St. Bonaventure

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 overflows.

All of us are driven by a philosophy concerning life.  It could be derived from any number of prolific authors, leaders, and statesmen.  Quite often our personal life philosophy is a result of theological teachings.  The beliefs which I inherited from my forefathers went unchallenged in my younger years because the community in which I lived all abided by the principles of those beliefs.  Christianity ruled.

And that would have been just fine if I had not ventured into the world beyond my community and experienced different cultures, different creeds, and different lifestyles.  Tribalism was not at the forefront of conversations as it is today, but in retrospect, it was alive and well.  Unwittingly, we all were suspicious of those who spoke, looked, thought, and worshipped differently.

Even more devastating to the growth of a young man finding his way in a life apart from the community of his upbringing was the concept of his forefathers’ God.  There were numerous new ideas and experiences outside that sheltered life of boyhood and teenaged years.  Most of them felt exhilarating and exciting, needed to be embraced and explored.

But, in the recesses of my mind, one dinosaur of theology always tempered the thrills of newly found freedoms.

“If it feels good, it is probably a sin.”

Thankfully, the alcoholism which controlled my life for so many years also brought me to a reckoning with the man I had become. 1) admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable 2) came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity 3) made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a God of our understanding.

The key words in step 3 which changed my life dramatically were ‘God of my understanding.”  I finally realized that God had given to me at birth a sense of reason and inner understanding with which I was designed to understand  this ‘God-thing’.  Nobody else could do this for me.  It was a personal spiritual journey which became a lifetime endeavor.  And finally I was able to embrace a life of wonderful experiences without the sin factor hanging over my head.  Today, in my world, the word sin is a negative connotation used by others to control and intimidate when, in my reality, it simply means a temporary state of separation from the God of my understanding.

St. Bonaventure, an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher was born in 1221 Giovani di Fidanza and died in 1274.  He entered the Franciscan order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris.  Marked by an attempt to completely integrate faith and reason, he thought of “Christ as the one true master who offers humans knowledge that begins in faith, is developed through rational understanding, and is perfected by mystical union with God.” St. Bonaventure

“Bonaventure pays little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!” cac.org

I think I would have enjoyed life as a Franciscan living and studying with Giovani di Fidanza.  Hmmmm, maybe I did and simply have not yet realized that previous life.  🙏

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just as I am

 

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A beggar and wanderer in life’s trek reaching beyond the horizon’s mysteries.  Take me, consume me, I no longer fear your infinite wisdom.

As a young man I was indoctrinated into the belief that Christianity alone held the answers to the mysteries of life and the hereafter.  I did not see it as a nefarious attempt to control my thinking nor kidnap my soul.  It was merely the traditional theology handed down generation after generation from father to son, mother to daughter because they truly believed this was the only path to goodness and eternal life.  My first taste of religious intolerance occurred within my closely knit community, when an upstanding Catholic parent thought he was worthy of a seat on the school board, but was met with vehement opposition from the “true” Christian community fathers.  I became familiar with the words, “We love you as Christians, but you don’t qualify”.

That screaming “but you don’t qualify” became the signature arguing point in my withdrawal and subsequent denial of anything religious.  Unfortunately, it also enabled the demon of alcoholism to replace all that had been taught to me as a young lad.  I recognize today, as a sober man, that not everything of those early learning years was errant and repressive.  When reading familiar scriptures, I can now agree and reflect on the truth contained in many of those verses.  But I also recognize that the tradition of my Christ-centered faith is not exclusive.  It is not the only way.  AA’s concept of a “God of my understanding” led me to find sober salvation along with millions of others who could not swallow a narrow, wrathful and vengeful entity sitting upon his throne breathing fire and damnation.

Today I hold to the thought that a truly loving and compassionate God does not have the capacity to hate or deny God’s love based on man’s theological interpretation.  Period.  God is love, love is God.  It is impossible for God to not love. That is cemented by none other than Jesus, the Christ.

