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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

a breath in the cold

Listen to the snow

falling on spruce boughs

and eyelashes

Feel the cold’s

icy fingers

reach into my chest

like death

looking for a soul

and coming up empty

.

life

a breath in the cold

gone,

and forgotten

but beautiful

.

isn’t that enough?

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We are on the front side of a cold snap, up here in the interior of Alaska. It’s just starting to get cold, with temperatures this morning in downtown Fairbanks hovering right around 30 below Fahrenheit.

The weather forecasters are threatening us with an extended cold spell, indicating temperatures should drop into the negative 40’s in the days ahead, with no break to the cold in the foreseeable future.  But what do they know?

I like the cold.

More honestly, I like extreme weather.

I find that it is nature’s way of reminding us who is in charge, of the limits to our own knowledge, technology, and power.

The wilderness, or natural world, restores my spirit. Whenever I can, I like to go to the mountains, the forests, or sea to do just that.  I don’t get there as often as Id like.

So when the weather turns inclement, it’s like a house call from God.

It redeems me, renews my understanding of my place in the world, and the universe. Despite all our folly, our destruction of ecosystems and life (possibly even our own), weather reassures me the natural world will persevere.

We may not recognize the outcome, or be able to exist in it, but nature and all its intricacies will remain.

And that comforts me.

So today when I come in from the cold, fingers swollen, icicles and frost on my beard, don’t pity me.

Celebrate with me.

For I’ve been dancing with the gods.

In the oh so, glorious cold.

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I’ve been walking to and from work downtown recently, depending on when I go relative to kids going to school or my wife going to work.

Today I rolled out of bed while everybody else was sleeping in, taking off to work in one of those beautiful mid-winter mornings in Fairbanks. New snow had blanketed the town during the late morning, and was still drifting down.

Snow in Fairbanks is unique to any place I’ve lived. It falls silently, rarely accompanied by any wind, and stacks quietly on any limbs, wires, or even twigs; forming an intricately woven organic lace of white on every tree, willow, or blade of grass long enough to still emerge from earlier snows.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if just to work.

After work, I headed home via the post office. It gave me an opportunity to cross the Cushman Street Bridge and pass by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, as opposed to the pedestrian bridge where I usually cross the river.

I grew up Catholic, and although my views on religion stray far from the church these days, I still long for the spirituality and mysticism that can envelop a traditional mass. So much so, as I passed their front door, that I eyed the times for mass and even considered recruiting, or drafting, my family for a Christmas service.

I continued down the path, freshly cleaned of snow (the only disturbance during my early morning walk was the snow blower running over the church’s walks); to the little altar of stone for the Virgin Mary built in the Church’s front yard. The snow had been carefully brushed away from the altar. Within the apse, a statue of the virgin mother stands, surrounded by pots of brightly colored plastic flowers.

The irony of this little scene didn’t escape me.

So I stood there, in the low winter light of the Alaska midday sun, rays filtering through the branches of the snow covered birch trees, snow still softly falling upon me, surrounded by divinity as it was meant to be, in front of a poorly crafted altar to the mother of a god made in mankind’s own image.

I walked on, struck by the folly of man.

Of religion.

Of the obscenity of plastic flowers replacing real ones made by god.

Man does do it better, after all.

Meanwhile the pope is in Rome, railing against the evils of homosexuality, proclaiming how it will be the downfall of humanity.

Not overpopulation.

Not the disease, starvation, war, torture, abuse, injury, rape, environmental ruin or death brought on by overpopulation.

Just homosexuality.

Homosexuality?

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and exactly where was God?

I came across this article today as I was reading the news.

13 Year Old Girl Confirmed Dead

Now, tell me, exactly where was God?

Perhaps he was in the shower when she was raped.

Her crime was being raped by 3 men.

Or using the bathroom when they found her guilty of adultery.

When she reported the rape to the militia who control Kismayo, Somalia, she was charged with fornication (adultery)

Maybe in the middle of catching a Pat Robertson newscast while she was convicted.

and sentenced to death by stoning.

At 13.

At 13.

Maybe he was cheering on his football team while she was prepared for her sentence.  Everyone knows god picks favorites.

Kicking and screaming in terror, the girl was carried into the stadium.

Reading the last, suspenseful chapters of the DaVinci Code.

1,000 onlookers watched as her hands and legs were forcefully bound

Just possibly he turned away, unconcerned because she wasn’t an American.

13 year old  Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was buried up to her neck and a cape was placed over her head, leaving only her face exposed.

Or a Christian.

