Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

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Psychedelic Baseball under Tangerine Skies…

 

A tangerine sky had been painted above an old textile baseball field.  Above the bleachers and avocado green grandstand, a child’s hand-drawn clouds chased each other around a hippie-inspired sun of brilliant yellows and oranges.  Old Sol featured a smiling, female face with almond shaped, green-blue eyes.

A stiff breeze blew out to right field but clouds seemed to move in any direction they wished.  The US flag, in vivid colors I didn’t recognize, and pennants in mauve, purple and gold, snapped and popped as the wind swirled.  A pink, blue and green, paisley print flamingo soared above the thermals, riding the wind…high, higher, highest.

Wooden bleachers built when Methuselah was a child, were weathered to a gray patina, the boards rough, warped and twisted.  The roof of the old grandstand was rotted with jagged holes allowing bright sunshine to leak through, highlighting men in white dress shirts, sleeves rolled up above their elbows, their fedoras pushed back on their heads.  I saw them in black, white and gray, as if from an old newsreel.

The one women I saw was surrounded by pastel colors from a Monet painting as she strolled on boardwalks that shouldn’t have been in a ballpark.  Twirling her parasol, she strolled by in a long-sleeved and high necked dress.  The hem of the ethereal gown, lacy in pinkish beige, swept the old boards of the esplanade.

Her gaze was distant and pensive under hair piled high and restrained by a straw boater. The flat brimmed hat was pushed forward at a jaunty angle to accommodate her dark brown tresses but her stare was anything but gleeful.

Watching from my vantage point in my head I wondered how she could sit wearing such a large bustle and how she could stand the corset that made her waist so small.

The field was of dark green, perfectly maintained grass…grass marred with red clay and sand baselines and infield cutout.  Sharp white lines were arrow straight and ran toward the infinity of the outfield foul posts.  Sack bases gleamed in the technicolor sunshine as a ground crew finished the field with earth movers and bulldozers.

It wasn’t an LSD trip, just a dream…a dream that featured a heavenly figure dressed in Yankee pinstripes and a Satan in tie-dye.  God was a midget who looked like Yogi Berra, Satan could be no one else other than Billy Martin.  Martin glared at me from behind dark sunglasses his cigarette smoke twisting and turning, rising into the tangerine sky.  He held up a martini glass in an empty salute…as empty as the glass itself.

I was playing right field…I think it was me.  I looked like Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball and I openly wondered why Babe Ruth or Roger Maris wasn’t available.  Yogi said Maris was on a mountain top contemplating the asterisk after the number sixty-one in the “Good Book”.  Ruth was holding court in street clothes, smoking a cigar while drinking a beer and eating a hotdog.  A high school chum was there too but he looked more like Thurmond Munson than the friend I remembered from fifty years ago.

I don’t normally dream so vividly.  I blame it on a sinus infection, the drugs that treat it and the left-over quesadillas my wife brought me after her luncheon with a friend.  There is something about cilantro that sometimes fuels my more psychedelic dreams.  Cheaper and less dangerous than peyote or hallucinogenic mushrooms, not that I really know.

I had died in my dream, the casualty of a falling treetop and found myself in a heaven of my own creation.  No blazing white mansions or streets of gold.  No old, bearded white men in long gowns, No call to a warm and embracing light. Just a perfectly laid out baseball field and hot dogs to die for, an all-star team of dead Yankees playing an all-star team of devil’s minions.  Both teams cheered on by men in a black and white newsreel and a woman in pastels.  The call was to the Big Leagues not into the light.

It seemed I had awakened from one dream into another, my death from being shish kebabed by a treetop to a heavenly baseball game.  Speaking in cliches, Yogi told me the game was being played for all the marbles, good versus evil, winner takes all.   As I jogged to right field he growled, “Don’t forget!  It gets late early out there.”

Though I desperately tried to stay asleep, my dream ended before the game was decided.  With the game tied and a runner on second in the ninth, Ty Cobb stepped to the plate, or a devil’s imp appearing to be Ty Cobb.  Depending on whose history you read, in real life, he might have been the devil incarnate.  Razor sharp cleats glinted in the tangerine light as he taped the dirt off them with his bat.  Watching him step into the batter’s box,  I awoke as a puppy dog pawed me, blind eyes saying “Open the door, I need to potty.”

