Sameness… December 24, 2012

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It was a time when the world was engrossed in a raging debate over taxes. The most recent Caesar was deliberating on how to maintain the integrity of his empire, keeping it from falling off the current “fiscal cliff.”

Poverty was everywhere. It was gnawing at the flesh and the innards of ever-increasing numbers of common people, who were only able to muster complaints over the sheer magnitude of lack.

Kings were concerned about maintaining their power, ignoring the needs of mothers and children in order to maintain the supremacy of their positions.

Zealots roamed the terrain, performing terrorist acts against perceived injustice–all in the name of their favorite gods.

Religion, having stalled in its own inadequacy decades before, was trying to discover new life through regulations, restitution of historical moments and rigid application from the pages of dusty scrolls.

The cultures were segregated. Some say it was done so that the traditions of each group of people and their customs could be honored, but more often than not, the separation just created misunderstandings and blockades to communication, sprouting feelings of superiority.

Nations were rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms.

It is into this environment that God inserted Himself in human flesh as a baby–birthed in obscurity.

As I sat over a meal last night with the lovely members of my family, I looked around and realized that they were an intelligent lot, filled with creative energy, but still sheep heading to the slaughter of the sameness of “olden times.”

For today, we suffer from the same conditions that greeted the Messiah. We are trapped in the inflexibility of men’s wills and purposes. We extol our differences and tout our uniqueness, never having a chance to absorb deeper fellowship through commonality. We have trapped ourselves in religious and political upheavals that threaten our future, overemphasize our past and leave our present stalled–void of purpose.

I suppose I could tell you that some things have changed. We have computers, which quickly inform us of our disjointed status. We have penicillin to heal diseases (until those same infections discover ways to outsmart our drugs). We dress differently, if not better. We drive cars instead of camels and we eat with knives and forks instead of our fingers.

But the main demons that possessed our society all those years ago remain intact, having survived all of our attempts at deliverance.

I have decided not to join the melee. I resist all attempts by the masses to deem me odd,  not slithering into the present pit of lava. I have decided to shepherd the sheep that are sent my way, simultaneously listening for the angels of my better nature. I am trying to gain wisdom as I look to the skies. And I travel the earth as a student of discovery instead of a know-it-all.

I am not interested in taxes and I’m quite intent on avoiding kings. I may appear to the common man to be insensitive as I move in and out of cultures, seeking similarities instead of accentuating differences. And most of all, I find my source of worship and meaning in barns and mangers instead of sanctuaries and the halls of Congress.

Call me weird.

Most of the world slept through the night some two thousand years ago, wondering how things could ever get better when everybody seemed content with them remaining bad. It took a child–and it will take a child in each and every one of our hearts–for us to birth peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

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Unwise… December 23, 2012

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They followed a star. Folks thought that was crazy.

Folks be wrong.

They left their homes. The real estate community frowned.

Realtors were erred.

They went to a foreign land. The Chamber of Commerce was concerned.

The Chamber was short-sighted.

They were individuals who looked up to the heavens, believing that something better than what they had might just be hatching.

They were right.

How could they have possibly known? Knowing is over-rated. Believing and having the tenacity to follow your faith while simultaneously learning from your experience is the only path that really brings fulfillment.

Yet even though they were wise men, they did do one thing very unwise. Upon arriving in Judea, they decided to check in with the local king–Herod–to see if he knew anything about this magnificent vision in the heavens which was proclaiming the birth of a new king. I’m sure they weren’t ignorant–just naive. It’s really the only mistake they made.

And those people who believe in God today, who trust politicians to pursue noble causes, make the identical boo-boo. Politicians suck–and when they stop sucking, they get more money to make sure they can continue to suck. They struggle for power, with no idea of how they are going to use that energy to benefit mankind.

Even though the wise men try to later correct their error by avoiding Herod upon their exit from Bethlehem, they set in motion the wrath of a jealous political despot, who ends up killing children, saddening men and women, and temporarily exiling the hope of the world. It is important for us to learn from their misstep. So here is the greatest formula for finding the Spirit of Christmas: Follow the star. Ignore the king.

There you go. Take this wonderful season to find your faith–what you really believe is important–and then be wise. Don’t try to market your ideas to the kings of commerce, government and religion. They will just take the purity of your intentions and use it for disastrous conclusions.

