Tired of Being Played…

I’ve been thinking much lately about politics both locally and nationally.  Each time I see some blow hard buff themself up on TV while the cameras role I can’t help but giggle.  I wonder if these politicians actually think many of us take their passion seriously?  I think this to be a redundant question as many do, unfortunately, believe all and embrace the rhetoric as their own.

This belief may not be shared by all but I certainly embrace it as truth.  We’re being played!  We are but pawns in a giant chess game played by a limited number of elite leaders we’ve empowered.  I hear so much about how everyone is so frustrated with our government yet I see so little being done about it.  Have we as a people just accepted this?  When have we decided this existence represents normalcy?

Sure, people will spout off…”that’s just what the Tea Party is trying to accomplish.”  All I can do is smile at the naivety of such a claim.  The Tea Party is just an aggressive arm of the Republican Party on steroids.  What about the Coffee Party?  Again, they are just an arm of the Democratic Party on anxiety medication.  Neither will accomplish anything except draw attention to each group through carefully edited sound bites.

The passion found in so many faithful church followers for the Republican Party is beyond sad, it’s desperate.  Somehow thinking this group of manipulators represents more morality and honor reeks of stinkin’ thinkin’.  Talk about being used.  For one moment to think the Republican Party cares about the Christian community other than a means to carry a voting block is silly.  In this case people are not being played as pawns but as checker pieces.

Don’t get me started with the Democratic Party.  Talk about a useless organization.  I find the only value in the modern Democratic Party is to oppose the Republican Party and that seems to be a great value.  All heart but no means to follow through or accomplish anything, that seems to define this group.

Until this country brings about an opportunity for a true third-party organization.  A party that can compete equally and govern fairly, allow for actual debate, until then our country remains stuck in this standstill.  We need a third-party to get this country out of the mess it’s currently in.  Only when groups and people can be held accountable and not allowed to play the common man can politics bring true value to our country.

Our current system allows our two parties to fight like cats and dogs when the lights are shinning and then get behind closed doors and drink together like frat brothers.  The laughter they must have at our expense.  It’s beyond time to break up this party, fight for REAL change.  What we have is too much like professional wrestling for my taste.

Feel free to visit the website for The Green Party.  www.gp.org

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The Hike…

Father’s Day provided me a wonderful experience to share with my wife.  She and I have so little time we can be together; making such moments takes much work.  As the cards were passed to me by the children noting their appreciation and love for the old man, it was then my wife handed me a book.  I’m a reader so books are an aphrodisiac to me.  I could see this one was locally published so the contents would deem something local which I love.  So much history has taken place in and around the area we live, so learning more and more will always entice me.

The book was titled 50 Greatest Hikes in North Georgia.  It detailed 50 day hikes within our locale that we could attempt and enjoy.  I love the woods and even more love the mountains.  Having such a guidebook to describe these hikes immediately brought me much happiness.  “Let’s go on a hike today” came the request from my wife.  We agreed to try and check-off as many of these hikes as possible and make this our shared project.  Finally we were doing something together that involved the outdoors.

After making the short drive to the trails edge we began our hike.  The first part seemed straight up and really caused us to reconsider our choice of a hobby.  There is a look that spouses give each other where much is said without a spoken word.  We shared that look halfway up that initial slope but decided to soldier on anyway.  The effort was strenuous and often times painful.  As we approached the summit we beheld views that make atheists reconsider their priorities.  Detailing these images does no justice; I’ll just keep the pictures forever impressed in my mind.  Let’s just say they were spectacular.

The next part of the hike took us down the backside of the same mountain and landed us eventually on the flatland near the mountain road.  I had read about another trail that began at this point and suggested we take a short journey down this one as well.  Wisely my bride reminded me we still have to hike back up the same mountain we came down and should consider saving our energy.  Turns out that was great advice.

I decided to walk down the new trail just to see further on the potential views.  I took no more than 15 steps when my wife yelled at me.  I turned around to see what alarmed her and she pointed and yelled “Bear.”  There are some things in life where teasing is not valued, yelling fire in a crowed movie theatre comes to mind.  Yelling bear in the forest seems another so I took her seriously and immediately turned around to see the baby bear less than 10 feet from me.  I looked at the cuteness of this baby and was promptly reminded that baby bears have overly protective mommas who discourage close interaction with them.