I don’t normally remember dreams but this one was just too vivid, just too real…just too troubling  This one I want to remember despite the fear I felt in the pit of my stomach.  It’s too good of a subject for a short story and I can end it any way I wish.

I need to remember it today because my plans were to cut down the dead tree that killed the dream me.  I think I will let Mother Nature do her part and cut it up after it falls.

The image I used is TANGERINE SKY by Fran Slade.  It may be purchased at https://artpublish.glopal.com

Books by Don Miller may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Crescent Moons, Puppy Dogs, and the Universe

My puppies have interrupted my sleep.  They are blind and if you are blind, I don’t guess you know it is three in the morning instead of three in the afternoon.  It is cold for early December and I don’t guess we got them out enough during the day…maybe we didn’t get me out enough during the day.

I let them out, not to go “wee-wee”, but to lay down in the backyard.  “Girls…it’s twenty-eight degrees.  What are you doing?  Geez…will I ever get back to sleep?”  No, not much.  There is an afternoon nap in my future.

My wife’s flowers are housed in a makeshift hothouse.  At five I decided to walk up and make sure the heat had them toasty.  It was a tropical fifty-five.  I may have to mortgage the farm to pay the winter electric bill.

As I turned to return to the warmth of my home, I looked up into the southern sky and saw a sliver of a crescent moon framed in the leafless branches of a walnut tree.  Low on the horizon, the outline of the dark side was clearly visible as was a shining Venus above it.  The air was clear and the sky cloudless.  A morning an astronomer might dream of. The scene took my breath away and I paused, despite the cold, to bask in the reflection of both the moon and my thoughts.

I struggle with my beliefs.  I do believe in an afterlife…” energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be changed.” Changed into what, I do not know, but I believe the law works for the universe and everyone in it.  I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, but…I struggle with the universe and our place in it.

Divine creation?  Big Bang?  A combination of both.  Are they one and the same?  And “God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”

I struggle with the concept of God…or god.  Despite my struggles, my lack of faith, I talk to him often…I just wish he would talk back.  Just prattle a bit.  There doesn’t have to be an answer to my questions, just answer back.  “I’m here, I hear you.”

Looking through the clear crisp air at the heavenly scene it is hard not to believe in some type of divine plan.  How could something as beautiful as the scene I was viewing not be a part of a divine plan?  As if to add weight to my thoughts I noticed the pinkish glow of dawn approaching.  A most heavenly picture on display and I had been in the cold too long.

I returned to the warmth of my home and found my puppies asleep, Maddie on her back on the couch, Tilly chasing rabbits in her sleep beside her.  How could these two beautiful animals have been created by chance?  Again, God is silent, but I’m not concerned.

Bible verses my Grandmother recited come to mind.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” and “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  And this morning, any morning, in the heavens too.

Further musings can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came, interestingly, from The Tree of Knowledge Coven at https://treeofknowledgecoven.com/2013/08/12/my-love-affair-with-the-waxing-crescent-moon/

 

True Believers?

 

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

 

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon, the day very being. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.  The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than me.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

 

 

The Dark Side

 

The new school year is just around the corner and I find myself feeling as if I should be somewhere other than sitting in my recliner typing this.  I expect the feeling will pass but my thoughts are on the teachers who will soon be welcoming students into their classrooms and those students themselves.

With all the political debate over private and public education, South Carolina’s dismal ranking, teacher pay, House Bill 610, vouchers and the like, I wondered if I was just lucky and somehow caught lightning in a bottle late in my career as I ventured over to the “dark side.”… to a charter school.

A traditional public-school teacher my entire career, I had not been a supporter of the charter school programs, considering them to be havens for the elitist and entitled offsprings of parents who “Didn’t want THEIR kids going to school with those other kids.”

I was confusing charter schools with elitist and entitled private schools like…I’ll let you fill in that blank.  I also believed charter schools were just the educational program “de jure” and, like dozens of other “innovations” I had taught through, would eventually run their course and disappear from the landscape of education.  I was wrong…and rightly so.

One might ask if I was so against the charter school programs, why was I teaching in one?  I wanted a job.  I had retired six years previous and had enrolled myself into the Teacher and Employee Retention Program, TERI for short, which allowed me to teach after retirement while building a “nest egg” for later down my life’s pathway.  NO, IT IS NOT DOUBLE DIPPING!  My TERI had run out and I had become an “at-will” employee and could be terminated without cause which is exactly what happened.