So how can we follow the star? How can we keep our eyes lifted up to discover the light in dark circumstances? I will give you two philosophies to follow which will always lead you back to Baby Jesus. If you successfully stay away from the kings–that mainly being religion and politics–you will keep these nasty forces from slaughtering off the innocent souls of human beings. Here are the two principles:

  1. NoOne is better than anyone else.
  2. Don’t complain.

You put those two together as a lifestyle, and you will find yourself not only empowered with greater hope, but of deep value to those around you because you will abandon your agenda to be superior while simultaneously eliminating your annoying sensation to be cantankerous. What do religion and politics love? They love to make some people better than other people, while inciting their constituencies to complain about the condition of the world. The end result is disgruntled people who are looking for reasons to fight with others.

The wise men followed the star but tried to involve the king. It didn’t work. Neither can you propose to work in a religious system that is non-responsive to human need and a political one that is oblivious to truth, justice and the American way, and ever achieve anything wise.

Keep a good attitude, believe deep in your heart that no one is better than anyone else, do your best to stop complaining, and you will find yourself kneeling at the cradle of the Messiah.

Now, there’s a Christmas message:

Follow the star. Ignore the king.

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The Real War on Christmas… December 22, 2012

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The early followers of Jesus of Nazareth were isolated and persecuted. They had no homeland–no sympathetic government. They were considered to be a fleeting, temporary cult. Therefore, they had no holidays. All the holidays available around them were salutes to gods, goddesses and emperors who were NOT born in a manger in Bethlehem.

These Christ instigators developed the philosophy of redeeming the time. Instead of complaining about their low status on the totem pole, they took the existing celebrations and used them to worship, appreciate and commemorate moments and traditions in their own faith. In so doing, because of things like governments toppling, religions crumbling and just the passage of time changing circumstances, these rag-tag believers ended up inheriting almost all of the holidays.

So Christmas, which for most of its existence, was more or less a feast (which did, at times, lend itself to a bit of debauchery) has become, over the last 150 years, more sacred, more worshipful and more reverent than it ever was in its inception, when it was an explosion of carnal pleasure saluting Mithra.

So all of this fuss–this so-called “war on Christmas” because some geeky atheist in upstate New York wants to file a lawsuit because of a nativity scene in the town square–is utter hogwash. If you’re looking for the real war on Christmas, that conflict is being waged by the very religious system which should be supporting the celebration of the birth of Christ.

First of all, let me make one thing clear. I do believe in the church. The church was Jesus’ dream of a world connected by a great idea through a Golden Rule, and that we could transform the fallen state of affairs gradually through the Spirit to more resemble the Garden of Eden of our origins.

But the church has been overtaken by a religious system which was founded in the style of the Roman Empire and therefore is more interested in relics, traditions and the maintenance of coffers than in the idealistic pursuit of spiritual fulfillment. Let it never be said that I am anti-church–but I am against a religious system that would love to take the joy of Christmas over the birth of the Prince of Peace and focus on turning it into either a “Blue Christmas” or a “Bloody Christmas.”

Let us start with this pseudo intellectual–and recent, I may add–journey which has been taken by religious leaders, to provide comfort and sympathy to those who either don’t like Christmas or are finding themselves experiencing their first December 25th without a loved one, a job or family. We cannot take the joy, meaning and importance of this experience called Nativity and spend one minute trying to dilute it so as not to offend a handful of people who need to understand that sometimes we celebrate on behalf of others instead of licking our own wounds.

I do it every time I go to a shopping mall. Because I have bad knees I am in a wheelchair, but I don’t roll in amongst my walking brethren, bitching and complaining about their presumptuous trodding about. I celebrate them. I worship God that I am still able to be among the living and participate. The more briskly they walk, the more I appreciate the gift they’ve been given and my opportunity to still be a part of the human tribe. You do not overcome depression during Christmas by bypassing the unique opportunity to be surrounded by “good tidings of great joy.”

The second war on Christmas comes from the religious system which is in a desperate hurry to break apart the manger cradle and quickly turn it into a cross. Many of them will not even give us one moment to appreciate that God’s original idea was for the world to receive His son, not to crucify him. The heavens would have rejoiced if mankind had accepted the message from the Sermon on the Mount instead of marching the sermon-teller up a mount and killing him. So they turned Christmas into a bloody holiday. They want the baby to become the lamb of God instead of the sweet promise of God’s love for mankind.

