misfits, runaways, losers

alone calm faith light
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The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes MATTHEW 5:1-11, amplified version 

If you have ever been to Bible School as a child, if you have participated in a Christian church service, if you have thumbed through the New Testament, you assuredly are familiar with the Beatitudes – the “blessed are” verses.

Often misunderstood, verses 1-11 tells us about the Jesus crowd circa 32 AD.  The powerful of the mighty Roman Empire and the elite of the Jewish hierarchy judged the followers of Jesus to be insurrectionists, rebels and losers.  The story of Jesus tells us that they were the target audience of the Gospel teachings, the ones whom Jesus loved dearly, for whom he was crucified.

I am a content misfit (according to today’s Western culture), a runaway, a loser.  Join me in my insane, joyful approach to life, will you?

(the portions in red and underlined are my emphasis)

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His [a]disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent change], for they will be comforted.

“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the [b]gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled]for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God]for they will be [completely] satisfied.

“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.

“Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.

10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for [c]doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. 12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.smiley face 2

I want to be one of the biggest losers in the Jesus crowd.

 

 

 

the sick & homeless – WWJD

YES MAGAZINE

This referenced article in YES MAGAZINE details how immigrants to our southern border are “disinfected” to prevent the spread of vermin and disease.  I shudder remembering what I have read about the arrival of Jews to the concentration camps and the subsequent disinfecting process.

The article describes the methods used in these ‘holding camps’, the pain, humiliation,  and suffering being caused.  But, the nagging question which bothers me and which we all need to answer is this: are they less valuable, are they less human, are they less loved simply because they are not American, because they are refugees seeking asylum and a better life for themselves and their families?  What if the asylum seeker was me and the family huddling around me was my family?

Initially when this current governmental regime assumed power, it was a fight against drug dealers, thugs and rapists crossing the border that we were warned against.  Today it is the same people approaching our border but, with a different MO.  They are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, spreading covid-19 and other diseases in our midst.  They are causing a health crisis.  Incredibly, listening to government authorities, we should believe that they will sell drugs to our kids, steal our possessions, rape our women and boys, and now infect us with a deadly virus.

Really?  Seems to me that we, as a leaderless nation, have done a fine job of creating our own moral and health crisis – don’t need any help from immigrants.  Those who refuse to mask up, refuse to practice social distancing, refuse to see this pandemic as the killer which it is and then ridicule and threaten others who take covid-19 seriously…..those others are the prevailing threat about which we need to worry.

How much are we willing to believe from a government which has lied repeatedly over the course of history?  How long must America suffer the delusional mindset that because of race, nationality, creed, or alliances, it is superior to the rest of mankind who share this earth under a merciful and gracious Higher Power?  How long?

diversity

come, come to the table

When I found on YouTube this a cappella rendition of JUST AS I AM and saw that it was sung by a Mennonite choir, I knew this was today’s post.  I have journeyed with very fine Mennonite men and women on this trek through life.  They are non-judgmental, they are humbly devoted, they are peacemakers in a violent world.

Decades ago I answered the altar call at a Youth for Christ rally.  Penitently, I walked up to the railing, knelt, bowed my head, cried.  It was a transformative night.  But then the ‘humbly born again’ me tried to assume the posture and image of what people told me a Christian, especially a born again Christian, should be.  Over the following years I rebelled against and rejected anything religious.

That table of invitation, the seat reserved for me did not move.  It is I who have changed and moved.  Today, what others profess does not matter.  What others think about me does not matter.  What others assume as ‘Christian-like’ behavior does not matter.  It was my seat waiting and I claimed it.  Verse 3 of the hymn by Charlotte Elliot says it all:

“Just as I am! tho’ tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, with fears within, and foes without, O Lamb of God, I come!  I come!”

The truth of the Jesus story says to me that there are no conditions on taking a seat because the table is open to anyone – black or white, man or woman, gay or straight, drunk or sober, earthling or Martian – the truth has not changed.  This has always been a universal invitation which only man’s theological  interpretation has limited.

