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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

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 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon
A little bit goes a long, long way.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

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

 

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

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

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.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Justice and Righteousness

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
     Why would you have the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, and not light;
     as if a man fled from a lion,
     and a bear met him;
or went into the house and leaned
          with his hand against the wall,
     and a serpent bit him.
Is not the day of the LORD darkness,
          and not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it?

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
     and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies,
Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings
          and cereal offerings,
     I will not accept them,
and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts
     I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
      to the melody of your harps
      I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
     and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  

–Amos 5:18-24 RSV

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Tuesday Tuneup 54

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Contemplating life.

Q. Why?

A. Because I agree with Socrates, quoted below:

socrates.jpg

Q. What brought this on?

A. Transition.  I’m at a cusp between two stages in my journey.

Q. How do you figure that?

A. By observing the nature of the stage that is to pass, and envisioning the far greater nature of the stage that is to come.

Q. What is the nature of the stage that is to pass?

A. It is a stage based on fear.

Q. Fear of what?

A. Lots of things.  People, for one thing.  People’s opinions, for another thing.  People’s opinions of me, for a third thing.  But it all boils down to fear of death.

Q. Why be afraid of death?  Isn’t death a universal human experience?

A. Pretty much.  Even Jesus had to die, though He came back again, in eternal form.   Enoch and Elijah apparently escaped it.  People who believe in the “consummation of the saints” (AKA the so-called ‘rapture’), might escape it as well.  The jury’s still out on that one.

Q. Then why be afraid of it?

A. My experience is that those who are afraid to die are generally afraid to live.

Q. Have you been afraid to live?

A. Yes.  Especially throughout the past three years.

Q. What happened during the past three years?

A. I escaped twelve years of living in very sketchy situations, most often outdoors, in favor of living mostly alone in secure and secluded indoor dwelling spots.

Q. But wouldn’t that logically make you less afraid to live?

A. Logically, yes.   But what happened was not logical.

Q. What did happen?

A. I kept clinging to the old stage.  I kept living for the approbation of those from whom I had already departed.   Even though the new stage was crying out to be christened, I hesitated.  I clung to the old stage like a baby clinging to his mother’s breasts.

Q. So you were dependent upon the old stage?  Like a baby depends upon a mother?

A. Yes.  But not entirely of my own will.  It took two to dance that dance.  The possessive, overprotective mother of the Old Stage would not let me go.

Q. And now you are escaping her grip?

A. I can feel it, yes.   I’m not her baby anymore.  

Q. So the mother of the old stage was fear?

A. Yes.

Q. And who is the mother of the New Stage?

A. Love.  If you love someone, you let them go.

Q, So the old stage was a stage of fear, and the New Stage will be a Stage of Love.

perfect loveA. Yes — Love.

Q. Say again?

A. Love!

Q. One more time — 

A. LOVE!

Q. How so?

A. Because Perfect Love casts out fear.

 

                                                      The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part One

As most of  you know, I am of a genetic heritage (Sicilian) that is noted for resisting the notion of forgiveness.   Some of us seem to have an alarming capacity to take our grudges to our graves.   However, because I am a Christian, and I take the Bible seriously, I would like to make sure that I forgive those whom I still begrudge.   Yet I frankly find forgiveness of these people to be next to impossible. 

But I’ve got to forgive them!   Even if I didn’t identify as a Christian, I’d probably still feel a need to forgive them, if for no other reason than that a lingering resentment doesn’t feel good.   Resentments against others eat away at one’s mental health.   If I weren’t a Christian, I would want to let go of these grudges for my sake.   But because I am a Christian, it is not only for my own sake that I must forgive.  It is for God’s sake — for the sake of all that is good and just and kind in this world.  Look what Jesus said:

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.
–Mark 11:25-26

So if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive.   That much seems simple and sound.   But whether or not you are conversant with Scripture, these words of Jesus are likely to strike a puzzling note.   Aren’t we Christians the ones who believe that we simply are forgiven?   As in, no matter what we do?

forgiveWell, yes and no.   There are Christians and there are Christians.  A Calvinist might believe this.  An Arminian might not.   We could get into Romans Six and all that, but this single Scripture definitely appears to contradict numerous biblical references to the security of the believer. Have our names not been written on the Book of Life since “before the foundation of the world?”  If I am a Christian, and I believe that God has already forgiven me, then why would I need to forgive anyone else in order to secure His forgiveness?   

Although I’ve read numerous studies on the matter, they seem by and large to be rationalizations.   One suggested that Jesus speaks in this context not to “believers” but to “people in the world.”   But that doesn’t hold water.   Jesus is simply speaking to everybody — to whoever has ears to hear — whether they believe Him or not.

So I pondered this apparent contradiction for a long time.  Finally, I arrived at a reconciliation within myself, as a result of performing the following dialectic:

Q. What’s bugging you?

A. I think I might be going to hell.

Q. Why?

A. There are three people in my life whom I have not forgiven.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christian?

A. That depends upon what you mean by “Christian.”

Q. What do you mean by Christian?

A. A Christian (according to me) is a person who is in the process of being saved.

Q. Saved from what?

A. From the just consequences of our many misdeeds.

Q. Can you document this scripturally?

A. I can try.   Romans 10:9 states:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  According to this Scripture, these are the two prerequisites for salvation.

Q. Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?

A. Sometimes.

Q. Do you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead?

A. Always.

Q. Then why would you not be saved?

A. Because I haven’t forgiven these three people, and God says I have to forgive them if I want to go to heaven.

Q. Do you want to forgive them?

A. Oh yes!

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I keep trying, but I keep winding up going back to the grudges.   It’s not that I don’t want to forgive them, it’s that I don’t feel I have the power to do so.

Q. But as a Christian, doesn’t your power come from God?

A. Well, if it doesn’t, then it ought to.

Q. Then why not ask God to empower you to forgive them?

A. Good idea.   I will do so immediately.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.

Q. What?

A. As I asked God to empower me to forgive the triumvirate whom I begrudge, a thought came to mind.  Something I’d never thought before.

Q. Really?  What thought is that?

A. Since God knows all things, maybe God knows that ultimately, at some time in my life, I am going to forgive all three of them.   Therefore, though I haven’t forgiven them yet — and would certainly go to hell were I to die on this very day — I am still nonetheless going to go to heaven on some future day, because by the time that future day rolls around, I will have forgiven them.   And God knows this!  I may not have forgiven them yet, but I will forgive them.  I will then be free to depart gracefully from the present planet, and take up my throne in heaven.

Q. Your throne?   Isn’t God the one on the throne?

A. 2 Timothy 2:12 & Revelation 20:6, dude.  We’re all gonna be reigning in heaven.   Remember: you are dealing with a person who actually reads the Bible.   I’m not a person who blindly swallows every lie that comes out of the mouth of the preacher on the pulpit.  Nor am I of the camp who absolutely refuse to open the Book, for fear of its contents.   Nor am I —

Q. Excuse me!! What about 1 Corinthians 8:1?

A. Oops — I forgot.  You actually read the Bible, too.

Q. Well, what about it?

A. What about what?

Q. Don’t dodge the question — what about 1 Cor 8:1?   Paul clearly states that the pursuit of knowledge leads to arrogance, whereas the pursuit of love leads to encouragement and spiritual growth.

A. All right, I’ll admit it.  My problem is that I’m too hung up on learning, reading, absorbing, acquiring information, and gaining knowledge.   And despite all of that intellectual focus, the plain fact is that I just don’t have enough love in my heart.   

Q. And Who is Love?

A. You know the answer to that.   Luke 15:9 & John 4:8 come to mind.   God is Love.

Q. Then Whom shall you seek, if you are to learn how to love?

A. Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13 hold the answer to that one.

Q. Wasn’t that a bit indirect of you?

A. Was Jesus always direct?

The Questioner is silent.  

Obviously, I’ve arrived at a resolution that is quite pleasant, if tenuous.   It would seem that my next move along these lines should be to forgive the three people whom I continue to begrudge.   So, in Parts 2-4 of this series (if I ever get around to writing them),  please expect me to go through great efforts to forgive the triad of traitors who so treacherously trapped, tricked, and traumatized me.   I’m not going to mention them by name — of course.   But I’m definitely going to delve into it.

Why?  Because I must.  It’s not just being Sicilian.   It’s that I spent way too much time on the streets.   There, the concept of achieving peace of mind over a troubling individual was virtually synonymous with the notion of getting even with them.   If I wanted there to be peace between me and someone with whom I was quarreling,  I didn’t even think about forgiving them.  I thought about intimidating them until they were too scared to mess with me.   It was only then that I would breathe my long-awaited — though highly temporary — sigh of relief.

Let’s put it this way.   I may have Mafioso blood, but I sure didn’t have anything against any of these people before I had to spend twelve years on the streets.

TO BE CONTINUED

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1188

My list from yesterday afternoon, just after waking from a nap, slightly edited.

1. Got a 2 hour nap from about 2-4. I believe I am now fully rested, and I’m more relaxed as well, having only gotten about 4 hours of sleep last night.

2. I wound up strapped at the end of the month, but somebody who wanted a Pinnacle CD handed me a ten dollar bill at church this morning.   I haven’t spent any of it, and now I can get through the rest of the month till my check comes on Tuesday.

3. When I left the studio yesterday, there was more peace in my spirit than I have known since the day I left Dan’s office after playing through the Eden in Babylon score. Grateful for that rare but blissful sense of comfort and peace.

4. At the Courtyard before the radio show, quickly grabbing a bite to eat, I was so scattered I could not pray, but to ask God that a believer would appear between there and the station, so that maybe that person could pray instead. I then walked out the door, and the first person I saw was Amanda from my church, who agreed to pray for me. Grateful that God had my back.

5. After that, the radio show proceeded almost supernaturally well. It was a surprise to have received the sudden opportunity, and an even bigger surprise how well it went. Grateful for surprises such as these.

6. Though the show on this link is three hours long (without option to rewind or fast-forward), I am now in possession of a 250mb mp3 containing the entire three hour experience. Grateful for the opportunity to trim it down to one hour, and post it on my blog and on social media.

7. Grateful for having met Big Al in the first place and shot the breeze with him at the Round Table. When I saw him today, he said he wanted to do it again sometime.

8. Really grateful for my church, for more than two reasons. But here are two, among many: (1) the sensible spirit there is balancing out my tendency to make choices on impulse, rather than by sound reason; (2) the emphasis on surrendering things that are beyond my control is balancing out my tendency to want to take the reins, take charge, and in some cases, take vengeance.

9. Grateful for the Freudian slip in Friday’s texting with Norman. Well, “Freudian slip” is a slight misnomer, because it only involved hitting a “c” instead of a “v” on the smartphone keyboard. So the intended expression, “I’ll probably take it to the grave” (with respect to my ongoing resentment against a certain individual), was transformed to “I’ll probably take it to the grace.” This resulted in reflection. It is through grace that God is not punishing me for the full extent of my offences against Him. Therefore, who am I to punish anyone for their offences against me? To whatever extent I forgive those who have wronged me, to that same extent do I walk in the forgiveness of Christ.

10. My daughter has grown into an outstanding human being, and has made her father’s heart glad. God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

The Fine Linen She Wears

After this I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
        Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
For His judgments are true and just.
He has judged the great prostitute

who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
        He has avenged the blood of His servants
that was poured out by her hand.”

And a second time they called out:

“Hallelujah!
        Her smoke ascends forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down
and worshiped God who sits on the throne, saying:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
        all you who serve Him,
and those who fear Him,
        small and great alike!”

