I claimed my miracle, have you?

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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“I’m sorry, we are out of wine.  Would you like a cup of water or perhaps fermented goat’s milk?”

“Noooooooooooooooo.”  Undoubtedly, the scream echoed through the hills and valleys of Galilee as the feast master in charge of the wine supply realized his calculations for the wedding’s needs were misjudged.  His reputation throughout Israel would be ruined.  Nobody would hire him to cater their wedding after this fiasco at Cana.

And then Jesus, having been summoned by his mother, saved the day by turning six stone pots each filled with 20 to 30 gallons of water into vessels filled with wine.  When the wine was tested by the ruler of the wedding feast he went to the bridegroom saying, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  (John 2:10 NIV)

The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John reveal to us the miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in the ancient manuscripts.  Turning water into wine was the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry occurring three days after Nathaniel became a follower.  John 2:11 tells us that this “was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed him.”

“He did whaaat?”  Had I lived then and one of my neighbors who attended that wedding at Cana told me about some yahoo preacher man turning about 150 gallons of water into wine, I am certain my doubting Thomas nature would have replied, “You’re out of your mind.  What were you smoking up there at Cana?”

Many people today say they don’t believe in miracles.  They also deny Jesus, God, and eternity.  Years ago I was one of those people.  I wanted to be an atheist, tried to be an agnostic and failed miserably at both.  If God did not exist why was I on my knees in a drunken stupor begging God to heal me?  If Jesus was just a myth like Santa Claus why did I talk to him like a friend when I wanted to end my life?

Yes I believed, but I refused to accept my miracle.  It was right there in front of me for years , but I was not done with the pain and self-loathing.  I wanted to beat up on myself for a while longer.  It gave me satisfaction to be a victim.  The floor of my bottom had a trap door that I wanted to explore.  Let’s kick me around and refuse my miracle a little bit longer.

But, you see, the God which I rejected did not give up.  Every night on my knees in a drunken stupor, God held my hand listening to me, comforting me, showing me the way to accept grace and mercy.  I tearfully forgave myself and accepted life, eternal life.  Miracles still happen today.  I claimed mine.  Millions of others like me, addicts and drunks clean and serene, are each and every one the story of a miracle.

“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed him.” (John 2:11 NIV)

I believe him too.

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the angry Christian

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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I probably would not write about faith and recovery if I did not have an unyielding, nagging directive to dispute the abounding, fear-filled theology which controlled my life for many of my early, formative years.  It is my sense that many others also suffered and continue to suffer an “ism” of hell fires and damnation.  It is for them that I return to the memories of pain caused by delusional theology in order to propose another way, the Way proclaimed by Jesus, our Christ.  I am the way, the truth, the life seems to be lost on a religion more concerned with retribution, payback and profit than restoring life abundantly to the world’s lost and dying.  Mega churches, millionaire televangelists, a gospel of affluence are obviously missing the mark set by Jesus to minister to the poor and downtrodden, to seek heaven at the bottom of the social ladder rather than in the far reaches of the universe.

In the book of Mark, a man comes running to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answers that one must live by the commandments.  To which the man said he had followed them all.  Then,

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me.” (1)

The man went away sad.  We don’t know if he sold his possessions or if he cherished them more than a relationship with God.  Soul sickness, however, does not discriminate between rich and poor.  Selfishness and avarice are not limited to wealth and power.

Fortunately, through the recovery rooms of AA and the loving compassion of fellow trekkers, a restoration of soul for me was possible.  The first step in this restoration was grasping the concept of “God as I understand God.”  It is a foundational tenet of AA’s recovery program which has enabled millions of doubters like myself to find mental and spiritual health in a sea of unhealthy religious dogma.

God hates me, and God wants to burn me in hell’s fires.  Imagine living with those thoughts for the first 33 years of your life?  I tried to drink myself to death thinking I could drown with alcohol those haunting visions.  I tried to wear the atheist armor and the agnostic unbelief to no avail.  God still despised me and was waiting for me to commit the ultimate sin that would seal my fate in hell.  In truth, during the years of alcoholism, I was already serving my sentence in his realm of fire and brimstone.

