The Prophet’s Music to His Ears In the Valley of the Sun

She said her son’s name is Malachi,
as in the Old Testament prophet,
but no one in Phoenix calls him that.
Everyone, including teachers, pronounce
it Mal-A-Chi as in Mariachi, so they
don’t use his first name anymore.
It had been forever since he read
the last book in the Old Testament,
but at only four chapters, he thought
what the heck and then he read in
chapter three: I (the Lord) will draw
near to you…. I will be swift to bear
witness against…those who oppress
hired workers for their wages, the
widow and the orphan, against those
who thrust aside the alien….”
She
told him everyone uses her son’s
middle name – Music. Seriously?
Malachi Music? Whatever, it was
all music to his ears here in
the Valley of the Sun.

It Always Comes Down To Mammon

It always comes down to mammon.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.
Everybody is out to get mammon.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.
All the corruption around the world
is always about getting the mammon.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.
Those who say they serve God while
making much mammon don’t know
that you can’t serve both God and mammon.
They think that God ordained that they
make mammon and then decide with the
power they have because of mammon
what will happen, but they don’t know
that you can’t serve both God and mammon.
God influences; mammon seduces; so
you can choose whom to serve, but
you can’t serve both God and that devilishly
seductive, corrosive, corruptive mammon,
but, sadly, just about everybody does.

Oh, Sean, Sean

Oh, Sean, Sean,
you seem like such a nice guy.
How can you stand there
and defend lie after lie
with legitimate journalists
in the press room?
You’re digging a hole,
which could be your
professional doom and tomb.
Wise up, guy.
If this job doesn’t work out,
perhaps you could apply
to be one more hapless
but super wealthy Russian spy
with more of the Donald’s lies
and Putin’s protection.
At least you no longer would
have to defend him
at the time of a possible coming
national insurrection,
Comrade Spicer.

Poetry Reading

At the invitation of James Pennington, Senior Minister, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ, I will read one of my poems this Sunday, March 26 during worship in the part of the liturgy called “A Contemporary Word.”

I wrote and have since revised the poem titled “There Is a Season and a Time to Every Purpose,” which was posted at this site on March 19, 2017 (scroll to read).

He Lives in a Morass

He lives in a morass
of litigation. It is just
his way of life. Out
go the invitations:
“Have at me, if you will;
I then will sue you,
my coffers to fill.
I am your new leader;
sue me if you wish;
and like a bug, you
will go squish
under the feet of my
smarmy army of attorneys
who keep me safe
on my sleazy journeys.
I will treat you
with utter disdain
and blow you away
like a single, little,
insignificant speck of grain.
Look to me, all you
miserable, tail-ends
of an ass.
I tell you America will be
great again, but
I will sink you
in a slimy morass
from which you
will not be able
to extricate your
big, dumb, unwashed bottom.
You see I am quite awesome.
I don’t drink
and I don’t chew
and I don’t go
with girls who do.
I don’t curse
and I don’t lie
and if I do,
I hope to die.
Just kidding.
I really don’t
know what to do except
play golf at Mar-A-Lago
every week
and send out
mindless tweet after tweet
after tweet.
I’m just so bored
and at night in the
White House alone
I’m so scared.
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
I want the comfort
of Mr. Sandman
and if not him,
I will tweet sweet,
sweet Steve Bannon.”

Causation of Recrimination

He’s been feeling
Those things with
Which he thought
He had come to
Terms Long ago –
Regrets,
Recriminations,
Not much elation,
More trepidations,
Past humiliations,
Not many “good, good,
Good, good,
Vibrations,” just
Negative “excitations.”
Then he wondered
The source
Of those agitations
And concluded
It was the current
Political situation
Which was the
Causation of
His consternation.
So, he started to pray,
“You’re okay, you’re,
Okay and have a
Nice day today.
Put on your new
Running shoes
And go out and
Play. Work up
A sweat on
The trail.
Inhale, exhale.
Get out of jail,
free. Amen.”

The Rise of Vindictive Nationalism?

A thoughtful, reflective, insightful friend sent me a note with a quote pertaining to the political predicament in which we find ourselves:

Bob,

The following is from an article in Harper’s Magazine by Justin E.H. Smith, “Blood and Soil: The Rise of Vindictive Nationalism.”

The excerpt is very provocative, maybe extremely prescient, especially the very last phrase.

“…It seems that every earnest attempt to rationally rebuild society at some point crosses over, as if by natural law, into irrational violence. At present, we may be witnessing the beginning of an irreversible breakdown of American democracy. A form of authoritarian demagoguery is in the course of replacing the old hard-won system, and it is coming as an expression of the popular will of people who do not think of themselves as enemies of American political tradition – on the contrary, they wish to restore its greatness. It is a movement that gleefully rejects facts and arguments in favor of feeling, passionate group identification, and the titillating prospect of violence.”

He wondered what I thought of the quote. Here is my response:

Thanks for the note.