50 men hurled stones at her face from the truckload unloaded earlier that day.

I wonder if he flinched, just a little, as the first stone struck.

According to onlookers, 3 times nurses were instructed to check whether she was still alive.

Or went back to talking United States foreign policy with George W. Bush.

They pulled the teen from the ground,

Not once.

declared she was still alive

Not twice.

and put her back in the hole for the stoning to continue.

But three times.

Now, pray tell me, where was God?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

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Last night, I attended a vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks for the victims of the Sunday shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. As of this afternoon, two victims of that tragedy have died, four remain hospitalized and two have been released.

We met in the somber grey of another rainy day, one of many this summer in Fairbanks. People wandered in, many straight from work, finding a place to join with a circle of friends to mourn this event, recognize the lives that we lost, and search for grains of meaning. Music played gently in the background, echoed by the rain on the roof overhead.

The lights of the sanctuary were off, our only light came from above, filtered first by the grey of the sky, then dappled by the dripping green of the birch tree leaves. Candlelight centered our attention on one side of the circle, eight flames casting warmth, each representing a spirit damaged or lost to us by Sunday’s events.

Jeff led our vigil, leading us through songs and an update on Sunday’s events. Members took turns speaking from the podium, then from the chalice.

For the first time since I’ve attended our Fellowship, barring one Sunday when I lit the chalice itself, I lit a candle.

I spoke of the heroes from Sunday’s attack.

Of how often these attacks occur, and the shooting goes on for hours.

Or until the police arrive and dispatch the gunman. Which is exactly what this fellow was hoping for.

I wondered aloud how many lives were saved by the quick action of those in the Church. It was reported that only 3 rounds of the 76 brought into the Church were discharged.

Today the evolution of that thought has continued. I’m not alone.

Unitarian Universalists are, by my experience, peaceful people.

Peaceful, but not passive.

We are used to protecting those who can not protect themselves. We are cursed at for attending peace rallies, spit upon for supporting the rights of gays and lesbians, and damned for allowing atheists and agnostics in our midst.

In the case of Sunday’s shooting, members quickly disarmed the suspect at great risk to themselves. At least one fatality is reported to have fallen victim to the shooter while sheltering others from the gunman.

I believe the shooter, like society, made a misjudgment. To value peace is not equitable to being weak.

To stand up to the majority for what is right, at great risk to one’s self, one’s livelihood or home is a sign of great strength.

Peaceful, but not passive.

I recall an image from the movie Ghandi though I’ve seen the movie once, when I was in the 4th grade. In my memory, Ghandi and his followers lined up to harvest salt to break a British monopoly on the commodity. British soldiers met the single file line, beating each person as they took their turn at the front of the line. As a person recovered consciousness, they returned to the back of the line. On and on they made their way through, each taking their turn over and over again until the British gave way.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Sunday’s shooter bought into one of the great lies of the right, that there is not enough for all.

If the shooter had taken the time to listen to the UU message, that in an equitable, just, and free society each person can and does have work, a place to live, education, freedom to worship, and love as they choose. There are many paths, one doesn’t preclude the other.

Instead he chose hate, and a violent solution.

Our response must be love, and peaceful.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Somehow we must use this event to reach out to the marginalized, those people like the shooter that have been touched by hate. Our country, and our faith, must offer them hope.

On a global scale, we must raise people up to our standard of living. There is enough for all.

To borrow the the words of a burgeoning orator “this is our time.”

It is time for our faith to re-emerge from the shadows, and take up our roll as leaders in society. To show the world how to move forward in the face of violence.

Peaceful, but not passive.

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I’m participating in a religious exploration group, known as a Chalice Circle, at our local UU Fellowship. For about 8 weeks we are meeting one evening a week to discuss Unitarian-Universalism, our own beliefs, and how they mesh. Its a wonderfully diverse group, with a wide range of opinions, religious experiences, and beliefs. Amazingly, unlike many places on the earth, we can all sit down together and talk about it without resorting to violence.

Therein is where the beauty of UU lies, that while we may have Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, Agnostics, Humanists, Naturalists, possibly even a Unitarian or Universalist in the group, we are all together on a search for greater knowledge and meaning. So what if we have each chosen a separate path.

For me, it has been and continues to be a challenge emotionally and intellectually. In short, I’m enjoying it immensely.

Last week I put the following blurb together for our newsletter, and thought I would share it here today (since I’m home with the flu and not attending Fellowship).

