“you said come just as you are”

 

photos by LARRY PAUL BROWN

There’s a place I go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Wildflowers wave in the gentle breezes as the freshness of nearby pine forests fills the air with breath after breath of luxurious serenity.  I sit in the grass, admire the beauty of the flowers and  marvel that truly there is a heaven on earth.

And then, when that which is called reality reins in this escape to a quiet place, I return reluctantly and sadly.  But, I know that someday this kind and peaceful place will be a permanent home where I also shall soar with the eagles breathing in the freshness of eternity.  Come with me, won’t you?  We can go there just as we are.

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Every one of us has a story to tell.  It usually reflects on the brokenness of a past life which carried us to places that were more like a living hell than heaven.  Sometimes it involves drug addiction or alcoholism. Often it is a story of abuse and deprivation at the hands of someone whom we trusted.  Or we may return to the horrors of sex abuse and physical assault when telling our story.  The common thread with each one of our stories is the final surrender of the pain and suffering to an unseen, unfamiliar power.  We somehow, miraculously, discovered healing and acceptance.  We recognized and embraced our inner beauty and greatness.  We became willing to believe that our past lives, though never to be forgotten, should no longer be baggage to slow down our journey through sobriety.  And with each passing clean and serene day we discovered a special place where eagles soar, water runs deep, and grass is green, a place where peace and kindness greet our morning sun.

Drunk and reeking of alcohol, I met my unseen, unfamiliar Higher Power in a bar room as I staggered past a man who grabbed hold of me and said, “Son, do you want to be free?”  My blurred vision couldn’t really focus on the man and upon finally making my way to the door, turning around to see who had spoken to me, he was gone.  I demanded of the bartender,

“Who was that man that just grabbed me by the shoulders?”

“Sir, it’s just you and me in this bar room.  Nobody else has been here in the past hour.”

Do you want to be free?  Free of substance addiction, free of behavior addictions, free of self-imposed hell?  Lean into the Master and receive your miracle.   Matters not whether we name it Higher Power, the Source, God, or Spirit, the salvation we seek will welcome us with open arms and a hearty,

“Welcome home, son.  I have been waiting for you.  Now, come just as you are; sit with me for a while.  We have some catching up to do.”


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from here to eternity

burt lancasterHmmm, sounds like a great title for a movie.  From the collective “huh” I’m hearing, I must assume many of you young’uns don’t remember Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine and a host of Hollywood celebs in the 1953 movie.  It follows the tribulations of three U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Actually, I’m not here to do a movie recollection.  Let’s talk about eternity.  Let’s discuss from here to eternity.  Assuming we are all living in the here, where are heaven and hell and when is eternity?  Several years ago as I was dangling from a stepladder picking oranges from my prolific side yard tree, three strangers – a well-dressed lady and two gentlemen in suits – strolled onto my yard.

“Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “either the FBI has caught up with me or it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

The tracts and Bibles they were carrying were a dead giveaway that it was not the FBI.  I love my JW brothers and sisters, I love anyone who has a passion for living by a moral compass and sharing concern for the plight of mankind on this earth.  But, I have never understood the invariable first line of their proselytizing speech.

“Do you know where you are going when you die?  Where will you spend eternity?”

With all the kindness I could muster teetering on a ladder with a bucket full of oranges, I did my best to reply calmly to the three, “No, I don’t know and you don’t either.”

I don’t know and you don’t either.  For us mortals, assuming the cloak of humility necessary to unfailingly believe “I don’t know” is one of the most difficult hurdles on a spiritual path. Every one of us has wanted to know the inside scoop about heaven, hell, and eternity.  Does it exist?  Where is it?  Who is there?   My grandfather, a deeply devout, humble trekker, advised me years ago, “if your grandmother’s mother is in heaven, I’m telling St. Peter to send me to the other place.”

I loved that man.  He was unassuming, gentle and faithful to what he believed to be truth.  During his final years of life, grandpa read his Bible every day and prayed a lot.  I believe he got all his loose ends tied together before he died, but never did he tell me how or what to believe.  He never shared with me what he believed unless I asked.  Even then he was very careful to advise me that heaven, hell and eternity were mysteries that each man and woman must address within the sanctity of their own inner spaces.

That is, perhaps, the greatest challenge to anyone who treasures the words of Sumi – “It’s your road and yours alone.  Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”  Or, as the words in Hamlet advise, “To thine own self be true.”

With so much noise spilling from pulpits and the mouths of proselytizers, it can be difficult to discern personal truth and follow personal moral compass.  Most of us have not yet mastered living in today, so why saddle ourselves with questions about eternity?

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it can be heaven or hell

you can choose where you abide

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“….there’s a place to go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place there is peace and kindness, no violence nor intolerance.  Whenever solace and rest are needed, this internal heaven can be right here and right now or we can allow it to carry us a million miles away.  Joyfully, in that space the good vibrations of the soul embrace a higher calling.” (1)

“Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell.” Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

LIFE…yes life can be heaven or hell.  It’s a choice each human must make regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof because it has nothing to do with religion or faith or concepts of God.  This choice is life’s golden ticket.  Have you ever been amazed by the man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign asking for food or work and upon talking to him realizing that this man is happier than you are in your comfort and material security?  Or, conversely, speaking to your wealthy neighbor at the grocery store who is buying steaks and lobsters for a Sunday dinner hosting twenty relatives and she is absolutely distraught because her investments earned only $125,000 last year?  Heaven or hell – we choose where we spend life.

Why spend precious ‘now’ moments reliving past transgressions, reviewing years-old grudges against others, fearing the current political scene, comparing yourself to the Joneses next door who just bought a new Mercedes, feeling angry because your co-worker, Mary, got the promotion you wanted?  STOP! just stop and look at the roses in your garden, the great kids or the terrific spouse you have, the reliable pickup truck parked in your driveway.  When the last breath is drawn, that stuff and those resentments will not matter.  What will matter is how the miraculous gift of life was used to serve and to enjoy.  We choose how we use life, whether we opted to spend it in heaven or hell.

Living in a state of awe and amazement over the multitude of blessings bestowed is not only for monks and mystics.  We, too, can participate.  It’s our choice.  How we communicate, how we conduct our interactions, what mindset we entertain will be our heaven or hell.  We must be very conscious of where we allow the mind to traverse.  Much of the world seemingly opts for a life lived in hell.  Why?

“As we observe our politics, antagonism appears to be the primary style of communication today—how to fight and win, how to be suspicious, how to be hateful, how to tell lies. Who can we exclude now? Which race, religion, or group is unworthy? (All in the name of God, remember!) That’s simply hell right now.”  Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

(1) GOOD VIBRATIONS

(2) https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/