REMBRANDT PAINTED 63 SELF-PORTRAITS, searching for the spiritual within the physical; believing that he had to enter into his own dark cellars and light rooms, if he wanted to penetrate the mystery of interiority; realizing that what is most personal is most universal. (inspired by Henri Nouwen). How is it possible to know someone else if you do not know yourself? If you don’t know who you really are, how can you possibly seek a partner? Reaching out to others who are suffering is a wonderful motivation; but reaching in to know your own suffering will better assure your effectiveness.
SO HELP ME GOD ~ I WOULD SAY THIS NO MATTER WHO WAS THE CURRENT OCCUPANT OF THE WHITE HOUSE OR THEIR PARTY AFFILIATION: To say that you support peaceful protesters and then have peaceful protesters teargassed to clear the way for you to walk to a church, and use the church and the Judeo-Christian holy scripture known as the Bible as props in a photo-op is deeply offensive. The Bishop of that historic church ~ that was firebombed recently, just as many churches and other houses of faith are firebombed throughout American history for coddling “sinners” and seekers after justice ~ immediately declared her outrage. If Trump were to open that Bible he would find many stories of slavery “Let my people go!”; oppression, injustice, protest as well as pleas for peace. He would see the dire results of tolerating or inflaming nation divided against nation. Within that Bible ~ if he were to have at least opened it and perhaps offered a passage from it ~ he might have read, “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.” That is why slaves were savagely beaten if caught with the Bible. It inspired hope, modeled resistance to systemic injustice, and promised change based upon changed hearts and minds. This photo-op is deeply shameful behavior and it is with a heavy heart that I feel no alternative but to write this. As always, I pray for you to have peace, healing and health. And today I add a prayer that God may have mercy on us. Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
IN RESPONSE TO NUMEROUS POSTS ABOUT REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. BEING SOME CARTOON-LIKE PEACEFUL FOOL who would be less peaceful if he saw what happened to George Floyd and others ~ I offer this personal reflection: MLK followed a man named Jesus who was lynched for standing up to injustice (see: “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” by James H. Cone). MLK was named after Martin Luther, who stood up to the abuse of the church and there was a death threat on him for the rest of his life. Colin Kapernick took a knee, and MLK took a bullet. Both played their part in peaceful protest. MLK was the son of a bishop and an ordained minister himself. They co-pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where I have gone to pay homage. MLK was a lifelong, devout, educated believer in the peaceful mission of Jesus the Christ and Mohandas Gandhi, who was also murdered. Burning down your own laundromat and the store where your mother buys her groceries is either an act of self-destructive rage or an act of a Protest Imposter who wants to sow division so as to make protest and outrage seem illegitimate. Peace Whenever Possible, Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
This morning, Wednesday, May 20th, at a press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, to an Interfaith Advisory Council that is charged with, among other things, looking into the reopening of houses of faith. We will keep you posted on the progress of the Interfaith Advisory Council.
The press has already been contacting me asking about opening for worship, funerals, and weddings. But let us not forget about how to enforce social distancing with six year old kids in a Sunday school, mosque or synagogue. And how about changing diapers in the nursery, or singing by the choir or congregation (singing has been likened to coughing as regards germ/virus spread). Don’t forget to ask about using books of scripture and song. What do we do about our food pantries and soup kitchens? At our church we have (until we closed it abruptly with the onset of the pandemic) a free hair salon and mobile shower unit. Will they ever reopen? Under what conditions?
I was asked by a television team today what my number one issue on the agenda will be. My answer was, “To remain civil and allow each other to have doubts, unanswerable questions, and other reflections of living in a pandemic the likes of which no person on the Governor’s Advisory Council was even alive to experience the last time it happened in America.”
Whether you are a religious person or not ~ pray for and with us. May God have mercy on us all as we strive to do our best. And may God ~ however we conceptualize, define, understand or misunderstand God ~ may this God guide our feet as we trod this rocky path that leads us home.
