Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You're Right Mr. President: Bombs, Civilians and Death = Terror!

One of the issues we don't hear much about concerning the recent Boston Marathon bombing and mayhem which followed, is a thoughtful national self-evaluation about why these terrorist attempts and attacks are happening in the United States in the first place.  Put another way we could ask, why do others hate us so?

We are hearing a great deal about how horrible it is (and indeed it is) when two brothers who are given asylum in our nation, fed, cared for, educated etc. show their 'gratitude' by turning on us, becoming radicalized with heretical Islamic jihad and plant two bombs at the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three people and injuring two hundred more!.  As an example of American outrage, just listen to Fox News anchor Judge Jeanine Pirro who recently on air 'went off' on this act of terror, the two brothers and their mother!  It is indeed evil, despicable, insane, violently barbaric!

But why are these things happening?  Why is it that persons and groups become so evil and hateful they want to kill innocent men, women and children in the United States of America?  I mean, after all, we are 'the shinning nation on a hill', aren't we?  The last great hope of humankind when it comes to freedom, justice, peace and equality for all, right?  So who would want to hurt, kill and terrorize us?

Our own President Obama stated shortly after the Boston Marathon attack,

"Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror."  

And who in America would disagree with his statement?  We like to pride ourselves as citizens of this country on having a sharp mind and keen sense concerning right and wrong, justice and injustice, fairness and manipulation.  We know "any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror."  

But wait a minute.  If our President's statement is true - and indeed it is - what about the many Drone attacks perpetrated by the United States against suspected 'terrorists' which have ended in the killing of a significant number (and one is too many) of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?  These Drone attacks have included the deaths of American citizens, with at least one teenage American boy who was living in Yemen.  Would not these acts of murder also be defined by the words of our own President as terrorism?  "Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror."  Or do we think that somehow this is different?  I pray to God we don't!

If what happened in Boston is evil and terror (and it is), then we must conclude that the killing of innocent civilians in other parts of the world by the United States is evil and terror as well!  And we, as citizens of this country, must demand that it ends immediately!

We as a nation, with elected government representatives, starting with our President, must see to it that we stop our senseless acts of violence - military and civilian - against ourselves and other nations and groups.  If we want to be viewed as true global leaders and live by and view ourselves as a nation of peace and integrity, we cannot allow ourselves to continue down a road of terror and fool ourselves or others that we are a peace-loving people. We are just as much a part of the problem (maybe more so) as any others who conduct terrorist acts.  We must stop!  We must begin to chart an authentic policy of real national and international peace and reconciliation instead of what has become our evil, insane policy of violence, revenge and death.   We must cease in our faulty thinking and illusion that violence will end violence.

If we were to begin to do this, what a profound difference it could make on a global scale!  Reaching out to those who are considered our enemies, I believe we could, taking small, thoughtful steps, over time, move toward a more stable, less dangerous, respectful, peace-loving world.  And I'm all for that! 

Peace for real,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Guns, Politicians and the NRA. Corruption in Action!

I don't understand how approximately 90% of Americans across the board favor effective background checks for would be gun owners and Majority Leader Harry Reid will not even bring it up for a vote in the U.S. Senate!

What is that about?

My concern is it's just another sign along the line with so many others that our "wonderful" congress is bought off by special interest groups and big money, this time the National Rifle Association, who apparently stands for and supports national gun violence and death, including the death of children!  The idea that congressman would sell their souls to the NRA so they can receive NRA campaign money and be rated by the NRA as acceptable and worthy of re-election makes me sick to my stomach.  Does anyone question the buying off of politicians anymore?  90% of Americans support this legislation for crying out loud!  90%!!  I am told that hope for a ban on assault weapons and high caliber magazines (you know, the ones used to rip apart the bodies of twenty elementary children in Newtown?) is on longer even on the table!  Along with this sad news there are a handful of demagogues in the senate who say they are prepared to filibuster any attempt at gun control legislation. How preposterous can this get?

And then there are my many religious friends who are always beating their chests about being pro-life!  I'm pro-life.  From the womb to the tomb!  But many of my fellow Christians? They claim to be pro-life and yet they often support militarism, war, the death penalty and the NRA!  Go figure.  I guess they have decided to be pro-choice on the pro-life issue.  Honestly, where do they think Jesus would stand on these issues?  Their pro-life position is ridiculously inconsistent!

This country needs to do the right thing.  We need to get off our way too comfortable backsides and write our congressman, protest wherever we can, and expect that there be signed into law a ban on assault weapons, high caliber magazines, and a national background check for the purchase of guns.    

