Putting People into Boxes

A homeless man in New York with the American f...
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It is frustrating when other people expect one to act a certain way based on things such as clothes, job position, education, family background or religion.  These things do do not determine a person’s
actions or provide a necessary clue to them.  People can purchase and achieve despite their morals or personality.  Families should be an easy
one to disregard.  You are born into a family against your will.  From puberty, you make choices based on your individuality.
What other family members do has nothing to do with you, and is not a
reflection of you.  Although religion is usually passed on in families, most religions have a period of trial where the individual makes his or her own choice as to whether that religion is right for him or her.  After that, it becomes their religion.  But they do not choose all the
other people in their religion or all the other deeds that people of their
religion have done.  One should not assume that just because one or even most people of a certain religion do things, every person of that particular religion, denomination or belief will do the same thing.  Categorizing and classifying is a survival instinct that is good to use in certain circumstances, such as when one senses physical danger (there must be more evidence than the color of a person’s skin or the language that they speak, for instance), one is shopping in a market, or doing daily tasks that are required by one’s employment.  But we tend to
error in a big way when we us these calculations in a social situation.  We exclude and judge people based on the littlest things and we put up walls or make expectations towards others because of the same things.  It is more peaceful, loving and just to accept people as they are and not expect them to perform in any way based on any personal characteristics or interests.  It is better not to put them in a box.

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Healing Journey in Alabama

Pneumonia of the lingula of the left lung on CXR.
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We all drove from different states,

To see, to see…

We didn’t know what we were

Going to see when we got to the hospital.

 

We knew you had been in a car accident:

At least two broken ribs and possible pneumonia;

We called on the cell phone on our way out of town

Just like we always do, but we caught Bonnie listening

To the nurse say you had pneumonia.  They hung up,

And Jackie lost it.  Grief set in.  Fear set in.  Doubt set in.

 

We talked about what would happen if you died.

What where our responsibilities?  The kind of stuff

You never want to think about until it’s too late.

 

It was a long drive.  Not distance, but emotional.

Jackie was miserable.  She didn’t know if this was
it.

She started thinking back about the good times;

no more of that.  And the horse you had adopted from

the animal shelter, Jackie named him Nugget.  Should

we take him, and how?  We had already talked about

the aged parrots—they would go with us, too.

We’d need a moving van for all this stuff, but whatever.

 

Then we got there.  You were helpless, drugged out on

Painkiller.  Always asleep or on the verge of sleep until
they stopped the drugs.  You started talking out of your
head, nonsense.

Some glimpses of experience, people, but not able to put it all

Together.  You could never figure out where you
were.  “At the old house”, you’d say, or “the house on Weoka Road”.

Never “hospital” or Baptist East Medical Center.

 

But each day, with plenty of prayers, in baby steps, you made progress.

With Bonnie, who had never left your side since the accident, never left

The hospital for anything, taking care of every little need of yours.  With

Family and friends coming to see you, praying for you, even back in Florida, New York, and California, they were praying.

And the very next day, your mind starts coming back, and you sit in a chair, your first time out of bed.  You have gone back and forth with pneumonia, but the staff have been on top of it, doing tests, moving you around, giving you oxygen.

And then you do the unthinkable.  You walk down the hall.

 

You are home now because many others were strong when you could not be strong for yourself.  And God was strong for us all.

 

Nothing Anymore

I came close,

Or at least I thought.

 

I prayed.

I read the Bible.

 

I went to church.

I worshipped “Someone”

 

Whom I believed to be God.

I “fellowshipped” with other believers,

 

Or I tried, anyway.

I read devotional books,

 

Yearning to improve

My spiritual relationships.

 

Over the years, it happened,

Slipping through my fingers,

 

I lost touch, I lost Him,

Then, nothing.

 

 

Carry on Tuesday #109

 

Trust

Faith comes at the strangest times:

When I read a good book,

When I am touched by another’s actions,

And, yes, when I go to church.

 

I pull back, though, in mistrust,

As if to say to myself:

“Don’t start that again!”

For the many times I’ve been burned,

 

And the many doubts I’ve had,

About the bible, the church and God.

