Feast of St. Francis

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment. It is a popular day for pets to be “blessed”.

Does one need to be Catholic or a professor of any faith walk to appreciate the life of St. Francis of Assisi? Francis grew up privileged in a wealthy family, enjoyed partying with his young friends, got in trouble as revilers will, decided to prove his manhood by enlisting in the efforts of the Crusades, apparently met his God while riding off to battle and returned to follow a life of supplication and poverty. His dedication to the plight of the disadvantaged, his embrace of simplicity and his love for the environment are highlights of many historical accounts. Our contemporary Franciscan order replicates the lives of Francis and Clare of Assisi.

Fast forward to 2020 and the chaos facing Americans in choosing a President. On one hand we have President Trump, apparently bolstered by numerous religious leaders proclaiming he has been sent by God to save America, holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church threatening to use military troops against protesters . Counter that with the image of Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, paying respects to Justice Ginsburg lying in state at the Capitol. Among many Christian denominations, crossing one’s self while quietly repeating, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, is indicative of that person’s belief in the Holy Trinity. Joe Biden bowed his head, crossed himself and moved on with wife Jill at his side.

Which scenario gives us comfort? Which visual image fortifies our trust in the faith walk of the man who will become President on November 3rd? To those naysayers who would comment that religion and politics should not mix, I must agree. But, a person’s declaration of faith is of ultimate importance. A man who promotes violence and discord cannot be a man of Christian values. Holding up a Bible while urging the military to move in on civil protest would not be the course of action Jesus emphasized.

So, if you profess Christianity, if you proclaim to be a follower of Jesus, which are you – a Jesus follower or a fake Christian? This is another reason I will vote the Biden/ Harris ticket on November 3rd. It has nothing to do with my religion or God beliefs. It is all about the one who attempts to deceive us.

You love me anyway🙏

I find it difficult today to feel loved because my heart is not one of empathy or sympathy surrounding the health crisis enveloping the Administration.   This post was written 5 months ago, a reader put a like on it today and I had to review it to remember my words.  THANK YOU readers for making blogging more heart work than brain work.

Have I denied,
have I abandoned,
have I blasphemed,
have I lied,
have I been the prodigal,
have I been Judas,
have I been Peter,
have I driven the nails,
have I been the mocking crowd?

YES, BUT YOU LOVE ME ANYWAY

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

lyrics from SIDEWALK PROPHETS

Rev. C.T. Vivian

On August 8th, 2013, President Barack Obama named C.T. Vivian as the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom with these remarks:

“C. T. Vivian is a distinguished minister, author, and organizer. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” 

Left to right, John Lewis, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lester McKinnie at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 4, 1964. Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images.

UBUNTU – one’s own humanity is inextricably bound with that of others.
DESMOND TUTU

America has lost a great statesman and civil rights leader with the passing of Congressman John Lewis on July 17.  Less known was one of his and Martin Luther King’s spiritual advisors,  the Rev. Cordy “C.T.” Vivian who died at age 95 just hours after John Lewis. (1)

Much of present day Christianity (read: white Christianity) bases its theology on the tenet of ‘salvation’ and the hereafter.  Suffer or enjoy life in this world because there is assurance of an eternity in a heaven with palatial homes, gold paved streets and choirs of heavenly voices singing “hallelujah” forever and ever. Amen.

Unfortunately, African-Americans have not been able to share that dream of the hereafter.  Or, perhaps, it is fortunate as their earthly experience has led many black civic and religious leaders to present an alternate view of religion, specifically Christianity.

“They interpret religious teachings through the prism of the injustice in the here and now.” (1)

Speaking of King’s influence, John Lewis said:

“He was not concerned about the streets of heaven and the pearly gates and the streets paved with milk and honey. He was more concerned about the streets of Montgomery and the way that Black people and poor people were being treated in Montgomery.” (1)

What we do here matters, how we live matters, how we treat others matters.  We are ‘inextricably’ bound to every human on earth regardless of faith profession, absence of faith profession, skin color and nationality.  Somehow, Christianity, infused with the gospel of prosperity and exclusiveness, has missed that key ingredient of the teachings found in its scriptures related to us as the story of Jesus Christ in the NT.

We are ONE.  The African-American’s journey in this country enduring slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, discrimination and present day racism has invigorated within blacks the concept of UBUNTU as voiced by Desmond Tutu.

(1)  yes! journalism

 

Honoring the divine in every aspect of Creationcropped-candle.png

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

GLAAD – ROSS MURRAY

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. 

Looking for inspiration to write today’s post, Ross Murray crossed my radar screen.  One of my morning reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. ORG.  It’s commentary began with a verse from Isaiah 58, verse 1:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.  Raise your voice like a trumpet.  Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.”

Mayor Pete, in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Presidency, often referred to the faith walk he and husband Chasten embrace in their lives.  Yes, America, many gays do profess a God and many choose to express that profession through Christianity.  Ron Murray, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, claims a calling to bridge the gap between us and faith communities.  The use of Isaiah 58, verse one, to urge us forward into action regarding social injustices is surprising as many Christians would use the same verse to condemn those of us who do not fit into the boxes which they have created for us.

