maturity with respect

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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Sometimes sobriety comes in small doses.  That infinite wisdom called experience knows when we are ready for an increased fix of maturity – a commodity sorely lacking in our addictions.  What’s that you say?  You always were mature?  Maybe we can talk about that in another post.

I have only myself as a barometer for comparison.  I am not who I used to be, I am not who I’d like to be, but, thank God I have a sober mind to guide me on the ‘clean and serene’ path.  That includes the maturity index.  When I think I’ve got it down pat, I do something absolutely stupid and inane.  A mini inventory and a sincere apology to those offended cleans my slate and puts me again on that clean and serene path. I know that this will be a continuing lifetime process.  Act stupid, apologize, regroup.  Act stupid, apologize, regroup.

As I travel this road, I become more acutely aware of the immaturity displayed by those in my life, sometimes family and friends, but more often celebrities and national leaders.  We have all heard in our recovery circles the words, “Too bad he doesn’t have our program.”

Indeed, too bad they don’t have our program.  Too bad they haven’t embraced growth and maturity.  No, don’t call it a judgmental thing; rather, it is seeing life through a different set of lenses.  Judging is a matter between that person and his/her God.  However, I do compare.  Would I be comfortable speaking as he does?  Would I be able to conduct myself as she does?  If not, is there something wrong with me?

And all I have upon which to rely is me and my path.  My path has brought a severely broken man to a mildly challenged man.  It has, again and again, reminded me that there is something much greater than that universe which spins between my ears.  A world of other humans, just like me, aspires just like me, and hurts just like me.  They endure the hardships of their lives and search for answers.  They experience joy and heartbreak – just like me.  The greatest bit of wisdom which I’ve realized is that I am not the center of existence.  My life is but a grain of sand in the desert, a drop of water in the ocean.  But, when co-existing peaceably and maturely with other grains and other drops, I become we and we become massive forces in this life’s experience.

I find myself, in today’s political atmosphere, questioning motives and behaviors of the nation’s leaders.  I sometimes can’t agree or disagree because my barometer doesn’t gauge some of the stupidity and ignorance which I see.  What’s wrong with them?  Why are they behaving like children?  Where is the respect and maturity which most of us have learned to embrace in our everyday lives?  How can a national leader show such crass disrespect for a war-time hero?  How can men and women of national prominence be so self-involved?

I guess they are not part of the same deserts and oceans which you and I are building.  Maybe they need a program like the one we have.  Maturity with respect heals the greatest of differences, creates a bridge to enlightenment.  I can only pray for their healing, be a voice for change, and then vote my conscience in November.

How about you?

 

HONOR

NOUN
  1. high respect; great esteem.
  2. adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct.
  3. something regarded as a rare opportunity and bringing pride and pleasure; a privilege.
VERB
  1. regard with great respect.
  2. fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).
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Today’s world does not place a great deal of emphasis on honor – the noun or the verb. Newspaper headlines are filled with stories of individuals who have conducted their lives dishonorably.  My personal past is rife with dishonorable behavior under the influences of alcohol and ego.  That did not miraculously change on my sobriety date.   However, sober living did eventually make honorable intention a top priority.  In the end analysis of my personal inventories, living honorably with self-respect became more desirable than riches or fame.  As with everything in sobriety, it is not a pursuit of perfection, but rather a life of continuing growth.

Perhaps that is why my brain automatically zeroes in on stories of honor evidenced by other individuals.  This is especially true in the world of politics where that asset is in short supply.  Senator John McCain is one of those men who rises above political commonality.  We know his story and we know his politics.

I don’t call him a great man because of his political stance.  I have disagreed with his brand of politics on most occasions.  But, his life has been an outstanding lesson in honor – both the noun and the verb.  From his military career during which he was a POW enduring torture to his distinguished service to our country in government, Senator McCain obviously lived his life by a standard epitomized by a standard of valor and personal sacrifice.

His shoes will be hard to fill.  His legacy will be remembered long after the hoots and hollers of today’s political players will be merely a footnote in history.  His strength of character will be memorialized aside other great statesmen while the questionable character of today’s political movers and shakers will be remembered as nothing more than self-serving arrogance.

Living with honor and self-respect is not for wimps just as sobriety is not for wimps.  Senator McCain cemented my admiration for him during the rally for his Presidential campaign when a woman commented untruthfully about President Obama’s faith walk and his birthplace in a disparaging manner.  McCain took the microphone from her and proceeded to correct her assertions with a most eloquent statement of support for an equally honorable man, Barack Obama.  That response was class and grace as only a great statesmen could evoke.

We live in a nation which desperately needs the service of men and women who are driven by the old-fashioned ideals of honor and self-sacrifice.  As President Obama and Senator McCain have shown us, this is not a political thing, rather, it is a character thing.  Character is the most glaring absence in today’s political discourse.

When voting this November, perhaps we could become familiar with the candidates, disregard that R or D  beside their names and cast a vote for honor and character.  It’s a commodity available in all political flavors.  It’s our duty as citizens to find it.

 

 

grace that’s amazing

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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PSALMS 82

God calls the judges into his courtroom,
    he puts all the judges in the dock.

2-4 “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough,
    you’ve let the wicked get away with murder.
You’re here to defend the defenseless,
    to make sure that underdogs get a fair break;
Your job is to stand up for the powerless,
    and prosecute all those who exploit them.”

Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges!
    They haven’t a clue to what’s going on.
And now everything’s falling apart,
    the world’s coming unglued.

