Who Dat?

Who Dat?

Pentecost 101

Who dat up there who’s dat down there

Who dat up there who dat well down there Who’s dat up there, sayin’ who’s dat down there When I see you up there well who’s dat down there

Who dat inside who’s dat outside Who’s dat inside who dat well outside Who’s dat inside, singin’ who’s dat outside When I see up there well who’s dat out there

Button up your lip there big boy Stop answerin’ back Give you a tip there big boy Announce yourself jack

Who dat up there who’s dat down there Who dat up there who dat, well down there Who’s dat up there, singin’ who’s dat down there When I see you up there you bum Well who’s dat down there

Who dat?

The above lyrics are from a 1930’s Vaudeville number but the phrase “Who Dat?” actually dates back to a nineteenth century poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  IN the mid twentieth century it became a spirit yell used at African-American schools and later by fans of the New Orleans Saints professional football team.

When it comes to our beliefs, most of us have asked ourselves a similar set of questions as found in the above lyrics.  Who’s that up there in my soul?  Who’s that down there making life happen on earth?  And we can take those questions and turn them around on ourselves.  How do we live our faith inside our hearts?  What do others see in our actions in the outside world?

This month we took some time to delve into the names for the one deity who is the subject of the mythologies of the three Abrahamic faiths.  Remember, we define mythology as simply stories of a culture passed down to future generations.  The word mythology does not mean falsehood nor does it imply simply imagined legends.  It really just means stories that have survived and certainly, the mythologies of these three religions have done that, in spite of some attempting to warp and distort them.

This one monotheistic deity seems to have roots in the Greek and Roman mythologies and many celebrations of all three faiths can be traced to some of the Greek and Roman festivals to honor their pluralistic beliefs.  There are those that claim the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths has slanted back towards a plurality in the concept of the Holy Trinity.  What???

Many Christians do indeed believe the definition of their one deity, God, as a Triune God, illustrated by the man known as Saint Patrick to be similar to a three-leaf clover.  While many might call this hogwash, ancient names for this one deity reflect such a belief among the early believers.  “Jehovah Malakh” was the angel of the Lord, a being of great power and, to some, possessing the ability to affect creation on earth.  “Jehovah Tsemach” was the branch of the Lord, something rather akin to the son of God that Christians believe the man known as Jesus of Nazareth to be.  Then there is our final name, a name of power that sanctifies but also can destroy – “Esh Okhah”, the god of consuming fire.  Most often the Holy Spirit, the third arm of the Holy Trinity, is symbolized by fire.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit represent the one all-powerful deity that many Christians worship.

As I have said before, the purpose of this blog is not to convert but to inform and, hopefully, inspire you to think outside of the box just a bit in an effort to widen your circle of acceptance.  The only way to do that is to start a conversation and the most beneficial conversation is one that respectfully includes ideas we might not have considered.  It also includes honesty and so, first let me be honest in an error I made yesterday.  I identified J.C. Park, the author of a great book recently published entitled “king David” as being Japanese-American.  That was in error.  Rev Park is Korean-American.  Actually his nationality makes no difference.  If you have the chance to read his blog or his books, please do so.

Back to our conversation about the many faces of this one God…. Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  Some days I see a person full of vigor, ready to confront life upright and energetic; some days I see someone with a major sinus infection, not uncommon living where I do with a great deal of heat, humidity, and pollen.   The fact is that we all more than just a one-dimensional entity.  I am not surprised that mankind wanted more than a one-dimensional deity.

“Me, myself, and I” is a commonly used phrase and in psychology, has different meanings necessary in order to identify the complete self.   Tomorrow we will go even further back in the mythologies of mankind to those of the Far East.  The beginnings of mankind are found in the myths of this region and it is fascinating.  I hope you will join me in exploring the more spiritual side of the myths of mankind.

Freud used a trinity in his illustrations of the three parts he developed in explaining the human psyche.  The Ego, the Id, and the Super-Ego are not actual parts of the physical brain but terms used to explain how thoughts occur and then influence our actions.  I am not going to jump feet first into a prolonged discussion of these concepts because, quite frankly, as a female, Freud felt they all three did not apply to me.  Exactly why that is you can read for yourself.  Clearly, I think if these three symbolic entities have value, they do apply to all.

I also believe religion applies to all.  I do not think any one adored and worshipped deity singles out men for special treatment and feels women are sub-human.  I have often heard that man is the brain and woman the heart.  I hope we all both think and feel, use intelligence and caring in our daily living.  Please feel free to comment if you feel differently.

In the final analysis of all these names, they served one purpose – identification and description of that which was to be believed.  We have discussed eighty-six names, all for just one God, one Lord or, as some would prefer, one Allah, one G-d.  Some become angry when others use the name of their one deity; others feel the name too powerful to be spoken aloud.  I have discussed these names with the highest respect and interest.  I think all are applicable because life is a variety of situations requiring a variety of responses and beliefs put into action.  When it comes to your beliefs, what is your answer when someone asks who or what you believe:  “Who Dat?”

