The “M” word (A blast from my internet Past)

I wrote the following piece for my Myspace (remember that?) blog over a decade ago. It was after what was probably the 10,000th rejection on some dating site where the person, even after several days of communicating with each other and seeming mutually interested in each other, suddenly decided to freak out because I happened to be a minster. Or maybe it was after dodging the question for a few exchanges (I never explicitly said it on my dating profiles, in fact I rarely mention what I did on them, since I do a lot of “things” and don’t believe we should be defined solely by how we earn our paycheck, but that’s a rant for another day.)

But I know it was after one of those rejections that went something like “I really like you a lot, but I can’t get around the fact that you’re a ‘Holy Man,'” or “I really loved that great goodnight kiss we had, and I had lots of fun, but when I got home suddenly my Catholic upbringing kicked in and I freaked out about kissing a man of God.”

Or “I didn’t know you were allowed to date.”

I’m sharing this now, not because I’m having an issue with that sort of thing again (I’m actually not- I dating someone who is only mildly freaked out that I’m a minister) but actually because of a meme posted on one of the Progressive Christian Facebook sites I participate in.

preachers are peopleI posted on Facebook that people also forget we’re human. And as a minister I’ve never seen myself as “God’s special ambassador and purveyor or morality on earth.” I just see myself as someone on a spiritual journey, who’s aware that he’s on a spiritual journey…and I share my stories and struggles in the hopes that people find the permission (and maybe a few tools) to go on their own.

If that makes sense.

I think of myself as sort of a cross between a storyteller like Garisson Kelior, and a coach/cheerleader like Knute Rockne, encouraging people to think, and explore… And mostly step beyond their comfort zone, to that place where as the late Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Life begins.”

So here is this little, somewhat edited, piece  written I forgot exactly when, as sort of a combination cathartic rant, and a humorous introduction to what it’s like to deal with  a certain aspect of my life. And being single as well.

Enjoy (I hope),


The “M” word…

Okay I’m going to bite the bullet here and blog about something that has been brewing in the back of my brain for a number of years now, but has really come to a head in the last few weeks as I embarked on my little “MySpace adventure”…I have noticed that I get a huge number of profile views (I don’t know what the average is among guys in my age range is but on some days I’m not surprised to see that I got nearly 100 views in a few hours.) But for all of those “lookers” that the little counter on the side of my screen indicates, I seem to get relatively few “takers.”

Not that I’m crying in my Wheaties from loneliness or anything, I’ve got more than enough 19 year old bi-sexual “Spambots,” and “Nigerian Sunday Skool Teachers” sending me plenty of mail. And to be honest, those “normal” women who have actually written to me have, for the most part, been nice seemingly sane people in possession of MOST of their faculties and social skills. Seriously, I’ve met some great people here, and have enjoyed getting to know many of them. (You know who you are ‘cause you’re reading my blog.)

But I’m just curious, do most of us who are not hot blond women get a lot of profile views, and only a few actual contacts? I know I browse profiles all the time, and unless it is a person I recognize, probably only contact about one for every 50 I view (but I just figure I’m unusually picky.) Or is it because I am a guy, and still in the 21st century, the men are supposed to be the ones initiating the contact?

Or is it because I happen to be a *GASP* minister?

Yes, you saw correctly, I am a Minister…and Christian Minister at that. I call myself Christian, but I have studied and used the texts and insights from all religions in my teachings. I believe that God (the word I use, but not necessarily the right word or the only word) is like the center of a great wheel, and all religions are but spokes of that wheel all pointing to the source, the Divine. I believe that all of them, including then one you may have noticed, if you read my blogs that I rail vocally against- Fundamentalist Evangelism for instance,  have a valid place in society…even if I don’t agree with their tenants. Each touches people at whatever level they are at….I just wish some of them wouldn’t be so vocal about certain things.

My view of ministry, is that it is a specialty, like medicine or law, or finances- only I help advise people on their spiritual journey, it’s like being a really underpaid therapist who gets to marry and bury people…and has to work on Sundays.

