it’s my party

I’ve been recovering from the effects of the flu which has been running rampant in my neighborhood.  Yes, I dutifully get my flu shots every fall, wipe down the grocery cart with a towelette at the grocery store, and stay arm’s length from any sniffling, sneezing life forms.  Even as I suffer flu symptoms, I remember the days of yore when Larry was too healthy to get flu shots and then Larry became a poster boy for death warmed over.  The bug got me and put me down for a two to three-week bed-ridden vacation.

I now get flu shots religiously and if I do get sick, there are just a few mild symptoms.  More bothersome is the weakness and lethargy.  Old guys like me know time is becoming a more valuable commodity and we don’t like running at less than 100%.  Well, OK, even 80% is pretty darned good.  So much hell to raise and just not enough time to do it.

Alright, alright.  So, there ain’t much hell raising anymore, but a guy can dream, can’t he?  Looking back on the antics of me, the 20 to 30 year-old drunk, makes me realize how much of a nightmare I was for the people who loved me.  Family, lovers, friends…..they all suffered through my disease with me.  They went to hell with me and by God’s grace they came back a long time before that grace brought me back.  Tonight I celebrate 37 years of continuous sobriety and nothing, absolutely nothing, in my life takes precedence over sobriety and the relationship I have enjoyed with my Higher Power.  Money, prestige, power, fancy cars, big house, designer clothes, community social status…..nothing can compare to the status I have found as a child of God, as a man committed to sober-living.

Even when the mind says, “go, go, go” but the body says, “no, no, no,”  I have an enormous gratitude list that seems to grow every day.  I appreciate the days when even 80% is all I can muster.  The slowdown gives me time to read, time to just talk on the phone with a friend, time to sit on the porch and entertain the cardinals stopping by for a visit, and time to yell at the top of my lungs, “Thank you Jesus.”

It’s been one helluva ride and I can’t wait to see what the next couple decades will bring.  Naw, don’t have time for worrying and fretting over politics, over the economy, over North Korea’s Kim, nor over America’s Trump.  Those problems will be resolved according to God’s timing, not mine.  Of course, if the big fella upstairs wants some advice, I’ve got a few ideas.

Stay sober, my friends.  One day at a time.  If you don’t drink that first one, you won’t get drunk.  One is too many and ten is not enough.  Keep it simple, stupid, and remember  g.o.d. – good, orderly direction.

If you’re sober today, give your Higher Power a hand.clapping

 

g.o.d.

orange treeThose of you in a recovery program will recognize this acronym and some of you who read me know that I have referenced it before in my writing.  It represents a concept which many of us newly sober men and women grasped gratefully because we refused to acknowledge an entity which had been so miserably projected unto us by religionists.  It stands for “good orderly direction”.

It kept me returning to the meeting rooms and undoubtedly led me to a serene sobriety.  Ultimately my Higher Power did soften my strident anti-God attitude and introduced me to the miracles found in all the scriptures and wisdom sayings of numerous religions.  For me to profess a God of any understanding is in itself one of the most profound miracles in my entire life.  To finally realize the love of a Higher Power and to name that power God was unimaginable even after several years of sobriety.

So, you can understand my aroused interest upon reading another man’s viewpoint that God is not truly a noun, an entity to be beheld, but a verb, a word of action.  Actually this is not merely a point of view, it is a legitimate interpretation by a recognized researcher and scholar of Jewish scriptures.

“COMMENTARY ON THE TORAH” by Richard Elliott Friedman discusses the passage in Exodus 3:14-15 in which Moses is speaking to God who has just informed him that he, Moses, would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.  Moses’ response was, “Well, who are you, what shall I call you?”

Thus we have the familiar words, “I am who I am”, YHWH, which is translated into Anglican texts as Yahweh.  Christian interpretation is, at best, confusing and unclear.  But in his commentary, the author explains to us that the imperfect verb used is not limited to present tense; it can also be future tense, thereby also rendering the words as “I shall be who I shall be.”  Furthermore, in this passage the name of God is now revealed for the first time to the Israelites.

“YHWH” is a verb, third person, singular, and masculine.  Its root meaning is “to be”.  It cannot be limited to past, present or future time.  It is timeless and its nearest translation would be, “He Causes To Be”.  Don’t get hung up on the masculinity attribute as that was the Jewish custom.  Biblical Israel conceived God as male.

Adding this insight to a compendium of prior revelations about the Higher Power whom I name God gives an added layer of meaning to the acronym, g.o.d., in the ongoing process of recovery.  It suggests motion, movement into a life of dedication and service which is essentially what Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, and other recovery programs emphasize.  Good, orderly direction is more than a cute phrase hanging in a picture frame on our meeting-room wall.CANDLE

 

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.

 

Puerto Rico

The news coming from the ruins in Puerto Rico is not encouraging.  Last report which I read says 50 % of the island continues without power, over 200,000 have moved to the mainland.  Hurricane Maria not only devastated the resources of the tropical United States territory, she also brought pain and misery to millions of citizens.  Whether our government’s response has been appropriate and adequate or an abject failure continues to be debated.  However, we do know with certainty that a large segment of humanity, American brothers and sisters, suffer through a long and tedious restoration.

