Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humbleūüėé

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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 Рwallow 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”

 

 

practice, practice, practice

 

sober emoji SOBER TODAY ?  Give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

“The advantage of most spiritual practices is precisely that they are about practice rather than belief…open to religious people and to nonreligious people.”¬† RUPERT SHELDRAKE

The chapters HOW IT WORKS & INTO ACTION (chapters 5 and 6 of the Big Book) present the plan which has proven successful in the recovery of millions of alcoholics.  In summary the final words of chapter 6 are a telling description of who we are:

“We alcoholics are undisciplined.¬† So we let God discipline us in the way we have just outlined.¬† But this is not all.¬† There is action and more action. ¬†Faith without works is dead.”¬† ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS pg. 88

For many of us this is the core of our recovery program.¬† Belief is a wonderful thing which leads to a miraculous transformation, a peace and serenity beyond comprehension.¬† However, we love to stagnate and procrastinate.¬† Call it ‘wallow’ if you like.¬† Wallowing gets us into trouble.¬† That wonderful belief, our personal transformation, the peace of mind cannot withstand the powers of addiction if a rigorous program of action is not enacted.

The wisdom of the ancients in scriptures says:

“As the body without spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”¬† JAMES 2:26

What are my deeds today?  Do I show gratitude for the gift of sobriety in my actions, verbally affirm in prayer, reach out to the still-suffering alcoholic, follow the behavior necessary to avoid wallowing?  I am, after all, by nature undisciplined.  If I were a disciplined man I probably would not have spent uncountable afternoons sitting on a bar stool rather than tending to my favorite recreation, gardening.  If I were a disciplined man I would have appreciated the woman who shared my life rather than carouse the honky-tonks at night.  If I were a disciplined man I would have succeeded in college, in the military, in the jobs which I trashed while chasing my demons.

Then again, maybe not.  My nemesis is cunning, baffling, and powerful.  It wanted to see me dead or institutionalized.   It told me the lies which I wanted to hear.  It was the higher power of my life before I embraced the actions of recovery.  It did not care whether I was disciplined or not.  Seeing another sucker for the allure of the jukebox and the bottle, alcoholism claimed 17 years of my life.

Appreciating sober-living involves belief.  But, keeping sobriety is all about practice, practice, practice.

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Your Vote – does it matter?

“Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God‚Äôs 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

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He who sits alone, sleeps alone, walks alone,
who is strenuous and subdues himself alone,
will find strength in the solitude of the forest.
BUDDHA, DHAMMAPADA, 305

How many of us wish today, as adults, that this wisdom would have been shared with us as children?  It simply was not considered normal for a child to prefer the solitude of the woods to activity with other children in the park.  We were called wall flowers when we did not keep up with the chatty ones at lunch break.  We were graded as slow learners when we did not engage in classroom discussions.  Yes, my elementary school report card (do they still have report cards?) had a space to inform my parents that I was not a team player, not a participant.  Do they realize the damage inflicted on a young boy who merely wanted to enjoy his solitude, a boy who did not rely on friendships and social activity for his fulfillment?  The birds, animals, and flowers in the countryside fields and woods were my intimate companions way back then.  I enjoyed the peace and quiet of these gifts infinitely more than the company of rowdy playmates in games of baseball, tag or hide-n-go-seek.

I reached adulthood believing that I was deficient.  My waning social activity supported that idea.  Not a joiner, not a member, not a community person, not a party person.  Even my growing alcoholism, ages 17 to 34, revolved around drinking in the woods with a few select friends or by myself at home.  It became a problem when I began to avoid social commitments with loved ones and friends.  My perceived deficiency controlled most aspects of my younger years as I nosedived into deep depression and obsessive alcoholic behavior Рa symptom of the misconceived impression of Larry, the socially awkward introvert.

However, looking back on those years, I don’t remember ever feeling lonely.¬† A lover would slam the door when leaving in anger and disgust saying, “You don’t need anybody, do you?”¬† Sadly, the truthful answer confirmed those words.¬† I didn’t need anybody to fill my empty spaces.¬† I became a socially deficient drunk who just wanted to be left alone.

