Bingo!

The airways, the newspapers, and our very own blogosphere are filled with chatter about 1st Amendment rights especially the freedom of speech and expression.  Yes, it is an important issue to all sides of the conversation from left to centrist to right.  But, should it be stirring up such controversy and baiting?cropped-patriots1.png

We have always had this right since the inception of our Bill of Rights.  It has been there regardless of whether the interpretations have been handed out by the Supreme Court of the United States or Joe Blow from Yakima. The Preamble states that these inalienable rights have been granted by the Creator under the heading of LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.  Take notice!  The “C” in Creator is capitalized.  That means this Creator is not just any creator but, THE CREATOR.  That makes the reference special.  It does not matter if you believe in my version of a creator, Tom Jefferson’s version or your very own personal version which could be that amoeba from way back in the primordial slime eons ago.  Freedom of speech and expression has always been ours, yours and mine,  since its creative inauguration.  Accordingly, it is our, yours and mine, responsibility to grab onto it, cherish and protect it .

Problem is that some folks believe theirs should take priority over ours.  Theirs is better, more godly.  Maybe theirs has usurped passages from scriptures or maybe theirs is founded on outdated traditions, or maybe theirs is simply some cockamamie interpretation of what grandpappy preached as truth.  It matters not because, as much as we would like to deny this, theirs is as valid as ours.  What has heretofore saved our civilization from annihilation is that we collectively employ  a conscience as a navigation system to pick through the varying ideas regarding freedom and for the most part have used that guidance judiciously.

Here comes the glitch.  My conscience guidelines could be light years away from the conscience of another.  So what do we do?  Well, we could all pull out our placards, put on our marching shoes, exercise our shouting voices and stand face to face to those with whom we disagree.  That’s not a bad thing, actually it is a good thing when we also cover our hearts with another characteristic which is not inherent, it needs to be nurtured and practiced.  That trait is civility.

I can oppose your viewpoint by letting you know that you are the biggest asshole in the world, call you names which would make my mother ashamed, and raise a fist to your nose hoping to duck any fists you could raise to me.  Lately, that seems to have become the American way.

Or I can exercise my abilities as a statesman and simply say, “Sir/Madam, I hear your point of view, I honor your right to express it, and I respectfully disagree.  Now, please hear my viewpoint.”

I believe that this is how great leaders and statesmen of the past have conducted life and achieved greatness for America.  They did not wear red hats or pump fists.  They did not tweet infantile insults at those who disagreed with them.  No, if responses were necessary to protect their freedom of speech or expression,  it was normally,  “I hear your assessment and I respectfully disagree. Now, hear mine.”

Civility.  It goes a long, long way in resolving issues and conflicts.  I freely admit that I also need a refresher course in civility basics now and then.  I am not immune to the name-calling and drama which has become a normative feature of today’s political discourse.  Ultimately, I want civility in my life because it lays a foundation for my primary objectives of “clean and serene” while trekking through God’s universe.

“Count to 10 before you open your mouth.”  Those words spoken by a very wise old man to me as a rebellious, young know-it-all hold a vast reservoir of  wisdom when practiced out of respect for others as well as myself.

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”  Proverbs 10:19

It seems that the disagreement over what is tolerable under free speech and expression is the vehemence, hatred, and violence which some are claiming as protected under 1st Amendment rights.  How can it be?  We can all talk about every issue until the cows come home and agree to disagree, but you threatening me and my family through words or actions with physical aggression or death because I do not think, talk, act, nor smell the same as you cannot possibly be what the Creator nor our founding fathers had in mind when they spoke of our inalienable rights. If so , then mankind is definitely not destined to be the enlightened species capable of unfathomable love and compassion as we have envisioned.

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Bill W.

Bill Wilson in his writings often discussed the periods of depression he suffered long after he claimed sobriety:

“When I was tired and couldn’t concentrate, I used to fall back on an affirmation toward life that took the form of simple walking and deep CANDLEbreathing.  I sometimes told myself that I couldn’t even do this – that I was too weak.  But I learned that this was the point at which I could not give in without becoming still more depressed.” Bill Wilson “AS BILL SEES IT” 

It sometimes seems that those of us who face our alcoholism have  battles with depression that defy the serenity and joy we ought to have as recovering addicts.  Those bouts support one of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous which says that “the drinking is just a symptom of deeper, underlying illness”.  Treating our character defects with the prescribed 12 step program is one pillar of our recovery, but, addressing the emotional baggage we carried with us into sobriety often requires professional counseling and guidance.

As a younger man, jogging was a huge part of my life.  On the trail in my Nikes the pitfalls of life became secondary to my breathing and the cadence of my footsteps.  I was able to center on the inner journey coinciding with my external activity.  The experience of runner’s euphoria was the carrot on the stick, a reason to get my head out of my butt and do something about the lurking depression just waiting to immobilize me.

Physical limitations have retired my running shoes, but I know today, many years into continued sobriety, that the walking/hiking routine is essential to a happy, contented Larry.  The pace has slowed considerably, but the focus on breathing and the “clop, clop” of stepping still carries me to another world.  It is a world of victory over depression.

Much of the AA program seems akin to the “Path” of Buddhism and also the “Way” of Jesus and his followers.  Meditation is advocated by both.  Meditative walking is a new endeavor for me.  It is also an activity focused on breathing and stepping.  The intent is to empty the head of worldly concerns and replace that circus with the beauty of the inner self, the soul.  Repetitive chanting enhances the exercise.  This is a  much slower, deliberate type of walking very suitable to a much slower, deliberate Larry.

With entry into the “golden years” (whoever coined that phrase was undoubtedly drunk or high) the clutches of depression can increase.  Our bodies fail us, our friends leave us through relocation or death, our family ties become weaker.  We feel lost in the loneliness of retirement and many younger folks see us as burdens which they would sooner ignore.  Financial security is a joke; one uncovered medical emergency will wipe us out and scammers are lurking on every website to relieve us of our monetary resources.

I need my walking to stay balanced emotionally and fit physically.  I need my faith to approach the “final stretch” of this QUEST with confidence and joy.  Scripture, the words attributed to Jesus and the Buddha, feed that faith.  In John 16:33 Jesus tells me:

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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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.

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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.

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sobriety’s promises

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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.

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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.

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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.