Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cheap Land

As I thought, there is a reason land here is so very cheap.  Thorns and rocks.  Yeah, that about sums it up.  :-)



Lots of sunshine, of course.  :-)

Serenity said "I don't think so Papa."

I agree Serenity!  I don't think so.

Well, the search goes on...

Here is Serenity in the lobby of the Gadsen Hotel :-)

Road Trip

I'm near the border of Mexico in Arizona, currently in the Gadsen Hotel, a Historic and allegedly haunted hotel in Douglas. 

Our trip to get here has not gone as planned.  :-)  We had intended to either visit the Grand Canyon or some Indian ruins up near Flagstaff on our second day, but instead we found our selves in the midst of a snow storm, hiking in the snow did not sound very fun so we skipped on to our next spot which was St. Johns where I wanted to look at some property at Sierra Highlands Ranch

On our way to St. Johns I saw this great rainbow, very pretty.

As it turned out the road leading to Sierra Highlands Ranch it is a bit questionable just after rains... especially if you are driving a low to the ground Toyota Corolla. We went about 15 miles on a fairly good mostly graveled road until we got up to the top of the mesa where the 36+ acre plots I wanted to look at were, it was actually quite lovely, lots of trees and great views.  The road had quite a few muddy spots that I avoided by watching where the previous vehicle tracks had gone and staying on the high parts.   I was doing fine up until a big Pit Bull came trotting down the road toward us and got in my way.  I stopped the car and waited for him to move and when he had gone to the side of the car I started forward without really looking and drove right into a mud hole.  Ack!  I rocked back and forth, getting more and more stuck.  I got out of the car, and talked to the friendly Pit Bull who was curious as to why I had driven straight into the mud hole.  I put a branch behind one tire and managed to get a little traction, then with several attempts backing up and then going forward I finally escaped the mire!  Whew.  That mud was both slick and sticky at the same time.  Mud on the hood and roof...

Mud on my shoes...

Mud everywhere!

I was really scared that I would have to hike on out to the nearest house and ask for help, there was no cell signal that far out in the hills.  After that I scratched the place off of my list of possible properties to buy, but now, the next day when I'm calmer, I'm putting them back on the list because they are actually quite nice.  With the proper sort of vehicle they would be more accessible.  The only thing that sort of gets me is the fact that it's a good 30 miles to the nearest "town" and that is St. Johns which doesn't amount to much really. 

Today we are going to look at some very cheap land in the vicinity of Douglas Arizona, not quite as pretty around here so far but I'll try and stay off of the side roads and not get stuck.  More in a day or two after our explorations for today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Livermore Quakers

Last night Serenity and I went to the Quaker Worship Group in Livermore.  Because of traffic we drove over the back roads on the way there, we left Tracy early so we had time to stop off at Mr. Pickle’s and have a quick sandwich for dinner before the worship time.   

When we arrived there were two women there, one was sitting down in a circle of chairs and the other was putting out some pamphlets and books and cookies on a table for after the meeting.  We said "hi" and mentioned we were new and had never been to a Quaker Meeting before and sat down.  Eventually there were 4 women along with me and Serenity.  After we said hi on our way into the circle no one said a word, each additional person just came in and sat down quietly in the circle.  We could hear crickets outside and an occasional car going by on College Avenue.  There was also the sound of a ticking clock somewhere behind me but I had no time keeping device visible to me to track the passage of time.  Very quickly I began to relax into the silence, breathing deeply and trying to be open to the Spirit, whatever that might mean.
The silence went on and on, occasionally someone would cough or clear their throat and I thought they were going to speak, but no, no words were spoken then.  There was a bit of rearranging of feet and hands that made slight sounds but no words.  Finally one woman began to speak of having come across the Prayer of St. Francis that begins “Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love…”  She said that she put it in her purse and had been meditating on the first lines.  She especially liked the idea that you had to sow love, that love doesn’t just happen but you must actively work to plant and grow it.  After that the silence returned once more and not another word was said until finally the person who had spoken stood up and then we all stood and held hands for a moment before sitting back down.  At that point they went around the circle and introduced themselves, then it was cookie time and chatting about different things.  I was amazed to look at my phone then and realize we had sat in silence for an hour, the time had not seemed to exist.  I know from experience trying to sit in silence alone the time seems to drag, it didn’t here, very strange and cool.  

I think that we will be going back, Serenity said that she enjoyed it as well... plus... there were COOKIES!  


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Following Jesus

I am going to go to a Friends (Quaker) Meeting tonight.  I'm going because over the last couple of weeks I have finally admitted to myself that there is more wrong with Catholicism than just the "War" issue.  In addition to that there is the issue of acceptance of people who are not in the mainstream sexually, gay and transgendered etc.  I've tried very hard to just go along with the church on these issues "because the bible says so" but I really can't do that any longer.  The bible says a lot of strange and untrue things I ignore or reject outright.  The bible says the earth is flat with a solid dome over the top, but it's not and there is no dome.  But that's OK because we know not to take the words literally and out of the cultural context.
 I think the same can be done with many other things in the bible like stoning adulterers and homosexuals.  Obviously these things were superseded by the law of Love that Christ proclaimed.  The myriad rules and laws promulgated by the Catholic Church are intended to guide people along the path of Love, but I think they just make a bunch of list checkers out of Catholics. 

