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.
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of God shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isaiah 40:4-5
“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Like a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent,
are the fine but fruitless words
of those who do not act accordingly.
But like a beautiful flower, full of color and full of scent,
are the fine and fruitful words
of those who do act accordingly.
from FLOWERS, the Buddha
We are encouraged in our faith walks and recovery programs to “walk the talk”. Scriptures and rhetoric flow easily off the tongues of many religious and political leaders only to be sadly contradicted by actions which betray their words. From the pulpits and the podiums flow endless streams of righteousness and exhortation but their eloquence produces no discernible spiritual fruit.
In these tumultuous times of hatred and vitriol spewing forth from politicians, clergy, and fellow citizens, many of us find our spiritual foundations rocked with a gut-wrenching desire to join in the melee of harshness and discord. In a heartbeat, in a moment of anger, I can become as evil and slanderous as the worst of the worst seen in the newspapers or on the viewing screens. In a fit of righteousness I can charge, judge, and condemn the most vocal offenders of my life’s philosophy. I deem myself omnipotent. It is then that I immediately become a part of the problem and not a promoter of the solution.
Talk is cheap. However, walking the talk is a never-ending endeavor which separates men from boys, wise from foolish, sheep from goats. The Buddha attained nirvana following a path of selflessness and principled living. Jesus and his disciples established a kingdom on earth led by the principles of “the Way.” Gandhi won liberation for his people through non-violent dissent. Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted non-violent protest as the vehicle to attain civil rights for African-Americans. They all walked their talk. Each of them was a peacemaker.
That also is my challenge in this life. I shall probably never attain greatness or recognition, but I can always strive to lace my thoughts, speech, and actions with mindfulness and compassion. I want the flowers of my life to be sweetly scented and fruitful. Engaging in and wallowing in hatefulness and vitriol is not an option. Filling my head with the latest scandal from media talking heads does not encourage enlightenment. Ancient wisdom teaches that what blossoms in the mind is who we are as a humanity. Fruit or thorns? Peace or strife? Compassion or oppression? It truly begins within each of us.
(Following are the final paragraphs of Dr. King’s famous speech, “Been to the mountaintop.” For the full text follow this link MOUNTAINTOP )
“………You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up.
The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.
It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital.
They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,
“Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”
And she said,
“While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”
And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.
If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.
I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.
And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us.
The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Krishna was there,
Yahweh and Buddha watched from above.
They saw and wept;
“the Way”, the great “I AM”, a Savior
hung on a cross.
Man of peace,
messenger of love,
hope for the hopeless,
life for the dead in spirit
nailed to a tree.
Heavens roared in pain,
angels ceased singing,
holy ones prostrated in grief,
sun, moon and stars hid in horror.
Their Son, their beloved,
shamed and ravaged,
naked and dying,
nails through feet and hands,
mocked and reviled.
“No,” they bellowed,
“this shall not be the end.
Our Prince of Peace will prevail.
He will be Lord of lords
and King of kings. Forever.”
The Way – the truth and life continued,
peace, love, tolerance, justice
revealed through other lives.
Mohammed, Francis of Assisi,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King,
……….you and I.
All of God’s children united
with the spirit of the Way
living in truth and peace,
eternally joined with the Holy Ones.
His Way will not be crushed,
His truth will not be crushed,
His life will not be crushed,
and we shall live forever and ever.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” [Isaiah 53:3]
In the small world between my ears I can think of nothing as frustrating or disgusting as politics. The limited federal government envisioned by the men of wisdom who forged our experiment which was never before undertaken by like-minded citizens has ballooned into an unwieldy and corrupt behemoth which favors wealth and power at the expense of commoners who keep the country’s machinery running. We are the simple, unassuming folks who pay bills on time, raise families, volunteer in our communities, and trust in the power of love and compassion. We support our local charities, tithe in church, and buy those outrageously-priced Girl Scout cookies every spring. We don’t ask for much in return other than a chance to run our lives without interference from legislators and politicians who see us as a ticket to power and riches. We are the backbone of a great country composed of every creed, every race, and every lifestyle imaginable. We are America and this America which we embrace will not disappear nor hide behind closed doors in the face of governmental tyranny and oppression supported by imbecilic minds and moronic behavior. They may have the money to build palaces unto themselves, eat filet mignon (or cheeseburgers) every night and adorn themselves in designer clothes. They may travel in jets to vacation spots worldwide at our expense and they may spend weekends knocking a little white ball around manicured, artificially beautified acres of greenery, but, when the final tally is made, when life for them is over, they will be as naked as jaybirds, poor as church mice, and answerable to a Supreme Power saying, “I knew you not.”
OK, that’s my political rant for the day. Now, on to the important things fluttering within my brain waves.
