just as I am

 

beard-beggar-face-35015

A beggar and wanderer in life’s trek reaching beyond the horizon’s mysteries.  Take me, consume me, I no longer fear your infinite wisdom.

As a young man I was indoctrinated into the belief that Christianity alone held the answers to the mysteries of life and the hereafter.  I did not see it as a nefarious attempt to control my thinking nor kidnap my soul.  It was merely the traditional theology handed down generation after generation from father to son, mother to daughter because they truly believed this was the only path to goodness and eternal life.  My first taste of religious intolerance occurred within my closely knit community, when an upstanding Catholic parent thought he was worthy of a seat on the school board, but was met with vehement opposition from the “true” Christian community fathers.  I became familiar with the words, “We love you as Christians, but you don’t qualify”.

That screaming “but you don’t qualify” became the signature arguing point in my withdrawal and subsequent denial of anything religious.  Unfortunately, it also enabled the demon of alcoholism to replace all that had been taught to me as a young lad.  I recognize today, as a sober man, that not everything of those early learning years was errant and repressive.  When reading familiar scriptures, I can now agree and reflect on the truth contained in many of those verses.  But I also recognize that the tradition of my Christ-centered faith is not exclusive.  It is not the only way.  AA’s concept of a “God of my understanding” led me to find sober salvation along with millions of others who could not swallow a narrow, wrathful and vengeful entity sitting upon his throne breathing fire and damnation.

Today I hold to the thought that a truly loving and compassionate God does not have the capacity to hate or deny God’s love based on man’s theological interpretation.  Period.  God is love, love is God.  It is impossible for God to not love. That is cemented by none other than Jesus, the Christ.

If therefore the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Believing in Jesus, not as the man nor as the divinity, but as the way to a lifestyle free of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”, as a path to unconditional acceptance and compassion for all of God’s humanity regardless of race, creed, sexuality or ethnicity – that is the freedom expressed by every one of the world’s major religions and especially in John 8:36.  I can realize a life which is  no longer bound by the shackles of judgement or hatred or intolerance.  Free indeed!

Bottom line for me is that this freedom is a choice I make every day.  Do I bow to the God of my understanding or do I submit unquestioningly to the God of my tradition?  Ironically, they are the same God, but do I follow the narrow interpretations of theologians or do I live my life according to a God understood by me?  Today I know that God is God is God, the One and the same universal entity referenced by Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but never intending to be exclusive to any one faith walk.  Man has encouraged that exclusivity.  Man has kidnapped, pigeon-holed, and taught lies about God which are contrary to the core tenet of each of the 5 great traditions.

In Exodus 3:14, the writer reports that when Moses asked, “Whom shall I tell the people you are,” the vision he was seeing replied, “I am that I AM.”

I AM is the same supernatural power which mankind from the beginning of time has searched within himself for the answers to these questions: 1)who am I?  2)why am I here?  3)what am I supposed to do here?  The cave man in his natural questioning painted pictures on the cave walls to express his connection to nature, the world’s first mystics knew they were one with the universal power to which they chanted, the shepherd boys in the hills marveled at the star-lit night ushering  the arrival of a new messenger to show THE WAY to a lost tribe.   I AM has always been with us and in us throughout eternity.  I AM does not belong to any man’s theology or doctrine.  I AM cannot be humanly defined, cannot be humanly described.  I AM simply is.

“Just as the same lump of clay can take on infinite form and remain itself unchanged, so God takes on infinite form while never being other than God.” – Rami Shapiro, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent: Sacred Teachings—Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2013), 66.

Fr. Richard Rohr

NAMASTE

If you have read none of my previous posts nor read any of my writing hereafter, please take 2 minutes of your time to read this from Fr. Rohr at cac.org which, in my opinion, nails the world-wide crisis of social injustice occurring in these extremely difficult times.

cac.org

cropped-international-holocaust-remembrance-day-1-768x768.png

social justice 101

“………use their political power to murder…….mistreat their elders, disrespect their parents, take advantage of foreigners passing through, and treat orphans and widows with contempt……citizens lie and give false testimonies at capital trials…… murder is for hire, exorbitant interests and profits are taken from the poor, neighbors are oppressed for personal gain…..officials are like a pack of wolves tearing apart their prey. They kill innocent people and ruin lives just to get what they want! ……..people are full of wickedness: they are bullies and thieves; they have abused the poor and helpless; they have taken advantage of foreigners and perverted justice. 

What society might the above paragraph be addressing?  It certainly sounds like probably a third world country with rampant poverty and a despotic government.  It could be any one of a number of dictatorial powers in our world today, could it not?  In many ways those words describe what is happening in America. Here is the final sentence of this reading:

I will give them what they deserve.  So said the Eternal Lord.  Ezekiel 22

What appears to be a contemporary commentary of our society today is actually attributed to the words of the prophet Ezekiel in the Judaic writings dating to a time period 2600 years ago.  Whatever credibility we assign to these writings, one point is clear.  Mankind has not truly evolved much since 600 BCE during the times of Ezekiel.  Technologically, our progress has been astounding; however, spiritually we seem to be at a standstill or possibly in a regressive mode.

