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/

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – ‘individuated’

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“The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back….” (1)

richard rohrRichard Rohr nails it, my friends.  We now have experience on our side, emotional maturity, insight and conviction.  Taking our life back from the clutches of family, friends, clergy, co-workers, tribe, and ego is the end result of becoming what the supreme universal energy has intended for us from the beginning.  It is a concept presented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung as individuation – not self-indulgence or individualism, rather surrender of our ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent.

Do you know what the soul’s intent is?  Do I?  Some could say, “Yes, of course.  My faith, my theology, my religion has taught me everything I need to know about soul.”

Really?  Then you would also know that your soul’s intent is for you to have a meaningful experience today and every day for the rest of your life.  Yes, the dark valleys will appear, the depression will knock, the sorrows will challenge, but any day in which you have awakened to the miracle of life and expressed appreciation to the God named according to your faith walk, is a great day.  Even darkness must give way to light, life’s uncertain vagaries will be overcome by understanding, and inconceivable circumstances will bow to positive action. “This too shall pass” is not just a cliche.  It is truth.  Claim it as yours.

Take control each morning of the day’s mindset before engaging in whatever activity you need to accomplish.  Don’t just roll the dice taking chances with the day’s outcome; instead, direct your mind upon arising to positive thoughts and a realization that what occurs in the first moments of wakefulness will set the tone for the entire day.  Envision yourself as being victorious over all difficulties and celebratory in all accomplishments.  See yourself handling confrontation with family and co-workers effectively and it will happen.  Picture yourself enjoying your day on the beach and it will happen.  Feel the satisfaction of finishing the household project awaiting and it will happen.  What you project onto the day’s activity will prevail.

Meditation, motivational videos, yoga, light exercise, inspirational reading are all great ways to start a great day.  Those few minutes or hours are an investment in successful living as a joyful, contented child of that eternal, universal force flowing throughout the entirety of creation.  Grab onto this power by creating your day rather than enduring it.  Believe unabashedly that the choice is yours.  You and I can make it the day we want.  We can also make it the day we don’t want.  What a realization!  We are powerful and dynamic forces in our worlds.  Have a great day!

(1) CAC.ORG

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who are you?

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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There was a time in my life when I thought that one day in the future I should be able to  describe and define God.  It was an element of my faith walk which led me to believe spiritual maturity could be captured and confined in a treasure box of heavenly secrets and knowledge.  When I had attained certitude in all things which previously were questioning and unknowing, I would then be a wise and ‘saved’ man of God.

Didn’t work that way, folks.  Today I know less than I did yesterday and there are many more questions than answers.  But, there is also comfort in knowing that the unknown is an integral part of the mystery which we call God.  The ancient writings of Judaism recorded in the book of Exodus tell us that when Moses had a personal encounter with God emanating from a burning bush, Moses asked, “What shall I say is your name?” and the answer was, “I AM Who I AM.”  (Exodus 3:14)

In my mind, that answer always seemed to be such an evasive response to a man as myself who wanted a definitive description or a name to use.  Essentially God said to Moses and to me, “You don’t need to get so familiar with me as to think you have unraveled the mystery which I AM.”  God, in Exodus 3, is a reassuring presence, not an identifiable entity.

I need to be satisfied with that.  That reassuring presence is all I need to know.  Maybe Jesus understood that presence in his life’s journey on earth.  He referred to God as Father while living a life motivated  by spiritual nobility more than absolute knowledge. He shared the essence of his faith in sayings and parables often confusing listeners who were not attuned to God as a spiritually reassuring Presence.   If I were to ask, contrary to contemporary theology, what if Jesus was not on earth to establish a divinity demanding worship and adoration upon his death?   Rather, what if he lived to present to humanity nothing more than an example of life dedicated to service and humility?

Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily blog commented,

“No one owns him (Jesus), and no one ever will.” cac.org

As an American, as a white man, as a Christian I need to be extremely careful what image I impose upon Jesus.  I need to eat some humble pie when thinking that I know everything there is to know.  I will never fully know the beauty of Jesus or the identity of God because I am still a broken vessel struggling to fathom the depths of God’s presence and Jesus’ soul.  All I can do is aspire to a fuller acceptance of and surrender to the universal mystery known as God, my reassuring Presence.

Jesus is attributed with the words of Matthew 7:7 that we should keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking and we will receive what we are asking and find what we are seeking.  The doors in front of us will open.  Beyond those doors will be more asking, more seeking and more doors to open.  If I should think that I have arrived, that I have the answers, that all the doors have been opened, then I, in my errant theological certitude, shall have strayed from the purpose of my own spiritual quest. Matthew 7:7open door

was the price right?