My timing was not the best…it never has been.  With a declining economy, my district did not want to pay a thirty-nine-year veteran with multiple advanced degrees when they could pay a first-year teacher less than half of what I was making.  A sound fiscal policy?  My argument was of course, “I was worth every penny damn of my salary!”

In 2009 I found myself, along with six other teachers, a secretary, and an administrator, opening a new charter school, Greer Middle College Charter High School.  A mouth full.  I was teaching geography to 90 or so fresh-faced freshmen who might have been the most diverse, curious and interesting group I had ever taught.

Many of my students were refugees from “normal” public schools (If there is such a thing).  Some had attended Christian private schools their entire lives; others had been homeschooled and only a few had made it through the public-school system…unscathed and without some type of baggage.  We had a few who were combinations of all three and carrying steamer trunks loaded with baggage.

This was not what made them curious…and delightful.  They were all over the political and religious spectrum.  Third generation “flower power” hippies interacting with the religiously fundamental and politically way right.  I consider myself to be a political and religious moderate which put me far to their political left and religiously…a heathen despite my Methodist up bring and my public dunking into the Baptist Church.  Somehow, we all got along and there is a lesson there somewhere.

During a mandatory student-parental conference, one parent offered to pray for me because of my “liberal” belief that the earth was a bit older than her belief of six thousand years.  I thanked her and considering my many indiscretions decided to allow her to intercede on my behalf.

Due to a glitch, we opened our first year in a church far from what would eventually be our campus and in very tight quarters.  Sausage casing tight.  Everyone knew exactly what every other teacher was teaching, and which student was in trouble.

During my last five years of teaching, I would find I missed the comradery developed with those students and teachers in those close quarters.  It turned out not to be the dark side at all.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://steemit.com/funny/@lordvader/one-of-your-teachers-needs-to-learn-a-lesson

 

Liberal Christian is not an Oxymoron

 

I used to believe I was a moderate, a centrist (?)…hmmmm, maybe not…but a moderate independent none-the-less.  I knew I leaned left on certain issues, leaned left not the whole hog left.  I refuse to say social liberal, fiscal conservative because I can’t seem to keep my bank account balanced.  I am a social liberal.

I am being pushed farther and farther left though my beliefs haven’t changed much over the years.  As I have aged, if anything at all, I have found my way back to a path I had fallen off earlier.  The political spectrum has moved and taken religious beliefs with it…or is it the other way around?

Normally, a person’s religious beliefs are fine with me…provided no one loses a body part, gets disparaged or called an abomination while being publicly stoned…with a rock stoned.

I look at different “Christian” religions as “different flavors” of the same dessert.  Cherry cheesecake or strawberry cheesecake kinds of differences, both are tasty but different flavors of tasty.  Different religions?  Desserts from different ovens?  Yes, there are certain desserts I’m not going to eat and certain denominations I will not follow.

Two days ago, instead of cheesecake, I received a shaving cream pie to the face for expressing my belief that I am a left-leaning Christian.  The shaving cream is burning more than my eyes…a location considerably south of my eyes.

My anger has bothered me greatly, biblically (?), and for two days I have prayed for enlightenment and some anodyne to soothe the burning.  I’ve seen no light and my metaphorical Preparation H seems to be acting like Atomic Bomb.  Therefore, I will burden you, both of my faithful readers.

The comment I made was in regard to what I felt was spreading hatred and division, what I deemed to be hatred and division.  I typed, ”I am a left-leaning Christian, this (the meme) is simply not true about liberals.”  I thought but didn’t type, “Shouldn’t religion be about love and inclusion?”  I should have known better.  The responses immediately went sideways and took on a political slant…no a political jump off a cliff.

Had I left off the words “left-leaning” I would have gone unscathed, but that was my point.  I chose not to engage and barely survived being pummeled by “true believers’” welding social media generated “family Bibles.”  I turned off the notifications and whimpered off into the night.

Not what I was expecting but maybe I should have.  I shared a post about a fence post that started an argument over cement.  Maybe they were funnin’ me…maybe.

Is it just about abortion?  I was told in a different post, reasonably civil, that I was copping out for not basing my entire belief structure and political affiliation on one issue.  Maybe I am skirting the issue…but it is my belief structure and not my issue.  A belief structure involving not only black and white but subtle shades of grays.

I believe I can hate abortion and still believe it is not my right to dictate what a woman or a couple decide for themselves.  If that is copping out I’m not the least bit sorry.  I must answer to my God.  For me, it goes deeper than one issue…albeit,  a big issue.

