangers of Liberation (Part Seven)

This is the final post of a seven-part series.   Though it will make more sense if you read all six of the previous posts in the series, I won’t be so demanding as to insist upon it.  My hope is that it will stand on its own, enough to secure your interest.  I don’t differ from many other writers, in this regard.

My knees got hit pretty badly by the pavement on which I had slammed them down.  They would be swollen the next day.  But I did not care.   When I stood up from the prayer I had screamed, something was different.  There was an eerie calm about my spirit that suggested a newfound confidence.   I had never prayed a prayer like that before.

St. Paul wrote: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  — (Philippians 4:8-9)

Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole.  I prayed more prayers in the trenches of homelessness than I had prayed at any more respectably churchgoing phase in m life.  But I had never felt a sense of peace engulf me as it did when I stood up from that prayer.   For the first time in twelve years, I had cast aside the sting of stigma, of all the things that people supposed my homeless experience to entail, and prayed directly that I would be granted a home.

It wasn’t long after that I remembered an old associate of mine.   It crossed my mind that a certain music teacher I’d worked with in the past had offered to get me a one-way ticket to anywhere I thought I could start a new life.   I remember being somewhat perplexed when he added: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, by the way.”  (This obviously planted the thought in my head that he was in fact trying to get rid of me.)

Whatever the case, we met to discuss the matter.  He told me he was no longer teaching, but had received a large retirement.  So he reiterated his offer, suggesting he fly me to Belize.  That was a bit far away for me.   

So I told him I would start googling keywords designed to land me in a part of the United States where I thought I would flourish.   I began to google things like “college town,” “small town,” “affordable rent,” and “low crime rate.”  I also threw in demographics tailored to my tastes, for I tend to thrive in the colder temperatures.    It wasn’t too long before the city “Moscow, Idaho” began to surface.

“This is bizarre!” I told myself.   “I was born in Moscow Idaho — but I only lived here for the first year of my life.   I know nothing about this place, except for that my dad was teaching ROTC at some college, and that he was transferred to San Diego or Long Beach shortly after I was born.”

As the city of Moscow began to work its way further up toward the front page, I took my leap of faith. 

“Why is it that I have never even pondered this town?  Nor wished to return to it?   One think I’d have been curious.  But I wasn’t — until now.”  

On a hunch, I looked on Craigslist for a room.   I saw a studio room with a kitchenette in a converted residence hotel now called the “Friendship Apartments.”  To my astonishment, the room rented for only $275 a month.

I sent pictures to my friend.  “How much do you think this rents for?” I asked.

“Oh – I don’t know.  Maybe $900?”

“Try $275.”

“We’re on!” he shouted.

Shortly later, he was buying me a $200 one-way ticket at the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.  Forty-eight hours later, on July 27, 2016, exactly ten days after I had prayed that unprecedented prayer, I was sleeping indoors in a place of my choosing.

I have been sleeping indoors, in places of my own choosing, ever since.  Twelve years of degrading, debilitating, demeaning, undignifying, dehumanizing homelessness was ended that simply.   It was as easy as that.

I had only asked for “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  But God gave me much more than that.   God answered all the prayers I had asked in frustration why I had to continue to be surrounding by thieves and hookers and pimps and hustlers and drug dealers, and why was I not surrounded by Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors and people more like myself.

I walked through the city gate of the town of my birth, the place where (according to my late sister) I had lived for only fifteen months.   This is the gate that I found:

heart of the arts

This is why I related earlier that all the prayers I prayed in total outrage and frustration were answered by the God Who Is Love.   If that Love can cut through hatred as thick and vicious as mine, I believe it can cut through all the hatred in the world.

Let’s hope.   There is always danger on this earth.   I have been in danger of many things since I’ve lived indoors — danger of a different nature than one finds when one lives outside.  But there is one place where there is no danger, and one home that is eternal.

“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make you free.”   — Jesus Christ

THE END 

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Categories
Christ Christianity Psychology

A Way in the Wilderness

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Categories
Christ Homelessness Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Three)

It would be tempting for me to recount just about everything that took place between August 12, 2006 and April 15, 2011.   But that would be a story in itself — perhaps even a novel or a book.   Suffice it to say that my travels during that period of time were extremely disjointed.   They represented the trek of a man who, having already realized that the Mainstream held nothing for him, nevertheless engaged himself in a five year plan of pointless futility, hanging on to the remnants of a former Mainstream identity.  To everyone in my path, this leg of my journey appeared to be nothing other than a poisonous mixture of insanity and instability.   I bounced from Lodi to Redwood City to Stockton, back to Redwood City, up to Oakland, and back to Stockton, with frenetic periods in between where I could claim no single city as my own.  "BenjaminAlways, I was haunted by the lure of Berkeley and its particularly special brand of homelessness.  Having tasted of that heavenly fruit, there was no way I could return to anything like my former system of values without incurring disaster.  Berkeley loomed as though a Mecca for all who had embraced this unusual consciousness.  In fact, prior to the momentous event of August 8, 2006, there was even a previous moment in the Fall of 2005 that served as a kind of prophecy of unknown times to come.   Someone had driven me to visit my daughter where she was working at the Jamba Juice on Bancroft, and as I stepped out of the car, I suddenly found myself  lifting up my hands in a spontaneous gesture of amazement, shouting: “Berkeley!   This is where I’ve got to be!”

