PRIDE & God

god loves everyone….if not, She would have annihilated us by now…

“Why not?  Why not pretend for now that the Absolute (the Great Mystery, the Ground of Being) sometimes expresses itself in the body of a woman?  Pretending that God’s a dude hasn’t exactly worked out for the vast majority of the human family, let alone the animal and plant communities or the air or the waters.”  Mirabai Starr (1)

(1) cac.org

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it can be heaven or hell

you can choose where you abide

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“….there’s a place to go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place there is peace and kindness, no violence nor intolerance.  Whenever solace and rest are needed, this internal heaven can be right here and right now or we can allow it to carry us a million miles away.  Joyfully, in that space the good vibrations of the soul embrace a higher calling.” (1)

“Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell.” Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

LIFE…yes life can be heaven or hell.  It’s a choice each human must make regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof because it has nothing to do with religion or faith or concepts of God.  This choice is life’s golden ticket.  Have you ever been amazed by the man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign asking for food or work and upon talking to him realizing that this man is happier than you are in your comfort and material security?  Or, conversely, speaking to your wealthy neighbor at the grocery store who is buying steaks and lobsters for a Sunday dinner hosting twenty relatives and she is absolutely distraught because her investments earned only $125,000 last year?  Heaven or hell – we choose where we spend life.

Why spend precious ‘now’ moments reliving past transgressions, reviewing years-old grudges against others, fearing the current political scene, comparing yourself to the Joneses next door who just bought a new Mercedes, feeling angry because your co-worker, Mary, got the promotion you wanted?  STOP! just stop and look at the roses in your garden, the great kids or the terrific spouse you have, the reliable pickup truck parked in your driveway.  When the last breath is drawn, that stuff and those resentments will not matter.  What will matter is how the miraculous gift of life was used to serve and to enjoy.  We choose how we use life, whether we opted to spend it in heaven or hell.

Living in a state of awe and amazement over the multitude of blessings bestowed is not only for monks and mystics.  We, too, can participate.  It’s our choice.  How we communicate, how we conduct our interactions, what mindset we entertain will be our heaven or hell.  We must be very conscious of where we allow the mind to traverse.  Much of the world seemingly opts for a life lived in hell.  Why?

“As we observe our politics, antagonism appears to be the primary style of communication today—how to fight and win, how to be suspicious, how to be hateful, how to tell lies. Who can we exclude now? Which race, religion, or group is unworthy? (All in the name of God, remember!) That’s simply hell right now.”  Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

(1) GOOD VIBRATIONS

(2) https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – ‘individuated’

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“The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back….” (1)

richard rohrRichard Rohr nails it, my friends.  We now have experience on our side, emotional maturity, insight and conviction.  Taking our life back from the clutches of family, friends, clergy, co-workers, tribe, and ego is the end result of becoming what the supreme universal energy has intended for us from the beginning.  It is a concept presented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung as individuation – not self-indulgence or individualism, rather surrender of our ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent.

Do you know what the soul’s intent is?  Do I?  Some could say, “Yes, of course.  My faith, my theology, my religion has taught me everything I need to know about soul.”

Really?  Then you would also know that your soul’s intent is for you to have a meaningful experience today and every day for the rest of your life.  Yes, the dark valleys will appear, the depression will knock, the sorrows will challenge, but any day in which you have awakened to the miracle of life and expressed appreciation to the God named according to your faith walk, is a great day.  Even darkness must give way to light, life’s uncertain vagaries will be overcome by understanding, and inconceivable circumstances will bow to positive action. “This too shall pass” is not just a cliche.  It is truth.  Claim it as yours.

Take control each morning of the day’s mindset before engaging in whatever activity you need to accomplish.  Don’t just roll the dice taking chances with the day’s outcome; instead, direct your mind upon arising to positive thoughts and a realization that what occurs in the first moments of wakefulness will set the tone for the entire day.  Envision yourself as being victorious over all difficulties and celebratory in all accomplishments.  See yourself handling confrontation with family and co-workers effectively and it will happen.  Picture yourself enjoying your day on the beach and it will happen.  Feel the satisfaction of finishing the household project awaiting and it will happen.  What you project onto the day’s activity will prevail.

