you’re invited

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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I use the multi-colored message shown above to convey the basic truth that none of us are excluded from the love of God, from the table which Jesus has set to feed the entirety of mankind with his bread and his wine, his body and blood.  Do not allow anyone to tell you that your race, your creed, your sex, your orientation, or your past disqualifies you from sitting with Jesus.  No earthly being has the authority to deny you a seat.  Jesus’ invitation is eternal, unconditional, and it specifically has your name on it.

In the world of evangelists, Billy Graham’s legacy continues to command the respect and admiration of a great many people, believers and non-believers.  He shared on his blog site in 2012  THE THREE INVITATIONS OF CHRIST

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 

Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17

Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you.”  John 15:4

These invitations are an ongoing process.  I have no qualms accepting that I don’t have all the pieces to the God puzzle.  Sometimes I don’t even know what the questions should be.  GOD IS A MYSTERY.  And I believe that is a good thing for a doubter and skeptic like me.  Keep me guessing so that I continue searching.  Just when I believe I’ve reached that “Aha” moment or a fascinating revelation, another doubt and question arises.

But, the process doesn’t change, does it?  Run to Him when life gets heavy and overwhelming, learn of his ways and take his yoke upon me.  Determine what my ego wants versus what Jesus says in his words and teachings.  It all comes down to surrender.  Do I want to continue in my burdensome ways or will I turn it over to the Master, the problem-solver?

Learn and then share with others what has been discovered.  Those of us in addiction recovery programs know the necessity of service to others.  We share our war stories and then extend our experience, strength and hope.  Alcoholics and addicts are invited just as they are to the tables of the meeting rooms.  The beauty and success of AA, CR, and other recovery programs depends on the fellowship putting others before personal interests.  Those questioning, new arrivals are invited to share our repurposed lives, to sit at the table of miracles.  We become fishers of men.

Finally, Jesus invites us to abide with the God of our understanding in a peace that surpasses anything which the world has to offer.  To me this means building and cherishing the most intimate relationship which I could ever know. When I am willing to surrender, when I am willing to pull my head out of self-serving ways, when I am willing to be still and know, then we can be as one walking this path through the joys and travails of an earthly life.  God dwells in me and I in Him.  That is the solidarity of  “I am You, You are me, and we are One.”

Believe me, it is not always where my head and heart dwell.  This challenge which is called the human condition tries to detour me, lie to me, and steal me away.  But, running to my Lord is no longer the option of last resort.  I have learned to go there as quickly as possible.

He said, “Come unto me and learn of me, my yoke is easy and I will give you rest.”

He has invited you, too.  What’s holding you back?

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WORDS

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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my North Star

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, Christ is not his last name.  Probably most of you are smarter than I am, so don’t judge me too harshly when I tell you that for many years, having heard Jesus Christ mouthed so many times in church, I thought Christ to be a surname.  You can understand why I did not get A+ in Vacation Bible School.  And Sunday School was more along the lines of play time before entering the church sanctuary where I had to shut up and sit still for an insufferable hour beside my mother.

Then I heard (yes, I did listen sometimes) a visiting pastor say, “Jesus, the Christ.”

Jesus, THE CHRIST!  What is he saying?  I began to repeat his terminology because he was a big city minister with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name who, I determined, knew a lot more than our country bumpkin preacher and my irreverent uncle who always  said Jesus Christ.  Well, that theory fizzled with the city slicker preacher’s demise in a church finances scandal, but I stayed with Jesus, the Christ.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, founder of CENTER FOR ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION, will be focusing during 2019 on “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.”  Interestingly for me, in today’s post, he states:

The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point. We all need a North Star to orient us toward meaning and purpose.  As a Christian and Franciscan, for me that is Jesus, who revealed the Eternal Christ.

He then defines Christ as:

“….the eternal, ongoing union of human and divine, present in and evolving all of Creation since the beginning of time….”

Man has always searched for the divine as evidenced by crude drawings on cave walls to elaborate theologies with a litany of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”.  Many searchers today look to the heavens for divine guidance.  Like I said in my beginning sentences, most of you are probably smarter than I am; therefore, where you look for divinity is your choice and your personal North Star.  If it “orients you toward meaning and purpose”  in life then seize your discovery and run with it.

Jesus – our North Star, our moral compass, revealing through his life and teachings the Christ, the human and divine union of God, man and all of Creation.

Jesus, the Christ!  How cool is that?

