endurance

smiley-face-2Just 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 overflows.

 

I have great memories of the days not too long ago when my body allowed me to be a passionate jogger.  Most memorable was the Sunday that I was able to do a 5 mile run and then, with abundant energy and strength in reserve, a 15 mile hike through the countryside which I called home.  It was exhilarating to return to my house, enjoy a hot shower, and a hearty dinner.  I was a jogger for many years until the aging process caught up to me and sidelined my ambitious running routine to a vigorous walk.

The key element to a successful run was endurance.  I did not always have a desire to run 5 miles, I did not always feel that I could complete the challenge.  Sometimes it was simply putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on a roadside tree 100 yards ahead, and then upon arriving at that tree finding another goal 100 yards further ahead.  But, the carrot on the stick was that runner’s high which told me that my world was as close to perfect as it would ever be.  It was the reward for steadfast, sometimes painful, endurance.

That same ethic of endurance is what keeps me going as a Jesus freak.  The world around me which cascades across my viewing screens and in the newspaper does its utmost to take me out of the race, to bring to me knees and cry out, “Where is the justice, where are you God when so much oppression and violence is happening?  Don’t you see that I am hurting?”  And it is there on my knees that my questioning plea is answered.

“I am that I am.  I am love, compassion, justice, wisdom, and mercy.  I am the One worthy of trust,  deserving of reverence, entitled to worship.  I am your hope.  I am your trek’s destination.  I will always be your endurance through the world’s pain.”

My run through this lifetime will always encounter hazards, slowdowns, and detours.  It has been ordained to be that way because running for Jesus is not for wimps.  We were told nearly 2000 years ago that the world would ridicule, despise, and persecute us for our devotion.  Those who embrace the lies of this world fail to understand the simplicity of a message which was delivered to all mankind.

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6, does not refer to a picture hanging on a church wall or a molded likeness of Christ hanging on a cross waiting for our adoration and worship.  No, it says that we have an example to follow, the Way, which will lead us to communion with God.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever….for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things….whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.”  Psalms 107

Endurance – it’s a two way street.  God’s love for me endures forever.  My devotion needs to also be enduring.  It will never be as perfect but it can be steadfast.

CANDLE

 

 

 

praying rightly

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

namaste rainbowSeveral years ago at my recovery meeting the topic of discussion turned to prayer.  It’s a hot button issue to people who are willing to start a minor skirmish over God and the definition thereof.  I had opted to not share but then the meeting chair called on me to speak.  Oh no!

Briefly, I tried not to get into specifics by citing only the need for prayer in our programs. However, I made the mistake of saying that I do not make requests for God to fulfill my wants or desires.  Immediately, I sensed the intensity of the man sitting next to me, a person I had never seen before.  Sure enough, when I had finished, he jumped my frame.

“When I pray, if I want a new car, I ask for it.  If I want a girlfriend, I ask for it.  If I need money, I ask for it …..blah, blah, blah.”

The man was angry and turning red.  Looking around the room I noticed other people smirking and shaking their heads.  I then realized again why I don’t discuss at meetings the actual phrasing of prayer, only the need to pray and the confirmation that a Higher Power will  indeed respond.

What do you pray for?  No, I’m not digging into the privacy  of your prayer life.  Let me share a story.  For years as a teen-aged boy growing up and as a young man caught up in alcoholism, my prayers centered around me.  And they always ended with, “Hear my prayers, give me what I ask and I will live a better life for you.”  I was trying to bribe God and I always ended, as I was taught, with the words “in Jesus name.”

It was an egocentric trip to the candy store where I expected the proprietor to dispense forgiveness, mercy, and heavenly favors and then put the bill on the tab of a man called Jesus, someone I scarcely remembered from Sunday School, someone whose name I used more often in fits of rage than in worship.  But I prayed heartily.

Today we joke about the bowl prayer:  “Oh Lord get me through this night and I will never drink again,” as we hang our drunken heads over the toilet bowl.  But it was a nightly occurrence years ago.  I must remember those nights lest I convince myself that it wasn’t really that bad.  Again, my prayer was a communication with God which invoked a promise that I never intended to keep.

