Higher Power

If you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – STEP 2 sober emoji
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – STEP 3

This is the miracle of restoration.  It is not dependent on anything you or I could do to alleviate the addictions which controlled our lives.  Yes, we had to talk the walk and then walk the talk, but ultimately the grace of a power greater than us brought us back to sanity, restored us to meaningful lives within families and communities – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

God as we understood God is, for many of us, the premise which carries us over the hurdles of previous negative god experiences.  No longer do we feel obligated to profess this faith or that in our daily faith walk.  Surely, each religious philosophy of the world whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. has nuggets of truth and wisdom; however,  life changes when the God we follow is personal, loving and compassionate not corralled by any particular philosophy.  As is human nature, we attempt to describe and define, but usually discover that our minds cannot comprehend the greatness or fathom the depths of that which we call Higher Power.

Whether your God or mine is a who, a what, a where, a when, male, female, genderless, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or simply the fellowship which supports our sobriety, give this Higher Power a round of applause today for keeping us clean and serene.

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it’s been 39 years

sober emojiIf you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Talk the walk, then walk the talk

After 39 years of continued sobriety celebrated today, I reflect on the secrets of sober-livng.  There are no secrets.  It is hard work, commitment to a better way of living and the support of sober friends.  However, talking the walk at the tables of Alcoholics Anonymous and then walking that talk in everyday life will guarantee a fighting chance to overcome those addictions that have become personal demons.

The fellowship of AA is ancient wisdom set to contemporary times.  Even before the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as set forth in “The Way”, Lao Tzu and the Buddha realized a life dedicated to victorious living through abandonment of self.  The writings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob describe this dedication to selfishness and self-centeredness as “self-will run riot.”  AA BIG BOOK  The I, I, I and me, me, me  controlled all aspects of our lives, did it not?

Within my sobriety today, I cannot judge nor control other people’s talk or walk.  They obviously live with perceptions of life that differ from mine.  Therefore, when elected leaders of our government speak justice and fairness yet legislate in opposition to those pronouncements, and when preachers from the pulpit preach righteousness and morality yet conduct their personal lives in opposition to what is right and moral, I can only wonder what experiences have formed their perceptions.  Must one of us be wrong in order for the other to be right, or do we simply operate from different realms?  Returning the focus to my talk and my walk enthusiastically,  I become ever more grateful for the teachers who save us from the hells of addiction.

Abba Isidore of Pelusia
“To live without speaking is better than to speak without living.  For the former who lives rightly does good by his silence but the latter does no good even when he speaks. When words and life correspond to one another they are together the whole of philosophy.” CAC.ORG

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Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble😎

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Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  STEP 10, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Humility is defined on page 58 of TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS as “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”

Sobriety is serious business, but most often we alcoholics take ourselves too seriously.  The steps are suggestions that can never be practiced perfectly, but can always be pursued in daily activity.  With practice and time, step 10 becomes as routine as brushing teeth in the morning.  Along with a gratitude list it’s a great way to start the day.  But unfortunately, humility can’t be attained, it can’t be practiced, it can’t be prayed into existence.  It just happens.  When I think I’ve got it, I don’t.

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
Cause I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,
But I’m doing the best that I can”

MAC DAVIS

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SOBER TODAY?  GIVE YOURSELF AND YOUR HIGHER POWER A HAND

 

an easier, softer way

if you are sober today, give yourself and your God a hand

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“Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now….we thought we could find an easier, softer way.  But, we could not.” 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, chapter 5, How It Works

Wisdom from the BIG BOOK, the alcoholic’s bible, teaches us that there is no easy way to transformation and restoration.  We cannot hang on to old ideas, we cannot party with the old crowd, we cannot entertain previous bad habits and expect a sustained, peaceful sobriety.  Millions of successfully recovering alcoholics will testify to this assertion from HOW IT WORKS.  For us there is not an easier, softer way.

Those of us who profess a faith walk and try to follow earnestly the God of our understanding know this principle applies to all aspects of our lives.  Discernment is an integral part of daily living.  Not only recognizing a spiritual value, but following the direction of that moral compass becomes a driving force in our lives.  Talk the walk and then walk the talk.  We cannot conveniently turn on and off the spiritual connection which has returned us to sanity.

