a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”  NELSON MANDELA

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” GANDHI

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Some of you are saying, “Larry, what does poverty have to do with a great day?”

Did you wake up from a peaceful sleep in a warm, comfortable bed?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Have you done your gratitude list for this day?  Did you eat a hearty breakfast? Will you probably live this day without threat of gun violence or persecution for your belief system?

Congratulations!  Your day has the promise of being a GREAT DAY.  A majority of the world’s population does not have that promise.  But, many of those people go out and make it a fantastic day regardless of circumstances.  That’s the miracle of our species – we are survivors who have an innate desire to thrive.

Does your need to thrive ride on the backs of the less fortunate?  Does mine?  When was the last time we chose to contribute to our local homeless shelter in lieu of a new addition to our designer clothes or, perhaps, buy that man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign a lunch at Burger King rather than a steak for our dinner tonight?  When did we last decide to live more simply so that others in our world would have a dish of rice to eat or a cup of clean water to drink?  When?

My friend, it is absolutely a great day because we have so many choices in front of us.  We can choose what we will eat rather than if we can afford to eat.  We can choose which chair or sofa we will rest upon rather than which overpass we will seek for shelter.  We can choose to tidy up our living room rather than rearrange our boxes and tarp.  Do we understand that much of the world does not have adequate food, shelter or water and our Western culture of greed and consumption has contributed to that shortage?

Along with substantial blessing comes substantial responsibility.  You and I ARE our brothers’ keepers.  That is not a suggestion; it is a mandate dictated by all the world’s major religions and belief systems.  Hug our loved ones this morning, appreciate all that has been given to us, and then contemplate how we can live more simply and help eradicate poverty.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – success

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you live – that is to have succeeded.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Do you compare to others?  Car?  House?  Money?  Designer clothes?  Do you base your personal success on that comparison?

STOP!  Just stop.  Our Western culture has fed all of us a pack of lies regarding success.  As a result you probably work more than you need in order to buy things you don’t really need.  And whom are you impressing?  The Joneses most likely don’t give a hoot about that shiny new car or your spouse’s wardrobe.  In the end when one makes an accounting of one’s life, all of us, yes every single one, will go wherever we believe we are going without a stitch of designer jeans, no fancy ride, and not one of those gleaming diamonds purchased with hard work and sacrifice.  Nada, zilch, nothing!

Then what will we take across into the next phase?  Perhaps integrity, compassion, stewardship, honesty, conscience?  How about selflessness?  What good have we done for this creation?  The preservation of natural habitats, the protection of wildlife, the concern for the homeless, the compassion for immigrants, the love for the arts,  the kind word to a lonely man, the dedication to peace, the restrictions on personal consumption are all ways to view our lives as astonishing successes no matter how small or how grand.

Don’t fall for the world’s allure.  It is fleeting and destructive.  It will not satisfy your need to feel successful.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  It’s a great day whether spent in an elegant mansion or a modest apartment, whether the ride to town is a limo or a bicycle, whether the jeans are Jordache or WalMart.  Stuff does not matter.  Repeat that a dozen times as you compose today’s gratitude list.

stuff does not matter!

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – intentional living

 

old codger

“I am going to have a horrible day today.  It’s raining, my joints hurt and my muscles ache.  The cat spit up on my bedcovers and the roof is leaking.  I forgot to get eggs yesterday at the grocery store, so now I must settle for a PB sandwich for breakfast.  Worst of all, that lazy, newspaper delivery man forgot my paper and I have nothing to read with my boring PB breakfast sandwich.  Life is really going to suck today.”

or

“Oh, what a relaxing, drizzly day!  I won’t be doing much outside today, so I’ll be able to catch up on reading.  The cat is sprawled out on my bed and enjoying his first nap of the day.  Yes, I forgot to get eggs yesterday, but a bowl of creamy, hot oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar sounds delicious.  Maybe I’ll go online to read my newspaper since I don’t have a morning paper in the driveway.  Lord, thank you for another day of lungs breathing and heart pumping.  Today will be a spectacular day.”

What will be your day’s intention?  Glum and gloomy or special and spectacular?  It’s a choice you make each morning upon arising.  Don’t just accept what life throws at you, create the life you want to live.  It’s an amazing choice that greets the day and sets the stage for the next 24 hours.  Be intentional!

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – rivers of life

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Did the Colorado River cut through rock creating the Grand Canyon by sheer strength?  Did it happen overnight?  No, of course not.  One of the most awesome land sculptures on earth was created over eons of persistent erosion.  Millions have viewed this spectacular landscape, some have tried to conquer its raw natural power, a few have died failing to match wits with the imposing rock walls and the mighty river flowing through the canyon.

Persistence!  Not strength, not brawn, not physical power.  Our goals in life will be accomplished with rivers of intentional persistence.  Yesterday’s commitments to healthy habits and attitudes must be pursued again today.  There is no room for stagnation in pursuing our goals whether those goals be mental, spiritual or physical.  Our rivers of determination will stop flowing and become dammed up when filled with past baggage and emotional silt.  Muscles and joints which tell us, ‘No, stop,”  must not be entertained with inactivity.  Especially those of us experiencing the ‘golden years’ cannot stop intentional forward motion.