I don’t go there today because the God of my understanding does not take me there.  Together we find green pastures and still waters.  We are as One enjoying peace, solace, contentment, and treasures of the soul.  It seems silly to me today that anyone who is seeking would choose a vengeful, wrathful, hateful old man as their God.

From Richard Rohr @ Center for Action and Contemplation:

In authoritarian and patriarchal cultures, most people were fully programmed to think this way” (the life of Jesus as a ransom to an angry, demanding God) – “working to appease an authority figure who was angry, punitive, and even violent in ‘his’ actions.  Many people still operate this way, especially if they had an angry, demanding, or abusive parent.  People respond to this kind of God, as sick as it is, because it fits their own story line.” (2)

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(1) MARK 10:21

(2) CAC.ORG

when belief becomes action

“Over the past few decades, our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live….But in Jesus we don’t just see a presentation of doctrines but an invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world.”  Shane Claiborne (1)

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In chapter 2 of the Bible’s book of James, verse 17 – “faith without works is dead” – is a favorite of addiction recovery programs.  It is the foundational premise of the fellowship’s call to live a life of service to others through works.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not the copyrighted property of Christianity.  Many major religions and cultures profess an obeisance to this maxim.

But it is not merely a statement of belief.  It demands supporting action in the way I live, in the way I treat other people.  Not only family, friends and neighbors should receive my best efforts to live by the “golden rule,” but everyone on earth who names themselves a member of the species homo-sapiens.

Tall order, isn’t it?   Now, let’s stretch it.  How about every creation of the God whom I name as Lord of my life?  The birds, tigers, my pet cat, fish, the flowers of the field, our water resources, the air we breathe – everything?  They are all a portion of the gift given to us to use and enjoy.  Treat creation with the respect and stewardship with which we want to be treated.  Might be a much better world, don’t you think?

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life.  It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves to inhabit this land.”  Sitting Bull

In contrast to our world of greed and disregard for the elements of nature, the forgotten creed of the Native American embodied a legendary wisdom and spirituality.  Animals were respected as equal in rights and, when hunted, they were killed only for food. The hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. (2)

Born in 1182 into wealth, St. Francis of Assisi, during his conversion period, was considered a madman when he renounced money and chose to live simply practicing equality by honoring, respecting and loving every person whether beggar or pope.  Francis’ love of nature is well recorded in writings, but his love was much deeper than enjoying time in the woods to admire the beauty.  His brotherhood included all of God’s creations.  To him the sparrow was as much his brother as the pope. (3)

Francis, born Giovanni Bernardone, had no thoughts to establish a monastic order named after him, but when called to serve his God, his answer was yes.  What will my answer be?  How about you?  Please take 5 minutes and 27 seconds of your life to watch the Franciscan Plea For the Soul of America.

(1) Shane Claiborne

(2)  www.pantheism.net

(3) www.catholic.org

 

don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

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 overflows.

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There currently is a television commercial depicting a hiker walking on a beautiful, unfamiliar wooded trail using GPS as a guide.  In an instant he drops his backpack, runs ahead on the trail.  The last scene is disconcerting to me, even though I have seen it many times.  Running at full speed, he jumps off a cliff several 100 feet high into a beautiful shimmering lake awaiting below.

Would you trust your GPS that implicitly?  Could I?  Trust it enough to jump off a cliff to certain death if the data is not correct?  What if there is no deep water at the end of my jump to cushion my fall?

We are asked to do the same with our faith.  Nobody has returned from death to tell us about the glories of heaven or the depths of hell.  Nobody has seen Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. NOBODY!  So why should we believe?  I am a rational, reasonable human being who has spent numerous decades trying to determine what life is about and I have as much certitude now as I did when I came into this world.

BINGO!  Faith is not about certitude.  Faith is trust in the mystery which tells us that light will overcome the darkness, that love will prevail, that peace on earth will occur when mankind becomes peaceful in all his affairs.  Faith is not at the end of the trail,  a destiny to be attained.  Rather, it is the trail itself.

We read scriptures for many reasons.  The history of the Jews is an interesting lesson in the human condition.  All the trials, the greed, the intolerance, the violence are balanced by victory over ego, insights about communal living, stories that reflect man’s search for God.

