ain’t going back no more

I spent too much of this past weekend reflecting upon my stint in the Navy as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam era. I returned to the insanity and chaos of the war years as I remembered and honored my brothers who died in those jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. Tonight, my soul aches anew. I still sometimes feel guilt for not being one of them. I should have been there beside them. For many years I thanked the God of my understanding for keeping me safely out of harm’s way. Today it’s easier to simply say I was just one of the lucky ones. My number was not drawn, my reassignment orders did not say Marine Corps training for assignment to Vietnam. But, was I really one of the lucky ones? They paid the supreme price, the family received condolences, insurance money, a flag, and a medal, and another warrior found eternal peace having died a war-time hero.

My duty station was the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Having completed training as a psychiatric tech, none of the schooling prepared me for the pain I saw of returning warriors broken in limb and mind. They shared their horror stories, stories of terror and fear in the rice paddies and the jungles where they stayed high on dope just to survive the craziness that filled their minds. Those who lost arms and legs were rehabilitating in the orthopedic wards on the other side of the hospital grounds. They visited my wards in their wheelchairs and together the broken ones tried to heal one another.

One of my special assignments was that of body escort for a returning corpsman killed in action. My military bearing was never up to snuff from my first days in boot camp and it did not improve with time, but I somehow stayed out of trouble and made rank. It was considered an honor to escort a fallen warrior. I had lots of time to think as I rode with the dead young man to his funeral site in Virginia. I met the grieving family at the funeral home and began doing what body escorts are supposed to do. After the body was lowered in the ground, after the volley of gun fire, and after final taps from a nearby hillside, I returned to my motel room, cried like a baby and got drunk as hell.

I friggin hated war, I hated Vietnam and most of all I hated the government which had sent thousands of courageous men to their graves for the enrichment of the privileged, white boys back home in the safety of the USA. From that day forward my life tail-spinned into the drunken story of a sorry-assed man who couldn’t forgive himself for still being alive while too many had died. My untimely discharge from the military gave me ever more reason to pursue a new found career in drinking. Espousing anti-government sentiments from my barstool pulpit, I spent many nights with Jack Daniels and Cutty Sark informing other barroom patrons of the inherent evils of ‘their’ government.

I have detailed my sobriety story many times on this blog. It is indeed a miracle which has led me to self-forgiveness and acceptance of things which I cannot change. My drinking was my way of leaving my personal jungles and rice paddies behind and I am OK with it. I titled this post before I started writing it and now I know it’s a lie. I must go back remembering those who died, those who came back broken in spirit and body, and those who never again had a chance to live normally. They are all a part of my story and I can never forsake them.

Duane, Bryan, Joe – I’ll see you when I get there. SEMPER FI

PETE BUTTIGIEG – candidate

By now, if you live on this planet, you have heard about Pete Buttigieg.  The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has splashed across our screens with an exciting, energetic message for a weary America and much needed relief for those of us who are viewing the currentPETE BUTTUGUEG Administration in absolute disgust and revulsion.  In opening salvos, the man who some say cannot possibly win the Democratic nomination has referred to his tenure as a Mid-west city mayor as more public service than the current President, his executive experience as more than the current Vice-President, and his military service as more than the President and Vice-President combined.  Mastering eight languages, the Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar who served in Afghanistan freely speaks of his marriage to Chasten, his husband.

Listen up, America.  The closet days are over for men like Pete and Chasten.  Some Americans do not like the lifestyle, some people are in strident opposition, but this country is in desperate need of guidance and direction from men and women who have risen above the slander and name-calling of a prejudiced minority with a message that will reset our destiny.  Whom we love and what we do in our bedrooms, whether gay or straight, is not the business of our government nor does it have bearing upon the multiple challenges facing our country.  The abilities and moral qualities this candidate brings to the race for President gives us a choice between a man with a moral compass and a President totally lacking that same compass.  It’s a no-brainer that Pete should be a bona-fide contender with the necessary credentials to challenge the current President.

PLEASE TAKE TIME TO LEARN ABOUT MAYOR PETE


picture1

 

“you said come just as you are”

 

photos by LARRY PAUL BROWN

There’s a place I go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Wildflowers wave in the gentle breezes as the freshness of nearby pine forests fills the air with breath after breath of luxurious serenity.  I sit in the grass, admire the beauty of the flowers and  marvel that truly there is a heaven on earth.