To this day, I have no idea what prompted that outburst.  Something in the air of this peculiar city had caught my attention in a way that no other place ever had.   And then, there was the mysterious revelation of 2006, followed by the tortuous premature application of that epiphany in the next three days, prompting a five year disappearance into failed jobs, shelters, residence hotels, and psych wards, until at last, on April 15, 2011, I gave up the ghost.

On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, got on an AmTrak, and alighted once again on the City of Berkeley, this time with the full intent of my heart.

That night I hooked up with a fellow named Sydney, sold my cell phone for a blanket, and the two of us slept in a corridor near the U.C. campus.  Far from the earlier disorientation, I now found myself guided, as if by an unseen hand, to every resource for the homeless that the city had to offer.  It was at that time that I also was directed to numerous other homeless men and women whom I discovered to be very much like myself.   All of them shared a similar story of having been “liberated” from an evil form of bondage that we called the Mainstream.

One of these was a tall African-American man named Jerome.  For the first five days of my intentional homelessness, I chatted with him at Starbucks.  He was well-dressed — as was I — and it took five days before either of us discovered the other was homeless.  At that, we decided to camp out together.  (There’s safety, after all, in numbers.)

“Here’s the challenge,” Jerome said one night.  “How do get inside again without getting sucked back into the Mainstream?”

“That is indeed the challenge,” I replied.

Then there was silence.

There are many levels to liberation.  As I wrote in Part Two of this series, one is not just liberated from something.   One is liberated into something.   And that something might just morph into an ogre as forbidding as that from which one had been released in the first place.

For my part, there is no true liberation, unless one is liberated into Christ.   “If you make my Word your home,” said Jesus, “you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make  you free.”  

When one has found a home, one needs to maintain it.  Otherwise one will have a home no longer.   Even the freedom that there is in Christ is not an absolute arrival.   To what extent I had found liberation it now needed to be tilled like a garden.  Otherwise, it would morph into a beast as threatening as the Mainstream from which I first fled.

For better or worse, that is what happened with homelessness.  It developed into a world of its own, with rules of its own, many of them tacitly acknowledged — unwritten and unspoken, yet real.   And those rules bespoke betrayal, vengeance, and death.

Though the first months of homelessness in Berkeley were little short of blissful, even on into the second year, eventually my old enemy reared his head, though in a different and far more frightening form.   Just how bad it got, it will disturb me greatly to tell.  But I’ll tell it, as cogently as I can, in Part Four.

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bible Christ scripture

For Those Who Make Peace

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 

Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

— James 3:13-18 NRSV

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Christ Christianity scripture

Flagrant

Your hurt is incurable,
and your wound is grievous.
There is none to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you;
for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,
the punishment of a merciless foe,
because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant.
Why do you cry out over your hurt?
Your pain is incurable.
Because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant,
I have done these things to you.
Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,
and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
those who plunder you shall be plundered,
and all who prey on you I will make a prey.
For I will restore health to you,
and your wounds I will heal,
declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 30:12b-17a

 

Categories
Christ God Poetry prayer scripture

Against Thee Only

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your loving devotion;
according to Your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me clean of my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against Thee, against Thee only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be proved right when You speak
and blameless when You judge.

Surely I was brought forth in iniquity;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
Surely You desire truth in the inmost being;
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence;
take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with a willing spirit.

–Psalm 51:1-12

Categories
Activism Christ Christianity scripture social justice

The Least of These My Brothers

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 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 righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to Me.’

–Matthew 25:34-45

Categories
Buddhism Christ Christianity Creative process Psychology Spirituality

Tuesday Tuneup 58

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I have no idea.

Q. None whatsoever?

A. None at all.

Q. How could this come to be?

A. Not sure.  My guess is that it may be due to an emptying of the mind.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that your mind is empty?

A. Well — emptier.  It’s usually full of all kinds of fancy notions.   It seems to have been cleared of many of them.

Q. What kinds of fancy notions?

A. Oh, this and that.

Q. Can you be more specific?

A. Well — it used to be, not too long ago, my life seemed to depend on certain things falling into place.  Certain things happening.   

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Professional things.   And some personal things.

Q. Too personal to discuss?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are these things no longer happening?

A. Not exactly as I’d expected, no.  But bright things are emerging, both in personal and professional arenas.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. New things.

Q. New?

Q. Yes.  My world has been emptied of old things.   Things no longer pertinent to a newly emerging life.

Q. Do you know exactly what the new life will entail?

A. Not at all, sir.  I can only say that I’m very much looking forward to it.

Q. How did this all come to pass?

A. Through meditation.   And surrender.

Q. Surrender of what?

A. I already told you, sir!  Of old ideas.   Please don’t pry.

Q. Am I prying?

A. Yes.

Q. Should I apologize?

A. Only if it makes you feel better.

Q. So after you emptied your mind, did it come to be filled with new things?

A. Not filled to the brim.   But there’s a process of its being filled.

Q. By whom?

A. By God.   He can’t fill a full cup.  He can only fill an empty cup.

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. I do.

Q, How do you equate such an antiquated belief with your intellect?

A. The Word “God” is only a Word.   Words have meaning.  Ask yourself what the Word means.   Then read John Chapter One, Verse One.   Use the Berean Study Bible for ease of use and accurate translation.  Or the Revised Standard — that’s my suggestion.  Start from there.  Just try it.  And then — don’t read cover to cover.  The Word is not a novel.  Read where the Spirit leads you.   

Q. Why?

A. Because I did.  And another intellectual did — someone whom I love.   And countless others.   Believe me, it’s worth the search.   

The Questioner is silent.  

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