Preparing for 2018

October 18, 2017

I’ve been thinking about the year head. We have 2 1/2 months before it’s upon us, but there are a lot of things we can be sure of already.

There is no way 2018 won’t be a dramatic one. After all the stress of 2017, it would be nice to think we could have a rest. But there is no way next year is going to be restful. Politically, socially and environmentally, too much is already set up, too many questions will finally be answered, too many stress points will beg to be handled one way or the other.

But life is never just about what happens to us; it’s about who we choose to be in going through the experience. It serves us to start thinking now about who we are going to be in 2018.

Today’s Zeitgeist does not center around the drama of any of us so much as all of us. It’s not just our personal but our collective story that is playing out now, and our greatest power lies in imagining ourselves stepping up to the plate and playing our part in a great and glorious planetary renewal that is begging to occur.

It will either be that, or God help us…

If you think 2017 was hard, 2018 is going to be a doozy. A nation of wounded birds will not be able to handle this; a gargantuan swath of people for whom words like courage, contribution and responsibility mean nothing will not be able to handle the stress. Everything that’s happened till now has simply been rehearsal for the time that is just ahead.

This will not be a time for sissies. It will not be a time for whiners. It will not be a time in which any of us will be able to indulge the weaker, softer underbellies of our personality. Our communities, our country, and our world will need us to be strong and amazing and devoted and creative in ways we have never been before. And we are more ready to do that than we know, not because of anything we ourselves can take personal credit for but because of Who is alive in all of us.

We might not feel ready, but God is always ready. Inwardly, it is time to move aside now and let Him drive. There is no way that you or I, with our puny little personalities, will be able to handle the drama in 2018. But God can and will, as long as we prepare ourselves and surrender ourselves that He might use us on His behalf. The mortal mind got us into this mess, but the mortal mind can’t get us out of it.

This line from A Course in Miracles comes to mind: “Do not be concerned about your own readiness. Just be consistently aware of mine.” You might want to hold onto that. We are coming upon a time that will once again be a time that tries men’s souls. But make no mistake about it, at the deepest level we can handle this. At the deepest level, we are ready for this. And with God’s help, we got this.

Horror in Las Vegas

October 2, 2017

Let us not distract ourselves from the horror of what has happened here. For the 59 who are dead, remember all the parents who have to tell their children that Mommy or Daddy won’t be coming home again, or the grieving lovers and spouses and parent and friends who cannot bear the agony they are going through now. Let us not distract ourselves from thinking about the hundreds, 500 plus, in pain, some now even fighting for their lives. Let us not forget the police and other first responders, the doctors and nurses who have been heroes dealing with this, absolute heroes, confronting a scene of carnage even they were unprepared for. May they all be blessed. May the hand of God be upon them and comfort them in their desperate hour.

And let us not give in to those who say we should not politicize this, that tonight is not the night, and whatever else they’ll say to distract us from the work to be done. As Jesus overthrew the tables of the money-changers, let us now do the same … and say to those who for the sake of money refuse to allow the things that yes we CAN do … to close the loopholes, to check the backgrounds, to mitigate the risks. NRA, you know who you are. You do not exist to protect the 2nd Amendment; you exist to protect the billions of dollars made by gun manufacturers. We see you, and we know who you are. Politicians who do their bidding, you know who you are…and so do we. Tonight, we will not distract ourselves from this horror. And tomorrow, we will not distract ourselves from the work that it is ours, as citizens, to do. We will not forget this. Enough is enough.

As of tonight, with God’s help, things will finally change. Amen.

Our National Identity

September 30, 2017

Whether as a person or a nation, the question “Who am I?” needs to precede the question “What should I do?”; we cannot know what we should do until we know who we really are. Our principles, values, and deep identity are the guiding principles of wise and right action. Without them we are flying blind, lost in the spiritual darkness of mere self-centered pursuit.

The United States used to know who we were, even though we have never yet fully embodied the truth of it. We are the home of the brave, endowed by God with the blessings of liberty and justice. And where this has not been true – as in slavery, and the oppression of women, and injustice towards Native Americans, and legalized white supremacy – we understood as a nation that it was our job to fix that. For that is who we are.

But something has gone terribly wrong over the last 40 years, and it does not serve us to gloss over this. We have sold our identity to the highest bidders, sacrificing our sense of national purpose. We have forgotten our deep identity and the mission, passed along generation after generation, to preserve it. We became distracted by ultimately meaningless things.

How could it be otherwise, given our lack of commitment to teach civics to all our children (how could they know what we have failed to teach them)? How could it be otherwise, given the increasingly undue influence of money on our politics? How could it be otherwise, given that so many of us left politics to other people to handle?

