Birthdays come and go; if we'll have another, we do not know. But here is advice of which I'm sure: for getting older, there is no cure. So, we should eat, drink and be merry. Eat that triple dip sundae topped with nuts and a cherry? For on this, our birthday month, I'm happy to tell I kicked the grim reaper back to hell. "Old man," said I, "you find yourself other souls, cause today it won't be us for whom the bell tolls. It's our birthday and I'm proud to say, We're gonna see another day." A GREAT BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY COUSINS, GORDY AND JOYCE, AND MY FRIEND CAROL IN PENNSYLVANIA.
The one on the left, the handsome one…..that’s me, Rocky.
There is a part two, the rest of the story that needs to be told. It’s the ugly side of humans; it’s the abuse our beloved pets suffer.
Rocky suffered seizures which began about 10 years ago after a visiting family member, in a fit of anger threw him head first into the living room wall. About 3 or 4 weeks later, Rocky had his first seizure. Traumatic for us, his humans, we cannot imagine what our cat endured. His doctor confirmed the injury-related condition and placed him on a medication, Levetiracetam. Only Jim and I, Rocky’s doctor and the perpetrator know what happened to our cat. Initially, the vet suspected us of abuse. My anger is yet to subside when I think about this dark episode.
Rocky was not a wuss. He endured several more seizures, a few in the arms of his protectors, became unsteady on his feet, fell a lot more than cats should, lost weight and finally in recent weeks became incontinent. But, we adjusted to our cherished family member’s needs. Even the puddles of Rocky pee in which we stepped inadvertently on our nighttime nature calls became accepted routine. Last Friday, however, a decision had to be made. Rocky’s front paw was just dangling from his knee joint. Apparently, he had broken it in a fall.
The image of him trying to walk on that broken paw is heart-breaking. He did not yowl or complain, just wanted us to hold him and scratch his ears.
This post is all about me. A favorite saying runs through my head today….”dogs have owners to take care of them; however, cats have staff to wait on them.” Rocky is at peace, no more seizures, no more falling. He knows he has served us well as a ‘pet’.
I, however, am not at peace. The anger, the inability to forgive Rocky’s tormentor for the abuse that happened 10 years ago is festering in my day.
Please, Lord, let me forgive and also be at peace.
Having been reared in the Lutheran Church, 1st cousin to the Catholic Church, the faith walk of President Joe and Dr. Jill as devout Catholics has greatly enhanced my trust in and respect for them as the First Family. You might ask, “Larry, why is that?”
The disappointing performance of their predecessors who tied their star to the Evangelical movement has brought down upon believers and non-believers alike a distrust of anything which reeks of religion. Of all major faiths, the Catholic Church has suffered tremendous harm over the past years for numerous reasons, most onerous of which has been sexual abuse.
Not to excuse this travesty, but to reflect upon and uphold the life-changing endeavors of many who have walked in the shoes of Jesus, St. Francis, Pope Francis, etc., it becomes necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is easy (and human) to fall into judgement of the Church, Lutheran or Catholic, while disregarding the great treasures bestowed upon society in terms of art, music, writing, and philosophy. Social justice is today the centerpiece of both faiths, the driving force in commendable ministries, personal and congregational.
Before charging all believers as pharisaical or, as I have often been labeled, a follower of an ‘imaginary’ friend, we should evaluate the path taken and the life lived as a believer. The Bible speaks of the fruits of faith. What are the fruits of the Spirit?
CHARITY, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, LONG-SUFFERING, GENTLENESS, FAITH, MODESTY, SELF-CONTROL, CHASTITY
It’s not difficult to determine, when viewing our national leaders, where they have been and what fruits they have produced. An apple tree does not produce lemons, a grape vine does not produce poisonous fruit. What lies in the wake of one’s earthly journey speaks volumes of his/her inner life. Mine was tumultuous and tortured. My moral compass was surrendered to a life of addiction. My North Star sat next to me on a bar stool.
