Gratitude List 940

Again, my gratitude list from Friday.  

1. Slept real well from about 8:30 to 4:30, just about 8 hours. Probably back on schedule now.

2. Ran two miles yesterday afternoon.

3. Seeing Dr. Baldwin today for the first time at 11:30.

4. Really grateful for my apartment. It’s just what I need.

5. Grateful for the writers I’ve met on WordPress and Twitter who are so encouraging and understanding what I’m about.

6. Grateful for my church.

7. Happened upon this really interesting blog post from Lynne Fisher from over a year ago: The Demons on the Boat. Grateful that I was able to read it and be engaged, free of negative thoughts as to what a lousy reader I think I am. It’s those lifelong thoughts that seem to keep me from reading with comprehension, because they get in the way. Ridding myself of them, I find that reading isn’t that hard.

8. Also grateful for the delineation of Russ Harris she alluded to in that post. It’s a great way of framing it. Of course I should live more according to my values than my goals.

9. I’m grateful to have good friends, and good “guides” in my life today. I don’t think this was so much the case earlier. The people I hung out with more-or-less led me astray.

10. I’m in a good mood this morning, not mad or anything. That’s a blessing. Here’s to a good day. God is Good.

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The Blog and the Blues

For those who have been anticipating a Friday piano offering, I want you all to know that I have not forgotten.  I wasn’t able to get to the church piano earlier than this morning.  So right now I’m in the process of uploading.  I should have the piece posted later on tonight.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to call attention to an earlier post of which I am proud.  I earlier received the following comment on A Homily for the Homeless at Heart from Lauren Sapala, a San Francisco-based writing coach who has authored several fine books, including Firefly Magic, The INFJ Writer, and Between the Shadow and Lo:

kudos.JPG

I found it interesting that I was about to trash the post before I received this comment.  Believe it or not, I had actually thought it was the worst piece I had ever written about homelessness in America! Thanks to Ms. Sapala, I had a change of heart.  I then edited it four times to polish it until I was able to feel proud of it.  As I started the fifth edit, my friend Danielle sent me an email reading: “Please don’t make many more changes.”

So I didn’t.   Here it is, in finished form:

A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

Hopefully this will give you something to chew on while you’re waiting for my somewhat chaotic version of “Billy’s Blues” by the late Laura Nyro.   I hope you enjoy both the blog and the blues.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 24

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater certainty.

Q. Why do you need greater certainty?

A. Because uncertainty makes me uneasy.

Q. But isn’t the world, in general, quite an uncertain place to be?

A. It is, yes.

Q. Then how can you expect greater certainty?

A. I can’t.  At least, not from the world.

Q. From where, then?

glass darklyA. From heaven, I suppose.  I’m reminded of the famous Scripture: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12.)

Q. Are you saying you would like to be in heaven, rather than on earth?

A. Well, I think that goes without saying.  Both at once would be preferable, but hardly likely.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.  It just doesn’t seem to ever happen, somehow.  I mean, we can pray “thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” till the cows come home.  But does that ever really change anything?

Q. Why wouldn’t it?

A. Because the world is by nature uncertain.  Impermanent — as the Buddhists say.  You see a guy alive today; chances are he won’t be alive a hundred years from now.  Everything is in flux, and constantly changing.

Q. But isn’t that beautiful?

A. It can be.

Q. Can’t you just roll with it?

A. I try to.

Q. And when you fail?

A. When I fail, I have a tendency to be contrite, remourseful.  Or at the very least, contemplative.  At those times, I turn to God more easily.  I seek certainty from the Source of it, not from my fellow human beings, who are —

Q. Fickle?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!  Evidently, I expect too much of them.  I even expect too much of my own self.

Q. How so?

A. I expect a kind of consistency of purpose.  A continual adherence to my calling.  Instead, I see myself being torn this way and that, by the ebb and flow of circumstance.  My supposed calling, if I even have one, means very little to me now.

Q. Why?

A. Not making money.  It gets to you after a while.  All this hard work, for what?

Q. But isn’t the work its own reward, in and of itself?

A. Only when I’m on fire.  Only when I’m motivated, inspired.  Then the money, or the lack of it, ceases to matter.

Q. When did you stop being inspired?

A. About ten days ago.

Q. What happened then?

A. Not sure I want to elaborate.  Something in the general category of a traumatic event,  involving a near-death experience.  Not sure it would be healthy to discuss.

