Tag Archives: faith

Two Sides to Every Story


Over the years, as I’ve developed an understanding of my faith in God, I have regularly been confronted by fundamental religion as an extreme.  Whether it be the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or other faith, orthodoxy has alluded me.  The question that regularly rises to my mind is, “How can anyone be so sure of anything?”  I now find myself on the other end of the question, “How can anyone be so sure God doesn’t exists?”

A young man, who is like a nephew to me, recently became an atheist chaplain at a major metropolitan teaching hospital. Although this may seem like an oxymoron at first blush, after discussion with him, I, along with the head of the department for chaplains, realized this makes perfect sense. His belief in science and free-thinking is as strong as that of the orthodox individuals I know.  The fascinating part for me is that I am now the one with the belief in a god that someone else cannot imagine exists.  Agnosticism, at least, allows for the possibility for a god, as long as there is proof that this entity exists.  Atheism, however, offers no possibility for the existence of a supreme deity, and thereby a relationship with that deity is not an option.  His belief system is not my belief system; however, it is one with which I am extremely familiar.  My father was an atheist most of the time, or an agnostic, depending on when you spoke with him.  Dad and I had many animated, sometimes vitriolic, conversations about God.

As I look to my nephew, I see a peacefulness about him that I cannot understand.  To my spirit, I cannot help but question how it is possible for someone to believe in nothing smaller than a quark or lepton, neither of which I understand at all, and nothing bigger than the universe.  The only thing I know is that I love this young fellow and know that if this is the path he’s chosen, then it necessarily must be right for him. Although they never push their belief systems on me, I know my friends look at me with perplexed wonder at how a person reared as a Roman Catholic could have such an omni denominational faith.  Inasmuch as my loving fundamental Christian friends would rejoice if I said I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I know I would be happy if Noel would find a faith in something larger than space. Perhaps, though, this might not be all together true.  Would I want for him what he doesn’t want or feel he needs for himself?  No.

The spiritual universe I sense informs my awareness that we are each responsible for our own lives, accountable only to ourselves and to our creator, whomever that may be… if any, given the belief system.  So, how could I ask him to believe differently than his ethical and moral system tells him is right?  I can’t.  What I do know is that as he pursues his chaplaincy, he will encounter other systems of belief and faith that are not consistent with his own.  That is why I gave him my thanatological research regarding death and dying in many traditions to supplement his already wide breadth of knowledge.  The gifts he has as a vital part of a support system and as loving human being in the benefit of other people will be best illuminated by his knowledge of others’ traditions; even those he doesn’t espouse.  He then can speak their language while remaining true to his own convictions.  This is compassion. This in intelligence used on a personal level.  This is my nephew.

I am very proud of this bright, joyful young man.  He is a unique and very funny individual who brings rich laughter and deep thought wherever he goes.  I know those he counsels, the individuals who are ill and dying, and their families, will benefit from his presence in unimaginable ways.  They will remember his tender heart and brilliant mind, and the comfort he brings, long after their difficult journeys have passed.

Good luck, Noel.  I am very proud of you!

Which Door?


Since I was a young boy, I have always questioned my faith.  I was reared Roman Catholic, playing the organ and singing in the choir, and devoutly serving as an altar boy.  I always loved my Catholicism; however, I also wondered what else was out there.  I innately knew there were many doors available, and that others chose some of the myriad doors.  This awareness was enhanced by my father who was a former Catholic and thereafter an agnostic.  My challenge is that I am finding it increasingly difficult to hear people speak of their traditions as exclusively correct, not just for them, but for others as well.

In the 1960s, my mother taught me that other religions were not the right ones for us.  How she knew that, I never fully understood until I was older and realized that this was what the church taught us to believe.  Even as I became an adult and realized that there was no room for me as I was, in my fullness as a whole human being, I never stopped loving the church; I just could not go back. Today, we are told that as gay people, we can participate in the church, but that we must confess our sins and promise to abstain from the activities with those we love specified by the church. Certainly, that is not consistent with what I know of God, so I had to move forward in my search.

Christianity is the predominate overarching faith in the United States.  That is not true in other regions such as Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Near East.  They believe in other traditions that, to them, are just as valid as Christianity is to the majority of Americans.  In fact, there are more people worldwide who believe in their various Eastern and folk religions than believe in Judaism, the founding tradition of the Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam, the largest groups of faith on the planet [1].  Some researchers indicate that Islam has overtaken Catholicism as the number one specific religion in the world [2].

