SOBER TODAY – becoming unshackled

unshackled-2

There are times when a person reflects upon things he or she has written or said and with a querying mind asks, “How can I ever justify what I aspire to achieve spiritually when my thoughts, words, and actions are so undeniably human?”

Actually, that ‘querying’ mind is often self-condemning, is it not?  In these times of internal conflict we must remember that the spiritual progress promised in recovery programs, the Way of Jesus, and the Path of the Buddha are exactly what they claim to be, a course of progressive growth.  They are the trek each person must take to become vessels of wisdom and compassion within the power of the Divine Essence.  Undertaking this trek is not done with any expectation of perfection.  Progress is the goal.  Often the trail we walk slides off into a ravine of selfishness and unkind behavior, but pulling back onto the way forward is always awaiting.

The fellowships of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and CR (Celebrate Recovery) both recognize humanness and brokenness as elements of addictions.  Their step programs offer, not a miracle cure, but rather a way of living which enables members to rise above this inherent human condition of self-absorption.  Joining hands with like-minded men and women intent on becoming more than empty vessels tossed mercilessly on the seas of alcoholism, drug abuse, behavior addictions and emotional stress, these adventurers want not a perfect life, but a better life, a life of freedom from the prisons of self and ego.

Similarly, Jesus and the Buddha, holding all of creation in reverence, offered a lifestyle of service and compassion as the way to a personal heaven and a path to enlightenment.  Their disciples were ordinary examples of humanity who became extraordinary trekkers.  None of them were perfect.  Insecurity, anger, ego plagued their journeys through earthly temptations.  Yet, they understood that even though heaven or enlightenment was the desired outcome, a perfect life was not the path.  Humans must endure growth through the vagaries of humanness in order to become the spiritual beings which a Creator has intended.

Those who follow the life of Jesus Christ as their example must remember that, along with his obvious love and compassion for his Father’s creation, he also endured the human life fraught with temptation, desire, insecurity and anger.  According to the writings of the ancients, his public ministry lasted a scant 3 or 4 years before the crucifixion.  Where was he before the ministry, what was he doing?  Believing that Jesus traversed the same road of searching that every earthly human walks gives a great insight into the purpose of his life.  Those who portray Jesus as perfect at birth from a virgin’s womb seem to be missing the entire reason for his story.  Anybody can be perfect when born perfect.  Only a totally human experience of failure and disappointment combined with joy and ecstasy provides the sojourner with the necessary tools to crawl from the depths of hell to a life of peace and contentment.CANDLEcopyright 3

crucified

 

 

cropped-international-holocaust-remembrance-day-1-768x768.png

larrypaulbrown

Krishna was there,
Yahweh and Buddha watched from above.
They saw and wept;
“the Way”, the great “I AM”, a Savior
hung on a cross.

Man of peace,
messenger of love,
hope for the hopeless,
life for the dead in spirit
nailed to a tree.

Heavens roared in pain,
angels ceased singing,
holy ones prostrated in grief,
skies thundered,
sun, moon and stars hid in horror.

Their Son, their beloved,
shamed and ravaged,
naked and dying,
nails through feet and hands,
mocked and reviled.

“No,” they bellowed,
“this shall not be the end.
Our Prince of Peace will prevail.
He will be Lord of lords
and King of kings. Forever.”

The Way – the truth and life continued,
peace, love, tolerance, justice
revealed through other lives.
Mohammed, Francis of Assisi,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King,

……….you and I.
All of God’s children united
with the spirit of the Way
living in truth and peace,
eternally joined with the Holy Ones.

His Way will not be crushed,
His truth will not be crushed,
His life will not be crushed,
and we shall live forever and ever.
Amen

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” [Isaiah 53:3]

in sickness and in health

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

orange tree

Everybody raise their hand who has been sick in 2018.  Yes, I’m talking about those days when the influenza in your home town finally catches up to you.   You have taken precautions, you have avoided crowded rooms, you meticulously wiped down your grocery cart’s handle with a sanitizing wipe, but one morning you wake up and there it is.

Feeling green, sniffling, headache, fever, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes.  It’s not something which I love enough to enjoy , but when I realize I will be sick for a few days, I relish the thoughts of having an excuse to be all about me, me, me.

“Oh, sweetheart, please fetch my slippers.  Can you bring the newspaper over to me?  I’m so cold, would you find my favorite blanket.”

