LUKE 15

Having been reared in the Lutheran Church, 1st cousin to the Catholic Church, the faith walk of President Joe and Dr. Jill as devout Catholics has greatly enhanced my trust in and respect for them as the First Family. You might ask, “Larry, why is that?”

The disappointing performance of their predecessors who tied their star to the Evangelical movement has brought down upon believers and non-believers alike a distrust of anything which reeks of religion. Of all major faiths, the Catholic Church has suffered tremendous harm over the past years for numerous reasons, most onerous of which has been sexual abuse.

Not to excuse this travesty, but to reflect upon and uphold the life-changing endeavors of many who have walked in the shoes of Jesus, St. Francis, Pope Francis, etc., it becomes necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is easy (and human) to fall into judgement of the Church, Lutheran or Catholic, while disregarding the great treasures bestowed upon society in terms of art, music, writing, and philosophy. Social justice is today the centerpiece of both faiths, the driving force in commendable ministries, personal and congregational.

Before charging all believers as pharisaical or, as I have often been labeled, a follower of an ‘imaginary’ friend, we should evaluate the path taken and the life lived as a believer. The Bible speaks of the fruits of faith. What are the fruits of the Spirit?

CHARITY, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, LONG-SUFFERING, GENTLENESS, FAITH, MODESTY, SELF-CONTROL, CHASTITY

GALATIANS: 5:22-23

It’s not difficult to determine, when viewing our national leaders, where they have been and what fruits they have produced. An apple tree does not produce lemons, a grape vine does not produce poisonous fruit. What lies in the wake of one’s earthly journey speaks volumes of his/her inner life. Mine was tumultuous and tortured. My moral compass was surrendered to a life of addiction. My North Star sat next to me on a bar stool.

That’s why I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to the local Lutheran Church, to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School when I was a child. Although my story became that of the Prodigal written in the Book of Luke, chapter 15, my recovery and subsequent renewal of conscience were directly the work of a loving God, the commitment of people living sober lives and, of course the dedication of parents trying to raise a decent young man.

That’s why I trust President Joe and Dr. Jill. I know personally the moral compass which they profess and the North Star which they follow.


“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry” LUKE 15: 20-22, 24

It’s my story

January, 1981, my story was changed. On that cold night in the social hall of a local church, I wasn’t looking for sobriety, I wasn’t searching for a savior to guide my life forever thereafter, I wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to become a new man. I just wanted to stop hurting, stop the pain that defined my life. What those men and women sitting at the table of my first AA meeting shared was a familiar story because I knew it well. After 17 years living the insanity of alcoholism, I was ready for a new chapter in my story, but, “Good Lord,” I cried. ‘What a tall order, I can’t do it. Living without alcohol forever. I can’t.”

Then that voice which has become so very familiar answered, “Yes, together, we can. It’s not forever, it’s one day at a time, let go and let me.”

Forty years ago my story was changed. Not by my will power nor luck, rather by loving, sober people who cared and a God who could and would make a new man out of me. That’s my story. Chris, Jack, Jo, Cindy, Tom, Danny, Father Bond are just a few of the characters from my recovery…..Jesus is the author.

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

“I love to tell the story! ‘Twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Catherine Hankey

Now what?

Probably most of the Christian world has whispered a hushed ‘phewww’ now that the pace of the season is over. Time to kick back, watch some football on TV and run to WalMart to exchange those unwanted gifts.

But, what shall we do with Jesus, the greatest gift of all? We could put him on the fireplace mantel until next year, pack him away with the rest of the Christmas decororations, or shove him into the closet with the other unwanted gifts.

What will I do with Jesus? Several years ago, a renown comedian referred to Jesus as our imaginary friend. Amidst his profanity, the tasteless attempts at comedy, his crude sexual referrals, this one comment offended my senses more than any.

But, it caused me to contemplate. Is this just a product of my imagination? Have I been bamboozled by opportunistic theologians? Am I searching fruitlessly for answers in an unknown realm of belief?

The truth is that I don’t know. What I perceive is a belief in something unknown and unproven in our physical world. Some would define this as faith and for me faith is good enough to call Jesus real – as real as anything I can see, hear or touch.

I do know as factual the functioning body with which I have been blessed, the beautiful Creation in which I live, the wondrous unfolding amazement of a friend’s love, the purring cat lying beside me. My recovery and redemption from a life of alcoholic addiction is certainly proof of an intervention by an unseen and unproven God.

It is my choice what I do with this gift that renews every Christmas. I can receive everlasting love, peace and comfort or I can set it aside for another year to collect dust.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him ye creatures here below; praise Him above ye heavenly Host; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

the promises of AA

OK. It is official. Immanuel (God with us) has arrived into a world filled with heartache, hatred, poverty, fear and, oh yes-don’t forget the pandemic. Welcome, Jesus. Sorry, I could not clean up our mess for you.

Lord, sometimes it is just too much to process. That’s why we have you. Our Father gave you to us to set the standard, to show us how we are supposed to live in a loving humanity of brothers and sisters. Guide us in your ways. AMEN

We are blessed every day with breath, with heartbeat, with functioning bodies. We awaken each morning to the glorious beauty of Your creation. For those of us saved from the ravages of alcoholism and associated addictions, we remember what we did last night, where we were, whom we slept with and where we parked our truck when we came home. We awaken unashamed of last night’s activity and sure that our coming day will be filled with continuing peace and understanding. And we look forward to another day basking in the light of Jesus.

