the serenity closet

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…….”

Back then, I launched myself into the world, as I knew it, with a fervent determination to change everything that was wrong, right every injustice, and set every errant soul on the right path.  Oh, the fact that I was drunk most of the time did not change my resolve.  Every night with a bottle or two of my favorite wine, I sat at the kitchen table late into the night writing my letters to the editor sharing the world as Larry Paul Brown saw it.

Back then, not much of my writing got published.  Some things just don’t change, do they?  Today, as a sober man, I continue to write, but my efforts are tempered by accepting “the things I cannot change.”  Those unchangeable things are, well, unchanging.  Infinite wisdom, not mine but that of a Higher Power, tells me the truth of this world and it is my choice to accept that truth or keep on spinning my wheels in futile attempts to right all the wrongs.

The savior complex led me into many situations where I was not qualified to guide, direct, or even advise.  My walk through sobriety has worked for me, why should it not work for you?  “Listen up, pilgrims.  This is how you do it.”  Many disappointments and much heartbreak later, I finally latched on to the first line of the Serenity Prayer in earnest.  I learned to approach life with the question, “what can I not change?”  And guess what?  My serenity closet suddenly became a mansion.

I cannot change you and your way even when I assuredly know my way is better.  I cannot change the world; I can only strive to make MY WORLD a better place in which to live.  And, no matter how much I regret about my past, I cannot change the past; I can only change the person I was in that regrettable past.

Anyone can build their own mansion with a spacious serenity room overlooking the beauty of the world outside, aware of the ugliness in that world, yet wise enough to know what can and cannot be changed.  Go to that quiet place, inventory the inner peace or turmoil and ask for the wisdom to know the difference between things that cannot be changed and things that ought to be changed.  Usually the wise answer will direct an action looking inward at change within rather than outward at change in others.  Change my thinking, my perception, my speech, my behavior.

A favorite verse in the wisdom writings of Judaism is Psalm 46:10:

“Be still and know that I am God…..”

Got to that room in the spacious mansion of sobriety, sit down, shut up, and listen to the voice of a Higher Power speaking.  Then, kneel in perfect submission with,

“Yes Lord, Thy will, not mine, be done.”

brilliance

 

 

 

just a glimpse – 05.08.2018

smiley-face-2“For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.  God keep thee!  Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”  MOBY DICK, Herman Melville

Melville likened the depths of a man’s soul to Tahiti, a dot of island in the Pacific Ocean. He used the adjective “insular” to describe Tahiti.  Uncivilized, provincial, backwards, remote.  But the island was “full of peace and joy” even though it was surrounded by an ocean of horrors.  It was primitive, untouched by modern complexities.

How is your “Tahiti” today?  Feeling encompassed and threatened?  Relax!  Many centuries ago a psalmist wrote, “Be still and know.”   Be still!  Relax and then know God.  But first, be still.  Stop striving with the world and be still.  Find that quiet space and be still for it is there in stillness that the guiding light of truth will create an island of peace and joy illuminating  the dark, ominous corners of life.

Even so, the worldly oceans, as in Melville’s day, remain deep and ominous filled with treacheries that cannot be fully understood by mankind.  Contemporary life is frightening for those who do not have an island of tranquility offering safety and comfort.  It is equally frightening for the ones who have discovered their Tahiti and yet observe from afar the continuing pummeling of winds and waves upon its shores.

“God keep thee!”  Therein lies our truth, does it not?  God will keep thee and me.  The greater power to which we turn during our earthly struggles confessing our worldly fears will be the victorious captain in the storms of our lives.  That power provides shelter from the assaults of society’s insanity while instilling a peace and understanding which transcends our physical world.  The violence surrounding the soul’s island cannot penetrate when we vigilantly live this life honoring our truth.  Creatures of the deep darkness are powerless when bound in chains by the dominating  brilliance of our Tahiti.

