you’re invited

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 overflows.

rainbow-solidarity

I use the multi-colored message shown above to convey the basic truth that none of us are excluded from the love of God, from the table which Jesus has set to feed the entirety of mankind with his bread and his wine, his body and blood.  Do not allow anyone to tell you that your race, your creed, your sex, your orientation, or your past disqualifies you from sitting with Jesus.  No earthly being has the authority to deny you a seat.  Jesus’ invitation is eternal, unconditional, and it specifically has your name on it.

In the world of evangelists, Billy Graham’s legacy continues to command the respect and admiration of a great many people, believers and non-believers.  He shared on his blog site in 2012  THE THREE INVITATIONS OF CHRIST

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 

Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17

Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you.”  John 15:4

These invitations are an ongoing process.  I have no qualms accepting that I don’t have all the pieces to the God puzzle.  Sometimes I don’t even know what the questions should be.  GOD IS A MYSTERY.  And I believe that is a good thing for a doubter and skeptic like me.  Keep me guessing so that I continue searching.  Just when I believe I’ve reached that “Aha” moment or a fascinating revelation, another doubt and question arises.

But, the process doesn’t change, does it?  Run to Him when life gets heavy and overwhelming, learn of his ways and take his yoke upon me.  Determine what my ego wants versus what Jesus says in his words and teachings.  It all comes down to surrender.  Do I want to continue in my burdensome ways or will I turn it over to the Master, the problem-solver?

Learn and then share with others what has been discovered.  Those of us in addiction recovery programs know the necessity of service to others.  We share our war stories and then extend our experience, strength and hope.  Alcoholics and addicts are invited just as they are to the tables of the meeting rooms.  The beauty and success of AA, CR, and other recovery programs depends on the fellowship putting others before personal interests.  Those questioning, new arrivals are invited to share our repurposed lives, to sit at the table of miracles.  We become fishers of men.

Finally, Jesus invites us to abide with the God of our understanding in a peace that surpasses anything which the world has to offer.  To me this means building and cherishing the most intimate relationship which I could ever know. When I am willing to surrender, when I am willing to pull my head out of self-serving ways, when I am willing to be still and know, then we can be as one walking this path through the joys and travails of an earthly life.  God dwells in me and I in Him.  That is the solidarity of  “I am You, You are me, and we are One.”

Believe me, it is not always where my head and heart dwell.  This challenge which is called the human condition tries to detour me, lie to me, and steal me away.  But, running to my Lord is no longer the option of last resort.  I have learned to go there as quickly as possible.

He said, “Come unto me and learn of me, my yoke is easy and I will give you rest.”

He has invited you, too.  What’s holding you back?

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three gifts

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 overflows.

In the ancient world gold, frankincense and myrrh were standard gifts presented to a king or deity.

Biblical archaeology.org

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“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

What in the world would a baby want with gold, frankincense, and myrrh?  Can’t play with it.  Can’t eat it.  Can’t cuddle up to it like a fuzzy, teddy bear.  Don’t you think that Joseph and Mary would have really appreciated several packages of diapers or a year’s supply of baby  powder?

Of course I am being facetious.  Those gifts which the writers of Matthew and Luke wrote into their narrative of the birth of Jesus were symbolically appropriate for the birth of their Jewish king and historically acceptable gifts to present to kings – gold for royalty, frankincense (an ancient remedy for arthritis), for health, and myrrh (a spice used to prepare the body for burial), for the finality of the tomb.

Gift-giving is a reciprocal behavior.  I give to you.  You give to me.  It’s no different in a person’s faith walk or his/her recovery program.  1 Corinthians, chapter 12 details the gifts of the Spirit.  Pages 83-84 of THE BIG BOOK of Alcoholics Anonymous proclaim to us the ‘promises’ of sobriety.  These are gifts which will be realized when our lives are directed by a Higher Power rather than the whims of self.  Surrender is the only requirement to receiving these gifts.

OK, so I’m a grateful receiver.  But, what do I give in return?  What are my gifts for you and for God?  I cannot buy gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts.  I can barely afford a greeting card.  But, would you be satisfied with my time, my understanding, my patience, my unconditional love?

I am preparing to celebrate the baby Jesus.  I can’t wrap my presents in pretty paper and a bright bow, but I am hoping He will smile and accept me just as I am.

I come broken to be mended,
I come wounded to be healed.
I come desperate to be rescued,
I come empty to be filled.

 

You’re invited.  Why don’t you come?

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We Three Kings

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 overflows.