And so it is that when discussions of social, political and religious significance occur, we have a choice – wallow in the easier, softer way of complacency and submission to the status quo or advocate what could be infinitely more difficult, but principled.  Our guide?  It has to be that same moral compass, that discernment which we discovered through the grace of sobriety.  It has to be what was learned by giving up the easier, softer way.

I recently witnessed a conversation between two upstanding members of the community.  Debating politics, one offered an opinion that his Christian faith had no bearing on his choice in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.  The moral character of his candidate had nothing to do with fitness for the office or ability to lead.  The booming economy and low unemployment rate were, by far, a more important barometer than any character faults and defects.  Maybe he is right.  Maybe it is okay during the election cycle to put away in a box the faith and values which have transformed our lives.  Maybe the economy, stock markets and retirement accounts are more important than the life and work of Jesus manifesting through us.  Maybe.  What do you think?

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Let’s give thanks

For breath and clean air to breathe
For heartbeat and a healthy body
For arms and legs that move
For toes that wiggle
are we thankful?

For sobriety through grace, not merit
For clarity of mind
For a fellowship which saves
For the AA promises realized
are we thankful?

For a house which shelters
For a comfortable home
For adequate food
For all needs filled
are we thankful?

For liberty
For freedoms dearly paid
For rights unparalleled
For governance by the people
are we thankful?

For friends who love us
For family who support us
For Max, the cat, and all pets
For butterflies and birds
are we thankful?

For the beauty of this earth
For a threatened yet sustaining ecology
For scientists who care
For citizens who protest
are we thankful?

For the stars of the sky
For the setting sun
For the rising moon
For the mysteries of beyond
are we thankful?

For a God who understands and forgives
For a Lord who guides
For a Master beyond comprehension
For a peace beyond understanding
are we thankful?

Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but in all days let us bow heads
and quietly give thanks.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow
praise him ye creatures here below
praise Him above ye heavenly host
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost”

 

 

Your Vote – does it matter?

“Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God’s beloved, but so is everyone else! If we believe God wants what is good for us, how do we not understand God wants what is good for each and every living thing? What would it mean to vote as if the very presence of God were in our neighbor and the stranger alike, which is simply what Jesus taught?”  CAC.ORG – Fr. Richard Rohr

Namaste – not the word Jesus used, but it certainly means the same.  A follower of Buddhism would bow to you (and all of Creation) and say namaste – “I honor the divine in you.”  Jesus said, “Love your neighbor (and all of Creation) as yourself.”

What’s so difficult about that?  Why can we not believe that Jesus from Nazareth, during the time between ages 12 and 30 when no historian can provide an account of his activity, met up with traders from the East who followed the teachings of Buddha.  Even non-believers in the historicity of Jesus or Buddha will have to admit that namaste is certainly a great way for earthlings to conduct themselves.  It could be the key to the survival of our species.

Let’s give this idea a shot in our 2020 voting.  Rather than endorsing candidates who claim to be God-sent, or candidates who claim to have the inside track to God, or candidates who attend the ‘right’ church, or candidates who profess the tenets of an intolerant and exclusive Christianity, let’s try “namaste.”  Let’s try “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Let’s vote as if the earth and all its creatures (including us) depended upon it.

Fr. Richard Rohr of the Franciscan order is an outspoken critic of the political and religious status quo.  We agree that somehow Christianity, as envisioned in its early genesis, has missed the mark of its founders.  We agree that the purpose of Christianity is not to look heavenward for salvation nor to follow a reclusive lifestyle.  Christianity was meant to involve Christians in the nitty-gritty of the world’s disadvantaged and oppressed people.  We are designed to focus downward upon earth’s sorrow and heartbreak, to participate in the world rather than seek escape in heavenly promises.

Buddhism calls this life “dukkha” – suffering.  It is suffering which stems from our human tendency to want what we don’t have and not appreciate the blessings we do have.  I can relate.  How about you?  We have houses which would be palatial to many of the world’s people, but want even larger and more luxurious homes.  We have closets full of clothes whereas many people have nothing more than rags to wear.  We eat to the point of unhealthy obesity while many babies are starving.  We are coming into the Christmas season where the mantra is, “shop till you drop.”  Yet this extravagance of material blessing does not eliminate dukkha.

