What keeps us alive?

She told him that her depression had returned and that she was thinking about suicide again. Guns were moved out of the house, medications were reevaluated and changed and pretty soon things felt like they were back to normal. They weren’t.

What keeps us alive? I wondered about that question this week after another person I know committed suicide. I have written openly about my own dance with the devil several years ago when I thought my family, and the world would be better off without me in it. Thankfully I realized that I was wrong but sadly I came to that realization after a friend of my mine took his own life while I was struggling with understanding mine.

My first reaction about Tom’s death was centered around peace, peace from the demons that chased him, peace from all the obligations, peace from keeping his family from suffering with his illness. Then I saw his daughter speak at his memorial service. She was mad and she called his actions selfish and unloving. She didn’t understand. She didn’t want to understand and she criticized him for forcing her and her brothers to have to figure out why their Dad thought so little of his life, a life that they worshiped. Whatever dark cloud or funk that had cast its spell on me disappeared when I got home and saw my children.

I was lucky. I didn’t need medication to bring me back to reality, I just needed some reality. The reality that my life was already short with absolutely no guarantee of a tomorrow. The reality that what keeps me alive was standing right in front me. That my short-term need for what would have been permanent peace was indeed a selfish act with no thought about the long-term hurt and guilt my family would have to live with.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I was, to be able to simply “snap-out” of it. Many people need some extra help to balance the chemicals in their brain. They need the wisdom of a professional, to help walk and guide them through the darkness. There is nothing wrong with needing or asking for help. But sadly, for too many people, the shame or the comfort of living in the darkness prevents them from doing so.

I have seen to many lives lost to suicide in my almost 60 years of living. I understand the reason, I have felt the reason. I understand the choice, I have stared the choice in the eyes. What I don’t understand is what keeps some us of alive, while others simply let go. Don’t let go, please don’t let go.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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Another lie in the wall

Two Sisters

“He believes his own lies in a way that lasts for decades. He’ll tell the same stories time and time again, regardless of whether or not facts are right in front of his face.” – Trump biographer Tim O’Brien

There is a story floating around about a Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting called Two Sisters on the Terrace, which I have seen hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago. Trump has not only claimed but insisted that he owns the original which would make the one at the Art Institute, a painting they have owned since 1933, a fake.

Now for many of you that Trump believes he owns the original and that the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago is lying, or to use a Trumpism “fake news”, really isn’t a big shock. We know he is a dishonest piece of crap, he lies about anything, everything and everyone that questions his tactics, words or his actions. In the grand scheme of things, given all the other bullshit he subjects us too, that he has a knock-off Renoir that he “claims” to be the real thing would seem like a minor issue. But what it tells me is that the man, in one of the most powerful positions in the world, delusions have no boundaries.

We all have our little quirks, god knows I have a few. But what sets many, if not most of us apart from this very sad, and sick puppy we are forced to call “our President” is the ability to recognize, accept and maybe even make fun of our idiosyncrasies. Not Donald J. Trump. There is not a thread of humility, or humor woven into his human fabric. What he finds funny is calling people losers, crazy, lying, crooked, wacky or as he referred to Sen. Bob Corker “Liddle”. Funny stuff coming from a man without a compassionate, empathetic or patriotic bone in his body. No, he is not a patriot. All the NFL crap? He is simply playing to his base and taking the presses eyes off the ball if only for a fleeting moment.

“Our” President is mentally ill which not only makes him one of the most powerful men in the world but also one of the most dangerous men in the world alongside Kim Jong-un. There isn’t an inch of difference between the two including very bad hairstyles. Thankfully there is a difference between their governments which may be the only mechanism that saves this planet.

Keep pressing your representatives. Remind them that the future of our democracy, our children, our grandchildren, hell this planet is reliant on them keeping this mad man in check. These short-term, vote getting decisions they and the President are making about our economy, our health, and the environment have long-term repercussions for future generations. But most importantly the hate, and decisiveness “our” President spews on a daily basis is having a very harmful effect on America today. Sadly that harm will linger just as long as the polluted waterways and air he has disregarded with a stroke of a pen.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein

 

 

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Turning Jesus into Santa Claus

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” – Jesus Christ

Jesus lamb

This is the Jesus I grew-up with as a kid. Caucasian, flowing brown hair and a neat, trimmed beard. He is contemplative, gentle, clean, and oh so fresh. Now you and I know this image isn’t even remotely close to what Jesus looked like. But somewhere along the line this middle-eastern man became what is pictured above. His transformation reminds me a lot of the evolution of Santa Claus. Do you remember seeing pictures of old Chris Cringle from the 1800’s and then how Macy’s or Coca-Cola crafted him? Same magic we have been working on Jesus for the last 2,000 years.

Experts believe this is probably what the man Evangelical Christians have staked their eternal soul on really looks like;

jesus_reconstruction

I would suspect this guy would have a tough time getting through airport security, or hailing a cab in Dallas, Texas and certainly he would have the pew to himself at any number of First Baptist Churches spread out across this country. Why? Because he looks more like Barack Obama than Franklin Graham. This isn’t the image of the Evangelical Jesus. This is the new Jesus for white America in Trump world;

Buffed Jesus

This is bad-ass Jesus. Don’t take no-shit Jesus. My way or the highway Jesus. Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth Jesus. This, ladies and gentleman is Trump’s Jesus which stands to reason is the new Evangelical Christian Jesus as well. He is tough, buff, and kicking-ass and taking names. He is making a list, and checking it twice….. No wait wrong legend or is it? 

