FOREIGNERS

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

“Live simply so that others may simply live.”

This well-known quote attributed to Gandhi was a bumper sticker on the aged and worn automobile of one of my heroes whom I was privileged to know during the 1980s.  Father Bond was the priest at the Episcopal Church which hosted 20 AA and NA meetings weekly.  While that church social hall witnessed innumerable miracles of recovery, the sanctuary hosted a number of sober marriages.  Father Bond ministered faithfully to his parish and to his wayward flock of recovering drunks.

What is it for me to live simply?  For many years it meant a personal commitment to reducing material possessions to minimums.  It meant being an environmentalist and a steward of God’s creation.  In later years it also manifested by minimizing  theology and doctrine, bringing it all back to basics.

Father Richard Rohr in today’s comment “BE PEACE AND JUSTICE” writes:

“When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the refugee, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat or competition. You have chosen their marginal state for yourself—freely and consciously becoming “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis put it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginnings of humanity.”

Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1194-1253) of Assisi lived life understanding fully what Jesus the Christ envisioned – a simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty)  Therefore, assuming a vow of poverty does not mean living in filthy hovels with no running water or sewer systems.  It does not necessarily mean hunger and starvation.  For most of us a vow of poverty would mean a commitment to jump off the insane cycle of incessant material accumulation and depletion of the earth’s resources.

With today’s screaming calls to bring social justice to the world’s oppressed perhaps we can find guidance in these further words of Father Rohr regarding a conscious identification with the marginalized of society:

“In this position we do not do acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself  is peace and justice.” (underlined emphasis are mine)

Like many of you, I would like to fix every single episode of social injustice, but in wanting to do so I will undoubtedly make myself quite insane because that fix is unattainable.  Just as Father Bond walked the path of Francis and Clare, we also can be advocates of social justice through simplicity by speaking our truth kindly, by identifying with the marginalized,  and by being living examples of Christ’s teachings.

Look at the world around us.  Living “marginalized” is the norm, not the exception.  We are all in some way a refugee, a foreigner, a visitor and a pilgrim.  Our validation as a nation of ethics and values is currently under severe testing because of governmental actions regarding immigration.  Our strength and our salvation rests not in our criminalization of those who are marginalized, but rather in our solidarity with them.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  I am the LORD your God.  Leviticus 19: 33-34

CANDLE

 

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Parousia

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eschatology : a body of religious doctrines regarding the soul relating to heaven, hell, death, and judgement

It is not my desire to be a promoter of any religion’s eschatology.  Life is far too short to argue about doctrines, tenets, and beliefs.  But, recently I came across a word which I had encountered many years ago and then retired to my brain’s back burner – Parousia.

The second coming of Christ is, for some believers, the entire reason for the season.  It is faith on steroids.  It is the carrot on the stick, the arrival of Santa Claus only a million times better.  Parousia is that for which many Christians live, and, unfortunately, that for which some Christians will attempt to destroy the world.  The second coming of Christ – Parousia.

My childhood concept of this event instilled the fear of God into me.  Be ready or be left behind.  Be good or burn in hell.  Be waiting with oil for your lamp or spend eternity in darkness.  Christ could come at anytime and being unprepared was not an option, especially for a little boy wanting to go to heaven and sit with Jesus.

I cannot diminish those “little boy” ideas because in the end all of them could be the truth.  But that eschatology doesn’t work for me today.  In my faith walk, deity lives within and connects to a universal sanctity called Love.  Love is the energy propelling the evolution of human spirit.  It is the divine force which always was, always is, and always will be. Love is eternity and infinity.

One of my daily favorite reads is Father Richard Rohr.  In a recent post, he challenges his reader to consider that all the hullabaloo concerning Christ’s second coming could be not so much a physical happening in the future, but rather a point in the future when all members of humanity have finally evolved to a Christ standard within.  In that Parousia, Love takes center stage and transports humankind to the perfection which we attribute to Jesus the Christ in our scriptures and theology.  The second coming might be personal internal transformations of global proportions effecting worldwide evolution to the peaceful co-existence envisioned by man’s scriptures and by God’s messengers.

It’s just a thought which gives the little boy in me a reason to hope for a better world dedicated to social justice and equality for all.  Childhood eschatology has failed to provide that hope.

CANDLE

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GENA TURGEL

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“Truly I tell you that whatever you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have also done to me.”

Chapter 25 in the book of Matthew shows humanity a blueprint for us to follow into a world dedicated to compassion and peaceful co-existence.  The lives we live can be a powerful testimony to the one we call Lord or they can be complicity with a world run amok.  It’s our choice, yours and mine.

Gena Turgel died on June 7 in London, England.  She was 95.  As a survivor of the Holocaust, she witnessed Nazi horrors at the death camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen.  She said at a tribute recently in London’s Hyde Park:

“Maybe that’s why I was spared – so my testimony would serve as a memorial like that candle that I light, for the men, women and children who have no voice.”

She once told BBC of her time providing comfort to 15 year-old Anne Frank dying from typhus:

“I washed her face, gave her water to drink, and I can still see that face, her hair and how she looked.”

What is my testimony today?  Would it be pleasing to the one I call Lord?  So much that is happening in today’s world is abhorrent and evil and it is so easy to feed into the hatefulness and violence that we see everyday on the news media.  But, it is also happening next door, in my neighborhood, in my community.  The horror of homelessness and hunger is not a distant problem in a foreign country.  It is a daily struggle for people living in the woods down the street.

Drug abuse is rampant.  My county is termed as a “rural area”, yet it has the 2nd highest drug abuse problem in the state.  Poverty and absence of job opportunities feed this drug use.  Good men turn to illegal activity in an effort to support a family.  Addiction does not discriminate.  It accepts the poor and wealthy, men and women, illiterate and educated, gay and straight, black and white.  Unfortunately, jails fill with men and women who don’t really have a drug problem.

It is a heart problem from which they suffer.  Empty, bitter hearts need to be filled with something.  For many alcohol and drugs are the solution.  The recovery fellowships which bring addicts and alcoholics to a better way of living are filled with stories of forgiveness and redemption.  Mine is one of them.

But is my sober testimony adequate recompense for the miracle allowed to me by the grace of a Higher Power?  Perhaps Jesus would say, “Depart from me, I knew you not.”  Gena Turgel believed she was spared from death at the hands of the Nazis in order to tell the world again and again and again what happens when good people don’t care enough to protect and nurture the “least of these”.

The least of these could be you and I someday.  In a tumultuous world society, we don’t know when we could be the next target of racism, bigotry or hatred.  I see my life as a day-to-day blessing from God.  I am not assured that I will have food tomorrow or a roof over my head.  I do not know that my freedoms of today will be here tomorrow for me to enjoy.  But I do know that what I do unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, today will have eternal consequences.  How about you?

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my friend, Carol

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

I often start a new page, sit and stare at it for inspiration, and 15 minutes later realize my mind has wandered to chores needing to be done, yesterday’s conversation at the grocery store with another shopper, politics, injustice, and what to cook for supper.

Distractions!  I look at a greeting card (yes, some people continue to exchange greeting cards) setting on my desk.  It says:

“There’s a place you can stay as long as you like – it’s safe and you never have to pay rent.  It’s my heart.  I’m here for you.”

What a sweet sentiment from a dear friend dating back to high school days.  Not many people enjoy a 55 year friendship.  We lost contact for many years but then reconnected just as if life had always held our hearts close even without a letter or a phone call.  Carol also loves Jesus.

I picture Jesus being that way.  His heart is always a place where I can dwell.  It’s safe and it’s rent-free.  I often write about my acceptance of the universality of different faiths’ God concepts.  When the great religions are studied, the core of their belief is a messiah which instructs humanity in paths of peaceful co-existence and compassion.

