Weepy

 

the 8 dwarfs

I’m sure you have heard of the Seven Dwarfs – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.  But, did you know there was an eighth dwarf in the group?  Sure was.  His name was Weepy, the taller guy in back on the right.  As were the others in the group, Weepy was appropriately named because he was almost always misty-eyed.  When Snow White fled to the forest to escape her wicked step-mother, she befriended the dwarfs and took refuge with them.  All went well for the group until Walt Disney discovered them frolicking in the woods and wrote a tale about their lives.  Unfortunately, Mr. Disney and Weepy did not get along which led to numerous arguments.  Rather than dispatch Weepy to the deeper parts of the forest, the cartoonist simply wrote the beleaguered dwarf out of the script and titled it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I’ll bet you did not know that, did you?

Do you ever feel like life has written you out of the script?  No longer a player?  Maybe not important?  I do.  Age has something to do with it, but this feeling is much deeper than the number of years on earth.  It’s a pervasive sadness not related to personal turmoil or pain.  No, I am not talking about depression or melancholy.  I am not the Rock of Gibraltar anymore.  What’s that you say?  Larry, you never were a rock.  Okay, okay you could be right, but in years past my strength has been derived from a belief that we would somehow inexplicably pass on to future generations a better, more tolerant world, a world where love and compassion for humanity would override mankind’s greed and ignorance.

In my lifetime. just a blip on the screen of human history, great advances have been made to ensure the rights of all who dwell here, not just the privileged and wealthy and not only the white and Christian.  Women, people of color, gays, the poor appeared to be dawning upon a new era in which all people share the earth together as a brotherhood of men and women.

We seem to be trending back into the darkness of yesterday and that saddens my soul.  I don’t like the script and I want to go deeper into the woods.

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NAOMI KLEIN – capitalism

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photo by PIXABAY

NAOMI KLEIN, “NO IS NOT ENOUGH” “With unleashed white supremacy and misogyny, with the world teetering on the edge of ecological collapse, with the very last vestiges of the public sphere set to be devoured by capital, it’s clear that we need to do more than draw a line in the sand and say ‘no more.’ Yes, we need to do that and we need to chart a credible and inspiring path to a different future. And that future . . . has to be somewhere we have never been before.”

We know, we all know that the violence, hatred, greed and intolerance in today’s world cannot be sustained.  Most of us also know that the destruction of the earth’s resources for financial gain cannot be sustained.  We must transcend to a place where polar bears and rain forests are more esteemed than stock portfolios and asset holdings.  The consequences of ignoring the pleas of nature will be dire.  Do you hear Mother Earth screaming?  No, she’s not calling to us for assistance; rather, the scream is at us for being so stupid and self-indulged.  She knows the earth will recover and flourish – we, homo-sapiens, will not.

Mike Pompeo, our Secretary of State, referred to the melting polar ice cap as ” a wonderful economic opportunity for international trade…..West to Asia shipping routes across the ice free Artic would cut shipping times by 2 to 3 weeks.”  Perhaps Mike would be ecstatic with the prospect of Atlanta, Georgia, becoming a major Atlantic seaport after the waters have risen to cover the entire eastern seaboard.  Charleston and Savannah will have gone the route of ancient fabled Atlantis.  That’s right, Mike.  Who needs polar bears?

Naomi Klein, in her book, is speaking to unfettered capitalism, the kind that doesn’t value polar bears and rainforests.  But, run-away capitalism relies on all of us playing the game of consumerism.  It’s a relatively new game plan that did not exist generations ago when the wood cook stove was an heirloom handed from generation to generation or the wooden furniture was truly made of wood and lasted for centuries.  My grandmother’s first encounter with “throw-away” was a roll of paper towels.  She washed out the sheets and hung them behind the stove to dry.  😍

We can beat the capitalists at their own game.  Don’t buy their products and the money flow reverses.  When the bottom line for stockholders declines, management and ownership will need to change the game.  It’s not at all complicated.  My grandparents mastered consumerism out of necessity.  The family car was not replaced until the wheels no longer turned.  The old Frigidaire refrigerator in the kitchen was not replaced just because it did not have the latest gadgets and dials.  It served faithfully for 30 years with a freezer that served up hundreds of gallons of home made ice cream.  Designer clothes for school were not purchased every year because we all wore clothes without fancy name tags until they had no wear left in them.  Our shirts were JC Penney hand-me-downs.  We learned how to conserve natural resources because we had a deep reverence for the earth.  Too simplistic, you say?  Just learn to say no to the incessant flow of advertising on your media screens and half the battle is won.

Of course the consequences of allowing the corporate world to rape the earth are huge.  But, so are we.  Collectively, we have a voice bigger than anything that comes off Madison Avenue or Wall Street.  Each one of us can decide today to put off that new phone or flat screen.  We can choose to have a vegetarian dinner tonight instead of beef raised on land that once was a rain forest.  We can wear that same old pair of sneakers for another year.  Grandma and Grandpa will be proud of us.  The polar bears will love us.

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“This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”  TREATY ORATION 1854 CHIEF SEATTLE

 

 

HERE COMES THE SUN – rise up joyously


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SEBASTIAN VOORTMAN photographer

If I were a miracle worker, every child on earth would have a breakfast waiting for them on the kitchen table, every mother would have the resources to feed her family with nutritious foods, every father would have a job that provides for a comfortable home, every morning would fill the house with cheer, sunshine and laughter.

