EMANCIPATION

The word emancipation has been used frequently over the past few days – and it should be.  When we can celebrate together as One the freedom of all, we will then be socially emancipated.  All groups of immigrants coming to America’s table of equality desired emancipation – Germans, Irish, Asian, Catholic, Muslim, etc.  It’s an innate destiny to live our lives as designed and intended by a Higher Power.  Our nation is unique in that we have historically welcomed any who wish to be  a part of our melting pot culture.  Lady liberty, standing in New York Harbor, shares these words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But, emancipation is more than the freedom granted by society.  It is also personal and spiritual.  That shameful habit that we have hidden within hoping no body would discover our little secret, that unlawful act we committed decades ago, that extra-maritalPicture1.pngconfession (2) affair with our best friend’s wife….all waiting for the grace of emancipation.  It can happen only when, “we admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  STEP 5, TWELVE & TWELVE, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Getting honest is not a fun thing.  It can be heart wrenching and difficult.  The Big Book tells us to be fearless and thorough in our personal inventories.  But, there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.  It is the freedom brought about by the emancipation of our souls.  For some of us it is a return to foundational principles learned young, but then squandered during our addictions.  Come to the table where equality dwells and find your freedom now.

“…..if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  JOHN 31-32

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BEACONS

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.

jesus in prayer

The wisdom seekers from ancient times offered to us these words as recorded in writings which were incorporated into the Old Testament of today’s Bible:

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

ISAIAH 58:7-10

“Then your light shall break forth….”

Is my beacon of hope and compassion breaking forth today?  Is yours?  How about the beacon of America?  I know that I can do better, but I believe that America has lost its way.  Granted there are many who continue to offer food, shelter, solace to the homeless and oppressed, but they are not the ones in power today, are they?  Our government and, sadly, a handful of religious leaders seem to have forgotten that it has been immigrants who historically have made this nation a melting pot of ingenuity, intelligence and hard work.  Perhaps we can live today as if that beacon of hope is shining brightly.

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I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

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paying final respects

From her solitary island abode
we believe she spoke assuredly of the people passing before her,

“They will never abandon me,
because I am offering them freedom.
They will never reject me
because I am showing them kindness.

They will never revile me
because I open my arms to all of them –
the Jews, the Catholics, the Germans,
the Irish, the Italians, then the Muslims,
blacks, browns, Asians and Hindu –
none are excluded.

They will never persecute me
because I extend  mercy to all.
They will never despise me
because in their time of need I welcome them equally.

They will never forget me because they stand before me
as the abandoned, rejected, reviled, persecuted, despised
refugee and immigrant refuse from other shores.”

Sadly many years have passed, America’s people have forgotten
from whence they arrived.
Generations have prospered and they, today’s empowered ones,
today’s angry and disillusioned,
today’s wealthy and privileged
look upon our Lady with scorn and derision.
They dishonor the words which have accompanied forever
her island’s welcoming message.

Thus they reject Lady Liberty standing forlorn on her island in the harbor:

“We disown you because you are not today’s American spirit.
Our nation is full, we have no more room.
Your comforting words to immigrants and refugees
are not meant for those on our borders today,
your justice is no longer revered,
your welcome is no longer our voice.
Your words are dead,
cold,
a vestige of an America which has passed.
We no longer need nor want you as our beacon.”

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She sinks into the harbor – just a memory to those of us who have loved and cherished her beacon of hope, her burning torch, welcoming all people regardless of race, creed or nationality.  But, she is not flesh or blood like us, she is spirit and she will resurrect when America’s people once again deserve her charity and blessing.

Until then, may a gracious God find reason to redeem a thankless people.

 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

EMMA LAZARUS

ROOTS

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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Do you know your roots?  In 1976 I began a project which lasted several years researching the family tree.  Fortunately, my family had lived in the region comprising Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, since before the Revolutionary War.  Equally fortunate was the fact that all the old county records were stored at the courthouse in the basement which in colonial times served as the county jail.  Nothing yet was transferred to digital and we amateur genealogists were allowed into the dungeon to do our research from the written transcripts.  It was dank and musty down there in the numerous jail cells and it was not difficult to imagine prisoners scurrying about amongst the multitude of books containing wills, land deeds and orphan’s court records.  For treasure hunters like myself the time spent there was an adventure through days long past.

I don’t believe I fully appreciated the convenience of all my family history being in one courthouse and one library within 30 miles of my home.  My maternal Snyder side of the family changed the spelling from Schneider in the 1860s to 1880s.  The Browns migrated from Europe as Brauns in the late 1700s.  Himmel’s Church in Rebuck, Pennsylvania, is the resting place of my forefathers, Schneiders and Brauns, with headstones among the very first of the burial plots in the church cemetery.  Himmel’s was founded in 1773.