Even in early sobriety, my prayers were centered around me and my needs.  But, I did learn to start with a gratitude list and then a sincere thank you.  Changing habits takes time and work.  Changing prayer habits usually takes a kick in the butt by God interceding on my behalf through the words of another brother/sister in brokenness.  As my friend was praying aloud with me, he emphasized the  words, “….and Thy will be done,” looking directly and intensely into my eyes.

Why was this such a profound revelation to me?   And why was the timing right?  I haven’t a clue.  All my life the words, “thy will be done” were included in my prayers.  But, on this particular day I finally understood that we were not talking about my will, but rather God’s will for my life.  My petitions would be filtered through God’s will.  And that’s how I learned not to pray for specific things, not for specific actions, not for specific favors.  Why?  Because God knows every one of my needs even before I do.  They will be fulfilled, or not, according to the wisdom of a Higher Power.

Today, the reason for my prayer life is to specifically list the things for which I am grateful, list the things which I have done in error, beg for forgiveness, and intercede for other people.  And then, “thy will be done.”

But, that’s not the end.  There is a price to pay.  Self-sacrifice.  Theology says God’s grace is free but the book of James 2:20 says, “faith without works is dead.”  Those works are the things I must pursue in service to my fellow-man.  I am in no way trying to tell anyone how, when or where to pray.  I know better than to go down that thorny trail.  But, I can testify to the miracles that happened for me when I turned my prayer life from one of “me, me, me” to one which implores, “thy will be done.”

“We had not prayed rightly.  We had always said, ‘grant me my wishes,’  instead of ‘Thy will be done.’  The love of God and man we understood not at all.  Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity.”  Bill W., AS BILL SEES IT, pg 295


 

poor in spirit

If you, like I, went to Sunday School and VBS as a child, you probably memorized the 23rd Psalm, the Ten Commandments, and maybe the Beatitudes.  The eight short sayings of the Beatitudes give the core teachings of Jesus in a concentrated format.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:3

Oh, how I struggled with this one.  This proud country boy did not want to be “poor” in any way, shape or form when he grew up.  Although my family, as farmers, provided adequately for our needs, we could not afford the vacations other people took each summer nor the fancy new car every 2 years.  Fortunately, designer jeans were not a necessary fashion statement in high school in 1961 and most often I started the new school year with last year’s clothes augmented by new shoes or a new shirt.  Life was pretty good but, when I considered the first of the Beatitudes, this 13 year-old farm boy raised up a few secretive, quiet prayers, “Lord, anything but poor.  I don’t want to be poor.”

I believed for many years that when the pastor recited the first Beatitude, he forgot the last two words, “in spirit.”  A more likely scenario is that  I did not hear them because I was too enamored by the cute neighbor girl sitting beside me on the pew. I think that maybe I missed a lot of the things I needed to hear in church because I was distracted.  Whenever I heard “blessed are the poor,”  my mind pictured a crowd of people saved by grace mulling around heaven in tatters and rags.  What is so blessed about that?

I’m sure my boyhood pastor recited the Beatitude in full.  I simply was not ready to hear it in full just like so many other lessons and teachings from Jesus.  That could explain why for many years I stumbled through life filling my God hole with everything but God.  Ranging from alcohol to sex to pot to pornography to numerous other idolatries, I did not become ready to listen to all the words from Jesus until I was utterly defeated by my own life.  No enemy could have defeated me as soundly as I defeated myself.  Finally the sweet words of surrender filled my heart when I put some verses into that God hole.

“Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted….”  Psalm 46:10

“If the Son, therefore, will set you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

Those were the first verses I memorized.  And yes, I finally heard the full verse of Matthew 5:3.  It happened only when my mind understood “poor in spirit” to mean that I need to be fully open and receptive to Jesus, I need to find a state of nothingness  and then let Jesus fill the void.  I need to go to that space where there is only God.  When there I am as a beggar on the street seeking alms, begging for the bread of Life which feeds, the living waters which quench.  I have then been impoverished, made poor in spirit, and Jesus will relieve my poverty.

