Where is the Lone Ranger?

Few are aware that there was a Lone Ranger before the recent movies portrayal of the historical figure. I say historical because the “character” and character of the Lone Ranger was not a fictional person of the thrilling days of yesteryear. The real Lone Ranger was actually inspired by the actions of an Oklahoma lawman responsible for well over 2000 and perhaps as many as 3000 arrests; a black man named Bass Reeves. As for the fictionalized “character”, played by Clayton Moore and John Hart among others the ethos of the Lone Rangerr became legend. 

Interestingly, my thoughts return to him as I look at this presidential election year. I am reminded of the strict code of ethics so integrated with the character, that even the actors attempted to live out the ethos and conduct themselves as nothing less than his characters character. Including among others that life is sacred, hence the use of very costly silver bullets rather than cheap lead. That all men are truly created equal and that all have within himself the ability to live up to Gods intended designs. Sometimes it’s up to us as the children of God to help bring out the goodness within our fellow man. We should fight the good fight, not because it can be won, but because it is the right thing to do. 

But I see these many politicians running for office doing all manner of thing and saying anything bombastic to make headlines and remain in the public eye, but very little if anything to serve the better nature of man. I am not expecting these would be presidents to adopt the ethics and modus operandi of the Lone Ranger, but perhaps I am saddened to realize that I can’t expect it even if I should. The system of politics I live in is burdened by policy all action groups, lobbyists and campaign monies that would sway even the most stalwart of Americans. There may well be good if not great politicians out there, but the mud slinging and hatred and sheer vitriol carelessly thrown at one another is indicative of the way they view their fellow American too. If you are willing to demonizes and denigrate the caharacter of your opponent to win a seat of power, what will you do to is not competing with you? In other words, if you are willing to strike blows on the mighty what more will you do to the weak? The mighty can strike back and you risk injure and you strike anyway. But the weak, what can they do?

God looks at us and I have to believe he shakes his great head in disgust at how we treat one another. Did he not say love ye one another as I have loved you? Treat one another as you would be treated? Brothers, dwell together in unity? 

Where is the Lone Ranger in that? 

So… What did YOU find?

According to a friend of mine, there are no good partners out there to be had. They all eventually leave, abandon, and go astray from my friends side. Therefore all partnerships are doomed to fail from the off and must be viewed at the outset with skepticism and a critical eye. My friend complained that the current relationship was repeating a lifelong pattern of abandonment and was at a loss for what to do.

I was stunned at my friends dismay and said to myself that I needed a sign on how to offer advice. I didn’t need to wait long.

Enter Sunday morning service. The pastor is discussing many interesting passages of faith learning. Not one scripture was given priority over another; somewhat unusual for him. Typically, his sermons are focused and raw from several supporting Words from The Lord. But on this day, I felt like the Holy Spirit had led him to speak from many passages because his flock had many issues, no one like the parishioner next to her or him or them. At one point he said something that spoke to me. He touched on Matthew 6:33 and I knew then I was heart from The Lord. Then later I returned to my friend and noticed others had spoken a prophetic word as well. They said things like, “.. I’m sorry this happened to you… How will you go on?… Maybe you need to go to other places to find relationship if the same dry well you return to is stagnant and reeking with the same funk of the others…” But one stood out to me and said that perhaps a spiritual journey was in order. The one said that with a spiritual journey inner peace might yet be found.

I was elevated immediately and entered the conversation. I said to my friend that it is a great idea to have a spiritual journey. It needn’t be anything formal. It could simply be a walk amongst the dusty stacks in a local library. Or a short jog down a well used hiking path nearby. Or perhaps a quiet moment or two taken for self reflection in a favorite reading nook somewhere. But whatever path taken, the journey was ultimately a path to peace. A path that would begin with a spiritual journey because only with inner peace could outer peace be found. Peace in life and relationship.

My point was this:

God is in us. God is peace. God is love. God desires relationship with us. By seeking Him, we find peace which is the essence of love. By going a spiritual journey that begins with one small step, we are seeking God.

…. Seek ye first, the kingdom of heaven….

The spiritual journey is a path to peace that is seeking God. God is within us if we could be still and listen closely enough to hear Him. The spiritual journey is seeking God and finding him inside you and thereby finding peace and ultimately love. We find love where we seek it. We find peace where we seek it.

On a macro scale, we find only what we seek.

Recall Star Wars. Yoda directed Luke to enter the grotto. Luke grasped his weapons. Yoda chided him saying he would not need them, knowing he would only find what he brought in there with him. If Luke brought anger, fear, envy, weapons, all the things Yoda was attempting to turn Luke away from, those are what he would find. And indeed he did. He found Darth Vader and within he found himself.

That’s fantasy. But there is a great truth in it.

We tend to find most readily the things we are searching for the most earnestly. If we are seeking peace, we shall find it, sometimes serendipitously. If we seek war, we shall find it. If we seek negative folk. Criminals. Love. We will find it all.

Consider for a moment my own story: I was in need of an automobile and had loved the Mini Cooper as a concept but wasn’t sure if it was a good vehicle. But once I set my heart on seeking it out as a path to transportation, I suddenly noticed just how many are on the streets. I expect they were there all along, but it wasn’t until I was taking due notice of them. Focusing on them. Journeying toward the ultimate purchase of a used one, that I noticed them and how many there were. My point is I sought them and they suddenly were plain to me. I was aware they existed but wasn’t seeing them until I looked for them.

For my friend, I suggested that by seeking what was desired most in relationship, the spiritual inner journey must take place first. Why? Because by knowing love and peace within it would be that much easier to recognize peace and love without. Not to be fooled or drawn in to a relationship with one who isn’t loving or kind but is instead a user and abandoner.

Seek… And ye shall find.

Oh, Ye of Little Religion

Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, it has been said, is the most segregated time in America. It is a time when the people of Christendom gather with other like minded folk of Christendom and enter into common union. A time when folk look to hear a Word, break bread, and drink of the cup. Gather to accept a new life. Perhaps cast off an old life and accept the new.

By and large, it’s also a time when they focus less on faith and more fully on religion. Therein lays the sadness.

First the Word.

Matthew 8:26, 16:8, 6:30, 14:31…. All of these passages describe a moment in people’s lives when they require dependence on something or someone greater than they. There is a time in all our lives where we look to people or things for assistance and there is nothing wrong with it. You sometimes need a car when the distance is long. A library when you need an answer. A friend when the day is hard. A hammer when facing a reticent nail. No one does it all by themselves. Even the most strident individualist must use assistance of some kind at some point.

That’s the world.

Spiritually the help becomes less tangible and perhaps a bit more grey area. And that is just where the disciples were in these passages. Y’know I do believe many of us are there today too. We too need help, aid or assistance and look to something that is greater than we to solve it.

So what did Jesus do? He said go to the temple and petition the rabbis. Right? No.

He said hire a catering company if you need food. Right? No.

He reminded them in five words that man can fail but faith never does. He said not to focus effort on the solutions of the world but of the eternal. He said, in essence, let go of your expectations of the world. He said not to run to the comfort of religion but instead grasp onto the strong hand of faith. How do I arrive at this?

Because He did not say “…oh, ye of little religion…”.

The world was then and is now already full of various religions. In my opinion religion is the great divider, not uniter. We find more ways to divide, separate and segregate from one another in the name of religion than one might think possible. We have each and every one of us formed our own idea of what is the “correct” way to supplicate and request and praise and honor God. My way. Your way. His way. Her way. Their way. And there is always something wrong with someone else’s way. Divide.

No, there was quite enough religion, thank you.

But faith. That was sadly lacking. That IS sadly lacking.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It is the inspiration for pressing on when “common sense” says to stop. To climb that last hill. Ride that last mile. Apply for that last job. Ask that woman or man to marry you. Believe that it’s gonna be alright when you are done. That is faith. Faith is what encourages. Strengthens. Bolsters. And fuels the spirit for one last go.

Let me ask those of you: When you drive a car to work, you check road conditions on tv? Okay. So do I. But then do you walk the route? Call the sky-cam team and double confirm the report? Check social media for its input? Consult the polls for the latest results in infrastructure funding to be sure that monies went to the pothole you saw yesterday and aren’t sure was fixed last night? Then do you call the department of transportation to verify that all traffic signals and painted lines are in place and as they should be? No? Why not? Because you have a form of faith called trust that the road conditions, other drivers, and your own skills at driving will allow you safe passage to work.

I’m not saying that no chair will ever fail you, but it is highly unlikely that you take no seat without first checking the engineering reports by its designer and subject it to a load test to assure it will support your weight. No. You don’t. I’m sure of that. What you do is take it on faith that the chair will be fine with you on it or under someone else.

I would submit that if you have more religion than faith, you are not necessarily living as Christ hoped for his followers. I say that He led with the hope that Christians who would profess to love Him would be less dogmatic in religion and more comforted by faith.

I believe that those who cast off the shackles of religion as the source of faith and instead embrace the freedom of faith as the inspiration of our religion are the happiest and most complete people of God you’ll meet.

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Fear

It goes something like this:

A young warrior awoke from yet another nightmare with a raging pain in his belly; a remnant of his dream. Confused as to the source of the pain, he consulted his father. “Father,” he began. “Night after night I have the same nightmare. It is of two wolves within me. They fight incessantly. Why do I have this dream? What does it mean?”

