i thank You God for most this amazing

by E.E. Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

from 100 Selected Poems. © Grove Press, 1994.

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Bapu

In a world growing more violent, filled with those who accept violence as the cost of living in the world, our thoughts should turn to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Better known as Mahatma.

Great Soul.

Born Oct. 2, 1869, he was assassinated at age 78, Jan. 30, 1948.

He led a non-violent protest that freed India from British rule and inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a similar non-violent civil rights struggle in the United States.

Non-violence brought Britain to its knees and ushered in massive change in the United States.

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Gandhi’s lesson is that love of others, love so great as to not ever respond with violence, can in fact change the world.

“You must make the injustice visible, and be prepared to die like a soldier to do so.”

Non-violence, beginning individually and expanding to recognize the divine in others, can change the world, one person at a time.

“I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew and so are all of you.”

Like most internationally recognized individuals, his legacy is not without controversy.

There are accusations of racism when as a young attorney in South Africa he defended the rights of Indian workers to the detriment of indigenous workers. Prejudiced, perhaps. But racist was the system of oppression that he fought first in South Africa and then at home.

“The cry for peace will be a cry in the wilderness, so long as the spirit of nonviolence does not dominate millions of men and women.”

Some respond to the idea of non-violence by saying the world had to use violence to stop Hitler. The argument misses the point. Germans, and German soldiers, could have stopped Hitler by refusing to invade, refusing to fight, refusing to kill or murder. More than 20,000 German citizens would have survived the war, if Allied forces had refused to bomb an unarmed city of civilians.

Violence can be stopped by refusing to be violent; rejecting physical violence, as well as spiritual, emotional, and economic violence.

“An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects. … The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil — man’s greed.”

To read more about Gandhi’s writings, click here.

For a good article about Gandhi, click the image below:

(Bapu is the nickname Gandhi received as the “father,” of India.)

 

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The light of Christ is for all people

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Finding God in the unexpected

From Upper Room Daily Reflections

Finding God in the Unexpected

I FIND GOD in the unexpected,
the unexpected places
where I least expect to find
the presence of the Living God.

It is in these unlikely places
that the undeniable sense of
holy-overwhelming arrests my attention.

I find God in the unexpected,
the unexpected times
when I would rather

wallow around in the muddle of my mind
and rehash old, unresolved issues.

God pierces through the wall of my wailing
and shines glory on my being
so I can see a new path,
a new direction,
a new purpose.

I find God in the unexpected,
in people whose lives seem so fractured.
Yet they, like shards of a mirror,
reflect the image of God so clearly
and profoundly
that God becomes flesh again.

I find God in the unexpected,
those situations that seemed trivial:
a passing comment,
a line from a movie,
an image on a screen.
Serendipity turns spiritual in unguarded moments
because God chooses to speak to me
through the unexpected.

I find God in the unexpected.
Slowly, I’m beginning to learn
to expect God – in the unexpected.

The Africana Worship Book, Year C

“God in the Unexpected” by Kwasi Kena. From The Africana Worship Book, Year C, edited by Valerie Bridgeman Davis and Safiyah Fosua. Copyright © 2008 by Discipleship Resources. Click here for more information

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Jesus is on the side of the oppressed

Jesus is with the people on the fringe of the culture who demand to be treated with respect and dignity.

He is always on the side of the marginalized victims.

Jesus is with refugees and minorities.

Jesus supports the meek and humble.

He stands against oppression.

Jesus is not on the side of the government or those who make it illegal to help the needy.

He is not with those who victimize or threaten the helpless.

Jesus is not on the side of the majority when they walk the streets with rifles.

Repeatedly, Jesus placed himself between victims and the crowds. He opposed religious and government leaders and defended their victims.

We who actually follow Jesus have no choice but to stand up for victims and stand up to oppression.

As Jesus followers, we join him when we oppose racists. Or bigots. Or homophobes. Or misogynists.

You can be on the side of the majority, and sometimes bring Jesus there, when you do the things Jesus would have you do.

You can’t find yourself an oppressor and claim it’s in the name of Christ.

