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

Today – Pittsburgh

 

LOVE

What is love?  Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling that is felt when in the presence of special friends, family, a spouse?  Maybe.  But, what if love is not an emotion?  What if love is an action shared with the world encompassing all of creation including humanity and the earth itself?  Compassion, tolerance, understanding, non-violence, stewardship – perhaps this is the love that will save our earth and its inhabitants.  Perhaps this the love which the author of 1 Corinthians was setting before us as a challenge?  Let’s try it.

Today, the day after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh in which eleven of my brothers and sisters were murdered, it is extremely difficult to practice what I know the Lord of my life wants me to do – love.  Today, I am rebellious.  No, I will not love those who hate enough to kill.  No, I will not forgive those who hate enough to be unforgivable.  No, I won’t.

Then Jesus says, “But, you must because that is the beginning of healing.”

So, I will experience what humans experience.  I will allow the anger, the disappointment, the horror, the disgust, the sorrow, and the denial.  I will allow this and move on to the necessary work of forgiving.  And trust me, this is work.  It is soul work which is not inherent in our human condition.  I too want to lash out at those who are hateful.  I want to beat them to the ground and scream, “What is wrong with you?”

But  that would be giving them the victory.  That would be denying the instructions of the One who lords my life.  I would become an instrument of hate rather than love.

“God make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

love, sweet love

We are nothing if we cannot be love.  You and I were created to be love in this world.  Don’t defy your destiny by joining the elements of hatred rampantly destroying humanity.  Our species survival depends on love, sweet love.

larry6

Pope Paul VI

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

 

“If you want peace, work for justice.”

 Pope Paul VI

 

As a precursor to thinking about world peace, it is necessary to recognize that governments and government agents cannot enforce peaceful co-existence.  Governments desire power above peace,  governments covet profits from its nation’s war machine and munitions industries above peace, and governments employ military might as an insurer of peace within its own borders at the expense of violent oppression elsewhere in the world.  The great Roman Empire was created on this principle.  The American experience also became an empire in this manner.  Peace on an international level is unattainable without the intervention of a supernatural mediator.

Perhaps that is what Pope Paul VI is inferring in this quote.  Wise men know that mankind is violent and warlike and that the governances created by man are equally so.  The peace envisioned is not going to happen in the halls of government but rather within the temples of man.  Man is a spiritual being housed in a physical body, his temple.  When that spirit is tuned in to a greater universal force, the process of peacemaking can begin.  It is a miracle of interior transformation which prepares each individual to journey to the destiny of enlightenment offered by his/her Creator.

The transforming process begins with a recognition of inherent ego and its continual demand to be self-satisfied.  Slowly ego is replaced by sacrifice and awareness of surrounding suffering.  The injustice of world systems becomes increasingly apparent as the individual reaches out to live in solidarity with all brothers and sisters, to seek justice for all people.  Justice mothers the driving desire to share resources equally, to treat others compassionately, and to extend peaceful co-existence to the entire creation.  Striving for universal justice becomes the life work which will usher peace into the worlds existing within the temples.  No government can deter or destroy that which dwells within.

 

bullying

 

“BULLYING – abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger and more powerful.”

In junior high school I weighed about 145 pounds, I was gangly and scrawny, and my oversized ears and nose made me an easy target for the big boys waiting in the gym where I had to go after lunch on my way to my next class.  Punching, poking, slapping, and pushing became such a stressful occurrence that I ended the school day with an extreme gastrointestinal disorder.  But the physical abuse was more tolerable than the name-calling and ridicule of my physical appearance.  I recovered from the punching and poking much sooner than the hurtful words.

The teachers were aware of the ongoing abuse.  Their advice was to fight back.  Not only was that a stupid idea, the big boys collectively weighed about 800 pounds, but it was an unacceptable option in the tradition of my faith.  The end result was that a young junior high school student blamed himself for the abuse and felt he actually merited the bullying because he was not only ugly but a coward as well.

