Can we still Be Kind

My friend, Carol in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, mentioned an occurrence of signs popping up on the streets of her town which simply urge “BE KIND”.

My friend, Jim, lamented that people, i.e., the world, are so UNKIND. Indeed, Jim’s assessment is backed by news headlines and social/political commentary on the media outlets.

Another friend confided in me a few months ago that she and her boyfriend are taking their relationship to the next level. (Hope they are taking an elevator. Folks our age can’t be wasting time). She also commented that she will always remember me as a gentle, KIND man. Coward’s way of saying, “You are no longer in contention for my man of the year award.”

Gentle?? I have no choice. I am old and fragile; I have to be gentle.

Kind? That’s a matter of definition and opinion. We should talk about it, shouldn’t we?

Nothing defines ‘kind’ better than a passage from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. I’m sure you know it well.

Verses 4-8 tell us that kindness is love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Considering the events in Buffalo and Uvalde, is it time to cast aside love and kindness, shut off our media devices to keep the images of terror and hatred outside our realm of reality hoping to protect ourselves from the unimaginable pain and horror? Should we hide away behind closed doors in fear and distrust, turn off that part of us that thrives on love and patience, kindness and truth?

We would like to think, “Yes, I can do that.”

But we deceive ourselves if we try to do that. That is not whom we were designed to be.

As children of a magnanimous God, we have been created to also be magnanimous, to be generous and noble, not petty in conduct or in thought. We have been blessed with the courage to face darkness and ugliness and have been given the tools to confront the wrongs of our society whether that which is wrong is social injustice, poverty or murder of children. We have been saved from our own personal hells, our personal treks through darkness.

I was given a new life, a restoration, a reclamation when I said, “My name is Larry, I am an alcoholic.”

And it was all by grace, an unmerited and undeserved gift of a power greater than myself which even today I cannot define or understand. That’s how it is supposed to be – a mystery which I trust will be revealed when I leave this physical plane of existence.

But there is a price to pay for this gift. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 names this price. This is what God expects of me when times are tough, when minds are frazzled, when hatred wants to take center stage, when human understanding fails.

We can have our temper tantrums, we can scream at the trees, we can swear revenge. But in the end, we will resume our civic duties to turn the tide on violence and hatred and we will return to the love and kindness that floods the darkness with light.

That’s God’s way and that’s the path of sober living.

SOBER TODAY? GIVE YOURSELF AND YOUR HIGHER POWER A HAND.

teacher Marion

When I was in 5th grade at Leck Kill Elementary School, my teacher was Marion, my grandmother’s sister-in-law. Much to my amazement during one of her classes, Marion declared in response to a classmate’s answer to a question, “I’m from Missouri, I don’t believe that. Prove it!”

I was astonished because, as far as I could determine at that young age, all my relatives were native born Pennsylvanians, all of German heritage. Troubled for the rest of the day I made Marion the primary topic of discussion at the supper table with my family.

“Why no, Marion is from Trevorton (a nearby town), ” responded my mother and grandmother, “why would she say that?”

When confronted by her lie, Marion laughed while explaining the meaning of Missouri, the ‘show me state.’ Lesson to be learned was this: don’t believe anything alleged, whispered, declared as truth or seen without ample proof. And even then, ask questions.

Applying this to my recovery, to my commitment to sober living and to the entirety of my faith walk, I would like to believe that when I walked into the rooms of my first AA meeting, listened to the people tell their stories, and wished for the sobriety which they had, I thought, “Yes, this is for me, this is what I want, this is something I can do.”

But that would be a lie. I was a scared drunk simply wanting relief from a life which had put me on the doorstep of suicide. I did not know what I wanted. I was 34 years old feeling like an old man with nothing to live for. And I certainly did not believe that I could do what these sober alcoholics had done…..5, 10, 15 years of sobriety and they had survived without the crutch of alcohol which had carried me for so many years.

“Lord, I can’t do this,” I cried out when I left the meeting and returned home.

“Yes, you can, and here is how you will do it. Surrender your life to me and turn it over to my care.”

“But, Lord, you don’t know. The things I have done, the people I have hurt, the heartaches I have caused those who love me. You just don’t know.”

“I do know. And even so, I never stopped loving you. You are one of my Father’s children. Walk with me. ‘One day at a time’, ‘easy does it’, ‘let go and let God’…..it’s all there in the meeting rooms.”

Yes, those damned placards on the walls attempting to encourage me. Many nights, I sat quietly listening to others share their stories staring at the sayings on the walls while continuing to think, “Lord, I can’t do this.”

Those nights turned into years until finally through faith in a Higher Power, I realized that “Lord, I can’t” turned into “Lord, by your grace, I will.”

In a nutshell that’s my story and it can be yours also. There are no secrets to sobriety. Walk by faith as long as necessary until you can say, “Yes Lord, I will.”

And you are asking, “Larry, what does teacher Marion have to do with this story?”

Show me; prove it; I don’t believe it. Some of us are sicker than others and some of us need to live by faith until we can see clearly the promises of sobriety.

2 Corinthians 5:7 “We live by faith not by sight.”

It’s what I have to do

Second only to politicians, we alcoholics are probably the most selfish people I have ever known. Not that I know many politicians (thankfully), but I have met and loved a number of alcoholics in my lifetime.

They, and I include myself, seem to be lacking the gene that turns off the “I” button and concentrates more on the “you” default. Was it environment, upbringing, mental deficiency or truly a physical and emotional condition that laid waste to so many of our years while maturing?