Okay, so I said it, I am a minister…

but that doesn’t mean I’m an uptight, boorriiiing, tea tottling, no-fun, straight-laced, Jesus Freak, who doesn’t drink, doesn’t have sex and doesn’t swear, wants to try to convert you and you have to “behave yourself” around me! If you read my blogs, or anything linked in my profile, then you will find that I am extremely liberal, open minded, and non-judgmental; I write erotica, I do have sex on occasion, I have been known to imbibe, and sometimes I swear like a sailor… So it’s not like I have a collar permanently glued to my throat, or anything.

This means that you can actually take me out in public and your friends won’t be afraid to have fun or tell dirty jokes around me…I might even laugh at them (especially if they involve a priest and rabbi walking into a bar) I consider myself to be extremely irreverent, primarily because I believe God is too important to be take so seriously…I have a great collection of religious kitsch including Jesus action figures (one with “Miracle Glide Action,” believe it or not) and one of my favorite movies is Dogma with “saints” Jay and Silent Bob…

Oh, and you don’t have to call me “Father,” or “Pastor,” or even “Reverend” for that matter, and if you do I’ll probably start giggling….Most of my friends, if they call me anything other than Michael, or “dork,” call me “revvy” (yes with 2 r’s.)

So yeah, I’m not a stick in the mud, and to look at me in my blue jeans and my collection of vintage tacky Hawaiian shirts, you wouldn’t even know I was a “man of the cloth.” In fact if I walked up to you bookstore or a bar, and started to talk to you, you might even want to get to know me better… After all, I’m smart, charming, funny, (some have said) handsome, and really nice. …But ask me what I “do” and if I’m not quick enough to answer gastroenterologist, or international diamond importer, or garbage collector or something equally sexy like that, and I actually say the dreaded “M” word, then watch the whole “mating ritual” sink faster than the titanic…You can almost see the thought balloon with the words “He’s boring and is probably a virgin to boot,” float above their heads….

My friends love to drop the “m-bomb” in odd places, like when we’re sitting in a bar after a hockey game drinking tequila and there’s a group of their friends around…Especially if there happens to be an attractive young lady in the group that they know I would like to meet. Two of my closest friends, a married couple, are former congregants of mine from my last church; we do a lot of things together, like local attend sporting events and going out for a post game drink at a neighboring sports bar…They delight in introducing me to their friends as “their minister” and watching the reactions they get. On occasion they get asked what they are doing drinking with their minister…My friend Carolyn, always one to speak her mind, has occasionally answered “trying to get him laid…”

Quite loudly I might add….

If you want to know more about the “secret life” of us ministers, check out the couple of videos that the wonderful folks at the slateprojectbmore  who’s motto is “Christianity without the crap” have made called “Sh*t Pastors Say.”

(Editors Note)
While getting ready to post this puppy I decided to search my hard drive for something else I wrote of a similar vein. Something a lot more passionate and/or angry, written after a dating situation like I mentioned above happened. I was talking online and on the phone to a woman who at first seemed not bothered by my calling to ministry, in fact she had a brother who was one. We communicated for I think a week before meeting, shared some deep conversations about life and love and stuff. We finally agreed to meet, spent a lovely and fun afternoon together, and parted with a nice, not overly sexual kiss, and with the promise of seeing each other again later in the week.

The next day I got a message or a call from her saying basically she thought I was great, that we had a lot in common blah blah blah… And even enjoyed the kiss.

But shes said (there’s always a but isn’t there? ) hours later she was surprised to find herself uncomfortable with being involved in any sexual/romantic way with a minister. And this was after a week of getting reassurances for her that she didn’t have any issue, until the rubber met the road that was (or maybe the “lips met the lips.”)

So I wrote THIS…

The “M” Word

 No, not “man”

The other one…

(Remove the “a,” replace with “I” and add some more to the end)

Yeah, that word…

You know what I mean…

The word that chases you away…

Turns you off…

Removes me from consideration…

But before you write me off

And skip to the next dating profile.

Look beyond the collar

(It isn’t glued on by the way, and it’s something which I hardly wear)

Look beyond what you think it means…

“Boring”

“Chaste”

“Straight laced”

“Stick in the mud”

“No fun”

“Holy” (whatever the hell that means.)

Or what you feel it represents…

“Conservative”

“Fundamentalist”

“Ant-gay”

“Anti-sex”

“Anti-science”

“Judgmental”

None of which I am…

Those are your preconceptions, not my reality.

