a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”  NELSON MANDELA

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” GANDHI

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Some of you are saying, “Larry, what does poverty have to do with a great day?”

Did you wake up from a peaceful sleep in a warm, comfortable bed?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Have you done your gratitude list for this day?  Did you eat a hearty breakfast? Will you probably live this day without threat of gun violence or persecution for your belief system?

Congratulations!  Your day has the promise of being a GREAT DAY.  A majority of the world’s population does not have that promise.  But, many of those people go out and make it a fantastic day regardless of circumstances.  That’s the miracle of our species – we are survivors who have an innate desire to thrive.

Does your need to thrive ride on the backs of the less fortunate?  Does mine?  When was the last time we chose to contribute to our local homeless shelter in lieu of a new addition to our designer clothes or, perhaps, buy that man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign a lunch at Burger King rather than a steak for our dinner tonight?  When did we last decide to live more simply so that others in our world would have a dish of rice to eat or a cup of clean water to drink?  When?

My friend, it is absolutely a great day because we have so many choices in front of us.  We can choose what we will eat rather than if we can afford to eat.  We can choose which chair or sofa we will rest upon rather than which overpass we will seek for shelter.  We can choose to tidy up our living room rather than rearrange our boxes and tarp.  Do we understand that much of the world does not have adequate food, shelter or water and our Western culture of greed and consumption has contributed to that shortage?

Along with substantial blessing comes substantial responsibility.  You and I ARE our brothers’ keepers.  That is not a suggestion; it is a mandate dictated by all the world’s major religions and belief systems.  Hug our loved ones this morning, appreciate all that has been given to us, and then contemplate how we can live more simply and help eradicate poverty.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – success

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you live – that is to have succeeded.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Do you compare to others?  Car?  House?  Money?  Designer clothes?  Do you base your personal success on that comparison?

STOP!  Just stop.  Our Western culture has fed all of us a pack of lies regarding success.  As a result you probably work more than you need in order to buy things you don’t really need.  And whom are you impressing?  The Joneses most likely don’t give a hoot about that shiny new car or your spouse’s wardrobe.  In the end when one makes an accounting of one’s life, all of us, yes every single one, will go wherever we believe we are going without a stitch of designer jeans, no fancy ride, and not one of those gleaming diamonds purchased with hard work and sacrifice.  Nada, zilch, nothing!

Then what will we take across into the next phase?  Perhaps integrity, compassion, stewardship, honesty, conscience?  How about selflessness?  What good have we done for this creation?  The preservation of natural habitats, the protection of wildlife, the concern for the homeless, the compassion for immigrants, the love for the arts,  the kind word to a lonely man, the dedication to peace, the restrictions on personal consumption are all ways to view our lives as astonishing successes no matter how small or how grand.

Don’t fall for the world’s allure.  It is fleeting and destructive.  It will not satisfy your need to feel successful.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  It’s a great day whether spent in an elegant mansion or a modest apartment, whether the ride to town is a limo or a bicycle, whether the jeans are Jordache or WalMart.  Stuff does not matter.  Repeat that a dozen times as you compose today’s gratitude list.

stuff does not matter!

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – intentional living

 

old codger

“I am going to have a horrible day today.  It’s raining, my joints hurt and my muscles ache.  The cat spit up on my bedcovers and the roof is leaking.  I forgot to get eggs yesterday at the grocery store, so now I must settle for a PB sandwich for breakfast.  Worst of all, that lazy, newspaper delivery man forgot my paper and I have nothing to read with my boring PB breakfast sandwich.  Life is really going to suck today.”

or

“Oh, what a relaxing, drizzly day!  I won’t be doing much outside today, so I’ll be able to catch up on reading.  The cat is sprawled out on my bed and enjoying his first nap of the day.  Yes, I forgot to get eggs yesterday, but a bowl of creamy, hot oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar sounds delicious.  Maybe I’ll go online to read my newspaper since I don’t have a morning paper in the driveway.  Lord, thank you for another day of lungs breathing and heart pumping.  Today will be a spectacular day.”

What will be your day’s intention?  Glum and gloomy or special and spectacular?  It’s a choice you make each morning upon arising.  Don’t just accept what life throws at you, create the life you want to live.  It’s an amazing choice that greets the day and sets the stage for the next 24 hours.  Be intentional!

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – rivers of life

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Did the Colorado River cut through rock creating the Grand Canyon by sheer strength?  Did it happen overnight?  No, of course not.  One of the most awesome land sculptures on earth was created over eons of persistent erosion.  Millions have viewed this spectacular landscape, some have tried to conquer its raw natural power, a few have died failing to match wits with the imposing rock walls and the mighty river flowing through the canyon.

Persistence!  Not strength, not brawn, not physical power.  Our goals in life will be accomplished with rivers of intentional persistence.  Yesterday’s commitments to healthy habits and attitudes must be pursued again today.  There is no room for stagnation in pursuing our goals whether those goals be mental, spiritual or physical.  Our rivers of determination will stop flowing and become dammed up when filled with past baggage and emotional silt.  Muscles and joints which tell us, ‘No, stop,”  must not be entertained with inactivity.  Especially those of us experiencing the ‘golden years’ cannot stop intentional forward motion.

As always, this is a choice to be made every morning upon arising.  Greet the morning with a smile, a ‘thank you’, a brief gratitude list, a hug to your spouse or cat or dog, and a stretch to the dawning day ahead welcoming goodness and strength into the waking hours.  Receive the blessings which flow and the gift of grace to enjoy another 24 hours.  It’s all ours for the asking.  The alternative is to wallow with inaction, suffer the aches and pains, dread the day’s drudgery, look forward to an end to this self-imposed misery.  It’s our choice.

What’s your river going to do today?  Flow bravely and erode just a bit more those walls of stone?  I hope so.  I intend to live life fully in the face of obstacles and mental dams.  If I fall down, I will bounce back up.  If I see someone else fall down, I will help them back up.  We can claim victory when the last breath is drawn.  We can say with conviction, “I defeated you, death, and will continue on into eternity knowing I gave this life my best effort.”

Join me, will you?

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:55

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