2 men named Jesus?

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The days are many when I question the foundational principles learned in youth, when I retire to bed at night more uncertain than certain, when I, like a child, want to hide under the bed covers to escape from the world.

Those stories I read as a young boy – the miracles, the healings, the parables, the inspiration and hope, the guidance and correction, the ancient shared wisdom – I remember all that.

I think of numerous personal crises endured and conquered, unmentionable forays into darkness, the return from the far land, a prodigal son reunited with his inheritance, testimony of a life resurrected, forgiveness extended – I think of all that.

And yet, tonight, the term Christian confuses me.  Don’t all Christians honor and revere the same Jesus?  Or is it possible there were two homeless vagabonds roaming the lands of 1st century Israel?  Both named Jesus?  Both from Nazareth?

Is there another version of ancient writings telling of a hateful and vengeful Jesus?  Have I somehow not read the Gospel of Exclusion, the one that tells white Americans they are better than the other children of God?

And all the verses that I know by heart, maybe I should not believe that “Love thy neighbor as thyself”  is truth straight from our Lord.  Or maybe “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was intended only for white folks, not brown and black skins.

Some of you tell me that white Christians are God’s chosen people, that only those who congregate in certain churches will get to heaven, that it is okay to persecute others who follow a different path or those who name their God differently.

Is it really okay?  Some of you say that caging children is acceptable under Christian principle, that denying those seeking safety, security and hope is biblical, that the man and woman who happen to be brown-skinned are not part of your Kingdom.

Others say that destroying our earth’s ecosystem in the name of profit will be justified in the end times because Jesus will rebuild our earth, that those who know the true God will be saved from annihilation.

Are we reading the same scriptures or do you have a different version?  Did the other Jesus speak privately to you and not to me?  Tell me what verse gives you the right to judge and condemn men who are not exactly like you?  I must know.

My Jesus heals the sick, how about yours?  My Jesus mends the broken, how about yours?  My Jesus feeds the poor and hungry, shelters the homeless, welcomes the refugee, how about yours?

“For many will come in my name….and lead many astray.”  Matthew 24:5

“Watch out for false prophets.  They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15

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yoked

jesus in prayer

Being serious about life is hard work and soul-wearying.  Have you ever asked yourself if the entity you name as God truly wants life to be a burden?  Just look at Jesus, the one Christians revere as Savior.  Regardless of his divinity or not, regardless of his virgin birth or not, regardless of his bodily resurrection or not, he was presented as a portrait of compassionate and joyful fulfillment by the ancient writers.  He enjoyed a good wedding celebration with friends, he ate foods forbidden by his Judaic upbringing, he did not wash his hands ceremoniously before breaking bread, he counseled and healed lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and others considered unclean and immoral by his contemporaries.  He exhorted his friends and disciples to follow his example.

The Book of John, chapter 14, says that Jesus responded to his disciples, who were dismayed by his pending departure, saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  I have never been able to believe that he was telling his disciples to establish a new religious cult or that church fathers centuries later should create a revolutionary theology and call it Christianity.  No, Jesus was teaching them how to live a contented and peaceful life in a cruel and savage 1st century, Roman occupied culture.  Very simply the Way, the Truth, and the Life was his path of spiritual enlightenment shared with fellow Jews within the parameters of Judaism.

Through parables and stories he provided an ageless example for all of us to practice in pursuit of a meaningful existence in this life’s experience.  It has nothing to do with religion or correct theology or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not.”  Jesus was Jewish yet he rebelled at the litany of doctrines and laws which Judaism embraced.  He knew the penalty for his heresy would be death yet refused to denounce his truth within his own heart, an indwelling God.  That’s the example passed on to us – know the heart’s truth and live by it even unto death. 

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest.  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I put upon you is light.”  MATTHEW 11:28-30

I have been struggling recently – with personal issues, with faith, with the horrific injustices of government and institutions.  My answers were not forthcoming because I had chosen to take my own yoke upon me.  It’s a yoke of concern and worry, of control and judgement. I failed to remember that there is only one who can fix my crazy world.  His yoke is easy, his load is light.  He showed me how to do this with the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Lord, here’s my yoke; I want yours instead.  Lay it on me.

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speak to me of God

“I said to the apple tree: ‘sister, speak to me of God,’ and the apple tree blossomed.”  Nikos Kazantzakis ( attributed to St. Francis) 

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photo by DIDS

Don’t you think ours would be a much better, more peaceful world if those who profess a god could keep it this simple?  It’s as if my God is saying to me, “Just look around at the Creation which you attribute to me; it is there you will know me.”

