God and Guns

“…So you say your prayers and thank the Lord for that peacemaker in your dresser drawer. God and guns keep us strong, that’s what this country was founded on…” The southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song entitled “God and Guns” was released with the album by the same name on September 29, 2009.

The song tells of politicians trying to take away the guns of law-abiding folk, and was written in direct response to President Obama’s comment regarding some people’s need to cling to religion and guns. Although Obama did clarify the comment as referring to an apathy that politicians have created among the middle class resulting in their turning to what could be trusted, God and guns, to this day a large segment of the United States continues to suggest that the goal of the Obama administration is to abolish the 2nd Amendment.

When did God or religion become a part of the gun argument? How is faith related in any way to the right to bear arms? It seems that the alliance goes hand in hand with the symbolic division of liberal and conservative. The conservative movement as we know it today really blossomed in the 1950’s, and, according to Historian Gregory Schneider conservative constants include “respect for tradition, support of republicanism, the rule of law and the Christian religion, and a defense of Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments.”

As conservatives in rural areas continued to unite in strengthening their position on less government while at the same time beginning to feel the encroachment of progressive ideas, fear set in. The fear of losing their way of life, their religious freedom and their traditions. Part of the tradition included owning guns for hunting, defending their families and taking the 2nd Amendment very seriously.

This emergence of a conservative agenda emphasized the rights that were most dear to them. The proficient use of fear mongering during the 1950’s regarding communism cemented religion, taxes, property and gun ownership together as those things that would be lost in a communist society.

Today, as we face some tough challenges with regard to gun ownership, fear has again blinded us from fact. The tightening of gun laws to ensure responsible ownership and determining the type of arms an average citizen has the right to own is a logical discussion about rights versus public safety. No one is going to scrap the 2nd Amendment or take all guns away. That is fact. But a responsible discussion is due, and it must be one that takes into consideration the most defenseless of our people.

Some religious leaders claim that the reason for the increase in violence is due to a movement away from God, adding that even Jesus advocated for defense of one’s self and family. The question here is if we are interested in bringing Americans closer to God, what sense will it make to a child in a school surrounded by armed guards when they are told to “Love their neighbor as thyself?”

Head of the Progressive Christian group Sojourners, Rev. Jim Willis said, ““The world is not full of good and bad people. That is not what our scriptures teach us,” but that each individual is both good and bad, Wallis said. “And when we are bad or isolated or angry or furious or vengeful or politically agitated or confused or lost or deranged or unhinged, and we have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people,” Wallis continued, “our society is in great danger.”

This is such a contrast with what Mike Huckabee said when asked why God lets tragedy like Newtown happen,

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?”

This would lead one to believe that the reason children were killed in the school or that it was the chosen target was because we’ve “removed” God from the school. Yet the very teaching of Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is within us, and therefore God is always with us.

The effort by some in the Christian community to justify their opposition to any gun control is tied greatly to their true belief that it is part of their God given right to have one, and that the United States government cannot overrule God. Yet when we look closely at the meaning behind the world’s major religions we find that love, peace and compassion are the truths to be protected. Anything else is man-made dogma that leads to greed, unhealthy competition, fear and violence.


The New Dawn

There may be some dispute over the timing of the Age of Aquarius, but the fact that change is afoot seems indisputable.

In Astrological terms each age is the mark of time under a specific constellation of stars. The span of time for each age is approximately 2,150 years, which represents the movement of the vernal equinox from one constellation to another in the Zodiac. The numerous calculations for the exact time of the arrival of Aquarius range from 1447 AD to 3597 AD.

Aquarius is associated with great change that ushers in a shift in cultural tendencies. It is generally associated with electricity, computers, humanitarianism, philanthropy and other major societal influences.

Any shift in consciousness throughout the ages has come along following great discovery. Many advancements in technology, medicine and the like have shaken the traditions of cultures by introducing new thought about our relationship to the universe at large. As our self-awareness expands and our consciousness moves to a great understanding, change is unavoidable.

For several generations humankind has pondered the coming of the “new age.” The Mayan calendar theories and speculations about the Dec. 21, 2012 end times have stimulated conversation and philosophic musings about the post apocalyptic world. Interestingly, we have witnessed changes in society and cultures throughout the past decade with exponential frequency.