Other Christian churches have much the same issue for me, even those that proclaim you are "saved" by grace alone.  Right now I am in a moment of transition within my mind and spirit, all I know for sure is that God is Love.  I know that I have experienced directly that love in my life in ways that I cannot deny.  I also know that a God of Love probably is not less tolerant of annoying children than I am!  I'm not really buying the imagery of "hell" as it is normally presented.  Don't ask me to explain what I believe right now because, like I said, I'm in transition, moving away from things that are clearly error and following Jesus on the path of nonviolent Love.  We will see where I wind up.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pax Christi

For the last few days I've been pondering the ideas of nonviolence as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.  As a result of this recollection of what I knew once I've been looking online at some websites of the traditional "Peace Churches."  These are the Mennonites, the Brethren and the Quakers, among others.  I looked at them because of my dissatisfaction with the teachings of the more mainstream denominations, especially the two that I have most recently worshiped with, the Lutherans and the Catholics.  These groups use something called "Just War Theory" to identify which wars are "Just" and which ones are not justified.  Supposedly this puts some major restrictions on when nations could go to war and have it be considered OK for a Christian to participate.  The problem with Just War Theory, as far as I am concerned, is that it can be, and has been, used to justify virtually every war ever fought.  Pretty much the only "unjust" wars are those that are waged against your country, but be assured your enemy will be able to explain why, using "Just War Theory" his attack against you is "just."

Of course nonviolence is not the only thing to consider is it?  There is also the question of authority, or to put it another way, why should I "follow" this particular religion or denomination in the first place?  As everyone who knows me is well aware, I take these thing very seriously, maybe too seriously but hey, I can't help that, it's how my brain works.  I'm always trying to figure out both what is true and how to do what is right.  Many years ago I realized that Jesus taught nonviolence and I tried to fit that understanding of his teaching into my own Christian faith.  What I encountered from church teachers, pastors, priests and one rabbi, was a lot of hand waving and ripping things out of context and trying to make war a good thing, at least when our country does it, instead of the horrible evil that it obviously is. 

Lutherans, it seems to me, and to a lesser extent Catholics, are far too eager to go along with obvious evils perpetrated by their own governments.  I suppose they don't want to be seen as "disloyal" or something, I don't know.  The Peace Churches on the other hand are vanishingly few in numbers and dwindling rapidly these days.  That alone would not keep me away from them, but there are other things about them that make me hesitate to embrace them.  For example, the Quakers are no longer even remotely Christian in many meetings.  I understand there are some "evangelical Quakers" but the ones that I've been able to find on the West Coast are not evangelical at all.  Even that is not a total deal breaker necessarily but when I looked into them almost all were advocating government programs for the poor and oppressed, looking to convince governments to "do things" to help people.  It's possible I've misunderstood them but they really sound like plain old socialists with a dislike of of war.  For me nonviolence implies and demands purely voluntary interactions, government is nothing but violence and coercion, a Christian ought not to be involved in such things.  I've found similar issues with the Mennonites and Brethren as well.  Not only that but they tend all to be very accommodating to the larger culture, accepting many things I have doubts about such as LGBT (and whatever additional letters they've added on to the thing this month) "rights."  I'm sort of open to being convinced on those things but so far I've found the arguments and reasons to be unconvincing.

All of which brings me to the actual point of this blog post, bet you thought I'd never get there didn't you?

As I was searching the peace churches I decided to look once more for a Catholic group that was seriously working for nonviolence and peace.  That was when I came upon the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. This is something sponsored by Pax Christi that is far closer to my understanding of what Jesus taught than any previous group I've found, even older Pax Christi writings.  I was actually pretty thrilled to see it.  Best of all they are working to have the Roman Catholic Church repudiate the horrible "Just War Theory!" 

Especially exciting to me is the wording of An Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence.  

Some excerpts from the appeal:

"The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model."

"In his own times, rife with structural violence, Jesus proclaimed a new, nonviolent order rooted in the unconditional love of God. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5: 44), which includes respecting the image of God in all persons; to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil (Matthew 5: 39); to become peacemakers; to forgive and repent; and to be abundantly merciful (Matthew 5-7). Jesus embodied nonviolence by actively resisting systemic dehumanization, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3: 1-6); when he confronted the powerful at the Temple and purified it (John 2: 13-22); when he peacefully but determinedly challenged the men accusing a woman of adultery (John 8: 1-11); when on the night before he died he asked Peter to put down his sword (Matthew 26: 52)."

Best of all is this:

"Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.
We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict."

I urge you to read the whole thing and explore the main web page as well.  For the moment I remain open to such things as Quaker meetings, I may try one in Livermore that is an "unprogrammed" meeting, but I may well simply get involved with the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to satisfy my need to spread that badly neglected part of the gospel message of Jesus.  I am not sure where I'll go from here but I'll probably post about when I know :-)