truth

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.

truth

Do we know what truth is?  In today’s worldly rhetoric, truth has become a relative concept.  Truth depends on circumstances, truth is shaped by one’s environment, truth  can be bent to fit one’s personal ambitions.  We are told that trusted news sources are untruthful and mankind is not inherently honest.  Political views are castigated by those professing a different truth, spiritual bearing is challenged by sects who claim theirs is the only truth.  So, the question is, “How do we know truth?”

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  Buddha

Must we search?  Should we read scriptures?  Do we need to find a spiritual guru?  The Buddha says the sun and the moon cannot be hidden for long.  We know this to be truth because, when we look at the heavens, there we see the sun and the moon.  That fact is evident, it is obvious.  The  Buddha also says truth cannot be hidden.  It is as evident and as visual as the sun and the moon.

In the tradition of Buddhism, a path is offered.  It is called MAGGA, the eight-fold pathway to enlightenment:

  1. right understanding
  2. right thoughts
  3. right speech
  4. right action – nonviolence
  5. right livelihood – nonviolent
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration – meditation

We should note that none of the eight-fold path involves deeply secretive, spiritual practices to finding enlightenment or truth.  It is totally a manner of lifestyle which we undertake to the best of our abilities.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

This directive set forth by Jesus of Nazareth is clearly specific.  Know the teachings and lifestyle of the human manifestation of Christianity’s God, follow that example known as “the Way” as best as humanly possible, and we shall know the truth.  Hallelujah!  Truth is not relative to circumstances or environment.  It cannot be manipulated or bent to one’s personal needs and desires.  Truth is attainable by adherence to a lifestyle of love and compassion directed toward others, to ourselves, and to the Earth itself.  It will be as evident as the sun and the moon in our skies.

“Watch out for false prophets.  They will come to you in sheep’s clothing , but inwardly they are as ferocious wolves.”Matthew 7:15

It is our mission to share our truth.  When attuned to the spiritual presence which defines each of us, we are able to share and communicate in a kindly manner the truth which has set us free.  Jesus and the Buddha in us will always portray as  non-violence in thought, word, and deed.

 

 

CANDLE

 

 

 

 

 

meditation

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“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God……..”  from Step 11 of ” TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, Alcoholics Anonymous

Did we ever meditate when we were drinking or drugging?  Probably not too much.  My meditative thoughts encompassed the vintage of my bottle of wine and whether I had enough to get a good buzz.  Oh sure, sometimes when suffering a debilitating hangover I would meditate on why I was such a weak person unable to control my drinking and enjoy alcohol like my non-alcoholic friends.  That process usually ended with me saying, “Oh, what the hell,” as I headed to the liquor store for the next round of fortification meditating on whether it would  be Colt 45 beer, Cutty Sark scotch or a few bottles of Chablis or all three.

Seriously, for most of us newly sober drunks, meditation was something only the Buddhist monks did while chanting.  It was a new and foreign activity which did not come naturally.  But, we tried, we practiced, and we did not give up until some results were realized.  I learned to appreciate the fleeting peaceful moments and the clarity of thought following 10 minutes of meditation.  I knew that something within was being manifested which I had never known before.  Not sure if it was a God thing or mind manipulation, I nevertheless pursued this newly discovered tool of sobriety because it often countered the insanity and chaos filling my head.

Many years later meditation and prayer are mainstays of sobriety happening sometimes in the quiet of a darkened room, sometimes under a bright blue, sunny sky, often in a straight back chair listening to soothing music such as that of classical masters, and occasionally chanting with the Buddhist monks on YouTube.  I have also done meditative walking.  Now that’s a trip which can transport a person out of this universe within less than a mile of step-ping, step-ping, step-ping.  For me the variety of settings prevents the repetition which can lead to boredom and mental distraction.

I am by no means an expert.  However, when I learn a new habit which enhances my sense of wellness, I try to incorporate that habit into a daily routine.  As with all experiences in sobriety, I pursue spiritual growth rather than perfection.  When I was searching for the “proper” way to meditate, I tried to emulate those whom I saw sitting in lotus position straight-backed and legs crossed.