 Put your thumb over “that” word

And read the rest of the profile…

And look at me…

I dance

I drink

I laugh

I laugh

I have fun

I fuck (and yes I even swear)

I live… (And not on some pedestal either.)

Not any closer to heaven than you are…

But here in the very real world.

I’m the guy walking past you in the market, at the concert,

Or sitting at the bar.

Before you skip past my profile

Because of that word…

Ask me how I see my “vocation.”

Therapist

Teacher

Motivational Speaker

Facilitator

Commentator on every person’s walk with faith

Or lack of it…

Not separate

Nor apart

Or different…

Human…

Just a regular guy…

 And minister is just a small part of who I am…

I’m so much more…

pastors r people

Save

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Rev. Greta Vosper, “atheist minister” on CBC radio this morning.

gretta vosper

Back in August I wrote a piece in support of United Church of Canada Minister, the Rev. Greta Vosper and her hope to keep her job despite identifying as an atheist.”

This morning she was featured on CBC’s wonderful program The Current. You can listen to an update on her story here.

I don’t agree 100% with her view on things, I’m still admittedly working through my own beliefs, but I support her fully, and believe that as long as her parishioners support her and are willing to take the journey/have this dialogue with her, then I believe she should be able to keep her job.

In the quest for religion not questioningmature spirituality, I believe it is important to have this sort of dialogue, to ask these sort of questions… to question our beliefs.

As a minister, I personally do not feel my role is to tell people what to believe. I believe that I my job is to provide tools for everyone’s own self discovery about themselves, and about the “God of their own understanding.” And by sharing my own spiritual journey my hope is that it gives people permission to venture on their own.

I admire Rev. Vosper’s strength and courage, and that of those who are taking the journey with her, her congregants. And I hope that she feels the love and support of those of us who have it for her.

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Reblog “My Emancipation From American Christianity” By John Pavlovitz

only in america
If it seems I’ve dropped off the face of the earth again. In some ways I have. I’m recovering from the passing away of two friends at the end of November, one of them was my closest confidant.

I lost my dear friend Bonnie Balcerzak Caprara. Bonnie was the one I turned to in my darkest hours, she was my nonjudgmental ear when I needed it most. She knew all my “secrets.” She was also one of my biggest cheerleaders, it was her who encouraged me to start this blog, and helped me negotiate the often confusing world of wordpress. She was a regular reader and commentator on this blog (sometimes forgetting she was signed in under the alt she posted one of her blogs under.)

She also was encouraging me to re-visit the work I did years ago on Sex and Spirituality and begin blogging on the subject as well as turning my insights and research into a book on what she saw as an important and possibly healing subject for many.

I had the painful honor of officiating her memorial. (Unfortunately minutes after learning that my neighbor Ron had also passed away.)

So, it’s no surprise that I’m feeling lot of pain right now, and as we go into the holiday season, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of my big Brother’s passing on Christmas Eve, I don’t see this funk leaving me anytime soon (especially without Bonnie to lend me an ear.)

I learned a long time ago to just ride with these things, rather than suppress them and have them come out as rage and/or severe, debilitating depression. One of the keys to battling back from the suicidal depression of 20 years ago was the realization that emotions are like vegetables, they’re mean to be served fresh. Even the ones we perceive as “negative” like anger, or sorrow, or grief. So I’m feeling my feelings and trying to nurture myself through this dark time as best I can.

Anyway, that’s not why I wrote today. Though I wanted folks to know.

I wrote today to  once again share something powerful written by John Pavlovitz. This goes along, I think, with my posting a few weeks ago about defining myself as an atheist… I know longer see God or Christ through the myopic and perversely distorted lens that it has become. A Christianity and a God-view that at it’s most ridiculous declares a red coffee cup to be an attack on it, and where it at it’s most obscene celebrates mass murder at a Planned Parenthood Clinic, or at least turns a silent eye and voice to it (which to me is giving tacit support to it.)

I’m just as tired as John Pavlovitz is. I’m just as angry.

I’m tired of what Christianity has been twisted into, especially in the last 30years here in America.

I’m also  tired of  the damage done over the last 2000 years to my gay brothers and sisters, my Native Brothers and Sisters, my Muslim Brothers and Sisters, my pagan brothers and sisters, my black brothers and sisters.