Please note I said maturing and did not say while growing up because many of us just never grew up. We stayed in that age group when we first began our careers in alcoholism, that age group when our peers were educating themselves, raising families, focusing on relationships, starting careers…….yeah, getting responsible for themselves. Some of us missed out on those milestones in life and, unfortunately, never caught up to the rest of our siblings and friends.

So, is it too late now? Oh, hell no. We just have to try harder, put in more effort, appreciate sober-living more than most because sobriety is not a lifestyle for wimps. It takes great courage to turn it over to a Higher Power every day thus giving up control of our lives. It takes great courage to surrender it all to an entity which most of us cannot or will not define in the terms of this world.

What are your stumbling blocks? What were mine? We discovered them in our 4th Step inventory and, shared them with another person and with God as we understood God. And we did not stop there. Sober time convinced us that more inventories, more thoroughly exhaustive were necessary, more honest maybe.

It didn’t all happen in one day, it was not a ‘once and done’ effort. Meeting after meeting, night after night with a sponsor, sharing when sharing was difficult and uncomfortable, thinking of others when that was still unnatural – it all finally led to a moment of epiphany, that breakthrough when we could say with heartfelt thanks, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

No, it was not an easy path. But, we had no choice, did we? The alternatives were jail, a mental institution or death. It’s been years since Day One for me, but I must reaffirm my decision to follow sober-living everyday. I have no choice, do you?

If you’re sober today, give yourself and your HigherPower a hand.

it’s a choice

Serenity or calamity – which do I choose to follow every morning….the serenity of inspired readings, morning worship, prayer and meditation or the calamity abounding on my media feeds? Awful days do not just occur randomly. Good days are not merely accidental blessings from a gracious Father. The thoughts I think, the things I do, the images I feed into my brain upon rising will determine where I spend the following hours.

When I truly believe that I am worthy of goodness and mercy, peace and hope, then I seriously pay attention to my day’s beginning. Then I know with certainty that I am not walking alone on this journey through the dark valley.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” PSALM 23: 4-6

O Come, O come, Emmanuel

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7: 14

Immanuel – God with us

The year 2020 has given to us innumerable opportunities to grow in faith and commitment to that way of life which we know to be right and true. This moral compass is known by many names. During the Christmas season “Immanuel” is celebrated as the North Star of our compass.

amazing grace

“MY CHAINS ARE GONE – I’VE BEEN SET FREE”

Many of us in recovery from addiction tearfully and prayerfully remember our brothers and sisters who have died or are still suffering and we quietly say, “But, for the grace of God, there go I.”

We believe it was grace, not luck nor will power, that brought us to our knees in humility seeking a better way, a return to sanity, a reason to continue on our journeys as participants in life. It was grace that set us free from the hell of alcoholism and drug addiction. It is still today that amazing grace which keeps us clean and serene. We praise the power whom we address as Lord and Savior as we thankfully remember the many others along the way who have knelt with us, cried with us and prayed with us.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

John 8:36

Beggar in the presence of a king

If your life is perfect, if you have no problems, if your faith is strong as an ox, then this post is probably not for you.  On the other hand, if you are like me, a man who questions everything, doubts everything as the disciple Thomas did, reels between ecstasy and bewilderment when considering the things of faith, then we can appreciate the title of Matthew West’s song, BROKEN THINGS.

“If it’s true you use broken things – then here I am Lord, I’m all yours.”

People don’t like broken things – they throw away cracked dishes, broken vacuum cleaners, flickering lamps, worn clothing.  I remember my grandfather who took his shoes to a cobbler to be re-soled rather than buy new shoes.  Thinking he could not afford new shoes, I bought him a pair for Christmas.  Graciously he thanked me but continued wearing those old shoes.  That new pair was still in its box when Grandpa died.

Rather than repairing broken relationships, husbands and wives will find good divorce lawyers.  Fathers and sons remain estranged for many years after a disagreement, not remembering what the argument was about, but too stubborn to reconcile.  For many of us, broken relationships are not worth repairing.

I was the last to admit that I was broken.  My life had spiraled head first into a vast darkness which applauded my efforts to be strong, to be better than others, to stand out from the crowd, to chart my own destiny no matter what the cost.  I swam in that sea of darkness believing it was my strength of character and independence that kept me afloat.  I did it entirely on my own personal will power.  I drove myself to be a self-made man, independent of anyone – especially God.

Some of us are sicker than others.  Thankfully, God knows this; he has a special room in His heart for the sickest of the sick.  Patiently, steadfastly, lovingly He guided me to a place where I could take an honest assessment of me – on my knees.  We talked, we cried, we screamed out in pain and then we entered the wide gate into the Kingdom of grace.

I am still a broken vessel today.  I like it that way because my Lord can use broken things to fix the brokenness which He sees in his human family.  Patch me, glue me, bind me together.  Like that pair of Grandpa’s worn-out shoes, I can always be re-souled.  “I am just a beggar in the presence of a King.”

“Grace is a Kingdom with gates open wide.”

boots-cup-daylight-167706

COURTESY OF lum3n.com

 

another 72 hours

unshackled-2So 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….

Well, how was your weekend?  Did you get all those chores accomplished?  Maybe an afternoon family BBQ by the pool?  Did you maintain sober-living for the past 72 hours?  Not just alcohol free, but truly sobriety-appreciating behavior?

If today finds you sober and serene, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.  If not, tomorrow is another day to start your adventure through sobriety.sober emoji

Leonard Cohen

unshackled-2So 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….

“For the millions in a prison
That wealth has set apart—
For the Christ who has not risen,
From the caverns of the heart

For the innermost decision
That we cannot but obey
For what’s left of our religion,
I lift my voice and pray;
May the lights in the land of Plenty
Shine on the truth someday.”

—Leonard Cohen

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