DAY OR NIGHT REALITIES

Is there more than one reality? Some would answer no, and I would tend to agree with them, in most circumstances anyway… however, there have been times when I have questioned that which I believe in the light of day with what I experience in the dead of night. Let me explain.

There was a time when I would walk alone to our crematorium in the evening hours, or sometimes late at night if I had trouble sleeping. The daytime reality was caring for the sick and dying in hospice care and there seemed almost no escape from that reality because medicines to treat HIV were not yet available to us. I knew that sitting alone in a room filled with pictures of the deceased and imagining them being able to communicate with me was a fantasy… but it was for me an alternative reality that kept me going.

One night, after everyone had bedded down for the evening, I slipped out of the hospice and walked alone down the trail that led to the crematorium. As I entered the room, I greeted the photos with a “Hello everyone”, as was my custom whenever I entered alone. “Hi”, came back a surprising response that sent chills running down my spine. Unbeknown to me, one of the children had followed me in the dark that night and simply replied to my greeting as if I had meant it for him. It took me a little while to recover and, to be quite honest, part of me was disappointed the response had not come from someone that lived in my alternative reality.

On another evening, as storm clouds began congregating above me, I again made my way down that trail I knew so well. However, this time, my flashlight only made a hole in the darkness, causing me to be more aware of the sounds around me, sounds that normally I would have ignored. “Hello,” I said, a bit nervously, as I opened the door and entered the room. I lit a candle and set my flashlight down on the table as I reached for the vase holding the incense sticks. A sudden burst of light filled the room, followed by a loud crack of thunder and gush of wind that slammed the door shut, causing the candle to go out and knocking my flashlight to the floor. Like a child, I panicked and took off running in the dark. Breathless and with heart-pounding I reached the safety of the office just as raindrops began to fall. I stood there in the rain letting it wash away my fear, allowing me to return to a reality I felt more comfortable with. 

Tonight I am back to sleeping alone in the same room we used as a hospice long ago. The Volunteer dorm where I normally sleep is packed with quarantined garment factory workers, for who knows how long. The crematorium is still warm from the last cremation and storm clouds are gathering overhead. Could be an interesting night.

Most of us live in just one reality… but that doesn’t mean that other realities don’t exist just outside of the boundaries we have set for ourselves. Is what we see at times, out of the corner of our eyes, another reality… or is it just a fantasy? To be honest with you, I don’t know, my answer would be different depending on the time of day you ask me.

PRAYER

LIFE

May you stumble and fall as you forge ahead,
May your failures bring heartbreak and pain.
May your legs grow weary… your mind grow numb,
And your friends all call you insane. 

You’ve chosen a Path few others will take, 
But fear not what lies ahead,
For the rewards of this Life wait not at Its end,
But in Living each day instead.

So live Life at Its fullest without fear or doubt,
Find adventure in all that you do,
For there’s much to be learned in both Joy and Sorrow.
Your response is the making of you. 

I once believed that my personal relationship with God was so great, that whatever I asked in His name would be granted to me… unless of course, he felt it wasn’t good for me. I have had several wonderful answers to prayers over the years, many of which could only be explained as miracles… of course, there were also the disappointments in Life with those requests that were denied. 

I remember a time when I was young, I believe the year was 1956, and I saw through our dining room window, a tornado heading straight for our house out in the country. I called my parents and when dad saw it he told us all to go down the stairs immediately and start praying. I was trembling as we huddled in the southwest corner of the basement, behind the wringer washing machine. I started praying harder than I ever had before and may even have prayed in tongues without knowing it. In all earnestness I prayed that God would protect my family and change the path of the storm… the wind stopped blowing as the storm changed its course. Like a miracle, it veered off to the west and missed us completely. 

There was another time when in Vietnam I dug a foxhole between two large rocks to protect myself from the enemy mortars that came in every evening. As I was finishing the job, the Captain came and told me to move closer to the tanks, in case I was needed on the front line during the night. I unwillingly packed my things and moved forward, but before I could get the hole completed, the mortars started coming in. I put my head down in the shallow hole but, like an ostrich, left a majority of my body unprotected above ground. I could hear the mortars coming in closer and closer to where I was kneeling and then a blast of dirt nearly covered me, as one landing just in front of me. I knew the next one would either be a direct hit or somewhere behind me. It is amazing how many promises one can make in a few seconds of time, but God answered my prayers and spared my Life.