And I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude,
        like the rushing of many waters,
and like a mighty rumbling of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
        For our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
        give Him the glory.
For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
        and His bride has made herself ready.
She was given clothing of fine linen,
        bright and pure.”

For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints.

 — Revelation 19:1-8

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Full of Light

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For without God, people strive after all these things, yet your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

— Matthew 6:22-33

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

On Awakening

I am weary, O God,
and worn out.
Surely I am the most ignorant of men,
and I lack the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
and I have no knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in His hands?
Who has bound up the waters in His cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is the name of His Son—
surely you know!
Every word of God is flawless;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words,
lest He rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Proverbs 30:1-6

The Beautiful Gate

One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for money.

Peter looked directly at him, as did John. “Look at us!” said Peter. So the man gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were strengthened. He sprang to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and leaping and praising God.

When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

— Acts 3:1-10

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 
 

The Death of Death

I wasn’t sure what to offer you for Easter Sunday, when a story popped into my head.  It was something that happened way back in the 70’s, when I was hanging out in an all-night restaurant.

A man entered.  He seemed to have a mental health condition.  He took a napkin and a pen, and drew the famous equation:E Equals Mc Squared Calculator | Komseq
“You know what that means?” he asked, smiling.

I looked up from my seventh cup of coffee.   “Energy equals matter times the speed of light squared.”

“Ha!” he said.  “He knows!  But that’s only half of it.  It actually is about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

“The only constant in the Universe, according to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, is the speed of light.  The only constant in corporeal life is death.   The speed of light squared is the speed of light times the speed of light.  Death squared is death times death.  In multiplication, the word “of” is often used as a multiplier.   Therefore, we are dealing with the death of death.

“Matter corresponds to the corporeal body.   So, matter, times the death of death, equals what?  Energy.  In other words, everlasting life.

“Are you a Christian?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

“You will be,” he said mysteriously, and walked out of the restaurant.

An interesting word of prophecy, as it were – for I eventually did become a Christian (though possibly not as a result of his bizarre analogy.)  I could tell you how I became a Christian, in the Spring of 1983, but that would be a theme for a much longer, larger post.

For today, I only want to say that I went running along a strange and merry trail, where no other runners were.   A lone rabbit eased up towards me, on the other side of the creek, and surpassed me at amazing velocity.

“Aha!” I proclaimed.  “There’s the Easter Bunny!”

He is risen! He is risen indeed.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

A Light for the Nations

Here is My Servant, whom I uphold,
My Chosen One, in whom My soul delights.
I will put My Spirit on Him,
and He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice,
nor make His voice heard in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break
and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow weak or discouraged
until He has established justice on the earth.
In His law the islands will put their hope.”
Thus says God the LORD—
He who created the heavens
and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and its offspring,
who gives breath to the people on it
and life to those who walk in it—
“I, the LORD, have called you
for a righteous purpose,
and I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and appoint you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light to the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring prisoners out of the dungeon,
and those sitting in darkness
out from the prison house.”

–Isaiah 42:1-7

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

A Light to the Nations

Here is My Servant, whom I uphold,
My Chosen One, in whom My soul delights.
I will put My Spirit on Him,
and He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice,
nor make His voice heard in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break
and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow weak or discouraged
until He has established justice on the earth.
In His law the islands will put their hope.”
Thus says God the LORD—
He who created the heavens
and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and its offspring,
who gives breath to the people on it
and life to those who walk in it—
“I, the LORD, have called you
for a righteous purpose,
and I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and appoint you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light to the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring prisoners out of the dungeon,
and those sitting in darkness
out from the prison house.”

–Isaiah 42:1-7

A Clean Heart

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 You, You 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.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
and sinners will return to You.

— Psalm 51:1-13

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Gratitude List 1082

1. I just woke up, and when I awoke, there was a moment not only of letting go, but of understanding. And the understanding is manifold.

2. I really don’t need to be defined by what they think of me, or by what I think they think of me, at all.

3. I really don’t need to reach out any further toward them at all. All further reaching out is only an effort to “prove” myself. There is nothing to prove, if what I am is defined in my divinely drafted design, defined by the Designer who designed me, independent of their judgments of me. Their judgments of me, whatever they are, are immaterial.  I have nothing to prove to them, and I need not, and ought not, try.

4. I have been lifted out of the Old and into the New. They are not in the New. They are in the Old. I am in the New.

5. To continue to grasp toward them is to turn to the Old. It is not for me to return to the Old. It is for me to continue to turn to the New, and the Newer, and the Newest.

download6. If I wait, they will reach out to me when the time comes, if the time comes.  If and when that time comes, in reaching out to me, they will be turning toward the New — for I am in the New.  For them to reach out to me is to turn to the New, where I am.  It will be my task then to draw them toward the New, to show them Christ in me, the hope of glory.  It will be my challenge then to resist being sucked back down into the Old.

7. I therefore don’t need to send another text, email, voicemail, letter, chat, or postcard. To any of them who are still in the Old.  I need not return to the Old at all.

8. In this manifold understanding, I am free. I am no longer bound by the Old.

9. In turning to them, in pleading with them, in praying to them, I make them gods.  They are not gods, nor are they on a path toward becoming gods.  They are only human, as I am human.  In praying for them, I turn to God, I plead with God, through Christ, who makes all things New.

10. If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation. The former things are passed away. All things are becoming New.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

General Notice to All Concerned

I would like for everyone I know to cease telling me that:

(1) I am supposed to be in an intimate relationship.

(2) I am supposed to be “sexually active.”

(3) I am supposed to get married or remarried.

(4) I am supposed to learn how to “make love.”

(5) I am supposed to be anyone other than who I am.

I tire of it.  I really do.  The one relationship that is of unique importance to me — that is, the relationship with Jesus Christ — is challenging enough.  However, Jesus never blames me for things I have not done, and in fact takes the blame for that which I have.

Finally, I am an Artist.  I was on the streets for years.  I love my solitude.  I like my space.  If I want to make love, I make love to my piano.  My piano never leaves me.  My piano never lies.

I hope this is the end of this particular story.

Thank you,

Andy

P.S.   Besides, the good ones are all taken for.  :(

Tuesday Tuneup 38

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater harmony.

Q. How are you lacking in harmony?

A. There’s too much counterpoint.   

Q. Why is that a problem?

A. Because the counterpoint is dissonant.  It reminds me of all the counterpoint toward the end of Musical Number Two in my new musical Eden in Babylon.   Listen to “The Age of Nevermore” – skip to about 3:20 if you need to.  When the counterpoint comes in at around 3:47, it’s the counterpoint of suffering and travail.  It’s not consonant.  It’s cacophonic.   

Q. But didn’t you yourself compose that cacophony?  I mean, intentionally?

A. I did.  And that’s its saving grace.  But the current cacophonic counterpoint is not being composed by me alone, but by a conflicting collaboration of a number of convoluted, confused composers.  It’s a big mess.

Q. What kind of counterpoint would be better?

A. The counterpoint in Musical Number Nine: “Ode to the Universe”.   I mean, listen.  Where the counterpoint comes in at around 1:44, everything is happier.  :)

Q. Why is the counterpoint in your life so unhappy these days?

A. Human relationships.

Q. Relationships?  With whom?

A. With those whom throughout my life I have deemed most important to me.

Q. And these relationships are no longer harmonious?

A. Not sure they ever were harmonious, quite frankly.  They’ve always been contrapuntal.  But there have been times when the counterpoint was prettier.

Q. And now?

A. Our melodic lines are colliding.  This creates dissonance and ugliness.  I’m an Artist.  I’m about creating Beauty.  I can’t stand it when I’m even remotely involved in the creation of ugliness.

Q. But who’s to say what’s beautiful and what’s ugly?

A. You know the answer to that.

Q. Are you of such exalted Artistic merit that you can decide what’s beautiful and what’s ugly?

A. Well – I am the Artist, aren’t I?  I mean – what are you driving at?

Q. Are not the others in these human relationships that you so prize, Artists in their own rite?

A. They are indeed.  This is largely why I prize the relationships so highly.

Q. Then who are you to say that what they are creating is ugly?

A. I never said that!  I said that the contrapuntal lines of the divergent melodies created by the — the three or four of us, let’s say — produce ugliness.

Q. Three or four?

A.  Three for sure.  Four pending.  The fourth Artist has not yet begun his or her melodic line, at least not in a way that lets me hear it.  But that’s besides the point.   Let’s say it’s a Three-Part Invention — for now — and nowhere near the caliber of Beauty as such as have been created by J.S.Bach.

Q. So you are willing to concede that the individual melodic lines of the two Artists whose melodies conflict with your own might be individually beautiful in and of themselves?

A. Yes.  In fact, they might even be harmonious.

Q. Harmonious?  How can that be?

A. They may not be harmonious with me, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be harmonious with each other.  When their parts are played separate from my own, they will no longer be in counterpoint with each other, but in harmony.  

Q. Then can you not assay to be harmonious with them as well, and thus create a three-part harmony, rather than a three-part counterpoint?

A. Maybe. In the future, perhaps, after something changes.

Q. What needs to change?

A. The tonal structure of the conflicting melodic lines, obviously!  We at least need to all be playing the same key, for crying out loud!

Q. But how can this ever come to pass?

A. You got me.  From my position, it seems like the other musicians aren’t playing their scales right.  They obviously haven’t been practicing.

Q. And you have been?

A. Yes.  This is not to say that I haven’t been making mistakes.  The mistakes just aren’t quite as glaring.

Q. Is there a way you can compensate for their mistakes, so that the three of you can still turn in a good performance?

A. Probably.  I think it has to do with something that Jesus said.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “He who would be greatest among you must be least and servant of all.”

Q. Are you implying that you wish to be greatest among them?

A. Not quite.  Maybe second greatest.

Q. Why are you being so curt?  And so vague?

A. Tired of the theme.

Q. Are you bored with the theme?

A. Not bored.  More-or-less exasperated.

Q. Andy — what’s the bottom line?

A. You want to hear the bottom line?  Then I’ll tell you the bottom line.  The bottom line is that my sense of aesthetics, of what is beautiful and non-beautiful in the Creation of Art, is insufficient to compose or conduct the manner of three-part counterpoint that would elevate the current cacophonic theme to the level of a fugue as composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.  I’m simply not a good enough composer.  But I know Someone who is.

Q. Who would that be?

A. Who else?  Who is the Greatest Artist?  Who is the Artist so great, that He even created Art Itself?

Q. You refer to the Creator?

A. I defer to Him.  He is the One who can can make the crooked paths straight, and transform the most ugliest of dissonances into the most beautiful, consonant resonance – it is through Him that the worlds have been made.   Everything is formed through Christ, who is least and servant of All.

Q. And you?

A. Me?  I’m just bangin’ on my old piano, gettin’ in tune with the straight and narrow.

The Questioner is Silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Tuesday Tuneup 37

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater ease.

Q. Is something making you uneasy?

A. Many things make me uneasy.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, for one thing, I made a New Year’s Resolution.  I’m keeping it, but it just seems forced.  It’s not easy.

Q. Are resolutions ever easy?

A. Probably not.

Q. Then why fret?

A. Because of — the nature of the resolution, and the specific temptations to break it.

Q. What are you tempted to do?

A. I’m tempted to continually contact my old friends in California, in order to try to prove myself to them.   In fact, I’m tempted to scream and yell at them, and to call them very nasty names.

Q. You haven’t actually done that, have you??

A. Not recently, no.  In times past, perhaps.

Q. Then can’t you just relax, knowing you’ve kept your resolution?

A.  No,  I can’t.  That’s the whole point.  I’m not at ease.   How can I relax, when I have all these horrible feelings toward my old friends?