A really, big issue…but so is war and supporting the death merchants who benefit from it.  So is the gun lobby and our highest percentage rating of gun deaths in the first world.  So is ignoring science for corporate greed while fouling the air and water my grandchildren will have to breath.  Allowing children to go hungry and without medical care while pharmaceutical corporations continue to stuff their offshore bank accounts.

What about an equal education for all?  One that not only teaches people to think but prepares all to compete in a MODERN world.  How do we treat our LGBT friends and their rights?  What are their civil rights?  Why has there been a rise in open hostility some have toward people of color and other religions?

Just some of the issues I discussed with myself as I walked Saturday morning.  There are others, but I only walked for ninety minutes.  I also discussed the question, “Is the other political side any better?”  For now, I say yes but will continue to ask for guidance…and a prescription to calm my anger.

I do not believe Liberal Christian is an oxymoron.  I believe people who say so are using religion to further divide a divided humanity.  Why would we want to do that…or who would want US to do that?  Do not all our Christian religions follow a Middle Eastern man who was, by every modern definition of liberal, a liberal Jew.  I just started to feel better.

For lighter fare try Don Miller at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

For romantic adventure try Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from TheChristianLeft.Org and http://whatwouldjackdo.net/blog.html

Southern Ju-Ju

“What sorcery is this?!”  William Shakespeare

“Juju or ju-ju (French: joujou) is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, (or in this case a butter bean) and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The term has been applied to traditional African religions.”1

On my morning walk, I looked down at my hand.  My arthritis was (is) bothering me and to add insult to injury, I have poison ivy breaking out on the same hand.  My attention was drawn to the star-shaped scar glowing palely on my ring finger…it dawned on me it had been fifty years since I received it.  Memories flooded back about the witchcraft that created it.

I was preparing to head to football practice, the second of the two-a-days we suffered through back then.  In between, I spent my downtime loading hay in the August heat and humidity and had just finished my second shower of three for the day.  My mother’s friend Gracie Deason had dropped by to visit.  Oddly she didn’t look like a witch doctor.

I found them sitting in the den, newspapers spread across their laps filled with unshelled butter beans.  They were shelling them out while laughing at Gracie’s antics and jokes.  Seemed there were more jokes and laughter than shellin’.  Her voice was as Southern as sausage gravy spread on a buttermilk biscuit.  Gracie was larger than life.  She was loud, funny, boisterous and unconventional for the time, the late Sixties.

I don’t remember ever seeing her in a skirt or dress, although that may be the product of faulty memory.  She was much more prone to wearing blue jeans and oversized men’s work shirts.  She was ahead of her time I guess.  She was also very kind to my ailing mother who suffered from ALS and would submit to it a year and a half later.  Gracie suffered too, from Lupus, but it never seemed to slow her down or dampen her sense of humor.

When she clasped my hand, much to my embarrassment, her hand fell upon the wart located on the top of my ring finger.  I had used topical wart removers but this one just wouldn’t go away.

Loud enough to be heard down the road at Pettus’s store, she exclaimed, “Whatcha’ got there Donnie?  A wart?”

In a much quieter voice, I replied, “Yes ma’am.  I guess I’m going to have to have the doctor remove it.”

“You know I can talk it off.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yep, kneel down here and give me your hand.”

I admit to being just a bit unsettled over the prospect.  I also admit to thinking, “Ain’t no way in hell” but because of my respect for my elders, I did what she asked.

Taking my hand in hers she picked up a freshly shelled butter bean and began rubbing it over my wart.  She also began to speak in a tongue I could not understand or translate.  Maybe a combination of an even more slurred “In a godda la vida”, “Wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night,” with a bit of “Good Golly Miss Molly” thrown in for good measure.

When she finished she said in a voice oozing with confidence, “It will be gone before the sun rises tomorrow.”  With a flourish, she threw the butter bean back into the pot to be cooked later.  It has been fifty years for the ramifications of her flourish to dawn upon me.  Yuk.

I did my best to sound grateful but somewhere in the back of my head I thought, with a head shake and mental eye-roll, “Sure it will.”

I didn’t have to wait until sunrise.  The wart was gone just about the time the sun disappeared below the horizon that evening.  It left me just after I had thrown a body block as a running back made his cut…right…on…top…of…my…outstretched…hand.  Specifically, one of his cleats landed on top of my ring finger and the wart sitting on top of it.