Social justice, historically, has been a matter of arbitrary convenience for the controlling powers.  Great advocates of justice for the world’s poor and oppressed have been ostracized, assassinated and murdered.  Jesus the Christ was crucified.  It’s what we have been as a species.  Peace and enlightenment will grace our souls when we all strive to achieve social justice and equality for the totality of mankind.

CANDLE

 

 

 

my truth, your truth?

 

CANDLE

Composing thoughts and words into a train of rational ideas in a civil manner should not be difficult.  But it often is.  Blurting out insults and hurtful rhetoric seems to be the acceptable means of communication in society, especially American society.  Tweeting has usurped conversation as the American way of communicating.  Just as civility and decorum have been relegated to the days of Emily Post and her book of social etiquette,  ideals such as “compassion” and “compromise” are unfashionable.

Public conversations that would have shamed and assaulted our grandparents’ sense of  decency now are the norm.  So much disturbing visual and auditory material presenting itself as entertainment has been televised and telecast that it no longer is shocking or disgusting.  The evolution of humanity’s civilities, which had spanned a millennia of generations to a heightened awareness of solidarity, appears to have hit full speed reverse returning us to times of insensitive brutality and barbarism.

In these times a reliance on inner truth is essential to peaceful coexistence within the brotherhood of mankind.  Humanity is blessed with a code of moral and civil conduct which is universal.  It is not dependent on any particular religion or philosophy because it is an inherent part of each person’s DNA.  Call it conscience if you like or name it the spark of divinity within.  The faith of Judaism defines this code perfectly with its Decalogue, the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus.

In today’s society we are pummeled with “alternate facts”, a difficult concept to comprehend.  Does this mean that there is alternate truth?  Does this mean a man is able to support any action, any behavior, any speech because he supports an alternate truth?  What a revelation!  I can now be as despicable and perverse as my nature dictates because I follow an alternative truth.

Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Manson, the Marquis de Sade would be poster boys for alternate truth.  Some politicians of today would be examples.  No!  There is no alternative truth.  Truth is truth and it is recognized by the edicts of conscience.  Some of today’s world powers, many of whom control finances and government, have apparently blinded their collective conscience in pursuit of dominance and control.  In the end they will be known (proven) by their fruits.

An interesting verse of Christian literature, Matthew 7:6, states that followers should not ‘cast their pearls before the swine.’  The pearls are the truth which Christians name as the Gospel, an ethic which messengers of all relevant faith walks have presented to humanity.  It is freely available, but it requires an inward journey and an outward expression of compassion to peacefully co-exist with a world run amok.  Matthew 7:6 seems to contradict the evangelical command to preach to all the world the Good News, but when the Christian Gospel is seen as Christ within, then it is sensible teaching.  That which will not be understood by those who prefer not to understand should not be held open to the unbelievers’ scorn, ridicule, and attack.  That which is cherished within should be protected.  The life I lead, the demeanor which I present to the world will reflect my inner truth, but, ultimately it is personal, it is private, and it is transforming.  When the powers of worldly institutions refuse to understand and incorporate universal truths, then, as Matthew 10:14 advises, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet…..”

speaking truth

 

 

just as I am

Are you an evangelist?  The dictionary definition says  (1) one who preaches the gospel (2) one who brings converts to Christianity.  Nope, I’m not an evangelist.  Before she retired, my aunt was a missionary and an evangelist.  I admired her.  Her family of nieces and nephews idolized her.  She was a great worker for Jesus.  Maybe I should be more like her.

My preacher at church urges us to go out into the community and spread the good news.  I think she means that we should take Jesus with us when we interact with our neighbors, our co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, maybe the homeless guy on the corner.  I don’t carry a Bible with me when I go somewhere.  Do you think I should?

Years ago the fellowship I worshipped with assigned us in twos to go door-to-door to share the gospel.  Talk about rejection!  Slammed doors, cussing, ridicule and only a few welcomes.  No, I’m not a door-to-door kind of guy.  Hey, I’m not knocking it.  God needs workers of all walks.  The preacher, the teacher, the organizer, the evangelist, the handyman, the errand boy, the writer, the cleaning crew, the PR man, the musician…..and me.

So, what am I?  Where do I fit in God’s scheme?  I know what my gifts are and I share them.  No, I’m not a talker.  I’m that quiet guy who sits in the 3rd to last pew at church service.  I sing but the choir doesn’t need my crow-like caws annoying the folks in the front row and the preacher.  I don’t play the organ or piano.  I’m not especially talented at organizing group functions.  So, what can I do?

I can listen to you talk about your pain and grief.  I can hold your hand when you’re sad.  I can share my strength when yours is running low.  I can tell you what Jesus did for me when I was in pain, when I was grieving, when I was sad, when I was weak.  I can come beside you and walk with you through the dark times, through the trials, through the loneliness.

Don’t you see?  I know the greatest teacher ever.  His teachings are eternal wisdom.  His love is everlasting.  His patience is bottomless.  And Jesus wants me to be the best me I can be.  He doesn’t need another front man for the missionary work, a speaker who can move crowds to ecstasy, a motivator, a leader, or a teacher.  No, he wants me doing what I do best…….just as I am.  The invitation is open, you can come too, just as you are.

