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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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“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.

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walk on the wild side

 

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Have you ever taken a walk on the wild side?  Maybe you told your mom and dad you were sleeping over at Susie’s house when in truth you were shacking up with Tony at a flea-bag motel.  Maybe you got caught with a few doobies by the local cop and you gave him the “fun” he wanted in exchange for forgetting about it.  Maybe you lied about the new boots you shoplifted and told your husband you did some babysitting for the money.

Was that walk on the wild side more like a trip through hell?  You got involved in sex for pay to cover your college expenses.  You stole your grandmother’s diamond ring to cover a drug debt.  You lied to your spouse about the perfumed shirt collar after the office party.  You kept your mistress on the other side of town while claiming to be working many hours of overtime at the office.  You spent your entire bank account on a weekend of gambling at the casino and your wife did not have money for the baby’s formula.

Or perhaps you devoted your youth and your money to an addiction?  Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, meth, sex?  You lied, cheated, stole, murdered.  You made your family wish that you were never born.  You had no friends other than drunks and druggies.  After awhile they got sick of you too.  Is that your story?

Years ago a rich landowner had two sons of whom he was very proud.   The elder son was industrious, loyal, beloved by family and friends alike.  The younger son was a playboy, not as diligent, and somewhat devious .  He heard of a country nearby where life was pleasant, where men lounged by the poolside sipping fine tasting margaritas  served by voluptuous maidens….naked maidens.

He schemed a plan to move to that country to live the good life.  One fine morning, the son approached his father saying, “Dad, half of your estate will be mine when you pass on.  Would you consider giving it to me now so that I can relocate to this great little country I’ve been reading about and build my own empire?”

Now, Dad was no country bumpkin.  He knew what his son was planning but loved him greatly and agreed to do as he was asked.  The son departed for his future amidst tears in the household and a father deeply grieved.  He soon arrived at his destination and began the life of leisure he desired.  The pool, the maidens, the drinking all led him to believe he had undoubtedly found utopia.

Within a few years the money was depleted.  He looked for a job, but his reputation as a sluggard and a liar preceded him and there were no good jobs befitting the son of a wealthy landowner.  His last desperate hope was at the slaughterhouse cleaning out pig pens.  The good-hearted owner hired him and the young man worked very hard for  minimum wages.  His desperation grew and he could not afford even a meal at the local MickeyD’s on the corner where he lived.  So he shared with the hogs  the slop which was fed to them daily.

After several months living this way, the young wayward son feared that he would die in this condition.  “I am the son of a wealthy landowner.  Why am I living this way?  I will go back home, throw myself at my father’s feet and beg forgiveness asking only that he keep me as one of the household servants.”

And so he did this.

Sitting on his long, wide front porch, the father spied his son approaching from many miles away.  “Behold, my long-lost son is coming home, he is returning from the far country.”

He instructed the head chef to prepare a luxurious meal of all the son’s favorite foods, he instructed the tailor to lay out the finest robes and slippers in the household, and he told his social assistant to invite all the townspeople for a week-long party with enough food and wine for a week of festivities

And then he ran down the lane winding to the house, beheld his unshaven, dirty, smelly son and embraced him with hugs and kisses saying, “My son, I have been with you always in the far country and I have never stopped loving you.”

The young prodigal was flabbergasted.  His father should be angry and ready to cast him in the local hoosegow in chains for what had happened.  The inheritance had been wasted on partying and loose women, the family reputation had been disgraced and yet, he was received as a prince, a man of honor.

The young son bathed in fine perfumed waters, put on the finest robes in the house and sat down to enjoy the homecoming with the best wine and food the household could provide.  It was a joyous celebration in Father’s house.

Okay, most of you know this story from the book of Luke.  We also know that the elder son who had stayed at home, tended to his father’s business, lived a life of moderation and responsibility threw quite a hissy fit over his fathers magnanimous reception for the philandering younger brother.  He felt that somehow he was owed a greater portion of the father’s love because he had crossed every t and dotted every i in his life of obedience.

We are all prodigal sons.  Not because of the trek to the far country, but rather, because we underestimate the vastness and depth of the Father’s love for us.  That love is not dependent on our return from the far country or our contrition.  It does not require bowed heads, vows of repentance, or promises of good works.  The love which exceeds all human understanding and comprehension is simply there….always.  Don’t have to perform tricks, jump through hoops, or repeat endless oaths to receive it.

That love goes wherever I go.  It went with me through my 17 years of addiction to alcohol and wrapped me in its protection when I was too numbed and senseless to protect myself.  It kept me from suicide when suicide appeared to be the most intelligent decision to make.  It does not abandon me when I behave like a fool or when I forget to pray.  It is simply there….always.

Certainly, the parable of the prodigal tells me of the futility in chasing worldly pleasure and of the futility in seeking perfection trying to gain the father’s approval.  But, at its core the story teaches unconditional, unending, ever-present, unquestioning love for me flowing from the One dwelling within as Lord of my life.

I agree with King David in Psalm  23:6,  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

That pool of the Father’s love is bottomless and I can give it away freely forever.  I didn’t earn it; I don’t deserve it;  and I can’t lose it.  Never.

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