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 🙏

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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?

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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

 

 

the American way

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“Turn your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Worldwide, these are difficult times for all of us.  It is interesting to observe what or whom people turn to in times of adversity.  The following is my response submitted to ‘letters to the editor’ to this morning’s local newspaper headline.

Yippee ki-yay, buckeroos. Citrus County residents must be planning for a range war that would make the wild, wild West of yesteryear look like a cake walk at the local church picnic. Today’s Chronicle headline reads, “Local gun store sales soar.”

Surprising? Not at all. This is the American way – solve insecurities, fears, and differences with a gun. I remember an old western movie in which the hero manned 5 guns at one time thus eliminating the band of bad boys who were threatening him. Maybe that’s what fellow Citrus residents envision? Or perhaps they foresee a government intent on confiscating their weapons? Now fellows, I am not the brightest light bulb in the package, but if your government wants your guns, then it will swoop into your neighborhood with more firepower than y’all ever dreamed in your worst nightmares. And guess who is going to be dead? Probably you and I plus a multitude of peaceful neighbors caught up in your cowardly shenanigans.

One of the most obscene bumper stickers which I have seen reads, “God, guns and guts.” Is this the mindset of a nation which boasts a heritage based on teachings of a man advocating peace and compassion for all humanity? We have become myopic, extremely short-sighted regarding diverse cultures and faith walks promoting peaceful co-existence with the world. An outside observer could rightfully believe that many Christian Americans have chosen violence and guns as their God.

The Dalai Lama once said that there are no Muslim terrorists, no Buddhist terrorists, no Christian terrorists. One cannot be a man of violence if one truthfully and faithfully professes to be a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian; conversely, one cannot truly be a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian if one promotes violence as the answer to adversity.

Two quotes, from men much wiser than I, have greatly influenced my life’s philosophy:

1) “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  GILBERT K. CHESTERTON,

2) “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  MOHANDAS GANDHI

God, guns and guts. Really? Will this be America’s legacy? We are all facing severe insecurities regarding food supplies and other available resources. We face financial hardships unknown since the Great Depression. Will your answer be a gun or will it be faith in goodness and mercy?

Do I expect that my words will stop a neighbor from buying a gun, or from using that gun on a desperate man in need of food, or keeping that gun loaded by his bedside, or mistakenly pointing that gun at me?  Hell no!  But, I know that guns do not kill people; therefore, I am not afraid of guns.  Rather, it is angry, insecure, unpredictable people brandishing guns who kill people.  For today’s times I choose to entrust my life 🙏 to a universal force of goodness and mercy that comforts and consoles in all circumstances.  Sorry, 2nd Amendment people, guns do not translate into security and safety in my world.

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share, shelter and clothe

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. 

– it is my humble opinion –broken hearted

Apparently many in the secular world of politics who profess Christianity and a number of those preaching from America’s pulpits have not read the text of Isaiah 58, verses 7-10.  Or perhaps they have read it and believe it to be irrelevant in today’s world scene where children are caged on our southern border, where desperate refugees are turned away from a safe haven, where poverty and destitution among American citizens are reaching epidemic proportions, where suicides among young people and veterans are increasing, where the homeless are turned out into the city’s streets and rural wooded areas, where it is still legal in 30 states to discriminate against gays and lesbians regarding jobs, housing and social services, where oppression of minorities is advocated by those in power, where the funding for basic necessities of food and housing is being slashed, where it has become OK to persecute dissenting voices, where the ostentatious wealth of the wealthy is nothing less than socially immoral.

This appears to be the legacy our current Washington, DC powers are building.  It would be far better for those Christian leaders to honestly admit their intentions and agendas and lay their cards on the table for all to see.  Instead they attempt to deceive under the guise of God-inspired leadership.

But, what do I know?  I am just a simple and unfiltered man.  However, from a different culture and a different time come these words of wisdom:

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

ISAIAH 58:7-10

FRANCISCAN ACTION NETWORK

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I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

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RELIGION – relic of tribalism ?

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.

Okay, I get it.  Religion has inspired great acts of compassion, it has led man to creatediversity spectacular works of art and architecture, it has provided us with beautiful literature.  So, before you light the fires around my stake, consider this.  Perverted interpretation of religious belief has also caused immense human suffering, it has destroyed cultures, it has promoted the degradation of our earth and natural resources in the name of an unproven, man-created god.

Tribalism was essential to ancient cultures to preserving their beliefs and insuring their survival.  The caveman with the biggest clubs usually won the battle.  Armies with the most manpower prevailed over weaker enemies.  Scorching the neighborhood was an acceptable price for winning.  My God-belief is better than yours.  He (yes, most violence in the name of God worships a male entity) needs my defense.

WE ARE NO LONGER CAVEMEN.  With the historical destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 the USA entered mankind into a new paradigm of warfare – a pattern embracing the ability of one culture to bring annihilation to the entire planet.  Unfortunately, we continued to maintain the caveman attitude of tribalism.  We continued to thump our scriptures and proclaim limited access to an omnipotent deity  through a religious philosophy of exclusion – only this God is real, only this belief is true, only this scripture is valid.  It is rampant tribalism with a continuing caveman mentality.

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

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motherhood

Consider this – Jesus was not born into our world to hang on a cross at the front of the church sanctuary, to adorn the wall with art, or to be worshipped from afar with incantations and prayers.  Mary did not birth him so that the world could bow at her feet in front of the manger in marvel and adoration.  God did not send him so that mankind could write scriptures and hymns praising him about this time every year.  Jesus is not just another festive reason to celebrate once a year.  He is meant to become “our work, our being and our personhood.” Richard Rohr

We all were meant to be mothers of Jesus.  We were designed to endure the birthing pains of the changes required to be men and women walking the walk of humans transformed by God’s love, tolerance and compassion.  We are to be manifestations of the human whose birth we celebrated yesterday.

Celebrate, yes.  Adore, yes.  But, that is not enough, is it?  When we accept our responsibility as contemporary nurturers of Christ, we also assume the power to change history, society, and all relationships.  Don’t put Jesus up on the shelf for another year to collect dust.  It’s just another Bible story when this birth is left on the pages of Scriptures and not incorporated into everyday living.

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a Better Way

Today we celebrate what many Christians including Franciscans believe to be the most significant day of the Christian year – the birth of a new nonviolent world.  Jesus was all about nonviolence.  His ways and life, encapsulated in the Gospels, breathe a better way for Christians to engage with brothers/sisters of Hinduism, of Islam, of Judaism, of Buddhism, of all the great religious persuasions pursuing peace on earth.  Over a hundred years ago, Gandhi observed that every religion is rooted in nonviolence.  May we also, in our Christian faith walk, begin the Christmastide celebration ushering in 2020 with the peace of Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus on our hearts.  Namaste. 🙏

FROM MATTHEW 5:1-7, 27

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

three kings day