poor in spirit

Jesus says in the introduction to his Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the primary premise, and the basis of all that will follow. It is the gospel because it proclaims that those who do not deserve heaven can get in!

You may have heard that heaven is something to be earned. Many religions teach, and many people live their lives believing that we must prove ourselves to God. We may assume a kind of Darwinist view of spirituality; survival of the fittest, only the fittest, who deserve heaven, get in. Religions may teach that those who are really worthy, who pay their money, go to church and stuff like that, will enter the kindom of heaven. I’ve heard people dogmatically proclaim that there is nothing free in this life. The doctrine of karma may be like this; we get exactly what our deeds deserve. But Jesus does a reversal, he proclaims that those who do not deserve heaven can get in. This is amazing, and this is why Jesus is so radical. This is why people follow him.

This principle of Jesus means that we can come before God just as we are with no pretense. We come boldly before his throne of grace, we come to the cross for forgiveness. When we see a poor person begging beside the road they are not offering to give us something, they are asking for mercy. When we come to God we are just hitch-hikers catching a ride on Jesus. This is not my assertion or me devising an easy way, it is the rule of Jesus and the way his kingdom works. It is the way I came to God many years ago, and the way I come today.

And what is the kindom of heaven? First and most important, it is relationship with the King. Then it is being wherever he is. There is a large section on the Sermon on the Mount on my blog Ancient Path (see tab at top of page).


The least likely

The Least Likely

The teacher grabbed me by the hair of my head and shook me, lifting me out of my seat. When she let go she had a fist full of blond hair to throw away. I was seven years old, in the second grade at Lincoln Elementary school. It is difficult to recall exactly what I did to provoke this teacher. I vaguely remember using my newly acquired cuss words to her, “you ass”, “fuck”, and she just lost it. My cussing really had nothing to do with the teacher. It was a reflection of what was going on at my home. Obviously even at age seven I had some anger issues going on. I do remember what home was like that year, and I was definitely developing a juvenile anger reservoir.

During the remaining years in elementary school I didn’t get in much trouble. But in 7th and 8th grade the young hormones started to kick in and I started to act out. I seemed to choose friends who also had a large dose of anger. I engaged in various sorts of teenage deviant behavior, some of it self-destructive, like drugs. But my anger at authority probably characterized my attitude the most. The first time I was arrested at age 15, I was breaking into a school to vandalize it. At the time I was not self-conscious about my anger. But many years later looking back I realized it as the source of much of my crazy behavior.

I remember walking up the street and seeing an axe leaning against a wood pile, I grabbed it and went on up the road with no plan for it. But then I saw a beautiful white fence, the kind you might see in a painting, around a grassy field with horses grazing peacefully, and I just tore into that fence knocking it to pieces. It was sick! I didn’t even know that person who owned the fence and they had never done anything wrong to me. But I made a mess of their beautiful fence.

One morning a teacher called my house. She was crying when she talked with my dad. She said that she couldn’t face her class one more day if I was in it. My dad talked with me and straightened me out. I knew the class was a lot of fun because my best buddies were all in it together. But I had never thought of myself as the instigator of trouble.

I and my friends used to skip school and go hang out in Millcreek Canyon. Actually I have good memories of happy times living pretty carefree, kind of like Tom and Huck. We didn’t really cause any trouble, just wanted to hang out by the stream, be outside. But on one of our longer day hikes we started exploring some old mine shafts and I found a stack of dynamite. I took home about 20 sticks. Wow, what a find for a boy, this was big time! Imagine Bart Simpson with dynamite and you can get the idea. I made an attempt at the ultimate signature vandalism that could have been spectacular; blowing up the pedestrian bridge behind the school. One problem, there were no blasting caps with the dynamite so it wouldn’t go off. I tried several methods but always they resulted in the fuse just going fizz. I sincerely wished the stuff would blow, just once, like in the movies. But it did not,

THANK GOD!

I got kicked out of that school and was allowed to attend the brand new Cottonwood High School. From the first day there was something good watching over me there. The principal befriended me. I think he knew I was having problems and he asked if I wanted an afternoon job at the elementary school as janitor assistant. I did it, and it was good for me. I did nothing wrong. I just went to work every day and stayed out of trouble. There were also other adults in the school, teachers, who saw past my attitude, and treated me pretty good. And a neighborhood police officer that was kind and respectable. Sometimes I would get some unexpected praise for something artistic I had done. I got A’s in woodshop; even though I got kicked out of class more than once.

One day the principal caught me smoking behind the school. He said he would have to suspend me from school. I told him the absolute truth, my father had just left home to move in with his girlfriend and my mother would not be able to take the stress right now. I asked him to consider another option and he found a remedy without involving my mother.