For after all, Christmas was God-ordained. It is Easter that is man-made. It is manking which decided to reject His hope and put nails in the hands that came to heal them.

Yes, the true war on Christmas happens in the pews, as we remove part of the great happiness of the season, supposedly in deference to those who are choosing or experiencing blueness. It also is diminished by religionists who can’t wait to get Jesus to a cross.

I love Christmas. It is a reminder to me that if I accept the birth of true mission, then I don’t ever have to die in the hands of my own stupidity.

Be smart. Atheists will never destroy God, because privately, they want God. Otherwise they wouldn’t spend so much time fussing about it.

Christmas will not be taken apart–because everyone needs it. But we should be careful that we are not pushing the baby away from the “inn crowd” and leaving him out in the cold. There’s nothing to be blue about–even if it’s a sad time for you. Celebrate the joy of others. It’ll do wonders for your soul.

And let’s not crucify Jesus so soon. Let’s at least give him three months to make things better.

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The Best of the Story… December 21, 2012

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He was fifteen years old…and horny.

He was my son, and extraordinarily girl-crazy. May I point out to you that he was interested in the female of the species, not in the sense of being a great anthropologist, but mainly for sexual reasons. I had already had the first “talk” with him, where I explained the parts, purposes and precepts of human sexuality, but now it was time for the second talk. Yes, I do believe there’s a need for a second “talk”–otherwise girls and boys grow up to be men and women with a complete sense of disconnect. Here’s what I told him:

“Don’t try to get inside a woman until you’ve found the woman inside you.”

He sprouted one of those adolescent expressions, blending perplexity and antagonism with a side of rebellion. So I explained. Yes, I explained to him the best of the story. It is actually the true tale of Christmas. So I thought that since we are in this season, it would be righteous to share it with you.

God made man because He wanted a companion–an extension of Himself. He always wanted to be a Father instead of just a deity. He breathed into man the breath of life. Man became a living soul, the best of both worlds–spiritually enlightened, physically enticed. There was one thing missing–companionship.

You see, an attempt at righteous living without having a confidante and a fellow-pilgrim is tedious, if not impossible. Thus the true value of church–when the religious system is at its best, it offers a delightful container wherein we might rub shoulders with those who share our journey and faith.

Meanwhile, man wanted more. Because he was created in God’s image, he also desired to have partnership of his own–and also a sense of fathering. God went inside man to find woman. Even though man was created from an external source–dust of the earth–woman was extracted from the internal portions of an existing comrade. So all the ingredients of woman were already inside of man.

So you see, all attempts to try to get the sexes to converse and agree will fail miserably until we teach our young men that all the portions–tenderness, compassion and emotion–of their desired coupler already dwells within.

Woman emerged from man–she, part of him and he part of her. The centuries roll on. There came a point where the redemption of the entire world becomes necessary, not just the Jewish race. The local prophets had predicted that this redeemer would emerge from among the ranks of their own lineage. The difficulty with that proposal was the question of how this salvation for the world could be solely Jewish, but universally applied.

So God went inside woman to make the man, Jesus. He was the perfect man, not because he was mistake-free, but because he was the manifestation of what every man and woman is meant to be–a complement to each other.

So you can see, it’s because we accept Jesus as the great gift and conclusion of the human creative process that brings salvation to men and women, north and south, east and west.

The experience is no longer limited to one race of people and certainly, because it was the seed of the woman that brought forth Jesus, we are not exclusive to gender. That is why the Bible says that in the kingdom of God there is neither male nor female. There is Jesus.

  • God created man.
  • God created woman by removing her from within man.
  • God birthed Jesus by going inside a woman to find the treasure of mankind.
  • We come to Jesus to find the best of our story.

It’s why we celebrate Christmas. It isn’t a holiday–it is who we are.

Yes … we are Christmas.

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Cratchity… December 20, 2012

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You know the story.  A cheap skate named Ebenezer Scrooge, living in Old London Town, who hates Christmas and has an equal disdain for all humanity, is visited supernaturally by three ghosts who convince him of the error of his ways, transforming him into a regenerated soul.

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Car...

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my question: Why couldn’t Bob Cratchit perform this mission?Why do we continue to promote a religiosity that waits for the heavens to change our earthly circumstance when it’s quite clear that the Divine intends for His followers be the thrust?

