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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Prayers for Carol Ruth

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“Turn Your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Hey everybody, one of my best pals from high school days is having a health crisis.  She has spent 3 days in ICU fighting a virus.  We would appreciate your prayers; if you are not a prayer person, just set aside a moment to wish my friend a speedy recovery.  Her name is Carol Ruth and she lives in Sunbury, Pa.  She loves Jesus, so here’s a message from Chris Tomlin for Carol Ruth.

grace that’s amazing

 

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“Pretty danged froggy.  Better than I deserve to be.”

As a teenager, I worked with my grandfather on his farm.  One of his hired hands, Bill, several years older than me, was a simple sort of fellow with a wisdom far beyond his age.  When someone asked Bill how he was doing today, he always replied, “Pretty danged froggy.  Better than I deserve to be.”

Isn’t that true for most of us in recovery?  We haven’t won awards for civic accomplishments, we failed in our relationships, and we certainly missed the “citizen of the year” bus.  But, for reasons beyond our understanding, grace and mercy were extended to us, we latched on to a miracle, and our lives were transformed.

“Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”

UNSHACKLED 2

 

I love you !

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.

love emoji

When was the last time you arose in the morning, went into the bathroom, stared at your reflection in the mirror, and looked into your eyes saying, “I love you; you are worthy of joy, peace, contentment, happiness, prosperity, and fulfillment?”

Whaaat? You have never said that?  Aw, c’mon, surely you look at those big, beautiful eyes and say, “Hey there, good-looking, I love you.”  Must I also assume that you don’t believe you are going to do great things and become the man/woman whom you have always wanted to be?

So, let me understand the start of your day.  You just stumble out of bed, throw the spouse out the door, kiss the cat and pour a cup of go-go juice, sit down and read the newspaper, get pissed off and stagger into the bathroom hating the world.  You do your morning nature call, slather on some smell-good stuff and turn on the TV.  Your favorite morning hosts are interviewing the latest sex pervert, forecasting a 3 day torrential rain, and predicting the stock market is about to crash.  Your sister calls and screams you are a nitwit because you forgot her dog’s birthday and little Johnny across the street has just pulled your prized begonia to take to school for show and tell.  Wow, have a great day!

Now, back up.  Climb into bed, pull the covers up over your shoulders, and set the snooze alarm for 8:30.

Ahhhh! What a wonderful night’s sleep I had.  Thank you Lord for giving me another day in your perfect world.  Streeeeetch those legs and arms.  Ahhhh, deep breaths, fill those lungs with the glorious scent of the gardenia outside the bedroom window.  Look around the room.  The beautiful family photos on the dresser.  The lovely quilt which Grandma crafted 80 years ago.  The old wooden rocking chair in the corner.  Now, off to the bathroom to splash some cold water in my sleepy eyes.  Rinse my mouth with refreshing minty mouthwash.  Look into the mirror at the Lord’s perfect example of me.  Those beautiful eyes.  Stare into them, they are amazing, are they not?

“I love you.  You are worthy.  You are wonderful.  You are perfect.”

God says that to you every minute of every day.  So, who are you to dispute and disagree?  Oprah starts her day with that routine and we all know that Oprah has all her bases covered.  So, pleeeease, you have lost the argument.  God and Oprah cannot both be wrong.  You are worthy of love, especially from yourself.  And when you love yourself, others will find you interesting, attractive, and…..worthy.

There’s that word ‘worthy’ again.  For the first 35 years of my life I was the lowest scum on earth, the dirtiest of the filthy, the most sinful of the sinners, the vilest of the vile, the most unworthy of the unworthy.  And that was just my personal opinion of myself.  I didn’t dare venture out into the brotherhood of decent folks living happy, fulfilled lives.  Only the Lord knows what they thought of me.

Today, I am claiming the parables of the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the lost sheep.  (LUKE 15:1-24) The Lord of my life never gave up on me.  Patiently he swept the floors looking for his lost coin, he searched the fields for his errant sheep and when multiple addictions had beaten me to a pulp, God ran down the highway to meet me, threw his arms around my neck, kissed me and said, “Welcome home, son.  I have always loved you and I have been looking for you.”

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’  And they began to be merry.”  LUKE 15: 22-24

Loved – just as I am.  Worthy – just as I am.  Perfect – just as I am.  Today, the reflection in my mirror has kind, loving eyes looking back at me with optimism and hope.
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