psalm 51

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1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Psalms 51: 1-3 The Voice The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

These verses were sometimes referred to as the “Hangman’s Prayer.”  A sentenced convict was given an opportunity to set things right with the One he/she called Almighty before the noose tightened.  Grace and mercy reigned when that Power was called upon.

In addiction we also receive the sentence of death for our walk into hell.  It is a spiritual death often more onerous than the finality of a hangman’s noose.  Surely, I often prayed for a physical end to my suffering for I could not fathom a life other than that of an alcoholic.  Others were able to drink socially or totally abstain, but not me.  My demons would not allow it and my God, yes I did believe, would never forgive me.

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I am a miracle who walks aside millions of others like me who finally faced the toughest decision of our lives.  Admitted, believed, and made a decision to turn it over.  That “God of my understanding” listened to my confessions, forgave every one of my transgressions, and then transformed a wretched human into something useful, clean and serene.

God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.  Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.  Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!

Psalms 51:10-12 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

unshackled-2

was it good for you?

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

smiley-face-2I would like to think that I am the guy who always keeps a cool head, always speaks kindly, always responds in a civil manner.  But, I am not.  I stammer, spit, and sputter in moments of anger or disgust.  In my mind I am able to read to you the riot act when I feel I’ve been maligned.  Don’t you know who I am?

In the previous paragraph “I” or a form thereof was used 8 times.  That is the problem.  “I” sometimes becomes the dominant pronoun used in thought and conversation leading to a severe case of me,me,me which almost always excludes “you”, “they”, and even “we” from any dialog.  It becomes a one-sided conversation which clearly clarifies my position, but simultaneously bars you from taking part in the interaction.  Great ego stuff for me, not much fun for you.

The world is like that, is it not?  Tact, civility, and compromise have all but disappeared.  Conversation consists of pointing accusatory fingers, pumping personal ego, and demanding respect where respect is undue.  “My way or the highway” has become the norm in political discourse separating your party from my party and forcing one of us to be the boogeyman.  In a candidate debate for elected office, the debate often turns into a tit-for-tat assault on personal integrity.  Oh, never mind that children in America are starving, that violence is escalating alarmingly, or that we could be nuked tomorrow.  You, candidate A, are a scumbag and I, candidate B, will let our constituency know all your lurid details.  Really?  Do you think the homeless veteran scrounging for a meal in the dumpster really cares what candidate A did?

It seems that we take our cues from celebrities, the rich, and the famous.  As they do, we want to do.  As they speak, we speak.  Twitter and Facebook have made it too simple to assail, insult, assault, libel someone we probably don’t even know without any threat of accountability.  No need to fear blackened eyes or missing teeth from a physical one-on-one confrontation.

Personally, as I have confessed, I still go there sometimes.  The verbal barrage, the unkind thoughts, and the judgmental attitudes can swoop down on me in a heartbeat.  But, when the emotion is spent and the brain is engaged, I find myself saying to a beleaguered me, “Was it good for you? Did that tirade make you feel better about yourself?”

unshackled-2

 

 

seeking the Seeker

“What you seek is seeking you.”

 

How peaceful it can be when I put aside the search for truth in places which offer only more questions.

I pray with bowed head, “Lord, where and when does my soul find contentment?  Where must I go for fulfillment?  What ultimate power will quench my thirst?”

In my quietness I ponder the mysteries of unknown spaces and time, I think of those before me who also followed a quest for answers.

“Theology, philosophy, books have not answered my search honestly.  I seek gods in high places, low places, and other places where I probably should not take my mind and soul.”

“Within.”

“My Lord?”

‘What you seek is seeking you within.  Simply go there.”

“Yes, of course…..but, how and when….with whom?”

“You ask too many questions.  Just go within and be still.  Breathe deeply and consider all that your Creator has given to you.  Then talk to me.  Know that I am God.  It is not difficult to know the truth which you seek.  I am that “I am” for which mankind is thirsting. “

“Within?”

“Yes, of course, where else would I be?  The heavens?  The stars?  The places unknown?  How would you propose to arrive at those far places?”

“But Lord, the religions, the philosophies, the books, do they not also tell the truth?”

“My son, whose truth do you seek?  Theirs or yours?  Perhaps they have provided a compass pointing the way, but you must conduct your own quest.  You must find your own soul, revere it with great esteem, and then be true to it.”

 “Yes, Lord.”

brilliance

 

  

my truth, your truth?

 

CANDLE

Composing thoughts and words into a train of rational ideas in a civil manner should not be difficult.  But it often is.  Blurting out insults and hurtful rhetoric seems to be the acceptable means of communication in society, especially American society.  Tweeting has usurped conversation as the American way of communicating.  Just as civility and decorum have been relegated to the days of Emily Post and her book of social etiquette,  ideals such as “compassion” and “compromise” are unfashionable.

Public conversations that would have shamed and assaulted our grandparents’ sense of  decency now are the norm.  So much disturbing visual and auditory material presenting itself as entertainment has been televised and telecast that it no longer is shocking or disgusting.  The evolution of humanity’s civilities, which had spanned a millennia of generations to a heightened awareness of solidarity, appears to have hit full speed reverse returning us to times of insensitive brutality and barbarism.

In these times a reliance on inner truth is essential to peaceful coexistence within the brotherhood of mankind.  Humanity is blessed with a code of moral and civil conduct which is universal.  It is not dependent on any particular religion or philosophy because it is an inherent part of each person’s DNA.  Call it conscience if you like or name it the spark of divinity within.  The faith of Judaism defines this code perfectly with its Decalogue, the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus.

In today’s society we are pummeled with “alternate facts”, a difficult concept to comprehend.  Does this mean that there is alternate truth?  Does this mean a man is able to support any action, any behavior, any speech because he supports an alternate truth?  What a revelation!  I can now be as despicable and perverse as my nature dictates because I follow an alternative truth.

Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Manson, the Marquis de Sade would be poster boys for alternate truth.  Some politicians of today would be examples.  No!  There is no alternative truth.  Truth is truth and it is recognized by the edicts of conscience.  Some of today’s world powers, many of whom control finances and government, have apparently blinded their collective conscience in pursuit of dominance and control.  In the end they will be known (proven) by their fruits.

An interesting verse of Christian literature, Matthew 7:6, states that followers should not ‘cast their pearls before the swine.’  The pearls are the truth which Christians name as the Gospel, an ethic which messengers of all relevant faith walks have presented to humanity.  It is freely available, but it requires an inward journey and an outward expression of compassion to peacefully co-exist with a world run amok.  Matthew 7:6 seems to contradict the evangelical command to preach to all the world the Good News, but when the Christian Gospel is seen as Christ within, then it is sensible teaching.  That which will not be understood by those who prefer not to understand should not be held open to the unbelievers’ scorn, ridicule, and attack.  That which is cherished within should be protected.  The life I lead, the demeanor which I present to the world will reflect my inner truth, but, ultimately it is personal, it is private, and it is transforming.  When the powers of worldly institutions refuse to understand and incorporate universal truths, then, as Matthew 10:14 advises, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet…..”

speaking truth

 

 

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.'”

cac.org

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

sobriety

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.