don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

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.

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There currently is a television commercial depicting a hiker walking on a beautiful, unfamiliar wooded trail using GPS as a guide.  In an instant he drops his backpack, runs ahead on the trail.  The last scene is disconcerting to me, even though I have seen it many times.  Running at full speed, he jumps off a cliff several 100 feet high into a beautiful shimmering lake awaiting below.

Would you trust your GPS that implicitly?  Could I?  Trust it enough to jump off a cliff to certain death if the data is not correct?  What if there is no deep water at the end of my jump to cushion my fall?

We are asked to do the same with our faith.  Nobody has returned from death to tell us about the glories of heaven or the depths of hell.  Nobody has seen Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. NOBODY!  So why should we believe?  I am a rational, reasonable human being who has spent numerous decades trying to determine what life is about and I have as much certitude now as I did when I came into this world.

BINGO!  Faith is not about certitude.  Faith is trust in the mystery which tells us that light will overcome the darkness, that love will prevail, that peace on earth will occur when mankind becomes peaceful in all his affairs.  Faith is not at the end of the trail,  a destiny to be attained.  Rather, it is the trail itself.

We read scriptures for many reasons.  The history of the Jews is an interesting lesson in the human condition.  All the trials, the greed, the intolerance, the violence are balanced by victory over ego, insights about communal living, stories that reflect man’s search for God.

The writings by the contemporaries of Jesus relate His message that relieves followers from the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant observed by ancient Jewish culture.  Some Christian leaders today carry across the B.C / A.D line those Old Covenant laws attempting to override the simple message of Christianity regarding laws (commandments).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this:  love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark: 12:30-31

Pretty simple, straight-forward theology, is it not?  We don’t need anything more to trust that our faith is heading in the right direction.  Forget all the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt not’ from the ponderous teachings and preachings of modern Christianity which have done more to oppress than enlighten.  That is what John said:

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

He’s talking about freedom from the oppression of ancient theology and theological laws.  We can trust a simple faith which places God and love for fellow-man at the center of our beliefs.  Nothing more is needed.

How we live our faith is a choice we make every day.  The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous urge us onward with this daily choice by slogans on the wall.  K.I.S.S. – Keep ISimple Stupid – is one of them which embodies a way of living, a faith walk if you will, that frees us from concerns about religious correctness.  The fellowship which occurs in those rooms attests to the success of making sober-living people out of drunkards through a simple spiritual program.  Have you KISSED today?

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I’m just visiting

 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.

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“You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t worry.  Don’t hurry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”  Walter Hagen

If you are like me, you are saying, “Well, who is Walter Hagen and why is his inspirational quote noteworthy?”

Wikipedia informs me that Walter Charles Hagen was an American professional golfer born in 1892 and died in 1969.  He was quite successful in his career, third only to Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in lofty achievements.  Walter Hagen

Without any further research of his write-up on Wikipedia, I can reasonably assume that my only connection with Walter is the appreciation of flowers.  We certainly don’t have golfing in common although I have enjoyed a game of putt-putt in the past.  And possibly one can find a similarity between golf and croquet, one of my favorite games as a child.  Think about it.  Green grass, a piece of equipment with which to hit a ball, a course that the player has to follow, and the camaraderie of grown-ups chasing balls makes the two games rather similar, don’t you think?

Life was much less frantic for Walter and me.  We grew up without the annoyance of television and internet, cell phone and social media.  We walked evenings after dinner for our ‘constitutional’.  We actually stopped by the neighborhood houses to talk to our neighbors relaxing on their porches.  And we enjoyed the fragrance of jasmine or gardenias or roses wafting across the front yard.

There was no need to hurry inside to watch the Nightly News or Fox News.  Our morning and evening newspapers kept us up to date on everything we needed to know.  The only pressing engagement after dinner was the radio broadcast of  the Phillies playing the Pirates at 8 PM.  Mom and Sis had finished the dishes  which were draining to dry aside the kitchen sink.  Mom grabbed her sewing basket and Sis did the crossword puzzle while the household men sat by the radio listening to the game.  No hurry, just enjoying the important things in life.

The Great Depression had ended and life was good.  A chicken in every pot and a new Chevy in the driveway.  Dad’s job at the factory guaranteed he could provide a comfortable standard of living.  He had a great pension plan and was saving for retirement while Mom was doing what most wives did in our neighborhood – staying at home taking care of the house and the kids.  No worries, just enjoying the important things in life.

Okay, okay.  You caught me in my fantasy.  I’ve only read about those great times when life was good, but dreaming is the next best thing to living it.  Times and situations have changed, have they not?  Instantly connected to events half a world away, one thousand and fifty channels on cable to entertain us, neighbors whom we have never met, an exercise bike in the basement to replace the constitutional, and Mom, Pop, Sis and Junior rarely seeing each other as they run out the door to various commitments.