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

Believing in Jesus, not as the man nor as the divinity, but as the way to a lifestyle free of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”, as a path to unconditional acceptance and compassion for all of God’s humanity regardless of race, creed, sexuality or ethnicity – that is the freedom expressed by every one of the world’s major religions and especially in John 8:36.  I can realize a life which is  no longer bound by the shackles of judgement or hatred or intolerance.  Free indeed!

Bottom line for me is that this freedom is a choice I make every day.  Do I bow to the God of my understanding or do I submit unquestioningly to the God of my tradition?  Ironically, they are the same God, but do I follow the narrow interpretations of theologians or do I live my life according to a God understood by me?  Today I know that God is God is God, the One and the same universal entity referenced by Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but never intending to be exclusive to any one faith walk.  Man has encouraged that exclusivity.  Man has kidnapped, pigeon-holed, and taught lies about God which are contrary to the core tenet of each of the 5 great traditions.

In Exodus 3:14, the writer reports that when Moses asked, “Whom shall I tell the people you are,” the vision he was seeing replied, “I am that I AM.”

I AM is the same supernatural power which mankind from the beginning of time has searched within himself for the answers to these questions: 1)who am I?  2)why am I here?  3)what am I supposed to do here?  The cave man in his natural questioning painted pictures on the cave walls to express his connection to nature, the world’s first mystics knew they were one with the universal power to which they chanted, the shepherd boys in the hills marveled at the star-lit night ushering  the arrival of a new messenger to show THE WAY to a lost tribe.   I AM has always been with us and in us throughout eternity.  I AM does not belong to any man’s theology or doctrine.  I AM cannot be humanly defined, cannot be humanly described.  I AM simply is.

“Just as the same lump of clay can take on infinite form and remain itself unchanged, so God takes on infinite form while never being other than God.” – Rami Shapiro, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent: Sacred Teachings—Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2013), 66.

a beggar

A beggar and wanderer in life’s trek reaching beyond the horizon’s mysteries.  Take me, consume me, I no longer fear your infinite wisdom.

Life can be a blessing wandering through the mysteries of the universe as a beggar hungering for truth.  Or life can be a daily disappointment filled with the sufferings of dissatisfaction because the simplicity offered freely is unappreciated while the worldly desires unmet are futilely sought with gold and silver.  It’s my choice – yours too.

So, wherein is wisdom, the nugget of truth?  Is it with the one who merely endures each day of his life because he is counting with dread the moments until the death transition, the end of physical existence, the decay of body?  Or is it in the one who embraces each new day of his life with excitement and anticipation because he sees beyond the horizon to the other side where infinite wisdom dwells aside love and peace?

I don’t know.  I am nothing more than a traveler, a messenger for a greater truth which I do not completely understand nor am able to humanly define, yet know it exists.   But, as a beggar and wanderer of this universe, I know nothing will be lacking when nothing is desired.  Death and suffering will have been defeated.

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi

divide & conquer

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us.  Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”  Bill Wilson, AS BILL SEES IT

When was the last time you screamed at or threw a middle finger to your TV screen?  Last week, yesterday, maybe a few minutes ago?  And did it accomplish anything? Probably not.

Today I understand how fragile my inner ecosystem can be.  My emotions are not like those of normal men and women who view or hear an outrageous story deserving of anger.  They process the news, digest it, and respond in a constructive manner.  I do not, although, I am infinitely better than I once was.  No, I can still be the guy standing in front of his TV screen flailing arms and fingers, hurling profanities at the image which has provoked me.  Do I believe that person heard or saw me?  No, of course not.  But I sure told him a thing or two, did I not?

Anger destroys every inch of peace and contentment that dwells within.  It alters the thought processes which lead to a God-honoring state of mind.  One minute of outrage can develop into 24 hours, or longer, of festering resentment.  Just one moment of anger can do that.  Am I willing, today as a sober man, to sacrifice my serenity for anger?

