guilty as charged

One of my favorite ladies in the whole world is a young woman whom I met while working at a nursing rehab center.  She was a 29-year-old nursing assistant when I first struck up a conversation in the laundry where I worked.  After several chats she offered that her 15-year-old daughter was having a birthday.  My brain, which sometimes simply works too hard, started churning.

“Good Lord, how old were you when you birthed this child?”embarassed

“Fourteen.”

From then on I was hooked on this child who gave birth to a child.  I wanted to know more.  What happened?  How did you  deal with it?  What did your parents say?  Are you ever sorry it happened?

We became best of friends.  She, at age 29, was a devout follower of Jesus, invited me to her church, “But, sweetheart, I would probably be the only white man there, and I can’t sing worth a hoot, and your church service gets pretty lively.”

She smiled and replied, “It is what it is.”

We don’t see each other much since I retired from that job.  I met up with her last year at a local MLK, Jr. rally and march; she walked with me, shared me with her friends, proudly introduced me to her son aged 6, and again invited me to her church.  From what I learned about her friends at that rally, I knew I would be welcomed at her church with open arms.

That doesn’t happen very often at the white churches I’ve attended.  There is a reserve, a cool reception, a distrust of the new guy coming to church by himself.  Where’s the wife?  Does he have children?  Why is he deciding to come to church at age 70?  I could see that attitude as a judgmental thing, but then I would be judgmental also, wouldn’t I?  My best reaction is to simply shrug shoulders and say, “It is what it is.”

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to approach life and all life’s challenges?  Our situation in Washington, D.C., which disturbs me every day, the insecurities of aging, the neighbor who flies his confederate flag…….none of this needs my approval or disapproval.  It is what it is.

The “path” described by Buddha focuses on an inner peace which allows each thought to enter the mind, say its piece, and then disappear into oblivion.  I am merely the observer of that thought, I don’t approve or disapprove, I don’t entertain a judgment.  When I am able to live my day following the Buddha’s teaching, it is a good day.  Unfortunately, I am not a perfect follower and I stumble.

The wisdom of Judeo-Christian scriptures tells us:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Luke 6:41

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1

Yes, yes, yes, I am guilty as charged.  I voice approval or disapproval at will, I condemn or praise according to my distorted world view, and I self-righteously judge things which I truly do not fully understand.

But, it is what it is, and I am better than I used to be.

namaste rainbow

 

sledhead

 

CANDLELike many young people who follow the path of non-violence and pacifism, I was severely bullied during junior high and high school.  We were targets for the ‘big boys’ who were feeling their developing testosterone; most of us were labeled weak sissies because we were strongly encouraged by our families and church to resist physical and verbal conflict.  Today I look back on those challenges with a sense of gratitude for having been blessed as a young man with a sense of civility.  But unfortunately, back then, I took my seething anger and self-loathing deep inside resulting in a bevy of addictions which controlled my life for many years.

My classmates called me “sledhead”.  It was, to them, an endearing term describing my naivete; to me it was condescending and painful.  My faith in an entity which would allow this pain was severely tested.  Today, some folks, not all of them friends, see my faith as an uneducated devotion to my imaginary friends, God and Jesus.  I’m sure you also in your faith walk have encountered the same.

“So you talk to Jesus, do you?  Have your ever seen God?  Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead?  And oh yeah, that story about him healing the blind man.  Hmmmmm.”

You can see the wheels churning within their brains.  Nutcase, delusional, hallucinating, foolish…..sledhead.  I don’t, anymore, attempt to explain my faith to them.  I don’t share my experience walking with my Lord unless they initiate an interest.  I don’t expect them to understand, just as the bullies in high school did not understand my commitment to non-violence.  I endured name-calling, shoving, and punching with words like sissy, wimp, momma’s boy, coward.  Sadly, by the time I could call myself a young man, a high school graduate, I agreed with them.

That was 50 years ago.  But, baby, take a look at me now!  Check out what I can do with the power of Jesus and God ahead of me, within me, and behind me!  We have put a hurting on the addictions which controlled my younger years.  We have shown the world of aggression and oppression that there is strength and courage in the words of peace and compassion, the words spoken by Jesus before he was taken by the cowardice and hatred of a bullying, hypocritical, self-serving theocratic society and was nailed to a wooden cross.

