Inclusion

inclusionInclusion

Do we really know what inclusion means? The first definition in the dictionary say it is the act of being included; not a big help. If we think of synonyms, we might be better off: involvement, embodiment, and embracement. Looking at these words helps us determine what inclusion really means.

Are we willing to allow people of different national origins or religious beliefs into our extended families? If you read the headlines in our daily newspapers, we may think that we are all at each other’s’ throats, because all the news talks about is how many people are killing each other over our differences.

But we must look beyond these headlines and look in our own back yards. I have found great brotherhood in my friendships with people of color, people identifying themselves as various genders, and people of different faith traditions.

There is so much to learn from each group that culturally I am enriched by these friends. Can we all do this? Are we willing to surrender ourselves to get to know people who do not share the same heritage as us? This is God’s will, but He does not force this on us; we are free to choose what path we journey on. I find that opening my hearts to God’s goodness and the goodness of others allows me to become a whole person, enriched by diversity.

Looking at the world, I see a very violent place, a place where peace needs to be nurtured. If we allow peace-nurturing in our hearts, perhaps peace-making will follow. It is God’s will.

Being Connected

reconnect  Being Connected

Brother Jonathan Maury of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist recently wrote:

“Our connectedness to one another in God rests on the foundation of all those who have gone before us as believers – a lineage of saints stretching back to Jesus’ first disciples, those without whose witness to God’s mighty deeds we would not ourselves be disciples.”

I am a man of faith, who, as a young man, turned my back on religion because of the innate hypocrisies I saw. As I aged, I began to realize that religion is more than a narrow theological view. The word religion comes from the Latin religio, which means to reconnect, to retie the binds that hold us as a people.  

I also discovered that the message for Christian churches is rooted in the experience of Jesus’ disciples and the first century evangelists, not the Roman leaders of the 4th and 5th centuries. An open church, meaning one that is willing to view the Gospels and other biblical writings as a means to understand our world today, means that the message spread throughout the ancient world, needs to be re-interpreted for every age.

This is becoming more difficult to do with all of the constant distractions that try to remove us from the good words that the Bible and other religious writings bring us. By this, I mean the writings that religions all over the world use as a basis for their beliefs. Each of these religions interpret the messages in a different voice, but we all pray to one God.

To reconnect with these ancient philosophers can be challenging, but all profess the message of Love that Jesus offered for all who recognized that God is part of our lives, or as Jesus said, the kingdom of God is within us. Loving God is the highest love we can experience, but, this divine love allows us to look at each other, see God in the faces of all we meet and love them for who they are, not what mistakes (sins) they have made.

However, we must go further; if we are truly to Love God, we must love all He created, from all people down to every grain of sand on a beach. We must love the earth itself and the plants and animals that inhabit the earth along side of us. If we can do this, we can truly recognize the re-connection that we so longingly crave to find.

We have not done this. We have missed the chance to be able to experience a truly divine existence, experiencing all that God has given us.

I lament the lost opportunity; none-the-less, I will not stop trying to change my little part of the world. I strongly believe in the ripple effect. I know as a teacher and later as a college professor, I planted seeds in the minds of my students will, eventually, blossom into a greater opportunity to improve how mankind lives on the planet Earth.

One of my favorite folk groups of the 1960s was and still is The Brothers Four. They sang a song called “Well, Well, Well.” The lyrics included the line: “The Lord brought a flood, but a fire next time.”

Now, I am not one who takes all of the biblical stories literally, but occasionally, I reflect on this song. I know God loves us. Otherwise he would not have created us. He gave us free will to do as we saw best.

Will our free will cause the Earth to give up on us because of the way we have spoiled it?

I trust that mankind will learn to reconnect with each other and in doing so reconnect with the beauty and the necessity of a strong vibrant planet.

