Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Young lives-some well lived and others wasted

This week I had two young deaths cross my path.  One will be mourned by a few but was a life well lived and one that touched those few very deeply.  The other is one that has made headlines and drawn a lot of attention but was really a wasted life.

The first young man was only 18.  He had suffered for a long-term illness.  Despite my friendship with his mom, I had no idea what affliction had bound him to a wheelchair.  All I knew about him actually was that he was a fighter and a winner.  Because of him our church camp made long needed renovations to accomodate not only Josh and his chair but other physically challenged kids and adults.  In that Silver Lake is such an amazing place, this was such a great thing as it offered more opportunities to more people to spend time there. 

I met Josh's mom in 2004 at a workshop for youth leaders.  I knew I liked her immediately when I saw her rag-tied flip-flops and her toe ring.  I hadn't reclaimed my freedom and courage at that point so I wasn't aware that she was part of the adventure my life would become.  What I did know was that we both related to teenagers when it came to ministry in very similar ways.  We knew that high schoolers and college kids worship was louder and more colorfully than adults but with a lot more cynicism than little kids.  Once you gave them permission to bring humor into faith along with trusting them to try new approaches to love, worship and service, they blossomed like big neon colored flowers.  They would even laugh, sing and conquered their fear of failure. 

As the years have passed I learned about Josh, actually at Silver Lake when Kathy had her kids there for a Confirmation Retreat.  I had so much more respect for her watching how she managed her group of confirmands and chaperones while looking out for Josh's special needs.  She's a freakin' awesome mom and my hat's off to her because I don't know if I could be half as brave, courageous and hard-working if in the same boat. 

Josh did graduate high school.  But he didn't live to see Christmas this year.  I didn't find out until a few days later when I signed on to Facebook for the first time in over a week.  My heart broke reading Kathy's posts about one less chair at that table and going to Christmas Eve service without her son.  I hugged my boy a little harder and took time to chat with my daughter in MD that night. 

Although I didn't know Josh, from all that I've read in the past few days from his family and friends, his was a life well led.  He did everything he could with it even from a wheelchair.  He left a lasting effect on many people and taught them life lessons about love and courage.  He used all that the Divine had given him for the purposes it was meant.

On the flipside of the coin, at Midnight this morning I read of the death of yet another young entertainer.  This man was 28 years old and a gifted percussionist.  Sadly though, he felt he had to live up to the lifestyle of a rocker boy.  Between drugs, alcohol and diabetes, his body gave up. 

He's left behind a long-time girlfriend, a succesful band who were also four of his closest friends and a huge international fan base...all of whom right now are holding him up as some kind of hero.  Personally I see him as a selfish bastard. 

My belief is that we are all created by the Great Spirit with talents and the potential to affect others in positive ways.  The highest and sincerest form of praise and worship to the Holy One for those gifts is to search within ourselves, find them and use them...for good. 

Those of you who know me and/or follow my writing about music know that I have a very deep love for rock music and the people who make it.  It just breaks my heart that so many destructive influences have worked their way into that world to the point that artists feel required to include them in their lives and worse that some fans expect them to.  Honestly I think that these guys and gals can make just as great music without alcohol, cocaine and other narcotics, along with random unprotected sex.  It also makes me angry that "live hard, die young" is still a battle cry amongst rock musicians and fans.  Why?

James Sullivan was just one more kid who felt he had to live the rock & roll lifestyle even if it meant that he wouldn't still be creating drum beats 30 years from now or sharing his talents with new-comers as a teacher, producer or manager.   He had to prove to the fans that he could play hard night and day with no thought to his blood sugar levels or the bodily harm he caused himself when drunk or high.  And the fans cheered him on.  The harder he abused himself the louder they cheered. 

Today they are all posting on their blogs and message boards about how sad they are and how wonderful they thought he was.  But, I fear, this will be like every other young celeb who has passed in the last 5 or 10 years...a lot of hooplah for a couple of weeks and then forgotten.  Oh the people who were closest to him will miss him for a long time but will even they see or understand how little he respected the gift of life he had been given?

Josh respected the gift.  He did everything he could with his life knowing that he probably wouldn't live to collect social security.  He was brave and faced the challenge of each new day following his doctors orders and listening to his parents to make the most of that day.  Drugs were medication to be used to help him survive. 