Sometimes we become clear about who we are in part by getting clear about who we are not. We are not only a Christian nation, for instance; we are a religiously pluralistic nation. Our Founders said so and we need to keep it that way.

We are not a nation where might makes right; we are a nation where truth and justice make right. Our Founders said so and we need to keep it that way.

We are not a nation where only some are entitled to the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; we are a nation where God himself has granted all of us those inalienable rights. Our Founders said so and we need to keep it that way.

Only when we remember who we are as a nation can we have a clear sense of what we are to do. America has a promise to keep, not only to ourselves but to the ages. Here, on this land, we will honor the democratic principles that ensure all men and women the right to be free, to create our own destiny, actualizing according to the dictates of our own conscience and the work of our own hands the life we choose to manifest. Any force, either external or internal, that would seek to limit our capacity to do that is a threat not only to us but to our historic charge. Part of our deep identity is not only our freedom but our commitment to that freedom; not only our democracy but our willingness to sacrifice for our democracy; not only our sacred first principles but our fealty to those principles particularly when they are under threat.

Today they are under threat and it is time for us to show who we are. We must push back those threats, stand up to those threats, and dismantle those threats. It is true that they are fierce, but when we remember who we are and why we are here then so are we. Now, as has been true since our founding almost two and a half centuries ago, there is a sense that something bigger is at stake here than simply our own desires. These are disturbing times for America’s soul, and for America’s politics, but the light at the center of who we really are and our sense of political purpose will yet prevail.

Politics From the Inside Out

September 29, 2017

I think of traditional politicians as political mechanics. And some of them are very good ones too. But the problem is that society is not a machine, with parts that can just be tinkered with to make things right. Tinkering with a bill here, tinkering with another kind of legislation there — these are all external remedies, but our biggest problems are not external. External problems are just symptoms, and just treating the symptom doesn’t treat the disease.

Jobs, for instance….Politicians keep saying that people want jobs. Well of course they do. But that’s just the problem that shows on the outside. What people are living with, in their hearts, late at night when they live with little but their own thoughts, is a level of chronic economic despair that simply getting a job doesn’t totally stave off. Economic despair isn’t due only to the fact that someone doesn’t have a job. Even when you have a job, so little feels secure today. The fear is still with you, whether it’s a fear of not having a job or fear that you’re going to lose the one you have.. It’s due to the fact that someone doesn’t have health care, and doesn’t know what they would do if they got sick. It’s due to the fact that someone doesn’t know how they will pay for their kids to go to college, or how they themselves will pay off their college loans. It’s due to the fact that huge conglomerates and billionaires seem to hold all the power today, power even over our government, so that more and more the average person feels squeezed out of the mainstream and into a pool of ultimate insignificance. And this makes people unhappy; how could it not? Unhappy people grow weary, and weary people are too tired to fight off the accumulated assaults on both body and soul that are with us all the time today.

That’s not something a mechanic can fix. Our political mechanics are part of a system that has brought us to where we are today. Given the state of the world, I don’t see how anyone totally adept at our political system has too much to brag about. We need more than political car mechanics in Washington. What we need is a new car, and what we need more than anything else is a deeper understanding of the people who are in it.

We need a politics from the inside out. You can’t change anything only by changing things on the outside… Not a business, not a relationship, not an organization, not a life. Only temporary change can happen that way. What we need now is a renewed conversation about what it means to be human, in our politics as much as everywhere else. That’s what our Founders were talking about. How we are created equal. How we have inalienable rights, not just because we are entitled brats who want what we want but because we are given those rights by God. How it is the natural state of humanity to be free of tyranny, political or economic or any other kind. How to establish a society that honors those things. We have strayed from the important existential questions of life, and that is why our politics are sick. They do not speak either to our depths or from our depths. They are shallow and selfish and greedy and corrupted. They do not display the purity of heart that is the truth of who we are as people. Until that changes, our country will continue on a perilous course. But when that changes, we will begin to heal in the twinkling of an eye.