No one is talking about doing away with the second amendment.  No one!  You can have your appropriate firearms for hunting and for your so-called protection.  But for God's sake, let's take steps to at least attempt to limit even one more person, one more child from being ripped apart because we allowed our so-called representatives to be bought off and corrupted by the insanity of the NRA and people like them.

Peace for real,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Election of Pope Francis I

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to retire and the need to select the next Bishop of Rome, I have followed with excitement and intrigue this story with its unfolding events, culminating in the election of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I and what his election might mean for the Catholic Church and the world.

I watched closely what the media was saying about who the next Pope might be, with the help and expertise of many Catholic commentators, clergy and scholars.  The world watched as the 115 Cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel at The Vatican to begin the process of selecting the next Pope.  Who would it be?  Could it be a Cardinal from the United States? Dolan of New York? Mahonney from Boston? Someone from outside Europe? Canada perhaps, or Latin America?

I was asked by a friend why I have such an interest in the selection of a new Pope given the fact that I have been a protestant all my life.  The reasons are many.

First, as so many inside as well as outside the Catholic Church have been saying, I believe the church has been in great need of reform.  Celibacy, the role of woman, the scandal of sexual abuse among the priesthood, to name a few, are major areas of concern.  Pope Benedict XVI, to his credit, felt he did not have the energy at his age to confront and manage the many issues facing the church and so he humbly announced his resignation, leaving the next Pope to address these, and many other concerns, with the hope that at least some of these issues could be attended if not resolved.

Second, I recognize that this new Pope would potentially have influence and impact over 1.2 billion human beings for either good or evil; change or status qua; inspiration or boredom.  1.2 billion people!  This potential impact is beyond calculation!  It boggles my mind that so many of my evangelical and other friends are either completely uninterested in this major human, Christian event, or spending much of their time (predictably) criticizing the office of Pope and the teachings of the Catholic Church!  I personally find this to be short-sighted and tribal.

Third, the election of Pope Francis was for me, nothing sort of inspired.  He is a man who understands the gospel from the point of view of loving action rather than argumentation, theological ideas and doctrine alone.  He has shown himself from what I have read and heard about him, to be a man of the people who is authentically concerned about the poor, stands for social justice, lives a life of simplicity and grace, uses public transportation, lived in a small apartment, cooked many of his own meals, etc.  One can see why he chose the name Francis, the great reformer of the thirteenth century who was called by God to "rebuild my church."  I know for many these qualities fly in the face of American Christianity, capitalism, win/lose, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and the trickle-down economics mentality.  I find these living qualities demonstrated by this new Pope to be profoundly refreshing and frankly Christlike.  Indeed, these are characteristics that religious, political, corporate, and humankind in general can use a lot more of (including me).

Fourth and finally, although I have identified myself throughout life as a "protestant" and "evangelical," and I am very committed to my Christian faith and tradition, I am a lot older now and I'd like to think a little bit wiser and have come to see that I am not only a Protestant Evangelical, but I am also a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, etc.  Now I know many of my friends will think that I am a heretic and have lost my way and I am hell-bound for saying such things, but I have to walk the road I believe God is leading me.  I have come to realize that we can either respect and build on the many areas of faith upon which we agree, like love, peace, the golden rule, compassion, mercy, the fruit of the Spirit, all of which are found in the great world religions, or we can continue down the insane road of religious tribalism, picking one another apart and contributing to the destruction of spiritual meaning and purpose within human kind.  I choose the former, and so I have great interest in this historic religious, human event.

So, I am praying for my brother Pope Francis I, hoping that his leadership has a profoundly positive and spiritual impact, not only among his fellow Roman Catholics, but upon all of us, recognizing we are all the children of God, brothers and sisters on this journey called life.

Peace for real,


Thursday, February 28, 2013

You're an Abomination! And Oh, By the Way, God Loves You!

I was listening to a sermon message this morning on my laptop and in the message the speaker was lecturing on the subject of "The Truth."  In his comments he mentioned the recent brouhaha concerning Tim Tebow and Pastor Robert Jeffries.  Tim Tebow is the back up quarterback for the New York Jets and an evangelical Christian well know for his public displays of faith.  Mr. Tebow is a much sought after speaker in the faith world and has become a sort of Christian evangelical hero to many.  Pastor Robert Jeffries is Senior Pastor of the historic First Baptist Church in Dallas Texas who has, within the last couple of years become known as an outspoken and controversial spokesman on the hot-button issues of the day, like homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion and Christian exclusivity, to name a few.

