First Video Posted on Love Returns

I spent the weekend producing my first video out at Love Returns (Doors to Love). The experience was a little humbling. My face is complicated, and I haven’t had to pay attention to my diction given that I spend most of my time teaching computers with my fingers. But I decided to push it out so that I could gauge the effort required to do a weekly video.

In the end, I’m surprised how easy it was to make a high-quality product, limited only by the qualities of the presenter (i.e. – myself). Vegas Movie Studio is a great tool, my greatest frustration being addressed once I learned to put a marker in every time I wanted to switch video clips. The titler also has an odd quirk, in that the time length of the animation must be set before entering the setup screen.

What surprised me most was the intensity of the emotions that came up as I did the first of the two recordings (the one with me seated). I didn’t use many of those moments in the final cut, preferring the less agitated demeanor of the close-up. I didn’t think to turn the Handycam viewer around, so the framing of the close-up is a little odd, but I hope that there’s some charm in that.

For those that can’t bear to watch the whole thing, I’ve also posted the transcript.

AMPed

I went out to San Dimas this weekend for the AMP (Apologetics-Mission-Partnership) Conference. Four speakers presented on Friday night, with six more on Saturday. For an Evangelical gathering, the speakers were surprisingly diverse. Several were unapologetic in their religious chauvinism, targeting Islam as well as “marginal” Christians. Others were surprisingly liberal, most markedly the scholar who asserted that between Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22, the Bible was a testimony to human error. This struck me because the organizing agency, Reasons to Believe, upholds the purpose of proving the inerrancy of the Bible.

The most stimulating talk was Dr. Ross on the geological processes that stabilized the climate long enough to allow homo sapiens to cover the earth. One chart in particular was mind-boggling: it turns out that prior to the Laurentian, temperatures oscillated in a 24 F range around the mean. The oscillation is driven by the gravitational dynamics of the solar system and the wobbles of Earth’s rotation, and is large enough that large-scale agriculture is impossible. But when the last Ice Age ended, temperatures settled into a 3 F band. No scientific explanation is known, but that stability allowed humanity to cover the planet and then turn its attention to religious and scientific inquiry.

Given my intentions out at Love Returns Ministry, the most valuable part of the event was the opportunities that I had to talk with young adults. A young man in high school walked up on Saturday morning to ask me whether I understood Dr. Ross’s reference to “large and small dimensions.” I don’t know why he imagined that I would be able to answer the question, but he got a survey of the problems in the reigning model of fundamental physics. He chased me down during the morning break, eager for my opinions. As the conversation unfolded, he revealed that he had taken the evolution side of the creation debate in class. When I suggested that Genesis was evolution, he was taken aback until I made the connection between photosynthesis and “Let there be light.”

Then there were three young adults, two caught up in conversation during breaks and one that I searched out to supplement the response she had been given by the presenter of a talk on how as a Christian to talk to youth about sex and relationships. I focused on two messages: first, that Islam was merely a compression of the Hebrew tutelage to faith, with a shift from history to psychological analysis of the Old Testament heroes. Secondly, I emphasized that the presence of love in the heart was the best guide to our relationships, with the ultimate goal of becoming “spiritual engineers.” I found myself doing most of the talking, but when I stopped to apologize, they all responded with variations of “No, thanks for sharing.”

Far better to receive that than the attentions of the scholars at RTB. They are all so terribly certain of the truths they propagate. What’s important to me, however, is that the future manifest new possibilities – the possibilities allowed by hearts and minds that commit themselves in service to Unconditional Love. A positive reception by the participants in that future (our young adults) tells me that I’m doing the right thing.

Love Returns Ministry

I’ve engaged LegalZoom to set up a DBA in California as “Love Returns Ministry.” The logo is in the final stages of jewelry design, which I’ll be taking around the gift shops to raise funds. I’ve reserved the love-returns.org domain through WordPress, but have to figure out how to get it transferred to a new blog (currently it will redirect to this home page).

This has been building for a while. Through my writing, I haven’t been able to engage intellectual or religious leaders, which means that they aren’t the people that need me. I encounter those that do while dancing or getting my hair cut or at the lunch counter. They are people hanging on to love by their fingernails, just doing the best that they can. They are courageous and determined, and they need reason to hope.

So I threw this together a couple of Saturdays ago:

MEN

Jesus proved that we have the power and strength to create a world ruled by

LOVE

Each of us has a part to play, but teams don’t win games unless they know the rules and their opponent, and share a strategy. Without that, we score two points and give up four. If you are a good man, you know that struggle.

THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Describes the love and strength that God has invested in preparing us to win the game. Now is the time to

UNITE FOR VICTORY OVER SORROW

And to create a safe place for

WOMEN TO HEAL US

Then last Saturday, I went out to the pier and my new friend Harold asked me “Are you a Christian?” I stopped, having considered this moment, and coyly replied “Well, I’m about as Christian a man as can be.” We started discussing points of theology, and I realized that everybody was listening to me speak. Struggling with hubris, I knelt on the boards, testified that “I need to humble myself.” Harold reached up to the sky and started offering praise to the Father for the teaching that I had brought to them that day.