The Conscience of Society

September 26, 2017

At a Saturday morning service many years ago, when I was about 14 years old, I heard our Rabbi speak out against the Viet Nam War. I remember how exhilarating it was to me — how for the first time I experienced the moral authority of the religious pulpit, how for the first time religion was really relevant to me. Then several days later I heard my mother remark to my father at dinner, “I hear people are really upset with Rabbi Malev for talking about the war last Saturday.” It was the first time I understood the pressure religious leaders are under to support the status quo, to not upset the apple cart, to go along with what their congregation wants at any particular time. But Jesus himself upset the apple cart when he overthrew the tables of the money-changers. I think spiritual and religious leadership is supposed to be the conscience of a society, answerable not to other people’s projections (particularly as in today, when the projection is often that spiritual means just going along with anything in the name of being “nonjudgmental” and submissive in the name of being “loving”). I’m going to go along with Rabbi Malev at Beth Yeshurun in Houston and Rabbi Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. I’m going to remember my ancestors who were thrown in ovens because too few spoke up while there was still a chance. I’m going to cry out with millions of others crying out that humanity has lost its mind and must reclaim its heart. I will do so with tremendous thanks in my heart, that as an American I have the RIGHT to do so. Thank you, Rabbi Malev and thank you, Jesus. Both of you showed the way.

The Seasons of Love

September 25, 2017

Relationships, even and perhaps particularly intimate ones, go through seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. One of the mistakes we make with relationships that we would never make with the weather is impatience with the seasons. As hot as the summer might be, leaves will begin to fall off the trees come autumn. And as painfully cold as winter might feel, the seeds of spring lie underneath the ground and will blossom when they are supposed to. We have faith in the weather, and we should similarly have faith in love. Relationships are never over; they who are brought together by God are held in His hands as one until the spring arrives. Do not bemoan either autumn or winter, for they are inevitable. And spring, when it does come, is even more glorious when following the chill and the seemingly barren landscape of cold and bitter winter months. Be patient then with the seasons of love, and your heart will hurt no more.

The Debate Is Over

September 12, 2017

Climate change deniers, primarily working at the behest of the fossil fuel industry, have slowed down progress in an area of vital importance to the health and well-being of millions of American citizens. While they represent a tiny fraction of the scientific community, unfortunately they continue to be represented in government by a much larger percentage of politicians.

Yet climate change denial is now moving irretrievably into the dustbin of history’s worst ideas. With the latest examples of monstrous weather phenomena, climate change denial is finally being exposed for the dangerous folly that it is. Its day – and its sway over America– is over. America must now embark upon a massive effort to combat the effects not only of catastrophic weather conditions, but also the effects of climate change denial on our environmental and political policies.

The American people are being vastly underserved, both by America’s rejection of the Paris climate accord and by the appointment of a climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency, although created by Republican President Richard Nixon and with a legacy of forward-thinking environmental policy, has become under Pruitt an actual enemy of environmental protection. I am aligned with the vast majority of American citizens in vigorously and passionately defending the health of our environment against the ill-advised, dangerously recalcitrant policies of Mr. Pruitt and the political forces he represents. We will not stand idly by while millions of Americans suffer the effects of extreme weather conditions, when the vast majority of scientists both in America and throughout world have established beyond a reasonable doubt that these conditions are exacerbated by human behavior. America should always be on the side of progress. Feigning doubt about climate change, pretending the issue is still open to question, is simply dangerous and disingenuous political propaganda. It has lost the debate among the majority of American citizens and for good reason. We should reject the criminal negligence of those who for financial purposes now wage a dangerous assault upon our environment, and stand in full alliance with those who see the protection of our environment, and the combating of climate change, as a sacred responsibility to ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

Resisting Hopelessness

September 11, 2017

It would be easy to slip into hopelessness now, to resign ourselves to the idea that the concentrated assaults on everything from the planet to our democracy have succeeded to such a degree that it’s no longer possible to stop them.

Yet it is exactly that hopelessness we must resist now, even more than we must resist the forces that seem so intent on bringing us down. Our hopelessness is only called for if in fact miracles are not possible, and because they are, there is no cause for hopelessness.

Hope springs eternal because life springs eternal, and life abounds with possibility. We have within us the capacity to change things, but only if we are willing to change ourselves. We have written the human story that now unfolds in front of us, and the only way we can change the story is if we are willing to rewrite it.

We wrote the story of a country that had everything, was given everything, was blessed beyond comprehension and yet chose to sell our souls to the highest dollar. We wrote the story of a country that put economics before love, sales before ethics, and our government on the bidding block. We wrote the story of a country that has treated the earth with lack of reverence, democracy as though we could take it for granted, and justice as though it only mattered if the issue was applying it to ourselves.

We wrote that story, and now we can write another one. But we can only do that if we are willing to recognize that all of us, to some degree, have been co-creators of the one we have now, atone for our heartlessness to each other and our arrogance before our Creator, and get to work on cleaning up this mess and re-creating the world.

Hope is a moral imperative, and cynicism is just an excuse for not helping. We have no choice but to recreate our civilization.

