butterfly

 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  MAYA ANGELOU

Why is it that butterflies become beautiful in our sight only when they have survived the stages of development leading up to their appearance before us in our yards as flitting, soaring, gliding, sailing, dancing, fluttering marvels of nature?  We hardly appreciate them as eggs, larvae, and caterpillars.  Rarely do we say, “Oh look! A spectacular worm.”

Members of the Kingdom animalia, Phylum Euarthropoda, Class insecta, Order lepidoptera are a species dating to the Paleocene Era about 56 million years ago.  The eastern North American population of monarchs can travel thousands of miles to over-wintering sites in Mexico and reverse the migration in the spring.  The British painted lady undertakes a 9000 mile round trip in a series of steps by up to six generations from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle. WIKIPEDIA

Yes, I am about to compare us, humans, to butterflies.  Don’t you see the similarity?  Or, if you would rather, I could liken us to mosquitoes or house flies?  (Yes, I have been called maggot on occasion.)  We do, after all, share some pesky traits with those insects also.  OK, then.  Now that we see eye to eye,  I am going to call you and me beautiful butterflies.  As you perused the opening photographs, which one is most splendid to you?  Did you choose one that is brightly colored? or one that is intricately patterned? or one that is a stately monochrome?

The extravagant beauty of a butterfly is self-evident.  We see it, we marvel, and we say, “Oh, what a lovely creature that is!”  Not so much with us humans.  We are short, tall, obese and slender.  We are black, brown, red, yellow, white and many shades in between.  We have black hair, brown hair, red hair, blonde hair, straight hair, curly hair and like those of us who have raised too many children or seen too many years, we have white hair or no hair.  Not all of us are at our beautiful butterfly stage.  Some of us are in the not-so-pretty stages of eggs, larvae and caterpillars.  Men especially can relate to being called a “worm” by a disgruntled spouse.

But, as Maya Angelou so profoundly says it, our transformational beauty has to endure the sometimes ugly stages before we are recognized by the world as the gorgeous humans which we are.  Whatever size, shape, shade, or sex we grow up to be, we are beautiful when allowed and encouraged to mature into a sailing, soaring, fluttering, floating masterpiece of the Lord’s handiwork.

Just like the butterfly, each one of us is a miraculous creation in his/her own right.  The Book of Genesis tells us that God created each of us in the image of God. GENESIS 1:27  Male and female He made them in his image.  The wisdom of the ancients tells us that we are God-like.  So how can we be anything less than beautiful, compassionate, loving, replicas of our Creator?

Of course, you can be a pesky mosquito or house fly.  They also have purpose and reason in God’s universe.  It’s your choice.  But, I’m going to be a swallowtail when I grow up.

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Psalm 23

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.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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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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you’re invited

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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I use the multi-colored message shown above to convey the basic truth that none of us are excluded from the love of God, from the table which Jesus has set to feed the entirety of mankind with his bread and his wine, his body and blood.  Do not allow anyone to tell you that your race, your creed, your sex, your orientation, or your past disqualifies you from sitting with Jesus.  No earthly being has the authority to deny you a seat.  Jesus’ invitation is eternal, unconditional, and it specifically has your name on it.

In the world of evangelists, Billy Graham’s legacy continues to command the respect and admiration of a great many people, believers and non-believers.  He shared on his blog site in 2012  THE THREE INVITATIONS OF CHRIST

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 

Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17

Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you.”  John 15:4

These invitations are an ongoing process.  I have no qualms accepting that I don’t have all the pieces to the God puzzle.  Sometimes I don’t even know what the questions should be.  GOD IS A MYSTERY.  And I believe that is a good thing for a doubter and skeptic like me.  Keep me guessing so that I continue searching.  Just when I believe I’ve reached that “Aha” moment or a fascinating revelation, another doubt and question arises.

But, the process doesn’t change, does it?  Run to Him when life gets heavy and overwhelming, learn of his ways and take his yoke upon me.  Determine what my ego wants versus what Jesus says in his words and teachings.  It all comes down to surrender.  Do I want to continue in my burdensome ways or will I turn it over to the Master, the problem-solver?

Learn and then share with others what has been discovered.  Those of us in addiction recovery programs know the necessity of service to others.  We share our war stories and then extend our experience, strength and hope.  Alcoholics and addicts are invited just as they are to the tables of the meeting rooms.  The beauty and success of AA, CR, and other recovery programs depends on the fellowship putting others before personal interests.  Those questioning, new arrivals are invited to share our repurposed lives, to sit at the table of miracles.  We become fishers of men.

Finally, Jesus invites us to abide with the God of our understanding in a peace that surpasses anything which the world has to offer.  To me this means building and cherishing the most intimate relationship which I could ever know. When I am willing to surrender, when I am willing to pull my head out of self-serving ways, when I am willing to be still and know, then we can be as one walking this path through the joys and travails of an earthly life.  God dwells in me and I in Him.  That is the solidarity of  “I am You, You are me, and we are One.”

Believe me, it is not always where my head and heart dwell.  This challenge which is called the human condition tries to detour me, lie to me, and steal me away.  But, running to my Lord is no longer the option of last resort.  I have learned to go there as quickly as possible.

He said, “Come unto me and learn of me, my yoke is easy and I will give you rest.”

He has invited you, too.  What’s holding you back?

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crazy?

 

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Are we crazy?  Many people think we are when we express belief in a formless, invisible power which can’t be touched or seen.  How often have acquaintances and family ridiculed our naiveté when making reference to the One who gives life and breath, the One who transcends all human understanding and reasoning?

“Well,” they say.  “Define it.”

“Can’t.”

‘”Describe it.”

“Can’t.”

They question further, “Where does this undefinable, indescribable power live?”

“Within me.”

