HAMLET – neither good nor bad

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
HAMLET – William Shakespeare39

My grandmother was a wise yet simple farm woman.  She knew how to gather any vegetable from the garden or berry from the woods and cook it into a delicious casserole or jam.  The storage shelves in the cellar were filled each year with mason jars of wonderfully colorful canned vegetables and preserves.  And in her spare time she crafted from scraps of dresses and coats gorgeous quilts or blankets.

I learned from her that a man “is what he eats.”  The foods which a person consumes will ultimately determine the health status of his/her body.  Unfortunately, I strayed from Grandma’s wisdom regarding foods and nutrition as a young adult resulting in various difficulties with the Western culture health epidemics plaguing us today.

I also strayed from the spiritual/life lessons learned from my farming community as a young boy leading to addiction and behavioral patterns which controlled the years when I should have been maturing into a responsible adult.  Living life soberly has been a prolonged process of ‘catching up’ to others who learned their lessons well and pursued G.O.D. – Good Orderly Direction – rather than waste precious years cavorting as a prodigal son in the far country. (see LUKE 15)

Those of us who share these experiences of addictive exile have a choice to make in our recovery years.  The times were neither good nor bad – they simply were.  What we did, the hell we created for others and ourselves cannot be reversed.  The heartaches and pain inflicted on loved ones including ourselves must be accepted as part of the process leading to sobriety.  Today I know with certainty that I was a royal A-hole back then.  However, today I also know that I don’t have to sit in this chair ten years from now looking back and saying, “Damn, what an asshole I was back on September 18, 2019.”

They say that humility is all about acceptance – accepting and reconciling my past, who I was and what I did, but then recognizing who and what I am destined to be as a sober-minded man living a life that doesn’t really belong to me.  It’s a journey with G.O.D.

So, now you ask, “Larry, what does this have to do with Shakespeare and Hamlet?”

Everything, absolutely everything in life is neutral, neither good nor bad.  It is the thinking which you and I attach to ‘everything’ that makes it good or bad.  We have the choice to create the life we want.  My physical pain suffered today from poor habits of eating and addiction years ago is a good thing because I choose to marvel in the complexity of a body which uses pain to remind me that, yes, I am still alive.  The morning leg and knee pain awaken me to a new day saying a prayer of gratitude,

“Thank you Lord for giving me breath and heartbeat.  My leg hurts, my knee hurts, but they still function and, oh, just look at the glorious sunshine awakening me.”

Am I always successful deferring thinking about everything that crosses my radar screen?  Of course not, I continue to be a member of the human race and therefore frequently offer an opinion, good or bad.  But, another tool learned in my recovery journey is the Serenity Prayer,

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

For me, the wisdom is in knowing when my opinion matters and when it does not.  When should I apply thinking to the never-ending parade of drama in today’s life?  As I process this choice I realize more often than not that my opinion truly does not matter.

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I love you !

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.

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When was the last time you arose in the morning, went into the bathroom, stared at your reflection in the mirror, and looked into your eyes saying, “I love you; you are worthy of joy, peace, contentment, happiness, prosperity, and fulfillment?”

Whaaat? You have never said that?  Aw, c’mon, surely you look at those big, beautiful eyes and say, “Hey there, good-looking, I love you.”  Must I also assume that you don’t believe you are going to do great things and become the man/woman whom you have always wanted to be?

So, let me understand the start of your day.  You just stumble out of bed, throw the spouse out the door, kiss the cat and pour a cup of go-go juice, sit down and read the newspaper, get pissed off and stagger into the bathroom hating the world.  You do your morning nature call, slather on some smell-good stuff and turn on the TV.  Your favorite morning hosts are interviewing the latest sex pervert, forecasting a 3 day torrential rain, and predicting the stock market is about to crash.  Your sister calls and screams you are a nitwit because you forgot her dog’s birthday and little Johnny across the street has just pulled your prized begonia to take to school for show and tell.  Wow, have a great day!

Now, back up.  Climb into bed, pull the covers up over your shoulders, and set the snooze alarm for 8:30.

Ahhhh! What a wonderful night’s sleep I had.  Thank you Lord for giving me another day in your perfect world.  Streeeeetch those legs and arms.  Ahhhh, deep breaths, fill those lungs with the glorious scent of the gardenia outside the bedroom window.  Look around the room.  The beautiful family photos on the dresser.  The lovely quilt which Grandma crafted 80 years ago.  The old wooden rocking chair in the corner.  Now, off to the bathroom to splash some cold water in my sleepy eyes.  Rinse my mouth with refreshing minty mouthwash.  Look into the mirror at the Lord’s perfect example of me.  Those beautiful eyes.  Stare into them, they are amazing, are they not?

“I love you.  You are worthy.  You are wonderful.  You are perfect.”

God says that to you every minute of every day.  So, who are you to dispute and disagree?  Oprah starts her day with that routine and we all know that Oprah has all her bases covered.  So, pleeeease, you have lost the argument.  God and Oprah cannot both be wrong.  You are worthy of love, especially from yourself.  And when you love yourself, others will find you interesting, attractive, and…..worthy.

There’s that word ‘worthy’ again.  For the first 35 years of my life I was the lowest scum on earth, the dirtiest of the filthy, the most sinful of the sinners, the vilest of the vile, the most unworthy of the unworthy.  And that was just my personal opinion of myself.  I didn’t dare venture out into the brotherhood of decent folks living happy, fulfilled lives.  Only the Lord knows what they thought of me.

Today, I am claiming the parables of the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the lost sheep.  (LUKE 15:1-24) The Lord of my life never gave up on me.  Patiently he swept the floors looking for his lost coin, he searched the fields for his errant sheep and when multiple addictions had beaten me to a pulp, God ran down the highway to meet me, threw his arms around my neck, kissed me and said, “Welcome home, son.  I have always loved you and I have been looking for you.”

“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.  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’  And they began to be merry.”  LUKE 15: 22-24

Loved – just as I am.  Worthy – just as I am.  Perfect – just as I am.  Today, the reflection in my mirror has kind, loving eyes looking back at me with optimism and hope.
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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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