It really didn’t hurt, just a sting…until I saw the blood pouring down my hand.  Then it smarted quite intensely.  My coach “with the heart of gold” slapped athletic tape around my ring finger to stanch the bleeding saying, “You’ll be fine.  Get back in there and hit somebody.”  A Mount Everest of compassion.

No Band-Aid, no gauze, just sticky athletic tape.  No hydrogen peroxide or disinfectant…just sticky athletic tape.  Could have been worse, he could have spit chewing tobacco on it or slathered it with Atomic Bomb or poured Tincture of Iodine over it.

Later, after practice I cut the tape and had Al Stevenson yank it off, causing me to use words I had not learned at home.  Displaying itself in the middle of the bloody tape was my wart in all its glory.  I did not float it in alcohol for prosperity’s sake…I couldn’t get it loose from the tape.

Gracie didn’t seem to be very excited when I called to thank her and tell her the great news.  It was more of a “What did I tell you” kind of reaction.  Still, I had a new respect for Southern ju-ju with a butter bean.  Wonder if someone can “talk” away my arthritis and poison ivy?  I’ll supply the butter bean.

1 Mockler-Ferryman, Augustus (1898). Imperial Africa: The Rise, Progress and Future of the British Possessions in Africa. Imperial Press, limited. p. 392.

Image attributed to Lindsay Turner in an article from Sputniknews.com

For more Southern JuJu go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

For hot, romantic adventure go to Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Thought Provoking Piece from Ryan McMaken

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute, Patrick Buchanan is an informative and interesting writer. On foreign policy, especially, he’s long been one of the most reasonable voices among high-level American pundits. When it comes to cultural matters, however, Buchanan has long held to a peculiar and empirically questionable version of American history in […]

via The US Is Not “One Nation” – And It Never Was — peoples trust toronto

THE MAGICAL, MORONIC, MANUFACTURED CELEBRATION OF LOVE

I despise Valentine’s Day. How did we get from the celebration of a Roman festival to the madness of today? A manufactured, merchandize driven celebration of love…or the realization of being quite alone. At least if you are depressed there is plenty of chocolate to raise your spirits and increase your waistline. The Valentine’s candy and cards at Wally World has been displayed since the day after Christmas.

A bit of history. One historical version suggests THE FESTIVAL began as the honoring of the Goddess Juno during the Roman Feast of Lupercalia. Young men and women drew names from a jar, pairing themselves for the duration of the feast and sometimes for the year. This was before the use of car or room keys in a fishbowl I guess. Yes, some would fall in love and sometimes even marry. Ain’t that romantic…or moronic?

Farther down the road known as history, the festival was discontinued because it was deemed un-Christian but as we all know you can’t keep a good celebration down. It was just refigured and given another name. According to one popular legend, a Roman priest would give the celebration its name. Valentine, the priest, defied the emperor, Claudius II, when said emperor decided allowing people to marry or become engaged impeded his ability to raise an army to fight the many unpopular military campaigns of the time. He banned marriage and engagements. Valentine, along with another priest, Marius, secretly married couples in Rome until their treachery was discovered resulting in the brutal beating death of Valentine. I think Marius got the better end of the deal even if a celebration is named after Valentine. Both were elevated to sainthood but Marius escaped execution.

Not romantic enough? Try this version. Valentine was helping Christians escape from prison until he himself was ratted out and jailed. While awaiting execution, as the romantic story goes, Valentine and the jailer’s daughter fell in love. On the night before his execution, Valentine penned a letter to his beloved and signed it “From Your Valentine.” Now why does “from your valentine” sound vaguely familiar?

If those unsubstantiated legends aren’t enough, early Roman-Christians believed birds mated in mid-February. It doesn’t matter. I HATE VALENTINE’S DAY! I have hated Valentine’s Day for thirty years or more. I’d rather be beaten ala Valentine or machine gunned ala Al Capone’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Flowers wilt and chocolate is fattening, plus the object of my romantic inclinations shouldn’t eat chocolate for health reasons. FOR THIRTY YEARS, I HAVE TRIED TO DO SOMETHING UNIQUE FOR THE UNIQUE PERSON WHO IS LINDA GAIL! Moreover, for thirty years I have failed. Even the rose bushes I bought with so much care, planted and fertilized so carefully, watered and talked to…died. Can you really kill something with love? YES! … YOU! … CAN!

