Meister Eckhart

“Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican mystic (c. 1260-c.1328), said that spirituality has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. [1] Yet our culture, both secular and Christian, seems obsessed with addition: getting rich, becoming famous, earning more brownie points with God or our boss, attaining enlightenment, achieving moral behavior. Jesus and the mystics of other traditions tell us that the spiritual path is not about getting more or getting ahead, which only panders to the ego. Authentic spirituality is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need, although we don’t know that at first.” cac.orgCANDLE

When’s the last time you had a yard sale?  For one or two days we dust off all those necessities which have been stored away in the attic or garage and make a decision that we no longer need them.  Many of our cherished keepsakes are simply not worth keeping.  They are not heirlooms, they do not enhance our lives, and they likely will not be the cash cows we had hoped they would be.

It’s a cleansing endeavor which adds a few bucks to the household pantry budget, sweeps out the dark corners of our houses, and declutters prime storage spaces.  For the cost of a few hours of our time we receive the realization that material things are not really all important and we recognize how they can actually clutter our daily routines.

Ahhh, you’re way ahead of me; you see where this is going, don’t you?  Yes, my spiritual life also needs to occasionally have a yard sale.  Meister Eckhart agrees.  Today, I am serious about my Quest to become the man my Higher Power would have me be.  By God’s grace I now have the willingness and sincerity of heart to make a difference in this world.  I have realized my need for a Shepherd.  I took my sorry butt to the altar and begged for renewal and, miraculously, the trash which I had called ‘my life’ became another voice calling out of the darkness.  Sobriety grabbed me off the beach of drunkenness and said, “Follow me.  I will make you a fisher of men.”

But, my humanness continues to have a need to feed the ego which drives me.  I am still broken in many places and I often look to the place within which has served me well in the past.  I continue to accumulate unfounded fears, I harbor resentments, I entertain unhealthy thoughts, and I resort to anger.  These character defects have been a part of me for many years, they have gathered dust in my brain, and they have become the unnecessary yard sale stuff in my attic which regularly needs a housecleaning.

My humanness also leads me to want to gather favor with God, to think I can influence God’s opinion of me, and to believe my works will put me in better standing with God.  My humanness drives me to look upward for enlightenment believing it is a condition to be attained, a place in the heavens where God will love me more than here on earth.  My humanness continues to try to deceive me.

It’s tough to accept that less is more in my spiritual life.  Emptying out one’s self is serious internal work because my ego enjoys the religious traditions, the church doctrines, and the hymns of worship.  But, that’s all icing on the cake, tasty but not necessary.  Emptying out is like a twinkling star on the horizon, a newly discovered truth to be followed,  a way of life to be embraced.  It’s somewhat like the story which tells of the appearance of Jesus in Bethlehem.  He replaced everythingsmiley 3 which the Jewish people thought they needed in life to attain salvation in heaven.  They had a rich tradition, but, it was not necessary and eventually led to stuffed attics and bulging garages.

repentance & new beginnings

I’ve never had a problem with the concept of ‘repentance’.  I remember repenting many times at the altar of the toilet.  “Oh, Lord, get me through this night and I promise to never drink again.”

Years later, I followed the exhortations of my Christian brothers who recited the verses in the Gospel’s plan of salvation, I knelt at the sanctuary altar, and I called myself ‘born again’.  That was simple.  I immediately knew that I would spend eternity with them in heaven sitting atCANDLE the feet of Jesus. Or, at least, I hoped so.   Unfortunately, it was a brain job, not a heart job.  My character defects were still there, my old self was still there, my heart remained stone cold despite being born again.  The promise of a new beginning was not the miracle which I expected that would change me in an instant, in a heartbeat, in a brilliant flash of divine renewal.

After many years of stumbling within my own self-will and pretending to understand  renewal, regeneration, and rebirth, I once again found myself at the altar begging my Higher Power, Jesus, to clean up the mess I brought with me to kneel at his feet.  “Just as I am, Lord, take me and fix me.”

There were no bursting fireworks, no hallelujahs, no light shows to welcome me; instead there was a simple peace, a knowing that this time I was sincere in my plea and I now had the work of engaging in a new beginning.  I had to do the leg work, I had to do the soul-searching, I had to do the inventory of character defects, I had to make the amends necessary to cleaning up my mess.  I was finally serious about that decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.  But, I found great comfort knowing without question that God would walk with me every step of the way.