I am – Who?

I am – Who?

Pentecost 100

An iconic American cartoon figure was short in stature but big on determination.  Known as Popeye the Sailor Man, this bow-legged man adventurer was not your typical hero.  He had squinty eyes and ate spinach.  He always got the girl but she wasn’t a supermodel; rather, she was tall, lankly, and had a name straight from the pantry shelves, Olive Oyl.  While he always seemed to have a pipe in his mouth, the viewing children never saw him actually light it up.  A true hero for the disenfranchised of the world, Popeye encouraged self-identification and fulfillment with his famous byline: “I ams what I am!”

Knowing “you who are” is as important as knowing who you want to be.  Too often, teenagers are asked what they want to be and then become locked in their first or second answer.  The life cycle of all of nature is an evolving process and yet we frequently discourage this in humans.   Identity is not a coat one puts on and then never changes.  It is a process, much like a hike in the woods or mountains.

Yesterday a hiker was rescued after having been lost since August 20th.  It was the hiker’s first time with this particular hiking team, having recently moved to the area.  The terrain in which the hiker became separated from the rest of the group is rugged.  Rescue parties were called in to search and they did, diligently.  Searchers were in the air, on horseback, and employed search and rescue dogs to try to find the missing 62-year-old hiker.  Described as a seasoned backpacker and quiet, friends still held out hope, hope which was realized when the injured but alive Miyuki Harwood was found.  In case you aren’t a familiar with Japanese names, yes, that is a feminine name.  Miyuki not only knew herself to be a veteran hiker and backpacker, she knew she was a survivor and survive she did.

Identity is not just a name on an identification card.  It is want we believe, what we do, how we dress, and how we treat others.  A little known, seldom-used name for the one deity of the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths we have been discussing this month is one of my favorites: “Elohim Nissi”, the Lord my banner.

Henri Nouwen wrote: “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

That last line of the above quote is a powerful statement: “Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”  It would be so simple of believing one was loved was the answer to the world’s problems, most of which have been caused by mankind, wouldn’t it?  The problem is that many people who are loved and considered important members of their family still commit heinous acts of violence.  Mental illness is certainly one qualifier that disproves this statement but not everyone who leaves their family is mentally ill.  Some are just trying to escape their living, trying to establish a new identity that they feel will give their life new purpose.

Aristotle believed that knowing one’s self was the first step to real knowledge.  While I am not a mathematician, I find most people can understand advanced geometry better than they understand their partner or even themselves.  Franciscan priest, former voluntary prisoner and recovered alcoholic, Brennan Manning ( a nom de plume) spent his entire life searching and creating his identity.  In his later years, Manning became an author and wrote “To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life.”

We all are much more than our physical bodies.  We all have a spirit within us that propels us forward in our living.  “Ruach Hakkodesh”, the Holy Spirit, and “Ruach Elohim”, spirit of God, are two named used to identify the one deity of which we have spent an entire month discussing.  If you are curious as to why the Hebrew, the Jewish believers, had a name for something that is associated with Christianity…well, wait until tomorrow.  We will discuss that and ask if Christianity really has one god or is somewhat polytheistic.  For now, I will just ask you to remember that the first Christians were Jewish and spoke Hebrew-based dialects.

Throughout the mythologies of these three faiths are stories of survival and identity.  I recently served as a beta reader for a book published yesterday, the same day of Miyuki Harwood’s rescue.  The book is entitled “King David” and is written by another Japanese-American who struggled with identity, J. C. Parks.  It is a compelling biography of this man named David, the author to whom many of the psalms of Judaism and Christianity are attributed.  It is the story of identity, of faith, and of discovering a spirit to serve as one’s banner.

We all are influenced by product logos, the picture or phrase that identifies a particular product.  On websites, they are called “banners”, the eye-catching top of the page design that captures one’s attention and encourages the viewer to read or at least scan the rest of the page.  Logo comes from a Greek word, actually a series of Greek words that, contrary to popular belief, does not mean thinking but rather “imprint”.

What we see is imprinted upon our brain but, more importantly, how we act becomes imprinted upon people’s souls.  “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”  While considered one of the most popular children’s books ever written, certainly in the twentieth century, when J. K. Rowling penned that line in one of her Harry Potter books, she wrote what might be termed “gospel words”.