But my home base is Jesus, his life, and his teachings as recorded in the Gospels.  My faith lies not so much in the theology surrounding Christianity but in the completeness and ethic of the Jesus story.  In my times of confusion and turmoil I turn to favorite verses for strength.  When past demons rear their heads, I retreat to a favorite chair for time alone with he who strengthens me.  When the world and its affairs becomes too disturbing and confusing, I know the one who has the answers.

His heart is always open and welcoming regardless of where I have journeyed and what I have done.  My favorite parable, of course, is the prodigal son.  Check it out in LUKE 15:11-32.  It’s my story.  Jesus always says, “Come home, I’m here for you.”

Special thoughts today to my friend Carol, a comfort in late life and to MIKE , always an inspiration for my early morning reading.

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JOHN 3:16

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“Don’t look back.  What happened then is now part of your story, a chapter in your life.  Reference it, remember it, learn from it, but don’t look back longingly.  You can’t have yesterday again.  It would impoverish your today.”

Certainly I would do life differently for today I hold the wisdom learned from yesterday.  Experience is a worthy teacher, but, it had to unfold exactly as it did for me to cultivate my lessons?  Each of those moments has molded my today.

“My child.  Don’t look back.  Doing so longingly discredits where I have brought you in your journey.  Your days of foolishness and frivolity tested my patience.  Your nights of deepest disobedience sorrowed my soul.”

Indeed, I was young and foolish.  Every one of my days was filled with deprivation.  Every night’s bed was one of wantonness and licentiousness.  My soul’s companion was unfathomable loneliness.  My desperate prayer was unheard.

“No, it was not unheard.  It was spoken from an insincere place within you that did not truly want to know or love me.  Like your fellow travelers on that path, you called upon me only in your times of travail.”

But, some of the times were good times.  Some of the experience was enjoyable.  The music that filled the air invigorated an otherwise dull existence.  The young people were excitedly filled with a casual indifference to the world scurrying about us.

“Of course you remember it that way.  Most of the experiences were not good.  Your life confused and concerned those who loved you.  Understanding your disregard for maturity and responsibility was impossible for them.”

Yes, that’s true.  And they loved me anyway.  Oh, if only I could return and let them know how sorry I am.  I stole their peace and dishonored their trust.  I was deeply dishonest and deceptive regarding the man I had become.

“My son, don’t you understand?  A father’s love, a mother’s love, a spouse’s love is unconditional as is my love.  Through it all, it was not a question of when we should stop loving you, but when you would learn to love yourself.”

Lord, have I become a man pleasant in your sight?  Would my father, my mother smile upon seeing my face again?  Could they ever forgive me for the shame endured because of my indiscretions?  Have I become a man worthy of your love?

“For I loved you so much that I gave my only begotten Son to you.  You are also my son whom I can love no less.  If you live the truth of Jesus, you will not perish but have life everlasting with me.  Does that answer your questions?”

Of course, John 3:16. Yes, Lord.  Amen.

CANDLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

outrunning the darkness

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

Outrunning the darkness.  Quite often my spiritual trek feels like I’m just keeping a few steps ahead of the darkness chasing after me.  Regardless of my belief concerning the hereafter, this journey being undertaken, this search which has transformed life not only  brings an awesome, reverential awareness of the brilliance of deity, it also brings a heightened consciousness of the ominous, surrounding clouds.

Of course, much of the darkness is external.  The injustices which governments inflict upon its citizens, the heresies which religions claim as inerrant doctrine, the social breakdown leading to intolerance and bigotry all have a part in darkening my world.

Fortunately, we Americans still have the privilege and duty to protest publicly on various forums the actions which we believe are inconsistent with whom we are as a nation.  We can talk, write, and rally until the cows come home sometimes with favorable results but more often with nothing more than hoarse voices and tired feet to show for our efforts.  It’s our right and our duty to stand up against what we see as social injustice.

But in the end summation, most of that darkness is beyond my control.  I have learned to recognize it, battle it, and then retreat to my quiet space to regroup, thereby protecting my soul from the hatred and savagery which darkness inflicts.  A good heart can sour quickly under an assault by the world’s horrors if the inner sanctum is not honored and cherished.

