meditation

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I give it to you,
the pain,
the sorrow,
the disappointment.
Too long it has
lived here,
too long.

I now release
the sadness and grief.
I release the anger,
I release the bitterness
and unforgiveness.
Take it,
burn it.

I beg of you
to let us continue,
to embrace
that which is good,
wholesome,
worthy,
glorious.

Release the resentments,
the vile thoughts,
that which hinders,
that which betrays,
that which condemns.
Bring us peace,
Bring us compassion.

In your power
hold us,
comfort,
console,
guide,
resurrect,
transform.

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yesterday

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”  Elie Wiesel

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Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Several of my blogging friends wrote about it and covered the details thoroughly.  In my newspaper today a well-written article by the AP also gave recognition to the greatest act of inhumanity ever in modern history.

And some people say, “Whaaaat? What are you talking about?”

To me it is unfathomable that anyone living on planet Earth does not know that over 6 millions Jews plus Roma, gays, and the handicapped were systematically rounded up, sent to the death camps and murdered.  To me it is unconscionable that groups exist in my state that say the Holocaust was a hoax.

My newspaper article this morning referenced a study released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Azriekli Foundation stating that in Canada 52% of millennials cannot not name even one of the concentration camps and that 62% of millennials did not know about the 6 million Jews killed.  These findings are similar to a study conducted last year in the USA.

We must never forget nor allow others to forget what happened in the death camps.  We must always stand up for the oppressed and disenfranchised.  Not knowing is not an excuse.

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when belief becomes action

“Over the past few decades, our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live….But in Jesus we don’t just see a presentation of doctrines but an invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world.”  Shane Claiborne (1)

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In chapter 2 of the Bible’s book of James, verse 17 – “faith without works is dead” – is a favorite of addiction recovery programs.  It is the foundational premise of the fellowship’s call to live a life of service to others through works.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not the copyrighted property of Christianity.  Many major religions and cultures profess an obeisance to this maxim.

But it is not merely a statement of belief.  It demands supporting action in the way I live, in the way I treat other people.  Not only family, friends and neighbors should receive my best efforts to live by the “golden rule,” but everyone on earth who names themselves a member of the species homo-sapiens.

Tall order, isn’t it?   Now, let’s stretch it.  How about every creation of the God whom I name as Lord of my life?  The birds, tigers, my pet cat, fish, the flowers of the field, our water resources, the air we breathe – everything?  They are all a portion of the gift given to us to use and enjoy.  Treat creation with the respect and stewardship with which we want to be treated.  Might be a much better world, don’t you think?

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life.  It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves to inhabit this land.”  Sitting Bull

In contrast to our world of greed and disregard for the elements of nature, the forgotten creed of the Native American embodied a legendary wisdom and spirituality.  Animals were respected as equal in rights and, when hunted, they were killed only for food. The hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. (2)

Born in 1182 into wealth, St. Francis of Assisi, during his conversion period, was considered a madman when he renounced money and chose to live simply practicing equality by honoring, respecting and loving every person whether beggar or pope.  Francis’ love of nature is well recorded in writings, but his love was much deeper than enjoying time in the woods to admire the beauty.  His brotherhood included all of God’s creations.  To him the sparrow was as much his brother as the pope. (3)

Francis, born Giovanni Bernardone, had no thoughts to establish a monastic order named after him, but when called to serve his God, his answer was yes.  What will my answer be?  How about you?  Please take 5 minutes and 27 seconds of your life to watch the Franciscan Plea For the Soul of America.

(1) Shane Claiborne

(2)  www.pantheism.net

(3) www.catholic.org

 

Giovanni Bernardone

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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You and I have read in the Gospels the verses where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), “Consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow” (Luke 12:24,27), and “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

Challenging?  Absolutely.  Then, when I am convinced that these are unattainable directives, I remember that I am following a suggested program of spiritual recovery.  I can never do it perfectly in this lifetime.  On the practical side, Jesus in his life on earth probably never had material wealth with which to concern himself.  He did not share the wealth of the Romans or the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Jesus also said not to worry about tomorrow.  For us in today’s world of turmoil and tribulation this also is a difficult directive to follow.  Tell that to the federal employees who worked without a paycheck for 34 days, or the father of four who has been told his company is shutting down next week, or the single mother who is trying to provide for her family on a minimum wage job.  C’mon Jesus, this is 2019.  We have a lot more about which to worry.

And as for enemies, Jesus, even though you were crucified, you didn’t have nuclear weapons controlled by madmen poised to obliterate you, your city and your country.  I don’t mean to slight your perspective, but we live in different times.  There are people who seriously hate us because of who we are.  And you want us to love them?

Francesco faced the same issues in his home town.  Pietro Bernardone returned from a business trip to France to learn that in his absence his wife had birthed a son whom she baptized Giovanni honoring John the Baptist.  Pietro was furious.  He did not want a man of God – he wanted a man of business.  He renamed his son Francesco.

Francesco enjoyed a very happy, privileged childhood.  As he grew up, he became the leader of a crowd of young people who loved to party and carouse.  Thomas of Celano said of him, “In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.”

