Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 141                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 123

Today’s Mileage: 5                                          Total Trip Mileage: 991

As I ride the bike and write today’s blog it’s snowing outside, large white flakes are slowly drifting to the ground.  It paints a beautiful scene, although it is not yet “sticking” it is melting on contact with the ground.

Yesterday I took a walk along a local river, studying the rocks and shoreline clutter.  I shared with you several “poems” I wrote on the walk.  My partner Susan commented on the fact that my words did not meet the classification of poetry as they do not rhyme.  I noted that I sometimes call these pieces my “musings.” It is not in my nature to spend time trying to label or classify my creative efforts.  The important thing to me is the process of being aware, perceptive and receptive to my surroundings.  I attempt to capture these perceptions in words and images as a form of celebration and as a way of leaving “bread crumbs” along the path, perhaps enticing others to follow and explore on their own.

The Spirit Tree!

The snow continues to fall outside my window.  This leads me to ponder the spiritual significance of snow.  I know personally I’ve always found it to have a very calming and tranquil effect on me.  I suspect it’s because the snow covers everything, leaving the landscape smooth and pristine.  In addition, the damping effects of snow seems to not only soften life’s sharp edges, but also it quiets and settles the mind.  Several weeks ago we had a five inch snowfall.  Looking outside, everything had a “Wonderland” appearance.  It covered all the flat surfaces and left faint raised impressions of anything buried beneath it.  Often the identity of the object was a mystery, like looking at a blanket and seeing the “lumps” indicating the present of some mystery object.  Of course, the snow may not produce such a positive and peaceful feeling if you know you are going to have to shovel it!

Water hose under the blanket.

I did an internet search on the “spiritual significance of snow.”  I come up with fewer hits than I had expected.  Many of the references were for people named Snow or the significance of the fairy tale Snow White.  I did find several sites speaking of the meaning of snow from a Jewish perspective. The Rabbi Simon Jacobson noted that water was a symbol of divine knowledge, it’s “falling’ represents the   transmission from the Divine.  He noted that rain represented the “continual flow” from the Divine, which carries the risk of overwhelming the recipients.  Ice, however, as a compact and solid form of water, freezes the “flow” and makes the Divine wisdom easier for humans to comprehend.  Snow, he noted, is in an intermediate transitional state which allows the flow of information to descend so that it will not be overwhelming.  He also noted that snow is special because it contains both water and a “nucleus particle” of Earth that acts as a seed for the ice crystal.  Therefore, snow represents a combination of water and earth; it is half heaven and half earth!

An inviting scene!

 Several internet sites spoke of the Christian perspective on snow.  They noted that the whiteness and freshness of snow symbolizes purity and freedom from sin, and that after repenting for their sins, a person is described as being “white as snow.”  Snow is often associated with heavenly beings who are usually wearing white robes.  It was pointed out that the snowflake with its individual uniqueness is often used as an object lesson for children of the unique nature of each human being who has been created by God.  One author did note that in ancient times being “white as snow” could have dangerous and frightening connotations associated with leprosy.

I reviewed a book entitled: “Everyday Tao,” by Deng Ming-Dao.  His book of Taoist wisdom noted that:  “Water is powerful.  Although it can be soothing, comforting, and cleansing, it can also be enormous, mighty, and overpowering.  Its nature is constant. It is true to itself in any extreme.”  The author also discussed the importance of the color white:  “White is the symbol for purity.  In ceremonies, it is the color of spirituality. Since the ancients taught that we are already pure, they laugh at teachers who advocated penitence and self mortification as spiritual methods.  They said: we are already holy.  Why struggle to become something we already are?”

Buddha wearing winter's finest.

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  94                                      Days Blogged: 91 

New Mileage: 8                                                      Total Trip Mileage: 741

I once had a student tell me that he thought the world would be a much better place if there was no religion! I told him I could not disagree more. I view religion as a double edged sword.  Clearly it may serve a very positive function within an individual’s life.  It may help to give their life meaning and a sense of direction.  It also serves a very important function within our communities. Many of our important national and world leaders like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Dali Lama arose from within the ranks of religious citizens. In response to Haiti’s devastation many religious groups are stepping forward with assistance.  Whether they are responding to Christ’s or Buddha’s commands to providing comfort and aid to the less fortunate and those in need, they are stepping forward.