Peace & Health,
Dwight Lee Wolter
Here I am as I am, wearing no makeup. In full disclosure, I never wear makeup ~ but that does not alter the fact that here I am wearing no makeup. I offer this photo of myself with no makeup today as I think of a young friend who posted a photo of herself on social media; revealing a part of herself to the world that she usually keeps to herself and her partner.
She posted a closeup of what she looks like when working from home, self-quarantined during a global pandemic. No need to dress up her face. No standing in front of the bathroom mirror separating lashes and drawing a black line of demarcation at the border of her bottom eyelids. No color added to her cheeks. No nothing. Au naturel.
“Here I am as I am” her photo seems to proudly, quietly, proclaim. She revealed a part of herself that until then had remained concealed. The photo also revealed her as bold, defiant and proud. I could see it in her eyes. The photo also revealed a shy trepidation about having posted the revelatory photo. I could see that too in her eyes.
This revelation of identity reminds me of some young parents-to-be who host Reveal Parties at which they announce the gender of their child. It also reminds me of people gathered in parks and museums in front of statues covered in cloth. They wait until lofty words offered by dignitaries finally end and then the cloth is released, and it falls to the ground and the finished product is revealed. “Here I am as I am” the statue seems to proudly, quietly, proclaim.
Loneliness hosts a reveal party also. It wipes away the way I wish to be perceived and allows people to see me as I most often am. Loneliness releases the cover I drape over myself and reveals what lies underneath. “Here you are as you are” it says to us.
Loneliness has taught me today that I need not makeup or coverup parts of myself to appease or please you. I confess that sometimes, particularly in the morning, I look in the bathroom mirror and am startled or disappointed by the person I see there. “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” Sometimes I look in the mirror and see the face of loneliness. Sometimes that is not the face I want to see, but it is the face I reluctantly see.
Sometimes people do look better when adorned with makeup. Maybe I should try it. Sometimes statues do make people seem taller, bolder, and better looking than they are. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as I do not fail to see and accept the person behind the mask and under the things I drape over myself to manipulate my identity.
Loneliness humbles me as any great teacher and friend would. It helps me to see and accept myself just as I am.
My latest book is “Loneliness Book of World Records” and it is a lighthearted, yet serious look at the curious gifts that loneliness can provide ~ it invited, welcomes and accepted. Here is a link by which to order through Amazon in kindle or paper:
FASHION TIPS for Self-Quarantine During a Global Pandemic: (2) When I was a little boy, my mother took me on her knee and said, “When you grow up, if there is ever a global pandemic that effectively shuts down New York and much of the world ~ make sure your facemask matches your shirt.” Thanks, Mom! Rest in peace.
My health may (or may not) be taken from me. My wallet may (possibly) be depleted. But if my sense of humor, self-respect and resilience leave me ~ call the undertaker. And tell him or her to make sure my shirt is not wrinkled.
By the way, I have a new book out on amazon, available in kindle and paper. It is titled, “Loneliness Book of World Records” by Dwight Lee Wolter (that be me. I use all three names). I won’t tell you how truly fun, inspiring and yet deferential to the seriousness of loneliness during this pandemic. It is also not a pandemic book. Anyway, take a look.
“FASHION TIPS for Self-Quarantine During a Global Pandemic” is a series I will post whenever so inspired during the COVID19 pandemic. Today, I begin with…
(1) Do not slouch around the house in pajamas and a robe just because you can. Even if working from home, with no one looking or caring ~ today is a special day! Another day to hope, love, care, share and more… is a good day. BTW, do you like my tie with ostriches wearing baseball caps? I do.
By the way, I have a new book out: “Loneliness Book of World Records” I will post more about it later, but if you wish to get a head start, here is the link to purchasing a kindle or paper version. I kept it affordable knowing that, for many, these are financial lean times.