“Ohhhhh, I see.”

Yep! Undoubtedly and indubitably crazy.  They didn’t get it.  They didn’t understand that I had to go crazy with love for the Higher Power that pulled me out of the insanity of alcoholism.  They didn’t know, as I did, that there is a difference between crazy good and insanely stupid.  Why was I insanely stupid?  Because every time I sat down on that bar stool, I thought that this time was going to be different from all the other times.  I thought that I would have two social drinks and then go home.  I was sure that my drinking habit would miraculously change.  Why?  Because I had will power.

Many years passed with innumerable drunken escapades resulting in hangovers, lost car keys, misplaced wallets, puke-covered shirts, broken relationships, car wrecks and a shattered self-image.  I finally understood the insanity of my alcoholic behavior.

Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

It was insane to think I could drink and expect a different outcome at the end of the night.  It was never going to be a night like that of my buddies who knew how to drink socially.  You see, I would drink with them at the nice bars, bid them all a good-night when they went home to their families and then sneak to the other side of town where the action was.  You know – the sleaze bars where it was easy to score and the potential one night stands got smarter and better looking as the night progressed.  And that’s when I went crazy.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Initially, family and friends thought it was extremely cool that I was on the wagon.  “Hey, Larry’s not drinking anymore.  Awesome.”

But, Larry had to change more about himself than simply not setting his butt on a bar stool every night.  There were deep-seated issues that needed attention.  Issues of insecurity, anger, envy, pride, and laziness.  And that’s when the heavy artillery had to be called in.  Detox, psychotherapy, meetings, meetings, meetings.  Changes had to be made and I could not do it without help.  I surrender, I give up.  HELP!

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

I took the “as we understood God” part of step 3 very seriously and, unfortunately, not many people (family and friends) got it.

“Crazy!  He’s crazy with religion.  He went from a drunk to a Jesus freak.  I liked him better when he was drinking.”

Yep, I’m crazy….but at least I’m not insane anymore.

 

 

 

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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Keep It Simple, Stupid

For those of you who are unfamiliar with 12 step recovery programs, this life-changing saying hangs on most meeting room walls.  It shares wall space along with “Let Go, Let God”, “Easy Does It”, “One Day at a Time”, and the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

But, for mortals, especially those of us recovering from addictions, keeping it simple is, well, not all that simple.  It took numerous collisions with “self-will run riot” and retractions of my surrender to God to reach any semblance of simplicity in my life.

At the year of my 28th sobriety anniversary, I was plunged into the horrors of bankruptcy in 2009 due largely to the world-wide recession.  As small business operators, my partner and I suffered equally the devastation of losing a trucking business of 15 years, the equipment, the accumulated toys, the savings, great credit standing, and my house.  More devastating to me, a man 62 years old, was the loss of hope for a financial recovery.  I came out of the bankruptcy tired and disillusioned.

“Aha,” said He, my Higher Power.  “Maybe now you will learn from me.  Why not let me run your life?  I am not that difficult to live with.”

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart;  and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

My life changed.  Gone were all the concerns about finances and credit ratings and running a business.  Gone were the responsibilities of owning a house and a bunch of toys.  I slept like a baby at night and found voluminous amounts of time to walk, hike in the woods, jog, read, and enjoy leisure time with friends.  I embraced Gandhi’s exhortation to “Live simply so that others may simply live.”  And I learned to live life claiming the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew, chapter 11.

I think Jesus would have approved of our modern-day acronym KISS.  What do you think?

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St. Bonaventure

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.

All of us are driven by a philosophy concerning life.  It could be derived from any number of prolific authors, leaders, and statesmen.  Quite often our personal life philosophy is a result of theological teachings.  The beliefs which I inherited from my forefathers went unchallenged in my younger years because the community in which I lived all abided by the principles of those beliefs.  Christianity ruled.

And that would have been just fine if I had not ventured into the world beyond my community and experienced different cultures, different creeds, and different lifestyles.  Tribalism was not at the forefront of conversations as it is today, but in retrospect, it was alive and well.  Unwittingly, we all were suspicious of those who spoke, looked, thought, and worshipped differently.

Even more devastating to the growth of a young man finding his way in a life apart from the community of his upbringing was the concept of his forefathers’ God.  There were numerous new ideas and experiences outside that sheltered life of boyhood and teenaged years.  Most of them felt exhilarating and exciting, needed to be embraced and explored.

But, in the recesses of my mind, one dinosaur of theology always tempered the thrills of newly found freedoms.

“If it feels good, it is probably a sin.”

Thankfully, the alcoholism which controlled my life for so many years also brought me to a reckoning with the man I had become. 1) admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable 2) came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity 3) made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a God of our understanding.

The key words in step 3 which changed my life dramatically were ‘God of my understanding.”  I finally realized that God had given to me at birth a sense of reason and inner understanding with which I was designed to understand  this ‘God-thing’.  Nobody else could do this for me.  It was a personal spiritual journey which became a lifetime endeavor.  And finally I was able to embrace a life of wonderful experiences without the sin factor hanging over my head.  Today, in my world, the word sin is a negative connotation used by others to control and intimidate when, in my reality, it simply means a temporary state of separation from the God of my understanding.

St. Bonaventure, an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher was born in 1221 Giovani di Fidanza and died in 1274.  He entered the Franciscan order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris.  Marked by an attempt to completely integrate faith and reason, he thought of “Christ as the one true master who offers humans knowledge that begins in faith, is developed through rational understanding, and is perfected by mystical union with God.” St. Bonaventure

“Bonaventure pays little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!” cac.org

I think I would have enjoyed life as a Franciscan living and studying with Giovani di Fidanza.  Hmmmm, maybe I did and simply have not yet realized that previous life.  🙏

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