time to change!

diversity

Feeling pretty good today?  We should be.  You and I are worthy of joy and peace.  The insanity of past behaviors, whether addictions or severe character defects, has been conquered by the One we name as Higher Power.  Victorious and serene in recovery.  That’s a miracle we can take to the bank.  It’s ours, undeserved and unmerited.  Embrace it and run the marathon of life with it.  God wants to love us and live within forever.  What could be better?

HALLELUJAH!

fireworks 2019

Our freedom from self and the ravages of “self-will run riot” has been freely given.  But that salvation is not without responsibility.  I know “pay it forward” is an overused cliché, but it applies.  What has been freely given to us needs to be extended to the earth upon which we live and all its life forms.  Eastern faith walks extend a greeting of “NAMASTE” to others.  It means “I honor the divine in you.”  Let’s honor the divine element existing in all of Creation.

……as we read in Matthew, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (25:40). Our only addition is to suggest that the least of the family members must include, in our time, the other creatures of the earth and even the planet itself. (1)

richard rohr

(Richard Rohr is a friar of the Franciscan order ministering in Albuquerque, New Mexico and founder of Center for Action and Contemplation.) 

The Christian season of Lent is a time when we are urged to take time to consider our lives and slow down the world’s hectic pace.  It is a time to recognize behaviors and habits which hinder our spiritual growth and then assume an attitude of repentance.  As a headstrong young man, the word repentance represented a moral issue (usually sexual) which needed to be adjusted.  As a happier, better adjusted old man I define repentance as change.  Lord knows I’ve dealt with far too many issues during my lifetime with man’s interpretations concerning morality and righteous living.  Change suits me better.  I like change.

Metanoeo is the Greek word translated into English as repent as spoken by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 – “….Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The Greek definition of metanoeo is “to think differently, reconsider.”  That puts a vastly different connotation in John’s exhortation to the gathering crowds awaiting baptism in the waters.  Now, repentance means a change in thinking, reconsidering my worth in God’s world, assuming my place and purpose in God’s creation.  It no longer suggests a moral dilemma needing correction in the face of hell and damnation consequences.

Do we need to reconsider or change our attitude and thinking about the world in which we live, the people with whom we share this world, the creatures other than humans, the earth’s resources, other men/women who appear to be different from us in color, creed, nationality?

Probably.  Indeed, as John said, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  That kingdom is not in the future in some far-away cosmic universe.  It’s here and now knocking on the door of our soul.  Let’s open the door and live life fully honoring all of creation.

(1) CAC.ORG, 

breathe, just breathe

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

Breathe!  Inhale.  Pay attention to that breath as it filters into your lungs expanding the chest and replenishing the body with life-giving oxygen.  Exhale.  With that exhalation release the spent air along with emotional baggage, stress,  and fear.  Focus on that moment of nothingness between each breath.  Thought-less, care-free; this is you, whom God meant you to be.  Don’t go back, don’t go forward, just be now.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
praise him ye creatures here below,
praise him above ye heavenly host,
praise Father, Son and Holy ghost. Amen

Do I appreciate how sacred is the life which has been given in me?  The marvel of my body, the functions of my organs, the amazing coordination of all the parts, the depths of understanding, the inherent ability for compassion are all components of this gift which I inhabit.  Life is a gift.  Do I appreciate this unique blessing flowing from an indescribable, indefinable Oneness, the energy which I call God?  Breathe, just breathe.

This is the Christian season of Lent.  Slow down, contemplate, meditate, ponder, sacrifice and prepare for receiving the greatest gift given to mankind – life.  Not just a functioning physical presence, but a realization that there is more, much more than just enduring each day with resignation.  Life!  Appreciating the sounds of nature, the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of children, the voice of a lover, the greatness of Bach and Beethoven, the thrill of each new day, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the rain which refreshes and soothes…..all of it, Life.  The stumbles, the pain, the heartache of loss, the dark days of depression, the joyless times of loneliness, the fears, the journey through the valleys….all of it, Life.  It is ours to behold and cherish.  Breathe, just breathe.