(words from the prophet Micah in the Book of Micah 5:2)

“And thou, Bethlehem in the land of Judah……from thee shall come a prince — one who shall be the Shepherd of my people Israel.”  Matthew 2: 6 WEYMOUTH BIBLE

“Now after the birth of Jesus, which took place at Bethlehem in Judaea in the reign of King Herod, excitement was produced in Jerusalem by the arrival of certain magi from the east, inquiring,

Where is the newly born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his Star in the east, and have come here to do him homage.’

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled , and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2: 1-3 KJV

The shepherds were told of the birth by angels.  Coming to the stable to worship from their watch over the flocks in their worn clothing, probably soiled and smelly, they had no gifts to present, nothing to offer other than awe and amazement.

The wise men were guided by a star in the sky to Bethlehem.  Learned and scholarly, they traveled probably with a caravan of support staff and supplies.  Being kings from the Orient, they were surely well attired and adorned.  And they brought valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Which would I be?  Shepherd or king?  What would I have to offer in the presence of a Lord and Master?  What gift could I give to honor His presence in my life?  How about you, what could your gift be?

My answer is easy.  I am the shepherd who, from the surrounding hillsides, has seen opulence in society but never participated.  I am the man who has suffered the condescension of the villagers who believe themselves better than me, more moral than me, more worthy than me.  I am a simple man, not so much because I love simplicity, but because I can only afford a simple lifestyle.  I do not ride in caravans with jewel-bedecked kings on camels. No, my ride is more akin to that of the adult Jesus – a borrowed donkey.  I do not speak to governors for information when I arrive in a strange town.  I have to use the tourist center and a google search.  Yes, I would be the one sleeping in a barn on a bed of straw because I could not afford a room at the Holiday Inn.  I am Joseph.  I am Mary.  I am all people who put their trust in a Savior, unseen and indescribable, seeking a life of meaningful spiritual experience.

There is great comfort in the story of the shepherds and the wise men.  Do you see it, too?  God came to the shepherds protecting the flocks on the hillside. They were not seeking God.  God sought them to make the announcement.  The angels stood round about and proclaimed the good news.  The shepherds did not have to travel across a continent, they did not have to follow a star.  They did not have riches to bring.  No, God came to men who were common, unrefined, and poor announcing the birth of acceptance, equality, compassion, righteousness and tolerance among all mankind in the body of baby Jesus.

I love this story because that night in Bethlehem means that I, too, can participate in the Kingdom.  I qualify for membership.   My spiritual poverty, my human depravity, my brokenness in need of healing are qualifiers.  The only dues for membership are surrender and unconditional love.

Too high a price, maybe?  What’s the alternative?  Cold nights sitting on a darkened hillside guarding a flock of smelly sheep?  Spending an eternity separated from the graces of a Lord and Savior?  It’s my call, yours too.  The invitation is there waiting for us to accept.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary, Did You Know

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 overflows.

When I was a young teenaged boy, 14 years old, I had a terrific crush on an older woman.  Yeah, she was 17 and just about pretty as an angel.  Of course, not knowing what angels looked like, I had to use a lot of imagination and, believe me, that was not a problem.

Between her junior and senior year in high school, she and her momma took an extended trip to Germany to stay with distant relatives.  I was heartbroken, briefly, until a sexy, buxomly cheerleader winked at me in biology lab.  Smitten does not adequately define my newly discovered heart-throb.  I quickly forgot the older woman in my life.

Years later, I learned from reliable sources that the trip to Germany was coordinated with an unplanned pregnancy.  Surprise! Surprise!  Several of my female classmates found themselves in the same unexpected condition, but none of them resulted in an interracial child.  Surprise!  Surprise!  C’mon folks, it was 1963 in rural Pennsylvania.  Things like that simply were not allowed to happen.

“Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, where her cousins Zacharias and  Elizabeth lived.  When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Elizabeth shouting) You are blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed!   And blessed am I as well, that the mother of  my Lord has come to me!”  Luke 1:39-43 THE VOICE

The scriptures do not explain why Mary ran to the hills.  Is it possible that her explanation…..”well daddy, the Holy Ghost came upon me and told me that I would become pregnant by God and that my baby would be the Messiah”…..simply did not fly in her home town?  A child-bearing 12 or 13 year-old unmarried child probably encouraged a few questions from the village women drawing water at the well.  I also would probably run to the hills…or maybe Germany.

All of us need a place where we can feel safe and loved, a place away from judgement, condemnation and shame.  Mary found her refuge with her cousins Elizabeth and Zacharias.  We, too, have that same refuge freely available to us in the person of Mary’s son, Jesus.  Even for those who do not accept the virginity of Mary or the divinity of Jesus, the teachings and scriptures attributed to his earthly ministry are a blueprint for peace, contentment, and spiritual resurrection in this life.

