STATES & CAPITOLS

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TGIF –  know what that means?  It’s Friday night.  No more TV news, no more politics, no more Democrats or Republicans, no more news from abroad, no more gut-wrenching scenes from our southern border, no more hatred on our screens.  Seize the weekend because it belongs to us.  Baseball, hikes, soccer, boating, picnics, swimming, vacations, family, loved ones and music.   Let’s kick it off with a refresher course on United States geography.  Can you name all the states AND their capitols?  Need help?

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HERE COMES THE SUN – “we are the world”

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photo by ABHIRAM PRAKASH

The sun also rises on those other than Western Caucasians.  Think about that for a moment, will you?  From the tranquility of Pacific islands to the teeming humanity of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to the mountains of Tibet and Nepal to the deserts of the Middle East to the common ancestry we have in Europe – they all see the same sun which we see.  So, how can we believe that the sun and all its blessings belong only to us, that only we deserve to be warmed and nurtured, that only we are the rightful recipients of the bounty created by a non-discriminating Source, that only we have the keys to the spiritual mysteries of a universe lit by the sun’s daily light?  Really?  Rather obtuse thinking, isn’t it?

I abhor intolerance and discrimination in any form, but especially that which is fueled by political and religious philosophy.  The sun which we welcome each morning with outstretched arms doesn’t really care about mankind’s learned hypocrisy and prejudice.  It does not withhold its warmth and light based on political leaning or theology.  It has no choice but to rise each morning and make our earth fruitful and sustaining.  To us is left the task of discerning right from wrong, moral from immoral, and justice from injustice regardless of race, creed, nationality, skin color or sexual orientation.  Just as the sun lights the earth, our inner light has to be the moral compass which illumines each step of our daily trek from the moment of awakening in the morning to the stillness before retiring for the night.  The choices we enjoy every day are ours because someone before us cared enough to keep the fire of love, tolerance, justice and compassion burning.

My trek is not that of a preacher or moralizer.  I merely arise each morning giving thanks for the new day and asking for the grace to live up to my inherent potential.  Over 2 1/2 billion humans across the globe live on my earth, bask in the same sun.  I must share with them what has been freely given to me.  Too tall an order, you say.  Not really.  Day by day and one step at a time we can conquer a million  differences in creating a communal eternity capable of sustaining and embracing all of creation.  The source of our energy gives itself freely.  We should, too.

We are the world, we are the children – it’s up to us.

FOR FURTHER READING

FRANCISCAN ACTION NETWORK

“Stand up!  Shout from the mountaintops that you are one of the disciples who is here, not preparing to go to heaven, but to create the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.”

 

HERE COMES THE SUN – psalm 23

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photo by BRUNO SCRAMGMON

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

The wisdom of the ancients gifted us with beautiful prose which gives  rise to joy, reflection, admonition, encouragement and fearlessness.  We awaken each morning to a plethora of opportunities to chase and beauty to behold.  It’s our choice how we will respond to the new day.

Some mornings we open our eyes and want to simply roll over and return to a comfortable slumber.  Some mornings we awaken to an unexplainable soul darkness which we don’t want to entertain, but cannot shrug off.  Carryover words from a contentious conversation yesterday which were not resolved.  Mind-numbing news reporting which has led us to dwell upon mankind’s inhumanity to man.  Personal challenges which require action in our new day.  All can easily be denied by simply rolling over and snoozing for the rest of the day.  We can deal with all those issues tomorrow.  Or we can enter that dark valley and, trusting in the goodness of a kind Source, carry our inner lamps to light the way.

The valley of darkness is often translated as the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ in scriptures.  In my younger days this was a mainstay of any Christian burial service.  But, Psalm 23 goes on to indicate that, after passing through this dark journey, there is light, hope, goodness and mercy beyond.  My head is anointed and my cup is overflowing.  That journey of darkness shall be behind us as we enter onto the next plateau of brilliance.

Therefore, if your day, or mine, is clouded and dreary, embrace it, walk through it and know that there is a lesson to learn.  Perhaps it is a necessary time of reflection and meditation, a time to recalibrate the inner soul workings, a time to inventory ‘what is’ in relation to what we want it to be.  Don’t be afraid.  Rest in the opening words of Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

If you are conflicted today, if you are not seeing the rising sun on the horizon, take a few minutes to listen to Psalm 23 put to music.  The ancients intended these words to be sung.

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I’m a believer

Aha!  You thought this post would be about the Monkees.  What?  You don’t know who the Monkees are?  Good Lord, you must be a young thing.

