ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

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when belief becomes action

“Over the past few decades, our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live….But in Jesus we don’t just see a presentation of doctrines but an invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world.”  Shane Claiborne (1)

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In chapter 2 of the Bible’s book of James, verse 17 – “faith without works is dead” – is a favorite of addiction recovery programs.  It is the foundational premise of the fellowship’s call to live a life of service to others through works.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not the copyrighted property of Christianity.  Many major religions and cultures profess an obeisance to this maxim.

But it is not merely a statement of belief.  It demands supporting action in the way I live, in the way I treat other people.  Not only family, friends and neighbors should receive my best efforts to live by the “golden rule,” but everyone on earth who names themselves a member of the species homo-sapiens.

Tall order, isn’t it?   Now, let’s stretch it.  How about every creation of the God whom I name as Lord of my life?  The birds, tigers, my pet cat, fish, the flowers of the field, our water resources, the air we breathe – everything?  They are all a portion of the gift given to us to use and enjoy.  Treat creation with the respect and stewardship with which we want to be treated.  Might be a much better world, don’t you think?

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life.  It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves to inhabit this land.”  Sitting Bull

In contrast to our world of greed and disregard for the elements of nature, the forgotten creed of the Native American embodied a legendary wisdom and spirituality.  Animals were respected as equal in rights and, when hunted, they were killed only for food. The hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. (2)

Born in 1182 into wealth, St. Francis of Assisi, during his conversion period, was considered a madman when he renounced money and chose to live simply practicing equality by honoring, respecting and loving every person whether beggar or pope.  Francis’ love of nature is well recorded in writings, but his love was much deeper than enjoying time in the woods to admire the beauty.  His brotherhood included all of God’s creations.  To him the sparrow was as much his brother as the pope. (3)

Francis, born Giovanni Bernardone, had no thoughts to establish a monastic order named after him, but when called to serve his God, his answer was yes.  What will my answer be?  How about you?  Please take 5 minutes and 27 seconds of your life to watch the Franciscan Plea For the Soul of America.

(1) Shane Claiborne

(2)  www.pantheism.net

(3) www.catholic.org

 

St. Bonaventure

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.

All of us are driven by a philosophy concerning life.  It could be derived from any number of prolific authors, leaders, and statesmen.  Quite often our personal life philosophy is a result of theological teachings.  The beliefs which I inherited from my forefathers went unchallenged in my younger years because the community in which I lived all abided by the principles of those beliefs.  Christianity ruled.

And that would have been just fine if I had not ventured into the world beyond my community and experienced different cultures, different creeds, and different lifestyles.  Tribalism was not at the forefront of conversations as it is today, but in retrospect, it was alive and well.  Unwittingly, we all were suspicious of those who spoke, looked, thought, and worshipped differently.

Even more devastating to the growth of a young man finding his way in a life apart from the community of his upbringing was the concept of his forefathers’ God.  There were numerous new ideas and experiences outside that sheltered life of boyhood and teenaged years.  Most of them felt exhilarating and exciting, needed to be embraced and explored.

But, in the recesses of my mind, one dinosaur of theology always tempered the thrills of newly found freedoms.

“If it feels good, it is probably a sin.”

Thankfully, the alcoholism which controlled my life for so many years also brought me to a reckoning with the man I had become. 1) admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable 2) came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity 3) made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a God of our understanding.

The key words in step 3 which changed my life dramatically were ‘God of my understanding.”  I finally realized that God had given to me at birth a sense of reason and inner understanding with which I was designed to understand  this ‘God-thing’.  Nobody else could do this for me.  It was a personal spiritual journey which became a lifetime endeavor.  And finally I was able to embrace a life of wonderful experiences without the sin factor hanging over my head.  Today, in my world, the word sin is a negative connotation used by others to control and intimidate when, in my reality, it simply means a temporary state of separation from the God of my understanding.

St. Bonaventure, an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher was born in 1221 Giovani di Fidanza and died in 1274.  He entered the Franciscan order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris.  Marked by an attempt to completely integrate faith and reason, he thought of “Christ as the one true master who offers humans knowledge that begins in faith, is developed through rational understanding, and is perfected by mystical union with God.” St. Bonaventure

“Bonaventure pays little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!” cac.org

I think I would have enjoyed life as a Franciscan living and studying with Giovani di Fidanza.  Hmmmm, maybe I did and simply have not yet realized that previous life.  🙏

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