I hate you

How often have you and I thought or voiced these emotionally-charged words?  Maybe it was yesterday when the neighbor was critical of our yard maintenance.  Or it could have angry emojibeen the boss unfairly expecting us to give up weekend plans in order to come in to work.  Or maybe it was a national leader speaking words which are contrary to our personal moral compass.  Or maybe it was directed inwardly because of our own faults and misdeeds.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love…”

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (1181 – 1226) is attributed with these words, an excerpt from a  familiar prayer commonly called THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.

Hatred is one of the most difficult words to comprehend because it carries an immensely negative emotion.  Within that negativity we create enemies, despicable visions of others, and ultimately, discontent within our own souls.  Let’s, for the sake of rational dialog, nail hatred to the underlying emotion of fear which is a very real motivator in all of mankind.

Fear prevents unconditional love.  Fear promotes violence.  Fear murders, maims, persecutes.  Fear promotes separateness among men and warfare among nations.  Fear is the darkness in mankind’s soul which enables genocide and ethnic cleansing.

White nationalism embraces fear, our leaders project fear, some men of religion preach fear.  Hatred is taught, but fear is that innate human condition which in today’s society is being used as a weapon against practicing social justice, tolerance and equality.

That is why we recite the words of St. Francis – Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  We cannot fight hatred with hatred.  We cannot fight violence with violence.  We cannot vie to be top dog in the world at the expense of the huddled masses desiring nothing more than the crumbs under the table.  We cannot destroy our planet by exploiting resources to fill corporate coffers or because we fear that there is not enough for everybody.  Peace is not just a state of inner being – it is a call to action.  It is a determined effort to illumine the darkness.

We in Western culture have been conditioned to think of love as a warm, fuzzy feeling reserved for spouses, family, friends, others who step in line to our own personal march.  We celebrate love with cute greeting cards and expensive gifts.  We write romantic songs and poems about love.  We fall in love with the idea of love.

The ancient wisdom teachers would disagree.  In their writings love is the opposite of fear.  Love unifies the Christian and the Muslim, the white man and the black man, the Republican and the Democrat, the straight and the gay.  There are no enemies in the world of love, there are merely differences to be embraced.  Love is not the opposite of hatred;  it is the cure for fear which is the root of hatred.  It is the understanding that we as co-equal inhabitants of this planet are responsible for living in peaceful co-existence.

“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself.” CAC.ORG

Mohandas Gandhi said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. —John Dear CAC.ORG – FR. RICHARD ROHR

 

speak to me of God

“I said to the apple tree: ‘sister, speak to me of God,’ and the apple tree blossomed.”  Nikos Kazantzakis ( attributed to St. Francis) 

apple-blossom-beautiful-blooming-2127607

photo by DIDS

Don’t you think ours would be a much better, more peaceful world if those who profess a god could keep it this simple?  It’s as if my God is saying to me, “Just look around at the Creation which you attribute to me; it is there you will know me.”

Followers of the mystical path believe God is immanent, meaning inherent and indwelling.  From the moss under the trees to the king of the jungle to the man known as Einstein, the essence defined as God exists and propels the God image through all that was, that is, and that ever will be.  All that is necessary to know God is to look out the window and observe the butterfly fluttering, the bird winging across the sky, and the flower blooming.  Look at the bees pollinating, the farmer planting, and the mother giving birth.  Everything on earth contains the essence which some call God, others Yahweh, still others Allah, while many do not name it at all.  This earth is a continuum of birth, death and rebirth.  It tells us everything we need to know about life.  So why look to the heavens, or why dread hell, why sit in judgement of others, why condemn ourselves in attempts to earn God’s approval?  If that power which we label God did not approve and indwell, we would not be here.  No theology, no doctrine, no “ism” could save us.

 

us versus them…really?

animals-elderly-forest-40873
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.

Be persistent in asking.  When in that quiet inner space, don’t be timid with requests.  The answer will always be “yes, no, or not now”.  But, whatever the answer may be, rest assured that our internal GPS has got us covered and will bring us safely to the next plateau of life when heeding that inner voice.  Very simple.  A degree in spirituality is not required to know what the conscience speaks in those quiet moments.  The secret, if there is any secret, is to slow down, be quiet, silence the wandering mind, and listen.  Ask for guidance and it will be given.

Seek joy and peace relentlessly.  Life changes with every passing moment.  We must also adjust.  Our central core of understanding has an amazing capacity to adjust.  What was yesterday’s hot flash is today’s old fogey flashback.  When hanging on to the ‘way things used to be’ we are stifling what needs to happen now for continuing growth.  Doesn’t mean giving up values or the moral compass which has been a lifetime beacon; rather, it means evolving those values to make them workable in today’s crazy world.