We each wear a logo, present a banner to the world every day.  Try as we might to escape, alter or change our identity, what we are in the moment is what we are to the world.  It is, however, not something that is cast in concrete or marble for all eternity.  We should allow ourselves to evolve, to grow.  We all make mistakes.  Brennan Manning, in all his travels and identities, learned a most valuable lesson:  “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

So who do you want to be?  I mean, really…deep down…inside.  Who are you today and how will who you are today help you become who you want to be tomorrow?  J. C. Parks went through several identities in becoming the accomplished author and minister he is today.  Like the subject of his latest book, so did King David.  We all have the potential to connect with our soul and the spirit that we allow to lead us.  We all can be the strong survivor like Miyuki Harwood.  Reach out today and let your light, perfect in its imperfectness, reflect your beliefs.  You are important.  You are the future, not only the future you but the future of the world.  Today, celebrate you by becoming a better version of yourself.

In the Moment

In the Moment

Pentecost 99

Sometimes life takes where you never thought you would be.  I mean that in a more of a metaphorical sense rather than an actual geographical place on a map, although that is certainly true as well.  Today we are going to discuss what it means to be, to be present, to have a presence, to recognize that we are one but one of many.  However …..

I recently read an online conversation between twenty-somethings and was both encouraged and dismayed.  The group was discussing the recent political campaigning currently underway in the United States.  Elections for a new president will be held November 2016 but the campaigning began early this year with some surprising entries into the race.

The group was discussing the polarity of comments which were based purely on isolating one element of the country’s population.  There was an open exchange of ideas from opposite sides, a conversation if you will, and basic rules of etiquette and common sense were being displayed.  I was thoroughly enjoying the discourse until someone said something extremely illiterate.

As you know by now, I don’t discourage opposite points of view.  As long as your comments are within the boundaries of charitable discourse, I happily post them when so desired.  I should note that a great many people ask that I respond but not specifically post their comments.  Again, I am happy to oblige.  What I will not do, however, is engage in a debate based upon inaccuracy or out and out lies.  That serves no purpose.  I do believe if one is going to enter the conversation one should be present in the conversation and that includes speaking from a point of personal preference and/or knowledge.  There is nothing wrong with ignorance but we do need to do more than just flap our jaws and move our tongue around our mouths in such a way as to create sound.

For the record, the conversation was about disenfranchising a major part of the population, those living within the legal boundaries of the USA.  The illiterate statement was that those from Mexico are ethnically identified as Caucasian.  They are not; they are identified as Hispanic and within that category are several other designations such as black Hispanic, etc.

As someone who almost drools at the start of the school terms each year due to the plethora of organizational tools on sale, I understand and encourage the organization of things.  With a great number of people, there is the necessity to organize them and so, while I despair of the divisions such organization has caused, I accept that being ethnically identified is one such tool.  It is not a perfect system but it is a system and has worked.  Discussing a viewpoint based upon untrue facts is not being present in an intelligent manner.

This post is, as I mentioned, about being present and having a presence.  I was going to approach it from a standpoint of being together.  I believe strongly that we need to live in a way that is present in our beliefs and vice versa.  How is your deity reflected in your living?  How do we show when we are part of a group, bound by common feelings or ideals?

I was going to say that one example is the wedding ring.  While worn on different fingers and hands, often based upon cultural beliefs and ethnicity, most wedding rings are given when a ledged is made.  “I plight thee my troth” or, in the more common vernacular, “I want to be married to you”.  The marriage ceremony is full of promises and represents a pledge, a troth made and illustrated by the exchange of rings.

Troth is a somewhat archaic term which does indeed mean pledge or allegiance.  And here is where I made my surprise turn.  It is also the name of an organization, formed in the late 1980’s.  Proudly identifying themselves as “heathens”, the ideals of the group welcome any and all forms of religion and disallow racism.   “Boldness, Truth, Honor, Troth, Self-Rule, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, Steadfastness, Equality, Strength, Wisdom, Generosity, and Family Responsibility” are the ideals they encourage.  Who knew?

For centuries heathens and the religious have seemingly been at odds and here is a group that is promoting the same ideals that religious groups have taught for centuries.  These same ideals are also the basis for many Eastern spiritualities as we will discover in September when we explore those mythologies.

I had originally planned to discuss “Immanuel”, the god that is with us.  Having the presence of one’s deity present is a basic requirement for believing.  “Jehovah Immeka”, the Lord is with you; “Jehovah Moshiekh”, the Lord your Savior; both are terms that demonstrate this.  We take comfort in this knowledge that our god is with us, near us in times of need.  I often get teased when I find a great parking spot and exclaim, “Thank you, Lord.”  It is a small victory and not one that is going to change the tides of time but, at that moment, I feel a presence, even for something as insignificant as a parking spot near the store.

I don’t believe in a deity that is only to be approached in times of turmoil.  I think we should thank and often as we beseech.  We need to be in the moment of our lives with each moment and we need to take our faith with us in every moment.  “Elohei Mikkarov”, is truly the God who is near.  I firmly believe that “Jehovah Jireh” is a Lord who will provide.  For me, my monotheistic deity is “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh”, the eternal all-sufficient God.  I will freely admit, however, that until doing this series that term is one I had never encountered.  Many of the names we’ve discussed were new to me, by the way.

