Throne? What Throne? Down here!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2016 by michaelcogdill

A devotion from Richard Rohr reminds us God is not who we tend to think God is. No imperious man on a throne. No tyrant in a robe, rewarding the self righteous for how right they deem themselves in their right fighting.

No, it’s more complicated than that. And more simple.

Ever wonder why the people living in the afterglow of a great fall can seem so spiritual? So comforting? There’s no small evidence it’s because they met our ageless, gender-free Maker in their humble brokenness. When they fell, God didn’t fall with them. God was there on the concrete tarmac of their dark landing. Waiting. Humble. As if to say, I knew you’d get here. Now, let’s go home.

It takes a big God to live in every human frailty. We have screw-up down to a science, and think of how many across the ages.

Here’s a frailty of just sitting, doing nothing. In America, we take clean water for granted. In other parts of the world, clean water might as well flow from the very temple of a God who seems to have forgotten that corner of creation. But alas, we are all remembered. And in the poorest of the poor, on the hard ground of their world, those of us rich who seek God will find God. Perhaps then we might hear God say, I knew you’d come, carrying water. Welcome home.

An Ugly Dog, The Perfect Gift, and a Perfect Day

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2015 by michaelcogdill

John Wooden said there’s no perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

Most of us do this without knowing. We do it with tax money, charity giving — both best done without grousing. A scowl over a gift renders the gift a mute. Runs joy off with a meat cleaver.

But how many of you thought instantly of money at seeing Wooden’s idea? Easy, isn’t it, to assume the word repay must come with a wallet attached?

In my father’s lifetime, I saw often what a conversation could do. My dad could talk about anything with anyone, often in a language anyone could grasp. Yes, that means what you think it means. He could make his presence a gift. A Divine one. I miss it even now.

Ever make someone laugh without intending? Ever see the laughing Buddha? Think Jesus didn’t laugh? Think God has no sense of humor? Look at a donkey. Watch an otter pick a fight. I need merely see my dad get mad at a lawn mower, again, in my mind’s eye.

What brings another human being comfort, a moment’s joy, an unexpected cackle — these don’t get repaid. Or do they? The receiver need not pay it back. The payoff comes by some ethereal way. No need to believe in magic to feel magic.

My parents once parented the ugliest dog in canine history. A chihuahua crossed with a pekingese, a mating surely blessed in hell. A neighbor said she looked like a Dr. Suess medical experiment. She was ugly, malodorous and loud. She carried the halitosis of a lion and the charm of a badger. But she was loved. And even she could love in a way no human could repay. She made my father howl. My mother deemed her adorable. Blessed woman of the Lord. In their home she did for them what all their love could never quite repay. When she died, we all grieved. I was married and long gone by then. I still grieve her. I do.

We needn’t be beautiful to matter. To perfect someone’s day. We needn’t. even smell just right. We need merely be. Human beings, not human doings.

Our being a gift, no one can repay.

Be a Horse, Not a Horse’s …. Well, You Know

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2015 by michaelcogdill

A horse will not resent you for naming him Jubel. You can name a horse Cathead Biscuit and call him Horse’s Ass for short with narry a problem. The horse is unaffected. He’s a creature who lives by feel, not by label. He’s not self-conscious.

He knows you love him by what’s in your eyes. The touch of your fingertips. The sound of you more than the words of you. The miracle of your caring presence matters more than the horse’s very own name to the horse. He has a stellar ability to let go of all else that doesn’t matter. Thats just a name.

What people call us — the ugly and the lovely — doesn’t make us that thing they say we are. But simply to be present with someone, mindful even across time zones, this makes us intimate and well with one another. This warms our inner hearth.

Find the labels people give you worrisome? Tending to believe all the praise? We’re all tempted. Let’s give in — instead — to letting go. Release the worry of what people say.

Then, eye up that fence. You know the one. The fence that hems you into relationships that wound. Those that hinge on labels instead of love. Jump that fence. Don’t wait for someone to cut a gate.

Judeo-Christian Jefferson?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2015 by michaelcogdill

“For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.”

Thomas Jefferson said this as a visionary, a thinker, and a wildly imperfect man. If you think he shared your religious values, I would dare say, probably not. Jefferson was a Deist. A man of reason in pursuit of what humankind could understand.

