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

 

t-shirts

 

animals-elderly-forest-40873
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 is overflowing.

My trips to the grocery store are usually uneventful.  The most exciting things are bumper stickers on cars in the parking lot and t-shirts with messages draped on the shoppers.

Today’s winner of the BOOOO award was  a busty woman with these words on her shirt:

I WILL FIGHT FOR
MY GUNS
MY GOD
MY CONSTITUTION

Somehow, in my silly rationale, those 3 sentiments simply do not belong together.  What do you think?

sad emoji

the PRODIGAL returns

We delve into the world of non-believing, into the emptiness of denial, into the realm of anti-religion looking for answers.  We look to worldly pleasures and comforts for fulfillment.

Wherever we look,
there you are, the One who never deserted,
mercy, grace and goodness cropped-candle.png
patiently awaiting our return.

We are the seekers.
We yearn, we search
in realms beyond us
for that which has always been within.

The prodigal returns. LUKE 15:11-32

blessings – great & small

 

For breath and clean air to breathe,
for heartbeat and healthy flowing blood…
I am thankful.
For arms and legs that move,
for toes that wiggle…
I am thankful.

gratitude changes everything

For sobriety and the willingness to live soberly,
for a clear head and commitment to sane, rational thinking…
I am thankful.
For waking up knowing where I was last night,
for knowing what I did last night and where I parked my truck…
I am thankful.

Sober today?  Give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.sober emoji

a time of surrender

44

Even after years of continuous sobriety, Step 1 of the AA program is as relevant today for me as it was back in 1981.  They called it “self-will run riot” at the meeting tables.  We, if we were honest about our situation, could heartily agree with the unmanageable existence that had become everyday life under the control of alcohol.

But, there had to be more than merely admitting that we had a drinking problem and that our lives were unmanageable.  We had to change who we were, how we processed life situations.  We had to change our thinking and our priorities.  It was not easy.   Many did not make the transition and returned to old ways under the clutches of addiction.

So, you might ask, “what made the difference, why would some succeed while others slipped back into drinking?”

SURRENDER.  Surrendering to the wisdom at the meeting tables, to those who cared enough to share their stories, to those who sat up into the wee morning hours to guide us through moments of weakness, to the inspiration given in the writings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, and finally to a power greater than us – that Higher Power which appears under innumerable names and philosophies.  We had to surrender everything which told us that we were special and unique, separate from the gutter drunk or the teenaged hustler on the street corner.  We had to accept that “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

Have I surrendered today?  Have I turned over all my concerns, all my fears, all my prejudices, all my doubts and insecurities?  Have you?

We are told that we no longer need to live lives of continual turmoil.  We don’t need to worry about the stock market, about wars in distant lands, about turmoil in our country, about pandemics that could kill us because ultimately we do not have control over anything outside the heart and soul that comfort us.  We, if we have surrendered, trust in the goodness of humanity and the grace of a Higher Power.  It is the only pathway to internal peace.  Internal peace is the only pathway to a world of peace.  Worrying contradicts surrender and robs us of peace.  What’s our choice going to be?

A favorite passage from the book of Luke tells me:

“…can any of you, for all your worrying, add a single moment to the span of your life?”  LUKE 12:25-26

animals-elderly-forest-40873

the lesson to learn

So 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.

cropped-sanity2.pngIs covid-19 just a warm-up, a practice session for the inhabitants of earth when the gathering global warming and climate change wreak havoc on our weather patterns, our agriculture system, our social connections, our employment, our financial security, our black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417ability to survive in a hostile environment?

If so, if this is a test, how are we doing?  I personally am dealing with social distancing rather handily since I am by nature an introvert and a non-engager.  I enjoy solitude and the absence of people.  I enjoy hours ‘piddling’ in my garden, reading a book, watching cooking videos on YouTube, walking in the woods, hanging out with Max, the cat.  I am not bothered by the lack of social interaction mandated by covid-19.

But, how are you doing?  Cinemas have closed their doors, restaurants are no longer serving sit-down meals inside, churches have cancelled Sunday services, schools are shut down, grocery stores are experiencing shortages (who’d have thought toilet paper), bars are closed, and we are all supposed to maintain 6 feet between us and the people nearby.  How are you handling this?

Should we take our lesson from our government leaders playing the blame game while promising free money to its citizens, looking for the most advantageous political maneuver in an election year?  Should we listen to the conspiracy pundits telling us this is a foreign government’s plot to overtake the financial markets and impose world-wide hardships on the free world?  Should we believe that covid-19 was unleashed on an unsuspecting world by a mad scientist?

Really, how are you dealing with this?  Where do you go for comfort? If this virus called covid-19 is just the tip of a catastrophic iceberg, will we survive as a worldwide brotherhood sustaining and comforting one another, or will we (as the dooms day prognosticators tell us) slide into world-wide anarchy, violence, and destruction?

I don’t write about my faith very much anymore because most people don’t want to hear it.  But this is my blog, I pay for it and should anyone object to the mention of God or faith or belief, or all three in one sentence….well, there are probably a million other blog sites online suitable to their journey in life.

The following verses taken from the writings given to us in Psalms from ancient Judaic wisdom and faith say this:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake in their surging…..

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire…..

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  PSALM 46

For further thought and meditation refer to the writing of Richard Rohr at CAC.ORG https://cac.org/love-alone-overcomes-fear-2020-03-19/

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation. 

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love.” FR. RICHARD ROHR

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

UNSHACKLED 2

Higher Power

If you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – STEP 2 sober emoji
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – STEP 3

This is the miracle of restoration.  It is not dependent on anything you or I could do to alleviate the addictions which controlled our lives.  Yes, we had to talk the walk and then walk the talk, but ultimately the grace of a power greater than us brought us back to sanity, restored us to meaningful lives within families and communities – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

God as we understood God is, for many of us, the premise which carries us over the hurdles of previous negative god experiences.  No longer do we feel obligated to profess this faith or that in our daily faith walk.  Surely, each religious philosophy of the world whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. has nuggets of truth and wisdom; however,  life changes when the God we follow is personal, loving and compassionate not corralled by any particular philosophy.  As is human nature, we attempt to describe and define, but usually discover that our minds cannot comprehend the greatness or fathom the depths of that which we call Higher Power.

Whether your God or mine is a who, a what, a where, a when, male, female, genderless, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or simply the fellowship which supports our sobriety, give this Higher Power a round of applause today for keeping us clean and serene.

copyright unshackled

EGO – it’s a killer

Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most?  Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness?  Or is it their love of possessions, their old codgerdisregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty?  Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our  trigger.

In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about  a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,

All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”

“Hell no, that’s not true,”  I replied defensively.  “I am not like that.”

And I truly believed that.  But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my  quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words.  Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics.  Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others.  Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people.  Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really?  What did I profess as a Higher Power?  A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement?  How weird is that?

In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry.  He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was.  Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:

“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.  In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies.  What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing?  Their selfishness?  Their greed?  Their need for power and control?  Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be?  Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment.  The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow.  That, essentially, is what recovery is about.  It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain.  It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self.   Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is  to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live.  Peace or drama?  How will we choose to live?

Our world has become one of us versus them.  Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them.  The them are always wrong while us are always right.  Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.

We are not cave dwellers.  We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones.  Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence.  There will be, in a World War 3, no winners.  Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.

The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety.  Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same.  What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century.  It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.

GARDEN OF EDEN