“If, therefore, the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  JOHN 8:36

Enjoy the freedom.  The centerpiece of the table is unrelenting love for your Lord and, then, the entirety of Creation.  We can add a plethora of ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, but why should we want to? NAMASTE 🙏

UNSHACKLED 2

 

made in the image

It doesn’t say white or black, short or tall, handsome or rugged, sailor or land-lubber, farmer or hunter.  It doesn’t say intelligent or obtuse, mechanical or artistic, straight or cropped-larry-rebel.pnggay, musical or tone-deaf.  Verse 27 of Genesis 1 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

That’s who we are whether we believe we have descended from hairy jungle dwellers or from a colony of extraterrestrial voyagers or whether we emerged from God’s test tubes fully human six or seven thousand years ago.  The wisdom of the early sages is saying that we are all alike, made from the same stuff.  The mystery of this image covers all humanity.

Okay, I can hear you saying, “Larry, the verse is not talking about physical appearance.”

You are probably right.  Then what is God’s image?  Maybe love?  Maybe compassion?  Maybe faithfulness?  How about hope and righteousness?  And don’t forget joy.  That is who we are, whom we were designed to be, so why would we choose to live otherwise? God’s DNA is the stuff from which we were made.  We are not ignorance, intolerance, hatred, weakness and fear.  We were not made unimportant and inconsequential.

That shared DNA makes us brothers and sisters, doesn’t it?  I may not know my Asian brother in China, but we are related.  My sister in Iran may not follow the same political philosophy which I do, but we are related.  The names given to the God whom we worship may be vastly different, but we are brothers and sisters in the universal oneness.  Do you see the common thread developing here?  As much as you or I desire to be different or distinguished, more handsome of prettier, smarter than all others, we are one humanity born into the image of the One, the original creator.

Our survival as a species is not God-dependent.  God did the birthing, but it is our choice to live in harmony with others and with all of Creation.  There have been messengers to lead and guide on this journey, to redirect as necessary, but in the end, living or not living in solidarity will determine the chances of our survival.

My skin color does not make me more worthy.  Your intelligence does not make you more like God.  Our financial success on earth will mean nothing on heaven’s society page.  Our personalities, our physical appearances, our possessions, our bodies will stay behind when we die.

“All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust all return.”  ECCLESIASTICS 3:20

The author of the Jesus story has tried to tell us that this life is birth, death and then resurrection – what is so difficult about that?  The most significant part of us will return to the energy pool in preparation to become part of another human’s God energy.  The cycle continues forever.

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FREEDOM

What does freedom mean to you?  Picture6
What price will you pay for it? 
Would you be willing to die so others could enjoy freedom?

I’m not sure what the motives were for my father and three of his brothers.  They all enlisted in the military service of their country during WW2.  But, whatever their reasoning, they are my heroes on this Memorial Day.  Returning to civilian life after the war, they continued to serve their families and communities.  In my eyes they put everything on the line to ensure the freedom of every one of us for generations to come.  That kind of courage and selflessness is rare in today’s America.

Freedom is not free.  It comes at great cost.  I often wonder if I have paid my dues – have I paid the price for the freedoms I enjoy today?  Perhaps that I.O.U will come due sometime in the future.  What do I owe and to whom?  Will I have the courage and selflessness to pay my debt?

The greatest gifting of freedom, aside from the sacrifices of our fallen military heroes, has been the adventure of sobriety given to a helpless, hopeless drunk.  Undeserved and unmerited, this gift of amazing grace has allowed a life of celebration and thankfulness rather than one of dread and misery.  John 8:36 says it all:

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This is not a freedom with conditional clauses and a litany of ‘thou shalt and shalt not’.  It is not tied to any particular faith walk or theology.  It does not consign me to hell for being bad or promise me heaven for being good.  There are only two requirements for enjoying this freedom forever.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all you mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  JOHN 10:27

Pretty simple stuff.  Freedom can be costly, but need not be difficult.

