Tag Archives: God

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.

Songs of Winter, Songs of the Heart

When it is cold, people spend more time indoors.  As they gather, music seems to play a vital role in their quiet time, celebrations, and family cultures.  As Chanukah has passed and Christmas approaches, I’ve thought about this quite a bit.   My question is, why is music so important to many of us at this time of year?

Higher level animals make sounds as part of their communication systems.   These emanations are warnings, calls to their families and potential mates, and serve as locators.  Human beings developed the ability to create organized sounds through speech, and the rhythms became an important part of their communication process as well.  There must have been something intensely satisfying to the first humanoids to insist on recreating these sounds. 

Take a moment to close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Now, hum a little bit.  Do you feel it rumble in your chest, right near your heart?  Now, hum your favorite song for a few bars.  Are you transported to a higher level of happiness as you do this?  Most of us are.  These sounds surround our heart, fill our chests, and heighten our minds awareness.  They cause our bodies to produce a chemical reaction that gives us pleasure.

When we join together to sing or listen to music, the collective happiness grows exponentially.  Our voices, hearts, and ears are working together to unite us and remind us of the precious gifts we have.  If we do the same things we did earlier, only together, we will see how much better it can be.  Take someone you love, hold them, close your eyes, and hum a song you like together.  The intimacy is intense; the joy fulfilling. 

During the holidays, we raise our voices together in celebration of God’s promise and His gifts.  As the Festival of Lights shows us, we are sustained here on Earth through the miracles of resources we never imagined possible.  In Christmas, we find the birth of unimaginable love.   In one another, we are reminded of the same gifts.

So, this holiday season, join together to sing or listen to music.  Remember the hum of your heart and spirit as the music envelopes you.  May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones happy and safe this holiday season and throughout the coming new year.

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

Apocalypse Unveiled

2012In the mid- to late-1970’s, the concept of the apocalypse began expanding in my mind, like the seminal singularity into the entire universe.  The plagues, disasters, and fiery end of life on our planet that I learned in church simply did not mesh with my intuitive sense of how things were going to happen.  I certainly do not claim to be a prophet, nor do I suggest that I have an understanding of the spiritual or physical universe beyond my own experience.  I’m simply a man with an idea that, to many, will not seem new.  These thoughts are solely my perspective on an ancient question.

The word, “apocalypse,” means to unveil or move away from the hidden.   To me, that means that during this upcoming spiritually evolutionary shift, we will become aware of our lives, with a capital “L,” in a new way… a new clarity of vision.

Over the years, as I’ve watched people prepare to die, and there have been several, I have seen them perceive life with a changed focus.  They are dramatically more aware of the meaning of life.  These living entities can sense, or even see, beyond the spiritual veil to those who have transcended this planet before them.  They have a view of this existence that is very, very different than our own and almost without exception, they grow more peaceful.   This viewpoint can be different, too, from the ones they espoused throughout most of their lives.   That which was previously so important to them tends to become less so.  The intensity of their own spirit seems to grow, in the same way that a small watt light bulb would increasingly glow during a dynamic power surge, until eventually and inevitably, it burns out.

phoenix_nebulaWe have, throughout our terrestrial history, seen horrific tragedies befall our people.  Earthquakes, fire, plague, draught, famine, infestations, and many other terrifying events.  We have lived through them with the primary remnant of that history sadly being the further development of our fear.  Some, however, have recognized that we have survived these calamities and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a spiritual inferno, allowed themselves a new wisdom and strength; though, the majority fret that we will once again suffer the painful consequences of those processes that have touched us so terribly in the past.

The foundation of our apocalypse, I believe, will be the tearing away of the veil of our spiritual sight in a way that has rarely been seen before, perhaps only by the most elevated masters.  The new sight will be on the grandest scale imaginable.   I believe that in the year 2012, during the month of November, there will be new, indisputable evidence regarding the presence of our spiritual essence, and in that proof we shall find a new illumination.

There very well may be cataclysmic events, in which the alignment of stars and celestial landmarks will certainly play a part, that will simultaneously occur; however, they will transpire only to assist us in recognizing the intrinsic value of our own spiritual lives.

Through the process of this tumult that will engulf our world, and particularly at the end of that journey, there will be those who welcome the new vision of spirit.  They will find joy, peace, and transcendence in this revelation.  Beyond all previous notions of hope will emerge secure trust.  Faith will give way to knowing.

In the same way as was described by the Buddha, there will be others who simply choose to suffer; and the suffering will, indeed, be their conscious choice by this time.   The message will be that when we choose joy over suffering, it is joy we will experience.  That doesn’t mean that the horrors we have witnessed will not have happened, nor does it mean that we will not be saddened by them.  It simply means that we will have a significantly improved clarity about their meaning.

