longsuffering

“Dear lord, please lift me up and heal me.  Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You.  Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.  Cast out of me all violence and all anger.  Cast out of me all demons from my past.  For I would be made new.  I wish to walk so close to You that we might be as one.”  Marianne Williamson, ILLUMINATA
truth

“Harsh and critical nature, anger and violence”.  We betray the truth of our lives, the love and compassion of a Savior, when we fail to speak our truth kindly.  Our Lord’s truth cannot be spoken in any other way.  Tolerance, patience, and forbearance are synonyms of the old English “longsuffering”, a word which occurs frequently in Scriptures.  Probably the most familiar is:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…”  Galatians 5:22

and in the Buddhist tradition:

“The greatest prayer is patience.”  Lord Buddha

Is one born with patience?  Probably not.  Most agree that patience is earned the hard way.  Life situations teach us patience.  Other people teach us tolerance.  Compassionate listening is developed by listening for hours to the trials of another person.  Children teach us unconditional forbearance.  Our friendships are the result of communications tempered by attitudes of longsuffering.  When we enter into a life occurrence with anything less than a prayer for patience on our lips, the outcome will likely be less than spiritual.

“Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint.  This carries a top-priority rating.  When we speak or act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT, pg. 113

Finding a patient friend is a blessing of the greatest order.  Being a patient friend is more desirable than fame and riches.  Nations have crumbled, politicians have failed, families have disintegrated, wars have been waged, and genocides have been initiated because one person failed to engage another in conversations of tolerance and longsuffering.  Words that are harsh and critical, angry and violent will never establish mutual understandings which are necessary to peaceful survival.  And that is our mission, that is our evolution.  We are commanded by all of God’s messengers to live as a brotherhood of mankind speaking our truth kindly.

smiley 3

 

 

spiritual beings?

                                       “We are not so much human beings trying to become spiritual. We’re already CANDLEinherently spiritual beings and our job is learning how to be good humans! I believe that’s why Jesus came as a human being: not to teach us how to go to heaven, but to teach us how to be a fully alive human being here on this earth.” cac.org

Trying to become “more spiritual” has led me down many paths.  Most of them dead-ended into a briar patch filled with thorny theology and noxious self-righteousness or a deep, dark, ominous forest filled with fairy-tale goblins and witches.  Yes, my best efforts aimed at becoming a more spiritual man usually began with an honest desire for growth, but then resulted in a retreat to a comfortable position which put Larry down here on earth and God somewhere between Pluto and the ends of the universe.  I liked it that way.  “Don’t get too close, God.  I don’t like change and I know growing closer to You requires change.”

Fortunately, the return trip to a somewhat sane reality, even if not a true reality, has always taken hold before my sobriety or sanity was compromised.  (Some would argue the sanity part).  The church fellowships which painted an extremely bleak picture for my soul if I did not acquiesce to their theology,  the book which promised eternity if I followed every paragraph of its treatise, the do-gooders who sincerely tried to save my soul with a litany of “thou shall and thou shalt not” all appeared real and salvific from afar.  But, up close and personal, they failed to make Larry a better human being.  I continued to wallow in my universe of self, accepted God’s forgiveness and grace when times were tough, then , wandered off into self-absorption until the next crisis arose. Never could find true north, never could understand what in the world was missing with my faith.  I read the books, studied the theologies, and explored the religious traditions, but I knew I was not growing.

Today, I continue to be amazed by the ways in which God comes aside me and says, “Listen to me.  Follow me.  Live for me.  I am the salvation for which you are searching. I have the answers. It’s all in a neat little package called Jesus.  Read him, know him and follow his Way.  When you do that you will also know me and you will become a better human.”

“Yeah, God, easy for you to say.   Do you know the sinkholes on that path, the fallen trees crossing it, the raging rivers to ford, the giant animals waiting in the forest to devour me, the savage natives wanting to cook me for dinner?  You do remember that Jesus got crucified for following the Way, don’t you?”

“Of course I know all about that.  I created it, remember?”  God’s reply is not always encouraging and it rarely is easy.

Father Richard in his daily meditations points to the facet of mystic teachings that can be elusive in today’s Christian teachings.  That forgotten aspect of Christianity says that I am not separated from God by space, time, or physical limitation.  I am a spark of the spiritual entity which I call God because every member of humanity was created in the image of God and every man/woman has that divine DNA within.  We are spiritual manifestations of the creators.  I am inherently a spiritual being dwelling in a limited physical body. My task here on Earth is not to search for ways to increase spiritual acumen, but to recognize who I am as a child of God, what God taught through the man named Jesus and thereby morph into a better, more compassionate, more loving, more altruistic human.  For me, that makes much more sense than chasing after spiritual gurus and distant heavenly salvation.

22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23rainbow-solidarity

These are not external qualities which need to be acquired through good deeds and righteous behavior from a heavenly source. Rather, they are within each one of us waiting to be nourished and then shared with the remainder of humanity and God.

 

love, joy, peace

Like most people, I love gifts.  As a little boy, Christmas morning was a delightful time with family unwrapping the treasures given and received.  Being a member of a farming family and enduring the vagaries of farm income, some Christmases found nothing moretannenbaum than simple gifts of necessities under the tree.  Underwear, socks, toothpaste and brush were just as much appreciated in those years as were the toys and shiny bicycle in the prosperous years.

No matter the financial  status, always the Christmas spirit, the reason for the season was the prevailing theme of our celebration.  The act of giving was predominant.  Receiving a nice present was cool, but we were taught who and why we were celebrating.  That mindset was a prelude to maturing in a community of like-minded farm folks.  Life was enjoyed in very simple ways and the gifts of a loving God were not taken lightly.