I have meandered my way through Eastern religions, New Age philosophies, ancient religions, native traditions, and other belief systems.  I have read, discussed, meditated, and prayed my way to this moment.  All I know for certain is that there is a Greater Spirit, one that has many, many names. This spirit connects us all in love and unity.  I believe that sin and hell do not exist.  I believe that we live in the constant light of God.  I believe our fears cause us to choose to turn our backs on the light; to ignore that radiance eternally emanating through the door before, during, and after this human existence.  This is why we sometimes perceive evil and live in the shadows.  I believe that all paths lead to God, because God has given us every opportunity to remember who we truly are in unity with the Universe. We learn by example and we learn by contrast.  I believe we have many teachers and that all our teachers are sent from God, even the ones that scare us the most.  Perhaps, the ones that scare us or bring up anger in us are our best teachers, because like pain from an injury, they call us to focus on where our fears exist.

These beliefs are mine and mine alone.  I do not expect anyone else, let alone everyone else, to believe what I believe.  If others condemn me for my faith, they can contemplate why they do so. That is not my job.  If others feel joy or growth through my awareness of my faith, all the better.  I have accepted that I will always question the structure of my faith, but I suspect that my faith itself will be everlasting.

Perhaps in my questioning, I have walked through the door that was meant for me, the door of a seeker of knowledge and wisdom.  I believe everyone has a job to do on this planet, and one of my jobs is to ask questions out loud.  I can’t possibly have the answers for anyone else, but that is fine with me because I am not walking another person’s path.  I can only find my peace, my truth, and my unity with others in my own way, celebrating others’ light along the way.  To me, that is consistent with my faith and the God I believe in.

So, I offer my little prayer of thanksgiving to those who have been my teachers, friends and challengers alike, for they have given me opportunities to find happiness.  I am grateful to not tolerate, but celebrate the paths of my brothers- and sisters-in-light.  I continue to welcome new thought, new wisdom into my life, brought by generous souls, whether they are aware of the gifts they bring or not.  I remain aware that I still have an inconceivably long journey ahead of me to understand God. These are the gifts I receive from God for which I am so very thankful.  For those who insist on others believing as they do, I ask you this: How did you choose your door?

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[1] Wikipedia (2011) “Major Religious Groups” Wikipedia. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups

[2] Rizzo, Allesandra (2008, March 31) “Muslims ‘overtake’ Catholics, become world’s largest religion.” National Geographic. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080331-AP-islam-largest.html

The Newborn Jesus


On the day Jesus was born, he was a human baby for all intents and purposes.  His birth was announced by Gabriel to Mary, Mother of Jesus.  His divinity was clear; however, the moment he was born, he arrived as every other child had manifested in all of history at that time.

As we ponder His birth today, most likely not the actual birthday of Jesus, we must remember why He was born to a human mother.

As with all of us who have arrived on this planet, Jesus had a path to follow that was His alone.  He had a message to share that eventually became a religion and a source of faith for many men and women over the last 2,000 years.

As a Jewish child, he was destined to be circumcized.  There are some who state that if shedding His blood for our sins was the act that would redeem our souls, the blood that came from that circumcision was all that it would have taken.  If that is true, then why did He have to live beyond that moment?

It was because His learning, His teaching, and His living had a greater purpose.  His death had a purpose.

As we light our Christmas trees and open our presents, those who ascribe to Christians beliefs must remember the significance of the birth of Jesus in the first place and take from that birth our own lessons.

Each one of us has a purpose on this planet.  Each one of us, as defined in the Bible, are children of God.  Each one of us has a place in Heaven if we so choose.  Our lives are our messages, just as Jesus Christ taught us.

The writers of the Gospels often attempted to teach us lessons in their writing.  The words of Jesus Christ, however, consistently taught a message of truth, faith, love, and welcome.  As with most people, we have chosen to cull from the biblical teachings those things that work for us and cast off those that don’t.

If we reflect on Jesus’ words alone, compare them within the scope of the various texts offered as sacred, we would find that His desire for our growth in love alone was all He taught.  There was not one word about hating your enemy.  There was not one word about judging another.  There was not one word about killing in His name.

In the Gnostic Gospels, those found in Nag Hammadi, written in the Second and Third Centuries, we find other words that are written closer to the time of Jesus than some of those found in the Bible, and that suggest that we have the light of God within us.  We have direct access to our God and that when Jesus said that through Him we could find God, He may have shared with us that through His awareness of His own relationship with God, we could learn to hear the voice of God ourselves.  We are His brothers and sisters, after all.

