home for Christmas

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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home for christmas

Tis the season.  Time to shake out some memories.  This is where I lived in Pennsylvania for the first 45 years of my life.  I come here every year at Christmas.  It is rural. It is peaceful.  It is where I wanted to live all of my dreams.  When snow covered the fields, the world was so quiet that I could hear myself thinking.  We built snowmen, we sledded on the hillsides, we made angels in the snow.  Winters were harsh, but also magical.

We were farmers.  During the winter months there were always building and equipment repairs to be done.  When the early winter butchering of livestock to replenish the canned meats shelves in the cellar, hams and sausages in the smokehouse, and roasts in the freezer was finished, we also challenged our hunting skills in the nearby woods to add variety to the food supply.  Quite often the women of the house had projects inside which kept us warm and comfy on the coldest of winter days.  We complained about doing ‘woman’s work’ but were quite content to be inside looking out.

The neighborhood boys came by for games of hockey on the frozen pond nearby.  Often a night game was staged with kerosene flares for lighting.  Those same flares were positioned along our sledding run for night-time rides down the hillside behind the house.  What seemed like mere seconds on the down run took fifteen minutes to return to the top.  One of the younger boys stuck his tongue on the sled’s frozen metal frame.  His older brother intuitively used his own breath to unglue the panic-stricken boy’s tongue from the icy frame.  Winter hiking on the mountaintop bordering our farm was an introduction to the indescribable beauty and peace of God’s world covered in a fresh, undisturbed snowfall where only deer and rabbits had trod.

Christmas Day was the highlight of the year.  Grandma decorated the tree which Grandpa brought from the nearby woods often fussing about the scrawny stick which he thought was beautiful.  And it always was a sight to behold, scrawny or not.  My aunt cut pine boughs from the trees in the stand of pines on the hillside, carefully attached them around the porch and nestled  brightly colored lights in the branches.  The surrounding community lauded Grandma for her cooking skills.  Indeed, she outdid herself for the holiday meal.  A fresh turkey from a neighbor’s flock, a ham from the smokehouse, numerous canned vegetables from the summer’s abundance, and desserts.  Many desserts!  My favorite was her mince-meat pie which she tediously assembled from scratch following the Pennsylvania Dutch custom of using shredded beef as the main ingredient.  The older members of the family poured a shot of Grandma’s ‘medicinal’ whiskey atop their slice of heaven.  I, later in life, was also allowed to do this.  Delicious!

Winter also allowed time to visit neighbors and travel to visit faraway relatives.  My grandparents motored to see an uncle and his family in Florida.  I met cousins whom I had never known before.  Uncle Ira owned an orange grove on a beautiful lake with scores of palm trees on its shore.  It is now part of the Villages in central Florida.  We then took off for the Florida Keys.  The bridges were very narrow at that time and Grandma freaked out driving across them.  She fussed and scolded until Grandpa turned around for the mainland.  We never made it to our destination of Key West.  I was glad to return home to Pennsylvania and it’s snow-covered hillsides.  Florida did not impress me at all.

Yes, I’ll be home for Christmas this year….but only in my dreams.

 

 

 

trust

Trust is confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence.  The word “trust” gets batted around often in our daily interactions;  “do you trust your politicians?christmas emoji 3  do you trust your best friend?  do you trust your spouse?

It starts with me.  Am I trustworthy?  Would you trust your life with me?  Would you trust your financial savings with me?  Would you trust your deepest secrets with me?  If you were to answer “yes, unconditionally”, then I should probably call you a fool.

Although I am a child of God, I am still suffering the human maladies of greed, pride, and covetousness.  Although I am not who I used to be, I am not yet perfected into what my Higher Power wants me to be.  God’s example, Jesus, sets the perfection bar to be reached.  That bar is high, it will never be reached in this lifetime, but, it is the goal I seek despite my humanness.

In our recovery programs, specifically AA, trust is an important facet.  I trust the principles of my program which are set forth in the 12 steps, I trust the conscience of the fellowship, and I, without reservation, trust the Higher Power which I understand.  Sometimes, I extend unmerited trust to friends forgetting that they are also subject to the vagaries of our human condition.

