QUIET !!!

SILENCE THE NOISE OF OTHERS; LISTEN TO YOUR OWN VOICE.

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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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“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.”

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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.

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“You are my rock and my fortress – my soul’s sanctuary!  Therefore, for the sake of your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.”  PSALM 31:3 VOICE

Many of us, me included, wear our emotions on our sleeves.  I had a great friend in early recovery who could read my eyes and immediately know what was happening within my soul.  It was disconcerting sometimes that a person could look at me and tell me what I was thinking or how I was feeling.  As our friendship deepened, he confided that my eye color was a giveaway.  Dark blue eyes meant trouble and discontent while sky blue eyes indicated a cheerful and peaceful inner being.  I eventually learned to discern the same in his eyes.

In the same way, body language can betray what is happening internally.  Arms crossed in front of me tell others not to approach too closely.  Eye contact indicates whether I am interested in continuing our conversation and fidgeting lets you know that I am uncomfortable with the interaction.  Folded hands and a bowed head extend my respect for your inner essence, “Namaste.”  A beaming smile and genuine bear hug says, “come on in and share my life for awhile.”

But, what else do I wear on my sleeve?  How about my faith?  I lived most of my adult life keeping my faith hidden within.  My church upbringing frowned upon sharing a part of me that could intrude or disagree with another’s beliefs.  Although my church named itself as evangelical, it did not practice evangelism.  Much of that attitude stemmed from cultural issues within my community which was isolated from mainstream America well into the 20th century.  We kept to ourselves because it was a safer way to approach the ridicule of the more popular cultures surrounding us.  We were Germanic people whose forefathers  had immigrated to the British colonies in the early 1700s indenturing themselves to the governor of New York for 7 years in return for land, we spoke a Germanic dialect, and we kept to the old customs.  We were not overly popular during WWII and the years following.

I learned early to keep my faith to myself.  In retrospect, I probably did not have much faith during my active alcoholism because I could not allow an old gray-haired, bearded, eyes-on-fire entity dwelling somewhere in the heavens into my life.  It was far too frightening.   I knew that I was always in His cross-hairs and the fear was overwhelming.  So I drank as much as I could to overcome my fears and inhibitions.  When I was drunk that old man in the sky was powerless over me.

When drinking finally brought me to my knees, I did some praying while I was down there.  The miracle of Alcoholics Anonymous and its concept of a Higher Power pulled me from the insanity which had become my life.  I learned how to hold my head high and I learned to wear my faith on my sleeve for the world to see.  If you want to talk about faith, give me a big smile and a huge bear hug.  We’ll talk.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see

John Newton 1779

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