fear not

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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How many times as children during an electrical storm have we run to hide in a room without windows or pulled bed covers up over our heads?  We felt we were safe because we could not see the lightning flashing outside.  And then, when the thunder cracked in the heavens, we plugged our ears with little fingers.

As an adult I thoroughly enjoy an electrical storm, smelling the air, feeling the energy in my body, hearing the claps of thunder and seeing the spectacular display of lightning in the skies.  I no longer hide as I did as a child, but that doesn’t mean I will stand outside in an electrical storm under a tall tree, or on a golf course with putter in hand, or on the water in a boat.  Why?  Because I know today not to tempt the power of nature and I don’t believe God protects foolish men on golf courses or fishers on the lake.

But soon a fierce storm came up.  High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.  Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.  The disciples woke him up, shouting,  “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”  Mark 4:37-38

Naturally, the disciples feared for their lives.  This body of water on which they were being tossed about furiously was not some little backyard pond.  But, instead of taking measures to save themselves by bailing water out of the boat, they awakened the sleeping Jesus and questioned his concern for them.  Don’t you think in that situation, one would awaken Jesus and throw a bailing bucket to him yelling,  “Get ready to jump, can you swim?”  How many times in my life have I confronted God, “Don’t you care about me?  Why are you allowing this to happen?”

The passage from Mark goes on to say that Jesus woke up, calmed the waters and told the wind to be still.  In the same manner when I begin to panic, God says to me, “Relax, son.  Be cool.  I’ve got this under control.”

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  Psalms 34:4

Seeking the Lord in times of turmoil and surrendering the outcome to his mercy and grace is easy.  In the storms of life I usually have no other options and the resulting relief is welcome.  Conversely, seeking the Lord when life is good, the skies are sunny, and I’m enjoying a great day is a challenge.  I’ve retrieved my white flag of surrender, the crisis is over, and I am once again doing the driving.  “OK, Lord, thanks for the help, but I’ll take it from here.”  It would be wonderful if I could surrender my will and my life just one time and be done.  But my life simply does not work that way.  I am still a work in process and apparently have many future lessons to learn.

This physical existence which we experience gives no guarantees to our survival.  Car wrecks, disease and illness, crazy shooters at our local WalMart – we are not assured that tonight we will return home safely to loved ones.  But, it’s always been that way.  Rocko, the cave man, never knew whom in his neighborhood had a bigger, more deadly club.  The Jews, during Jesus’ time were at the mercy of the Roman conquerors and the religious hierarchy.  Jesus was not the only one crucified.  History tells us that thousands were hung on a cross during the rule of the Roman Empire.

Rational fear in the temporal world is probably a good thing.  It keeps me alive and out of harm’s way.  I have learned not to run around my neighborhood looking for a hairy caveman with a big club and I don’t seek out soldiers wanting to crucify me.  But what about fear in my spiritual world?  As a child I became  an extremely fearful person listening to the stories of a judgmental, white-haired, bearded, vengeful, fire-breathing, old man sitting in the heavens just waiting for an opportunity to BBQ me in hell.  The people telling those stories were not evil; they were merely misinformed.

That childhood fear was irrational, not based on truth.  Today, I have the truth in front of me in the words and teachings of the man whom Jewish countrymen hoped to be the deliverer from Roman and religious oppression.  He was not that messiah.  He died like many other victims ignobly hung from a cross.  Centuries later the Roman church fathers assembled writings about Jesus into a plan for successful living which suggested we could have freedom from fear.

I believe that is what the book of John tells me.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

It’s not rocket science.  In his lifetime, Jesus spoke to his disciples and his followers in parables.  Analogy and metaphor detailed what he was trying to teach about the spiritual world in which he dwelled.  Essential to delivering those teachings was not only the faith of his followers in who he was, but also Jesus’ faith in an eternal, everlasting presence which he named as God, his Father.

Scriptures tell us that Jesus suffered the human condition just as we do.  He displayed anger, compassion, doubt, disappointment, and fear.  The lowly carpenter from Nazareth probably suffered the same concerns about clothing, housing, and providing food for his family as we do.  He enjoyed the company of his Jewish brothers and sisters, attended weddings, and partied with sinners.  That’s what gives me hope.  Jesus was not a saint when he was alive on earth.  He became divine centuries later only when the fathers of “Christianity” proclaimed him to be so.  But, while alive on this earth, Jesus was just like you and I.

That gives me tons of hope and reason to have faith.  I, too, can be a better version of me.  Temporal fear is a life-preserver, but soul fear is merely an absence of faith in what Jesus can do with me as a child of God.  A Psalmist from long ago told me to not be afraid of walking this earth even when death and darkness surround me because the love and compassion of God will protect my soul, will lead me out of that deep valley into a place of gentleness and kindness where I will dwell forvever in His mercy and grace.  Amen, my cup is overflowing.

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HE KNOWS

“And all the weight that brings you to your knees…..He knows.”

All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low

And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show

And all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

He knows, He knows
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
He knows, He knows
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the One who knows
He knows

We may faint and we may sink
Feel the pain and near the brink
But the dark begins to shrink
When you find the One who knows
The chains of doubt that held you in between
One by one are starting to break free
Every time that you feel forsaken
Every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
Every tear
He knows

 

Only you, Lord, know the depth of our suffering and pain.  Loss of friends, health issues, insecurities, fears, self-doubt, depression bring us into the deepest valley with seemingly no escape.  But, You know us, You know our pains and You have the words that heal us. You never abandon us even in the darkest times. Hallelujah!