Externals will not eliminate suffering.  Only by resetting the internal defaults will we ever reach the heaven described by Jesus or nirvana promised by Buddha.  It’s an inside adventure which each of us can undertake.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?”  AA PROMISES

WE THINK NOT

Get out there and vote.  Jesus did not give us THE WAY and Buddha did not give us THE PATH  for us to twiddle our thumbs and be recluses uninvolved in the planet’s survival.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob did not give us recovery through ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS to muddle through life uninvolved in the lives of still-suffering fellow man. god bless america

what do you see?

Where do you go for comfort, reassurance, consolation?  In our past lives many of us found our fix sitting on a honky-tonk barstool listening to jukebox favorites as we watered down our drinks with tears while sharing sad stories with the unwitting stranger sitting next to us.  We always had misery and heartbreak riding on our shoulders and, unfailingly, it was never our fault, was it?

This will not be a war story, there are millions just like mine; rather, it’s a testimony of personal victory gained through the power of Alcoholics Anonymous, the dedicated people sitting around the tables of a recovery meeting, and the grace of a God as I understood God.  Trust me, in those early days, understanding God was a challenging proposal because in 1981 at my first AA meeting, a more strident atheist than I could not be found.  “Don’t talk to me about God, don’t expect me to pray, don’t give me any God literature.  All I want out of this group is to learn how not to drink or, even better, to learn how to drink socially like my buddies.”

The first 90 days were a long and tedious journey through numerous nail-biting nights of sheer terror fearing the old demons would reclaim me.  But also, bringing me back to the tables day after day and night after night (yes, I was one of those freaks who did at least 2 meetings daily) was the promise from others in the rooms and from the Big Book that I too could get better, that even for me there was hope.

One of those AA guys with a no-nonsense demeanor which I admired took me aside one night and suggested that I use g.o.d. as my higher power until I became ready and willing to consider a sober-minded understanding of God.  Good Orderly Direction served me well for the time necessary to clear the alcoholic fog from my brain and explore the joys and promises of a developing spirituality.

The time from then to now is my story, a fantasy trip surpassing any drunk or any high I ever experienced prior to sobriety.  It has been filled with absolute joy and unbearable sorrow, heights of fulfillment and lows of abject despair, moments of awe and days of drudgery.  Guess what?  That’s life.  It is the same as it always was – suffering sprinkled with joy and peace. But, today I don’t have to sit on a barstool crying in my beer.  I am changed.  Me, a few good friends, and g.o.d. can handle anything that comes along.

Not surprisingly, comfort and strength can be found visiting with an old friend.  I find sustaining reassurance through many of the foundational hymns and verses learned as a young boy, but rejected later in life as lies and deceit.  Today, I am an integral part of the stories and songs I remember.  I am the prodigal son, I am the doubting Thomas, I am the denying Peter, I suffer with Jesus on his cross.  These are my friends from years ago who have taken new meaning in a spiritual awakening.

Sobriety does not force us to find religion, to profess creeds, to do weekly confessional.  Sobriety does, however, expect that we will surrender to a Higher Power and pursue changed perspectives.   An aspect of those changed perspectives is our approach to worldly things.  Especially in today’s tumultuous social and political atmosphere, the words of Helen Lemmel, a writer and hymnist who lived 1863 to 1961, urges us to turn our eyes upon Jesus (an old friend), look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.  

Don’t need to worship, don’t need to adhere to any particular faith walk, don’t need to bow to any deity – just know the story of Jesus of Nazareth, his life and work, his compassion.  Then look upon that as a path to living life soberly in spiritual comfort and reassurance.  Perspectives will change when the things of earth grow strangely dim.

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Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow him there

Helen Howarth Lemmel

control freak – who, me?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.”

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Most of us in recovery are failed control freaks.  Read those words again.  You and I have been miserable failures at controlling our lives. Lord knows we did our damnedest to cajole, manipulate, wheedle, urge or threaten loved ones, family and friends to think and do the ‘right way’ which, of course, was always our way.  I see some of you out there denying it, but let us just take a moment of truthful inventorying our past behavior before claiming innocence.  Yeah, just as I thought.  Guilty as charged!

