Spiritual or Religious – How Do You Worship?

An acquaintance (for anonymity I’ll call her Ivy) recently asked me to what church do I belong. I’ve known Ivy professionally for a few years, and as long-time patrons and proprietors sometimes do, we disclose some information about our private lives. I’ve learned that she is a devout Christian and attends church regularly. That aside, I believe her to be a kind and thoughtful person, and I think the feeling is mutual.

When I answered Ivy’s question by saying that I was not affiliated with any church, for a second she looked like she didn’t believe me, and then she asked, “Why not? Aren’t you religious?”

People rarely accept a straight yes or no answer to any question. The subject of religion is no different. When I responded no, Ivy’s puzzled expression did not surprise me.

“I’m spiritual,” I told her, “But not religious.”

“What does that mean?” She asked. (Did I detect sarcasm?) “What’s the difference?”

I expected that question. I’d been asked before. Expressing my opinion usually leads to a long, dragged out discussion.

The last (and only) house of worship where I held membership was Guildfield Baptist church. I think I was about 12 years old. I had been attending Sunday school at the little church for as long as I could remember. One day, I asked my mother if I could join, and she consented. The next Sunday, when the pastor opened the doors of the church, I became a member. A few weeks afterward, I was baptized.

Having watched movies like The Bells of St. Mary and The Song of Bernadette, led my naïve and impressionable mind to believe that when I grew up, I wanted to be a nun. (Silly me.) I did not understand at the time that as a Baptist, I would have to convert to Catholicism to pursue that goal.

My parents reared my siblings and me religiously. I attended Sunday school regularly, church occasionally, and sometimes both on the same Sunday. I think mother was proud of the fact that I also sang in the junior choir, and I enjoyed it. At home, when our family gathered around the table for meals, we kids were required to say a Bible verse after grace. When I could think of nothing else, I opted for the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”

I still remember, occasionally, sitting with my mother as she read the Bible to me and sometimes asking her questions that she answered to the best of her understanding, but not always to my satisfaction. My bible discussions with mother remain as fresh in my mind as if they occurred yesterday.

My affiliation with Guildfield church ended after my family moved out of the neighborhood in the mid-1960s. During the years following our move, I attended numerous houses of worship, including Mosques and the Kingdom Hall, but I never joined any of them. The only time I enter a church nowadays is to attend a wedding or, most likely, a funeral.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

My religious upbringing remains embedded, but I stay away from organized religion.

The question from Ivy wasn’t the first time that someone asked me to explain what I mean when I say that I am spiritual but not religious.

As I explained to Ivy, “It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God. I’m not an atheist, though I might be borderline agnostic.” I laughed. She didn’t. The puzzled look on her face told me that she didn’t understand my humorous jab or she didn’t think it was funny.

What I wanted to say to her was, “I take issue with organized religion. I dislike the hypocrisy, the disguised money-grabbing, sanctified pretense, and the holier-than-though attitude of some church folks.” But being the diplomatic person that I am (most of the time), what I said instead was, “I prefer not to follow organized practices and religious dogma. You know what they say, ‘Different strokes for different folks.’” That ended the conversation.

I don’t need religious, social networking, nor do I feel compelled to commune with a group of people or pray in a house of worship. I have a one-on-one relationship with God. If it is true that God hears us when we pray no matter where we are, then I could pray as easily in a closet or car, as in a church.

In my lifetime, I’ve known some professed atheists whose moral standards and actions are better than some people who regularly fill the church pews. Absent their belief in God; I find atheists to be no more immoral, judgmental, or hypocritical than folks who claim to be holy and sanctified.

Some people use the terms religious and spiritual interchangeably. As I see it, religious people base their faith on what they are taught by ministers, priests, pastors, overseers, and other dutiful clergypersons. Spiritual but non-religious people often develop our beliefs based on personal experiences that may or may not be gleaned from our familiarity with religious organizations. No matter how we choose to identify ourselves — as spiritual or religious — the important factor is how we live and how we honor God.

