who’s your Daddy?

Who or what is the god of our lives? What do we hold closest to our hearts? Where do we turn in troubling times of the soul?

Of course the answers matter. Troubling times for humanity are not just a 21st century happening. History tells us that, as a species, we have encountered hardships, heartbreak, devastation, genocide, world war, political unrest and plague throughout each generation of mankind. So, let’s not think that we are unfairly oppressed by the inhumanity of the world or the wrath of a vengeful God.

I often refer to my grandpappy, a wise and thoughtful man, in my assessment of life. One of the most profound and profane summaries of his world was shared in these words: “Shit happens.”

My faith, still immature, says that I have no control over most of the events in my life. A simple prayer learned in the rooms of AA says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change; courage to change that which I should, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That prayer poses questions to be answered: 1) what can I not change? Most obviously, I cannot change other people. I cannot change my past. 2) What should I change? That is easy….I made a mess of my life in drunkenness. I need to change myself and thus my future.

In a nutshell, that philosophy guides us to a successful recovery from addiction and a serene path through life. The ‘Serenity Prayer’ is a life-changer for millions of alcoholics. Most of our challenges (call them failures, if you must) were the result of our attempts to play God. When we recognized that the higher power directing and controlling our lives was a substance such as alcohol/drugs or a behavioral addiction, we then searched for a replacement, an entity worthy to be our Higher Power.

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous

Knowing a higher power was nothing new to us – it had been alcohol and drugs. Finding a sane alternative was the challenge we faced.

From Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions we read:

“Therefore, Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step. True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”

Will I relate myself “rightly”, who’s my daddy going to be? Where is my heart’s treasure? With whom do I share the depths of my heart, the concerns and fears, the joy and love?

Like grandpappy always said, life happens regardless of what we think it should be. But, with a commitment to sober-living, life can be a stroll through serenity, or under the ravages of addiction, a trip through hell. It’s our choice.

doubting Thomas

Having attained the age of 73, I thought that I probably knew most of the lessons and information necessary to continue for another 20 or 30 years undeterred. Like the teenaged Larry from the 1960s there appeared to be nothing new under the sun to learn. I, now a mature, gray-bearded man, could settle into an attitude of old-age ‘know-it-all”.

WRONG!!

For example, a passage I read this morning inferred that the Christ child was a toddler playing on the floor of his parents’ home probably with a wooden toy which Joseph had made for him when the Kings from the East visited to pay homage bearing valuable gifts fit for a king. Wait a minute! A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes does not play on the floor with toys – not even Jesus.

What about the nighttime visit to the manger in the stable where Mary birthed the baby Jesus? Every depiction, every nativity scene, every song says that the Magi, aka the Three Wise men, knelt before the Christ child lying in swaddling clothes in a manger filled with animal bedding.

Oh no!! Is this a revisit to the picture hanging on my church wall which shows the young adult Jesus as a blue-eyed Caucasian with long-flowing hair? It took me several years and numerous books written by educated Bible scholars to accept that Jesus was born Jewish and therefore, as a young adult, looked much like the olive-skinned, brown-eyed, curly-haired men of today’s Middle East.

So, what have I learned? Blind faith has to be supported by historical fact and common sense. Of course God could have given Mary, a Jewish maiden and Joseph, a typical Jewish man, a blue-eyed, blond-haired, fair-skinned child if God wanted to do that…..but not likely. Furthermore, if the star appeared over Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus, these wise men from eastern kingdoms did not book passage of the next flight to Israel. They had to prepare for the overland trip, pack provisions, hire camels and a support team. Then the trip itself – it was not an overnight excursion. By the time they arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was no longer a babe but could easily have been a little boy playing on the floor with toys. King Herod was obviously not a stupid man. In order to cover all his bases in eliminating the newly proclaimed king announced by the Magi, he ordered the slaughter of all Bethlehem’s children under the age of two because he knew the boy could have been born 2 years prior. MATTHEW 2:16

Thanks for bearing with me. This is just another take on the Christmas story from someone who has been labeled ‘doubting Thomas’ for good reasons.

the promises of AA

OK. It is official. Immanuel (God with us) has arrived into a world filled with heartache, hatred, poverty, fear and, oh yes-don’t forget the pandemic. Welcome, Jesus. Sorry, I could not clean up our mess for you.

Lord, sometimes it is just too much to process. That’s why we have you. Our Father gave you to us to set the standard, to show us how we are supposed to live in a loving humanity of brothers and sisters. Guide us in your ways. AMEN

We are blessed every day with breath, with heartbeat, with functioning bodies. We awaken each morning to the glorious beauty of Your creation. For those of us saved from the ravages of alcoholism and associated addictions, we remember what we did last night, where we were, whom we slept with and where we parked our truck when we came home. We awaken unashamed of last night’s activity and sure that our coming day will be filled with continuing peace and understanding. And we look forward to another day basking in the light of Jesus.