I’m only here for a short visit.  Is there really any reason to worry or hurry?  If there is, then perhaps I have missed the important things in life.  There’s a flower garden out in the back yard.  I think I will go out and smell the flowers before my visit is over.

 

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HE KNOWS

“And all the weight that brings you to your knees…..He knows.”

All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low

And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show

And all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

He knows, He knows
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
He knows, He knows
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the One who knows
He knows

We may faint and we may sink
Feel the pain and near the brink
But the dark begins to shrink
When you find the One who knows
The chains of doubt that held you in between
One by one are starting to break free
Every time that you feel forsaken
Every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
Every tear
He knows

 

Only you, Lord, know the depth of our suffering and pain.  Loss of friends, health issues, insecurities, fears, self-doubt, depression bring us into the deepest valley with seemingly no escape.  But, You know us, You know our pains and You have the words that heal us. You never abandon us even in the darkest times. Hallelujah!

Songwriters: Jeremy Camp,Seth Mosley
© CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

faking it

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There is an abundance of material presented daily for us to read and absorb.  Some of it is straight forward news – local, national, international – presented by dedicated news people in unbiased reporting.  Some of it is pure entertainment, while a growing segment is opinion representing viewpoints regarding every issue under the sun.

The internet, blogging in particular, is a godsend for those of us who are driven to write and share.  Whether you or I want to compose a book and be published or write just a few lines to vent and reveal pieces of ourselves, how we use our creativity is a personal decision made every time sitting down at the keyboard.  Sometimes, having a game plan is irrelevant – we merely type one letter after another until words, then sentences, then paragraphs are created.  We are not censored and should not be discouraged from sharing what our minds have fabricated.  That’s what blogging is all about for many of us.

All too often, when I limber up my fingers, I assume the role of opinion writer.  And that would be fine if that is the type of writer I aspire to be.  But, it’s not.  Many others in our blogging world do a fine job of sharing opinions just as many others are fine news reporters, but my opinion, as pertinent as it could be, is not what I want to share.  My views on politics, society, religion are as valid as yours, but as my wise old grandpappy said, “Opinions are like a certain body part.  Everybody’s got one.”

2019 finds me struggling – emotionally and physically.  Life ain’t what it used to be and certainly not what I hoped it would be.  So, what do we survivors do?  We take stock, adjust our binding underwear, grab the appropriate ball cap with a message and wear it proudly.  Early AA friends always said, “Fake it until you make it.”

And that’s what I’ll do because I’m too damned stubborn to quit.

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Show me

I’m claiming this verse today:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.  Psalm 143:8

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Tim Tebow – John 3:16

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.

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During the 2009 American college football  championship game,  Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a devout, unabashed Christian, wore John 3:16 in eye black under his eyes.  The verse became one of Google’s highest searched terms leading millions (94 million) to search John 3:16 during the game and in the hours after.  In a subsequent interview, Tim quipped that the number was staggering, but he was more amazed that there were 94 million people who did not know John 3:16.  “Everybody knows John 3:16.  It’s the first thing we learned in Sunday school.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…..

This is the Son whom we are celebrating during Christmastide.  The readings, the verses, the songs, the festivities are all an important element of the Christmas story, but the message to the world brought by this child in a manger is clearly uncomplicated.  Believe me, have faith in me, trust me, love me with all your heart, give your life to me and you shall have everlasting life.

What is that everlasting life about which John wrote?  I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I have lived without Jesus and I have lived with Jesus.  Living without the Son felt like a death sentence, physical and spiritual.  Living with him has been pretty darn good and, if life is eternal, then this is the eternal life I want.  I believe the God mystery is just that – a mystery  which unfolds with every step on this path we are walking. The path began with a cradled baby in Bethlehem and I am told it is never-ending.  That is good enough for me, how about you?  Want to join me?

ADVENT-Psalm 18:2

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.

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“No matter how many Advent seasons sweep by, Lord, your reminders remain the same. Each tear we cry has a purpose. Each trying stage has a divine reason. And in your capable hands, each icy rain of adversity is transformed into the warmth and sparkle of your grace.”
~Edited from Janet Perez Eckles’ “3 Reasons to Dry Your Tears of Sadness at Christmas

IMMANUEL – “God with us”

This short writing from Janet Perez Eckles details the tears, the difficulties, and the challenges of a mother and wife facing blindness.  Her loss becomes unbearably painful during the Christmas season when the delightful sights of decorations and children opening presents sends her to the bedroom in tears.  Those joys of Christmas have been reduced to a gray blur.  Her ophthalmic condition is incurable.  Yet Janet finds comfort in her Lord’s capable hands.

This mother’s loss of vision is a physical reality.  It is challenging, difficult, and disheartening.  But, her salvation lies in spiritual vision, the ability to go deep within and allow her Lord and Savior to dry the tears, encourage and strengthen this child of His to move on in life.

That is the beauty of the Advent season.  Immanuel – God with us – says that you and I do not have to battle life’s unfair punches alone.  We have deep, inner reserves of courage and strength that will transform the adversarial events, the tears of disappointment and sorrow into a season of “warmth and sparkle” embraced in the arms of the Lord.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer….my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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Jonah’s Whale

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Jonah, historically, was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BCE.  His name is given to the Book of Jonah representing the  Judaic teaching of teshuva, the ability to repent and be forgiven by God.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”  Jesus left them and went away.  Matthew 16: 1-4

There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Briefly, the Biblical story of Jonah tells about a man of faith who was instructed by his God to journey to the city of Nineveh to warn the residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath.  Jonah instead flees in the opposite direction and gains passage on a ship to Tarshish.  The voyage encounters tumultuous seas threatening ship and crew with destruction.  Jonah, realizing he is the cause of this raging storm at sea, orders the crew to throw him overboard.  He is swallowed by a whale, survives inside the whale’s belly for three days, is then vomited ashore.  Jonah completes God’s mission, the people of Nineveh repent, the disobedient man of faith is forgiven.

I enjoy reading this story about Jonah.  It is a rich example of the Judaic society of that time drawing upon the writings of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans expressing a faith system in greater powers than themselves.  It is a fascinating mythology.  But, in contrast to the neighboring cultures, the Hebrews developed a monotheism worshipping one God to whom they attributed power greater than any of the other gods of the time.

Our powerlessness is acutely apparent when we are in the “belly of the beast”.  Those times when I know what is right and sustaining, but choose instead to follow what is convenient and comfortable are days in the belly of the beast.  The times when I know what the Lord of my life commands, but follow instead what pleases my ego are even more days in the belly of the beast.  I relate to Jonah when what I choose to do is in opposition to what God desires for me.  The seven deadly sins (character defects) of greed, anger, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride will in a heartbeat put me in the belly of the beast.

It’s a place I can’t fix, control, explain, or understand.  Sooner or later, life is going to lead us there, you and I.  Graciously, that’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing.  It’s transformation that leads recovering addicts out of the beast of addiction.  Like Jonah, that whale vomits us back up onto the shores of sanity and submission.  I am rebellious by nature, slow to learn lessons, and have spent many days and nights suffering in the belly of my personal giant beasts.

Thankfully, the Hebrews taught me about teshuva.  The story of Jonah affirms the teaching of their wisdom.  Repentance and forgiveness, repentance and forgiveness – the cycle continues into eternity.

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Is my faith walk measured by correctness and certainty? Or is it filled with intense need and desire?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5: 5

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5: 6

None of the above verses from the wisdom of the ancient writings say anything about getting it right or being sure about my thoughts concerning God.  As a matter of fact they point to the need to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness. I do not have the answers to the mysteries nor will I ever in this lifetime, but there is a way to search for those answers and that searching is in itself the purpose of faith.

Knowing that I just don’t know is sometimes difficult.  It is not an inherent human trait to admit that the object of my searching is an undefinable, indescribable, unspeakable mystery which is the driving force in this earthly life.  Many men and women have taken a stab at descriptions and definitions, but in the end they fall short of certainty.

But, we do know what a God-driven life produces in our lives.  It is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with a friend, family member or spouse, but the gut-wrenching compassion for victims of violence, for the hungry and needy, for the financially stressed, for asylum seekers.   A God-driven life produces peace makers rather than war-mongers, stewards of the earth rather than exploiters, givers rather than takers.

We can know this as truth because the Spirit (conscience) within says this is right and this is love.

“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze and then return what we have received.  We simply complete the divine circuit, ‘love returning love’ as my father St. Francis put it.  This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life.” Richard Rohr

Can’t get any simpler than that.  Look at God’s gaze (the Spirit within – love) and then return it to God and every other creature on earth.  I am a spiritual beggar and wanderer filled with an intense need and desire.  This is all I need to know.35

just a mustard seed

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breathe in, breathe out
focus on the flame
it’s the flame of life

 

as I bring the coolness of the air in through my nostrils to the top of my throat,  I marvel at the freshness of this breath before allowing  it to rest upon my lungs for a moment.   then I exhale the warmness of my expended air back through the mouth.  one breath is spent and the next follows.  this is life

 

My focus is on this flame.  As I exhale through my mouth, the flame flutters.  I have altered the movement of a flame with my breath.  So it is with the flame of life.  One breath, one thought, one action alters the stream of eternity.  I have done this.

Faith as small as a mustard seed can remove the mountain of despair, of anger, of fear, of doubt, of addiction just as that one breath moved the course of the flame of life.  Just a tiny mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  I can do this.  You also can do this.

Faith in the indwelling Spirit, in the inherent goodness of mankind, in the bountiful mercy of God can extinguish our fires of hatred and fear and doubt.  It can alter our eternity.  Let’s do it.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘ Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

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