Check out the link GLAAD MEDIA.  It’s another resource for the LGBTQ community. According to the home page of its blog –

“GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.”

PRIDE7

 

lemonade, anyone?

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

No, I am not going to bend your ears about my lemon trees in the back yard, although they are indeed worthy of mention.  And I am not going to share my life-long dream of having a lemonade stand out front by the highway.  I would need a county license, would have to file the income with the IRS, and would see an increase in my house insurance because of the added liability.  All for 25 cents a cup – I don’t think so.

What I will do is share the wisdom of Grandpa advising me how to respond to life when life was nothing but a basket of lemons.  “Make lemonade,” he said.  Grandpa loved homemade lemonade on a hot, summer afternoon after a hard morning’s work in the potato fields.

Richard Rohr @ cac.org would have loved my Grandpa.  A follower of the Franciscan order, Richard writes daily in his blog concerning issues that every earthly human faces in everyday life.  Traditional Christian theology promoting ‘salvation’ takes a back seat to sitting at the Jesus table experiencing all of life with all its complexities and heartaches.  At this table, where there is a seat for everyone, communing with society’s oppressed and downtrodden is more relevant to the faith walk than ascending the heaven-bound ladder of religion’s ‘thou shalt and thou shalt not.’

I think Richard probably loves lemonade too.  He talks about the covid-19 dilemma forcing us to self-quarantine, isolate socially and wear masks.  It can be a debilitating event in our lives or it can be an opportunity to focus on our families and loved ones at home getting to know them more intimately and lovingly.  We are learning to get by with less expensive amusement from outside sources and staying within the beauty, safety, and comfort of our home environment.  Virtual communication with family and friends via internet connections is not the bogeyman we all feared.  Conducting one’s job responsibilities from the home computer has distinct advantages (who needs an elaborate wardrobe to go to work or a shiny car to commute?)

And as we address the world’s other potentially debilitating problems….MAKE LEMONADE.  The lemons being harvested from a corrupt and dysfunctional political system have brought civics to our supper tables nationwide.  Remember civics class in high school?  Yes, we talked about the rights and duties of citizenship.  We remembered that many people living under authoritarian or dictatorial governments don’t have civics class because they don’t have rights.  Ahhh, another glass of lemonade, please?

Or consider the pot of racism simmering on the back burner for decades which is now being addressed honestly and openly.  Those sour fruits from the white supremacist factions of our society have surfaced under an accommodating Administration forcing an uncomfortable self-inventory – am I a racist?  Many of us before this revelation would have summarily replied, “Hell no, I have a bunch of friends who are Negro.”  More lemonade, maybe, with a large twist of humility?

And while we’re on a roll, let’s look at our country’s rampant, materialistic economy which is enriching a handful of corporate pockets while an overwhelming majority of our population lives pay check to pay check.  Do you really believe the wealthy are scrimping and saving like most of us are during this virus-forced economic downturn?  No, they continue to turn a profit hand over fist.  Perhaps this time of pandemic is the time we take stock of our materialistic excesses and embrace simplicity as a better way for us and for our earth.  Our society has refused to do this voluntarily, but perhaps now with a simpler lifestyle forced upon us, we will realize it is not the end of the world.

There it is in a nutshell – my love for lemonade.  We can continue to lament the ‘way things used to be’ or we can anticipate with excitement and expectation a new way which tells us the earth is overflowing with bounty and goodness and lots of lemons.

copyright unshackled

 

 

come, come to the table

When I found on YouTube this a cappella rendition of JUST AS I AM and saw that it was sung by a Mennonite choir, I knew this was today’s post.  I have journeyed with very fine Mennonite men and women on this trek through life.  They are non-judgmental, they are humbly devoted, they are peacemakers in a violent world.

Decades ago I answered the altar call at a Youth for Christ rally.  Penitently, I walked up to the railing, knelt, bowed my head, cried.  It was a transformative night.  But then the ‘humbly born again’ me tried to assume the posture and image of what people told me a Christian, especially a born again Christian, should be.  Over the following years I rebelled against and rejected anything religious.

That table of invitation, the seat reserved for me did not move.  It is I who have changed and moved.  Today, what others profess does not matter.  What others think about me does not matter.  What others assume as ‘Christian-like’ behavior does not matter.  It was my seat waiting and I claimed it.  Verse 3 of the hymn by Charlotte Elliot says it all:

“Just as I am! tho’ tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, with fears within, and foes without, O Lamb of God, I come!  I come!”

The truth of the Jesus story says to me that there are no conditions on taking a seat because the table is open to anyone – black or white, man or woman, gay or straight, drunk or sober, earthling or Martian – the truth has not changed.  This has always been a universal invitation which only man’s theological  interpretation has limited.

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

Enjoy the freedom.  The centerpiece of the table is unrelenting love for your Lord and, then, the entirety of Creation.  We can add a plethora of ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, but why should we want to? NAMASTE 🙏

UNSHACKLED 2

 

unconditional love 🙏

Have I denied,
have I abandoned,
have I blasphemed,
have I lied,
have I been the prodigal,
have I been Judas,
have I been Peter,
have I driven the nails,
have I been the mocking crowd?