We found a second wind as we quickly broached the hill climb that consisted of our return trip.  It wasn’t long before we found ourselves far enough away from the baby bear that we felt at ease stopping to catch our breath.  This is really living.  Up we trudged to the top and took time to once again enjoy the panoramic views and realized this new hobby was a good one.  Living in the mountains is a gift that we can enjoy over and over.

The last part of the hike was downhill and allowed us to finish strong.  Our legs were sore but the day was delightful.  This is what it means to be alive.  I commit to continue to listen to God sing songs just for me.  It’s nice to be loved.

1 down, 49 to go.

I think my glasses are sitting on top of the mountain somewhere.  I’ll look for them next time.

The Show…

Hearing the rapturous applause, I stood still and drank in the achievement.  This was a mind blowing event.  I’ve never encountered such a moment as this.  In my nearly 50 years walking this earth I never encountered such a truely moving experience.   My actions have caused this audience to gasp, laugh, clap, cheer, and now stand to their feet with appreciation.  Mind you I’m very aware that this production was a team effort and each led amazingly to the final successful affirmation.  But right now I’m choosing to be selfish and just focus on me.  I walk as though my feet slide across the air touching nothing.  This is a moment meant not to be forgotten.

Laughter is a tremendous gift to provide others.  For those two plus hours, members of the audience thought nothing of their own needs, their own sadness, and their own desperation.  For a little more than two hours these people were transported to another place and time where reality doesn’t matter, and this moment is the epicenter of life.  This is the place where for a brief period in time, the present reality can be enough.

If I’d known all of this about performing in theatre I certainly wouldn’t have waited until I was 45 to begin.  But this much I’m sure, I’m glad I did at least start.  I found a gift within me I previously failed to understand.  I’ve now found a means to make others smile.  I think this is an important vehicle that needs to be unleashed and allowed to roam free.  I love the idea of making others happy.  It’s a great feeling.

Today I’m resting ever so briefly in the moment I was privileged enough to share.

Theatre does make a difference.  I’m grateful for being allowed to play.  I may be growing older but I’m not giving up just yet.

Why I don’t think “Right” anymore…

A friend from college who I share many philosophical and political leanings recently wrote of his rationale for having a liberal mindset apart from his more conservative roots.  He challenged me to describe my journey as well.  This is my story.

Why I left the “Right Way”

My post college experience left me with a great void.  I found myself watching the Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire over and over relating to the different characters and the frustration of accepting this next phase of life.  I was an idealist who had a good heart that sought out a means to make the world a better place.  I didn’t know how but I was determined to change the world.  In hindsight I should have joined the Peace Corps, instead, I chose to tackle my calling through the church of my understanding.

That was my first mistake.

Then I went decided to go to seminary.

That was my second mistake.

I jumped in and learned the protocols, procedures, and belief agreements all leaders of the faithful needed to ascribe.  I was taught the key catch phrases that determined my superiority in all theological arguments.  I learned how to sit properly, speak eloquently, and divine the eternal destination of those I would soon encounter.  I had it all, except, the ability to think for myself.  I had it all, except, the ability to see people as human beings not spiritual targets.  I had it all, except, the understanding that love always trumps the law.  Grace was understood as something I should expect for my shortcomings but not avail to others who genuinely needed it for theirs.

Then I was hired at a large church

That was my third mistake

 

Finding myself on the staff of an aggressive growing church that had a pastor whose ego never met its match was a time of unusual opportunity for me.  Our church had offended all the other churches in the area with its prideful claims to God’s sole blessing.  While other churches struggled with maintaining status quo we organized our troops to covertly marshal away families and bring them into our fold.  Nickels and noses drove our congregation.  Grace was never a topic spoken aloud.  We were the marine division of God’s holy army and nothing would stop our manifest destiny.

People I cared for and appreciated often found themselves struggling with relationships.  These families were kept out of the spotlight so not to soil our pristine image.  By now I was a solid student of the game who knew my marching orders and followed without any reservation.   But these families and their difficulties caused my calloused heart to soften when I heard the depth of their pain.  Their hurt didn’t fit into the carefully scripted understanding I had of God’s will for his people in the church.

I began to question what I believed.

This was my fourth mistake

When I started to reconsider my understanding and acceptance of what I believed it soon caused a major divide in my own home.  A successful pastor shouldn’t experience such questioning.  My private conversations with staff members and the senior pastor about my newly discovered concerns only exacerbated the problem.  Soon I found myself a pariah at home and at work, I had no where to turn, I was alone with my thoughts.

