….and my neighbor is ?

Refer to the good Samaritan parable from the book of Luke 10:25-37namaste rainbow

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He (Jesus) said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?                                

2And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he (Jesus) said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

“Go, and do thou likewise.”

From the first time I heard this story in Sunday School and VBS about the good Samaritan, I have been intrigued by the characters and the roles they played in Jesus’ lesson on Christian behavior.  In it Jesus defines the meaning of “neighbor”.  Obviously it is not limited to what we in contemporary society would consider a neighbor, i.e., the couple next door or the man down the street.

In Biblical Jewish culture, the Samaritans were a race to be ostracized and avoided at all costs.  At the well, the Samaritan woman drawing water was shocked and probably miffed that a Jewish teacher (Jesus) would ask her to draw water for him. John 4:7-26 In all probability, the Samaritans hated the Jews just as much as the Jews despised them.

So when Jesus uses a Samaritan traveler as the pivotal character in his parable, those hearing his message were undoubtedly shocked.  And when Jesus takes this heresy further to cast a favorable light upon the Samaritan, we should not be surprised that the ruling hierarchy of Pharisees desired to be rid of him and his teachings.  Their hatred and intolerance was justified by centuries-old racism supported by an archaic system of religious righteousness.

Jesus reckons with this racism by first stating that a priest and then a Levite came upon the traveler (we are not told anything about his background) and kept to the side of the road in order to avoid contact with him.  Perhaps they feared for their own safety should the robbers still be nearby.  Or perhaps they did not want to contaminate themselves by touching a corpse.  The priest and the Levite, although holy men of the Jewish faith, lacked the compassion to lend assistance to the dying traveler.  The Samaritan, however, even though a despised citizen of a neighboring country, felt compassion for the wounded man and gave immediate assistance to the point of ensuring his safe passage to care and recovery at a nearby inn.

“And who is my neighbor,” asked the lawyer of Jesus in the scripture, verse 29?

Jesus tells his story and then the lawyer in verse 37 answers his own question, “He that shewed mercy.”

Which character of this parable do I play?  Am I the priest or Levite, men unwilling to be involved in saving another’s life?  Am I the good Samaritan who cares enough to risk his own life for that of a stranger?  Or perhaps I am the traveler, wounded and left to die on the highway of life, saved only by the grace of a compassionate savior.

Who is my neighbor?  Certainly John next door, my tax accountant at the mall, the restaurant owner at my favorite Italian place, even the Muslim couple who smile to me whenever they walk by my house.  I consider my pastor my neighbor, my car salesman, my insurance agent, and my local sheriff.

OK.  What about the strident atheist at school, the repugnant Republican congressman, the white supremacist in Georgia, the drug dealer in the city, and the redneck who flies a Confederate flag on his pickup truck?  Are they my neighbors?

Jesus was not categorizing anyone when instructing us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus does not see anything but a person’s heart and the innate love and compassion within that heart.  Jesus wants us to do the same.

Who, then, is my neighbor?  The Nazi who would kill a gay man?  The racist who would lynch a black man?  The Jew who would harm a Palestinian?

If I were to come upon an injured man on the highway and that man was Trump, would I stop to assist or pass by on the other side of the road?  Yeah, it gets really funky now, doesn’t it?

I am supposed to love my neighbor.  Love is not always a warm, fuzzy feeling that tingles all over.  It is also a willingness to be actively compassionate toward every creature of God’s creation.

“Go, and do thou likewise.”  I know that if I just carry the willingness, God will honor my efforts.smiley 3

 

“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.

praise God from whom all blessings flow…

 

warm blankets on a cold nightCANDLE

hot tea in my favorite cup

Max the cat snuggled up against me

a woolen sock cap

mittens without holes

a good book to read

scan0005phone turned off

a good friend to sit with

chili in a cast iron pot on the stove

sobriety

freedom to speak freely

freedom to worship as I choose

food in the pantrysilver lining

roof over my head

God’s grace and mercy

a Father’s will

“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”CANDLE

“Our Higher Power will not give us more than we can handle in one day.”