YES, BUT YOU LOVE ME ANYWAY

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

lyrics from SIDEWALK PROPHETS

 

 

Christian blinders

St. Francis of Assisi was raised by his wealthy father in luxury and social privilege.  He loved to party with his young friends and remained isolated from the poverty which was the norm for most of society during the Middle Ages.  His transformation occurred while riding away on horseback to join the Crusades, a worthy undertaking for a man desiring to prove himself to his family and friends back home.

Lepers were social outcasts who were feared, according to stories about Francis, greatly by the young man.  Approaching a leper along the highway, he turned his horse and rode quickly the other direction not wanting to see or engage this man who was rejected by society.  However, whether by conscience or whether by God, Francis could not remove the image of the diseased man from his mind, decided to turn around, determined to face this fear and spent time with the leper thus conquering his unfounded prejudice.

St. Francis, Jesus of Nazareth, Clare of Assisi, and documented mystics throughout history laid the foundations for a Christian philosophy which transcends popular belief that sin is the inherent nature of man and that ‘salvation’ is the goal of faith.  Contrary to this contemporary Christian doctrine is the concept that mankind is a community of brothers and sisters who, in loving co-existence with the entirety of Creation, are designed to serve one another in peace and fellowship, engaging those at the bottom of the social ladder in service rather than aspiring to climb the ladder to a promised salvation in a far-away heavenly home thereby avoiding the ‘lepers’ of modern society, the disenfranchised.

In years past, blinders were put upon work horses to avoid distractions in the field or along the road.  It seems that some of today’s Christians voluntarily put on blinders to avoid the dark side of today’s world, to avoid the distractions of intolerance, racism, hatred, white nationalism, homophobia, Islamophobia, homelessness, poverty.

Garth Brooks famously sang “Friends in Low Places” back in 1990.  Could we (and I include myself at the top of this list) search the lowly places for those who have been cast by the wayside, commune with them, walk the talk with them, look beyond that which makes them different from us and somehow connect in solidarity with the One who makes us one humanity?

Perhaps we could get down into the nitty-gritty of humanity, love those whom St. Francis and Clare of Assisi loved, stand shoulder to shoulder with the ones Jesus addressed in the Beatitudes as “blessed”….perhaps then we could shun those Christian blinders (human and doctrinal) which prevent us from seeing the world as it is.

Maybe we need to look in the ‘low places’ rather than the heavens for Jesus?

cropped-diversity.png

the JOURNEY

Not knowing the answers is a wonderful experience leading to asking more questions, continuing the search for wisdom and knowledge.  We often look to the ancients who also walked the paths we are on.  They were often labeled heretics and blasphemers for proposing thoughts and ideas contrary to established cropped-speaking-truth2.pngtraditions.  They were the holy men, the mystics who searched the truth which lies within each of us.  Not claiming to have unraveled the mysteries of the soul, they lived lives awed and amazed by that which was not meant to be understood, but merely accepted and practiced.  That is who we are – when we believe we have arrived, we have only begun the journey.

LIES

Fibs, little white lies – we are all guilty.  However, most of us have transcended into people recognizing the immaturity of the hurtful, harmful, hateful lies permeating our social media screens with a rhetoric that jolts us, scars our inner souls.  How should we speaking truth2navigate the waters of a society which not only accepts this perverse lying, but actually promotes and endorses that which most rational people know to be untrue?

Today, especially in the USA with an approaching election, this untruthfulness begins with the 1st news story of the day and does not end until the screens get shut down in the evening.  My friends, that’s the secret – shut off the screens.

“What?” you say.  “Turn off MSNBC, CNN, FOX NEWS, RUSH and ALEX, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, etc.?”

“Unthinkable!”

Fine, then deal with the garbage being spewed in whatever way works best for you.  But, do not be deceived lest you be devoured.  One side is not squeaky clean while the other is like fetid sewer water in the summer heat.  Both sides are guilty of lying and deceit. We are nothing more than hacks in their game-playing.

Back to the question – how do we navigate these waters and maintain sanity?  First, we need to recognize that in the historicity of this world, today, May 15 2020, is little more than a blip on the radar screen, a tiny speck that will probably be forgotten a century from now.  Secondly, we need to find comfort in the ancient wisdom of all religions, faith traditions, and spiritual philosophies that confirm one of my favorite verses from the Judaic tradition in the book of Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 8, which suggests that:

“Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster.”

King Solomon, known as the wisest man among  the wise in his culture, affirms others who have modernized the words to say, “What goes around, comes around.”  Say it however you like, this sentiment gives comfort to those of us who believe that someday, somehow, the injustices of this world will be addressed.  Otherwise, we have no reason to believe in the goodness and mercy of this Creation.

It’s a choice, isn’t it?  You and I decide each day what we will accept as truth and reality.  Will it be the tirades and lies of our political world or the blessings gifted to us by the wisdom of ancient traditions?  Which will it be?sow love