BEGGAR & WANDERER

Is my faith walk measured by correctness and certainty? Or is it filled with intense need and desire?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5: 5

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5: 6

None of the above verses from the wisdom of the ancient writings say anything about getting it right or being sure about my thoughts concerning God.  As a matter of fact they point to the need to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness. I do not have the answers to the mysteries nor will I ever in this lifetime, but there is a way to search for those answers and that searching is in itself the purpose of faith.

Knowing that I just don’t know is sometimes difficult.  It is not an inherent human trait to admit that the object of my searching is an undefinable, indescribable, unspeakable mystery which is the driving force in this earthly life.  Many men and women have taken a stab at descriptions and definitions, but in the end they fall short of certainty.

But, we do know what a God-driven life produces in our lives.  It is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with a friend, family member or spouse, but the gut-wrenching compassion for victims of violence, for the hungry and needy, for the financially stressed, for asylum seekers.   A God-driven life produces peace makers rather than war-mongers, stewards of the earth rather than exploiters, givers rather than takers.

We can know this as truth because the Spirit (conscience) within says this is right and this is love.

“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze and then return what we have received.  We simply complete the divine circuit, ‘love returning love’ as my father St. Francis put it.  This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life.” Richard Rohr

Can’t get any simpler than that.  Look at God’s gaze (the Spirit within – love) and then return it to God and every other creature on earth.  I am a spiritual beggar and wanderer filled with an intense need and desire.  This is all I need to know.35

Step 1

“Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This is our first hurdle when entering the fellowship of AA.  Some of us put up arguments but, the AAers were quick to squash any notion that controlling drinking was a viable option.  A few of us opted for the ‘controlled drinking’ theory, did more field research and returned defeated and humiliated.  We finally made the admission and went forward with step 1 accomplished.

Much of AA wisdom is based on ancient tenets of the world’s faith walks.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob knew that preaching religion would get them nowhere in recruiting drunks to their newly formed recovery program.  Instead they called God a Higher Power and incorporated many precepts of Christianity and Buddhism into the 12 step program we have today as a way to recovery.  Obviously it worked.  Millions who would never darken the doors of churches are victoriously sober.

The first of the Beatitudes in Christian scripture says, “Blessed (or happy) are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

When we come to AA we are humbled by the demon alcohol.  We have been emptied of all self-respect.  We are begging for relief from our addictions.  We have nothing left of ourselves to contribute to life.  We are like children, beginners searching for a way to live sober lives.  We have tried cures, religion, medication, hospitalization, therapy to no avail.  We are empty, we are beggars, we are nobodies.  Then at our first meeting the old-timers tell us we have to admit powerlessness and unmanageability.  Unthinkable!

“Well,” they say, “Go back out there and try some more drinking.”

“Poor in spirit” is the powerlessness referred to in Alcoholics Anonymous 1st step.  The writer in the book of Matthew 5:3 uses the Greek word ptochoi, for poor which literally means, “the very empty ones, those who are crouching.”  That is an accurate description of us at our first meeting, is it not? cac.org

This first step of AA and this first Beatitude of the teachings of Jesus both lead us to a way of living which emphasizes giving up ourselves in service to others.  And the irony is that just as Jesus did not say the kingdom of heaven will be theirs, rather, the kingdom is theirs, the program of AA does not say its benefits will be realized in another life.  We are not applying for life-time memberships in the eternity club.  No, we will know serenity and peace in this life.  We will realize the “promises” of AA as we empty ourselves of selfishness, arrogance,  and self-preoccupation. AA PROMISES

When I lose myself in service work with other alcoholics, I become free.  Jesus on the Mount was saying, “Happy are you (blessed are the poor in spirit), you’re the freest of all (the kingdom of heaven is yours)”.

Yes, I am powerless today.  I am powerless over alcohol and I am powerless over the turmoil in this world.  I am a beggar, a loser, a misfit, and a runaway in the eyes of “successful” America.  But, I no longer need to compete in worldly games.  Competitors are preoccupied with winning.  My Higher Power has already won my  race for me.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  Janis Joplin – ME AND BOBBY MCGEE

 

 

 

poor in spirit

If you, like I, went to Sunday School and VBS as a child, you probably memorized the 23rd Psalm, the Ten Commandments, and maybe the Beatitudes.  The eight short sayings of the Beatitudes give the core teachings of Jesus in a concentrated format.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:3

Oh, how I struggled with this one.  This proud country boy did not want to be “poor” in any way, shape or form when he grew up.  Although my family, as farmers, provided adequately for our needs, we could not afford the vacations other people took each summer nor the fancy new car every 2 years.  Fortunately, designer jeans were not a necessary fashion statement in high school in 1961 and most often I started the new school year with last year’s clothes augmented by new shoes or a new shirt.  Life was pretty good but, when I considered the first of the Beatitudes, this 13 year-old farm boy raised up a few secretive, quiet prayers, “Lord, anything but poor.  I don’t want to be poor.”

I believed for many years that when the pastor recited the first Beatitude, he forgot the last two words, “in spirit.”  A more likely scenario is that  I did not hear them because I was too enamored by the cute neighbor girl sitting beside me on the pew. I think that maybe I missed a lot of the things I needed to hear in church because I was distracted.  Whenever I heard “blessed are the poor,”  my mind pictured a crowd of people saved by grace mulling around heaven in tatters and rags.  What is so blessed about that?

