INDULGE ME, Please, As I Put a Face on Homelessness

Soup kitchen face

INDULGE ME, PLEASE, AS I PUT A FACE ON homelessness, food, housing & health insecurity. This is one of many fine people with whom I dine, laugh, fear and hope at our soup kitchen, barber shop, food pantry and other places. With sincerity, I proclaim that I am a better person for having known and interacted with persons such as this man.

FORGIVE ME, PLEASE, AS I STRUGGLE with resentment at the many people who call and write to me at the Congregational Church of Patchogue ~ demanding that I remove the “homeless, drug-addicted, dirtbag creatures” that we feed, shower, clothe and offer free haircuts to on a regular basis. Such comments, calls and letters are not surprising.

Housing, health, love, and food-insecure people ~ I have witnessed for years ~ are apparently not even worthy of a smile or utterance of a “Good morning.” They simply do not even exist in the mind and eyes of many. When I recently petitioned leaders to place a portable toilet near our mobile shower unit; I was told that to do so “would encourage them to move to our town when we already have too many.” Can you imagine being “encouraged” to move to a community because it provided a good place to pee? How, then, do we interpret the outrage that someone is seen peeing in a bush? Last time I checked, peeing was not optional.

If we want to figure-out how we will be remembered ~ I bet a dirty dollar that it will not be by our cocktail parties and wit. It will not be by our illustrious watering holes. We will be remembered, as persons, community and country ~ by how we treated those among us who are in distress.

FINALLY ~ INDULGE ME, PLEASE, AS I THANK many of you for your small, large and in-between offerings to help us help others, year round, for 30 years and counting. While our efforts are certainly not “fun” or “profitable” ~ they are absolutely, profoundly and deeply rewarding.

May peace and other blessings be upon you,

Pastor Dwight.

Sometimes, Even a 20 Minute Break Can Make a Difference

Bellport docks

SOMETIMES, EVEN A 20 MINUTE BREAK MAKES A DIFFERENCE between being busy but feeling empty ~ and being busy but feeling fulfilled. If my cellphone needs and deserves to be recharged ~ so too do I. I wish to thank the chattering birds; the whistling wind; the sloshing waves; the soon-to-set sun; and the gift of silence for their part in my spiritual restoration. Peace & Happy Thanksgiving Season, Dwight Lee Wolter

It is with Deep Sadness & Joy that I Announce My Grandson Got His Butt Kicked in the 3rd Grade Election

Oliver for VP

IT IS WITH DEEP SADNESS & JOY THAT I ANNOUNCE that my grandson, Oliver, lost the election. SADNESS in that, well, he lost. Darn! JOY in that he congratulated the winner; did not blame anyone; and still holds hands with those who did not vote for him while they cross dangerous intersections on field trips. He has chosen to learn & become stronger in defeat. He is my role model.

The Russians didn’t meddle. The voting box wasn’t rigged. The polling places did not have hours that rendered persons of certain ethnicities and socioeconomic status from getting to vote. There was no Supreme Court-style of teacher and administrator override to call the election. There were no hanging chads. No Electoral College. Leave all that to the grownups.

After the election it was time for lunch. Everyone sat together. After that was recess. Everyone played together.

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Well, imagine it. It happened. Civility isn’t dead. Just napping.

AIN’T NO DENYING THERE IS CLIMATE CHANGE, IMPEACHMENT, SCHOOL SHOOTINGS… BUT THERE IS ALSO THIS

angel drawing

AIN’T NO DENYING climate change; impeachment hearings; school shootings; you name it… And there also ain’t no denying that innocence continues to blossom and bloom; that good people are everywhere; that hope flows like blood through our hearts; and that peace beckons us forward.
Thanks to a, so-far, unidentified kid at the Congregational Church of Patchogue who drew this. She/he raised my spirits up, and I can’t wait to say thank you.
Thank you for the reminder that “Jaded” is not a lifestyle; that “Sarcastic” isn’t a birthmark; that “Resenter” isn’t an occupation. Thank you, dear child, for the reminder that I sometimes fall into pits of negativity and bouts of fear voluntarily and mindlessly.
Thank you for waking me from my stupor; for showing me that my relationship to the world is an inherently creative one. Thank you for showing me what I have turned my back on; and what I can choose to turn to face.
Thank you that ~ on my stroll down a barely-lit hallway in a chilly church long after everyone else had gone home as I was preoccupied with my failure once again to save, heal or be of much help to this or that ~
I saw your drawing of an angel with a visible heart.
Thank you for waking me up to see that they are everywhere ~ and that maybe, sometimes, I am one of them. Today I will act, and see and believe… accordingly.