Some time ago Mr. Tebow accepted an invitation to speak at First Baptist in Dallas when dedicating its new multimillion dollar campus and sanctuary next month.  Then, some columnists and commentators in the news media (including sports writers) took exception to Mr. Tebow's decision and said he was "making the biggest mistake of his life." They called Pastor Jeffries such things as a promulgator of discrimination, exclusivity and even hate.  Mr. Tebow, I suspect out of concern for his public persona and theological understanding, decided to change his mind and then backed out from Pastor Jeffries' invitation.

The point the speaker was making in the sermon message I listened to this morning was that Pastor Jeffries was standing for "The Truth" while Tim Tebow was backing away from "The Truth" and caving in to media pressure.  Mr. Tebow stated that he wants to continue bringing "faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day" and he has received much support for his decision from many of his fans, Christian and otherwise.  Several Evangelical leaders have come to the defense of Pastor Jeffries stating he is a loving man of God and a dedicated orthodox teacher of the Bible.

So, as a good friend of mine often says, "What's really going on?

I have little doubt that Pastor Jeffries is a good man who believes sincerely in his faith and deeply held convictions.  He has the support of his congregation, many evangelical leaders, and I am sure countless others.  But he, and many like him in the conservative Christian world have, I believe, a problem of perception, a problem of tone.  Now, I know that the reputation Pastor Jeffries has in our culture comes largely from the media which isn't always known to be completely factual in it's reporting or commentaries.  Nonetheless, the media's view of Pastor Jeffries comes from the many words he has spoken when being interviewed by the media and therefore he has to be at least partially responsible and accountable for the views they hold and the reputation he has acquired. 

So, what is the perception problem? 

My Mother taught me from an early age that, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  I think she is correct, and I have seen this truism played out in my life from both sides.  So, when anyone with a smile on their face comes up and says to you, or to the culture at large through the media that, "You're a sinner!  An abomination to God!  You're under the wrath of God!  You will tremble before God at the judgement!  And unless you repent in the way I say, you are going to hell!  And oh, by the way, God loves you and so do I!" That's a problem!  There is little care or concern in such an approach and so why listen to what you think!  My advice to anyone hearing this kind of approach to the gospel?  Run just as fast as you can!

This approach to the gospel doesn't work.  It comes across as cold, unloving, uncaring, wooden, superficial and short sighted.  It often suggests being more concerned with personal ego, being right (at least in your own eyes) than in building a genuine relationship of love and concern with the person or persons you are addressing.     

Conservative Christians across the spectrum who take this approach, knowingly or unknowingly, would do well, I believe, to step back in soul searching reflection and prayer (as perhaps Tim Tebow did), meditating on the love of God, the love he has for his people, and how this love should inform and transform the approach one takes in sharing the good news of God's grace.

Peace for real,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Vision for SoulLight Ministries

Out of my murky, sometimes slow and distracted mind and heart, I seem to be "seeing" a kind of vision for SoulLight Ministries.  The weird thing is I haven't been looking!  And it's a little scary to think about!

As some of you know about me, I am no fan of our materialistic, consumer oriented, market-driven culture.  Period!  In the religious area of our culture, I have been associated with ministries throughout most of my adult life and I have been an observer of  religious organizations through the years and have seen all too often the marketing and public relations machines at work pumping out the "brand" and "product" of their ministries, and it has always made me uncomfortable.

Is the work of a ministry accomplished by the leading of the Holy Spirit as she guides and directs the ministry leadership and staff in service to others?  Is the mission driven by a desire to serve God with him at the center of all ministry effort and motivation?  Do the donations and offerings that are received the result of people being genuinely moved by the spiritual integrity and mission of the ministry? Or is much of the work of the ministry, staff, and donations the result of the slick, well oiled and varied marketing and public relation campaigns, not unlike any for profit corporation which pumps out its brand and product for consumption by it's consumers?

I am sad to say that my experience in working for various ministries through the years is there is at best a very blurred line between God honoring heart oriented ministry to those in need of spiritual help, and ministries that will drop the name of God as it feels it needs to in order to serve not so much God or others but rather to serve the marketing and public relations effort to bring in the greatest number of donations, so that it may continue to operate and do its work.  The work done is often more social, therapeutic, or self-help (not all bad) with the intent of assisting "clients" on how to become successful, self-sufficient and more viable consumers in our market-driven culture, with little offered in the way of spiritual counsel or direction.  And it troubles my heart.  

All of that to say that when it comes to a SoulLight Ministries' vision I desire that it be a spiritually organic, mustard seed, from the bottom, to those in need ministry, founded and operating out of Jesus' great commandment to love God, and love others as we love ourselves.  Period!  And whatever comes from this is to the glory of God!

