silver lining

silver lining

Hello from Florida, the land of the powerless and sweat-soaked.  Nice to be back.  I once again have AC and internet.  Yes, those conveniences were missed, but, the days without them forced an adjustment in daily chores and in priority thinking.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people being courteous, washing dishes in the sink, turning t-shirts inside out for another day’s wear, and cooking campfire coffee somehow take a man back to the truly important things in life.  Providing for basic comforts and needs is relearned from a childhood spent dealing with the capriciousness of farm life.  Summers without adequate rainfall meant sponge baths in the sink instead of a tub bath because the scant water supply was needed for the livestock; a poor corn crop meant no  new school clothes; sinking commodity prices meant repairing the old worn out refrigerator rather than buying a new one and making the 20 year-old-tractor last another year.

My grandfather and great-grand father with whom I lived as a child knew a hard life.  Farming was never accredited with the appropriate respect for the risks taken to provide food for their families and the city folks.  There were no guarantees back then on investment return and we were all called hicks and hayseeds.  But my forefathers were as dedicated to their life’s calling as any college degreed professional.

They were devout men.  They were earnestly sincere, devoted, godly, reverential, genuine, ardent, and true.  They were not religious although they supported the local church and its ministries.  They were pacifists who rejected the ideology of war and the country’s war machine.  They quietly raised their families to be loving and compassionate.

When times like this past week enduring hurricane Irma strike and force us to our knees, I catch glimpses of many years ago living in better times in a benevolent community of godly people that understood who they were and what their purpose was on earth.  The religious pomposity and hypocrisy we witness in today’s sects can’t hold a candle to the goodness of my people.  The corruption of today’s government would have been a mere side note in my grandfathers’ daily life.  They had more important things to consider.  They had families to enjoy and communities to build.

Irma has shown a silver lining to this simple farm boy.  I hope to return to those boyhood times more often now, to draw upon the wisdom and compassion of my folks, and to hold in proper perspective the noise and stench of our world today.  Even as the internet lights up my computer screen again, I will seek the inner knowing and the wisdom of my forefathers to maintain a grasp on the truly important things.  They were a happy, content community poor in materialism but wealthy beyond any of the glitz ruling our society today.

smiley 3

 

relevance

CANDLE

“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.

rainbow-solidarity

sobriety’s promises

cropped-powerless.png

1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84
Reprinted from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

When a volunteer reader recites the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous and reaches the last sentence, “They will always materialize if we work for them,” the group often responds with, “work, work, work.”

Therein is the secret to a successful recovery: work, work, work.  For us to undertake the work of the AA program with courage, determination, and dedication is  beyond anything we have previously attempted.  It is a life-changing, challenging endeavor which requires total commitment.  “Half measures availed us nothing.”

There are no compromises.  The promises listed above are realized when we are willing to say yes to a Higher Power, when we are willing to listen to long-term sobriety speaking, when we are willing to work our butts off to reach a state of clean and serene.   It works if we work it.  Alcoholics Anonymous is a very simple program to understand, but, for most of us, it is the most difficult  thing we have ever done.

unshackled-2

 

it’s inevitable

Change will happen.  It’s inevitable and unavoidable as we enter what many people call the “golden years”.  Some of my friends fight it and, much to their displeasure, an unplanned change in life occurs.  Living situations, loss of loved ones, financial nightmares, health issues, giving up the driver’s license, a decrease in mobility are all situations we will confront.  But, guess what?  Life happens and no matter how much we plan and connive we need to be flexible.

We can be extremely grateful that the fundamentals of our recovery program have taught us to live “one day at a time” and “let go and let God”.  Our hours and days of worry, concern, and planning will only grant us misery when our way does not conform with the unfolding life ahead of us.  Some of us find comfort in thinking that the days are numbered and a gracious Higher Power will remove us (take us home) when the going gets tough.  Wake up and smell your coffee, ye fools.  Life keeps rocking on here and now in this day which God has given.  We are created to be survivors, not wimps boohooing in our Geritol cocktails.

Yes, I am speaking also to myself because I am, just like you, concerned about a very unpredictable future.  Our country is unstable, the world is a mess, and I am trying to maintain a roof over my head and food on my table with only the monthly stipend which my government, which does not know how to handle money, deems appropriate to the amount which has been forcibly extracted from me into the disappearing fund over my entire working life.  And, considering the powers who control the money, your sizable retirement funds could be as insecure as my meager Social Security.  Should we worry?  Yes, of course, but, I will not.  I intend to live another 30 years and I refuse to waste that precious time.

A pleasure of the retired, poverty years is having the time to read.  My local library has tens of thousands of books of all descriptions and I find extreme satisfaction in using this free resource numerous times weekly.  I came across this poem which sweetly tells us that we should enjoy the things of “now” because it will end someday.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

OTHERWISE by Jane Kenyon

 

 

take stock & regroup

When I undertook this format for writing several years ago, it was with the intent to share my experience, strength, and hope in my personal quest for sanity and serenity as a recovering alcoholic.  I had no aspirations for a blog that would draw thousands of readers or ambitions for a post that would go viral.  And, I have not been disappointed.