I'm not a holy roller.  I don't put any merit into "being saved" or even having to believe that Jesus was anything more than a very wise man who served as a living instruction manual on how to best live life.  But what I do believe is that there is a Higher Power and that it does have a plan for better living but it's up to each one of us to pray/meditate/search for the that plan within ourselves and then have the guts to live it out.  Anything less is a waste of the gift.  I just hope that those people who are holding "The Rev" up as some kind of role model take a step back and maybe find the Joshs in their lives and see what a real role model is. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Itsy bitsy.........teeny weeny................little bitty............" GOD!!

Excuse me but whatever happened to "For God so loved the WORLD" and "love your neighbor as yourself" and "do unto (ALL) others as you would have them do unto you" and "what you did for the LEAST of these you did for ME!"? Huh?

These are big, bold, broad statements.  If you go through the Bible, Qu'ran, Torah, because I'm going to focus on the Big Three/One God theologies right now, this Divine Being is pretty huge and it created THE WHOLE UNIVERSE and EVERYTHING in it.  So why do people who follow these three doctrines work so hard to put this HOLY CREATOR into smaller and smaller boxes every day?

It hit me a couple of days ago when I read about pending legislation in Uganda to execute gays and lesbians.  It caused another thought to rise up in me that I had considered a few weeks back...there are still parts of this country where interracial marriage is illegal.  Although we've gotten a little less barbaric in the past fifty years it was not uncommon for one or both members of an interracial couple to be murdered for marrying the person they loved.  Heck, they would be beaten or killed just for walking down the street hand in hand.

The thought broadened to the resurgence of Neo-Nazism in this country.  Although the KKK seems to be "so last year", there are still way too many (any more than zero) hate groups in the U.S. who will not stop short of violence against Jews, queers, non-Caucasians, non-WASPs and the really alarming part is that they can justify this stuff with "Christian" scripture.  WHAT?

In the Old Testament we get those "10 Rules for healthy living"...all of us Judeo-Christian kids had them memorized by the time we were eight.  There is one in particular though that mankind seems to have this constant habit of adding an "if" or a "but" to...the "thou shall not kill" one.  Yeah, that one.  Now add to that this train of thought I'm on right now..."God", "Goddess", "Great Spirit", etc.- whatever you call that enormous Divine Universal Creating and Ruling Power is just that....HUUUUGE!!!  And it's benevolent.  It really wants us to "get it".  It loves us.  So sometimes it sends signs to show us the way.  We usually do a pretty good job of ignoring those signs....things like the Holocaust to remind us that hate is just not part of the plan.  "God" created each and every one of us so who are we to say that any race, religion, culture, sexuality or socio-economic status is any better or worse that the other?  I love how I hear "fundies" declaring how God is the one true judge and yet they are the first to start judging everyone that doesn't go to their church. hmmmm

Last night I read a lovely spew of hate in, of all places that bastion of intelligent journalism, The Wall Street Journal.  The author, Peggy Noonan, posted the question at the end of "Have we become a more vulgar country?".  Now to put this in context, the entire article (which you can read here if you have a strong constitution "The Adam Lambert problem" ) Ms. Noonan is trying to take the focus off the current economic problems in this country and place all of our woes on the shoulders of a 27 year old rising pop star based on an event that occured weeks ago.  I found myself at first enraged and then utterly  amused by the ignorance of this "journalist".  If we want to talk vulgar let's go back to those "kinder, gentler times of the 40's and 50's that she compares the present to.  Signs still hung in restaurants, pubic transporation and restrooms declaring "Whites Only".  Schools were still segragated.  Girls who got pregnant out of wedlock were disowned by their families resulting in runaways or worse...suicide.  Catholics where not allowed to run for the presidency.  Jews tended to keep to themselves and try to remain out of the public eye, still more than a little gunshy after the Holocaust. And women were shamed out of the workplace and back into the home "where they belonged" when the troops returned from the war.  But these things were not "vulgar"?  I beg to differ.

