Sleeve Notes 101: 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Mighty Wind

I'm a big fan of Christopher Guest movies. For those unfamiliar with his works, he specializes in what is called the Mocumentary. One night late I was a bit bored and looking for something to watch. As luck would have it, the only thing that didn't remotely look like drivel was a movie entitled Best In Show. I had heard a review or two and thought I would check it out. That was the beginning of my love affair with this genre of movie. A year or so later, a friend asked if I had seen Waiting For Guffman. I had not and made a point to see it. Christopher Guest became my hero.

A couple of months ago, on a dreary, Sat. afternoon, I again was searching for something to watch to cure a bad case of boredom. As I flipped through the menu, I stumbled upon A Mighty Wind. "Wasn't that a Christopher Guest movie" I wondered? It was indeed and true to form, it kept me in rapt attention.

Over the past few weeks, I've been doing a bit of study on Native American culture. Particularly the reverence they give to the earth and the significance they place on certain parts of nature. Wind for instance is very symbolic. For some, it is the source of life and breath. Navajo's pray to the four corners of the earth. North is the Spirit of the Wind. It is the power of wisdom. When you pray facing North you are to give thanks for the cleansing winds.

For most Native Americans, the wind is a powerful force that as a spirit brings us gentle breezes filled with sweet scents of flowers in the spring. Wind dances with the leaves on trees and creates a beautiful song like no other. Wind, some believe, blows away the old season and brings in the us a fresh start.

This morning I re-watched A Mighty Wind, and at the close, the folk groups of which the mocumentary is made, come together to sing a power folk song. As I really listened to the words, I thought of the world that I live in. Our world is filled with so much hatred. Wars are started because of perceived differences or slights. We seem to have lost respect for our fellow man. "If you ain't like me, then I don't particularly like you," seems to be the prevailing attitude.

As I listened to the final number, I asked God to help that wind of change start in me. To blow in a new season of peace and freedom. As more and more of us become vessels for this wind, then perhaps we will be able to effectuate change, not only in our own lives and the lives of those around us, but also in our world. To bring about the winds of change, we've first got to start with ourselves and be willing to allow the wind of God to blow out all the crap that causes bitterness, hatred and division. Only then will we be able to become vessels for God to use as a powerful force to bring about change in our world. "Please God, do a work in me so that I can spread this mighty wind of change so that my world - your world - is filled with your peace! Make me a mighty wind!"

When the blind man sees the picture, when the deaf man hears the word...
We'll still hear the wondrous story of a world where people care
The story of this mighty wind that's blowing every where

Yes, a mighty wind's a blowin', cross the land and cross the sea
It's blowin' peace and freedom, it's blowin' equality

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

June Gloom

Here in Southern California we have a unique phenomenon that occurs once a year regular as clockwork. Every June, the marine layer settles in over the beaches and a little inland to create cloudy, foggy, often chilly days that last for nearly the entire month of June. We not-so-fondly call it June Gloom. Those of us who call Southern California home don't really like it, but it is a part of our reality and so we deal with it.

It's the same with our lives. We wish they were sunny all the time, but pretty much regular as clock work we are faced with our own set of gloomy days. It can cause us to become depressed and in some cases can be so bad that some people actually consider suicide. There is an old saying that goes into every life a little rain must fall. It sucks, but it is our reality.

Sometimes the gloom and doom is so bad that we forget that it is only temporary. We like to sing rain, rain go away, come again some other day, but no matter what chants or incantations we use, the gloom it should. The truth is that without these days of gloom, we can never fully appreciate the dog days of summer.

Here in Southern California, come the latter part of June and into July and August, the sun will beat down on us filling the beaches and watering holes to capacity. It's regular. And yet, during the times of gloom it is hard to believe that the sun will shine again. Annie sang the sun will come out tomorrow bet your bottom dollar and she was right. The sun will shine again AND if we endured, we will enjoy the sun more than if we lived in a continual sunny state.

Trials and tribulations come. That's just a part of life...just like the June Gloom that has invaded my world. The question then becomes, not whether the gloom will come but how will I handle it when it comes. I can become isolationistic and sink into depression, feeling as though my life is coming to an end, or I can use the dark time to learn more about who I am and grow. I have found that I never really grow during the sunny times...sometimes I get a tan, but usually I don't have growth moments. It's during the dark times that I sometimes have to remind myself that those things that come for free aren't nearly as enjoyable. Perhaps, instead of cursing the gloom we should accept it for what it is...a moment that will pass.