 

 

 

 

Love God with All Your Heart

Let all that you do be done in Love.    Love God with All Your Heart

 

Love is God

Only I can bring God into my life,

Vigorously I walk in the love of God

Every step I take

Gives me strength to

Open my heart

Discover new family

Without judgement

I walk with others

Taking the path of love

Hear His voice

As I see His

Loving face in yours

Learning

Yearning

Offering

Unending Love and patience

Remembering the euphoria

How exaltation

Engulfs me

As you

Recognize

The face of God to me.

 

Gratitude

         Gratitude

gratitudeWhat am I grateful for?

Let’s start with the fact that God has kept me around for over 75 years; and, I pray that he will continue to allow me to walk his beautiful earth, meeting more of his children.

Next, I am grateful for my family. When I was twenty-three, God opened my eyes and I saw a high school friend in a new light; I realized that she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with; and so far, that is going well. We also have two children who are very successful in their chosen fields, and are very kind, caring people. God has also blessed me with one dynamic grandson, who just turned sixteen and will be driving in just a few days.

I also have a brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law and a 96-year-old mother-in-law. My own sister and parents have all passed into a world where we all will eventually be.

After years of struggling, I entered the field of education and ended my career as a college professor if writing and literature.

As I look back on my life, I realize that I have been blessed with all the grace that one hopes for. I am also blessed to be a part of a dynamic, faith organization filled with loving, caring people, who have allowed me to be one of its lay leaders. This is a great responsibility, but knowing I have the support of God, I am able to assist in the church’s work to feed the hungry and through my ability to listen, be a prayer minister who hopefully brings the peace of God and His grace into their damaged lives. This is one of my dearest and most loving gifts that God has allowed me to have.

God has also given me the ability to write; and, I pray that my efforts to bring prayerful meditations and poetry to my followers are pleasing to Him and help bring His love to all my friends and followers all around this blue globe we call Earth.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to what I am grateful for. Everything I have has been provided by the ability to persevere in attaining the abilities to do all I have done, realizing that I could not have done them alone. The support of my family, particularly my loving wife, and my friends, I have been the backbone to my successes, all under the guidance and direction of a God filled with grace.

I posted this earlier on Facebook:

Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith.

My wish today is that this meditation, will spark a desire in all my friends and followers to reflect on their own gifts and how thankful they are for these gifts.

 

 

We all are Love

cloud-love

The most powerful part of our being, and the most power part of why we are who we are is love. Without love, we are like a boat in the water lacking oars. We can be jostled around aimlessly.

This is a high bar to live by. Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor. Can we do this without reservation? We cannot say we love God and then say that we do not love our neighbor. Let me be stronger. If we feel hate in our hearts for anyone, and I mean anyone, we cannot say that we love God.

This is also a very necessary quality in all humans, especially in the political climates that permeate the world today. We cannot allow hate to fill the world like it did in the 1930s which created the most devastating war in the history of mankind.

Love is who we are; we are not truly alive if we don’t love. If we hate anyone, there can be no love in our hearts, and therefore, our lives. We cannot mislead ourselves by thinking otherwise. We cannot be true to ourselves without love.

Human culture can be a very confusing, and, as we have experienced, very violent; but, we cannot let these outside forces take the love from our hearts. We will only proceed to our own spiritual demise by allowing events to take over our ability to love one another. We can disagree, and even dislike, things that are occurring around us; we also cannot ignore them. What we can do is to put them in the proper prospective. Chances are, what we experience in the greater world does not directly affect our lives. We can work to prevent the hatred from entering our community, by continually looking at people as children of God, not as strangers to be disliked because they are not like us. As god created us, he created them also. We must keep our faith foremost in our hearts to do this.

When we keep love alive, we keep hope alive. Where there is hope, there is the ability to help lift others from their conditions. This means that we bring life to those who have been forgotten. This is not possible without love. This life based on love gives us strength and the courage to bring God’s love to those society shuns.

This poem is from my heart to all my friends:

My Love

An inner wellspring

Of primal intimacy

Only God and I can feel

But you and others may share

        In the first letter of John, we are told quite bluntly that those who say they love God but hate their brothers or sisters are liars. Some of them may be. But in the light of what we know about modern psychology, I think it better to say that their understanding of love is incomplete.

