$$ MONEY $$ – is it overrated?

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Lord knows I have carried a basketful of stupid decisions and irrational choices in my lifetime which have determined my ‘prosperity’ status.  But truly,  my recollections from years past point simply to a contented life earned and learned by living a simple life.

We were not prosperous by today’s standards.  But, in my eyes, we were the most affluent and blessed people on earth.  Stuff and money did not matter.  We did not compare to the Joneses.  I never went to bed hungry, never walked to the school bus in rags, never slept without a blanket.  Life was good.  In retrospect, what made life good was the fact that just about everybody we knew lived as we did.  We counted our blessings everyday, helped those neighbors who had fallen onto tough times, worshipped in a beautiful country church with other folks who knew the meaning of sharing, compassion, and humble faith.  Oh, a few thought they were special and had the inside track to God, but most of us just accepted that maybe we didn’t really know all the answers and we tried to live a life that pleased family, friends, and neighbors and in doing so, hopefully pleased God.

Yes, we had abundant security even if we did not have money.  We depended on each other knowing that the world would have to end before any one of us would abandon the other.  Do we have that security today?  Do you know your neighbors’ names or where they were born?  Would your community feed you, house you, and clothe you if hard times hit or would you need to pitch a tent in the woods and eat bugs and lizards?

Compassion prevailed back then because we were a community of individuals who knew each house and family along the country roads leading to church, to the general store, to the Ford dealer, to the Grange hall, to the telephone office where an operator manned (or womanned) the switch board 24 hours a day, and to the undertaker’s house to which  each of us would someday take a quiet journey.  Everybody knew everybody else – Mrs. Johnson’s bouts with depression, the Mitchell children needing new shoes, the insurance agent’s penchant for Jack Daniels, and the milkman’s weekend trips to the city to walk on the wild side.  We did our best to live right, but none of us were cocksure of eternity and none of us claimed to have the answers.  Life was a mystery and we knew it was wise to leave it as such.  In that simple, uncomplicated, unsophisticated bygone community of farmers, our lives had meaning.  Life was precious and each member of that community had a sense of belonging.

Today’s times are troubling.  The ones who proclaim to be spiritual leaders seem to be speaking from both sides of the mouth, their lives betray the words coming from the pulpits.  Some houses of worship have become palatial with a senior pastor, junior pastor, assistant pastor and a staff of office help.  Preaching hell and damnation for those who don’t adhere to their narrow litany of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, they go home to an equally impressive mansion with amenities and ‘stuff’ which most of the congregation cannot afford.

The gospel of prosperity and exclusion which I am hearing from numerous religious leaders nationwide starkly contrasts to the teachings of Jesus that I remember from my little country church years ago.  Humility is lacking, compassion is lacking, love for every member of humanity is replaced by an attitude of tribalism.  The strident position of excessively cocksure Christians evidenced today is alarming.  “You are going to hell, but I’m not because I have discovered the path to salvation.  I am a believer, you are lost.”

I don’t remember in my younger experience that Jesus taught any of those things which extreme-right fundamentalists are pumping from their pulpits.  Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough, maybe I missed the spiritual boat just as I missed out on the prosperity boat.  But, you know what?  I would not trade the soul security and contentment which I learned in that country church attended by simple folks who practiced a gospel of humility and social justice.  I would not trade the peace of mind I have for all the promises today’s prosperity preachers dangle from their pulpits of hypocrisy and intolerance.

Just a few thoughts from a simple man who still believes there is more to life than money.

 

let’s try Christianity

I had another post prepared to share, but a more pressing issue blipped onto my radar screen and I believe this post from a while back is appropriate for today’s religious dialog. 🙏

via let’s try Christianity

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“Imagine no heaven or hell….and no religion, too.  You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”  JOHN LENNON

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be still and know

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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 is overflowing.

Be persistent in asking.  When in that quiet inner space, don’t be timid with requests.  The answer will always be ‘yes, no, or not now’.  But, whatever the answer may be, be assured that our internal GPS has got us covered and will bring us safely to the next plateau of life – if we heed our inner voice.  Very simple, degree in rocket science not required to know what our conscience tells us in those quiet moments.  The secret, if there is any secret, is to slow down, be silent, still the wandering mind, and listen.  Ask for guidance and it will be given.  Be still and know.