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Teachable moments

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God bless everyone

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Eclipse

Did you see this Facebook profile frame for the eclipse?

This was a sponsored ad from the Institute for Creation Research. It was a paid ad from a religious organization, and most Facebook users had no idea.

Who is ICR?

Let Wikipedia explain:

“The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is a Creationist apologetics institute in Dallas, Texas that specializes in media promotion of pseudoscientificcreation science and interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative as a historical event. The ICR adopts the Bible as an inerrant and literal documentary of scientific and historical fact as well as religious and moral truths, and espouses a Young Earth creationist worldview. It rejects evolutionary biology, which it views as a corrupting moral and social influence and threat to religious belief. The ICR was formed by Henry M. Morris in 1972 following an organizational split with the Creation Science Research Center (CSRC).”

These people call themselves Christian and dedicate their lives to discrediting science and denying humanity’s advances during the Enlightenment.

Beyond making some Christians feel good about themselves, and enriching advocates, this sort of faith-based Biblical ignorance is worse than pointless, it overshadows the authentic message of Jesus.

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible are the Torah, the Pentateuch, which includes Genesis.

Jesus criticized the religious leaders for their spiritless, literal reading of the Torah, a reading that focused on the words of scripture and ignored people.

The people of ICR do the exact same thing that Jesus denounced — they dedicate their careers and energies to strictly interpreting scripture, leaving no room for discussion, different views or for the Spirit of God to move.

There is a Christian cottage industry finding science and history and projected what customers want to see onto the pages of the Jewish scripture. Millions of dollars are made selling to Christians ‘facts’ that support what they already believe.

They are wrong.

Literal interpretation of the Bible willfully ignores the historical and cultural context in which the words were written.

We can tell they are wrong because Jewish people don’t agree with their fundamental, literal reading of Jewish scripture in English. Well, some Jewish people read Genesis literally.

Photo by Eliel Joseph Schafler

The Jewish people who read the Torah literally aren’t visiting LifeWay Christian bookstores or creationist museums.

Even the most conservative, fundamental Torah readers understand that Genesis is archetypal metaphor, not literal.

Christians reading Genesis in English literally are like people who see photos of the eclipse and think they’ve witnessed nature.

These Christians read Genesis and think Adam is a literal person. Every Jewish person reading Genesis in Hebrew knows that Adamah is a literary metaphor mean Mud Man.” Adam isn’t a person. He’s a literary technique to represent all of humanity, both women and men.

Conservative Christians get that wrong, and then proceed to misread the rest of the Bible. And because their faith is built on mistakes, they compound their mistakes by refusing to accept basic science that might contradict their beliefs.

Eventually, scripture gets twisted so badly, that they miss the entire message of Jesus.

Scripture was made for humanity, humanity wasn’t made for scripture.

If your faith leads you to value scripture more than people, then your faith has been eclipsed.

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Both sides

Both sides on the beaches of Normandy weren’t equal.

Both sides at Auschwitz were not responsible. 

Both sides did not cause the Civil War. 

I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

People went to Charlottesville because they are prejudiced racists who want to discriminate against others.

Others went to oppose discrimination.

And the war came.

Like a man who blames the victim, not the rapist, the president claims both sides were responsible for violence in Charlottesville, Aug. 12.

The terrorized are not responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Those who fight to defend freedom are forced to fight by those who would take freedom from others.

The only confusion rests in racist minds.

Neo-Nazis are anti-American, immoral racists. The ‘other side,’ the only decent response, is to oppose Nazis.

The president has clearly sided with the bigots who celebrate traitors:

“So this week it’s Robert E Lee,” Trump said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

It stops when bigots and racists are no longer shamelessly parading through city streets and supported by bigots in the White House.

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A letter for our times

In the aftermath of the chaos in Charlottesville, too many moderates remain silent.

Anti-American, anti-Semitic racists marched through the city brandishing images of bigotry and hate, culminating in a racist white, male, terrorist driving his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer and wounding dozens.

The tepid response was chilling, from the president, from some pulpits and from across the cultural landscape. (For example, of 52 Republican senators, fewer than 10 addressed the racist rally for what it was.)