I’m struggling with logistics still. The DBA will take a week or so. The announcement needs some graphic design to attract the right people. My color laser printer is on the fritz. I need to get the new blog up, and figure out how to organize the material logically, rather than by date.

But in between I’ve outlined some of the discussions, focusing on the nature of love and sin; the nature of the heavenly realm; the reconciliation of Darwin and the Bible. I have this vision of an open Socratic discussion, myself doodling on a flip chart to explain the science and philosophy and history of the Human journey, and realizing that people seeking answers have every reason to trust what I have to say.

In those visions, I feel their brokenness reaching out to me, and responsive power moving through my heart from the Father.

He loves us. We are strong enough. Come to Him.

God’s Plan: A Love Story

slide1

Translation: Combining science and the Bible, we know that it took a billion years before any living creature was capable of loving the entire world (the Garden of Eden). Unfortunately, animal behaviors are strong. The most powerful animals dominate through fear and anger, which cause the brain to degrade, so today the world is ruled by angry vegetables. When they’ve finished making a mess, the rest of humanity will join with the angels and other living creatures to cover the world with love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

All About Us

I’ve decided to attend services at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. The first service convenes at 9:15, which dovetails nicely with the Dance Tribe celebration at 11.

In the context of Trump’s immigration ban, last week’s service was serendipitous. A local couple shared pictures taken last year on the island of Lesbos, the point of access to the EU for those fleeing conflict throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. The refugees were drawn by Angela Merkel’s pledge of sanctuary to cross from Turkey over the five-mile channel on rubber rafts. Rafts made unstable by choppy seas and shoulder-to-shoulder passengers. As water was taken on, personal goods were often tossed overboard.

The refugees arrived on rocky shores against a steep cliff. Happy but exhausted, they were forced to climb up to a receiving zone, because laws prohibit private transport of illegal immigrants. The presenters ignored this risk, ferrying young and elderly alike in their car. Seeing the stress on the faces of parents, they also brought in paper and markers, inviting the children onto blankets where many of them documented the crossing – not excluding, in one little boy’s picture, those lost in the waters.

Reverend Julia Hamilton favors the spiritual image of the “cloud of witnesses,” and in this case, the cloud was hung around the sanctuary: photographs of children with their pictures. I struggled to maintain my composure, feeling their exhaustion and confusion beating through time, and echoed in places around the world. We rode through it, and in the receiving line afterwards, I simply asked “May I?”, before joining the hands of the husband and wife in mine, bending forward to allow my cloud to affirm theirs. When I offered “Thank-you for your compassion,” the woman echoed “Thank you!”

Today’s service was more typical: a reflection on personal spiritual growth. After inveighing against identification of our selves with our struggles, Rev. Hamilton continued with a parable on the traps of dogma and creed. Visiting with another master, the Zen poet Basho quoted sage after sage, until his host interrupted to ask: “Basho, you are clearly a master of Zen teachings. But could you offer me one thought of your own – one authentic expression of self?” Basho’s embarrassment deepened minute by minute as nothing came to mind. Finally, he looked outside and felt welling up in him:

The old pond.
A frog jumps in.
Splash!

His host clapped in delight.

Rev. Hamilton explained the parable as signifying the importance of being where we were – we are not our struggles, but nor our we are achievements. We are who we are in the moment.

As she illustrated the point, I found myself wondering when she was going to remark on the emptiness of a journey made alone. But it never came. That is the challenge of Unitarian Universalism, full of iconoclasts synthesizing the views of many traditions, each achieving a unique spiritual practice. In the best case, the seeker stands on the shoulders of avatars from every culture; in the saddest case, the seeker ends up like Basho – empty of personal understanding. It was this contrast that Rev. Hamilton developed: the spiritual journey is a journey to self-knowledge.

I really didn’t catch the last ten minutes of the service, my mind spinning as I grasped at methods for expressing the flowering of my own journey from sterile self-knowledge. For some reason, they crystallized in haiku form, bringing surprise and delight to her eyes when I intoned:

Through loving,
God finds meaning:
Us.

Reproductive Rights (Again)

In response to this post at The Federalist.

The commentator writes as though no other jurisprudence exists on this matter. If you want to sway the debate, you need to admit and address the arguments made by those that have sought to preserve reproductive rights for women. Many of them are not spiritually unsophisticated: their desire is to create lives that embody love.

And the details of the partial birth abortion are a canard. This is not typical of abortions, which are now most often chemical procedures (the “morning after” pill). Partial birth abortions are incredibly tragic, and politicizing a situation in which either the mother and/or child will die is immoral. A choice has to be made, and it should be made by the parents and their medical practitioners without bringing the police into the situation.

And I would be cautious about the “life at conception” position. Most conceptions end in natural abortions. If there have been 10 billion people alive on earth, God is responsible for aborting at least 10 billion babies. Obviously there is something more subtle going on in the process, some purpose that God has in filtering those that arrive alive in the world.

My perspective is that, being on the path of the knowledge of good and evil, part of our challenge is learning to not be animals in the way that we create progeny. We need to apply reasoned judgment to the problem. That is the gift that God gave humanity above all other creatures, and decrying the use of judgment by others is not morally tenable.