Seek joy and happiness relentlessly.  Life around us changes with every passing moment.  We must also adjust.  Our central core of understanding has an amazing capacity to adjust.  What was yesterday’s ‘golden oldie’ is today’s old fogey flashback.  When we hang on to the ‘way things used to be’ we are stifling what needs to happen now in our continuing growth.  Doesn’t mean we should give up values, the moral compass which has been a lifetime beacon; rather, it means evolving those values to make sense in today’s crazy world.

Centuries ago when one element of society disagreed with the beliefs and actions of another, it could find a new, uncharted continent to settle and follow its philosophy.  Vacant, unexplored land has disappeared and it has become a matter of species survival to learn co-existence with a variety of races, creeds, and religions.

Namaste🙏

do not fear

Fearlessly walk through valleys of darkness.

black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417FEARLESSNESS – pursuing the chosen path which is personal truth, standing steadfast when ridicule and contempt attack from the hidden hills, allowing peace and contentment to reign in nights of loneliness and despair – friends, that is fearlessness.  Just as personal truths, chosen paths are unique. Rejoice in this blessing.  Namaste 🙏backlit-clouds-dawn-415380

 

what if ?

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Do you ever play the ‘what if ‘game?  It’s akin to the ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘ought to’ conversations we have with ourselves occasionally.  I don’t know about you, but I never seem to win that game.  It’s primary facilitator is monkey mind.  What?  you don’t know what monkey mind is.  Oh Lord, we need to have a talk.

Monkey mind is the incessant internal chatter happening within the space between the ears.  Can’t turn it off, can’t shut it out, can’t override it.  On and on and on go the thoughts passing through the gray matter occupying the skull.  It is fertile ground for the game of what if.  

What if I had married my high school sweetheart?  What if I had planned my future as a young man rather than float through the 60s and 70s as a wannabe hippie?  What if my parents had tried harder to work out their religious differences instead of divorcing?  Yeah, what if?

I’ve become rather good at ignoring monkey mind allowing it to scream its mindless chatter into the ozone.  But, sometimes, even 70 years after the fact, I scream back, “what the hell was so damned important about their religious beliefs to let me grow up without a daddy?  Tell me, what?”

Funny thing about monkey mind – it’s not very conversational, just wants to rattle on with politics, worries, money problems, relationships, what old lady Jones fussed about yesterday, nursing homes, arthritis, dementia, the sorry state of the union, the price of lettuce, Susie’s boy friend, the cat’s dirty ears, floors need to be mopped – on and on and on.  But, after having its way for a while, the noise stops and serenity settles in for a visit.

And all is cool until the JWs knock on the front door, “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

“Hell yes,” I respond in my Donald Duck underwear and fluffies, “I’m going down to undertaker Bob’s place to have a nip and tuck and a transfusion of embalming fluid.  Now get off my porch and take your tracts with you.”

Have you guessed by now that I have a hair up my butt about organized religion?  When other neighborhood boys were playing pitch with their daddies, I was cooking supper for me and mom because she had to work.  When other boys took their daddies fishing, I had to go grocery shopping with mom.  When other boys sat beside their daddies in church, I sat beside my mom praying for a daddy like theirs. C’mon, take your best shot.  Tell me again what is so damned important about religion that mom and dad had to divorce because they couldn’t agree about Jesus.

You don’t have an answer either, do you?  Maybe they both got wrapped up in a lot of fahooey about ‘proper’ Christian behavior.  Maybe they listened to parents and pastors instead of their loving hearts.  Maybe they listened to theatrics and drama from the pulpit rather than humility and compassion.  My time on this earth has shown me that there are innumerable examples of what organized religion gone astray can inflict on the devoted masses.

Extortion, persecution, subjugation, enslavement, murder, genocide – all in the name of God.  Not just Christian, but Judaic, and Muslim, too.  Maybe I’ve got this God-Jesus thing all wrong.  What if God is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful condoning murder and intolerance of the infidels?  What if Christianity is the only truth amidst all the world’s faith creeds?  What if?  What if?  What if?  Aw hell, there goes monkey mind again running the conversation.

I don’t know if Shakespeare was a man of faith or not.  But I do believe he nailed it with his line from Hamlet:  “This above all:  to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Do I know my own self?  Do you?  We came equipped from the factory with reason and logic.  We have a conscience that guides and speaks to us in those questioning moments.  We profess an indwelling spirit.  Maybe that is all we need to navigate this life in search of enlightenment.  Evolving to the higher self intended for us does not need to be rocket science nor religious indoctrination.  Shalom.