“Oh no”, my body said, “we cannot sit that way.”

Feet firmly on floor, sitting alert in a straight back chair, with hands opened upward in my lap is my position of choice.  The position is not set in stone.  Other meditative trekkers have different approaches.  For me it is not the body position, the mantras or the music that matters.  It is where we go, God and I, during that time of quietness and introspection.  It is what God and I accomplish during that half hour of communion.  How’s your good heart today?

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no longer strangers

NAMASTE

 

 

LUKE 15:11-32

The PRODIGAL SON in the book of Luke in Christian scripture is undoubtedly my favorite of the parables taught by Jesus.  It is my story.

I was raised within the love and protection of a community of hearty, salt-of-the-earth farmers.  Their lives were dedicated to raising families and raising crops.  Very simple needs, even simpler desires.  I often have reminisced that we were the prototype for the “Waltons” of television fame.  Indeed, it is true.  My extended family of great-grandparents, grandparents, mother and two aunts lived in an early 1900s house with 9 upstairs rooms which could be used as bedrooms when necessary.  During the years previous to my arrival in 1947, the household consisted of numerous children and a full live-in housekeeping staff plus an assortment of farm-hands.  During the harvest season Mammy (my great-grandmother) assisted by her daughters prepared a lunch table groaning with several meats, 2 or 3 potato dishes, vegetables fresh from the garden and at least 4 pies for dessert.  They fed 6 to 12 hungry men.  As was customary, the women folk ate after the men had finished.

But it was a hard life.  I was earning a wage by the time I was 12 years old, had after-school chores, and during the summer worked long days in the fields as well as helping to tend the cattle, pigs, and chickens.  It was a very hard life.  I determined early in my youth that I was not going to be a farmer.  When my friends from town came to visit they were awed by my lifestyle.  I, on the other hand, was envious of their freedom to join social groups and participate in extracurricular school activities.  They enjoyed the farm chores which to me were onerous.

Church attendance was mandatory.  Through the eyes and ears of this thirteen year-old, the preaching was ominous and the threats of a punishing God were overwhelming.  I finally accepted that anything which felt good was probably a sin.  When I turned sixteen I was no longer required to attend services or participate in my family’s religious tradition.  When I turned seventeen, one of my multiple addictions had already consumed much of my life and another two, smoking and drinking, kicked in with a vengeance.  By nineteen I was fully controlled by substance and behavior addictions.

My grandfather, who raised me as his own son, offered me his farm.  I ridiculed the offer saying that no way in hell was I going to be a farmer.  Fifty-two years later I am still haunted by the look of rejection on his face.  We never recovered that father-son relationship.  My last remembrances of him are of a sickly man sitting in his favorite chair which offered a view of the highway.  Reading his Bible he would look up to see who was driving by.  Sometimes it would be the community’s undertaker, a solemn man named Lawrence.   Looking at me with his clear blue eyes, Grandpa would quip in his Dutch accent, “Well, maybe next time Lawrence will be coming for me.”

I had an idyllic upbringing and a wonderfully simple life surrounded by people who loved me.  But, I thought something was missing.  I thought that those city folks living in the midst of glitz and excitement were offering a dream which my community and my family’s traditions could never provide.  And at age nineteen I chased after that dream.

Drinking, smoking, drugging, and carousing assured me that finally this farm boy had arrived.  Life was going to be grand and lavish.  Partying every night, trashing relationships became the norm and for a few years I loved it.  Never looked back on what had been sacrificed.  Lost my job because of drinking, failed college because of my drinking, destroyed a military opportunity because of my drinking…..”Aw what the hell?  That wasn’t the life I wanted anyway.”

Then the blackouts began.  The car wrecks, the addiction-imposed poverty, the broken promises to friends and family stirred within me memories of a much simpler life, a life of hard work, joy, and focus.  Like the prodigal in the book of Luke, I asked myself if I could go back home.  Could I return to age sixteen and redirect?