Rocking back and forth

In a spiritual quandary,

 

I struggle so much,

And I hesitate

Before jumping in.

Who or what can be trusted?

 

 

(Poetic Asides

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 135)

Seasons

Life is full of change.

Some people are really good

At hiding changes in their life,

 

At least for a while,

Until life wears them down.

Some people you can tell

 

Right away that something

Has changed in their life,

But you still have to wait

 

To see how everything pans out.

Most of us don’t handle change

Very well.  Even good change.

 

As they say all around,

“We are creatures of habit.”

But life has a way,

 

Even for those who are lucky,

Of bending your will.

Call it God, call it fate,

 

Or just luck.  Sooner

Or later, there is going

To be a change.

 

When things are going well,

We fear it.

When life is hitting us hard,

 

We hope and pray for it.

And either way,

Most of us,

 

Do a funny thing—

We try to control it!

But those of us

 

Who have tried with

Everything we’ve got

And lost—

 

We know that life

Is like the weather.

There are seasons.

 

And within those

Seasons of life,

Anything can happen.

 

One thing is for sure,

And that’s nothing.

You just take

 

What life gives you,

And don’t worry

About the rest.

 

 

(Writer’s Island

Week #19 prompt: Season)

 

Sometimes I Freak, Part III

Sometimes I freak when I go to church. When you step into a church somehow you feel like you should be on your best behavior. That’s not really a Godly feeling or sentiment, since I believe that God accepts us exactly as we are, wherever we are, but that is how I was raised. In fact, growing up, my mother was ruthless in spurring me and my brother to get ready and stop goofing around on Sunday morning. What was important was looking good by being on time, behaving well, answering questions intelligently and in a spiritual way—basically, putting on a front. Lord knows my family was falling apart at the seams in every way, with my grandmother passing away, my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, and my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. All was not well in the Bowman household. And those feelings come back to me today as I step through the doors of a church, any church, even one as positive, inclusive and accepting as mine. I wonder what deviant thoughts people suspect me of (well, actually, I am quite the skeptic), what deviant acts I am guilty of that separate me from other Christians and from God, what rebellion I am in that alienates me from the same. Going to church is something I want to do, but at the same time, I do struggle with these things every time, and it compromises my experience on the whole.

Sometimes I freak when I try to pray. Yes, God and I are not on the best of terms—haven’t been for a long time. In fact, except for when I pray with others—my wife at the dinner table and the occasional attempt at a weekly prayer partnership, my male prayer partner, something I initiated this year as an attempt to get closer to God because of my lack of an intimate relationship, and the occasional prayer with my Sunday School class and with the congregation in the sanctuary—I am not on speaking terms with God. I know after that enumeration of instances it doesn’t sound bad, but I guess I am a perfectionist, and I realize how far I am from any kind of daily routine which would bring me into any kind of genuine intimacy with God. Being alone with God is a frightening experience for me. Feelings of emotional and physical abuse from childhood along with visions of an angry Yahweh of the Old Testament conjure a being to be faced that is not the loving, caring Jesus that spoke to the disciples in the upper room that fateful night and told them that when we see him we have seen the Father, because he and the Father are one. When it’s just me and God (and I have to admit it is always the vengeful Father that I envision in my mind, not the gentle Jesus), I just freeze up. Gone are the soothing thoughts of “come to me ye who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Instead it is a booming God that stares down at me and demands to know every sin I have committed and has come to punish me for them in some crazy sadistic way that makes me cringe and from which I yearn to escape. Not a great relationship, obviously.

Sometimes I freak when I open the Bible. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating. Yes, there is a lot of wisdom there. Yes, I believe it is divinely inspired. Yes, I believe there is potential for healing, instruction, direction, inspiration, grace, forgiveness—all that. But you know what else there is? God. He is there, waiting, behind those words. For what? I don’t know. But the potential scares me. I have read the entire Bible many times over, and if there is one thing I know for sure, there is power behind those words. And the thought of being overpowered, perhaps in a scary way, is what keeps me from those words. I have been overpowered, many times, in absolute terror, and I have run from figures of authority, figures who were supposed to be trustworthy caretakers, symbols of love and support, that have turned on me like a viper lunging for its prey. Is God like that? My intellect tells me no, but my heart, and my body, are not so sure. After all, if humans, blood, family, can be tyrannical, how much more can God? And there is something else—God is all powerful. Do I want to surrender myself to an all powerful tyrant? Do I want his thoughts to be my thoughts? No, not by a long shot.