I continued for many years to believe that God was listening to my prayers and granting most of my requests. It is comforting to think of God in this way… a strong defender against harm and protector from all evil forces… but now, in looking back, after years of working with innocent victims of Life’s cruelties, I pray that he never took any of my advice… for when the tornado changed its course, it went through the small town of Standale instead, killing many people and doing a lot of damage, damage that may not have happened if it had continued to come straight at us… and the mortar that didn’t hit me, killed instead our radioman, who was well protected in the first hole that I had dug. 

To believe that God had changed his plans to suit my selfish request would therefore make me responsible for the death and destruction my request had caused to others… and that is a responsibility I would prefer not owning.

Life experiences Itself through us and how we respond to these experiences is our contribution to Life. Let us rejoice and be glad in every circumstance we encounter.

WITHERING BUDS

I am not a perfectionist; I can accept the fact that mankind is flawed and that most of what I know and see in others is only a facade… behind which hides an undeveloped personage, that if given the chance, could become a luminary. This seldom happens, however, and the bud withers and dies without ever blossoming… and I wonder why?

I am not a conspiracy theorist, however, I am convinced that many of the stories I have been told from pulpits and podiums are not true and that the leaders that feed these fabrications know the truth but are unwilling to share them… and I wonder why?

Why would I, and much of mankind, be forced to live in darkness? Who are the keepers of the light, and why would a gardener plant a flower, only to allow it to wither and die before it ever fully blossomed?

Were we created to be nothing… are we only just dust in the wind… or is there a purpose in our existence?

Could It be that we are all just seeds that have been planted in this compost pile we call Earth, slowly decaying until there is seemingly nothing that remains of us… and then, on one bright sunny morning, we awaken and begin to sprout on the other side of what we now know as Life?

FORKS IN THE ROAD I HAVE TRAVELED

A friend questioned on Facebook if, because of the turmoil in the world today, we might be on the “EVE OF DESTRUCTION”, referencing a song from the 60s by Barry McGuire.  My response was:

“In the late 70s, I was the youth representative for a Billy Graham Crusade scheduled for Gallup, New Mexico. They wanted me to contact someone for a pre-crusade youth rally that would get young people to come out. I called Barry McGuire, because he had had a major influence on me, both as a singer and a Christian, and when I asked him if he could do it he just laughed. He said he would love to have the opportunity but was quite sure the BG people would not have anything to do with him because it could soil the image of the crusade. He was right and I resigned as the youth representative immediately when they confirmed his assumptions.”

He responded: “Wayne, you are a treasure trove of information and great stories! But, you should have known the BGA would nix it. Creativity and prophetic imagination and that kind of Christianity never mixed, especially back in those times.”

My response: “That was back when I still had “Faith” in religion and anything was possible.”

And being a buff on rock music, he responded:” My faith was so much stronger then. I believed in fellow man and I was so much older then, when I was young,” which is a verse out of “WHEN I WAS YOUNG”, a song by Eric Burdon and the Animals.

As soon as I saw his reference to The Animals, I was transported back in time to the year 1966, riding in a 1956 Chevy with the first heathen friend I had ever known. My whole life prior to that time was spent with Christians and, although we had done naughty things as boys, they were the kind of things that could be easily be washed away with a simple prayer. I had just turned 21 and was stationed at Quonset Point, RI as a Navy Corpsman. I had met many heathen men in boot camp but never made friends with any of them and was feeling rather lonely and not sure I had done the right thing by enlisting. Mike was a year older than me and had 6 months more of the military than I did and so knew how to get off base on weekends. He also had his own car which made it easier. I ran into him one afternoon behind the barracks where he was repairing the engine of his car. He asked if I would help him and, not having anything else to do, I said I would.

We spent three afternoons putting the engine back together and, even though he cussed a lot, I started getting to know him. When the weekend came around he asked me if I would like to leave the base to get a drink at a tavern down the road. I had never been to a bar before and I wasn’t really sure if it was the right thing for me to do… but curiosity got the best of me and so I agreed.

