those who mourn

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”CANDLE

“On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot eight out of ten girls, killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse. The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.”

Eleven years ago while taking a break from driving, sitting at a Midwest truck-stop, watching TV on my satellite connection, this breaking news story darkened my soul like nothing else in recent memory.  As a young boy I had attended public school with Amish boys and girls, I lived in communities where the clop-clop of Amish buggies passing by was a normal everyday occurrence, my family shopped at the grocery store with Amish families.  Their way of life was fascinating to me.  How could they follow such a simple lifestyle eschewing modern conveniences and still be the happiest people I knew?  I greatly envied their humility and dedication to the community of believers which they chose to follow.

Even today as I write this, my eyes well up with tears.  Innocent schoolgirls gunned down execution style by a madman.  On October 2, 2006 I cried like a baby for several hours.  My driving partner could not console me, my prayers would not stop the tears, the God of my understanding had deserted me.  Five killed.  Others injured.  The young boys who had been herded outside stood by helplessly as their schoolmates inside screamed while shot after shot was fired.

“For the sake of Christ, my God, they were children!  Why?”  That’s all my mind could process until later in the day when the news reported a statement from the Amish elders of that community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, “We forgive the gunman.”

Oh my God!  These simple, peace-loving men and women, having suffered the most horrific of crimes perpetrated against them, immediately turn a most hateful act of violence against innocent children into an opportunity to show the world what Jesus expected of them.  “Forgive him, Father, for he did not know what he was doing.”

Could I have forgiven?  If my little girl was one of those standing in front of the blackboard with her back to the gunman waiting for her turn to be murdered, could I forgive?  Even today, eleven years later,  I don’t know that I could answer that question honestly.  I know what Jesus said, I know what the teachings are, but I am still a man who sometimes feeds on justified anger.  Perhaps I am the one who needs forgiveness.

That day and the days following were a time of continual mourning.  More tears, more questions, less confidence that American society would ever turn from violent rhetoric and behavior.  In time the tears did indeed wash away the sorrow.  A brighter day appeared.

Those who mourn, including me, realize that mourning is another day in the seasons of life just as pain, depression, illness, disappointment, and inadequacy.  Life is an inescapable mingling of sorrow and joy.  Without the times of sorrow we would not recognize joy.  Without the sorrow we would not seek the blessing of a Comforter.

“Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

“Jesus describes those who grieve as feeling the pain of the world.” 

“Saint Ephrem said, ‘Until you have cried, you do not know God.'”

Jeremy Camp released a video and recording encouraging us to endure the pain and sorrow for there will be a day…….


“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  Revelation 21:4










praise God from whom all blessings flow…


warm blankets on a cold nightCANDLE

hot tea in my favorite cup

Max the cat snuggled up against me

a woolen sock cap

mittens without holes

a good book to read

scan0005phone turned off

a good friend to sit with

chili in a cast iron pot on the stove


freedom to speak freely

freedom to worship as I choose

food in the pantrysilver lining

roof over my head

God’s grace and mercy

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.


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 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


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 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