 

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No Escaping the Dream

I’ve cut-back on watching TV news and other programs where the main topic is coronavirus. I am tired of feeling bombarded by the subject, tired of hearing about it. The same applies to videos concerning racial violence that are shared on Facebook or in-boxed to me by friends. I don’t watch them anymore. Although I decided to take a respite from both issues, my subconscious must not have gotten the message, because last night, I had a troubling dream that integrated both subjects.

In my dream —

I am employed in a small office suite with my manager, Peter. We are moving an old, light-grey loveseat, to be discarded, from his office into the reception area of the suite.

As Peter goes back into his office, a burly-looking white man enters the suite and tells me that he has a new sofa outside to bring in. He is about fiftyish, 6’3″ tall, 280 pounds. On his line-backer sized body, he is wearing a wrinkled white tee shirt with prominent yellow underarm stains. His beer belly is flapping over the belt, holding up gray khakis; the pant legs sit above dirty, white, runover sneakers. Wavy, silver-gray hair grows around the sides and back of his bald top head. The sour expression on his puffy, red face and three bulging knots above his right brow make him look like he ran into someone’s fist before arriving at our office. He is either having a bad day or is mad with the world. Still, I smile when I greet him. (Although I am aware that I am dreaming, my conscious awareness tells me that it is essential to remember the man’s description.)

He is standing at one end of the loveseat; I am at the other. We are about four feet apart. As I am struggling to angle the loveseat so that he can walk past it and enter Peter’s office, he looks directly at me and purposely sneezes so loudly that Peter immediately pokes his head out of his office.

Surprised and angry, I backpedal away from him, trying to escape his germs before they reach my face. “You KNOW you are supposed to be wearing a mask,” I shout. Peter steps to the doorframe of his office and repeats the admonition to the deliveryman. The angry man walks over to Peter, shoves him back into his office, and begins attacking him.

I run out of the suite, bypass the elevator, burst through the nearest exit door, and run downstairs, rushing to find a security officer. I pass a fire alarm box, consider pulling it, but decide not to. Instead, I continue racing down the stairs. On the next landing, I reach the door and turn the knob. The door won’t open. I turn and run back upstairs, speeding past the door on the floor where my office is located. I keep running upstairs, sometimes taking two steps at a time until I arrive on the 7th level, where I see a woman trying to push a small desk through an open door. As I hurriedly squeeze past the desk, I tell her that there is a deranged man in the building and to call security.

Down the hallway, several feet from that door, I spot a guard’s station and run toward it. The officer is seated behind the desk, laughing and talking with a young lady who is in standing nearby. Breathlessly, I tell him about the deliveryman who I believe is killing Peter downstairs. Then, I look back toward the door that I had arrived from and see the deliveryman walking past the entrance to the hallway. He doesn’t see me, but I know that he is looking for me. He is wearing a lime green jacket over his tee shirt and carrying a vase of cut flowers. A clever disguise, I think. I see the barrel of what looks like an assault rifle protruding from beneath his jacket.   

“That’s him,” I tell the guard while pointing toward the deliveryman. The guard jumps up from his chair and rushes toward the man. He is yelling for the man to stop as I escape through a nearby exit door. I am running downstairs when I hear what I believe to be gunshots. As I continue my descent, I see that there is a fire alarm box on each level. Again, I think about pulling the alarm to evacuate the building, but I figure doing so would allow the deliveryman to escape with the crowd of office workers.

Finally, I reach the door on the ground level. Not only is it locked, it is also behind a fish-mesh fence. I’m afraid to go back upstairs because I sense that the deliveryman is on his way down. I reach to pull the fire alarm on the wall beside the door only to realize that it is broken. Then, I wake up.

Upon awakening, I am disturbed by the thought that my subconscious mind merged thoughts of the coronavirus with racism. Since COVID-19 has become a daily news feature, I’ve never dreamed about it. Not once, until last night. I got out of bed and recorded my dream in my journal.

