EMANCIPATION

The word emancipation has been used frequently over the past few days – and it should be.  When we can celebrate together as One the freedom of all, we will then be socially emancipated.  All groups of immigrants coming to America’s table of equality desired emancipation – Germans, Irish, Asian, Catholic, Muslim, etc.  It’s an innate destiny to live our lives as designed and intended by a Higher Power.  Our nation is unique in that we have historically welcomed any who wish to be  a part of our melting pot culture.  Lady liberty, standing in New York Harbor, shares these words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But, emancipation is more than the freedom granted by society.  It is also personal and spiritual.  That shameful habit that we have hidden within hoping no body would discover our little secret, that unlawful act we committed decades ago, that extra-maritalPicture1.pngconfession (2) affair with our best friend’s wife….all waiting for the grace of emancipation.  It can happen only when, “we admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  STEP 5, TWELVE & TWELVE, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Getting honest is not a fun thing.  It can be heart wrenching and difficult.  The Big Book tells us to be fearless and thorough in our personal inventories.  But, there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.  It is the freedom brought about by the emancipation of our souls.  For some of us it is a return to foundational principles learned young, but then squandered during our addictions.  Come to the table where equality dwells and find your freedom now.

“…..if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  JOHN 31-32

unshackled 3

 

JUNETEENTH

White folks probably don’t know the significance of Juneteenth, also called FREEDOM DAY, JUBILEE DAY, CEL-LIBERATION DAY, EMANCIPATION DAY.  Why should they?  How many of us knew about Cinco de Mayo  before Taco Bell came to the USA?  We, as a race, are extremely culture insensitive.

JUNETEENTH commemorates a day important in the history of African-Americans.   On June19th, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation which had been issued in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln was read to enslaved African-Americans in Texas by Gordan Granger, a Union general of the Civil War.  Texas was home to more than 250,00 enslaved blacks.

“This year’s celebration takes place during a moment of national crisis. There is a collective sense of frustration and devastation as we confront the entrenchment of racism and oppression in our systems of government, education, housing, voting, labor, health care and justice that endures more than a century after the last remaining enslaved Black Americans were freed.” splcenter.org

Millions of white Americans will join hands and link arms and connect spiritually with our brothers and sisters of color in solidarity.  We would like to believe that we do not notice skin color.  That is untrue.  We do see the differences, but what we do in our hearts with those differences determines who we will be as a nation.  Our country’s future is at a crossroads with an issue which should have been conquered with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today, Juneteenth, let’s join in this celebration of freedom.  Tomorrow, June 20th, let’s flood social media, let’s counter any gatherings of disruptive citizens who want to hold on to racist agendas with our own agenda of peace and brotherhood founded upon the words so proudly exclaimed in our Declaration Of Independence…..“all men are created equal.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma, will be the scene of political forces on June 20th which have given a national voice to the hatred and violence of white nationalism masquerading as conservative values in both politics and religion.  We, proponents of nonviolence in actions of social justice, also have a voice which needs to be heard.  Let those voices be ringing loud and clear as we envision a nation free of racial injustice and intolerance.

Picture6

 

TULSA RACE RIOTS

 

FREEDOM

What does freedom mean to you?  Picture6
What price will you pay for it? 
Would you be willing to die so others could enjoy freedom?

I’m not sure what the motives were for my father and three of his brothers.  They all enlisted in the military service of their country during WW2.  But, whatever their reasoning, they are my heroes on this Memorial Day.  Returning to civilian life after the war, they continued to serve their families and communities.  In my eyes they put everything on the line to ensure the freedom of every one of us for generations to come.  That kind of courage and selflessness is rare in today’s America.

Freedom is not free.  It comes at great cost.  I often wonder if I have paid my dues – have I paid the price for the freedoms I enjoy today?  Perhaps that I.O.U will come due sometime in the future.  What do I owe and to whom?  Will I have the courage and selflessness to pay my debt?

The greatest gifting of freedom, aside from the sacrifices of our fallen military heroes, has been the adventure of sobriety given to a helpless, hopeless drunk.  Undeserved and unmerited, this gift of amazing grace has allowed a life of celebration and thankfulness rather than one of dread and misery.  John 8:36 says it all:

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This is not a freedom with conditional clauses and a litany of ‘thou shalt and shalt not’.  It is not tied to any particular faith walk or theology.  It does not consign me to hell for being bad or promise me heaven for being good.  There are only two requirements for enjoying this freedom forever.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all you mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  JOHN 10:27

Pretty simple stuff.  Freedom can be costly, but need not be difficult.