As we prepare for the unavoidable changes coming in 2012, those described in so very many traditions, we must begin the choice-making toward a clear and hopeful vision immediately.

two-hands_lgct0YHBmAD5I happen to believe that there is no hell and that there is no evil.  Human fear alone is what has created these dreadful concepts in our culture.  I happen to believe that all of life is a reflection of God’s perfection and that there is wisdom and peace and joy available in everything that happens to us, if we permit them to take their rightful place in our lives.

I know that there are those who will spit on these concepts as they remember the death of a child, the slaughter of tens of thousands at the hands of a monster, or the other genuine tragedies that befall society.  I, too, have felt that pain.  I merely suggest that we can now, or will then, envision life in a new way, as part of a continuum of life experiences that are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, black nor white.  This continuum begins long before our birth and does not end, even at our death.  I offer the thought that these moments can been received neutrally and in gratitude as opportunities to learn and grow in love, compassion, and hope for all our brothers and sisters.  Certainly, we must use discernment when assessing what and who we choose to have surround us; however, our critical, emotional judgment serves only to isolate and divide us.   This division is contrary to a healthy preparation for the coming wisdom.

Only when we welcome the loving universal vision as our own will we truly experience the approaching enormous changes with which we will be faced in an open and humble way, full of unity and peace.  Only when we unite in trust in the foundation of spiritual truth, releasing the sanctity of religious dogma, and making our Universal Spirit alone the focus of our holy sight, will we enter into this new era of fearless, crystalline wisdom and vision.

Buildings and cultural structures will crumble under the powerful weight of truth.   All that we will be left with is the broad horizon of spiritual vision and wisdom.

December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan Long Calendar’s 13th b’ak’tun, or world age, approaches.  Are we ready?

I Love the United States of America

Our Fourth of July

Our Fourth of July

It sounds so corny when I say it out loud, quite honestly.  “I love the United States of America.”  The reflection in the mirror I half-expect to see as I walk past as I speak these words is my rotund countenance draped in stars and stripes.  That’s how silly it sounds to me to say it… at first.

Then, as I mull the phrase over in my head, I contemplate a few things that soften my attitude about this compilation of words.

First, I think about my Dad.  (I always capitalize the word, “Dad,” when I refer to my father, whether it’s grammatically correct or not).  My father fought in World War II.  He was a decorated Pharmacist Mate.  He served in both the Mediterranean and Asian theaters.   He was a hero.  Although he rarely spoke about his time in the Navy, I was always in awe that he fought the enemy and through his efforts, helped win the war.  He fought for the freedoms that I have today.  He, along with all the men and women who so valiantly served our country over the last two hundred-plus years, made a difference to us.  I never forget that.  I suppose that’s why, when I hear the National Anthem, I still get choked up.  It happens every single time.

Second, I wonder where else on Earth I could walk down the street with the fearlessness I do.  As a gay man, a Latino man, an older man, a man of lower-moderate socio-economic status, I am greeted warmly, loved openly, and respected for who I am, with all the diversity I embody.  There are laws that protect me.  I am, relatively speaking, safe.

Third, I can write to the President of the United States of America and say exactly what is on my mind.  Because I have no desire to threaten anyone, I’m secure in the knowledge that my words count just as much as anyone else’s.  It’s a sweet knowledge I carry inside my heart about my place here in the good ole U.S. of A.

I get angry, sometimes, at our legislators and our judges.  I am often frustrated by our media services.  The cost of things is abominable and the challenges to acquire health care for many is untenable.  “Skinny people are too thin.  Fat people are too fat.”  Everyone has an opinion about everything.

We are, thankfully, able to express our opinions as freely as we belch.  Unfortunately, some of our opinions are worth about the same thing.  At least, we are able to send our thoughts out as easily as we throw a frisbee at a Fourth of July picnic. 

We have had presidents, from Washington to Obama, that are nearly as diverse in thought and history as those of us in our neighborhoods.  There were builders, deceivers, heroes and scoundrals, activitists and do-nothings.  They were Americans. 

Today, on this Fourth of July, 2009, I am not a hyphenate-American.  I am simply, joyfully, and proudly an American.

So, as corny as it may sound, I will reiterate my feeling that I love the United States of America.   God (or whomever you choose to believe in, if anyone) bless America!

The birth of the United States of America flag

The birth of the flag of the United States of America

When They Say It’s Almost Time…

Every so often, a person will say, “Well, I think it’s almost time for me to go.”