It’s one of the seven deadly sins according to numerous faith walks.  Let’s call it a character defect.  My inner demons use anger very effectively to divide and conquer.  When my mind is consumed with discord it cannot process the love that awaits in communion with a higher power.  All things spiritual are ushered to a back burner while the negatives boil away at a furious burn. Division conquers.  Calling 911 to God’s help line is the only solution.  Pray, pray, pray.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

I certainly cannot change the doofus on TV who has taken control of my emotional state of mind.  Lord, why would I willingly give a conduit of hatred and division such a presence in my world?  Divide and conquer is not only an inner manifestation that destroys my serenity.  It also works for political figures and world leaders intent on personal power and prestige.  Divide the people, then go in for the kill.

I don’t have to play the game.  Sobriety has opened a world of possibilities for a life apart from the games politicians play.  Religious leaders also sometimes deserve that middle finger of dissent.  Divide and conquer.  “My God is better than yours.  I’m going to heaven, you’re going to hell.  I am unique and special.”

Does that kind of rhetoric meet the standard set by Jesus or any of the messengers of truth which have been shared with us?  Many years ago, a wise old man advised me, a newly sober man searching for a better way, “If your religious affiliation doesn’t teach love and compassion for your fellow-man, then it is not of God.”

Take that advice with a grain of salt – or adhere to it like I did.  It has made the search for truth in theological philosophy mind-blowing and simultaneously comforting.  Consider these words from my foremost first read every morning:

“Buddhism affirms that there is only one of us, and therefore we are each responsible for every link in the web of being. Christianity offers us the unconditional mercy of an incarnational God who permeates the whole of creation with love. Judaism urges us to demonstrate our love for God in the way we treat each other and care for creation. Hinduism kindles the fire of devotion for reunification with the Beloved who is no other than our own true Self. Islam shares the peace that comes with complete submission to the One.”

FATHER RICHARD ROHR   Mirabai Starr in The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, Rami Shapiro, ed. (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), vii-viii.

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the marginalized

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“Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children.” —Isaiah 10:1-2, The Message

This passage quoted by Fr. Richard Rohr is attributed to the writings of Isaiah, one of the most prolific prophets of Judaism who probably wrote all 68 chapters of the Book Isaiah sometime during the years between 740 BCE and 686 BCE.  Believing in prophecy, or not, is irrelevant to the significance of this message to us living during these tumultuous times in contemporary society because it describes the trials and perils we, the marginalized, face today.  I do not need to be a believer or follower of Jesus (which I am) to recognize the remarkable parallels.

“When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy.”

Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy (Jossey-Bass: 2014, ©2011), dedication page

Has the world forgotten what politics should be?  Today’s  world of politics has become so overshadowed by greed and self-interest that it is very difficult to view it as a conduit for the welfare of all earth’s humanity including the poor, the homeless, the children, the elderly, and the mentally ill.  The most fitting adjective we can use for that segment of society is marginalized and oppressed.  It need not be that way given the enormous wealth in the hands of a small percentage of the population.

Politics is derived from the Greek word “politikos”meaning “of, for, or relating to the citizens” and “civil, civic, belonging to the state.”

“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

[As Christians,] it is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:35). [3]

Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis, http://reclaimingjesus.org/.

The core belief of the traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is committed to compassion and hospitality.  Adherents are known by their actions and works.  If professing anything other than love and tolerance as depicted in their Scriptures, then they are not true followers of their faith.  It’s a simple assessment based on the writings of the ancients.

Principalities and powers pass away, but the inner power of the Spirit as represented by the Hebrew prophets, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed is infinite and eternal.

12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  EPHESIANS 6:12

honoring Divinity

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Namaste : the divinity in me honors the divinity in you.

