closing out 2017

Those of us in recovery are famous for our inventory-taking.  Step 4 of our 12 step program is all about a fearless, thorough inventory intending to clear out the many years of baggage accumulated in our hearts.  Then Step 10 urges us to continue that process ofCANDLE inventorying on a daily basis.  This process is a cornerstone of a content and joyous sober life.

Approaching a New Year is a great time to survey the past year recognizing achievements that stand out as highlights.  It can also be a time to admit responsibility for the lesser moments when our character defects took center stage and attempted to recreate the chaos of our addictions.  The good and the bad, when viewed together, will give us a healthy assessment of our previous year.

“We should make an accurate and really exhaustive survey of our past life as it has affected other people.  In many instances we shall find that, thought the harm done others has not been great, we have nevertheless done ourselves considerable emotional damage.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT, pg 111

This passage leads to the realization that what I have done is usually of greater significance to my spiritual stability than that of another.  Many years ago, in making amends, the person to whom I was apologizing profusely for a perceived unforgivable action responded with, “Really?  When was that?  I don’t remember it.”

Yes, the great “me” harbored this indiscretion for many years building it into an earth-shaking occurrence which nobody remembered.  Therein lies a secret to living clean and serene.  My inventorying, my amends, my spiritual program is all about making me more like the Higher Power which governs my life.  In the process I will become a messenger calling out to the world’s darkness.  When my slate is clean, that message happy new year 2018turns into sobriety-driven action.

Happy New Year to all of you.  Thanks for traveling with me in 2017 on this highway called life.

 

the doormat

angry emojiI’m sure you have seen innumerable variations of me laying in front of the entry door to your friends’ houses.  We come in all shapes, colors, materials, configurations, and sizes.  Some of us are woven, some are shaggy, some sport a “WELCOME”  in large white letters. I am a luxurious green astro-turf square about 2 feet by 3 feet with a lovely white daisy in the corner.  My well-to-do cousins cover the playing fields in various stadiums.

Yes, my task is to collect the grime and dust off dirty shoes as they enter the house.  Most visitors are considerate enough to wipe several times before crossing the threshold, although a few will step over me in attempts to avoid my purpose in life which is to keep my owner’s sanctuary free of unwanted mud and dirt.  Although just a lowly piece of manufactured green astro-turf, I see and know every one who enters my house.  I am the front door sentinel who extends a welcome and says good-bye.  I am just a doormat.

I recently overheard my owner exclaim excitedly, “What am I, just a doormat?  Do they think I am here for them to walk on?”

I don’t understand it.  I am a proud doormat who provides a  valuable service to everyone who enters the house.  Without me the home’s floors would be filthy.  Without me the soles of visitors’ feet would probably never get cleaned.  Without my lush grassy texture people would miss the massaging action of my fibers.  What’s so wrong with being a doormat?

I guess humans simply don’t like being used as a doormat.  They don’t enjoy being stepped upon and used indiscriminately by selfish visitors.  Being a depository for other people’s dirt, grime, and bad habits doesn’t fulfil their reason for existence on earth.  Humans were not created to be good doormats.

That makes me happy.  It’s job security.  As long as the people in my house place value on their inherent integrity and as long as they maintain a reasonable level of self-esteem and respect, I don’t need to worry that I will be replaced with a talking, moving, thinking human model any time soon.

Next time you visit my house, don’t mistake the owner for me.  He’s the bald-headed guy living inside.  I’m the bright green piece of astro-turf with a daisy laying outside the front door.  I am much prettier.smiley 3

who am I?

smiley 3“To thine own self be true.”

I could ask ten friends what this famous quote means to them and I would probably receive ten different opinions.  Most would say that a man needs to know what makes him tick and follow that inner energy to self-fulfillment.  I can understand this Shakespeare quote in the realm of self/ego identity.

But, what if I write self and capitalize it, Self?  “To thine own Self be true.”

The ancient mystics referred to the inner dwelling of a God spirit as the Self.  Christians call it the Holy Spirit.  A friend of Bill W. calls it the God hole.  It is the inherent inner emptiness which is intended to be filled and satisfied by an entity greater than myself, a presence which is independent of my physical identification here on earth, a spirit which I call my Higher Power.