The intimacy we have with God is the lesson we have yet to learn on a global level.  Whatever we call God, the Divine Creator lives within each one of us.

So, on the day we celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, let us reflect on the true teaching of His life.  We are all created in God’s image, the image of spirit and light and unconditional love.  Our only job is to remember that and to share those commonalities with our brothers and sisters in unity, humility, gratitude, and joy.

These qualities transcend Christianity and are taught in a huge number of traditions around the world.

While one star may shine brighter than others, each star adds to the light in the night sky.  The clearer the air, the brighter the stars are above.  The fewer sources of false light on the ground, the brighter the stars are above.   The darker the night, the brighter the stars are above.

So, when we wish “Merry Christmas,” to our brothers and sisters in spirit, let us remember what those words truly mean.  Be happy in the celebration of the lessons taught to us by Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Last Few Minutes of the Game


Texas Longhorn receiver, Quan Cosby in last seconds of the game.Whenever we see a sporting event or theatrical production, the last few minutes of the experience are so powerful.  The teams are battling for supremecy, the last push is thrashed for the big win, or the 11:oo o’clock song is sung.  It’s the finale, so everyone expects things to be big, dramatic, and utterly memorable.

Life is like that, too.  When we are closing in on the final days or minutes of our lives, our life experiences become phenomenally intense.

In the month preceeding my father’s suicide, he began scurrying all over California, trying to find a place to call home where he felt safe.  His mental illness and paranoia was taking over and we, as his family, had to make decisions that would protect him and those around him, including my mother.  There were battles and accusations, pleas and vitriol spewed everywhere as we tried to resolve these issues.

Ultimately, Dad decided how things were going to go and killed himself  in the back of his truck using carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe.

When Mama was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six years later, she seemed fairly resigned to her fate.  She was, after all, 83 years old and ready to be with my father. 

The strange thing is that the night before she died, she grew very impatient and angry.  She wasn’t able to communicate because her lungs had filled up with fluid from the cancer and she was incredibly weak because she hadn’t be able to eat for four weeks.  I gave her some medication to calm her down and she went to sleep.  I will never know what it was she was trying to communicate because she died during the night.

When my son and grandbaby were lost to miscarriages, the intensity was overwhelming for everyone.  With my son, my then-girlfriend and I were 15 years old, far too young to be parents.  With my grandchild, my daughter’s grandmother had died only days before.  In both instances, the turmoil surrounding the pregnancies carried dynamics that these precious children couldn’t bear. 

Even my former mother-in-law asked a fascinating question as she lie dying in her hospital bed.  She and I were unusually close, considering that my ex-wife and I had been divorced for 22 years.  She asked, “Jim, what do you think it’s like after we die?”

This amazingly strong woman was 71 years old and was asking me this question.  It was a profoundly powerful moment of intimacy between us. 

“I think that there is an afterlife and it is whatever we believe it will be.  I believe it will be loving and joyful if that’s where our hearts are.  It will be cold and lonely if that’s how we view our lives.”

“How do we know when we’re going to die?” she queried.

“When we are free from fear and ready.” I responded.

As she pondered what I had said, I saw her looking around her hospital room into the faces of her loving daughters and granddaughters. 

“I’m ready.  Let’s pray.” she said.  So, we all joined hands and began praying out loud.  Then, the room grew silent.  After nearly ten minutes, Mother-in-law-dearest, which is what I always called her, opened her eyes.

“I’m still here?”  We all broke out into ribald laughter.

The next morning, quietly and peacefully, she joined those who had gone before her.

One of my former students, who lost her life at 21 years old in an automobile accident, knew at her inner most level, if not consciously, that she was not long for this lifestream.  Her poetry, music, and prayers all were clear pictures of that truth.  We all missed the messages because we either weren’t ready to hear them or we weren’t supposed to hear them.  The preparation experience apparently was for her alone.

There are times when we do see it coming. 

When my brother, my family, and I were sitting around the table eating the day my mother died, after a discussion about his alcoholism and desire to be alone, my family and I knew that David would be gone within the year.  Sadly, it only took him four months to transition into his new existence.  The signs were there.  His awareness was there.  He was clearly ready.  We were simply able to see it.  Even with that clarity, there was nothing we could do to prevent him dying from his alcoholism.

Life is intense and full of meaning.  Death is no different. 

Our fears and our joys are amplified as we approach our final time.  It’s remarkable how many times one has heard, “He said he loved me in a way that was so much more intimate the night before he died.”   There had been no warning or omen.  There had been no disease or chronic illness.  He was just aware at his spiritual core that he had to say good-bye and mean it.