We often act out of ignorance and that is, quite frankly, the best way to learn.  When we act out of stupidity, though, well….That serves no purpose at all.  The discussion of the group of young adults I mentioned earlier contained such stupidity.  Were they truly in the moment of the discussion or was that one individual simply stretching his/her ego?

So here we are.  Instead of wrapping up with repetitions of earlier questions, questions that do need consideration at some point – questions like “How is your deity reflected in your living?” or “How do we show when we are part of a group, bound by common feelings or ideals?”, I ask you this.  How often do we live the moment based upon the tenets of our beliefs and how often do we live in the moment by just stretching our ego?

I planned to write about having a spiritual presence and feeling it.  Instead I find myself wondering how often we let our ego be our guide.  Do we speak with the love, charity and kindness of our beliefs or do we speak to propel our stature?  I am far more comfortable thinking about religion than confronting what may be my own avarice narcissism, I freely admit.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, claimed ego to be the enemy of compassion.   “The foundation of the Buddha’s teachings lies in compassion, and the reason for practicing the teachings is to wipe out the persistence of ego, the number-one enemy of compassion.”  Perhaps the best way to live each moment, to be present in not only our living but also in our beliefs, is to not have discussions of religion and spirituality but to simply lose our ego, shed it like a butterfly sheds its cocoon.  Maybe the best way to be present in the moment is to get lost in the compassion for another.

How Big is Your God?

How Big is Your God?

Pentecost 98

As mentioned countless times, the purpose of this blog is to start a conversation about living, about finding ways to be humanitarians in our daily actions, about living that which we profess to believe.  I don’t expect everyone to be in total agreement with what they read here and I welcome your comments and questions.  One reader asked why I have spent the entire months of August on the names of the one deity known as the God or Lord of the three Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Since the last full week of May, we have been discussing the mythologies of mankind.  Most have their beginning and purpose in explaining the creation of all we see and of which we know.  We began with the really old ones, the stories of the Norse gods and goddesses, the Celtic nature spirits and that led us to the Greek and Roman mythologies.

We will, in September, return to antiquity and discuss the spiritualities and mythologies of Egypt and India.  In October we will cross the globe to Africa and then to the Far East.  We will have a conversation about the beliefs that are probably some of the oldest organized mythologies about the spirits that we have, those of China and Japan.  In November we will go “down under” to Australia and then finish with the South Pacific Islands and finally, the Americas.

All of these stories have commonalities, just as all of mankind has commonalities.  I opted to not take these stories in a timeline because…well, quite honestly, we cannot be completely assured of their timing.  There are crossovers in stories that have appeared in different parts of the globe at about the same time and yet, it would have been impossible for these cultures to “share” their legends and beliefs.

I will leave it to the archaeologists and anthropologists to explains, discover, and verify the timing of these stories.  I would rather burrow under their existence into their meaning and how they can relate to us.  I believe they still have impact and, if Hollywood is any indication, so do many others.  These myths, these stories that we often scoff at in their incredulity, still entertain and make us think.

While the Greeks and Romans shared many of their deities, changing only the names, it is the one deity of the monotheistic credos of the Abrahamic faiths that had the most names.  We will, by the end of August, have discussed over eighty-five names for this god, this spirit that boasts more followers than any other known to mankind.  We should not discount the important of what we believe.  It has been the basis for wars, the founding of nations, and even the horrors of ethnic cleansing.  The Greek and Roman mythologies gave rise to the monotheistic deity and so, I believe it worthy of our conversation.

My question to you today is this:  How big is your deity, if you believe in the one God of the Abrahamic faiths?  An adjective often associated with these religions and this deity is “majesty”.  With the spread of the Roman Empire across Europe came the advent of five languages known as the Romance Languages.  English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Romanian have given the world some if not most of the words that are most commonly used today and are usually listed as the five Romance Languages.  However, in older times, these five Romance Languages were known to be Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian.

In reality, there are over twenty-three languages or dialects that can trace their origin to the language of the common man who lived in the Roman Empire.  These include Portuguese, Galician, Mirandese, Asturian-Leonese, Spanish, Aragonese, Catalan, Occitan, French, Franco-Provencal, Romansh, Ladin, Friulian, Venetian, Corsican, Italian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Sardinian, Dalmatian, Daco-Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian.

Romance in the name Romance Language has nothing to do with that warm, fuzzy feeling of affection and/or love, in this instance.  It refers to the Roman language spoken rather than the Latin language of the scholars and religious leaders.  Most of us live in areas that have their own slang.  This was also true in ancient times and the Roman people usually spoke Roman rather than the more scholarly Latin.  As the Roman Empire spread, so did the slang of  its people, which in turn gave rise to the Romance Langauges.