That’s why I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to the local Lutheran Church, to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School when I was a child. Although my story became that of the Prodigal written in the Book of Luke, chapter 15, my recovery and subsequent renewal of conscience were directly the work of a loving God, the commitment of people living sober lives and, of course the dedication of parents trying to raise a decent young man.
That’s why I trust President Joe and Dr. Jill. I know personally the moral compass which they profess and the North Star which they follow.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 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. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry” LUKE 15: 20-22, 24
January, 1981, my story was changed. On that cold night in the social hall of a local church, I wasn’t looking for sobriety, I wasn’t searching for a savior to guide my life forever thereafter, I wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to become a new man. I just wanted to stop hurting, stop the pain that defined my life. What those men and women sitting at the table of my first AA meeting shared was a familiar story because I knew it well. After 17 years living the insanity of alcoholism, I was ready for a new chapter in my story, but, “Good Lord,” I cried. ‘What a tall order, I can’t do it. Living without alcohol forever. I can’t.”
Then that voice which has become so very familiar answered, “Yes, together, we can. It’s not forever, it’s one day at a time, let go and let me.”
Forty years ago my story was changed. Not by my will power nor luck, rather by loving, sober people who cared and a God who could and would make a new man out of me. That’s my story. Chris, Jack, Jo, Cindy, Tom, Danny, Father Bond are just a few of the characters from my recovery…..Jesus is the author.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” JOHN 8:36
“I love to tell the story! ‘Twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Catherine Hankey
For Lutherans and numerous other Christian denominations, Christmas is not just Christmas Eve, December 24th, and Christmas Day, December 25th. It is an extended season often called Christmastide celebrated from Christmas Eve until January 5th – the twelve days of Christmas. During this time we continue to observe the birth of Jesus. Many of us leave decorations in place until January 5th, the Twelfth Night, or until February 2nd, Candlemas, as we continue with our Christmas. In Lutheran and Episcopalian tradition , Candlemas is a time when congregants bring their candles to church for blessing. These candles are then used the rest of the year. They are symbolic of Jesus, the Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.
It is a time of communal celebration as well as personal reflection upon the meaning of this Holy season. It is a time to come and see what God has done.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” JOHN 3:16 KJV
Probably most of the Christian world has whispered a hushed ‘phewww’ now that the pace of the season is over. Time to kick back, watch some football on TV and run to WalMart to exchange those unwanted gifts.
But, what shall we do with Jesus, the greatest gift of all? We could put him on the fireplace mantel until next year, pack him away with the rest of the Christmas decororations, or shove him into the closet with the other unwanted gifts.
What will I do with Jesus? Several years ago, a renown comedian referred to Jesus as our imaginary friend. Amidst his profanity, the tasteless attempts at comedy, his crude sexual referrals, this one comment offended my senses more than any.
But, it caused me to contemplate. Is this just a product of my imagination? Have I been bamboozled by opportunistic theologians? Am I searching fruitlessly for answers in an unknown realm of belief?
The truth is that I don’t know. What I perceive is a belief in something unknown and unproven in our physical world. Some would define this as faith and for me faith is good enough to call Jesus real – as real as anything I can see, hear or touch.
I do know as factual the functioning body with which I have been blessed, the beautiful Creation in which I live, the wondrous unfolding amazement of a friend’s love, the purring cat lying beside me. My recovery and redemption from a life of alcoholic addiction is certainly proof of an intervention by an unseen and unproven God.
It is my choice what I do with this gift that renews every Christmas. I can receive everlasting love, peace and comfort or I can set it aside for another year to collect dust.
“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.”
A well-remembered adage flowing freely around the tables of Alcoholics Anonymous was this:
“You have got to give it away to keep it.”
Sobriety, the clean and serene, the return of sanity, the restoration of family and community was a gift of a Higher Power whom we trusted and revered. It was freely given through the grace of a loving, magnanimous God. Many of us, needing definition to this God, rely on the Christian concept of Jesus, the Christ. I have to give Him away to keep Him.
