The Conspiracy Theorist

This is the ninth of my monthly columns to have been published for Spokane Faith and Values. I’m going to rev up my search engine and churn out three more columns prior to Election Day in an effort to do my part, and then probably break for a while to work full time on my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

The Mindset of the Conspiracy Theorist and Matthew 7:5-3

Because of certain aspects of my background, I have been quicker than most to let people experiencing homelessness stay at my house. Sometimes too quick.

Twice I had people over whom one might classify as conspiracy theorists. One of them, a Q-Anon adherent, believed that the FBI & CIA were watching her and her ex-husband. The other guest told me of conversations he’d had with Bill Clinton and Steve Bannon, and also claimed to be suing 17 States in a case of mistaken identity.  His tales were very tall, involving altercations with multiple federal agents, from which he always emerged victorious. Furthermore, he claimed to know the brother and ex-husband of the first person I’d had over, even though I’m fairly certain that she and he, coming from two entirely different parts of the country, had never met. 

I noticed that each of these people had one trait in common. Each of them blamed all of their misfortunes on other people, and neither took much responsibility for their own choices. It then struck me that we have a president today who not only gives lip service to conspiracy theories, but consistently blames anybody but him for what is going wrong in the nation.  

But let’s take a look at the raw facts. Forty million Americans have lost their jobs in the past three months. Violent riots are breaking out in many major cities. An untempered pandemic rages chaotically across the country. And worst of all (in my opinion), our country who once identified herself as “one nation under God” is so radically divided, I hesitate to identify as a “moderate” lest I be accused of being a “coward” for not fully embracing one extreme or the other.

And yet, who is responsible for all these problems, according to Donald Trump? From the sounds of him, one would think that the fault belongs to some bizarre combination of Obama, Joe Biden, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, anyone else who disagrees with him, somebody somewhere in the Ukraine — and of course, the Chinese.  

It’s also impossible not to notice that a good portion of our president’s followers appear to do the same. Many Trump-supporters would rather focus on unverifiable conspiracies than on the pressing issues that all Americans face today. It makes me wonder how many of them might be “blame-shifters” in their personal lives. My two house guests certainly were. One wonders what exactly is the relationship between blame-shifting and the mind-set of the conspiracy theorist.

In the Wikipedia article on conspiracy theory, a statement in the second paragraph intrigues me.

“Research suggests that conspiracist ideation — belief in conspiracy theories — can be psychologically harmful or pathological, and that it is correlated with psychological projection, paranoia and Machiavellianism.” Interesting that the concept of “projection” emerges as a factor in the conspiracist mind-set.

Psychology Today defines projection as “the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection–attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.”

In this definition, I am stricken by the expression “unacceptable urges.” For the current president, even in some bygone day, to have glorified the urge to grab a woman by her vagina is certainly unacceptable. Yet there are Trump-supporters who believe the details of Q-Anon; to wit, that the president is secretly in the process of outing a group of pedophiles — most of whom appear to be Democrats – who are secretly running the world and even sacrificing children in Satanic rituals.

Combine that with the testimonies of numerous women who have claimed that Mr. Trump has sexually abused them, and another wonder unfolds. Could it possibly be that an abusive misogynist would like for his supporters to think he is anything but?

Jesus said: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

As with many of Jesus’ sayings, He spoke this to “those to have ears to hear.” When I read these words, I am often convicted of my own tendency to pin the blame onto others. In some cases, of course, others truly are to blame. But I believe the point that my Lord is making is a universal one.  

All human beings have a natural tendency to blame-shift. When this tendency is activated to the extreme, one just might believe that the United States Government is to blame for their problems.  While one might well be right, on a certain level, one would certainly need to take the “beam” out of their own eye, before being able to see clearly to solve the problems of Uncle Sam.

Finally, if a person is actually involved in a conspiracy or “cabal,” wouldn’t it be convenient to divert attention from their own nefarious doings, and alert people to the supposed existence of an entirely different cabal? 

For all the absurdity of Q-Anon, its adherents often overlook one simple fact. Donald Trump colluded with the Russians in order to rise to power. And that is the conspiracy we all need to be looking at, as we approach Election Day on Nov. 3rd.

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Corona and Community

Here’s a brief (four minute) video clip from last Thursday’s meeting of “Theology on Tap” on Zoom.  Kurt Queller, retired Professor of Linguistics, is a Stanford Ph.D currently teaching German at the University of Idaho. The “alleged scientist” in the clip is Bob Ritter, who teaches at the school of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, seen with his wife Sue.  Others present are Garth and Nancy Sasser, Oz and Genny Garton, and artists Chris and Karen Watts.  Chris Watts is a retired Art professor at WSU; and of course, the uneducated boy with the beanie is Yours Truly.

“Theology on Tap” is a low-key theological discussion group created by Walter Hesford, a retired English professor at U.I., and comprised largely of members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Moscow, Idaho.   In this excerpt, we discuss the political and philosophical issues around the wearing of masks.  The person referred to by Kurt Queller is the pastor of a local megachurch who encourages his parishioners not to wear them.    

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Tuesday Tuneup 85

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Waking up.

Q. Aren’t you an early riser?

A. Historically, yes. These days, not necessarily.

Q. Why not?

A. I’ve been re-enacting a life philosophy that in the year 2015, I referred to as the Social Experiment. Only now, it would be more aptly dubbed the Personal Experiment.

Q. What was the essence of the Social Experiment?

A. May I quote something I wrote about it in 2015?

Q. Why not?

A. Here ya go:

“In the City intended to form a prototype or microcosm of the New City, there is an abundance of resources available to any unscheduled person at any time.  Note how I don’t specify that the person is “unemployed” or, if a student, “unenrolled” — or any other state reflecting the person’s relationship to Time; other than that the individual is “unscheduled.”  There is no form of scheduling — academic, professional, or otherwise — that is to stay a person from exercising the liberty of showing up wherever they want to, at whatever time they wish to. 

“In other words, no human construction of constraints is to be added to the natural constraints on the liberty already effected by Time and Space.  One cannot, geographically, be in two places at once, for example.  “Nor can one get from one place to a much further place in a short period of time.  These are natural constraints — sheer results of the functions of Time and Space.

However, if in addition to these natural constraints there would also be placed constraints made according to an employee’s schedule, or student’s schedule, etc.; then there would be constraints indeed! One finds oneself ensnared in a form of bondage: bondage to the schedules imposed upon them by employers and teachers, for instance. But these are not natural constraints. They are artificial constraints. Without such, one is is relatively free.”

Q. Is that all your wrote?

A. Ha! It’s the tip of the iceberg. I generated all kinds of material concerning the Social Experiment. I referred to as a microcosm of the conditions that will entail in the New City, in the Age to Peace and Enlightenment that is to come — in the world beyond crime – in the world beyond war . . .

Q. Why has this come to mind at this time, five years later?

A. Because of sheltering in place. The parallels between sheltering in place and the place where is no shelter — AKA, homelessness — are starting to unfold.

Q. How so?

A. What was once the Social Experiment, involving the management of time in a reality where time was relatively irrelevant, has now become the Personal Experiment. As I shelter in place, it would seem I have all kinds of time on my hands all of a sudden. Time that ordinarily would be taken up searching for my wallet, my keys, my glasses, and other items. This is the time I would need to spend gathering up my stuff before exiting out the door.

In addition, I would ordinarily have struggled to get to whatever location I needed to get to, at the right time. Now, there is no such struggle. I may have a Zoom meeting at one o’clock on Friday. But how difficult is it for me to get to the computer from, say, the kitchen? Not difficult at all.

On the other hand, I was finding it extremely difficult to have all my things together, and to get to any external location at the right time — without undergoing extreme stress and uncomfortably high levels of anxiety. Now, all that has vanished. I am free of those artificial constraints. Free to explore the Free Flow of the Mind, bound only by functions of Space and Time, and finding myself feeling free — almost completely unbound.

Q. Is this how you felt when you were homeless, as well?

A. Not always. But it was a shining place of awe and wonder, an oasis in the desert that was homelessness. I and others accessed this beautiful place of freedom, as often as we could.

Q. So sheltering in place is not just a contrast to the place where is no shelter — there are also parallels. Am I correct?

A. Correct. The chief difference, in light of those parallels, is that it is no longer a social experiment, but a personal experiment.

Q. Will that always be the case?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Will it always be only a personal experiment, or will it at some point evolve into another social experiment?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1573

(1) I’m in an unusually good mood today, but I have no idea why.   If I find out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

(2) Running at five in the morning has got to be one of the more pleasant experiences in life.   I took a few days off, then ran three miles yesterday, and three this morning.   Each of those runs felt effortless.  I’m sure I ran faster too.   Looking down at my “tree trunk” legs, I noticed they weren’t quite so trunky.   I’m not only losing weight — I’m actually getting into shape.  

(3) Did my first push-ups since the wrist injury, and did okay.  Did 5 three days ago, and 7 today.   I’ll be back up to 25 in no time.

(4) Check out this cool Scripture: “While physical exercise is of some value, spiritual exercise is of total value.  For its value is not only the present life, but also in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8).

(5) Whatever else has happened, I gotta say that this new team I am working with is anything but flaky.  These Kids are professional, punctual, enthusiastic, talented, and above all: RELIABLE.  There may be hope for this project yet.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
—  Winston Churchill 

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Evolution of a Song: Part Three

So I mentioned somewhere along the line — either in Part One or Part Two, I suppose – that I had decided to write an opera in the year 2009.

The opera I would call Eden in Babylon.   I only wrote the first Act, as it happened, before I burned out on the idea that Eden in Babylon was supposed to be an opera, and not just a regular old musical.

The first Eden in Babylon was quite different.   It had nothing to do with homelessness.   Instead of entering into homelessness after the first two scenes, the main character entered into a fantasy world of the imagination.   Really, only the title remains, as the show has changed its context so much.

In that realm of imagination lived a woman named Helzabel, who objected to all things beautiful.   She held Artists in particular disdain, since they often created the very beauty to which she objected.   The song she sang, Cloaks of Art, played with the biblical concept called “cloaks of maliciousness.”  (1 Peter 2:16 KJV.)

But now that Eden in Babylon had become a musical about homelessness, that fantastical realm where Helzabel dwelt was replaced by the realm of the streets.   And Helzabel became Molly Mortalis — suspicious not so much of Artists, but of people who had become homeless.   A similar character of a similar sentiment — in a wildly different world.

This called for wildly different lyrics.   And a major tune-up on the tune.   So without too much hemming or hawing. I came up with Midnight Screams.

I wonder how many people who read this will actually listen to Cloaks of Art and tell me how much, or how little, it resembles Midnight Screams?”  As for “Child of No Emotion,” the variant in Part One, I’m afraid you will never hear it.   That libretto, I fear, is gone.

But the music lives on.   These three abide — Book, Music, and Lyrics.  But the greatest of these is Music.

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Faith, Science and Masks

Just had my 8th column published in Spokane Faith and Values.  It’s an effort to find commonality between people of faith and those of science, and to urge all my fellow believers to please wear their masks.  

Science and Masks: Why Christians Ought to Listen

These days more than ever, we find ourselves caught up in talk of an alleged conflict between science and religion. This has been dramatized by the controversy around the issue of wearing a mask. In general, those who wear masks understand and believe the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control. These recommendations are based, in a general way, on findings of science.

In general, those who decline to wear masks are skeptical as to these recommendations. Many people don’t trust science, especially if they are influenced by our current administration.  The president and others in his circle continually downplay the benefits of scientific research. Also, many religious people don’t trust science, on the basis that the One whom we’re supposed to be trusting is God.   

That this distrust should have come about is only natural. Scripture adjures us not even to trust in “man” or our fellow humans, so complete is our understanding of the Divine as being the only One who is worthy. “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5 NLT.  Ultimately, God is the only One we can completely depend upon and rely on. We should be wary of placing our trust in anything or anyone else, lest we fall prey to idolatry, and make other objects of our devotion more important to us than God.

It is also pretty easy to understand why some scientists may be skeptical of certain religious principles as well as religious people. The principle of faith, so essential to Christian practice, is often presented in such a way as to render it incompatible with reason.  But faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. If faith and reason were mutually exclusive, there would never be a Bible Study. We would never scour the Scriptures in search of wisdom and revelation. For all these matters are gained through reasoning.  “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord (Isaiah 1:18), Biblical study is not at all an unreasonable pursuit, and it has attracted some of the most intelligent and logical people I’ve known.

But in deference to the skepticism of some scientists, there is also such a thing as “blind faith.” This is the form of “faith” that does not question what it is being told, usually by a human voice that one has come to depend upon for truth.   But no human represents the truth perfectly. In fact, excellent liars are skillful at using the truth to obfuscate their lies. So when a person decides not to wear a mask because they “trust in God, not in science,” it is unconvincing, because the attitude in that facsimile of faith is blinded to any ongoing search for truth.

I once had a job in which my boss had to pick me every morning at a train station and drive me up steep, curvy mountainous roads until we arrived at the job site.  Two things about her driving disturbed me.  First, she drove alarmingly close to the cars in front of us.  Secondly, she never wore a seat belt.

While I of course wore a seat belt, it was small consolation. So I asked her why she had to drive so close to the cars ahead of us.  She told me flat out that because of her faith, we would not get into an accident.

Somehow this was not reassuring.  If she wanted to risk her life in that fashion, that’s one thing. But should I have to die because the person driving me won’t wear a seat belt and won’t stop tailgating? It seems to me that this is analogous to the quandary one finds around the topic of wearing a mask.  I may well never catch the virus, or be harmed by it. But someone a few feet away from me may not be so lucky.  Why should I endanger them by refusing to wear a mask, if it can help them? Similarly, why should my boss have endangered me by refusing to keep a decent distance from the cars in front of us?

It doesn’t seem that to refrain from tailgating is a particularly huge sacrifice to make, when one considers the possibly lethal consequences of tailgating.  Unless one has a medical condition that causes wearing a mask to endanger them, I don’t think that to wear a mask is an unreasonable sacrifice, either. I have found it a mild inconvenience, at worst.

So let’s look at how a scientist will naturally feel when confronted with this disagreeable opinion, having been offered no proof as to why it is believed as firmly as it is, other than the strength of a “faith” that seems subjective and inexplicable at best. If I were a scientist, and somebody told me flat out that to wear a mask was unnecessary — perhaps even ungodly — and that all their scientific research is useless, I would naturally be skeptical, if not insulted.  That person has given me no reason to be persuaded of their position.  

If, on the other hand, the person says something along the lines of: “You know what? I cannot prove the existence of God. But many things have happened in my life that are best explained by the agency of some kind of invisible superpower who is concerned with my affairs, and who pretty much lines up with the biblical description of God.  Would you like to hear what some of these events have been?”

I have never received a scornful response from a scientist when I have introduced my testimony in such a fashion. Worst I get in such a scenario is:  “Perhaps some other time.” But scorn or mockery is not generally received by scientists in such a situation.  

Why not?  Because the scientific method is essentially a search for truth. I frame my Christian conversion as the result of a search for truth, and I tell people that my search for truth has not stopped there — because Jesus is the Truth — and if I am to claim devotion to Him, then I am to continually seek Him.  Otherwise, I fall prey to complacency, and feel falsely that I have “arrived.”  (1 Cor 10:12, Philippians 3:12). 

People may disagree with my characterization of Christ as personifying the truth, but they cannot refute that my Christian experience has come about somehow as the effect of my personal search for truth. Because the scientific method is also a search for truth, it would seem that this commonality is a lot deeper than many of the supposed incompatibilities between religion and science.

At the very least, it’s a starting point. What is sad is when we as believers become so set in our own assessments of current events — often differing not widely from what we hear from our own pastors and from the particular teachers whom we follow — that we blind ourselves to further seeking. We ought all to listen to the well thought-out positions of others, even if — no, especially if — we disagree. 

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I’m Seeing Red

In light of “3/11” I decided to do my version of the song “Love is Blue” yesterday.   I’ve been a conservative Christian throughout most of my adult life.  But as of POTUS and Wednesday night, I’m “seeing red”  — for what it is.

There are unfortunately issues with the video.  I will be posting the SoundCloud version as soon as I can get it uploaded on the appropriate computer.

As a side note, it’s very likely that someone hearing this, perhaps of the more classical bent, will protest that Beethoven is probably turning over in his grave. This would be due to my overt references to the 2nd movement — the Allegretto — of his brilliant 7th Symphony.

All I can say to that is that he died on my birthday, and I therefore am his reincarnation.  ;) Neither of us is turning over in any grave right now.   But the national situation is grave. God bless us every one — and God bless America.

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Tuesday Tuneup 74

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Sorrow.

Q. Sorrow over what?

A. Past behavior of mine.

Q. Isn’t it past?

A. Evidently not.

Q. How so?

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

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. How so?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. So your sorrow is actually a good thing?

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

The Questioner is silent.  

Growing Up In The Word : A Contrite Heart

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I Will Pour Out My Spirit

“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

  — Joel 2:21-28 ESV

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Gratitude List 1385

This week’s gratitude list is from last Thursday morning, the 16th.  

1. Slept 6 hrs from 9 till 3, deeply w/dreams.

2. I’m gettting to read Proverbs 16 (my favorite chapter) this morning, with 16:7, my favorite verse.

3. My piece on Cancel Culture is being published in The Spokesman.  I have to edit out 300 words to meet their requirements, and it’s due tomorrow. But I can do it. It’s a priority, as The Spokesman is the major newspaper of the 2nd largest city in the State of Washington.

4. It dawned on me during Bible Project that I would probably think more clearly and have less anxiety if I ate a little more properly.   So I resolved to start with eight forms of food that I read are good for people with ADHD in that they adjust dopamine levels in the brain: milk, eggs, fish, strawberries, apples, bananas, almonds and dark chocolate.

5. Ran 1.2 miles from the church to my landlord’s office to Ace Hardware in spikes & street clothes in 24F weather with the wind on my back, nice brisk run. Ran/walked 1.8 back against the wind, since Ace couldn’t copy my mail key and I had to go to the locksmith in the mall on 3rd Street. Good exercise. (Gives “running errands” a new meaning.)

6. Looks like it’s 31F degrees and less snow on ground. I can probably do a significant run this morning, yesterday’s jaunt being a warm-up.

7. Good Folger’s coffee at my own home out of my own Black & Decker coffee maker. Grateful for this place and for the amazing way it came together without my having to pay a deposit or them runing a credit or background chack, thanks be to God and Young Paul, the college graduate whose lease I took over.  Grateful to finally be no longer surrounded by tweakers, in life.

8. Got my daughter’s youtube of her song “Sparrows” from the open mike at the Starry Plough, a work of genius.

9. Got the Street Spirit check and 3 complimentary papers, along with a Happy New Years and a thank you from the editor-in-chief.  Also, John C. paid me the $10 he owed me on a Suspended CD, so I made $35, which ought to cover the utilities bill.

10. Excited about my theology group tonight, which will be on Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I’ve got three writing deadlines before Friday, and this will be a welcome restbit. God is Good.

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Gratitude List 1377

Every Monday, I post one of the gratitude lists I’ve created throughout the past week on this blog. This one’s from Friday morning.  

1. Slept 4 hrs between 9:30 & 1:30, then another 4 hrs between 4 & 8:20, getting up briefly to post my piano video to my blog.   Good sleep.   

2. Felt unusually calm and focused during the hours when I was awake in the middle of the night.  Prayers for people whom I have begrudged were felt with compassion, not forced.   Prayers for people I’ve been concerned about were genuine and free of worry.   Prayers were whispered rather than shouted.  Things seemed softer and more peaceful.

3. Ran 1.3 miles from my house to the church up 3rd Street.   Ran in street clothes but with running shoes and spikes.   Seems a good way to get around in the snow.

4. Got through the whole day yesterday without having to spend any money.  Ate oatmeal at home, then Jeremiah gave me a cup o’ noodles at the church before recording.   Stopped at Mikey’s where Kelsey bought my nachos.   Free dinner at the Recovery Center, followed by St. Mark’s covering my first and only beverage (a mocha) at the Theology group.  

5. Checked my balance for the first time in a few days.  It was a full sixty dollars higher than my mental estimate.  At this rate, I can get thru the rest of the month on $10/day.  

6. The Theology group was nice last night.  I also met four new people there — women —  three of whom were yoga teachers.   The older yoga teacher to my right is the new priest at St. Mark’s.   Funny, I thought I would be uncomfortable there due to the subject matter (emphasis on the body in a body/mind/spirit discussion) but instead I felt inspired to take better care of myself and possibly discard my celibacy in favor of some kind of healthy male-female relationship.  

7. Good talk with my friend Kent last night, mostly about health and yoga.  Also grateful for friends who stick around, being as Kent and I have been friends since 1987.   

8. Meditated for 20 minutes after that (having missed about 5 days).  Funny how the online clock was just hitting 8:00 even as I started, and the (gentle) alarm sound went off at 8:20 as set.   Meditation was somehow informative.

9. I finally have grasped the parallel between the way the mind drifts during meditation and is brought back “to the mark,” and the Christian concept of sin, which literally means “missing the mark.”  This confirms James 1:13-16.  Check it out:

“No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.  But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.  Then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved.”

10. Let peace begin on Earth, and let it begin with me.   

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Gratitude List 1367

This week’s daily gratitude selection is from Saturday, New Year’s Day.  

1. Happy New Year!

2. Slept six hours from 11:30 till 5:30.   Very sound, tranquil sleep.

3. Nice of Bruce to meet with me for coffee in the morning yesterday.  He’s a good, supportive listener and a very nice man.  Very perceptive, as well.

4. Spent most of the day at the Center yesterday, which in this case was healing.   April is working there now and she has come a very long way.  April and Amber helped me a lot, and it gave me a place to chill when my nerves were harried from lack of sleep the previous night.

5. Prompted by noticing that more people are showing up on Tuesdays than any other day on my blog site, I made a New Years Resolution to put more effort into the blog and stick to the scheduled posts on scheduled days.   Started out with a bang and am encouraged.

6. Really grateful that the recent storm has passed.  For a while, during the sleepless night, it wasn’t possible for me to hang on to a positive thought, and I felt nothing but self-hatred and frustration with others, as well as deep pessimism and a sense of utter defeat.   Somehow that was all lifted during the time when I was at the Center.   Now I don’t feel any frustration with anyone at all, and I have compassion for people whom I usually begrudge.

7. This makes it easier to pray for them.   Also, about prayer life, I noticed something toward the end of Proverbs 1 this morning that answered a big question for me.   Looking forward to a healthier interior life.

8. Was just reading Galatians 5 and had forgotten about some really good stuff in there, particularly how faith is “expressed through love.”

9. Got to have a long talk with Alex last night, which was inspiring on many levels, including meditation, DBT, our daughters, and the great encouragement of his political bent.

10. Out with the Old, in with the New.   2 Corinthians 5:17.   God is Good.

Dangers of Liberation (Part One)

This post was lifted from its original manifestation of approximately one year ago.  I didn’t feel ready at that time to produce the next four parts of the series.  I do now.  

On August 8, 2006, I sat at the corner of Shattuck and Kitteredge in Berkeley, California, three blocks North of the Royal Grounds Cafe, where I had just spent my last two dollars on coffee.   

I had walked back and forth, to and fro, not knowing where I was going.  It gradually dawned on me that I had nowhere left to go.  I had spent my entire severance check after leaving my summer job as a singing teacher with Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose.  I had spent it all on taxicabs, meals in restaurants, and motel rooms.   So I sat down, expecting to enter into total misery.  Instead, I entered into total bliss.

Mihai Eminescu Quote: “I understand that a man can have everything having nothing and nothing ...

I finally had nothing.  Nothing to prove anymore.  Nothing to hold on to.  Nothing to need to protect or salvage or horde.  Nothing that could be coveted or stolen.  Nothing that I needed to accomplish or achieve.   

And in having nothing, I realized that I was open to everything.  In an instant, everything that the Universe had to offer came soaring into my consciousness.  All the gifts of life — the very gifts that my worldly concerns had blinded me from seeing — were now not only visible, but tangible, accessible, and omnipresent.  

I found paper and pen, and I wrote down these words:

I have indeed hit bottom.
And at the moment when I reached my bottom,
I realized that I had reached the very top.
At that moment, I was Buddha.

While this surprising sense of liberation was very real, and while it was destined to impact me for years to come, its accompanying bliss was short-lived.  Within three days, I was to see its downside in a dramatic way.   And the bittersweet dynamic thereof informed my later thought.

So I’ve decided to use the next several Thursdays to post my thoughts on this theme as best I can.   There are distinct dangers involved when one permits oneself to receive gifts of joy and happiness from sources commonly associated with misery and despair.  I’ll do my best to illustrate what the years following that experience have held for me.  Hopefully, I can do so with clarity.

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Gratitude List 1365

(1) Slept a huge lot of hours for the second night in a row, didn’t even keep track.  Got up at 8:30 feeling like I can probably pull about five all-nighters in a row if I want to, and get all kinds of stuff done.  Thank God for sleep, when it happens.

(2) Walked into town in the snow after realizing there was no coffee left in the cupboard, and had some interesting peaceful thoughts.

(3) First cup of free Pikes Peak coffee at the Courtyard Cafe went down swimmingly during a pleasant conversation with a guy I like named Bill.  Didn’t know he had written editorials for the local newspaper for years.

(4) It’s uncanny how many people I meet randomly these days turn out to be journalists, columnists, reporters, editors, etc.  

(5) Decided it was about time I learned something about economics, so I spent several hours last night researching Adam Smith, supply-side economics, laissez-faire capitalism, and so forth.  What I want to express is: thank God for the Internet.  What in some ways could be our biggest bane is in many ways our biggest asset.  

(6) The new music minister took me out to lunch after church yesterday, and we had a nice conversation.  He is interested in having the Praise Team present the worship song I wrote.   He seems a nice young man, and I gave him a free Suspended CD in return.  

(7) I could conceivably be depressed over many things right now, but I woke up in one piece and healthy and fit, still having escaped serious injury or physical disease throughout all my days.   Life is keeping me around for some reason — that much is clear.

(8) There’s no reason for me not to remain open to new possibilities; and that prayer I prayed the other day on campus was surely heard.   Lord knows I prayed it loud enough.

(9) “The times they are a’changin’.” — Bob Dylan 

(10) God is Good.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 65

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Isn’t it Wednesday?

A. So what?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to write these on Tuesdays?

A. How consistent have I been with that? 

Q. Didn’t I ask you?

A. Well then.  You have your answer.   It’s Wednesday morning.   It’s Christmas.   I wrote two of them yesterday and hated them both.   I’ll be tempted to delete this one, like I deleted both of the others.  I hate this day.  It’s a day of celebration for others, and of mourning and grieving for me.  It’s this day that I used to love and have come to dread.  It’s finally here.  It’s upon me.   And I’m miserable.

Q. Aren’t you forgetting the “reason for the season?”

A. Thanks for reminding me of the most ludicrous cliche imaginable.  If Jesus Himself  down and expressed His own disgust with this ridiculous sham of a so-called holy day, would you ask Him that same question?

Q. Aren’t you only projecting your own disgust onto Him?

A. I beg your pardon!   I’m only asking a question.  To be honest with you, I don’t believe Jesus has any particular opinion about this holiday at all.   I believe He relates to individuals on an individual basis, whoever it is who seeks relationship with Him.  He is therefore pleased with some people on Christmas, and not others.

Q. And you are one of the ones He is pleased with?

A. I didn’t say that!   How can He possibly be pleased with me if I am not at all pleased with myself?

Q. Are you suggesting that He would suddenly become pleased with you if you were to become pleased with your own self?

A. Of course not!   I could become pleased with myself over the slightest success or victory at damned near anything — whether Jesus was tracking with it or not.

Q. Seriously?

A. Yes – seriously!  I’m the type of person who feels good when he’s accomplished something successfully, and feels lousy when he hasn’t.  Isn’t that obvious?  Aren’t I transparent?

Q. When was the last time you accomplished something successfully?

A. Too long ago.  It’s been days, at least.  Maybe weeks.

Q. So then it’s not really Christmas that is the issue, is it?

A. No, not really.  But I’ll make no bones about it.  I do not like this holiday!  I don’t believe it has much to do with the birth of Jesus, or His life or teachings, much at all.  We hear the stories at church, if we go to church, and then leave them behind.   It’s a sham; it’s disgusting – but yes, you’re right.  That’s my own disgust, not His.

Q. So why the disgust?

A. Because — it used to be — there was family.  There was connection, there was warmth.  We opened gifts.  We had a Christmas tree.  I played the piano, and we sang carols together.

Q. What happened to all that?

A. At some point, I just became  —  I don’t know.  Uninvited.   Mom and Dad are long gone, there isn’t a “parent’s house” anymore.   I tried to reestablish family, but I failed.

Q. Why is everything about your personal success or failure?

A. I don’t know.  My dad was kinda hard on me, kept saying I couldn’t do anything right.   I just want to prove that I can do some things right.  When I get something right, I feel warm inside.  Like loved.

Q. Loved?

A. Yes. Loved.  God loves me because He lets me get some things right.

Q. Isn’t that a rather limited view of love?

A. It’s a start.

Q. Wouldn’t you have started long ago?

A. Of course.  But maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It might not be in my destiny for me to be a very successful family man.

Q. But are you content to be alone?

A. Usually.  But not on Christmas.   And not lately, to be honest with you.  Ever since my daughter left, just kinda — lonely, and feeling like I failed.  

Christmas loneliness and grief 'very, very common', says clinical counsellor | CBC News

Q. How is it that Christmas brings about these feelings of discontent?

A. It is on Christmas that the pain of knowing that other people are with family, seeming to have a good time, is most highlighted.  The pain that I am excluded — for some reason.  Naturally this leads to misery.  Especially when combined with the fact that everything closes down.  No food services.  No Starbucks, no MacDonald’s.  No library.   No restaurants.   How do I get food?  I have to stock up — well, you know, you get through the season, you get through the day.   I’m thinking MacDonald’s might be open till noon on some kind of truncated schedule.   Might as well hoof it down there once this thing’s over.

Q. So that is your idea of Christmas?   Spending the morning at a McDonald’s?

A. No.  My idea is still to gather around somewhere where there’s family and play a piano — but that’s long past.

Q. Could it not also be future?

A. Do I have a very good history at holding a family together?

Q. Could you have given up too easily?

A. Perhaps.

Q. Might you be blaming yourself too much?

A. Maybe.

Q. So what is your strategy?   How will you get through the day?

A. Well – I can start by repenting.

Q. What sin have you committed?

A. I mean – repenting of my attitude.  Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  I lack faith right now.

Q. How can you get faith?

A. By choosing it.

Q. And what then?

A. Um –  I can pray.  I’ll start praying again.

Q. Why and when did you stop?

A. It was a few days back, after — something horrible happened personally, involving the loss of a friend — or maybe just the misplacement of the friend — she did wish me a happy Christmas back this morning, by text —

Q. Then she has not abandoned you, has she?

A. Maybe not.  Then again, she might have just been being nice.

Q. Isn’t that a start?

A. Yeah.  Lots of things can be starts.

Q. So what’s the strategy?

A. You make it sound like I’m fighting a war.

Q. Aren’t you?

A. I shouldn’t be.  I should just be surrendering, trusting in God, having faith, looking expectantly for the good that will inevitably come . . .

Q. On this horrible day of Christmas?

A. You said it.

Q. I’m curious, though.   Why did the severance with your friend cause you to stop praying?

A. She has always reflected Christ in my life.  I can’t explain it.  Maybe I put too much of a burden on her.   There were times when nobody else even believed I was a Christian, and yet she still had faith in me.  And now she’s gone.

Q. Can you — pray anyway?

A. And not be reminded of her?   I can’t even read my Bible anymore.  I read it — but it’s not the same.  It’s as though I’m reading her Bible, not mine.   

Q. So you’re — experiencing loss?

A. Loss upon loss.  Here I’ve already given up.  I’ll just say it:

Christmas in America is a time for people of privilege to enjoy the presence of other people of privilege.   They could at least invite those who lack over to their houses.  But they don’t.   And what’s that got to do with the so-called spirit of Christmas?  It’s not spiritual in any sense to exclude others from a gathering that is supposed to be held holy and pleasing in the eyes of God.

Q. Come on now!   Do you truly believe that Christmas has been reduced to only this?

A. Only this and worse.  I used to have a friend.   And I don’t any longer.

Q. But don’t you have a friend in Jesus?

A. I do.  And honestly, thank you for reminding me.  If I can just make my mind turn to Him – maybe when I’m on the way to that McDonald’s — I bet they’re open — and it can’t possibly be as bad as that one Christmas was when I was homeless and it was raining — and nobody would let us in  . . . 

Q. Your Christmas has been a lot worse than this one, hasn’t it?

A. Well yeah – it beats that one year, I think it was 2015, the only people I saw all day were about twenty-five other angry homeless people, it was pouring rain, I remember logging onto Facebook and just screaming at everybody — it just seemed heartless that they could keep flashing all these festivities on their timelines — if one even suggested being invited over on Christmas Day, they made you feel like you were a horrible person for even thinking such a thing . . . 

Q. But you are not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.   

Q. And have you not become heartless in your own rite?   

A: I have not!

Q. How many homeless people are you letting in on Christmas?

Pause.  

A. I’ve let a lot of homeless people in this house, and you know it.

Q. What about Christmas?

A. You know I have my reasons.

Q. Didn’t they all have their reasons?

A. No doubt.  To put it mildly, to let strangers inside your house is risky business.  But I wasn’t a stranger to any of those people I was buzzing on Christmas Day on Facebook in the rain that day.   They all knew me.   They knew exactly what my situation was.

Q. And their response was?

A. Denial and disdain.   

Q. Why do you think that was?

A. Who likes a party–pooper?   Why should I be raining on their parade?

Q. You’re not raining on them now, are you?

A. Not that I know of  —  unless some of the more lurkish among them are reading these words, and feeling the storm.  

Q. And you’re not being rained on now either, are you?

A. More like snowed on.  But not at the moment, no.   I’m indoors – and I should be grateful.

Q. Are you?

A.  Grateful?   One wishes the word did not apply.   But yes, come to think of it, I am grateful.   I should be, after all.  Things could be a lot worse.   I could be robbed of anything approaching a First Amendment right in some parts of the world.   I could be put to death just for writing these words.

Q. So – what’s your strategy?

A. Well . . .  I don’t know how strategic it is, but I just made a decision.   This tuneup needs to be wrapped up anyway.   It’s dragging on kinda long.

Q. What’s your decision?

A. I’m going to go down to that McDonald’s and find someone more miserable than myself.

Q. Then what?

A. I’ll take it from there.   I’m at least usually a happy person.  I can share my happiness with them, even if I don’t experience it at the time.

Q. But won’t you just be just like the people on Facebook, flaunting their festivities?

A. I’ll try not to be.  Thanks for the warning.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not that I can think of.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Some.

Q. Just do it?   

A. Wish me luck.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1354

This one’s from Thursday morning.  

1. Slept about 8 hrs from 11:30 till 7:30 am.

2. Snow all about, very beautiful.

3. Echo called early, having also gotten up at 7:30.  She seems well, and I’m glad.  I’ve spoken with her in fact two times today, for which I’m thankful.

4. Also got a chance to talk with Nick.

5. Making progress toward submitting my 2nd column for Tracy.  I am connecting together themes of social media / pleasure-seeking to the creation of Cancel Culture, and then how homeless people have been cancelled by society.

6. Got another compliment, it was from Nick G., the ‘Palouse Pundit,’ it was on my Homelessness Taught Me Gratitude piece, he said it was good writing.  At the end, he said: “Keep writing!”  He himself is reputable, a retired philosophy professor, spent several years with the Maharishi in India.

7. Seneca made me a quad espresso and gave me a day old scone, even though I only paid for a doppio.

8. Took a brisk three mile walk in the snow, wherein all errands were accomplished.

9. This includes having gotten my levothyroxine, of which Dr. M. has how given me a 90 day supply at 137 micrograms / day.

10. Nice to be inside on a snowy day.   God is Good.

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Vanguard

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
The Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.

“I will remove the northerner far from you,
and drive him into a parched and desolate land,
his vanguard into the eastern sea,
and his rear guard into the western sea;
the stench and foul smell of him will rise,
for he has done great things.”

— Joel 2:17-20

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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

 

Gratitude List 1343

This one’s from Saturday afternoon.   Apparently, I’d had a rough morning, and decided at some point to count my blessings and begin anew.  

1. Am feeling decidedly better.  Starting the day over.  

2. Ran about 2 miles (aborting the 3 mile course when I got tired, and walking back home).

3. Listened to all of Suspended at the round table.   I think my edits are fine now, and also it sounds a lot better conceptually than it did last night.   People will either like it or hate it, but I doubt they’ll think I don’t know what I’m doing.

4. Gave a CD to this guy, the trumpet teacher, whom I saw immediately after I finished listening.   Moments later, at the Co-Op, this fellow the Math professor gave me some cash for one, and this other man the German professor told me he would pay for one if I could figure out how to put it online.

5. Ran into this fellow who writes for the Daily News and we exchanged numbers.   He’s very bright, and knows a lot about journalism, too.  Reminds me, I ran into the journalism professor the other night, who had already read my commentary, since he subscribes to that site.  He said: “Good work!”  Thankful for all this newfound focus on journalism and on getting my stories published.  It’s been a pleasantly unexpected turn of events throughout my brief retirement.

6. I finally decided to approach K. about my reservations regarding the Theology group, and we wound up having a nice long conversation.   A very nice and extremely erudite man.

7. K. also assured me not to be intimidated by all these professors and people with degrees, despite my lack of a higher education.  He said I’m on the same intellectual level as most of the professors anyway.

8. Said two really great prayers while I was running.  Actually one of them was of the magnitude of the heavily answered prayer I prayed in July 2016 outside the Sequoia station.   It was the second time it’s ever happened — I don’t want to say what the content of the prayer was — but when I prayed it, the words were given me with clear conviction, and as I looked into the sky, I “felt” that those words were heard.

9. Shaun also was helpful last night in that we delineated that I prayed in anger for a certain thing to happen, and it happened, and my anger was assuaged.  Now is the time to pray in Gratitude to make good use of that which has happened, for this is the blessing of God, though I’d asked for it in anger.

10. Asking myself “what’s next?” always works, even if the answer is silence.   God is Good.

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To Those Who Are at Ease

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.”

— Amos 6:1-7

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Tuesday Tuneup 62

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting my bearings.

Q. What happened??

A. I stressed out at the church service, and my heart started beating out of my chest.  They kept making me do things that are really really hard for me, but that are really easy for most people, and it stressed me out.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Oh, uh – page turns.   Fumbling with bulletin inserts.  Trying to get to the right hymn in the right hymnal at the right time.  And worst of all, we had to put these ornaments on a Christmas tree, and the hook of my ornament fell out.

Q. What happened then?

A. I went and showed the guy with the ornaments, assuming he would give me a new ornament with a more secure hook.

Q. What did he give you instead?

A. Another hook.

Q. And you weren’t able to put the new hook on the old ornament?

A. Well, I fumbled with it for long enough, and I know myself well enough, that I determined fairly quickly it would be impossible.

Q. And what did you do then?

A. I gave both ornament and unhooked hook to Amanda.

Q. Who is Amanda?

A. The person standing next to me.  She’s a speech therapist and works at a hospital, so I figured I might luck out and she might understand why it is actually impossible for me to put a hook on an ornament.  I mean, done deal.  It’s a disease.  It’s called ADHD / Dyslexia and High-Functioning Autism.

Q. What did you say to Amanda?

A. I told her it would be impossible for me to put the hook on the ornament in order to hang it on the tree.

Q. How did Amanda respond?

A. She nodded her head in compassionate understanding, then deftly placed the ornament on the tree in my stead.

Q. Were you thankful?

A. Uh — more relieved than anything else.  But now that you mention it, gratitude is certainly an appropriate response.   It’s rare that somebody believes me, in such situations.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. I sneaked out of the church, placing myself in the middle of a long line, so that no one would notice my swift departure.

Q. Why did you depart swiftly?

A. Because by that time, my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was having a major panic attack.  I mean, it was like — I was under pressure, in a line, with people waiting on me – and everybody could see that I was fumbling with the logistics of trying to get the hook on the ornament and the ornament on the tree — it was like — Mainstream Stress – the kind of stuff that made me homeless in the first place back in 2004 —

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. Yeah.  The kind of stress you get when you’re pressured to perform under time constraints, with people observing you, and people to answer to, under deadlines —

Q. What other kind of stress is there?

street person stress.jpgA. Street Stress.  It’s a horse of a different color.   It’s the kind where you’re not under time constraints, but at the same time, you never have time to check in with yourself and feel what your actual feelings are.  You’re in a state of shock at all times, as though in a battle zone, ready for anything, at any time.  No time to feel.   Anything.   

Q. Where are you now?

A. At the local cafe.

Q. Do you plan on returning to the church?

A. Yes.  After I’m through getting my bearings.   I can make it there for the Fellowship, where my mental health condition will not be so severely challenged.

Q. May I ask two more questions?

A. One will do.  I’m running out of time.

Q. What does all this have to do with the birth of Jesus?

A. Don’t ask me, man.

Q. May I please ask the second question?

A. Shoot.

Q. Why was the church service being held on Tuesday?

A. It wasn’t.   Today is Sunday.

Q. It is?

A. I told you I was neurodivergent!   Now get outta here!  

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1334

I make these gratitude lists every morning when I wake up, and choose one to post every Monday.   This one’s from Friday morning.  

1. I did get another hour’s sleep from 9 to 10 yesterday morning, and that saw me through the day. Then I slept very solidly from 10 pm till 4 am this morning.

2. After hearing the words of Jeremiah’s prayer in the car, I did not enter into despair after the next two mistakes I made. Because I was not despairing, I went to bed without desire to escape into the ephemeral pleasure of the sin that has troubled me so. My sleep was as though guarded by angels, my couch undefiled and sweet.

3. This morning I succeeded, as hoped, in having the synthroid with a full glass of water and avoiding the computer until the doctor’s orders regarding my hypothryoid condition were fulfilled. Didn’t have any coffee during that period of time, but prayed and read a Psalm. So I can do it, despite morning disorientation, but I think it wise not to do the reading at the computer. Also, I often have a hard time making out the small print in the hard copy RSV, but this time I read it very easily under the bright kitchen light.

4. Ran the 4 mile course yesterday as per Thanksgiving ritual. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and perfect running weather at around 40F degrees or so, blue skies, big clouds, gentle winds — I love running and am somewhat amazed it’s still even possible at my age. My mind may be in shambles and disarray, but I can be grateful my body is still in one piece.

5. Finished the Inequity Series yesterday with Part Five. If you want to check it out, here it is.   I’m proud of my work, you know, and grateful that God has provided me with a place to accomplish it. That has rarely been the case before, ever in life. Grateful for my nice, quiet apartment.

6. Really nice Thanksgiving gathering at Norman’s place (though he’s in Virginia). It was great talking with people, and especially playing the Kawai piano and singing with Chelsea. Once I was warmed up in the “second set” I did a fiery version of “We Three Kings,” and it blew me away to hear how it was happening, even though my thoughts were riddled with paranoias about gang bangers and other murderers all the way through the event. Then we sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and it was plaintive, peaceful, powerful . . . I love the whole musical consciousness in this town, and Chelsea invited me over to her place tonight at 7 for a big jam.

7. Resigned one of my writing gigs due to a combination of PTSD and a revelation of practical wisdom. I know it’s the right choice, I worked through all the logic of it, and I committed myself on the run to do it, despite later conversations of confirmation. I felt a great peace in my spirit after submitting my resignation, and I remain thankful for the editor-in-chief of that paper, with whom I hope to work in the future.

8. Thankful for Jeremiah, for the fellowship and prayers last night, and for my Presbyterian church.

9. I need to express that the Revised Standard rocks. I turned to Psalm 55, and in the RSV every word was the exact cry of my heart. Turned to Psalm 55 in the Berean Study Bible – nothing. Checked the English Standard Version, thinking at least it would be authentic — still nothing. Confusion of the tongues, man! I’m posting Psalm 55 RSV on Sunday.  I know no one else can get inside my head, but reading every word and praying it confirmed God’s love for me at a very troubled time.

10. God is Love.

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Inequity (Part Five)

Of the five “inequities” that I have chosen to discuss in an effort to illuminate how the world appears from the eyes of those who have been chronically homeless in large urban areas, this one will probably be the most controversial.   There is a huge disparity among all those who dwell on this subject as to how the homeless person can actually be helped.  

When I made the decision to join an intentional homeless community on April 15, 2011, I was thrown into a group of people who were predominantly White, mostly male, and mostly people who had worked all their lives until some costly crisis landed them on the streets.  Most of my fellow White male homeless people were lifelong conservatives, and it was bizarrely expected that all of them were supposed to change their lifelong political ideologies, and become “liberals,” only because they had fallen on hard times.

Why?  Because in the failed social experiment that is the City of Berkeley, the pseudo-socialist leaders of the churches that were feeding us believed that, because we had become homeless, our life-philosophies must have failed us, and they were eager to teach us another way.  The idea that anybody in the San Francisco Bay Area could have become homeless due to socio-economic factors entirely beyond their control — viz, a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco might rent for upwards of $3000/mo — was never brought into consideration.   So we, who comprised approximately 35% of the then one thousand visible homeless people in Berkeley, were lumped into the same group as practicing thieves, hustlers, and hardened criminals on the one hand, and completely developmentally disabled (or at least chronically unemployable) individuals on the other.

In the process, we found ourselves continually demeaned and dehumanized by social workers whose politics invariably leaned to the Left.  My lifelong identity meant nothing to these people, and the none-too-subtle message that I would be homeless for the rest of my days — and rightly so — was hammered into me day in and day out, until I found myself beginning to believe it.

Those who leaned to the Right were another story.  I usually did not feel dehumanized per se, but I often felt stereotyped and stigmatized.  An example would be in Salvation Army workers trying to “save” me or convert me to Christianity, when the truth was that I was already a Christian who was clinging to Jesus more than ever during an uneasy, unsettling time of life.

My first experience at a homeless “feed” was that I and others were treated with complete indignity.  It was assumed that we were either criminally minded, completely mentally handicapped, or both.  Security guards barked orders at us and herded us around like cattle.  All this to get a bite to eat?   No, thanks!

Somebody I met throughout this process told me I ought to try “flying a sign.”  I had no idea what the expression meant at the time, but he showed me that all I had to do was sit silently on the sidewalk with a piece of cardboard and an explanatory statement, and I would probably get cash and food within a three or four hour shift.  (I’m glad he included the word “silently,” because I tried using the words “can you spare some change?” once and only once.  The judgmental shaking of the head and scornful reply, “Not for you, buddy!” was enough to convince me that verbal begging was not for me.)

But in displaying my sign in silence, making eye contact with passersby, I found that I averaged about $17/day working three hours daily at my “spot,” and often got a sandwich or two as well.   I usually sat there between about 9 am and noon.   After that, I felt free to vacate the homeless pandemonium, get on a BART train, and find a place where I could chill out, plug in my laptop (if it hadn’t gotten stolen) and gather my bearings for the next morning on the streets.

Those with whom I associated agreed with me that all of these homeless services, aside from being demeaning, primarily served to keep homeless people homeless.  And as far as the homeless “feeds,” it became clear after a while that they were simply feeding the wrong people.

Think about it.  If you were a street hustler who never cared to do a lick of decent work in your life, and you wanted to get food without working for it, where would you turn?  Of course you would head to one of those community meals.   You would do anything you could to get something for nothing — even steal.

The sad thing is that people with legitimate disabilities who needed caregivers and case workers, and who would thrive best in situations like board-and-care homes, were also mixed into the batch.   Many of them were stuck in the cracks of the system, and I saw quite a few die on the streets.

Another sad thing — or rather a maddening thing — is that it was assumed that I and my similar companions were unemployable, assumed we had landed on the streets due to drug addiction or alcoholism, assumed  we were insane, and basically assumed that unless we thought as they did, acted in the manner they wanted us to act, and believed the ideology that they wanted us to believe, then there was something wrong with us.  

Although I did vacate the premises after 19 months in order to rent a cottage in a rural area in the Central Valley — and there created nine talks on the subject based on what I had learned thus far — I wish I hadn’t been so eager to get inside.  The place I landed was in a horrible area, surrounded by tweakers, and it dawned on me that there weren’t too many places in that part of California where I could get a place in the $400/mo. range that were going to be any different.   So, once I finished the 9th talk, I returned to Berkeley for more research.

That might have been a mistake.

Three years later, I was having the devil of a time digging myself out of the hole that had been dug.   Years of sleep deprivation began to wear on my mental health.   I was constantly being awakened in the middle of the night by other homeless people (if not cops or security guards), my belongings would disappear over night, and I even dabbled in street drugs in an effort to keep my sanity and desensitize myself from all the chaos.

My self-esteem grew lower and lower.   Social workers who wanted to “help” me referred me to all kinds of programs with strict regimens, and I found I didn’t belong in any of them.  Not to mention, I’m one of those Introverted types who cherishes his privacy, and I learned that I would rather sleep outdoors in secluded spots on the outskirts of town, than stay crammed into a homeless shelter with about fifty other guys, where the rate of theft was even greater.

Finally, after one particularly disturbing instance when I was kicked out of a homeless shelter because I had caught the flu there, I got down on my knees and shouted to Whoever might hear my prayer:

“I do not care who they are telling me I am!
I do not care about drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness,
or being a loser, or being a lazy bum, or being a worthless piece of crap!
I care about HOMELESSNESS!!
Please God put on end to all these years
of totally unpredicable, totally unreliable,
anything can happen, anytime, anywhere, HOMELESSNESS!!!”

I literally screamed that petition to the stars of a seemingly indifferent sky, hurting my knees from the impact of the concrete outside the Sequoia Station in Redwood City.

Long story short (and it’s a story that has been often told elsewhere), within three or four weeks, I had an affordable room in North Idaho, renting for about one fourth of what it would have rented in Berkeley, and a job playing piano at a small church, after being considered unemployable and mentally insane in the State of California for years.

How did I get there?  It wasn’t from a handout.  It was from a hand-up – in the form of a $200 bus ticket granted by an old associate of mine, a retired music teacher whom I’d worked with years ago on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, before all of the sordid homelessness began.

Which brings me to my point.  The only homeless people who are into receiving “hand outs” from the system are those who either cannot fend for themselves, or choose not to, because they’d rather work the system.  The rest could use a hand-up.  I got one, and three and a half years later, on Thanksgiving Day, I must say I am thankful.  I’ve paid my rent on time in a place of my own choosing, a place of solitude and dignity, since September 1st, 2016.

So let that be food for thought on Thanksgiving Day.   You may use this information as you choose.   Maybe if somebody gives a hand-up to a person who could truly use it, then Somebody will give a hand-up to you.

Can I give you a hand? (Words and phrases for helping others) – About Words – Cambridge ...

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The Homeless Inequities

Happy Thanksgiving — to those to whom it applies.   Here’s a little talk I created yesterday.  It’s about twenty-five minutes long, explaining how my recent “Inequity Series” came about, what it means, and what we probably should be doing about it.  I’d be happy if you gave it a listen.

The Homeless Inequities 

We who live indoors have a lot to be thankful for.  I say, let’s give a “hand up” to those who could use it.  God bless you — and God bless America.

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Tuesday Tuneup 60

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Thinking.

Q. About what?

A. About what to do next.

Q. What are your options?

A. Well, I can start working on one of two stories due Friday, I can continue working on my new musical, or I can do neither of the above.

Q. What will happen if you do neither of the above?

A. I’ll probably flop down on the floor from exhaustion.

Q. Have you been working too hard lately?

A. You might say so.

Q. Why?

A. Because everybody else says so.

Q. I meant, why you have been working so hard?

A. Because I’ve been hurt.

Q. What is the relationship between your working hard and your having been hurt?

A. When I’m hurt, I don’t like to experience the super-painful feelings.  So I dive into a creative project of some kind.  Something so engaging that it takes my mind off the hurt.

Q. Isn’t that unhealthy?

A. Why would it be unhealthy?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to face the hurt directly?   Walk through the pain?   Experience it fully until it has been processed?

A. Why would I be supposed to do that?

Q. Wouldn’t you be in denial if you don’t?

A. Denial of what?

Q. Denial of your feelings?

A. I don’t think so.  I already know how horribly painful the feelings are.   That’s the reason why I turn my attention away from them in the first place.

Q. In other words, your creative work is your painkiller?

A. You could put it that way, yes.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I believe I was seven years old when I began to do this.

Q. What happened when you were seven?

A. Somebody hurt me.  And that same year, I learned how to play the piano, write music, write stories, and draw pictures.

Q. Who hurt you?

A. God.

Q. How could God have hurt you?

A. He hurt me in the sense that He created death.   Before I found out about death, I assumed I was going to live forever, in a very happy place, with a loving family.  Naturally, when I learned this was not the case, I was shattered.   And not only on my own behalf.  I was shattered on behalf of the entire human race.

Q. Would it be better if we all lived forever?

A. Yes.

Q. But won’t we all live forever anyway?  I mean, in heaven?

A. We’d certainly like to think so.  But apparently that statement has been the theme of much debate.

Q. Would you like to engage in such a debate at this time?

A. No, I would not.

Q. What would you like to do at this time?

A. To be honest, my heart is hugely into this new musical of mine.  When I was super-hurt yesterday, I sat down and cranked out five songs for the first scene — songs I’d already written (music only, no lyrics) and saw in a very short time how they could form the exposition and a good part of the development of an engaging new story line. And I’m psyched! This really could be the best of all the musicals, if I hunker down.

Q. How many musicals have you written?

A. Five.

Q. How many have been produced?

A. One.

Q. Why only one?

A. Because the process of trying to produce a musical is tedious, cumbersome, arduous, uncertain, stressful, frustrating, maddening, and painful.

Q. And you don’t like to face those feelings?

A. You know I don’t.

Q. So what do you do instead?

A. Usually, I write another musical.  But not immediately.  I have to let the last musical set for a while.

Q. What do you do in the meantime?  I mean, if you get hurt?

A. Depending on the level of the hurt, I either write a poem, an essay, or a song.  Unless the hurt is really really huge.

Q. What happens when the hurt is really really huge?

A. I jump the gun and dive into the next musical.   It’s the way I roll.  When my mom died, I wrote a musical.   When my wife left me years ago, I wrote a musical.

Q. And you’ve started yet another musical?   A sixth?  And you knocked out the first Scene with five songs in one morning?

A. Yes.

Q. How hurt must you have been to do something so huge!?

A. It’s not really important how hurt I was, or who hurt me, or why.  The important thing is that I’m tired.

Q. Tired?

A. Tired and weary.

Q. Tired of what?

A, Please move on to the next question.

Q. So what is this new musical going to be about?

A. The original hurt.

Q. You mean, when you were seven?

A. No.  Even more original.  I’m talking about what happened in the Garden.

Q. You mean, Eden?

A. Eden.  The Garden that we’re all unconsciously trying to return to.

garden.jpg

The Questioner is silent.  

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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

Gratitude List 1310

This one’s from last Thursday morning, Halloween in fact.  

1. Slept five surprisingly solid hours between midnight and 5 am, was surprised it was already 5 when I first woke.

2. Took a long hot shower before bed. It still blows my mind how I’m able to do that now, without having to interact with multiple other men, many of whom have been suspicious characters. I still remember my friend George getting his Ibanez custom ripped off during the 5 minutes he was taking a shower at Multi Agency Service Center. Thankful those days are gone.

3. Meditation service was nice. It was gentle. Thomas mentioned liking the Prelude. I didn’t think I was playing very well, but sometimes that’s the best.

4. Did the door last night and got a $20 gift card to use at the cafe. Just used $5.50 of it on a doppio and blueberry muffin. Breakfast at the Courtyard is now obviated, and money saved.

5. The singer-songwriter, Julien Kozak, was also gentle. Very good guitarist and singer, reminiscent of James Taylor. Stopped on his way to Seattle. I am reminded of a gentle period in the 80’s when I used to tour different cafes in the Bay Area. Makes me want to do a tour.

6. You know, I have a really good church now. I’ve been at the same church for over 3 years. This is unusual, in my experience.  My church is a gift from God.

7. Got to talk with Danielle first thing in the morning, and we had a great conversation. There were so many spiritual insights, I was taking notes, and just finished writing down a whole bunch of stuff in my journal, lest I forget.

8. Not having heard from her for a while, I just got a substantial email from Lynne that looks very supportive and insightful. I skimmed it by reading the topic sentences of several paragraphs and am eager to see what all she has to say.

9. Had a nice conversation with Vern yesterday — not Vern the bus driver, but Vern the trumpet player. I’m grateful to be living in a town where everybody knows me as Andy, and where, whether it’s Vern the bus driver, Vern the trumpet player, or anybody else, Andy is ALL RIGHT.

10. God is Love.

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Gratitude List 1307

1. Slept from about midnight till 7, pretty solidly.

2. I’ve noticed I haven’t been spacing things out lately gathering my stuff up to leave the house.   Also, always remembering to deal first with the power cord, I haven’t been leaving it at home lately, or elsewhere around town.   Grateful for this, and also for that I live in this present town, where absent-mindedness is not generally met with theft, as it was in so many other places where I’ve lived.  

3. Just read all of Proverbs 28.  Noticed I wasn’t resistant to reading first, as is often the case in the morning (when, as yesterday, I just want to start writing right away).   28:1 is one of my favorites and one of the few I have memorized.   I noticed 28:13 as applying to me recently.

4. I wasn’t angry when I awoke this morning, unlike yesterday.   I also had no problem not going to the computer right off the bat, but very methodically packed up all my things.

5. Finished the Vocal Score last night and did touch-ups on the script.   Should be submitted for registration with the Copyright Office by this afternoon.   I feel released of this burden — enough is enough.   Besides, what did Leonardo say?

Davinci Quotes On Art. QuotesGram

6. Very thankful to have finally “abandoned” my Art.

7. The thought that arose me out of bed this morning was that of journalism, and how it’s a bright new field in a bright new life.   Then, when I got to the cafe, I opened my email to a note from Tracy Simmons, who has put up my bio and picture on her news site, right at the top of her list.  (Now all I have to do is write something.)

8. Morning coffee is waking me well.

9. Grateful for my ongoing physical health and fitness, thus far.

10. It’s a beautiful brisk morning in the town where I was born.   God is Good.

 

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Inequity (Part One)

When I made the decision to join an intentional homeless community in the city of Berkeley on April 15, 2011, it was widely assumed that I had become homeless due to having lived a completely mistaken life for 58 years prior.

In this light, I noticed that if a person were a conservative, and they had become homeless in that community, they were often told that they should be a liberal “because the liberals were feeding them.”

However, if a person were a liberal, and they had become homeless in that same community, they were often told that they should become a conservative “because the Salvation Army was feeding them.”

dont judge etcIn general, no conclusions that any of us had drawn in all of our lifetimes prior to becoming homeless in Berkeley were regarded as being of value by anyone other than homeless people.   You don’t know how many people came up to me in an effort to proselytize their particular brand of Christianity, without even bothering to ask me if I identified as a Christian in the first place.

Why should a person change all the conclusions that they had drawn throughout 58 years of living, only because they had fallen on hard times?   If anything, my faith was needed more than ever.

The reason for this, simply put, is that it is widely assumed that a person becomes homeless due to some flaw in their character.   It is almost never supposed that the person might have become homeless because of a lack of affordable housing.  Yet, if that were not the case, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.   A renter in San Francisco might be paying $3000/mo. for a one bedroom apartment.  Here, I am paying $450/mo. for the same.

Yet the number of people who think that I experienced a total psychic change during a one way 48 hour bus trip to a low rent district in other State is staggering.  Some people even insist that it was then that I “found God.”  The fact of the matter is — and I hate to break to anybody — I did not change on that trip at all.  As for having “found God,” the notion is equally ludicrous.  I prayed more prayers to God when I was sleeping in that gutter than at any previous time in my life – and I’m fairly sure you would have too. 

What I found was an affordable place to live.  When will people listen to reason, and to the simple truth?

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Tuesday Tuneup 58

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I have no idea.

Q. None whatsoever?

A. None at all.

Q. How could this come to be?

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

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

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

Q. What kinds of fancy notions?

A. Oh, this and that.

Q. Can you be more specific?

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

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Professional things.   And some personal things.

Q. Too personal to discuss?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are these things no longer happening?

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

Q. What kinds of things?

A. New things.

Q. New?

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

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

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

Q. How did this all come to pass?

A. Through meditation.   And surrender.

Q. Surrender of what?

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

Q. Am I prying?

A. Yes.

Q. Should I apologize?

A. Only if it makes you feel better.

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

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

Q. By whom?

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

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. I do.

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

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

Q. Why?

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

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 57

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waking up.

Q. Literally or figuratively?

A. Both.

Q. Aren’t you usually an early riser?

A. Up at 3 this morning.   There’s a chair where I meditate sometimes.  I sat down to meditate, and fell asleep.

Q. Is this a good thing?

A. Sleep?  Generally, yes.  I don’t think we get enough of it.

Q. We?

A. We the People of Today’s Society.   We seem to run ragged on the lack of it, and even glorify ourselves in the process, as though proud of this insanity.

Q. How did we ever get that way?

A. First Industrial Revolution, I suppose.  From there it happened gradually.

Q. What about figuratively?

A. Figuratively?   Refresh my memory.

Q. Aren’t you waking up in some sense other than the literal?

A. Well yeah.   Waking up to some of the harder realities.   Folly in my behavior.   False sense of nobility.   Twisted use of the Golden Rule.  

Q. Twisted?

A. Check it out:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  — Luke 6:35

Q. How did you twist that rule?

A. How do ya think?

Q. Did you expect something in return?

A. Yeah.   I didn’t think I did at the time, but I did.  When I was homeless, I expected compassion from people who lived indoors.  That was a pretty unwieldy expectation.  It set me up for a lot of disappointment.   Then when I lived indoors, I expected respect from those who were homeless.  That didn’t happen either.

Q. But the passage refers to loving your enemies.   Who, then, were your enemies?

A. That’s a loaded question.   For a long time, my enemies were just about anybody who slept in a bed, and who wouldn’t let me inside their front door, even for a half hour to take a needed shower, even when offered money in return.

Q. And how did you try to love these enemies?

A. By appealing to them.   By making them more important than my friends.   By trying to state my case, very respectfully, as to why they should let me inside their front doors.  By advising them how great their rewards would be in heaven if they did so.

Q. And who were your friends?

A. Homeless people.   People in the same boat.   People who knew how hard it was to be out there — not just being rained on — that wasn’t one tenth of it.   It was being stormed on — by people.   By condescending social workers, treating us as though we were good-for-nothing, incompetent nobodies.   By cops, security guards, business owners, property owners — and worst of all, other homeless people.   It was this indignity, this demeaning demoralizing crap, crammed into our heads, day after day, year after year — this idea that we were somehow worse than other human beings — if indeed, we were even regarded as human at all.  Much of the time, we were regarded rather as inanimate objects to be stepped around and shouted over, whilst we tried unsuccessfully to get our good night’s sleeps.  

Q. Go on.

A. I remember my one friend Jerome — a big black guy.   He and D’Angelo, another big black guy, they kinda protected me.   We slept in a big vacant lot.   I had my laptop.  If someone wanted to steal it, they’d have to get past these two big guys.  So I wasn’t so easy a mark.

Q. What about Jerome?

A. He would say to me — “Andy, if you ever get lucky enough to get inside again, you’re not going to be one of those guys who never lets us inside your house, are you?”

Q. What was your answer?

A. My answer was: “No!  Of course not!   I know what it’s like out here — I could never do that to any of you.”

Q. Then what?

A. Then I got inside.

Q. And you didn’t let them in?

A. I was thousands of miles away.  And light years away in culture.   I couldn’t let them in, so I let other homeless people in.   Homeless people, and people who were on the verge of homelessness.  

Q. And what happened?

A. Every single one of them took a gigantic dump on my good nature.   

Q. How so?

A. It pains me to go into detail.   I made house rules.   No alcohol in my house.   No cigarettes, no overnight guests, no sex.   Lights out at ten.   

Q. And they disobeyed your rules?

A.  Yes.  They dishonored my graciousness.   So you know what that means?   I expected something in return.  I expected appreciation.   I expected respect.    So where was the Golden Rule then?

Q. Aren’t you being a little —

A. Hard on myself?  Don’t even go there.   Yes, Jesus said to feed the hungry, to help the needy, and to take in the homeless.  He didn’t say that after I take in the homeless, I’m supposed to put up with them trashing my place and stealing from me.   How the hell is that helping anybody?   In fact, maybe it’s not about the Golden Rule.  It’s about not being a doormat, a masochist.   Not making oneself completely useless in a failed effort to help another.   Check it out, the very next verse:

“Be merciful, as your father in heaven is merciful.”  — Luke 6:36

Q. Is that what you were trying to do?   Be merciful?

A. Yeah, but I forgot something.   I’m one of the people I’m supposed to be merciful towards.

Q. So what about nobility?   

A. The sense of nobility, of ideals —  totally false.   A sham.   Nothing more than masochistic hypocrisy — if you can even imagine such a baffling combination.

Q. What would be more noble?

A. Gratitude.

Q. How so?  

A. I wanted them to be grateful.   They were not.   So I became bitter.  But then I thought, well, if I want someone to be grateful, then I myself should be grateful.   You know, Prayer of St. Francis.

Q. Refresh my memory?


A. If nothing else, it’s a great psychological tool.  If I want to be understood, I should understand.   If I want forgiveness, I should forgive.   So if I want gratitude, I should be grateful.

Q. Grateful to whom?

A. To God.   God gave me a nice secluded spot of my own after years of sleeping outdoors.  I had only prayed for a “lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  God knew that was all I needed, and He gave me so much more than that.

Q. And how will you express this gratitude?

A. By being a good steward of this great blessing He has bestowed upon me.   By making it my spiritual sanctuary, my place of my repose, and the place where I accomplish my creative work.

Q. Did the people you let stay with you keep you from doing this?

A. Yes.  But I invited it.   So I could have expected it.   And now I’ve learned from it.

Q. What have you learned?

A. That there was a certain thousand dollars that didn’t come easy.   And now it’s gone.  I will never let anyone through that door again!

Q. Are you embittered? 

A. Perhaps.  But this too shall pass.  Are you but a gadfly?

The Questioner is silent.   

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Gratitude List 1289

1. Slept almost all day yesterday being sick. Awoke to Danielle’s call in the morning, and have noticed that I have much more functional energy today in general. This too has passed.

2. Am here at the local cafe, slowly getting oriented at the round table.

3. There’s the feel of a new day with new hope and promise.

4. Read Proverbs 7 and all of Titus. Stuff in Titus stood out for me, bearing further consideration.

5. Heard from Jeff X on Shenandoah.

6. Echo helped so much when I was sick, made food, gave me water and tea and ibuprofen. It’s nice to have her around the house, and my heart is warmed for her being here.

7. Helped to talk with Danielle.

8. Echo should get paid today for her job at the brewery.

9. I think I’m awake enough spiritually that I can get into my work now. The work is not the most important thing, and when I think that way, I begin to err.

10. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Gratitude List 1282

1. Finished the 4th draft of Eden in Babylon yesterday.

2. Feeling relaxed and relieved as a result of #1.   The hard part’s over, now I get to go to the fun part.

3. Slept 4 1/2 hrs between 10:30 & 3, and another hour between 7 & 8.  Got a couple good naps in yesterday, and so I feel rested.

4. Choir will sing “Come Thou Fount” today, in that reverent arrangement.

5. Meditating around the toothache mindfully is decreasing the dread of pain.

6. Was able to find Draino for the kitchen sink.

7. Saw some nice snowflakes when I rose early and walked to and from the Sunset Market.

8. Alastair and I sure get along.  It’s always a joy to work with her.  Maybe she can help me create a more appropriate signature.   Also, I get the feeling Homeless No More will be syndicated, when the time is right.

9. Happy and thankful over the way the last scene came together, almost magically, as well as the new opening & closing number.   I’m blessed.

10. My daughter is here now, and God is Good.

 

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Gratitude List 1270

My gratitude list from Friday.

1. Ran 4 miles at a decent clip.  Enjoyed it.  

2. Ran into Dave on the run, he paced me for about 100 yards.  Kept a picked up pace after that.

3. Every vibe from every person on that course, largely through campus, was positive and supportive.

4. I can walk along the right paths in the goodness of this town, and avoid slippery places.   This city is a special place and truly can be sweet.

5. By-passed the local predators.

6. Made $23 on CD sales last night, and got $16 worth of stuff at the Dollar Store.

7. My daughter Echo & I are communicating really well and getting along great.  It is wonderful having her here.

8. While praying & reflecting on the walk to the Dollar Store, I forgave a lady I was mad at, let’s call her Karen (not her name).

9. Heard somebody shout “Hi Andy!” and it was that lady on her bicycle.   I shouted: “Hi Karen!  God bless you!”  She shouted back: “God bless you!”

10. God is Love.

 

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Psalm 52

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
     The loving devotion of God endures all day long.
Your tongue devises destruction
     like a sharpened razor.
     O worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
    falsehood more than speaking truth.

You love every word that devours,
     O deceitful tongue.
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin;
     He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent;
     He will uproot you from the land of the living.

The righteous will see and fear;
     they will mock the evildoer, saying,
Look at the man
     who did not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his wealth
     and strengthened himself by destruction.

But I am like an olive tree
     flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in the loving devotion of God
     forever and ever.
I will praise You forever,
     because You have done it.
I will wait on Your name–
     for it is good–
     in the presence of Your saints.

— Psalm 52 BSB

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Gratitude List 1264

1. Slept six hours last night between 8pm and 2am. Also got an hour nap yesterday afternoon between 12:30 & 1:30.

2. Ran three miles yesterday morning. I see no reason not to run a couple miles or more this morning, with better form.

3. Was in a good mood during the gig at Jodie’s church, played “Be Thou My Vision,” and got a lot out of the sermon.

4. Jodie paid me $50 in cash. Now I can pay the phone bill.

5. Just noticed it was Proverbs 16 this morning, my favorite chapter in Proverbs. Just looked at 16:7, my favorite verse in Proverbs, and it applies.

6. Good Grapevine meeting last night, sat between two members whom I like who shall remain anonymous, and talked afterward to a member of the clergy who shall remain anonymous. It was a lot like an Al-Anon meeting, and I needed that. Gained from it.

7. Ran into J. drinking at an outdoor establishment taking with D., and tried to avoid them so as to continue doing all the creative work that I typically do “in my head” while briskly walking.  But then, when J. hailed me, I succeeded in not responding with annoyance, as though it were an impolite intrusion.  Rather, I managed to be cordial and smiling with both of them, though still successfully conveying that I had work to do, and managing a getaway without appearing hostile.  For me, this is a breakthrough.  I hate it when people interrupt my work, and it’s been frustrating trying to explain to non-autistic sorts that most of my work is done invisibly in my head.

8. Was praying that somebody would let go, when it came to me that I was the one who needed to let go.

9. I have discovered a truly marvelous resolution to the last Scene in Eden in Babylon, which unfortunately this margin is too narrow to hold.

10. I so love the “absolutely quiet hours.” Can’t wait to finish my reading — and write. God is Good.

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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

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The Refuse of the World

For who makes you so superior?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want.
Already you have become rich.
Without us, you have become kings.
How I wish you really were kings,
so that we might be kings with you. 
For it seems to me that God has displayed us apostles
at the end of the procession,
like prisoners appointed for death.
We have become a spectacle to the whole world,
to angels as well as to men.

We are fools for Christ,
but you are wise in Christ.
We are weak,
but you are strong.
You are honored,
but we are dishonored. 
To this very hour we are hungry and thirsty,
we are poorly clothed,
we are brutally treated,
we are homeless. 

We work hard with our own hands.
When we are vilified, we bless;
when we are persecuted, we endure it; 
when we are slandered, we answer gently.
Up to this moment
we have become the scum of the earth,
the refuse of the world.

–1 Corinthians 4:7-13

Gratitude List 1244

Happy Labor Day.  Here’s my gratitude list from Saturday morning.   I’ll be posting three music clips and one announcement, all three hours apart, throughout the day.  Hope it all finds you blessed.    

1. Slept solidly for nine hours between 10 & 7, no sleeping pill being needed, and no sleep paralysis.

2. Observing the Sabbath, mostly reading.  Grateful for quietude.

3. Grateful for my apartment, for its “out of the way” location, for my new incentive to keep it tidy, and for my positive relationship with the landlord.

4. Glad I’m not in the awful space I was in two days ago, and grateful for the lesson of just how far into spiritual darkness the “obsession of the mind” can lead me.

5. Grateful for Matt, one of the better sponsors I’ve had.

6. First thing I read this morning was an unusually good “Got Questions” article.   It started the mind off thinking the right way on the Sabbath Day.

7. Grateful for the Day of Rest and for the knowledge that once the sun goes down, I can start working again.

8. Glad I have a computer expert for a sponsor.  Matt helped me to get the CD’s burnt correctly with a new and better CD burner.   Also installed a better free media player.

9. Open Mike was a gentle experience last night.   Grateful for my positive relationship with Dave Harlan.  I played three pieces of “improvised classical” and was able to sell three CD’s.

10. Breakfast at Courtyard in 40 minutes, Farmer’s Market thereafter.  Somebody called this place “The Town Time Forgot.”  God is Love.

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Gratitude List 1239

(1) Slept seven hours from 11 to 6, solid rem sleep with vivid dreams.  Grateful for the comfortable couch on which I sleep, and its proximity to my computer and my piano.

(2) The house is so much brighter now that I have a decent male roommate.   Joey used to own and manage a cleaning company, plus he was a line cook and a prep cook.   I gave him the spare room, and we agreed he only has to pay 1/3 the rent, in exchange for keeping the kitchen and the bathroom clean.

(3) Church was great yesterday morning.  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do also to Me.”  I also got to tell them that my prayer was answered, for a housemate who could help around the house.