Sure, my mind still shuts down God’s space sometimes, fills it with junk.  My thinking says that I should pursue a spirituality based on knowledge, surety, certitude.  My ego begins reviewing the spiritual advancement, the learned theology, the numerous books, the good works.  I can very quickly become haughty and self-assured within my own religious arrogance.  But then, when I have suffered enough from running my own show, Jesus says, “Come back, you will find assurance in me.” cac.org

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!” 

Frances J. Crosby 

CANDLE

 

 

the failing of Christianity

“Christianity isn’t a failure; it just hasn’t been tried yet.”  G.K. Chesterton.

I find tremendous hope in this quote from the British writer.  By reading and reflecting on these words I am able to redirect my assessment of my faith walk in the realms of “Christianity” as not so much a failure on my part but a misdirection on the part of the institution of Christianity.  The tenets of this religion founded in the 4th century C.E. on teachings attributed to  Jesus of Nazareth seem to miss the mark by a wide margin in its position of power in today’s world.

I cannot comprehend a Jesus dying on his cross so that I could rest comfortably in my recliner flipping channels between the football games on TV all day Sunday.  I do not understand a Savior who would tell me that I am closer to God than my Muslim neighbor just because their prophet, Muhammad, appeared on the world scene 500 years after he did.  I don’t believe Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,”  but then 2000 years later, “if thy neighbor is black, gay, Syrian, or Muslim, disregard what I said.”

Can it be that Jesus, the professed centerpiece of Christianity, would want to be simply defined as a radical love leading to personal transformation and renewal transcending to a mindset of inclusion and compassion for all of humanity and all of Creation?  Jesus did not exclude anyone in his ministry on earth, not the Samaritan woman at the well, not the hated tax collector, not the prostitute, not the adulteress about to be stoned.  He does not today exclude anyone.  If he is today what he was then, how could he?

I am not excluded because of who I am.  I fall far short of the enlightenment I am destined to behold, yet I know that though my neighbor may feel empowered to cast the first stone condemning me, Jesus does not.

That is powerful stuff.  If the Christian world truly followed its Messiah, its Savior, mankind would be witnessing a peace beyond comprehension, a brotherhood which encompasses all religion, race, creed, and sexuality under the widespread arms of a righteous, loving God.

My living faith cannot function on a religion based on a  a statue or picture hanging on the church wall merely to be worshipped and adored.  The historical Jesus did not die on the cross only to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and bring a future salvific eternity to man.  His death and resurrection are significant events to the Christian faith, but his life is the body and blood we celebrate as Christians when we receive the bread and wine. Living our lives as nearly to the life which Jesus lived is supposed to be the cornerstone of Christianity. Jesus was a zealot and a radical human who challenged the authorities of that time with a revolutionary view of man’s purpose on earth.  And he was crucified for his teachings.  What is more profound was the courage needed to live out his humanness and to go against the hypocritical hierarchy of his tradition, Judaism, suffering labels of heretic and blasphemer when he knew within his God relationship that he was right.

Yes, of course, there were many others who garnered the hatred of the Jewish and Roman authorities.  Many others were also crucified.  But Christianity is self-defined as the theology centered on one man. It named that man the Christ.  It is supposed to adhere to the teachings attributed to Christ. History tells us that the institution has failed miserably with this directive.  Sadly, I can’t change the 1600 year history of Christianity.  But, how am I doing personally as a professing  follower of Jesus, the one named Christ?  Am I radical enough to claim the following words?

“Well done good and faithful servant.”  Matthew 25:23

If so , then my life has been successful.  I am not here to build an empire, to claim riches, to embrace power, or to follow other ego-driven idols.  I am here to be a good and faithful servant to humanity.  I fall short constantly but I will keep on trying.

 

it’s my party

I’ve been recovering from the effects of the flu which has been running rampant in my neighborhood.  Yes, I dutifully get my flu shots every fall, wipe down the grocery cart with a towelette at the grocery store, and stay arm’s length from any sniffling, sneezing life forms.  Even as I suffer flu symptoms, I remember the days of yore when Larry was too healthy to get flu shots and then Larry became a poster boy for death warmed over.  The bug got me and put me down for a two to three-week bed-ridden vacation.

