To me, as I am going to hang out on a limb and discuss religion, I must share with you a brief summary on my own biases. I was born to a mother brought up Irish Catholic, who left her religion to marry my English Anglican father. After years sitting and kneeling to pray, we joined the modern modern United Church, which is a more modern welcoming church. When I was engaged, my wife agreed we marry in the United Church, which we then began to attend. I felt I became a dear friend of the pastor, who introduced me as a leader in the community, as I was, and we felt warmly welcomed.
When our daughter was born, the minister asked if we could become the official greeters at the church door, an old habit that had rather fallen out of use. We did, and were there early in our Sunday best attire, all ready at the front door. The first few through the door seemed startled as I shook their hands and welcomed them to the service. Joe, our minister, had an agenda for the songs and sermon, and we would hand that out to each new arrival.
As if we had anything to do with that, but all assumed, it seemed, we had worked worked all week on this. We were all treated as a very Godly threesome, and of course our newborn well loved daughter melted every heart, and the entry hall was a series of started, then smiling people entering into the kingdom of God for a good old fashioned hearty sing a long, and then a very warm touching sermon from Joe.
God could not have succeeded anywhere on earth better than He did for that time. After service, we all felt so good, no one wanted to go home, so we stayed and did good. Usually, service was followed by a tea downstairs later. We would plan and arrange a charity raffle for the poor, or a drop off place for old eyeglasses destined for Africa. The church has a food box near the door. And I found myself, too busy, fending off Joe's request to join the finance or some other committee as the church needed a new roof, or always something.
And that drive home was one of the most serene times in our marriage, which did not end perfectly. But it held together better than it might by those Godly behaviors we went through. When Joe looked at any one of us from his pulpit, as he did me in my turn, and says how much God loves me, I profoundly felt God come through Joe's honest eyes and his word into my eyes and heart and soul. When that happens, it matters not whether you are Catholic or Anglican, Islam or Jew, Confucian or Buddhist, it is who is inside you.
If you bomb and you kill and destroy rather than build, unless it is Hitler, you should stop, drop and roll. And look another way. All seem determined to stay their own course. And they each are God's chosen, they told themselves that. Oh, no it is from God, through the hands of wise men. Oh, yes. The eyes for an eye crowd, of such holy love.
Back to being the greeter at the door. After several years of very enjoyable Sundays at the door, and then the service, and the teas, and the goods we had brought for the charity box, Joe, our kind, wise minister said one Sunday, that as his arthritis had been becoming more painful he had felt he might need to retire to get to a warmer clime. And we felt joy and loss as he said that the church had rewarded him with a small ministry in need of love in Jamaica, amidst heat. They would live out their final years doing third world ministry to those who needed them. God is merciful indeed.
Our new minister arrived, from far away. His first Sunday service was one of our last attendances, as I recall. In contrast of the love of God pouring from the simple mouth of Joe, I was shocked to realize that God had different capabilities with even his own leaders. This service was all about him. And the more he talked of everyone around he had served, about a year in each place, the more I realized why. Each ministry would have a committee that was in charge of hiring and firing their minister, I often refused to join, so I know.
In this new minister's case, his one year trial ministry often must be ending with a handshake and a ticket out of town. At the end of the service, as we all put on our coats, he approached me, and thanked me for having welcomed in the front door. It had rather startled him, and he wondered who I was to be doing that. He suggested he would take it up with the appropriate committee, but for now he would be the greeter at the door. As the church had filled up during our several years at the door, I feared for my church. But not my faith. Our Sundays continued, but not with such bliss.
For that self centered man had just driven us away. Many would turn on him, I had no doubt. But I have long thought of his self centered concern about his control, rather than the gentle loving eyes of Joe. And since then, I notice, everywhere now, you see people of Allah, or God with hate in their eyes. When people talk of Crusades, or Jihad, or war, they have lost contact with their God, their humanity, all. So although I no longer attend church, I pray and meditate.
And I can look and feel as innerly soft as those smiling monks who wince men with no soul, batter them with clubs, wherever they are. Then you are far, far from God, where ever you are. I love every soldier of America overseas, and our Canadians too: they were given orders, and so I would also likely have obeyed orders, where I in that position. Thank God I am not, nor you yet, or you. But we need to see clearly, these false men of God.
Eye for eye time is over, in the name of God please. I meditate to the God of Peace, while others their Allah, or God, of old testament eyes. And I could not think of a country of followers of Buddha who rise off their prayer mats, invade neighbors, behave like raving bats. I have looked into the eyes of false gods, and the real thing.
The general wisdom of Buddha has now been studied and found to the most long living, healthy, serene way of life, in which good deeds cause one to naturally flow from this imperfect life to Nirvana, bliss or Heaven. His three wise men were there to welcome baby Jesus. Remember? Peace on earth? Buddha had eight steps to bliss, and the University of California researchers found there were eight virtues in common that the most healthy, longest living people who reported most happiness and bliss. These attributes follow, and you might listen for any evidence of this from your local, or faraway, holy man.
These attributes belong to those with kindest eyes at your church. If you can not have St. Peter tick each of these off when it is your turn, serves you right. To be able to count your blessings is the first virtue these people had in common. To do acts of kindness daily was there, as was savor the joys of life, and thank a mentor.To learn to forgive, which is next, I tried another way. I approach a man with whom I had argued decades earlier, that he did not get the contract because I purchased a better product for less.
I said to my old enemy that I wanted to apologize for my part in what happened long ago. Whatever else, I did not want to go to my grave without having asked your forgiveness. He fell all over me with apologies, that, no really, he had been the fool. Now when we pass each other, we wind our windows down, big wave from each, and our eyes twinkle, I knew his do.
Stay close to your friends and family. Take care of your body. A physician said that basically life begins its end when you can no longer get up from the toilet with out help. After that, your muscle decline and general health have you on your way sooner to God than me. Develop strategies to cope with stress and hardship. Whether by a smooth talking deceiver who loots all your cash, or a careless stumble on stairs, and sooner my God.
And if you follow those virtues, and reward them in others, you began to notice: whom you can bless, and who is on their way to hell. We see it in Tibet, and who has the batons. Pretty easy pickings, when all they know is to love.