And then, when that which is called reality reins in this escape to a quiet place, I return reluctantly and sadly.  But, I know that someday this kind and peaceful place will be a permanent home where I also shall soar with the eagles breathing in the freshness of eternity.  Come with me, won’t you?  We can go there just as we are.

backlit-clouds-dawn-415380

Every one of us has a story to tell.  It usually reflects on the brokenness of a past life which carried us to places that were more like a living hell than heaven.  Sometimes it involves drug addiction or alcoholism. Often it is a story of abuse and deprivation at the hands of someone whom we trusted.  Or we may return to the horrors of sex abuse and physical assault when telling our story.  The common thread with each one of our stories is the final surrender of the pain and suffering to an unseen, unfamiliar power.  We somehow, miraculously, discovered healing and acceptance.  We recognized and embraced our inner beauty and greatness.  We became willing to believe that our past lives, though never to be forgotten, should no longer be baggage to slow down our journey through sobriety.  And with each passing clean and serene day we discovered a special place where eagles soar, water runs deep, and grass is green, a place where peace and kindness greet our morning sun.

Drunk and reeking of alcohol, I met my unseen, unfamiliar Higher Power in a bar room as I staggered past a man who grabbed hold of me and said, “Son, do you want to be free?”  My blurred vision couldn’t really focus on the man and upon finally making my way to the door, turning around to see who had spoken to me, he was gone.  I demanded of the bartender,

“Who was that man that just grabbed me by the shoulders?”

“Sir, it’s just you and me in this bar room.  Nobody else has been here in the past hour.”

Do you want to be free?  Free of substance addiction, free of behavior addictions, free of self-imposed hell?  Lean into the Master and receive your miracle.   Matters not whether we name it Higher Power, the Source, God, or Spirit, the salvation we seek will welcome us with open arms and a hearty,

“Welcome home, son.  I have been waiting for you.  Now, come just as you are; sit with me for a while.  We have some catching up to do.”


copyright 3

HERE COMES THE SUN – serenity prayer

animals-backlit-dawn-1126384

photo by JOHANNES PLENIO

Perhaps it’s an age thing – at this advanced chronological time in life, the ways of personal survival which have been learned and applied successfully over a lifetime, no longer hold validity in the eyes of the ‘younger ones’, those who are far more intelligent and cognitive.  Perhaps their ways are more sensible for today’s times; but, my way is exactly that – MY WAY.  And I still like my way.

Ahhh, did someone get out of bed this morning with an attitude?  You?  Spouse?  Children?  Neighbor?……Me?  Even the normal yoga, meditation, and exercise routine did not prepare for the annoying, “Well, you should do it my way, it’s better,” from the first interloper of the day.  Hmmm, go back to bed and start over?

Politicians, telemarketers, door-to-door salesman, Bible-thumpers can be annoyances.  Car salesmen, loud rap music, insurance agents, Republican neighbors, slow drivers in the passing lane can be annoyances.  But, loved ones should not be.  We call them loved ones because we love them and they love us.  And that’s all we need to know.  Let’s not categorize them as annoyances.  So, how can we do that?

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

“…courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Yes, a few simple words with a huge promise can redirect my day, and yours.  Memorize the serenity prayer, say it out loud, repeat it again and again and again until you mean it.  And then receive the blessing of unbridled serenity.

and now that you are calm and serene….here’s an annoying thought from a Texas lawmaker

Responding to a vaccine researcher who urged Texas lawmakers to reverse the upward trend in vaccine exemptions – ” state Representative Jonathan Strickland told Dr. Peter Hotez to ‘do our state a favor and mind your own business.  Parental rights mean more to us than your self-enriching science.'”  VACCINATION IS SORCERY

PLEASE GIVE 4 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME TO LOVE OUR EARTH

smiley-face-2

HERE COMES THE SUN – give thanks

beautiful-cropland-dawn-1237119JONATHAN PETERSSON photographer

Somewhere in our world the sun is always rising – unfailingly.  It doesn’t need my permission or your approval.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do the same in our daily routine?