I know many of us feel the urgency of this moment, the radicalism at the heart of what we’re being called to do. For it is not incremental, it is a-historic; jumping out of the timeline of what is to be expected, off the scale in the amount of light it calls forth as much as political and weather storms are off the scale in terms of darkness.

This new world cannot be forced, any more than it can be rationally calculated; it can only be invoked into expression by the deepest kind of reverance. Invocation is the priest and priestess’ task, and that is what all of us are being called to be right now.

When I was a little girl, I used to ask God what I was supposed to be when I grew up. I would always see the word “priest,” but I thought it was weird…obviously impossible, because Jews don’t have priests. Then I grew up to realize that indeed they did in the Old Testament, and even more importantly, that the priest is anyone who invokes into expression the unlimited possibilities that emerge from the field of ultimate Reality. All of us are recruits for the new priesthood, no matter what we do, needed to invoke into expression the unlimited possibilities inherent in the Mind of God. Yet they remain un-manifest until we have the courage to invoke them.

Like ancient priestesses at Delphi, let us summon all our powers of multi-dimensional knowing, emerge from the narrow and shallow casing of a mechanistic worldview, throw off the chains of a rationalistic approach to life, and remember we are co-creators of our future. We are not victims here; we’re merely reaping what we’ve sowed. And we can sow anew. We are here to create the good, the true, and the beautiful, and anything less than that is short of our purpose and our mission in this life.

Each of us is endowed with an internal guidance system, and if we ask within what we’re to do, we will be guided. We will be told what to do and we will be told how to do it. We will be led to each other and we will collaborate in miraculous ways. We will dwell within the golden Light of a higher kind of knowing. We will know, and we will do.

Prayer For Florida

September 10, 2017

As dramatic as the storms are on external levels, they are on internal ones as well. The displacement, the fear, the loss, the unknowing, the compassion, the lessons learned, the humility gained, the destruction, the power, the horror, the devastation, the awe before nature realized, the heroism both noticed and unnoticed….and the storm hasn’t even packed its entire wallop yet. Prayers for the Caribbean islands, prayers for Cuba, prayers for Florida, prayers for everyone affected by this in any way. May angels accompany you in your trying times and may all of us learn the lessons here. May this event make all of us more compassionate people, not just for the duration of the storm but for the duration of our lives. May everyone emerge from this a better person, with a heart more open and a greater appreciation for the fragility of life. To those of you experiencing the effects of the hurricane firsthand, I so hope you can feel the love that millions are pouring towards you. People around the world are praying for you. You will get through this. You are not alone. God is with you and so are we.

Dear God,
Please bless and protect all living things.
Please embrace your children in their fearful hour.
Work miracles for everyone
that love might lift us all above the
storms
That rage among us.
Thank you, God.
Amen

D-DAY: June 6, 1944

June 6, 2017

On the night of June 5, l944, Allied forces made their final preparations for the D-Day invasion early the next morning. And military commanders knew that even if things went as hoped, thousands of men would die in the difficult days ahead. How did they decide who would be in the front lines of the landing? Through a lottery. And just as predicted, while the Allies ultimately took the beaches, those in the front lines were slaughtered in tremendous numbers.

On this night, General Eisenhower did as he often did — he went walking among his enlisted men. “Are you scared, soldier?” he would often say to them. “Yes, Sir,” responded most, many of whom had covered their faces with war paint. Eisenhower would often tell them that the trick was to just keep moving.

In hindsight, of course we know the Allied forces were ultimately victorious. But remember — on that night in l944, our leaders didn’t know what would occur. They did know Hitler thought the Allies would be landing in Calais, and that they’d better hurry before he had a chance to realize they were at Normandy. So when Eisenhower heard from his meteorologist that on the morning of June 6 around dawn there would be enough light to allow for the landing but enough darkness to still provide some cover, he simply said, “Okay, let’s go.”

160,000 Allied soldiers participated in the D-Day Invasion. It is estimated that 4,413 of them died. One can only imagine the energy, the courage, the fear, and the prayers that were uttered on that night, this night, in l944.

There are countless articles and books and films that cover the D-Day invasion, and with the Internet anyone can easily read its history. I think it’s right that we should do so – to remember, to commemorate, and to thank the souls of the great men and women who gave so much of themselves — in so many cases, their very lives — to help defeat an awful evil on that day.

Several years ago I visited the beaches at Normandy, where barges still rest in the water along the coastline. It was one of the most moving, haunting experiences of my life and I will never forget it. On this night, may we all remember.

Once the invasion had begun, Roosevelt led his nation in prayer. http://www.history.com/speeches/franklin-d-roosevelt-delivers-d-day-prayer. There is no doubt that he meant every word from the bottom of his heart.

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