Thursday, August 1, 2013

Starting Over - A Season of Love and Changes

It's been a long time, and fresh starts are ripe with opportunity.  So let's start again!   Welcome to Dangling Toes... Important thoughts written at leisure.   Many things have occurred in my life, as I am sure, they have for you...  There has been growth, joy, tears, and laughter.  I have changed, whether that is good or bad, I make no judgement.  After all, it is what I do with those changes that counts.

My mind is singing a song that I value, a mantra I would seek to live....  five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes....

It is a season of love, and I promise to try to communicate better, at least on here....    I want to talk about some of those changes, and for me, that is somewhat scary and joyful... But stay tuned.   It will at least provide a smile, if not a tear.   There is more to come....        Shalom always  -   KDT

Monday, May 2, 2011

I have been feeling uneasy all day. Last night I closed down the computer early, and crawled into bed to read so I didn't know anything about the President's announcement about the killing of Osama bin Laden until early this morning. Today, I haven't been able to get the thought out of my mind, and believe me, I so want too. I suspect that it is an occupational hazard for me (and others like me) that we have to add or comment on significant happenings. yet, I am not at all sure that I have anything constructive to say. ( I have after all, read the Huffington Post today). I guess I am just writing out of the hope that it may help me get my jumbled thoughts out...

I can't figure out what it is we are celebrating today. Yes, I know that Osama bin Laden is dead. I know that he has been the face of evil personified since Sept. 11, 2001. I know that "we" are viewing this as a victory in the 'war on terror.' But really, what have we won? Is the world any safer because he is gone? If so, why the warnings about possible retaliation attacks? We tend to think that Sept. 11 marked the beginning of terror attacks, but that certainly is not the case. Let's not forget Northern Ireland, Oklahoma City, and far too many other places and occasions to list.

I think Sept. 11 was a nightmarish wake-up call to face the cruel realities of our changing world. Terror isn't going anywhere quickly. We are not one bit safer because our Navy Seals killed him. We will still endure security checkpoints, and invasive body scans. I don't see our National Security priorities changing in the near future. I suspect in the upcoming political season we are still going to hear charges and debates about soft on security, etc..., and see the whipping up of our sentiments of fear.

I heard talk today about this bringing a "sense of closure," to the nation and particularly to those who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks. It might end a chapter, but it will certainly not be "closure." Their grief did not end with bin Laden's death. What happened a day or so ago was revenge not justice.

I received a phone call this afternoon from a pastor who was thinking about hosting a service of thanksgiving over this event. I was incredulous (and speechless, if you can believe that). I refused incidentally. This is not a victory for Christianity, and I am grateful for a President who made a point of reminding us, that we are not at war with Muslims. A friend of mine wrote "Bin Laden didn't represent Muslims any more than Fred Phelps or Terry Jones speak for all of Christianity." (I like that). I can't figure out how Christians can celebrate this death as if it were some sort of victory... The One that I follow said "Love your enemies." I pretty sure he didn't mean love them with a machine gun.

I know, I know, that I am often accused, or labeled, as 'unpatriotic'. And I probably am. I myself say "I am a lousy patriot, but I am a damn, fine citizen." And in my view, citizenship is far more important then flag waving. But we didn't win anything here. We are reduced to living in fear, and getting even. So I don't see this as any sort of victory. Yes, an evil man has died, and he died via evil means. We reduced our ideals to his level to fight terrorism. This wasn't justice. This was revenge. Maybe it has a place. Maybe it was the only way. I don't know. But while I acknowledge the valor and bravery, the ingenuity of our intelligence officials and military in carrying out their orders, I grieve at our sell out of "justice for all." This wasn't the rule of law. This was revenge. And it makes us less then the people I hope we can always be.

People will call me naive, or idealistic perhaps. I want always to be so...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The turkey is ready, but am I?

I have been pretty quiet on here the last couple of weeks, I know.

This week I've been getting ready for "Turkey Day". Here is the menu for tomorrow.

Roasted Turkey w/ cornbread sage stuffing
Mashed Potatoes w/ cheese and bacon
Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ honey and dried cranberries
Balsamic Onions in a light cream sauce
Candied Apple Cider braised carrots
Refrigerator Rolls
New York Cheesecake w/ blueberry lime sauce
Pumpkin Pie

plus a few other sundries...

Yes, I agree, it sounds as if I am going to be a thankful boy.

It's easy to get the meal ready for Thanksgiving. I know what I am doing, and who I am doing it for.

I just don't always know how to get my life ready. This year, that's where I am having a struggle; mid-life crisis; parental deaths; not losing weight as quickly as I want; I don't know why, and I struggling to find my way through this "morose". Oh, I know that this isn't unusual. I know that this will pass. But for right now, it sucks.

Today, there have been words rattling around in my brain. They are familiar to many of us.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
'tis grace that brought me safe this far
and grace will lead me home

A couple of hundred years ago, men and women sat down at a table to give thanks. I know that their table will not in any way resemble the table I will sit down to tomorrow. I know that in some ways what they were doing those many years ago was simply saying thanks for the fact that they were not dead, given all that they had experienced. I know I am not facing anything like that, and I have much more for which to give thanks than did our ancestors. But I can't see any farther around the bend than they could, so maybe I should follow their path. They were simply saying thank you for what they knew and believed. Maybe that is enough.