I line up a full day of watching TV because I’m sick.  I hang out in my jammies all day because I’m sick.  I cancel all activity outside my own little crisis because I’m sick.  I become a grouch with the excuse that I’m sick.  I yell at the dog because I’m sick.  I’m sick, sick, sick, and the world needs to tend to my needs.

That’s me when I get sick.  I’m sure none of you are like that.  When I don’t feel well I sometimes forget that I’m a Jesus freak.  I forget that there are people in the world who are starving and homeless.  I forget there are some who are also sick with the latest round of influenza and have no bed in which to snuggle, no fuzzy blanket with which to cover themselves, no chicken broth to warm their insides.  For them being sick with flu is sometimes a matter of life and death and it intensifies the misery that normally fills their lives.

I relate the times of physical sickness to the days of soul sickness, the days spent in the hell of alcoholism.  When my flu finally reaches its worst point and recovery appears on the horizon, I become ecstatic with the thought that there is nowhere to go but up.  It’s similar to the transformative realization that when I hit the bottom in my alcoholism, I was ready to be healed and get healthy.  Life was guaranteed to get better.  No, not easier or trouble-free, but better.

The book of Luke tells us about Jesus walking with his disciples to Jerusalem.  He knew he was about to be betrayed, tried, tortured, and crucified.  Undoubtedly Jesus was sad and conflicted about that which was about to happen.  I would be.  I would be mortified and screaming to God to find another course for me to follow.  The last thing on my mind would be the suffering of another person.  “Me, me, me.  All of you, pay attention to me, I’m about to be crucified in a few days.”

When they came to Jericho, a blind man named Bartimeus sat by the roadside begging.  He heard that Jesus was coming,

“…..he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.  And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.”  

Jesus heard Bartimeus and commanded him to come forward, “What wilt thou that I should do unto you?”

“…..Lord, that I might receive my sight.”

The last line, verse 52 of Mark 10 tells us that Bartimeus did indeed receive his sight and followed Jesus in THE WAY.

There are astonishing lessons for us in this account by the author of Mark.  1) Bartimeus had such great unconditional faith in the power of Jesus that, after his miraculous healing, he became a follower of the movement of Jesus and his disciples which was called THE WAY, 2) a fully human Jesus, undoubtedly overwhelmed with great despair over his approaching crucifixion, nevertheless overshadowed his own sorrow with compassion for a suffering blind man.

Could I do that?  Probably not.  I’d be in bed under my blankets whining for my jammies and hot chicken broth.

CANDLE

 

 

 

endurance

smiley-face-2Just 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 overflows.

 

I have great memories of the days not too long ago when my body allowed me to be a passionate jogger.  Most memorable was the Sunday that I was able to do a 5 mile run and then, with abundant energy and strength in reserve, a 15 mile hike through the countryside which I called home.  It was exhilarating to return to my house, enjoy a hot shower, and a hearty dinner.  I was a jogger for many years until the aging process caught up to me and sidelined my ambitious running routine to a vigorous walk.

The key element to a successful run was endurance.  I did not always have a desire to run 5 miles, I did not always feel that I could complete the challenge.  Sometimes it was simply putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on a roadside tree 100 yards ahead, and then upon arriving at that tree finding another goal 100 yards further ahead.  But, the carrot on the stick was that runner’s high which told me that my world was as close to perfect as it would ever be.  It was the reward for steadfast, sometimes painful, endurance.

That same ethic of endurance is what keeps me going as a Jesus freak.  The world around me which cascades across my viewing screens and in the newspaper does its utmost to take me out of the race, to bring to me knees and cry out, “Where is the justice, where are you God when so much oppression and violence is happening?  Don’t you see that I am hurting?”  And it is there on my knees that my questioning plea is answered.

“I am that I am.  I am love, compassion, justice, wisdom, and mercy.  I am the One worthy of trust,  deserving of reverence, entitled to worship.  I am your hope.  I am your trek’s destination.  I will always be your endurance through the world’s pain.”

My run through this lifetime will always encounter hazards, slowdowns, and detours.  It has been ordained to be that way because running for Jesus is not for wimps.  We were told nearly 2000 years ago that the world would ridicule, despise, and persecute us for our devotion.  Those who embrace the lies of this world fail to understand the simplicity of a message which was delivered to all mankind.