That trust can be betrayed.  It is painful, it is emotional, it is often taken as a reason to withdraw from the fellowshipping which is my lifeline to sanity and sobriety.  In these times I must remember that I control nothing.  I am putting in the footwork, planning the action, but, do not control the results.  A friend’s betrayal of my trust should not trash my personal serenity.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Trust is a cornerstone of my faith.  Faith is my hotline to God.  I need the blessed assurance of the trustworthy Comforter and Counsellor to keep that line of communion open.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 merry christmas 5

 

 

Advent

Those of us who celebrate Lutheran Christianity are welcoming the season of Advent.  It is a time of joyous anticipation of the Emanuel tradition, “God with us”.  My church affiliation begins special services on Wednesdays up until the Christmas Eve candlelight celebration on December 24th.  It’s all a part of appreciating the rites and traditions of an extended spiritual journey which has been taken with like-minded sojourners seeking sober-minded living within a drunken world system.tannenbaum

There has been much discussion regarding the reason for the season, Jesus, the Christ.  No matter how a person dices it, the Christian depiction of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem is Christmas.  Matters not if a man doubts the historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts of this story or if a man shouts “Hallelujah” this is literal truth, the essence of the season is the message shared by the mystical Jesus of Nazareth.  He arrived on the scene amidst a society controlled by a hypocritical religious doctrine and governed by a ruthless Roman Empire.

We have been fooled by the marketing geniuses of retailers like WalMart, Target, Macy’s, and Amazon into believing that spending money is a prerequisite for holiday joy and happiness and that the spiritual path is merely a side story that pleases Christian scrooges.  But scriptures tell us that this story is much more than powerful mega-retailers peddling their wares; it is about the arrival of truth and compassion on the world scene of brutality and intolerance which ruled 1st century Israel.

Many people dismiss that connection.  I did for many years and allowed myself to be drawn into the holiday shopping frenzy, the mindless drive to please people I didn’t really like with nonsensical presents that they didn’t really like, and the partying into oblivion with my friend, alcohol.  New Year’s Eve and January 1st usually found me too hungover emotionally, physically, and spiritually to even think about my soul’s path or the Father’s recently celebrated loving gift of Jesus to my life.

It’s a celebration, a birthday party, for the greatest humanitarian ever to walk the earth, for the greatest story ever told, and for the legendary purveyor of compassion and truth to a broken mankind.  I am broken and I need that savior’s fix.  I am searching and I rely on his message which was given for all of humanity.  I am lost and I need a shepherd’s guiding voice.

I come to the birthday party just as I am, in rags, in turmoil, with shattered dreams and disillusionment.  When I arrive, he puts his arms around me and shouts,

“Welcome to my party.  All are invited and I have gifts for everyone.  Merry Christmas.”smiley-face-2

HIS GIFT TO US, not in a manger

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Before a committee of well-intentioned religionists come to my front door with blazing torches and wood to stoke the fires around my stake, let me take the above statement to the next  level.

I also love the comfort of scriptures whether they be writings of Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism.  I celebrate the holy days of Christianity because that is my tradition.  I pray earnestly to the God of my understanding for guidance and instruction.  There is no need to incinerate me with your holier-than-thou rhetoric.  I get it.  If you are one of the torch bearers, then you are obviously incensed by a challenge to your belief system.

And that is a good thing.  THINK!  Your God (mine too) gave you at birth an essence which is intended as a spiritual guidance system, logic and reason.  Ok, call it the Holy Spirit if you must.  I’m fine with that.  However, everything we have accumulated in religious baggage since that moment is man-made and fallible.  Again, before you stick that torch to the wood, recognize that I am not calling that accumulation wrong or unreal.

Religion, when it upholds the value of all peoples everywhere in peaceful coexistence, is a wonderful thing.  Theology, when  it guides adherents to tolerance and acceptance of other beliefs, is  a desirable undertaking.  But, mankind somehow takes religion and theology into another universe with ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots’, with dogma, with creeds and opinions.

I know y’all hate it when a person who is heretical and faithless quotes your scriptures, but, I’ll do it anyway:

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 Maybe Jesus was referring to the innocence of babes in their spirituality before religion and theology had an opportunity to corrupt them.  Oh, what do I know?  I’m just an old, uneducated codger who believes the world could be a spectacular place for everyone if religionists would focus on compassion and “peace on earth”.

Merry Christmas…….y’all

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