Words have consequences!

 The other side of this sword is the fact that the religious beliefs and actions of certain individuals and groups can be turned into potential instruments of bias, divisiveness, hatred and some might even say evil.  Religion can be used to drive a wedge between people rather than become a device to bring together our communities.

Most recently two examples of this negative side of religious beliefs have come to light. The first occurred several weeks ago, when in response to Tiger Woods’ adultery, commentator Brit Hume of FOX News suggested that Tiger Woods should turn to Jesus to deal with his sins because the Buddhist faith does not offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity. He suggested that Tiger should “turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”  As you might expect this statement has created a firestorm of protest from both Buddhist leaders as well as within the liberal Christian community.  Robert Thurman, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University notes that “it is insulting to Buddhism to indicate that it does not care about its own believers and followers.”  He notes that adultery is as much a sin in Buddhism as it is in Christianity and that the ethics are the same in both traditions.  There are clear philosophical differences between Buddhism and Christianity.  Buddhism believes that a person must look inward and that the problem is something he’s got work out for himself, while Christianity believes that only a potent “creator God” can bestow redemption.  I have no problem with Brit believing what he believes but his statement that Tiger should “lose his faith” and that this faith is inferior or somehow lacking is an insult to not only Buddhists but to anyone who does not hold to a Christian viewpoint. This approach does not foster deeper understanding and acceptance of others within our community.  The fact that his views were aired on a network that prides itself on being “fair and balanced” just adds insult to injury in my view.

The second and I believe somewhat more egregious example occurred in response to the terrific destruction in Haiti following the recent earth quake. I’m referring to Pat Robertson’s statement in which he noted that “something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. They were under the heels of the French you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’”  Pat Robertson then goes on to note that Haitians need to have a “great turning to God” in response to this earthquake. It has been noted that this is not the first time that the former Republican presidential candidate has made controversial comments in the wakes of disasters he was quoted as linking Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks to a legalized abortion and the presence of the gay agenda in our country.

While Pat Robertson has every right to make his statements, the questions for me are:  What good do the statements server?  Do they help the Haitian people in their moment of need?  Do they help our response to the disaster?  Do they simply represent a “holier than thou” or a “we’re right and favored by God and you’re wrong” exclusionary religious rant?  Is he trying to help quell questions from his followers about why or how could a “just and caring God” do this to these people?  

Are your words and deeds like candle offerings to the divine?

How helpful is it in our preparing for natural disasters or dealing with terrorist threats to make blanket statements in which we tie the occurrence of these disasters to social political causes (e.g. abortion, gay rights). Do you help people who have a “pact with the devil?”  How do we compromise and find common ground on issues like abortion if any kind of support is seen as bringing God’s punishment and damnation upon us?

One of the blessings of our great nation is people’s right to speak their opinions. However, I believe that there are responsibilities that go with this gift and that one of these is to work toward a greater sense of community, toward solutions that bring people together not drive apart. You can label it “fair and balanced” all you want, if it is derogatory, inflames passions and drives wedges into our communities then I believe we may be heading toward a path fraught with EVIL consequences.

Haiti is suffering!

As I prepared to post today’s blog my partner pointed out to me an editorial by the NYT writer Ross Douthat in which he notes that Brit Hume’s comments have fostered a much needed religious discussion.  I agree that such discussions are needed, however, I would suggest that they not be started by commentators who present one sided and insulting statements. I would suggest starting with a balanced two sided presentation of the topic in question.

Please hold the people in Haiti in your prayers as they struggle to survive and rebuild!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  72                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 73

Today’s Mileage: 4                                            Total Trip Mileage: 631

Holidays and Holy Days on December 21:

Solstice or Yule – A present day Wiccan celebration of the shortest day of

                                the year,  marks a renewal process for many of the

                               ancient earth based faiths

Yule – A Christian celebration of the light dawning in Jesus.


Sunrise at Stonehenge

Happy Winter Solstice Day!  In the northern hemisphere, this marks the day of the longest night and the beginning of the sun’s ascent back into prominence.

A Joyful Wiccan celebrant!