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones, an English actor and singer, set American teeny boppers afire from 1966 to 1971.  Their TV series of the same name aired from 1966 to 1968.  It was fun entertainment that by today’s standards would be classified as ‘corny’.  Was I a big fan?  Not really.  ‘Too mature’ for their antics I preferred The Doors, The Animals, and Led Zeppelin.  But, “I’m a Believer” from the Monkees has had staying power with me through all the years which have seen me swing from hard rock to disco to contemporary Christian to classical to my favorite today – anything that doesn’t give me a headache and puts me to sleep.  Yep.  Meditation music rocks.

I’m a believer.  Are you?  What do you believe?  Has anyone challenged your beliefs?  Has anyone told you that what you believe is wrong?  If you follow the pack, then being called a non-believer by a believer is disturbing.  If you are the pack, then it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans….unless you don’t believe in you.  Then it can be unbelievably disturbing.  But I believe in you.

“I don’t believe that heaven waits
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love,
he’s down below, he’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere,
he knows who does and doesn’t care
and I’m an ordinary man,
sometimes I wonder who I am.”    DON WILLIAMS

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”  NELSON MANDELA

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” GANDHI

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Some of you are saying, “Larry, what does poverty have to do with a great day?”

Did you wake up from a peaceful sleep in a warm, comfortable bed?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Have you done your gratitude list for this day?  Did you eat a hearty breakfast? Will you probably live this day without threat of gun violence or persecution for your belief system?

Congratulations!  Your day has the promise of being a GREAT DAY.  A majority of the world’s population does not have that promise.  But, many of those people go out and make it a fantastic day regardless of circumstances.  That’s the miracle of our species – we are survivors who have an innate desire to thrive.

Does your need to thrive ride on the backs of the less fortunate?  Does mine?  When was the last time we chose to contribute to our local homeless shelter in lieu of a new addition to our designer clothes or, perhaps, buy that man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign a lunch at Burger King rather than a steak for our dinner tonight?  When did we last decide to live more simply so that others in our world would have a dish of rice to eat or a cup of clean water to drink?  When?

My friend, it is absolutely a great day because we have so many choices in front of us.  We can choose what we will eat rather than if we can afford to eat.  We can choose which chair or sofa we will rest upon rather than which overpass we will seek for shelter.  We can choose to tidy up our living room rather than rearrange our boxes and tarp.  Do we understand that much of the world does not have adequate food, shelter or water and our Western culture of greed and consumption has contributed to that shortage?

Along with substantial blessing comes substantial responsibility.  You and I ARE our brothers’ keepers.  That is not a suggestion; it is a mandate dictated by all the world’s major religions and belief systems.  Hug our loved ones this morning, appreciate all that has been given to us, and then contemplate how we can live more simply and help eradicate poverty.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – limbo rock

Here’s a quirky flashback from an era which many of us remember as care-free and exciting.  Chubby Checker’s words, “Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.  Jack go unda limbo stick…..how low can you go?” (1)

limbo rockThose years were great times.  Were we hopelessly naïve or simply enthusiastic about life?  Today, in our maturity, the harshness of the world, the deception of politicians, the betrayal of friends, the cruelty of man to man has a way of mellowing idealistic youth.  We somehow came to realize that the things happening around us are mostly beyond our control.

How low can you go?  How low will you go before you take charge of your life and remind yourself, “I don’t need to find the bottom anymore.  I don’t need to go there.  I have a choice today about my life.  This morning, right now, I will set my day’s course.  I can wallow in my gloom or I can bathe in the rising sun.  I can listen to the internal self-condemning dialog or I can enjoy the serenade of awakening birds.  It’s my choice today.  I don’t need to see how low I can go.”

You are a worthy child of this universal presence which flows through all of creation.  So am I.  We are functioning, breathing, blood-pumping organisms designed to be spectacular.  Hold that thought for just a moment.  You, just as you are, are perfect right now.  Not tomorrow, not next year, not when you die – no, you are perfect today in this very moment.  It may be difficult at first, but repeat it over and over and over until you truly believe it.  This doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels and not aspire to grow into better versions of who we are.  Our goal is always to evolve and enlighten into the creatures which we have been designed to be.  So, today, right now in this moment, stop stooping to see how low you can go.

Stretch those arms high, open your hands to receive the blessings which have been intended for you.  Look into the cosmos and find your home, your joy and peace.  That eternal inheritance is there waiting for you to claim it.  Right here, right now, grab what has been yours all along.  It’s a great day.

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(1) LIMBO ROCK

Psalm 23

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.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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