Of course my answer was no.  The farm had been sold, my family was cautious of their wayward son, no eligible prospects for a relationship wanted to take a chance with me, and my faith walk had virtually dead-ended.  I was spiritually, morally, and physically bankrupt.  I was a broken man at age 34 with no hope for redemption.

With nothing to lose except my wretched life, I arrived in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Something about those AAers sparked hope within me.  Their message of sobriety through a Higher Power and a fellowship with kindred sober-living drunks offered a glimpse of a new life through recovery.  I latched on to the enthusiasm and promise which I discovered in those rooms and held on to it for dear life.  Unspeakable joy interspersed with debilitating depression controlled many of the early days getting sober.

My Father welcomed me with open arms as if we had never separated.  He told me that those arms were wrapped around me all of the 17 years spent in the far country.  I finally understood that God walked that trek every step of the way protecting and loving me while patiently waiting for me to return.  The parable of the Prodigal tells me that Father was overjoyed to have me home.  He prepared a feast and a celebration for my return.  The celebration continues.  We are no longer strangers, I have come home.smiley 3

 

 

 

worthy of all praise

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

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Listening to great music from contemporary artists and the masters of classical works has the capacity to soothe and encourage.  Sitting in a chair in the stillness of a quiet nook, my world is transformed from one of agitation and discontent to the truth of knowing without reservation that God is, always has been, always will be.  Music such as Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Our God” confirms that others experience this same peace and awe in the presence of a Greater Power, one which defines for us compassion, acceptance, and love.  Unconditionally!

I cannot temper my feeble attempts to be Christ-like with earthly conditions for extending or withholding God’s indwelling spirit.  I cannot deny anyone the directive of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself.  The color of skin, the ethnicity, the creed, the political affiliation, the sexual persuasion, the gender, and the theology of another brother/sister cannot be a determinant for sharing the grace of God which was freely given to me.

Most of us, especially me, are often conflicted by this wisdom from a gracious God.  If you are white like me, male like me, Christ-follower like me, Democrat like me, and peace lover like me, then it is not difficult to also be Christ-like.  My perfect world is one in which no disagreement or contention exists.  My perfect world would also be totally black or white, right or wrong, moral or immoral, no shades of color filtering into it.

That, fortunately, is not God’s world.  The God, which I know today, knew from the beginning that we would be a broken species fraught with discontent, envy, jealousy, anger, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and “isms” of all descriptions.  Yet, God loved us enough to give us messengers in human form who showed us how to evolve into the humanity with whom He would be pleased.  I don’t have to pursue this transformation without instruction manuals.  Each of our great religions have presented to us a path to follow which leads to enlightenment.

Enlightenment is not some mysterious element in a future eternity.  It is not something to be attained by sustained adherence to rigid rules of morality.  No, enlightenment is the discipline of practicing and sharing here and now in this lifetime the same mercy and grace which is freely available to every soul on earth.  In this quiet space of the soul, a corner of absolute connection to Spirit, there are no distinctions, no fears, no judgements.  We all are one with the great Oneness whom some name Allah, some name Krishna, some name Yahweh, and some name God.  The name we call  upon doesn’t matter.  The heart we share does.  How’s your good heart today?

CANDLE

 

 

“WAGON TRAIN”

larry6My keyboard has been inactive recently.  My mind has not been able to wrap itself around spirituality or sobriety in writing.  It’s not a depression which I am feeling nor a sense of disconnect.  I see this as a time of self-appraisal.

I was a huge fan of the TV series “Wagon Train” many years ago.  Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams led his trekkers across the plains to a new life following the Civil War years.  He was the essence of wisdom and patience.  Many dangers threatened the wagons and their occupants during the months-long trip.  Whenever the hostile natives appeared atop the surrounding hills, Major Adams would signal the wagons to circle and form a defensive front to fight the attackers.

