remembering 1960

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”orange tree

On February 1, 1960, Joseph, Franklin, Ezell, and David walked into the F.W.Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina after leaving their college campus.  They proceeded to the “whites only” lunch counter, sat down and ordered coffee.  The young men were not served, and were asked to leave.  They, however, sat quietly at the counter until the store closed.  In that moment of disobedience, four young African-Americans initiated the sit-in movement which spread across the nation eventually resulting in federal civil rights legislation and an end to segregation.

I was 13 years old in 1960, and, having lived in Yankee isolation from the horrors of segregation and racism, I knew nothing about the plight of southern blacks.  My life centered around the bullying I encountered in school, the hardships of farm life, and the urgency of fitting into the “cool” crowd.   As a member of a closely knit Germanic community, my school text books did not mention the recent Holocaust or the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In my school of about 760 students there were 5 Catholic, no Jewish and no African-American kids.   Everybody else was Aryan white.   In many ways my agrarian, Pennsylvania Dutch enclave lived as if a nation unto itself.  We were not challenged to consider the intolerance, racism, and xenophobia which existed in America.  That’s who I was in 1960.

A stint in the military changed all that.  Fortunately I had no preconceived prejudices when I entered the Navy.  If anything, it could be said that I was indifferent.  I had always been taught to mind my own business, keep my nose clean, don’t get involved in the problems of others.  My folks always told me, “They will take care of their own.”

Today I have a better understanding of the motivators in my parents’ lives.   They were poor, they were ridiculed for their German dialect, they were seen as 2nd class by the more affluent neighbors living in towns across the mountains.  My grandparents did not learn English until they attended school.  All of us in the household were bi-lingual.  But, my generation was teased for speaking “dutchified” English.  We were not part of the American tribe.  Life was immeasurably easier when we passed through life unseen and unheard.

I can’t do that today.  Other people’s’ lives are my business, their problems are mine; life tells me that together we must care for one another.  Was there some miraculous transformation?  Yes, of course.  I found sobriety and I discovered that Larry was not the center of the Universe.  For the first time in my life I saw my own brokenness.  I cried out for fixing and for healing.  The Higher Power of my recovery program put me on a path of renewal and reintegration into society.  Just as importantly, it gave me a willingness to live compassionately shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow-man.

Accordingly, the scales were lifted off my eyes and I was able to see the devastating brokenness of the world.  I saw hatred, racism, intolerance, and injustice infecting all creeds, all nationalities, all races with a soul sickness that can only be healed by a power beyond human capacities.  Name that Power however I want, place it wherever I like, worship it as I desire;  it is the center of my universe, the reason for living, the essence of life, and the voice in my heart which says come to me, learn from me for I will give you peace that surpasses all human understanding.

“The Lord …..gathers the outcasts……heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147: 2-3

I am the outcast; I am the brokenhearted; I am the wounded.  So are you.  When any among us are targeted and persecuted, when any are denied God-given rights, and when any are physically threatened, I must stand together with you against the tyranny and injustice which threatens human enlightenment.  As the four young men in Greensboro did when sitting at that “whites only” lunch counter, I also need to approach my decisive moments in history with courage and determination.  What would I have done if I, a white man, walked into F.W. Woolworth store on February 1, 1960 to witness four black men being threatened, being verbally abused, being spat upon?  How about you?

Two thousand years ago they did the same to a man named Jesus.  He also was advocating for the rights of his people to be treated with respect, tolerance, and kindness.  They beat him, ridiculed him, placed a crown of thorns upon his head, and spat upon him.  They hauled him up on his cross for all the people to see.  His advocacy  for justice, equality, and compassion covering all of mankind sentenced him to an excruciating death by crucifixion.  And then he said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

They knew not what they were doing because they had scales covering their eyes and self-importance infecting their hearts.  I can be like that too.  All I can do is pray that God’s grace will fix me and lead me out of myself and into the brotherhood of suffering masses where truth and compassion rule.








a Father’s will

“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”CANDLE

“Our Higher Power will not give us more than we can handle in one day.”