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Songwriters: SUE C. SMITH, TRAVIS COTTRELL, DAVID E. MOFFITT
© Universal Music Publishing Group, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP

CANDLE

 

Advent

Those of us who celebrate Lutheran Christianity are welcoming the season of Advent.  It is a time of joyous anticipation of the Emanuel tradition, “God with us”.  My church affiliation begins special services on Wednesdays up until the Christmas Eve candlelight celebration on December 24th.  It’s all a part of appreciating the rites and traditions of an extended spiritual journey which has been taken with like-minded sojourners seeking sober-minded living within a drunken world system.tannenbaum

There has been much discussion regarding the reason for the season, Jesus, the Christ.  No matter how a person dices it, the Christian depiction of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem is Christmas.  Matters not if a man doubts the historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts of this story or if a man shouts “Hallelujah” this is literal truth, the essence of the season is the message shared by the mystical Jesus of Nazareth.  He arrived on the scene amidst a society controlled by a hypocritical religious doctrine and governed by a ruthless Roman Empire.

We have been fooled by the marketing geniuses of retailers like WalMart, Target, Macy’s, and Amazon into believing that spending money is a prerequisite for holiday joy and happiness and that the spiritual path is merely a side story that pleases Christian scrooges.  But scriptures tell us that this story is much more than powerful mega-retailers peddling their wares; it is about the arrival of truth and compassion on the world scene of brutality and intolerance which ruled 1st century Israel.

Many people dismiss that connection.  I did for many years and allowed myself to be drawn into the holiday shopping frenzy, the mindless drive to please people I didn’t really like with nonsensical presents that they didn’t really like, and the partying into oblivion with my friend, alcohol.  New Year’s Eve and January 1st usually found me too hungover emotionally, physically, and spiritually to even think about my soul’s path or the Father’s recently celebrated loving gift of Jesus to my life.

It’s a celebration, a birthday party, for the greatest humanitarian ever to walk the earth, for the greatest story ever told, and for the legendary purveyor of compassion and truth to a broken mankind.  I am broken and I need that savior’s fix.  I am searching and I rely on his message which was given for all of humanity.  I am lost and I need a shepherd’s guiding voice.

I come to the birthday party just as I am, in rags, in turmoil, with shattered dreams and disillusionment.  When I arrive, he puts his arms around me and shouts,

“Welcome to my party.  All are invited and I have gifts for everyone.  Merry Christmas.”smiley-face-2

the world in black and white

“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.”  WIlliam BlakeCANDLE

When we, her students, got restless and inattentive, our English teacher in 11th grade would line us up, one row of classmates against the wall and the other row against the window.  Then she wrote on two slips of paper the exact same word or short phrase and handed a slip to the beginning student at the head of each line.  That person was instructed to whisper the writing on the slip of paper to the next student and pass it in the same manner of whispering on down the line.

It was a great lesson in life when the last student in each line repeated what had been whispered.  Never was it the writing on the paper and never, ever, were both lines in agreement with the word or phrase that our teacher had written.

So it is with anything I read.  My life’s experiences, my upbringing, my inherent prejudices, my likes and dislikes all temper the reading material at hand.  Where I see black, my best friend may see white.  Where I see a tragedy, my partner may see hope and renewal.

I try to read scriptures with an open mind, but, even then where I see black, my neighbor across the street may see white or many shades of gray.  In the best of circumstances we simply agree to disagree.  However, the civilization in which we participate today does not provide us with the best of circumstances.  Brothers are driven to disagreement and divisiveness by what they read.

In the realm of religion much of that division is fueled by theologians and Biblical scholars who justify their credentials in the world of philosophy by theorizing and then naming that theory “truth”.  Whose truth is it?  Yes, it is their truth but, it must be tested by the litmus test of “inherent rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  This is not an American invention, rather, it is confirmed by the centerpiece of Christianity, Jesus whom Christianity titles as the Christ.  Therein is the caveat of religious theory.  Every bit of it is man’s philosophy based on interpretations formed in man’s mind.  Where I see black, you may see white.

So, what do I do?  Do I simply give up passing a message down the line because the end result will never be agreement?

No, this is where the God-given innate traits of logic and reason come into play.  I need to apply the standard which Jesus taught in the message of the Gospels.

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

Does my message honor my Lord?  Does it promote the well-being of not only myself, but, all creation?  If not, then that message is not logical or reasonable because the bare, minimal truth of anyone’s life is survival.  Every one of the 2 billion+ people on this earth is driven by that spark inside which says, “I will survive.  I have a right to live in freedom, liberty, and happiness.”

That drive has nothing to do with religious doctrine.  If I apply this basic right of all humanity to my message and that message doesn’t cut the mustard, then I am wrong in my faith assumptions.  In my mind that is the nugget of truth which religionists have missed.  God is undefinable by human standards.  God is indescribable by human words.  God simply is.  No religion owns God.  God is that ultimate mystery which terrorizes some men while other men rejoice.  Where some men read black, others read white.

smiley-face-2