As I watched my cousin deal with his own demise this week, I realized that his battle has only begun, although it is likely to last only a few more weeks.  Like my mother, his aunt, he is dying of pancreatic cancer.  He is only 50 years old.

His children and girlfriend are also trying to make sense of what makes no sense at all. 

I hope they all find peace in this process and can say good-bye in a loving, healthy way, as a unified family.  It will make a difference to all of them, my cousin included. 

I’ve experienced 46 deaths of people close to me in my lifetime.  Each of their lives have changed who I am.  They have made a difference.  My cousin has made a difference in my life.  The weight of their absence is great.  The silence of their voices nearly painful.  Yet, the love they’ve given and the love they’ve let me share is what I hold onto now.  It’s all I have left.

Now, as your shot clock winds down, as the last few pages of your score are sung, I wish you “Good journey!” Joe.  Bravo, Cousin, for a life fully lived.  I love you.  I will miss you.  Thank you for changing my life with your love.

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A New Message from the Roman Catholic Church?


Today was a remarkable day for me at the most personal level. 

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church

First, I performed music for the first time in a long, long time.  A friend of mine called me two days ago in a panic and asked if I would play the piano for her mother-in-law’s funeral.  As a friend and an ordained minister, it was impossible to say no to her.   The truth is, with returning to college, assisting a former student of mine with his senior project, and auditions for a musical, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the thought of adding even one more, short-term project.

As with all things in my life, now that I’m on the other side of today, I couldn’t be happier to have had the experience.   I sang and played piano better than I have for years.  As the most critical person of my own skills, I was surprised to be happy with my music.

The most important part of the day was that I heard a homily by Monsignor Dan Madigan, the parish priest from St. Joseph’s Parish in Clarksburg, California, who officiated the funeral mass.  His Irish brogue was soft and thoughtful.  He spoke as though he was speaking to each person individually.  With his history as a man of social justice, having founded the Sacramento Food Bank in the mid-1980’s, his words today had an especially profound effect on me.

During the homily, he discussed the fact that Jesus had once said that there were too many rules and that they burdened the every day people.  He said that faith should be simple and a benefit to the people, not a heavy weight on their shoulders. 

As he was speaking, I had to fight back the tears.   Here was this Catholic priest, in his vestments, standing on an altar speaking about the need for a simple faith.   It was so moving.

The church where the funeral was held was my former parish from 1976 to 2004.  It was the parish that helped me decide to leave my Roman Catholic tradition.

In the early 1980’s, I had gone to confession, as was the weekly requirement at the time.  I offered the truth of what my church said were my sins.  I was a gay man who had slept with another man.   The eldery, Italian priest proceeded to lambast me with horrific statements of how I was committing an abomination to God and that I would land in hell for my wicked ways.  

On that day, I realized I could not be a part of a church that would talk with a parishoner in that way.  I could no longer be told that I would go to hell for who I was.  I had no choice but to leave the church I so dearly loved.  Although I was correct in doing so, it has left a deep sadness in my heart all these years.  I miss my church and my tradition.

As I watch women having children they cannot afford, religious clergy injuring children through their illness of pedophilia, and women being denied a rightful place as ministers in this enormous church, I know I made the right decision.   I realize, too, that the elderly priest from so very long ago had no right to stand in such cruel judgement of my life when he certainly must have known people who had committed terrible atrocities, which is much different than one man loving another man.

Monsignor Dan MadiganThen, today, I am transported back to that same church where I was so hurt, and floating on the brogue of an elderly priest, I am healed from that hurt.  Faith should be simple.  It’s what I’ve believed for decades, and to hear it espoused here was truly miraculous. 

I still cannot return to my home church as a devout Catholic, but at least now I know that the church has people in it who understand about true faith, and that it is different than structured beliefs. 

Somehow, I am more at peace.

Sacred Holidays


The rituals of religions across the world are deemed to be sacred by those who practice them.  These acts of holiness are believed to bring us closer to our Divine Creator.  During this time of year, the winter months, we find celebrations of many types being shared by families and friends of various traditions.  One must wonder, however, by focusing on these particular actions, have we lost something greater in our good intentions?

In every tradition, there are tenets that are squirreled away in our holy books and revered teachings that are expounded on the pulpit, but are forgotten by many in our day-to-day lives, even during the holiday season. 