LOVE

 

the PRODIGAL returns

We delve into the world of non-believing, into the emptiness of denial, into the realm of anti-religion looking for answers.  We look to worldly pleasures and comforts for fulfillment.

Wherever we look,
there you are, the One who never deserted,
mercy, grace and goodness cropped-candle.png
patiently awaiting our return.

We are the seekers.
We yearn, we search
in realms beyond us
for that which has always been within.

The prodigal returns. LUKE 15:11-32

motherhood

Consider this – Jesus was not born into our world to hang on a cross at the front of the church sanctuary, to adorn the wall with art, or to be worshipped from afar with incantations and prayers.  Mary did not birth him so that the world could bow at her feet in front of the manger in marvel and adoration.  God did not send him so that mankind could write scriptures and hymns praising him about this time every year.  Jesus is not just another festive reason to celebrate once a year.  He is meant to become “our work, our being and our personhood.” Richard Rohr

We all were meant to be mothers of Jesus.  We were designed to endure the birthing pains of the changes required to be men and women walking the walk of humans transformed by God’s love, tolerance and compassion.  We are to be manifestations of the human whose birth we celebrated yesterday.

Celebrate, yes.  Adore, yes.  But, that is not enough, is it?  When we accept our responsibility as contemporary nurturers of Christ, we also assume the power to change history, society, and all relationships.  Don’t put Jesus up on the shelf for another year to collect dust.  It’s just another Bible story when this birth is left on the pages of Scriptures and not incorporated into everyday living.

diversity

 

 

what does Advent mean to us?

 

three kings day

FAN Newsletter (FranciscanActionNetwork)

Sunday, December 1st, marks the beginning of the Christian season of Advent which leads up to the announced birth of Jesus, the Christ, Christianity’s reason for the season.  Have you, whether a professed follower or a non-believer, ever wondered what would happen to this child if he were born in the year 2019?

“I cannot help but think of the journey of the children, women and men forced to migrate.  In September [2019] the number of migrants globally reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population.”  Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Most of us who were raised in the comforts of an American Christian community surely remember the sweet stories about baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger being adored by the shepherds and wise men and lovingly attended by Mary and Joseph.  We remember the art masterpieces depicting a handsome Jesus, obviously an Anglo-Saxon man, decorating the church wall.

We were somewhat dismayed upon learning that this proclaimed savior of the world was probably a brown-skinned, short man with curly black hair born into poverty to just one of numerous illiterate families earning a meager living working for the wealthy, religious elite.  They were, of course, Jewish and followed Judaic traditions.  Undoubtedly, they experienced hunger and probably did not have clean water or adequate sanitation.  Security was to be found not in material wealth but in their devotion to the God of their ancestors and the cooperative charity of fellow villagers.

If Jesus were born today, he and his family would probably be immigrants on some nation’s border, possibly ours.  He would risk violence at the hands of racial prejudice or trafficking in child sex trade.  On the southern border of the wealthiest nation in the world, Jesus would likely be separated from Mary and Joseph and caged with other immigrant children.

Not much has changed, has it?  Two thousand years later and we still treat immigrants as if they somehow do not really matter to the Father/Mother of us all, that they are less loved than we are.  We continue to hang on to that image of Jesus, the privileged, Anglo-Saxon white man adorning the church wall.  We noisily thump our Bible to support our prejudice while reading the words which state explicitly that every person on earth is made in the image and likeness of God.  We somehow ignore the scriptures which tell us that we are to love our neighbors [earthly brothers and sisters] as ourselves.

The season of Advent is a journey for the Christian world leading up to the birth of its proclaimed Christ child.  In addition to all the joy, jingle bells, gifts and Santa Claus let’s set aside time to contemplate what it would be like to be an immigrant.  What if you and your family were forced to leave the comfort and security of your home and your community because of political or economic turmoil?  What if the people on the other side of the border which you must cross hated you because of your skin color, creed or social status.  What if you were financially disadvantaged and had to rely of the goodness and compassion of strangers to provide for your family?  Would you be afraid?