First, I must recognize the divinity in me.  Do I do that?  Do you?  Do we believe that God, whatever our conception of God may be, dwells within?  Jesus and his band of mystics thought that to be the truth.  “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  LUKE 17:21

Whether or not you or I follow the theology of Christianity, this idea of God living within is not a revolutionary idea.  Verses of Judaic and Christian scriptures support the premise of ancient and contemporary mystics that the entity which we call upon as God does not dwell apart from us in the celestial skies or in the far reaches of the universe.  No,  that spark of divinity, according to those scriptures, is not only indwelling, but also an exact image of the spiritual essence lauded in Genesis as the Creator of humankind.  “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  GENESIS 1:27

You and I created in the image of God?   Wow, mind-boggling!  The book of John in the Bible’s New Testament tells believers that God is Spirit.  “God is Spirit; and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth.” JOHN 4:24  God does not have a physical appearance. So, if we are created in the image of God, then our God essence is spirit, it is within, and each member of mankind has it.

David, the famed King of Israel and supposed author of the book of Psalms, wrote:  “Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me.”  PSALM 51:11.  King David feared losing that indwelling Spirit.  Can we lose the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know, but I do know I have ignored that holy presence, I have not practiced “namaste”, honoring the divinity within me and within you.  Every time I saturated my brain with alcohol, I profaned the indwelling Spirit.  Every time I acted out with other addictive behavior, I profaned the holiness within.  Every time I used another “imaged” child of God for selfish purposes, I profaned God within.

Buddhism says that the perfection of being is within.  Understanding the 4 Noble Truths and directing life according to  MAGGA, the 8 fold pathway, will bring enlightenment or NIRVANA, “accepting the world as it is”.

There is no theology associated with Buddhism.  It is a lifestyle which focuses on an inner enlightenment and an outward display of compassion toward all of creation.  The word namaste is of Hindu origin.  When one bows with folded hands and extends the greeting “namaste”, Pranamasana has occurred.  It is an act of respect shown to others.

Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism offer great insights to my recovery program when taken as foundational principles of Good Orderly Direction, G.O.D.

 

Parousia

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eschatology : a body of religious doctrines regarding the soul relating to heaven, hell, death, and judgement

It is not my desire to be a promoter of any religion’s eschatology.  Life is far too short to argue about doctrines, tenets, and beliefs.  But, recently I came across a word which I had encountered many years ago and then retired to my brain’s back burner – Parousia.

The second coming of Christ is, for some believers, the entire reason for the season.  It is faith on steroids.  It is the carrot on the stick, the arrival of Santa Claus only a million times better.  Parousia is that for which many Christians live, and, unfortunately, that for which some Christians will attempt to destroy the world.  The second coming of Christ – Parousia.

My childhood concept of this event instilled the fear of God into me.  Be ready or be left behind.  Be good or burn in hell.  Be waiting with oil for your lamp or spend eternity in darkness.  Christ could come at anytime and being unprepared was not an option, especially for a little boy wanting to go to heaven and sit with Jesus.

I cannot diminish those “little boy” ideas because in the end all of them could be the truth.  But that eschatology doesn’t work for me today.  In my faith walk, deity lives within and connects to a universal sanctity called Love.  Love is the energy propelling the evolution of human spirit.  It is the divine force which always was, always is, and always will be. Love is eternity and infinity.

One of my daily favorite reads is Father Richard Rohr.  In a recent post, he challenges his reader to consider that all the hullabaloo concerning Christ’s second coming could be not so much a physical happening in the future, but rather a point in the future when all members of humanity have finally evolved to a Christ standard within.  In that Parousia, Love takes center stage and transports humankind to the perfection which we attribute to Jesus the Christ in our scriptures and theology.  The second coming might be personal internal transformations of global proportions effecting worldwide evolution to the peaceful co-existence envisioned by man’s scriptures and by God’s messengers.

It’s just a thought which gives the little boy in me a reason to hope for a better world dedicated to social justice and equality for all.  Childhood eschatology has failed to provide that hope.

CANDLE

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