But Francesco did not want to be a businessman like his father.  He wanted to be a fighter and got his chance to do so when his town declared war on the nearby town of Perugia.  Captured and thrown in prison, he was finally ransomed after a year and returned to his life partying with his friends.  But he still wanted to be a noble, a knight of distinction.

He got his opportunity when a call went out for knights to join the Fourth Crusade.  He was fitted with a suit of armor decorated with gold and a magnificent cloak, then rode off to join the Crusade.  But, only a day’s ride from his home town, Francesco had a dream in which God told him he was wrong and should return home.

At this point in the story, you and I should ask, “Why would a wealthy, worldly, privileged noble man accustomed to parties and fun-loving friends heed a God-dream and abandon his own personal dream of pursuing honor and fame?”

Upon returning home he was humiliated, laughed at, called a coward and raged at by his father who had funded the expensive suit of armor.

And thus begins the converted life of Francis of Assisi.  God called him and he could only answer, “Yes.”  Reading the passages about giving up all possessions, living for today, and loving his enemies, Francis decided to live as if Jesus really meant what he said in scriptures.  He turned his back on the materialism and militarism of the world and said, “Yes , Jesus.”

I believe that is what Jesus wants us to do.  He doesn’t want us to impoverish ourselves, to live irresponsible lives, or to throw ourselves down at the feet of our enemies.  He just wants us to say, “Yes.”

Francis of Assisihttp://www.cac.org

Giovanni Bernardone  – http://www.catholic.org

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Imperium Romanum

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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IMPERIUM ROMANUM

The Roman Republic (Roma) dated from 509 BC to 27 BC after which the Roman Empire was established.  It had a government headed by emperors and held large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia.  Until 285 AD the empire was ruled from Rome when it split into the Western Roman Empire based in Milan and later Ravenna and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Nicodemia and later Constantinople.  The West fell to Germanic Herullians in 476 AD, the East fell to Ottoman Turks in 1453.

In 380 AD Emperor Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the West.  Earlier, in 313, Emperor Constantine convened councils of bishops to define the orthodoxy of the Christian faith.  Ecumenical councils were convened at the direction of the ruling emperor to assemble ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice.  The 1st seven ecumenical councils of the Church were: 1) First Council of Nicaea in 325, 2) First Council of Constantinople in 381, 3) Council of Ephesus in 431, 4) Council of Chalcedon in 451, 5) Second Council of Constantinople in 553, 6) Third Council of Constantinople from 680-681, and 7) Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

 “Did you know that the first seven Councils of the Church, agreed upon by both East and West, were all either convened or formally presided over by emperors? This is no small point. Emperors and governments do not tend to be interested in an ethic of love, service, or nonviolence (God forbid!), and surely not forgiveness unless it somehow helps them stay in power.” cac.org

Fr. Richard Rohr, a follower of the Franciscan order, does not mince words when describing the formative years of Christianity as a time when Roman emperors exerted power and control over the population through religion.  Our liturgy in contemporary Christian worship services recites the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds which define what Christians should believe, but leaves the implementation of that belief unexplored.

“The Christ of the creeds is not tethered to earth – to the real , historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus of Nazareth.  Instead, this image is mostly mental abstraction with little heart, all spirit, and almost no flesh or soul.  Sometimes it seems like Christianity’s only mission is to keep announcing its vision and philosophy. This is what happens when power and empire take over the message.”  cac.org  (underlined emphasis is mine)

In my mind, the urgency for a renewal of Christianity according to the early writings of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth becomes ever more pressing when religious leaders endorse a government policy which clearly defies the teachings of Scriptures by stating those same teachings of love and compassion, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” do not apply to our interaction with people of a differing creed, nationality, or culture.  Furthering the incredulity is when those same church leaders dismiss government leaders from any obligation to moral discernment when dispensing their official duties. This coalition of church and state, both without a moral compass, foretells a broken American Empire. Washington Post – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Thanks to Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org for the quotes and inspiration for this post.  He ends with the following words:

“Humanity now needs a Jesus who is historical, relevant for real life….a Jesus whose life can save us even more than his death does….a Jesus we can imitate in practical ways….” cac.org

red letter Christians

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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One of my daily reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. It is a ministry which I use to lead my desire for simplicity in my faith walk.  You may have a red letter KJV Bible as I do.  Mine was presented to me on the occasion of confirmation at age 13 into the Lutheran Church.  Over the years I felt a need to add a Scofield, a Comparative Study Bible which presents 4 translations side-by-side, and an American Standard Bible.  I also have a translation of the Torah and a Concordance.  Additionally, my book shelves overflow with commentaries and theological opinions.

I am not trying to impress you with my collection of books.  I am letting you know that I am the ultimate doubter.  I am the apostle Thomas in the Jesus story.  “Let me see your hands with the nail holes and the scars on your head from the crown of thorns.  Prove to me through the many books which I have read that you are real, that you are indeed a Lord and Master.”

And nothing happened.  I learned an abundance of information about Israel, about Jerusalem, about the apostles who followed Jesus, about life under the Jewish religious hierarchy, about the oppression of the common people.  But, I sadly realized that somehow I was not getting the message.  And why was that?