Those of us in addiction recoveries, know that this God-hole has not always been filled with Spirit.  We tend to throw everything but God to our inner desires.  Food, drink, drugs, sex, materialism, the list is endless.  Our lives became directed by self rather than Self.

My sobriety anniversary is coming up in January.  It is much more than a date on a calendar.  It commemorates the time in my life when I became “true to Self.”  I became willing to fill that God hole with the intended Spirit rather than alcohol.

Richard Rohr in cac.org says that “Love is our True Self.”

“Love, like prayer, is not so much an action that we do, but a reality that we are. We don’t decide to be loving. Love is our True Self. It is where we came from and where we’re going. All spiritual growth is no more than a matter of becoming who we already are.” Richard Rohr

Am I spiritually grown-up?  No, as stated in my AA literature, “we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.  We are not saints.”  I still throw selfish desires into my God hole trying to appease that person who is driven by self rather than Self.  I cave to greed, lust for recognition, fear, and anger.  I give ego control of my destiny.

One of the promises of my recovery fellowship is, “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”  It is a revelation that through proper tannenbaumspiritual nourishment in humility and communion with a Higher Power, the innate human desire for fulfilment will focus on receiving eternal blessing.  The drive for earthly satisfaction will diminish.  It encourages me to be true to Self instead of self.

Namaste.namaste rainbow

 

trust

Trust is confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence.  The word “trust” gets batted around often in our daily interactions;  “do you trust your politicians?christmas emoji 3  do you trust your best friend?  do you trust your spouse?

It starts with me.  Am I trustworthy?  Would you trust your life with me?  Would you trust your financial savings with me?  Would you trust your deepest secrets with me?  If you were to answer “yes, unconditionally”, then I should probably call you a fool.

Although I am a child of God, I am still suffering the human maladies of greed, pride, and covetousness.  Although I am not who I used to be, I am not yet perfected into what my Higher Power wants me to be.  God’s example, Jesus, sets the perfection bar to be reached.  That bar is high, it will never be reached in this lifetime, but, it is the goal I seek despite my humanness.

In our recovery programs, specifically AA, trust is an important facet.  I trust the principles of my program which are set forth in the 12 steps, I trust the conscience of the fellowship, and I, without reservation, trust the Higher Power which I understand.  Sometimes, I extend unmerited trust to friends forgetting that they are also subject to the vagaries of our human condition.

That trust can be betrayed.  It is painful, it is emotional, it is often taken as a reason to withdraw from the fellowshipping which is my lifeline to sanity and sobriety.  In these times I must remember that I control nothing.  I am putting in the footwork, planning the action, but, do not control the results.  A friend’s betrayal of my trust should not trash my personal serenity.

God, give us 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.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Trust is a cornerstone of my faith.  Faith is my hotline to God.  I need the blessed assurance of the trustworthy Comforter and Counsellor to keep that line of communion open.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 merry christmas 5

 

 

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

 

 

 

love, joy, peace

Like most people, I love gifts.  As a little boy, Christmas morning was a delightful time with family unwrapping the treasures given and received.  Being a member of a farming family and enduring the vagaries of farm income, some Christmases found nothing moretannenbaum than simple gifts of necessities under the tree.  Underwear, socks, toothpaste and brush were just as much appreciated in those years as were the toys and shiny bicycle in the prosperous years.

No matter the financial  status, always the Christmas spirit, the reason for the season was the prevailing theme of our celebration.  The act of giving was predominant.  Receiving a nice present was cool, but we were taught who and why we were celebrating.  That mindset was a prelude to maturing in a community of like-minded farm folks.  Life was enjoyed in very simple ways and the gifts of a loving God were not taken lightly.

