no longer strangers

NAMASTE

 

 

LUKE 15:11-32

The PRODIGAL SON in the book of Luke in Christian scripture is undoubtedly my favorite of the parables taught by Jesus.  It is my story.

I was raised within the love and protection of a community of hearty, salt-of-the-earth farmers.  Their lives were dedicated to raising families and raising crops.  Very simple needs, even simpler desires.  I often have reminisced that we were the prototype for the “Waltons” of television fame.  Indeed, it is true.  My extended family of great-grandparents, grandparents, mother and two aunts lived in an early 1900s house with 9 upstairs rooms which could be used as bedrooms when necessary.  During the years previous to my arrival in 1947, the household consisted of numerous children and a full live-in housekeeping staff plus an assortment of farm-hands.  During the harvest season Mammy (my great-grandmother) assisted by her daughters prepared a lunch table groaning with several meats, 2 or 3 potato dishes, vegetables fresh from the garden and at least 4 pies for dessert.  They fed 6 to 12 hungry men.  As was customary, the women folk ate after the men had finished.

But it was a hard life.  I was earning a wage by the time I was 12 years old, had after-school chores, and during the summer worked long days in the fields as well as helping to tend the cattle, pigs, and chickens.  It was a very hard life.  I determined early in my youth that I was not going to be a farmer.  When my friends from town came to visit they were awed by my lifestyle.  I, on the other hand, was envious of their freedom to join social groups and participate in extracurricular school activities.  They enjoyed the farm chores which to me were onerous.

Church attendance was mandatory.  Through the eyes and ears of this thirteen year-old, the preaching was ominous and the threats of a punishing God were overwhelming.  I finally accepted that anything which felt good was probably a sin.  When I turned sixteen I was no longer required to attend services or participate in my family’s religious tradition.  When I turned seventeen, one of my multiple addictions had already consumed much of my life and another two, smoking and drinking, kicked in with a vengeance.  By nineteen I was fully controlled by substance and behavior addictions.

My grandfather, who raised me as his own son, offered me his farm.  I ridiculed the offer saying that no way in hell was I going to be a farmer.  Fifty-two years later I am still haunted by the look of rejection on his face.  We never recovered that father-son relationship.  My last remembrances of him are of a sickly man sitting in his favorite chair which offered a view of the highway.  Reading his Bible he would look up to see who was driving by.  Sometimes it would be the community’s undertaker, a solemn man named Lawrence.   Looking at me with his clear blue eyes, Grandpa would quip in his Dutch accent, “Well, maybe next time Lawrence will be coming for me.”

I had an idyllic upbringing and a wonderfully simple life surrounded by people who loved me.  But, I thought something was missing.  I thought that those city folks living in the midst of glitz and excitement were offering a dream which my community and my family’s traditions could never provide.  And at age nineteen I chased after that dream.

Drinking, smoking, drugging, and carousing assured me that finally this farm boy had arrived.  Life was going to be grand and lavish.  Partying every night, trashing relationships became the norm and for a few years I loved it.  Never looked back on what had been sacrificed.  Lost my job because of drinking, failed college because of my drinking, destroyed a military opportunity because of my drinking…..”Aw what the hell?  That wasn’t the life I wanted anyway.”

Then the blackouts began.  The car wrecks, the addiction-imposed poverty, the broken promises to friends and family stirred within me memories of a much simpler life, a life of hard work, joy, and focus.  Like the prodigal in the book of Luke, I asked myself if I could go back home.  Could I return to age sixteen and redirect?

Of course my answer was no.  The farm had been sold, my family was cautious of their wayward son, no eligible prospects for a relationship wanted to take a chance with me, and my faith walk had virtually dead-ended.  I was spiritually, morally, and physically bankrupt.  I was a broken man at age 34 with no hope for redemption.

With nothing to lose except my wretched life, I arrived in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Something about those AAers sparked hope within me.  Their message of sobriety through a Higher Power and a fellowship with kindred sober-living drunks offered a glimpse of a new life through recovery.  I latched on to the enthusiasm and promise which I discovered in those rooms and held on to it for dear life.  Unspeakable joy interspersed with debilitating depression controlled many of the early days getting sober.

My Father welcomed me with open arms as if we had never separated.  He told me that those arms were wrapped around me all of the 17 years spent in the far country.  I finally understood that God walked that trek every step of the way protecting and loving me while patiently waiting for me to return.  The parable of the Prodigal tells me that Father was overjoyed to have me home.  He prepared a feast and a celebration for my return.  The celebration continues.  We are no longer strangers, I have come home.smiley 3

 

 

 

flowers

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

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

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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.

NAMASTE

rainbow

 

world peace

larry6Often I wonder if the characters who are portrayed as spiritual stalwarts centuries ago could survive in the madness of today.  Would they be as courageous in the face of modern-day persecution?  Would they be as capable of finding the quietness of contemplation and meditation of which we are so desirous in today’s culture?  My answer is always a resounding “yes”.  Although the connections of social media and news media were not as immediate as that which we have today, I believe the issues were the same and I know from historical accounts that the persecution was extremely horrendous.  The coverage that rolls across our viewing screens continues to depict the unfathomable inhumanity of man against man.  It is historical and it continues to be the ungodly force which defines mankind.

But, I don’t have to live that way or be deterred by hatred and violence in my life’s journey.  You don’t either.  Realizing that the hope for our world lies not in the might of peace enforced by military power or governmental control, but in each individual member of mankind who is determined to live according to the message of ancient and modern mystics by recognizing an indwelling God, some call it Spirit, and God’s directive to love one another as we have been loved.  We are called to replace devotion to self with service to neighbor.  It’s an attainable solution to a worldwide problem which is leading our species to annihilation.

The message of God’s messengers from Buddha to Jesus to St. Francis to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been social revolution by peaceful resistance to violence.  And that revolution begins with you and with me.  It’s a readily available inside solution to an earth-threatening plague.

And it’s not that difficult.  Many of us in recovery know the power bestowed upon us when we “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and then, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  steps 2 &3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

We were lost in the insanity of addiction much as the world today is lost in the insanity of hatred and violence.  Addiction and hatred are both soul-killers and the cure for both will be found when we turn to the indwelling divinity which does not need to be sought or discovered from outside sources.  It is innate and readily available.  Just “be still and know.” Psalm 46:10

This journey of discovery is a life-time process which I will never do perfectly.  But, I can travel through this experience as a fearless sojourner who relies upon a Higher Power which wants nothing but goodness and mercy for me and for the world in which I live.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:6

in sickness and in health

Just another traveler on life’s highway, hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon rest is calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

orange tree

Everybody raise their hand who has been sick in 2018.  Yes, I’m talking about those days when the influenza in your home town finally catches up to you.   You have taken precautions, you have avoided crowded rooms, you meticulously wiped down your grocery cart’s handle with a sanitizing wipe, but one morning you wake up and there it is.

Feeling green, sniffling, headache, fever, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes.  It’s not something which I love enough to enjoy , but when I realize I will be sick for a few days, I relish the thoughts of having an excuse to be all about me, me, me.

“Oh, sweetheart, please fetch my slippers.  Can you bring the newspaper over to me?  I’m so cold, would you find my favorite blanket.”

I line up a full day of watching TV because I’m sick.  I hang out in my jammies all day because I’m sick.  I cancel all activity outside my own little crisis because I’m sick.  I become a grouch with the excuse that I’m sick.  I yell at the dog because I’m sick.  I’m sick, sick, sick, and the world needs to tend to my needs.

That’s me when I get sick.  I’m sure none of you are like that.  When I don’t feel well I sometimes forget that I’m a Jesus freak.  I forget that there are people in the world who are starving and homeless.  I forget there are some who are also sick with the latest round of influenza and have no bed in which to snuggle, no fuzzy blanket with which to cover themselves, no chicken broth to warm their insides.  For them being sick with flu is sometimes a matter of life and death and it intensifies the misery that normally fills their lives.

I relate the times of physical sickness to the days of soul sickness, the days spent in the hell of alcoholism.  When my flu finally reaches its worst point and recovery appears on the horizon, I become ecstatic with the thought that there is nowhere to go but up.  It’s similar to the transformative realization that when I hit the bottom in my alcoholism, I was ready to be healed and get healthy.  Life was guaranteed to get better.  No, not easier or trouble-free, but better.

The book of Luke tells us about Jesus walking with his disciples to Jerusalem.  He knew he was about to be betrayed, tried, tortured, and crucified.  Undoubtedly Jesus was sad and conflicted about that which was about to happen.  I would be.  I would be mortified and screaming to God to find another course for me to follow.  The last thing on my mind would be the suffering of another person.  “Me, me, me.  All of you, pay attention to me, I’m about to be crucified in a few days.”

When they came to Jericho, a blind man named Bartimeus sat by the roadside begging.  He heard that Jesus was coming,

“…..he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.  And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.”  

Jesus heard Bartimeus and commanded him to come forward, “What wilt thou that I should do unto you?”

“…..Lord, that I might receive my sight.”

The last line, verse 52 of Mark 10 tells us that Bartimeus did indeed receive his sight and followed Jesus in THE WAY.

There are astonishing lessons for us in this account by the author of Mark.  1) Bartimeus had such great unconditional faith in the power of Jesus that, after his miraculous healing, he became a follower of the movement of Jesus and his disciples which was called THE WAY, 2) a fully human Jesus, undoubtedly overwhelmed with great despair over his approaching crucifixion, nevertheless overshadowed his own sorrow with compassion for a suffering blind man.

Could I do that?  Probably not.  I’d be in bed under my blankets whining for my jammies and hot chicken broth.

CANDLE

 

 

 

fear

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.

“….So false pride became the reverse side of the ruinous coin marked ‘FEAR’.  We simply had to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities.”  AS BILL SEES IT, Bill Wilson, pg. 46

Often, I have heard “fear” defined as the absence of love.  In acts of unconditional compassion and love, there is no thought given to the “what if” moment.  What if this person is scamming me, what if that homeless man intends to harm me, what if my spouse is cheating on me, what if I lose my life trying to help my friend, etc.?  The list of “what ifs” can be endless.  They will control who I am and undermine my commitment to be fearless and thorough in all my actions.  Fear will always keep me from realizing my full potential as a person in recovery.

In addition to concerns about physical safety, which are healthy in certain situations involving the unknown intentions of people I encounter, fear has always been a tool used to hide my deep-lying inferiorities.  Having endured bullying at the hands of “the big kids” in junior high school, I convinced myself that, yes, the names those boys used were accurate.  I was everything they called me and I was inferior to “normal” guys.  I learned how to fend for myself, not by fighting back which would be against the faith in which my family raised me, but by justifying the self-hatred growing inside me.  I deserved their attacks because I was ugly, I was stupid, I was a coward.

My driving response to life became fear.  Fear that friends would not like me if they saw that which I saw inside of me.   I despised myself and therefore expected others would also feel that way when they came to know the “real” me.  I learned very effectively to present a persona completely contrary to the insecure man into whom I had grown.  Alcohol aided that deception tremendously.  Under the control of my demon, I eventually believed the lies I portrayed about myself.  Honesty was replaced by justified lying.

Fear, fueled by alcohol, led me into a life of torturing self-doubt and an inability to form any semblance of intimacy with another person.  When that possible mate reached a point which required absolute commitment, Larry bailed out.  My fear refused to accept that any other person could love me unconditionally.  How could they?  I certainly could not love me because I despised whom I was.  How could anyone love me?

Fear, consoled by alcohol, took me to a place where the walls were high and the moat was filled with emotional tools to protect myself from the intrusions of life.  I refused to participate in those events which brought joy and camaraderie to other people.  I convinced myself that they did not truly want me to be a part of their lives.  I resorted to my indwelling unworthiness to seclude and detach.  My concept of happiness was living in a cave of a cliff-side monastery baking bread and meditating on the meaning of life.

Fear, having consumed every second of life, finally brought me to a personal ultimatum.  It said to me, “You are worthless, you are useless, you are a failure, you should probably die.”

The absence of self-love in my existence was preparing the final victory for fear.  It was a demoralizing moment in an alcoholic’s life.  My constant companion, alcohol, had taken me to a place where human determination and self-will could no longer hide me.  There were no more places where I could run and continue life.

So, when I remember and when I tell others about the miraculous intervention of a Higher Power at that point in this alcoholic’s life, I joyously give all the credit to a God and a fellowship which loved me more than I had ever been able to love myself.  And guess what?  That love eventually rubbed off on me.  From my deepest insecurities flowed a healthy self-awareness of whom I really was.  From the self-loathing came an appreciation for the person God had discovered within me.  From the loneliness of a self-imposed cave on a cliff-side sprung a home among millions of brothers and sisters who had also been saved from lives of despair and worthlessness.

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

It required a thorough, internal house-cleaning  and a complete restoration to bring the demon alcohol into submission and defeat.  The praise and the victory belong to a commitment to sober-living, the power of God as I understand God, and the fellowship of like-minded survivors.  If you are sober today, give yourself a hand.

clapping

 

awesome

CANDLE

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.

Redeemer, counselor, comforter.
Lord of lords,
king of kings,
merciful and mighty.
Awesome.

Light in my darkness.
Refuge in my fear,
comfort in my pain,
everlasting and eternal.
Awesome.