Q. What horrible feelings?

A. Anger, resentment, bitterness, rage, and hostility — to name a few.

Q. You feel all those things toward your old friends?

A. Yes.

Q, Why?

A. Because they think they care about me, but they don’t.  This thing that they call “caring” is actually disrespect.  

Q. But how can caring be confused for disrespect? 

A. All right.  Let me explain.  Take this one guy I’ll call Richard.  He keeps insisting that he cares deeply about me.  But all his caring is only a put-down.  No matter how positively I express myself, he always finds something negative about it, and then acts as though illuminating the negative is caring.   

Q. Would you call this chap a bubble-burster?

A. I would call him names much worse than that, were it not for my resolution.

Q. Why do you think he is finding fault in the things that you think are positive?

A. Because he’s a fault-finder. 

Q. But what specifically does he find faulty?

A. Well – I think he objects to the pace at which I proceed.  Recently he suggested I ought to “slow down.”  He also said I come across as though I’m trying to “make up for lost time.”

Q. What’s so bad about that?

A. Look what it suggests.  First off, he assumes that all my years of homelessness were “lost time.”  Those happen to be the years that have provided the entire impetus for my work.  “Lost time??”  What the hell kind of concept is that?  Is any time ever lost?  Isn’t all life experience valuable?

Q. But you do see what he meant, don’t you?

A. Sure I do!   And that is what’s so insulting.  This guy has actually gone so far as to say things like “Forget about all those homeless people!”  Forget about them??  What am I supposed to do, wipe out twelve of the most meaningful years of my life, and all the many conversations with the numerous fine individuals I met on the streets?  How dehumanizing!  It’s the exact attitude I so fervently oppose!

Not to mention, Richard never recognizes that I wrote my finest music when I was homeless.  Sure, I couldn’t sequence it — I couldn’t hang on to a laptop down there, or to music production software.  But I wrote it, didn’t I?   So how does that make my time “lost?”

Q. Well, wasn’t it just a figure of speech?  Don’t you think he probably meant it was lost for the very reason that you lacked those resources?

A.  Figure of speech?   P.O.T.U.S. told Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes that he “loves” Kim Jong and then wrote off the word “love” as a “figure of speech.”  And as far as time being “lost” because of my having been disadvantaged and underprivileged, that’s only a typical dismissal of the dignity and humanity of human beings who happen to be homeless.  They call homeless people “lost” because they lack advantage.  As though anyone who lacks privilege is “lost” — as though they got that way because of “poor choices they made” — as though it’s a moral failing to be down and out.

Q. Wow – don’t you think you’re reading a lot into it?

A. No, I don’t!  You see, I know this guy.  I know him better than he knows himself.  And not just him, but everyone like him.  All my old friends.  They have so much privilege, they base their self-worth on it.  And they look down upon people who lack privilege, because that’s the only way they can live with their absolute emptiness of spirit.  

Q. Emptiness of spirit?

A. You heard me!  When it comes right down to it, they’re basically going to hell.  They cannot possibly manifest Everlasting Life, because there is no true life in their spirits.  

Q.  But – but – aren’t a lot of these people Christians?

A. They say they are.  And they may even think they are.  But so what?   What does calling yourself a Christian have to do with the Real Life of the Spirit?   I know plenty of people who don’t identify as “Christians,” and I can tell for sure that they have Life.  

Q. In the, er, fervor with which you make such claims, can you not grasp that there is a very real sense in which you truly are “making up for lost time?”  

A. And what sense is that, may I ask?  “Making up for lost time” makes it sound as though I’m on a mad rush to get things done quickly, as though the grave were just around the corner.  To frame it that way completely overlooks the joyfulness of the process!  I don’t write all these words and music and make all these speeches because I’m a stress case, for crying out loud!  I do it because this is what I love to do, and it is what I am called to do.  

Q. But — but — if you’re not a stress case, why are you so stressed out?

A. That’s a rhetorical question.

Q. But it’s true, isn’t it?   Didn’t you begin this very dialectic with an admission of your not being “at ease?” 

A. All right, you win.  Yes, there’s stress.  I’m not going to deny it.  It’s why we’re here.  I wish things were a bit more certain, and I weren’t having to shoot so far into the dark.  I know I have the calling, I hear the call clearly — but I often can’t tell where it’s headed.  And yes, this uncertainty results in stress.  

Q. Uncertainty?  How can you possibly claim to be uncertain?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Isn’t it obvious?  Don’t you clearly come across as one of the most convicted, self-assured people on the planet?  What could be more certain?

A. My path.  My direction.  Where I’m headed exactly could be much more certain.   Much more easy on my spirit.  

Q. Now why do I find all this so hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?

Q. Well, didn’t this blog post come pretty easily to you?

A. I suppose it did.  I’ve been hammering out pretty rapidly with very little editing.  It’s been a joyful process.  Can’t exactly say it came hard.  

Q. Well then, what is the essence of the dis-ease?   Why are you still uneasy?

A. It’s — it’s those guys again — my old friends — the people with whom I wish I could share my current joy, the way I always used to share it with them.   They’ve either disappeared on me, or they come back at me with assault and vitriol.   They — they — they don’t get it — they don’t see me for who I am — and it’s frustrating because — these were my lifelong friends — they weren’t supposed to just abandon me like this . . 

Q. But have they truly abandoned you?  What about this fellow Richard?  Isn’t he actually very much engaged with you?   

A. Engaged, yes — but in the wrong way.  They only keep criticizing me!  They sit around and gossip, and smoke their weed, and place bets as to when I’m going to have my first heart attack.  

Q. Then why do you remain so attached to these unsupportive old friends of yours?

A. That’s the whole problem.  It’s why I’m not at east.  These are birth bangs.  The woman in Revelation Chapter Twelve cries out with travail as she is about to give birth to the New Child.  And the dragon awaits her, right outside her womb, to devour it — if it were possible.

Q. Who is the New Child?

A. In Scripture, we know this to be the Christ Child.  But anybody with a calling, with a life-purpose, has their own baby.   In my case, it’s my musical.  It’s going to fly.  I can feel it!   The Woman is bringing birth to it, even as we speak.

Q. And who is the Woman?

A. (chuckles) I need not say.

Q. And the dragon?

A. Symbolically, in this case, the enemy.   The Resister.

Q. But don’t you need the Resister in order to move forward?

A. Yes!  That’s it!  I need these guys!  I need their criticism in order to move forward!  I need these gossipy, lame-ass old friends of mega-privilege who don’t even have purposes in life other than to guzzle down more and more money, faster and faster, as though their lives depended on it.  I need them.  You’ve got it once again.  Perfect!!  I need these guys.  How could I have been so blind?

Q. Uh — you say you need these guys??

A. I do!  I need to prove them wrong.  I have to fight them in all their money-loving arrogance with all my impoverished Art-loving, Christ-loving heart!   And that’ll show ’em!

Q. Show ’em what?

A. What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.  

When They Ignore You Quotes. QuotesGram

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Further Resolve

Not that I’m big on resolutions.  December 31st would be just another day of the year for me, were it not for the fact that it marks the end of this horrible farce of a holiday season some dare to call “Christmas” which has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus on any level.   

If one is impoverished, which the vast majority of Americans are today (let’s face it) one has to endure long periods of time when all resources for food close down, while facing maddening photos of lavish gifts and expenditures on sites like Facebook, and the knowledge that even supportive friends of theirs are suddenly on “holiday” – taking vacations, flying to distant States and countries, when most of the gratitude we can muster is in the fact that we are not yet (or no longer) having to beg for change or fly a sign on a busy city sidewalk.   To make matters worse, if I even propound these simple truths, I am accused of being “negative” in a society that has come to confuse that which is positive with that which is denial.  

homeless jesus 1To overlook the suffering of the multitudes in favor of indulging the pleasures of the few is not a “positive attitude.”  It’s an attitude that neglects the suffering of those in need in favor of indulging the worldly pleasures of those who can afford to do so.  If one doesn’t believe me, take a look at how Jesus behaved throughout the three years of his ministry on Earth.  He continuously supported those in need, hung out with them, and fed them without reserve or qualification.  And he railed against the ruling establishment of his day.  Were he to return to America in similar form today, he would no doubt be chided for having a “negative attitude.”  So come on, peeps.  Let’s get real for once.

All that ranted, I will now return to the subject (which by the way, I never began in the first place).

As I was saying, I’m not big on resolutions.  However, I would like to state a commitment I’ve made for the year 2019.  Today being excepted (due to laryngitis),  I will do my best to adhere to the following blog schedule:

Wednesday — a speech
Thursday – a substantial blog post
Friday – a musical offering (probably piano, maybe singing too)
Saturday – a day of rest (observing the Sabbath)
Sunday – a Scripture quote (or information from other spiritual literature)
Monday – a gratitude list
Tuesday – the “Tuesday Tuneup”

If I did make a New Year’s Resolution, it’s pretty much been stated in Tuesday Tuneup 36.  This is a mere addendum.  I’ll also do my best to get them all posted at 7:30am PST.  So – voilà my resolve.  Let’s hope it sticks.

I’ve got a lot to say, and there’s a need to redeem as much time as possible in this fallen world, for the days are truly evil.  Let’s get it together, America — before it’s too late.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Tuesday Tuneup 36

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater resolve.

Q. Resolve?

A. Yes, resolve.  That is to say, resolution.

Q. What is it that needs to be resolved?

A. A dissonant progression.

Q. And how can this dissonant progression be resolved?

A. With a consonant cadence, obviously.

Q. Are you not speaking in strictly musical terms?

A. Not strictly. I use the musical analogy of a resolving cadence as a metaphor to the dissonance that needs to be resolved in my life.

Q. What do you find to be most dissonant?

A. There is discord between the nature of my relationships with those whom I know today in this town, and the nature of my relationships with long-term friends and family in the place where I used to live.

Q. How does that discord sound?

A. Ugly.  

Q. Do you feel you have the power to resolve it?

A. Yes and no.   I have creative power, as the composer of my life, to resolve any discord I wish to resolve.  That’s the “yes” part.

Q. And the “no” part?

A. I just haven’t found the right chord yet.  I don’t believe I can find it on my own.  It has to be given to me.  In a flash.   Once I find it, I will resolve the discord.  In so resolving the discord, I will complete this first movement to the Symphony of My Life.  And then, on to the Second Movement.

Q. How would you describe the feeling of the first movement?

A. Tumultuoso.

Q. And the second?

A. Grazioso.

Q. So all you need is a single concluding chord?

A. Yes.

Q. How best can you find that chord?

A. By subjecting the dissonance to proper theoretical analysis.

Q. You can do that, can’t you?

A. I can.

Q. Did you not receive very good grades in Music Theory and Composition at the Conservatory?

A. I did.

Q. Well then — what is the proper analysis of the dissonance?

A. It can best be symbolized as 20th Century Harmony morphing into a tension of atonality.

Q. What do you mean by atonality?

A. It lacks a tonal center.  In other words, I don’t know what key I’m in.  I only know that I’m in a different key than my old friends and family.  In fact, they all seem to be singing in the same key.  It’s an old key in my experience.  A minor key, associated with much sadness and despair.

Q. And you wish to resolve the piece in a major key?

A. Yes.  That would end the tumult, and usher in the 21st Century Harmony of Grace.

Q. So how do you get from the chaotic cacaphony of debilitating dissonance to the conclusive cadence of harmonious grace?

A. By reducing the power of the minor key in which my old friends and family members so sadly sing.

Q. You mean — you need to turn down their volume?

A. Now you’re getting it.

Q. But how can you have any power over the volume of their sadness?  Can’t you only turn down the volume of your dissonance?