 

 

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The fool on the hill

donald trump grin

Day after day, alone on the hill
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

Well on the way, head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

He never listens to them
He knows that they’re the fools
They don’t like him

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

“The Fool on the hill” by Sir Paul McCartney

 

 

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What is a Christian?

The answer to the question “What is a Christian?” will vary greatly depending on who you ask. To some, it means you believe in Jesus or the religion that is based on Jesus’ teachings. Others use the word “Christian” to speak of a deep personal relationship between Jesus Christ and themselves.

For me, the best answer I have ever heard to the question “What is a Christian?” is someone who acts “Christ like”. Using that answer to solve the riddle, a Christian would be a person who patterns their behavior, activity, and speech like Jesus Christ. I guess in today’s world we need to ask ourselves which “Jesus” they are patterning themselves after?

My wife and I have started attending a non-denominational mission church for the homeless in our community. I have written on several occasions about the wonderful church I have been involved with for over thirty years and the great work we do for our city. But over the last couple of years as I sat in the pews of this mainline though liberal church looking at all of the affluent white faces with a parking lot full of new shiny automobiles I have felt like something was missing.

What I discovered was missing was the rest of the world, the real world. The part of society many of us don’t acknowledge and hide from ourselves.

Sunday a homeless man slept in our pew beside my wife during the service. When it came time for the offering the man in front of me reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumbled dollar bill and thirty-seven cents which he counted again and again as if the amount would change before the offering plate made its way to him.

All of the sensories that make my home church a sterile environment are under attack at this mission church. The sights, the sounds and the smells are unsanitized. There is a tension, a grittiness, a feeling of lost hope and desperation that fills the sanctuary. For many who filled the pews this past Sunday it was an opportunity to get out of the elements if only for a few hours and receive a warm meal. They aren’t worried about Donald Trump, or healthcare, or tax cuts. They don’t care if someone says “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” to them. They can’t imagine the kind of opulent wealth our President touts and displays as a sign of his superiority. They aren’t “of the world” they are in it, and hanging on by their fingernails.

I believe the Evangelical Christian world has lost its way believing in and using Donald Trump to light their path. Their view of how the world “should be” goose steps with the world Jesus encountered. They have forgotten that Jesus bucked the status quo, of which they have now become. But none of us would ever be able to convince any of them that they aren’t on the path to “Glory”. Their view of the world is singular, a narrow tunnel with a dim light at the end. They think they know the source of the light but in reality all they have to go on is an uneducated guess.

As I watched the man with the crumbled dollar bill and thirty-seven cents I wondered what he thought he was buying for his money. Maybe a little time on a very hard pew in the air-conditioned sanctuary. I suspect, given the condition of the bill it was all the money he had. But no worries “our” President is responsible for the U.S. gaining “more than 5.2 trillion dollars in Stock Market Value since Election Day!” as the Evangelicals cheer him, on their quest to be recognized as the only true believers and protectors of the gospel.

What does grace and salvation cost? About one dollar bill and thirty-seven cents.

Article: Have We Forgotten the Point of Christianity?

 

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I’ve Normalized Trump You should, too. By Jack Shafer

Great article: I’ve Normalized Trump You should, too. 

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The illusion of self-importance

Clouds

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” – Carl Sagan

When was the last time you just stopped what you were doing and looked up at the clouds? Or watched a busy ant struggle to carry a morsel of food twice its size back to its nest?

We forget sometimes to just slow down and watch the world around us. We forget that the world doesn’t revolve around our needs, our wants, or our problems. We aren’t the center of the universe. Sure, we may be important to a handful of people but none of us are truly indispensable. We may feel like it from time to time but there were 107 billion people who came before us and I would bet a few billion of them thought they were indispensable too. Guess what? They weren’t.

The world seems to be filled with self-important people who buy into the illusion that without them the universe will come tumbling down. Sadly none of us have the advantage of looking beyond the tip of our nose. If we could though I think what we would see would be very humbling. What happens when we die? Some sadness, some emails that don’t get answered or plants that don’t get watered but the earth keeps spinning. Not even a pause to mourn our passing.

Humans, or at least humans as we know them, have been on this planet for 200,000 years or so. The Earth itself is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old (for the die-hard Christian it is only 6,000 years old but that is a post for a later date). Today the average person in the United States lives to be 79 years old but that hasn’t always been the case. The average life expectancy for a U.S. man in 1907 was 45.6 years. In 1957 it rose to 66.4, 75.5 in 2007 and 78.74 in 2015. What’s the point? None of us are really here long enough to make a permanent dent in the universe. Honestly we aren’t here long enough to even figure out why we are here.

Though we are “lasting longer” our overall importance to the world as a whole really hasn’t changed. For the largest percentage of us our deaths will be marked by a short obituary in the local paper with a funeral or memorial service attended by a small group of family and friends. There won’t be an article in The New York Times or television coverage on NBC about our passing. For the rest of the world, 7 billion people, our death will be just one more unremarkable day.

Here is thing, our time on Earth is short. Most of us aren’t going to find a cure for cancer, or solve world hunger. We can’t fix the fact that we have an egotistical moron as our President or that he likes to pick fights with people like a four-year old. What we can do is make our little patch of earth a more loving, caring, and compassionate place to be. Maybe what will happen then is all of those little patches will come together like the blankets my grandmother used to make and cover more ground, spreading both grace and peace.

Look-up at the clouds and remember how small you are. But hold my hand, and the hands of others and watch what we can do together.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” –  Vincent Van Gogh

 

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