Forgiver, father, confidante.
Ever present,
always within,
never failing.
Awesome.

Come, see, believe.
You belong,
you are loved,
you are also His.
Share my awesome God.

“Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life……'”  John 14:6

In our recovery we follow the way set before us in the literature and the fellowship.  We are not alone and we are not perfect.  But, our Higher Power guides through all turmoil, fear, and temptation.  We only need to accept the mercy, grace, and forgiveness offered to us.  Have we found the truth and a new life in sobriety?

Came to believe that  a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  TWELVE & TWELVE, step 2

to guard against a slip

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

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Feeling ashamed and sorry for our actions,
promising to change,
to never do it again,
we again stumble,
falling deeper into
addiction’s hell,
begging for relief,
crying in our darkness,
pleading, “Thy will be done.
Restore me into your glory and grace.”

Have you found relief?
Do you see a light in the darkness?
Do you know you are not created to live in darkness,
to stumble through alcoholism?
The One I name God
may come to you
with another name.
It matters not
for we all must claim that spirit as ours
and declare freedom from the demon  alcohol.

Recovery is claiming our freedom and becoming the beacon which we were created to be.

 

“Suppose we fall short of our chosen ideals and stumble?  Does this mean we are going to get drunk?  Some people tell us so.  But this is only a half-truth.

It depends on us and on our motives.  If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson.  If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink.  These are facts out of our experience.”  AS BILL SEES IT, Bill Wilson, pg. 52

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humble

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

Much of my early adult life was spent believing that I, LarryPaulBrown, marched to the beat of a different drummer.  I continually envisioned myself as a step ahead of the crowd, a few watts brighter than most, a loner totally comfortable with only me as my fan club.  I read all the newest self-help books and listened to only PBS or BBC.  I knew the latest diet fads, drank only spring water, and avoided fried foods like the plague.  My favorite beverage was scotch and water chased by a beer, usually many beers.  Life was a self-contained, self-directed, self-driven existence which everyone could see as a fiasco except me.

Finally at age 34 with the admission that I was an alcoholic, a number of my fondest assessments of myself got knocked down a few notches.  With continued fellowshipping amongst other sober people and with my first 4th step inventory, I became acutely aware that “me, me, me” was not the center of the universe, that actually the universe did not need me at all.  That in itself was a sobering revelation.  Thank God my fellow AAers just smiled and said, “Welcome to the real world.”

Recognizing that I was one of the most insecure, immature, and directionless men I had ever met, the task of rebuilding a wrecked life seemed monumental.  I struggled with anxiety, depression, and sober panic attacks while sitting at the tables with my newly discovered sober friends believing they could not see what was going on inside my head.  Later, I realized that they did indeed know because they, at one point in their early sobriety, suffered the same craziness.  I gave up the thought that marching to a different drummer was cool.  The other fantasies I had about myself slowly disappeared as my own sober time grew.  And the craziness also mellowed to a controllable, occasional period of melancholy.

Life is good today.  It is manageable.  It is uncomplicated.  It is unfettered by emotional highs and lows.  It is no longer a roller-coaster thrill ride.  Humility has been the cornerstone of my recovery.  Humility is defined by Bill W. as….“consisting of a state of complete freedom from myself, freedom from all the claims that my defects of character now lay so heavily upon me.  Perfect humility would be a full willingness, in all times and places, to find and to do the will of God.”  AS BILL SEES IT, pg. 106

Like most newly sober drunks, the last thing I wanted to hear was a lecture about the virtue of humility.  I had been humiliated, degraded, brought to my knees, and defeated by our common enemy of alcoholism. That to me was humility.  I did not need to feel any more inferior to my fellow-man.  But, as stated in his definition, Bill W.’s correction of my misconception about humility established a new playing field.   Self-esteem and self-respect developed.  I learned that I loved myself more fully when I gave myself away; I discovered how a life free of myself was a bold step into a liberation never realized before.  Freed of the restrictions and defects which had previously defined me, I stepped into a world of self-sacrifice previously unpracticed.

Another definition of humility by Bill W. is…..“a clear recognition of what and who we are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”  TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, pg. 58

Life is still a work in progress never expecting that there will ever be perfect humility.  Familiar words from the Big Book state, “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”  But, the horizon encountered soberly always offers  a better understanding of my Higher Power with which I hope to become a man who is less addicted to self and more interested in others.  I don’t do anything perfectly, least of all practicing humility.  But, I’m getting better and I know I am at my best when self-will-run-riot takes a back seat to “Thy will be done”.

 

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