The following are examples of teachings of tolerance, patience, and acceptance in various traditions. 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31  

Some refer to this as the Golden Rule by which, if we live within its guidance, we will find true happiness.  This Christian teaching from the Holy Bible, has grown beyond those of this general belief system, to be applied by many, even those who identify themselves as agnostic or atheist, as a great rule of thumb by which to live.   Remembering another’s needs for dignity, truth, love, and charity, seems to invite the best in us to shine toward our brothers and sisters.  It is not just this biblical entry, however, that inspires us to remember this thought.

In one of the earliest revelations in Makkah, the Holy Islamic Prophet, Mohammed, revealed,

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful.

1.  By the time!

2. Surely man is in loss,

3. Except those who believe and do good, and exhort one another to Truth, and exhort one another to patience.”  – Qu’ran 103:1-3

This message asks us to have faith in God, speak of that faith, be generous in our willingness to understand those around us.  What a powerful message for anyone who happens to believe in anything whatsoever.

Through the Lord’s messenger, Mormon, as he communicates to his son, Moroni, the Saints from the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are advised to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ with this quote found in the Book of Mormon:

“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against…those… that turn aside the stranger… saith the Lord of Hosts.”  3 Nephi 24:5

When one turns another away in their time of need, clearly God is saying that judgment will be met against them.  When we see another person’s hand longing for comfort, fraternity, or assistance, we are called upon to see them and act lovingly. 

In the Tanakh, the Jewish Book of Mosaic law, we read,

 “27 Do not withhold good from one who deserves it,

When you have the power to do it [for him]. 

28 Do not say to your fellow, “Come back again;

I’ll give it to you tomorrow,” when you have it with you.

29 Do not devise harm against your fellow

Who lives trustfully with you.

30 Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,

When he has done you no harm.” – Proverbs 3:27-30.

Again, we are faced with how we approach our brothers and sisters with a charitable heart.  We are asked to find peace and generosity to those who have treated us accordingly.  

While Buddhism has a collection of book on which it is based called the Dhamma, Buddha himself taugh orally, as did Jesus Christ.  Buddhist philosophies and foci on their essence of truth is well reflected in the fourth Noble Truth, which is the path leading to Nirvana. This is the Buddha’s Middle Path, which is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path because of its eight components:

Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right Thought and Right Understanding (which includes the realization of the Four Noble Truths).  

In attaining these eight “right” conditions, one finds ultimate peace within and that peace is reflected without, affecting all those around him or her.

The Upanishads, the scriptures of the Hindu tradition of Vedanta, show us that when we recognize that we and our brothers are one in the atman, or self, we will see no difference in one another.  When we see that there is no separation between two parts of the greater spirit, any good we do for others, we also do for ourselves, as well. 

14. “For where there is duality, one smells another, one sees another, one hears another, one speaks to another, one thinks of another, one knows another. But where everything in one has become self, how can one smell—and whom? How can one see—and whom? How can one hear—and whom? How can one speak—and to whom? How can one think—and of whom? How can one know—and whom? How can one know that by which one knows all this? How can one know the knower?” – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: The Great Forest Teaching: Book 2 Part II 11.4:14

The last eight words in the Rede of Wicca, the Earth-based religion, we find the following:

“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil: An It Harme None, Do As Ye Will.

“And, it harm none.”  It is a complete statement that we can bring harm to not one person in our actions.  When we are sure we will not injure anyone else, then we are free to act as we choose. 

Every tradition has a variation on the theme of unity, recognition of others as connected to us, and a call for peace, caring, and understanding. 

One must ask the following question, “How is it possible that when from every corner of the globe we are offered the same message, we still continue to ignore, maim, and kill our brothers and sisters for our own selfish reasons?”

Divine Creator has spoken through every language to say the same thing over and over again.  Nature has shown us that when one species annihilates another species, the destroyers, too, die from lack of food, thereby teaching us once again that we must care for those around us. 

We are all diminished by selfishness and forgetfulness of others.  We are all enriched by reaching out to one another in love, compassion, understanding, and peace.  Even those who watch these acts of kindness and cruelty are impacted by what they see. 

So, as we celebrate our sacred winter holidays and as we approach 2010, let us call to mind how many ways we can encourage joy for others, radiate peace toward others, build compassion in others, and share these qualities from within ourselves with others. 

Let us remember one another in love, peace, and harmony.

The Gospel According to Mrs. Camarari


The Gospel According to Mrs. Camarari

As transcribed by James S. Chávez-Glica
February 23, 2003

My Dear Ones,

In the beginning, the Divine Universality created all things visible and invisible in love and completeness.  This Holy Energy gave all beings free will.  This Great Oneness gave us the illusion of breathing life and the truth of eternal spiritual life. 