President Jimmy Carter Undergoes Brain Surgery

CarterFORMER PRESIDENT, JIMMY CARTER, 95 years old, is undergoing brain surgery to stop a bleed. Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, has announced that he will not be teaching Sunday School this week. They have also requested our prayers for him. He has mine.

We, as a nation and a world, will come to better know and appreciate what this man has done since he left office. He is simply an amazing person; and yet, not so amazing in that he has done so as a common person, an American patriot, a global citizen, an interfaith advocate, a model of kindness and perseverance and, for almost 100 years ~ a devout Christian. I cannot speak for you, but in this Age of Angst, I am most grateful for this model of awareness, advocacy and action will keeping dignity and decency.

I do pray ~ not for his recovery ~ for that is up to God. I pray, as would he, Thy Will Be Done, on Earth As It Is in Heaven.

Are you catching any fish? ~ No, never…”

 

 

fisherman 2

“ARE YOU CATCHING ANY FISH?” I asked the first time I saw him on the pier. “No, never.” he said as he cast. “Then why do you come here?” I asked. “It isn’t about the fish” he answered. “Then what is it about?” I asked. He pointed to the sky, the water, the horizon, the dimly-lit houses dotting the distant shore. “This is my church, Rev.” he said. Almost every day, except winter, he is there. He has become like a brother to me, as we pass the offering basket of love between the souls of our two-person-congregation. Peace, Dwight Lee Wolter

Religion, Hemorrhoids, Saoirse Ronan & The Spiritual Journey of “Lady Bird”

saoirse ronan 1

If the film, Lady Bird, had been set in a bordello on the border ~ the cruelties and crudities of teenage bordello life would have been front and center in the promotion. If it had been set at a juvenile detention center in a struggling inner city ~ the derelict denial of resources and treatment for incarcerated teenagers would have been banner headlines in the reviews.
However, the trailer, promotion and reviews describe the setting of Lady Bird simply as “in a high school.” Yup. This coming-of-age tale of a middle-class girl, her silly friends, and her controlling mother who just doesn’t understand was primarily set in a high school.
What is not mentioned anywhere that I could find is that the high school is a Catholic, religious high school. Why is that important detail not mentioned? Perhaps it is because religion in general and Catholicism in specific are, well, currently out of vogue.
Religion, in the popular culture, nowadays, is like hemorrhoids. We know they exist out there somewhere and some people suffer under their influence. It is known to be a pain in the butt, but we just tend to collectively not talk about it. Religion and hemorrhoids are simply not the makings of polite conversation.
That said, the setting of Lady Bird in a Catholic high school is very important to acknowledge and talk about because it provides the context for the spiritual journey of young Lady Bird’s soul.
Like the poems of William Blake, Lady Bird is both “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found” ~ not in the context of the transitions from innocence to experience in the late 1700’s ~ but in the context of a girl’s physical, emotional and spiritual transitions in Sacramento, California in the early 2000’s.
In the subtleties and nuances of this deeply spiritual film, we witness a teenage girl desperate for meaning and purpose in a superficial world populated by barely conscious people. Lady Bird yearns to fly and soar but her wings are clipped by well-intentioned people whose own lives never got off the ground and who, unconsciously, believe the solution to the soaring spirit of Lady Bird is to keep her grounded.
Lady Bird yearns to be free. She dreams of going to Yale, but with her idiosyncrasies and mediocre grades; she will, according to her own mother as they argue in the car ~ Lady Bird will be going to city college, and then to jail, and then back to city college where she will finally “learn to pull herself up.” At hearing that (spoiler alert): Lady Bird throws herself out of the moving vehicle.
That, to put it mildly, is a desire to escape that many persons, including myself, can identify with. As a high school teenager yearning to be free of the mass numbness and dumbness I saw in my family, school and society ~ I sought escape, not by hurling myself out of a car ~ but by hurling myself into a drug and alcohol altered reality that I thought was far preferable, until it almost killed me. Tis a far better thing to die interesting than to live boring. Once free of the unquenchable demons unleashed by alcohol and drug ~ I turned to the fairer angels of art through which I continued my quest to create an alternative life above and beyond the muddy wheel rut into which I had been born.
Many religious strands are woven deeply into the fabric of Ladybird. The film begins with vacuous recitations of prayers and petitions for mercy by students assembled in the high school gym as they mouth the words to “Hail Mary” and the “Lord’s Prayer” that start the school day.
I offer no rebuttal to the proposition that Lady Bird is an exceptionally troubled, yet vibrant spirit. We the viewers feel the shackles that the educational and religious institutions place on youth when conformity, not authenticity, is what is valued and demanded.
But beneath the forms and uniforms of religious education that we so readily dismissed as stupid and archaic in today’s increasingly secular world, lies a yearning for meaning and purpose.
One beacon of light in the darkness of school life is a passionate, loving and supportive priest who teaches the acting class. He believes in, encourages and supports the student actors. This priest is one of those rare teachers that can leave a positive, lifelong impression on a young, unformed, insecure soul. The priest, like his students, is deeply human. He struggles with personal grief and is the first to cry in the class he is teaching on “Authenticity.” When the school play is finally produced, he laments, to himself, that the people in the audience “just didn’t get it.” In a room of teenagers and their families after the show, his depression and Shakespearian sense of futility is palpable ~ just as is the sense of futility in Lady Bird and other students in their young lives of angst and doubt.
We later see the priest with his psychotherapist, revealing how he ~ though of a different ethnicity, age and gender ~ struggles with many of the same issues as does young Lady Bird. Shortly after the scene with the psychotherapist, the priest drops out of his job as teacher and director of the young actors and disappears from the film. He is a foreshadowing of what may be the fate of Lady Bird, and is the fate of many others who abandon their call to dream, to hope, to reinvent themselves and to be transformed by remaining faithful to their spiritual quest and journey.
Another memorable character ~ the Mother Superior of the school ~ offers wise and worldly advice to young Lady Bird, even when she is the brunt of Lady Bird’s jokes; such as when Lady Bird tied cans and a sign “Just Married to Jesus” to the back of the nun’s car. Later, when Lady Bird is called into the Mother Superior’s office; the supposedly strict nun lovingly says that she thought the prank was funny, and that she actually does feel that she has been married to Jesus “for over forty years.” It is a touching, spiritual, loving, non-judgmental encounter between two women who seek a bonding to a power greater than themselves.
The film even ends with Lady Bird engaging in a long night of drunkenness, puking, sex with a stranger, and being taken to the hospital. The following morning, she leaves the hospital and goes, with streaked makeup from the night before ~ to a church, listens to the choir in rehearsal, and has a silent epiphany, a spiritual awakening of some sort and emerges from the church with profound sense of authenticity that it seems she had been fruitlessly seeking in family, society, school and in life all along.
Like a Pope who claims a new name upon their accession; like the Biblical character, Jacob, who wrestles with an angel and receives a blessing and a name change to Israel ~ Lady Bird receives a name change as well. Lady Bird returns to her birth name. She is once again, Christine. It is difficult to overlook the first six letters of her name.