6-7 “I commissioned you judges, each one of you,
    deputies of the High God,
But you’ve betrayed your commission
    and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.”

O God, give them their just deserts!
    You’ve got the whole world in your hands!

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This is a great reading from the Ketuvim, the 3rd section of the Hebrew Bible, set to contemporary dialog.  Why should I be surprised that social justice was a concern of the early Jewish culture much as it is today with our Christian tradition?  Apparently man, although he has conquered many technical impediments to enlightenment, has yet to master his own ego, that part of him which says he is better than, different from, and entitled to.

I often inventory these aspects of my own inner forces which determine who I shall be today – better, different or entitled.  And sometimes miraculously, I tune in to a greater self which tells me I am a son of that universal essence which created all mankind equally deserving of justice among their fellow-man whether wealthy and powerful or poor and needy.

I can picture the author of Psalm 82 standing before a panel of appointed judges reading the riot act to them for their lack of compassion towards the defenseless and underdogs.  In today’s society I am one of many, not only judges and politicians, who would do well to reflect on attitudes toward and treatment of those who have hit personal bottoms, endured unjust racism, struggled through financial difficulties.  The homeless, the emotionally challenged, the addicted, the prisoners, the broken, the afflicted – all are deserving of a day in the court of compassion and empathy.

When honesty hits me between the eyes, I would have to admit that I am unworthy of mercy and grace, that I should be sleeping in the woods, scrounging for food, sitting in jail for my disobedience.  That honesty tells me that I am not special nor gifted nor smarter.  No, I am merely luckier because I have escaped the harshness which afflicts my brothers and sisters.

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
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed
When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun. 

John Newton, 1779 OLNEY HYMNS

John Newton understood this undeserved gift from a gracious God.  He lived a profane and wicked life, but turned the page which all of us turn when we exclaim,

“Dear God, there has to be a better way than this.”

His actions endorsed social reform and supported the fight to abolish slave trade in the British Empire resuling in the British Slave Trade Act in 1807.

the marginalized

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“Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children.” —Isaiah 10:1-2, The Message

This passage quoted by Fr. Richard Rohr is attributed to the writings of Isaiah, one of the most prolific prophets of Judaism who probably wrote all 68 chapters of the Book Isaiah sometime during the years between 740 BCE and 686 BCE.  Believing in prophecy, or not, is irrelevant to the significance of this message to us living during these tumultuous times in contemporary society because it describes the trials and perils we, the marginalized, face today.  I do not need to be a believer or follower of Jesus (which I am) to recognize the remarkable parallels.

“When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy.”

Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy (Jossey-Bass: 2014, ©2011), dedication page

Has the world forgotten what politics should be?  Today’s  world of politics has become so overshadowed by greed and self-interest that it is very difficult to view it as a conduit for the welfare of all earth’s humanity including the poor, the homeless, the children, the elderly, and the mentally ill.  The most fitting adjective we can use for that segment of society is marginalized and oppressed.  It need not be that way given the enormous wealth in the hands of a small percentage of the population.

Politics is derived from the Greek word “politikos”meaning “of, for, or relating to the citizens” and “civil, civic, belonging to the state.”

“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

[As Christians,] it is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:35). [3]

Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis, http://reclaimingjesus.org/.

The core belief of the traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is committed to compassion and hospitality.  Adherents are known by their actions and works.  If professing anything other than love and tolerance as depicted in their Scriptures, then they are not true followers of their faith.  It’s a simple assessment based on the writings of the ancients.

Principalities and powers pass away, but the inner power of the Spirit as represented by the Hebrew prophets, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed is infinite and eternal.

12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  EPHESIANS 6:12

the political believer, it’s in the works

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

In his daily writing for July 8th Father Richard Rohr , a proponent of social justice, states that most of the negative feedback he receives advises him to not get too political.  He responds,

“Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.”

Well said.  If I read in Scriptures about the life and works of Jesus, the Christ, if I profess this same Jesus as my Lord, if I receive Jesus within my heart and pattern my life according to His, then how can I not be political?  Jesus was the ultimate petitioner for the poor and needy.  He opposed the wealth of the greedy, the corruption of Judaism, and the oppression of Rome in his ministry to the downtrodden of Israel.  He did so knowing that his would not be a pleasant trip through an earthly life and that a violent death awaited him on the cross.  Yet, in human form he persisted because that is what humanity is supposed to do.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick regardless of the consequences.

“The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word “religio”. The Greek word “polis”—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?”  Richard Rohr

America boasts its Christian roots.  History tells us that Christians were at the forefront of social movements to end slavery, support women’s rights, encourage laws providing civil rights, Mediare, Social Security, and Medicaid.  Most famously America has welcomed the downtrodden and oppressed from other nations regardless of creed or race.  We are a beacon of hope to the hopeless, a land of opportunity for everyone.

The Gospel is often called the Good News because it carries a message of not only redemption, but also hope for those who have no hope.  The refugee, the widow, the orphan, the persecuted, the outcasts of society are the target of Jesus’ ministry today just as back in 1st century Israel.  The oppressed are empowered by words which tell them that God loves them equally regardless of social status, wealth or faith profession.  Because of that Good News we know that all mankind dwells within the family of a mighty and just God.

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. JAMES 2:14-17 CEB

The above verse from the Book of James is well-known in recovery programs.  It reminds me that my success in defeating alcohol has been a miracle, a gift from the Higher Power of my understanding.  But, it is not free.  A continued and contented sobriety requires payments.  Service to others is written on my IOU to God.  “Faith without works is dead.”

“Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!” Richard Rohr

CANDLE

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