Those words are familiar to most of us who walk a recovery path.  In my life’s experience determining the will of God has been a major stumbling block.  Having been bombarded by various preachers extolling numerous differing theologies, I finally came to rest on a space in which that voice inside, some call it conscience, became my deciding factor.  It is the indwelling spirit, some choose to capitalize Spirit, which knows my character defects, names them and leads me to correct them.  Very simply that is for me the will of God.  The conscience was instilled in me for a purpose and that purpose is not merely to spoil my fun.  It is there to lead me.

It is a manner of living, sober-living, which embraces everything that my character defects, sinful nature, oppose and resist.  If what I am thinking is my will, if it is my surrendering to self-directed action, if it is my desire to please myself, then I should run the opposite direction into my HP’s waiting arms.  Today, I have the willingness to live life according to God’s will and I know that when I do this, life can be clean and serene.

I cannot claim life is free of problems and obstacles; however, I can now approach those glitches with confidence knowing that God extends abundant mercy, an unmerited and undeserved gift of grace and favor.  God does for me what I cannot do for myself.  I am but a lost sheep needing the voice of a shepherd to lead me to the green pastures and still waters.  It is there that I find peace and rest amidst a violent, chaotic world.  The Father’s will for me is to find comfort and solace following a simplistic but sometimes difficult directive.  SURRENDER.  “Surrender to my will and you shall be set free.  Be still, cease striving; and then you will know that I am God.”

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But, when smiley 3you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

the critic

Marianne Williamson


Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me.

Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You.

Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.

Cast out of me all violence and anger.

Cast out of me all demons from my past,

for I would be made new.


CANDLEMarianne Williamson’s work has been a part of my inspirational readings for many years.  Like me, she grew up in the turbulent decades of “drugs, sex, rock and roll.”  She also caved to the demons of her times.  ILLUMINATA  The above excerpt from a prayer for healing reminds me everyday that my “harsh and critical nature” is not totally resolved within me.  It is one of the major character defects which can turn my daily interactions into completely chaotic fiascos.  Just one word from my quick, unthinking tongue can erase tireless efforts to be the man whom I believe my HP wants me to be.  A biting comment, an insult, an unwanted opinion in the morning has the power to shadow me for the entire day.  Today, I am aware of my defects and at least now I have the tools to prevent the unkind thoughts and words from ever escaping out of my mouth….most of the time.

We don’t claim spiritual perfection, just progress.  Thank God for this disclaimer.  Without it I would be eternally lost in the seas of self-loathing and despair believing that I am the least worthy and most despicable of God’s creation.  But, my HP delivers to me each new day the strength and resolve to become a better version of the old drunk, to become a vessel carrying his word to a suffering and distraught fellowship of other drunks, and to become a recovering voice in the darkness of addiction.  And because he says I am a work in progress, I need not do this perfectly.  I merely need the willingness to try.

That same harsh and critical nature is frequently turned inward.  I am undoubtedly my own worst critic.  If I truly believe that God’s saving grace has covered me with unmerited and undeserved mercy then how dare I dispute the work he has done in my life and the plan he has for me?  How dare I criticize the miracle working within me?  It is not up to me to judge others or myself.  The indwelling Spirit allows me to be the observer of life, allows thoughts to enter and depart without passing judgement on them, allows others to travel this path alongside me without passing judgement on them, and allows me to be nothing more…or less…than a simple messenger.smiley 3



“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Does anyone else remember that verse from childhood days in Sunday school class or perhaps vacation Bible school?  Yes, we would all stand up in front of our families, friends, and neighbors gesturing in unison our hands uncovering a candle being held.  The parents, the teachers and the preacher smiled in appreciation for our efforts.

Several weeks ago after church service I shared with a friend that I was feeling extremely irrelevant in today’s world, that a majority of my neighbors followed the beat of a different drummer socially and politically, and alas, even within our congregation there was division and discord.  We talked at length about the political climate, the lack of congenial discourse, the increase of violence.  From previous conversations I knew she was on the same page as I regarding tolerance of and inclusion for differing walks in life.