Recovery from alcoholism has demanded even more intense self-scrutiny and introspection.¬† Initially, I had to learn to love myself as I was, not as someone else thought I should be.¬† In the meeting rooms I met many other men and women just like me – socially awkward and withdrawn from life.¬† We held each others’ hands, cried together, prayed together, hugged, and instilled a sense of completeness in each other that had always been missing before.¬† The healing was slow and painful, but we became participants in life even in our own quiet, unassuming ways.

Western culture places an enormous emphasis on assertiveness and achievement.  We are considered weak if we are not pushy and demanding.  Those of us who are perfectly content with the quiet and peace of a meandering stream through the meadow or a walk along wooded trails or an afternoon reading poetry are sometimes deemed lazy and unproductive.

To others like me, I say STOP!¬† Just stop!¬† Stop being a people pleaser trying to fit into a preconceived social mold.¬† Introvert is not a cuss word.¬† Not everyone can be extroverted, nor should they try to be.¬† When I appreciate the person whom the God of my understanding created, when I accept that today at this moment I am a perfect product of this creation, then life can also be perfect.¬† Doesn’t mean that I don’t pursue growth and try to make tomorrow’s version of me even better.¬† It simply means saying quietly and thankfully, “Just as I am, Lord.¬† Receive all of me just as I am.”

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Am I a tuba or a piccolo?

Lord, let me be your instrument

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God¬†as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS – STEP ELEVEN

The chapter, STEP ELEVEN in “Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions” published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., uses as its theme prayer the popular Prayer of St. Francis.¬† The last stanza teaches:

“For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying to self that we are born
to eternal life.”

That last line of the prayer of St. Francis –¬†it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life –¬†creates a sense of timeless, never-ending spaces filled with nothingness.¬† Eternity is, after all, a long, long time.¬† I spent an eternity waiting for you at the grocery store.¬† That boring movie lasted an eternity.¬† The pastor’s homily seemed like an eternity.¬† I suppose my point is this: who wants a life of endless moments of boring eternity?¬† Eternity presents itself as action-less, a void filled with forever.¬† What happens should we substitute¬†everlasting for eternal?¬† Everlasting life.

“Larry,” you are asking, “what’s the difference?”

I like to think that everlasting applies to values, to a faith that sustains, to a relationship with that Higher Power referenced in Step 11 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program.¬† Everlasting has survived religious philosophies, social fads, and worldly obsessions.¬† Everlasting will continue to the ‘other side’ of this life via the memories of us in those we leave behind and perhaps as a basis for our after-life continuance.¬† Yes, it is eternal, but it is vibrant and exhilarating to behold.

Along with other faith-based Scriptures we often turn to the wisdom writers of Christianity’s Bible for inspiration.¬† Galatians 5:22-23 names these everlasting gifts:

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

Against such things there is no ending.  They endure. They are everlasting.  Hallelujah, we can choose our eternity filling it with good fruit.  Why would anyone want to fill life with hatred, unforgiveness, doubt, despair, darkness and misery when the everlasting gifts are freely available?

Make me an instrument of peace
where there is hatred, let me sow love
where injury, pardon
where doubt, faith
where despair, hope
where darkness, light
where sadness, joy
from the PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS

Again turning to Christianity’s wisdom literature, Matthew 19:16-24 relates the story of a wealthy, young man who encounters Jesus and asks,

“What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments, sell his possessions and give to the poor.

“Then come and follow me.”

The man went away saddened because he had great wealth.  We are not told what the man  chased Рeternal joy or worldly comfort.  Where is my wealth stored?  Is it comprised of internal values that sustain or is it a temporal storehouse filled with stuff that will rust and rot?  Lord, let me be an instrument Рa tuba, loud and thundering with your peace and kindness.  What would you be?speaking truth2

 

let’s dance, shall we?

“…..you then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you.¬† Life is the dancer, you are the dance.”¬† A NEW EARTH – Eckhart Tolle

How many of us believe that we are the dancers, that we put the action into life? Do-si-do your partner – EEEEEHAW!

Think about this for just a moment.¬† Realizing that little old me never was the one in charge of this life which I claim as mine can be somewhat diminishing if not outright devastating.¬† It relegates the ego to a minor role in life’s theatrical production.¬† In the book which many alcoholics refer to as the BIG BOOK, Bill W. tells us:

“Most people try to live by self-propulsion.¬† Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.¬† If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.” Bill W. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, pg. 60

Lights, camera, action!  Let the dance begin.  I am that which is being danced, life provides the script, the scenery, the other actors.  Maybe asking God to do the do-si-do will result in a spectacular production?

