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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red letter Christians

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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One of my daily reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. It is a ministry which I use to lead my desire for simplicity in my faith walk.  You may have a red letter KJV Bible as I do.  Mine was presented to me on the occasion of confirmation at age 13 into the Lutheran Church.  Over the years I felt a need to add a Scofield, a Comparative Study Bible which presents 4 translations side-by-side, and an American Standard Bible.  I also have a translation of the Torah and a Concordance.  Additionally, my book shelves overflow with commentaries and theological opinions.

I am not trying to impress you with my collection of books.  I am letting you know that I am the ultimate doubter.  I am the apostle Thomas in the Jesus story.  “Let me see your hands with the nail holes and the scars on your head from the crown of thorns.  Prove to me through the many books which I have read that you are real, that you are indeed a Lord and Master.”

And nothing happened.  I learned an abundance of information about Israel, about Jerusalem, about the apostles who followed Jesus, about life under the Jewish religious hierarchy, about the oppression of the common people.  But, I sadly realized that somehow I was not getting the message.  And why was that?

I began to understand through engaging with the community of ‘red letter Christians’, those followers who find their truth in the red letters of the Bible, the words which are attributed to Jesus, the Christ, the union of man and God. The words, the teachings, the parables, the healings popped off the printed page and became real when I saw them as a guide to living rather than a God 101 course.  When I read those red letters as a call to action rather than a statement of belief, my faith can be transactional rather than static.

I believe Jesus spoke those red letter words in his ministry, but it doesn’t matter if he did not.  I believe he walked the earth as a common peasant, that he had healing powers, that he performed miracles, that he died on a cross.  But it does not matter if he did not because I do not worship Jesus, I merely aspire in my everyday life to be more like the man portrayed in my Bible.  I accept those red letters presented to doubters like me as proof that you and I can hope to live life abundantly even when persecuted,  even when destitute, even when crucified for being who we are.

Many of you, like me, grew up in churches with spectacular stained glass windows, with a crucifix in the sanctuary and paintings depicting Biblical stories.  Some of us mistakenly were taught to worship those icons and images.  The heavens were filled with angels and a wrathful God holding lightning bolts in his hand.  We recited the Creeds as statements of belief.  But nowhere in those creeds does the humanity of Jesus take precedence.  The love, compassion, forgiveness are forgotten.  In the Apostles’ Creed Jesus is taken from “born of the Virgin Mary” to persecution under Pontius Pilate to crucifixion on the cross, to death.

Did Jesus not live a life in his 32-34 years walking the earth between “born of the Virgin Mary” to “died and was buried”?  That was the missing link in my years playing the role of doubting Thomas.  The red letters tell me about the man who ministered to the poor, healed the broken, forgave the sinner, and also lived his life abundantly.  He did not shy away from a wedding with flowing wine or a good time with friends or supper with society’s disenfranchised.

That’s the Jesus to whom I can relate, the one I want my life to emulate.

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be still my soul

 

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My Lord, you are my shepherd; I don’t have need for anything.  Even as the dark shadows surround me, I am not afraid because your word and presence give me comfort.  The enemies of my soul are lurking in wait for me to stumble and fall, but I will not falter.  Where You lead I will follow.  You are my shepherd.  You have set a table for me overflowing with abundance and hope.  Surely nothing can separate us for the rest of my days because your mercy and goodness are with me and I know that I am blessed.

“Be Still, My Soul”
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymn #651
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 46:10
Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: “Stille, mein Wille”
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: “Finlandia”

butterfly

 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  MAYA ANGELOU

Why is it that butterflies become beautiful in our sight only when they have survived the stages of development leading up to their appearance before us in our yards as flitting, soaring, gliding, sailing, dancing, fluttering marvels of nature?  We hardly appreciate them as eggs, larvae, and caterpillars.  Rarely do we say, “Oh look! A spectacular worm.”

Members of the Kingdom animalia, Phylum Euarthropoda, Class insecta, Order lepidoptera are a species dating to the Paleocene Era about 56 million years ago.  The eastern North American population of monarchs can travel thousands of miles to over-wintering sites in Mexico and reverse the migration in the spring.  The British painted lady undertakes a 9000 mile round trip in a series of steps by up to six generations from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle. WIKIPEDIA

Yes, I am about to compare us, humans, to butterflies.  Don’t you see the similarity?  Or, if you would rather, I could liken us to mosquitoes or house flies?  (Yes, I have been called maggot on occasion.)  We do, after all, share some pesky traits with those insects also.  OK, then.  Now that we see eye to eye,  I am going to call you and me beautiful butterflies.  As you perused the opening photographs, which one is most splendid to you?  Did you choose one that is brightly colored? or one that is intricately patterned? or one that is a stately monochrome?

The extravagant beauty of a butterfly is self-evident.  We see it, we marvel, and we say, “Oh, what a lovely creature that is!”  Not so much with us humans.  We are short, tall, obese and slender.  We are black, brown, red, yellow, white and many shades in between.  We have black hair, brown hair, red hair, blonde hair, straight hair, curly hair and like those of us who have raised too many children or seen too many years, we have white hair or no hair.  Not all of us are at our beautiful butterfly stage.  Some of us are in the not-so-pretty stages of eggs, larvae and caterpillars.  Men especially can relate to being called a “worm” by a disgruntled spouse.

But, as Maya Angelou so profoundly says it, our transformational beauty has to endure the sometimes ugly stages before we are recognized by the world as the gorgeous humans which we are.  Whatever size, shape, shade, or sex we grow up to be, we are beautiful when allowed and encouraged to mature into a sailing, soaring, fluttering, floating masterpiece of the Lord’s handiwork.

Just like the butterfly, each one of us is a miraculous creation in his/her own right.  The Book of Genesis tells us that God created each of us in the image of God. GENESIS 1:27  Male and female He made them in his image.  The wisdom of the ancients tells us that we are God-like.  So how can we be anything less than beautiful, compassionate, loving, replicas of our Creator?

Of course, you can be a pesky mosquito or house fly.  They also have purpose and reason in God’s universe.  It’s your choice.  But, I’m going to be a swallowtail when I grow up.

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Psalm 23

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 overflows.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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