Israel in 722 B.C.E. also suffered a national tragedy with the fall of its Northern Kingdom leading the psalmist to write:

“Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:3CANDLE

Throughout recorded history the world’s peoples have endured unfathomable misery either from natural disasters or man’s depravity.  The Israelites of King David’s time, whether praying to God for relief or cursing God for his anger, acknowledged that a power greater than themselves had the capacity to restore or punish.  We have that same choice today.  Do I pray to God for deliverance or curse God for hardships?  Do I honor God for mercy and goodness or blame God for pain and misery?

Therefore, when I say, “Restore me, God; let your face shine, that I may be saved,” I have chosen to embrace the power of a restorative, compassionate, saving God instead of a vindictive, harsh, wrathful God.  My choice, my free will, has enabled a power greater than myself to enter Larry’s world and perform the miracles of restoration upon a lost and wretched scrap of humanity rescued from the seas of addiction.  Certainly God was waiting in the wings for the opportunity to take center stage, but, Larry had to raise the curtain.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.” AA, twelve and twelve

It all makes sense.  It is a choice; so, why would anyone choose an angry God over a loving God?   Ultimately, why would anyone choose to live without the comfort and grace of a Father who is readily available to whomever would ask?

“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7smiley 3

 

go away, Irma

irma

There is a group of religionists who gained notoriety by protesting the funeral services of military members killed in action.  They laid the blame for these deaths on an America which condoned homosexuality;  God was having revenge on the rampant sinfulness of the country.  Carrying their placards near the funeral route, they spouted a brand of hatred which was based on their interpretation of Biblical verses especially from the writings of the Old Testament.

I remember many years ago viewing one of my mother’s favorite televangelists offering his explanation for the severe weather patterns touching the East Coast.  It was the punishment of an almighty God upon a sinful population in the major cities.  Yes, those folks in Charleston were simply having too much fun.

Well, folks, I guess Florida takes the trophy for sinfulness.  We’re gonna get nailed and honestly, most of us don’t really have that much fun to brag about.  I just want to know how their God decides what type of punishment to use.  We have our hurricanes, the Pacific has typhoons, Japan has earthquakes and Oklahoma….well Toto….this ain’t Kansas.  Ever set directly under a tornado?  I have and immediately confessed my sins and begged for deliverance.  Then I watched the light show from the exploding electrical transformers a half mile away and I knew God was going to keep me around for another day.

Don’t want to step on anyone’s toes….well, yeah, I do…..but, the concept which I name God has a terrific sense of humor.  If not true then surely he/she/it would have blown all of us to smithereens by now.  Would anything other than a gracious and benevolent God process all the shenanigans happening in this world and not pull the plug?  Remember the simple meal-time grace we recited as kids….”God is great, God is good; let us thank him for this food.”  We also need to add, “and thanks for loving me enough not to feed me what I deserve.”

Irma is heading this way.  There will be billions of dollars in property damage, lives will be changed forever, and unfortunately some will die.  But, it’s a force of nature, possibly a result of climate change, and it doesn’t matter from where it has come.  But, woe unto you religionists who tell me it’s a punishment.  Shame!  I hope Irma lays a big booger on your pillow this weekend.

 

relevance

CANDLE

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Does anyone else remember that verse from childhood days in Sunday school class or perhaps vacation Bible school?  Yes, we would all stand up in front of our families, friends, and neighbors gesturing in unison our hands uncovering a candle being held.  The parents, the teachers and the preacher smiled in appreciation for our efforts.

Several weeks ago after church service I shared with a friend that I was feeling extremely irrelevant in today’s world, that a majority of my neighbors followed the beat of a different drummer socially and politically, and alas, even within our congregation there was division and discord.  We talked at length about the political climate, the lack of congenial discourse, the increase of violence.  From previous conversations I knew she was on the same page as I regarding tolerance of and inclusion for differing walks in life.

We talked awhile consoling each other when she twinkled an eye and began singing softly, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Yes, that is what we do as messengers of a Higher Power which embraces things not born of this worldly system, but extremely relevant to our journey.  We shine forth with what we know as truth.  In our AA literature humility is defined as “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”

All too often we view this “humility” thing as a negative, we see it as needing to release pride and self pursuit.  But, if we recognize the greatness which God has empowered within each of us, if we realize the inherent spiritual connection, then we can begin to feel and believe that we do indeed have something to share with the world in which we live.  We are relevant to today’s worldly problems when we understand through genuine humility who we truly are and what our purpose is.

I don’t need a lighthouse, a beacon on a hill, the bright lights of fame, nor the adoration of the multitudes to walk this path with purpose or relevance.  I’ve been given my own personal little candle to hold and, by the grace of God, I’m gonna let it shine.

rainbow-solidarity