A Religious Background

Well, let me say first off that I do have a long religious background. I was raised in the United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida. The interesting thing is, being raised in this church did not interfere whatsoever in me keeping an open mind and resisting stereotypes and prejudice, as is possibly the case in some places. After all, Miami is a metropolitan city and a virtual melting pot of ethnicities and an international gateway to people from all parts of the world.

Although I was a child, and like a child, I took part in teasing, cruel jokes, and other immaturity typical of children all the way through adolescence and even young adulthood (and some for the rest of their life), I have learned to think for myself on most subjects, simply by intellectualism, reading a wealth and variety of literature, and by meeting a variety of people from all walks of life, all of whom usually dispel any stereotypes I held onto, even if just a little bit in the back of my mind.

I think we all have prejudices and stereotypes. In some ways, it is a survival instinct. We try to separate the “good” from the “bad” and those who are in “our group” from those who are not in “our group”. It gives us a sense of safety and security, even if this sense is mostly a delusion. I think all minorities and groups who are persecuted by society benefit from “circling the wagons”, so to speak, in order to get support from those who are of like minds, hearts, and bodies, and gaining power from being in a group.

Now, I say all this right off because I really think that, although religious groups can do these things, and maybe some of them do, I don’t think they are really any different than any other group in as far as whether or not they are religious. Now that’s not to say that if they are made up of people who are already very prejudiced and stereotypical, that they won’t reflect those traits in their religious group, but the prejudice and stereotypes do not originate from the religion.

Coming from a religious background as I have, I must say I have learned a lot of very good lessons through the church. I’ve learned to care for the hungry, the homeless, disaster victims, those who suffer from the ravages of war, those who are persecuted because of their race, sex, religion, etc. And yes, discrimination does still exist in our world, and in the church, and this problem is mostly due to one thing: reverence for the canon of scripture.

Scripture contains some pretty harsh things said against homosexuals, and even worse, these things have been blown way out of proportion by our culture in America and across the world. Homophobia is rampant everywhere. That is a challenge for today’s society that still must be overcome.

I want to end with the greatest thing that religion, my religion, has taught me. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the greatest man that ever lived. Anyone that has any doubts should read the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will give four different, sometimes overlapping, perspectives on who Jesus was, who he claimed to be, and what he means to Christians. I can tell you in short that Christians believe Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, Holy Lamb of God, Son of God, sitting at the Father’s Right Hand in Power and in Truth. Christians believe that in dying on the Cross in complete innocence, Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world, thus enabling us all to attain everlasting grace and peace. Salvation is something that is hard to comprehend without faith, but basically it is the attainment of forgiveness for guilt and condemnation that we earn by falling short each and every day of what we could be, what we were born to be, what God created us to be. With salvation and God’s grace and forgiveness, we can come a little closer to becoming his vision for our lives.

Broken

Searching for that connection.
Where is he? She? It?
Where or who is God,
When I am here, in this broken

Body, groveling before the pain
Of existence, desperate for some
Type of relief, some release
From the slavery of my body?

My heart aches. My soul cries out
For mercy, but where is my God?
Where is that freedom, that grace,
That hope, that love, that I once knew?

Where is my identity in Christ?
Where is my savior?
All I know right now is suffering.
Is that you, Lord?

Am I meeting you where you are,
Where you were on that cross?
And if so, what will be the victory?
What great battle is going on?

Is my soul the battleground?
Is my heart the prize?
Is this what it takes to bring me
Back into your fold?

To break me, mold me,
Shape me into something beautiful?
But I have been here before.
I have been broken.

Must I be continually broken
In pain and suffering?
What are you trying to teach me?
And where are you taking me now?