It seems much has changed in America.  The biggest, brightest, most expensive gifts fill the kitchen with new appliances, the den with a 60″ widescreen, the driveway with a new Mercedes, and closets with brand new designer clothes.  Most often the holiday decorations glamorize Santa Claus, snowmen, and Disney characters.  Rarely do I see a crèche or angels on front lawns and certainly not at the county courthouse as I remember from my boyhood community.  Times have changed.  Jesus, the babe celebrated in the book of Matthew, is no longer center stage in our festivities.  His presence is no longer America’s reason for the season.

Jesus, the greatest gift-giver of all time, is relegated to candlelight services on Christmas Eve and nice music on the radio.  The giant retailers which pumped our heads full of pre-Christmas sales events and materialistic dreams of unaffordable gift ideas take a breather on the holiday only to return with a vengeance after Christmas Day to once again entice us into more debt buying the “must-have”, discounted unsold merchandise.

It’s a scam!  Americans have been hoodwinked into spending billions of dollars to create a sense of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” when that peace and goodwill are free for the asking from the greatest gift-giver ever to walk this earth.  Just ask.  Just seek.  Just knock.  It’s all there in one neat, readily available package and it costs nothing other than a willingness to open the door to the One who dispenses love and compassion as eternal gifts.

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

Love, joy, and peace are the 1st three of the fruits of the Spirit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  They are internal gifts which will be realized when walking this journey with God as a constant companion.  They were made incarnate in the character of Jesus as depicted in our Christian Scriptures.  They are attainable elements of a life surrendered to thechristmas emoji 3 grace of an almighty God.  This is not just a fairy tale or myth.  Jesus is truth given not only at Christmas but every day of the year to those willing to ask, seek, and knock.  Try it.  Those shiny presents under the tree will fade quickly.  The gift of Jesus will not!

 

 

 

the orange tree

Let’s talk about fruit.  I love the fragrance when the orange tree out back pops into bloom around late February.  Slowly the little green orbs grow into full-sized oranges packed with exquisite citrus juiciness and flavor by Christmas.  But, they don’t do this on their own volition.  A combination of weather, feeding, pruning, and TLC are necessary for healthy growth.  A good orange tree can become an unsightly, disease-laden, out-of-control member of an otherwise beautiful landscape.  It then loses its premier status in the yard needing to be either cut down or replenished.orange tree 2

Like my orange tree in the yard, I need to be replenished daily with TLC from the Master Gardener.  I must go to the well and drink of the clear, fresh water every day and read the verses that supply spiritual food.  Otherwise I will become unsightly, diseased and bare of fruit.  My orchard becomes useless if it cannot provide spiritual food for me and comfort to  those whom God has put into my life’s journey.

“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the lord, which made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121: 1-2

Without that help I will not grow and flourish.  I will wither and die unless I submit to the indwelling Spirit of God which teaches and guides. Just like the untended orange tree, my spirit’s fruit will be bitter and useless if I fail to give it some of God’s TLC regularly.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23orange tree

 

fruit of the Spirit

“Talk the talk; walk the walk.”CANDLE

How much simpler can it be?  When I open my mouth to share my incredible knowledge and wisdom, when I take it upon myself to dispense earth-shaking opinions, and when I assume that what I say is absolute truth, then I am headed down the highway of disappointment and pain.  I know today that my open mouth, more often than not, results in a foot entering therein, that opinions are akin to another body part of which everyone has one, and my truth is, at best, relative to my circumstances.

OK, so talk is cheap.  How about the walk?  The walk separates men from boys and women from girls.  An act of unselfish compassion, a cup of coffee for the homeless man, a ride given to the hitchhiker, an hour of time shared with someone who desperately needs a friend, a pocketful of change in the bell ringer’s bucket are indications that a person is walking the walk.  Buying that cold man standing on the corner a Micky D’s breakfast, sending a check to a favorite charity, helping a blind man navigate the busy street, talking for an hour with a needy AA friend, sharing an encouraging word with a caregiver, showing up for church when not feeling very worshipful, cooking supper for a spouse overwhelmed with personal issues…..these are ways to walk the walk.