This energetic universality of unity is me. 

Because I have no name except the ones you have given me, I am choosing to call myself in this instance, Mrs. Camarari.  Some may say it is blasphemous to say that my name is Mrs. Camarari, but it’s not.  My name has been Adonai, God, Buddha, Ra, Nature, Odin, Zeus, Allah, Quan Yin, Grandfather, and Shiva to name a few.  I have chosen to come forward in this identity so that people will no longer be afraid of my many names.  I have decided that in this incarnation, no one will be afraid of me at all any more. This name may even help you smile.  You will no longer fight over what to call me, nor will you claim to hurt or kill on my behalf.  Really, I ask you, who could shout out in vehemence, “I shall kill you in the name of Mrs. Camarari?” without sounding very silly indeed. 

Yes, in an instant, which spanned billions of years, I created all of heaven and earth in my image.  Of course, it was my spiritual image, not my physical image in which you have been incarnated.  I have descended from heaven in many forms throughout the ages.  Some of my faces have been those of Adam and Abraham, Moses and Mohammed, Odin and Ngo-ouka, Jesus and Lao Tzu, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Marianne Williamson and Mother Teresa, Gautama Buddha and Charles Schultz.  I have written books and inspired books to be written.  Some of the literary works for which I am responsible were the Torah, the Bible (including the Gnostic Gospels), the Book of Mormon, Science and Health, the Chinese Books of Living and Dying, the Upanishads, the Koran and Conversations with God.

I help you feed and clothe yourselves.  I bring you love and joy and music and warmth to share with all our brothers and sisters.  I help you find your discipline and teach you and show you perfect truth.  Sometimes, through floods and storms and tragic death, I remind you of the good things you have, such as community and family, because sometimes you forget.  Sometimes through birth, angelic presentation and friendship, I remind you that I am always present with you within these miracles.

In my infinite wisdom, I created duality to remind you of unity.  I created dark to remind you of light.  I created noise to remind you of silence.  I created suffering to remind you of transience.  I created sadness to remind you of joy.  I created despair to remind you of faith.  I have done all this so that you and I can remember ourselves in the same way.  And, like any good Italian or Chinese, Lithuanian, Mexican, Ugandan, Australian or Chilean mother, I ask for nothing in return.  Of course, like all mothers and fathers, I hope you’ll call on me once in awhile if you aren’t too busy, because that would be nice; and, I am thrilled when you think about me in gratitude that I am present in your life.  I always think of you in gratitude, too; but, I still love you, even when you forget me or are angry with me because you don’t remember what we’ve learned together.

I have borne many, many children, all of whom were conceived in my love.  Like any mother, I grieve bitterly when one of your lives is lost through hatred or neglect or selfishness.  I also understand that I have given birth to children who have destinies of their own, and that they must choose their lives and consequences for themselves.  After all, you must choose your own lessons and how to learn them.  Remember that, to me, these lessons are all correct.  I must simply stand by and watch you make whatever you choose out of your lives.  I listen when you are in pain and I offer comfort.  I hold you when you feel despondent.  I dance with you when you celebrate. I sing with you when you are in community.  I love to see all my children getting along.

Like any good household that we know, I do have rules.  Surprisingly, however, when I was developing these rules, I remembered that I had given you free will, so I kept the rules simple.  They have been reiterated in nearly every tradition of faith and culture manifested on this planet.  Speak these rules out loud.  They might actually make a difference.

             I.     I choose to recognize everyone and everything as my brother and sister.

            II.   I choose to love others as I would be loved.

            III.  I choose to treat others as I wish to be treated.

            IV.  I choose to place universal truth above all else.

            V.   I choose to act in kindness and strength based on universal truth.

            VI.  I choose to live fearlessly.

That’s it.  Those are all the rules.  Anything else, like the ones about not eating pork, with whom you choose to have sex. or how many times per day or week you pray are all voluntary.  And, those are rules that you created to make yourselves feel better, which, if it helps, is a good thing as far as I’m concerned; but, they are not my rules.  Those six rules above are the only ones with which I’m concerned.  Ironically, the only thing that will happen if you don’t follow the rules is that you’ll be sad.  You won’t go to hell.  There is no hell.  I won’t punish you.  I never punish anyone.  I’ll just continue loving you.  Your suffering will be a consequential response to your choices, and you’ve already decided what your consequences are.