I now get flu shots religiously and if I do get sick, there are just a few mild symptoms.  More bothersome is the weakness and lethargy.  Old guys like me know time is becoming a more valuable commodity and we don’t like running at less than 100%.  Well, OK, even 80% is pretty darned good.  So much hell to raise and just not enough time to do it.

Alright, alright.  So, there ain’t much hell raising anymore, but a guy can dream, can’t he?  Looking back on the antics of me, the 20 to 30 year-old drunk, makes me realize how much of a nightmare I was for the people who loved me.  Family, lovers, friends…..they all suffered through my disease with me.  They went to hell with me and by God’s grace they came back a long time before that grace brought me back.  Tonight I celebrate 37 years of continuous sobriety and nothing, absolutely nothing, in my life takes precedence over sobriety and the relationship I have enjoyed with my Higher Power.  Money, prestige, power, fancy cars, big house, designer clothes, community social status…..nothing can compare to the status I have found as a child of God, as a man committed to sober-living.

Even when the mind says, “go, go, go” but the body says, “no, no, no,”  I have an enormous gratitude list that seems to grow every day.  I appreciate the days when even 80% is all I can muster.  The slowdown gives me time to read, time to just talk on the phone with a friend, time to sit on the porch and entertain the cardinals stopping by for a visit, and time to yell at the top of my lungs, “Thank you Jesus.”

It’s been one helluva ride and I can’t wait to see what the next couple decades will bring.  Naw, don’t have time for worrying and fretting over politics, over the economy, over North Korea’s Kim, nor over America’s Trump.  Those problems will be resolved according to God’s timing, not mine.  Of course, if the big fella upstairs wants some advice, I’ve got a few ideas.

Stay sober, my friends.  One day at a time.  If you don’t drink that first one, you won’t get drunk.  One is too many and ten is not enough.  Keep it simple, stupid, and remember  g.o.d. – good, orderly direction.

If you’re sober today, give your Higher Power a hand.clapping

 

g.o.d.

orange treeThose of you in a recovery program will recognize this acronym and some of you who read me know that I have referenced it before in my writing.  It represents a concept which many of us newly sober men and women grasped gratefully because we refused to acknowledge an entity which had been so miserably projected unto us by religionists.  It stands for “good orderly direction”.

It kept me returning to the meeting rooms and undoubtedly led me to a serene sobriety.  Ultimately my Higher Power did soften my strident anti-God attitude and introduced me to the miracles found in all the scriptures and wisdom sayings of numerous religions.  For me to profess a God of any understanding is in itself one of the most profound miracles in my entire life.  To finally realize the love of a Higher Power and to name that power God was unimaginable even after several years of sobriety.

So, you can understand my aroused interest upon reading another man’s viewpoint that God is not truly a noun, an entity to be beheld, but a verb, a word of action.  Actually this is not merely a point of view, it is a legitimate interpretation by a recognized researcher and scholar of Jewish scriptures.

“COMMENTARY ON THE TORAH” by Richard Elliott Friedman discusses the passage in Exodus 3:14-15 in which Moses is speaking to God who has just informed him that he, Moses, would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.  Moses’ response was, “Well, who are you, what shall I call you?”

Thus we have the familiar words, “I am who I am”, YHWH, which is translated into Anglican texts as Yahweh.  Christian interpretation is, at best, confusing and unclear.  But in his commentary, the author explains to us that the imperfect verb used is not limited to present tense; it can also be future tense, thereby also rendering the words as “I shall be who I shall be.”  Furthermore, in this passage the name of God is now revealed for the first time to the Israelites.

“YHWH” is a verb, third person, singular, and masculine.  Its root meaning is “to be”.  It cannot be limited to past, present or future time.  It is timeless and its nearest translation would be, “He Causes To Be”.  Don’t get hung up on the masculinity attribute as that was the Jewish custom.  Biblical Israel conceived God as male.

Adding this insight to a compendium of prior revelations about the Higher Power whom I name God gives an added layer of meaning to the acronym, g.o.d., in the ongoing process of recovery.  It suggests motion, movement into a life of dedication and service which is essentially what Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, and other recovery programs emphasize.  Good, orderly direction is more than a cute phrase hanging in a picture frame on our meeting-room wall.CANDLE

 

a new social order

“Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence, exclusion, and separation. It is no fantastical utopia, but a very real and achievable peace—by the grace of God.” cac.org, Richard Rohr

Often I try to put myself back into the times of Jesus.  Sometimes I play the role of a man like Jesus in that chaotic era of history.  My imagination cannot possibly comprehend even the mundane challenges of everyday life trying to survive in a society which was tightly controlled not only by the Romans but also by the Jewish hierarchy.  Earning a living, providing food and shelter for a family, abiding by innumerable laws of government and religion must have driven many men to madness and desperation.

Remembering that Jesus was probably a typical, young man long before he became a local celebrity, I can picture his Jewish mother, Mary, lamenting, “All my other sons have jobs, earn a living, have a nice donkey to ride to work, go on vacation to Jerusalem every year and buy their wives new robes for their birthday.”

Young Jesus is just standing there before Mary with a sheepish grin, “But mother,  you just don’t understand, I have to be about my Father’s work.  I have a Kingdom to establish.”

“Kingdom, smingdom.  Why can’t you be more like your brother James?  He just built on a beautiful sewing room for his wife and rumor has it that they are sending little James to private tutoring next year with the Rabbi.”

“Aw, Mom, I am not like my brothers.  Hey, have you seen my sandals?  I’m leaving tomorrow to spend 40 days in the wilderness.”

Later in Jesus’ ministry to his countrymen, he remembered the days at home in Nazareth.  Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”Mark 6:4

His hometown people undoubtedly thought Jesus was not only lazy but also crazy.  When he began teaching his outrageous idea that all people were equal in the eyes of God, that the Jewish temple leaders were hypocrites, that women had rights, that prostitutes, tax collectors, and Samaritans were loved by God, his mother Mary must have walked down to the well for water with eyes straight ahead, unable to bear the whispering and gossiping of her village friends along the path.

“That son of hers, Jesus….did you hear what he did over at Galilee?  He said he could move mountains and people say that he walked on water.  Can you imagine?  Poor Mary, she’s such a good woman.”

“Yes, and did you know that he has gathered a group of other men to follow him around the countryside begging for food and teaching something they call the Way.  They say he’s the Messiah.”

“Jesus was a person radically centered in God, empowered by that relationship, and filled with God’s passion for the world—a passion that led to his execution and vindication.” “—Marcus Borg

2000 years later, Jesus of Nazareth creates just as much controversy as he did when he was a young man in Israel.  Some people think he was a radical and a zealot.  Some people say he was and is God’s Son.  Others say he was just another magician supporting his homeless ways as best as he could.

But, it doesn’t matter.  Jesus, by his lifestyle and his teaching, brought to humanity an awareness that mankind is a brotherhood/sisterhood of equally loved and loving children of God and that they all, every one of them, are worthy of a Father’s love and compassion.  Imagine that!  A carpenter’s lazy son from Nazareth turned the world upside down and inside out saying that all men and women are equal, all are loved by God, all are welcome to partake of Earth’s great feast, and all are designed by their Creator to live in peace.

One man – a homeless beggar, a social reject, a charlatan, a simple teacher of brotherly love – did that 2000 years ago.  The new social order he ordained lives vibrantly and grows within the hearts of men and women today.  He was crucified so that we could live abundantly.  Do I have what it takes to be a person radically centered on God?  How about you?

cac.orgCANDLE

the Critic

I watched several messages on You Tube by a popular pastor, Marcus Mecum , at 7 Hills Church located in Florence, Kentucky.  The man delivers inspiring teaching to his non-orange treedenominational followers and his “church” is not adorned with all the usual accoutrement one expects in a Christian church.  The pulpit is more akin to a stage setting with a background of contemporary light displays.  There is a lot of shouting from the audience, I mean congregation, and lifting of arms and hands towards the heavens.  Although many verses from Old and New Testament scriptures are referenced, one has no doubt that Jesus Christ is the mainstay of this church.