Those words are familiar to most of us who walk a recovery path.  In my life’s experience determining the will of God has been a major stumbling block.  Having been bombarded by various preachers extolling numerous differing theologies, I finally came to rest on a space in which that voice inside, some call it conscience, became my deciding factor.  It is the indwelling spirit, some choose to capitalize Spirit, which knows my character defects, names them and leads me to correct them.  Very simply that is for me the will of God.  The conscience was instilled in me for a purpose and that purpose is not merely to spoil my fun.  It is there to lead me.

It is a manner of living, sober-living, which embraces everything that my character defects, sinful nature, oppose and resist.  If what I am thinking is my will, if it is my surrendering to self-directed action, if it is my desire to please myself, then I should run the opposite direction into my HP’s waiting arms.  Today, I have the willingness to live life according to God’s will and I know that when I do this, life can be clean and serene.

I cannot claim life is free of problems and obstacles; however, I can now approach those glitches with confidence knowing that God extends abundant mercy, an unmerited and undeserved gift of grace and favor.  God does for me what I cannot do for myself.  I am but a lost sheep needing the voice of a shepherd to lead me to the green pastures and still waters.  It is there that I find peace and rest amidst a violent, chaotic world.  The Father’s will for me is to find comfort and solace following a simplistic but sometimes difficult directive.  SURRENDER.  “Surrender to my will and you shall be set free.  Be still, cease striving; and then you will know that I am God.”

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But, when smiley 3you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

making new

angry emojiWhere do you go in times of emotional turmoil?  A quiet space, a walk in the woods, a favorite book, a mind-numbing movie, maybe a favorite destructive behavior pattern?  Sometimes an escape is essential to my sanity and I have numerous options from which to choose.  Thanks to the fellowship, drinking or drugging is no longer one of them.

That’s where I am at today.  What course of action do I need to take to address a living situation which has been festering for several weeks and for which I see no solution other than packing bags and living in my pickup truck?  It’s a tough mental exercise which has at times led me to believe living on my truck is the better option.  But, I still love the creature comforts of a warm bed under a tin roof and meals at a dining room table.  What I don’t like is the theft of serenity by the constant turmoil.

I would love to say that I immediately go to my Higher Power in these times.  But, I don’t.  There is a vestige of the old Larry which says, “I can handle this by myself, thanks,  but no thanks, God.”  I continue to squirm and wiggle trying to work this out through my own powers of decision-making.  And I grow desperate listening to the voices of ‘self will run riot’.  It is not a safe place to be.

My old nature is to be confrontational, to become self-righteous about the perceived wrongs committed against me.  The old me walks away in a huff muttering about the stupidity and insensitivity of other people.  The old me would stew for days over an incident that was misunderstood by all involved.  The old me will get me drunk or dead.  I don’t like the old me anymore.

One of my daily prayers inspired by the writing of Marianne Williamson in ILLUMINATA sets the stage for an assessment of my character defects while asking for relief:

“Lord, 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 demons from my past, for I would be made new.” 

“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us.  Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”  Bill W. writes in AS BILL SEES IT.

My answer is staring me in the face.  I know what the spiritual response needs to be.  Now, the action part of this discovery must be pursued.  Namaste.namaste rainbow

God’s Not Dead

I spent a few hours last evening watching the movie GOD’S NOT DEAD.  Music from the NEWSBOYS  enhanced the script which detailed a challenge in the life  of Joshua, a pre-law student at the university who is a faithful follower of Jesus enrolled in a philosophy course taught by a strident, self-proclaimed atheist.  CANDLE

Supporting roles include Josh’s girl friend, a young woman who values worldly pursuit over spiritual values, a student reporter who is diagnosed with terminal cancer, an oriental student presumably from China who comes to believe in the Christian God much to the dismay of his father, a Muslim student who is disowned by her father upon his learning that she has become a Christian, a Christian pastor who becomes involved with lead characters in a salvific role, and the professor’s lover, a student who has denied her Christian faith to be “unequally yoked” with an atheist.