Followers of the mystical path believe God is immanent, meaning inherent and indwelling.  From the moss under the trees to the king of the jungle to the man known as Einstein, the essence defined as God exists and propels the God image through all that was, that is, and that ever will be.  All that is necessary to know God is to look out the window and observe the butterfly fluttering, the bird winging across the sky, and the flower blooming.  Look at the bees pollinating, the farmer planting, and the mother giving birth.  Everything on earth contains the essence which some call God, others Yahweh, still others Allah, while many do not name it at all.  This earth is a continuum of birth, death and rebirth.  It tells us everything we need to know about life.  So why look to the heavens, or why dread hell, why sit in judgement of others, why condemn ourselves in attempts to earn God’s approval?  If that power which we label God did not approve and indwell, we would not be here.  No theology, no doctrine, no “ism” could save us.

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY – be successful

success is not the destination – it is the journey

You and I have within us the ability to make this day part of a successful journey or a meaningless struggle leaving us weary and eager to simply bring the day to an end.  We have that power when we first arise in the morning.  Don’t grab the phone to check messages, don’t turn on the TV to catch up on news, don’t open the newspaper to front page headlines – just don’t.  Say no to all that noise and listen to your own voice for a few minutes.  What do I want this day to be like?  How will I make this a day that will be memorable?  What can I do for the next hour or two hours that will set this day apart from all the others?

We have been designed to live our lives with unimaginable success and contentment.  It all begins before throwing back the blankets and swinging our legs out over the bed.  Just be still for a moment and open the day with a gratitude list.  Listen to your breath, feel your heartbeat, wiggle your toes, then hear the voice inside which says, “I love you, I really do love you.  You are worthy and you are perfect just as you are in this moment.”

Confirm that inner voice and plan a perfect day.  It will be one in which everything that happens leads to another leg of your journey to success.  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

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – limbo rock

Here’s a quirky flashback from an era which many of us remember as care-free and exciting.  Chubby Checker’s words, “Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.  Jack go unda limbo stick…..how low can you go?” (1)

limbo rockThose years were great times.  Were we hopelessly naïve or simply enthusiastic about life?  Today, in our maturity, the harshness of the world, the deception of politicians, the betrayal of friends, the cruelty of man to man has a way of mellowing idealistic youth.  We somehow came to realize that the things happening around us are mostly beyond our control.

How low can you go?  How low will you go before you take charge of your life and remind yourself, “I don’t need to find the bottom anymore.  I don’t need to go there.  I have a choice today about my life.  This morning, right now, I will set my day’s course.  I can wallow in my gloom or I can bathe in the rising sun.  I can listen to the internal self-condemning dialog or I can enjoy the serenade of awakening birds.  It’s my choice today.  I don’t need to see how low I can go.”

You are a worthy child of this universal presence which flows through all of creation.  So am I.  We are functioning, breathing, blood-pumping organisms designed to be spectacular.  Hold that thought for just a moment.  You, just as you are, are perfect right now.  Not tomorrow, not next year, not when you die – no, you are perfect today in this very moment.  It may be difficult at first, but repeat it over and over and over until you truly believe it.  This doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels and not aspire to grow into better versions of who we are.  Our goal is always to evolve and enlighten into the creatures which we have been designed to be.  So, today, right now in this moment, stop stooping to see how low you can go.

Stretch those arms high, open your hands to receive the blessings which have been intended for you.  Look into the cosmos and find your home, your joy and peace.  That eternal inheritance is there waiting for you to claim it.  Right here, right now, grab what has been yours all along.  It’s a great day.

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(1) LIMBO ROCK

the Search

questions

See that fellow sitting in the question mark?  That’s me now, been me 90% of my waking time and often I wonder if my sleeping time is not also consumed with questions.  You are probably the same, are you not?  It’s who we are – inquisitive and always looking for the answer.  A favorite TV commercial from years ago showed a young boy with his father sharing quality time together.  The boy’s response to everything the father did was, “Why?”

Why, why, why? Today’s internet has made answering our questions just a few key strokes away.  Google it, ask the computer assistant, go to the online encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is our guide to every query imaginable.  We have online language translators, quote sources, and 54 versions of the Bible – just a click away.

“Alexa, why am I here?”

That charming voice emanating from your device will list numerous reasons for your physical existence, biological determinants and a bibliography of further research.

“But, Alexa, who put me here?  What is my purpose here?”

Aha!  Let’s play stump Alexa, shall we?  I have asked those two questions of a multitude  of common sense people, scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, friends, lovers, and strangers.  And I have received a million differing answers.  Why?  Because nobody knows.