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the arrogant Christian

ARROGANCE – conceit, haughtiness, egotism, superiority, pride, overconfidence, superciliousness, self-importance, condescension

HUMILITY – the cure for arrogance

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Which will it be?  Which am I?  Arrogant or humble in my faith walk?  How about you?

Here’s the quiz:

  1. Do I pridefully share my unsolicited testimony with strangers?
  2. Do I believe my concept of God is the only valid belief and that only those like me are ‘saved’?
  3. Do I deride other religions?
  4. Do I believe only those who profess the New Testament ‘road to salvation’ will know an eternity?
  5. Do I believe Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindi, even Christian sects other than mine are ‘lost’ and will burn in hell?
  6. Do I believe it is my duty to defend the God which I understand even to the point of warfare and murder?
  7. Do I believe it is righteous to murder those providing abortion or those receiving abortion knowing by heart the 10 Commandments and “thou shalt not kill”?
  8. Do I believe my government ought to be governed by Christian principles?
  9. Do I believe the Judeo-Christian scriptures are infallible and inerrant?
  10. Do I interpret every verse and passage of those scriptures literally?
  11. Do I believe non-believers deserve my scorn and derision?
  12. Would I help a destitute refugee of another creed, faith, or race?

LASTLY

Would I recognize Jesus, the Christ, if He were standing in front of me in the guise of  a starving child from Yemen, a 14 year-old Honduran girl pregnant by rape, a young family fleeing persecution in Syria, a ghetto black man from Chicago addicted to drugs, a homeless woman living in the nearby woods?

Would I?  Would you?  The Christian world celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth this week.  What’s hanging on my personal cross, on yours?  Arrogance, maybe?  Will we resurrect into the man or woman whom the universal God of all mankind designed us to be?

(There is only one correct answer to the questions in the above quiz – humility)

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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breathe, just breathe

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 is overflowing.

Breathe!  Inhale.  Pay attention to that breath as it filters into your lungs expanding the chest and replenishing the body with life-giving oxygen.  Exhale.  With that exhalation release the spent air along with emotional baggage, stress,  and fear.  Focus on that moment of nothingness between each breath.  Thought-less, care-free; this is you, whom God meant you to be.  Don’t go back, don’t go forward, just be now.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
praise him ye creatures here below,
praise him above ye heavenly host,
praise Father, Son and Holy ghost. Amen

Do I appreciate how sacred is the life which has been given in me?  The marvel of my body, the functions of my organs, the amazing coordination of all the parts, the depths of understanding, the inherent ability for compassion are all components of this gift which I inhabit.  Life is a gift.  Do I appreciate this unique blessing flowing from an indescribable, indefinable Oneness, the energy which I call God?  Breathe, just breathe.

This is the Christian season of Lent.  Slow down, contemplate, meditate, ponder, sacrifice and prepare for receiving the greatest gift given to mankind – life.  Not just a functioning physical presence, but a realization that there is more, much more than just enduring each day with resignation.  Life!  Appreciating the sounds of nature, the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of children, the voice of a lover, the greatness of Bach and Beethoven, the thrill of each new day, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the rain which refreshes and soothes…..all of it, Life.  The stumbles, the pain, the heartache of loss, the dark days of depression, the joyless times of loneliness, the fears, the journey through the valleys….all of it, Life.  It is ours to behold and cherish.  Breathe, just breathe.

Divine energy, cosmic Presence, the Giver, the Restorer, Higher Power, Comforter, Oneness, God.  With every breath accept the gift of life.  Receive that which is available to every creature, every man and woman, every butterfly.  Life. Just breathe!

who are you?

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 is overflowing.

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There was a time in my life when I thought that one day in the future I should be able to  describe and define God.  It was an element of my faith walk which led me to believe spiritual maturity could be captured and confined in a treasure box of heavenly secrets and knowledge.  When I had attained certitude in all things which previously were questioning and unknowing, I would then be a wise and ‘saved’ man of God.

Didn’t work that way, folks.  Today I know less than I did yesterday and there are many more questions than answers.  But, there is also comfort in knowing that the unknown is an integral part of the mystery which we call God.  The ancient writings of Judaism recorded in the book of Exodus tell us that when Moses had a personal encounter with God emanating from a burning bush, Moses asked, “What shall I say is your name?” and the answer was, “I AM Who I AM.”  (Exodus 3:14)

In my mind, that answer always seemed to be such an evasive response to a man as myself who wanted a definitive description or a name to use.  Essentially God said to Moses and to me, “You don’t need to get so familiar with me as to think you have unraveled the mystery which I AM.”  God, in Exodus 3, is a reassuring presence, not an identifiable entity.

I need to be satisfied with that.  That reassuring presence is all I need to know.  Maybe Jesus understood that presence in his life’s journey on earth.  He referred to God as Father while living a life motivated  by spiritual nobility more than absolute knowledge. He shared the essence of his faith in sayings and parables often confusing listeners who were not attuned to God as a spiritually reassuring Presence.   If I were to ask, contrary to contemporary theology, what if Jesus was not on earth to establish a divinity demanding worship and adoration upon his death?   Rather, what if he lived to present to humanity nothing more than an example of life dedicated to service and humility?

Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily blog commented,

“No one owns him (Jesus), and no one ever will.” cac.org

As an American, as a white man, as a Christian I need to be extremely careful what image I impose upon Jesus.  I need to eat some humble pie when thinking that I know everything there is to know.  I will never fully know the beauty of Jesus or the identity of God because I am still a broken vessel struggling to fathom the depths of God’s presence and Jesus’ soul.  All I can do is aspire to a fuller acceptance of and surrender to the universal mystery known as God, my reassuring Presence.

Jesus is attributed with the words of Matthew 7:7 that we should keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking and we will receive what we are asking and find what we are seeking.  The doors in front of us will open.  Beyond those doors will be more asking, more seeking and more doors to open.  If I should think that I have arrived, that I have the answers, that all the doors have been opened, then I, in my errant theological certitude, shall have strayed from the purpose of my own spiritual quest. Matthew 7:7open door

let’s build barns

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 is overflowing.

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I have seen, in my lifetime, many changes in the roles of men and women within their respective societies.  Most changes are good, many more are needed.  A male friend of mine, old as the hills just as I am, pontificated about the role of women in the household.

“A woman’s duty is in the house taking care of the husband.”

“Hmmmm,” I replied.  “Sounds like old-fashioned chauvinism to me.”  He took offense.

Now folks, I am not the most progressive, liberated man on earth, but in my mind that kind of talk went the way of the horse and buggy decades ago.  Unfortunately, some members of my gender still adhere to it.  Equality for women is a good thing.  Equality for everyone is a better thing.  Argue with me if you must, but I know I am right.

However, some things from the horse and buggy days by far outshine our society today.  I remember, as a young boy, the neighbor’s barn being destroyed by fire.  Within weeks that neighbor had a new barn with a new hex sign on its side erected by his community brethren – labor intensive and cost free.  In the autumn when butchering of livestock needed to be done, the men of the community traveled from one farm to the next assisting each other until all the community’s members had stocked the larders, smoke houses, and shelves with a bounty of meats.  The women also participated by joining their sisters to prepare a dinner table groaning under the weight of meats, vegetables and desserts for the hungry working men.  Even the children escaped from school classes to assist whenever possible.  Some of our greatest lessons in life were learned during those times of shared communal outreach.  They were lessons a class room could never duplicate.

Our community lived as if every person mattered regardless of worldly goods and professional achievement.  Each man, woman, and child had a purpose and a unique contribution to the community’s livelihood.  None were denigrated because of poverty or social difficulty.  When the bounty of the land was brought in during fall harvests, none needed to be concerned if their crops were lacking or their larders were not filled.  Neighbors filled whatever the need might have been.  It’s was simply the right way to live and we all knew that it was right.

“Harvest Home” at our church was a special Sunday in October when the best of the harvest was presented at the altar for the pastor and his family.  In later years, when the pastor was  better paid, those offerings were taken to the church-sponsored home for orphans and the destitute.  Our community cared about its brothers and sisters just as they were instructed to do in their church upbringing, just as Jesus taught during his ministry on earth.  The farmers and teachers and artisans and laborers talked the talk and walked the walk.

Times today seem different, more impersonal.  I don’t know my neighbors down the street.  I attended a church of my tradition for 2 years and knew some of the congregants by name but none well enough to get together for coffee after the service.  Everybody seemed hurried to get home, change clothes and watch the game on cable or head to WalMart to buy a new kitchen gadget.  Yes, tithing was important, but that five dollar bill in the plate simply did not hold a candle to the basket of fruit setting at the altar during Harvest Home Sunday.  It’s too impersonal.  And we don’t build barns anymore.

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