As I ride the bike this morning I reminisce about past solstice celebrations I attended at the home of a local Wiccan couple. The celebrants, a colorful and diverse group, gathered around a sacred fire, prayers were offered in the four directions, songs were sung as we joined hands forming a circle of celebration.  Mention was made of both God and the Goddess. Celtic music, vegetarian cooking and sometime home brewed mead were shared long into the night.  There was no debauchery; no evil incantations or satanic rituals, negative thoughts and anger were banished from the circle. The celebration highlighted our connection with the divine through nature, the sun, moon and fire. The circle was made up of Wiccans, Christians, Unitarians, Native Americans, and even atheists. All were brought together into a joyful and loving community for this special day of the year.


Huge Bonfire
Belly Dancers
Fire Spinners
Community Altar
Short ceremony – poetry to Nature
Pull out your DRUM
Come PICNIC style

                 Reads the Advertisement for a Winter Solstice gathering on a Florida website


The astrological significance of this day was not lost on our ancient ancestors. In fact it appears that this solstice represents a central anchor of their faith. Much of the ancient architecture, the sacred places they highlighted with stone circles, earthen mounds, and pyramids act as observatories marking the sunrise and sunset on this very day. Many ancient faiths associated this day with the creation or birth of powerful gods, such as Sol Invictus, the Roman Sun God.  It was a day that held promise for the people; the promise of a return of the sun, of warmth and future harvest after the cold of winter.  It was a day of thanksgiving and forgiveness, in ancient Greek mythology this was one of the two days a year that Hades was allowed to visit Mount Olympus.

Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu emerges from her cave!

Most of the teachings of these early faiths have been lost to time.  They were lost due to a verbal tradition that left no written records, lost as the last of their practitioners, their story tellers and knowledge bearers perished. I have listened as some people lament this loss, the loss of a faith that honored and celebrated natural forces and  the loss of  sacred natural places that sought a return to balance between man and nature.  I’ve listened as others say: “So what, they are obsolete!  They are gone because they were wrong!”

I listen to these voices and note their arguments: They are gone because they lost out to “superior teaching” and truthfulness of the religions that followed.  Others note that these were “spoken faiths” relying on memories of the followers instead of a written (unchanging) sacred text. This fact sealed their demise.  Still others note that it was simply evolutionary or the “survival of the fittest,” similar to Wal-Mart’s dominance over K-mart, or American materialism and consumerism against simpler more communal belief systems.  Some argue that the joyful celebration of the birth of the Sun God was simply usurped by the newer faiths that choose to place the unknown birth date of a savior on the same day, building  churches over a peoples’ sacred sites till those sites had become their own.

Perhaps all these arguements may possess some “truth” and perhaps it just does not matter what was lost.  “What has passed, has passed” some would say.  However, at a time in human history when we are faced with monumental questions about our future survival can we afford to overlook any source a truth, even strands of our past?

Yule log with candles!

Let us celebrate the solstice as a diverse and loving community. May we carry the message of renewal and promise of the life sustaining harvest of future seasons to people of all faiths.  Let us make use of this occasion to both honor the past and the future with a joyful moment.   

The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Consecutive Days Riding: 64                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 65

Today’s Mileage: 10                                            Total Trip Mileage: 562

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike this morning I think about the candles burning around the world in temples and churches in celebration.  As I mentioned yesterday, for me, light and fire are symbolic of the divine. They provide us with guidance against ignorance.  They offer warmth against a cold inhumane world.  They have the ability to purify and cleanse, helping heal our wounds. Of course during this time of joy and celebration one does not have to look far to see sad scenes of death and destruction, abuse and hunger, of intolerance and hatred.

I recently received a comment  entitled “Pure and Undefiled Religion.”  The individual quoted the New Testament twice and included the following statements:

“And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on The Narrow Way have had to “forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters” and all others who will not follow The Messiah, because they “love this wicked world and their own life in and of it. What is declared to be “religion” today is truly the devil’s playground. Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to “Come Out of her, MY people”!

He was critical of my blog, quoted scripture with certainty, and ended with the statement “Truth is never ending!” I responded with the following comment:

“I too believe in truth, but we seem to believe in very different truths! In my view the divine is large enough to embrace and love both of us! I choose to accept this “wide way,” if you choose to follow “the narrow way” then that is your choice. A student once asked me why it was that every semester it seemed there was always someone who was trying to “save me.” I just smiled and said: “They are just doing what they need to do to be the Christian they have chosen to be!” I am doing what I need to be doing (teaching, artwork, and blogging) to be the loving, spiritual person I have chosen to be! I appreciate that you visited my blog and took the time to respond to it! I wish you well on your journey… I will hold you in my prayers… as I hope you will hold me in yours. Have a wonderful and happy holiday.