I’m sure my boyhood pastor recited the Beatitude in full.  I simply was not ready to hear it in full just like so many other lessons and teachings from Jesus.  That could explain why for many years I stumbled through life filling my God hole with everything but God.  Ranging from alcohol to sex to pot to pornography to numerous other idolatries, I did not become ready to listen to all the words from Jesus until I was utterly defeated by my own life.  No enemy could have defeated me as soundly as I defeated myself.  Finally the sweet words of surrender filled my heart when I put some verses into that God hole.

“Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted….”  Psalm 46:10

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

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

Those were the first verses I memorized.  And yes, I finally heard the full verse of Matthew 5:3.  It happened only when my mind understood “poor in spirit” to mean that I need to be fully open and receptive to Jesus, I need to find a state of nothingness  and then let Jesus fill the void.  I need to go to that space where there is only God.  When there I am as a beggar on the street seeking alms, begging for the bread of Life which feeds, the living waters which quench.  I have then been impoverished, made poor in spirit, and Jesus will relieve my poverty.

Sure, my mind still shuts down God’s space sometimes, fills it with junk.  My thinking says that I should pursue a spirituality based on knowledge, surety, certitude.  My ego begins reviewing the spiritual advancement, the learned theology, the numerous books, the good works.  I can very quickly become haughty and self-assured within my own religious arrogance.  But then, when I have suffered enough from running my own show, Jesus says, “Come back, you will find assurance in me.” cac.org

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!” 

Frances J. Crosby 

CANDLE

 

 

faith without works

I have a tough time feeling grateful.  My bank account does not rank up there in the stratosphere with the top one percenters; my transportation is a 21 year old pickup truck; my wardrobe is the finest the local thrift shop can provide; my daily menu is usually a variation of beans and rice.  Yes, when I compare to my neighbors and friends, Larry has missed the prosperity boat.happy thanks

Then I go to Reuters or Aljazeera or BBC, networks which present the world uncolored by rose-tinted glasses and news not saturated by American politics, and there I see the rest of humanity struggling in war-torn desolation, there I see a father unable to provide survival necessities for his family, there I see poverty which is unparalleled in our sheltered, ego-driven society……. and I get grateful for my beans and rice menu and my second-hand clothes.  A majority of the world’s population subsists on poverty level income often without even the basics of clean water, shelter and food.  Oh Larry, I say to myself, you are such an ingrate.

I cannot fathom the poverty of the world for I have been blessed to live in an America which has seen the greatest material prosperity ever witnessed by humanity.  Three car garages, college educations, designer jeans, meat and potatoes on the dinner table, boats, exquisite jewelry, penthouses, retirement accounts, golf resort vacations, all these are commonplace in the America I see surrounding me.  And still, Larry sometimes feels ungrateful and poor.  Then God says, “Rejoice!”

“Really? For what?  The country is going to hell in a handbasket, our government is corrupt, the poor are getting poorer, the rich don’t give a damn, and Florida State has a losing record this year.  What is there to be happy about?”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

“Oh.”

It has just now been pointed out to me by HP that “poor” is not a bad thing, at least not spiritually.  Those who, with humility, realize and recognize that they are impoverished in spirit and need assistance are indeed blessed for it is then that God can and will intervene if that intervention is sought.  Only then can God fix what is broken in me.  It is not something I can buy at WalMart, it is not a commodity available through a broker, it is not a shiny new vehicle.  Even my church does not hand it out at the front door.  I need to earnestly assess my own weakness and spiritual poverty in order to be blessed.  I need to get grateful for the love and compassion given to me by a gracious God and then share that same love and compassion with humanity.

Gratitude is an attitude.  Gratitude is also an action.  Just as the feeling of love becomes active through participating compassion, gratitude is useless if it is not shared.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  James 2:17

“We believed that faith without works was dead, but we have now conclusively proved that works without faith is dead also.”  Bill W. letter of 1940

What a concept!  Faith demands works and works build faith.

smiley 3

 

 

 

Blessed are the poor

Blessed are the poor in spirit ; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

Yes, I know this verse has nothing to do with worldly wealth or spiritual deficiency.  But, I immediately thought of it when Trump came out with the following statement at an ego rally in Iowa.

“I just don’t want a poor person in top economic roles.”  Donald J. Trump

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-%E2%80%98i-just-don%E2%80%99t-want-a-poor-person%E2%80%99-in-top-economic-roles/ar-BBD1Ncr?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

I could discuss politics with you until the cows come home, but that is not my blog’s intent.  Suffice it to say that possibly ‘the poor’ could add a great insight to an otherwise sightless administration.

In the verse attributed to Jesus by the book of Matthew, “poor” is translated from the Greek word “ptochos” meaning beggar or pauper.  In attempting to think as Jesus may have thought we could view the “poor in spirit” not as unenlightened or ignorant, but, as those who have become voluntarily bankrupt in ego, i.e., poor in ego, and are absolutely dependent on God for every need.  Just like a beggar with cup in hand, totally in need of alms, the one who relies not on “I” or “me” but rather on the grace and graciousness of a Higher Power has attained an attitude that surrenders control to the One who is in control.  This attitude is the kingdom of heaven cited in Matthew 5:3.

(refer to Ethan Walker 3rd, “THE MYSTIC CHRIST”)