LOVE

 

“hear our prayer this day” by Austin Fleming

Flags waving,
patriotic music filling the airwaves,
picnics celebrating,
picture1kegs of beer overflowing,
tables laden with ribs and beans,
corn on the cob and slaw.

Just another holiday that’s lost its meaning?
Or a time to remember that our freedom is at great cost.

Hear Our Prayer This Day

by AUSTIN FLEMING

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing …

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone …

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs …

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice …

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace …

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts…

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.

The peace of God be with you.

JESUITRESOURCE.ORG

 

compromise

What are we willing to compromise for government protection or assistance?  Perhaps another regulation or federal snoop is not too great a price to pay for those promised benefits – or is it?  When should we stop giving away another little piece of our liberty?

No, I don’t have the answers, but the words of ancient wisdom would advise this:

"When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.

Act for the people's benefit;
trust them, leave them alone."

verse 75, the TAO

When fewer demands are placed upon me, I demand less of myself.  I embrace a freedom (john 8:31-32) to commune with nature, watch my garden grow, read verses, write or

JUST DO NOTHING 😄

don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

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.

animals-elderly-forest-40873

There currently is a television commercial depicting a hiker walking on a beautiful, unfamiliar wooded trail using GPS as a guide.  In an instant he drops his backpack, runs ahead on the trail.  The last scene is disconcerting to me, even though I have seen it many times.  Running at full speed, he jumps off a cliff several 100 feet high into a beautiful shimmering lake awaiting below.

Would you trust your GPS that implicitly?  Could I?  Trust it enough to jump off a cliff to certain death if the data is not correct?  What if there is no deep water at the end of my jump to cushion my fall?

We are asked to do the same with our faith.  Nobody has returned from death to tell us about the glories of heaven or the depths of hell.  Nobody has seen Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. NOBODY!  So why should we believe?  I am a rational, reasonable human being who has spent numerous decades trying to determine what life is about and I have as much certitude now as I did when I came into this world.

BINGO!  Faith is not about certitude.  Faith is trust in the mystery which tells us that light will overcome the darkness, that love will prevail, that peace on earth will occur when mankind becomes peaceful in all his affairs.  Faith is not at the end of the trail,  a destiny to be attained.  Rather, it is the trail itself.

We read scriptures for many reasons.  The history of the Jews is an interesting lesson in the human condition.  All the trials, the greed, the intolerance, the violence are balanced by victory over ego, insights about communal living, stories that reflect man’s search for God.

The writings by the contemporaries of Jesus relate His message that relieves followers from the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant observed by ancient Jewish culture.  Some Christian leaders today carry across the B.C / A.D line those Old Covenant laws attempting to override the simple message of Christianity regarding laws (commandments).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this:  love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark: 12:30-31

Pretty simple, straight-forward theology, is it not?  We don’t need anything more to trust that our faith is heading in the right direction.  Forget all the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt not’ from the ponderous teachings and preachings of modern Christianity which have done more to oppress than enlighten.  That is what John said:

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

He’s talking about freedom from the oppression of ancient theology and theological laws.  We can trust a simple faith which places God and love for fellow-man at the center of our beliefs.  Nothing more is needed.

How we live our faith is a choice we make every day.  The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous urge us onward with this daily choice by slogans on the wall.  K.I.S.S. – Keep ISimple Stupid – is one of them which embodies a way of living, a faith walk if you will, that frees us from concerns about religious correctness.  The fellowship which occurs in those rooms attests to the success of making sober-living people out of drunkards through a simple spiritual program.  Have you KISSED today?

cropped-curve-dark-dawn-327316.jpg

 

cool cat Max

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My cat, Max, and I are very similar.  He looks for his food bowl when he’s hungry, he toilets himself when necessary, he washes himself whether he needs to or not, and he looks for human companionship when lonely.  The one thing which I wish he could learn is to brush his teeth every day.  I haven’t given up – even Max is still a work in progress.

Actually, Max is better at some things than I am.  He always manages to find time for several naps during the day and, coolest of all, he finds the tiniest sliver of sunshine in the front room of the house to bask and replenish from a tough day of doing nothing.  I’m envious.

“Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”  Hans Christian Andersen

Max has no idea what a joy he is in my life.  He simply does what cats are created to do.  Same with the flowers in the fields, the birds in the air, animals in the woods, pelicans, alligators, fish.  Only humans seem to stumble and trip over the meaning of man’s place in the world.

There is much we could learn by sitting on a park bench, hiking in the woods, watching a sunset or a pelican fishing for dinner.  God gave us innumerable examples of what was intended for us if we would simply be still and observe His other creatures.