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6, does not refer to a picture hanging on a church wall or a molded likeness of Christ hanging on a cross waiting for our adoration and worship.  No, it says that we have an example to follow, the Way, which will lead us to communion with God.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever….for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things….whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.”  Psalms 107

Endurance – it’s a two way street.  God’s love for me endures forever.  My devotion needs to also be enduring.  It will never be as perfect but it can be steadfast.

CANDLE

 

 

 

Golden Years

smiley-face-2Just 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 overflows.

 

Living in the “golden years”  is not what the 30 year-old version of me envisioned in 1977.  I blame no one other than me for the money I blew on shiny new cars, the time I wasted sitting on a bar stool, and the relationships I trashed in pursuit of good times.  Forty years ago I had the rest of my life to create a retirement stash, to find that perfect profession, and to settle down with a compatible mate.  So much for dreaming the dream because that’s all it was.  Just a pipe dream with no foundation.

Through the grace of sustained sobriety I have reconciled all of that and no longer beat myself up over missed opportunities.  Hopefully, I have gained a wealth of wisdom and acceptance in building a foundation.  But, the fact remains that these “golden years” are a day-to-day struggle and a challenge to survive on minimal financial resources.

Thank God the spiritual resources have kicked in to give me unbounding faith in God’s goodness and provision.  In retrospect I know for a fact that every one of my needs has always been fulfilled and most of my wants have also.  But, this old man standing by the sea of life watching the trappings of affluence and properity pass by is a daily reminder that somehow I have missed the worldly boat.  That gives me a choice: 1) I can stand on the dock patiently waiting for my ship to come in or, 2) I can grab the oars and start rowing my own boat.  Very simple solution, don’t you think?

And I don’t have to do this by myself.  Spiritual blessings are built on a recovery fellowship, on the concept of giving and receiving, and on the readings of ancient scriptures.  In the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching:

“The Tao is like a well:  used but never used up……empty yet infinitely capable.  The more you use it, the more it produces.”

In Christian scripture Jesus said in Matthew 6:

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them……take no thought saying, What shall we eat?  or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?…For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things….

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  

The earthly paths of Jesus and the Buddha exemplify the kingdom and teach me the righteousness to seek.  That righteousness is not a moral discipline; rather, it is a way of living which honors and upholds the rights of all  creation.  Both the “Path” of the Buddha and the “Way” of Jesus trust in the mercy and goodness of humanity to meet the physical needs of their temples.  They depended on the promises of a Sovereign Being to feed them spiritually and lead them to a resurrected life in the realm of the Spirit.  They taught me that when the demands of self-awareness are subjugated to the promises of a higher power, the needs of this world become faint in comparison to the provisions afforded by faith and trust in the surrounding and indwelling Light.  I am, after all, a spirit housed in a temporal body.  This flesh which I carry is but a fleeting moment in the universal consciousness of eternal spirit.  I no longer chase after the lies of the “golden years” but, instead seek the golden nuggets of ancient wisdom and truth.

St. Augustine

             “Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.”  St. AugustineCANDLE

The world does not understand nor wish to understand these few simple words.  My personal choice to name Jesus as Lord of my life, my Higher Power, directs me to place everything else whether it is employment, friends, family, spouse, achievement, money, desires, lust, as sub-topics under the primary heading of Jesus, the Christ.  I am nowhere near a state of perfection, but, when I place the one who is Perfection at the top of my list in my lifestyle and my devotion then my life becomes g.o.d. – Good Orderly Direction.  That is the most I can expect in this lifetime and I am OK with it because g.o.d brings bliss, a state of peace and serenity.

We are freedom fighters!  I believe I have been forgiven by the same almighty power which freed me from the bondage of my former self and replaced ego-driven lust, greed, anger, pride, and desire with a devotion to a new way of living with living waters and daily bread to sustain me in this earthly journey.  I am no longer imprisoned.  Jesus fought and died for my freedom and he has won the battle.

But, it is not free.  I must daily pay the price of the world’s derision, hatred, and scourge for the Way of life which God has chosen for me.  You and I, as followers, understand this and accept the necessary payment.  Friends who are amused by devotion to a church fellowship, neighbors who ridicule tithing, family members who question a loved one’s sanity, a boss who mocks Jesus equating that belief to the Santa Claus myth are all part of the price to be paid for following the greatest freedom fighter of all time.

And I am OK with that.  I regret that a majority of people refuse such a simple answer to the world’s problems, but, each person must find his own personal path to freedom if indeed freedom is what they pursue.  For them, sometimes dedication to power and riches at the expense of liberty and contentment are the main pursuit in a life filled with like-minded pursuers.   Jesus and God do not make the top 10 on their lists of priorities.

