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Eric's Sunday Sermon; Serenity, a Good Place to Start
I just love a good fruit stand
A good one to keep in mind.
There is a prayer that circulates and is quite popular among the twelve step programs that have helped so many with so many problems. We can fairly accurately attribute the work to a fellow named Reinhold Niebuhr. A short version is the most popular. However this long version gives us a broader spectrum and complete prayer. It is understood that the prayer in some form was provided to U.S. Military Chaplains and servicemen during World War II. The prayer is of such a nature that it is not copyrighted by any fashion.
Here it is:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I like the prayer. It has guided me through much hardship that my own thinking got me into in the first place. If the reader is a bullheaded, hardnosed, “I’ll do it myself” half-wit like the author then they will know just what is being referred to here. Sometimes I wish it were not so, but it often takes a trial and error system of my own before I step back and ask for guidance and wisdom. Of course when I do it is always forthcoming and a relief.
Let us take a look at the basic premises of the prayer. Perhaps it will help us act more in line with it and less in line with our own self will run riot.
Old man river just keeps on flowing along.
I just love a good sunrise.
It takes some getting used to but the idea makes sense. On first blush you would think that the prayer would lead up to serenity. But that is not how it works. First it asks for serenity. Acceptance, Grace and Serenity are first prayed for. When we think about it, it makes sense. The very first thing we must do is surrender and accept where we are at any given time. As for me, I prefer to engage in denial whenever trouble rears its ugly head. But pausing and asking for the grace of serenity is a great space to be in. From here all things are possible. You don’t even go after the concept of solving the problem first. You go after what you can control – you.
Now some may adhere to the concept that they can meditate and self control themselves into such a wonderful space of acceptance and therefor serenity, more power to them. My hat is off to them. But as for me, I need God. Call it a crutch, go ahead it does not hurt my feelings at all. I have a personal relationship with my God and God can help me do what I cannot or will not do for myself. I have worked myself into situations where it all seemed so helpless. On my own I was just powerless over my own feelings. And turning to God for the serenity has always worked for me.
An interesting aside here. I spent some time as an athlete, I even kind of made some money at it mostly teaching. One thing that just cannot be missed is about the winners. Those folks were always loose. Make no mistake they worked hard to get to where they were but once in the thick of things they all were cool as cucumbers. As I look back on it, I would say they had a calm confident serenity. They knew they were where they were supposed to be and that they could accept whatever was thrown at them and come out on top.
I can’t change you. But I can be serene in myself and accept you for who you are. And in that I can enjoy you. Now if I take that to a world view I can begin to do the same with this big old crazy world. When I can do that I can enjoy the beauty, wonder and splendor of this great gift called life.
You be the judge, not my normal style but I liked it.
Kind of a cool piece of fruit.
Be careful on this courage thing.
As a generally lazy man I kind of like fear. There I said it. Fear can justify me doing nothing. Let someone else deal with distasteful or hard things. Just like most things that I ask God for, I eventually get them in some form and courage is no different. I write for a living. And quite often I have fear of publishing or submitting something I have written. When I ask for the courage to move forward I get it and there is no excuse anymore. Now that is a small deal, but it illustrates that this notion is not just about great big scary things but about our day to day lives.
Our comfort zone is something that we develop ourselves and usually come to nurture and protect. Stepping outside that zone takes some courage. We can immediately notice that in speaking about the things that we can change, we most often are speaking about ourselves. Let us just say we have to deal with and change the way our community deals with the homeless. On a community level the mechanics of change are not that difficult. It has been done before and the blueprints are available for all to see and repeat. Yes, even things like funding are there to be found and obtained. So why don’t we change these circumstances more often, even right now. The answer is in the courage to change. Oh the buildings and services take no courage to change. It is our self that takes the courage to change.
Quite simply put this part of the prayer is; God grant me the courage to change myself.
How about you?
When faced with a situation have you ever sought serenity first?
This looks pretty popular.
This idea called wisdom
It would seem that wisdom is a difficult attribute to grasp. Perhaps I find it easy to ask for wisdom. Also I think it is freely given. Those two parts are not troublesome or problematic. Here is where the difficulty lies. Receiving the gift of wisdom. It is one of those things that the harder we try to get it the harder it gets. For me, I can ask for it but I just have a real hard time waiting for it. It is one of those God’s time things. It comes when it comes and we cannot force it at all. I was blessed enough to be able to obtain a doctorate in my education. I liked school. The harder you worked the more you learned and the more knowledge you had. It was as simple as it gets. But you just cannot go out and achieve wisdom.
Age and experience are no guarantees. Sure eventually we all get smart enough not to stick our hand in the fire and to drive close to the speed limit. But I have met some really old folks who were not wise at all. I have never met a wise person that answered questions quickly, smart yes but wise no. Wisdom, especially that wisdom that tells us when to act and when just to sit still is a hard one. I had an aunt who was just plain wise. And it seems to me that most of her advice to me centered around suggesting that I stop beating my head against the wall and go with the flow.
On the other hand my children and wife seem to think I am wise as they come to me when they have problems. I learned quite some time ago the wisest thing that I can normally do is shut up and listen. So perhaps I do know about wisdom. I know that the wisest thing I can do is be quiet and listen for God, and only then take the next indicated step.
Now this is the mangiest dog I ever did see.
It ends up being all about you.
Well right at this very moment I am serene enough to know that I cannot change the whole world. But I am courageous enough to impart upon you some wisdom that just might make a difference to you. You are not an accident or just a happenstance of nature. Inside and within you is near perfection. There is not another just like you. You are special. You have done really good things in your life and you will do many more. Just by being you you will make a positive change in someone’s life. I can say this with all confidence because I have a deep abiding faith in my fellow children of our creator.
Now it seems to me that the serenity prayer could also be real short. Although there is no real reason to keep our prayers short.
Please Lord let me be and act in Love.