Q. Near-death experience?

A. Not sure how else to describe it.  Everything started spinning; I lost my center; my consciousness; my identity; my sense of self.  My “I” was being ripped out of me.  It’s never happened to me before except once when I was under the influence of LSD, long ago.

Q. And you were not under the influence of LSD?

A. Don’t make me laugh. Not in this chapter of the New Story, nosirree.

Q. How did this loss of self come about?

A. Dehydration.  That’s what the medical report said.  I was going at it too hard, too much too soon, training for a 10-K, and apparently treading the wrong path. In the smoke, in fire season, excessively caffeinated, and insufficiently hydrated. And anxious, and scared. They had to pump a liter and a half of salt water into me at the hospital.

Q. Are you okay now?

A. Physically, yes.

Q. And mentally?

A. I’m basically all right.  I just feel a bit confused, and torn.

Q. How so?

A. I’ve lost all heart for the themes I usually write about.  It’s drudgery to even follow through with my writing commitments.

Q. Why is this?

A. It’s tiring.  Everything I write about homelessness, about classism, it’s all getting stale. People don’t get it.  It’s unrewarding. I’m preaching to the Choir.  And the Choir can’t do anything about the situation.  I start to offend people with money — people with privilege.  This increases anxiety.  I don’t want to offend anyone.  I work on my tone of voice, to try to ensure that I don’t seem too biting, or bitter. But if I keep speaking my truth, it’s inevitable.  I’m tired of —

Q. Of speaking your truth?

A. Kinda.  It’s not getting anywhere, is it?   An occasional paycheck of $25 or $35, $50 if I’m lucky enough to get a two page article published.  For the number of views I’m getting on my writings, offline and off, it sure isn’t translating into making any kind of difference on this planet.

Q. Would you rather speak a lie than the truth?

A. Not at all, sir.  I would rather speak neither lie nor truth, but only speak the Beauty that is Art. I would that I would again be granted the great gift I once was granted.  The gift of letting the Artist prevail over the Philosopher.  Ever since last Summer, when I first started writing for Street Spirit, I’ve permitted the Philosopher to prevail over the Artist.  I even heard a still small voice in my head, when I was sitting in Shari’s Restaurant early one morning, that said: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”  I heeded that voice, from that day — why it might even be a year ago, to this date — till now.

Q. And now?

A. I would really like for the Artist to prevail over the Philosopher.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Artist knows how to make a living.  Isn’t that a good enough reason?

Q. When was the last time the Artist made a living?

A. Off of his Art?  It was a while ago.  But the Artist knows how to make a living doing things unrelated to his Art.  The Artist knows how to get through a shit job every day, knowing that when he comes home at night, he will get to crank up his music notation software and do what he loves doing.  The Philosopher, on the other hand, only keeps scratching his head 24/7, taking long walks like Einstein on the beach, and being so preoccupied he can’t focus on a darn thing, other than whatever his life-purpose is supposed to be, his “higher calling,” and all that rot.   Can’t do a lick of work for the life of him.

Q. Why do I not believe you?

A. I have no idea.

Q. Could it be that there are a just a few holes in your story?

A. I suppose it could be.

Q. Then why don’t we each take a week or so to think about it, and reconvene on a future Tuesday?

A. Why not?  And come to think about, we’re both supposed to still be thinking about whatever happened two Tuesdays ago, as well.

Q. Oh my – how could I forget?

A. How could I forget?

Q. I don’t know — how could you?

A. Beats me.   Guess I’m getting old.

Q. May I be excused, sir?

A. (with a sigh) You may.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 904

(1) Writer’s Guild was great on Saturday.  I’m beginning to wrap my mind around writing on themes other than those of my recent passion.

(2) Jeremiah’s sermon was really interesting at church yesterday, filling in for the pastor.  I didn’t know he was such a good speaker.  Also, I’d never heard that emphasis in the story of the Prodigal Son before — how each of the sons at different times was treating their father more-or-less like an employer rather than a dad, and how their language not being “family language” thus robbed them of the sense of kinship or intimacy that their father was about, and that our own Heavenly Father seeks from His children.

(3) I don’t feel quite as “strangely threatened” as I have felt so much of the time recently.  And though I’d grappled against the idea of even going to church because I so hugely didn’t want to be around people afterwards at the Fellowship, it worked for me to make a conscious choice to leave the building immediately after the sermon.

(4) Latah Recovery Center.  It’s been great to have had peer support throughout the past few weeks, and I was especially surprised and happy they stayed open on Labor Day.  Also, if I fill out the tons of paperwork correctly, I can soon be receiving a minium-wage paycheck for my volunteer position there.  This perk is not to be overlooked.

(5) My daughter and I have been talking every day now – on the phone or on Skype.  Also, it appears that her sister is having the baby now.

(6) Holiday weekends can be hard, but this one will be over soon, and tomorrow things will be open again: the church, the bank, the Courtyard Cafe, the Bagel Shop, and the library.  People will somehow seem more “normal,” and I will be able to take comfort once again in connecting with my community.

proverbs 25-17(7) I think I’ve successfully warded off the Kid in the hood who tried to pawn off the hot MacBook.  Just the fact that it would even have wound up with the cops is probably enough to make him a bit leery of me.  (I could elaborate, but it’s mostly a Proverbs 25:17 issue.)

(8) Got my levothryoxine filled finally and today’s the 10th day.  Motivation is coming more easily now, and it’s easier to make it up the hills when I’m out walking.  Running with Jay D. was all right on Saturday too, though I’m still coughing up a storm, especially triggered by the deeper breaths.

(9) Downloaded the Google voice recorder to my new phone, so I’m probably good to make a speech Wedneday and correct the one from Wednesday before last that I had to throw into the trash.  Great to finally have a nice smartphone in life, and to be discovering all its features and potential.

(10) Received a positive communication from an important person.  God is Love and Love is God.

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Gratitude List 884

Here’s my second gratitude list from Saturday, after waking up from a morning nap.

1. I was tired and discouraged, then I remembered I could take a power nap at the church. Slept so heavily I didn’t know where I was when I woke, and was not nearly so discouraged on awakening, and no longer tired.

2. I prayed for the discouragement to be removed, and it was removed.

3. I prayed specifically for things to happen that would cancel out what happened to discourage me — and one of them has already happened.

shoelaces4. There was no way I could get the knot out of my left shoelace, which was a thin shoelace. Walking lacelessly toward the thrift shop was bringing back bad memories, and I really did not want to spend the $5 debit card limit just to get a 63 cent shoelace at the Salvation Army. Then, I found a dollar bill on the ground, so I didn’t have to. Also, the single shoelace they had (not the set) was a very thick 54″ shoelace, which was the perfect size. The prayer about the shoelace was answered, not fifteen minutes after I prayed it. Wow.

5. Also find it interesting synchronicity that I twice alluded to the “homeless shoelace problem” recently — in Talk 4 and in the Thursday post — and then, it happened. These things happen for a reason.

6. Heard an O.G. playing nice jazz standards and singing on a guitar outside the music store downtown. He told me the store had hired him, which was encouraging, since not everyone will hire an Old Guy. Exchanged contact info, felt warm inside. Loved his version of “Laura.”

7. Ran into Timbo at the café just before Writer’s Guild. Great guy, leaving for Michigan on Wednesday. He bought an “Abstractions” CD, which helps considerably.

8. Really great to reconnect with the people at the local Writer’s Guild.

9. Something tells me that the friendship between me & my daughter will be stronger than ever before.

10. God is Love.

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Gratitude List 858

1. In 11 days, it will be two years that I’ve been successfully living indoors and paying my rent on time at the beginning of every month, after years of struggling with homelessness on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

2. Although I am up much earlier than the average person, I am grateful for the absolutely quiet hours when I can focus and get my writing done, undisturbed by the influences of others.

3. I am grateful for the wisdom of my father, who taught me to get up three hours before anybody else does, and to drink my coffee black, to avoid stomach problems.

4. I’m grateful for the freedom and solitude that indoor living has provided for me, enabling me to do all the things I always wished I could do when I still lived outdoors — things like make speeches, play the piano, write music, write blog posts, and most especially, finish a musical about homelessness in America that I could never fully focus on when I lived outdoors.

5. I’m grateful that if I wake up at one in the morning, I can make a cup of coffee and go straight to my computer, rather than wander the streets amid cops & robbers, fearing for my safety and preparing for the worst.

6. I’m not only grateful for the freedom to write about the Homeless Experience, but for the increasing awareness that a lot of other people are writing about it, too — people who, like me, spent years outside, and were gifted with the blessing of indoor residence, and the freedom to shape their thoughts.

7. I really like my pastor and my church.  Even though I’ve had problems, they were not quick to expel me, or tell me to go to the Salvation Army or some other unappealing indoor group living situation where I would have had orders barked at me day in and day out, and all my freedoms would have been removed.

8. Glad I no longer have to struggle with the choice either to live outdoors in danger, or indoors in a group situation among dubious denizens, in just as much danger, despite.

9. Glad that the person I am living with now is probably the only person whom I know for sure I can live with without feeling like we’re in each other’s way.

10. Grateful to be living with the woman whom I love.  The Lord has blessed me so much, my cup runneth over.  The sky is the limit from here.

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In Spirit and in Truth

There is something in the human spirit that makes people want to feel that they are moving forward in some way.   No one likes to feel as though they are stagnating.  We all want to feel as though we are somehow progressing.  When we feel that we are progressing, it seems that our lives have meaning.  When we feel that we are stagnating, it seems that life is meaningless.

Moreover, it seems that different people have different ideas regarding personal progress.  Some people view progress in terms of their monetary advancement; that is, their financial growth.  The more money they make, the better they feel about their progress in life.

Others view progress in terms of their spiritual growth.  Are they becoming better people in some way?   Are they more responsive to the needs of others?  More giving?  More honest?  Less self-serving?  More capable of standing tall in the face of adversity?  More courageous?  Wiser?  More patient?  Or, most of all, more loving?

The latter seems to me to be the higher view of personal progress in life.   But it eludes many people.  People become trapped in the worrisome cares of this world.  And many of those anxiety-ridden concerns are centered around the love of money.

Consider the words of Jesus:

“No one can serve two masters.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
– Matthew 6:24

I’ve always wondered why the two poles chosen were those of God and money.  Why not God and sex?  God and drugs?   Or God and (heaven forbid) rock ‘n’ roll?

Having reflected quite a bit on this dynamic throughout the past two years, I believe I am beginning to understand.  To pursue financial gain as one’s top priority in life is energetically incompatible with the pursuit of personal, spiritual growth.  

God and moneyThis is not to say that a person whose primary focus is on making money cannot do good things with their money. But the good uses of one’s money can take place without there necessarily being any positive change in that person’s character.   A money-hungry person, after all, could conceivably find themselves at a loss for true friends, since people are naturally put off by the energy of greed.  That person might then reason that if they were to offer all kinds of goodies to a less privileged person whom they happen to like,  then that more impoverished person might cling to them as though a friend, and they would not be so lonely.

But money cannot buy friendship any more than it can buy true happiness.   The money-focused individual in this case is not really giving of his essence as a human being.  Rather, he is giving of his excess – and perhaps even getting a hefty tax write-off in the process.

It is also not the case that if one is primarily focused on spiritual growth, then prospects for financial betterment will elude them completely.  It only means that the spiritually-minded person does not base their self-worth on their net worth.  They do not identify themselves according to their financial stature, but rather according to the actualization of their true selves.

People like these feel no need to lavish pricey gifts upon others in order to secure the loyalty that only true friendship can secure.  Rather, they seek out like-minded people, people with whom they would naturally best relate, because they share similar values and interests.  As a Christian, I further believe that the Father of Life also seeks out such like-minded souls.  

But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in Spirit and in Truth,
for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
 

God is Spirit,
and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”
 

– John 4:23-24

It is a mistake to think that the presence of money will necessarily negate the possibility of true moral character.  Many wealthy people are legitimately concerned for the plight of those who are suffering.  But it is also a mistake to think that one’s primary aim ought to be the acquisition of great wealth, rationalizing that some of the money will be offered to tax-exempt charitable contributions.  My experience has been that the more I stay focused on the actualization of my true self — the person whom God desires me to be — then the more my needs are adequately met.

The more I love God, and the less I love money, the better off I am.  It is then that my words and my music best reflect my concern and my hope for humanity.  And while it may cost me some money to render these gifts, the ultimate value of this form of genuine self-expression is far beyond that which money can buy.

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