We dare not abandon our island when threatening skies loom on the horizon.  Instead,  we take refuge within the learned words and verses of sacred writings, we turn our eyes toward the clear blue skies where hope lies, and we acknowledge with reverence that power which has always kept us and always will keep us from spiritual harm.  Our ultimate truth is that we are spirits dwelling in physical forms.  Physical bodies shall die but spirit is eternal.  Protect and cherish the indwelling Tahiti.  Never leave it!

CANDLE

 

world peace

larry6Often I wonder if the characters who are portrayed as spiritual stalwarts centuries ago could survive in the madness of today.  Would they be as courageous in the face of modern-day persecution?  Would they be as capable of finding the quietness of contemplation and meditation of which we are so desirous in today’s culture?  My answer is always a resounding “yes”.  Although the connections of social media and news media were not as immediate as that which we have today, I believe the issues were the same and I know from historical accounts that the persecution was extremely horrendous.  The coverage that rolls across our viewing screens continues to depict the unfathomable inhumanity of man against man.  It is historical and it continues to be the ungodly force which defines mankind.

But, I don’t have to live that way or be deterred by hatred and violence in my life’s journey.  You don’t either.  Realizing that the hope for our world lies not in the might of peace enforced by military power or governmental control, but in each individual member of mankind who is determined to live according to the message of ancient and modern mystics by recognizing an indwelling God, some call it Spirit, and God’s directive to love one another as we have been loved.  We are called to replace devotion to self with service to neighbor.  It’s an attainable solution to a worldwide problem which is leading our species to annihilation.

The message of God’s messengers from Buddha to Jesus to St. Francis to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been social revolution by peaceful resistance to violence.  And that revolution begins with you and with me.  It’s a readily available inside solution to an earth-threatening plague.

And it’s not that difficult.  Many of us in recovery know the power bestowed upon us when we “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and then, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  steps 2 &3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

We were lost in the insanity of addiction much as the world today is lost in the insanity of hatred and violence.  Addiction and hatred are both soul-killers and the cure for both will be found when we turn to the indwelling divinity which does not need to be sought or discovered from outside sources.  It is innate and readily available.  Just “be still and know.” Psalm 46:10

This journey of discovery is a life-time process which I will never do perfectly.  But, I can travel through this experience as a fearless sojourner who relies upon a Higher Power which wants nothing but goodness and mercy for me and for the world in which I live.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:6

cease striving

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

namaste rainbow

Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

Embrace my soul in warmth,
lift from me that which disrupts,
quietly lead me to your abode,
hold my hand in comfort,
open my mind to magnificence,
to light, to beauty, to stillness.
In this place we are one,
you and I are One
we release the pain,
the concern,
the sorrow.
We release it to your fire.
The realm of discontent passes,
it pales and disappears,
only You and I in the stillness,
the warmth,
the quiet,
the comfort.

It is well with my soul,
I do not fear,
I do not desire,
I do not despise,
it is well
for we are as One

“We have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.  For by this time sanity has returned.  We can now react sanely and normally, and we find that this has happened almost automatically.  We see that this new attitude toward liquor is really a gift of God.”  AS BILL SEES IT, Bill Wilson, pg. 121

 

poor in spirit

If you, like I, went to Sunday School and VBS as a child, you probably memorized the 23rd Psalm, the Ten Commandments, and maybe the Beatitudes.  The eight short sayings of the Beatitudes give the core teachings of Jesus in a concentrated format.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:3

Oh, how I struggled with this one.  This proud country boy did not want to be “poor” in any way, shape or form when he grew up.  Although my family, as farmers, provided adequately for our needs, we could not afford the vacations other people took each summer nor the fancy new car every 2 years.  Fortunately, designer jeans were not a necessary fashion statement in high school in 1961 and most often I started the new school year with last year’s clothes augmented by new shoes or a new shirt.  Life was pretty good but, when I considered the first of the Beatitudes, this 13 year-old farm boy raised up a few secretive, quiet prayers, “Lord, anything but poor.  I don’t want to be poor.”