(4) Inspired by Joey’s tidiness, I organized my whole desk, and things are much easier to find.  For $1 at the dollar store, I got a white wide-ruled legal pad, taped it to the desk to the right of the computer and have four pens sitting right there.  (Now I don’t have to keep looking for paper and pens every time I want to write something down).  There’s still room to work the mouse to the right of the pad.   Starting to make lists — it all seems so easy now — compared to how hard it was just a few short days ago.

(5) Finally got some 175 readers to replace the 250’s that were way too strong, and now I don’t have to keep taking my glasses on and off.   They look nice too, all black and sharp.  That dollar store is a really good deal.

(6) Somebody canceled, and it looks like I’m playing solo this Thursday at the One World Cafe.  Might as well put up flyers — shoot for the moon.

(7) Putting on the finishing touches the worship song I’ve been writing, called “I Want to Worship You.”   I believe I’ve received it.  Also heard back about this from my old Internet buddy, Jeff, a worship leader type in Texas with a great devotional blog.

(8) Joey and I have a lot in common, and I asked if I could interview him for an upcoming Wednesday talk.

(9) When I was cleaning the living room and dining room, I found two Exile covers and three Pinnacle covers, amid all the Interim covers I already knew were there.   So I burned five new CD’s to add to the two Abstraction CD’s remaining in my inventory.  Hoping to sell all seven of them soon.

(10) Just ran two miles, nice new course along Paradise Path.  I am truly blessed in my life these days.  God is Love.

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Gratitude List 1229

(1) Though I only got about an hour and a half of sleep before I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, I’m still very thankful that it’s been seven days now and I’ve not gone into sleep paralysis.

(2) I was able to get a large tube of toothpaste and a bottle of shampoo for free at the Co-Op in the box of things they take to the Food Bank.   Also, I found a brand new toothbrush in my backpack that I’d forgotten about.

(3) Really looking forward to calling my friend Danielle, and to talking with her for 45 minutes between 4:45 and 5:30.  I’ve missed the last four times due to sleeping in, and it’s left a bit of a void.  I very much gain from this early morning fellowship.  It’s been a tradition now for a long time.

(4) My daughter has connected with a writing coach whom I regard very highly, Lauren Sapala, and Lauren has promised to read a book she has written, called Secrets Held Too Tight to Keep.  

(5) As of this morning, I believe my unhealthy attitudes toward money are being healed.

(6) For the second time this year, just when I ran out of reading glasses, I found a nice pair of dollar readers sitting on a bench, and they suit me perfectly.   

(7) I was able to cry during the church service, though not a whole lot.  Still, it’s a start.  I hardly ever cry, but the times when I’ve gotten in touch with the deeper feelings, I’ve cried in torrents.   It’s always cleansing when I do, and it helps me to move forward once again.

(8) I’ll probably have two new piano pieces for you later on in the week, as soon as I get them off of that guy’s smartphone and upload them onto my youtube channel.  I recall they both came out very nicely.

(9) Letting go off the past has always been very difficult for me.   But it’s become clear that I really need to count my blessings and look forward.   That said, there are some pretty substantial potential blog posts hidden in some of the very long emails I have sent to those who have ceased to contact me.   The words I wrote are still valuable.  I only wrote them to the wrong people.

(10) Training for window washing at 6am, should make some money in cash before 9am, when I have to go to the hospital and finalize my volunteer position.  The volunteer position, by the way, is that I will now be playing piano regularly at the entrance to the Courtyard Cafe — in the hospital where I was born.   Stranger things have happened!  And the Lord Himself moves in strange and mysterious ways.

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Aliens

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
    –Leviticus 19:33

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Tuesday Tuneup 53

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waiting for you.

Q. What do you want from me?

A. Questions.

Q. Why?

A. Because your questions always lead to interesting answers.

Q. Like what?

A. Like what I should be doing this morning.

Q. What should you be doing this morning?

A. In my opinion, I should be staving off depression by hurling myself full-force into an artistic project.

Q. Why should you do that?

A. Because I’ve been doing it all my life, and it usually works.

Q. Have you ever considered facing the depression directly, rather than doing something to avert it?

A. Sure I have.

Q. And how does that work for you?

A. It usually only makes me more depressed.   

Q. And then what?

A. Then nothing.  Stagnation.  Inaction.  Futility.   

Q. But if you stave off the depression through Art?

A. Then everything.  Motivation.  Action.  Meaningfulness.  

Anger-management-quote

Q. Why then would anyone ever want to face their depression directly?

A. Probably because they deny it.  If one is in denial, things don’t work too well.

Q. Are you in denial?

A. If I were, I wouldn’t know it now, would I?

Q. I don’t know – would you?

A. No, I would not.

Q. But do you feel like you’re in denial?

A. Maybe a little bit.  Nothing serious, though.  Nothing that would land me in jail or in a psychiatric facility.

Q. Where would your level of denial land you?

A. Probably on a piano bench.

Q. What do you mean?

A. When I start to suspect that something is internally amiss, I usually play it out on the piano and see what happens.

Q. What happens then?

A. I channel my feelings.

Q. And this is?

A. Healthy.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not off the top, no.  Oh wait a minute – I’m going to be posting a new talk tomorrow.  It will still be called “The Perception of Inequality” just like the talk I removed earlier this week.  It will just be a lot more thorough, more purposeful, more academic, more informative.

Q. Has working on this new talk helped you to be less depressed?

A. Yes, it has.

Q. But won’t all the depression return as soon as you’re done with your project?

A. It might.  It might not.   

Q. What now?

A. Calling my friend Danielle in about ten minutes, as per usual.   Waiting for the sky to get light.  Lacing up my shoes, going on a run.   

Q. And after that?

A. Planning on enjoying the day.  God’s blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1220

1. Slept again about six hours from around 10 till 4:15.

2. Perfect running weather 61F and foggy.

3. Spent a while at LRC yesterday – I enjoyed talking with Cindy, Scott, Shaun & Amber. They’re doing some good expansion of the place, creating a Crisis Center next door where the barber shop used to be, of which Shaun is in charge.

4. Farmer’s Market this morning.

5. Working the door tomorrow night, will get a $30 gift card.

6. I spontaneously gave a sixteen-minute talk yesterday called It Can’t Be Forgotten. Did it in a single take and two quick edits, hope you enjoy it.

7. Got a chance to talk with Alex last night, good long talk.

8. It’s beginning to look like my daughter will be here soon.

9. Finished past No. 6 in the revised vocal score. Should have Act One done very soon.

10. Sky’s getting light, love this time of the morning. God is Good.

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Tuesday Tuneup 52

Q. What are you doing here?

A. What do you mean, what am I doing here?  I’m here to answer your questions, as best I can.

Q. But didn’t you say you weren’t coming back until October?

A. I changed my mind.

Q. What made you change your mind?

A. There’s much less stress in my life now than there was when I made that decision.

Q. But didn’t you give me your word?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Then why are you breaking your word?

A. Are you really taking this game that seriously?

Q. What makes it a game?

A. Hmm – good question.  I used the word “game” automatically, without really examining it first.

Q. Why do you think you did that?

A. There was a game on my mind.  A game where we used to always give our words, and shake on deals, even though a lot of the times, those deals were broken.

Q. What game was that?

A. Do you really need to know?

Q. Why shouldn’t I know?

A. It’s privileged information.

Q. Am I not privileged?

A. You are not.  And neither am I.

Q. Well, can you give me a clue?  

A. Can we have a guessing game?

Q. Okay.  Where did this game take place?

A. On the streets.

Q. Who did you play it with?

A. A bunch of other people who lived on the streets.

Q. What was the game called?

A. It was called the Game.  Capital G.

Q. How long did you play the Game?

A. Three years.  I began, to be honest, in July 2013.  I stopped in June 2016.

Q. Do you have a photographic memory?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What did the Game consist of?

A. Interactions with others based on monetary exchanges, supply and demand.

Q. Were you a merchant in the Game?

A. No.  More like a customer.

Q. Why did you stop playing the Game?

A. Because I was no longer interested in the products that were being provided.

Q. Did you then begin to play another game?

A. I did not.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because, as a dear friend once told me, I am not immortal – and life is not a game.

The Questioner is silent.  

Life is Not a Game - Being Effective for God (April 2012)

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part Two

I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.”   I got this crazy idea that  if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy.   After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?”   Sure there is!  Therefore,  if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:

“Oh!  I get it!  That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things!  I understand now!   It all makes sense!!  Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”

Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter.   To illustrate this, I’ve prepared a fictitious email, sent to someone named “Tom” who hypothetically had offended me.  The nature of the offense is based on truth, though the names and variables have been altered and mixed, for the sake of discretion and taste.  Observe the absurdity of such an entreaty:

Hey Tom –

As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now.    Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”

Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair.  Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends.  Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates.  Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.

It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest.  I sure hope the latter is the case.  If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.

I have therefore provided you with a 12-point questionnaire, designed to determine whether or not you are an evil genius or a stupid idiot.  Once I know the answer, I will understand you perfectly; and therefore forgive you.  

Best Regards,

Andy

Do you see how ludicrous that would be?  If the situation were reversed, and I knew that someone hated me, and the person who hated me was insisting that I alter my behavior in some form or another, until he would no longer hate me, how would I feel?

I would be incensed!  It is not my purpose in life to adjust my behavior to please him who hates me.  That person who hates me is not God, and has no right to insist that I change in any way.

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...

But the aphorism above comes to mind and is wise.  This person whom I am calling “Tom” also had a way of lecturing me.  Lengthy dissertations on how to live my life, flavored by little gifts he would buy me — running shoes, a cell phone, and lunches.  It took me a while to realize that he must not have been all that bright.   People who give a lot of advice generally mean well.  They’re just not smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t be doing it.  

Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?

The answer is this:

When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.

So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven.  Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy.  It has no relevance whatever to the world of the underprivileged — the world where you actually live.

As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all.   The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd.   Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.

Forgiveness is an inside job.  It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self.  It can only be accomplished in the heart.

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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

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Gratitude List 1195

1. Slept from 9-2a, and again from about 4-8. Am feeling rested.

2. Nice breakfast, Courtyard Cafe, price has gone up to 3.19 with tax now. Two nice cups of Pikes Peak coffee.

3. Beautiful Idaho summer morning.

4. Doppio, quiet cafe, new table, new friends.

5. Record 98 views on Eden in Babylon yesterday:

6. We got at least three good clips from the show Friday night, although they were all early in the night, and we were just beginning to get warmed up by Eleanor Rigby, which was the end of the first set. Nothing from the second set unfortunately, but still a memento of a beautiful evening, for which to give thanks.

7. My daughter should be up soon and we will probably enjoy a nice conversation.

8. Played at the United Church yesterday. Was able to do the Canticle of the Turning and was blessed; I believe others were blessed as well.   Enjoyed the sermon, too, about the Good Samaritan.  

9. Enjoyed playing at the nursing homes again yesterday afternoon.

10. God is Good.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.