Our Germanic community lived in relative isolation in the Schwaben Creek Valley of central Pennsylvania having settled there from Berks County, Pennsylvania, in the mid 1700s.  The Pennsylvania Dutch which was spoken was called “low German” in contrast to written German which was referred to as “high German”.  There are similarities, but centuries of geographic separation from the mother country made it difficult to read the Bibles which were written in high or “hoch” German.  Many of the words were vastly unrecognizable.  My grandparents did not learn English until entering school.  I was not encouraged to learn the Dutch dialect as it was considered too common, but I understood when family members and neighbors spoke in Dutch.

Further stories of an early migration to America in the 1600s by my people is interesting but I was never able to verify the accounts written in volumes by local historians.  We knew for certain that my ancestors escaped religious and social persecution in lands that are now Germany, that they fled to England and from there indentured themselves to landowners in the ‘new world’.

My people did not immigrate to America because they were weary of the wonderful life they  were having in their native lands.   They did not come here to take advantage of native inhabitants.  They came here because they had nothing and were willing to sacrifice their nothingness for hope in a new land.  They did not speak the predominant English language, did not bow to the predominant God, and did not have any assurance of a better life.  All they wanted was to start anew in peaceful observance of their traditions and heritage, to raise families without fear of persecution, and to share the bounty of a new beginning.

Sounds like some other immigrants about whom we hear today.  My people did not have a statue in New York Harbor to welcome them with a torch and encouraging words, but when others followed their footsteps, I am sure they said,  “Welcome neighbor, we have plenty to share.  Enjoy the bounty with us which the good Lord has provided.”

Yes, I know they would have said that.  That’s who we were back then and that’s who we are now.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these , the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Emma Lazarus – THE NEW COLOSSUS 

Our words are perhaps not as eloquent, but Emma Lazarus speaks to who we are.  We have been in the shoes of the homeless and tempest-tost and we will remember.

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lest we forget

 

 

As they arrived at their unfamiliar destination, fear and uncertainty filled their hearts.  The children clung to their mothers as men speaking harshly directed the travelers to an unseen outpost for processing.  Upon arriving there, the children were separated from parents and taken from the sight of mothers who by now were desperately sobbing and screaming, “Where are you taking my child?”  

A scenario from America’s southern border with Mexico where refugees from Central America and South America have been stopped by immigration officials?  No, this is a scene from Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the early 1940s.  Those children were sent to slave labor camps to work for the German war machine or to their deaths because they were too young to work.

I have often been chided for slipping from sobriety and spiritual themes offering hope and recovery to issues of social justice facing our contemporary society in not only the USA but also the world.  For reasons unknown to me even I can convince myself that I should avoid straying from noncontroversial topics.  It’s safer and it’s more pleasant to prattle on about the ABCs of ‘serene and clean” living then to face the harsh realities of the world in which we live

WWJD?  What would Jesus do?  What would any community-spirited sober-minded citizen do?  The answer always comes back to me in undeniable clarity.  Having read the words attributed to Jesus and the stories of his ministry to his oppressed and downtrodden fellow Israelites, having been advised by a Higher Power in the form of other recovering alcoholics that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is preparing me to return to society as a useful tool and voice in my community, I must muster the courage and determination to be a voice, no matter how small,  for justice in a socially unjust society.  That’s my definition of spirituality and recovery.

You say my introductory paragraphs can’t happen here in America in 2018?  Really?  It’s a slippery slope on which our experiment in democracy finds itself today.  The grand copper  Lady in New York Harbor welcomed “the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, the homeless and tempest tost.”  The words from the Book of Matthew which evangelical Christianity tongues fervently, “As ye do unto the least of these, my brothers, ye have also done unto me,” convicts us of our failure in today’s refugee crisis.

If I am truly a child of God created in the image of God, a spiritual entity, then I must be concerned with the injustices I see on a daily basis on my media screens.  I must offer a dollar or a meal to the homeless man on the corner.  I must be involved in a political process which challenges the greed of the wealthy and the indifference of the politically powerful.  When I talk the talk of sweet verses and inspiration, I also must walk the thorny paths of human misery shoulder to shoulder with the huddled masses.  I am nothing if I can’t empathize with the suffering brother, the hungry beggar, or the homeless man on the corner.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith which can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

When I am tempted to stand before the world thumping my chest with American pride and Christian hypocrisy, when I want to believe somebody else will take care of the poor and homeless, it is then that I need to find a quiet place and reorganize my priorities asking WWJD.

Think about it.  Hitler denigrated Jews as sub-human, as animals.  He fed the fears of Germans with racism and intolerance.  He appealed to human depravity at its worst.  He declared Aryans to be the superior, God-blessed race.  Their fate is well documented in historical annals and film.

Can’t happen again?  Maybe or maybe not, but I don’t want to be the one who quietly stood on the sidelines of neutrality.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel