Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Before the clouds came
the moon was there full
in an empty sky with me
watching and wandering,
if everything is connected
to everything else and I
am connected to you and
you are connected to me
and both of us are here
watching the little cloud
move to cover the moon,
what does any of it have
to do with yellow daisies
on a hillside above the
beautiful restless sea?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


In 1962 I bought a set of books on the world’s major religions. Those books launched me on A lifetime project: a fascinating, mostly encouraging but sometimes alarming, mostly casual but sometimes rigorous, examination of what is known in church jargon as “my faith journey.” The books, now out of print, were published by George Braziller, New York. Richard A. Gard, was the general editor of the series known as GREAT RELIGIONS OF MODERN MAN which focused specifically on Buddhism, edited by Richard Gard; Christianity: Catholicism, edited by George Brantl; Christianity: Protestantism, edited by J. Leslie Dunstan; Hinduism, edited by Louis Renou, Islam, edited by John Alden Williams; and Judaism, edited by Arthur Hertzberg. If you come across the set or any of the single volumes in a used book store, don’t hesitate to buy them.

There have been times when I was sorely tempted to abandon the institutional church, all churches, altogether; but I continue to be a member of a Methodist church. It is against a background of study and continuing involvement in “church life” that I write this journal entry on the thirtieth day of March, 2010. Over many years my responses to “the church” has ranged from ecstatic celebration to disgust. Last Sunday at the Methodist Church I attend, one of the ministers, Elbert Kim, led children in a meaningful, delightful Palm Sunday celebration. You may look back to Sunday’s BLOG entry to see a couple of photographs of that occasion. A couple of years ago I was revolted by the Church’s failure to adequately affirm the love and commitment of gay and lesbian individuals who wished to be married by clergy when it would have been legal in California to do so.

Each of the world’s major religions is a vast umbrella under which a great variety of practices and beliefs exist. I often find myself ashamed and embarrassed by some of the groups and individuals who call themselves Christians. Last Sunday’s New York Times ran a front-page piece about continuing atrocities in Central and Western Africa attributed to groups claiming to be doing “The Lord’s work.” In Congo the Lord’s Resistance Army continues to commit atrocities in Eastern Congo and continues to foment strife at Congo’s borders with Burundi, Uganda, and Rwanda. The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, operates out of Southern Sudan and Eastern Congo. Their modus operandi includes abduction, rape, maiming, and killing civilians, including children. Kony has said that his Lord’s Resistance Army is in a holy war to establish a government based on the Biblical Ten Commandments. What they do in reality is kidnap children and force them to become child soldiers. They rape women and girls of child-bearing age to carry out “God’s commandment to go and replenish the earth.” They keep young girls as concubines and reassure themselves that it’s all part of God’s plan. At the present time more than one-half-million people have been displaced from their homelands and are now struggling just to survive in temporary refugee camps.

When Pat Robertson and his colleagues explain God to the millions of people in their fundamentalist Christian churches and schools, the message is clear. The Bible should be read with an understanding that every word, every phrase, every story is literally God’s own words telling God’s own account of what actually happened more than two-thousand years ago. When we read an account of the Garden of Eden with a walking snake, we must believe there was a walking snake. If the story says God walked in the garden in the cool of the day, then we are to believe there was a time six-thousand years ago when God took leisurely strolls around a fantastic garden. We are to believe the account of the Deluge just as it is told, including the big wooden boat and all the animals boarding in orderly fashion before the rains begin. When the Bible says Moses parted the Red Sea, we are to believe the waters rolled up on both sides of a path that miraculously left a dry path for the “children” of Israel to pass before the waters closed on and killed the pursuing Egyptians. We are told to believe that God is sometimes loving, but that He (definitely HE) sometimes goes into a jealous rage.

The fear factor has long been important in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic world. This week members of an apocalyptic Christian group in Michigan were taken into custody for planning to murder a policeman and then kill law enforcement officers in hopes of inciting an antigovernment uprising. The Hutaree group planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and then bomb the funeral caravan using improvised explosive devices based on designs used against American troops by insurgents in Iraq. They apparently aren’t affiliated with the Tea Party Movement but are a separate bunch of whackos with their own agenda that grows out of a belief that God wants them to destroy the government of decadent America, where some apparently think the President is the fabled Antichrist. The Hutaree is a word apparently made up by leader David B. Sloan Sr. to mean Christian warriors. These Christian warriors see the local police as “foot soldiers” for the federal government, which the group views as God’s enemy. The Hutaree’s philosophy is drawn from a populist strand that fuses fear of a conspiracy to create a one-world government with a belief that a war is imminent between Christians and the Antichrist, as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

So the obvious question is, “Why do I, Jerral Miles, stay involved with the Methodist Church or with any church?” That’s an easy one. Christianity is built around a philosophy which declares that people can and should live together in peace. The Jesus from whom the religion takes its name was a man of peace. His Gospel is based in a simple idea that a person should treat other people the way he/she would like to be treated... meet the needs of neighbors... do no harm. I will continue to try to live with faith that Jesus’ simple idea works. I am not interested in defending any belief system or creed. I will continue to try to participate in Church activities that are beautiful and reasonable... like the meaningful worship service in which Elbert Kim talked with children... like listening quietly as Stanley Wicks leads his choirs in anthems about peace and love... like enjoying Robert Plimpton’s organ music washing over me as I sit in the beautiful sanctuary... and like listening to sermons by any of the church’s pastors who accept as I do the Church’s commitment to Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors... and I will continue to object and to make my objection known when the church discriminates against any individual or group of individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. I will continue to work with the small group of friends who are determined to persuade our church to become a reconciling congregation. I will stay because I believe the larger community is better with the church in it than it would be without it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

By Christina Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Here we all are in the beautiful lily-white church
filled to the brim with wonderful lily-white children
and gray grandparents all in lovely straight rows...
Nothing distastefully irregular or out of place here.

What my memory searches for is a rooster crowing,
smoky charcoal mornings on a Malaysian hillside,
the log house by a dirt road in backcountry Arkansas,
a Mexican farmhouse down the road from San Miguel...
to recreate old pictures in the region of my heart,
something I cannot must not will not name or lose,
like that distant feeling in the back of the neck
when the wind whistles--white curtains billowing
across screens on open doors and windows in summer...
organic loneliness that once shrouded primordial earth...
warm air rustling the dry underfronds of Chamaerops humilis,
precursor to the trembling sorrow of man.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The poem has been on my desktop for at least a month... unfinished. Springtime is a right time for love and for watching especially young people trying to figure out what love means.

From the time I rode my bike from the hillside community where I live until I huffed and puffed my way back up Ulrick Road, the natural beauty of the world reassured me that things can come around right in America, in spite of all the posturing in Washington over the new health care program. I am wondering how the folks who have set their minds against a program that makes possible adequate health care for everyone will celebrate Palm Sunday. Haven't they learned anything from the gentle man who rode the donkey into Jerusalem on his way to his death?


Nothing else on earth is as innately intelligent
and ignorant at the same time
as an adolescent girl in love,
an even fifty percent basic instinct
and the rest a muddy muddle of raw longing.
Her mother should be able to understand,
having been there once herself.
Her father has no hope of understanding.
He thinks something has changed in her walk.
Her voice has dropped a fraction of an octave.
Her direct gaze at every living creature
says she knows some new thing,
and he is afraid he knows what it is.

Daffodils two days after they open
show absolutely no signs of wilting.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hope is Jeremy...

...and Michael
...and Jesse

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The little dustup in the House a couple of days ago between Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer and Democrat Bart Stupack served to remind us that some of the people who represent us in Congress are a little slow on the uptake when it comes to critical reasoning. Stupack had said he wasn’t going to jeopardize his place in heaven by supporting a bill that might make abortion possible for someone who can’t afford to pay for it herself. He later negotiated a change in the bill and voted with Democrats. Neugebauer, hearing that Catholic Stupack had decided to go with the President and other Democrats, shouted “baby killer” as Stupack was speaking. First, I wondered what kind of god must Stupack's god be if he/she/it would squish him like a bug and flick him off into hell for his vote one way or the other? Besides this program is not about abortion or gay marriage or gays in the military, it is about finally making reasonable, affordable health care available to Americans who have not until now been able to afford it. In what kind of intellectual vacuum do Stupack and Neugebauer live? Neugebauer’s sophomoric outburst shows him to have limited reasoning ability... or perhaps just limited self control. Anatomy doesn’t have to be a his strong suit for him to know the difference between a fertilized egg and a baby. It was clear to me what I should think about abortion several years ago when I met two young sisters in a county receiving home for girls, one thirteen and the other fifteen who had been impregnated by their father. I was not the appropriate person to try to persuade the girls to get appropriate medical help and to consider abortion, but I was relieved when I learned later that it had happened. If either Neugebauer or Stupack had been in charge of the program, the girls‘ lives would have advanced from grossly complicated to utterly tragic. Neugebauer’s statements about sanctity of life don’t ring true when he is willing, obviously eager, to go on denying health care to millions of our poorest citizens.
The ocean with surf and sea breeze and birds almost always brings me around right. As I walked along the edge of the surf I thought of the old Shaker Hymn and sang it quietly to myself. Being simple isn’t the same as being stupid.

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘tis the gift to be free,
‘tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.


When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I thought about using sour grapes for my photo du jour, but couldn’t figure out how to make a photograph show the difference between sweet, easy to swallow grapes and the kind that leave a distinctly bad taste. My eyes fell on the bowl of shriveled peppers in the kitchen and decided they might make an interesting picture to go along with the thoughts that have bothered me since I watched the morning news on television. A glum-faced senator from Oklahoma with an obviously shriveled sense of history declared that the health care bill passed by Congress was the worst thing ever to happen to America. I wonder what he thinks about slavery condoned by Congress until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and about the forced relocation of some of my distant Cherokee relatives (4,000 of the 15,000 died from exposure, disease, and starvation) from their homelands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).

President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday a bill passed by Congress that assures health care for even the poorest Americans. Until the law can take effect one in six Americans does not have health insurance. Fifteen percent (46 million) of the people in the world’s wealthiest nation are without health insurance, most don’t have insurance coverage because they simply cannot afford the premiums. Many others are denied coverage by insurance companies because they are in poor health. The health care bill, which passed despite the fact that every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted against, is a legislative step that finally addresses the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America. The bill is not about redistributing wealth. It is not about putting America on the road to becoming a communist state. It is not about taking anything away from secure Americans. The President’s words as he prepared to sign the legislation on Tuesday said it perfectly: “...We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Full of Grace...Looking Back

Grand daughter of Simon,
daughter of Fidel,
niece of Che,
my slightly darker cousin
from somewhere south of the border
rides the Green Line Trolley
on her way to or from work
cleaning house
or making tacos or tending
somebody waiting for God
in a Valley nursing home...
all the while never losing
dignity and integrity
bred into her by a long line
of sufferers...
She works and waits
for the next inevitable
revolution hoping it
will be mounted
with kindness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Design is everything.
Well color, too,
and the wedding
of color and form
to get this tiny flower
no bigger than a quarter...
How is it possible
in a world of sand and
rocks and mud
such things could
come to be?

A botanist could tell me
more about how and why
than I need to know.
The important thing
isn’t just that it’s here
but that I know it’s here,
can see it and smell it
and touch it gently
and protect it and hope
it will go on.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The wasp I saw working on Sunday
ignored me and went about its business
of gathering whatever it is that wasps need
from the cluster of small white flowers

near the door to the sanctuary of a church
full of music and preaching and pure light
from little flickers of Pentecost fire
burning through stained glass high up
with Jesus rising above the suffering world

out there somewhere but not here, not here
where confidence and assuredness reign
and at least the appearance of all rightness
sits side by side in comfortable pews

and one completely confident lady
under a pure white broad brimmed hat
sits ramrod straight and comfortably mute
with no need at all for the water and the blood
from the Rock of Ages to cleft for her
and almost certainly unaware of the beauty
of a single busy wasp doing what wasps do
not far from where she sits on Sunday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

THE BIG CELEBRATION IN EL CAJON TODAY WAS A TRADITIONAL CHALDEAN BLESSING OF THE RINGS AT THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY FOR RANDY AND LISA. I'LL ADD MORE PHOTOGRAPHS TOMORROW.Ed and his Sister Sue and Niece Samantha who came from Phoenix for the occasion. I'll post many more photographs of the party tomorrow.