If we justify our intolerance and lack of compassion for immigrants by citing the need to protect our families or protect our faith tradition or protect our racial purity, or protect white identity, then truly what we cherish is but a heap of rubbish, is it not?  We are denying the reason for the season.  How can we proclaim amazing grace at the altar while disregarding the message given to us through the life of Jesus, the impoverished immigrant?

LOVE

 

Your Vote – does it matter?

“Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God’s beloved, but so is everyone else! If we believe God wants what is good for us, how do we not understand God wants what is good for each and every living thing? What would it mean to vote as if the very presence of God were in our neighbor and the stranger alike, which is simply what Jesus taught?”  CAC.ORG – Fr. Richard Rohr

Namaste – not the word Jesus used, but it certainly means the same.  A follower of Buddhism would bow to you (and all of Creation) and say namaste – “I honor the divine in you.”  Jesus said, “Love your neighbor (and all of Creation) as yourself.”

What’s so difficult about that?  Why can we not believe that Jesus from Nazareth, during the time between ages 12 and 30 when no historian can provide an account of his activity, met up with traders from the East who followed the teachings of Buddha.  Even non-believers in the historicity of Jesus or Buddha will have to admit that namaste is certainly a great way for earthlings to conduct themselves.  It could be the key to the survival of our species.

Let’s give this idea a shot in our 2020 voting.  Rather than endorsing candidates who claim to be God-sent, or candidates who claim to have the inside track to God, or candidates who attend the ‘right’ church, or candidates who profess the tenets of an intolerant and exclusive Christianity, let’s try “namaste.”  Let’s try “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Let’s vote as if the earth and all its creatures (including us) depended upon it.

Fr. Richard Rohr of the Franciscan order is an outspoken critic of the political and religious status quo.  We agree that somehow Christianity, as envisioned in its early genesis, has missed the mark of its founders.  We agree that the purpose of Christianity is not to look heavenward for salvation nor to follow a reclusive lifestyle.  Christianity was meant to involve Christians in the nitty-gritty of the world’s disadvantaged and oppressed people.  We are designed to focus downward upon earth’s sorrow and heartbreak, to participate in the world rather than seek escape in heavenly promises.

Buddhism calls this life “dukkha” – suffering.  It is suffering which stems from our human tendency to want what we don’t have and not appreciate the blessings we do have.  I can relate.  How about you?  We have houses which would be palatial to many of the world’s people, but want even larger and more luxurious homes.  We have closets full of clothes whereas many people have nothing more than rags to wear.  We eat to the point of unhealthy obesity while many babies are starving.  We are coming into the Christmas season where the mantra is, “shop till you drop.”  Yet this extravagance of material blessing does not eliminate dukkha.

Externals will not eliminate suffering.  Only by resetting the internal defaults will we ever reach the heaven described by Jesus or nirvana promised by Buddha.  It’s an inside adventure which each of us can undertake.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?”  AA PROMISES

WE THINK NOT

Get out there and vote.  Jesus did not give us THE WAY and Buddha did not give us THE PATH  for us to twiddle our thumbs and be recluses uninvolved in the planet’s survival.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob did not give us recovery through ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS to muddle through life uninvolved in the lives of still-suffering fellow man. god bless america

RELEASE

I give it to you,
the pain,
the sorrow,
the disappointment.
Too long it has
lived here,
too long.

I now release
the sadness and grief.
I release the anger,
I release the bitterness
and unforgiveness.
Take it,
burn it.

I beg of you
to let us continue,
to embrace
that which is good,
wholesome,
worthy,
glorious.

Release the resentments,
the vile thoughts,
that which hinders,
that which betrays,
that which condemns.
Bring us peace,
Bring us compassion.

In your power
hold us,
comfort,
console,
guide,
resurrect,
transform.

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