Being in civilian clothes again felt good, as did getting off the base, but I wasn’t too sure if drinking in a bar was a good idea. Mike had some experience with doing it and he seemed okay… well, except for the constant swearing.  He turned the radio on and asked if I liked rock music. I told him I wasn’t that familiar with it but enjoyed most types of music, meaning gospel, country, and classical. He turned the dial to his favorite station and the volume up to the max as we cruised down the highway, windows down. I listened but was not very impressed, but I didn’t say anything about it. My mind was to busy wondering if I should continue on with him or ask to get out and hitchhike back to the base.

“Now, here is a song that is making its way up the charts,” the announcer said, as the first cords of a guitar started playing. The sound was different and caught my attention, and by the time the first line was sung I knew my life would be heading in a new direction. “There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun.”

THE PLAYWRIGHT

It is not so much that I mind what people want to believe in, but when they do not want to discuss why they believe what they do, it sometimes is a bit frustrating. I remember a time, several years back, just after being asked to resign my position by the Director of Mission to Unreached Peoples. We were on a bus sitting next to each other in the back seat but didn’t do too much talking… not that I didn’t want to, but because whenever I would ask him a specific question about what he believed in, his answer was always, “I don’t know, I guess I never really thought about it.”  That seemed strange to me at the time, and I finally stopped asking questions and ended our relationship in silence.

Perhaps, however, he was not lying after all… for I have known others, since that time, who have said they are believers… but when asked to explain what they believe in, they don’t have a clue as to how to answer. When pressed, they finally admit that they believe what they believe because they heard it from someone they trusted, but had never really thought about it on their own. Imagine that… living your whole life on the words of someone else without asking yourself if there is any validity to what you are being told.

There are many points in all religions that don’t make a whole lot of sense to me but one, in particular, has bothered me for a long long time and, in fact, I was kicked out of Mr. Timer’s Sunday school class nearly 65 years ago for asking, “How could God know all things before they happen?”

For that to be true, God would have had to write the screenplay of Life in advance and then create a cast of bit actors (that would be you and me) to play the different roles. We are not told anything about the plot or the ending of the play, only given our daily script to act out… and for the play to be successful, none of us can ad-lib our parts, because that just might ruin the ending. Does that sound realistic to anyone? Are we all just bit actors in God’s play and when our part is not needed anymore, we just fade away (go to Heaven) like the actors on General Hospital?

Of course, given the state of our World today, it would be nice to believe that God did write the script and has prepared a happy ending for it… like maybe a Rapture of all the good guys followed by a Grand Finale, with heavily armed Angels rounding up all the bad guys and throwing them into a Lake of Fire. Great idea for a Mel Gibson movie… and in the end, while the Titles are scrolling across the screen, the audience of Heavenly Host and raptured bit actors would be shown giving a standing ovation to God, the Playwright and Creator of the entire cast and settings, for the rest of eternity.   Of course, if God didn’t write the script and we are not just bit actors in his play, but real live people ad-libing day to day on this planet Earth… who but ourselves could we hold responsible for the condition of our Life and of our World?

My reason for writing is not to provide answers but to raise questions. Questions that hopefully will encourage others to become stronger in their Beliefs … because to not do so is to have to continue living in the apathetic World we live in today. We can do better!

GOODNESS AND MERCY

I have done some really bad things in my Lifetime… things that I regret and wish I could erase from my memory forever. It is, however, because I do remember these things, that I have changed my behavior and become the person I am today.

I have planted some beautiful flower gardens in my lifetime, fragrant and vivid blossoms that were the envy of the neighborhood. None, however, were grown without first spreading some awful smelling compost on the ground.

I have known some real Heroes in my Life… men who risk and even gave their Life away to help a stranger… one of those strangers being me. They were not always Heroes… most were guys just like me who liked to drink, smoke, and tell dirty stories. Their heroism came out only in the midst of a fierce gun battle.

It seems Life, and therefore God consists of both good and evil, neither of which can mature fully without the other.

Surely Goodness and Mercy shall rise up out of the death and destruction we are now witnessing on our streets today.

CAMBODIAN CORONA PROTECTION

I don’t regret being brought up in a Christian environment… however, because I was, I must admit that at times I get a feeling of superiority when I see how ridiculous are some of the practices of non-Christians.

Almost as soon as the news of the Coronavirus was made public, these stuffed dummies began appearing in front of the homes of our neighbors.

