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.”

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YOU ROCK

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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“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS step 3, pg 59 in How it Works.

When was the last time you read those words or listened to them recited at a meeting of recovering alcoholics?  Do we understand fully the significance of this life-saving concept which gave us the credentials to be a part of God’s family even after years of separation and denial ?

At my 1st AA meeting I was scared, I was sick, I was morally and spiritually bankrupt.  I knew I was going to die either by a black-out car wreck or by suicide.  My personal life was a disaster and my job was in jeopardy.  Most of my friends abandoned me, a few stood by me, but all knew that Larry was a sick puppy.  All except Larry.

You see, Larry had learned to play the game.  I’m talking about that mind game we alcoholics master at some point in our drinking careers.  I had my list of scapegoats lined up to cover every conceivable mishap in my life.  I conned, connived, and lied my way through the car wrecks, the lost jobs, the broken relationships, the days of alcohol-induced sickness.  In the end days of my drinking I truly believed my own cons.  Finally, reaching out to mental health services at the hospital in desperation, the psychologist assigned to me listened to my con for one minute before asking, “How much do you drink?”

My surrender was immediate because I was sick of being sick.  I replied, “A few beers once in a while,” but I knew then in the psychologist’s office that the only person I had been conning all this time was me.

“My name is Larry, and I’m an alcoholic,” I announced at my 1st AA meeting.

There, I had done it.  For the first time in many years I got honest with myself.  And then I listened.  I tried to convince myself that I was not as bad as they were.  But, I found myself relating to what they were saying and agreeing, “Yeah, I did that, too.  That’s me.”

Someone talked about God and I freaked.  “You don’t really believe that stuff, do you? There is no God.  Intelligent people don’t need God.  I sure as hell don’t need God.”

A fellow at the end of the table quietly responded, “And look where that got you.  You’re sitting in a room at a table with a bunch of drunks.”

Again, that moment of surrender.  “OK, OK, you’re right.  Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was.  I’ll listen to your stories about God.”

And so it began, my journey in sobriety.  The God of my understanding was nothing like the God of my childhood which had burdened me with guilt and shame for 34 years of my life.  It was a unique feeling, a devotion which I had never before experienced, this God of my understanding.  What an amazing concept!

Today I celebrate that I am no longer excluded from a worshipful relationship with a higher power just because I don’t profess the ‘right’ God according to other people.  I no longer feel unworthy just because I’m a broken man trying to be a better man.  I no longer feel condemned to hell just because I’m not convinced by their idea of heaven.

Are you in love with sobriety?  I am.  Do you remember your first meeting?  I do. Amazing, isn’t it, that we should be loved so much by a God of our understanding?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Thy will, not mine, be done.”

 

“WAGON TRAIN”

larry6My keyboard has been inactive recently.  My mind has not been able to wrap itself around spirituality or sobriety in writing.  It’s not a depression which I am feeling nor a sense of disconnect.  I see this as a time of self-appraisal.

I was a huge fan of the TV series “Wagon Train” many years ago.  Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams led his trekkers across the plains to a new life following the Civil War years.  He was the essence of wisdom and patience.  Many dangers threatened the wagons and their occupants during the months-long trip.  Whenever the hostile natives appeared atop the surrounding hills, Major Adams would signal the wagons to circle and form a defensive front to fight the attackers.

That describes me today.  I’m circling my emotional wagons in anticipation of difficult times ahead.  My focus remains on my Lord, my sobriety continues to be a mainstay of life, but, as David lamented in the Psalms, my enemies surround me and appear to be preparing an attack.

Some of those enemies are real and imminent.  One is declining health associated with aging.  The oomph disappeared several years ago being replaced by aches and pains.  Today, upon reminiscing over accomplishments of the 45 year-old me, I am truly amazed that I had the energy and capacity to do those things.  My focus now is fighting off the numerous maladies which are inherited gifts of DNA.  If I allowed it, I could easily wallow in those things over which I have no control.  I would do well to embrace the “serenity to accept the things which I cannot change.”

Another pervasively disturbing realization is that my idealistic world view is not shared by all of humanity.  Many of my species do not want peaceful co-existence nor spiritual enlightenment.  Many do not uphold the value of each human experience nor the equality of all human beings.  Seriously, I question what Pollyanna world I have lived in for much of my life.  Until recently I have imagined that the entire world dreamed of world peace and brotherhood just as I do.

So, I circle my wagons.  I know that I am not alone, that I have Major Adams to console and calm me, that I have other trekkers crossing the plains to share my ideals.  But, those enemies of a life which we hold dear to us are on the hilltop horizons with tomahawks ready to scalp and arrows ready to pierce.  They despise our ways, they want to destroy our values.  They disguise themselves as world leaders and church leaders, as politicians, as patriots, as sheep.  Beware!

MATTHEW 7:15

“WAGONS HO!”

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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

 

 

all men are created equal

Following is a daily petition inspired by Marianne Williamson in ILLUMINATA

“….cast from me all harsh and critical nature, cast from me all anger and violence;  cast from me  all doubt and insecurity, cast from me all fear and hatred.”

Just as the SERENITY PRAYER was my mantra in early sobriety and continues to be a source of strength today, my version of Marianne’s supplication is a mainstay in the cultural and political chaos of not only America but the entire world.  When insight, understanding, and compassion seem to fail, what is left is either a plea to think, speak, and act in a civil and fearless manner or to react, respond, and attack in a hostile manner indicative of our prehistoric gene pool.

And therein is the solution to any and all issues facing us today.  We live in a world which has polarized its population into two groups.  The one advocates for the inherent rights of all people, the other attempts to continue the tribal instinct of self-protection at the expense of the remainder of mankind.  One is the path to enlightenment and global co-existence, the other leads to oppression and eventual species annihilation.  The choice of which direction to pursue is an individual decision.  It sounds too utterly simplistic, but each one of us needs to decide on which side we will stand in the evolution or regression of mankind.  We will all eventually exit this life in this world as dead carcasses so, it’s a matter of eternal legacy, isn’t it?  Which legacy am I pursuing?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…..” DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

 

KISS 2016 GOODBYE

I’ve learned not to make resolutions for New Year’s after many failed attempts to change things I perceive as unhealthy or immoral.  I mean really, what’s so darned unhealthy about a Krispie Kreme in bed once in a while?  However, I do prioritize the opening prayer we recite at the meeting tables:

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

Of course, being the alcoholic that I am (some of us are sicker than others), I find need to amend this prayer by adding “things I cannot change such as my past and other people, things I can change such as my future and myself, and the wisdom which is found in my recovery program.”

Works for me.  No regrets in February when I’ve gained weight rather than lost 5 pounds, when I’ve cut loose with a few cuss words rather than a prayer for someone I dislike, when I’ve spent too much on my credit card.  Keeping resolutions simple is sober living at its best.

For 2017, I wish everyone a great year filled with compassion and understanding.  Whether you are one who is facing challenges in recovery or you are one looking for spirituality in a crazy, screwed-up world, remember there is a Higher Power which has everything under control.  Simply ask that almighty power for the serenity, courage, and wisdom.

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