WE CELEBRATED “COMMUNION” WITH CHOCOLATE EASTER EGGS, SKIDDLES & JELLY BEANS during our Congregational Church of Patchogue Easter Sunday Children Church Chat Zoom Meeting. The kids held up the Easter eggs I had sent them to color in. They showed & told about Easter baskets & dinner in their homes & about the first Easter & what it might mean today to see new life arise from deadly situations. There are grownups in our church who have not missed an Easter service in 50, 60, 70 years. Many of these kids have not missed an Easter service in our church in their entire lives. They were so happy to see each other once again. The rituals of church are patterns that the kids find comfort in. Showing and telling; laughing; raising their virtual hand on their screen; listening to Mr. Craig sing and play music for them as he does each Sunday ~ all of this and more makes an impression on their souls; calms their minds; mitigates their fear and isolation. We formed and are continuing to form our own little church. The door to the chapel is their laptop or cellphone. Different church, same Jesus. Our bodies were in separate homes ~ but our spirits were in the same place, if only for 30 minutes.
Bless, Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
Noah was going about his business one day ~ thinking about food, family, work, politics and whatnot ~ when God spoke to him and said that something horrendous was about to break loose. It wasn’t exactly a global pandemic; but it might as well have been. It was going to be a flood, the likes of which would change the world! Deniers, cynics, politicians and religious leaders had their doubts ~ but God trusted Noah to act promptly and decisively. God instructed Noah to build an ark (read: big boat). Noah replied that there was so little water in their neck-of-the-globe that they even named puddles! Just kidding. God was not in the mood for lousy jokes.
Noah went to work on the ark. He gathered his family and two representatives of every living creature ~ along with some vegetables, fruits, flowers, weeds and house plants. Even mosquitoes. Almost forgot to mention spiders.
People thought Noah was nuts. Paranoid. Delusional. Thought it was a hoax; a prank; a lie. Even Noah wasn’t completely sure. But God had a plan. And Noah had a timely, thoughtful and somewhat expensive response. Lumber has never been cheap. But Noah’s labor was his gift to God and to the world. Even if they didn’t say thank you.
The ark was built. Human and other creatures entered, reluctantly. The first official complaints were about sleeping accommodations and the smell. Oh, the smell!
Even as the flood waters rose about the treetops ~ they hated staying indoors. Outdoors was no safe option, but they hated indoors nonetheless. Forty days is a long, long time to spend with the likes of giraffes, aardvarks and flies. Don’t you think? Tempers flared. People snored. All creatures great and small began to lose weight. Some people got seasick. A human cough sent ripples of fear through the ark. Children languished. Got better. Languished again. People tried and failed to keep social distance. Not being drowned was a plus; but survival was no picnic. Prayers and smoke floated ever upward. Some people choked on both. They formed a community; a little world floating atop a larger world. They settled-in against the shock of it all happening so fast. They lived on morsels of food, faith, hope and promise that things would get better. They waited. And they waited.
And they remembered. They remembered better times that were taken for granted: the feel of a leaf; of sand between toes; of drifting off to sleep with nothing particular on their mind. Then they woke with memory of the freakiness of what was happening. OMG! Was etched on the inside wall of the ark by someone who preferred to remain anonymous. They fought a strong impulse to hoard and withdraw into themselves. They couldn’t defend themselves against the realization that their wellbeing was, and perhaps always was, dependent on the wellbeing of others.
Eventually, the waters began to subside. A dove returned to the ark with a sprig of an olive breach in its beak. Land appeared. A rainbow appeared. The ark settled in the mud of earth, that was not yet solid and stable under their feet. We don’t know what the world looked like when they disemb-ark-ed. But the aftermath couldn’t have been pretty. The world was changed forever. So were they. Naturally.
The first thing Noah did when he stood on ground after over a month of quarantine and waiting-out-the-storm was to build an altar and thank God for their survival. They had made it! And we will too! The global crisis had affected their body; but it had not infected their soul. Their story of travail and survival has survived and for thousands of years has been available as our teacher. They way in which we suffer and survive together will change the world. Our willingness to sacrifice on behalf of each other and assist each other will also legendary. Pandemics and floods will come again in time. What we do and don’t do today will immensely help people tomorrow. Suffer well. And recover in joy and in peace.