One year, the worst, I reserved a romantic meal at a nearby inn on a mountain above us. IT SNOWED! Determined to be romantic or machine gunned, we went anyway. A phone call told us they were open but with no electricity. “Come on, the meal will be served by candlelight.” How much more romantic could it get? Just shoot me. JUST FREAKING SHOOT ME! A twenty-minute trip turned into an hour as we dodged downed powerlines and fallen limbs but we made it. It was romantic. Candles and little mini-lanterns. The meal served in courses by waitresses in the cutest little uniforms. A three-digit meal before we got to the tip…but it was going to be worth it! A good meal, romantic small talk, footsy under the table, a short drive home and if I played my cards right…acte d’amour. Not on your life. On the side of the road she upchucked A FREAKING THREE-DIGIT MEAL. l’acte de vomir was all I got.

Am I trying too hard. Is it too much to want to do something special and unique for a special and unique person for goodness sakes? I have been dreading St. Valentine’s Day since the last one and have been trying to come up with something special…maybe I’ll just prepare the meal. A quiet dinner with a French motif. A small table with a checked tablecloth featuring one of those candles in a wine glass with melted wax dripping down the side. I’ve got a bottle of wine somewhere…it’s full. I guess I should start drinking it if I’m going to get a candle holder ready by this evening…and if I’m going to survive it.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

I CHOOSE CIVILITY

“formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech:
synonyms: courtesy · courteousness · politeness · good manners ·
graciousness · consideration · respect · comity”

I defined civility simply because I am unsure how many of my “social media” friends actually know what it means or if they do, they have decided that using it is just too “PC”. Two threads I started, (with what I thought was a simple comment about violent crime rates and another about the protests taking place during the National Anthem), crumbled into something else entirely. We raged far afield from the original posts and disintegrated into a playground melee stopping just short of someone yelling “yo’ momma!” Another former teaching friend lamented being verbally attacked over a position he took on one of his own treads. That would be former teacher not former friend. The word of the day, week or year seems to be ‘ATTACK’ which is why I am trying to choose civility instead of trying to shout someone down. Yes, kill them with kindness…ha…ha…ha.

I continue to hear people state “We are too PC” so I have also looked up a definition and provided it: “to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.” There was a time when I was taught that “NOT OFFENDING” was a good thing and why would you want to disadvantage anyone…ohhhhhh, you mean a perceived enemy, I get it now. ITS OKAY TO OFFEND OUR ENEMIES! The people we or you are fighting with. People we are at war with. You know, people that are trying to shoot us, blow us up, are of a different religion than us, people with a different sexual preference who might want to get married, people with different ideas about race, people who decide to protest against things we hold near and dear, or people who think that beer “TASTES GREAT!” rather than is “LESS FILLING!” FUCK…THEM…ALL! JUST LEAVE IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT I AM SPOUTING! WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE! YOU ARE NOT OUR KIND…Oh I forgot to include the guy down the road that has decorated his road front with Trump-Pence campaign signs! JUST LEAVE THE COUNTRY WE DON’T WANT YOU! Actually I just said the last one because my wall is so conservative, I mean I live in South Carolina. What do you expect, I just wanted to put a burr under my conservative friends’ BVDs and all. You know all in good fun, don’t want to offend you…come on smile a little.

You see, I believe “not being too PC” is simply an invitation to cross the line and be a bully. It’s an easy thing to be a bully hiding behind the keys of a computer after all. The keys are not likely to rise up and punch you in the eye. When a friend or my brother takes me to task on my liberal social leanings I try to pay attention because they normally provide insight and logical reasons…or at the least reasons. When an asshole provides, “I wish all liberals would die!” well, I GET PISSED and that is almost where my tread went. Also I realize somewhere there is a liberal asshole writing “I wish all conservatives would die!” I just don’t see a lot of those because my wall is so…right…I mean so conservative.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a damn lie invented by a gray-haired grandmother to take the pain away caused by the sting of the spoken or printed word. “But I was just speaking my mind” in many cases crosses the line between speaking your mind and verbally slapping someone across the chops. That is why I am choosing civility…that and my normal peace keeping tendencies. I will weigh my words carefully. Why use a nuclear bomb when a ruler across the palm of the hand is enough? Oh wait, you don’t believe in corporal punishment…Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try http://goo.gl/lomuQf