We hurt each other with actions and words most often unaware of our indiscretion.  Mindlessness is not a virtue but it is forgivable.  Bullying is not mindless.  It is intentional, demeaning, diminishing, and tragic.  Today’s media headlines tell of young girls who are bullied at school and on social media and then choose suicide as the only option.  As young as twelve years old, they end their lives over an act of social injustice which tells them they are unworthy of living..

Yes, it is injustice.  Bullying is an action and an attitude.  It is an outrageous verbal and physical assault on those who are vulnerable, those who are unable to fend for themselves.  It is cowardice at its ugliest.  As a nation we are witnessing bullying in our highest government offices, in the powers seated in Washington, D.C., in the Oval Office of the White House.  We witness bullying in corporate offices, in the entertainment industry, in the factory, and in schools.  It is fed by bias, racism, discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, and unfettered ego.

We are building a world where bullying is not tolerated.  In that world the pain inflicted by words and actions on weaker victims will no longer exist.  The tears and sorrow suffered in grieving for loved victims will no longer exist.  The strong and powerful will be made to serve and the meek will be exalted.  That world will manifest someday, but until then it is our responsibility as members of a righteous humanity to oppose bullying at all levels of society and courageously expose it for the cowardice which it is.

REVELATION 21:4

rainbow-solidarity

those who mourn

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

“On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot eight out of ten girls, killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse. The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.”

Eleven years ago while taking a break from driving, sitting at a Midwest truck-stop, watching TV on my satellite connection, this breaking news story darkened my soul like nothing else in recent memory.  As a young boy I had attended public school with Amish boys and girls, I lived in communities where the clop-clop of Amish buggies passing by was a normal everyday occurrence, my family shopped at the grocery store with Amish families.  Their way of life was fascinating to me.  How could they follow such a simple lifestyle eschewing modern conveniences and still be the happiest people I knew?  I greatly envied their humility and dedication to the community of believers which they chose to follow.

Even today as I write this, my eyes well up with tears.  Innocent schoolgirls gunned down execution style by a madman.  On October 2, 2006 I cried like a baby for several hours.  My driving partner could not console me, my prayers would not stop the tears, the God of my understanding had deserted me.  Five killed.  Others injured.  The young boys who had been herded outside stood by helplessly as their schoolmates inside screamed while shot after shot was fired.

“For the sake of Christ, my God, they were children!  Why?”  That’s all my mind could process until later in the day when the news reported a statement from the Amish elders of that community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, “We forgive the gunman.”

Oh my God!  These simple, peace-loving men and women, having suffered the most horrific of crimes perpetrated against them, immediately turn a most hateful act of violence against innocent children into an opportunity to show the world what Jesus expected of them.  “Forgive him, Father, for he did not know what he was doing.”

Could I have forgiven?  If my little girl was one of those standing in front of the blackboard with her back to the gunman waiting for her turn to be murdered, could I forgive?  Even today, eleven years later,  I don’t know that I could answer that question honestly.  I know what Jesus said, I know what the teachings are, but I am still a man who sometimes feeds on justified anger.  Perhaps I am the one who needs forgiveness.

That day and the days following were a time of continual mourning.  More tears, more questions, less confidence that American society would ever turn from violent rhetoric and behavior.  In time the tears did indeed wash away the sorrow.  A brighter day appeared.

Those who mourn, including me, realize that mourning is another day in the seasons of life just as pain, depression, illness, disappointment, and inadequacy.  Life is an inescapable mingling of sorrow and joy.  Without the times of sorrow we would not recognize joy.  Without the sorrow we would not seek the blessing of a Comforter.

“Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

“Jesus describes those who grieve as feeling the pain of the world.” 

“Saint Ephrem said, ‘Until you have cried, you do not know God.'”

cac.org

Jeremy Camp released a video and recording encouraging us to endure the pain and sorrow for there will be a day…….

 

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  Revelation 21:4