Don’t get me wrong.  The negativity of people who try to bully me with their condescending air of superiority, their need to ridicule my “imaginary
friends, and attempts to discredit my truth does sometimes bring doubt into my life.  I am the character of ‘doubting Thomas’, show me the nail holes in the hands and feet, I want to see the pierce scar in the side.  Let me touch you, Lord.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27

Recently, I heard a comment on NPR regarding world poverty.  The woman being interviewed stated that the predominant characteristic of humanity was “goodness”, but, it was often quietly unseen and unheard.  The thought that we are predominantly violent and selfish is assumed because that is the loudest voice in our civilization. Therefore, we hear the raucous noise of intolerance, bigotry and injustice over goodness, mercy, and compassion.

Goodness, mercy,  and compassion.  That’s who my friends Jesus and God are. That’s whom I commune with every day.  I see them in people on the street helping other people.  I hear them on the radio when listening to a contemporary Christian artist singing his heart out for the Jesus he loves.  I feel them in a sanctuary with other worshippers praying for the homeless, the poor, the addicted ones, the forgotten, the discarded, the downtrodden.  I can touch them in an AA meeting when at the end of the meeting everyone stands clasping hands and reciting the “Our Father”.

My faith is in the inherent goodness, mercy, and compassion of humanity.  Therein is Jesus, therein  is God, and therein is nothing imaginary.  Real, visible, omnipotent!

Edward Mote, 1797-1874 “My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

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envy

Does everybody know the seven deadly sins?  They are sometimes called the cardinal sins.  And if you don’t like the connotation of the word sin, let’s call them defects of character.  Ok, here’s the countdown and they are not listed in order of severity.  Each one of them can be deadly if allowed to run rampant.

  • anger
  • greed
  • lazinessembarassed
  • pride
  • lust
  • envy
  • gluttony

I am entertaining envy today.  No, it’s not related to materialism or physicality or status.  I am envious as hell about those folks who can maintain an aloofness from the shenanigans being foisted on us as religion and politics.  Yes, I am dead serious.  If for just one day I could not hear the news, read the newspapers, and view the screens depicting another episode of name-calling in Washington, D.C., another horrible act of violence in Syria, or another Hollywood celebrity enmeshed in a tangle of sexual wantonness, then I might be content.  If I could limit my social media time to nothing but wholesome, heart-warming stories of man’s goodness toward man, then I would be at peace.

Twenty-two years ago when I moved into this house in which I now live my next door neighbor was a saintly woman who had lived many years in the far country and, by the grace of her God, returned to marry a good man and raise a brood of decent kids.  They were all skinny because she was a strict dietician, and they were all cheerful and kind-hearted.  The woman read her Bible every day.

During an extremely active hurricane summer, we spoke to her about the imminence of an approaching hurricane.  She knew nothing of it.  “Oh no,” she chortled, “we don’t have a TV in the house and we only listen to Christian music on the radio and we don’t receive a newspaper.”

I’m sure she recognized the horror on our faces.  Sweet lady, you are so out of touch.  Don’t you realize the danger that could be approaching?  Don’t you care about the world around you?  What in the world will you do when calamity strikes?

Smiling sweetly, she responded to our unvoiced questions,  “Jesus will take care of us.”

OMG! What faith!.  She had been in the world, she knew the inherent dangers, she had lived life on the edge, and now she firmly believed that her Lord and Savior would protect her and her family.  It did not matter if she was living in a fantasy existence because in her world she found contentment and peace.  And maybe, just maybe, her fantasy reality is the truth we all envy and desire.

Yep, I am harboring envy today, but I know the fix.  I often use an analogy of sobriety to make a point.  There is a fine line between me, a committed sober-living man, and my brother, a man caught up in his alcoholism.  One step across that line into his world and I have a slip, a relapse; one step across that line into my world and he has a recovery, a miracle.

Both our worlds are a reality, but that fine line which I call Jesus makes it a living hell or a blessed journey.  Nah, there’s no place for envy on this journey.  Now, if I could just get a handle on gluttony!smiley 3“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”Psalms 51:10

 

 

in the arms of an angel

“In the arms of the angel, fly away from here.                                                                        From this dark, cold hotel room                                                                                                          And the endlessness that you fear.”

Written as “ANGEL” by Sarah McLachlan about the heroin overdose death of Jonathan Melvoin of the SMASHING PUMPKINS

it’s a cake walk

CANDLE

Hardly a day passes by that I don’t look at this page and wonder,  “Do I really want to write another post?”

“C’mon Larry, you can do it.  Just get out of the boat and walk over here to me.”

The story in Matthew tells me that Peter did indeed get out onto the water and walk toward Jesus.  But, then, fear set in.  “What if the waves overcome me, what if the winds blow the boat farther away from me and I won’t be able to return safely?  What if Jesus disappears from sight into the depths of the sea?  What if Jesus is not who he says he is and I am left to fend for myself?  What if all those people on the shore see me and laugh at me?  Oh Lord, I can’t swim.”

What’s that you say?  You always trust Jesus.  Really?

Would you trust Jesus enough to drop your nets and your livelihood, leave your family and become essentially a homeless beggar?  Would you trust him enough to risk imprisonment and death by preaching his heretical beliefs?  Would you trust Jesus enough to move to the poorest of slums in India and minister to the poorest of the poor as Mother Teresa did?

Truly?  Well then, undoubtedly you would also have answered “Yes, I know this man, he is my Lord and Savior,” when questioned three times if you are not a follower of the man inside being sentenced to crucifixion.  The cock would never have crowed three times for you.

Aren’t we amazingly hypocritical?  I know I can be.  I can talk the talk but many times walking the walk is too difficult or dangerous.  I’d rather hang in the background with the crowds making small talk, small acceptable talk.  I’d rather focus on problems of the world instead of proclaiming the beauty of the universe dwelling within.  It’s who I am.

People will jabber incessantly with me about the price of potatoes at the grocery, the climate challenges we are facing, the lack of civility amongst Americans, but, when someone mentions Jesus and God, “Oh, I’ve really got to run,  my favorite soap is starting in 15 minutes,”  or, “I’ve got my own beliefs and we like our church.  See ya.”

No, no, no! I don’t want to talk about your beliefs or your church.  I want to talk about your faith and your heart, your good heart.  What makes you tick?  What gives you reason to get out of bed in the morning?  More importantly, what keeps you from walking on water?  (And if you can walk on water, please tell me how you do it.)

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:29

The writers of Matthew also tell me that faith as small as a mustard seed will move a mountain.  In the physical world that is virtually impossible.  But, within my inner sanctum a flicker of faith the size of a pinhead can overcome enormously mountainous obstacles of anger, aggression, depression, anxiety……addiction.  I don’t know anything about moving Mt. Everest, but let me tell you what just a smidgen of faith in Jesus has done for anger issues, depression, alcoholism.  That faith makes walking on water nothing more than a Sunday picnic cake walk.

Bingo!  Its’ an inside thing, isn’t it?  When I look over the side of my boat surrounded by despair and hopelessness I have two choices; 1) I can stay chained to my oars of self-doubt or 2) I can jump out onto the water and trust in something of much greater substance than me.  Call that hand extended over the water beckoning to you whatever you like;  I will call it Jesus.smiley 3

 

blinded

CANDLE

In today’s OUR DAILY BREAD reading, verses 40-41 from the book of Luke, chapter 18 tells of the blind man waiting along the path Jesus was taking into Jerusalem when from  the crowds he called out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

As the narrative goes on, I am told that Jesus did indeed stop, asking of the blind man, “What do you want me to do?”

“Lord, I want to see,” to which Jesus replied, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

Oh, if only it were that easy for me today.  Matters not whom I name as Lord of my life, would it not be wonderful to request a dose of faith, large as the universe or small as a mustard seed, to bring sight?  I know that I have made that appeal numerous times.  The faith was supplied, but then, the ego within and the world outside question that faith and again I find myself playing baseball by myself out there in left field.  Left field is a lonely place to spend eternity.

The ego within says, “How can you, a rational man of sound reasoning, believe all that gobblygoop?  It’s just a myth, writings from centuries ago by men who had nothing else to do but sit around writing fairy tales?”

Poof, the faith is gone.  But, at a later time, when my life becomes a pile of garbage, I reflect on the times past when faith was strong.  “Wasn’t it wonderful?  Wasn’t life simple and wasn’t my mind peaceful?  If only I could again find that faith.”

Suffering in spiritual blindness, I have a choice.  I can continue stumbling along in the darkness or I can ask the Lord of my life for a healthy dose of faith.  Faith that the Spirit within will guide me.  Knowledge that the Lord within has never deceived me nor will that higher power ever deceive me.  Belief that walking and working that faith will be an eternal path.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7

Even if I question the physical probability that the blind man’s eyesight was restored, the verses when viewed in a spiritual context speak volumes to a hurting world which includes a hurting me.