I began to understand through engaging with the community of ‘red letter Christians’, those followers who find their truth in the red letters of the Bible, the words which are attributed to Jesus, the Christ, the union of man and God. The words, the teachings, the parables, the healings popped off the printed page and became real when I saw them as a guide to living rather than a God 101 course.  When I read those red letters as a call to action rather than a statement of belief, my faith can be transactional rather than static.

I believe Jesus spoke those red letter words in his ministry, but it doesn’t matter if he did not.  I believe he walked the earth as a common peasant, that he had healing powers, that he performed miracles, that he died on a cross.  But it does not matter if he did not because I do not worship Jesus, I merely aspire in my everyday life to be more like the man portrayed in my Bible.  I accept those red letters presented to doubters like me as proof that you and I can hope to live life abundantly even when persecuted,  even when destitute, even when crucified for being who we are.

Many of you, like me, grew up in churches with spectacular stained glass windows, with a crucifix in the sanctuary and paintings depicting Biblical stories.  Some of us mistakenly were taught to worship those icons and images.  The heavens were filled with angels and a wrathful God holding lightning bolts in his hand.  We recited the Creeds as statements of belief.  But nowhere in those creeds does the humanity of Jesus take precedence.  The love, compassion, forgiveness are forgotten.  In the Apostles’ Creed Jesus is taken from “born of the Virgin Mary” to persecution under Pontius Pilate to crucifixion on the cross, to death.

Did Jesus not live a life in his 32-34 years walking the earth between “born of the Virgin Mary” to “died and was buried”?  That was the missing link in my years playing the role of doubting Thomas.  The red letters tell me about the man who ministered to the poor, healed the broken, forgave the sinner, and also lived his life abundantly.  He did not shy away from a wedding with flowing wine or a good time with friends or supper with society’s disenfranchised.

That’s the Jesus to whom I can relate, the one I want my life to emulate.

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more informed, less sane

worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength – corrie ten boom

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Larry, a blogging buddy over at JUST DRIVE WILL YOU, commented on my recent post ME WORRY? NEVER  –

“I definitely think most of us are more informed and less sane these days.”

Can any of you contradict that observation?  During the Vietnam War we who viewed the carnage happening in the jungles and rice paddies were more informed than our parents who had lived through the second World War.  Radio and newspapers kept them informed as best they could, but it was the images on the screen that turned us during the 1960s into well-informed people.  The war scenes, the protests in the streets of Chicago and other major cities, the police brutality at the Democratic National Convention, the haunting picture of a 9 year-old Vietnamese girl burned by napalm running naked down the street…..these truths reported and televised made us better informed people.

As today, our nation then was a divided people.  But the stories and images which we digested forced us to change our minds and condemn what was happening overseas, led us as voters to direct our government that enough was enough, we would no longer tolerate that war.  And it was the information presented to us on television screens that brought about a disengagement with Vietnam.

We did not have 24/7 news coverage, we did not have a conservative network or a liberal network.  CNN, Fox, MSNBC were not on the air pumping their narrative into our brains every minute of every day.  But the coverage we did watch was truthful news reporting by a trusted team of dedicated journalists.  We had Walter Cronkite visiting with us every night at supper time, telling us what was happening in the world and we trusted him almost as much as we trusted God, maybe more so.

So why would Larry from JUST DRIVE WILL YOU believe that we are more informed as a people but less sane?  I think all of us agree that the information available at any given moment today exceeds anything the Vietnam War generation could ever imagine.  The internet puts all that information just a click away.  And we, being the curious creatures and conscientious citizens that we are, want to absorb as much as we can.  Stories from far away places are now available in seconds.  We absorb and process, absorb and process, absorb and process until we reach a plateau called overload.  Symptoms of overload can be anxiety, lack of focus, frustration, impatience, and depression.  Yep, we are headed to a condition of being “less sane”, are we not?

Overload leads to burnout.  Burnout is an emotional state in which you and I can no longer conduct our lives rationally or effectively.   We try to function as always, try to maintain an appearance of being in control, but inside our churning gut the world is topsy-turvy and  ready at any moment to crash.  Many of us do crash.  We become less sane than we were yesterday.  Granted, we know everything happening in the world, we know what politician called whom a slut, we know what preacher says it’s OK to kill in the name of God, we know the price of gold and silver, we know what the stock market did today.  But, we no longer know peace.  That’s one helluva price to pay to be more informed, don’t you think?

I speak with authority because I have been there.  I can still go there if I am not selective in what I watch on TV, what I allow into my brain.  The bottom line is the fact that, in my human condition, I want to control as much of my world as possible.  I want every ethnicity to be accepted, every creed to be honored, every lifestyle to be tolerated.  But, the world doesn’t always agree with me and I can only change my world by being an example of what I believe is right.  And I don’t need CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Reuters, NBC, or any other news media service to tell me what is right.  My gut tells me that.  Some folks call it conscience, some Spirit. Trust your Spirit.  It is never wrong.