St. Francis of Assisi addressed another darkness, that which is indwelling, in his popular prayer:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where injury, pardon; where doubt, faith; where despair, hope; where darkness, light; where sadness, joy…….”

These words did not strike me as particularly inspirational until I applied the directives not as an outward display of compassion to others, but as an inward act of soul consolation.  Today, when I repeat these words, I am seeking comfort for my ravaged soul within.  It is the inner me which needs healing from the onslaught of the world’s darkness.

Equally disheartening as the dark powers and principalities of the world are the inherent human conditions known as the seven deadly sins, the “cardinal” sins:

wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony

Name them sins or call them character defects, the result of these conditions, when allowed to fester within, are devastating.  Take your pick.  Which one is your favorite?  Each one, if entertained in excess, will bring a threatening cloud over a trekker’s world in a heartbeat.  Running one or two steps ahead of this internal darkness can be a daunting marathon.

We trekkers and survivors in recovery are undeservedly blessed to have the necessary tools at hand to survive in a world which is broken, violent, and tumultuous.  However, we are not infallible.  Always we must vigilantly protect that essence within which is who we are as children of the universal Oneness.  The spiritual life is a race to outrun the world’s darkness and our internal demons.  Reflection, prayer, contemplation, and meditation take us where we can find a safe harbor, a refuge from the raging storms of life.

CANDLE

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emotional hangovers

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

Most of us had created in the previous life as drunkards our own private drama clubs naming ourselves as President, Vice-President and every other club officer necessary to carry on our business of drama.  Additionally, we were the most vocal subscribing member.  The meetings were exhausting with inner dialogs that covered every aspect of anger, resentment, disappointment, and insecurity simmering in vehement self-righteousness.  Only our hangovers from drinking were more devastating and debilitating.

Are you still a member of your club today?  Am I?  How often do we spend our sober days reeling with “brain fog” as a result of a dalliance in our drama club?  It’s easy to do, but fortunately we now have the tools to immediately withdraw from participation if so desired.  And that’s the key, although sometimes we prefer to wallow in whatever satisfaction is derived from being overly dramatic and engaged in club activity.

“When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank heavily yesterday, he can not live well today.  But there is another kind of hangover which we all experience whether we are drinking or not.  That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses of negative emotion – anger, fear, jealousy, and the like.”  Bill Wilson, AS BILL SEES IT, pg 48

Using our crutches in these times of emotional discord is not a weakness.  With a physical impairment such as a broken leg, crutches are meant to provide stability as we walk.  That uncomfortable cast keeps the leg aligned properly as it heals.  It’s the same in recovery from alcoholism.  The prayers, verses and sayings are meant to give us emotional support as we ambulate through the difficult times healing from the brokenness of our lives.

Sometimes the crutch we dismiss most is the fellow alcoholic whose phone number we have but don’t want to call.  Maybe it’s our sponsor who feels honored to have you as a “pigeon”, but we don’t want to be a bother or we don’t want to admit that we are hurting and needy of help.  Whatever the reasons are, the end result is a day spent miserably, or worse, a relapse into drinking.

For us, those forays into unnecessary drama can be a matter of life or death.  It need not happen.  We must gird ourselves with the tools of our program, surround ourselves with sober people, and meditate within our private space.

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”  STEP 11, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

“Oh, I can’t do that,” we said, “I don’t know how to meditate.”

Being the alcoholic that I am, I researched meditation and determined I would do meditation perfectly.  My first attempt at sitting on the floor cross-legged in lotus position promptly reminded me that my body did not understand the reason for such discomfort, much less did my brain associate this pain with a practice to discover inner awareness.

Just as I found my path to meditative discovery,  others have also.  I have learned that there are no rules or proper positions.  It is the ongoing practice of feeling connected to a Universal source, learning who we are in that realm, and finding peace within the Higher Power of our understanding that we are seeking in meditation.  When we are able to allow and then dismiss passing thoughts, positive or negative, and return to contemplation and inner searching,  we are accomplishing a serenity that was impossible during our drama club days.

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