May your thanksgiving last longer than a day... may it last a lifetime.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Sense of it . . .

My father is dead.

It has been just over a week since dad died, and I am struggling to put his life, our relationship, and his role in my life into some kind of perspective. To be honest, I am not sure that I am having any success. Every time I try to put words on paper or screen my mind goes blank, despite my heart being full. My father is dead. My mother is gone too. Those who rooted and shaped me, anchored and held me from a time before birth are gone.

They are not here, and I am.

I now live a long way from my childhood home, both literally and figuratively. And there are moments that I feel like a lost, little boy. Right now, I do.

This afternoon I took a drive for a few moments. I found myself in one of this area's cemeteries. I've done a lot of committal services there. I remember some of these residents. I think about dad's new home, the place he has wanted to be for the last several years, with Mom. And though part of me is glad for him, and part of me is relieved for myself and for my brothers, I am alone.

I know this will pass. It has before. It has for others. But for now, my dad isn't here, and I am.

I just finished reading "A Circle of Quiet" by Madeleine L'Engle. Her closing paragraphs:

"Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses's vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but after-wards, God spoke to him in a cloud. after the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light.

The shadows are deepening all around us. Now is the time when we must begin to see our world and ourselves in a different way."

I want eyes to see what lies beyond and after, not for him, but for me.

Seeking Grace - Kent Douglas

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

As far as I am concerned . . .

This past week, or week and a half, my mind has been drawn to the stories of teenagers killing themselves because of their sexuality. I know I am not alone in my concern, but I have, for too long, been too quiet in my views on this subject. This, from Ellen Degeneres (of whom, I am not a fan, although I do not dislike her. I simply don't watch her) served as a wake-up call to me.

One of my greatest regrets is that the faith that I have chosen to be a part of is often, and largely cited, as being an important factor in the attitudes we have toward homosexuality.

I will admit that my entire view of sexuality is changing. But I know that the way we are choosing to judge people on this issue has been incredibly damaging. So, I am writing this post, aware that my saying what I will say, will bring repercussions. But folks, I think the conservative church has it wrong. And here's why...

Conservative Christianity claims to "believe the Bible." The longer I am in ministry, the less sure I am of what that means. I know most of us are well meaning in trying to follow what we understand to be the dictates of God, and that leads some to seek to follow Scripture literally, at least the parts that they agree with literally. But we somehow turn a blind eye to the other parts with which we don't agree, or which don't support or speak to our concerns. I am constantly amazed that we often misuse the principles of grace, mercy and love, in our efforts to be vigilant about faith. We look at life through a narrow lens, quoting chapter and verse that espouse our views, without thinking through how it applies to the whole.

I find it easy to apply the bible to everyone else, but it isn't so easy when it challenges my beliefs and decisions. When it's about 'you' I can be a literalist.
That applies big time to our contemporary discussion of Homosexuality. So I am about to do what I am loathe to do... Point out my understanding of what the Bible has to say about the subject. I know this will get me in trouble.

The Bible never addresses the subject of Homosexuality as a sexual identity. Sexual identity was not a part of our understanding of human existence until recent years. The Bible contains references to specific acts of homosexuality, in specific contexts. The idea of two people in an intimate, loving homosexual relationship was unknown in the Biblical world, and it is not addressed in the Scriptures. Specific acts are addressed. And there are six, count them, six of them.

Genesis 19: 1 - 29- The Story of the destruction of Sodom. This story is about the men of the city wanting to commit a homosexual rape. We cannot condemn a sexual orientation because of a rape.

Judges 19: 1 - 30 is basically a retelling of the Sodom story in a different context. This time, however, the men actually do rape someone- a woman. And the passage speaks to the need of God's love in a brutal world. Both this passage and the Genesis passage are condemnations of ignorance and sexual brutality- not homosexuality.

Texts 3 and 4 are both in Leviticus and make up a part of the Old Testament Levitical code.

Leviticus 18:22 – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

These codes no longer apply to the Christian community. The book of Acts, specifically chapter 15 make it clear that the Gentile community cannot be held to the Mosiac standards. Christianity does not demand compliance with this ancient code of behaviour. If it did, we would have to comply with it all, meaning we would have to keep kosher (which may actually not be a bad thing, but that is another subject), we would have to make room for polygamy, which is lawful in Leviticus(talk about a redefinition of marriage) And all of us would be stoning our children for disobedience. Unless you are prepared to obey all the laws in Leviticus, you cannot blame the homosexual for not feeling bound to obey all of them. To point to these two verses and demand selective compliance is ludicrous.

The Old Testament has nothing specific to say about homosexuality. Jesus has nothing to say about the issue. Absolutely nothing. It simply was not an issue for him.

Paul discusses it twice. TWICE. These are the only two mentions of homosexuality in the whole of the New Testament.

I Corinthians 6:9 – “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders”

"Male prostitutes" and "homosexual offenders." Can someone explain to me why we would condemn an entire orientation because of the prohibition of these very specific behaviors?

The Greek words Paul used in this passage mean a young, effeminate male prostitute and the word for the older man who paid to have sex with him. There are some problems with translation here, I will admit that. English does not have an adequate word for the Greek term.

Yes, The New Testament condemns prostitution and a system where a younger man makes his living committing sex acts for money with older men. But we cannot condemn homosexuality in general because homosexual prostitution was condemned. Paul condemns many heterosexual acts in his writings, even in this very verse, yet we do not condemn heterosexuality.

Romans 1:18-29 is the last passage we shall look at. It is the one most often quoted, and it is clearly the closest thing we find to condemnation in the New Testament. Verse 27 is the most specific verse.

I simply ask you to read this entire passage with an open mind. In it, Paul says that those who reject God will be given over to "shameful lusts”. They will engage in many acts that are not pleasing to God. Men will “burn with lust for one another.”

In Paul's experience, the only homosexuality he knew was that practiced in the non-Jewish world and probably tied to pagan temple worship. He claims that homosexuality is one of the punishments for those who reject God. But what are we to do with gentle and committed Christians who love God and worship God, but who tell us that they have a homosexual orientation?

Many homosexuals are not haters of God. Many of them are Christians. They have not rejected the Creator. Nor do not burn in lust for each other and run around committing scandalous acts. They are quietly committed to their partners in love. The dilemma here is that the homosexual Christians I know just do not fit the picture Paul gives us in Romans.

I'll be honest- I don’t know exactly what Paul meant by this passage. I know he was describing people who chose not to worship God and then "burned with lust for other men." I don't know exactly what he meant, but I know this DOES NOT describe the homosexual Christians I know, who love God with great passion.

Because of my inability to make clear sense of these passages, I am willing to allow a person's sexual orientation to be between him or her and God. I am willing to take a chance and err on the side of compassion and inclusion.

There are 6 passages that are thought to address the subject of homosexuality. The Old Testament passages are easily dismissed. And the two New Testament passages are ambiguous at best and easily open to interpretation.

I do not believe that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful. I simply do not. And even if you do not agree with me, would you at least agree that the Scriptural witness is ambiguous? And if so, shouldn't gay men and lesbian women be treated with the same mercy, grace and support that you feel should be shown to you?

I think it is time to move on, to recognize that all committed relationship, heterosexual and homosexual move us closer to understanding the call to the wholeness of God. Maybe if we stopped condemning, maybe young men and women would stop dying. Please, God, let it be so......

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Putting Things In Perspective

There are times that what goes on inside of an individual is not at all apparent to those outside. We all know that, the thoughts, the secrets, the ideas simmering at a level just below articulation, sometimes no one else can even begin to know.

For me, it has been that kind of a week. Thoughts that push the envelope of my comfort, contemplating decisions that affect those I care about as well as myself, getting my mind, heart and spirit all on the same page. We all live there. And it is so easy to get so caught up in those interior musings, that we go robotic through our daily lives.

I think life is pretty simple. I think faith is pretty simple. And when I choose to make my life complex, I need to remind myself of the elegantly simple messages occasionally to pull myself back on track.

Someone sent me this link earlier this week. It helped. And I am grateful. I apologize for not being able to put this into a link form. I am technologically challenged. But copy and paste it. It might remind you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

With Fear And Trepidation

So I started this blog, and in some ways I am sorry that I did. I was talking with a valued friend today about it, and remarked that what weighed on me was that now I feel like I am supposed to produce something, that I need to have something to say. The reality is, I am really a pretty simple guy, and I usually feel that I don't have that much to offer. She kindly remarked that it was my mind that was intriguing, and I told her that I feared for her sanity, if such is the case.

I don't follow things like blogs very religiously. Some of you know that I don't do anything religiously. But there is one blog that I always read- Don't Eat Alone, by Milton Brasher Cunningham. I never met the man, but I relate. Tonight I read his latest column and he mentioned an article that I subsequently read, by Parker Palmer, "Taking Pen In Hand."

The author was recounting how he started writing, and how what he wrote eventually became a book. He writes.

So here's my own Zen koan: we can do things we don't think we can do if we don't think about doing them. I also learned that if you can't write a book, write a lot of essays. If you can't write an essay, write a lot of paragraphs. If you can't write a paragraph, write a line or a word. And if you can't do that on the page, write your truth with your life, which is far more important than any book.

He is definitely on to something. My whole motivation for doing this is to share that part of me that is bigger then I am - Faith in the God of change. I sure don't claim to know God, or even begin to comprehend God, at times I am not even sure what/who God is. But I want to believe (and I do believe it) that there is something big and wonderful at work in the world and in my spirit and I know that as God. And that excites me to think about, and write about, and live within.

Mr. Palmer says it well. And why believe in God if the God we believe in is so small as to be contained and controlled within our finite words and forms? The aim of our writing about faith, and of our living in faith, is to let God be God: original, wild and free, a creative impulse that drives our living and our writing but can never be contained within the limits of who we are or what we think and say and do

Maybe keeping that thought in mind will make my keeping up with this thing easier. I sure hope so.