This piece is previously and recently published in The Porch Magazine.

Dwight Lee Wolter

We Simply Can’t Afford to Care

I offer the homeless man sleeping on the front porch of the Congregational Church of Patchogue a bottle of cold water and a plastic cup of fruit cocktail with a pull-off lid before I tell him he has to move and there is no public shelter I can refer him to. We simply can’t afford it.

I have no moralizing jeremiad to lay upon anyone this Sunday morning. I simply see another collective, victimization brewing in our never-ending quest to blame. Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain’s “Unplugged” sweater just sold at auction for$334,000.

Amen

https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/celebrity/kurt-cobains-unplugged-sweater-sells-for-record-dollar334000-at-auction/ar-AAJpnBy?ocid=spartandhp

THE DANGER & COURAGE OF PAINTING A BLACK JESUS

Jesus

Welcome to “Jesus of the People” by Janet McKenzie. I met her in Albuquerque at a Father Richard Rohr conference and have been in correspondence with her ever since. Fr. Rohr had included the major exhibition of her work as a presentation on equal footing with the talkers. AND NOW THE BACK STORY: Janet submitted this in 1999 to an art contest asking for submissions for “a 21st century depiction of Jesus.” She received hate mail, death threats, and Westboro Baptist Church planned a protest at her rural, small farmhouse ~ but it was cancelled due to a blizzard. Those are the folk who protest at funerals of gay civilians and soldiers they call fag***s at the gravesite in the presence of family and friends of the deceased. This humble, quiet, private artist has more courage and integrity than any artist I have ever met. Visit janetmckenzie.com

THE WHOLE GOOD VS. EVIL THING SEEMS REDICULOUS SOMETIMES, BUT…

THE HEAVEN vs. HELL, SAINT vs. SINNER, JESUS vs. SATAN THING SEEMS REDICULOUS sometimes. But I happen to very much like the notion that rampant narcissism, cruelty, and indifference to others is not without consequences. Even if “heaven” and “hell” etc. are artificial constructs ~ it is an attempt to call people to a greater good that shall, now or later, be rewarded.

By the way, I am aware that some people take offense to the Euro-looking, Aryan-feature Jesus depiction. Others take offense to this depiction of Satan. They claim he has blonde, blow-dried hair, small hands, and orange (not red) skin. Okay. Whatever. Beauty (or the lack of it) is in the eye of the beholder. All depictions, for me, fall into the REDICULOUS category as well. I am talking about deeds and attitudes, not appearances. So, who do you thik will win this arm-wrestle?angel and Jesus