Craving a Bit of Oblivion

“He doesn’t believe in God because
he thinks he is God,” said the actress

in an episode of a British drama. The
viewer thought about the relevance of

that remark for America and then he
thought about another remark in the

episode, “He was craving a bit of
oblivion,” which, given the state of

affairs in America this Fourth of July
weekend, didn’t sound like such a

bad idea, although the line was a
clever British reference to suicide.

Ballpark Franks

My wife said she was really,
really hungry for a good hot-
dog, so she googled hotdog

and read through all the lists
of the best hotdogs. She settled
on a variety of Ballpark Franks

even though it wasn’t in the top
five. She said she liked the ring
of it, “Hey, get ya hotdog here.

Hotdogs, hotdogs, get ya really
hot hotdog here. Get ya Ballpark
frank.” She has taken over the

grilling but she said that for this
Fourth she wanted me to do the
dogs on the pottery pig hibachi,

which sits on a table overlook-
ing the pond as decoration but
which hasn’t been used in years

to which the growing green moss
on the side of the pinkish pig
would testify. I said, “You want

me to do “all beef” hotdogs on
a pig.” She said, “It’s okay. I have
kosher pickles to go on the dogs.”

I said, “You could have gotten
kosher dogs.” She said, “They don’t
have the same ring as Ballpark Franks.”

“Dear, you don’t even like baseball.”

A Drive During the Pandemic

Shortly, I will be called upon
to leave the sanctuary, my
meditations, the poetry, my

wife and dog and go out into
the world of ever-growing
tension, anxiety, fear, anger

and escalating violence. I
will drive my car to my ap-
pointed destination hoping

to arrive at the designated
time having allowed myself
plenty of time to get there

on time, and almost immed-
iately I will be in the way of
someone who wants to go

faster than I am going. The
driver will invade the space
recommended in all manuals

of safe driving and I will feel
my blood pressure rise and
I will forget the message of

the meditations; I will forget
the beauty and pathos of the
poetry; I will forget the loveli-

ness of my wife’s face and
the faithful affection of
the Chocolate Lab and I will

join the world, be of the
world and not just in the
world. And so the internal

battle rages and my resolut-
ions and intentions dissolve
and wash away in a wave of

ever growing tension, anxiety,
fear, anger and escalating
violence.

The Preacher Pridefully and Piously Proclaimed — But It Isn’t What God Made; It’s What We Become

The preacher pridefully and
piously proclaimed that God
didn’t create wretches as he

insisted that the word in
Amazing Grace be changed.
His congregation agreed.

The choir led the congregation
in the watered-down version.
They all smiled self-satisfied

smiles. That sure sounds better
they pridefully proclaimed. But
John Newton, writer of the hymn

and former slave trader, wrote
“Amazing grace, how sweet the
sound that saved a wretch like me.”

It was wretched to enslave
humans and he was a wretch to
have been a part of it. It’s like guilt

and shame. Guilt is getting off easy.
Shame is how wretched you can
be to the marrow of your bones.

Newton became a great preacher
because only grace could change
his shame into salvation. The

minister who changed the word
and the congregation that went
along were, like Moses, in denial

and purveyors of cheap grace.
Was it grace that saved the soul?
John knew. It was grace that saved

the wretch and God saved John for
the rest and the best that John
could and would ever be.

Politics — The Hypocrisy of It All

In their miserable (collective and individual) bodies
the hypocrisy oozes from every pore.
Their jobs are just other people’s hobbies.
Such a cushy job, they are hoping to re-score.

“One-Note-Donny” is failing.
He’s underwater in the polls,
leaving opportunistic politicians flailing.
Will they dump him like a bucket of hot coals?

Most never liked him in the first place
except for a few rabid representatives.
If given the chance, he away they will chase
while unctuously shouting democracy lives.

The Relational God

(The following note was sent to a very good friend who, in light of everything that is perceived as going wrong, wonders where God is in all of it. He, a brilliant guy, is struggling with what we all struggle with from time to time — the theodicy questions. This was my response.)

I hope you will allow me this reflection.

Any time anyone enters into a relationship, that person relinquishes power, in fact, that person, if smart, realizes that he or she has no legitimate power over another person. If such phony power is exerted, it is called “abuse” and “domination,” a word embraced by the president.

At best, the only power we have is persuasion. Why, because we are not the other person and we have no right to exert power over that person. Love certainly dictates that we relinquish any false notion of power in relation to the other. In fact, we realize that the opposite is true for a truly loving relationship. We realize that “giving up one’s self for the other” is the way to true life. What wouldn’t you do for your wife? Yeah, I know. We’ve been cooped up for three months and the bonds have been tested. 😇

I believe this is the “relational” way. It is in the marrow of our bones. God is relational; the very nature of God is relational as metaphorically described in the Trinity. If God is relational and God is Love then God knows that God relinquishes power in relation to the “other.” In fact, God is so smart, God knows that exerting such dominating power would destroy any relationship. And so, God is not all-powerful in the Greek sense of omnipotence. God persuades, God is vulnerable, God gets hurt, God cries, God rejoices, God invites, God sacrifices.

Therefore Jesus, the nobody from nowhere who dies a miserable scandalous death as do millions and millions of others to be forgotten in the annals of history. But Jesus wasn’t forgotten. And therefore, every one of those millions upon millions are not forgotten in the heart of God. The disciples experienced the “aliveness” of Jesus and realized that that aliveness came through suffering and dying “in relationship,” in love for others.

Do I believe that ultimately “all shall be well”? Yes, because of the vulnerability and sacrifice of God to reveal that Love is at the heart of all creation and not raw power. Love wins.

After my late, young wife died in a day, I cursed God for not preserving her life. Then, at some point deep into the grieving process, I saw Jesus on the cross and realized that God was with me in my suffering. I didn’t need a “fixer” as much as I wanted one at that moment. I needed a Cosmic Lover.

Sometimes it would be nice to have a “benevolent” dictator to make everything right by decree. We don’t have that. Thank heavens because such a dictator could become malevolent at any moment. We have the “Window” into the heart of God revealing just how much God loves the creation and every one of us. We have Jesus. And now, we are Jesus — the Body of Christ.

Also, I believe we have the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, etc. because there are many gates into the garden, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Bob

Simplicity Lane*

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.” —Lao Tzu

The white couple stood in front of
their mansion with rifle and gun
in hand, clearly panic-stricken.

Black, brown and white protesters
walked along the private road to
let the mayor, in a mansion down

the road, know she should resign.
Yes, the protesters were breaking
the law, but what, just what if the

white couple had invited the pro-
testors in for afternoon tea? And
what if the couple then sold the

mansion, gave the proceeds to a
worthy cause, moved into a tiny
house on a small lot in front of a

beautiful pond teeming with fish
and named the dirt road to the
house Simplicity Lane and then

invited the protesters over for
a fish fry for some and a vegan
picnic in honor of Francis and

Clare for the others and then
gave the tiny house to the pro-
testers and moved into a home-

less shelter? That last part about
giving away the tiny house may
be a bridge over a pond too far

especially if the white couple
love to fish.

*idea from the news and a meditation by Richard Rohr

Poem After Poem

He reads poem after poem
all having to do with the dire
circumstances of the day. Per-
haps, misery loves company
or perhaps, in saying it often
enough, “it” will lose its power
and then there comes along a
poem that has nothing to do
with the dire circumstances of
the day and it lifts him like a
Fourth of July balloon that
escapes and floats up, up and
away and then he wonders if the
selector of the poem addressed
the dire circumstances of the
day.