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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Why was Jesus crucified?  Depends on whom you believe, doesn’t it?  The Christian scholars of theology and religion who believe in the fall of Adam and Eve from God’s grace, who believe our progenitors were expelled from the garden for their sin, who thereby believe that all mankind is saddled with a sinful nature will explain that the violent, ignoble, bloody death of his “only begotten son” was a necessary payment to God to attain God’s forgiveness.

Really?  I know I am questioning one of the foundational tenets of modern Christianity, but can we believe that?  Prior to the 11th century Christians did acknowledge that payment (ransom) was due, but it was not due to God, rather it needed to be paid to the devil.  Then Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) wrote a paper WHY DID GOD BECOME HUMAN.  In this writing he asserted that yes “a price needed to be paid to restore God’s honor, and it needed to be paid to God the Father.” (1)

With the popularity of this one piece of literature during the 11th century, God was confirmed by the Church not only as a vengeful, condemning, agitator of fire and brimstone, but now a Father who had demanded his only begotten Son’s life.  Instead of a loving and compassionate Father, the Christian world embraced a bloodied, broken body on a cross as the price due for communion with their God.

Think about it.  The death of Jesus of Nazareth was a historical event.  Jesus’ ministry is documented by a multitude of writings by his followers and at least one unbiased historian, Josephus.  Jesus was an insurrectionist who dismayed the powers of the Roman Empire and he made himself a thorn in the side of the established Jewish hierarchy.  Both wanted him gone.

It is up to each of us to decide what we will believe in our faith walks.  But, what about forgiveness?  What does forgiving or being forgiven mean to me, to you?  When was the last time you handed your neighbor a $20 bill and then asked him to forgive you for mowing down his prized petunias?  You may have repaid him for replacement of his flowers, but the money did not buy his forgiveness.  Can forgiveness have a price if it’s an act extended and received by one man/woman to another freely from a mindset of love and compassion?  Would a loving Father demand payment for his forgiveness through crucifixion of his only begotten Son?

We must be concerned that possibly what is accepted as inerrant theology has somehow strayed off course by way of human fallibility.  I refuse to abandon my faith tradition because sometimes what I am told to believe doesn’t make sense to me.  If I am led to read the scriptures of our Christianity as examples of sober-living and paths to spiritual recovery, then I must ask questions.  I must question the scholars and theologians who have established inerrancy and certitude as hallmarks of their interpretations.  My adventure into the mysteries of eternity and God cannot be a trek which ends with definitive answers; rather it has to be a discovery process which only poses more questions.

(1) CAC.ORG

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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

 

Giovanni Bernardone

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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You and I have read in the Gospels the verses where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), “Consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow” (Luke 12:24,27), and “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

Challenging?  Absolutely.  Then, when I am convinced that these are unattainable directives, I remember that I am following a suggested program of spiritual recovery.  I can never do it perfectly in this lifetime.  On the practical side, Jesus in his life on earth probably never had material wealth with which to concern himself.  He did not share the wealth of the Romans or the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Jesus also said not to worry about tomorrow.  For us in today’s world of turmoil and tribulation this also is a difficult directive to follow.  Tell that to the federal employees who worked without a paycheck for 34 days, or the father of four who has been told his company is shutting down next week, or the single mother who is trying to provide for her family on a minimum wage job.  C’mon Jesus, this is 2019.  We have a lot more about which to worry.

And as for enemies, Jesus, even though you were crucified, you didn’t have nuclear weapons controlled by madmen poised to obliterate you, your city and your country.  I don’t mean to slight your perspective, but we live in different times.  There are people who seriously hate us because of who we are.  And you want us to love them?

Francesco faced the same issues in his home town.  Pietro Bernardone returned from a business trip to France to learn that in his absence his wife had birthed a son whom she baptized Giovanni honoring John the Baptist.  Pietro was furious.  He did not want a man of God – he wanted a man of business.  He renamed his son Francesco.

Francesco enjoyed a very happy, privileged childhood.  As he grew up, he became the leader of a crowd of young people who loved to party and carouse.  Thomas of Celano said of him, “In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.”

But Francesco did not want to be a businessman like his father.  He wanted to be a fighter and got his chance to do so when his town declared war on the nearby town of Perugia.  Captured and thrown in prison, he was finally ransomed after a year and returned to his life partying with his friends.  But he still wanted to be a noble, a knight of distinction.