"Red and yellow, black and white.  They are precious in His sight.  Jesus love the little children of the world."  And he still loves us even when we are big, old, rich, poor, queer, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, fat, skinny, boy or girl children.  I always loved that shirt that said "I'm OK.  God don't make junk!"  There are lots of people in this world that I don't like but I have to love them.  Sometimes that love means putting you in rehab, a mental institution or jail.  Sometimes that love means telling you "no" or "wait".  And sometimes that love means taking that extra $10 I just came into and buying a meal for a runaway teenager.  So people?  Quit trying to justify your hate, fear and anger by blaming it on The just brings that Being down below your level and it's no longer a Sacred Creator but a little piss-ant under your shoe.  You can't put God in a box.  And you can't deny that He/She/It loves the Jew sitting next to you on the bus, the East Indian that sold you your last six-pack, the homeless kid that asked you for a buck or the gay man who does your hair nor can you say that any of these people have less of a right to walk this planet than you do.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hypocracy and The (Magic) Kingdom

Here we go again.  Fear winning over rational thought.  For those who read my music blog, you know my issues with Adam Lambert’s AMA performance and it had nothing to do with boy-kissing or faux oral sex.  The actual production was so bloated with choreography that cast Lambert as a dancer and singer, it caused his vocals to suffer horribly and resulted a mid-number fall. 

I even understood ABC deciding to give Adam a time-out by “dis-inviting” him to Good Morning American.  It was very noble of CBS to pick him up for Early Morning but then they too had their own censorship faux pas.  But considering that the former Idol contestant was allowed to speak his mind clearly, succinctly and intelligently regarding the proper parenting of children, I’ll give them a “pass”.  What I don’t understand is ABC continuing their “punishment” of the glam rocker. 

It was announced yesterday that Adam’s appearance on Jimmie Kimmel had been cancelled.  There is still no hard evidence if the network told Lambert’s camp that it was due to pressure from the FCC or if he decided to be to be the bigger person and attempt to take some of the heat off of the American Broadcasting Company and their parent, Disney by pointing some blame on the Federal Communications Commission.  However, based on actual fact from the FCC’s own published guidelines, they have no jurisdiction over the airwaves after 10 p.m. local time.  This means that those who were viewing in the Central Time Zone may have a legal leg to stand on but it also means that ABC can only be fined for that one performance. 

ABC/Disney’s current action sends the message that they believe that Adam Lambert/RCA/19Entertainment/Sony Music Group are foolish enough to stage another such over-the-top performance.  But even if he did, Kimmel is aired well after the 10 p.m. cut off for the FCC so there would be no fines involved.  The bottom line is that ABC is playing to the pearl clutching right-wingers. 

It also has sent a message that straight male domination in this country is still a huge issue.  Would someone please explain to me why men are so afraid of women?  We can’t be trusted to take control of our own bodies, minds or politics.  Unless…….it means playing to some man’s sexual fantasies.  It’s fine to show girl-on-girl kissing or implied heterosexual acts everywhere on television…sitcoms, dramas, soap operas, variety shows, etc. all that play before the witching-hour of 10 p.m.  These same men also feel threatened by a gay man who is not a walking stereotype.  Gentlemen, how does he pose a threat to your sexuality or to your women-folk?  Honestly if that was the case wouldn’t you be more upset about his DETAILS photoshoot? 

Here’s the deal America…stop beating your chests and saying how “right” fundamentalist Christianity is and how screwed up the country is morally when the movies with the highest tickets sales are either just brainless stupid comedies or bloody horror flicks.  You have no problem with violence on television or in song lyrics.  It’s ok for your minor girl Mylie to dance on a stripper pole dressed like slut.  You’re not calling your congress person or banging down the FCC’s door over shows like Criminal Minds, CSI or Survivor (how to be totally ruthless to your neighbor for money).  It’s really nice that you're “Pro Life” but has your church built an orphanage?  Are you taking these moms and their children into your home?  What happened to that scripture about taking the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from your brothers?  Yeah, that’s what I thought. 

If you want to honor the Divine…use the faculties you were blessed with.  Listen.  Watch. Feel. Process. Touch.  Respect.  Love.  Fear is not something created by The Fates.  It is a human reaction to things unknown.  Once you get to know it…if it is trying to do your physical harm, then, indeed fight back.  If it’s trying to take your stuff, defend it.  But if it just looks different, likes different food, makes more/less money than you, etc…that’s not a legitimate reason to turn on it. 

Peace kids,