This morning I received a response from him.  Again he quoted scripture, and directed ridicule at all of us “who do not follow the true G-D.”  I followed his comments back to his own blog.  I found that his statements to me were nothing more than a copy of the ramblings that filled his blog. Rants against the world at large, organized religion, and non-believers.

It is no wonder that this person’s comments appeared in the spam space of my blog?  They remind me of the individuals who stand on a street corner and cry out their condemnation of “passing sinner” without any knowledge of these individuals’ beliefs, virtuous actions or their relationship with the divine.  I suspect they view the negative reactions of the passing “sinners” not as feedback, but simply as sign of their righteousness.

It has been my experience that when some religious individuals embrace negative feedback or criticism, they often do not accept it as corrective feedback. Instead they exhibit an attitude of self-righteousness. They view the criticism as a sign they are on the right path. Any criticism or challenging feedback is ignored or ridiculed.  This response may lead them on a course fraught with dangerous consequences for their family, friends and society.

I have featured sunsets on today’s posting as they too are symbolic. They symbolize the end of a day and approaching darkness.  However, with their brillent colors they also plant the seeds for a new day, for a dawning and return of light. I receive criticism and feedback as gifts with open arms, as long as the other person is willing to: try to listen, try to understand and looks for common ground.  Let us hope that our churches, communities, nations and our world will see the sun set on divisive ideas and emotions which serve only to create schisms between us and them, between the natural and the spiritual worlds, between individuals and the divine.

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 34                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 35

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 304


Holidays and Holy Days on November 12:

Birth of Baha’u’llah –  Baha’i celebration of the birth of their founder and teacher


      As I ride the bike today I am thinking about the nature of pilgrimage sites.   I’ll let you decide whether you believe today’s site warrants inclusion on the list of Pilgrimage Sites as we are visiting an interesting place in North Miami Beach which is now a beautiful and popular place for weddings and receptions. I found a travel review which stated: “The story behind this place is more interesting than going there.”   While I have labeled it as a “Christian” site, it might be better to think of it as a Marriage Remembrance Site!  I believe this site; The Spanish Monastery has importance and significance.  


View of the courtyard.

   First, I think it reiterates that for some pilgrimages it’s not the site that has significance, but the journey required to arrive at the site.  Like the Miley Cyrus song stated: “It’s the climb.”  I remind myself of this when I find the flower garden bare or the creek dry after a long walk. I have written a number of poems and viewed beautiful images I would not have seen if I hadn’t taken that walk/journey.

     Second, the story of how this Spanish Monastery which predates Columbus’ arrival in the New World found its way to the shores of a “distant land” is fascinating!  It might be seen as a story of a “rescue” of a decaying work of architectural art, a grand but misguided business endeavor, or the appropriation of the relics of another time and place for our use in the present. 


Christ in the Garden.

  I believe our American culture and to a degree historically Western culture has a tendency to buy treasures, or claim sites that produce a readymade “history.”  Is it our impatience to wait for our own relics and sites to develop? Or do we have a sense of entitlement towards the treasures of old, or any site that we discover, whether or not it might already have special significance to others?  I am reminded of the early Christian colonists declaring they were “God’s chosen” and the New World their “promised land”.  Of course that meant that the native inhabitants were, at best, potential converts, or at worst “Canaanites” who warrant only removal and destruction.

     An additional issue this visit raises for me has to do with discovering the “true meaning” of a site or a journey. If you Google wedding reception sites in the Miami area, you will find this historic monastery listed.  Is that a “good use” of the space, or an affront to the building’s “true meaning?”  It was built for a sacred purpose, consecrated with sacred rituals, and inhabited for centuries by dedicated spiritual seekers.  How does the current use enhance or undermine this history? Does it matter? 

     When I first investigated this site I found videos about it on YouTube.  The first I viewed showed a young lady quietly lighting votive candles at the entrance to the sanctuary.  The second video showed a boisterous, youthful wedding party dancing wildly to the Village People anthem YMCA!

     Please click on the tab at the top of this page entitled: Pilgrimage Sites to visit the Spanish Monastery.  Have a wonderful day!

The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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