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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what I love about Sundays

 

Sunday on the farm when I was a boy is exactly what this song says about Sundays.  Worship in our church just down the road, dinner of chicken and waffles with bowls of gravy, apple pie, a nap and then an afternoon of socializing, ball games, and fishing.  Neighbor, it just don’t get any better than this.  

Raymond’s in his Sunday best
He’s usually up to his chest in oil and grease
There’s the Martins walking in
With that mean little freckle-faced kid
Who broke a window last week
Sweet miss Betty likes to sing off key
In the pew behind me

That’s what I love about Sunday
Sing along as the choir sways
Every verse of amazing grace
And then we shake the preacher’s hand
Go home into your blue jeans
Have some chicken and some baked beans
Pick a backyard football team
Not do much of anything
That’s what I love about Sunday

I stroll to the end of the drive
Pick up the Sunday times, grab a coffee cup
Looks like Sally and Rob finally tied the knot
Well, it’s about time
It’s thirty-five cents off a ground round
Baby, cut that coupon out

That’s what I love about Sunday
Cat-nappin’ on a porch swing
You curled up next to me
The smell of jasmine wakes us up
Take a walk down a back road
Tackle box and a cane pole
Carve our names in that white oak
Steal a kiss as the sun fades
That’s what I love about Sunday

New believers getting baptized
Mama’s hands raised up high
Havin’ a hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face
That’s what I love about Sunday

That’s what I love about Sunday

Songwriters: ADAM DORSEY,MARK NARMORE
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

Beggar in the presence of a king

If your life is perfect, if you have no problems, if your faith is strong as an ox, then this post is probably not for you.  On the other hand, if you are like me, a man who questions everything, doubts everything as the disciple Thomas did, reels between ecstasy and bewilderment when considering the things of faith, then we can appreciate the title of Matthew West’s song, BROKEN THINGS.

“If it’s true you use broken things – then here I am Lord, I’m all yours.”

People don’t like broken things – they throw away cracked dishes, broken vacuum cleaners, flickering lamps, worn clothing.  I remember my grandfather who took his shoes to a cobbler to be re-soled rather than buy new shoes.  Thinking he could not afford new shoes, I bought him a pair for Christmas.  Graciously he thanked me but continued wearing those old shoes.  That new pair was still in its box when Grandpa died.

Rather than repairing broken relationships, husbands and wives will find good divorce lawyers.  Fathers and sons remain estranged for many years after a disagreement, not remembering what the argument was about, but too stubborn to reconcile.  For many of us, broken relationships are not worth repairing.

I was the last to admit that I was broken.  My life had spiraled head first into a vast darkness which applauded my efforts to be strong, to be better than others, to stand out from the crowd, to chart my own destiny no matter what the cost.  I swam in that sea of darkness believing it was my strength of character and independence that kept me afloat.  I did it entirely on my own personal will power.  I drove myself to be a self-made man, independent of anyone – especially God.

Some of us are sicker than others.  Thankfully, God knows this; he has a special room in His heart for the sickest of the sick.  Patiently, steadfastly, lovingly He guided me to a place where I could take an honest assessment of me – on my knees.  We talked, we cried, we screamed out in pain and then we entered the wide gate into the Kingdom of grace.

I am still a broken vessel today.  I like it that way because my Lord can use broken things to fix the brokenness which He sees in his human family.  Patch me, glue me, bind me together.  Like that pair of Grandpa’s worn-out shoes, I can always be re-souled.  “I am just a beggar in the presence of a King.”

“Grace is a Kingdom with gates open wide.”

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COURTESY OF lum3n.com

 

seeking the Seeker

“What you seek is seeking you.”

 

How peaceful it can be when I put aside the search for truth in places which offer only more questions.

I pray with bowed head, “Lord, where and when does my soul find contentment?  Where must I go for fulfillment?  What ultimate power will quench my thirst?”

In my quietness I ponder the mysteries of unknown spaces and time, I think of those before me who also followed a quest for answers.

“Theology, philosophy, books have not answered my search honestly.  I seek gods in high places, low places, and other places where I probably should not take my mind and soul.”

“Within.”

“My Lord?”

‘What you seek is seeking you within.  Simply go there.”

“Yes, of course…..but, how and when….with whom?”

“You ask too many questions.  Just go within and be still.  Breathe deeply and consider all that your Creator has given to you.  Then talk to me.  Know that I am God.  It is not difficult to know the truth which you seek.  I am that “I am” for which mankind is thirsting. “

“Within?”