I am sometimes good at analyzing my dreams, but I decided to do some research regarding this one. An article by Jeremy Taylor, author of The Wisdom of Your Dreams, provides some insight. Here is what he says in excerpts from the article.

There is a “human tendency to associate the direction ‘up’ with light, consciousness, and ‘goodness’ – while at the same time associating the direction ‘down’ with darkness, unconsciousness, uncertainty, and anxiety.

“This…instinctive response to ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in our shared environment and evolutionary history…is the unconscious source of racism. It is because it is unconscious that the problem of racism is so ubiquitous, automatic, and difficult to overcome.

“… our dreams regularly give us symbolic images and experiences which point to the nature and content of our unconscious lives, particularly those things in our unconscious lives that injure and limit us.”

Pleasant dreams!

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Count to Ten

People are losing their mother freakin’ minds. Our lifestyles, social practices, and in some cases, living arrangements are changing from day-to-day. The novelty of enduring temporary adjustments has worn off, and social distancing is forcing another new norm upon us. Health-minded, law-abiding citizens are trying to comply with each change, while resisters in places like Michigan are openly protesting. Nearly everybody’s patience is growing wafer-thin, and some people are spelling pandemic P-A-N-I-C.

I don’t go outside very often unless I need something from the store or am feeling claustrophobic and desperate for a change of scenery. This morning, I decided to go out and buy groceries, and I invited my daughter and grandson to join me in case I purchased more items than I could carry.

We were all wearing masks as was everyone who I saw in the store, and most shoppers were following the silly arrows on the floor, directing pedestrian traffic.

As we were preparing to leave, we apparently got too close for comfort (less than 6 feet) to a woman who was standing in front of the exit with her cart of groceries. She too was wearing a mask.

Perhaps she was waiting for a ride; I don’t know. What I do know is that if you don’t want people walking near you, then you need to stand someplace else instead of in front of the exit door. Anyway, as the three of us drew nearer to her, she got wide-eyed, grabbed her cart, and sprinted back into the store, all the while mumbling something mostly indecipherable about social distancing. I can smell attitude from a mile away, and she had a big-time bad attitude, which I chose to ignore.

As I said, people are losing their mother freakin’ minds. And to add to the madness – some grocery and convenience stores are now scheduling shopping days based on shoppers’ last names.

Stressed to the max is the phrase of the month. I won’t be surprised to see skirmishes start to break out in grocery stores and everywhere else over little indiscretions. I feel that if things don’t turn around soon, it will come to that. I say turn around instead of return to normal because I doubt if normality will ever return. Normal bought a one-way ticket to forever-gone. Having to adjust to new societal rules like social distancing is driving some previously mild-mannered citizens mad. What do you think?

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How to Maintain Sanity During Insane Times

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.

Old schoolers and Generation Xers will remember that opening monologue from The Twilight Zone, a TV series in the sci-fi horror genre that ran for five seasons between 1959 and 1965. It seems today that unlike The Twilight Zone, where we entered into a “wondrous land of imagination,” the world is caught up in a real-life nightmare.

The fatalities resulting from COVID-19 are tragic. No one wants to become a victim of a potentially fatal ailment, but the hope and reality are that people are recovering. And while we each have our way of handling challenges, my survival approach is prayer, faith, and a sense of humor.

Before my cynical readers start with their “there’s nothing funny about it” diatribe, let me assure you that I know that COVID is no laughing matter. The ugly virus has devastated families and forced those of us who are compliant to adopt drastic lifestyle changes. But I’ve found that – instead of freaking out – it is easier to cope with dire circumstances when I put a humorous spin on a serious matter.

Homebodies might be handling things with indifference, but we free-spirited people who enjoy going where we want, when we want, are pissed because the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID are a tremendous inconvenience. Aspirin and Tylenol cannot remedy cabin fever.

Fussing, cussing, and throwing a tantrum won’t change anything either. But if we don’t vent, then what? We are used to our independence. A fragile mind could go insane.

My city, like several states, is under a stay-at-home order. It is human nature that when we are told not to do something, we feel compelled to disobey. Even a kid would agree. Say sit down. We stand. Say shut up. We speak. Say stay in, and you know where the hell we want to go – out.