Theories abound, theologies are a dime a dozen, philosophies chase down bizarre dead ends, experts whimper with possibilities, but nobody knows for sure.  Men of religion profess truth, gurus and yogis sit in lotus position meditating, rabbis quote ancient spiritual wisdom, and Buddha claims he attained enlightenment.  But nobody knows for certain who put Larry Paul Brown on earth and what is his purpose here?

I can only assume my chosen path will be enlightening, that my faith is founded on truth, that my death will find me in a better place than my birth.  I can only assume that my spiritual journey will not result in a train wreck or that my inner GPS has not miscalculated the directions.

We live by faith and experience, don’t we?  Perhaps another important question to entertain is, “Whom do I trust?”

Will I trust all the aforementioned entities or will I look inward to what I have learned to be my honest assessment of me?  Will I follow the indwelling Spirit and my inherent conscience in my decisions and behavior or will I give that responsibility to the man in the pulpit, the professional counselor, my best friend, my spouse or the jolly fat man sitting under the bodhi tree?

Famously, Polonius advises his 18 year-old son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s 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.”

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the awakening

 

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The ugliness in the world somehow seems much uglier than it did yesterday.  The darkness of a government missing its moral compass is darker.  The inequalities gripping humanity appear more unequal.  What happened to my complacency and my acceptance of this status quo?  I did not ask to be made aware.  I was happy with a world that accepted me.  I was content to just fit in and be unnoticed.  Then he came along.

Then he came along and changed my life forever.  Minding my own business casting my nets, this preacher man walked by and said to my brother Andrew and me, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Who is this stranger?  Does he really believe I am going to leave my nets and my boat and walk away from my wife, my children?  What does he want?  What does he mean by ‘fishers of men’ and why is my brother abandoning his nets also and turning our boat over onto the beach?  Why are we doing this?  

Look!  There are James and John with their father Zebedee mending nets on their boat.  This stranger is calling to them.  They, too, are dropping their work to slosh through the water to join us.  He says we are going to be his followers, his disciples.  We are going to preach at Capernaum and everywhere in Galilee.  Preach what?  Who is this man who calls himself Jesus?  Just yesterday I was content to simply fish and mend my nets, but now he wants us to be fishers of men.

Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John encountered a dilemma on that day nearly two-thousand years ago working their trade on the Sea of Galilee.  What would you have done?  How about me?  My spouse would definitely not understand and my friends would think I’ve had too much to drink.  And what about the neighbors?  “Yeah,” they would chortle, “Larry just left the mower in the yard, joined Joe and Bobby following some guy who said, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. He’s bonkers! ‘”

Everyone of us has had our day in the boat just fishing and easing along through life when Jesus appears on the shore beckoning us to follow.  It happens unexpectedly, doesn’t it?  He says our nets will catch something bigger and better than anything our dreams could imagine.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Folks, that’s not a request.  It’s a command.

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scapegoats dujour

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.

devilFlip Wilson, in his wildly popular variety show from 1970-1974, introduced the character “Geraldine” to his audience.  Geraldine will remain forever remembered for her line, “The devil made me do it.”

The devil made me do it.  The horned and tailed trouble-maker has been a scapegoat for millions of people over many centuries.  That hell-raiser has had numerous names in various civilizations, but the purpose is the same – give humanity an entity to blame for its faults.  Rather than assume responsibility for the acts we commit against others, that fellow sitting on our left shoulder whispering in our ears becomes the universal scapegoat.

Tribalism is founded on scapegoating.  Whether my tribe is a government, a race, a creed, a social order, a caste system, or a religion, when it agrees on a common foe as the enemy to be feared or despised, discrimination and intolerance are born.  But it all starts with me nurturing the fear and distrust which has been indoctrinated into my tribal mindset.  I need a thorough “brainwashing.”

How does that happen?  My personal answer, although not yet perfected, is to replace those “Geraldine” moments with faith and trust.  Replace the scapegoating with inner transformation which uncovers my faults, my defects, and my hatred in need of correction.  Stop blaming the devil.  I need to grow up into the human being I was designed to be.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.  But, when I grew up I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

 

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meditation

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I give it to you,
the pain,
the sorrow,
the disappointment.
Too long it has
lived here,
too long.

I now release
the sadness and grief.
I release the anger,
I release the bitterness
and unforgiveness.
Take it,
burn it.

I beg of you
to let us continue,
to embrace
that which is good,
wholesome,
worthy,
glorious.

Release the resentments,
the vile thoughts,
that which hinders,
that which betrays,
that which condemns.
Bring us peace,
Bring us compassion.

In your power
hold us,
comfort,
console,
guide,
resurrect,
transform.

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