Can we love? Can we be pure in our love, pure in our hearts? I pray so.

 

Living in Fear; Living with Hatred

fear   Living in Fear; Living with Hatred

 

These last few days have been very trying for those of us who care about people. Violence has grown to obscene proportions. Many of us question how safe we really are. It is necessary for us to work hard to keep ourselves safe and assure that those we love and care for are also safe and secure. This means those we serve also.

At our church, we do a great deal for the people in our community who have been left behind by the greedy leaders controlling politics and money. It is possible that because of our generosity and care for people of all colors, all genders, all nationalities, someone who objects to our serving these community members could enter the church will violence in his heart. This is why we must assure that we are safe in our environs.

However, there is another aspect to all this. I will not reduce the importance of assuring this safety, but in our own hearts there is something we can do to be at ease. We can search into the pits of our very core, the depths of ourselves, to open ourselves to unbridled love for each other. By doing this, we are opening ourselves to receive the comfort of God in our lives. We are also confirming the principle that love conquers fear, love conquers hate.

The gospel of John, chapter 17, says “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” Prayers such as this may not stop the violent incidents we experience, but this does allow us to live our lives in the relative of freedom knowing that God will protect us no matter what the outcome of some fool’s actions occur.

Many of us consider the creation of the world as a gift of life. And poverty is against the meaning of that gift; therefore, we cannot let negative influences to prevent us from lifting our neighbors from poverty. We are urged by the naysayers that our efforts are useless, and some of these negative people believe that those living in poverty deserve it. This is not the way people living in God’s light think of others. We must continue to be the example that God’s light shines for all.

The theologian, Jean Vanier, writes, “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress.”

If we are people of faith, we give our lives to what God wishes for the world. Does that mean we have to walk through fire? Sometimes. Perhaps. And, this is the scary part; but, I, for one, could not live with myself if I turned my back on my less fortunate neighbors because of fear what someone may or may not do to stop me. My life and my relationship with God is too important to ignore. Besides, my Marine Corps training taught me to never give up. This and God’s love has brought me back from the depths of very serious physical difficulties to be able to live a very, very normal productive life. I can only do the same for those who need God’s compassion. And in doing so, perhaps I can eliminate some of the hate in our world. 

As a final thought, I can only say that I cannot control what others may do; the only thing I can do is to live the life I have, which is supported by walking in the light of God and sharing his good blessings.

Community is God’s Wish

thanksgiving2              Community is God’s wish

 

It seems that society is against our building community. Between politics and economy separation, we find that we must continually work at keeping the spirit of community alive. We must be fully aware that others, not in favor of a coherent community are determined to undermine our efforts. Helping one another achieve a safe haven and comfortable living is not something that we should consider as a task. It is what community is based on. It is not really a self-aggrandizing virtue to help others; it is God’s gift to us as we share our successes and failures, good times and times of sorrow, and celebrations and times of fear and trepidation. The manifestation of God’s blessing on community is realized when we give out of love, not pity.

The New Testament clearly demonstrates the love that Jesus has for community. New Testament scholars call this gift koinonia; or as I translate it, fellowship. We cannot truly identify our own individuality until we recognize and support the individuality of others. After all, we are all children of God, which makes us all brothers and sisters, no matter what color our skin is, where we come from, or what religion we practice. When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within us, he is speaking of our love and support for one another, in all circumstances.

The author of Kings in the Old Testament writes, “and may your hearts be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” Jesus clarified this when he said that the second commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This should be obvious to all of us that God want us to enjoy each other, each other’s opinions, and each other’s cultures. I know that I enjoy learning about other people, where they come from, and I particularly enjoy sharing a meal with them.

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. Love conquers hate, peace rises triumphant over war, and justice proves more powerful than greed. 

May God help us to realize this dream.