I am spiritually blinded by the world I live in.  Wars, violence, inhumane behavior, greed, and injustice overwhelm me if I am not covered with a simple prayer everyday:

“Lord, I want to see.”

smiley 3

a place for everyone

As bloggers, some of us aspire to more intense undertakings such as a novel or a book of poetry while others are content to simply scribble on and on into oblivion.  I fall into the latter category with an exception.  I would like my writing to make a difference in someone’s life.

My most recent post, ROY MOORE VERSUS TRUTH, details the advancing candidacy in Alabama’s United States Senate race of a man who has been described as a “homophobic, Bible-thumping firebrand.”  Indeed some of his verifiable quotes would give credence to that assessment.

I walk this earth as a dedicated anti-religionist.  “Religionist” is a term I use frequently to define someone who supports his/her intolerance, bigotry, racism, homophobia with their religion’s label and their religion’s scriptures.  Most often they view that scripture as inerrant, literal, and infallible.  The religionist’s adherence to a theology of hatred and condemnation precludes the universal message of love, compassion and brotherhood as given to us by Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.  For additional clarification, I too love the verses and the wisdom of the great scriptures, but believe it is indefensible for anyone to use those writings as a catalyst for violence.

Perhaps as a means of qualifying myself to the those who are non-believers or to separate myself from people like Roy Moore, I inevitably have a need to mark my anti-religionist statement with an asterisk.  * “But, I am blessed with an undying faith in a Higher Power.”

What I share about myself is not a self-promotion.  Rather, it is a need to reach out to those who do  not understand a faith unbounded by theology or religion, those who have been deeply scarred by purveyors of religious hypocrisy, and those who have been misled by misguided religionists.  It is my personal vision of hope in perilous times.

The bowed head and folded hands presented in “Namaste” say, “I bow to the divine in you.”  When I greet my brother who does not profess a faith, I say “Namaste” because I know the divine exists within everyone.  When that brother who does not profess a faith acknowledges and accepts who I am, he is also saying “Namaste”.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we valued each other more?

Thanks to Scottie for his comment on my post ROY MOORE VERSUS TRUTH.  His short comment encapsulates the essence of Jesus into one paragraph.

“While I do not share his faith , nor am I religious in any sense……..I support his view of what faith should be……..there is not only a place for everyone, but a hope for how things could be if we valued each other more.” SCOTTIE @ Scotties’sToyBox

 

namaste rainbow

 

NAMASTE

namaste

A friend recently observed that we (those of us who do not fit the WASP heterosexual mindset) have suffered tremendous oppression and discrimination at the hands of “believers” who profess the creeds and tenets of Christianity.  Historical accounts of this abuse can easily be googled and verified.  The legislation passed following the “rights” movements culminating in the equal marriage rights amendment under President Obama’s administration gave all enlightened people a glimmer of hope that such discrimination had been swept away forever in America.  Unfortunately, with Trump’s election and the advance of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians in the political scene, this celebration of social advancement was short-lived.

I personally have extreme difficulty reconciling my belief system, which is based on Judeo-Christian ethics, to what the politically vocal minority of Christian believers led by a cadre of so-called American spiritual leaders is foisting upon America “in the name of Jesus” and within their concept of God.  Where are the men and women of faith who are tolerantly, inclusively driven by compassion and love for all of creation?  Why are they not speaking out in defense of the Christianity which speaks for me?

Whenever I reference scriptural verses to support a viewpoint invariably someone will dispute my interpretation of those verses as not “proper within the framework……blah, blah, blah.”  Screw your framework.  The Spirit dwelling within me is as valid and as real as your theologically correct, fundamentally sound, and hypocritically driven gibberish.  I trust that spirit which drives me while many of you are still searching for the right gear to engage.  Let’s begin a dialog which tells the truth and invites unbelievers to join in the conversation.  That is how our faith can become a beacon for the lost and hurting.  It’s time to give up the proselytizing and simply join all of mankind regardless of race, creed, sex, and orientation in creating a better world.

One of my favorite writers, Ethan Walker the 3rd, opens his book THE MYSTIC CHRIST with the following words:

“And what is wisdom?  Wisdom is knowing that we are all one.  Love is what it feels like, and Compassion is what it acts like.”