They are meant to scare away the evil virus and protect the home and family from being infected.

Not all are as creative as their neighbors… or perhaps just didn’t have the time or material to make a dummy and so an ugly picture was drawn to let the virus know that it is not welcomed at this home.

Hey, that one resembles me… so that is where my old jeans ended up. It is a bit scary… but how ridiculous to believe that it would have any effect on a virus.

Imagine putting your faith in a dummy and even acknowledging your ignorance by displaying it in your front yard. I asked someone why they believed in this practice and they told me that it was because most of the houses that have dummies in front of them, do not get the Coronavirus… but that is not always the case.

I guess in many ways it is similar to those who pray… you don’t always get what you ask for.

Wayne Dale Matthysse

THE TRANSFORMERS

Every time I come upon a revolutionary new thought pertaining to life and existence, I realize, after doing some research, that someone else has already come up with the same thought years before I did and I have to wonder why it is that we could not just start from where they left off and carry the ball a little further each time. Every trail I have ever taken, regardless of how far off the beaten path it was, has been forged by someone else long before me… and I have come to the conclusion that there really is nothing new to learn about Life.

There is, however, still much that I personally do not understand and so I will continue my Journey… for who knows, perhaps one day I will catch up to the One who blazes the trails and we will be able to walk together.

By most indicators, our World is falling apart, at least for the Western Societies and perhaps that is not a bad thing. It is time to return to a more natural civilization that is less about the individual and more about the community. I like the idea of a One World Order but I don’t have much hope of it happening in my lifetime, at least not this one. Still… I like to believe that what I am doing now will one day make it happen. For me, that is what Wat Opot is all about.

We have some rough weather ahead of us I believe, but we need not be afraid. We are, after all, Created Beings and collectively we form Creation which is the Heart and Soul of Our Creator. Some people will have a problem with this statement for, like me in my Christian days, they prefer to see themselves as worthless beings, incapable of doing anything right. Sinners from the day they were born. Condemned to Hell for eternity because of something someone supposedly did in the bushes thousands of years before them; except of course, for the privileged few who were Chosen by a Loving God, before time began, to be spared of this torturous destiny. What a horrible way to go through this life; believing that everyone who was not Chosen, is a despicable filthy piece of trash that will burn forever in the incinerators of Hell.

Every morning, after taking my shower, I look into the beautiful Face of the Lord God Almighty while brushing my teeth. He is always right there in front of me, smiling His approval from the other side of the mirror. Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who is really hurting while you try your best to help them? If you look closely you will see the face of God looking back at you, for God is nothing more than a reflection of our self.

Creation is the Soul of Its Creator.
All that there is and all that will be.
Depends solely on what happens,
Between you and me.

No Heaven or Hell awaits us,
There is no destination,
Life will continue forever,
We are Its Transformation.

Wayne Dale Matthysse

FORGIVENESS

Seems to me that the world has forgotten how to forgive one another… how to judge a person, not on that which he has done in the past… but on what he has learned from those things he has done in ignorance. There are few of us who can say that they have never broken any law, even fewer who haven’t thought unclean or in appropriate thoughts and perhaps even acted out on some of them in their younger years or at periods of weakness in their life. Not many of us can claim perfection and most of us have closets that are kept off limits and closely guarded from all but the closest of friends. Yet we judge others by standards that we ourself have not yet attained.

We learn very little in school and much of what we do learn is forgotten with the passing of time… yet most of us can remember nearly every lie we have ever told, every misdeed we have done, especially those we got away with, and all of those victims that we took advantage of, but are no longer around to seek forgiveness from. We remember these things because they are always with us, hanging neatly in the closet that we built for them. To protect our closet we find fault with those who remind us of those things we are hiding… hoping that our attack will deter others from suspecting us of similar thought or behavior.

Guilt is often the primary obstacle that prevents many of us from becoming all that we can be because it robs us of the ability to see goodness in ourself or in others. Until we have learned to forgive ourself and taken steps toward atonement, we will not truly be able to forgive others or accept them as new creations. Out of the darkness, Light was born, so too, our atoning goodness is a result of past misdeeds.

Let us forgive that which was done in ignorance and rejoice in the product of redemption that we can see before us.

Wayne Dale Matthysse