As always, this is a choice to be made every morning upon arising.  Greet the morning with a smile, a ‘thank you’, a brief gratitude list, a hug to your spouse or cat or dog, and a stretch to the dawning day ahead welcoming goodness and strength into the waking hours.  Receive the blessings which flow and the gift of grace to enjoy another 24 hours.  It’s all ours for the asking.  The alternative is to wallow with inaction, suffer the aches and pains, dread the day’s drudgery, look forward to an end to this self-imposed misery.  It’s our choice.

What’s your river going to do today?  Flow bravely and erode just a bit more those walls of stone?  I hope so.  I intend to live life fully in the face of obstacles and mental dams.  If I fall down, I will bounce back up.  If I see someone else fall down, I will help them back up.  We can claim victory when the last breath is drawn.  We can say with conviction, “I defeated you, death, and will continue on into eternity knowing I gave this life my best effort.”

Join me, will you?

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:55

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – weakness

I have a confession to make – my name is Larry and I am a TV news show junkie.  Not baseball, not sit-coms, not movies from 1948, no, I sit for several hours watching the latest developments from national leaders unfold on my screen.  You might say, “Well Larry, that’s a good thing.  It is good to stay on top of current events.”

No, no, no this is not a good thing.  How do I know?  I know that when I have viewed a great movie classic or an exciting baseball game, when I have guffawed uncontrollably over the antics of a sit-com cast, I feel good.  However, when I have spent 4 hours watching this political figure or that wannabe leader spout a stream of accusations and innuendo, defame people who are my heroes, immaturely slander others who aspire to make a difference in our society…when bedtime rolls around, I am angry, disturbed, depressed and vindictive.  My internal dictionary tells me that these are negatives.  That is not a good thing.  I try not to entertain negatives in my life.

Denying that I have a problem does not help.  Believing that I can practice controlled viewing does not work.  When 7 PM rolls around I am magnetically drawn to the remote control, I am savoring the first few minutes of updates.  Ten minutes is too much and four hours is not enough.  My mind is putty in the hands of those celebrity pundits appearing on my screen.  Hold me, caress me, teach me the things I need to know about society and politics.  Yes, yes, yes, form my opinions, make me intelligent and witty, give me the words to argue with any of my neighbors.  Here I am.  Take me now and we will dwell forever in digital ecstasy.

Pretty damn sad, isn’t it?  So, as you may have noticed, the title of this post is “IT’S A GREAT DAY! – weakness.”  When I was a young boy working with my grandfather on his farm, the farm hands who assisted in the summer months were young, mature, worldly men who had been around the block a few times.  They knew the pleasures and the secrets of life.  Full of advice for a boy growing up totally naïve, they always joked with me about girls and the mysteries of puberty and adolescence.  But invariably, with dead seriousness, they would then end the conversation with, “Life is great if ya don’t weaken.”

“Hmmm,” I wondered to myself, “what on earth are they talking about?”

Trial and error answered my question.  Many trials and many errors in dealing with sex, in finding my place in society, in succumbing to numerous addictions.  If anyone learned about life the hard way, it was me.  ‘Life is great if ya don’t weaken’ took on painful profundity as I battled the demons which were in control of Larry, the young man.

When I share my concern with the news programs addiction, we know it is somewhat in jest.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say this evening pastime of national events is incongruous with the mindset I want for myself and that I need to corral that remote control by setting limits upon what networks it can access.   Yeah, that sounds like a winning course of action.  Honestly, an intelligent, reasonable, well-grounded man cannot possibly be ‘addicted’ to TV……can he?

I have a great start to this day.  Upon awakening I hugged the sleeping cat aside me, I brewed my first cup of coffee, I dwelled upon the dawning day, and then set a course for honoring the master of my life.  Meditation, yoga and a light workout got my lungs breathing and heart pumping.  I have a few chores for this afternoon and a list of options for this evening….baseball, a book to read, maybe a classic movie.  Please wish me luck as I battle my latest affliction and try not to weaken by 7PM.  It’s a great day at my house and in my mind!  How about you?

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – yes, I can

Whether I say I can or say I can’t, either way I will probably be right.

cropped-curve-dark-dawn-327316.jpgThink about those words.  They are saying to us that the choice is ours.  Yes, I can; no, I can’t.  What is your choice going to be?  

Too often we give that decision-making to others.  As children, we heard parents say numerous times, “you can’t do that.”

Usually that instruction was in our best interests, a warning about pending danger or a word of advice garnered from experience.  We knew our parents loved us and would not betray our trust.  Then, as we matured, the natural response was any action which opposed authority.  Dad can’t tell me what to do, my teacher can’t make me do it, my preacher can’t tell me what’s right or what’s wrong.  It was a healthy, self-discovery process which wet our feet in the world of hard knocks and errors.  And we survived, did we not?

Parents no longer direct your life.  Educators and preachers have given you a means of earning a living and a moral compass by which to live.  So, you are well equipped to face life on life’s terms, right?  You are confident in your decisions, right?  You do not doubt your own intuition and rational thinking, right?  You know that who you are today is as perfect as you can be today, you are worthy, right?  You can do anything which you set your mind to doing, right?