They say it with such introspection, I’m not certain if they are talking to me or if their internal monologue simply escaped accidentally. 

When my mother was preparing to make her departure, even before her cancer was diagnosed, she came to visit me at the home my husband and I share.  She had been here many times before and had seen the “Nana Room” we created just for her.  The single bed was surrounded by photographs of her family, some of which were nearly one hundred-years old.  I put her suitcase on the floor and watched my mother sit on the bed.  She looked around the room and looked almost lost.  I sat next to her and took her hand.  She began to cry.

I asked, “Mom, what’s the matter?” 

“Look at my family,” she whispered through her tears.  I began to cry with her.  As I scanned the room, as with new eyes, I realized she was not seeing the photographic faces I saw; she was seeing her mother and her father.  She was seeing her uncles and aunts.  She was seeing her long deceased cousins.  The veil was shorn and there was nothing I could do about it.

I said, “We have a wonderful family, Mom.  We’re very lucky.” 

Mom composed herself a little and said she was just tired and needed to rest.  As she laid on the bed that she said was one of the most comfortable on which she had ever slept, I closed the light and let her rest. 

I went into the living room and I said to  my husband, “I think Mama’s not going to be here much longer.”  

nde_295192702_stdI knew she was telling this room, and me, good-bye.  I knew she was giving me a heads up that the end was approaching and that she would be with her family very soon.  My mother and I were very, very close.

That following September, Mom called me to tell me that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.   I took a leave of absence from the school where I was teaching and immediately moved to Dunsmuir to take care of her.  On November 23, 2005, Mama died.

That night, the day before Thanksgiving, some friends of ours brought over Thanksgiving dinner for us to share.  As we sat at the table, my brother, who had been battling alcoholism for thirty years, said that anytime he was supposed to go, he was ready.  He said that living the life he had, with homelessness, transience and alcohol, was underrated by most people.  He liked his life and although he knew he wouldn’t live as long as I would, he was going to live according to his wishes nonetheless.

He died March 9, 2006, three months and two weeks after my mother died, from a pulmonary embolism after thawing out from frostbite.

Three months later, in June 2006, our seventeen-year-old mega-chihuahua, Bootsy, (yes, after the amazing bassist, Bootsy Collins), decided he was going for a run.  He was nearly 20 pounds overweight from congestive heart failure, but he wasn’t going to be stopped.  He got away from my daughter in a mad rush and went running.  Bootsy had always been a dog of the streets, with the scars to prove it.  He loved his life. 

In later years, however, he had slowed way down as he was approaching his twilight years.  This night was different.  As a moderately healthy forty-seven-year-old man, I could not catch this old, fat, unhealthy dog.  He was going to run and there was nothing I could do about it.  He was trying to let go and he wasn’t going to allow anyone, even my husband who had shared a life with him for seventeen years, stop him.  He was going to go out in a blaze of glory.

By the time I got him home, with the help of young strangers at the gas station who helped wrangle him, he was exhausted.

It wasn’t too long after that he sauntered into our bedroom to lie down, barely able to breathe, coughing that watery cough of terminal lung congestion.   My husband slept on the floor with him that night.  When I got up the next morning, as was his custom, he began following me to the kitchen for his meal.  He never made it.  He listed to the right, fell on the shiny hardwood floor in the bathroom and after a couple of coughs, our beloved Bootsy died.

His message was clear and he was, sadly, correct.

The next year, in May 2007, my former mother-in-law, the woman to whom I always addressed as “Mother-in-law Dearest,” called to tell me that after years of palliative therapy, her emphysema and lung cancer was getting the best of her.  She had said this before, but this call was different.  Although I had been separated and divorced from her daughter for twenty-two years, we remained close. 

As she went into the hospital, she asked me to come pray with her.  Of course, I did. 

When I arrived, she asked me how someone knows if they’re ready to go?  I responded that there is an internal sense of closure that cannot be denied.  I said that if and when she was ready and she allowed the natural process to happen, she would go.

She closed her eyes, took my hand, and those of us in the room, three of her daughters, and my two daughters/her granddaughters, prayed together.  After awhile, the room went silent. 

After five minutes of heavy silence, she opened her eyes and said, “I’m still here?” 

We all laughed.  I left the room after kissing the woman who had been part of my family for thirty-five years and wishing her a wonderful journey home.  I told her that I would miss her terribly.

For the first time in all those years, she said, “I love you, son.” 

“I love you, too, Mother-in-law Dearest.”

The next morning, my daughter called to tell me that she had died with only my daughters present.

