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?”

 

LENT

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The clean air, the smell of pine straw, the miracle of butterflies and bees give our brains a necessary airing-out from the challenges of our day.  We accomplish great things and solve many of the world’s problems as we stroll, march, or jog around the trails which meander aimlessly through our woodlands.  It’s as if this is exactly how God intended our lives to be before we stepped up to the plate and took over.  Thanks God, but I’ll handle this myself.  Those of us in recovery are especially proficient in running our lives our own way.  And we paid heavy tolls along the ego highway.  “Self will run riot.”

Those of us who profess Christianity are now observing the season of Lent leading up to Holy Week.  In my younger days Lent was a dreaded time of year because it meant sacrificing something which was dear to me.  Favorite foods, movies, sex, alcohol, and sweets were among the suggested targets of abstinence.  Needless to say, with the ensuing alcoholism of early manhood, I chose to abstain from Lent.

In my personal quest for truth, celebration, and relevance in faith, Lent now has become a particularly solemn occasion.  It is a soulful journey with Jesus to my personal cross.  I stumble, I endure temptation, I become fearful, and I question God’s will just as Jesus did.  I feel the humiliation, the stripes, the blood running down my body just as Jesus did.  I feel the nails in my wrists and feet, the sword in my side, the unquenchable thirst just as Jesus did.  Two thousand years ago Jesus and I were one essence, just as we are today, and I was there with the historical Jesus of Nazareth when he was crucified.

In 2017 Lent will culminate with the  crucifixion of ‘self will run riot’ and will celebrate the resurrection to a spirit filled life with whatever name we ascribe to that Higher Power which now directs our lives.  Our journey is a soulful expression of meditation and dedication.  It is a time of refreshing renewal.  It is a time of discovery and rebuilding. We don’t need to call it Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, or Easter and we can practice it throughout the year.

In a nutshell isn’t this what our recovery programs are all about?  Bill W. and Dr. Bob demystified religion, revealed God as an inclusive and loving essence, and built the program of Alcoholics Anonymous on ancient spiritual principles. It works because those of us who were losers, misfits, and runaways now have a spiritual home with a loving Higher Power.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  JOHN 8:36

 

 

GRATITUDE

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Today’s walk meanders through the beauty of our woods and meadows.  Spectacular is an understatement as we gaze upon the trees and the wildflowers embracing our pathway.  Only a truly loving God would have provided this panorama for our pleasure.  Only a patient God would endure our testing.  Only a forgiving God would pick us up every time we fail.  That is who our God is.  Creator of beauty, well of forgiveness, fountain of living water, Master of our universe.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise God ye creatures here below.  Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.  Praise the trinity of God’s unity and oneness.  For all things be ye thankful.

PRAYER FOR THE EARTH

by Marianne Williamson, ‘ILLUMINATA’

Dear God,

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Please bless and protect this sacred jewel, Our vulnerable planet so besieged.

May the rivers and the oceans and the sky and the land all be repaired somehow, dear Lord.

May the barbarism end, which threatens to destroy our priceless treasure.  For surely the earth has been our home, the home of our parents unto all generations.

For the sake of our children, Lord, save this earth.  Place in all minds a greater awe before her mysteries.

Shield her and heal her wounds, restore her to her former glory.  Save her, Lord, from us.  Amen.