We anticipate fulfilment of the promises we have read in our recovery literature. The truth of sobriety is synonymous with the commitment to sober-living. It’s not only about “not drinking and using”. It’s about changing who we are, how we think, what we do and how we relate to the world. No longer are we individually the center of our universes. No longer do we fear social situations or financial difficulties. Sober-living leads us to an understanding which was impossible for us as drunks and addicts.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to realize a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret our past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic adversity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, pgs 83-84

Are these extravagant promises? Absolutely not! Millions of recovering alcoholics living successfully and productively will testify to the results. Those results will always materialize if we work for them.

Living sober is not about the ‘right’ God or the ‘right’ theology. I choose the God of my youth, my religious tradition, to guide me through a world that assaults and profanes my innate sense of moral compass. Jesus is the North Star of that compass. Celebrating the birth renews and revitalizes a life-long faith tradition. But, each of us must find the “God of our understanding.”

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” STEP 3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Feast of St. Francis

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment. It is a popular day for pets to be “blessed”.

Does one need to be Catholic or a professor of any faith walk to appreciate the life of St. Francis of Assisi? Francis grew up privileged in a wealthy family, enjoyed partying with his young friends, got in trouble as revilers will, decided to prove his manhood by enlisting in the efforts of the Crusades, apparently met his God while riding off to battle and returned to follow a life of supplication and poverty. His dedication to the plight of the disadvantaged, his embrace of simplicity and his love for the environment are highlights of many historical accounts. Our contemporary Franciscan order replicates the lives of Francis and Clare of Assisi.

Fast forward to 2020 and the chaos facing Americans in choosing a President. On one hand we have President Trump, apparently bolstered by numerous religious leaders proclaiming he has been sent by God to save America, holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church threatening to use military troops against protesters . Counter that with the image of Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, paying respects to Justice Ginsburg lying in state at the Capitol. Among many Christian denominations, crossing one’s self while quietly repeating, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, is indicative of that person’s belief in the Holy Trinity. Joe Biden bowed his head, crossed himself and moved on with wife Jill at his side.

Which scenario gives us comfort? Which visual image fortifies our trust in the faith walk of the man who will become President on November 3rd? To those naysayers who would comment that religion and politics should not mix, I must agree. But, a person’s declaration of faith is of ultimate importance. A man who promotes violence and discord cannot be a man of Christian values. Holding up a Bible while urging the military to move in on civil protest would not be the course of action Jesus emphasized.

So, if you profess Christianity, if you proclaim to be a follower of Jesus, which are you – a Jesus follower or a fake Christian? This is another reason I will vote the Biden/ Harris ticket on November 3rd. It has nothing to do with my religion or God beliefs. It is all about the one who attempts to deceive us.

Rev. C.T. Vivian

On August 8th, 2013, President Barack Obama named C.T. Vivian as the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom with these remarks:

“C. T. Vivian is a distinguished minister, author, and organizer. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” 

Left to right, John Lewis, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lester McKinnie at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 4, 1964. Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images.

UBUNTU – one’s own humanity is inextricably bound with that of others.
DESMOND TUTU

America has lost a great statesman and civil rights leader with the passing of Congressman John Lewis on July 17.  Less known was one of his and Martin Luther King’s spiritual advisors,  the Rev. Cordy “C.T.” Vivian who died at age 95 just hours after John Lewis. (1)

Much of present day Christianity (read: white Christianity) bases its theology on the tenet of ‘salvation’ and the hereafter.  Suffer or enjoy life in this world because there is assurance of an eternity in a heaven with palatial homes, gold paved streets and choirs of heavenly voices singing “hallelujah” forever and ever. Amen.

Unfortunately, African-Americans have not been able to share that dream of the hereafter.  Or, perhaps, it is fortunate as their earthly experience has led many black civic and religious leaders to present an alternate view of religion, specifically Christianity.

“They interpret religious teachings through the prism of the injustice in the here and now.” (1)

Speaking of King’s influence, John Lewis said:

“He was not concerned about the streets of heaven and the pearly gates and the streets paved with milk and honey. He was more concerned about the streets of Montgomery and the way that Black people and poor people were being treated in Montgomery.” (1)

What we do here matters, how we live matters, how we treat others matters.  We are ‘inextricably’ bound to every human on earth regardless of faith profession, absence of faith profession, skin color and nationality.  Somehow, Christianity, infused with the gospel of prosperity and exclusiveness, has missed that key ingredient of the teachings found in its scriptures related to us as the story of Jesus Christ in the NT.