You’ll notice, of course, there’s nothing about me in those rules.  That’s because I am secure in who I am.  I know I created everything and that I am in everything I created, so, I don’t need to have you worship me in a way that makes you feel separate from me.  In each incarnation of your life, I am there simply to help you create your own existence as you see fit.  So, really, we are co-creators.  I am one with you.  I always have been and always will be.  And, because we are one together, you always have been and always will be one with me.  Again, I am happy when you remember that, too; but, I’m not going to insist you remember.  That’s up to you.

I feel very strongly that you are too often afraid.  I think, in truth, you would rather follow your hearts and spirits.  So, do it!  I speak to you all the time and when you listen, you seem to go in the exactly right direction.  If you are peaceful and follow the rules, then you can hear me very clearly.  And, just to let you know, I hear you, too.  I can’t help it.  We are one.  Remember?

Now, it would be easy to assume that without more structural guidance from me, you might end up in chaos.  I am clear that you are headed in that direction right now anyway, so the man-made rules really didn’t matter after all.  In fact, the rules you created with all the best intentions most of the time have simply added fuel to the fire of fear in many ways, since people seem to insist on fighting over which rules are the right ones, just like they disagree over what to call me.  Remember the name, Mrs. Camarari.

Do you have many questions remaining?  Probably.  Am I going to answer them for you right now in this brief message?  No.  It’s not yet necessary.  I suggest, however, that you follow the rules, ask questions of me later in your spirit and take the following hints to heart:

Love first… always… no matter what.

Listen first… speak later… even to yourself.

Be patient… to both your brothers and sisters and yourself… you’ll need it.

Don’t tolerate… celebrate.

Sing and dance… it’s good for the spirit.

Don’t be afraid of evil… it’s only fear manifested.  You created it, so you can destroy it.

Watch for miracles… they’re everywhere everyday.

Smile daily… it helps.

Hug children… there is no greater healer of the heart in the universe than sharing the chaste and innocent love of a child.

Look for the good stuff in one another and yourselves… it’s the only part of life that really sticks around.

If you’re sorry for something you’ve done or said, say so… right away.

You can keep no secrets from me… so remember that someone already knows you in your fullness and loves you nonetheless.

Do only those things that bring joy and abundance to all beings… always.

Well, that’s all for now, Dear Ones.  I love you and hope you are happy and peaceful and joyful and abundant.  Whatever your color or size or gender or religion or sexual orientation or health status, I love you without exception or reservation.  No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, I love you without judgment or expectation.  I’ve seen all your lives and lived them with you, so your entire history is clear to me.  You have been all things and done all thing and these lessons have brought you this far.  You are beautiful to me just as you are.  You are perfect to me just as you are.  You are loved by me just as you are.  Remember that always, no matter what you call me.

With All My Eternal and Infinite Love,

Mrs. Camarari

Church Leaders as Plantation Owners


Let me set the stage for you, my friends:

People, through no fault of their own, besides being born with a particular genetic package, are beaten, killed, and socially isolated and demeaned.  They are set apart as different in their communities and are told they should be grateful for what they do have.  Those in power bellow from every pulpit and soapbox that their rights to maintain the status quo should not be changed, let alone questioned.  They insist that changing how things have always been done will destroy their lives.

Is this a description of the Deep South prior to the Emancipation Proclamation?  Well, yes, it is.  Is this a description of the United States in the Twenty-first Century?  Sadly, the answer to this is, “Yes,” as well.

slave-being-beatenIf I were a slave and my owner walked into my house and started telling me how to live, and I fought back, I would be beaten or killed.  I am a gay man in California and people are still trying to walk into my house and tell me how to live.  I am, of course, protesting.  I have not been beaten.  I have not been killed.  There are those, however, who have been injured, some fatally, in this social battle. 

If church leaders and those that support them do not believe that this comparison is fair, then they are blinded by their ignorance and fear.  If they are unwilling to look at themselves fairly in the mirror to see themselves as they truly are, then they have actually turned the corner into becoming those plantation owners of over 150 years ago.

Every Sunday, and Saturday for some, a minister stands before his or her congregation speaking about the unconditional love of God.  This same minister implores the congregation to love one another as God loves us.  This is a great belief system, as far as I’m concerned.

What follows during some sermons, however, is diametrically opposed to this message.  This opposing message is being carried on placards, t-shirts, and leaflets that state the following:

Officers beating a gay person

Officers beating a gay person

“God hates fags”

“Fags burn in hell”

“Homos eat small children” (I’m not kidding. I’ve seen it)

“Gay marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage”

“Kill all faggots”

How are any of these messages consistent with the concept of unconditional love?  Even for those who say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” this horrific language cannot make sense to them.   How is hatred a part of anything to do with God and faith?