A. By George, I think you’ve got it!  

Q. How so?

A. That’s the key!  I need to turn down my own volume.  They will then therefore turn down theirs.   

Q. Will you then find resolution to the dissonance?

A. Indeed I will.  For the dissonance will resolve into a major chord of unsurpassed, unprecedented power and joy.

Q. So your major chord will be stronger than their minor chord?

A. Ha!  They don’t stand a chance.

Q. And when will you go about turning down this great volume of yours?

A. Hmmm…. good question!  Off the top, I’d say, midnight of January 1st sounds about right.

Q. And how far down will you turn your volume?

A. All the way down.  

old newQ. Is this your New Year’s Resolution?

A. It is indeed.  Tired of having to prove myself to those guys.  They never let me know how they’re doing.  All they ever do is give me advice on how I ought to be doing.  And their advice no longer pertains to my reality.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because they’re still in the Old Story.  They just don’t know it yet.

Q. Why don’t they know it?

A. Because every time I contact them, I only engage the Age-Old Story.  

Q. Is this why they never hear the New Story?

A. Precisely.  No matter how loud I shout it, it is impossible for them to hear it.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because shouting at them is all part of the Old Story.

Q. And in the New Story?

A. I shout to the heavens.  I shout: “Hallelujah!”  Out with the Old – and in with the New.  The New Story has at last begun.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Gratitude List 1007

This one was from Saturday morning.  It looked interesting & unusual enough to be worth posting.  So I posted it.  

1. Slept about 5 hours, a little after 10 till around 3. Slept deeply.

2. At some point yesterday, I became really tired, in a good way. Tired of always feeling like I have to prove myself. It felt good not to need to prove anything to anyone.  It made me feel as though I was already all right.  

3. Apologized to a couple people I’d gotten upset with.  I don’t know that they were necessarily “in the wrong” but it still seemed right to apologize for my overreaction.

4. Felt better after I apologized, and like I could move forward now.

5. There’s a kind of hatred in me when I’m trying to prove myself to people, especially to people I knew from California, or to sheltered people of privilege, or both. Tired of hating on them, tired of returning stigma for stigma.  Tired of the whole thing. It felt so good to let go, when I did let go, and I knew I’d let go.

6. I didn’t have to prove myself anymore to this one guy I ran into the other night, somebody who intimidates me, because he has every positive quality that I lack.  So what?  He’s got his, and I’ve got mine.   The same God created us both.

7. Did all right at the Open Mike and may have made a new friend in this one lady Hanna — or at least a fan. Sang “The Word from Beyond” and it kinda seemed dumb that I’d ever felt I needed to change those lyrics, as though to prove myself, or prove that I’m not New Agey, or whatever it is that makes me weirder than most Christians.  It’s just a damn song in a show, that is to say, a show tune.  And I wrote it.  It speaks for itself.  Tired of proving myself.

8. Woke up and I was different. Tired of sending all these emails to everyone. I want to read, I want to run. Tired of talking all the time, I just want to listen.

9. It felt good to just notate the score last night and make progress and not have to prove that my work is good. My work just is good, it felt good just to do the work and not worry about what anybody thinks of it. If they didn’t think my music was good, they wouldn’t be trying to help me produce my musical.  It felt good just to relax about it all for once.

10. Met an interesting spiritual guy who knows Norman from Campus Christian Center, a Zen kinda dude named Seth. He gave me a ride home from the Open Mike. We probably disagree about prayer, but I didn’t feel like I had to win an argument or anything. Tired of proving myself.

Tired of having to prove myself to money-worshipping money-guzzlers.  Tired of feeling like I should have anything to prove to people of privilege who go around lecturing us poor people on how to live — as if they have any idea what it’s like to be poor, and as if I had any inkling I’d ever want to be rich and become like they are.

Tired of getting pissed off at privileged people’s put-downs and all their hypocritical kick-downs.  I’ll stay poor, I’ll stay starved, I’ll stay complaining to them all.  And the day when they realize I’m not complaining about my lot in life, but only complaining about them — will be one Great Day on the Planet.  Some of these kooks kick down a couple of bucks and expect you to kiss their butts for the rest of your days.  They kick down five, and you’re supposed to change your entire hard-earned value system.  Ten bucks and there goes your political philosophy. 

I’m just tired, I’m done. It feels good. I don’t care about money-lovers, the seeds they plant are rooted in evil.  They’ll get theirs. 

And I’ve got mine!!  I just want to die to self and live to Christ. From now on. Tired and done.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Gratitude List 973

1. Although I woke up after only three hours sleep at around 2:30am feeling horribly mentally unhealthy as well as morally and spiritually incompetent, enough positivity has been mustered up since then to renew my hope.

2. One of the (very minor) frustrations on my mind this morning was an inability to find my nail clipper, but at the moment in the morning when I remembered to pray for God’s help at the beginning of the day, I looked down onto the kitchen counter, and there it was sitting by the microwave.  I like it when this kind of thing happens.  It of course has nothing to do with resolving any of the more major frustrations, but it does sort of give one the impression that God’s got his back.

3. Nice email update from Erika this morning and was able to write a proper reply.  This also came one day after I was getting a nudge to email her, so that part’s also good.

4. Heard from Timbo upon my request, who used to be a peer counselor at the Recovery Center.  It was good to go over some of my current issues with him, so as to get a new and valuable perspective.

5. Sold another Exile CD.   Grateful to have made eight such sales in the past three days.  It’s a ray of hope at an otherwise very trying time.

6. I really like my church.  I was depressed yesterday morning, but the fellowship lifted me up.   Certain members of the church are beginning to approach me with homeless themes, and I get a sense of respect from them that I haven’t often found elsewhere, until very recently in life.

7. Although this is a very problematical time for me in terms of a personal family crisis, it’s having the effect of causing me to create about three times as many gratitude lists as usual.  They do help, along with other tools, to renew my hope in Christ and in the future of humanity on this planet.  

8. I’ve noticed that I forget about my problems when I work on the Eden in Babylon vocal score.  This is a good thing, because it gives me more motivation to get it done, and I really do need to have a draft of it ready by the 31st, in order to meet a certain deadline.

9. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

10. This too shall pass.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

It’s Sunday morning, and time for a sermon.  But far be it for me to preach.  These words may be read by anyone who happens upon this page.  But they are directed to those who are, or who have been, homeless — who know the fullness of what that word entails.  These words are meant primarily for those who, despite perhaps having escaped its horrors, have a place in their heart for the homeless, who revere Homelessness as a heavenly gift.  This homily is for the Homeless at Heart. 

This homily is for those who realize that here on this Earth, we have no true home that will not be outlasted.  Our home is in spiritual places, in the heavens, eternal.  In that sense, we are all in fact homeless.   In another sense, knowing what is everlasting, and distinguishing it from that which will vanish at the grave, we rejoice in being Homeless No More.

It’s been two years and three months now that I have been living indoors, in dignified dwelling spaces of my own design and desire.  I have either lived alone, in a studio room or this present one bedroom apartment; or I have lived in this apartment with a like-minded person; a significant other, if you will.   I have not had to “live” in shelters, rehabs, psychiatric facilities, or board and care homes.  Note the quotation marks around the word “live.”

Twenty-seven months have passed, and I have never failed to pay my rent on time.  For me, this is a milestone.  It negates and transcends every other concern that anyone could possibly have about my mode of existence.    Since people in general do not like to look at the ugliness of homelessness, the people who were in my life before all this happened have not wanted to look at the actual reality that was behind my sordid conditions.  So they looked at other things that they suspected might be at the heart of it all.  When they alighted upon something that satisfied their need to know why a man like me should ever have permitted himself to land in such miserable conditions, they contented themselves to wash their hands of my suffering, and of the suffering of those of my kind.  They were content to classify me as a lazy bum, a loser, a deadbeat, a drug addict, perhaps an alcoholic, or a nut case, a lunatic, a wannabe — or better yet, a has-been.  In so doing, they echoed the sentiments of the Pharisee who in the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, praised God that he was not like other, more miserable men.  They looked at me with condescension and scorn, saying:  “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I fully understand why people would think I am insane.   People are often threatened by those whom they can’t quite classify or codify.   It doesn’t matter whether they lean to the Left, to the Right, or neither.   What matters is that, in some way or another, they are bound by what I call mainstream values — the very values condemned in the first two verses of the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.  Anybody locked into any kind of box is going to think I’m crazy.  They’ll also think that anyone like me is crazy.  Be that as it may.

It is remarkable how well I get along with formerly homeless people, even though their life practices and spiritualities may be far disparate from mine.   Their experiences and practices have led them to different conclusions than mine.  But we’ve all been through the same life-changing experience: the Experience of Homelessness.  This alone is such a powerful grounds for identification, it practically overwhelms all else.

I may not identify with New Age spirituality. I may not identify with the Ascension Movement. I don’t identify with NeoPaganism — not much anyway. There were those of us who, though Christian, identified as Castaneda Warriors in order to manage the conditions of homelessness with some semblance of thanksgiving and peace.  Some of us needed the Boy Scout Handbook to get by outdoors. Whatever we did, it was a concerted effort to make a valid life-practice out of abominable conditions — not the least of which was that while we struggled day after day to survive, people looked down upon us in scorn.

This commonality is so strong it overwhelms religous and philosophical differences. It overwhelms political differences. It consumes the entirety of Who We Are.  That I should emerge from such a life-changing experience and even pretend to go back to old ways of being that never worked for me is such an assault to my own inner integrity, it baffles me that I should even endeavor to keep up the pretense.

The milestone of having manifested a respectable place of dwelling, tailored and customized to meet the needs of my specific, individual personality is the greatest thing that I have achieved since having escaped twelve years of homelessness and borderline-homelesness in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It also paved the way for other milestones.  I successfully scored all the music I had written “in my head” while wandering the streets of Berkeley like a madman, playing drums on my pants legs, keyboards and guitars in the air, and singing “bop, bop, bop” to the ridicule of all passersby.  I doubt seriously that more than 10% of the people who saw me doing so were able to perceive that I was actually composing music, and not just being crazy.  When I got inside, I was able to score all this music with notation software on my laptop, and put it on the Berkeley Page of this site. 

After that, I was able to complete an entire musical — book, music and lyrics – about homelessness in America.   I also became a regular contributor to the Street Spirit newspaper, though I had no background in journalism, as well as a regular blogger for the Classism Exposed publication in Boston.  I joined a Writers Guild, and had a piece of mine published in an anthology.  I made five speeches on the Homeless Experience.  I created a youtube channel of my piano work, and three CD’s of my piano playing, two of which you may find on my SoundCloud.  And many other things did I do —  not that I wish to boast about these accomplishments, but only to illustrate two key points:

(1) That these things could only have been accomplished under the protective umbrella of the dignified, customized living situation that I had crafted, with God’s help, for the manifestation of my true and unique self.   

(2) That the motivation to accomplish these things is a direct result of the inspiration received during those twelve years of living outdoors.

So it’s not just the case that I couldn’t have done any of these things if I had remained homeless.  It’s also the case that I wouldn’t have done any of these things had I not have been homeless.  

And of all these things that I so pride myself in having been able to accomplish, I honestly feel that the finest thing of all is this recent piano album called Exile.   I pride myself on this album even more than I have prided myself on my finally having completed a full musical play that I had belabored in my mind so fruitlessly for more than five years.  Somehow, without words, without singing, without drums, bass, or other instruments, the music of Exile reflects the person whom my homeless experience has permitted me to become.  And it’s called Exile for a reason. 