The events of the past year have tilted my concerns and attentions to the political arena.  Certainly my personal opinions are valid, my voice needs to be counted, and my vote will continue to be registered, but, continual attention to a situation which is beyond my control exacts a toll on serenity and composure.

Today, I realized that common sense will ultimately prevail, that goodness and mercy will prevail, and that life will go on with or without my input.  But, I also came to understand that our culture ( Western, specifically American) is driven not by a sense of spirit, but rather by a sense of self.  We are a culture of egoism and self-absorption.  It is the only explanation for the politicians we have installed as leaders of the free world.

A wealthy friend, let’s call him Joe, is a minor millionaire who spends more money on a pair of shoes than I can spend on monthly groceries.   Joe has called our current President a pig.  He has questioned our President’s shady connections.  He is one of the voters who voted for the least worst of the worst candidates in decades.  Yet, Joe confided that the stock market is doing great, he is making money and therefore he is happy with the pig with shady connections who is currently posing as POTUS.  Another pair of designer shoes for Joe and maybe a Rolex are in his offing.

Yes, today has been a time of refection and redirect.  I know who I am in God’s world, I intend to strive on for a compassionate, caring, communing interaction with the world’s peoples, creatures, and environment.  This is the only wealth which is worth chasing, it is the eternity detailed in the chapters of the great scriptures, it is that which the greatest of God’s messengers have attested as truth; it is the way of Jesus, the path of Buddha and it is available to all who will subdue themselves to the greater power so simply presented in the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Oneness which we call God, or Allah, or Brahman will continue with or without us.  The universal, omnipotent power of the Oneness will do this…with or without us.  Our reason for being here on this earth in this life is to promote and assist the physical/spiritual welfare of our brothers and sisters, to cherish the creation and to protect the environment.  We are not here to promote our version of God, to defend our version of God, or in any way assist our version of God.  The one you name as God, the one I name as God is perfectly capable of handling those details.  Let’s appreciate the simplicity of our solidarity.

rainbow-solidarity

 

 

SERENITY CONNECTION: lemonade

INDIANAPOLIS — Sarah Cummins was supposed to get married this weekend. The 25-year-old Purdue University pharmacy student had been planning her dream wedding for two years, scrimping and working overtime to save for the $30,000 extravaganza.

 A week ago, she called it off (she prefers not to say why) and was left with a broken heart and a nonrefundable contract for a venue and a plated dinner for 170 guests Saturday night at the Ritz Charles in Carmel.

“It was really devastating to me. I called everyone, canceled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more, and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception,” she said. 

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  Her wedding was scheduled for this weekend.  All the details were arranged, cake was ordered, centerpieces were created, the Ritz Charles garden pavilion was reserved for the reception, and tons of food were ordered.  She planned for 170 guests for a plated dinner to include bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce, and, of course, wedding cake.

So, what does one do when one’s wedding punch is a bowl full of sour lemons?  Lemonade, of course.  Sarah has contacted local shelters and is hosting her reception, sans husband, for a very special guest list of Indianapolis homeless people, one hundred and seventy of them.  As if that in itself doesn’t speak enough for the this woman’s unflappable heart, she is keeping the honeymoon plan, sans husband, saying, “I’m going by myself. I’m nervous, but I feel like it will be really good strength-building for me. I want that time alone.”

Sweetheart, don’t worry, with your generosity and positivity that time alone will be short-lived.  Some of us cry over our sour lemons; others make lemonade…..or, in your case, a wonderful, memorable lunch for the less fortunate of Indianapolis and Noblesville, Indiana.

America, Sarah Cummins is who we are, what we represent as a nation.  Don’t allow the incessant negativity passing for leadership to tell us otherwise.

Maureen Gilmer http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/bride-to-be-calls-off-wedding-invites-homeless-to-reception/ar-BBEn31d?li=BBnb4R7&ocid=spartandhp

 

rainy days

We tend to pack our days with yard chores, outdoor activity, social events, volunteering, etc.  Seldom do we get up in the morning and plan nothing.  Zilch, nada, nothing.  Then, checking in with our weather source, we see the spreading green blob of precipitation heading our way.  What now?

The most pleasant days can be spent relaxing under the tin roofed porch, curled up with a great book, listening to that rain softly beating rhythmically on the roof.  We reflect, we meditate, we lounge, we create emptiness in our overworked minds.  The planned activity slips away into oblivion as we take a tour of what’s happening within.  Sometimes we actually connect with moments of clarity and insight.  What a perfect way to spend a rainy day!