I remember once in catechism at my Roman Catholic Church, Sister Cabrini, our teacher, asked the question, “How should we feel about the devil?”

I proudly and righteously raised my hand and said, “We should HATE the devil!”

“No, Jimmy,” said Sister Cabrini, “we should not hate the devil.  We must understand that we must resist his temptation and rebuke his acts, but under no circumstances are we ever to hate anything or anyone.”

Although I no longer practice catholicism because I am a gay man, I love Sister Cabrini for teaching me that lesson over forty years ago. 

All I ask is that those who hate so vehemently take a look at who they are for just a moment.  Instead of judging everyone else, take a look at who the person in the mirror has become.  Is being a person who hates someone else for the color of his skin or her sexual orientation the person he or she longs to be?

Most of the plantation owners, in their sense of God-given superiority, would have said a resounding, “Yes!” 

My question is this – If we are obligated to stand before our God on Judgement Day with all our signs, t-shirts, hats, and intentions, what would God say about us?

I’d love to hear the answer to that question.  I’d love that a lot.

And, for those who are curious, here is my symbol:

hearts

The top heart symbolizes my desire to love, supported by the second heart which recalls the love of God.  The droplets represent our pain, but the red hearts shine through even our darkest hours.

Waiting


man_waiting_for_busWaiting for birth.  Waiting for a bus.  Waiting for love.  Waiting for a call.  Waiting for diagnosis.   Waiting for a check.  Waiting for salvation.  Waiting for a sandwich.  Waiting for recovery.  Waiting for action.  Waiting for death.  Waiting for rebirth.

It seems that no matter how proactive we choose to be in our lives, we end up waiting.  The waiting never seems to end.

For those of us who listen to our internal voices, our intuitive voices, when we sense something is approaching, the waiting can be overwhelmingly visceral. 

What’s next?

Which “Good Night” Would That Be?


 
Do not go gentle into that good night [A Villanelle]

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
 And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Dylan Thomas, 1951 or 1952

Diego WaitingIn this dynamic and oft-quoted poem, Thomas talks about those who have created lives that defy death until the very end.  In one way or another, these people have revoked the truth of natural law until that time that the universal heirophant commands otherwise. 

It appears the rage starts now.  After watching, on average, one significant death a year for the last fifty years of my life, I’m getting angry.  Although I am a man of vivid faith and peaceful gratitude for every event of my life, I am still finding myself trying to put the brakes on death; that of others and of my own. 

While there were no deaths some years and several in others, I am finding that the number of those I love who are moving onto the next leg of their journeys are increasing incrementally.  Each death reminds me of my own mortality.  I am feeling an immediacy and intimacy of my own mortality the likes of which I have never felt before, even considering I’ve had a heart attack and two strokes. 

I am finding myself trying to leave a thumbprint on everything I possibly can because my fear, in all its immaturity and mendacity, is screaming, “If you don’t make your mark now, you will be forgotten after you are gone.” 

I’ve lost someone in every level of the seven generations that have been alive in my lifetime, from my great-great grandfather Lorenzo Herrera, to my unborn grandchild, Ana’s third baby.  Having watched seven generations of my family impacted by death has taken its toll, to be quite honest.  I have learned that nothing on this planet is permanent.  I have learned that no one is exempt from “that good night,” to which Dylan Thomas so eloquently refers.

And, yes, I am raging, raging at the dying of my own light.  As my eyes become burned by the darkening of time on my lower lids, as the edge of my lips turn down from the force of gravity and the loss of elasticity in my skin and vivacity, as my chest and belly and ass descend on the ladder of old age, I am still raging.  I fight this battle through my creativity.  I engage this war by loving anew every single day.  I revolt against the flickering lights around me by lifting others, younger, more vibrant others, into their own sense of artistry and self. 

My logical mind tells me that my body will close up shop one day.  My brain function will flat-line.  My heart will turn dark brown from a lack of oxygen.  My sacred vessel will cease to be necessary.  I understand that.  I accept that.  At some level, I even celebrate that because it will be a testament to the fact that I have completed my work here on Earth.

I am valiantly hoping that my innermost peace and spiritual ferocity both come from the ultimate truth that I will not be forgotten, even after everyone I have ever known is gone.  After my literary words have faded and the paint I have embued on my canvasses have crumbled, after my music is no longer audible and my children and grandchildren are dead, the truth on which I must focus with clarity and purpose is that I will always be remembered by God.