Psalm 23

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.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

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.

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There currently is a television commercial depicting a hiker walking on a beautiful, unfamiliar wooded trail using GPS as a guide.  In an instant he drops his backpack, runs ahead on the trail.  The last scene is disconcerting to me, even though I have seen it many times.  Running at full speed, he jumps off a cliff several 100 feet high into a beautiful shimmering lake awaiting below.

Would you trust your GPS that implicitly?  Could I?  Trust it enough to jump off a cliff to certain death if the data is not correct?  What if there is no deep water at the end of my jump to cushion my fall?

We are asked to do the same with our faith.  Nobody has returned from death to tell us about the glories of heaven or the depths of hell.  Nobody has seen Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. NOBODY!  So why should we believe?  I am a rational, reasonable human being who has spent numerous decades trying to determine what life is about and I have as much certitude now as I did when I came into this world.

BINGO!  Faith is not about certitude.  Faith is trust in the mystery which tells us that light will overcome the darkness, that love will prevail, that peace on earth will occur when mankind becomes peaceful in all his affairs.  Faith is not at the end of the trail,  a destiny to be attained.  Rather, it is the trail itself.

We read scriptures for many reasons.  The history of the Jews is an interesting lesson in the human condition.  All the trials, the greed, the intolerance, the violence are balanced by victory over ego, insights about communal living, stories that reflect man’s search for God.

The writings by the contemporaries of Jesus relate His message that relieves followers from the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant observed by ancient Jewish culture.  Some Christian leaders today carry across the B.C / A.D line those Old Covenant laws attempting to override the simple message of Christianity regarding laws (commandments).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this:  love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark: 12:30-31

Pretty simple, straight-forward theology, is it not?  We don’t need anything more to trust that our faith is heading in the right direction.  Forget all the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt not’ from the ponderous teachings and preachings of modern Christianity which have done more to oppress than enlighten.  That is what John said:

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

He’s talking about freedom from the oppression of ancient theology and theological laws.  We can trust a simple faith which places God and love for fellow-man at the center of our beliefs.  Nothing more is needed.

How we live our faith is a choice we make every day.  The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous urge us onward with this daily choice by slogans on the wall.  K.I.S.S. – Keep ISimple Stupid – is one of them which embodies a way of living, a faith walk if you will, that frees us from concerns about religious correctness.  The fellowship which occurs in those rooms attests to the success of making sober-living people out of drunkards through a simple spiritual program.  Have you KISSED today?

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soul’s foundation

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.

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  • A trust in inner coherence itself.  “It all means something.” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me.  (Love)

Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org names faith, hope, and love as the soul’s foundation.  The author of 1 Corinthians 13:13 agrees.

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  NLT

Think about it.  Every human being who ever has been, is now, or ever will be, receives equal and inherent dignity as children of God.  We, all of us, have been created in the image of God.  Jew, Gentile, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, believer and non-believer, white, black, brown, purple, straight, gay, male and female, none of the above, etcetera, the ancient wisdom of Jewish scripture (Genesis 1:26-27) tells us this is truth. That is our starting point, but, unfortunately, the human condition questions, disputes, and regresses to a state of prejudice in which the powerless and disadvantaged lose out.  Even the forefathers, hallowed for the United States Declaration of Independence, when they famously declared “all men are created equal”, they actually meant all who are white, property-owning males.

Not much inherent dignity there, but at least it was a new direction in governing.  It became ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’.  That’s what Jesus’ ministry to the downtrodden, oppressed Jewish nation was all about.  Do you really think he was planning to start a brand new religion or that, as many Jews were hoping, he was planning to usurp power from the Roman governors?  No, Jesus understood that he too had inherent dignity as a child of God and that his purpose on earth was to lead others to also believe.  He and his disciples, calling themselves ‘the Way’, ministered to the poor, the sick, the dying, the oppressed with a message that they too were worthy of a seat at the table.  They too were children of God blessed with dignity and worth.

Although the religion which names itself after Christ has missed the mark of the message of Jesus in so many ways throughout history, it does acknowledge that faith, hope, and love (sometimes called charity) are mainstays of a Christ-centered faith.  In the times of today, when not much of anything makes sense and I know the world is irrational, the rock of my spiritual foundation needs to be solid and unwavering.  It cannot be built on man-created theology or a litany of ‘thou shalt and thou shalt not’.  It must be an indwelling sense that has deep personal meaning, that gives me a positive path to follow, that tells me I am worthy of His love.  Jesus is my rock, can be yours too.  Has nothing to do with religion or church or theological correctness.  It’s all about my soul and yours, nurturing that inner sanctum, and claiming our rightful heritage as children of a merciful, loving God.  AMEN?