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injustice – elie wiesel

“Injustice may inspire anger or rebellion, but must not create despair.  Injustice has been part of our world since its beginning……..despair is when you no longer believe in anything.” ELIE WIESEL, The Night of the Uprooting

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25th-Jan6th

Yes, this is an appropriate quote for the season of Christmastide.  Why do we think the concept of a Savior and Deliverer was introduced to the world with the story of Jesus, born in Bethlehem?  Why do we marvel that this babe was announced to shepherds, the lowest class of Hebrew society only a step above lepers?  The world of Judaism 2000 years ago is a case study in oppression and social injustice from not only the Roman conquerors, but also the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Elie Wiesel suffered the most inhumane form of injustice at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Hitler.  He could not approach the significance of his internment for several years after being freed by the Allied Forces.  Fortunately for us, he eventually saw the writing of his story as a duty to the Jewish nation and the world.  He shared the pain and the horror of the Nazi atrocities in his subsequent books.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Any of us today, me included, would surely “be inspired to anger or rebellion” if subjected to the same treatment as the Jews of 1930s and 1940s.  Justifiably so.  But, how many of us would  not curl up in despair?  Whom among us would be able to sustain faith, hope, and love while starving in the humiliation, the cold, the desolation of a prison camp where survival is a daily challenge?  I pray that neither you nor I ever have to suffer those consequences.

Despair is our enemy.  Not having hope is a death sentence of the soul, but faith in the unknowns of this life inspires hope and defeats despair.  The Christmas story, whether I believe it to be reality or you believe it to be myth, tells us how to relate to a world filled with violence, hatred, oppression, intolerance.  The life and teachings of Jesus portrayed by ancient scriptures is a blueprint to living life abundantly with faith, hope, and love in the midst of man’s inhumanity toward man.

We are witness today to unfathomable social injustice which should make us angry and rebellious.  But it does not need to devour us with despair.  That is the essence of the gift presented to us by the birth of a child 2000 years ago.  It is up to you and I to make it a marvelous myth or a life-saving reality.  Our concept of Jesus is hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Let it be real as the morning sunshine, the stars in the nighttime sky, the singing of angelic children.  Let us discover, now, in the midst of turbulence and injustice the strength of faith, hope and love.  Lead us to defeat despair with the power of his eternal story.

philippians 4:7

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The INNOCENTS

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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After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  “Get up!  Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother.  Stay there until I tell you to return because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  Matthew 3:13

Wow! So much for the peace and joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds.  We have just been introduced to a messiah, Counselor, Comforter, Prince of Peace, and then a few days later the angel says, “Run, run, run, Joseph and Mary.  Grab the baby and get out of town.”

Should we totally discount the story of Jesus?  In chapter 2, He has come to save us and then in chapter 3 the entire family is running to Egypt to save themselves.  Herod conducts his murderous rampage on the babies in Bethlehem under 2 years of age.  With no historical confirmation of this event and few details from the Scriptures, we could easily pack the Herod account away as mere myth and throw out the Jesus story too.  But then the unchanging realities of this world would be denied and we will continue to live in darkness.  Jesus was born into a world of violence, inequity, abuse, war, mean-spiritedness.

That child of peace and joy did not stay in the manger forever.  He gathered a motley assembly of like-minded men and women who called themselves ‘the Way’.  Not confined to 1st century Palestine, they survived murder and torture over the following centuries so that today we can accept through faith and hope that He was born to save us from spiritual death.  That’s the Good News proclaimed to the shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem, the Good News proclaimed by Jesus and his followers.  That’s the Good News that drives searchers like you and I to put one foot in front of the other on this path we travel.

But, does He save us from a chaotic world of violence and hatred?  I would be misleading myself if I thought, as his countrymen did, that the world around me will change just because he appeared on the scene of my life.  They wanted a savior to lead them out of Roman occupation and theological oppression.  They wanted a 1st century solution to their lives of pain and hardships.  But, that did not happen.

That is where I rested my atheism, my agnosticism, and my doubt for so many years of my life.  I did not see the world moving toward any semblance of peace and joy and I blamed a weak Jesus for the world’s problems.  “Why would God allow the hatred, the child abuse, the murderous rampages of modern-day Herods, the deaths of innocents?”

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

Therein is truth, an answer to my questions.  God’s promise to us, through his Son, is not that He will descend upon the world’s wickedness and clean house.  No, the scriptures, I believe, are saying that when we invite him into our inner sanctum, then we will see the world differently, with an indefatigable joy and peace.  Quite possibly you and I,  and millions like us with faith and hope and love can be the lights in the darkness.  Just a thought, but I like it.  I want to shine with the light of life instead of living in the darkness. AMEN?