Bob Cratchit worked for Scrooge for years. Yet he left the man untouched, unchanged and I believe, unimpressed. As you follow the story, you realize that Bob Cratchit had no way of impacting Ebenezer Scrooge, because when his “cratchity Christianity came up against the crotchety nature of Scrooge, he wilted. Bob Cratchit was a man who believed that being spiritual was suffering in silence. He felt there was some sort of heavenly reward in being miserable. He believed that salvation had robbed him of the voice to cry in the wilderness.

But being human, he complained to his wife and children about his plight at work. In other words, he may have suffered silently in front of Scrooge, but he undercut his employer at home in front of his family. He was unhappy because he had settled–he had settled for less than what he needed to provide for his family. He had settled for a small goose for his dinner table. And he had settled for hoping for a cure for Tiny Tim instead of ferociously pursuing every medical possibility that existed.

We know this because when Scrooge is redeemed, he brings his business prowess to his newfound life and ends up being able to help Tiny Tim. Once Bob Cratchit decided to settle, he took on the profile of one who endures. After all, what could he do? It not only left him dissatisfied, teaching his children that they were the victims of the harsh culture of capitalism, but the lack of confrontation with his boss left Ebenezer damned.

If it had not been for Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, the old man would have had no point of reference for anyone who was of the faith and also successful. Fred was even able to help Bob Cratchit by offering an apprenticeship to his son. Fred joyously bounces into Scrooge’s office to invite him to dinner, deflecting all of the “bah-humbugs” in the air. Fred had a different philosophy:

  1. He found his choice. He wanted to be happy with Christmas.
  2. He made it work. He not only celebrated himself, but challenged a reluctant uncle and pre-softened his heart for the arrival of the ghosts.
  3. He turned joy into happiness. Joy is when we take what we have and find an ingenious way to turn it into a happy moment.
  4. Fred inherited the earth. He got his friends, Christmas, family–and outlasted the meanness of Uncle Scrooge. He beat him. Because when all was said and done, Scrooge ate dinner at Fred’s house.

“Cratchity Christianity” will never address a crotchety crustiness. It will take a “Fred faith”–as we find our choice, make it work, turn joy into happiness and inherit the earth.

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Murdering Conversation… December 19, 2012

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jon-in-red-hat

“How was your birthday?”

I know I’m going to hear that. It’s why I should be prepared.

I often watch with fascination as we meticulously and ardently murder basic human conversation. We have come up with these new responses to questions which could lead to communication but instead we quickly slam the door on that option.

For example, how was my birthday?

“It was all right.” (There’s a dagger…)

“It was okay.” (Pure conversational poison…)

“Oh, I don’t like birthdays.” (A bullet in the brain…)

We think acting uncaring, unfeeling and unattached to excitement is a way of expressing that we’re just “muddling through somehow” and therefore are brave adults. It’s horrible. I think it masks an avoidance of reality or an ongoing objection about how events are playing out.

In other words, we want to demand of life that it give us many more thrilling options before we will give up our praise for the outcome. So we have the classic Mexican stand-off. Life stubbornly proclaims that we have gotten all we’re going to get, so deal with it, we screaming back that “unless you cough up more lottery winnings, we have no intention of being engaged, let alone enthralled.”

It makes people boring. We should not really be boring. After all, we have five senses. One sense should be enough to make us explode with anticipation. Five should make us delirious with happiness. Bur we medicate our emotions, murder conversation and put a lid on zeal, cautioning people that we require a certain amount of miraculous evidence about the goodness of life before we will apply our seal of approval on the activity.

This is why most churches would like to talk about worship instead of praise. Worship can be done with a forlorn countenance, mumbling some words, acting very somber and reserved. Praise demands that we alert all five of our senses and emit adulation.

If you want to cease being accused of first-degree murder of conversation, there are three things you should pepper into your dialogue every day which encourages further discourse amongst the brethren:

1. “I screwed up.” If you want to get someone’s attention–and respect–tell them how you messed something up. It doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look powerful that you know the difference between mediocre and better.

2. “I learned something.” Once again, you will astound the masses by using your brain to acquire knowledge rather than merely pouting over the dismal nature of your affairs.

3. “I did good.” Not okay. Not all right. Not even so-so. I attempted something, it became difficult, I saw it through, completed it and now feel fulfilled.

These statements bring conversation back from the dead. They make people want to talk to you. They include the balance of humility and victory. Don’t become a human drone, silently on your way to explode on the next enemy who dares to cross your path and disagree with you.