Meditation, motivational videos, yoga, light exercise, inspirational reading are all great ways to start a great day.  Those few minutes or hours are an investment in successful living as a joyful, contented child of that eternal, universal force flowing throughout the entirety of creation.  Grab onto this power by creating your day rather than enduring it.  Believe unabashedly that the choice is yours.  You and I can make it the day we want.  We can also make it the day we don’t want.  What a realization!  We are powerful and dynamic forces in our worlds.  Have a great day!

(1) CAC.ORG

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time to change!

diversity

Feeling pretty good today?  We should be.  You and I are worthy of joy and peace.  The insanity of past behaviors, whether addictions or severe character defects, has been conquered by the One we name as Higher Power.  Victorious and serene in recovery.  That’s a miracle we can take to the bank.  It’s ours, undeserved and unmerited.  Embrace it and run the marathon of life with it.  God wants to love us and live within forever.  What could be better?

HALLELUJAH!

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Our freedom from self and the ravages of “self-will run riot” has been freely given.  But that salvation is not without responsibility.  I know “pay it forward” is an overused cliché, but it applies.  What has been freely given to us needs to be extended to the earth upon which we live and all its life forms.  Eastern faith walks extend a greeting of “NAMASTE” to others.  It means “I honor the divine in you.”  Let’s honor the divine element existing in all of Creation.

……as we read in Matthew, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (25:40). Our only addition is to suggest that the least of the family members must include, in our time, the other creatures of the earth and even the planet itself. (1)

richard rohr

(Richard Rohr is a friar of the Franciscan order ministering in Albuquerque, New Mexico and founder of Center for Action and Contemplation.) 

The Christian season of Lent is a time when we are urged to take time to consider our lives and slow down the world’s hectic pace.  It is a time to recognize behaviors and habits which hinder our spiritual growth and then assume an attitude of repentance.  As a headstrong young man, the word repentance represented a moral issue (usually sexual) which needed to be adjusted.  As a happier, better adjusted old man I define repentance as change.  Lord knows I’ve dealt with far too many issues during my lifetime with man’s interpretations concerning morality and righteous living.  Change suits me better.  I like change.

Metanoeo is the Greek word translated into English as repent as spoken by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 – “….Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The Greek definition of metanoeo is “to think differently, reconsider.”  That puts a vastly different connotation in John’s exhortation to the gathering crowds awaiting baptism in the waters.  Now, repentance means a change in thinking, reconsidering my worth in God’s world, assuming my place and purpose in God’s creation.  It no longer suggests a moral dilemma needing correction in the face of hell and damnation consequences.

Do we need to reconsider or change our attitude and thinking about the world in which we live, the people with whom we share this world, the creatures other than humans, the earth’s resources, other men/women who appear to be different from us in color, creed, nationality?

Probably.  Indeed, as John said, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  That kingdom is not in the future in some far-away cosmic universe.  It’s here and now knocking on the door of our soul.  Let’s open the door and live life fully honoring all of creation.

(1) CAC.ORG, 

who are you?

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 is overflowing.

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There was a time in my life when I thought that one day in the future I should be able to  describe and define God.  It was an element of my faith walk which led me to believe spiritual maturity could be captured and confined in a treasure box of heavenly secrets and knowledge.  When I had attained certitude in all things which previously were questioning and unknowing, I would then be a wise and ‘saved’ man of God.

Didn’t work that way, folks.  Today I know less than I did yesterday and there are many more questions than answers.  But, there is also comfort in knowing that the unknown is an integral part of the mystery which we call God.  The ancient writings of Judaism recorded in the book of Exodus tell us that when Moses had a personal encounter with God emanating from a burning bush, Moses asked, “What shall I say is your name?” and the answer was, “I AM Who I AM.”  (Exodus 3:14)

In my mind, that answer always seemed to be such an evasive response to a man as myself who wanted a definitive description or a name to use.  Essentially God said to Moses and to me, “You don’t need to get so familiar with me as to think you have unraveled the mystery which I AM.”  God, in Exodus 3, is a reassuring presence, not an identifiable entity.

I need to be satisfied with that.  That reassuring presence is all I need to know.  Maybe Jesus understood that presence in his life’s journey on earth.  He referred to God as Father while living a life motivated  by spiritual nobility more than absolute knowledge. He shared the essence of his faith in sayings and parables often confusing listeners who were not attuned to God as a spiritually reassuring Presence.   If I were to ask, contrary to contemporary theology, what if Jesus was not on earth to establish a divinity demanding worship and adoration upon his death?   Rather, what if he lived to present to humanity nothing more than an example of life dedicated to service and humility?

Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily blog commented,

“No one owns him (Jesus), and no one ever will.” cac.org

As an American, as a white man, as a Christian I need to be extremely careful what image I impose upon Jesus.  I need to eat some humble pie when thinking that I know everything there is to know.  I will never fully know the beauty of Jesus or the identity of God because I am still a broken vessel struggling to fathom the depths of God’s presence and Jesus’ soul.  All I can do is aspire to a fuller acceptance of and surrender to the universal mystery known as God, my reassuring Presence.

Jesus is attributed with the words of Matthew 7:7 that we should keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking and we will receive what we are asking and find what we are seeking.  The doors in front of us will open.  Beyond those doors will be more asking, more seeking and more doors to open.  If I should think that I have arrived, that I have the answers, that all the doors have been opened, then I, in my errant theological certitude, shall have strayed from the purpose of my own spiritual quest. Matthew 7:7open door

the angry Christian

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 is overflowing.

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I probably would not write about faith and recovery if I did not have an unyielding, nagging directive to dispute the abounding, fear-filled theology which controlled my life for many of my early, formative years.  It is my sense that many others also suffered and continue to suffer an “ism” of hell fires and damnation.  It is for them that I return to the memories of pain caused by delusional theology in order to propose another way, the Way proclaimed by Jesus, our Christ.  I am the way, the truth, the life seems to be lost on a religion more concerned with retribution, payback and profit than restoring life abundantly to the world’s lost and dying.  Mega churches, millionaire televangelists, a gospel of affluence are obviously missing the mark set by Jesus to minister to the poor and downtrodden, to seek heaven at the bottom of the social ladder rather than in the far reaches of the universe.

In the book of Mark, a man comes running to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answers that one must live by the commandments.  To which the man said he had followed them all.  Then,

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me.” (1)

The man went away sad.  We don’t know if he sold his possessions or if he cherished them more than a relationship with God.  Soul sickness, however, does not discriminate between rich and poor.  Selfishness and avarice are not limited to wealth and power.

Fortunately, through the recovery rooms of AA and the loving compassion of fellow trekkers, a restoration of soul for me was possible.  The first step in this restoration was grasping the concept of “God as I understand God.”  It is a foundational tenet of AA’s recovery program which has enabled millions of doubters like myself to find mental and spiritual health in a sea of unhealthy religious dogma.

God hates me, and God wants to burn me in hell’s fires.  Imagine living with those thoughts for the first 33 years of your life?  I tried to drink myself to death thinking I could drown with alcohol those haunting visions.  I tried to wear the atheist armor and the agnostic unbelief to no avail.  God still despised me and was waiting for me to commit the ultimate sin that would seal my fate in hell.  In truth, during the years of alcoholism, I was already serving my sentence in his realm of fire and brimstone.

I don’t go there today because the God of my understanding does not take me there.  Together we find green pastures and still waters.  We are as One enjoying peace, solace, contentment, and treasures of the soul.  It seems silly to me today that anyone who is seeking would choose a vengeful, wrathful, hateful old man as their God.