But where to go? Most retail stores, restaurants, gyms, and other recreational facilities are closed. (The closure of the gym where I have worked out consistently for seven years has me feeling like someone dropped a 26-pound kettlebell on my foot.) Schools, public offices, and private businesses are also closed. Numerous people have been furloughed and some have permanently lost their jobs. Parents who are trying to work remotely with young children underfoot are losing their minds. And their children who don’t understand why school is closed, but they can’t go outside to play with their pals, are pushing them closer to the edge.

I pray that things will soon get back on track. I won’t say back to normal, because I don’t think things will ever return to the way they used to be. COVID has caused a paradigm shift everywhere.

If you are not afflicted with the life-threatening ailment, be thankful, and pray that none of us or our loved ones get it and those who do recover. In the meantime, here are some do and don’t tips for coping and maintaining your sanity during the days, weeks, or months of potential confinement. Yes, for all intent and purposes, we should consider ourselves under house arrest, only without the ankle bracelet.

  1. Don’t fret about what to wear. You can stay in your PJ’s all day without putting on makeup, combing your hair, or untangling your weave. On the other hand, if you are a camera-ham, you can spend days taking selfies. Produce your own photoshoot by changing outfits and hairstyles several times a day, and posturing in provocative poses. Then, upload your photos to social media.
  2. Do challenge yourself. Exercise your mind. Take classes or play games online. I’ve done both. Being competitive by nature, I enjoy playing word games like Bookworm, Puzzly Word, and Words with Friends.
  3. Do resist the urge to eat constantly. Even if you feel compelled to have food or snacks in your mouth all the time, don’t. Avoid going into the kitchen except for breakfast, lunch, or dinner unless it is to get water or coffee (tea for you tea lovers). Do not try to eat and snack your way through the Pandemic. If you must nibble all day, then stick with fruits and raw veggies (like carrots, celery, cauliflower, or broccoli. I like pickles.). Don’t let sugary sweets become your best friend.
  4. Don’t watch television 24/7, especially if the current situation has you feeling depressed, because you will be bombarded with briefings and news breaks about COVID. Trust me, your favorite programs (like The View) will be interrupted continuously with the count of latest casualties and personal narratives from survivors.
  5. Do something crafty to occupy your mind. Paint, draw, or make a quilt. Read a book. Better yet, write your memoirs. Listen to music or get on WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, or some other video chat program and sing karaoke with friends. If you are by nature a couch potato and start jonesing for the idiot box, then watch documentaries or binge-watch a series on Netflix.
  6. Don’t trip over the cat, step on the dog, or fall down the stairs. Most accidents happen in the home, so whatever you do, try not to injure yourself so severely that you will have to go to the hospital. Unless you think that you might have COVID, the hospital is the last place you want to go right now, because if you don’t have the virus when you arrive at the hospital, with all of the microorganisms in the air you will likely have contracted it before you leave.
  7. Do establish an exercise routine and workout daily in your home. If you want to workout twice a day do it. Once in the morning and once in the evening. Exercise too can get boring, so vary your workout. Aerobics in the morning. Yoga in the evening or vice versa. There are numerous workout videos on YouTube. And don’t forget to stretch after working out. If the weather is nice, go outside and walk for a few miles. Just remember – social distancing.
  8. Do spring cleaning. Rearrange your living space or just clean out the closets or dresser drawers. Have a shred-in. Shred your sensitive documents (personal emails, travel documents, tax files, health records, and other private papers.) A few days ago, I went through my file cabinet, pulled out, and shredded numerous documents that I’ve been hoarding because I did not want to clean out and organize the filing cabinet. Among other things, I shredded all of the copies of old tax returns from 1972 to 2000. IRS recommends that you keep records for three years with certain exceptions. You can find those stipulations on the IRS.gov site.

And finally…

  1. Do ignore people who tell you how foolish it is to stock up on essentials like toilet paper. They are the same people who will be begging to “borrow” some of yours when they run out.