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let go – let God

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In the King James Version of the American Standard Bible there are 400 verses that mention the word “peace”.¬† The BARNES’ NOTES commentary on a passage from Philippians 4:7,

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding…..”

writes that “this peace¬†is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God.”

“….shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The commentary goes on to say that ‘shall keep’¬† was translated from a military term meaning guarded and preserved lending further definition of peace as freedom guarded from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.

LET GO – LET GOD

In my first recovery meeting room, those framed words were hanging on the wall in front of me.¬† “What in the world does that mean?¬† Let go of what?¬† How does a man do that?”¬† Not an easy undertaking for an alcoholic dedicated to self-will run riot for his entire life.¬† “Absolutely not, I will not surrender anything to something I can’t see, touch or talk to.”

I was urged by the others, sitting at the tables sharing their stories, to embrace steps 1, 2, and 3, the surrender steps of the 12 step program which had graced their lives with sustained sobriety.

1) Admitted we were powerless over  alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2) Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3) Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.

Surrender Рonce and done?  Not really.  It became a daily practice which for most of us continues even after years of sobriety.  It directly affects the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.  Without surrender I will not enjoy peace. Without peace, life once again becomes unmanageable and insane.

This way of living, sober-living, is not about religion and Bible passages.¬† Neither is it about performing the 12 step programs perfectly until completion.¬† It is the way we approach all of life’s challenges and surprises.¬† It is an ongoing surrender to the energy which we call Higher Power.

One of my most trusted prayers is the prayer of St. Francis.  It begins:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace…..”

When I reflect on those words, it is not a request to send me out into the world as a peacemaker among friends, peoples or nations.¬† No, it is directed inwardly to create a space within which is free of worry and anxiety.¬† The world’s insanity will probably not embrace peace in this day, but I can.¬† Join me?

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joy or misery – it’s a choice

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Let me repeat that.¬† In this new day we can choose to be joyful or we can choose to be miserable.¬† Within each of us is the power to wallow in this world’s drudgery or soar on wings of joy – and it is possible without the use of pharmaceuticals, alcohol, or any mind-altering substances.

“…..we are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness….we will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace…”¬† from the promises, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

The promises listed are not just fancy ideals written by a successful recovering alcoholic.¬† They are reality for millions of alcoholics who choose to follow a program of sober-living earnestly and honestly….“are these extravagant promises?¬† We think not!”¬† That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of our lifestyle.¬† Today, we have choices which were dismally not available before.¬† Joy or misery is one of those choices.

Alcoholism is a disease of the mind, of the body and of the soul.  It is cunning, baffling and powerful.  It wants to see you and I either in a mental institution or in the grave and it will not rest until it destroys us.  But, we have resources available that can conquer our disease.  For some it is Alcoholics Anonymous, for others it is Celebrate Recovery, still others discover sobriety through numerous spiritual programs.  They all present to us a way of changing our lives and living victoriously as new men and women.  They rebuke the power of alcohol in our lives and replace that demon with the power of choice.

The joy of living soberly is directly linked to an attitude of gratitude.¬† What is on this morning’s gratitude list?¬† Nothing?¬† Let’s think again.¬† Did we sleep in a warm, comfortable bed last night?¬† Do we remember this morning where we were last night, what we did?¬† Do we suffer from blackouts?¬† Are we filled with self-loathing because of what we did last night?¬† Were we unfaithful to our spouses?¬† Did we spend the family’s grocery money on booze?¬† Are we calling the boss and lying about why we will not be at work?¬† Yeah, we have much about which to be grateful, don’t we?

I suffer varying degrees of arthritis pain on a daily basis.  Many of us endure medical and physical conditions that limit activity.  Are we going to allow these maladies to diminish joyful living?  Absolutely not.  The pain I feel this morning is a reminder that my body is still alive and functioning.  When the day arrives that this body is not responsive to stimuli, good or bad, then I shall likely be dead.  And although that is neither good nor bad, I am not yet ready to be dead.

So let’s make our choices.¬† Will that choice be a joyful interaction with all that has been restored to us through the grace of recovery or will it be a miserable day of drudgery wallowing in the pit of negative thoughts and behavior?¬† Which will we choose?

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