Others who are or were homeless have heard these strains, and they hear in it the uniqueness and authenticity that marks the way of those who have embraced the fullness of outdoor living.  We are the unsheltered ones, the ones who have placed ourselves naked and vulnerable before all the vicissitudes of a totally predictable and often hostile Universe, with no box to hide in, whether that box be the physical box of an ill-fitting abode, or the spiritual box that binds our true selves, and prevents us from accessing Who We Are.

We are those who spent years in exile.  And now, we are in exile no more.  

Strange feelings overwhelm me as I listen to this music.  I hear myself playing as I have never played before.  People thought I was a good piano player before this huge life transformation took place, and informed the transformation of my Music and my Art.  And do you think that I was able to actually practice the piano in all the years when I was homeless?  Not at all.  Of course not!   If I wanted to play the piano in an empty church sanctuary, they would have been denied me access “for insurance reasons,” on the supposition that I was likely a thief or a vandal.   It took a dramatic resurrection from the gigantic grave of homelessness for me to get to the point where I am now trusted with the keys to a church building that includes a Baldwin grand piano.

How strange it feels to realize that the same people who offered adulation and praise for my music, before it became so authentic, will no longer hear one note of it, nor admit it into the realms of that which they are willing to appreciate as Art. But I hear my true heart in the notes that I have played.   And while I feel great satisfaction in what I have been able to produce, I also feel outrage that during all the years when I was homeless, people flat-out refused to recognize my musical gifts.   The only people who acknowledged my musical talent were other homeless people!

What is up with that?   People who lived indoors were so maddeningly focused on my various visible personal flaws and foibles, it awakened my indignation, and prompted me in protest to channel the composing of my music in the appearance of a maniac, visibly homeless, visibly composing music on the streets, and marveling in how many people saw me as a “nut case,” and how few even realized that I was writing these strains.

This has not happened here.  Everything I did when I was homeless was visible.  Everybody saw me do it.  But because of their preconceptions, what I was actually doing was invisible.  Nobody saw what I was really doing.  They only saw their stigma and prejudice, manifested according to their own inner lies.   So naturally, my insistence on pursuing my music in any form, let alone insisting that others pay attention to it, was off-putting. “First things first,” they chided, pointing their fingers, as they all adjured me to get out of homelessness first, and then perchance they would listen to my music.

But they didn’t!   I got out of homelessness, and they still would not listen to my music!  Instead, they continued to bombard me with mockery over whatever was wrong with me, despite the fact that the obvious point of their intial objections no longer existed. This proved that their condescending treatment of me was not sheerly on the basis of my having been homeless, but in a larger sense, a product of their own need to exercise one-upsmanship.  It’s really that simple. They didn’t treat me with normal human respect. I was always lower than them. Worse than them! Inferior to them! Why?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because these are the kinds of people who have no real sense of self, so they measure themselves against those to whom they can claim to be superior.  My being homeless made me an easy mark for finger-pointing, so they pointed their ever-pointing fingers at me.   Instead of having compassion, they looked down on me and judged me. Their condescending attitudes toward me made an already difficult life all the more difficult. If they did anything at all to help me, which was rarely, they then expected me to kiss their royal behinds as though I owed them, for the rest of their hellbound lives. All the while they never gave me what they owed me, which is what I was certainly trying to give them, what we all owe each other, which is love and respect. Isn’t it?

But how can you respect people who are treating you so disrespectfully? That’s the issue. And we might say, well this is my issue — my “stuff,” so to speak. But if that’s the case, does every person who has ever been homeless have the same exact, hidden, deep-seated psychological issue? Is that what made us homeless? Because we all happened to be these weird over-sensitive freaks who didn’t take very well to being treated with disrespect, and so our logical, mutual life-destination was Homelessness? That is, unless we all toughened up and acted like insensitive, inhuman, competitive assholes?

Yes, many of us were sensitive. Many of us did not have any feel for the play of the game; we did not relish the ruthlessness of the realm where we were expected to climb up the corporate latter and screw people left and right, while receiving raises and perks from our higher-ups for doing so, as they encouraged all of us who had succeeded in being so clever and cunning and callous and crafty to do the very same. These are the ones who are encouraged to “succeed” in our sick society.

I shudder to think about it, but it wasn’t much different in the realms of Education or of the Performing Arts, even though people in those spheres routinely express opposition to the competitive or capitalistic mores of the corporate world. They were just as damned cut-throat. That’s why at least one man I know in the Performing Arts has made it as far as he has — and I sincerely doubt he’s a happy man. His ways of achieving things, in order that he himself might “get his way,” are outright immoral and sometimes even unethical. He intimidates people into his getting what he wants. He’s good at it, and he does it craftily as well as, at times, blatantly.  He almost always gets away with it. Look where that man is now in Theatre Arts: reputable, respected, and feared. Well, I fear him not!

I fear him not.  Nor do I fear those like him.  For one thing, that miserable man, despite his ill-gotten notoriety, is not all that talented.  Had he been more talented, he would not have felt the need to gain fame and fortune through nefarious means.  He’d have felt that his talent alone would have sufficed to get him there.  And then — if he were like me (which he would not have been) — he would not have achieved notoriety, for he’d have discovered (like I did) that talent alone did not suffice.

Do you think I’m jealous? If I am, it’s to my fault. Why would I want to be jealous of the depressed, desperate kinds of people whom he exemplifies? What reason would I have to be envious of those who, having reaped what they have sown from a lifelong facile at getting their own ways, to the detriment of others in their paths, had brought them nationwide recognition and success, but not happiness?

I am reminded of another man I once knew who also enjoyed great worldly success, in the field of Education.  He resembled the other bloke in that he saw people as objects, but he went a step further in deciding that certain people (myself at one time included) were actually projects of his. Passive vehicles for his own self-expression, for him to paint and sculpt and mold, as though we were easels and statues and pieces of pottery, and he was the great cunning craftsman known as God.  All of this was done under the guise of “teaching,” and he did it very well.  But is it the role of an educator to seek out the gullible, and fashion them into facsimiles of one’s own godless self?  Did not the Pharisess whom Jesus decried in the 23rd chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew do the same?

Woe to you,
teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites!
You travel over land and sea
to win a single convert,
and when you have succeeded,
you make them twice as fit for hell
as you are yourselves.

Both of these men would refer to God, to prayer, and in the most nauseous of hypocritical ways. Who the hell are they praying to anyway? They have no gods but their own bellies.

All of that competitive focus on achieving “success” in the sense that our society holds we be successful, is a total distraction from receiving the kind of success and satisfaction that can only come from desiring God. As I desire God, it is revealed to me that they are the ones who are really in need of enlightenment, salvation, and healing; because the realm they roam like lions that roar is the form of a former world that is passing. But the truth will endure forever.

It’s absurd for me to have even thought that, in getting inside finally, I could readily or easily return to old systems of values that not only were the very same systems that, when I tried unsuccessfully to adopt them in my pre-homeless past, only had the effect of leading me back into further and deeper Homelessness. It’s absurd that I thought that, just as soon as I finally got inside again, I could regain the friendship of friends who had not only failed me and betrayed me once I became homeless, but proved in so doing that they were never my true friends to begin with. It’s absurd that I should go back and try to engage in anything left over from my pre-homeless existence, if all those things did was join together with each other to form a bunch of things that, when working in concert, had the power to cast me out from society and put me on the streets.

After having learned how to be real in a world of fakery, it is absurd that I should do anything other than my best to be real. Learning to be real got me out of homelessness and into a dignified living situation that works for me, that represents and reflects the person whom I truly am. Busting my guts to try and be fake in a world of fakes not only failed all the fakes who had mastered such fakery, but also it failed myself. Why should I go back to being a fake after learning how to be real? Rather, I should work my butt off trying to maintain being real, in a world where my being real is what’s working.

Many who hear these words will echo the sentiments of the reality now being brought to light. For it is we who were forced by abominable life conditions to struggle day after day, enduring relentless persecutions and assaults against our persons and our dignity, and in many cases, our bodies as well as our minds, hearts, souls, and spirits, while we were already struggling with all our might to survive the indescribable conditions of continuous outdoor living, feeling trapped as though sub-human animals on the cold-hearted city streets.

It was more than many could bear. But not all. Let our voices be heard and understood. Were these words to be sent to homeless and formerly homeless people everywhere, many would lift their hearts and their voices in accord. Many did indeed falter, collapse, and eventually be put to death by the overall horror that is Homelessness. But many endured, survived, and prevailed – for the purpose that now unfolds.

Lift up your hearts, whoever you are who hears these words and understands them! We were spared the fate of the bulk of our fellows. We were not destined to die in vain, alone and friendless, without hope, without purpose.

Instead we were destined to rise above all that mire, put our lives back together, and emerge from the cages in which we were kept, on a mission to even the score. For where once we were submerged in the world as though destined to drown in the depths of dark water, we now have emerged with a story to tell, and our story is driven by fire. For once we were all but forgotten, and death was at every door. Once we were all of us homeless. Now, we are Homeless No More.

homeless make a difference

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Tuesday Tuneup 27

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater diligence.

Q. What do you need to be more diligent about?

A. To be honest with you, I’d rather talk about something else.

Q. Then why did you bring it up?

A. Because I had this plan for five of the Tuesday tuneups.  I started two Tuesdays ago, with integrity.  The plan was to cover Integrity, Confidence, Diligence, Vigilance, and Fortitude, in that order.  For these are the five points of the Practical Pentacle.

Q. Pentacle?

A. Yeah, I was hanging around with Pagans for a while.  One of them told me I could change the classic five points of the Pentacle (that is, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit) to anything I wanted.   Thus five principles came to me in a flash, so I ran with it.

Q. Did you actually wear this pentacle?

A. Naw.  It wouldn’t have gone over too well in Christian circles. 

Q. Then what did you do with it?

A. I began to apply the principles to my work, of course.

Q. But why did you want to talk about all this, instead of about diligence?

A. Because I’m avoiding the subject, obviously.

Q. Does the subject of diligence threaten you?

A. Somewhat.

Q. Why would that be?

A. Because I haven’t been diligent in the areas that require it, but only in the areas that I enjoy.

Q. Can you clarify?

A. I’m fairly diligent about my Artistic endeavors.  Reasonably diligent about maintaining this blog.  Diligent about church attendance and that kind of thing.  But there’s one thing I haven’t been very diligent about at all.

Q. What’s that?

A. The Word.

Q. Who’s Word?

A. God’s Word.

Q. And how do you hear that Word?

A. You know the Scriptures.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

Q. You mean the Bible?

A. Yes.

Q. When did you give up your diligence as far as reading your Bible?

A. I think it was when I was hanging around with those Pagan guys.  Back around 2012.  Before that, the Bible was the only book I read for 22 years.

Q. The only book?

A. I take it back.  I also read the The Chronicles of Narnia.

Q. And no other books than those?

Thomas Merton 5
Thomas Merton

A. Not completely.  Bits and pieces of Thomas Merton, Paul Tournier, and Henri Nouwen.  I’m really not a very good reader, you know.   But I did read my Bible every day.   It was a King James that Jan had left with me.  I kept it around my apartment, and read bits and pieces of it till I found something worth meditating on.  Then I meditated on those bits and pieces till they made sense in my life.  And went about my day.  

Q. So you would like to be more diligent with this practice?

A. Yes.  But without the extremism of eliminating all other books.

Q. Why is this on your mind?

A. Because I strayed.   As we all do.  I veered from my right and proper path.  And I paid.  As we all do.   I paid the price.   It’s just not worth it to stray too far from the simplicity that there is in Christ.