Each Monday evening since early January, a group of 15 strangers has come together at UUFF to participate in an adult religious exploration group, known as a Chalice Circle. We all share one thing, that we chose to be there, to participate in an opportunity to explore our chosen faith, Unitarian-Universalism. We are quite a diverse group, with an equally divergent path of arriving at UUFF. We have people who are new to the Fellowship, having just discovered UU after a lifelong quest for spiritual meaning. There are lifelong UUs. And, like any good UU group, there are at least few recovering Catholics, myself included.

Our group is led by, facilitated by, and participated in by Jeff and Rebecca. They open each meeting by having one of us light the chalice, then each of us shares a high and a low of our week. We’ve had some great highs, and some tragic lows in our short time together. Our early meetings focused on sharing our spiritual journeys with each other, learning to trust one another with some of our most intimate thoughts and fears. We sit quietly, intently listening to each other’s stories, alternately laughing and crying together.

In our short time together, I think we’ve come to understand how we further our religious and spiritual understanding by sharing our questions, insights, and experiences with one another. Together, we’ve discovered many commonalities among our spiritual stories, despite all our other apparent differences.

We are close to the midway point of the eight week schedule now. As the tide slackens, we are turning away speaking about our spiritual past, and becoming more focused on the future. What we don’t know, but want to. What lies ahead for us in our spiritual journey. And what guidance we can provide one another as we move forward, and learn more about UU along the way.

When our Chalice Circle ends, what began as a group of strangers, I expect will be a group of friends. A group of people who have explored the past, but will share the future, in Fellowship.

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This is the second part of what I expect to be a series of articles where I propose aligning the constitution with god, mine. This post builds off of the first installment, which you might want to read first.

A few minutes watching TV, especially male focused TV like sports, and one gets assaulted by the advertising for ED prescriptions and male enhancements pills. The ads are more than a little suggestive, and hard to explain to my 4 and 9 year old daughters when and if they watch hockey games with me.

Nurses (Ali’s coined term for breasts, as in that is where a mommy ‘nurses’ her baby) slipping out of a top during the Super Bowl, easy to explain. A male erection, not so easy.

Thank you Ali, for adding a new term for breast to the American language. I can hear it already. (Insert surfer accent here, think Spicolly from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.) “Whoa, dude, check out those nurses!” And he isn’t talking about hospital employees either.

I digress. Lets get back to the sin at hand.

The advertisements are offensive to me, and therefore god.

A few years ago the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was arrested when re-entering the country because he had a prescription bottle of Viagra, written for someone else. Eventually the charges were dropped, apparently the doctor had requested a different name be placed on the bottle to protect Mr. Limbaugh’s privacy. Fine, I can live with that. And god tells me she can too.

What God and I can’t live with is, regarding a little discussed fact of the case, is that RUSH LIMBAUGH WAS/IS AN UNMARRIED MAN!!!!!

An unmarried man, traveling with a prescription for Viagra, a drug meant to raise a man’s flag when they can’t do it themselves. Why would a single man go to the Dominican Republic with a prescription for ED?

Google “Dominican Republic sex industry“.

Oh, that’s why. Well that clears that up. At least the reason for the trip, if not the sordid details.

Imagine it, a conservative pundit not living up the standard he so callously pushes on everybody else. The shock. The horror.

Actually, it seems like this happens at least once a week to one of them.

I can accept a man who chooses medicine over god’s will to lower his flag. Though I find it hypocritical to trust in god then medically treat the ailments she gives you. It’s not right, but I can accept some people are less virulent (god’s will) than others and need a little man-made help.

But not if you aren’t married.

To a woman.

If you are a man.

Not a dog.

Or a cat.

Or a woman.

Dogs and cats, go read something else.

OK, I’ve confused the issue. Let me begin again, marriage between a man and woman, Viagra OK. Not good, but OK. All those other marriages, I’ll discuss in another post. Single men, NO Viagra. (Sorry Rush, god has determined you need to keep your flag in your pants.)

And so, as my first proposed amendment to the constitution, to align it with god, we shall limit the distribution of ED prescriptions to any male or female with a VALID marriage license. I, I mean god, will determine what is valid. Through me, of course. And we’ll throw in a blurb limiting all advertisements for ED drugs, and for that matter anything remotely sexual or doing with female hygiene, to C-Span. They need the viewers.

Who said god isn’t merciful?

For those of you wondering why I said females can get the prescription, let me just add that a properly subservient wife will notice when her man gets a little down, and will slip these pills to him without him knowing it. Good for his ego.

Please note, I don’t advocate this for the woman’s benefit.

Though god might, she’s big on women’s issues.

(Go figure).

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