A few months later, just before graduation, the principal called me into his office. He said that the Salt Lake Tribune was coming to take pictures of graduates to be published in the graduation edition. Since my name placed me near the top of the alphabetical order he asked if I would represent Cottonwood High as the first graduate in the newspaper. I was not the actual first graduate. There were many fine honorable students that the principal could have chosen to represent the school. But that good man chose me, one of the least likely, least deserving scoundrels, to receive that honor. It reminds me of the saying of Jesus regarding who gets into heaven, “Those who are first will be last but those who are last will be first.”

My life did not change immediately. But within a year I did come to Christ and then life changed a lot. I’ve never been in trouble with the law since. I’ve never vandalized anything since. I quit illegal drugs and I’ve never returned to them. I still get angry, sometimes deeply angry. But I believe I have a place to turn with that now. After 30+ years as a carpenter I’ve returned to school, and I love it! And I always show respect to my teachers. I also tutor kids who are slow readers at an elementary school. I think maybe some may be having some struggles at home.


Land of opps

California is without a doubt the land of opportunity for those with creativity and guts. In Southern California, 1963, my dad noticed there were no shoe shine boys in the town we had moved to. In all the big cities there were plenty of shoe shine boys, usually black kids standing out on a busy corner hawking their trade next to the paper boys. My dad put me up to my first job, shoe shine. He told me how to build a box to carry my waxes, brushes and snap towel. He also instructed me the right price to ask to ensure I would always get tips.

I started one beautiful Saturday morning riding my bike into town with my shine box hanging over my shoulder. I stood on a corner and didn’t have to call out or anything, men just started lining up for their shoe shine. Then I went to the car lot where my dad worked and about a dozen salesmen, including the owner, all had their shoes shined. One thing my father had neglected to instruct me on was the finer aspects of the art of shoe shining. My problem as a novice was that I would get wax above the shoes onto the people’s socks. It didn’t show much on dark socks but boy if a guy had white sox it was a mess! After a short day of work I rode my bike over to the bank and opened my first bank account. The friendly tellers seemed quite amused, but gladly made my deposit. This was really an incredible day for a ten year old boy.

I continued this Saturday job until we moved to another city a few months later. There is one thing my mother said that I will never forget. She said that one of our relatives had commented that they thought it was shameful that I would be doing that kind of job.


Boundaries, love, sacrifice

Personal boundaries are essential to all relationships; our relationship with our spouse, friends, co-workers, job, possessions, school, government, church and our God. Boundaries define the limits of our expectations, rights and responsibilities. Boundaries are necessary in relationships like skin is to our body. If I meet someone who claims to not have boundaries, who claims to have no rights and always shares everything, I run! Boundaries are an essential part of relationships.

Many popular psychology books have written on this topic but this topic is really ancient. In the Bible when God says, “You shall not,” this is a boundary. The concept of boundaries has received some bad press because of books that fail to teach the balance of self-care with self-sacrifice. And Christians may not appreciate teaching on boundaries because it seems opposed to Biblical emphasis on selfless sacrificial love. If we begin our study of boundaries with an understanding of God’s character and with common sense understanding of nature, we will see that God does have boundaries when he gives commands and that self-care is basic to all biological life.

Self-sacrifice and sacrificial giving is also an essential element of God’s character and of nature. We see sacrifice as an essential part of our physical world in many ways; every human child born into this world is born with the sacrifice of a woman who carried and gave birth to that child. When I watch birds care for their chicks there is an incredible amount of sacrifice involved to continually feed those hungry mouths. When a human parent goes to work every day to provide for his children there is sacrifice. We also see deep within our Creator the character of self-sacrifice, “For God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16). Boundaries are compatible with both self-care and self-sacrifice.

Boundaries actually help to establish the balance between self-care and self-sacrifice because when we truly care for ourselves in a healthy way, then our giving is intentional. Many of us who grew up in families where boundaries were violated will spend a lifetime trying to learn healthy love. The first boundary is a physical one; do not touch me without my permission, and do not touch others without their permission. I believe sexual purity and physical boundaries are healthy. Emotional boundaries are less easy to define but very important. We must learn the difference between our own problems and those of others. In advising Christians how to love Paul says in Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ…But each should also bear his own load” (6:2,5). This is a great balance passage teaching us what healthy love is.

Jesus as an example of balanced healthy love said, “No man takes away my life, but I lay it down of my own choice.” When our lives are being consumed by the demands of life we grow resentful. When others make demands upon us we grow resentful, we resist and we rebel. But when we truly love, we may choose to sacrifice. Most of the great things in life require self-sacrifice.


prey or pray?

“People are to be prayed upon, not preyed upon”

“We tend to use people and love things. But the rightful design is that we should use things, and love people”


2 prayers

Lord I thank you that so for today I haven’t lost my temper at anyone, offended anyone, haven’t lusted or taken advantage of anyone, haven’t been jealous or resentful; but soon I will have to get out of bed and face the day, then I really really need your help!!! :)

It is from a Franciscan Benediction…

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.



Serenity prayer- uncut

SERENITY

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

 the courage to change the things I can,

 and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it;

Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

 and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Amen

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971


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