The most difficult part of my day are the first few hours upon rising.  Do I want to be awake?  Do I feel like swinging my legs over the bedside?  Will my first steps be pain filled or comfortable?  What should I do first?  What appointments do I have?  What chores must I do?

STOP!  Just stop.  Rewind the tapes and start over.  Let’s open eyes to the surroundings of a peaceful bedroom – the colors of the walls which are soft and relaxing, the whir of the ceiling fan bringing cool air to my face, the photos on the nightstand, the heirloom hanging on the wall, the cat quietly stretching and waking up with me, the smell of bacon being prepared by my spouse – it’s going to be a great day.  Ahhh, the anticipation of the first cup of fresh coffee.

No, don’t get up just yet.  Yes, of course there is time for a short gratitude list.  What am I grateful for this morning?  More importantly, whom am I grateful for?  Thank you for breath, for health, for peace, for companionship, for the roof over my head, for sobriety.  Now, sit up, stand up, fill those lungs with fresh air, feel the beat of a steadfast heart, raise those outstretched arms upward and thank the sun for shining on us, for making our earth a paradise for all to enjoy and a treasure to protect.

and now…from the wisdom of climate change deniers

Yes, there is a silver lining to the catastrophic melting of our polar ice caps…

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”  SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO during a presentation to the ARCTIC COUNCIL in Finland.

PLEASE GIVE 6 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME TO LOVE OUR EARTH

smiley-face-2

 

I’m a believer

Aha!  You thought this post would be about the Monkees.  What?  You don’t know who the Monkees are?  Good Lord, you must be a young thing.

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones, an English actor and singer, set American teeny boppers afire from 1966 to 1971.  Their TV series of the same name aired from 1966 to 1968.  It was fun entertainment that by today’s standards would be classified as ‘corny’.  Was I a big fan?  Not really.  ‘Too mature’ for their antics I preferred The Doors, The Animals, and Led Zeppelin.  But, “I’m a Believer” from the Monkees has had staying power with me through all the years which have seen me swing from hard rock to disco to contemporary Christian to classical to my favorite today – anything that doesn’t give me a headache and puts me to sleep.  Yep.  Meditation music rocks.

I’m a believer.  Are you?  What do you believe?  Has anyone challenged your beliefs?  Has anyone told you that what you believe is wrong?  If you follow the pack, then being called a non-believer by a believer is disturbing.  If you are the pack, then it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans….unless you don’t believe in you.  Then it can be unbelievably disturbing.  But I believe in you.

“I don’t believe that heaven waits
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love,
he’s down below, he’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere,
he knows who does and doesn’t care
and I’m an ordinary man,
sometimes I wonder who I am.”    DON WILLIAMS

Picture40

what if ?

love emoji

Do you ever play the ‘what if ‘game?  It’s akin to the ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘ought to’ conversations we have with ourselves occasionally.  I don’t know about you, but I never seem to win that game.  It’s primary facilitator is monkey mind.  What?  you don’t know what monkey mind is.  Oh Lord, we need to have a talk.

Monkey mind is the incessant internal chatter happening within the space between the ears.  Can’t turn it off, can’t shut it out, can’t override it.  On and on and on go the thoughts passing through the gray matter occupying the skull.  It is fertile ground for the game of what if.  

What if I had married my high school sweetheart?  What if I had planned my future as a young man rather than float through the 60s and 70s as a wannabe hippie?  What if my parents had tried harder to work out their religious differences instead of divorcing?  Yeah, what if?

I’ve become rather good at ignoring monkey mind allowing it to scream its mindless chatter into the ozone.  But, sometimes, even 70 years after the fact, I scream back, “what the hell was so damned important about their religious beliefs to let me grow up without a daddy?  Tell me, what?”

Funny thing about monkey mind – it’s not very conversational, just wants to rattle on with politics, worries, money problems, relationships, what old lady Jones fussed about yesterday, nursing homes, arthritis, dementia, the sorry state of the union, the price of lettuce, Susie’s boy friend, the cat’s dirty ears, floors need to be mopped – on and on and on.  But, after having its way for a while, the noise stops and serenity settles in for a visit.

And all is cool until the JWs knock on the front door, “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

“Hell yes,” I respond in my Donald Duck underwear and fluffies, “I’m going down to undertaker Bob’s place to have a nip and tuck and a transfusion of embalming fluid.  Now get off my porch and take your tracts with you.”