As I write this I'm listening to the rapper Game talking about Dreams. He mentions a host of people who had dreams. Some of them were able to witness the fulfillment of their dreams in their lifetime. Most of them struggled through the murky darkness for many years before realizing their dream. Some never saw their dream become reality. But whatever the avenue, none of them stopped dreaming. Even during the June Gloom, it's important to keep the dream alive and use it as a point for growth.

Psalm 30:5 - ...The nights of crying your eyes out [will] give way to days of laughter.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Same Big Lie

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. -- John 3:16-17

I often wonder how people develop such a warped perception of God. Often people's perception is of a God who is just waiting to kick them in the gut should they so much as have one tiny nose hair out of place. Some of us who come from a background that sits right on the border of cultish, have been raised with a God who has a jaundiced eye. This God is one who is standing on the balcony of Heaven looking over waiting for us to screw up at which point He will whack us over the head like the carnival game Whack-the-Mole.

Perhaps this can be traced back to our history of struggle against oppression where religion really was the way to a better life. Being filled with hope gave our ancestors something to strive for. They could be better people. But...they had to watch their p's and q's otherwise it would all be for naught. In 1741, renowned preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. It seems that this image of God isn't new at all and maybe our attitudes now are just the after effects of our ancestors hearing the old story of a God who is pissed off and ready to wreak havoc.

This past December I came to the realization that Christianity doesn't have a market on this philosophy that God is this angry, vindictive being just waiting for us to screw up. As we watched the Southeast Asian countries ravaged by the awful Tsunami and witnessed the list of the dead climb to astronomical figures, I heard a Muslim cleric from a tiny island off the coast of Thailand quoted as saying that the Tsunami was God's punishment on the people for their lack of strict adherence to the Koran. Apparently they were not taking their duties as seriously as they should and were on occasion enjoying "worldly pleasures" such as a drink here or there or not praying 5 times a day.

On September 11, 2001, my country was faced with evil and as a result lost thousands of lives and we suffered. As with any disaster, there are those who immediately come out and begin pronouncing God's judgment. And so out came The Right Reverend Jerry Falwell and The Most Righteous Pat Robertson telling us that this was God's punishment on America for losing it's moral "center." Never mind of course that God did not choose to intervene when scores of Africans were literally kidnapped from their native land, shipped in the most vile of conditions to a country they knew nothing about and forced to serve as slaves for the enrichment of the white man. Treating people as property is not nearly as bad as say sleeping with a person of the same sex and then talking about it openly. That will piss God off every time. At least according to these two fine gentlemen.

Then I read today of one other of their ilk who also proclaimed that 9/11 was God's punishment of America for it's tolerance of homosexuality. The exulted Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and his congregation are on a mission to rid the world of fags. And so, over the years this group of people has been spotted at the funerals of those who have died of AIDS loudly proclaiming that the death was a direct result of disobedience to God's laws. They showed up at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, the young gay man beaten to death in a horrible hate crime in Wyoming shouting that Matthew got what he deserved.

This year, they have made it their mission to picket and protest graduation ceremonies of highschools that have Gay/Straight Alliances or other such groups seen as potentially promoting or just condoning "aberant" sexual behavior. This past weekend they were in Boston with their signs that scream God Hates Fags and this next weekend they will be in the bedroom community of Tracy, California, some 60 miles (and a whole continent away from) San Francisco. Several pastors, about 15 in fact, of local churches (my home church included) have taken a stand against Phelps and his church group saying that God's word is against them on this. This brought an angry response from Fred Phelps daughter, Sharon Phelps-Roper who said about these pastors, strip away their titles and those churches are all talking about the same big lie, that God loves anyone.

There it was staring me in the face. The Same Big Lie! I was raised with the same big lie. That lie that told me that God loved me! That He sent His Son to die for me! I wondered if I should be concerned because I've bought into that lie! In fact, that big lie has given me hope when nothing in my world could. God loves me!! And if it is a big lie, does that mean that there are only special people who God loves? How do I know if I'm one of the people that He loves?

I realized when I read that statement that some people can get so carried away in their views of an angry God, that they forget that God is really love. Sure there are examples of God's anger in the scriptures! Absolutely God doesn't like sin. But He still loves us! My mom always said that "before the foundations of the world, He knew you and loved you!" Christ said that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. John 3:16 and 17 gives us the best view of God that we could every have. He loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to die for us so that we could have life! Shirley Phelps-Roper calls that the same big lie. Well, if that's a lie, then I'm happy to be delusional!!

Oh how He loves you and me! Oh how He loves you and me! He gave His life, what more could He give! Oh how He loves you! Oh how He loves me! Oh how He loves you and me!