Sometimes our game of controlling others actually worked and we felt victorious.  But our success came at the expense of ruffled feathers, resentments, anger from our victims.  The end result was that we distanced ourselves from those around us who loved us the most.  Ultimately, through the progression of our disease, we reached a point where, in the depths of our self-imposed exile from reality, we could not even control ourselves.  In those depths, alcohol was the victor controlling every aspect of our being.

Enter sobriety and the grace of a Higher Power.  We repeated in the recovery rooms of AA the Serenity Prayer.  Sometimes our discussions centered on the words of the prayer analyzing each word and each part of the three statements.  What do they mean?  What do I control?  What can I not control?  And when does the wisdom appear in my life?

Sobriety is not a commodity to be purchased at the recovery store.  It does not happen miraculously on the first day of not drinking.  We hang out with others like us, we listen to the wisdom spoken in the rooms, we take our thoughts to the quiet space within and begin to process what sober-living means.  Contrary to the previous drinking before which carried us to the depths of our personal hells, sobriety becomes our beacon of hope, our lifestyle resurrecting us to a purposeful place in society.

And eventually we discover the truths of control.  I accept that I control no other human being on earth, I control no other entity on earth, I control no political undertaking, no politician, no corporate CEO.  I do not control my spouse, family nor friends.  I don’t even control Max, the cat.  Lastly, I do not control the recovering friend who decides to go back out and do some more ‘field research’ on drinking.

“Pheeeew!  What a relief,” we exclaim, “I am not responsible for anything.”

Whoa, not so fast.  Yes, we are responsible.  “Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to be there.  For that I am responsible.”

“Courage to change the things I can.”

In order to be a helping hand, I must change the only thing I can…and that is me.  I must change my thinking, my attitudes, my responses to others, my behavior, my prejudices, my lifestyle.  I must change myself to reflect the grace freely given on that first day of recovery when I walked into my first AA meeting a scared, hopeless drunk.  And therein is the wisdom to know the difference.  Today, I know how and when to surrender Larry, the control freak.  Not always easy, not always first choice, but always the path to serenity.

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us versus them…really?

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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.

Be persistent in asking.  When in that quiet inner space, don’t be timid with requests.  The answer will always be “yes, no, or not now”.  But, whatever the answer may be, rest assured that our internal GPS has got us covered and will bring us safely to the next plateau of life when heeding that inner voice.  Very simple.  A degree in spirituality is not required to know what the conscience speaks in those quiet moments.  The secret, if there is any secret, is to slow down, be quiet, silence the wandering mind, and listen.  Ask for guidance and it will be given.

Seek joy and peace relentlessly.  Life changes with every passing moment.  We must also adjust.  Our central core of understanding has an amazing capacity to adjust.  What was yesterday’s hot flash is today’s old fogey flashback.  When hanging on to the ‘way things used to be’ we are stifling what needs to happen now for continuing growth.  Doesn’t mean giving up values or the moral compass which has been a lifetime beacon; rather, it means evolving those values to make them workable in today’s crazy world.

Only a few centuries ago when one element of society disagreed with the beliefs and actions of another, it could find new, uncharted lands to settle and follow its philosophy in peaceful bliss.  Unfortunately, vacant, unexplored land has disappeared and thus it has become essential to the survival of our species to practice co-existence with next door neighbors who look, talk, behave and worship differently.

Perhaps the common denominator is that the vast majority of the world’s population wants to live peaceably, support families, have a comfortable standard of living, practice a chosen faith walk (or absence of faith walk), and leave this world a better place then when arriving.  The violence advocated by an extremely small, but vocal, percentage of extreme religious adherents has, unfortunately, grabbed today’s headlines.  Each brand of religion is guilty.  Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu each have an element devoted to hateful rhetoric and unenlightened teaching.

Demonizing an entire faith for the actions of a few of its adherents is not evolving to a plateau of world brotherhood necessary to co-exist.  Rather than name-calling, fear-mongering, and instilling lies about those outside our tribe, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to recognize the divinity in all mankind?  Loving another’s divine nature regardless of religious tradition does not diminish our own spiritual walk.  It can only enhance the God connection.

Lead me by example and not by edict.  A primary principle of Alcoholics Anonymous is ‘attraction rather than promotion’.  Show me your wisdom instead of forcing it upon me.  St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Let’s try to be instruments of peace.  It could be the only chance for the human species to see a 22nd century.

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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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