The word “majesty” is a great example of how mankind evolved and appeared different while being much the same.  Majesty is an English word with its roots in the French word “majeste” which meant grandeur or nobility.  The French word evolved from the Latin “maiestaten” or “maiestas” with the letter “I” evolving into the letter “j”.  The Latin words all referred to greatness, dignity, honor, excellence, or…elevation, not of actually standing on top of a mountain but having achieved a higher status than others.   An even older Latin word is that root of not only majesty but also the modern word “major”, both originating in the old Latin word “maior”, a close cousin to the Latin “magnus”.

This leads us to our question for today:  How big is your God?  All three Abrahamic faiths were in agreement in believing their deity was to be revered, was holy.  They also believed this deity was the highest ruler of all, the king of mankind and those who believed.  Hence, we have two names reflecting these postulated ideals: “Elohim Kedoshim”, the holy God; “Eli Maelekhi”, God my king.  Another name revealed the immortality of this deity, “Elohenu Olam”, the everlasting god.

I do not go into great detail with the names Islam had and has because Muslim prefer those not of their faith do not fully understand it and while I have read the Qur’an in English, I have not read it in its original Arabic and agree that some things have probably gotten lost.  I also do not wish to disrespect.  I am also not fully translating the history behind the Hebrew names because, like many languages, it also evolved and changed based upon the period of history and the dialects.  As an English speaker, I am more comfortable with the etymologies of the English words, having studied both Latin and Greek.  I also am varying the capitalization of the names of this deity based upon personal and/or interactive natures of the names.

It is much like what happens when someone goes to a cake tasting in preparation for a large event or wedding.  The caterer or baker will list the available varieties of cakes in a long list with none of the options capitalized.  As the list is narrowed down to favorites, though, preferences become apparent and names of the most favored are often capitalized.  Those favored few remaining have a personal connection.  Rather than just being a dessert, they become personal, a part of a very important event.  In other words, a carrot cake with cream cheese icing might be delicious but the spice cake with raspberry filling and a French vanilla bean icing, the cake known as the Harvest Delight…well, that one will be capitalized.  (And no, the spice cake is not my favorite.  That would be the Romantic Red Velvet, although honestly, I am not that big on sweets, preferring grapes and cheese.)

Back to our question:  How big is your god?  Is your god majestic and everlasting?  Do you honor his/her holiness by your actions?  Tell someone you write a blog that might be considered religious and, trust me, they will usually take several steps back and roll their eyes.  Tell them you write a blog about embracing life with the occasional recipe thrown in and – wham, you have their attention!

Religion is seen by many people are a tinder box and sure path to disagreement.  It is blamed for many evils wrought by mankind.  While some are more attributable to mankind’s personal greed, many have been committed under the guise of being faithful.  So….How big is your God that you must commit acts of atrocities rather than acts of kindness and charity?

The truth is, I am not going to fight anyone over their choice of cake.  I know what I like.  I am secure in my decision to like Red Velvet Cake and dislike coconut cream cake.  And yes, I capitalized my favorite because I think of it as important while the other, the coconut cake, has no connection with me.  First of all, I am allergic to coconut but also, I prefer my icing smooth and coconut cake has coconut icing which is, by definition, flaky.  My appetite for cake may not be that big but my preference is strong enough to allow others to have their own choices.

My God, the personal deity of my own faith is very big, as is my faith.  My convictions are strong enough, believe deeply enough, to have a really big God.   I am not bothered by people who don’t look just like me, wear the same clothes as I do, or even speak like I do because my God is a really big God.  His virtual arms can hug us all.  I am not bothered by people calling this one deity by another name, different than what I use, because, my Lord has been around for a really long time.  I prefer they speak with respect, but…respect is what this blog is really about, the purpose of our conversations.

It is a really big world out there.  Just try walking from one continent to another if you don’t believe me.  It is an even bigger universe, known and unknown.  Is you belief strong enough to allow others the right to be themselves?  To explore their potential? To live in peace? What you do today, how you treat others, and how you leave where you have walked will answer the question:  How big is your God?

Seeking the Goodness

Seeking the Goodness

Pentecost 97

It is the day after another incidence of workplace violence has been the featured story on the news outlets.  This time, the story was all too real for those reporting it.  This time, the story was not just a reporter and a videographer telling about an event.  This time they were the event.  Airing on an early morning local affiliate news program, while interviewing the representative from a local chamber of commerce, while discussing the hospitality of the area, a young female news reporter and her equally young cameraman, along with the female being interviewed, became the story, victims of a disgruntled coworker who felt his ethnicity had hindered his career.