Jefferson understood the classic languages. He read the Bible in its myriad translations, and sought to comprehend its mysticism and its human creation by way of the mind. Someone once argued with me that America was founded on Judeo Christian values. This is as true as saying the stars come out at night. But why do they? How far away do they glow? The values of Jefferson are those of a seeker, a man who sought to know what he did not know, and stopped short of believing much of what he couldn’t. Jeffersonian Christianity would set off shouts of heresy in the vacation Bible school of my upbringing.

I say this to speak here of my faith. This is a commentary on religion, yes I dare. I say this as a caveat against thoughtless following.

Think before you believe. Think upon the times of the writings that cause you to believe. Understand that much of this life — often its most beautiful mysteries — will always lie beyond the reach of our understanding. Those who protest to know everything, to understand everything, understand poorly. Theirs is a poverty of seeking. Of yearning. They refuse to know that they do not know.

The Jeffersonian Bible is a document of assiduous hand, of assumptions and the refusal to make assumptions, of crunching under the shoes of the mind the oats of a harvest we did not sow.

If Mr. Jefferson’s view of the omniscient and omnipotent Watchmaker is true, I believe the Watchmaker tends to the gears, oils the machinery, perhaps winds us up into a tension between love and evil, knowing love will prevail. Knowing that Love made the watch.

The sun sets each day upon the Tidal Basin in D.C., its quiet water and the rush of traffic flowing around Mr. Jefferson in his memorial, standing in repose, upright, yet dead, clothed in his time, yet timeless in the country he helped bring out of the ground. We are his America, and an America beyond him. He envisioned, brilliantly, so much of our need, and could not see some of what would come against us. Mr. Jefferson, in all his flawed humanity, lives in the vitality of the documents he made and the nation we keep making.

And I believe if he were alive today, Mr. Jefferson would say — seek. Seek before you claim to know. Seek to try to know. Then accept what is unknowable. Accept and have peace, beyond a simple word of the mind.

To believe in God, without claiming to have God in a box somewhere — that, perhaps, is the culmination of the Age of Reason. And true faith.

I believe Mr. Jefferson followed truth to the cliffs of mystery, paused to reason for a while, then took the leap.  We all will take it upon our final breaths.

Thank you, Mr. Jefferson, for America, greater now than she was. I am thankful, too, for a Christian faith that deems it reasonable to believe only God is good at being God, after all.

Media Bias? Ready? Set? Empathize!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2015 by michaelcogdill
To be blind….but worse is to have eyes and not see.
Helen Keller
I’ve just listened to a 911 call about a 2 year old accidentally shot to death. At the network affiliate television station I serve, we will not air this excruciating outflow of human tragedy. Yet as I sit here listening, I’m reminded how so many see us. They believe mainstream media sit around dreaming up ways to oppose their agendas and inflict harm. They are utterly wrong. We are no machinery of sadistic madness. We seek to serve as a Constitutionally mandated tool of expansive and questioning minds. We hear and see so much we protect you from out of decency. But we will never protect you from the truth.
We nurture the vine of human fact without adding the barbs of human indignity.
The next time you hear someone speaking of the so called biased media, ask for an example, quick. Don’t accept one from Fox Newchannel, MSNBC or National Review. These are outlets that live on advocacy journalism. And then look up a dynamic called motivated reasoning. It’s the seed of so much of the blind railing you’ll hear on cable and in the cubicle next to yours.
When you see a reporter covering something that breaks your heart, consider the reporter’s heart. The photographer’s heart. It is as yours. And chances are good that crew has seen or heard something that to share would amount to tragedy voyeurism and exploitation. We do not do this. We never will. It’s no cause for a merit badge. It’s simple human decency.
We remove the gore, but not the truth. And often, we take home with us what does not enter your home. To see the news is to require more than the naked eye. It demands a seers soul. A quiet connection to another’s suffering.  As a journalist, I will never objectify the suffering of another.  I will seek to feel it, and to report on it with due journalist detachment, never losing attachment to my humanity, or yours.
Do not spare your children from the news. Those who grew up on the Vietnam images, the Kennedy funeral and MLK assassination, the collective anguish of 911 are not emotionally scarred. They are broader of heart. They are the lesser naive. And I’ll dare say they are truly hopeful. They know love is no emotion, but an action. A state of being and doing. Truly human. They dare to be. And to see.