Advances in technology has allowed us to map the entire human genome, made computers faster and more powerful than ever imagined possible, moved cell phone and video communication to become a part of every day life, brought the very outer edges of our universe into view, and exposed truth in many corners of the world which produced uprising and regime changes in places with generations of dictatorship. We’ve seen a movement toward a new understanding of freedom, civil rights and the definition of equality. We’ve seen a change in attitude toward the importance of earthly stewardship…and so much more.

Such changes began with the subtle nudging of people who saw the potential for a better world, and has grown exponentially as a result of changes beginning to take place. The more we see changes, and the more acceptable the changes become, the more rapidly they will occur. Our youngest generation will always become more accepting of the change, and help move it along.

Whether we are reacting to the movement of the stars because the position of our constellation produces changes in our consciousness, or we are shifting our thinking because of the generations of belief that something would happen at this time in our planet’s existence, the truth is change is happening. Call it growth, call it evolution, call it spiritual revolution, whatever we choose to label this time of humanity there is no arguing that change is happening.

The actual Age of Aquarius may have passed or is still to come, but the spirit of the Aquarian influence is definitely upon us.  It is the dawning of a new age for human kind.

Frozen in Tradition

This first week of December comes with the anticipation of what 12/21/12 will bring.  It also comes at a time when the world is in a period of deep soul-searching.

Frozen In Our TraditionThe signs of the holidays are all around, have been since before Halloween.  The traditions we have known and followed for generations have begun to take hold.  Every culture or religion takes ownership of the season and fervently appeals to the masses that their manifestation of holiday recognition is the right one.  These traditions bring us together but also drive us apart.  The symbolic meanings of each ritual, object, and character become lost in the competitive drive for ownership of the holiday.

Our free market self takes full advantage of the holiday season to generate revenue.  This is true for the giant super stores, mom and pop stores, churches, and even public institutions.  Fund raising for nonprofits becomes most lucrative during this season as everything from candy to candles are great gifts that “need” to be purchased anyway, so why not help someone out in the process.  This surge of frenzied shopping and spending has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of this season, however even the most pious of organizations will gear up for what they may financially reap this time of year.

The economic expression of holiday giving is the creation of capitalism, and a tradition that began with the establishment of the free market.  The traditions we enjoy stem from generations of a great melting pot which brings culture, religion, superstition, and regional dynamics into one big batch of holiday stew.  The mixture sometimes becomes a toxic brew of anger, hate and greed.

Our need to fight for individualism, which stems from our natural tendency to compete, causes us to cling to our particular tradition as the right one.  When we feel that something different is threatening our hold on what we perceive as “right,” we attack.  The reality is that no one philosophy has a hold on the holiday, no one belief system is more deserving of holiday expression, and no particular tradition holds more meaning or truth than another.

The more we stay frozen in our traditions, the less we allow ourselves to expand into experiencing the joys of difference.  The more we cling to our way without recognizing that there are many ways, the less joy we express and the less joy we receive.

So express greetings this holiday season in whatever way you feel works for your tradition.  But let’s try to also respect anyone else’s right to express their own.  Whether it’s Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just another day, we are all equally justified in our celebration. Thus, when you hear “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas,” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Happy Hanukkah” perhaps this year we can smile and appreciate the diversity among us, and melt that need for our tradition to be the only one.  We are one, and this is a beautiful time for renewal and unity.


Ten Ways To Make A Marriage Work

So you’ve decided to take that plunge into everlasting bliss with your soul mate?  Well if you want to make it past the first year or the first kid then play your cards right.mike&me

I am ten years into my third marriage.  Maybe that qualifies me to advise others, maybe not.  But this third time is definitely the proverbial charm.  What I learned over the past thirty-three years since my first marriage is simple.  The getting along thing begins with me and my choices.  Choice one is marrying the right person in the first place.  Choice two is being mature enough to be honest with myself and the other person.  Choice three is marrying FOR the right reasons.  Once you’ve made these choices correctly, the rest is a matter of the following ten suggestions.