“When you are a critic, you become a victim.”  Pastor Mecum struck a deep nerve with those words.  That describes me in many situations occurring in my life today.  It is especially apropos in the political climate of the past year.  Being a critic has become so easy when I am fed a steady diet of scandalous stories and personal slander on every news outlet and late night TV show.  My character defects thrive on the garbage which flows ceaselessly from the mouths of pundits and experts.  It all makes me feel so absolutely normal and well-adjusted.  I’m not like those imbiciles and morons who are being internationally scorned and ridiculed.  Yea for Larry !

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Oh, well that doesn’t apply in this scenario, does it?  Those fools deserve what is being unleashed on them.  They are idiots.  Their mouths are forever talking trash about the other guy and just look how they conduct themselves.  The carousing, the immoral behavior, the greed, the obscenity, the lasciviousness and crassness which I see paraded in front of me as newsworthy information.  Thank God I am not like them !

“Really?  You have no sin?  You are not just as broken as they are?  You got all your ducks in a row, right?”

“Well, not exactly, Lord.  I’ve got some minor problems, too.  Well, actually, my defects are pretty glaring.  You know all of them.”

“Yes, I do.”

Victimized.  I have been victimized by my own ego; my pride is telling me that I am a notch above all the shenanigans happening on the national scene. My sins are not as egregious as their sins.  My behavior is more civil, more godly.  I have the authority to be a critic because I am better.

And it’s not OK to spend so many hours of my day judging the actions of others rather than celebrating in meditation and prayer the  freedom bestowed on me by a gracious Savior who loved me enough to pull me out of those same slime pits.  I still belong there, I am still more comfortable there, and I shall return there if I continue to be a victim of my own judgmental nature.

Jesus told the men of the village when an adulteress had been apprehended,  “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

We know the rest of the story.  Not s single man had the moral authority to cast the first stone.  10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11She said, No man, LORD. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

Overlooking an opportunity to castigate and berate national figures, “neighbors”, is sometimes difficult, many times impossible.  For me, it takes a lot of prayer and practice.  It does not come naturally because in my natural state I am not a nice man.  But, Jesus has called me to be better than that.  He has called me to “go, and sin no more.”

I cannot be a winner when I am a victim of myself, my sinful nature and character defects.  For me, Jesus is the only “Way” to victory over myself.smiley 3

 

 

…been to the mountain

In the small world between my ears I can think of nothing as frustrating or disgusting as politics.  The limited federal government envisioned by the men of wisdom who forged cropped-patriots1.pngour experiment which was never before undertaken by like-minded citizens has ballooned into an unwieldy and corrupt behemoth which favors wealth and power at the expense of commoners who keep the country’s machinery running.  We are the simple, unassuming folks who pay bills on time, raise families, volunteer in our communities, and trust in the power of love and compassion.  We support our local charities, tithe in church, and buy those outrageously-priced Girl Scout cookies every spring.  We don’t ask for much in return other than a chance to run our lives without interference from legislators and politicians who see us as a ticket to power and riches.  We are the backbone of a great country composed of every creed, every race, and every lifestyle imaginable.  We are America and this America which we embrace will not disappear nor hide behind closed doors in the face of governmental tyranny and oppression supported by imbecilic minds and moronic behavior.  They may have the money to build palaces unto themselves, eat filet mignon (or cheeseburgers) every night and adorn themselves in designer clothes.  They may travel in jets to vacation spots worldwide at our expense and they may spend weekends knocking a little white ball around manicured, artificially beautified acres of greenery, but, when the final tally is made, when life for them is over, they will be as naked as jaybirds, poor as church mice, and answerable to a Supreme Power saying, “I knew you not.”

OK, that’s my political rant for the day.  Now, on to the  important things fluttering within my brain waves.