I know this because that was me many years ago.  I prayed only in times of desperate need, in times of absolute loneliness, in times of crushing personal defeat.  I advocated a Jesus who gave people nice cars, fancy homes, and steaks for dinner every night.  When times were good God did not make the top ten.  In all other times, Jesus was  a convenient Santa Claus who bore gifts, a big sugar daddy in the sky.  There was no dedication nor devotion and, as a result, life was chaotic and tumultuous.  In my life there was no peace because I did not know the Lord of peace.

I do not claim perfection but I know He who is perfect.  That power has freed a sinner from the prison which sin will impose.  I will stumble often before my earthly time is over because I am still a part of a humanity which is inflicted with character defects.  But, I no longer need to be imprisoned by my character defects.  One by one they will be overcome and defeated by my personal freedom fighter.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36smiley 3

 

many mansions

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2CANDLE

I fill most of my writing with thoughts about my Higher Power.  It’s not always what I want to put forth to you, my readers.  The crazy world of politics, government, society’s ills, intolerance, hatred, crime, (and the list can go on indefinitely), are also topics that fill the space between my ears.  But, when deciding any type of action I take in these areas, it always comes back to Jesus, WWJD, What Would Jesus Do?

In my world Jesus is not always an entity, a historical person whom we celebrate in scriptures and especially during the Christmas season.  Jesus is more often a lifestyle.  He is a path of sober-living which brings peace and joy into my life.  I have learned to avoid theological discourse which claims inerrancy and infallibility because they are always right and I am always going to hell.  The Lord of my life is open to rational and reasonable conversation about eternity and God.  The Lord of my life tells me talking the talk is nice, but ultimately life is all about the walk.  Where am I walking today?  Whose path am I taking?

God is big.  God is so big that trying to pigeon-hole God categorically into a theology, another man-made philosophy, is akin to squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle.  Can’t be done!  The God I know is mysterious and incomprehensible to the human mind.  Therefore, when someone tells me all about God, where HE lives, how He looks, what HE thinks, I can only listen patiently and then respond, “Really, God is a HE?”  That disarms even the most strident of those who have all the answers.  Larry’s going to hell for sure!

God and I enjoy this life.  Jesus is the message inspired by ancient mystics who came before me to spread the good news of a loving and compassionate Spirit which gives  humanity a logical, reasonable way of living.  The ancients during and following the life of the physical Jesus called it “the Way.”  They were not theologians or scholars.  Rather they were just like you and me, people searching for a way to commune with the God of our understanding.

Jesus is not a person merely to be adored and worshipped, although that is a wonderful way to enter the quiet spaces within us.  Jesus is a manner of living which brings God’s Kingdom to me, right here and right now.  I don’t have to wait for a future moment to be with God eternally because I am already there.  And that is the difference which makes life a joyful adventure instead of a tolerably painful existence.

“5“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well.”  John 14: 5-7

This verse can be difficult for those who see Jesus exclusively as a God-human rather than a manner of sober-living to be experienced and followed.  It is the verse most often used by exclusionary religionists to proclaim that Christianity is the only path which leads to eternity with God.  My journey tells me that, as with most of the words attributed to Jesus, the meaning of this verse,”I am the way, the truth, and the life”, is better understood when taken in a spiritual sense.   Should we consider that Jesus was not presenting Jesus as an entity to be revered and worshipped, but rather, as an example for all people to follow if they want release from this world’s soul prison?

The authors of Christian scriptures tell me that in his lifetime, Jesus shared his teachings with all people, Jew and Gentile.  I must remember that Jesus and his contemporaries lived under extreme oppression and hardship enforced by the Jewish hierarchy and the Roman conquerors.  The Israelites were concerned with an earthly salvation immediately, in this life, not a distant occurrence in a future life.  However, Jesus was promising relief from the Jews and the Romans not as a physical deliverance, but as a spiritual and mental exercise, a way of living, which would supersede the harshness of their society.  It emphasized release of self-serving behavior and surrender to the indwelling spirit of holiness.  “The Way” in those oppressive times has not changed.  In our personal oppressive times it is a way today to a completeness and unity with the God of our understanding.

“Let go; let God” is a message which I encounter often in my sojourn.   It is often interpreted as “let go of the situation and let God take it over.”  It can also mean “let go of myself and let God come inside.” Works for me.christmas emoji 3