From Richard Rohr @ Center for Action and Contemplation:

In authoritarian and patriarchal cultures, most people were fully programmed to think this way” (the life of Jesus as a ransom to an angry, demanding God) – “working to appease an authority figure who was angry, punitive, and even violent in ‘his’ actions.  Many people still operate this way, especially if they had an angry, demanding, or abusive parent.  People respond to this kind of God, as sick as it is, because it fits their own story line.” (2)

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(1) MARK 10:21

(2) CAC.ORG

WORDS

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.

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For all its inspiration, for all the lives it has changed, the Bible is undeniably problematic. Put in the hands of egocentric, unloving, or power-hungry people or those who have never learned how to read spiritually inspired literature, it is almost always a disaster. History has demonstrated this, century after century, so this is not an unwarranted, disrespectful, or biased conclusion. The burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, and the genocide and oppression of native peoples were all justified through the selective use of Scripture quotes. Richard Rohr – cac.org

From my daily reading habit, this from Fr. Richard Rohr jumped off the page this morning.  A wise old man shared with me many years ago his take on Bible-reading.  If what you read does not promote in your heart tolerance, love and compassion, then you are reading with blinders.  Go to your quiet place and talk with God about it.

My grandfather suffered miserably during his last years with lung cancer and COPD.  I have fond memories of him sitting in his chair by the front window, Bible open on his lap, looking out to the highway 100 feet away.

“What are you looking for?”  I would ask.

“The undertaker just drove by.  I was wondering if he was stopping here.”

At that time in my life I was a ‘wannabe’ atheist and dismissed his reading habit as foolishness.  Today, looking back, I can see that the verses and stories he cherished from the Bible were his strength in his end-of-life travail.  Grandpa was a kindly, gentle man who had not a shred of egotism or hatred in his soul.  Grandpa lived his life by, and drew his comfort from, the words of the ultimate Comforter.

Those words are powerful.  Taken in the wrong context readers have justified vicious attacks on differing creeds, races, and lifestyles.  In the hands of misguided, opportunist men of religion and politics, the love and compassion demanded by Scriptures have been translated into a doctrine of intolerance and oppression.  Prominent church leaders have recently declared that Jesus and his teachings applied only to those of the Christian persuasion, that Christians do not need to honor the legacy of Jesus, the Christ,  when interacting with those who are not “like us.”  The government and leaders of a nation, which they declare to be a “Christian nation”, do not need to apply principles of Christianity to its dealings with other people and other nations. WP interview – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Matthew 25:33-46…”as you have done unto the least of these, my brothers” – NLT…leaves no room for interpretations supporting one’s errant theology or political persuasion.  It is perfectly clear what followers of Jesus must do to be acceptable to God.  Beware of the wolves dressing in sheep’s clothing quoting scriptures to support agendas of violence and oppression.  They have bastardized a verse which is absolutely explicit in its instruction.

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my North Star

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.

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No, Christ is not his last name.  Probably most of you are smarter than I am, so don’t judge me too harshly when I tell you that for many years, having heard Jesus Christ mouthed so many times in church, I thought Christ to be a surname.  You can understand why I did not get A+ in Vacation Bible School.  And Sunday School was more along the lines of play time before entering the church sanctuary where I had to shut up and sit still for an insufferable hour beside my mother.

Then I heard (yes, I did listen sometimes) a visiting pastor say, “Jesus, the Christ.”

Jesus, THE CHRIST!  What is he saying?  I began to repeat his terminology because he was a big city minister with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name who, I determined, knew a lot more than our country bumpkin preacher and my irreverent uncle who always  said Jesus Christ.  Well, that theory fizzled with the city slicker preacher’s demise in a church finances scandal, but I stayed with Jesus, the Christ.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, founder of CENTER FOR ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION, will be focusing during 2019 on “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.”  Interestingly for me, in today’s post, he states:

The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point. We all need a North Star to orient us toward meaning and purpose.  As a Christian and Franciscan, for me that is Jesus, who revealed the Eternal Christ.

He then defines Christ as:

“….the eternal, ongoing union of human and divine, present in and evolving all of Creation since the beginning of time….”

