Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.

 

 

Distant Origins

 

And a pig trail beckoned to me and I followed it right down Alice’s rabbit hole.  Hello Mad Hatter.

I just watched a rerun of Star Trek Voyager and found myself sitting quietly…pondering.  I like that word…pondering.  Sounds as if I might be intelligent…many times I’ve proven differently.

The episode triggering my pondering was ”Distant Origin” about a lizard resembling alien race, the Voth, and a scientist who believes his species originated from a distant planet.  Long story short, he involves a crew member of Voyager in his attempt to prove his origins theory and ends up standing trial for heresy, accused by his religious elders…led by the menacing, Minister Odala.  Shades of Fred Phelps, Sr.

This most respected scientist is forced to recant his findings in order to save Voyager from being destroyed and the crew and himself put into prison.  A choice between truth or evil masquerading as truth.  That is where my pig trail became a rabbit hole.  The scientist chooses evil masquerading as the truth to save his new friend, loses his position and is forced into a job equivalent of counting paper clips.

As the program closes, his partner in crime, the Voyager character Chakotay, gives the scientist, Gegen, an Earth globe as a gift before he transports up and Voyager leaves. All is well in the Delta Quadrant except for the Voth who don’t know, save the scientist, they are really descendants of dinosaurs from the Planet Earth.  Nice yarn…sounded familiar.

The episode is an allegory and drew heavily from the relationship between Galileo Galilee of telescope fame, the Catholic Church in general and Pope Urban VIII specifically.  The story leading to Galileo’s trial for heresy before The Inquisition is much more involved than the Star Trek episode or for me to write about.  Is that applause I hear?

In the condensed version, Galileo made the mistake of agreeing with Copernicus that the Earth orbited the Sun rather than the Church’s belief of an Earth-centered universe…everything in the universe orbiting the earth.

Galileo further complicated his life by publishing his studies in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work which seemed to poke fun at the Pope as it laid out Galileo’s findings using a protagonist named “Simplicio”, which connotes simpleton in Italian.  Unjustly, some folks drew the conclusion Simplicio might be a metaphor for Pope Urban VIII.  Unintended consequences? One person drawing the conclusion was Pope Urban himself.

Again, long story short, Galileo was put on trial before The Inquisition for voicing opinions contrary to the Holy Scriptures and forced to recant under threat of excommunication although he was never formally charged. According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves.”

He spent the rest of his life under virtual house arrest which was better than being slowly roasted at a stake like a Boston butt.  He was still quite prolific with his writings and despite being banned to do so, published many scientific works. Galileo is considered the father of classical physics.

I’m a bit of a “quare” duck for myriads of reasons but a couple of the more benign ones are that I hold degrees in both history and science education and at one time considered the ministry as a calling.  Boy, I fell off that wagon.  Between having to learn Greek and an overzealous youth minister who told me my mother would survive ALS if she believed hard enough, I turned to a life of cussin’, women and drink…well up to a point.  I still cuss too much and honestly, it was more drink than women.

When I said I had two degrees I wasn’t bragging…well, maybe a little but rather was giving an example of why I get confused sometimes about the religious acceptance of science and historical perspective.  Modern folk might not understand why the Catholic Church held so much power and desired to keep scientific discoveries secret.  It was about maintained power, some of which the Church had lost having battled with Martin Luther’s protestants during the previous century.  Excommunication was and is a powerful deterrent for a Catholic.  Without the sacraments, one can’t get to heaven.  Power over the masses.

Some folk still discount science when it disagrees with the Holy Scriptures.  Considering ninety-seven percent of climatologist believing climate change is real and man fueled, I don’t understand why SOME, I said some, not all, not even most…maybe.  I don’t understand why some Bible believers have a problem with science as it relates to climate change.  I have heard said it doesn’t matter, God won’t allow climate, or anything else, to destroy the Earth.  I have a very good friend and a true man of God tell me that.  Maybe he is correct but I wager we can destroy all humanity and the Earth will continue its annual trip around the Sun until the sun expands into a red giant before collapsing into itself as a white dwarf…if you believe Galileo and Copernicus and other astronomers.

I try to follow the teachings of Jesus and for some reason don’t have a problem believing that climate change is real, and that man is the primary culprit.  What I have trouble with is believing a pair of  Platypus Duckbills trekked from Mt. Ararat in Turkey to Australia, multiplying as they went but yet we find no Platypus Duckbills anywhere else…alive or fossil remains.  I know.  God works in mysterious ways…so does science but the mysteries of science can be explained.

There are many Bible verses commanding good stewardship of our earth, in fact, a moral obligation to preserve and sustain our earth.  One comes quite early in the Bible, Genesis 1:26-31.  I’ll let you look it up.  The KJV version uses the words “dominion over”.  Other translations use the word stewardship.  Dominion does not mean free to use as we wish, dominion means stewardship…to maintain…to control…not to destroy if we so desire.

Many of our leaders, many who profess their religious beliefs quite loudly, or have their minions profess them, seem to be worried that trying to solve the problem of, or even uttering the words, climate change, might slow our economy.  We certainly don’t want to hurt our GDP for something as unimportant as sustaining our planet…or worse having it interfere with their potential candidacy for higher office.  I honestly believe their distant origin might be somewhere south of heaven.

Other’s believe until the “whole world” gets involved, for instance, the Indians and Chinese, we are pissing up a rope.  Folks…someone’s got to lead and there was a time when the United States led in categories other than bombs dropped, civilians killed and mass murders.  Realizing this is not Biblical, but maybe it should be, “God helps those who help themselves.”

We are not helping ourselves and before I “throw stones”, I admit I am not without the sin of not doing enough…but I am trying…if I could just get rid of that gas-guzzling, carbon dioxide spewing truck.  Maybe I can trade it for a horse and wagon.

Well, it is time to bid the Mad Hatter adieu and crawl back out of Alice’s rabbit hole.  It is the day I walk with my best friend.  We usually cure all the world’s ills while we walk or if not, over the cup of coffee we consume at the local coffee shop and art café afterward.  Hmm, maybe that’s the distant origins of my leftist ideas…nope, Hawk still has rightist ideas and that helps balance me.

The image is from The M0vie Blog at https://them0vieblog.com/2016/12/14/star-trek-voyager-distant-origin-review/  To quote:  “With its dinosaur characters, its fixation upon evolution, and its doctrine of “origin”, Distant Origin seems very specifically tailored to the heated debates around science and creationism in American culture. However, the allegory is powerful enough that it maintains a potency even beyond that. Distant Origin has aged remarkably well, working effectively as a metaphor for climate change denial or even for historical revisionism in favor of the national myth. Distant Origin is both a season and a series highlight.”

The quote proves once again I have not had an original thought.

Don Miller has released a new book under the pen, Lena Christenson.  Dark Tempest and others may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM or at Lena’s site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

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/

 

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