Consider Superman

He had a real job, working at the Daily Planet. Mild mannered, unassuming, he did his work reporting the news. It was a passive job, relating to others about all the terrible things that were happening in the community and the world.

Meanwhile, he was Superman all along. On his off time, he did what he really wanted to do. When not at work, he did the real work of making the world better. Instead of reporting about all the bad that was happening, he did good to make the bad not happen.

Why couldn’t he make that his real job? Why couldn’t he get paid to do that all the time, instead of having to do this on his own time?

And how much does this speak to us, we who feel powerless to effect change in the world? Those of us who feel like we have to wait until we retire to do what we really want?

Why do people who want to make a difference in the world have to start their own businesses? Is there not a market for good? Is the world only happy with hearing about the bad, rather than making a difference for good?

Poem – Civil?

Why do we say it is
“civilization”
when we
tear down trees,
dig up rocks,
flatten hills,
evict the animals,
and build
a new subdivision
or a mall
or a freeway?

How is it “civilized”
or even human
in the sense of smart
in the sense of forward thinking
to destroy what is there,
to not live with the land
to remove shade
to remove our source of oxygen
to remove birdsong

to render the colors
into the grey
of asphalt
and the pastels
of house paint?

Why do we have to go away
from our homes
our “civilization”
to feel more at home
in our bodies?

We go to the mountains
to the seaside
to the country
to find ourselves.

We are lost
in the
“civilization”
we created
for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it make
more sense
to live with the land
to live with the
trees and wildflowers and birds and deer and opossum
and not tear it down
to grow our own trees and
plant our own flowers
and bring our own pets?

We say we like nature,
but only if it is on our own terms.
We like it if we can control it
and name it.

We shortchange our souls
to be civilized.

Does your dog bite?

Remember this skit from “The Pink Panther”?
“Does your dog bite?”
“No.”
(reaches down to pet the dog, and it bites him)
“I thought you said your dog does not bite!”
“That is not my dog.”

I just read an article about putting a yellow ribbon on dog’s collars to indicate that they are skittish. The yellow ribbon indicates to people that the dog should be approached with caution. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog is aggressive. It can simply mean that the dog isn’t as friendly as could be.

Perhaps the dog is new to the owner. Or the dog has been abused. Maybe the dog is receiving medical treatment. No matter what the cause, it means that the dog should be approached very carefully and cautiously.

I suggest that instead of putting a ribbon on a dog to indicate that the dog should be approached carefully, it makes more sense to treat all dogs as if they are suspect. People need to learn how to approach all dogs that they do not know. Children especially need to be taught that if they do not know a dog they need to be careful around it. They need to learn how to behave in such a manner that will make the dog feel safe. It is better to train people than mark the dog.

So what are some good things to do when you encounter a new dog? This is by no account a definitive list of what to do, but it is a good start.

Stand still, and don’t make any sudden moves. Keep your arms to your sides.

Speak in a calm, quiet voice to the dog.

Do not make direct eye contact – look to the side of the dog.

Notice how the dog is behaving. Here are behaviors that indicate trouble: Hackles are raised. Dog is growling or baring teeth. The dog gets in a fighting stance – lower shoulders, feet wider. Ears are flattened. Tail is low.

If the dog still seems friendly, you can lower yourself to the dog’s level – but don’t get on your hands and knees. You want to appear lower to the dog so you aren’t threatening, but don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t escape if the dog starts to attack.

Let the dog approach you. If the dog chooses not to approach, respect that and move on.

If the dog approaches you, put out your hand, palm down, fingers curled in. This exposes only the back of your hand to the dog. Let the dog smell your hand.

If the dog accepts you at this point, then you may try to pet the dog –but move slowly at this point as well. Try to pet the dog in a way that he can still see your hand. Speak in a calm quiet voice to the dog and don’t make any sudden moves.

Remember, not all dogs need to be petted.
Especially do not pet or call to a dog that is assisting someone. Service animals are working, and it is important to not distract them while they are assisting their master.

Crone

I’m celebrating the fact that I’m now a crone. Not an old, withered, ugly woman. Crone in the sense of a elder woman of the tribe. Crone in the sense that I’ve successfully navigated “the Change”.

We don’t talk a lot about our bodies in this culture, and we certainly don’t talk a lot about our emotions. Well, sure, we talk about our bodies in the sense that we say we are too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny – we never are just right. Goldilocks would be right at home in our society, where the majority of things aren’t enough. We talk about the external parts of our bodies, but nothing about what really matters. We certainly don’t talk about menopause or menstruation.