In a totally unrelated story but also the victim of a verbal violent attack, another news reporter, this time a male veteran of television, was also attacked.  His right to assembly as well as the freedom of the press were trampled on and ridiculed by a candidate ostensibly running for the highest office within the government of the United States.  This time the attack was simply a matter of the candidate’s inflated sense of entitlement due to his ethnicity and his berating the reporter because of his ethnicity.

With such incidents in the news making headlines, it is hard to find the goodness that a supposedly religious nation, a nation founded in part as its early settlers sought religious freedom, should espouse and encourage.  The ancient names of the deity supposedly lauded seem to mock the reality of the modern world.  Jehovah Elohim Tsaba, “Lord God of Hosts”, seems to be an absentee deity for many.

Within the month of August we have been discussing the many and varied names of the monotheistic deity of the Abrahamic faiths.  While theologians can argue which came first of the three main Abrahamic religions, it cannot be denied their connection or their shared mythologies, their shared stories of belief in one god as opposed to the polytheisms of their ancestors.  BY the time August ends, we will have discussed over eight named for this one deity and yes, I did have a schedule of sorts for doing so.

Today, though, the names for this post seem almost to mock me.  It is most apparent that for many living in the present, the emphasis has shifted.  Instead of believing in Jehovah Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”, many believe simply in Elohe Tsadeki, “God of my righteousness”.  Most theologians point to the first and last words of these names – god and righteousness.  Today, though, living the faith has put emphasis on the pronouns.  Many no longer care about the “our”; their only interest is in the “my”.

I have a policy that I do not write when overly emotional.  I do not write when angry nor when I have been deeply hurt.  The purpose of these posts is not to convert nor inflame but to begin a constructive conversation.  I enjoy hearing from others when they are respectful in their disagreement.  I believe such conversations help us to think and strengthen our beliefs.

Somethings, however, are non-negotiable.  The right for each person to fully live out their potential should also be non-negotiable.  There is no scientific basis for believing one’s gender, ethnicity, not the ability to wield a weapon that fires bullets or other ammunition entitles you to anything above what others living on this planet deserve – the right to live, to flourish, to be a part of the conversation of life.

Perhaps that is why there is a name for this one deity known as Jehovah Elohim Yeshua, the “Lord God of my salvation”.  Truly, salvation is a necessary part of living.  For some their deliverance is obvious as is their need.  A woman whose husband leaves scars and bruises is much more obvious than the husband who exercises dominion over his wife, insisting she forego her own potential in order for him to achieve his or inhibits her social contacts.  Though often hidden, the psychological abuse can be just as deadly as the physical abuse.

The supervisor who has strong abilities but lacks the interpersonal counseling needed when managing employees may unknowingly create a situation that results in someone resorting to violence to be heard.  The voice of a gun is loud.  There is no denying that.  All too often people disdain psychology, calling it a fake science because the quantitative evidence of human thought patterns cannot be displayed like a physical object can.

This does not exclude the accountability of any one person.  Please do not misunderstand me.  We are all accountable for our actions, regardless of what has preceded them.  We all have choices to make when we stand up and go forward into the day.  We can all seek the goodness of living and create the best in our own individual situations or we can elect to remain victims.

The victim mentality is not an easy one to throw off and it requires great courage.  It takes even greater courage to admit when we have fallen short and it really is easy to lay the blame on someone else.  The politician mentioned earlier has gotten great press coverage by name calling and deflecting the spotlight off his own lack of experience and personal success.  He has not assumed any accountability for his need to insult.  A recent study reported that those who understand and use sarcasm might be highly creative.  There is a difference, nonetheless, in being creative and avoiding issues.

I believe that each of us contributes to this world in our own way.  Having lost those I have loved to death, I know the pain the permanent physical separation of such a loss.  I choose to believe that these people, rather than having had their whole life yet to live, perhaps already lived a life of value.  Rather than emphasizing what will never be, I think we should emphasize what has been and their impact on our lives.  I hope at some point in time the shooter of the people involved in the news story that were shot while conducting an interview on air felt the love that people are not discussing.  I hope they realized their incredible value to the society in which they lived.  I hope the reported to whom the insults were levied and attempts made to dismiss by the politician felt the importance of his job in freely reporting an unbiased news story for his constituents and network’s audience.

People feel cornered at times and that is when their true colors, their true faith becomes evident.  Certainly the politician feels entitled and perhaps is his own god, thinking he is the most important thing.  Regretfully he seems to place value in one’s ethnicity as long as it is the same as his.  His belief system is based upon a very small view of the world and any belief system must also have a narrow vision.    The gunman of the other story also made his insecurities evident by his actions and a multi-paged written statement of his feelings.  He had lost hope and faith.

The fact of the living on this planet is that, sometimes bad things occur.  At some point, someone is going to step on your toes, hurt your feelings, try to override your own rights so that they can seem to rise above you and perhaps accomplish more than you.  Life is not always sweet nor is everything attempted going to be successful.  What we can do is control our actions and reactions.  We can seek the goodness in ourselves and others.  El Simchath Gili, “God my exceeding joy”, is still open for business.  All we need to do is seek the goodness, putting others ahead of our own egos and living a life that harms no others.

