SERENITY CONNECTION: john lennon

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”    John Lennon

John Lennon was not the ideal poster child for the American boy of the 1960s.  The long hair, the music, the rebellion landed him on the watch list of the FBI which considered him a subversive and a threat to the security of the USA.  It was a contentious time in American history with the battle fronts at home entrenched in the Vietnam War protest and the civil rights movement.  Yes, John Lennon, the threat to the stability of a country rife with controversy, was loved by the Woodstock generation and despised by parents, politicians, and established religionists.

The Beatles foray into the discipline of TM sent shock waves across the oceans to shake the traditional values of WASP America.  On the evening news we saw video of the four cavorting with the Maharishi pursuing Transcendental Meditation much to the chagrin of a white Protestant population back home in America.  The social and political mores of a system built upon an inerrant Bible linked to unquestioned patriotism could not adjust to interlopers from a heathen religion in an ungodly region of the earth.

Lennon was murdered in 1980, but his lyrics and music are timeless.  john lennon “imagine”

“When asked about the song’s meaning during a December 1980 interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine, Lennon told Sheff that Dick Gregory had given Ono and him a Christian prayer book, which inspired him the concept behind “Imagine”.

In that interview Lennon continued with this dream:

“The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.”

“….not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your God thing-then it can be true……”

We can only imagine.  We can dream.

 

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

 

SERENITY CONNECTION: Michelle & Jack

“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”  Michelle Obama

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/integrity.html
INTEGRITY
  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness:
    “he is known to be a man of integrity”

    synonyms:honesty · probity · rectitude · honor · good character · principle(s) ·

    [more]

    ethics · morals · righteousness · morality · virtue · decency · fairness · scrupulousness · sincerity · truthfulness · trustworthiness

Many of us were reared by decent parents who put “integrity” above all other principles and values.  Many of us also failed miserably to follow the roots of our upbringing chasing after the mother of all demons-alcohol.  Recovery from alcoholism renewed those values which stand up to history as characteristics that are highly admired and cherished.

We want integrity as the cornerstone of our recoveries.  We strive for honesty, decency, sincerity, trustworthiness, and ethics ceaselessly in our relationships with family and at work.  Being labeled a liar is tantamount to an unacceptable personal failure leading us to renew our personal inventories and “promptly admitting when we are wrong.”  That’s who we are as grateful recovering addicts.

We are extremely fortunate to have a program which advocates honesty and spiritual growth.  My sponsor frequently lamented those poor unfortunates who do not have Alcoholics Anonymous to guide them through life.  For those of us who are alcoholic, AA has been a lifesaver.  For others who are not alcoholic, the principles of AA would nonetheless bring a shining light into a darkened world of humanity.

The ethics of politics sometimes appears to be non-existent.  We do not see integrity flowing from the mouths of our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, and most noticeably from the President and his administration.  Lies are supplied to us as truths even to the absurdity of being called alternative truth.  The principles which sustain and guide us are thrown to the wayside by the unscrupulous, devious, unprincipled, self-serving men and women who are supposedly engaged in government activity as servants to us, the citizens.

We know better, they do not.  They do not abide by standards that are linked to the words of Michelle Obama in the opening quote.  The children of President Trump were raised by a father who does not cherish our values, who places himself above the laws of society and the justice system which sustains our freedoms and liberty.  The children of President Trump were raised in “country club” privilege to be served by others rather than to serve others.  One of my blogger friends wrote a great post regarding the privileged children of today’s society:

https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/privilege/

 

Those of us who remember Jack Kennedy will never forget a quote which is possibly his greatest contribution to our culture:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, ask what you can do for your country.”

Simple words which, if taken seriously by today’s population, could turn our country back to a kinder, more generous, and more honorable path in human history.  It’s up to us to gently prod, adamantly urge, and vocally assert the foundations of integrity and civility which we know to be the truth regarding the survival of our nation.  Never accept what has been foisted upon us as a legitimate government claiming to be representative of a great America.  We are descended from a pioneering people of exponentially greater nobility and character than the administration and its supporters who sit in Washington, D.C., today.

Humility

“……a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.”  pg 58  TWELVE STEPS & TWELVE TRADITIONS

http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions

Humility is not about being a shrinking violet or assuming an attitude of deference.  No, our sobriety literature says humility is an act of celebration followed by stepping out into the world and embracing the restored life our Higher Power has given us thus empowering us with a renewed involvement in the world.

12 STEPS OF AA

STEP 1 “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.”

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Step 2 “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

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Step 3 “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood God.”

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Step 4 “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

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Step 5 “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

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Step 6 “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

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Step 7 “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings”

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Step 8 “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

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Step 9 “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

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Step 10 “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”

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Step 11 “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out”

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Step 12 “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”

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BY THE GRACE OF GOD WE ARE UNSHACKLED

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http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions

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.

recovery basics

  1. Don’t drink and you won’t get drunk
  2. One drink is too many, ten are never enough
  3. K.I.S.S  (keep it simple stupid)
  4. God aka g.o.d.  (good orderly direction)
  5. People, places, things.  Sobriety demands change.
  6. “GOD IS”.  Yep, that’s it.  God simply is.  There is no need for further definition or description.

 

GOD, a verb

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My story is not unique.  Millions have shared it and millions have conquered alcoholism.  A great many of us approached our first AA encounter with extreme trepidation about a spiritual experience.

“What? You going to preach at me some BS about God and religion?”

But, the alternative was a return to the insanity that had consumed our lives and absolutely deprived us of self-respect and intelligent choices.  So, we obligingly sat through the reference to God in the opening ‘Serenity Prayer’ and a few mentions of God by the group and then the closing ‘Lord’s Prayer’.  It wasn’t too bad but, don’t be talking that God stuff laced with theology and thou shalt and thou shalt not.

At my first meeting I learned that the only requirement for membership was a desire to stop drinking.  “I can handle that”.

Subsequently, they talked about a higher power.  They said it could be anything I recognized as a greater power than me.  Well, I already knew alcohol was a greater power than me, so I totally understood that concept.  The older, wiser group members suggested that I use the group as my higher power temporarily until I had some sober time behind me.  That worked just fine.

But, after thousands of meetings and a few years of sobriety, my inner self yearned for a more definitive God picture.  I began the search for deeper meaning and resolution to that initial “God as I understand God”.

My church experience as a young boy indoctrinated me into a theology of an old, bearded, vengeful and wrathful man sitting on his throne somewhere in the heavens just waiting to judge and condemn me for being human.  Indeed, as that God promised, I went to hell.  As I learned from hearing the stories of other recovering alcoholics, that church experience was not unique and equally damning.

During recovery there have been numerous epiphanies but, the most recent and possibly most significant occurred from reading another blogger’s post sharing the concept of God, a verb.  https://cac.org/ .  Amazingly, after several months of studying Fr. Richard’s writings, spirituality for me has returned to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What can be more Godly than a group of bickering, diverse, sober drunks coming together in a unified effort to spread the theology of sobriety to a suffering world?  It’s the Gospel in action.  It’s exactly what Jesus proclaimed to the oppressed and downtrodden.  And miraculously for those of us who have rejected the old, judgmental, heavenly seated man of our youth, this God does not demand a list of thou shalt and thou shalt not.

God, a verb, is not a new or faddish concept.  Buddhist monks, Jesus and his followers understood it.  The mystics of ancient times practiced it.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob resurrected it calling it Alcoholics Anonymous.  This God’s only requirement is a desire to live sober, productive lives, and “practice these principles in all our affairs.”

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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.”

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