The writings by the contemporaries of Jesus relate His message that relieves followers from the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant observed by ancient Jewish culture.  Some Christian leaders today carry across the B.C / A.D line those Old Covenant laws attempting to override the simple message of Christianity regarding laws (commandments).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this:  love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark: 12:30-31

Pretty simple, straight-forward theology, is it not?  We don’t need anything more to trust that our faith is heading in the right direction.  Forget all the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt not’ from the ponderous teachings and preachings of modern Christianity which have done more to oppress than enlighten.  That is what John said:

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

He’s talking about freedom from the oppression of ancient theology and theological laws.  We can trust a simple faith which places God and love for fellow-man at the center of our beliefs.  Nothing more is needed.

How we live our faith is a choice we make every day.  The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous urge us onward with this daily choice by slogans on the wall.  K.I.S.S. – Keep ISimple Stupid – is one of them which embodies a way of living, a faith walk if you will, that frees us from concerns about religious correctness.  The fellowship which occurs in those rooms attests to the success of making sober-living people out of drunkards through a simple spiritual program.  Have you KISSED today?

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you’re invited

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 overflows.

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I use the multi-colored message shown above to convey the basic truth that none of us are excluded from the love of God, from the table which Jesus has set to feed the entirety of mankind with his bread and his wine, his body and blood.  Do not allow anyone to tell you that your race, your creed, your sex, your orientation, or your past disqualifies you from sitting with Jesus.  No earthly being has the authority to deny you a seat.  Jesus’ invitation is eternal, unconditional, and it specifically has your name on it.

In the world of evangelists, Billy Graham’s legacy continues to command the respect and admiration of a great many people, believers and non-believers.  He shared on his blog site in 2012  THE THREE INVITATIONS OF CHRIST

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 

Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17

Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you.”  John 15:4

These invitations are an ongoing process.  I have no qualms accepting that I don’t have all the pieces to the God puzzle.  Sometimes I don’t even know what the questions should be.  GOD IS A MYSTERY.  And I believe that is a good thing for a doubter and skeptic like me.  Keep me guessing so that I continue searching.  Just when I believe I’ve reached that “Aha” moment or a fascinating revelation, another doubt and question arises.

But, the process doesn’t change, does it?  Run to Him when life gets heavy and overwhelming, learn of his ways and take his yoke upon me.  Determine what my ego wants versus what Jesus says in his words and teachings.  It all comes down to surrender.  Do I want to continue in my burdensome ways or will I turn it over to the Master, the problem-solver?

Learn and then share with others what has been discovered.  Those of us in addiction recovery programs know the necessity of service to others.  We share our war stories and then extend our experience, strength and hope.  Alcoholics and addicts are invited just as they are to the tables of the meeting rooms.  The beauty and success of AA, CR, and other recovery programs depends on the fellowship putting others before personal interests.  Those questioning, new arrivals are invited to share our repurposed lives, to sit at the table of miracles.  We become fishers of men.

Finally, Jesus invites us to abide with the God of our understanding in a peace that surpasses anything which the world has to offer.  To me this means building and cherishing the most intimate relationship which I could ever know. When I am willing to surrender, when I am willing to pull my head out of self-serving ways, when I am willing to be still and know, then we can be as one walking this path through the joys and travails of an earthly life.  God dwells in me and I in Him.  That is the solidarity of  “I am You, You are me, and we are One.”

Believe me, it is not always where my head and heart dwell.  This challenge which is called the human condition tries to detour me, lie to me, and steal me away.  But, running to my Lord is no longer the option of last resort.  I have learned to go there as quickly as possible.

He said, “Come unto me and learn of me, my yoke is easy and I will give you rest.”

He has invited you, too.  What’s holding you back?

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faking it

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There is an abundance of material presented daily for us to read and absorb.  Some of it is straight forward news – local, national, international – presented by dedicated news people in unbiased reporting.  Some of it is pure entertainment, while a growing segment is opinion representing viewpoints regarding every issue under the sun.

The internet, blogging in particular, is a godsend for those of us who are driven to write and share.  Whether you or I want to compose a book and be published or write just a few lines to vent and reveal pieces of ourselves, how we use our creativity is a personal decision made every time sitting down at the keyboard.  Sometimes, having a game plan is irrelevant – we merely type one letter after another until words, then sentences, then paragraphs are created.  We are not censored and should not be discouraged from sharing what our minds have fabricated.  That’s what blogging is all about for many of us.

All too often, when I limber up my fingers, I assume the role of opinion writer.  And that would be fine if that is the type of writer I aspire to be.  But, it’s not.  Many others in our blogging world do a fine job of sharing opinions just as many others are fine news reporters, but my opinion, as pertinent as it could be, is not what I want to share.  My views on politics, society, religion are as valid as yours, but as my wise old grandpappy said, “Opinions are like a certain body part.  Everybody’s got one.”

2019 finds me struggling – emotionally and physically.  Life ain’t what it used to be and certainly not what I hoped it would be.  So, what do we survivors do?  We take stock, adjust our binding underwear, grab the appropriate ball cap with a message and wear it proudly.  Early AA friends always said, “Fake it until you make it.”

And that’s what I’ll do because I’m too damned stubborn to quit.

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PEACE ON EARTH?

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 overflows.

Is the idea of peace on earth overrated?  Probably so.  By nature man is not an agreeable sort of creature.  Man would sooner throw a few rocks and ask questions afterwards than engage in rational dialog first.  History tells us that man, having never learned to compromise, has resorted instead to heavy clubs, then swords, then artillery, then nuclear weapons that can annihilate every species on earth and it’s habitat.

Mankind seems to be the only creature on earth that does not fit into the natural scheme of flora and fauna.  Plant and animal lifeforms all intuitively know how to grow together, live together, and in many instances compliment the existence of one another.  They do not wantonly kill because of philosophical differences or uncontrolled passions.

No, man is probably not held in high esteem by the world’s other creatures.  Oh sure, that pet dog or cat loves you unconditionally, but stop putting out food for Rover or stop cleaning Fifi’s cat box and it’s just a matter of time before that dog will turn on you snapping at your heels or the feline poop producer will be crapping on your favorite chair.  Don’t kid yourselves.  Man is low on the totem pole of earthly inhabitants.  He does not fit in and the rest of nature knows it.

In order to compensate, a complex system of theologies has been created proclaiming mankind as the master of all species, of all resources on earth in order to justify our existence.  And then theology goes on to say that when our habitat has been trashed and destroyed, miraculously a savior will appear to clean up the mess we have made.  Believe that if you must, but consider this.  The nugget of truth in those earth-renewal philosophies is that mankind can be redeemed through an inner awakening, a fact-finding soul search that reveals our spiritual relevance in a crazy, chaotic world system.  Many mystics have understood this, Francis and Clare of Assisi knew, Jesus the pauper from Nazareth recognized that each individual has within himself or herself the capacity to live in peace with himself, with humanity, with the earth itself.

I love the question following THE BIG BOOK’s (Alcoholics Anonymous) revelation of promises available through sober living. AA PROMISESAre these extravagant promises?  We think not.”

Is this an extravagant promise?  Peace on earth?  The Christian scriptures guarantee it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

We could rightfully say, “Bah humbug”, considering the turmoil and corruption which is rampant worldwide.  We will continue on our road to destruction and annihilation when we forget that Jesus, in the words of John 14, qualifies his peace: “Not as the world giveth…”

I am chasing down the wrong trail when I envision a peaceful world as one with no wars, no famines, no oppression.  What will save me from the surrounding darkness, from a troubled and fearful heart, is only available within.  Quite possibly that is the peace on earth, goodwill toward men, that the book of Luke attributes to the angels singing to the shepherds watching their flocks.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14

It is an inside job.  When we feed and nourish the soul through introspection, contemplation and meditation, when we read scriptures revealed by the wisdom of the ancients, then we can dwell in our world of peace and then we can extend that peace to all mankind.

Peace to you.  Namaste.  The Christmas season is a great time to discover a peaceful and fearless heart as proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and other messengers of the ancient world.  All of them claim a piece to the God puzzle.

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