Concord and Labradors

Concord and Labradors

Pentecost 96

Until used as the name of a supersonic jet in operation from 1976 to 2003, many people alive in the latter part of the twentieth century had never heard the word “concord”.  It is both a grammatical and musical term and originated from words in most of the Romance Languages that meant “heart”.

Once man began believing in an interactive deity, as the Abrahamic faiths’ mythologies required, then the names of this deity became adjectives.  Originally this deity was “Go’el” or “kinsman redeemer.  Their mythologies told these believers that all were their brothers and sisters, all living men and women and children were the children of this deity.  In other words, all were their kin.

In a world where mankind had been able to believe in gods and goddesses flying around on horses, throwing thunderbolts into the sky, and being reborn in a variety of shapes, forms, and manner of life, this was the hardest belief to accept.  They created another name for their deity, a more personal one: Jehovah Goelekh, “the Lord, your redeemer”.  This one aspect of their holy mythologies, the belief that all were equal and kinsmen, left them bereft of concord, living in a world without peace and/or harmony.

Centuries earlier Buddha had said: “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”  Not all wars have been started because of the differences of the Abrahamic religions.  While they are the three largest organized religions, they are not the only evil in the world.  People have personal responsibility to control their own feelings and actions.  What mankind, especially those in these three belief systems did do, nonetheless, was misuse their faiths.  They separated their stories and by doing so, dissected the faith they believed, making it something else.

“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”  Each of these three belief systems has their own stories, mythologies that say the same thing John Lennon did in this quote.  Jehovah Hoshiah means “O Lord, save” and soon mankind did indeed need saving.

These three Abrahamic faiths followed the mythologies of earlier cultures and inspired others to continue the holy writings.  As the early Greeks and Romans had used their mythologies in their literature, so did the faithful of these three.  “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love” was part of a prayer by the Italian known as Francis of Assisi, a recognized saint in many Christian denominations. The “Lord, our peace” or Jehovah Shalom was a deity of both Judaism and Christianity.  Mohammed Ali, a modern day follower of Islam once explained his faith:  “I believe in the religion of Islam.  I believe in Allah and peace.”  Peace was not often a condition found in these faiths, however, and so another name arose for the monotheistic deity – Jehovah Rophe, the Lord our healer.

I agree with the Indian spiritualist Jawaharlal Nehru:   “Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”  I also believe it is one of the characterizations of a believer, regardless of how you define your beliefs.

In music a chord is a pleasing combination of tones and a concord is a chord that resolves.  Faith should be a concord, in my mind.  Counsel is a word that has strayed far in its usage from its meaning.  It means the interchange of ideas.  It has come to mean a judgement.  Peleh Yo’etz is a lesser known name for this one god.  It is grammatical incorrect which has led many to question its meaning.  Yo’etz was the ancient Hebrew word for both” advise” and “counsel” and, in this configuration, is translated as a noun rather than a verb.  Was it to describe the deity as a counsellor or was it to seek guidance?  Was the author of the mythological writing known as the book of Isaiah saying “Advise me, Lord”?   Were thanks being given to an all-knowing “Wonderful Counselor!”?  Were the faithful being admonished to seek guidance or to acknowledge their own shortcomings?

The Roman historian Sallust knew the value of concord and, perhaps with an understanding that we have yet to appreciate, recognized the communion between its meaning of heart and its usage in both music and our living.  “Harmony makes small things grow; lack of it makes great things decay.”

We need more counsel as an interchange of ideas and less as judgment.  We are a varied and diverse group of beings, we who comprise mankind.  Do roses deny the beauty of another variety simply because they are not the same?  With all due to respect to Thomas Fuller, an English clergyman who lived at the dawn of the seventeenth century, he was wrong when said “It is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.”  This has, regardless of its being incorrect, been a belief many have followed.  The Internet is full of videos denouncing this.  Jimi Hendrix was correct when he said “When the power of overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.”

Labrador Retrievers are, in my humble opinion, one of the most delightfully perfect creations on our planet and, quite possibly, in our universe.  Having owned or rather been owned by one, I realize they are not perfection.  They do offer us an excellent example to follow.  Labrador retrievers are dogs which boast three colors of their coat.  (And make no mistake, there are only three colors.  Silver labs or red labs are merely genetic mutations; still delightful but not worth their inflated costs being sold to a fashion-obsessed public.)  An Oregon organization of Lab owners explains their breeding:  Coat color in normally colored Labs is determined by two genes unrelated to anything else about the dog. It is perfectly possible to get all three colors in the same litter, therefore the notion that there is a color based difference in temperament and/or ability just doesn’t make much sense.”

