PEACE ON EARTH?

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.

Is the idea of peace on earth overrated?  Probably so.  By nature man is not an agreeable sort of creature.  Man would sooner throw a few rocks and ask questions afterwards than engage in rational dialog first.  History tells us that man, having never learned to compromise, has resorted instead to heavy clubs, then swords, then artillery, then nuclear weapons that can annihilate every species on earth and it’s habitat.

Mankind seems to be the only creature on earth that does not fit into the natural scheme of flora and fauna.  Plant and animal lifeforms all intuitively know how to grow together, live together, and in many instances compliment the existence of one another.  They do not wantonly kill because of philosophical differences or uncontrolled passions.

No, man is probably not held in high esteem by the world’s other creatures.  Oh sure, that pet dog or cat loves you unconditionally, but stop putting out food for Rover or stop cleaning Fifi’s cat box and it’s just a matter of time before that dog will turn on you snapping at your heels or the feline poop producer will be crapping on your favorite chair.  Don’t kid yourselves.  Man is low on the totem pole of earthly inhabitants.  He does not fit in and the rest of nature knows it.

In order to compensate, a complex system of theologies has been created proclaiming mankind as the master of all species, of all resources on earth in order to justify our existence.  And then theology goes on to say that when our habitat has been trashed and destroyed, miraculously a savior will appear to clean up the mess we have made.  Believe that if you must, but consider this.  The nugget of truth in those earth-renewal philosophies is that mankind can be redeemed through an inner awakening, a fact-finding soul search that reveals our spiritual relevance in a crazy, chaotic world system.  Many mystics have understood this, Francis and Clare of Assisi knew, Jesus the pauper from Nazareth recognized that each individual has within himself or herself the capacity to live in peace with himself, with humanity, with the earth itself.

I love the question following THE BIG BOOK’s (Alcoholics Anonymous) revelation of promises available through sober living. AA PROMISESAre these extravagant promises?  We think not.”

Is this an extravagant promise?  Peace on earth?  The Christian scriptures guarantee it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

We could rightfully say, “Bah humbug”, considering the turmoil and corruption which is rampant worldwide.  We will continue on our road to destruction and annihilation when we forget that Jesus, in the words of John 14, qualifies his peace: “Not as the world giveth…”

I am chasing down the wrong trail when I envision a peaceful world as one with no wars, no famines, no oppression.  What will save me from the surrounding darkness, from a troubled and fearful heart, is only available within.  Quite possibly that is the peace on earth, goodwill toward men, that the book of Luke attributes to the angels singing to the shepherds watching their flocks.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14

It is an inside job.  When we feed and nourish the soul through introspection, contemplation and meditation, when we read scriptures revealed by the wisdom of the ancients, then we can dwell in our world of peace and then we can extend that peace to all mankind.

Peace to you.  Namaste.  The Christmas season is a great time to discover a peaceful and fearless heart as proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and other messengers of the ancient world.  All of them claim a piece to the God puzzle.

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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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where’s my strength?

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.

What gives you strength?  Is it financial security, power, fame, friendships, family, faith?  In my conflicted life, it was alcohol.  For 17 years I relied on the demons of alcohol and related addictions to give me a sense of security and self-worth.  I was strong and fearless facing the challenges of life which most of my family and friends confronted stone-cold sober.  I never understood them.  Why didn’t they need the same crutches which I used?

As I approach 38 years of sobriety, I still ask myself, “What makes me strong?”

The lyrics from the SIDEWALK PROPHETS answers that question.  “Be strong in the Lord.”  My strength lies in practicing simple, spiritual principles in my lifestyle guided by faith in the promises presented by the fellowship of other recovering alcoholics.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the 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 on life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity 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 BIG BOOK

Therein is the nugget of truth which frees alcoholics like me.  The realization of the promises hinge on putting my faith, finding my strength in the One whom I name Lord of my life.  Total surrender.  The gift of sobriety, something which eluded me several years even as a non-drinker, was not a matter of exerting personal will power,  reading self-help books, following a rigorous jogging routine, listening to preachers and evangelists.  No, sobriety happened slowly after a difficult period of ‘not drinking’ and working with others.

The passage from the Big Book goes on to ask if these are extravagant promises.  We answer, “We think not,” because we have seen them materialize when we have been willing to work for them.  “Work, work, work.”

Another favorite of AAers is a verse from the book of James in Christian scriptures which tells us that “faith without works is dead.”  Answers to my questions began to appear when God put those words in perspective.  Yes, the good works are necessary.  But, the foundation must be faith.  I must be strong in the Lord of my understanding.  That strength will carry me through times of travail, times of doubt and questioning, times when other sufferers disappoint me.  The works keep me busy and out of trouble; the faith gives me reason to continue.  How about you? 🙏

UNSHACKLED 2

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