He got his opportunity when a call went out for knights to join the Fourth Crusade.  He was fitted with a suit of armor decorated with gold and a magnificent cloak, then rode off to join the Crusade.  But, only a day’s ride from his home town, Francesco had a dream in which God told him he was wrong and should return home.

At this point in the story, you and I should ask, “Why would a wealthy, worldly, privileged noble man accustomed to parties and fun-loving friends heed a God-dream and abandon his own personal dream of pursuing honor and fame?”

Upon returning home he was humiliated, laughed at, called a coward and raged at by his father who had funded the expensive suit of armor.

And thus begins the converted life of Francis of Assisi.  God called him and he could only answer, “Yes.”  Reading the passages about giving up all possessions, living for today, and loving his enemies, Francis decided to live as if Jesus really meant what he said in scriptures.  He turned his back on the materialism and militarism of the world and said, “Yes , Jesus.”

I believe that is what Jesus wants us to do.  He doesn’t want us to impoverish ourselves, to live irresponsible lives, or to throw ourselves down at the feet of our enemies.  He just wants us to say, “Yes.”

Francis of Assisihttp://www.cac.org

Giovanni Bernardone  – http://www.catholic.org

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Imperium Romanum

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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IMPERIUM ROMANUM

The Roman Republic (Roma) dated from 509 BC to 27 BC after which the Roman Empire was established.  It had a government headed by emperors and held large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia.  Until 285 AD the empire was ruled from Rome when it split into the Western Roman Empire based in Milan and later Ravenna and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Nicodemia and later Constantinople.  The West fell to Germanic Herullians in 476 AD, the East fell to Ottoman Turks in 1453.

In 380 AD Emperor Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the West.  Earlier, in 313, Emperor Constantine convened councils of bishops to define the orthodoxy of the Christian faith.  Ecumenical councils were convened at the direction of the ruling emperor to assemble ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice.  The 1st seven ecumenical councils of the Church were: 1) First Council of Nicaea in 325, 2) First Council of Constantinople in 381, 3) Council of Ephesus in 431, 4) Council of Chalcedon in 451, 5) Second Council of Constantinople in 553, 6) Third Council of Constantinople from 680-681, and 7) Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

 “Did you know that the first seven Councils of the Church, agreed upon by both East and West, were all either convened or formally presided over by emperors? This is no small point. Emperors and governments do not tend to be interested in an ethic of love, service, or nonviolence (God forbid!), and surely not forgiveness unless it somehow helps them stay in power.” cac.org

Fr. Richard Rohr, a follower of the Franciscan order, does not mince words when describing the formative years of Christianity as a time when Roman emperors exerted power and control over the population through religion.  Our liturgy in contemporary Christian worship services recites the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds which define what Christians should believe, but leaves the implementation of that belief unexplored.

“The Christ of the creeds is not tethered to earth – to the real , historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus of Nazareth.  Instead, this image is mostly mental abstraction with little heart, all spirit, and almost no flesh or soul.  Sometimes it seems like Christianity’s only mission is to keep announcing its vision and philosophy. This is what happens when power and empire take over the message.”  cac.org  (underlined emphasis is mine)

In my mind, the urgency for a renewal of Christianity according to the early writings of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth becomes ever more pressing when religious leaders endorse a government policy which clearly defies the teachings of Scriptures by stating those same teachings of love and compassion, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” do not apply to our interaction with people of a differing creed, nationality, or culture.  Furthering the incredulity is when those same church leaders dismiss government leaders from any obligation to moral discernment when dispensing their official duties. This coalition of church and state, both without a moral compass, foretells a broken American Empire. Washington Post – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Thanks to Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org for the quotes and inspiration for this post.  He ends with the following words:

“Humanity now needs a Jesus who is historical, relevant for real life….a Jesus whose life can save us even more than his death does….a Jesus we can imitate in practical ways….” cac.org

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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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For all its inspiration, for all the lives it has changed, the Bible is undeniably problematic. Put in the hands of egocentric, unloving, or power-hungry people or those who have never learned how to read spiritually inspired literature, it is almost always a disaster. History has demonstrated this, century after century, so this is not an unwarranted, disrespectful, or biased conclusion. The burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, and the genocide and oppression of native peoples were all justified through the selective use of Scripture quotes. Richard Rohr – cac.org

From my daily reading habit, this from Fr. Richard Rohr jumped off the page this morning.  A wise old man shared with me many years ago his take on Bible-reading.  If what you read does not promote in your heart tolerance, love and compassion, then you are reading with blinders.  Go to your quiet place and talk with God about it.