Stop murdering conversation. The punishment for such a crime is to be thrown into prison–a jail cell where you’re stuck with only yourself to talk to.

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Moratorium… December 18, 2012

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Jon Signing

It worked with littering.

There was a time in our society when it was commonplace to dump your trash exactly where you were, even if it was on the street. It sounds bizarre today, but it’s true. Our country was becoming overridden with all sorts of teeming refuse. So what did we do?

We made it unpopular to litter.crying Indian

In like manner, there was a season in our history when being prejudiced against people with color in their skin was not only deemed normal, but rational. We mock that kind of bigotry in this day and age. But how did we change it? We made hating people of different color stupid.

Take the case of abortion. There are not nearly as many abortions as there were at one time. I attribute that drop in the number of terminated pregnancies to a very simple statement that was uttered about two decades ago. It was a slogan which stated that “abortion should be legal, but rare.”

We are a people of great intuition when we actually decide to call out our foolishness instead of hiding behind civil liberties, individual choices, state’s rights and fear of admitting our wrongs. Here are some easy statements:

  • Littering isn’t good because it makes a mess.
  • Bigotry is a negative force because it alienates people who could be productive.
  • Abortion needs to be guided in such a manner that human life is given the greatest respect possible.

Likewise, guns and violence need to be showcased for what they truly are and not what they are glamorized to be in order to generate the next blockbuster or promote an arcane freedom that is no longer useful to the common man.

I am declaring a moratorium.

For those of you who do not know what a moratorium is, it is a cease and desist order from my soul to the world around me, to proclaim that I will no longer indulge in a certain activity.

And what is that activity? Viewing, playing around with or musing over violence against human beings.

For instance, if we treated the car the same way as the gun, we would raise our children to believe that when they received their driver’s license, they should go out and drive as fast as they could, hit as many people as possible and dramatically crash into the side of a wall, leaping from the vehicle, giggling over surviving the ordeal.

After all, we don’t show guns being used to hunt deer. Nobody’s making a movie about the great fun one has at a target range. There are no documentaries presently being filmed about the various ways to clean a gun to make it look more presentable or work better. Every depiction of the gun in entertainment, news reports, warfare and even literature shows it as an implement to destroy, mutilate and murder human flesh.

Even within my own circle of friends and family, there are people who enjoy shows like Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Dexter, CSI and other programming for which sole purpose is to show the decapitation, destruction and decimation of the human body. I know people who would insist they are peace-loving individuals who sit for hours with a video game, becoming mass murderers via a push of the button.

It’s time for a moratorium How would you enact that? I plan on fasting violence. I have no intentions of watching  shows that are geared to expelling blood from the body of human beings to kill them off for the purpose of entertainment. I am declaring it disgusting. I am tired of having our society littered with the belief that human beings are cattle which can be slaughtered and turned into hamburger Mine will be a three-step process:

  1.  Fast violence. Stop watching death and destruction.
  2. Cease to accept violence as legitimate entertainment, but rather, proclaim it to be what it is: genocide pornography.
  3. Confront those who continue to watch it and ask them for their motivation.

I challenge my own children to join me in this endeavor. We cannot sit around and pretend we are appalled by what happend in our country as our children were gunned down in their school, and then pop in video games and movies that duplicate the same insane butchery.

I am not connoting that limiting violence in entertainment will eliminate these heinous acts. I am just saying that as sane people, when it is in our power to address a portion of the problem simply by dispelling the barbarian actions and irresponsible presentation of bloodshed, that we have a duty to stop littering our own minds and cease to encourage others who are weaker in spirit and character, to be tempted by the visions.

Violence is wrong. If you’ve ever been in a room when somebody cut their finger while dicing onions and you saw the horror on their face over a simple one-inch nick, you will grasp exactly how unnatural it truly feels for blood to leave our bodies.

So how can you watch the foul play as blood is sprayed everywhere across the screen, and think you’re doing anything but promoting a piece of insanity which will certainly eventually have to be tempered–or will be duplicated by the weak-minded.

I am declaring a moratorium. Today is my birthday and I am taking the license as a human being of maturity and experience to declare that I, for one, am going to fast violence. You want a place to begin? There you go.

And I will tell you that if enough people do this, entertainment will change, society will shift and gun use will be legal, but rare.

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