Q. How far did you stray?

A. Far enough.   A lot farther than just hanging around with Pagans, I can tell you that much.

Q. Satanism?

A. Move on to the next question, please.

Q. What brought you back?

A. Pain.  Extreme pain.  Psychological torture.  Psychic assault.  Cosmic manipulation of intentions and events.   Twisting of my values, and forced switching of my allegiance.  Jousting with demonic spirits – on their own terms, in their own playing field.  Deliberate distortion of my discernment.  And many other such things you do not need to know — indescribable things, worse than those.  

Q. And the Bible brings relief from all that pain?

A. Yes.  And remarkably so.  It already has, and in an incredibly short period of time.  Not so much the Bible, but the Word that is revealed in it.

Q. When did you lapse into all this rigid, right-wing fundamentalism?

A. Diligence, not rigidity.  And Left-Right is a crock of shit — a smokescreen set up by the Global Elite to obfuscate the real issues.  Also, it’s not fundamentalism to be Christ-centered and Bible-based, because the Revelation of Christ is found in the Bible, and it is there that he gives me His Word.

Q. He gives you His Word?

A. Yes.  He, unlike any other being I know, has always kept His Word.

Q. And you have not?

A. If I haven’t kept my word, it’s only because I haven’t kept His Word.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean that my life is no longer mine, but His.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 911

1. I woke up on a comfortable couch this morning next to my computer and my desk. Guaging my overall condition at the moment – mental, physical, spiritual – I was genuinely grateful that I didn’t have to wake up where I would have woke up two or three years ago.

2. I seem to be in pretty good health, all things considered.

3. I’m not always grateful for what I have, but right now I am – and I am grateful for that fact.

4. It’s insane for me to ever want to go back and be homeless again. But something keeps drawing me there. What I’m grateful for right now is that something happened — I can’t tell you what it was — but it had the effect of reminding me just how lousy it is down there. It was a hard thing that happened (something involving a friendship that failed), but I am grateful that it happened, because it was the reminder that I needed.

5. Grateful for the sense that I have a future. I have not been totally destroyed, and there’s more for me to do on this earth – and possibly even afterwards. A lot of people who have been where I’ve been have been destroyed. So God is keeping me around for a reason. How can I not be grateful for that?

6. Just thought about my church right now. I really like my church. People are genuinely nice, and intelligent — and they mind their own business, too.

7. California and Idaho are a lot different. The people are different. We’re all human beings, of course, but what I mean is that the mores are different. The social customs and practices differ. It’s taking me a while to get used to it, and a lot of things have thrown me for a loop. But I just gotta say, me personally, the type of guy I am, I am very grateful to be in Idaho, and in this city.

9. My pastor, whose name is Norman. I’ve never had a pastor like him before. It’s hard to describe, and I hesitate to belaud the guy – but he acts like a *real* Christian – he doesn’t judge, he listens, his comments reflect wisdom and love, he goes out of his way to help people who are struggling – he’s not just a guy who knows what the Bible says and knows how to preach about it. He doesn’t boast, he doesn’t trip – he just does what a Christian is supposed to do, and keeps doing it. If every Christian were like Norman, I bet nobody in this country would hate Christians. So how can I not be grateful?

10. God is good. I am very grateful at this moment, just to be alive.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Tuesday Tuneup 22

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I do.  You are the part of me who questions the logical validity of my inner workings, to the end that I might make more rational, better-informed decisions.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am contrite.

Q. You don’t say?

A. I do.  I am contrite, because I feel I have wronged you, and I owe you an amends.

Q. An amends?  Or an apology?

A. An amends, like I said.

Q. What is the difference?

A. An apology has less merit than an amends in terms of acknowledging the inner-connectivity of all beings, whether they exist within the consciousness of a single being, or whether they are attached to separate consciousnesses of multiple beings.

Q. Could you run that past me again, please?

A. I could, I suppose.  But I grow weary of words.

Q. You??

A. Yes, me.  Sadly, even I tire of them.

Q. Then why not cut to the quick?

A. How can I?house-divided

Q. Can’t you just — get to the point?  And make your amends?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. I would like to mend fences.  For I have treated you harshly — as though you were an enemy.  I fought against you, as though I wished to remain separate from you.  But in so doing, I denied that you are but a part of me.   Why should I fight against myself?  A house divided cannot stand.

Q. Then what do you propose to do instead?

A. I propose that we be friends again.   Lovers, if you will.   Let us become one being — no longer divided into two.

Q. This is your way of making peace?

A. Yes.  And not only peace — but unity.   I propose you and I join forces within me.  Gradually together we will transform me from a confused, conflicted sort of fellow, to a fulfilled friend of humanity, moving forward according to a clear and distinct vision, and no longer wallowing in the past, as though at war with the present.

Q. Won’t this affect the nature of my questions?

A. It will indeed.

Q. How so?

A. Come back next Tuesday.   And we shall see.

The Questioner is silent.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Tuesday Tuneup 18

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yeah.  You’re a pain in the ass who darkens my door once a week, annoying me with an incessant series of inane questions, challenging my patience.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. What choice did I have?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to be asking you the questions?

A. Supposed to schummosed to.  I’m totally disgruntled.

Q. Whatever for?

A. I don’t know.  The whole thing just seems to be — on me. 

Q. What whole thing?

A. Forgiveness!  Why am I the guy who always has to focus all his energy on forgiving all these other people?   If even one of them would so much as give me the time of day, it would sure make it a lot easier.

hillary forgivenessQ. Easier on who?

A. On me — obviously!

Q. Why don’t you make it easy on them?

A. Don’t insult my integrity.  I’m already trying to do that, and you know that.

Q. How?

A. By apologizing to them.  By asking their forgiveness.  Like the Bible says.  Like Jesus says.  Like we’re all supposed to do with each other.  But they still won’t —

Q. Give you the time of day?

A. Right.  How do I know they’re even reading my emails?  Or listening to my voice mail messages?  Or even reading my carefully, prayerfully worded snail mail letters?   I wouldn’t be surprised if whats-his-face just ripped up the letter I sent to his home address, without even bothering to open it.

Q. But why would he do that?

A. I don’t know.  Fear of its contents, I guess.  Or disrespect for me as a man.  Hard to say.  Maybe his wife doesn’t want him to have anything to do with me.  Maybe his doctor told him to avoid “toxic people,” and he decided I was “toxic.”  Or maybe he’s just a cowardly wimp who can’t face up to his own bullshit unless he’s painted into a damn corner.

Q. Do you really need this guy?

A. No, not really.

Q. Then what do you need?  

Pause.

A. I need to forgive him.  To be free and clear of all the lingering resentment over the way I was treated — and the way I treated him.   To know that he has received my apologies, my requests for forgiveness, and that they matter enough to him — that Jesus matters enough for him — to say “I forgive you, Andy.”  And then we can both move on.  Or even be friends again, who knows?   God only knows.

Q. How long has this been going on?

A. Five years now.  

Q. He hasn’t talked to you for five years?

A. Not just him – but all kinds of people.

Q. Why did they all stop talking to you?

A. Probably because of the way I was coming across at the time.

Q. How were you coming across?

A. I was desperate.  I was homeless.  Sure I had all kinds of other problems, but I couldn’t solve any of them from homelessness.  And none of those damned group situations that were always recommended ever worked out for me.  They only surrounded me with thieves and criminals, and furthered the violation of my person and my property.   I was down in this hole that was so deep, I couldn’t climb out of it myself for the life of me.  I kept beseeching them, please, let me stay with you, just for a while, just for a month or so, till I can get my bearings, get some sleep, and see a way to maybe get back on my feet.  But nobody would budge.  They all rejected me.  Most of them without even a word of notice or warning.  They flushed me down the toilet like I was a total piece of — piece of — piece of  —

Q. Shit?

A. You said it.  

Q. Why did you internalize their opinions of you?

A. I couldn’t help it.  I knew I was coming across in a way that freaked them out, or pissed them off even.  But all the gross details of homelessness, the sleep deprivation, the constant insinuation from everyone around me that I was this worthless piece of crap, that my music didn’t matter, my singing, my piano playing, my writing, my public speaking, none of the good things about me counted!  I was just supposed to cram a bunch of damned pills down my throat that I knew would destroy everything I had going for me, and get into some group home where they monitored all my meds and only let me out under supervision on Sundays.   

And I had already tried all that.  And I just couldn’t do it!  I’d have rather slept alone out in a field somewhere.  So I did.  But then — all the other crap set in.

Q. What other crap?

A. You know something?  I really don’t want to talk about it.

Q. Then why are you?

A. Because of you.  And all your damned questions.  Go away! And don’t come back till Tuesday!   Tired of your robotic, unfeeling crap.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 
 

The Eye of a Needle

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

–Mark 10:17-24

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 836

1. Just had two more stories published in Street Spirit (and you may find them on this link.)

2. Really grateful that my lady friend Jan is back in my life.

3. My daughter Echo appears to have arrived safely at her stepfather’s house down in California.

4. Finally finished rewriting the love scene in the first Act of my new musical, Eden in Babylon.   Thankful for the input of the MFA playwrights who showed up at my critique, because they really pointed me in the right direction.   The scene is now much more effective that it could ever have been, prior to their input.

5. Grateful for my ongoing health, and for the good running that’s been happening on the local trails lately.

6. Should be getting a paycheck for the articles soon.   Every little bit helps.  

7. Letting go of the Old Story.   I need no longer be defined by what people in my past may have thought of me.   The New Story holds nothing but promise.

8. Due to the benevolence of a friend, a piano will be delivered very soon into the apartment here.  Jan and I have cleared off a nice space for it, at an indoor wall.  This will be the first time in my life that I will have actually owned a piano.

9. As I wrote the lyrics to Turns Toward Dawn yesterday, I had the experience that every Writer lives for.   I could almost see and feel the presence of the Muse.  The words welled up from within me, and made their way dutifully to the page, as though beholden to bear my signature and my pride.   The joy of that event defies description.  I can only hope that someone who knows the event of which I speak will read these words, and join me in that joy.

10. God is Love.

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Tuesday Tuneup Eleven

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Probably.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am annoyed.

Q. What about?

A. It has to do with the Prayer of St. Francis.

prayer of saint francis

Q. You find this prayer annoying?

A. Not at all, sir.  I only find it annoying that I seem so lame when it comes to applying it.

Q. How so?

A. Well, take the part where he prays “not so much to be understood as to understand.”  I feel so misunderstood, it’s very hard for me to get past this frustrating urge to explain myself all the time.  But it would be better for everybody if I would instead open up my eyes and see where others are coming from.

Q. So you are annoyed by this personal quirk of yours?

A. Extremely annoyed.  And even more so when I see the same trait in a very close family member.  In my flesh and blood, there appears to be remarkably similar DNA.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. Of course!  This person reaches the place where whatever anyone else says to her is utterly unimportant.  The only things that seem important are what she says to us.

Q. And you see yourself in this unenviable trait?

A. I do.  It comes from a feeling of being misunderstood.

Q. So how can you and this dear family member begin to make yourself more understood?

A. By listening more.  By seeking to understand.  For you see, people don’t care about what may constant explanations say.  They only care about the fact that I’m explaining myself.  It gets tiresome.  It exhausts them.  They would rather see me become interested in them, not in proving myself to them.   If they see that I am interested in them, they will then therefore become interested in me.  Law of karma.  What goes around comes around.  You reap what you sow.  All that good stuff.

Q. How can you begin to change?

A. By listening to her.  By not letting myself become exasperated when she constantly tries to explain herself.  By looking at her — and seeing in this mirror the Echo of Myself — and realizing that I am not alone.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Tuesday Tuneup Ten

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Do you ever listen to my answer to that question?