“Yes, of course, where else would I be?  The heavens?  The stars?  The places unknown?  How would you propose to arrive at those far places?”

“But Lord, the religions, the philosophies, the books, do they not also tell the truth?”

“My son, whose truth do you seek?  Theirs or yours?  Perhaps they have provided a compass pointing the way, but you must conduct your own quest.  You must find your own soul, revere it with great esteem, and then be true to it.”

 “Yes, Lord.”

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worthy of all praise

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

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Listening to great music from contemporary artists and the masters of classical works has the capacity to soothe and encourage.  Sitting in a chair in the stillness of a quiet nook, my world is transformed from one of agitation and discontent to the truth of knowing without reservation that God is, always has been, always will be.  Music such as Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Our God” confirms that others experience this same peace and awe in the presence of a Greater Power, one which defines for us compassion, acceptance, and love.  Unconditionally!

I cannot temper my feeble attempts to be Christ-like with earthly conditions for extending or withholding God’s indwelling spirit.  I cannot deny anyone the directive of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself.  The color of skin, the ethnicity, the creed, the political affiliation, the sexual persuasion, the gender, and the theology of another brother/sister cannot be a determinant for sharing the grace of God which was freely given to me.

Most of us, especially me, are often conflicted by this wisdom from a gracious God.  If you are white like me, male like me, Christ-follower like me, Democrat like me, and peace lover like me, then it is not difficult to also be Christ-like.  My perfect world is one in which no disagreement or contention exists.  My perfect world would also be totally black or white, right or wrong, moral or immoral, no shades of color filtering into it.

That, fortunately, is not God’s world.  The God, which I know today, knew from the beginning that we would be a broken species fraught with discontent, envy, jealousy, anger, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and “isms” of all descriptions.  Yet, God loved us enough to give us messengers in human form who showed us how to evolve into the humanity with whom He would be pleased.  I don’t have to pursue this transformation without instruction manuals.  Each of our great religions have presented to us a path to follow which leads to enlightenment.

Enlightenment is not some mysterious element in a future eternity.  It is not something to be attained by sustained adherence to rigid rules of morality.  No, enlightenment is the discipline of practicing and sharing here and now in this lifetime the same mercy and grace which is freely available to every soul on earth.  In this quiet space of the soul, a corner of absolute connection to Spirit, there are no distinctions, no fears, no judgements.  We all are one with the great Oneness whom some name Allah, some name Krishna, some name Yahweh, and some name God.  The name we call  upon doesn’t matter.  The heart we share does.  How’s your good heart today?

CANDLE

 

 

be careful little eyes

CANDLEA friend invited me to sit with him to watch one of the popular offerings on prime time television.  My viewing over the years has diminished to baseball, news, and college football.  Sometimes an old movie will grab my attention and I will settle down to watch and reminisce.  But, today’s 1258 channels on cable don’t get me too excited.

The show we watched was not alarmingly violent, had little sexual content, kept cussing to that which 8 year-olds now use at school.  But, it was bizarre in the images presented and the script.  Actually, bizarre is not strong enough.  It was chilling, ominous, and dark.  It creeped me out.  The computer generated visual effects were graphically disturbing, not something I wanted to put into my memory banks and certainly not something I would want a 10 year-old to process in his/her developing psyche.

“Trash in, trash out”.  We seem to have lost as a supposedly advanced society the wisdom that what we ingest mentally is who we become as a person.  Those images and that music which I allow into my brain will affect who I become as a person.  I can fill that space in my head with soul-nurturing entertainment or gut-wrenching graphics.  I can honor the presence of Jesus within or I can dump trash on his salvific glory. It’s a choice I have to make every minute of every day.  And, being the broken piece of humanity which I am, I sometimes fall short.  There are times when the best I can accomplish is damage control.

Our entertainment industry has replaced a God of joy and peaceful coexistence with its god of sex, immorality, and violence.  We should not wonder why mass shootings are becoming commonplace in America.  The children are learning from the movies, music, media, and politicians that the best solution to a problem involves a gun and standing up for “rights”.  Even some of our churches are preaching a theology of exclusion.  “You are not like me, you do not think like me, you do not look like me; therefore, you need to be eliminated.”  The less violent of these misguided religionists are content with the thought that the elimination will be an eternity in hell for those who do not fit their narrow viewpoint.  But, increasingly in America we see an active pursuit of legislating hatred in the name of God.

I am a child of God, I need to be careful what I see, hear, say, think, and feel.

 

 

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