Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reflection-The Conversations that matter

Image result for Gay rightsImage result for race rights

"There should be no discrimination against languages people speak,skin color or religion"-Malala Yousafzai,Survivor of a shot to her by Al-Qaeda for wanting equity in education for girls

Recently I have noticed a forgetting of the things that matter and in noticing this I have noticed I have realized some conversations that matter seem to be dodged a lot within society.Why is this?I am going to tell you my reasoning on that at the end of this blog but in forgetting those conversations that I feel matter a lot to our society.I want to bring them to our existence so that we as human species can remember and observe these issues are still very fresh in our discussion as well as admit they should not end.What are these conversations.They are those uncomforatble ones we are unwilling but our humanity calls them to us at the moment.I recount them now:

Racial Prejudice

If we are all made in the image of the Eternal Source why do we not see all the colors of human existence as equitable?why do we choose to oppress a person because of their skin?Why are those of a race holding more privilege not sharing their privilege?Racial Prejudice still exists let us all not rest in denial anymore of this.

Sexuality Discrimination

As a gay man I notice this a lot.Like just because i'm a gay man I have to be put into some box of sensitivity and mocked for who I am attracted too.The moment a person finds this out they label me see it as some disability of my human existence.I am told to tone it down but I will not choose to tone it down.Sexuality Discrimination still exists let us observe such in our society that it is still present worthy off discussion.

Gender Bias

Just because someone is a women or a transgendered individual why are their laws that still exist that make such individuals less of who they are.Why can't a woman be p[aid just as equal as I am as a man?why does a Transgendered or Queergendered not welcome in certain bathrooms?Obviously Gender Bias still exists and is a conversation that needs to continue among humanity.


I as a young adult am treated sometimes as if my experience does not matter at all by those older than me?Why is this?One's age dos not negate their experience whether young or old.Ageism does exist and should not be denied.

Religious Discrimination

In the faith gambit it seems as if faiths should look at themselves as people experiencing the same truth just recognizing it in different ways.Us versus them should not exist but the universal message of all should be realized.Religious discrimination exists one faith is not better than the other we should discuss those truths that unite us all.

Economic Inequality

Why are people homeless it is not because they have chosen that life but because those who have the means choose not to use them for the betterment of the life of those who are homeless.No more should a person starve each should have according to their need.Economic Inequality does exist it's not a far of thing it's in front of us everyday.

I affirmed that I would tell you the reason why I think many are dodging these uncomfortable conversations.The answer is simple we as a human race have forgotten our humanity the basic precept present across the board is the simple teaching"Love your neighbor as yourself"Why are we choosing to forget this simple common practice of our humanity?We fail ourselves if we don't have these conversations.A Zion is not built and a horrible world is created.Let's continue to remember and observe these conversations that matter.

Questions to ponder:

Why do you think some are dodging having these conversations that matter?

Why do you fear personally having the uncomfortable conversation that should be had?

Do you personally fear a better day for human society?

An Affirmation:

In Memoriam:Beth Shiver,My beloved sister

"Beth was a resident of Carrabelle, FL.
She is survived by daughters, Jessica Locklear and Heather Holton, her granddaughters, Kensleigh and Bailey Evans, and Lizzie Waller, and her ex-husband, Michael Holton. She is also survived by her mother and step-father, Aleta and Kenny Baker, sisters, Bridgett Shiver-Medina and Amanda Baker, and brothers, Jamie Shiver, Ray Shiver, and Karl Malachut, along with many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. A special thanks to Janice Ann Shiver, who was more than just a best friend to Beth, she was a sister.
Beth is preceded in death by her father Raymond “Tenderfoot” Shiver, her Granny Lizzie and grandfather Lester Shiver, grandmother Annie Catherine Miley, and grandfather Leroy Miley.
A memorial service to honor Beth’s life will be held on January 30th, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. at the Carrabelle United Methodist Church, located at 102 NE Ave. B in Carrabelle, FL. All family and friends are welcome. "-Obituary for Beth Shiver

Three weeks ago I received tragic news that  my sister had died in a car accident her name was Beth in still processing her death and just the events that have happened within the last three weeks I just felt I needed to memorialize her here.

My sister Beth was someone in my eyes that always wanted to keep our family together she was one who desired unity out of us.My sister was also adventurous something her and I hold in common I find it no small thing in reading the Torah Portion during the time of her memorial the words"be not afraid" called out to me.Beth in my experience was not really much afraid of anything.She was also a mother and grandmother she loved her children more than anything else.In all my conversations they were paramount.Her death as shocking as it was did bring about a miracle it reunited my family there was harmony amongst us maybe not all of us but some of us I think did experience it.In some way I felt her in these moments of harmony and I must say in her death I have grown sen my family grow too.Where do we go from here?I don't know sometimes i'm mad I can't have her back,guilty that I could have had more time with her,I cry because she is not here and I find that nothing in life really satisfies that want but I can live into my mourning remembering her within me.She lives on in all of us.I love my sister and miss her. Her memory though is a great blessing even in death she is singing her message of harmony.

A Prayer

Monday, February 8, 2016

D'var Torah-Terumah:Introducing Middot


"And you shall build the Tabernacle"-Exodus 26:30

"One who has attained holiness,however and cleaves to God constantly and whose soul walks about immersed in thought regarding those matters that are of a transcendent nature in their love for their creator and their awe of the Eternal,is considered as if they were walking before the Eternal in the land of the living"-Moshe Chaim Luzatto,The Path of the Just

Torah reading: Exodus 25:1-27:19
Haftarah reading: 1 Kings 5:26-6:13

In both the Torah portion and Haftarah we read of the construction of two very holy places the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple of Solomon.As both these holy places were built they needed things that made up them golden candlesticks,special coverings and lavers to purify oneself.Like these holy places our humanity is in itself holy.The Torah itself declares we are B'tzelem Elohim made in the image of God.That means we are ourselves have within us divine qualities that can be fostered,refined,and made beautiful just like those hings that made up the Temple and tabernacle.These qualities are called Middot simply defined as our "measure" those virtues and vices within us that point us to those things that make that image of God that we are shine even brighter.I practice Mussar a sub-philosophy within Judaism that focuses on refining those middot that are virtues into one's life.In my practice of Mussar.Weekly I choose a middot of virtue and foster it through the performance of a mitzvah.For example the middot of Seder or order I was finding my room was not getting cleaned so I chose this the middot of order to strengthen and made my mitzvah cleaning my room.The room got cleaned and I became even more of a clean freak because of it.I stay ever-grateful for Mussar it has shown that my humanity as well as yours is holy by holy I don't mean above everything spiritually but we are in relationship always with the unity of all that is,was,and shall be.By recognizing this unity by fostering these middot myself I find it is time to not keep this blessing of Mussar to myself but to share it so we all can recognize this unity,this sanctuary for the presence of The Eternal that we all are so monthly I am going to write a post about my experience with a middot in hopes all can begin to refine these qualities that make us better people that in turn will bring about a Zion to our human existence.I hope you join me as we discuss these items in the temple that is our human lives.Let us begin.

Questions to ponder:

Do you think our humanity itself is holy?

How do you feel about middot in hearing abouth them?

Does Mussar seem like a practice you would be interested in knowing more about?

An Affirmation:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

D'var Torah-Yitro: Living Buddha,Living Mitzvot

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"I am the Eternal your God who took you out of Egypt,out of the house of bondage"-Exodus 20:2

"Before every meal,a monk or a nun recites the five contemplations:"This food is the gift  of the whole universe-the earth,the sky,and much hard work .May we live in a way that is worthy of this food.May we transform our unskillful states of mind,especially that of greed.May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding  and love"-Thich Nhat Hahn,Living Buddha,Living Christ

Torah Reading:Exodus 18:1-20:23

Haftarah Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13

In this weeks' Torah portion we read of the receiving of the tablets what were on those tablets are debatable but we know one thing once Moses came down from the mountain he expounded mitzvot.Mitzvot are sometimes viewed as commandments but I don't exactly define them as such I see them as the ethics that make up the Jewish people that remind them of who they are,what I want to be.Sometimes these mitzvot are ritualized such as some of those held within the ten commandments that are in this week's parshah such as remember the Sabbath keep it holy,honor your parents and do not covet.These ritualized mitzvot bring with them a mindfulness of the present moment there is another tradition among humanity that celebrates too actions that bring mindfulness and bring the individual to the present moment that being Buddhism.I want to celebrate here that present moment which unites both of these tradition showing how the mitzvot are in themselves living and have within them some Buddha.

First of all in Jewish prayer I see this call to the present moment many times within the service.During the shema one is to close their eyes to me this time causes me to reflect upon the oneness of all that is in a broken society all around me that I can speak the oneness of the Shema into witnessing to a harmony of existence not yet realized.During the Amidah the temple prayer one is to stand as if they were standing before God in humility sometimes I stand and sometimes I don't like my Buddhist friends I sit recognizing that Eternal Source as my Teacher.The blessings said during the Amidah call to mind all the things in life that I have to be grateful for they also have within them the promise of the hope of a better world a "pure land" that at times I have felt like I glimpsed in what I call the Aleinu moments of my life.Jewish Prayer itself is a form of meditation it though turns the individual away from the suffering into that "pure land" of the Eternal much as the Buddha sought to do.

Second Judaism shares in common with Buddhism the notion of the middle way of in the choice between two extremes to seek out the middle way.I am finding this middle way a powerful concept within the conflict over Israel and Palestine.It seems as those critics on both sides think they are right but this conflict itself does not exist in the binary.I would say that the Zionism offered by the present Israeli Government controlled by the Likkud Party which expounds that it is the right of the Jewish people to settle upon land in Israel with no question is in fact not the only Zionist option.The Zionist Union believes in open negotiations,international involvement in creating peace in Israel taking "Love your neighbor seriously" as a a call.Judaism enabled me to seek out this middle way to say to myself this is not the only Zionism I have to choose nor should the Zionism of the Israeli Likkud party be the only viewed neither by critics.I believe there is a middle way in the conflict that should be sought out it to me seems to be offered by the Zionist Union.this middle way shakes the status quo but I believe will make things better.

Lastly one becomes centered through Jewish practices right now in my own life i'm grieving because of this I exist at times in what some Tibetan Buddhists call the monkey Mind.Chogyam Trupa likened the monkey mind to a monkey being set in a glass house.That monkey is not exactly going to sit still it's probably going to shatter the glass in that house.The glass house symbolizes the monkey the ego but Chogyam Trupa speaks of a way to answering it by recognizing it and deconstructing it.For me this will be done through Shiva and Sheloshim even though I don't have the strength to really pray my community will pray with me making me mindful of the freedom that Judaism has revealed to me even in this mourning period allowing me to deconstruct the monkey in the glass house by building a tabernacle of hope within myself.

There is something of Buddhism of held within every mitzvot that we should reach out.We should our minds to the present moment which is the Living Buddha,Living Mitzvot that unites all.

Questions to ponder:

Do you see within your own practice of the mitzvot the call to mindfulness bringing you to the present moment in your life?

Do you seek the middle way in the Israeli-Pakastani oppression?

When you recognize the "monkey mind" com about do you deconstruct it and build a tabernacle within yourself through Jewish practice?

An Affirmation:

Feel your soul as you meditate becoming mindful of the child of God you are and we all are.

Monday, January 18, 2016

D'var Torah-Beshalach:The Song of the Soul

Image result for Miriam Dancing

"And Miriam,the prophetess,Aaron's sister took a timbrel in her hand,and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.And Miriam called out to them,Sing to the Eternal One"-Exodus 15:20-21

Torah Portion:Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftarah Portion:Judges 4:4-5:31

In this week's Torah portion we read of the great finality of the redemption of the early Israelites we watch Pharoah and his army be washed into the red sea and than a great song follows which Miriam leads the whole of Israel in singing the Mi Chamocha which is sung or chanted within every morning and evening prayer service within synagogues today.Here is  a version by Judy Tellerman that I like:

If you have no familiarity with Hebrew the chorus of the song simple mean "Who is like you among all other gods that are worshipped majejestic in holiness working wonders"the verses of the song speak of the miracle of Pharoah's fall and how Israel itself is rescued by the strong arm of God.The Mi Chamocha is to me the song that is the soul of the Jewish people it speaks to the Jewish people's redemption and relationship to one God that guides them throughout the ages.This is the song of the soul of the Jewish people but I am wondering what is the song of your soul?

What do I mean by a Song of your Soul?I believe that everyone's life sings it's own song as the Jewish people have Mi Chamocha as their own song we as individuals each have a song.This song like the Mi Chamochah is at times one of redemption,one of hope it also is at times one that accounts great trial.This Song of your Soul is your journey as well as the way life takes you.This song sometimes may sound very bad you may feel as if it as bad as Sam Smith's "Writing on theWall" from "Spectre":

We have sad moments just like this song like breakups and divorces but this song we sing with our daily lives also includes those moments we are empowered when we realize that like Katy Perry sings "We are fireworks just waiting to ignite":

No matter how bad or good you think your song might be others may think the song of your soul is something amazing.In looking for a potential mate for myself I have been listening to the stories of certain men in listening to the song of their soul.What inspires them?How have they saved themselves from the atrocities of their own life?Do they define themselves by their looks,job, or what they have done for the good of all humanity not just themselves?I find my criteria in finding a bashir(the one)is not so defined by their looks or their job but by the how their song inspires others which I hope my own song does.

How does your soul sing?What do you think the lyrics of the song of your life say?How does your song inspire those around you?You are a song,your soul chants a pure melody let it sing !!!!

Questions to Ponder:

How does your soul sing?

What do you think the lyrics of your song of your say?

How does your song inspire those around you?

An Affirmattion

We have a combined song and I think this is how it sounds I also just really love this song:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Leaves of grass-Blessings

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I recently made a list of fifty blessings in my life my goal was for one hundred but I wrote fifty and started to see a blessing in everything this poem celebrates those blessings we can find in life really easily if we just look:


To find a blessing where is a blessing in my life?
My granny who prayed into the night what blessing her life was to me,
My household here each a family member in their own unique way prayers answered they are a blessing
What about the hard things that bring tears to my eyes
To think about what my stepfather done to me throughout my life,a tyranny made hidden is there any blessing in that pain?
There is for in experiencing that tyranny I taste the sweet honey of freedom,not defined by such but strengthened in knowing one can overcome
There is a blessing in the good and the bad
There is a blessing in you and me
it seems impossible not to find a blessing those sad things open the door to joyful things
And for a moment Zion is experienced in knowing the blessing of all that is

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Leaves of Grass-A State of the Union Address

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This is what I would have said if I was President Obama last night:

My fellow Americans we have come to a time in our nation's history where we as a country are more divided than ever before where people are discriminated based off their race to the point where police brutality and the shootings of young black children have become commonplace.Not only that the media will call a collection of Muslims terrorists even if they don't have guns but a bunch of white people with guns that take over public land they are a militia. LGBTQ people can now marry but still be fired from their jobs in certain states and by the way women still get paid less.You may be asking what unites us?Well I would say are love of greasy food is what unites us a nation.Oh yeah by the way let's stop funding our military because the real issue dividing our country is not we fear but the lack of jobs.I leave you with this my people let's choose true change that is held within Socialism.