Jesus, the reason for this season, walked the walk strenuously and perfectly.  Certainly, he had great opening lines on the Mount and taught a profound lesson, but, his ministry and that of his disciples was called “the Way”.  They healed the sick, ministered to the poor, and salvaged hurting souls. The Buddha called his teachings “the Path.”  Both infer the necessary action of walking to reach the desired goal of enlightenment.  The talk is the text-book that instills understanding and the walk is the lab work, a place to conduct research.  Studying the text book until the cows come home will not change me one iota until I apply the learning into my daily life’s walk.

So then, how do I know if the text-book which I follow is the real deal, the genuine Jesus of nativity fame?  Is my book like one of the many self-proclaimed Jesus experts who interpret and interpose at whim, who devise a Gospel according to their own self-serving needs, who harbor intolerance and hatred under the name of God?  What is my spiritual barometer?

“15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them…..” Matthew 7:15-16

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

There it is.  That is my personal spiritual barometer.  How do I measure up to the words from the author of Galatians citing love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as fruits of my indwelling Spirit?  Sometimeschristmas emoji 3 favorably, other times in need of fixing, but always on the right path when I am willing to walk the walk which Jesus walks.  Wandering from that path is part of my human nature; bringing me back is part of His divine nature.  We’re a good team.

 

 

 

Meister Eckhart

“Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican mystic (c. 1260-c.1328), said that spirituality has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. [1] Yet our culture, both secular and Christian, seems obsessed with addition: getting rich, becoming famous, earning more brownie points with God or our boss, attaining enlightenment, achieving moral behavior. Jesus and the mystics of other traditions tell us that the spiritual path is not about getting more or getting ahead, which only panders to the ego. Authentic spirituality is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need, although we don’t know that at first.” cac.orgCANDLE

When’s the last time you had a yard sale?  For one or two days we dust off all those necessities which have been stored away in the attic or garage and make a decision that we no longer need them.  Many of our cherished keepsakes are simply not worth keeping.  They are not heirlooms, they do not enhance our lives, and they likely will not be the cash cows we had hoped they would be.

It’s a cleansing endeavor which adds a few bucks to the household pantry budget, sweeps out the dark corners of our houses, and declutters prime storage spaces.  For the cost of a few hours of our time we receive the realization that material things are not really all important and we recognize how they can actually clutter our daily routines.

Ahhh, you’re way ahead of me; you see where this is going, don’t you?  Yes, my spiritual life also needs to occasionally have a yard sale.  Meister Eckhart agrees.  Today, I am serious about my Quest to become the man my Higher Power would have me be.  By God’s grace I now have the willingness and sincerity of heart to make a difference in this world.  I have realized my need for a Shepherd.  I took my sorry butt to the altar and begged for renewal and, miraculously, the trash which I had called ‘my life’ became another voice calling out of the darkness.  Sobriety grabbed me off the beach of drunkenness and said, “Follow me.  I will make you a fisher of men.”

But, my humanness continues to have a need to feed the ego which drives me.  I am still broken in many places and I often look to the place within which has served me well in the past.  I continue to accumulate unfounded fears, I harbor resentments, I entertain unhealthy thoughts, and I resort to anger.  These character defects have been a part of me for many years, they have gathered dust in my brain, and they have become the unnecessary yard sale stuff in my attic which regularly needs a housecleaning.

My humanness also leads me to want to gather favor with God, to think I can influence God’s opinion of me, and to believe my works will put me in better standing with God.  My humanness drives me to look upward for enlightenment believing it is a condition to be attained, a place in the heavens where God will love me more than here on earth.  My humanness continues to try to deceive me.

It’s tough to accept that less is more in my spiritual life.  Emptying out one’s self is serious internal work because my ego enjoys the religious traditions, the church doctrines, and the hymns of worship.  But, that’s all icing on the cake, tasty but not necessary.  Emptying out is like a twinkling star on the horizon, a newly discovered truth to be followed,  a way of life to be embraced.  It’s somewhat like the story which tells of the appearance of Jesus in Bethlehem.  He replaced everythingsmiley 3 which the Jewish people thought they needed in life to attain salvation in heaven.  They had a rich tradition, but, it was not necessary and eventually led to stuffed attics and bulging garages.