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. I guess not.  Well, I summoned you because I am disgruntled.

Q. Disgruntled?

A. Is there an echo in here?

Q. Why are you disgruntled?

A. Cognitive dissonance.

Q. Meaning?

A. I simultaneously hold to two conflicting systems of values.

Q. Specifically?

A. As a Christian, I believe in forgiving those who have wronged me.  As a guy who spent twelve years on the streets, I believe in rewarding loyalty and punishing betrayal.  

Q. Can’t you forgive them and punish them at the same time?

A. (nods) The concept of chastening.  I’m afraid only God has the rights on that one.

Q. But supposing your son or daughter had wronged you, wouldn’t you forgive them and still “chasten” them, as you say?

A. Sure I would.  But these people are not my sons and daughters, nor am I their father.  One of them is a 63 year old man.  Another is 62.

Q. What about their own fathers?

A. Neither of them is alive.  And if they were, I doubt they’d take my side.

Q. Then doesn’t that leaves the Father God to do the chastening?

A. But Father God might not be their father.   

Q. How can that be?  Is not God the father of all?  

A. Not necessarily.  According to Scripture, their father is either God the Father, or “their father the devil.”  Look what Jesus said once:

You are of your father the devil, 
and you want to do the desires of your father. 
He was a murderer from the beginning, 
and does not stand in the truth 
because there is no truth in him. 
Whenever he speaks a lie, 
he speaks from his own nature, 
for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
But because I speak the truth, 
you do not believe Me. 
“Which one of you convicts Me of sin? 
If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 
He who is of God hears the words of God; 
for this reason you do not hear them,
because you are not of God.”

— John 8:44-47

Q. Do you really think it’s all that black and white?   Are there a bunch of liars that are children of the devil and another batch of truth-seekers that are, like, God’s kids?

A. (nods again) Black and white thinking.  I don’t like the concept much either.  But as the article I just linked to points out, a lot of times we engage those approximations because the language lacks wording that will sufficiently describe the “middle ground” or “gray area” without having to use too many words, thus impeding communication.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, take the word “God” for example.  Any intelligent person engaged in the vaguest search for a definition of that word will first have to admit that “God” is only a word.  Like all words, it has a meaning.  Many meanings.  Different meanings for different people, and so forth.  So one person will say, “I don’t believe in God,” based solely on their preconceptions as to what that word means.

To one person, “God” is an old man with a long gray beard sitting in the clouds somewhere.  Do I believe that meaning?  No, I do not.  But the same person who holds to that idea of “God” will often speak of a “force” or a “higher power” or even of the Universe.  Who’s to say that those descriptives are not of God?  And yet, they say they don’t “believe in God.”  To me, it seems that they do believe in God.   They just won’t use the word God, because it’s loaded down with stigmatic preconceptions.

Q. Then why do you keep using the word “God?”

A. Ease of use.  It’s simply easier to say the single word “God” than to keep saying, “Spirit or Power of the Universe or whatever you want to call it.”  I get tired of using too many words when one will suffice.  I use too many words as it is already without having to add yet more words to the mix.  

Q. But why does the single word have to be “God?” Why not use some other word, if “God” is so loaded down with stigma?

A. (frowns) I find they all fall short.  The other words “Spirit” or “Universe’ somehow lack sufficient power or personality for me — or maybe command or authority — something like that.  I don’t know exactly.  But really, Questioner dear, aren’t we veering a bit astray of the subject?

Q. And what, pray tell, is the “subject?”

A. The subject is the black-and-white codification of humanity into a batch of Satan’s babies as contrasted with the real children of God.   I believe the words of Jesus I quote run deeper than that.

Q. In what way?

A. In lots of ways.  For one thing, I think we’re all born “children of the devil” in the sense that we’re too unsophisticated to grasp the concept of a loving Father God apart from our own earthly fathers — who, let’s face it, might not be all that loving.  We’re innocent.  We’re vulnerable.  We’re easy to con, to manipulate.  I learned that on the streets.  The people who were pushovers seemed to be so faultless, yet in a very real sense they were the devil’s babies.   The hustlers, the thieves — they had them over a barrel.  In order to realize the authority of the True God, and to see yourself as His child, there has to be some kind of revelation, leading up to a transformation.  One gets to the point where one refuses to be hustled any further.  One says to oneself: “Screw these guys!  I’m a child of God!  I don’t have to put up with their garbage.”

Q. One says?  Or you say?

A. Both – along with a lot of other people who have managed to escape all the trappings of street life.  I’m a lot better off spiritually than I was earlier on.  I was such a pushover I believed all those lies I heard from pretentious preacher’s pulpits.   It’s like I always say, before the age of 51, I believed just about anybody who wore a badge.

Q. And now you don’t?

A. No, I don’t.  And obviously, in the passage I quote, Jesus didn’t either.  Those were Pharisees he was talking to — religious hypocrites very much like those who betrayed me.  Like I said, there’s a lot of depth to what the Master is saying here.  He speaks on many levels.

Q. Such as?

A. This.

(The Answerer takes a very deep breath.)

A. There are people who are so caught up in the game that they can’t tell lies from truth.  They lie so much and are lied to so often, they come to expect it from everyone.  You would think that the truth would stand out like an orchid in a petunia patch with people like that.  But somehow it doesn’t.  They are so used to lies, that when someone speaks the truth like Jesus did, they don’t hear it.  Their minds immediately begin to speculate and calculate.  

Speculate – by which I mean they speculate as to just what kind of a scam the truthful person is trying to pull.

Calculate – meaning they calculate a response designed to trap the one who tells the truth, and get them to say something completely inconsistent, to prove them a liar.

Q. And you are not one of those people?

A. Sure I am – in a certain context.  I test people all the time.  But the testing is of a different nature, because it follows an inward process of trying to dredge out the lies within my own heart.

Q. Are you lying to me, Andy?

A. Verily, verily, I tell you no lie.  But this is because I find myself lying to myself at times, and compelled to share that lie to others.  And when I do, I stop to examine my motives.  What am I trying to conceal?  Who am I afraid of?  Who am I trying to impress?

Q. Then what happens?

A. Then, when someone like that fellow who betrayed me lies to me, I don’t swallow his lies, because I see the same lies in my own self.

Q. Really?

A. Really.

Q. So the streets have made you sharper?

A. Can’t speak for my sharpness.  I’m an old guy, and my intellectual powers are naturally on the wane.  But I’m a bit more discerning between falsehood and truth.

Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?

A. This.

(Another deep breath is taken.)

Q. People seem to think that all those years on the streets are supposed to have crippled me to the point where I should have no higher goal than to sit in some meeting and raise my hand as an alcoholic or a drug addict, and then get down on my knees (and stay on my knees) and humble myself before every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the block.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I came off the streets realizing I no longer had to take crap from just anybody.  I came off the streets seeing through all the Mainstream garbage that I swallowed so wholeheartedly before.  I came off the streets discerning that all those money-chasing money-hoarding money-worshipers who look down on poor people are the liars — not me.  They lie to their own selves, and yet they don’t stop to look within, to really see what’s inside them, to be able to discern with accuracy what’s going on around them.

So the bottom line is, I’m not going to get down on my knees before all those Mainstream robot clones, or to their “God,” whoever they think he is, or cow-tow to whatever they think it means to be a “Christian.”  I know what I’m about – or beginning to find out anyway – and on my spiritual journey, I ain’t taking no shit from nobody.

Q. Do you want to know what I think?

A. Shoot.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Wisdom

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.

–Proverbs 3:13-18

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Eye of a Needle

A man came up to Jesus and asked:
“Teacher, what good thing must I do
to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me
about what is good?”
 Jesus replied. 

“There is only One who is good.
If you want to enter life,
keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder,
you shall not commit adultery,
you shall not steal,
you shall not give false testimony,
 

honor your father and mother,’
and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

All these I have kept,”
the young man said.
“What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered: 
“If you want to be perfect,
go, sell your possessions
and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this,
he went away sad,
because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, 
“Truly I tell you,
it is hard for someone who is rich
to enter the kingdom of heaven.
 

Again I tell you,
it is easier for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle
than for someone who is rich
to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:16-23

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Tuesday Tuneup Six

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I really wish you would stop asking me that.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because today’s the Big Day.

Q. You mean, Tuesday?

A. Well – that, too.  But it’s not just any Tuesday.   Barring the catastrophic, I will finally be with my daughter for the first time in two years, and with my ex-wife for the first time in 16 years.   And my ex and I will be sleeping under the same roof for the first time in 28 years.

Q. How did all this come about?

A. I believe you asked me that already, two or three Tuesdays ago.

Q. Can you run it by me again, please?

A. Whew – I barely know where to start.   And I disdain to unveil personal information about my family here.  Let’s just say that I’m a person who was on the streets for about twelve years in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I learned a lot about people during those twelve years, and a lot about life.  Of course times were hard, and moments were miserable.  But I was given valuable information during that period of time that I have since been compelled to share.

sacrificesI have noticed, however, that not everyone wants to hear this information.  They would rather cling to old stereotypes that make them feel comfortable, because the truth would cause them to look inward, into places within themselves of which they are afraid.

Of course this has been disturbing to me.  When I was homeless, I watched as old friends of mine, people with whom I had thought I would be friends forever, began to reject me one by one.  They didn’t return emails or phone calls.  They got all bent out of shape over relatively little things that gave me the feeling that, if any of these people had landed on the streets, they wouldn’t have lasted more than a week or two.

Before too long, I realized that most of these people were never my friends at all.  In fact, there were times when I thought I had never made a friend in my life — until I had become homeless.

While people of privilege were blowing me off left and right with half-truths and transparent forms of Mainstream Doublespeak, homeless people were telling it like it is.  Sure, there were scoundrels among us.  Of course there were those it is best off to avoid, and yet the streets made it next-to-impossible to do so.

I was hit on the head with guns.  I was pistol-whipped.  I was raped.  I watched all my possessions being burnt to bits before my eyes.  Not one person in my former life who professed to believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins lifted a finger to help me.  The only Christian who continued to believe in me, who treated me as a Christian, is a woman who knew me from the Internet, in a distant State, who never ceased to treat me as an equal, as a friend.  And she is among my best friends to this day.   But as far as people from the church I used to attend when I still was making money in this world?

They told me to go to counseling, to see a psychiatrist, to go into some kind of live-in program of some sort, or to merely “check in” to a shelter – as if they had any clue what bureaucracy would be involved, or what atrocities I would be subjected to in that so-called “shelter.”  The shelters in my world were little more than glorified jailhouses, and I far preferred to sleep in seclusion, absolutely alone.

Did any of those Pontius Pilates actually help me?  If you want to call an occasional lunch date at the price of a lecture “help,” I suppose they did.  Believe me, I was grateful enough for the lunch to put up with the lecture, however irrelevant that lecture may have been.

The continual experience of condescension, dismissal, and disrespect that I received from so-called Christians was such a far cry from the acceptance, dignity, and love that I was receiving from my homeless friends, I would become infuriated at the thought that these “Christians” actually thought they were doing the will of God, when they continually treated a man who was suffering like a bag of dirt.

Even to this day, I have difficulty getting my own eyes to see the naked truth.  Even in the last week, I appealed to former friends of mine, thinking surely they would express some happiness or joy over this reconciliation — when all they did was continue to raise their eyebrows and write me off as “crazy.”

But when the mother of my only daughter reappeared in my life, and I had learned that she had been through trials very similar to that which I and others endure on the streets, she didn’t write me off as crazy.

And the Lord Himself seeks such to worship Him.