1.  Admit (at least to yourself) when you are wrong.

There’s nothing worse than to carry on with an argument or ruin your entire day because you refuse to be wrong.  That’s really just plain stupid.  Always look at your own part in the situation…and if you’re not wrong at least attempt to understand why your spouse thinks you are.

2.  Know that certain events in life will affect you differently.

Births, deaths, money issues, etc. affect women differently than they do men.  Men tend to look for comfort during trying times and need more sexually charged physical contact, while women want to be comforted and cuddled and have no interest in sex.  Becoming a mom is usually the beginning of this scenario.  It is natural for a mom to become absorbed in the child and its needs versus the husband’s.  A new dad will score much more often in bed if he recognizes this and talks openly about it, giving mom some time to just be appreciated.  But the new mom needs to remember that hubby is feeling a bit neglected and do what she can to make him feel important in this new baby thing (and that doesn’t mean just changing diapers!).

3.  Be respectful of each other’s pet peeves (even if they are ridiculous).

The toilet seat can quickly become the object of tension in a household.  The best way to solve the problem is to make a rule that EVERYONE should close the toilet lid.  This means that even the women in the house must open and close to use it, and finally the men will feel equal in the bathroom.  Other suggestions are clean up your own stuff (sounds simple and silly, but think about it).  Do you leave your socks all over the house?  Do you leave your shoes all over the bedroom floor?  Do you use all but the last little sheet of toilet paper so you don’t have to change the roll?  Do you only wash the clothes you need because you “don’t want to mess up anyone else’s” or only dry the shirt you need and leave the rest in the washer?  Oh the tension and fights we can avoid if we only take one minute more!

4.  Marriage means everything is shared…even money (yes it’s true!).

Does your spouse work the same hours each week but get paid less?  Does that make you feel like you earn more and therefore should have a say in how money is spent?  Does your spouse stay home with the children and that means you budget an “allowance” for that spouse?  Do you spend what you want without letting your spouse know but want a discussion first for anything else purchased?  Perhaps instead of an allowance it should be referred to as a paycheck for domestic duties.  Remember that each spouse contributes to a marriage in his/her own way, and each should be respected for that contribution.   If you are a stay at home spouse your contribution should include a clean environment for the family.  If you are the working spouse your contribution is not only financial but also showing a mutual appreciation for the person that makes your house a home.  Seems so simple…doesn’t it?

5.  Having a social life is important and necessary.

Just because two become one is no reason they cannot have friends.  It also does not mean that they cannot have separate activities.  Individuality is important in our lives.  We need to be free to express ourselves in order to feel human.  Of course, there are those activities that may cause friction.  If you are going out to a bar with your friends after work every day while your spouse is home alone then you are not getting the point.  If you and your friends take off every other weekend to hit the casinos without your spouse something may be off a bit.  Healthy activities and the occasional “out with the guys or girls” is perfectly fine, but when your activities become an escape from your family instead of a fun outlet you may have a problem.

6.  Resentment and hanging on to past battles or hurt is a true marriage wrecker.

If you bring up old stuff or wallow in the pain of the past you are really only destroying yourself.  All that ugliness will eat you up and keep you from enjoying the things about your spouse that you fell in love with in the first place.  Do you know how to forgive?  Are you free from any mistakes or screw-ups?  Can you look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you’ve done nothing hurtful or have never betrayed the trust of another?  Unless you can look in the mirror and see perfection then holding on to past stuff is hypocritical.

7.  Someone’s got to be the grown up.

Yea, it’s true that your spouse lets one fly and blames it on you but at least you know who the mature one is between you.  Then again, isn’t it nice that your spouse is still playful?  One of you needs to loosen up and the other really should try to set a good example for the kids.  But a balance of grown up and child like behavior provides for a healthy environment for children.  Besides, when your spouse blames you for the obnoxious sound and smell you can smile proudly and say “I learned it all from you.”