It seems much has changed in America.  The biggest, brightest, most expensive gifts fill the kitchen with new appliances, the den with a 60″ widescreen, the driveway with a new Mercedes, and closets with brand new designer clothes.  Most often the holiday decorations glamorize Santa Claus, snowmen, and Disney characters.  Rarely do I see a crèche or angels on front lawns and certainly not at the county courthouse as I remember from my boyhood community.  Times have changed.  Jesus, the babe celebrated in the book of Matthew, is no longer center stage in our festivities.  His presence is no longer America’s reason for the season.

Jesus, the greatest gift-giver of all time, is relegated to candlelight services on Christmas Eve and nice music on the radio.  The giant retailers which pumped our heads full of pre-Christmas sales events and materialistic dreams of unaffordable gift ideas take a breather on the holiday only to return with a vengeance after Christmas Day to once again entice us into more debt buying the “must-have”, discounted unsold merchandise.

It’s a scam!  Americans have been hoodwinked into spending billions of dollars to create a sense of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” when that peace and goodwill are free for the asking from the greatest gift-giver ever to walk this earth.  Just ask.  Just seek.  Just knock.  It’s all there in one neat, readily available package and it costs nothing other than a willingness to open the door to the One who dispenses love and compassion as eternal gifts.

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

Love, joy, and peace are the 1st three of the fruits of the Spirit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  They are internal gifts which will be realized when walking this journey with God as a constant companion.  They were made incarnate in the character of Jesus as depicted in our Christian Scriptures.  They are attainable elements of a life surrendered to thechristmas emoji 3 grace of an almighty God.  This is not just a fairy tale or myth.  Jesus is truth given not only at Christmas but every day of the year to those willing to ask, seek, and knock.  Try it.  Those shiny presents under the tree will fade quickly.  The gift of Jesus will not!

 

 

 

the orange tree

Let’s talk about fruit.  I love the fragrance when the orange tree out back pops into bloom around late February.  Slowly the little green orbs grow into full-sized oranges packed with exquisite citrus juiciness and flavor by Christmas.  But, they don’t do this on their own volition.  A combination of weather, feeding, pruning, and TLC are necessary for healthy growth.  A good orange tree can become an unsightly, disease-laden, out-of-control member of an otherwise beautiful landscape.  It then loses its premier status in the yard needing to be either cut down or replenished.orange tree 2

Like my orange tree in the yard, I need to be replenished daily with TLC from the Master Gardener.  I must go to the well and drink of the clear, fresh water every day and read the verses that supply spiritual food.  Otherwise I will become unsightly, diseased and bare of fruit.  My orchard becomes useless if it cannot provide spiritual food for me and comfort to  those whom God has put into my life’s journey.

“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the lord, which made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121: 1-2

Without that help I will not grow and flourish.  I will wither and die unless I submit to the indwelling Spirit of God which teaches and guides. Just like the untended orange tree, my spirit’s fruit will be bitter and useless if I fail to give it some of God’s TLC regularly.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23orange tree

 

fruit of the Spirit

“Talk the talk; walk the walk.”CANDLE

How much simpler can it be?  When I open my mouth to share my incredible knowledge and wisdom, when I take it upon myself to dispense earth-shaking opinions, and when I assume that what I say is absolute truth, then I am headed down the highway of disappointment and pain.  I know today that my open mouth, more often than not, results in a foot entering therein, that opinions are akin to another body part of which everyone has one, and my truth is, at best, relative to my circumstances.

OK, so talk is cheap.  How about the walk?  The walk separates men from boys and women from girls.  An act of unselfish compassion, a cup of coffee for the homeless man, a ride given to the hitchhiker, an hour of time shared with someone who desperately needs a friend, a pocketful of change in the bell ringer’s bucket are indications that a person is walking the walk.  Buying that cold man standing on the corner a Micky D’s breakfast, sending a check to a favorite charity, helping a blind man navigate the busy street, talking for an hour with a needy AA friend, sharing an encouraging word with a caregiver, showing up for church when not feeling very worshipful, cooking supper for a spouse overwhelmed with personal issues…..these are ways to walk the walk.

Jesus, the reason for this season, walked the walk strenuously and perfectly.  Certainly, he had great opening lines on the Mount and taught a profound lesson, but, his ministry and that of his disciples was called “the Way”.  They healed the sick, ministered to the poor, and salvaged hurting souls. The Buddha called his teachings “the Path.”  Both infer the necessary action of walking to reach the desired goal of enlightenment.  The talk is the text-book that instills understanding and the walk is the lab work, a place to conduct research.  Studying the text book until the cows come home will not change me one iota until I apply the learning into my daily life’s walk.

So then, how do I know if the text-book which I follow is the real deal, the genuine Jesus of nativity fame?  Is my book like one of the many self-proclaimed Jesus experts who interpret and interpose at whim, who devise a Gospel according to their own self-serving needs, who harbor intolerance and hatred under the name of God?  What is my spiritual barometer?

“15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them…..” Matthew 7:15-16

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

There it is.  That is my personal spiritual barometer.  How do I measure up to the words from the author of Galatians citing love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as fruits of my indwelling Spirit?  Sometimeschristmas emoji 3 favorably, other times in need of fixing, but always on the right path when I am willing to walk the walk which Jesus walks.  Wandering from that path is part of my human nature; bringing me back is part of His divine nature.  We’re a good team.