Only a few centuries ago when one element of society disagreed with the beliefs and actions of another, it could find new, uncharted lands to settle and follow its philosophy in peaceful bliss.  Unfortunately, vacant, unexplored land has disappeared and thus it has become essential to the survival of our species to practice co-existence with next door neighbors who look, talk, behave and worship differently.

Perhaps the common denominator is that the vast majority of the world’s population wants to live peaceably, support families, have a comfortable standard of living, practice a chosen faith walk (or absence of faith walk), and leave this world a better place then when arriving.  The violence advocated by an extremely small, but vocal, percentage of extreme religious adherents has, unfortunately, grabbed today’s headlines.  Each brand of religion is guilty.  Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu each have an element devoted to hateful rhetoric and unenlightened teaching.

Demonizing an entire faith for the actions of a few of its adherents is not evolving to a plateau of world brotherhood necessary to co-exist.  Rather than name-calling, fear-mongering, and instilling lies about those outside our tribe, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to recognize the divinity in all mankind?  Loving another’s divine nature regardless of religious tradition does not diminish our own spiritual walk.  It can only enhance the God connection.

Lead me by example and not by edict.  A primary principle of Alcoholics Anonymous is ‘attraction rather than promotion’.  Show me your wisdom instead of forcing it upon me.  St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Let’s try to be instruments of peace.  It could be the only chance for the human species to see a 22nd century.

speaking truthNAMASTE

 

 

when belief becomes action

“Over the past few decades, our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live….But in Jesus we don’t just see a presentation of doctrines but an invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world.”  Shane Claiborne (1)

Picture43

In chapter 2 of the Bible’s book of James, verse 17 – “faith without works is dead” – is a favorite of addiction recovery programs.  It is the foundational premise of the fellowship’s call to live a life of service to others through works.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not the copyrighted property of Christianity.  Many major religions and cultures profess an obeisance to this maxim.

But it is not merely a statement of belief.  It demands supporting action in the way I live, in the way I treat other people.  Not only family, friends and neighbors should receive my best efforts to live by the “golden rule,” but everyone on earth who names themselves a member of the species homo-sapiens.

Tall order, isn’t it?   Now, let’s stretch it.  How about every creation of the God whom I name as Lord of my life?  The birds, tigers, my pet cat, fish, the flowers of the field, our water resources, the air we breathe – everything?  They are all a portion of the gift given to us to use and enjoy.  Treat creation with the respect and stewardship with which we want to be treated.  Might be a much better world, don’t you think?

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life.  It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves to inhabit this land.”  Sitting Bull

In contrast to our world of greed and disregard for the elements of nature, the forgotten creed of the Native American embodied a legendary wisdom and spirituality.  Animals were respected as equal in rights and, when hunted, they were killed only for food. The hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. (2)

Born in 1182 into wealth, St. Francis of Assisi, during his conversion period, was considered a madman when he renounced money and chose to live simply practicing equality by honoring, respecting and loving every person whether beggar or pope.  Francis’ love of nature is well recorded in writings, but his love was much deeper than enjoying time in the woods to admire the beauty.  His brotherhood included all of God’s creations.  To him the sparrow was as much his brother as the pope. (3)

Francis, born Giovanni Bernardone, had no thoughts to establish a monastic order named after him, but when called to serve his God, his answer was yes.  What will my answer be?  How about you?  Please take 5 minutes and 27 seconds of your life to watch the Franciscan Plea For the Soul of America.

(1) Shane Claiborne

(2)  www.pantheism.net

(3) www.catholic.org

 

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

 

copyright 3

 

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

copyright 3

 

 

crucified

 

 

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

larrypaulbrown

Krishna was there,
Yahweh and Buddha watched from above.
They saw and wept;
“the Way”, the great “I AM”, a Savior
hung on a cross.

Man of peace,
messenger of love,
hope for the hopeless,
life for the dead in spirit
nailed to a tree.

Heavens roared in pain,
angels ceased singing,
holy ones prostrated in grief,
skies thundered,
sun, moon and stars hid in horror.

Their Son, their beloved,
shamed and ravaged,
naked and dying,
nails through feet and hands,
mocked and reviled.

“No,” they bellowed,
“this shall not be the end.
Our Prince of Peace will prevail.
He will be Lord of lords
and King of kings. Forever.”

The Way – the truth and life continued,
peace, love, tolerance, justice
revealed through other lives.
Mohammed, Francis of Assisi,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King,

……….you and I.
All of God’s children united
with the spirit of the Way
living in truth and peace,
eternally joined with the Holy Ones.

His Way will not be crushed,
His truth will not be crushed,
His life will not be crushed,
and we shall live forever and ever.
Amen

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” [Isaiah 53:3]

world peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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