Each one of these individuals gave me a message that I chose to hear… thankfully.  They know better than I when their time is coming.  The children with cancer with whom I used to work many years ago taught me that lesson best.  They always, always knew when they were about to go.  It was just up to us to see the signs and listen to the message. 

With two of my aunts, recently, they both told me they were leaving in their own ways.  I heard them and told my husband.  Within the month, they were gone.

I just returned from my current mother-in-law’s house.  She had a message for me.  

Laden Sky at Dusk

Laden Sky at Dusk

McMahon, Fawcett and Jackson

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

In the last few days, we have lost three distinctly different personalities.  I was watching CNN and there was a blog entry read that talked about Ed McMahon and his distinguished service as a colonel in the military.  This person referenced Farrah Fawcett’s valiant struggle against cancer and her work against domestic violence.  The individual then referred to Michael Jackson’s criminal trials for child molestation and his drug use.

It breaks my heart that at this point in our history, we are still looking at others with such a jaded eye.  The truth is Ed McMahon was in debt up to his eyes.  Farrah Fawcett began her career as simply a pretty face.  Michael Jackson was worked far beyond any reasonable level by his own parents during his entire childhood. 

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

The point is that every single person on this great big planet has a story and that story is a complete one.  It has really beautiful parts to it and it has hideously ugly parts to it, as well.  Such is the nature of life.  For those who feel that they have not been touched by severe tragedy or extreme joy, allow me to express my deepest sympathy to you because it is most likely because you have chosen to live a life of fear, keeping yourself safe from every possible danger or sadness.   That’s not living.  That’s existing.

Without risk, there is no glory.  (I wish I could find who said that first).  Of course, I’m not talking about fame when I use the word, “glory.”   I’m talking about that feeling of basking in one’s ultimate success.  Without scars, there is no character.  Without pain, there is no healing.  Without horror, there is no joy.  Life, as we know it, is full of polarity.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Ed McMahon defended our country as a valiant and honorable soldier.  Farrah Fawcett struggled against misogyny and violence, bringing at least one wonderful movie to light in that effort.  Michael Jackson changed the face of pop music from the time he was ten years old.  Each of these actions has value and will find longevity. 

Their agonies are not ones we will ever understand because we have not walked in their shoes.  So, what they offered us personally was joy, creativity, and abundance.  I suggest we simply say, “Thank you, Ed.  Thank you, Farrah.  Thank you, Michael.”

There have only been two celebrity deaths that affected me so personally that I wept.  One was when George Burns died.  I respected his power and his humor and I felt he represented

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

the best of comedy and sophistication in the art form.  The second was Katherine Hepburn.  Again, she was a pinnacle of class, sophistication, directness and artistry.  Their passing was deeply moving to me because with them went a level of talent that we will rarely see again. 

So, let’s say a fond farewell to our lost comrades-in-art With all our love and gratitudeand pray for their souls, if that is part of our tradition.  Let us, too, release their pain for the Universe to handle.  It really is none of our business.
Let’s just remember their gifts.




Angels All Around

Angel BowingIt would be trite, I’m sure, to say that there are angels everywhere, no matter how true it is.  Here is a simple story nonetheless.

This morning, feeling overwhelmed by my life and responsibilities, while also feeling that everyone else has their priorities in place and that I’m not really one of them, the pity party began in full force.  As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, although a mild form of it, every so often, my depression does take hold.  This morning was a prime example of that experience.

This afternoon, a new friend of mine wrote to say how grateful she was to have me as a friend and to be working with me.  She had already offered to help me with a project that, in my current state, I simply couldn’t handle right now. 

This angel lighted upon my shoulder and in doing so, she took a burden off of me that has helped me feel more peaceful.  I am so deeply grateful to my friend for this gift.  Of course, I wrote to her to tell her thank you.  That, too, made me feel good.

I am consistently in awe, too, because these angels, in the masks of humble, loving people, keep finding those of us in greatest need.  Their intuition and desire for healing with others is enormous.  I have such profound respect and love for these wonderful entities.   The funny part is that they never, ever know just how important they are to others. 

As I prayed to God to help lift the weight off my back, he responded in the sweetest way possible.  He sent someone to offer me her hand.  It seems to work that way when I need it most.  I live in constant gratitude for these unexpected gifts. 

I believe in miracles.  They happen every day.

I believe in angels.  They are all around.

I believe in God.  God’s light shines on everything.

I believe in gratitude.  It’s what makes us recognize the value of every gift we receive, even the ones that look like challenges. 

I just wanted to share my experience.  Consider this my Commendation of Perpetual Aid to those who stand by me in love and support.  Today, especially, I extend my gratitude to my new friend.  Thank you, one and all.