My cat, Max, hasn’t given up on me yet.  He still meows when he’s got something to share, purrs when he’s at peace, and lies in the sun where life is wonderful.  So much wisdom to gather from God’s creation.  I wish I were not such a slow learner.

heart manatee

 

SIMPLICITY

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.

blur-book-candle-207700

Book, Candle, Desk, Chair, Pen & Sleeping Mat.

This is what it has come to, my friends.  As I look around at the accumulation of stuff which has followed me around for 53 years since the day I rented my 1st living space, I sigh and mutter to myself, “Is this all there is?”

No, I’m not having a Peggy Lee moment.  I am simply tired of the baggage in my life.  Looking at the cupboard which I lovingly restored in 1972, the wash stand stripped of paint and returned to its original beauty, the rocking chair which rocked my great-grandfather as he listened to his floor model Motorola radio, and the old dishes in the cupboard which also set in my Grandma’s “shunk”, I realize that as I carted them from numerous abodes in Pennsylvania to Florida in 1995, the memories traveled with them.  And those memories will always be with me until the memory banks fail or die.

But the stuff, oh Lord, the stuff that keeps me from living in a cave or in a monastery, or in the woods in a tent, or in a room up in somebody’s garret.  Just a book, a candle, a desk, a chair, pen and sleeping mat today screams to me, “Freedom!”

Some of my recovering friends would say that I need a thorough housecleaning, an internal inventory to alleviate my travail.  But, although they are often right, this is not the case today.  I simply need simplicity.  I am tired and I am ready to embark on a different and exciting journey, a new QUEST.

You may challenge me with, “From what are you running, Larry?”

Truly, I have run from many things in my life, mostly myself.  But, I know what ‘running from’ is like.  This is different.  This is running towards the place where I hope to spend the last few years of my life – a simple, uncluttered life.  If I sincerely trust that a higher power will provide for my needs, then what I desire should not be impossible.  If I really believe that all my material needs can be packed in a suitcase and a backpack, then what is holding me back?

Commitments.  Yes, sadly I still have commitments to other people.  Those who have stood by me for many years now rely on me for comfort and security.  The shared responsibilities of a shared life with another person cannot be abandoned even when increasingly difficult.  Even Max, the cat, depends on me for his survival.  And who would clean this house and cook the dinners and make sure the bills get paid on time?  Who?  Tell me, who?

Ahhh, it’s a pipe dream, is it not?  Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.  Someday I will be free.  Until then I have my stuff and my responsibilities and Max.

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

FREEDOM

larry6

 

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  JOHN 8:36

I was not a Bible fan when my first days of recovery rocked my world.  If anything, I was quite the opposite, arguing and ridiculing Bible promoters.  I soon learned that it was not the message which I disliked, but the messengers who misconstrued, misinterpreted, and outright lied about the message.

My recovery fellowship shed light on the misconceptions which I had developed over the years of pain and brokenness.  Slowly, I adjusted my attitude to a more tolerant view of Scriptures and began listening to other voices which were proclaiming the greatness of a Higher Power.  Surprisingly, that Higher Power was not the same God of my childhood.  My earlier concept had maligned and obstructed any reasonable desire on my part to surrender my will to God.  Not until I was able to wrap my mind around a universal Essence, which they called Higher Power, was I empowered and freed by writings of Scriptures.

Many years into my sobriety sojourn I enjoyed a job on the grave-yard shift which allowed enough self direction to listen to the radio.  A favorite must-hear program was UNSHACKLED from Pacific Garden Mission out of Chicago.  It’s theme verse was John 8:36.  There is so much hope packed into those few words of encouragement that I made it my lifetime favorite. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” 

Initially, I associated this verse only with the power of alcoholism and drug addiction.  Yes indeed, faith in the Son and living by principles of a sober fellowship had freed me from the hell of substance abuse.  Over time it finally occurred to me that this very same Son had the power to also free me from the concerns of life, from behavior abuses, and ultimately from devotion to the great “me.”  It was a simple but astounding revelation.

Each of us has the capacity to interpret “the Son” as directed by our conscience and our spirit. We don’t need religion nor men/women with a divinity degree behind their names to define “the Son.”  But for me, a personality and human form as presented in Scriptures and clarified by ancient mystics defines with simplicity the life necessary to make me free.  It tells me what I must do to be aware of dirty politics and societal injustice, to struggle with the downtrodden and oppressed, to uphold the homeless and poor, but not be burdened or controlled by those same issues.  Jesus can do that.  ISAIAH 61:1 defined the mission of Jesus when Isaiah wrote:

The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me.
    The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose.
He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to repair broken hearts,
And to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison,
    “Be free from your imprisonment!”

The Voice (VOICE)The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

unshackled-2