We talked awhile consoling each other when she twinkled an eye and began singing softly, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Yes, that is what we do as messengers of a Higher Power which embraces things not born of this worldly system, but extremely relevant to our journey.  We shine forth with what we know as truth.  In our AA literature humility is defined as “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”

All too often we view this “humility” thing as a negative, we see it as needing to release pride and self pursuit.  But, if we recognize the greatness which God has empowered within each of us, if we realize the inherent spiritual connection, then we can begin to feel and believe that we do indeed have something to share with the world in which we live.  We are relevant to today’s worldly problems when we understand through genuine humility who we truly are and what our purpose is.

I don’t need a lighthouse, a beacon on a hill, the bright lights of fame, nor the adoration of the multitudes to walk this path with purpose or relevance.  I’ve been given my own personal little candle to hold and, by the grace of God, I’m gonna let it shine.


power of friendship

The first few months of sustained sobriety were exciting and exhilarating for those of us recovering from alcoholism.  New ways of thinking, new habits, new friends, and a new spirituality kept us coming back to the rooms and tables of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Day by day we grew stronger in our commitments to live life without the crutch of a potion which we knew was killing us.  Some of us, however, continued to stumble over the name of God in the prayers and in the readings.  Too much God baggage from our addictions made it difficult to sincerely think about the Higher Power in any but the simplest of terms. Those with continuous sober time told us to use the group conscience as our reference point for God.  It worked.  Eventually, having done our inventories and amends, we cast aside the vindictive, judgmental concept we carried for far too many years and we could say and think God with conviction.

Very special friendships developed as we found others with like interests and shared histories.  Many of us began new lives plagued by financial problems carried over from our past lives and we found it necessary to share living expenses and housing.  It was a perfect solution to the loneliness imposed on us by our disease.

Roommates in recovery discovered that living together could be just as problematic as our marriages or relationships had been previously.  We were sober but we were not yet cured of the issues which turned our living arrangements into living hells prior to Alcoholics Anonymous.  We had not arrived at serenity, we were still works in progress.

My first roommate as a sober man was Jackie L.  He had several years sobriety, attended numerous meetings weekly, and was a person of deep, very deep, Catholic convictions.  We spent hours delving into the mysteries of the great writers of religious tradition.  Our commitment to sober living was never questioned and, in retrospect, that commitment kept us from going off the “deep end” with religion.  We had witnessed that happening to some of our friends; they got into some heavy theology and lost their sobriety as a result.

Jackie was described by some friends as a brooding, moody man.  I learned by watching his eye color change from a bright hazel to a deep green when Jackie had something on his mind.  And it was only a matter of minutes before we were in deep discussion about that “something”.  Being the younger in terms of sober time, I was also more explosive with emotions while my roommate maintained a calm composure.  That thoroughly pissed me off as we explored the problem we were having.  He already had the upper hand with his poise and wisdom while I sat there spitting and sputtering trying to argue my point.

Those days of early sobriety were extremely important in developing the interpersonal skills we somehow mismanaged while perched on our favorite bar stool at the local watering hole.  Finally, we had an opportunity to jumpstart our emotional growth which had been at a standstill for so many years.  And  make no mistake about it; this was tough, painstaking work.  We were ill-equipped for behaving like mature men and women.  But somehow we survived.

Jackie and I have lost touch over the many years since 1983.  But, I shall never forget his famous line whenever he was about to take the high road in our numerous arguments as roommates.  He, with those dark brooding eyes, would look at me with a slight curl on his lips and a mocking laugh and then ask,

“Well Larry, now how spiritual was that?”

That has stayed with me for all these years.  When I do or think something which is less than serene and clean, I ask myself, “Well Larry, now how spiritual was that?”

Today I believe the world and its problems could learn a lesson from Jackie and me if people would simply ask themselves, “How spiritual was that?”