But, I am just me.  So, I guess the little things I can do to make this world a better place will have to suffice.  Feed myself in a way that leaves food on the table for the next person, live my life without excess comfort, bring whatever cheer I can to those less fortunate.  Love the Muslim brother and sister down the street the same as I love me.

HAPPY RAMADAN, MAY WE SHARE TODAY’S SUNSHINE EQUALLY AND JOYOUSLY.

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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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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.”

poverty

smiley-face-2Just 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.

 

My friends, I am a statistic.  I never truly wanted to be one, nor do I feel special because I am one.  But, my government has included me as one of those living in America as poor.  That word brings unsettling thoughts to mind.  As a young boy I remember my family driving to town for a movie and we passed by a large, rambling brick building which resembled a military barracks.  It was the “poor house”.  In that building lived people just like you and I who went into debt, could not pay their bills and subsequently were confined by court order in the poor house.  To some it was a justified end result for failing to survive within the community.  To others it was an undignified response to a financial difficulty.  To me it was a personal commitment to never be poor.

I pursued that idealistic commitment throughout my teen years.  I was earning an income from age 12, I had saved enough money to buy my first car at 16, and I was well on the way to a funded college education.  But then, addiction stepped into my life.  Not only did it step in, it overtook every dream, every plan, every moment of my life.  I was 18 years old.  Wrecked my car, lost my zeal for college, and took a job pumping gas at a Gulf station.  The final nail in my dream’s coffin was a failed endeavor in the military.

I was devastated when my shrink told me I had a problem with alcohol.  “No, no, no”, I silently screamed, “alcohol is my friend, it makes me the kind of man I could never be before.  It allows me to be the life of the party.  It makes me fearless.  It comforts me in my desperate attempts to fight depression.  I love my friend alcohol.”

That love affair ended but the disease of alcoholism continued to direct my life for another 14 years.  My recovery story is one of millions worldwide who have claimed victory over alcohol through the grace of a Higher Power, a salvific force which I name God today.  But the effects and damage to my emotional self have been lasting and slow to correct.  Many years into sobriety were necessary to regain self-esteem, love for myself, and love for others.  Many fellowship meetings were necessary to truly realize what I had surrendered to alcoholism.  Recovery of the lost opportunities often did not materialize.

My life today is just another miracle story in the annals of recovery miracles.  I am one of millions who have found riches and blessings through sober-living.  I know without reservation that my needs as well as many of my wants are always met.  God works grace as only God can through the people in my life today.  Yes, according to society I am a poor man, but in my eyes I am the richest, most blessed man on earth.

I live in one of the most beautiful spots on earth next to the headwaters of a wide, slow-flowing river.  It is a tropical paradise complete with manatees, alligators, orchids, butterflies, and world-renown fishing opportunities.  My friend accepts rent from me when I have it, but doesn’t concern himself when I’m cash stressed.  Another friend, a wealthy lady, seems to intuitively know when our freezer is nearly empty and energizer bunnyvolunteers her reserve of frozen meats which she claims are overloading her freezer.  My 21 year-old pickup truck is like the Energizer bunny, keeps on going and going and going.

Most appreciated are the handful of friends who have blessed my life.  If my housing situation changes, one has offered to help me reestablish in Miami and another has offered his spare bedroom.  Our community has a multitude of food pantries and health care services.  Several agencies offer a variety of assistance for the “less fortunate”.  They probably do not need to know that, contrary to being less fortunate, I am one of the most fortunate souls in Florida. I just happen to be fiscally challenged.

Being a poverty statistic is no longer a sentence to the “poor house” as it was in the days of my youth.  In many ways it is a freeing experience, an opportunity to address false pride and accept the graciousness of others.  Janis Joplin, a musical genius of my youth, sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”

Scriptures repeatedly admonish those who truly seek the Kingdom to abandon their worldly wealth and seek the life exemplified by Jesus and the Buddha.  To voluntarily strip of material prosperity and affluence would be extremely difficult.  Ha!  Another reason I am indescribably fortunate.  Assuming the life of poverty is not a decision I need to make for it has been made for me.

In the book of Matthew, just before his crucifixion, Jesus received from Mary of Bethany expensive perfume which she poured upon his head much to the consternation of his disciples who admonished her for wasting a perfume which could have been sold for much money to give to the poor.

“Why trouble ye this woman?  for she hath wrought a good work upon me.  For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.”  Matthew 26: 10-11 

The author of Deuteronomy in verse 11 of chapter 15 attributes this directive to his Lord:

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to the needy, in thy land.”

The poor shall never cease and will always be with us.  It’s a blessing which empowers those who fall into poverty to overcome the idol of materialism and seek solace in relinquishing an attitude of self-reliance.  It is also a blessing to the one who has financial resources and is able to discover the  selflessness within which is necessary to open  wide his hand to the brother, the poor, the needy.

Indeed, I am richly, undeservedly blessed.

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.

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POVERTY

50% of our world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day.

80% of the world survives on less than $10 per day.

1 billion of the world’s children live in poverty.

The average American earns $24.57 per hour.

16 million American children live below the poverty level.

1 in 7 Americans struggle with hunger.

The United States holds 41.6% of the world’s personal wealth.

 

gandhi