The racists were emboldened by the president’s silence. Silence equals consent.

It took two days for the president to read a prepared statement condemning the haters.

There is no equivalency of issues or participants.

One side dehumanizes and delegitimizes the humanity of groups of people.

The other side opposes hate and bigotry.

The United States is built on a promise of equality.

Racists oppose equality.

Racism and discrimination victimizes some people and rewards others.

This is wrong.

It’s pathetic that something so simple has to be explained in 2017.

There is a silent, significant segment of the white population that benefits from racist systems and they affirm it with silence or ignorance.

The situation calls to mind another example of white moderates failing to stand up for justice.

In April, 1963, the six year-old faith-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference assisted with organizing protests against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

City officials turned water hoses and police dogs on children and arrested the SCLC’s 34 year-old president.

Eight moderate, white clergymen published a letter calling the demonstrations “unwise and untimely,” urging moderation. As the SCLC President, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. responded with what has  come to be known as King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

It is filled with familiar quotes.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council0r or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.””

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

“In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

The day after the murder in Charlottesville, some ministers who preached about the violence and denounced racism reported opposition from their congregations. At least one minister was immediately told to resign or  be fired.

Many moderates, including too many Christians, have responded to the traitorous racists in Charlottesville with less than outrage.

King has some words for them.

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A line drawn in blood

A new line was drawn on the streets of Charlottesville, Va.

A line as red as the blood on the pavement and as stark as the Nazi flag.

Because the line is clear: those who are on the side of Nazis or those who oppose racist bigots.

If you, your friends, family or fellow church members find any sort of excuse, comparison, or false equivalence associated with Aug. 12, then you are siding with Nazis.

If you do not repudiate and reject everything associated with Nazis, then you are little more than Vichy France.

Donald Trump said there are “many sides” in the issue. He is mistaken. There are two sides: people who support Nazis and people who oppose Nazis.

Nazi. In the streets of Virginia. An hour from my front door.

Not just one racist with a new flag, but Nazi salutes, tee-shirts with Nazi quotes and racist slogans on the college campus designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Nazis and the KKK agree with Trump’s agenda.

Trump doesn’t repudiate their support or the Nazi rhetoric.

In fact, Trump is supported by legendary racist David Duke, who spoke shortly before the rally dissolved into murderous mayhem:

“This represents a turning point, for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we gotta do.”

This isn’t home-brewed, American racism of burning crosses and white hoods. This isn’t bombed churches and cold blooded murder.

This is NAZIS.

Nazis.

The enemy at D-Day, the regime who murdered six million innocent Jewish people in death camps, the greatest organized evil on earth since the Roman Empire. Nazis.

They shouldn’t be difficult to repudiate.

If you agree with Nazis, then you probably have deep character flaws that prevent you from seeing how bad you are.

David Duke is right. Charlottesville should be a turning point.

The line is drawn: those who agree with Nazis and those of us on the side of justice, equality and love.

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God breathes

The breath of God blows through all of creation and through each of us.

The seeds of creation are in each of us.

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden

In Hebrew, the word for Spirit, ruach, means breath. Ruach is a feminine word.

So, in Genesis 1, when

… the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The Spirit is feminine. God blows her breath across the face of the waters.

Any verse in Hebrew scripture that speaks to the Spirit of God is referencing a feminine God. This also applies to the Wisdom of God, which is also feminine.

The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma, which has a similar meaning to ruach.

The English word Spirit comes from the Latin, spiritus, which means breath.

The Spirit of God, the breath of God, blows from the first page of the Hebrew scripture across the Gospels, through thousands of years, to the very breath you take, now.

The Bible written at different times, by different people, in different lands, in different languages, always carries the same breath of God.

The Spirit of God has always existed. Like our own breath, it is constantly present in our lives.

The feminine Spirit moves upon the face of the waters, across the earth, and in our lives.

Each of us, no matter our home or language, carries the Spirit of God.

God is the air we breathe and the life within us.

Each of us is touched by the Divine Breath.

 

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