Soon the news came that my married life would end and I would need to strike out on my own.  It didn’t take much time to see the world I came from had a new interpretation of my value.  Friends began treating me differently; phone calls were slow in their return, if at all. Meetings with church leaders made me aware my presence was welcome but not required or needed.  I suddenly found myself face to face with the reality that I was now an outcast in the only world I knew.

But how could they do this to me?  I’m one of them.  For goodness sakes, I’m an insider.  Did they forget all I’ve accomplished?  What about all those recognitions for my work?  I was a somebody!  Now I’m a nobody?

Suddenly a light went on.  If they treat a wounded one of their own like this, how do they treat other imperfect humans God has invited to share the same table?  The posse I now ran with consisted of the people in the church that always kept to themselves and never seemed to get involved in anything.  I used to despise them.  Now I understood for the first time why they acted so seemingly strange.  They were all they each had to survive, they only had each other.  These kind folks didn’t trust the faithful to love them; they wished to avoid further hurt so collectively they slid around in the shadows of the church trying not to be noticed.  Imagine so wanting to participate in the love of Christ that one accepts so much rejection, pain, and judgment just to be near the holy.  Fighting for scraps of acceptance makes me wonder is it worth it?

I learned about pain by experiencing it for myself

That was my fifth mistake

 

Dealing with so much pain and rejection from those you previously centered yourself around can open up a whole can of crazy.  It wasn’t until I could say without reservation FU*K them all that I started to regain my footing.  I held hands with the lepers of today’s church; I broke bread with these widows and orphans who have been left out in the cold.  I developed compassion because I was just like them.  It became hard to hate them as I was taught because I now learned to love them.

I enjoy a good fight and now I had something to fight for and a hideous monster to fight against.  My mission going forward would be to stand up for those left out, those considered unworthy, those cast aside and unwanted. My battle would not just be for others it would now be for me as well.   Forward I march to fight and I will not stop until my breath is taken from me.

Righting wrongs and standing up for those who can’t help themselves.

This certainly isn’t a mistake

 

It’s not a big leap after such an experience to see the fallacy of rightwing political and religious craziness and wish to create as large a distance as possible between them and you.  At least that’s what I did.

When you seek to be a compassionate human being, thoughts of being part of the might is right organization seem much less important.  When you desire love and unity, being the person with all the answers falls by the wayside with silly abandon.  It was as if magically, one day my eyes just opened and I saw the king was indeed naked after all.

Many from my past today are confused by my lifestyle to say it politely, but more accurately many think I’ve lost my way and probably have taken to worshiping elves under mushroom caps.  Realistically, they probably think I’ve spent too much time with the mushrooms in the first place.  To those who think I’ve left my right mind, well, yes I believe I have.  I wish those from my past well.  Good luck on your life.

Know this about me.  To the best of my ability I’m trying to honor the teaching of the master the same way you are.  Just don’t judge me if I’ve taken off the tinted glasses of my youth.  Besides, on some of you, those glasses look really nice.

Progressively pressing forward.

The Ring…

I’m performing in a local theatre production and the part I play requires me to be a bumbling philanderer who finds himself caught up in a web of deceit.  The show is really funny.  The premise while it sounds entertaining, which it is, requires me to act in a fashion that has long passed from my person.  Playing pretend is fun for adults too not just children.

After doing a full dress rehearsal it was pointed out that I need to remove my own wedding ring so the audience wouldn’t be confused by my actual married status.  My character isn’t married and wearing a ring would make the storyline quite confusing to the careful observer of which I’m told we have many.

The removal of my wedding ring was a significant undertaking as I’ve not taken it off for many years.  I rather enjoy having it on.  Each time I look at the ring I’m reminded of the beautiful gift provided me and the daily opportunity to love and be a better human being.  With significant effort after soaking my hand in ice water, the ring was finally freed despite my finger’s strenuous objection.

As I look at my now empty finger, the dull shine of the gold band is missing, yet something else stands out.  There where once the symbol of my undying affection once existed now another band has taken its place.  This new band was formed from years of wear on my finger by my wedding ring and this band possessed so much more character.  Character formed from the many choices made to bring love to fruition in our lives.  Character formed from trials and hardships learning to appreciate the differences that make us now happier.  Character formed from raising children and watching them grow, evolve, and become.  Character formed from a commitment that can say, “I’ll be with you tomorrow and forever.”

I look today at my empty hand with much joy.  The outer ring made of precious metal is there only for show that others may consider.  The ring that I now see, created by our time together, that’s the ring that really matters most.  This one is just for us.

Contented and at peace today.