Have you guessed by now that I have a hair up my butt about organized religion?  When other neighborhood boys were playing pitch with their daddies, I was cooking supper for me and mom because she had to work.  When other boys took their daddies fishing, I had to go grocery shopping with mom.  When other boys sat beside their daddies in church, I sat beside my mom praying for a daddy like theirs. C’mon, take your best shot.  Tell me again what is so damned important about religion that mom and dad had to divorce because they couldn’t agree about Jesus.

You don’t have an answer either, do you?  Maybe they both got wrapped up in a lot of fahooey about ‘proper’ Christian behavior.  Maybe they listened to parents and pastors instead of their loving hearts.  Maybe they listened to theatrics and drama from the pulpit rather than humility and compassion.  My time on this earth has shown me that there are innumerable examples of what organized religion gone astray can inflict on the devoted masses.

Extortion, persecution, subjugation, enslavement, murder, genocide – all in the name of God.  Not just Christian, but Judaic, and Muslim, too.  Maybe I’ve got this God-Jesus thing all wrong.  What if God is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful condoning murder and intolerance of the infidels?  What if Christianity is the only truth amidst all the world’s faith creeds?  What if?  What if?  What if?  Aw hell, there goes monkey mind again running the conversation.

I don’t know if Shakespeare was a man of faith or not.  But I do believe he nailed it with his line from Hamlet:  “This above all:  to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Do I know my own self?  Do you?  We came equipped from the factory with reason and logic.  We have a conscience that guides and speaks to us in those questioning moments.  We profess an indwelling spirit.  Maybe that is all we need to navigate this life in search of enlightenment.  Evolving to the higher self intended for us does not need to be rocket science nor religious indoctrination.  Shalom.

speaking truth2

 

oh, for Pete’s sake

backlit-clouds-dawn-415380

Pete Buttigieg

A heckler yelling Sodom and Gomorrah at a Buttigieg rally in Des Moines, Iowa, was drowned out by supporters chanting, “Pete, Pete, Pete.”  Then from the podium came a response from the candidate.  Looking toward the heckler he said simply,

The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, ” 

and then back across the crowd to his supporters, “but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”

The amazing rise of the latest of Democrats to declare his candidacy for President in 2020, Pete Buttigieg has stunned pollsters by coming in 4th behind Bernie, Biden, and Beto.  Commentators have marveled that this scenario could never have happened just 10 years ago.  An openly gay man in a committed marriage standing in front of millions of viewers nationwide with the audacity to believe he has a chance to win the Presidency.  Unheard of!  Oh, how the literalists, infallibles, and inerrants must be flapping jaws .  Sodom and Gomorrah indeed.

“Did you see it, ” the thumpers must be muttering, “his husband had the nerve to give Pete a peck on the cheek in front of the cameras with the world watching?  What will people think?”

Just my personal and biased opinion, but I think the world might exclaim in gasps of relief, “Thank God those folks across the water have finally come to their senses.  The Yanks could possibly elect in 2019 an intelligent class act, a monogamous married man, a Rhodes scholar who served his country as a Naval officer in Afghanistan and then returned home to dedicate to public service.”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what our European friends are saying because Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor who publicly introduced his husband on national TV with a kiss does not rock their sensibilities nor ours nearly as much as the current political regime in the USA which protects a draft-dodger, a racist, a womanizer, and a liar.

The good news is that the condition of my soul (and yours) is in the hands Of God.  No man, no religion, no theology, no President, no world leader, no spouse, no friend, no pastor has a claim on what we know to be our truth.  Just let that resonate for a moment.  Do you feel the freedom, the assurance, the joy?  The chains are broken not because a priest or minister says so, but because the master of your life, and the God of my life have stepped into the picture and overruled all those who tell us that we are immoral, evil, misguided, unworthy and headed for hell’s fires.  That human assessment simply is not true.  If the book which you read for inspiration and instruction condemns you and if the people you choose as spiritual leaders condemn you, then you need to give up that funny book and its associated church, mosque or temple to find a  fellowship that speaks love and compassion.

unshackled-2

namaste rainbow

a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

Picture15