Divine energy, cosmic Presence, the Giver, the Restorer, Higher Power, Comforter, Oneness, God.  With every breath accept the gift of life.  Receive that which is available to every creature, every man and woman, every butterfly.  Life. Just breathe!

in the Image

Loving self begins with reverence for life.
diversity“We are not just humans having a God experience…..in some mysterious way, we are God having a human experience.” (1)

The writings of the ancient Judaic wisdom masters have said that creation is made in the image of God.  Man, in his/her need to satisfy personal ego, seems to have narrowed this down through the ages to apply only to the homo-sapiens species.  Even further stroking personal ego, some have excluded various races as the image of God to the point where I see images of a white, Aryan, brown-haired, handsome male in flowing white robes hanging on the walls where I worship.  Sheer arrogance tells me that only those of us who fit that description have been made in the image of God.

Have I seen God?  How do I then know that I look like God? or that God looks like me?  In some mysterious way the lions, the bears, the birds, the flowers, the trees, the waters, the stars, the skies….and yes, Larry Brown, were created for God so that God could experience the joys of this creation and carry forward the creative works.  Can I wrap my brain around that?

The Christian faith enters the season of Lent today.  It defines Christ as the union of divine and human in one singular form.  When Jesus was crucified, those who follow and profess Jesus the Christ as Lord were commissioned  to continue God’s creative work on earth.  I identify today with Christianity, not because I am Christian, but because I am also part of that creative work.

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet 
with which Christs walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world. (1)

I am not here merely to enjoy life, to leave my mark, to accumulate possessions, to procreate, to eat, drink and be merry.  No!  I am here to extend to all creation the blessings of the image in which I have been created honoring the validity of all mankind, not just those who look and speak as I do.  I am here to protect the environment and cherish the beauty of nature.  I am here to extend compassion and reverence to life in all its forms.

The image set forth in Genesis is not a picture nor a manifestation which I can fathom.  It is not a look which I can aspire to attain.  It is not a presence which I can capture and enjoy.  The image is indescribable and indefinable.  But, I can live it and experience it through acts of understanding, compassion, love, and tolerance.  When I revere all of Creation and the life forms within it, I can then appreciate and love myself because I am an integral part of God’s world.  I have true purpose and direction.  I have a compass to guide me and comfort me.  I am one with the One.

(1) cac.org

 

QUIET !!!

SILENCE THE NOISE OF OTHERS; LISTEN TO YOUR OWN VOICE.

old codger

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, ought to – words that always preceded advice from folks who felt they knew better than we did concerning subjects ranging from career choices to marriage prospects to church affiliations.  They always knew better, did they not?

How long did you tolerate this type of badgering and bullying?  I turned a deaf ear early in life, but unfortunately, I had no better options than those offered to me by others.  Before me lay a long road of self-abuse during which I would have done well to listen to family and friends.  In those years I was the epitome of  ‘self-will run riot’ and I know today as an old man that Larry Brown, the young man, had serious emotional deficits and character defects.  Some people will say, “yeah, Larry, when are you going to get better, you’re still whacko?”

“I can’t hear you.  That’s right, I won’t be listening anymore to your should have, could have, would have and ought to and I am not accepting your inventory of me.”

I began to heal when I trusted the inner voice more than the outside noise.  People, especially friends and family, learned that I no longer put their theories and perspectives before my own gut and conscience because I had learned to validate myself and the Higher Power of my understanding.  We have been an awesome team facing life on life’s terms.  It’s a love affair unlike any other realized on my journey’s path.

I humbly accept the available mercy and grace quietly with gratitude.  I speak, not with braggadocio, but under an awe which transcends human words and understanding.  Millions of fellow sufferers have traveled this same road knowing that it is not an earned reward for sober-living, but a gift freely given.  It is the essence of amazing grace unleashed on a wretch like me.

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poor, poor me

devil

“I am much better, thank you.”

“What’s that you say?  Larry, were you ill?”

“No.”

“Were you in an accident?”

“No, but thanks for asking.”

“Have you suffered a loss?  Did your cat die?  Have you become homeless?  Was your home burglarized?  Did a stray dog bite you?  Was you truck stolen?  Did your best friend desert you?  Have you switched political affiliation?  Is the devil sitting on your left shoulder?”

“No, no, no.  Nothing like that?”

I awakened this morning with an attitude that could have turned sweet milk sour and sent the sun in the sky ducking for cover behind the nearest clouds.  My mindset upon crawling out of bed was one that would not be coddled by cheery verses of inspiration or a breakfast of pancakes with fresh strawberry topping.  Nope, don’t bother me.  I am going to be miserable today, mope around the house and probably take a nap before noon time.  Then I will vegetate in front of a baseball game on TV all afternoon and I will probably not get out of my pajamas until supper time.  Heck, why not just stay in PJs until bedtime?