“17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 

This verse from the author of James in the New Testament is often quoted in recovery programs to teach us that our sobriety is dependent upon working the 12 steps and extending ourselves to encourage other drunks like us to attain sustained sobriety.  Faith is fine and absolutely necessary, but, for a recovering alcoholic, works are equally important.

The same is true when I apply this inwardly to my own soul.  I believe that I have always had faith; however, I was never able to follow through with a plan of self-renewal.  I was weak and unwilling to give up my favorite character defects.  I prayed, bowed, meditated and then prayed some more, but never developed a sustained plan of action.  Oh yes, the New Year’s resolutions were always written on paper and the desire to live by them was there on January 1st, but the action to follow through was missing.

Today, I do my best to live by my Higher Power’s plan.  As a result life is more than I everchristmas emoji 3 expected, better than I deserve.  I am an unworthy Jesus freak who knows that each day is a new beginning underscored by a mindset of repentance.

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

peace on earth

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr

In my Lutheran worship service, after the prayers, “the peace of the Lord” is extended by the pastor.  The congregants then take several minutes to greet each other with hugs, aCANDLE hand clasp and a repetition of “God’s peace.”  It symbolizes the attitude we are encouraged to assume in greeting the world with a universal message of  love and compassion.

During the Christmas season the words “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” will take center stage in celebratory endeavors.  It is a sentiment which our enlightenment envisions for all of humanity regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.  It is a dream shared by John Lennon, IMAGINE, Martin Luther King, Jr., millions of pacifists worldwide, and me. Sadly, peace seems to be, in the Christmas season of 2017, the last item on the agenda of the world’s politicians, strident religious leaders, and governments.  Just as a popular song by Lennon in the 1960s anti-war movement laments, “why can’t we give peace a chance”  GIVE PEACE A CHANCE , we also wonder what is so tough about peace?

Indeed, why not give peace a chance?  What is Larry doing today to give peace a chance?  Hmmm, that’s where it starts, does it not?  I can’t change the world, but I can surely, with divine help, change me; if each of the world’s 2 billion plus inhabitants could assume a commitment to peaceful co-existence, we might have a chance.  Yes, I know, it’s a pipe dream, but, the process has to start somewhere with someone.  Let it begin with me.  As the Buddhist would ask, “How is your good heart today?”  As Jesus would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  I have within my being the solution to the worldwide pandemic called heart dis-ease.  Lord, bring it on, let the cure begin with me.christmas emoji 3

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”  Luke 2:14 KJV

 

 

 

Jesus & Buddha

I have this recurring thought of a meeting and conversation between Jesus and Buddha, both of whom are verifiable historical figures, in which, after offering solutions to the world’s suffering, Jesus bows to Buddha and says, “The Lord be with you.”  Buddha replies, “Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.”

Wow! How different would our world be today if the major religions could take it upon themselves to honor and respect each other’s faith walk? Not only could we honor and respect, but we could also embrace each other as co-inheritors of the grace and mercy ofrainbow-solidarity our respective Lords.  All of us are children of God who have received different messengers throughout history to teach the truth of one universal entity which we, as Christians, choose to name God.

That, in essence, is the teaching of Jesus which I believe exhorts me to live life inclusively and compassionately.  Man’s created theology is secondary to this nugget of truth revealed by the author of Mark.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

A few scholars of religion have tried to connect the two, Jesus and Buddha, through historical access.  Jesus, in his lifetime, could have easily heard the teachings of Buddha from merchants and Buddhist priests who undoubtedly travelled the trade routes between Israel and the Far East.  It’s an interesting theory which would add a dimension of mystery to the story of Jesus; however, it is not a necessary component to verifying the validity of our messenger.

Marcus Borg in his book “Jesus and Buddha: the Parallel Sayings” attributes the similarity in sayings to the probability that both mystics were inspired by an indwelling Spirit of holiness which enabled them to recognize the unitive presence of a Oneness, a universal energy which transcended human understanding and religious distinctions.  Following is an excerpt from that book:

Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The Buddha says, “Consider others as yourself” (Dhammapada 10.1).

