Convergence1 020516

convergence2 020516

Thoughts that arose while making it:
Using old ways of measuring (understanding) with new ways of being (experience). Old wine skins and new wine. Abandoning the old that no longer serves. False measurements (weights and measures) – not even allowed to have it in your house (might accidentally use it). Government enforced morality. , overt and covert. What is up and what is down? Words raining from the sky.

8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal
Bought ephemera (practice ledger paper) (Asian book page) (Hell money)
Distress ink. Matte medium, glue stick.
White gel pen. Stickers of shoe prints – two kinds.
Created 2/5/16.

Thanksgiving thoughts

I saw this picture recently

pilgrim refugee

…with these words….
1) “Where would we be if the Wampanoag hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

2) “Where would the Wampanoag be if they hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

These are two different thoughts, and both worthy of consideration.

These are good things to think about right now in light of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their very lives from areas of war and oppression. These are good things to think about in the week before we in America celebrate a day dedicated to giving Thanks.

The Pilgrims left England because their way of worship wasn’t allowed. They wanted to worship God in a manner that differed from the official Church of England. The Church of England was, at the time, equivalent with the government of England – go against one, and you’ve gone against the other. The punishment was fines for lesser offenses, and execution for greater ones. They decided to leave rather than change their way of worship, knowing that where they were going to was completely alien to them.

The people who lived in the area the Pilgrims landed were known as the Wampanoag, and they made sure that the Pilgrims had shelter and food. If it weren’t for them, the Pilgrims would have died out in short order as they were not used to living off the land. This is where the first Thanksgiving came from. Two different groups having dinner together. Sharing. Peaceful. Even though they didn’t share the same language or culture, they lived together in harmony.

However, over the course of time, the Pilgrims expanded and pushed out the Wampanoag. The Pilgrims weren’t interested in sharing. They’d forgotten their debt to the Wampanoag. They’d forgotten the tenants of their faith. Their diseases killed off the natives as surely as their guns did. The Wampanoag didn’t have a chance.

Native Americans all over the USA are marginalized. They live in reservations, they have low-paying jobs, little education, and rampant alcoholism. They lived much better before the white people came and imposed their way of life on them in an effort to “help” them. They didn’t need help. They were fine. They only needed help after the Pilgrims (and other settlers) came with their diseases and an insatiable need for more and more land.

How does this relate to today’s issues? If we in America show compassion to people who are different from us, will that result in our being pushed out, in our being killed? Will this nation become a Muslim nation? Wouldn’t this be fair, after what our ancestors did to the natives who were here?

But – should we allow fear to rule our actions? Jesus tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.

Is there another way to act, other than the way we always have? A middle ground?

There is a fabulous re-imagining of Europe meets the Native Americans in Orson Scott Card’s book “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – where time travelers go back to the natives and secretly inoculate them against the diseases. They also strengthen the native’s opinions and actions so they won’t let the Europeans push them down. They are able to live in peace after this.

Our government says they are worried about Sharia Law – forgetting that their ancestors pushed their own version on to the natives. We need a whole new way of thinking – where people share ideas and work together, with nobody higher or lower.

This is an amazing chance for us to learn from the past and re-vision a new future. This is a time of testing, where we can welcome in the stranger and become stronger because of it.

Consider a garden – one with just one kind of flower is boring. Having many makes it look beautiful.

Consider an orchestra – one with just one kind of instrument is dull. Having many makes it sound beautiful.

Consider a soup – one with just one kind of seasoning makes it taste bland. Having a variety makes it taste wonderful.

This is America – the land of immigrants. The land of second chances. The place where we say we are “The melting pot”, where we say “E pluribus unum” – which means “Out of many, one”.

It is time to let love and compassion rule us rather than fear.
It is time to truly be the “Christian” nation we say we are and take in the stranger, the lost, the refugee. Not because they are Christian, but because we are. Not to turn them into Christians, but for us to prove it through our actions.

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Matthew 2:12-15, his adopted father Joseph gets a message from God in a dream to escape their home and flee to a foreign land, because Herod had ordered every child under the age of two to be slaughtered.

“13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (HCSB)

Jesus himself was homeless –

In Matthew 8:20, talking to a man who wants to be his disciple –
20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (HCSB)

We must welcome the refugee. We must do this fearlessly. We must do it because Jesus would do this. As his disciples, we have to.

The life of following Jesus isn’t simply about everlasting life after we die. It isn’t a life where we say the words and get the prize. It is a life where we live, every day, a life of trust and hope and joy, right now, serving everyone as if they are Jesus, and serving everyone as Jesus would serve them.

This is a living faith. Let us act like it.

Children, God, and community.

We need to remember that we aren’t God. We need to remember that everything we have comes from God. And we need to remember that God wants to help us – that we can’t do everything on our own.

When we are sick we have to rely on others to help us get well. We need folks to take us to the doctor, to get us food, to feed us. Then we rely on doctors and nurses to care for us. Sometimes we end up in nursing homes and we rely on people to get us in and out of bed or to wipe our butts when we need to go to the bathroom.

The poet John Donne tells us that no man is an island. When we think we are, that we can do it all on our own, we fail. We do better when we unite and work together.