Man has always searched for the divine as evidenced by crude drawings on cave walls to elaborate theologies with a litany of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”.  Many searchers today look to the heavens for divine guidance.  Like I said in my beginning sentences, most of you are probably smarter than I am; therefore, where you look for divinity is your choice and your personal North Star.  If it “orients you toward meaning and purpose”  in life then seize your discovery and run with it.

Jesus – our North Star, our moral compass, revealing through his life and teachings the Christ, the human and divine union of God, man and all of Creation.

Jesus, the Christ!  How cool is that?

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BEGGAR & WANDERER

Is my faith walk measured by correctness and certainty? Or is it filled with intense need and desire?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5: 5

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5: 6

None of the above verses from the wisdom of the ancient writings say anything about getting it right or being sure about my thoughts concerning God.  As a matter of fact they point to the need to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness. I do not have the answers to the mysteries nor will I ever in this lifetime, but there is a way to search for those answers and that searching is in itself the purpose of faith.

Knowing that I just don’t know is sometimes difficult.  It is not an inherent human trait to admit that the object of my searching is an undefinable, indescribable, unspeakable mystery which is the driving force in this earthly life.  Many men and women have taken a stab at descriptions and definitions, but in the end they fall short of certainty.

But, we do know what a God-driven life produces in our lives.  It is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with a friend, family member or spouse, but the gut-wrenching compassion for victims of violence, for the hungry and needy, for the financially stressed, for asylum seekers.   A God-driven life produces peace makers rather than war-mongers, stewards of the earth rather than exploiters, givers rather than takers.

We can know this as truth because the Spirit (conscience) within says this is right and this is love.

“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze and then return what we have received.  We simply complete the divine circuit, ‘love returning love’ as my father St. Francis put it.  This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life.” Richard Rohr

Can’t get any simpler than that.  Look at God’s gaze (the Spirit within – love) and then return it to God and every other creature on earth.  I am a spiritual beggar and wanderer filled with an intense need and desire.  This is all I need to know.35

the political believer, it’s in the works

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

In his daily writing for July 8th Father Richard Rohr , a proponent of social justice, states that most of the negative feedback he receives advises him to not get too political.  He responds,

“Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.”

Well said.  If I read in Scriptures about the life and works of Jesus, the Christ, if I profess this same Jesus as my Lord, if I receive Jesus within my heart and pattern my life according to His, then how can I not be political?  Jesus was the ultimate petitioner for the poor and needy.  He opposed the wealth of the greedy, the corruption of Judaism, and the oppression of Rome in his ministry to the downtrodden of Israel.  He did so knowing that his would not be a pleasant trip through an earthly life and that a violent death awaited him on the cross.  Yet, in human form he persisted because that is what humanity is supposed to do.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick regardless of the consequences.

“The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word “religio”. The Greek word “polis”—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?”  Richard Rohr

America boasts its Christian roots.  History tells us that Christians were at the forefront of social movements to end slavery, support women’s rights, encourage laws providing civil rights, Mediare, Social Security, and Medicaid.  Most famously America has welcomed the downtrodden and oppressed from other nations regardless of creed or race.  We are a beacon of hope to the hopeless, a land of opportunity for everyone.

The Gospel is often called the Good News because it carries a message of not only redemption, but also hope for those who have no hope.  The refugee, the widow, the orphan, the persecuted, the outcasts of society are the target of Jesus’ ministry today just as back in 1st century Israel.  The oppressed are empowered by words which tell them that God loves them equally regardless of social status, wealth or faith profession.  Because of that Good News we know that all mankind dwells within the family of a mighty and just God.

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. JAMES 2:14-17 CEB

The above verse from the Book of James is well-known in recovery programs.  It reminds me that my success in defeating alcohol has been a miracle, a gift from the Higher Power of my understanding.  But, it is not free.  A continued and contented sobriety requires payments.  Service to others is written on my IOU to God.  “Faith without works is dead.”

“Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!” Richard Rohr

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