And so, as I see it right now, SoulLight Ministries' vision focuses in three main areas: 

1. Contemplation - It starts and ends with each one involved seeking, willing a deeper experience in God.  "...the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God." (2 Corinthians 2:10). 

2. CompassionComing along side and being there for those who are suffering and in need, making a difference by our presence in their lives. "...when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered..." (Matthew 9:36).

3. Social Action - A Christian prays for God's will to be done on earth as in heaven.  This necessitates not only continued prayer and compassion, but also social action, standing against injustice and oppression in this culture so that God's reign on earth expands and advances.  "...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8).  

So there you have it!

Please comment and let me know what you think.  I welcome and appreciate your input and suggestions.  Thank you so much for your interest and please continue to follow SoulLight Ministries not only via this blog but also through our new SoulLight Ministries' facebook page.  If you haven't already please consider "LIKING" our page so we can reach more facebook readers. 

Peace for real,


Monday, January 28, 2013

I Don't Care! There I Said It!

So, here it is, the beginning of another week and according to my schedule it's time to write my blog.  Lucky me!  Actually I like very much writing my blog and sharing it with whoever chooses to read it.  But today, well today, I'm just not feeling it.  You know what I mean, right?  Stuff happens!  The stuff of life.  The stuff that we usually don't tell anyone about because we want to give an always, ever-present appearance and impression that everything is fabulous and wonderful!  And the reality is, you lost your job, the kids aren't minding, the car broke down, the rent is passed due, your spouse isn't speaking to you, and....well you get the picture.  I mean, take your pick of any of the things I just listed, or add your own.  We've all been there, right?

I know, it's times like these that others will tell us we're suppose to count our blessings, or get up and get going, or volunteer down at the food bank, or of course, pray.  People will tell you, "Get off  your pitty potty!  Man up (or woman up as the case may be), it could be worse!  Think about all those poor people in India!"  It's usually about this time I have come to my mind several obscenities which I would like to say but usually don't 'cause after all I'm a spiritual person. : )

But the fact is, sometimes I just don't care! 

There, I said it!  And the last few days that's exactly how I have been feeling.  I don't care!  You've been there.  So, what's my answer to getting out of the doldrums?  Beats me, and I don't care! 

I'm not going to count my blessings. I'm well aware of my blessings.  I'm not going down to the food bank, and I'm not going to get up and get going.  I'm not going to pray......well, actually I have prayed but it hasn't made any difference, but that's okay.  My God isn't a genie or a vending machine so I don't expect him to jump just because I'm having a bad day.  

Do you know what I'm going to do?  I'm not going to do anything really!  Sorry if that disappoints you but it's the truth.  I'm going to hold on tight, stew in my own juices, and be as kind as I can be in the process.  And I know, because I've live long enough and experienced enough of life, that this will pass, and my disposition will improve and I'll be able to say once again with some level of authenticity, "ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD!"

In the mean time, I'd appreciate it if you would please keep your distance.  I like you and I really don't want to fire any obscenities in your direction.  After all, I am a spiritual person. : )

Peace for real,


Monday, January 21, 2013

"That's Okay, Sir....God Bless You!"

So, even though I'm not a huge or generous giver of money to people with cardboard signs standing by the roadsides around my city, I do find my heart going out to them whenever I see them, which is often.  I wonder, what is their story?  How did they get to this point?  Where is their family? Where do they sleep at night?  And, what keeps them going?  I find myself wanting to and planning to stop and speak with these men and women to get answers to my questions with the hope of perhaps helping in some way more than I do.

Recently, as I was driving through the Home Depot parking lot in my neighborhood there was a person with a sign standing at the end of the parking lot which is not uncommon.  Sometimes it's a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes a family with a child or children.  As I drove up next to this man I rolled down my window.  He was probably in his 60's, wearing old and wrinkled clothes and a beat up baseball cap.  His face was weather-beaten, his hair thin and receding,  and I saw only two yellow teeth left in his mouth.  I gave him some money.

It wasn't a lot of money, not because I'm stingy, but because currently I am unemployed and I need to be frugal with my limited finances.  And yet, even though unemployed I have a comfortable home which I own, two cars which are paid off, plenty of food, cable, internet, a loving family, etc. and so I say to myself regularly, "Surely Dennis, you can do something."      

So I rolled down my window and gave him some money and I said to him as our eyes met, "Sorry, it isn't much."  That's when I saw his two yellow teeth because he smiled at me and said kindly, "That's okay sir.  Thank you very much.  God bless you."  I smiled back, nodded and drove off.

Each time I help, I find myself wanting to do more. It's not so much from a sense of guilt as it is a growing realization that he is my brother.  He is my neighbor.  He is me. 

Peace for real,