Any ‘no’ answers to the above dialog are wrong.  ‘I can’t’ is unacceptable because today, in this moment, I have the tools within to accomplish anything I attempt.  No, we’re not talking about physical feats, performing miracles, climbing Mt. Everest, or entering a marathon.  My body, not my mind, tells me ‘no’ to those endeavors.

Recently, after years of jogging and hiking, my knees and hip said, “No more.”   X-rays indicated that age, wear and tear had deteriorated those joints to a painful reminder with every movement.  “I can’t,” was my mantra for about 6 months accompanied by serious depression and stress.  At age 71, I was ready for the transition to the next phase.  That, however, was not what happened.

In a motivation video on YouTube, the voice speaking said, “Don’t lament what you can no longer do; rather, focus on what you can do.”

Really?  That was the jumpstart necessary to regroup and redefine who Larry is.  Not a jogger, not a hiker, not even a brisk walker.  Instead, this body discovered yoga, isometric exercises, low impact aerobic workouts that it could do.  Our minds can carry us over any hurdles when we allow the ‘can do’ attitude to direct us.  I can do this, you can too.  What will your answer be today?  “Yes, I can,” or “No, I can’t.”  It’s your choice.

When we say, “I can,” inner strength will provide the means to fulfill those determined words.  You and I were designed magnificently in the same image as all of creation.  We were intended to be survivors in a sometimes heartless world.  When we say, “I can’t”, we are admitting defeat without a battle and we are denying the divine strength within us.  The Lord of my life, the force which you trust as a greater power whether you name it God, Allah, the One, Brahman or Higher Power will honor the words, “Yes, I can.”

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IT’S A GREAT DAY!- don’t argue

Silence the noise of others; listen to your own voice.

old codger

Did you hear that?  Should I repeat it?  Don’t give more credence to the thoughts and rhetoric of other people than you give to your own.  “To thine own self be true.”  Polonius speaking to his son Laertes in Hamlet has been interpreted by many to mean many things.  But, let’s just keep it simple.  You and I have each an internal dialog that speaks from a place of experience, of guidance, of direction, of inspiration which often is amazingly ‘other-directed’ arising from the wisdom of the cosmos dwelling in our inner sanctum.  Call it soul, call it God, call it Spirit, call it a higher power.  It is ours and it is unique to each one of us according to the gifts blessing our lives.

So, why would anyone not listen to his or her inner voice?  Have you ever said any of the following?  “That man is better educated than I am, therefore he is more intelligent.  She is a psychiatrist, therefore she has deeper insight.  He is a preacher with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name, therefore he is more spiritual.  He’s my father, he knows better.  She’s my mother, she wouldn’t misguide me.  They are high school counselors, they know what is my best course of education.”

Just stop!  Stop it!  They all may be wonderful people, but only you know what speaks from your heart.  Some of them are not wonderful people, they are playing the control game for  selfish reasons.  Don’t allow others to call your shots.  This is your life and it’s your choice what you will do with that life.  Choice is life’s golden ticket.  Don’t give that ticket to someone else.

When you wake up in the morning, after you have said ‘thank-you’ for this day and this opportunity to breathe air into your lungs and pump blood through your body, after you have stretched your legs and arms, after you have smiled at your spouse or cat or dog lying beside you, get up and rejoice.  Rejoice over the opportunities ahead of you to be fully involved in an active and productive day plan with household projects or with your job.  Or rejoice exceedingly as you anticipate with zeal the coming day of rest and relaxation.  Maybe it will be a day at the beach, or a hike in the woods, or a shopping trip with the grandkids, or a special lunch with a dear friend.  Embrace it!  Cherish it!  You are a miraculous treasure brimming with options.

I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, zip it , Larry.  Life sucks.”

Maybe it does.  Loss of loved ones, physical ailments, poverty, social injustice, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, divorce, injuries remind us every day that this is not a Pollyanna world.  Stuff happens.  But, all that turmoil is processed by the same mind which also says that you are special and you are worthy of goodness and mercy.  You can walk the path of life with an overflowing cup.  You can rest in green pastures by still waters.  Or you can wallow in the mire with creepy, crawly things.  Again, it’s your choice which scenario you decide to internalize.  Don’t sell out to negative circumstances which are predominantly beyond your control while diminishing the spectacular essence within. Listen to this internal voice which  you have proven as truth through experience and reasoning that tells you, “Wow, I am going to have a great day.”

It’s not easy staying out of the pits.  Visit a grumpy neighbor, watch the national headlines on TV, look at your overdue electric bill. I understand because I have been there, I sometimes visit there even today.  Life has to be a daily, if not hourly, surrender to that inner voice telling me that, contrary to my negative thoughts, I can enjoy a perfect day because for this moment at this time I am a perfect version of me.  I hope to evolve and enlighten with each tomorrow, but for this moment in life I have everything I need within me to live a day far beyond my greatest expectations.  Believe it absolutely with heart, mind, and soul.  It will happen.  Guaranteed! Today’s another great day.

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