The eternity I seek is not some faraway place in the distant future. It is happening right now, right here in the world of LarryPaulBrown. Every breath I take and every thought I have is a moment of eternal commitment. Whom or what I choose as the focus of my commitment determines what my present moment will provide to me. It can be spent within the peace of a loving, compassionate God or it can be a endured in the chaos of a world gone mad. It truly is up to me where I go with my mind and my life. By no means have I attained a sustained state of bliss, but I have seen moments of what is available and I want more.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his last speech the night before his assassination in Memphis gave one of his most powerful insights into that which is available:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 3, 1968)
We all need to go to the mountaintop and look it over. From that lofty state of mind the things of this earth are irrelevant. Our eyes will see the glory. The coming of the Lord has happened. It is right here, right now. Just open your eyes, spread you arms and receive Him.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY – JANUARY 15, 2018
(I have read and loved Marianne Williamson for many years. This snippet of one of her talks is absolutely apropos for today’s national climate)
APRIL 3, 1968
APRIL 4, 1968
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr
In my Lutheran worship service, after the prayers, “the peace of the Lord” is extended by the pastor. The congregants then take several minutes to greet each other with hugs, a hand clasp and a repetition of “God’s peace.” It symbolizes the attitude we are encouraged to assume in greeting the world with a universal message of love and compassion.
During the Christmas season the words “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” will take center stage in celebratory endeavors. It is a sentiment which our enlightenment envisions for all of humanity regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. It is a dream shared by John Lennon, IMAGINE, Martin Luther King, Jr., millions of pacifists worldwide, and me. Sadly, peace seems to be, in the Christmas season of 2017, the last item on the agenda of the world’s politicians, strident religious leaders, and governments. Just as a popular song by Lennon in the 1960s anti-war movement laments, “why can’t we give peace a chance” GIVE PEACE A CHANCE , we also wonder what is so tough about peace?
Indeed, why not give peace a chance? What is Larry doing today to give peace a chance? Hmmm, that’s where it starts, does it not? I can’t change the world, but I can surely, with divine help, change me; if each of the world’s 2 billion plus inhabitants could assume a commitment to peaceful co-existence, we might have a chance. Yes, I know, it’s a pipe dream, but, the process has to start somewhere with someone. Let it begin with me. As the Buddhist would ask, “How is your good heart today?” As Jesus would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I have within my being the solution to the worldwide pandemic called heart dis-ease. Lord, bring it on, let the cure begin with me.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” Luke 2:14 KJV
I encounter a number of people who do not want to hear “Jesus” in the conversation. It’s as if a brain wave has a fart and immediately odorizes the thought patterns. I understand their reaction and I can’t take offense because they often equate Jesus with religion and the Christian Church. But, consider this. Does Christianity need Jesus to validate its existence? Yes, of course. The theology is thick with the virgin birth, the man/God, the divinity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Without those elements , it would be just another minor, extremist sect.
Does the living Jesus need Christianity? Absolutely not. Leave theology out of the Christian walk and what remains is the man who has eternally been a voice for tolerance, love, and compassion; he remains a champion of the world’s disenfranchised and oppressed. Unfortunately, as in Jesus’ earth life, the dogma and doctrines of some of today’s hypocritical religious institutions are crucifying that unifying voice. They have disguised the power of the universal almighty Sovereign and one of its messengers, Jesus of Nazareth, and have defined that power as a vindictive, intolerant code of laws.
The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth has been studied, argued, and disputed by scholars who have devoted a lifetime to this undertaking. Some reference the writings of a Jewish historian, Josephus, who mentions Jesus, a worker of incredible acts and a teacher. Other scholars dispute this paragraph in the writing of Josephus saying it was inserted at a later time. Some scholars note that the time span of the writings later defined as the Gospels by Christianity point to historical accuracy. More recently the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi scriptures give further credence to the belief that Jesus was a historical fact. It doesn’t matter if the man called Jesus was a living being in ancient Israel. The legacy he created, the legacy attributed to him is sufficient to lead me through the valleys of darkness and despair and the lion pits of life. It is more than sufficient to set me on the highest mountain and soar with the eagles. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have been to the mountain top; we have seen the promised land.
The bottom line is that none of us knows with certainty whether the Christian Church has nailed the truth with its theology. Karl Marx called religion….”the sigh of the oppressed creature….the heart of a heartless world.” He also named religion as the opioid of the masses. karl marx
In a world overrun with physical and psychological brokenness, is there anything wrong with a spiritual opioid? Perhaps not. “The heart of a heartless world” strikes a chord within me. I have experienced the joy of communal worship, the escape from a heartless world afforded by my religious tradition. As in the realm of pharmaceuticals, a spiritual opioid used as intended can be a tremendous pain reliever. Used indiscreetly, it can become a vicious master and enslaver intent on destruction.
I need a doctor in my life to fix my brokenness, a physician who can prescribe a faith walk which will enhance my solidarity with all mankind, not just the ones who look, think, talk, smell, and worship like me. I need a shepherd who will lead me into pastures of inclusiveness and tolerance, not thorn-filled fields with noxious weeds. I need Jesus in my life, not to make me more religious, but to create me in a new image, a transformed version of the old Larry.
Here’s a verse from Helen Lemmel’s song which has renewed my spirit innumerable times when I feared being swamped by a heartless world: