Walking to the Beat of the Heart With Nature Boy

Like Martin Luther, many of us love music.   I know I do.  Indeed, the appreciation of music may be the most important by-product of the ‘reason’ which separates our mortal flesh from that of the animal kingdom.

Recently, perusing the aisles of an antique mall, I came across the sheet music (original) for my single favorite song.

Its’ composer was a wanderer, known for long hair, flowing robes, and a disdain for the materialism of modern life.  He had to be hunted down to obtain the rights to record his song. (He was ultimately found camping out at the foot of the second ‘L’ in the iconic ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign)  His name was eden ahbez (all lower case at his insistence).  Ultimately he was sought after by the most powerful musical powerhouses of the time.

The haunting melody, and the fragile innocence of the lyric        has always stayed with me.   The chance discovery of it at the antique mall corresponded in time with recent passages  I have been studying in Ephesians and Jeremiah.  This timing, and the striking countenance of the composer on the cover of the sheet music helped to remind me that there is, at the design of our Creator, at least a little bit of Jesus in all of us.  Whether we know it or not, he is there…..

But...where?

Sometime ago, I heard on the radio a bluegrass song which piqued my interest.  The lyric contained the refrain that: “Jesus lives in every heart…it’s just that some of us must dig deeper into it to find him”.

To me, this speaks volumes about the current challenges to spiritual life and to truly walking in the light the Grace of our Lord shone down upon us through sacrificing his only Son for our sins.   Too many of us still cling to the false’ idols’ of wealth; pride; social stature or racial identity as we walk through life.  We forget the teachings of Ephesians, which remind us, ( however futilely) that the purpose of God in the sacrifice of his only Son was to free us from sin and to unite us mortals into one “holy temple in the Lord”.

Through the death of our sin on the Cross, we became one.  Circumcised and uncircumcised; Jew and Gentile; roving apostle and Pharisee; all have been joined in a Grace which was meant to enable us to serve and love God by loving each other.  However, (and sadly) it becomes too easy to fall back on mortal ways, classifying and sorting ourselves as ‘believer’s or no’; ‘true faithful’ or not; ‘generous’ or not.  This failing is, effectively, a relapse into the sin of pride.  Unless we listen to the music in our hearts, and heed the spirit of the Nature Boy which resides in each (and every) one of us, we will suffer the same plight as the tribes of Israel did when, as a favorite Danny Kaye song of mine goes,:  ” that village near Gomorrah got too hot for Lot.”

But back to Ephesians.  “One new humanity out of two” was the Holy purpose of the Cross.  As such, all hearts should be as one.  All praise to the Lord is of equal tone; voice; volume and melody.  The ‘timbre’ of the music the Spirit sings through our heart will be clearer than the most perfectly cast bell; more resonant than the most exquisitely tuned organ; more stirring than the deepest drum.

So, as the bluegrass lyric I referred to at the opening of this post reminds us, all we really need to do is look deep into our hearts, past the striated outer layers into the smooth tissue which contains the essence of the Holy Spirit…the pure, redeemed blood of the Christ which walked among us to teach; instruct;and inform us, and which was shed for our redemption.

As Jeremiah 9:25-26 reveals, we are doomed to perish if we are “uncircumcised in heart“.  We must peel back, i.e., ‘circumcise’  the layers of our hearts to truly see the Light of His Spirit.  If we can do this, love for one another will be relatively simple.  However open our eyes; however unplugged our ears; however uninterrupted by our tongues…. we can only really see things clearly with our hearts. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

And thus, we should close our eyes to concentrate on the message of the Nature Boy who was Jesus and hear the music of the Spirit, which may not be so deep within us as we suppose.  Peel back the layers.  Listen to the angels.

And let us love one another.

 

 

 

For those who prefer the more traditional original studio version:

For those, like me; who prefer trusting to the improvisation of the music in their hearts:

 

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Walking Your Next Mile in the Shoes of Another

Racism, homophobia, “class warfare” etc. ….

These are not so much problems as they are the symptoms of a deeper issue. As a friend in a forum I belong to so succinctly points out: “But wouldn’t it be great if instead of pushing down and trying to take from the others, we could teach ourselves to create and be something bigger?”

Whatever your faith or religion, it cannot be denied that Jesus articulated two basic tenets of harmony: First, that we should love our God; and second, that we should demonstrate our love for our Maker by loving each other as we do ourselves.

Those guilty of ignoring these tenets are members of every race; all ‘genders’; every political party and all religious denominations. Those who strive to enhance their self-perception and regard by noting their own ‘superiority’ via vilification of “the other” are the truly bigoted villains of a healthy society.

It will not be until the ‘second coming’ that these faults can be finally erased from the human condition.

I majored in History. I watched the live coverage of hoses and dogs being used in the South in the ’60’s. “Strange Fruit“, a tale of lynching sung by Billie Holiday, is my favorite song by her. I do not see how anyone can be homophobic about a genre of personalities that include Somerset Maugham and Cole Porter.

Ever seen the films Traffic or Colors?   These powerful depictions of the folly of “otherness” address the basic issue more aptly than any focus group or sensitivity curriculum ever could or will.

Would that everyone could view and comprehend the message of these films. And by “everyone” I mean just that. Yes, caucasian males are the handiest whipping boys on whom to pin the badge of racism and homophobia, but again, the mindset of “otherness” is not confined to just us ‘pinkish prudes’. I note, from personal experience, that:

** My mother still uses the ‘n’-word’. It is reflexive in her and unchecked by the practice of…faith. (The ‘unknown’ as “the other”)

** I’ve worked with middle-aged, well-groomed black female professionals who matter-of-factly related to me their detesting of Condoleeza Rice when she was Secretary of State. They were certain she was the concubine of the elder Bush, and afforded no weight to her obvious intelligence and acumen. (‘Accomplishment and success’ as “the other”)

** I’ve been kicked out of gay bars for having brought a female who danced a bit too flagrantly for the tastes of the attending clientele. (The ‘difficult to pigeon-hole’ as “the other”)

**I’ve been turned down for a position at a former employer who, informed me that my background and qualifications were so good, that it might be “intimidating” to the younger, female prospective co-workers. Since I was securely employed in my current position, it seemed there would be no harm or foul in indulging in excluding ‘the graying male’ (as “the other”).

**At that same large employer, I was reported to security after inserting my hand into the closing doors of an elevator after a break. The refined Jewish female I shared the car with eyed me up and down from my shoes to my straw “Max Cady” fedora. Though I wore the mandated photo ID on my shirt, it was clear she regarded me as an interloper at best, and a public menace at worst.  After disembarking and returning to my desk, I predicted to my team-mates that I would be visited by a security officer soon.  And I was. After satisfying the security officer that I was a bona fide employee, I remarked to them that “I been profiled!” A directory search and a phone call, out of courtesy to my fellow employee in the elevator, did not elicit an apology. (the assertive and ‘severe-looking’ male as “the other”)

** My own former habit of disdaining those who come to church in jeans and sweatshirts has been conquered after working with and talking with these individuals and enjoying their company and contributions. (The ‘less holy than I’ as “the other”)

I could go on for days. My point is that, without the comprehension of, and adherence to,the Golden Rule, all this crap about racism and bigotry and homophobia will continue to be exploited as the favored elements of the arsenal of power politics. ” Divide and Conquer”,…that’s the ticket!!   Always has been, and always will be.

Love yourself!!  Love your neighbor by calling out the charlatans who would divide us by demonizing the other color; the other sexual preference; the other income bracket; the other political party; the other faith.

Resist being counted as ‘sheep”  by brokers of media power and influence.   Only God Almighty can view us as ‘sheep’.  We must all let “the other” shoe drop and finally walk to our own conscience rather than to the cadence of the drums of division.  The’ Golden Rule‘ is not a high-wire.  Its’ path is wide enough for all who shun the politics of division and recognize the Holy Spirit in each  of us as children of God.