Celebrating the birth is part of this Jesus story that has given meaning to life as well as understanding to death. A boyhood verse learned in Sunday School said, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Alcoholism kidnapped my relationship with Jesus and set me in the darkness of the deep valleys. My story is found in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 15, the parable of the prodigal son. Through Jesus, my Father and I have claimed victory over alcoholism and spiritual death.
Yes, yes, yes, I will go tell it on the mountain, in the valley, on the streets and wherever anyone will listen. Tonight I celebrate the birth of the Son who saved me from insanity or jail or death. Tonight is all about God’s gift to humanity. This little light of mine – I’m gonna let it shine.
It is an extraordinary Christmas Eve. The normal candlelight services are mostly online only. Family gatherings are limited. Did you make yourself weary with the decorating, the house-cleaning, the meal preparations, and, of course, the shopping in a covid-19 environment?
Not me. I determined several years ago that simplicity was the best way to celebrate Christmas. I have moved my pre-lit tree from a corner in my craft area to centerstage in the living room where I can sit at night and early morning admiring the beauty of a tree with only lights and icicles. The other ornaments remained in their storage containers. Simple, right? As for gifts….lottery tickets by the handful provide entertainment and anticipation.
My Christmas Day meal has been planned for several weeks. The most extravagant dish will be a casserole of oyster dressing – Jim’s favorite holiday treat. Along with a roasted turkey breast and giblet gravy there will be cooked carrots, cranberry sauce, pickled beets in a strawberry jello and fruit cake. This is my idea of Christmas dinner done simply.
We can’t help but think of the many families struggling for food and shelter, searching for a light in the darkness of our country this year. The video I am sharing touched my heart in a mighty way reminding me, and hopefully you, what it is we are honoring and celebrating at this time of the year. It’s not about the decorations, the glitz, the food or the socializing. It is all about the gift of love given to us by a gracious and merciful God. It is about life lived victoriously in sobriety. It is about me caring about you more than me. It is about trusting the heart over the theology.
Enjoy the season. It is meant to be joyous and festive, but don’t forget the reason for the season. Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021 to all of you.
I find it difficult today to feel loved because my heart is not one of empathy or sympathy surrounding the health crisis enveloping the Administration. This post was written 5 months ago, a reader put a like on it today and I had to review it to remember my words. THANK YOU readers for making blogging more heart work than brain work.
Have I denied,
have I abandoned,
have I blasphemed,
have I lied,
have I been the prodigal,
have I been Judas,
have I been Peter,
have I driven the nails,
have I been the mocking crowd?
YES, BUT YOU LOVE ME ANYWAY
I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
lyrics from SIDEWALK PROPHETS
Years ago when living in Pennsylvania, it was a short Sunday afternoon drive to the mountaintops of the state’s share of the Appalachian Trail. An autumn trip on interstate 81 provided spectacular color and views of the surrounding countryside.
Unfortunately easy access to this mountain interstate also provided to the city of Philadelphia an inexpensive place to dump their garbage and to international corporations cheap land for construction of gigantic distribution centers. Landfills and warehouses began to dot the views along the roadway.
Strip mining for coal also became more profitable because of the interstate access. It was cheaper and easier than the shafts and tunnels of traditional mining. Huge gouges appeared in the previously pristine landscape. Pennsylvania was not the only victim as other states such as West Virginia suffered the same pillage and rape.
I receive newsletters from YES MAGAZINE via e-mail. Today’s mailing details the recovery efforts of one such mining area in West Virginia. Dedicated environmentalists, enlisting local residents facing unemployment due to a decline in coal mining, are attempting to build farm communities over the filled-in mines and covered-over landfills where the devastation occurred during the past decades.
Granted, it’s an economic undertaking to improve the lives of local residents, but can we also see these works as acts of love directed to restore our Creator’s creation? Love is not only for mankind, but for every mountain, every river, every forest, every tree, every creature put here for our enjoyment and need.
“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made it detestable.” JEREMIAH 2:7
Scroll to the bottom of the page provided above in the YES MAGAZINE link for a free subscription to their newsletters.