Recovering addicts and alcoholics understand this resurrection.  It has been our experience.  We were dying and dead when a Higher Power restored us to the living.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Step 2, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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YOU ROCK

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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“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS step 3, pg 59 in How it Works.

When was the last time you read those words or listened to them recited at a meeting of recovering alcoholics?  Do we understand fully the significance of this life-saving concept which gave us the credentials to be a part of God’s family even after years of separation and denial ?

At my 1st AA meeting I was scared, I was sick, I was morally and spiritually bankrupt.  I knew I was going to die either by a black-out car wreck or by suicide.  My personal life was a disaster and my job was in jeopardy.  Most of my friends abandoned me, a few stood by me, but all knew that Larry was a sick puppy.  All except Larry.

You see, Larry had learned to play the game.  I’m talking about that mind game we alcoholics master at some point in our drinking careers.  I had my list of scapegoats lined up to cover every conceivable mishap in my life.  I conned, connived, and lied my way through the car wrecks, the lost jobs, the broken relationships, the days of alcohol-induced sickness.  In the end days of my drinking I truly believed my own cons.  Finally, reaching out to mental health services at the hospital in desperation, the psychologist assigned to me listened to my con for one minute before asking, “How much do you drink?”

My surrender was immediate because I was sick of being sick.  I replied, “A few beers once in a while,” but I knew then in the psychologist’s office that the only person I had been conning all this time was me.

“My name is Larry, and I’m an alcoholic,” I announced at my 1st AA meeting.

There, I had done it.  For the first time in many years I got honest with myself.  And then I listened.  I tried to convince myself that I was not as bad as they were.  But, I found myself relating to what they were saying and agreeing, “Yeah, I did that, too.  That’s me.”

Someone talked about God and I freaked.  “You don’t really believe that stuff, do you? There is no God.  Intelligent people don’t need God.  I sure as hell don’t need God.”

A fellow at the end of the table quietly responded, “And look where that got you.  You’re sitting in a room at a table with a bunch of drunks.”

Again, that moment of surrender.  “OK, OK, you’re right.  Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was.  I’ll listen to your stories about God.”

And so it began, my journey in sobriety.  The God of my understanding was nothing like the God of my childhood which had burdened me with guilt and shame for 34 years of my life.  It was a unique feeling, a devotion which I had never before experienced, this God of my understanding.  What an amazing concept!

Today I celebrate that I am no longer excluded from a worshipful relationship with a higher power just because I don’t profess the ‘right’ God according to other people.  I no longer feel unworthy just because I’m a broken man trying to be a better man.  I no longer feel condemned to hell just because I’m not convinced by their idea of heaven.

Are you in love with sobriety?  I am.  Do you remember your first meeting?  I do. Amazing, isn’t it, that we should be loved so much by a God of our understanding?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Thy will, not mine, be done.”

 

GALATIANS 5

“Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”  GALATIANS 5:1

The heading for this passage from the Book of Galatians attributed to Paul is A LIFE OF FREEDOM. He continues to tell his followers that living by the laws and rites of Judaism will be of no benefit for one who is received into the saving grace of a Higher Power.  This is not a condemning judgement of Judaism or any other profession of faith, but rather a statement of the freeing power available by simple acceptance of a higher power without the accompanying laws and rites.   Those traditions could surely enhance one’s faith but the nugget of freedom is in the one who frees, aka love. “All that matters now is living in the faith that is activated and brought to perfection by love.”  verse 6

So how does Paul define freedom?  “Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do.” verse 13

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  I have, in my recovery programs, the identical concepts as expressed in this verse.  Initially service is to my fellow alcoholics transcending to the same attitude of self-less interaction with my community and the world.  Step 12 has told me that a spiritual awakening will occur and that I will practice these principles (of self-lessness) in all my affairs.  “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps….”  is not a maybe-if situation.  Step 12 says it will happen.

What am I giving up from my ‘self-life’ in order to have this awakening?

“The cravings of the self-life are obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, 20 chasing after things instead of God,[h] manipulating others,[i] hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, 21 being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions,[j] wild parties, and all other similar behavior.” verse 19-21 

And what should I expect to gain from my recovery efforts?

“But the  the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:

joy that overflows,[n]
peace that subdues,
patience[o] that endures,
kindness[p] in action,
a life full of virtue,[q]
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.” verse 22-23 

From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous I am told:

1)We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  2)We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  3)We will comprehend the word serenity.  4)We will know peace.  5)No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  6)The feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  7)We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  8)Self-seeking will slip away.  9)Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.  10)Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.  11)We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  12)We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises?  We think not!

(Scripture quotes are from the TPT) The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.  Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com