Songwriters: Jeremy Camp,Seth Mosley
© CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

EPIPHANY – jan 6

At about that time some astrologers from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in far-off eastern lands and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:1-2

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Epiphany as a Christian feast finds its earliest reference in AD 361 by Ammianus Marcellinus.  This day, marking the end of Christmastide, celebrates the announcement to the entire world of the arrival of the Christ – the union of human and divine – in the child named Jesus.

The child Jesus was brought into existence to proclaim first to the Jewish shepherds and secondly to all non-Jews the birth of a new order in the world where man and God are united.   This baby Jesus was proclaimed to all mankind, regardless of race and creed or sex and lifestyle, as a king, savior and messiah.  Jesus, the man, through teachings and words attributed to him, asserted the worth and value of all humankind.  None is excluded.  Neither you nor I, Muslim nor Hindu, American nor Mexican is missing a seat at his table.  That is the essence of the feast of Epiphany.  Love and compassion incarnate came into the world to show us how to live.

 

 

CREEP

Nails it!  Never felt good enough.  Never fit in.  Never loved who I was.  Just a creep and a weirdo.  Became the prodigal, the runaway and misfit.  Lived in the far country carousing in spiritual poverty.  And then – on bended knee surrendered to the One who didn’t see a freak, didn’t see my ugliness, didn’t care what I had done.

This song is about rejection.  Rejection is painful.  Makes us feel useless and unimportant.  Makes us sad and depressed.  Unloved.  But, Lord, you are the Comforter, the Consoler, the Healer.  Please, today, work your miracles.  Comfort, console, heal and make us whole.

When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
And I wish I was special
You’re so ****** special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so ******special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

She’s running out again,
She’s running out
She’s run run run run

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re so ***** special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.
I don’t belong here.

Songwriters: BILL SMITH,GEORGE HUBBARD JR CAMPBELL
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne will speak to the risks of practicing discipleship. Shane is the co-founder of the Simple Way, a faith community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation called Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. Shane is the author of several books including “The Irresistible Revolution”, “Jesus for President” and “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers.”

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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CHRISTMASTIDE – Hallelujah!

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.

By now everybody has been wearied by Christmas.  Can’t wait to take down the decorations (Lord knows they’ve been up since the day after Thanksgiving), put the tree back up in the attic, exchange all those stupid sweaters and pen sets you got for something you really need, and clean house preparing for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Whoa!  What’s the rush?  We are in Christmastide now.  What?  You never heard of the 12 days of Christmas.  Yeah, aside from the partridge in the pear tree there is a liturgical calendar which says those 12 days run from December 25th to January 6th of 2019.  This is when the commercialization and the hectic pace of pre-Christmas insanity finally takes a back seat to a season of fully appreciating the birth of Jesus.  Christmastide ends on January 6 with the feast of Epiphany.

If you love your decorations and the nativity scene, just tell your complaining neighbors or your wife that it is perfectly proper, liturgically, to keep those joys of Christmas on display at least until January 6th.  If they should lament having to see your lights and wreaths and tree and the baby Jesus on the front lawn another 12 days, inform them that the Catholic Christmastide lasts for 40 days into February and you are considering converting to Catholicism.

No, don’t do that.  I am being facetious.   The official church calendar calls this period the ‘octave of Christmas’, because in those 12 days are 8 solemn days of rejoicing, days emphasized by particular joy, lavishness, pomp, and glory.  These are days to shout Hallelujah, meaning ‘praise ye the Lord’.  And why is that?  Because the baby whom we celebrate, literally or symbolically, has changed the world unlike any other event, or story, in history.

“Praise ye the Lord.  O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 106:1

I like that.  There is something comforting, something joyful in knowing that we trust a good, merciful God who sent us a baby, the greatest story ever told, to teach the world how to love. HALLELUJAH!

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three gifts

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.

In the ancient world gold, frankincense and myrrh were standard gifts presented to a king or deity.

Biblical archaeology.org

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“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

What in the world would a baby want with gold, frankincense, and myrrh?  Can’t play with it.  Can’t eat it.  Can’t cuddle up to it like a fuzzy, teddy bear.  Don’t you think that Joseph and Mary would have really appreciated several packages of diapers or a year’s supply of baby  powder?

Of course I am being facetious.  Those gifts which the writers of Matthew and Luke wrote into their narrative of the birth of Jesus were symbolically appropriate for the birth of their Jewish king and historically acceptable gifts to present to kings – gold for royalty, frankincense (an ancient remedy for arthritis), for health, and myrrh (a spice used to prepare the body for burial), for the finality of the tomb.

Gift-giving is a reciprocal behavior.  I give to you.  You give to me.  It’s no different in a person’s faith walk or his/her recovery program.  1 Corinthians, chapter 12 details the gifts of the Spirit.  Pages 83-84 of THE BIG BOOK of Alcoholics Anonymous proclaim to us the ‘promises’ of sobriety.  These are gifts which will be realized when our lives are directed by a Higher Power rather than the whims of self.  Surrender is the only requirement to receiving these gifts.

OK, so I’m a grateful receiver.  But, what do I give in return?  What are my gifts for you and for God?  I cannot buy gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts.  I can barely afford a greeting card.  But, would you be satisfied with my time, my understanding, my patience, my unconditional love?

I am preparing to celebrate the baby Jesus.  I can’t wrap my presents in pretty paper and a bright bow, but I am hoping He will smile and accept me just as I am.

I come broken to be mended,
I come wounded to be healed.
I come desperate to be rescued,
I come empty to be filled.

 

You’re invited.  Why don’t you come?

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