But, I am better now, thank you.

“Why is that, Larry?”

Nobody came to my party.  Pity parties are lonely affairs with no cake and ice cream nor gaily wrapped presents.  There is no music to dance to and the conversation is boring.  I choose to slouch in the chair with my chin drooping to my knees.  Between sobs and sighs of “I am so lonely, I am so unlovable, I don’t have enough, I am stupid, I am worthless,” my pity party just drags on ad nauseam until the last bag of Cheetos is gone and all the Twinkies are history.  Bingeing seemed like a great idea, but then I hate myself for breaking my diet and being such an emotional wimp.

Sound familiar?  Well, congratulations to me.  I did not stay at my own party.  The Cheetos and Twinkies are still on the cupboard shelf.  Today I shoved all those negative thoughts into the category of drinking thinking  – “poor me, poor me, yeah why don’t I just pour poor me another drink?”

Drinking thinking is akin to stinking thinking – 1st cousins, I believe.  Both will get any recovering addict into a world of do-do if he/she doesn’t take remedial steps pronto.  Do a gratitude list, call a friend (no, not a drinking buddy), start a housecleaning project, take a walk, do some exercises, find a meeting. Sometimes just moving to a different room in the house will get us over that initial “poor me, woe is me.”

“This too shall pass.”

Fighting those negative feelings without a drink or a drug was always challenging.  We are not normal people with normal emotions, probably never will be.  It is of utmost importance to keep our battle armor nearby – a plan, a chore in which to engage immediately, an inspiring book, the list of phone numbers, an escape route from social situations that tempt.  How about the easiest of all – a prayer to the God of our understanding?  Talk to him/her/it as if you are the best of friends because, whether you believe it or not, that God always has been, always is, always will be waiting to caress you and me, hold us in loving arms and get us through the “poor me” moments.

I will walk through the valleys of darkness, because that’s what humans must do to get to the light beyond the horizons.  Our God will guide us and protect us so that we can walk fearlessly on paths of comfort and blessing.  Over that next summit is an overflowing cup of joy and peace.  Go for it!  We are worthy and loved. UNSHACKLED 2

the Search

questions

See that fellow sitting in the question mark?  That’s me now, been me 90% of my waking time and often I wonder if my sleeping time is not also consumed with questions.  You are probably the same, are you not?  It’s who we are – inquisitive and always looking for the answer.  A favorite TV commercial from years ago showed a young boy with his father sharing quality time together.  The boy’s response to everything the father did was, “Why?”

Why, why, why? Today’s internet has made answering our questions just a few key strokes away.  Google it, ask the computer assistant, go to the online encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is our guide to every query imaginable.  We have online language translators, quote sources, and 54 versions of the Bible – just a click away.

“Alexa, why am I here?”

That charming voice emanating from your device will list numerous reasons for your physical existence, biological determinants and a bibliography of further research.

“But, Alexa, who put me here?  What is my purpose here?”

Aha!  Let’s play stump Alexa, shall we?  I have asked those two questions of a multitude  of common sense people, scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, friends, lovers, and strangers.  And I have received a million differing answers.  Why?  Because nobody knows.

Theories abound, theologies are a dime a dozen, philosophies chase down bizarre dead ends, experts whimper with possibilities, but nobody knows for sure.  Men of religion profess truth, gurus and yogis sit in lotus position meditating, rabbis quote ancient spiritual wisdom, and Buddha claims he attained enlightenment.  But nobody knows for certain who put Larry Paul Brown on earth and what is his purpose here?

I can only assume my chosen path will be enlightening, that my faith is founded on truth, that my death will find me in a better place than my birth.  I can only assume that my spiritual journey will not result in a train wreck or that my inner GPS has not miscalculated the directions.

We live by faith and experience, don’t we?  Perhaps another important question to entertain is, “Whom do I trust?”

Will I trust all the aforementioned entities or will I look inward to what I have learned to be my honest assessment of me?  Will I follow the indwelling Spirit and my inherent conscience in my decisions and behavior or will I give that responsibility to the man in the pulpit, the professional counselor, my best friend, my spouse or the jolly fat man sitting under the bodhi tree?

Famously, Polonius advises his 18 year-old son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s HAMLET, ” This above all: to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day.  Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

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