We are ONE.  The African-American’s journey in this country enduring slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, discrimination and present day racism has invigorated within blacks the concept of UBUNTU as voiced by Desmond Tutu.

(1)  yes! journalism

 

Honoring the divine in every aspect of Creationcropped-candle.png

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

GLAAD – ROSS MURRAY

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. 

Looking for inspiration to write today’s post, Ross Murray crossed my radar screen.  One of my morning reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. ORG.  It’s commentary began with a verse from Isaiah 58, verse 1:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.  Raise your voice like a trumpet.  Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.”

Mayor Pete, in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Presidency, often referred to the faith walk he and husband Chasten embrace in their lives.  Yes, America, many gays do profess a God and many choose to express that profession through Christianity.  Ron Murray, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, claims a calling to bridge the gap between us and faith communities.  The use of Isaiah 58, verse one, to urge us forward into action regarding social injustices is surprising as many Christians would use the same verse to condemn those of us who do not fit into the boxes which they have created for us.

Check out the link GLAAD MEDIA.  It’s another resource for the LGBTQ community. According to the home page of its blog –

“GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.”

PRIDE7

 

letters – I love letters

god bless america

Several years ago , a fellow resident of Citrus County, Mark Stoltz, submitted a remarkable letter to our local newspaper, Citrus County Chronicle, which stated there are 3 things which all Americans must do:

  • 1) Think for yourself and stop believing what you’re told to believe.
  • 2) Open your mind.  Verify what is being said, whether or not you want to believe it or you’re told to believe it.
  • 3) Vote based on numbers 1 and 2.

He goes on to share possibly the greatest piece of contemporary wisdom available to mankind today.  I wish these were my words, but they are not.  According to Mark, there are three people you should never trust:

  • 1) A religious leader who tells you how to vote.
  • 2) A politician who tells you how to pray.
  • 3) A draft-dodger who tells you how to be patriotic.

I read those words in that letter numerous times and then, in tears, added a hearty AMEN to the man’s letter.

t-shirts

 

animals-elderly-forest-40873
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.

My trips to the grocery store are usually uneventful.  The most exciting things are bumper stickers on cars in the parking lot and t-shirts with messages draped on the shoppers.

Today’s winner of the BOOOO award was  a busty woman with these words on her shirt:

I WILL FIGHT FOR
MY GUNS
MY GOD
MY CONSTITUTION

Somehow, in my silly rationale, those 3 sentiments simply do not belong together.  What do you think?

sad emoji

RELIGION – relic of tribalism ?

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.

Okay, I get it.  Religion has inspired great acts of compassion, it has led man to creatediversity spectacular works of art and architecture, it has provided us with beautiful literature.  So, before you light the fires around my stake, consider this.  Perverted interpretation of religious belief has also caused immense human suffering, it has destroyed cultures, it has promoted the degradation of our earth and natural resources in the name of an unproven, man-created god.

Tribalism was essential to ancient cultures to preserving their beliefs and insuring their survival.  The caveman with the biggest clubs usually won the battle.  Armies with the most manpower prevailed over weaker enemies.  Scorching the neighborhood was an acceptable price for winning.  My God-belief is better than yours.  He (yes, most violence in the name of God worships a male entity) needs my defense.

WE ARE NO LONGER CAVEMEN.  With the historical destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 the USA entered mankind into a new paradigm of warfare – a pattern embracing the ability of one culture to bring annihilation to the entire planet.  Unfortunately, we continued to maintain the caveman attitude of tribalism.  We continued to thump our scriptures and proclaim limited access to an omnipotent deity  through a religious philosophy of exclusion – only this God is real, only this belief is true, only this scripture is valid.  It is rampant tribalism with a continuing caveman mentality.

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

unshackled 3

Higher Power

If you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – STEP 2 sober emoji
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – STEP 3

This is the miracle of restoration.  It is not dependent on anything you or I could do to alleviate the addictions which controlled our lives.  Yes, we had to talk the walk and then walk the talk, but ultimately the grace of a power greater than us brought us back to sanity, restored us to meaningful lives within families and communities – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

God as we understood God is, for many of us, the premise which carries us over the hurdles of previous negative god experiences.  No longer do we feel obligated to profess this faith or that in our daily faith walk.  Surely, each religious philosophy of the world whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. has nuggets of truth and wisdom; however,  life changes when the God we follow is personal, loving and compassionate not corralled by any particular philosophy.  As is human nature, we attempt to describe and define, but usually discover that our minds cannot comprehend the greatness or fathom the depths of that which we call Higher Power.

Whether your God or mine is a who, a what, a where, a when, male, female, genderless, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or simply the fellowship which supports our sobriety, give this Higher Power a round of applause today for keeping us clean and serene.

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