I believed for many years that when the pastor recited the first Beatitude, he forgot the last two words, “in spirit.”  A more likely scenario is that  I did not hear them because I was too enamored by the cute neighbor girl sitting beside me on the pew. I think that maybe I missed a lot of the things I needed to hear in church because I was distracted.  Whenever I heard “blessed are the poor,”  my mind pictured a crowd of people saved by grace mulling around heaven in tatters and rags.  What is so blessed about that?

I’m sure my boyhood pastor recited the Beatitude in full.  I simply was not ready to hear it in full just like so many other lessons and teachings from Jesus.  That could explain why for many years I stumbled through life filling my God hole with everything but God.  Ranging from alcohol to sex to pot to pornography to numerous other idolatries, I did not become ready to listen to all the words from Jesus until I was utterly defeated by my own life.  No enemy could have defeated me as soundly as I defeated myself.  Finally the sweet words of surrender filled my heart when I put some verses into that God hole.

“Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted….”  Psalm 46:10

“If the Son, therefore, will set you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

Those were the first verses I memorized.  And yes, I finally heard the full verse of Matthew 5:3.  It happened only when my mind understood “poor in spirit” to mean that I need to be fully open and receptive to Jesus, I need to find a state of nothingness  and then let Jesus fill the void.  I need to go to that space where there is only God.  When there I am as a beggar on the street seeking alms, begging for the bread of Life which feeds, the living waters which quench.  I have then been impoverished, made poor in spirit, and Jesus will relieve my poverty.

Sure, my mind still shuts down God’s space sometimes, fills it with junk.  My thinking says that I should pursue a spirituality based on knowledge, surety, certitude.  My ego begins reviewing the spiritual advancement, the learned theology, the numerous books, the good works.  I can very quickly become haughty and self-assured within my own religious arrogance.  But then, when I have suffered enough from running my own show, Jesus says, “Come back, you will find assurance in me.” cac.org

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!” 

Frances J. Crosby 

CANDLE

 

 

“Father, forgive them…”

Would anyone refuse to accept the forgiveness of  a lover, a parent, a teacher, a spouse, or a best friend?  Of course not.  If  I have transgressed against you and you offer me CANDLEyour forgiveness, then our friendship cannot continue until I reciprocate with a sincere ‘thank you for understanding’.  Only then, after cleaning house,  can we pursue our relationship.

Forgive and forget is a cliché which sounds cool but is rarely practiced in our society.  Although most of us are ready to forgive, the act of forgetting is difficult because none of us wants to be transgressed again by the same person and, if we are honest about ourselves, we enjoy the grudges which we hold.  One of my friends says he will forgive but, the transgressing person will not get a second opportunity to harm or injure.  Another holds a lifetime of grudges which fester and negate any potential good will with his transgressor.   Others say that forgiveness is an act which benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven.  I can understand that but, I don’t believe the purpose of forgiveness is to make me feel better about myself.

So, what then is forgiveness all about?  Is it just a religious thing, a few spoken words that are meant to repair a relationship?  Does sincerity enter the picture?  How about compassion?  Maybe a touch of empathy?  Spirituality?

The Jewish faith in Psalm 46:10 believes that the psalmist wrote, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”  We cease striving and know God when we enter the spaces between our thoughts, relinquish those before and after thoughts to the now moment and realize the power of a God which is omnipotent and omnipresent.  That “now moment” is our God space.  Living consciously in the now moment is where we will find God.

God says, ” Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

We are exhorted to give up grudges, to forgive transgressions against us, to receive forgiveness for our wrongs because only then are we ready to enter the realm of “Be still and know.”  Our minds, when cleared of human earthly affairs, will then be receptive to God’s presence and God’s power in the stillness of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.  It’s a great exercise in spiritual discipline which I certainly have not mastered although I continually try.