Children are like that. They are a reminder from God in this way. One person alone has a very hard time taking care of children. It can certainly be done, but it is easier with two. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the Asian concept of multi-generations living together. My Laotian neighbors all live together. An Indian friend tells me that when she moves back to India she’ll be living in her in-laws house. This is good – it saves money. It shares resources – people can share food, time and energy.

Children are from God. We can think that we created them – but we didn’t. We just have sex, and sometimes a child is created. We didn’t do that. It is amazing. It is a miracle. This being, this other person, just happens.

And then, it is very hard to raise this child (We are told it takes a village.) There is day care, mother’s day out. I remember how it was when I worked at the Choo-Choo and parents would say to their child “Don’t hit your sister” or “Keep your hands in your pockets” (as a positive version of “Don’t touch!”) and the child ignored it. But when I said it, it had the force of law – because a whole different person said it. Kids tend to ignore what their parents say – but when a stranger says it – the same it, the same rule, it must be true.

(Originally worked on 12-4-12, edited 4-14-15. I’m still not sure this is fully worked out. I think there are some good ideas in here, but it is more a sketch than a drawing. It was titled “God gives us things so that we have to turn back to God.” But I don’t think it lives up to that.)

Recipe for a new church, in part.

Church isn’t a place or a building. It can’t be burned down or broken into. It can’t be venerated. It isn’t a pilgrimage site.
It would be nice if people can just meet at each other’s houses, rather than have a separate building to have to keep up and pay rent on. If a separate building is required, it would be awesome if it could be multi-faith. Muslims on Friday, Jews on Saturday, Christians on Sunday, and a joining of all three during the rest of the week. This seems like an efficient use of space. Or have it like a community center, where religious groups just happen to meet.

But really, the most important idea is this. Church is within us. Every person has within them the light of God. Every person was created by God. So “church” can be here, online, where we share ideas and encourage each other.

What does it matter if we have huge cathedrals that are filled every week if the people inside are not awake to their divine connection with God? Jesus tells us about the dangers of storing up treasures for ourselves here on earth. He tells us about the danger of losing your own soul, of forgetting our connection with God.

Church is a community of like minded people. The community is meant to build each other up. To encourage and support. To heal. To work together for the fixing of the world.

A church service is anything that helps further the goal of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to love God with all of our hearts and all our minds and all of our souls. We are called to love our neighbors in the same way.

Who are our neighbors? Everyone. We are called to be nice to everyone. Sure that is hard. Jesus tells us that if you love only the nice people, what’s the point? We need to love the mean people because they need it more. We are to treat others as we would like to be treated – not like we have been treated. We are commanded to serve people because we are Christian. It isn’t about us converting them to be Christian. It is about being a servant.

Each person needs to know that God is real, and active, and present. God isn’t a “past tense” God. God is right now.

Each person needs to be empowered to hear from God.

Each person needs to be encouraged to share what they have heard from God.

Prayers should be offered for everyone. This includes those who are gathered, those who are part of the community, all seekers, and all who are lost. Pray for nations and the world. Pray for everyone. The Buddhists have a nice way of praying that asks for all beings to be well.

Prayers need to be balanced. If there are petitions for healing, then there also need to be prayers of thankfulness.

People need to learn how to determine their spiritual gifts, and then how to apply them.

Everyone needs to have a volunteer activity in the community. Faith without works is dead.

This isn’t an ego trip. We aren’t special. We are workers in the field. God owns the field.

Whenever anything new is considered, it must be measured against the command to love. Does it show love?

Everyone is expected to read the Bible, especially the Gospels. It is helpful if they also read any religious text(s) from any other faith tradition they are called to.

We are not here to worship and serve anything or anyone other than the Creator.

It is essential that people do not confuse themselves with God. We are the creation, not the creator. We have within us the light of God. This does not make us God.

There is no leader. Everybody takes turns. This is a journey together.

We are all walking up this mountain together, and we are here to encourage each other and point out things along the way. This includes butterflies as well as rocks. (beauty as well as danger)

It may help to have certain items as part of the worship service. But these things must not be venerated. They are reminders or signifiers. They point toward the truth, but they are not the truth. These things could include candles, incense, icons, or bells for instance. We are corporal beings, and sometimes we need corporal ways to access the spirit.

The goal is for each person to awaken to their own divine nature, and then take that awareness out. Each person is the Buddha, each person is the Christ. Each person, once awakened then needs to make that nature visible through action. How do we bring healing to the world?

Love made visible. Social action.

Go have a walk afterwards, and then have lunch together. It is important to get exercise, and it is important to share food together. It is what Jesus did with the disciples, so it is what we should do. If the group goes out to eat, be sure to be nice to the waitress and tip well. So many Sunday patrons are really rude to the staff. “How you treat the least of these…” didn’t get into their heads. If you are rude to the staff, then you didn’t hear the message. You are reflecting badly on God and His followers.

How you act reflects on God. Watch yourself at all times. How would I act if this person were Jesus?

Encourage exercise – walking, yoga, water aerobics, whatever.
Encourage creativity – painting, embroidery, beading, writing, whatever.
Encourage prevention rather than cure.