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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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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don’t worry, be happy

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.

Western culture is familiar with this title of a Bobby McFerrin song from 1988.  George H.W. Bush used it without authorization in his 1988 presidential campaign prompting McFerrin (a Democrat)  to publicly protest the use of his intellectual property and further distanced himself from Bush by dropping the song from his performance repertoire.  Later rumors circulated that McFerrin had committed suicide.  Born in 1950, he continues today as a prominent figure in the world of jazz.

Lesser known is Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master, 1894 to 1969, who taught that “the Universe is imagination, that God is what really exists, and that each soul is really God passing through imagination to realize His own divinity.” His spiritual transformation began at age 19 and lasted seven years until early 1922.  From 1925 to his death in 1969, he maintained silence communicating only by an alphabet board and unique hand signals.

Meher Baba’s most noted quote is, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

I find his spiritual insights easier to swallow that many other of today’s religious theologies, but I especially appreciate “don’t worry, be happy.”  Even Christian scripture exhorts me to this same practice.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own.  There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.”  Matthew 6:34

This chapter of Matthew 6 describes how the lilies are beautifully clothed and the birds of the air are fed without any concern for tomorrow.

“Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?”  Matthew 6:27

The verses do not promise trouble-free days, but they do advise me that to worry about those difficult days will accomplish nothing.  Modern Christianity with its promise of worldly prosperity and eternal good feelings is a setup for a major spiritual crisis when those promises do not materialize and I am left holding a bag of remorse and guilt for being immensely deficient in my faith.  I refuse to go there anymore.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.  Life is designed to follow the footsteps of  the One we name as Lord and Master, that same One who directed his followers to not worry about the incidentals of living, but rather to attend to the eternal values of life.

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Mexico City

BBC NEWS

In the capital, city officials prepared food and shelter as well as medical services to those arriving at the Jesus Martinez “Palillo” stadium.

‘There are pregnant women, many children, vulnerable people and we have to guarantee the space and the services they require,’  said city leader Jose Ramon Amieva Galvez.

Many of those arriving were so exhausted they only grabbed a blanket before falling asleep.  ‘From what I brought from Honduras I have nothing.  Even yesterday I walked barefoot,’ Kenia Alvarado, 21, told El Universal newspaper.

Residents of Mexico City have donated clothes and shoes for the travelers, local media reported.”

REUTERS

At a campaign rally in Montana, US President Trump praised  troops installing razor wire along the US-Mexico border to stop an approaching migrant caravan, saying “barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”  Matthew 25:42-44

Shame upon us!  The wealthiest nation in the Western Hemisphere sends troops and  lays barbed wire.  One of the poorest nations feeds, clothes and gives shelter.  How dare the United States call itself Christian?

 

just breathe

“be, just be”

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“Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30

If I can’t find comfort in the lyrics to the Jonny Diaz song and the Matthew verse attributed to Jesus, then I am probably too busy with the insanity of this world.  One does not have to profess Christianity in order to appreciate a place where life is good and chaos is non-existent.  For me, that place is at the feet of Jesus soaking in the peace available through His words and love.  It is a peace and love given freely to all who seek.  It is undeserved and unmerited grace from the center of a universal force which has been named with various names, but remains undefinable and indescribable.  Breathe, just breathe, and sit with me at His feet.

No demands, no expectations, no rules.  Life changes dramatically when we put on the yoke of Jesus because that yoke is light and easy.  Our efforts to be more righteous are futile because all the righteousness we can muster is as dung to the One who knows and sees everything.  Our good works keep our idle minds busy and temptation resistant, but we are loved regardless.  It’s mind-boggling.  No strings attached; be, just be.

But, when the freedom of this yoke which we assume is manifested in our lives, we will want to change, to be different from the rest of the world which mindlessly zooms past us every day.  We want to be centered in a faith that matters.  We want to see in others the same Jesus that has freed us from the burdens of this world and we want to share that Jesus in all that we say and do.  We become a spark of divinity that can’t be extinguished by chaos and frenzy.

“Breathe, just breathe.  Come and rest at his feet. Lay down what’s good and find what’s best.”