Perhaps forgiveness is all about doing what Jesus did on the cross.  He wasn’t concerned about feeling better as he hung there dying.  He probably did not care if his forgiveness was accepted by the Roman soldiers or the Pharisees.  What if, at that moment of physical death on his cross,  Jesus wanted to purge humanity of it’s transgressions through forgiveness, (“Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing”)?  With this act of forgiveness mankind could resume a relationship with God released from the intolerance and hatred which nailed Jesus to his cross.

Matthew 5:23 tells me to be reconciled with my brother, if there are differences, before I come before God to offer my gift of body, mind, and soul at the altar.  In my church service, I present myself in prayer to receive forgiveness for sins and to forgive others who have harmed me.  I do this by reciting the Lord’s Prayer so that when I approach the altar to receive communion I am of clean heart and spirit, ready to receive God’s unending grace through the body and blood of Jesus.  Forgiveness is that  act of soul-namaste rainbowcleansing which is necessary prior to spirit renewal.  It is not a one-time, one and done activity.  It is a continual process which is the centerpiece of any faith walk and recovery program.  Namaste.

Judas

I am reading a book by Elaine Pagels, “READING JUDAS”.   Ms. Pagels  is an accomplished scholar in the field of religion and has written several works which shed light on the complexities and inconsistencies of Biblical scriptures.  She compares the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John noting that contemporary scholars overwhelmingly agree that Mark was composed first about 40 years after the death of Jesus and that the remaining three were written later based mainly on the writings of Mark with additions and increased references to Old Testament prophesies.  Debate continues over whetherCANDLE the writers of the Gospels, none of whom are logically the namesakes of the books, attempted to show prophecy historicised or history prophesised.  The era of the formulation of the canon which we now know as the Bible was fraught with disagreement, conspiracy, and murder.  Many books, such as the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary were banned or burned having been labeled as heretical accounts of the events surrounding Jesus and his band of disciples.  Ultimately only one version of these events was authorized by Emperor Constantine in 325 C.E. at the Council of Nicaea, a lakeside village in present day Turkey.  It represented Christianity much as we know it today.  Only recently have the banned writings been discovered hidden in earthen jars buried in caves.  They are the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls.  Those scriptures have reopened debate and speculation regarding the veracity of the accounts of the Nicaean approved writings.

Just as the book and movie “The DaVinci Code” provided intrigue concerning the lineage of Jesus, the Christ, these new discoveries of ancient scriptures contribute another dimension to the mystery of Jesus, the centerpiece of Christianity.  As much as I  would like to have a definitive account of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, it simply is not available to me.  Who he was, how he lived, what he believed cannot be a certainty to those of us who claim him as Lord and Savior while also refuting the inerrant and literal interpretations supported by some Christians.

I have no problem with that.  My faith is based on a God which has blessed humanity with numerous messengers throughout history.  My faith is not dependent on the historical accuracy of those messengers nor the accounts written by their followers.  What those instruments of guidance have provided is a rich and wonderful foundation for living life to the fullest in compassionate communion with all of God’s creation.  I find the deepest inspiration in the verses which ancient mystics have passed on for me to discover and ponder.  I marvel at the wisdom and beauty expressed by both simple shepherds and royal kings.  I find many of the answers to contemporary society’s problems given to me by sages from centuries past.  I find strength in the thoughts and writings of others who have been deeply touched and inspired by their faith in a Higher Power.  I don’t require historical accuracy to follow a manner of living which honors and reveres God, the Higher Power of my understanding.

What I need is heart driven truth.  It is not necessarily historical nor factual by the world’s standards.  The truth which I seek emanates from a sacred place within, it wells up, it flows, it gushes from a spiritual presence which is timeless and eternal.  Jesus knew it, the great mystics knew it, Buddha knew it, Muhammad knew it.  Every one of us can have it and live fully in God’s glory, compassion, and mercy.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10smiley 3

The Jewish faith says, “Stop striving and know that I am God.”  Stop striving with religious doctrine, stop striving with translations, stop striving with historical accuracy; go to that quiet place within your personal temple and know the loving kindness of a gracious Father.