Some cultures have such taboos about the natural rhythms of women’s bodies that they force women to behave differently when they are menstruating. Men won’t touch them, even to shake hands. This includes their husbands. If they are married, they sleep in separate beds during that time. Some societies force young girls to stop going to school the minute they hit puberty. Some are forced to marry so that they don’t become pregnant without the benefit of a man to support them. Somehow they forget that it was a “man” who would have gotten the unmarried girl pregnant in the first place. But that is a post for another day.

No, we don’t talk about menstruation at all. We call it by other names – “Aunt Flo is visiting”, “The Curse”, “my monthly visitor”… the list of euphemisms is endless. We don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want to deal with it. We’d like it to just go away.

Except we don’t know what to do when it starts going away, either. We start to think that something is wrong. Some women try to medicate it, by tricking their bodies with artificial hormones. Some women will get a hysterectomy to stop having to deal with it at all. The only thing is that the cessation of periods is natural. It isn’t a disease. It doesn’t have to be treated with medicine.

But, we are part of a culture that doesn’t like change, and it doesn’t like any sign of getting older. Women dye their hair rather than let their silver crown shine. We’ll get botox injections rather than have wrinkles. We’ll put powder on our faces to fill in lines. We hide the facts of time. In our desperate efforts to keep everything the same, we miss the valuable gifts that change can offer us.

Menopause is the complete cessation of periods. A woman is not in menopause until she has not had a period for a year. In the years before that, she is in perimenopause, where the body is adjusting to the changes.

I like to think of is as being similar to a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly.

It really is more than just a physical change. It is a transformation. The more I tried to hold on to old ways of being, the harder it was. I am grateful for drums, writing, painting and collage for being the tools I used to navigate the new terrain. I suspect learning to cook, eating better, and exercising helped a lot too.

I didn’t have a guide for this journey. My mother died when I was 25, and her response to dealing with this life event was to not deal with it. She took hormones, so she didn’t have any of the sensations that come along with this stage in life.

Note that I said “sensations”, not “symptoms”. “Symptoms” indicates disease. Do we think of puberty as a disease? Do we try to treat it with drugs? No. We get through it, transforming from one part of our lives to another. Our “growing pains” are seen as normal when we are young, but abnormal, even pathological, when we are older.

Changing into a crone is like trying to walk across a quickly moving stream. The steps are not easily visible, and they can be treacherous. Sometimes you have to stand still for a while to see what the next step is. Sometimes you have to take a different path than you intended. The terrain is constantly shifting and uncertain. The goal is to get to the other side safely. The trick is that the only way to do that is to become someone else.

I learned that certain foods I always loved were suddenly bad for me. Foods that caused me joy now turn me into a raging meanie. I learned that other foods that I never liked are now very tasty. I learned that my body and my spirit work much better the more fresh vegetables I eat, rather than processed or fried foods. I learned that I need a lot less meat than society tells me I do. I learned that a strictly vegetarian diet isn’t for me.

I learned that I need less sleep. Related to that, I learned that if I don’t make time to write, the ideas will well up inside me and force me to get up to write them down. I learned that I have to make time to be creative every day.

The creative energy is the main part here. The body is no longer able to create – to reproduce. But that need to create is still there. That force is just transforming into a different form. Consider water – it is still the same atoms whether it is ice, steam, or water. But it looks and acts different in these different states.

The trick about becoming a crone is that it is your path, and you must navigate it yourself. I celebrate it, because it was a chance to reinvent, rediscover who I am.

It reminds me of when I went to college. I initially went to college in a different state than I had grown up in. Nobody knew me there. I had the opportunity to be anybody I wanted. I chose to be myself.

The time right before menopause gives you that same opportunity. Who are you? Who are you really? What do you want to be when you grow up? Is what you are doing now leading towards or away from that goal? Are the things you are doing with your time supporting or taking away from who you are called to be? If not, why not?

Use this time as an opportunity to become the person you truly are, rather than the person you’ve always been told you were. Use this time to reexamine everything – hobbies, job, relationships… Do they build up, or tear down?

This is your path. Celebrate it.

Paid ministers or not?

Are ministers supposed to be paid or not? What does Jesus say about this?

Here, he is sending out his disciples, giving them instructions.

Matthew 10:7-10
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give. 9 Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; 10 no wallet for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food.

So they received freely, so they should give freely. Got it. So they should heal people for free, because that was a gift they received for free.

Then they are told to take no money with them, not even taking a wallet or extra provisions. People are supposed to give them what they need, because “the laborer is worthy of his food.” Some translations say “the worker is worthy of his keep” so it isn’t just about food, but everything. So that sounds like they should take what is offered to them as their salary.

But what about a minister who has special training? What if he had to go to school to learn, and has thousands of dollars of debt because of that? Was that freely received? Should he expect a salary or a stipend?

Ministers have to eat, and have shelter, just like everybody else. So what should they do?

Not worry, because God knows what we need.
8 Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

We are not to store up anything.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: (Matthew 6:19)

Ultimately, we are to not worry about anything, because God will provide.

25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus lived like this – not in a fancy house, but homeless. He gave thanks for whatever he was given. He didn’t ask for anything, and trusted that God would provide. This too is part of being a minister, a disciple, a follower of Jesus. If we are to truly follow him, we are to live like him.

Matthew 8:19-20
19 And there came a scribe, and said unto him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

(All Bible translations are ASV, which is public domain)

What is the Church?

Let us look at what Jesus meant when he came to build his Church. When he was speaking to his disciples, he asked them who they thought he was.

Matthew 16:15-18
15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

The church is built up not of stones, but of everyone who the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to. The foundation of Jesus’ church was a human being.

After Jesus threw out the money changers in the Temple, the Jewish authorities challenged him. He turned around the idea of what the Temple is.

John 2:19-21
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

At Jacob’s well, speaking with the Samaritan woman, he told about how God is to be worshipped everywhere, not in a particular place. The Samaritan woman is talking in the first verse.

John 4:20-24
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. 22 Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

We are not to amass money.

Matthew 19:21
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

So church isn’t a building, or a place. It is us. We, the believers who have had the truth of Jesus revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, are to worship God in spirit and truth, wherever we are. We aren’t to spend our money to build cathedrals with gold and stained glass windows. We are to glorify God by our service to God’s children, our neighbors.

Rise up, not riot

The riots in Ferguson speak to the pain and frustration that the black community feels. Yet they are saying the wrong thing. They are saying that violence and destruction is standard operating procedure for the black community.

We all know that isn’t so. We all know that the majority of our black neighbors are kind, hard-working and polite. In short, they aren’t thugs and hoodlums. Sadly though, good doesn’t sell in the news, so we don’t see their stories on the evening news. The only problem is that there are thugs and hoodlums. They aren’t just stories. The only problem is that there are “baby daddies” and “welfare moms” aplenty. Clichés come from reality. The actions of the few speak for the whole and they drag down everybody.

When college educated black youths are made fun of for “talking white” when they speak clearly it drags down everybody. When some black employees “play the race card” to stay employed even though they are doing half the work (or only there half the time) it drags down everybody.

Yes, it is time to rise up but not with riots and destruction. If the black community wants to make a real change, to be really heard, there needs to be a collective decision to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.

Use the library to get books not DVDs. And by books I mean educational and uplifting ones, not ones that teach the same old script of “thug meets girl, thug uses girl”. The entire genre of “urban erotic fiction” is dumbing-down black women and enslaving their hearts and minds.

Celebrate education rather than ignorance. Sure misery loves company but miserable people aren’t good to hang out with. Rise up past the peer pressure and the collective dumbing down of our society.

Get healthy. Good health leads to strong minds and spirits. Eat better. Exercise. All these things are doable even with limited means. If we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t we get free. If we look for openings rather than closed doors we will see them. Quit smoking and go for a walk instead. Avoid all sugar, caffeine and fried and salty foods. These socially accepted addictions are dragging down us all.

Sure we have a race problem in America. Sure we have a long way to go. Sure there have been problems on both sides of the race wall. Sure people are going to say that I don’t get it because I’m white and have white privilege.

Yet I do know what it is like to feel dragged down by my peers who wanted me to be as petty and lazy as them, the worst version of lowest common denominator. I got a college degree and they are still working in fast food. I do know what it is like to have a learning disability and rise up above it through hard work. It is why I now tutor learning-disabled kindergartners. I do know what it is like to be obese and addicted to drugs. It is why I write now to show there is a way out.

It isn’t easy to change but it is possible. Change starts one step at a time, one person at a time. The strong have to encourage the week. Good deeds and efforts soon start to outweigh the bad and momentum is achieved.

All this may sound like I’m blaming the black community when it was certainly the fault of police who shoot unarmed, unresisting black youths. It is certainly the fault of the judicial system that lets the guilty go free. We need to work on that too but that will take longer. Right now the first and best change has to start from within. Each individual has to decide to stand up and walk away from the old rules and the old clichés. Each individual needs to lift up everybody else with their actions. It is about caring for yourself and our community through the true empowerment that comes from education and health.