Life can be a continuum of well spent rainy days or it can be a rush of forced activity.  It’s our choice.

me, a philosopher? tsk

It is often too easy to get mired in the realms of religious philosophy.  No credible source whom we know or about whom we have read has physically sat down with God and discussed the kingdom, heaven and hell, salvation, etc.  Some claim to have special insight and it is these whom we should distrust the most.  When there appears video and audio of this personal God meeting on YouTube, then maybe, we could agree with the philosophy which a religionist proclaims as truth.  The preceding words are, of course, somewhat facetious and tongue-in-cheek.  But, truly, nobody knows with certainty what awaits in eternity.

Therefore, we must rest on the assumption that maybe your theory on things eternal is valid and maybe another’s theory is valid.  Maybe your interpretation of scriptures is true, maybe another’s interpretation is spot on.  Certainly we can agree that of all the creations attributable to mankind, religion has probably been the most devastating in numbers of human lives murdered and in souls lost.  When any religion or any religionist lays claim to having the inerrant, infallible, indisputable word of God, then that religion’s adherent must surrender his innate God-given ability to figure things out for himself, i.e., THINK.

Recently, a fellow blogger posed the question, “Why are you here?”

In spite of all suppositions set forth by theologians, religionists, your theory, and my theory, it all boils down to this:

what am I willing to contribute in forwarding  the evolution of mankind to the intelligence and compassion which the universe demands as a condition for continuation of the human race?

 

 

 

 

FIND YOUR PEW

Among my friends are three very dear people who come to “Uncle” Larry for a listening ear and a shoulder upon which to cry.  For hours we sit, share coffee, chat about their troubles.  One deals with an alcohol problem, one suffers depression, and the other harbors a worsening paranoia laced with hallucinations.  Yes, for hours I offer my perspective, my attention, and sparingly my advice.  I’ve come to realize that advice is not what is being sought.

When I’ve reached the end of my patience, I offer a last bit of hope.  It is the activity which keeps me sane, content and somewhat normal.  It refills me with more of the same patience which has just been exhausted.  It comforts my soul, connects me with inner peace, prepares me for the next round of coffee and chatting.

“Wanna go to church with me?”

I ask this question very broadly.  Most of our AA meetings are sponsored by the local churches; therefore, when I extend the invitation to come with me to church, I am covering all my bases.  Whether a table surrounded by recovering drunks or a sanctuary filled with recovering sinners, it just seems to be a good place to find a program of spiritual living.

Ouch! The stares from my friends are borderline hostile.  The remarks are equally inappropriate.  And finally it hits me.  These friends somehow gain a morbid sense of fulfillment from wallowing in their case histories.  They don’t want resolution.  They don’t want to recognize a world beyond their fragile egos.  They don’t want to forgive, be forgiven, and move on.

One of my favorite expressions is “been there, done that”.  So it goes with alcoholism and mental illness.  We can all relate to the times when a moral inventory and turning it over were crazy as…well…. getting sober or giving control to God.  Unthinkable! ….until the day when we were face down in the gutters of despair and hopelessness….until the day when the only way to go was up.  Some of us made it, some did not.  I was willing to do anything at that time to escape the cesspool that I called life.  How about you?  What are you, my three dear friends, willing to do?

“Wanna go to church?”

 

THE HAPPY MYSTIC

Have you ever momentarily experienced in your meditation a time of absolute serenity and peace?  All trains of thought have stopped.  The world around you is non-existent.  It is tranquil and quiet within.  All is well with your soul.

You try to hang on to it as long as possible but, the phone rings, the kids scream, and the dog barks. Poof! It’s gone.  That brief, unearthly respite was a God moment.  For a mere second you and the God within were in communion.  This mysterious indwelling essence became the Lord of your life on the day you made sobriety the top priority of your life.

We alcoholics are not unique in this discovery.  Many before us, many who are not addicted to any behavior or substance have also known the God within and have fully experienced the pure joy and peace of inner communion.  Buddha and his followers, Jesus and his followers, Muhammad and his followers all exercised the mysticism of an inner experience of meditation and contemplation.  The Kabbalist Jew in his esoteric practice also embraces mysticism.

This has nothing to do with his God, her God, the church’s God.  This is your very own, very personal Higher Power which has no need to be translated by religionists or theologians.  You don’t need dogma or faith creeds or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not”  because it is within the deepest recesses of your soul’s being that the God of your understanding can be found.

Faith in this inner God experience of the mystics does not negate or diminish the presence of spirituality that is enjoyed by worshipping with others corporately in the church, the mosque or the synagogue.  This time of singing, prayer, and teaching only enhances that which we know within.  However, we can experience an exhilarating freedom when we understand how and where to find a personal God of our understanding.  Scriptures which we have learned and known for a lifetime come alive with new and deeper meaning.  Our journey is no longer hindered by questions concerning the right pew in the right church with the right congregation worshipping on the right day of the week preaching the right gospel with the right Bible, Torah or Koran in hand.  That spiritual experience which is deep within is always right.

“To thine own self be true.”

Picture10