I’m tired of the  harm that MAN has caused by perverting the teachings of Jesus about a LOVING GOD, about having compassion and who turned Christianity into an anvil to hurt and a prison to oppress.

I too am tired and angry at the arrogance of those on the right, who say you can’t be a liberal and be a Christian. When the version of Christ that they claim to follow has been so twisted and perverted for their own end that it has become just the opposite of what was taught in the gospels.  Only man has the arrogance to supplant a loving God with teachings that contradict HIM.

We got it wrong…for 2,000 years we got it wrong, we’ve warped Jesus’ teachings, especially in America into something ugly, something hurtful. We’ve politicized it for selfish reasons,  we’ve created churches that argue which screwed up interpretation is right, and bludgeon each other with it….We kill in the name of God….In the name of Jesus, and we’re more upset by a coffee up, than poverty, or the obscenity of killing in Jesus name? It’s time to say that’s enough… and start trying to undo the harm our arrogance has done.

I haven’t given up on God, or Jesus…I’ve just given up on the twisted version of it being practiced today, especially here.

And I am no longer giving my tacit approval of it, by staying silent.

Thank you John for once again having the courage to articulate powerfully what so many of us feel.

pavlovitz headshot

John Pavlovitz

My Emancipation From American Christianity

 

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Je Suis Paris, Je Suis Beirut, Je Suis the World.

earthmournresizeHere we go again. We look on in horrors, in Paris, and Beirut over the last 2 days once again as  violence and hate fills our screens and our airwaves… We look on and wonder who to blame.

We look on in anger.

We look on in rage.

We look on in fear.

Mostly we look on frozen, because we don’t know what to do.

I sit here tonight aching, and crying and trying to figure out what I’m going to preach on Sunday, to a congregation of strangers expecting me to preach on gratitude and thanksgiving, when there’s little of that tonight.

I ache for those in the world affected by these outrageous acts…those who lost loved ones.

But I also weep  for my Muslim brothers and sisters, the ones killed in Beirut by those who claim to be the voice of them, the TRUE (i.e. fundamentalists) believers who kill all who disagree.

I mourn for the forgotten Muslims who died on 9-11, along with Christians, Jews, Atheists, and others… but those we ignore…

I  worry for those the brunt of the blame…The many innocents vilified due to the heinous  actions of the few. I look at the hijab wearing women and the dark skinned men in my neighborhood who look out for me, and for each other…I think about the  young, mostly female Muslim medical students who collected money for me, and checked on me constantly after they learned of my home burning down…and I worry about them too over the next few days.

And I want to scream at the fundamentalists of my own faith who are too blind to see that they are not different in their thoughts, and sometimes even their actions.

I fear my own internal cynicism, that wonders if the world really desires peace… I think about Israel, and Palestine and Syria, and the Ukraine… and Fergusen.

and, and, and, too many ands

And I wonder f all our work toward peace, and love is is for naught…

If  my work is for naught.

And mostly I wonder what if anything more I can do.

In the midst of it all I see the  words of someone I quote here often, John Pavlotiz, who once again manages to articulate what I need to hear…and what I want to say, so much better that I can seem to do.

So what do we do when we so want to do something?

We give a damn.

We allow the grief of strangers to become our own.
We make ourselves co-owners of their fear.
We allow ourselves to be wounded along with them.
We place their overwhelming burdens upon our own shoulders.

We pray and we cry, and together we raise a mighty, defiant middle finger to those who believe that the goodness and light of who we are can ever be overcome.

Yes, hate is powerful but it never, ever wins. Never.

No matter how much violence says, love will always have the last, loudest word.

And together while we wait patiently on this promise, in the midst of all that we do not know and cannot understand, we do the only thing we can do without delay for our brothers and sisters in Paris who are bleeding right now.

We bleed too.

The rest of his post can be found here…

Nearly 20 years ago I made a bamboo flute, and on an Easter Sunday I was moved beyond moved to give the flute to someone I had just met, James Twyman, the “Peace Trubador” a man who made it his mission to bring music to war torn lands, Sarajevo, Beirut, anywhere where brother took arms up against brother, he played music based on the peace prayers of the 12 major religions.

I was so moved by him and his music that I ran out to my car and gave him the very first (and one of only 3 flutes I ever made) . A week later he played at the United Nations, and during one of the songs, he played that very flute.

For some reason tonight as I ached, not only for the people of Paris, but for the world…and for those who strive for peace in a world that seems not to want it, I thought of him…and my flute.

I don’t know what he’s thinking tonight as the world watches the events in Paris, many with hate in their hearts… I don’t know what became of my flute… But for some reason I am compelled tonight to share his version of the Prayer of St. Francis.I have to say I hate the video…it like so much attached to him these days is too New Agey for me… But the music, and the prayer and his interpretation of it touches me on this cold painful night.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

mrrogersparis

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Of water fleas and “God.”

Note-I really should be polishing up Sunday’s sermon, but sometimes the universe has a way of nudging us in a different direction. Woody Allen said it best, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

My boss at the NMDJ (non ministerial day job) and good friend Jim’s life was possibly saved this week by something that I never heard of before called a water flea. He had eye surgery the other day, and one of the concerns that came up beforehand was that he may have had a genetic predisposition against certain chemicals in the anesthetic they were going to use for his surgery; his body may not have been able to process it out of his system effectively. In other words he may have had the same allergy to the medicine that his mother had, and could have ended up with some paralysis, respiratory issues, or even a stroke.

But because of research using water fleas, which share similar genetic traits as us in terms of (evidently, and I’m no scientist here, so bare with me) the mechanism that gets rid of anesthetics in our own bodies, this potential major problem was avoided.

This little fella, isn't it cute?

This little fella, isn’t it cute?

A “water flea.” a tiny something that you can barely see, and that on a molecular level we share similarities with, and because of those similarities my boss came out of surgery ok.

Wow, how cool, eh? How miraculous! Makes me think  of faith the size of a mustard seed.

I was reminded of this today while looking at facebook. On one of the Progressive Christian discussion groups I participate in someone, probably of a conservative bent, posted this meme, more than likely to mock the idea of evolution. To say that the science is wrong, and it’s also probably a plot by liberals to disprove and/or deny the existence of God.

fruitflyWhen I saw that, I thought of the sand flea, and realized that the troll on facebook failed miserably to prove his point. He was trying to say that since there is so much genetic similarity in everything, therefore (to his over simplistic understanding of the theory of evolution) we couldn’t have evolved from monkeys and therefore evolution is wrong. This person was “nyah nyahing” science by throwing a Fox News worthy stupefyingly simplistic understanding (or lack) of evolution at us to prove their “point.” I mean even reading this “Genetics for Dummies” explanation of what the theory of evolution really means should prove how idiotic his argument is.

The awesomeness of evolution and science is not that it denies God, but that it shows the magnificence of creation, and how on the tiniest of levels we are ONE with the UNIVERSE and EACH OTHER. It shows us that whatever created us (which many of us call God) made us all as Carl Sagan said so well (and Neil DeGrasse Tyson copied,) that astronauts have realized after looking at earth from space (as I pointed out in this sermon,) and countless mystics, both ancient and modern have experienced, out of “starstuff.”

tyson stardustThat everything in the universe (and possibly countless other universes) is all one; that we’re all one.

That’s pretty freaking amazing if you ask me. This doesn’t diminish my faith in something greater than me, it expands it.

But what it does do, and I think that is what scares so many, like the person who posted that meme, is that it forces us to redefine GOD and remove IT from the tiny box we forced it into with our ignorance, pettiness and superstitions. We hold a definition of “God” in our minds that came from a bunch of people, who if they heard SIRI’s voice coming out of our Iphone would accuse us of witchcraft. We take our understanding of the ever expanding universe from people who believed that mental illness was demonic, that thunder was God being angry, that natural disasters were God’s wrath raining down on us, people who didn’t understand germ theory.

Who thought the earth was flat.

flat earth map 1893

Flat Earth Map, Orlando Fergussen, 1893

In the 21st century we still believe they somehow were “wiser” than us, and we blindly use their definitions to explain the unexplainable, fathom the unfathomable.

Our “definition” of God, needs to grow up with our AWARENESS. Science doesn’t prove GOD is wrong, it proves how much GOD GOT RIGHT, and we HUMANS got wrong in limiting our definitions of God to just those made by people with less knowledge and understanding than us, with less sophistication than us.

We shouldn’t be afraid of science and evolution because to me, it points us to how magnificent and how awe inspiring the universe is and, since we’re made of the same stuff as the universe, how awesome we are as well.

This is exactly what I’ve been working on in my own spiritual journey, here in my blog, this idea of a “Grown Up God.” The idea that we need to get away from these small minded superstitious views of God that is afraid of science, of new ideas, of new knowledge. The mindset that put it in a tiny box eons ago and refuses to let it out while the universe that God created continues to expand, as does our knowledge of it.

GodOutOfTheBoxDefining something limits it. Putting a tag on you limits you, right? If I said I was a minister, that says only what I do to earn one of my tiny pay checks…But that isn’t all that I am, I am also an audio/visual specialist at a medical school, I’m also a cook, artist, vintage base ball umpire, homebrewer, friend, son, lover, brother, uncle, etc…even these labels don’t fully define who I am. Hell, some of these facets of me didn’t exist 10 years ago

If we can’t simply define ourselves and each other, then how can we easily define God? If we can’t even use a definition of ourselves from 10 years ago to sum us up, why would we expect to limit our understanding of “God” several millennia ago too?

And maybe even calling he/she/it/whatever, “God?” I’m not sure yet.

I’ve always been fascinated with the Dagara people of Burkina Fasso Africa, a people who are considered some of the most spiritually cognizant people on the planet. According to Dr. Malidoma Some, author of Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, they exist in a world where there is no separation between the secular and the spiritual and that the “Material is just the spiritual taking shape.” They don’t even have a word for God, just a “nickname,” a broad “concept.” They call it “Yielongura, The thing that knowledge cannot eat.”

The mystery, something unknowing, and unfathomable… Something you can’t put a box around. Like the universe itself, I like that. But something not threatened by knowledge, or by science, instead something made more awe inspiring by science, by knowledge.

If we open our minds to it.

I have never had a problem with reconciling the scientifically sound ideas of both the “Big Bang” and of evolution with Genesis’ story of creation. I have always believed that the Bible was an inspired work, written by divinely inspired men, who attempted to define the world around them in spiritual terms, but based on the limited intellectual knowledge and superstitions of the time it was written.

To me, the creation story as found in Genesis is an allegorical, metaphorical and poetic work describing man’s Spiritual Evolution, beginning with nothing, to the creation of the stars, then to the firmament (the substance that the planet formed into), the separation of earth and water, the development of plants and animals, into early (prehistoric, animalistic) man and concluding with the first moment where the “Breath of God” was felt by humanity- the first awareness we had of that there was something divine outside ourselves, who we called God that was responsible for the whole shebang. The first time we gazed out at the vastness of the universe, or the star lit sky and felt awe.

The “Evolution for Dummies” article also gives a great, simple understanding of what the word “Theory” means to the scientific community, and how those folks who seek to discredit it seem to also not grasp. The lay person uses the word ‘theory’ to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the word ‘theory’ refers to the way that they interpret facts.”

Because a great amount of data supports the idea of biological evolution through natural selection, and because no scientific evidence has yet been found to prove this idea false, this idea is considered a scientific theory. Because lots of evidence supports scientific theories, they are usually accepted as true by a majority of scientists.

If you want to understand further what a scientific theory is, this is a great piece.

The first time I watched Carl Sagan step out onto the cosmic calendar I got it. What the cosmologists, and astrophysicists, the scientists and the mystics all were saying was the same. Just in a different language; one with numbers, data, and big words like Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and one with poetry and language… And they are both in awe of it. But they’re both telling the same story all the same.

They are all saying  that there is something amazing going on in an awesome, ever expanding  universe. One where a tiny water flea could save a life because we are in some awe inspiring way connected!

we are story

FYI, if anyone who is not a friend of mine happens to read this, and you are in the metro Detroit area this Sunday, I will be preaching (for the first time since the fire) at the Unity Church of Royal Oak @ 10am.   I’ll be giving my dear friend the Rev. Ric Beattie his first Sunday off since he got hired in 8 months ago. I’ll be doing my annual cooking lesson I mean sermon entitled “Gratitude and Gravy” in which I explore the importance of Gratitude as a spiritual path through a metaphysical interpretation of my recipe for gravy. It’s a lot of fun. Come on out if you’re around. People who say they heard about it from my blog will get a free hug.

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A joyous and peaceful Festival of Lights to you.

To my Hindu brothers and sisters, may your Diwali be a joyous and peaceful one.

diwali-handwish

What is Diwali?
By Lizzie Porter, London Telegraph

Millions of Hindus and Jains – followers of an ancient Indian religion that shares concepts with Hinduism and Buddhism – celebrate every year. Events have traditionally taken place on the Subcontinent, but now happen in diaspora communities around the world.

Marked annually by yellow flickers of light appearing in shop windows, public places and homes, Diwali – popularly known as the ‘festival of lights’ – is a five-day festival celebrating light, knowledge and good nature.

The celebration’s fireworks, attractive decorations and light displays also mean that it has become popular among non-observers of these religions.

Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas on the same day, marking the liberation of the Sixth Guru from prison.

In Hinduism, light is seen as a metaphor for self-improvement, self-awareness and community, and its celebration allows followers to reaffirm their commitment to such values.

Diwali – derived from the Sanskrit, “deepawali”, meaning “row of lights” – also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Some followers will pray for good business prospects in the months to come.

For many – notably residents of northern India – Diwali is a time to celebrate the legend of Lord Shri Rama, who returned to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile, having been banished by his stepmother with his brother Laksmana and his wife Sita.

While expelled in the forest, the princess was captured by Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons. After a battle, Rama was successfully able to recapture her and the couple returned to Ayodhya for a period of rule (Ram-raj) that was said to be prosperous and untroubled.

Their story is documented in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, traditionally believed to have been written sometime between 500 BCE to 100 BCE by the sage Maharshi Valmiki.

Diwali is also a time to honour the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and rows of lanterns are lit to guide her into people’s homes. People may leave their doors open during the festival to prompt her entry.

In the Bengal region, Diwali fetes the goddess Kali, of time and death, who is often seen as a strong mother figure.

In Nepal, Diwali is a celebration of Lord Krishna over Narakaasura, a demon who was thought to have kidnapped women and stolen land.

It is also celebrated by Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bhutan.

When does Diwali take place?

The five-day celebration takes place in October or November every year in the Gregorian calendar: the exact dates are dependent on the Hindu lunar calendar.

This year the actual day of Diwali takes place on Wednesday November 11.

The eve of Diwali is known as Narak Chaturdasi, the day on which the demon Narakaasura met his death.

Celebrations continue until the fifth day, Bhaiyadooj (Feast to brothers), when women give presents to their male siblings, and the Diwali festivities end in memorable fashion.

How is it celebrated?

Diwali is traditionally marked with the illumination of small earthenware oil lamps called diyas, made with coconut oil, ghee and wicks of cotton string.

Today, they are accompanied by more lavish displays of electronic lights over buildings and extraordinary fireworks displays.

Specific rituals and traditions vary between regions, and may last four or five days. Many Indian towns and cities hold a large mela – fair – that often involves farmers coming to buy and sell produce.

Traditionally the day of Diwali involves Lakshmi Puja – prayer, invocations and rituals for the goddess Lakshmi – and the distribution of new clothes, sweetmeats and other gifts. Crackers are ubiquitous.

The day after is given over to Govardhan Puja – worship of Lord Govardhan Puja – which, according to legend, was performed by Lord Krishna with a group of mortals to protect them from torrential rain.

On the last day, Bhaiyadooj, women give presents to their male siblings, and the Diwali festivities end in memorable fashion.

Rangoli – Indian folk art patterns that are thought to be more than 5,000 years old – are drawn on floors of courtyards, and entrances of houses throughout Diwali, as another way to welcome Lakshmi. Many of the beautiful tracings incorporate flowers, petals and shapes of lotus blossom; others are simply geometric shapes.

Fireworks displays have become an integral part of Diwali celebrations both in India and around the world, all the more because the festival takes place around the night of the new moon (Amavasya).

Throughout, plain flatbreads are replaced by more extravagant puris, which are deep-fried in expensive ghee (clarified butter).

Feasts are interspersed with never-ending supplies of sweet and savoury Diwali snacks, made from chickpea or rice flour, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Gold leaf decorations adorn the sweets of the wealthiest.

coexist

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One more for the cup war…

I want to step away from the Christmas thing, I really do… But this is rich.

ghandicups

If you don’t know why I find this so goshdarn funny, it’s because it is a play on THIS Ghandi meme;

ghandi christ

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