My grandfather suffered miserably during his last years with lung cancer and COPD.  I have fond memories of him sitting in his chair by the front window, Bible open on his lap, looking out to the highway 100 feet away.

“What are you looking for?”  I would ask.

“The undertaker just drove by.  I was wondering if he was stopping here.”

At that time in my life I was a ‘wannabe’ atheist and dismissed his reading habit as foolishness.  Today, looking back, I can see that the verses and stories he cherished from the Bible were his strength in his end-of-life travail.  Grandpa was a kindly, gentle man who had not a shred of egotism or hatred in his soul.  Grandpa lived his life by, and drew his comfort from, the words of the ultimate Comforter.

Those words are powerful.  Taken in the wrong context readers have justified vicious attacks on differing creeds, races, and lifestyles.  In the hands of misguided, opportunist men of religion and politics, the love and compassion demanded by Scriptures have been translated into a doctrine of intolerance and oppression.  Prominent church leaders have recently declared that Jesus and his teachings applied only to those of the Christian persuasion, that Christians do not need to honor the legacy of Jesus, the Christ,  when interacting with those who are not “like us.”  The government and leaders of a nation, which they declare to be a “Christian nation”, do not need to apply principles of Christianity to its dealings with other people and other nations. WP interview – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Matthew 25:33-46…”as you have done unto the least of these, my brothers” – NLT…leaves no room for interpretations supporting one’s errant theology or political persuasion.  It is perfectly clear what followers of Jesus must do to be acceptable to God.  Beware of the wolves dressing in sheep’s clothing quoting scriptures to support agendas of violence and oppression.  They have bastardized a verse which is absolutely explicit in its instruction.

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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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divide & conquer

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us.  Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”  Bill Wilson, AS BILL SEES IT

When was the last time you screamed at or threw a middle finger to your TV screen?  Last week, yesterday, maybe a few minutes ago?  And did it accomplish anything? Probably not.

Today I understand how fragile my inner ecosystem can be.  My emotions are not like those of normal men and women who view or hear an outrageous story deserving of anger.  They process the news, digest it, and respond in a constructive manner.  I do not, although, I am infinitely better than I once was.  No, I can still be the guy standing in front of his TV screen flailing arms and fingers, hurling profanities at the image which has provoked me.  Do I believe that person heard or saw me?  No, of course not.  But I sure told him a thing or two, did I not?

Anger destroys every inch of peace and contentment that dwells within.  It alters the thought processes which lead to a God-honoring state of mind.  One minute of outrage can develop into 24 hours, or longer, of festering resentment.  Just one moment of anger can do that.  Am I willing, today as a sober man, to sacrifice my serenity for anger?

It’s one of the seven deadly sins according to numerous faith walks.  Let’s call it a character defect.  My inner demons use anger very effectively to divide and conquer.  When my mind is consumed with discord it cannot process the love that awaits in communion with a higher power.  All things spiritual are ushered to a back burner while the negatives boil away at a furious burn. Division conquers.  Calling 911 to God’s help line is the only solution.  Pray, pray, pray.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

I certainly cannot change the doofus on TV who has taken control of my emotional state of mind.  Lord, why would I willingly give a conduit of hatred and division such a presence in my world?  Divide and conquer is not only an inner manifestation that destroys my serenity.  It also works for political figures and world leaders intent on personal power and prestige.  Divide the people, then go in for the kill.

I don’t have to play the game.  Sobriety has opened a world of possibilities for a life apart from the games politicians play.  Religious leaders also sometimes deserve that middle finger of dissent.  Divide and conquer.  “My God is better than yours.  I’m going to heaven, you’re going to hell.  I am unique and special.”

Does that kind of rhetoric meet the standard set by Jesus or any of the messengers of truth which have been shared with us?  Many years ago, a wise old man advised me, a newly sober man searching for a better way, “If your religious affiliation doesn’t teach love and compassion for your fellow-man, then it is not of God.”

Take that advice with a grain of salt – or adhere to it like I did.  It has made the search for truth in theological philosophy mind-blowing and simultaneously comforting.  Consider these words from my foremost first read every morning:

“Buddhism affirms that there is only one of us, and therefore we are each responsible for every link in the web of being. Christianity offers us the unconditional mercy of an incarnational God who permeates the whole of creation with love. Judaism urges us to demonstrate our love for God in the way we treat each other and care for creation. Hinduism kindles the fire of devotion for reunification with the Beloved who is no other than our own true Self. Islam shares the peace that comes with complete submission to the One.”

FATHER RICHARD ROHR   Mirabai Starr in The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, Rami Shapiro, ed. (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), vii-viii.

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