Over a Half Century and What Have I Learned?

Dear Family,

This past May I celebrated my 71st birthday and in October I will celebrate 53 years in ministry which is cool.  So what have I learned in all that time? Am I smarter now than I was then? Actually no.  I have gotten dumber in one respect.  In my teens and early 20's I thought I had all the answers and was ready to change the world.  Now I am amazed at how much I don't know and how more there is for me to discover and learn.  Yet on the other hand I think I have learned a few things along the way that I would like to share here.  I pray you all will enjoy this and find it helpful.

The first thing that comes to mind is to follow Jesus, not man.  This may seem simple enough but I suspect for many Christianity is about following rules, a leader or church, doctrine, a feeling or something we have done.  All those within proper balance can be good at defining who we are and what we believe.  However if we wish to truly be successful Christians we must be able to follow Jesus alone, even if that goes against church, other believers, family, and so on.  Again those things can be good, but can never take the place of Jesus.  The Bible can be a guide book but it never can become the final arbiter on anything.  Always it must be the fresh voice of Jesus bringing us new understanding and revelation into his Word and a vision for our time that must prevail.  Anything else is to court legalism, and perhaps miss out on what God wants to do today.  Instead, God is leading us higher, and forward to new vistas and horizons where there are green pastures, still waters, and a Savior with open arms, welcomes all.

A second thought I have learned is to overcome evil with good.  I used to look for the devil behind every lamppost, hiding under every bed, just waiting to jump out at me and do something dastardly to me.  I would spend my days rebuking the devil, binding the spirits, kicking the devil in the rump or poking him in the eyes, telling him off in no uncertain terms, stomping on him, shaking him loose from me, quoting the word at him and then wondering why he never seemed to leave, and I seemed to be getting nowhere.  I am convinced he probably thought I put on a pretty good show which he thoroughly enjoyed and therefore wasn't about to go anywhere.  Plus he was getting a lot of free publicity and time as when I would give my "testimony" it would be about ¾ about what the devil was doing with a short couple of seconds plug for Jesus, and how he helped me.  Since then I have learned to simply to go and do what is right (because it's right) and everything works out a whole lot better without all the wars, battles, defeats, frustrations and burnout etc that were frequent results of my earlier life.  Now things go a whole lot smoother, are much more peaceful and restful and new ground and insight is being gained every day.  All is good and way, way, better than before.

A third idea is that it's okay to be me.  God doesn't make junk.  For many years I tried to live and be what everyone said I should be.  I tried being a traditional pastor, missionary, "monastic" within a Protestant religious community, newspaper editor, writer, and on the whole, seemed to fail miserably.  Why?  One very simple answer - I wasn't being me but someone else I wasn't called to be.  If God had wanted to me to be St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, he would have made be to be them.  However he didn't make me them.  He made me, me, Brother Lawrence Damien Cos (aka John W. Brown).  They all accomplished what God intended for them in their lifetimes and now it's time for me to do the same.  It is not about picking some saint and seeking to be exactly like them.  In my case I am named for three people - Lawrence for my youngest brother, Michael Lawrence Brown, who died from Aids in 1993, and who I chose to honor by taking his middle name - Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection and author of "Practicing the Presence of God (a great book that had a great influence on my life when I was still a Protestant, before I became a Catholic) and - Saint Damien of Hawaii and his call to the lepers, outcasts of his day.  Could I live exactly as any of them lived?  NO but then God is not calling me to either.  Are there things in their lives that I can glean from and try to emulate and follow in my own life and calling? You'd better believe it, and I try to everyday.  In summation, find out what you are passionate about, what is you, and then go do it - change the world.  Don't be a copycat.  There are enough spots in the world.  Be an original, an eraser, and wipe away as many spots as you can.  Leave the world a better place than when you found it.

Fourthly, and finally, there is always hope if I but pray.  Prayer can go where walls, religions, bigotry, separation and other things may keep us from going.  It can even soften the hearts of the hardest person who has sworn never to talk to us again.  Reconciliation is always a possibility, a new world dawning right at the door, and Jesus waiting to step through and establish God's rule over all the earth.  We are Jesus' hands and feet today to a lost and dying world, possibly the only ones they will ever see.  What will that Jesus look like and what will our witness be?  Will we offer food, drink, clothing, shelter, a seat in our churches and services, or will we instead slam the door shut, telling there is no room for you here, go back to where you came from.  Was Jesus to appear at our church would he find welcome?  Every time a child is abused, put in detention centers and held there Jesus is there.   Every time a refugee seeks entry into our country and is turned back Jesus is there.  Jesus says if you have done it to the least of these my brothers (family) you have done it unto me.  Where do we stand, with Jesus, or against him?

These are a few of my thoughts after over a half century and more of life and doing what I do.  I pray it has been a blessing to you all.  As always comments are welcomed and appreciated.

God Bless You All

Brother Lawrence Damien Cos