We anticipate fulfilment of the promises we have read in our recovery literature. The truth of sobriety is synonymous with the commitment to sober-living. It’s not only about “not drinking and using”. It’s about changing who we are, how we think, what we do and how we relate to the world. No longer are we individually the center of our universes. No longer do we fear social situations or financial difficulties. Sober-living leads us to an understanding which was impossible for us as drunks and addicts.

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to realize a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret our 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 upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic adversity 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, pgs 83-84

Are these extravagant promises? Absolutely not! Millions of recovering alcoholics living successfully and productively will testify to the results. Those results will always materialize if we work for them.

Living sober is not about the ‘right’ God or the ‘right’ theology. I choose the God of my youth, my religious tradition, to guide me through a world that assaults and profanes my innate sense of moral compass. Jesus is the North Star of that compass. Celebrating the birth renews and revitalizes a life-long faith tradition. But, each of us must find the “God of our understanding.”

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” STEP 3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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.

made in the image

It doesn’t say white or black, short or tall, handsome or rugged, sailor or land-lubber, farmer or hunter.  It doesn’t say intelligent or obtuse, mechanical or artistic, straight or cropped-larry-rebel.pnggay, musical or tone-deaf.  Verse 27 of Genesis 1 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

That’s who we are whether we believe we have descended from hairy jungle dwellers or from a colony of extraterrestrial voyagers or whether we emerged from God’s test tubes fully human six or seven thousand years ago.  The wisdom of the early sages is saying that we are all alike, made from the same stuff.  The mystery of this image covers all humanity.

Okay, I can hear you saying, “Larry, the verse is not talking about physical appearance.”

You are probably right.  Then what is God’s image?  Maybe love?  Maybe compassion?  Maybe faithfulness?  How about hope and righteousness?  And don’t forget joy.  That is who we are, whom we were designed to be, so why would we choose to live otherwise? God’s DNA is the stuff from which we were made.  We are not ignorance, intolerance, hatred, weakness and fear.  We were not made unimportant and inconsequential.

That shared DNA makes us brothers and sisters, doesn’t it?  I may not know my Asian brother in China, but we are related.  My sister in Iran may not follow the same political philosophy which I do, but we are related.  The names given to the God whom we worship may be vastly different, but we are brothers and sisters in the universal oneness.  Do you see the common thread developing here?  As much as you or I desire to be different or distinguished, more handsome of prettier, smarter than all others, we are one humanity born into the image of the One, the original creator.

Our survival as a species is not God-dependent.  God did the birthing, but it is our choice to live in harmony with others and with all of Creation.  There have been messengers to lead and guide on this journey, to redirect as necessary, but in the end, living or not living in solidarity will determine the chances of our survival.

My skin color does not make me more worthy.  Your intelligence does not make you more like God.  Our financial success on earth will mean nothing on heaven’s society page.  Our personalities, our physical appearances, our possessions, our bodies will stay behind when we die.

“All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust all return.”  ECCLESIASTICS 3:20

The author of the Jesus story has tried to tell us that this life is birth, death and then resurrection – what is so difficult about that?  The most significant part of us will return to the energy pool in preparation to become part of another human’s God energy.  The cycle continues forever.

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25-Jan 5

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.

“For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Emmanuel – God with us!  The words of Isaiah foretelling a messiah were written many centuries before the New Testament, as we know it, was compiled from writings by the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  But, the message could not be any clearer because the world was not that much different back then from the world we have today.  Violence, oppression, intolerance, and poverty ruled the everyday lives of the commoners of the Jewish people.  And they, especially the acclaimed prophets, looked to a time when peace and justice would prevail.

Put aside the busyness of the season, forget about the rush to get a holiday dinner together for family, don’t worry about all those gifts that will be returned tomorrow.  Celebrate with gusto this day because it is a phenomenal event for the world.  Along with the sumptuous meals and joyous festivities, remember on this day the blessings of a gracious, loving God who dwells within each of us.  We can name that God whatever our tradition or conscience dictates, wherever the Spirit within leads, because on this day we have been freed from spiritual oppression and spiritual poverty through Emmanuel.  God with us. 

“For if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

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ADVENT-Psalm 18:2

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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“No matter how many Advent seasons sweep by, Lord, your reminders remain the same. Each tear we cry has a purpose. Each trying stage has a divine reason. And in your capable hands, each icy rain of adversity is transformed into the warmth and sparkle of your grace.”
~Edited from Janet Perez Eckles’ “3 Reasons to Dry Your Tears of Sadness at Christmas

IMMANUEL – “God with us”

This short writing from Janet Perez Eckles details the tears, the difficulties, and the challenges of a mother and wife facing blindness.  Her loss becomes unbearably painful during the Christmas season when the delightful sights of decorations and children opening presents sends her to the bedroom in tears.  Those joys of Christmas have been reduced to a gray blur.  Her ophthalmic condition is incurable.  Yet Janet finds comfort in her Lord’s capable hands.

This mother’s loss of vision is a physical reality.  It is challenging, difficult, and disheartening.  But, her salvation lies in spiritual vision, the ability to go deep within and allow her Lord and Savior to dry the tears, encourage and strengthen this child of His to move on in life.

That is the beauty of the Advent season.  Immanuel – God with us – says that you and I do not have to battle life’s unfair punches alone.  We have deep, inner reserves of courage and strength that will transform the adversarial events, the tears of disappointment and sorrow into a season of “warmth and sparkle” embraced in the arms of the Lord.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer….my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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