The eternity I seek is not some faraway place in the distant future.  It is happening right now, right here in the world of LarryPaulBrown.  Every breath I take and every thought I have is a moment of eternal commitment.  Whom or what I choose as the focus of my commitment determines what my present moment will provide to me.  It can be spent within the peace of a loving, compassionate God or it can be a endured in the chaos of a world gone mad.  It truly is up to me where I go with my mind and my life.  By no means have I attained a sustained state of bliss, but I have seen moments of what is  available and I want more.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his last speech the night before his assassination in Memphis gave one of his most powerful insights into that which is available:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 3, 1968)

We all need to go to the mountaintop and look it over.  From that lofty state of mind the things of this earth are irrelevant.  Our eyes will see the glory.  The coming of the Lord has happened.  It is right here, right now.  Just open your eyes, spread you arms and receive Him.brilliance

 

 

 

….and my neighbor is ?

Refer to the good Samaritan parable from the book of Luke 10:25-37namaste rainbow

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He (Jesus) said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?                                

2And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he (Jesus) said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

“Go, and do thou likewise.”

From the first time I heard this story in Sunday School and VBS about the good Samaritan, I have been intrigued by the characters and the roles they played in Jesus’ lesson on Christian behavior.  In it Jesus defines the meaning of “neighbor”.  Obviously it is not limited to what we in contemporary society would consider a neighbor, i.e., the couple next door or the man down the street.

In Biblical Jewish culture, the Samaritans were a race to be ostracized and avoided at all costs.  At the well, the Samaritan woman drawing water was shocked and probably miffed that a Jewish teacher (Jesus) would ask her to draw water for him. John 4:7-26 In all probability, the Samaritans hated the Jews just as much as the Jews despised them.

So when Jesus uses a Samaritan traveler as the pivotal character in his parable, those hearing his message were undoubtedly shocked.  And when Jesus takes this heresy further to cast a favorable light upon the Samaritan, we should not be surprised that the ruling hierarchy of Pharisees desired to be rid of him and his teachings.  Their hatred and intolerance was justified by centuries-old racism supported by an archaic system of religious righteousness.

Jesus reckons with this racism by first stating that a priest and then a Levite came upon the traveler (we are not told anything about his background) and kept to the side of the road in order to avoid contact with him.  Perhaps they feared for their own safety should the robbers still be nearby.  Or perhaps they did not want to contaminate themselves by touching a corpse.  The priest and the Levite, although holy men of the Jewish faith, lacked the compassion to lend assistance to the dying traveler.  The Samaritan, however, even though a despised citizen of a neighboring country, felt compassion for the wounded man and gave immediate assistance to the point of ensuring his safe passage to care and recovery at a nearby inn.

“And who is my neighbor,” asked the lawyer of Jesus in the scripture, verse 29?

Jesus tells his story and then the lawyer in verse 37 answers his own question, “He that shewed mercy.”

Which character of this parable do I play?  Am I the priest or Levite, men unwilling to be involved in saving another’s life?  Am I the good Samaritan who cares enough to risk his own life for that of a stranger?  Or perhaps I am the traveler, wounded and left to die on the highway of life, saved only by the grace of a compassionate savior.

Who is my neighbor?  Certainly John next door, my tax accountant at the mall, the restaurant owner at my favorite Italian place, even the Muslim couple who smile to me whenever they walk by my house.  I consider my pastor my neighbor, my car salesman, my insurance agent, and my local sheriff.

OK.  What about the strident atheist at school, the repugnant Republican congressman, the white supremacist in Georgia, the drug dealer in the city, and the redneck who flies a Confederate flag on his pickup truck?  Are they my neighbors?

Jesus was not categorizing anyone when instructing us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus does not see anything but a person’s heart and the innate love and compassion within that heart.  Jesus wants us to do the same.

Who, then, is my neighbor?  The Nazi who would kill a gay man?  The racist who would lynch a black man?  The Jew who would harm a Palestinian?

If I were to come upon an injured man on the highway and that man was Trump, would I stop to assist or pass by on the other side of the road?  Yeah, it gets really funky now, doesn’t it?

I am supposed to love my neighbor.  Love is not always a warm, fuzzy feeling that tingles all over.  It is also a willingness to be actively compassionate toward every creature of God’s creation.

“Go, and do thou likewise.”  I know that if I just carry the willingness, God will honor my efforts.smiley 3