That describes me today.  I’m circling my emotional wagons in anticipation of difficult times ahead.  My focus remains on my Lord, my sobriety continues to be a mainstay of life, but, as David lamented in the Psalms, my enemies surround me and appear to be preparing an attack.

Some of those enemies are real and imminent.  One is declining health associated with aging.  The oomph disappeared several years ago being replaced by aches and pains.  Today, upon reminiscing over accomplishments of the 45 year-old me, I am truly amazed that I had the energy and capacity to do those things.  My focus now is fighting off the numerous maladies which are inherited gifts of DNA.  If I allowed it, I could easily wallow in those things over which I have no control.  I would do well to embrace the “serenity to accept the things which I cannot change.”

Another pervasively disturbing realization is that my idealistic world view is not shared by all of humanity.  Many of my species do not want peaceful co-existence nor spiritual enlightenment.  Many do not uphold the value of each human experience nor the equality of all human beings.  Seriously, I question what Pollyanna world I have lived in for much of my life.  Until recently I have imagined that the entire world dreamed of world peace and brotherhood just as I do.

So, I circle my wagons.  I know that I am not alone, that I have Major Adams to console and calm me, that I have other trekkers crossing the plains to share my ideals.  But, those enemies of a life which we hold dear to us are on the hilltop horizons with tomahawks ready to scalp and arrows ready to pierce.  They despise our ways, they want to destroy our values.  They disguise themselves as world leaders and church leaders, as politicians, as patriots, as sheep.  Beware!

MATTHEW 7:15

“WAGONS HO!”

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flowers

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”orange tree

Like a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent,
are the fine but fruitless words
of those who do not act accordingly.
But like a beautiful flower, full of color and full of scent,
are the fine and fruitful words
of those who do act accordingly.

from FLOWERS,  the Buddha

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We are encouraged in our faith walks and recovery programs to “walk the talk”.  Scriptures and rhetoric flow easily off the tongues of many religious and political leaders only to be sadly contradicted by actions which betray their words.  From the pulpits and the podiums flow endless streams of righteousness and exhortation but their eloquence produces no discernible spiritual fruit.

In these tumultuous times of hatred and vitriol spewing forth from politicians, clergy, and fellow citizens, many of us find our spiritual foundations rocked with a gut-wrenching desire to join in the melee of harshness and discord.  In a heartbeat, in a moment of anger, I can become as evil and slanderous as the worst of the worst seen in the newspapers or on the viewing screens.  In a fit of righteousness I can charge, judge, and condemn the most vocal offenders of my life’s philosophy.  I deem myself omnipotent. It is then that I immediately become a part of the problem and not a promoter of the solution.

Talk is cheap.  However, walking the talk is a never-ending endeavor which separates men from boys, wise from foolish, sheep from goats.  The Buddha attained nirvana following a path of selflessness and principled living.  Jesus and his disciples established a kingdom on earth led by the principles of “the Way.”  Gandhi won liberation for his people through non-violent dissent.  Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted non-violent protest as the vehicle to attain civil rights for African-Americans.  They all walked their talk.  Each of them was a peacemaker.

That also is my challenge in this life.  I shall probably never attain greatness or recognition, but I can always strive to lace my thoughts, speech, and actions with mindfulness and compassion.  I want the flowers of my life to be sweetly scented and fruitful.  Engaging in and wallowing in hatefulness and vitriol is not an option.  Filling my head with the latest scandal from media talking heads does not encourage enlightenment.  Ancient wisdom teaches that what  blossoms in the mind is who we are as a humanity.  Fruit or thorns?  Peace or strife?  Compassion or oppression?  It truly begins within each of us.

NAMASTE

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men who dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

“What we need in the United States is not division, what we need in the United States is not hatred, what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, feeling of justice to those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”  Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4th, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy

RFK was assassinated 63 days later.

MEMPHIS: 4/3/1968

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(Following are the final paragraphs of Dr. King’s famous speech, “Been to the mountaintop.”  For the full text follow this link MOUNTAINTOP )

“………You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up.

The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital.

They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

“Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

“While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us.

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The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”