From 1 Corinthians 13:2 in the NIV we are advised:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

There are several thoughts I can share with my friend who is as challenged as I am by what is being passed off as Christianity.  First of all, no man has a free pass to heaven.  The doctrines he supports, the creeds he professes,  the name he chooses for his god will get that man nowhere if he doesn’t trust in the truth of wisdom, love, and compassion.  Furthermore, as a non-believer, my friend should never be intimidated with the threat of eternal damnation because the bottom line is that any theology whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu is nothing more than a philosophy born out of man’s need to express spirituality.

 

 

silver lining

silver lining

Hello from Florida, the land of the powerless and sweat-soaked.  Nice to be back.  I once again have AC and internet.  Yes, those conveniences were missed, but, the days without them forced an adjustment in daily chores and in priority thinking.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people being courteous, washing dishes in the sink, turning t-shirts inside out for another day’s wear, and cooking campfire coffee somehow take a man back to the truly important things in life.  Providing for basic comforts and needs is relearned from a childhood spent dealing with the capriciousness of farm life.  Summers without adequate rainfall meant sponge baths in the sink instead of a tub bath because the scant water supply was needed for the livestock; a poor corn crop meant no  new school clothes; sinking commodity prices meant repairing the old worn out refrigerator rather than buying a new one and making the 20 year-old-tractor last another year.

My grandfather and great-grand father with whom I lived as a child knew a hard life.  Farming was never accredited with the appropriate respect for the risks taken to provide food for their families and the city folks.  There were no guarantees back then on investment return and we were all called hicks and hayseeds.  But my forefathers were as dedicated to their life’s calling as any college degreed professional.

They were devout men.  They were earnestly sincere, devoted, godly, reverential, genuine, ardent, and true.  They were not religious although they supported the local church and its ministries.  They were pacifists who rejected the ideology of war and the country’s war machine.  They quietly raised their families to be loving and compassionate.

When times like this past week enduring hurricane Irma strike and force us to our knees, I catch glimpses of many years ago living in better times in a benevolent community of godly people that understood who they were and what their purpose was on earth.  The religious pomposity and hypocrisy we witness in today’s sects can’t hold a candle to the goodness of my people.  The corruption of today’s government would have been a mere side note in my grandfathers’ daily life.  They had more important things to consider.  They had families to enjoy and communities to build.

Irma has shown a silver lining to this simple farm boy.  I hope to return to those boyhood times more often now, to draw upon the wisdom and compassion of my folks, and to hold in proper perspective the noise and stench of our world today.  Even as the internet lights up my computer screen again, I will seek the inner knowing and the wisdom of my forefathers to maintain a grasp on the truly important things.  They were a happy, content community poor in materialism but wealthy beyond any of the glitz ruling our society today.

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grease (not the musical)

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cac.org

“If we would imitate Jesus in very practical ways, the Christian religion would be made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for creation.”  Richard Rohr

Is your particular denomination, sect, or theology greasing the wheels of human consciousness?  Does your particular denomination, sect, or theology emulate the love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity and care for creation which all of your scriptures attribute to Jesus?  No?  Then how dare you affirm your interpretation of your holy writings as the inerrant and infallible word of God?

I have never been one of those “in your face” promoters of any particular faith walk.  You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?  Someone in your church, in your neighborhood, on your media screen?  My way is the only way, my way is Biblical, my way is God’s truth.  Maybe I’m describing you.

Again I say, “If your faith does not affirm Jesus (or any of the other of God’s messengers who brought us the same message) as a reservoir of love and compassion, then perhaps that faith which demands blind obedience to creeds and tenets is not genuinely Godly.  No, I’m not “in your face”, I’m simply posing a question

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

matthew 10:34

That sword of which Jesus spoke could be a reference for the need then to excise the law-ridden, hypocritical theology of the Jews.  We have the same scenario today.  Religionists who have abdicated their moral authority to celebrate equality and justice for all of God’s humanity regardless of  faith tradition, politicians who have bedded down with those religionists to rein in a sizeable voting bloc, and voters who have transgressed their profession of morality to gain political favor by electing a man who has shown absolutely no moral fiber or integrity….all are destined to fall to the sword Jesus carried into the theology foray.

No, I’m not here to be “in your face”.  Having suffered a torturous and humbling journey through the jungles of “Christian fundamentalism” and having survived that journey with a deeper and more sustaining faith than ever in my personal quest, I am here merely to ask questions.  Does your church/denomination grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for the creation?

rainbow-solidarity