The father replied that these two wolves are representations of his warring emotions. Extremes, they represent, one for each. Love. And fear. His father continued by explaining that they will always be there, fighting for all time. The young warrior asked, “Which one will ultimately win the battle?” The father answered, “Why, the one you feed.”

Such is the essence of fear. The extreme and polar opposite of the great emotion and desire of most. Love.

For most of us fear begins the first day someone asks us to do or say something that we are unsure we can do or say. Stretching ourselves beyond our known abilities can be very frightening. But never more so than when we attempt a new feat called standing. Stand up on those rubbery appendages called legs and walk to mama. Stand to and give a report to the class about your research findings. Relearn to walk after your knee replacement surgery is complete.

One thing I have learned over my life is that fear tends to not be what you know but what you don’t know. The things you are aware of, but unaware of its potential. We tend to fear things and people that are beyond our control and influence.

Death is an unknown that we are very aware of, but know nothing about. ‘…Oh, death where is your sting?..’ the writer says. The sting is not in the actual death. Not even on the pain of it’s coming. Oh, sure, it may hurt the one experiencing it. But once it happens, what are you going to feel? I mean really? So the sting lays in its destructive aftermath. The experience for those who are left behind. The loss. The not knowing if you went up or down, if you believe in either of those. The fear is not knowing how to go on without the one who is lost. Fear and pain seem inextricably tied to one another as old friends.

So what do we do? Should fear be fought against? Perhaps even denied it’s very existence? Starved of its sustenance if you will? Science tells us we have the fight or flight instinct. When faced with a fear inducing event we have two choices, they say. To fight it. Or flee from it. What we haven’t been told, I believe, is there’s a third option: work with it.

But does it work?

In the latest Avengers movie, the heroes asked Bruce how he was able to defeat the Hulk within. How did he control his anger? He said simply that he was always angry. He learned how to operate WITH his angers and fears. His achievement was not to fight himself but to learn to live with himself. He grew to accept that anger was a part of his psyche. As such, it was healthier and ultimately more beneficial to learn the new normal while embracing his anger.

But that is a movie. How can a movie possibly be a truth teller?

Glad you asked.

There was a sermon I was witness to once. The essence of that sermon was we must learn to embrace the fears we have. Become intimate with them. We really need to learn to get to know the fears name. Where it came from. What it likes for breakfast. How old it is. What school did it go to. You get the picture.

The idea is not to hide from our fear spot or shelter in our happy spot any more than Bruce ran from his angry spot. By embracing our fears we eliminate its crippling power.

Recall the story at the beginning of this blog. The warring wolves. Ask yourself: Which would you feed?

If you feed only the fear wolf it will grow stronger. Offer nourishment to the love wolf and it will grow stronger. But if you feed both, both will continue to serve you. Fear is inescapable. It is part of the human experience and needed for survival and recognition of the unknown dangers lurking around the corner. Fear will save us as readily as love has since love first carried us through. So why seek to crush the very wolves that must be there and have been there for us all our lives?

I would argue that fear must be embraced (with all apologies to Master Yoda) as much as love must be. It is within our base character to act within ourselves. We are humans and capable of great things. Love and fear are simply a part of the human experience.

I submit that if you wish to conqueror your fears, you are already on the wrong foot. Seek to embrace your fears. Just as you have embraced your loves. Be as intimately relational to the fears you carry as your loves. You should know your fears going and coming. Know how far it will push you and make you react oddly.

For let’s face it, unmitigated fear makes us do weird things.

But that is usually because we have not tried to work with our fears.

A child may ask how can you do this and how can you do that? That looks so scary. It’s not because you’re so much better or wiser or stronger than your fear. But because you’ve learned that by holding fears hand and saying its gonna be ok. We can do this. Fear looks back at you and says ‘.. It’s Ok. I got you if you go too far.’ I’ll leave you on this.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Traveled a lot. It’s said that when he would return home he would take his youngest daughter up in his arms and place her on top of the refrigerator. He would then urge her to leap into his arms. Time after time she would refuse saying she was too afraid to jump. Then the day came she took her fears with her.

Dr. King placed her high as usual and urged her again. This time she closed her eyes.

And jumped.

And her father caught her.

And Dr. King said ‘… You’ve just made the most important decision of your life. You jumped. And trusted that everything will be ok when you land.’ She learned that but trusting her fears to not take her beyond her limits. Her fears to keep her safe. The love of her father to catch her. That when she trusted her loves and fears in equal measure

She then knew that she was gonna be ok. And so will you.

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