Love Like a Man!!!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2015 by michaelcogdill

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
Mahatma Gandhi

This is one of the finest statement’s of courageous vulnerability I’ve ever seen. I highlight this here for men. May we not wait to tell our fathers, sons, friends we love them. May we not let the words linger inside us until they come pouring out over a casket.

Dare to love, and dare to speak it. Let’s not let cowardice rule.  Let us rule cowardice.

Gentlemen, and especially those failing to qualify under the title, if there’s a rage within you that moves you to hit a woman, I implore you — pick on somebody your own size. Yourself. Only you can change who you are. Only you. It’s no one’s fault but your own that you carry this rage. An abusive childhood, a critical coach, bullying — none of these comes with a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card. You own what you say and do. It’s on you to get help. It’s your calling to have an authentic experience with God.

Same with addicts. Of any kind.

But the news arcs upward from here. Up into light. We live in a United States that circles arms around the broken. There is good, true, non-enabling help all over the place., and it works. Support groups are free.

If you walk around stinking in this culture, and you’re even close to an adult, it’s your fault now. Soap and water are everywhere. Their ubiquity in every public John from Maine to Guam. AA meetings, not quite as common, but close. Libraries brim with free books on how to resolve rage, find free resources, gain peace.  Then there’s the internet, where free help is good science, and funny as hell.

Man up, fellas.  No more excuses.  And watch that link until he pulls out the fish.  I mean, why didn’t I think of therapy by perch, or whatever that is, crappie, bream, whatever?  I can’t stop laughing at the dude.

Peace, y’all. Peace that’s real.

Dumb and Dumber: Inviting the Real Cuss Words to Sit Down and Shut up?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2015 by michaelcogdill

Not long ago, while working out on a trail fitness station near my mom’s, I heard a child utter words so foul, so profane, their stench will linger a long while in my memory.

“Dumb and dumber,” he pointed at two girls about his age, as they all swarmed together, parents obliviously nearby. “Dumb one and dumb two” he grinned, pointing down at them. He aroused a partner in his crime, a boy about two years younger. Proof that children can lead one another straight into the swamps of hell on earth.

They are not little angels. They are little humans, longing early for the rule of law, so often missing.

Making this experience even more vile is this. The victims are Hispanic children. The perpetrators Caucasian. All about 9 years old. A humanity-drowning hurt pooled deep in the eyes of the girls. A pride much too heavy for any man to carry fell from the grins on those boys.

These are not my children to parent. I could only make some quick eye contact as a bystander to the vulgarity. The face of a highway patrolman came over me. I felt it. The boys saw it. I’m glad they did. I hope their parents did as well. I wish I could comfort the girls who were victimized. Perhaps I did. That look sent the boys scattering. The girls got to play again in peace.

I and some other adults finished our workout without a word. I left, thinking about the folly of so-called bad words.

So many spend so much energy decrying the culture. A cuss word somehow stands for the devil, while the likes of “dumb, stupid, stooge, retard” and a litany of others you can surely call to mind stand as rites of passage. Just innocent banter among children. That banter cuts like a rusted machete. Yet we cut even mild cuss words out of movies in the name of family values.

If a family counts “stupid, retard, idiot” as acceptable for kids to wield at one another, count me out of those values.

Yes, I know we’ve all said seemingly innocent things that are not. Hopefully the hurt up in the eyes of our victims schooled us in the true definition of profanity. I do not define it as Jerry Falwell did. I never will.

A few weeks ago, I commented here about my late friend, the Rev Bob Lawrence. Bob could truly out preach a million clergy, and out cuss the crew of an air craft carrier. He was funny. Authentic. As real as humanity gets, and deeply loving and wise. I never heard him refer to someone as dumb or stupid or even a fool. Someone came along and questioned my taste in ministers. I accept the critique. Love the critic. But he does not change my opinion at all on what counts as a true cuss.

Those little boys swinging around “dumb” would likely take a hard parental scolding if they replaced it with something Joe Pesci might say in Goodfellas. Honestly, I’d chide less for a so-called cuss word than for an epithet that will travel home and linger, like a dehumanizing stench, in the memory of a little girl.

Twain said better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Even as he defies the standard here, he makes the point.

There’s a canyon’s worth of difference between a cathartic cuss and a truly ugly, unintelligent profanity. May we all worry far more about the dropping of a D Bomb. Dumb seems so innocent until it flies into our face. Then we see — it makes a bona fide ass of the mouth from which it falls. Especially our own.


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