One can quickly become depressed when life is suddenly topsy-turvy, and we are forced to live under what some call the new norm. As difficult as it may be, fight the unhappy feeling with humor. It is easier to sink into a hole of deep depression than to climb out of it. Maintain a positive attitude. Do things that you’ve been putting off because you always thought you didn’t have time to get around to doing them. And if all else fails, phone a friend. Hopefully, it will be someone who will uplift your spirit and not invite you to join his or her pity party.

Life is short. Make the best of it.

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The Sheep Are Drinking the Kool-Aid with Cult 45

The following post was written by Guest Author, David White. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of this blog.

 

If they don’t get it now, they’ll never get it. Forty-five has essentially told you that your attempts to preserve and protect your life and health are an inconvenience to his grift and graft. What are a few thousand deaths in areas where I don’t live when my ratings might suffer, and I might lose money and my presidency?

This weekend Joy Reid was asking her guests why don’t the Trumpists see that they are being manipulated and lied to. David Corn put it as succinctly as anyone I’ve heard recently. He said, in essence, you have to let them go – they’re not seeking the truth they have drunk the Kool-Aid.

Look at the Jonestown massacre. Those people had their leader. He was infallible in their minds. He sold them utopia, and they convinced themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he was “The Man” to deliver them everything they wanted.

Now we have Cult 45. Their leader has sold his people on his evil, racist, selfish, egotistical reign by giving them the hope that he can show those others – the Latinos, Blacks, Jews, Asians, liberals, and anyone who doesn’t toe his line that his kind will rule. What they don’t fully appreciate is that the only kind he wants to rule are those like himself and his progeny. Everyone else is a tool.

But they buy his absurdity because he feeds them what they want – bigotry, wrapped in fake everything. Fake Christianity. Fake patriotism. Fake morality. Fake empathy. Fake compassion. And fake victimhood. He uses their resentments and frustrations to his own ends, and they let him because they identify with his racism and unconstrained id. They aren’t turned off by his ugliness – they want what he has – and, reluctantly concluding that they might not get to where he is, they gladly settle for the schadenfreude they feel for the pain and suffering he inflicts on others.

Some historical records of the Civil War reveal that the poor whites who fought for the Confederacy did so, not because they were due to gain financially, but because of the psychic pleasure derived from subjugating and lording over those whom they could consider less than themselves (the black slaves, of course). The same reason why they concocted Jim Crow laws and the KKK.

The last and perhaps most challenging obstacle for Americans, black and white, and “other” is to remove the false social construction of race. Science tells us there is no biological divergence in the human species to justify any labels. We do it for sociological convenience. We walk past people every day who we would label white on sight who, by ancestry, would be considered black – and vice versa. But it is convenient to put individuals in racial compartments and then, based on compartmentation, determine how we then deal with them.

I know this is complicated and controversial, but the science is there. We are all on a human continuum of skin color and hair texture based on genetic mutations. We look like our progenitors – Asian, European, or African. Still, those aren’t races. Those are mutations from generations and generations of the original race of all humans who came from Africa.

In another iteration, if Hutus had decided (and were able) to overrun the whole continent of Africa and subjugate the Tutsis and other tribes to slavery for generations, they would have justified it by claiming the Tutsis and others were different races and therefore not worthy of being treated the same as a Hutu.

I was outraged when I heard the latest spin by 45 and Fox that “We need to get the economy going and old folks and sick folks need to go on and die.” Anything to restore the economy and prevent the so-called upper class from losing money.

As a precaution, eighty-nine-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch had his network cancel his birthday party while continuing to downplay the threat of the coronavirus to their sheep. They don’t care about the elderly. They refuse to see through the charade because they have pledged full loyalty to the cult of 45.

Cult leader Jim Jones didn’t have to force or coerce the hundreds of people who died with him in Jonestown, Guyana. They willingly and dutifully drank the Kool-Aid and 45’s pigeons will too. We shall see how many are willing to drink to their end.

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