Just a few thoughts off the top of my head:

That certainly is a sobering and chilling paragraph. I’m hoping this time in American democracy is an aberration but human nature being what it is and our fascination with violence being what it is….I will read the article hoping the author gives a dystopian vision as a warning which all societies must heed and to which we must stay alert.

By way of comparison with a Western nation in recent human history, Nazi Germany was unique: Germany had suffered humiliation in WWI, it had tarnished its image of itself as the superior Western nation, its economy was in a shambles and it found a ready-made scapegoat — Jewish business leaders and bankers.

We don’t easily fit into those circumstances. On the other hand, we tend to be smug, entitled and arrogant and yes, I’m talking about upper-lower and lower-middle class Christian whites, too, who because they are afraid and resentful are being handed the scapegoats of Washington, blacks, browns and Muslims.

Also, I think we middle-class, educated, progressive Americans had become complacent, enjoying the seeming fruit of hard-won efforts at human rights for women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBTs, etc. and thinking that things would only continue to get better and better. Afterall, we had elected the first black president and next we would elect the first female president.

The thing that bothers me most is the class warfare between the richest and the rest of us. We’ve got capitalism gone crazy. I don’t think we middle-class feel the pinch like the lower-middle does. (The middle class lives like the rich to a certain extent and we have decent salaries, drive nice cars, take vacations, all of which might be a way to keep us quiet in our imagined comfort. We go our merry way consuming, consuming, consuming. Maybe we are too sated with stuff to figure out what is going on.)

The ideological and fanatically religious economic elites push their worldviews through purchasing the Republican politicians who just want to stay in power. The Democrats sit around with their thumbs up their butts and the political establishment at the bidding of the rich and powerful (who mostly are white) point fingers away from themselves appealing to the racism that runs deep in the American soul and trumpeting (no pun intended) jingoism and xenophobia.

I have cited this many times, but I do believe it is critical to understanding our country’s economic conundrum: a Canadian socialist and professor of economics (falsely attributed to John Steinbeck) said that socialism was found wanting because the poor believe they are a mere one misfortune away from being millionaires. Is that the way the Trump voters see it? “If Donald could do it, so can I”?

I’m hoping someone will come along with a Bernie Sanders’s type message and appeal to our better angels. Such a message might be able to help the poor to cross racial lines and join forces for peaceful, political change. The vast majority of the American public, I believe, would work toward that goal.

But then again, I may be just an old, retired, myopic minister unable to see the forest for the trees.

There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that we are “on the eve of destruction.”

Oh, my…. Well, wife Chris and I will keep going to protest rallies in peaceful protest hoping we don’t get our heads bashed in.

I’m going back to reading my daily meditations and poems.

See you this summer, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Dare I venture an “All the best,” ?

Bob

A Spiritual Gathering

His late wife’s ashes
were scattered in a
great, inland sea.
He then married again
and they vowed
faithful they would be.
They found their joy
together hiking and
jogging in the sand-
dunes along that very
sea
and thought of
their wonderful
life and their plans
to be
and pledged in deep
love, harmony and
fidelity
that their ashes would
be scattered in the
sands along that sea.
Her late husband
would have loved
rising from the
Missouri dirt
and joining the rest
of the family
in spite of any hurt
this kinfolk might
have felt,
but those folks were
long gone to the
soil eliminating
any conflict they
may have felt,
so his spirit joined
the throng along
the inland sea
and all rejoiced
in the earth, fire,
wind and sea
of God’s great,
eternal creativity.

The Inland Sea

He could not bear to
put his lifeless wife
in the cold, hard
unforgiving ground
away from all the
places she knew of
life and vitality.
She had been a water
person raised by
an inland sea,
and so when the dread
time approached, he
knew what place
it would have to be.
The boat sailed out
and the ashes were
scattered in the blue
waters of that sea.
Every time the children
gather looking out at
wave upon wave
and looking as far
as eye could see,
they think lovingly
of their mother frolicking
in the waters of the
inland sea.

There Is a Season and a Time to Every Purpose

Flipping channels, he came across
The local public television’s seemingly endless
Fund raising drive — week after week — and saw, for
The umpteenth time, folk singers
Grown as old as he had grown.

He listened to the anti-war songs
And recalled marching for civil
Rights and against the war in Viet
Nam on the campus of a huge
Midwestern university.

Then he thought back a month
To the Women’s March and the
March for Immigration Rights
And the march to the ICE office
Sponsored by his Sanctuary Church

And hearing men and women his age say,
“Who would have thought we
Would be at it again? Feels
Good, doesn’t it?” Then he
Flipped the channel impatient

For the spring fund-raiser
To be over so he could, once
Again, watch those great
British dramas on Sunday
Evening.

Then he thought about the
Proposed budget cuts, made
A mental note to call his
Representatives and pulled
Out his wallet, and as he did,

He caught himself singing pacifist
Pete’s take on Ecclesiastes,
“To everything, turn, turn,
Turn; there is a season, turn,
Turn, turn, and a time to every

Purpose under heaven.”