(The Lutheran Church celebrates today the “Feast of the Innocents and Martyrs.  Thanks to the writers of the link below for a wealth of inspiration for this post.)

SHARED LUTHERAN MINISTRY

Lord, today we remember the innocents, those who are victims of the world’s darkness and hatred.  Especially the children, whom you gave to us to protect and nurture, need your caring arms in countries at war, living in the decadence of sex trade, traveling across many miles to fulfil dreams of freedom and prosperity in another land, facing the hostility assigned today to the label of ‘immigrant’.  Those innocents are your children.  Remind us of your words telling us about our duty to protect them.  AMEN

CANDLE

soul’s foundation

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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  • A trust in inner coherence itself.  “It all means something.” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me.  (Love)

Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org names faith, hope, and love as the soul’s foundation.  The author of 1 Corinthians 13:13 agrees.

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  NLT

Think about it.  Every human being who ever has been, is now, or ever will be, receives equal and inherent dignity as children of God.  We, all of us, have been created in the image of God.  Jew, Gentile, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, believer and non-believer, white, black, brown, purple, straight, gay, male and female, none of the above, etcetera, the ancient wisdom of Jewish scripture (Genesis 1:26-27) tells us this is truth. That is our starting point, but, unfortunately, the human condition questions, disputes, and regresses to a state of prejudice in which the powerless and disadvantaged lose out.  Even the forefathers, hallowed for the United States Declaration of Independence, when they famously declared “all men are created equal”, they actually meant all who are white, property-owning males.

Not much inherent dignity there, but at least it was a new direction in governing.  It became ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’.  That’s what Jesus’ ministry to the downtrodden, oppressed Jewish nation was all about.  Do you really think he was planning to start a brand new religion or that, as many Jews were hoping, he was planning to usurp power from the Roman governors?  No, Jesus understood that he too had inherent dignity as a child of God and that his purpose on earth was to lead others to also believe.  He and his disciples, calling themselves ‘the Way’, ministered to the poor, the sick, the dying, the oppressed with a message that they too were worthy of a seat at the table.  They too were children of God blessed with dignity and worth.

Although the religion which names itself after Christ has missed the mark of the message of Jesus in so many ways throughout history, it does acknowledge that faith, hope, and love (sometimes called charity) are mainstays of a Christ-centered faith.  In the times of today, when not much of anything makes sense and I know the world is irrational, the rock of my spiritual foundation needs to be solid and unwavering.  It cannot be built on man-created theology or a litany of ‘thou shalt and thou shalt not’.  It must be an indwelling sense that has deep personal meaning, that gives me a positive path to follow, that tells me I am worthy of His love.  Jesus is my rock, can be yours too.  Has nothing to do with religion or church or theological correctness.  It’s all about my soul and yours, nurturing that inner sanctum, and claiming our rightful heritage as children of a merciful, loving God.  AMEN?

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Feast of St. Stephen

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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Tell me something.  How far are you willing to go to defend your property?  Or your integrity?  Or your person?  Or, for veterans and military personnel, your country?  Or your family?  Good.  I knew all my readers were men and women of honorable character.  Now, how far would you go to defend your love for Jesus or whomever you name as Lord of your life?  Hmmm, let’s talk about it.

Chronologically, I have been the boy fearful of a judgemental white-haired man in the sky, the strident atheist, the unsure agnostic, the sure-footed Christian with all the right answers, the doubting Thomas, and the child of God living in the mystery and awe of an Almighty presence.

But, I have never feared becoming a martyr for my faith.  We are indeed fortunate and blessed to live in a society where we can fearlessly worship, or not, as we choose.  Much of the world does not have that luxury.  What about you?  Are there elements of faith which you will never abandon, no matter what the cost?

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he died.  Acts 7:59-60

Is there any reason to doubt this account of the follower of Jesus who, 2 years after Jesus’ crucufixion, was stoned to death by those who considered his testimony blasphemous?  We are witness in our age to televised beheadings by radical elements of religion.  They are disturbing and frightening, but no more so than what the early Christians faced when proclaiming their faith.

Today, the 2nd day of Christmastide, parts of the Christian world celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, Christianity’s first recorded martyr after Jesus himself.  What would I do?  How about you?  I would like to think I’ll be on the front lines willing to take a bullet for Jesus and my faith.  And then, as I lay there dying, I would say, “Lord , forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing?”

Really?  Could I be a willing and forgiving martyr?  Hmmmm, something to think about.

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