The heart of the movie is a challenge presented by Professor Radisson to Joshua to prove to his philosophy class that God is real and God is alive.  It is great wholesome entertainment and a somber reminder that our world does not love us nor respect us for carrying the Christian faith or any God centered philosophy.  Ridicule, condescension, and persecution of our ideals and beliefs have become commonplace in social media and secular entertainment.  And yes, it is often well-placed, deserved derision and mockery based on the religious hypocrisy which has overtaken an element of Christianity.  But, that hypocritical element is a notable minority which unfortunately has garnered significant attention in American society and has overshadowed the goodness and compassion of the overwhelming balance of the Christian world.

In the movie, Professor Radisson ultimately has to admit that contrary to his atheist stance he does believe that there is a God but, decided to hate God because at age 12 God allowed his mother to die of cancer.  He was a denier rather than an atheist.  I also hated God for many years for allowing me to wallow in alcoholism, for not saving the world from famine, for allowing wars to destroy and maim.  I proclaimed myself an atheist but reclaimed my inheritance when, as a recovering alcoholic, I realized that I was a disillusioned victim of a misguided theology which claims God controls every nuance of my life.

I have free will, I have choices, I make decisions and these are liberties that have been granted to me living under the grace of a loving God who is not Santa Claus.  He does not grant nor deny my desires.  Yes, I discuss those needs and wants with my Higher Power and that sovereign entity simply gives me the guidance and discernment to make good or sometimes bad choices.  He gives me the strength and courage to face life on earth on earth’s terms.

I respect the right of every man/woman to walk their chosen path.  But please, if you define yourself as atheist, be sure you are not a believer who is in God denial.  Your eternity is not some future occurrence.  It is happening now and it can be awesome or it can be drudgery.  Your choice.smiley 3

the critic

Marianne Williamson

 

Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me.

Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You.

Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.

Cast out of me all violence and anger.

Cast out of me all demons from my past,

for I would be made new.

Amen

CANDLEMarianne Williamson’s work has been a part of my inspirational readings for many years.  Like me, she grew up in the turbulent decades of “drugs, sex, rock and roll.”  She also caved to the demons of her times.  ILLUMINATA  The above excerpt from a prayer for healing reminds me everyday that my “harsh and critical nature” is not totally resolved within me.  It is one of the major character defects which can turn my daily interactions into completely chaotic fiascos.  Just one word from my quick, unthinking tongue can erase tireless efforts to be the man whom I believe my HP wants me to be.  A biting comment, an insult, an unwanted opinion in the morning has the power to shadow me for the entire day.  Today, I am aware of my defects and at least now I have the tools to prevent the unkind thoughts and words from ever escaping out of my mouth….most of the time.

We don’t claim spiritual perfection, just progress.  Thank God for this disclaimer.  Without it I would be eternally lost in the seas of self-loathing and despair believing that I am the least worthy and most despicable of God’s creation.  But, my HP delivers to me each new day the strength and resolve to become a better version of the old drunk, to become a vessel carrying his word to a suffering and distraught fellowship of other drunks, and to become a recovering voice in the darkness of addiction.  And because he says I am a work in progress, I need not do this perfectly.  I merely need the willingness to try.

That same harsh and critical nature is frequently turned inward.  I am undoubtedly my own worst critic.  If I truly believe that God’s saving grace has covered me with unmerited and undeserved mercy then how dare I dispute the work he has done in my life and the plan he has for me?  How dare I criticize the miracle working within me?  It is not up to me to judge others or myself.  The indwelling Spirit allows me to be the observer of life, allows thoughts to enter and depart without passing judgement on them, allows others to travel this path alongside me without passing judgement on them, and allows me to be nothing more…or less…than a simple messenger.smiley 3