Q. John?  Chapter Four?

A. John.  Chapter Four.  The day will come when those who worship God will worship Him neither in Jerusalem nor on the mountain – but the true worshipers will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Resurrection and the Life

Lazarus.jpg

This time-honored story, while not dealing directly with the Easter story, nevertheless reveals the realities of resurrection and of eternal life that have to do with the saving grace and power of Jesus Christ.  I hope you all have a blessed experience of God’s undying love on this day.

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him.

— John 11:17-29
New Living Translation

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

I Never Meant to Hurt You

I tried three times throughout the week to do a decent take of this old Laura Nyro song.   I think this might be the one.  I thought it would be a nice gesture for Good Friday.   There are a lot of people, including Him, whom I did not really mean to hurt.   But I hurt them anyway, although I loved them.  I am glad He paid the price for all of that.  It’s a far greater price than I could pay.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

A Sacrifice of the Heart

If you are a person who knows what it’s like to be poor, have you ever noticed how quick people of privilege are to attribute aspects of poverty to something that has absolutely nothing to do with your financial situation?  Such as, for example, your mental health?

I live in a city of approximately 26,000 people, 30% of whom are at poverty level.  Most of the poor people in this city are reasonably happy and healthy.  This is one reason why I enjoy the unique city in which I live.   But it appalls me how readily some of my wealthier friends will assume that my current poverty must have been caused by a mental health problem, a drug or alcohol problem, or (quite simply) a moral failing. 

Although I will be the first to admit that I have mental health issues requiring treatment, I find it disturbing how often these issues will be cited as the reasons for my impoverished condition.  Many of the wealthier people who say such things would become much crazier than I am, if they, too, were to suddenly lost their shirts as quickly as I did in the year 2004.

The people who most often allude to this fallacy will usually make no attempt to actually understand my condition.  They are clearly looking for a scapegoat — something beyond the scope of their experience that they can use to shift the blame away from the realities of poverty that they do not wish to look at.

“Hey Bob, I really hate to bother you for another loan.  I know you’re busy, but my car just broke down terribly.  I need it to get to work, and I just can’t afford the bill.  Is there any way at all you can help me?”

“Well, Bill, I know you always pay me back, but I’m getting to be a little bit bothered by the fact that you’re not many progress.  Don’t you think it’s high time you dealt with your mental health, so that you won’t be so chronically down on your luck?”

friend in needOnce again, this is classism – pure and simple.   It can be incredibly frustrating when one is doing their best to maintain a healthy relationship to society, and the frequent setbacks endemic to poverty are dismissed as signs of poor mental health.  Of course one’s mental health suffers when encountering such setbacks.  But poor mental health does not cause those setbacks.  This is only an assumption on the part of those whose lives are such that they never have to experience such setbacks, and thus don’t know what those setbacks are like.

In short, they don’t know what it’s like to be poor.

Now here’s another thing I’ve noticed.  It is often assumed that someone who experiences a life crisis that hurls them into abject poverty — or even homelessness — has gotten there as the result of a moral failing.

“Obviously, Bill screwed up.  Nobody gets from where he was to the streets that fast without having done something wrong.   That being the case, I have no sympathy for Bob whatsoever.”

“Amen, Brother Bob.”

But the reality is that many people of privilege are extremely slow to let go of what they’ve got. In many cases, their natural stinginess is the reason why they’ve managed to accrue so much in the first place.  But many poor people, knowing what it’s like to be poor, will give another poor person the shirt off their back.  I myself have been known to give my last twenty dollars to another poor person if I felt they needed it more than I do.  When I do so, I am confident they would do the same for me, if the tables were turned.

A lot of people become poor as the result of something good that they have done — something that a rich person, under the same circumstances, might not do.  For example, if one’s mother or father is in poor health, perhaps dying, a person who is lower middle class might have their parent come live with them, despite having to take on added medical expenses.   A rich person, under the same circumstances, will often send their parent to a retirement home.

Granted, the richer person can afford to send Mom or Dad to the retirement home, and the poor person cannot.  But if you were aging, ailing, and dying, where would you rather be?   In a retirement home among total strangers?   Or with your kids whom you love, knowing that they love you too?  Where would you rather die?   With your children by your side?   Or not?

It is not a moral failing to take care of an ailing parent.  It is actually an act of self-sacrificial love.  Love, in its purest form, involves sacrifice.   When one sends one’s dying mother to an “old folk’s home,” what sacrifice is involved?  Only money.   But when one invites their dying parent to come live with them, that is a Sacrifice of the Heart.

I find it ironic that people of poverty often are more giving and more loving than people of wealth, and yet in our society it is often assumed that poverty is an effect of moral failing.   While moral laxity can certainly lead to poverty, it is definitely not the case that poverty necessarily results from it.

When Jesus appeared on the earth, who did he generally hang around?   Rich people or poor people?   Anyone with a cursory background in Scripture will know that he hung around the dregs of society, the outcasts, the lepers, the pariahs, those who were so dirt poor they were ostracized and vilified by the Pharisees and Saducees of their day.

If the first arrival of Jesus Christ were to have occurred today rather than two thousand years ago, you know who He would hang around?

The homeless people.  For my homeless brothers and sisters are the lepers of today’s society.  Let them in!   Let all of us in — before it is too late.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Moment of Turning

All nations surrounded me.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
They surrounded me — surrounded me on every side.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees.
They blazed like a fire of thorns.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
I was pushed hard;
I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song —
And He has become my salvation.

Psalm 118:10-14 RSV

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Brotherly Love

As any of my close readers surely know, I’m a person who made a dramatic shift in  location and lifestyle round about July 2016.   So dramatic, that I’ve been having some difficulty relating to old friends and family members.

I don’t know if age is “relative,” but I do know that as I’m about to turn 65, I feel like a fit and vigorous, healthy man. Even though I earlier lamented that I’d gained weight and that my vital signs no longer boasted a 55 heart rate and a 100/65 blood pressure, I found recently when I had a check-up that my pulse is still 60, and my blood pressure 112/80.  Although I suppose it’s inevitable that I eventually contract a serious disease, I’m not any more worried about it than I was twenty or thirty years ago.  The idea that life stops at 65 flies in the face of the fact that after twelve years of homelessness, I feel that my life has just begun.

So when old friends contact me, I often feel a tinge of depression.  Most of them are so depressed and distracted by life.  Of course I have moments of depression, but I don’t live there.  One of my friends never even laughs at my jokes anymore.  It’s not that I mind being around depressed people when I’m not at depressed myself.  I’m not that insensitive.  It’s that it’s hard for me to deal with their expectation that I, too, am “supposed” to be feeling depressed or miserable, at this stage in my life.

At the local Recovery Center where I volunteer, I try to help other men who have had similar issues as my own, whether derived from homelessness or from some other form of sustained trauma.   So I asked my counselors there about this dynamic.

One of the counselors suggested I don’t contact any of these people at all, even the ones whom I’ve always gotten on well with.  She said that to continue buzzing them is only preventing me from fully embracing my new and better life.

Then I asked: “What about my brother?”

“That’s different,” she said. “Contact him about three times a year, unless he contacts you first.”

At that, I figured it was about time to contact him.  So I did.  He hasn’t contacted me back, but that’s just Steve.  In some ways, he’s about as opposite of me as they come.  Whereas I tend to use too many words to convey my point, he tends not to use enough.  Also, his issues are much different than mine – what I know of them.  Basically, he was brought up by my logical-scientific dad, and I was brought up by my emotional Sicilian mother.  Somehow, she favored me, me being the first-born son.  But Dad favored my brother.  As the first-born son, I was supposed to follow in his footsteps.  But the logical-scientific stuff was just — not me.  It was Steve.  So Dad taught my little brother everything he knew — so much so that Steve got 800’s all across the board on his achievement tests: physics, chemistry, and Math Level 2.  He graduated with a 4.0 from the California Institute of Technology.   I haven’t graduated from anywhere.

Not yet, anyway.


The above is my rendition of an old Hollies song I kinda like.  In this day and age, we often feel that our siblings have been a burden to us.  I often think I must have burdened my brother quite a bit when I was still homeless, continually looking for help that he was not disposed to provide.   Similarly, I wonder if he feels he was burdened by me.  It seems to be a dynamic in modern life that one brother will “succeed” financially, and the other won’t.   I wonder if I gypped him out of some of his success, by leaning on him, as I did.

In any case, I thought of him as I played this song.   If only we, as Christians or spiritual people, could freely bear the burdens of our birth brothers and sisters, the way we so readily bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here’s hoping.

I love you, Steve.

Treasures in Heaven

In my blog, I often discuss how homeless people are stigmatized in our society.  I  have also identified myself as a Christian. But the identity of a Christian is spoiled by stigmatic perception every bit as much as the identity of a homeless person is thus spoiled.   Therefore, I think it’s about time I did my part to diffuse a few of these stereotypes.

I almost fear telling others I’m a Christian, because I am often assaulted immediately with accusations of being a sexist and a homophobe.   But what is more germane to the present-day purpose of this blog is how much classism seems to run rampant in American Christianity.  This is especially evident in what is often called the Prosperity Gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel, in short, is a particularly inviting deception that equates spiritual blessings with material success.  Of course it is entirely conceivable that once a person decides to live according to spiritual wisdom rather than careless foolishness, one might find oneself advancing in material gain.  If one, for example, has been blowing all of one’s money on drugs, hookers, and other forms of escape, one would naturally notice a pleasant increase in one’s financial status once such expenses have ceased.  The Proverbs of Solomon are all about that distinction.  However, we find such wisdom in many sources other than the Bible; and I for one would submit that most of the Proverbs are merely common sense.

Besides, it is also quite plausible that a person can be extremely happy living a minimalistic lifestyle with very few possessions at all.  In fact, in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, we read of a young man who had “great possessions” who walked away from Jesus in sorrow when advised that he should give up all he owned in order to inherit eternal life.  Does such denial of worldly goods equate spiritual blessing with prosperity?  Obviously, the opposite is the case.

treasuresConsider also these very famous Scriptures:  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:24)  “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10).  And without bothering to quote every word, passages such as James 5:1-11 and Luke 16:19-31 hurl severe warnings in the direction of the wealthy.  But where in the Bible are such warnings thrown in the direction of the poor?  Nowhere.

To the contrary, Luke 6:20 includes the words: “Blessed are you who are poor.”  Where in the Bible do we find the words, “blessed are you who are rich?”  Again, we find them nowhere.

A proponent of the Prosperity Gospel will almost always cite Jeremiah 29:11 from the New International Version of the Bible, as follows:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11
N.I.V.

Although it is true that the word “prosper” figures in this translation, a quick scan of several other popular translations will reveal nothing of the kind. In the English Standard Version, for example, the phrase “plans to prosper you” reads “plans for welfare.” The same phrase in the time-honored King James reads “thoughts of peace.” So this single verse, taken completely out of context in a modern American translation, is hardly a valid rationale for a deception as extreme as the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

In the Bible, once again, where exactly are material acquisitions equated with the kind of provision that brings real fulfillment, inner peace, personal happiness, and eternal security?  Nowhere, really.  The only time when material gain is cited as a blessing from God is in a context where the greater blessing would be the evidence of God’s love; for example, the last chapter of the Book of Job.   And love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, abides forever.  Material blessings vanish at the grave.

In conclusion, I would contend that we who are spiritual ought to set our affections on the things that are above and beyond our material disposition (Colossians 3:2), rather than on the passing pleasures and comforts of this world.  The expression, “you can’t take it with you,” ought not to have been coined in vain.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21
N.I.V.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

For the Director of Music

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

–Psalm 88