8.  So you had a hard day…maybe everyone did.

When you come home from work and your spouse or kids want a bit of your time do you brush them off and say you’re tired and want some time alone?  Do you get annoyed when your spouse tells you what a rough day at home it was because the kids were fighting all day?  Does your spouse come home wanting time with you, but all you want to do is talk about the things around the house that need to be fixed?  Can’t we all just get along?  Everyone has rough days and everyone needs to feel like they have a shoulder to cry on.  However the opposite is also true in that everyone needs some kick back time after a long day.  When we respect both of those very real needs and allow some settling down time, then our together time can be much more pleasant.  Kids however, are another story.  Give them five minutes to say anything they need to say and then they will happily move on once it’s out of their system.

9.  Dreading social obligations can fester into a blowout.

Your spouse does not like your mother because she is a know-it-all and thrives on making you look bad.  Your sister-in-law brags about her great job and how perfect her children are then cuts you off every time you want to talk about your own.  These are every day issues that each couple has to deal with.  Yet, family is important so you must be the bigger person.  Your spouse may complain and put down his or her own family members but you should never cross that line.  Be sympathetic but do not agree…it may be held against you later.  Just go to the holiday dinner with a smile on your face and imagine them all in clown makeup making complete asses out of themselves.

10.  Don’t go to bed mad, just go to bed.

We’ve all heard this one, but it is easier said than done.  If you broaden its meaning we should not leave our spouse with anger at anytime.  Whether to go to sleep or to go to the store we never know when it may be our last time together.  Life is full of surprises and the more we forgive and forget the more joy we allow into this life.  Be willing to make the first move toward peace.  “I’m sorry” is not always the right thing to say.  Something like, “I never realized I was acting that way let me know next time if I am starting to do that again.”  Or maybe, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose, I was just angry about it and took it out on you.”  These little words can make all the difference.  If all else fails do something stupid and silly…laughter can sometimes break anyone’s anger.

In the fast-paced, ever changing and demanding world we live, do we really want to do it all alone?  Having a best friend to spend your time here with seems like a good idea to me.  Forgiveness, respect, loyalty and support are really what love is all about.

Too Busy Being You To Be Me

Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in how to fix the world around us and lose sight of the one place that all the fixes must start…the person in the mirror. I have spent years trying to solve everyone’s problems, fix people, change situations or structures to fit my image of what it should be. I became masterful at manipulating people in my life to mold them into what fit me. Somehow it always ended up a disaster in the end, with hurt, ruin and wreckage that took years to clean up.

The instant I realized that by keeping my mind focused on fixing others I wasn’t looking at myself, something shifted. I was not happy with the face in the mirror, I didn’t know how to fix it, but from the outside I believed I had the answers for everyone else. I ran from my sadness, my fears, my guilt, my resentment because I could not find the answers for my own disposition. There was nothing or no one to blame, only myself to hold responsible, and if I couldn’t fix me I would just ignore me. I could not control things that I felt, remembered, or regretted, so why try?

This lack of control over myself manifested a belief that if I helped fix others it would somehow frost over my own issues. In the end, I spent so much energy on everyone but me it built up resentments in those who never asked for my interference, and in me for what I perceived as their lack of appreciation. Talk about an EGO problem! This also manifested as envy due to the perception that others have what I want, or that I am better at this or that than they are.

My philosophical and spiritual quest, including lessons learned through education about codependency, led me to discover some of the false perceptions that I allowed to take over. Once I understood how to put my spiritual self in the driver seat and delegate the EGO to its rightful place, things began to become more clear. I was swimming in a pool of lack while looking for a glass of abundance.

Now that I am aware of this, I have made a conscious effort to turn that energy toward myself. When I begin to have those feelings of self loathing I try to call up all the good things I’ve personally accomplished and I think about someone else’s success. By thinking about that other person’s success and really focusing on my heart felt joy for them, it removes the need for me to experience their success. Envy stems from self deprecation, from feeling we are not at the same level as another…this is all a belief in lack versus abundance.

As I continue to work through this, I constantly remind myself that we are all part of a balanced system that requires every minute component of life, no matter how long in existence, no matter how great or small, each of us plays an important role in the unfolding of life itself. I am significant, you are significant, every form of life is significant. Just as we are. Right here, right now. So stay busy being you, and I will stay busy being me. Together we will be all we were meant to be.