Monday, February 22, 2010

The Dalai Lama

Watching CSPAN on Friday, I listened to the Dalai Lama, speaking at the Library of Congress.  He's 74 years old now.  He's a great speaker with broken English, very charismatic - everyone's wise grandfather with nice things to say. Not a mean bone in his body - very peaceful.  And I was glad to hear, he's never heard of Tiger Woods.
As I watched, I was thinking, "he sounds a lot like Jesus".  You can't fault a thing he says - it's all good.  But he's just a man.  Or is he?
"His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama" - "Political and Spritual Leader of the Tibetan People".  He is the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.  An "enlightened being" - putting off nirvana for awhile to serve humanity.  His name is Tenzin Gyatso.  A Buddhist who lives in excile, in northern India - in the city of Dharamsala.  He describes himself as a 'simple Buddhist monk'.  Tibet is an area inside China, made up of 3 provinces, and Tibetans want to be seperated from China, to live in a democracy. 
From what I've read, Buddhism has 2 primary beliefs:  1) people are generally good at heart, and 2) all religions are generally good.

Yet - Christianity too has 2 primary beliefs:  1) people are inherently bad at heart, and 2) all world religions are inherently bad.
Funny, isn't it, that you can tell someone you are the reincarnation of someone else - an enlightened being - holy - a 'god'.  No one even flinches, and they'll give you awards and ceremonies and the 'wise' among us (super intellectuals) will pour praise upon you and worship the very ground you walk on.

Besides - how can you NOT like what he says, how can you NOT like the position of a Buddhist?

Yet, tell someone you're a "Born again believer in Jesus Christ, God's son", - and you're a crazy loon from mars.  
And here we are - there you have it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Those Old Hymns

I stole a hymnal from a church pew one day.  How bad is that?  I wanted to take it back later, but could never muster up the courage.  As it turns out, most churches threw away all the hymnals anyway.

When you go to church these days (if you go) - you don't sing hymns anymore.  Most churches have gone contemporary - and you don't even hold a book, you read from the big screen on the wall.   
But occasionally, and what I now find fascinating, when they do sing the old ones - I seem to know every word and even most of the versus.   Why?  Why do I know the words to so many hymns?  My mom and dad is why.  He was a preacher and I was the little kid in the front row sitting not-so-still.  But I heard and sang every song for a very long time: week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year.  Dad loved the old hymns (still does), and back then there wasn't much contemporary music out there (and if there was, the blue-haired lady at the organ couldn't play it).
Now, the hymnals are gone (some stolen, some thrown away).  I remember as an eight or nine year old, I would occupy my time in church finding all the hymns written by "Fanny" Crosby.  I'm not proud of this mind you.  I would whisper and laugh with my friends, "I found another 'fanny' - hee, hee, hee".  But I was eight and I was a good boy after all - that was as bad as I got in those days - living on the edge of darkness, making light of Fanny Crosby.  Ya, I was a bad one.
But I'm not kidding - I know all these hymns.  Even if I can't recite every verse, I know the timing, the tune, and I can hum along with the best of them.  I can still see the page numbers like "429" or "278".  I can still see the 'written by' and 'composed by' descriptions.  I remember always wondering why a song writer rarely wrote his or her own music to go with it - strange I thought:  if you're gonna write a song, wouldn't you sing it to some music or tune that you also made up?  Then, there was the closing prayer and I moved on to other thoughts ......
If I was ever to be a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, in the dark dense forests, in a cage with rats, I would still have my hymns to fill my mind.  This would keep me alive.  And they ARE awesome.
Thanks mom and dad - for imprinting the great hymns on my mind over those years.  And I promise, when I finally meet Fanny Crosby upstairs, I will laugh with her at my silliness, I'll get her autograph, we'll take pictures and sing "To God Be The Glory" all night long!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blurry Pictures

Two weeks ago I was shown this extremely blurry pciture.  I squinted my eyes and tried to focus.  I have to admit, I knew what it was before I squinted, I was putting on a show - to delay my reaction. There was a lot to think about. In those nano seconds, I was watching my life flash before my eyes (it, of course, isn't about me, it's about the 'Moreno Baby' and the baby's mom and dad). 
But still, it came as a shocker - we were all eating pizza and it was noisy.  My mind drifted to the hundreds of conversations I've had over the years about: 'what do you want to be called when you're a grandfather ....'.  "I'm not that old yet, never will be, not gonna happen ...." were my usual replies.  I've had this feeling before, like the first time I saw a gray hair, or going to the gym and having to step-down the barbell weight for curls ('just too heavy today'), or when I got the AARP card in the mailbox, or the first time some high schooler called me 'sir', or the day I gave my little girl away and then the day I gave my other little girl away, and the day my doctor insisted I start taking certain medications.  And the list goes on. 
Blurry pictures.  These are the times that try men's souls.  
And the Moreno Baby is but one more step in the process of life.  And I'll need to get things into focus.   Come September, 2010, what do I want to be called?  Who do I want to be?
In the book of Joel it says: .... "the threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine."
Things are looking good.