It also doesn’t make much sense that humans have value based upon their skin color, gender, and/or belief system.  I had someone once complain I used too many quotes from women.  To that reader, I offer this piece of advice – Remember you were born of woman and….You probably will want to stop reading now.  Life has much in common with peace.  As Eleanor Roosevelt remarked:  “It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”  The same is true for our beliefs.  We must walk daily and work at living that which we profess.  Lab puppies begin their day with a doggie smile. “Peace begins with a smile”.  Another female quote, this time from Mother Teresa.  🙂

A Constant Light

A Constant Light

Pentecost 95

It is known as the North Star.  The brightest star in the night sky, children learn to first find the constellation Ursa Minor and then look at the tip of its handle to locate it.  Known by its scientific name of Polaris, this tar is the celestial body most closely aligned with the north pole of the earth’s axis and has been used to guide mankind home since the beginning of time… except that it hasn’t.

The constellations were once one of man’s greatest mythologies and the basis for many gods and goddesses.  Which came first?  It is not pertinent to our discussion today but it is a great topic for discussion.  Did someone name a grouping of stars in the visible night sky after belief in a particular deity or was an image seen in the night heavens the reason for a particular belief?

Polaris is the star most closely aligned to the north and many call it brightest star in the nighttime sky.  Actually, it is not the brightest, coming in at approximately number fifty, depending on where you are, the time of year, and a number of other factors.  Polaris has not always been the North Star, either.

Three thousand years before the common era (BCE), a star known as Thuban in the constellation Draco served as the North Star.  Today it is invisible in urban areas being only one-fifth as bright as Polaris.  One thousand years BCE, a Greek navigator named Pytheas disdained the concept of a North Star.  Ursa Minoris was actually the star closest to the north celestial pole but it was too far to be of any real use for navigation.  During Roman times the celestial pole was equal distance between Cynosura and Kochab, Ursa Minoris A and Ursa Minoris B.

Kochab is actually one hundred and thirty times more luminous and these two stars are found in the bowl of the Little Dipper, Ursa Minor.  Cynosura was also known in Anglo-Saxon England by the name scip-steorra or “ship star”.  Cynosura was called Stella Polaris in the sixteenth century although it was several degrees from the actual northern celestial pole.

The earth may seem constant to us, the ground usually remaining under our feet except for earthquakes and sink holes but in reality the earth is always moving.  As it rotates around the sun, it also rotates on its axis which means that the North Star of today will not be the North Star of the tomorrow in time to come.  Around the year 3000 ACE, the star Gamma Cephei or Alrai will become the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  It will be replaced by that Star Iota Cephei in the years 5200 ACE, and then in 10000 ACE, the star Deneb will be the North Star at a position within five degrees of the North Pole.

Polaris, our current North Star, will once again regain its throne as the star closest to the northern celestial pole in 27800 ACE (or CE) but it will not be as close to the pole as it is now.  In fact, Its closest position the North Pole was in 23600 BCE.  Does this mean we should not use Polaris as a guide to determine the compass point of north if lost?  Of course it doesn’t.  It simply means that life is constantly evolving and mankind is as well.

The religion, beliefs, or faith of mankind have long been used as a guiding principle for how one lives.  Whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual, you have a sense of self, a sense of how to live.  Even the most spontaneous individual has a system for living.  When we feel hunger, we hope to something to eat.  When cold, we seek warmth, either from a change in room temperature, by applying more clothing, or by leaving the frigid area.  Life is based upon stimulus-response.

The monotheistic mythologies of the Abrahamic religions gave a sense of navigation to their deity.  Ancient mythologies had man reacting to the deities of the various cultures but this monotheistic deity was more a compass point for daily living.  “Or Goyim” was a “light to the nations”.  Faith was not just to be a part of the collective culture but a personal belief and the deity “Jehovah Ori” not just a deity but “the Lord my light”.

A tree planted in the ground will grow at an approximate rate, much like the North Star is approximately the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  However, as we have learned, Polaris will not always be the North Star and neither will a tree planted grow exactly as another of the same species planted at the same time.  As mankind grew, even with one monotheistic mythology, mankind grew differently and the deity of these faiths was seen from differing perspectives.  There may have been one deity but it had differing interpretations.  The “Jehovah El Emeth”, this “Lord God of truth” was seen from diverse perspectives.

There are those who might claim there is no one deity.  There are those that reject the scientific view that Polaris will not always be the North Star.  After all, who will be around to verify, who could be able to see both Polaris and Gamma Cephai?  The answer is, of course, no one.  Man/Woman cannot live as long as the stars do.

What is important is how we believe.  I need not worry about the North Star three thousand years from now.  I need to worry about that which can lead me home, that which can give my life meaning and purpose.  We all need a North Star in our living, virtual, spiritual, and actual.