Jesus says, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29). Buddha says, “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or CANDLEwith a knife, you should abandon any desires [to hurt him] and utter no evil words” (Majjhima Nikaya 21.6).

Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).  Buddha says, “If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3).

The Jewish Kabbalah, Muslim Sufism and the teachings of Tao also reveal this Oneness, the unitive energy of God within.  Contemporary Christianity seems to have become exceedingly concerned with establishing its Jesus story as the only truth to the point that it has lost the Jesus teachings which reveal lessons of detachment, non-violence, simplicity, and anxiety. CAC.ORG

Namaste.

namaste rainbow

 

 

 

 

stoned

I’m a child of the 1960s.  My formative years as a teenager were spent listening to the music of the Doors, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and, of course Bob Dylan.  We got high together, we got drunk together, and we had our first escapades into liberated sex listening to their lyrics.  The times were a delirious mix of rebellious freedom and social ostracism.  Preachers, teachers, and parents warned of the deleterious effects our behavior would have on the sanctity of American society.  And we did not care! Those very same preachers, teachers, and

parents had lied to us about the black man’s plight, the Vietnam War, the murders of JFK, RFK, and MLK, Jr. and we were angry.  Music was our voice and, dammit, America was going to listen!

Dylan came out with “Everybody Must Get Stoned” around 1966.  The ‘over 40’ crowds fumed over such an overt embrace of the drug culture where getting stoned was the hip talk for smoking marijuana.  Had they taken time to listen to the lyrics they would have realized Bob Dylan was referring to the ancient punishment of stoning for a variety of sins committed against society and religion.  Just as Dylan took substantial heat from the status quo of his era, we will always be stoned, perhaps not literally but certainly figuratively, for the stands we take against corrupt government and false religious doctrine.

Stephen, a Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jew and early follower of the teachings of Jesus, according to the Book of Acts became the 1st Christian martyr.  Having been accused of blasphemy against God by the ruling Jewish hierarchy and refusing to recant his loyalty to the Way of Jesus, he was stoned to death by a group of men under the leadership of Saul, later known as Paul upon his conversion.

It doesn’t matter whether I accept this account of Stephen as historical fact or if I see it as a statement of moral compass, a spiritual lesson to be gleaned from the Christian scriptures.  What matters is whether this story prompts me to ask of myself,  “What is Larry going to do when he gets stoned?  Will he cave to the pressure or will he stand tall?”

Lord, I’m just a weak traveler in this world trying to make a difference in somebody’s life.  But, today I know from where my strength comes, I know who shepherds me through the valleys, I know who loves me as a Father.  When the stones come hurling towards me because of my loyalty to you, help me remember that everybody must get stoned.smiley-face-2

 

 

 

 

 

a Father’s will

“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”CANDLE

“Our Higher Power will not give us more than we can handle in one day.”

Those words are familiar to most of us who walk a recovery path.  In my life’s experience determining the will of God has been a major stumbling block.  Having been bombarded by various preachers extolling numerous differing theologies, I finally came to rest on a space in which that voice inside, some call it conscience, became my deciding factor.  It is the indwelling spirit, some choose to capitalize Spirit, which knows my character defects, names them and leads me to correct them.  Very simply that is for me the will of God.  The conscience was instilled in me for a purpose and that purpose is not merely to spoil my fun.  It is there to lead me.

It is a manner of living, sober-living, which embraces everything that my character defects, sinful nature, oppose and resist.  If what I am thinking is my will, if it is my surrendering to self-directed action, if it is my desire to please myself, then I should run the opposite direction into my HP’s waiting arms.  Today, I have the willingness to live life according to God’s will and I know that when I do this, life can be clean and serene.

I cannot claim life is free of problems and obstacles; however, I can now approach those glitches with confidence knowing that God extends abundant mercy, an unmerited and undeserved gift of grace and favor.  God does for me what I cannot do for myself.  I am but a lost sheep needing the voice of a shepherd to lead me to the green pastures and still waters.  It is there that I find peace and rest amidst a violent, chaotic world.  The Father’s will for me is to find comfort and solace following a simplistic but sometimes difficult directive.  SURRENDER.  “Surrender to my will and you shall be set free.  Be still, cease striving; and then you will know that I am God.”

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But, when smiley 3you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13