St. Augustine

             “Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.”  St. AugustineCANDLE

The world does not understand nor wish to understand these few simple words.  My personal choice to name Jesus as Lord of my life, my Higher Power, directs me to place everything else whether it is employment, friends, family, spouse, achievement, money, desires, lust, as sub-topics under the primary heading of Jesus, the Christ.  I am nowhere near a state of perfection, but, when I place the one who is Perfection at the top of my list in my lifestyle and my devotion then my life becomes g.o.d. – Good Orderly Direction.  That is the most I can expect in this lifetime and I am OK with it because g.o.d brings bliss, a state of peace and serenity.

We are freedom fighters!  I believe I have been forgiven by the same almighty power which freed me from the bondage of my former self and replaced ego-driven lust, greed, anger, pride, and desire with a devotion to a new way of living with living waters and daily bread to sustain me in this earthly journey.  I am no longer imprisoned.  Jesus fought and died for my freedom and he has won the battle.

But, it is not free.  I must daily pay the price of the world’s derision, hatred, and scourge for the Way of life which God has chosen for me.  You and I, as followers, understand this and accept the necessary payment.  Friends who are amused by devotion to a church fellowship, neighbors who ridicule tithing, family members who question a loved one’s sanity, a boss who mocks Jesus equating that belief to the Santa Claus myth are all part of the price to be paid for following the greatest freedom fighter of all time.

And I am OK with that.  I regret that a majority of people refuse such a simple answer to the world’s problems, but, each person must find his own personal path to freedom if indeed freedom is what they pursue.  For them, sometimes dedication to power and riches at the expense of liberty and contentment are the main pursuit in a life filled with like-minded pursuers.   Jesus and God do not make the top 10 on their lists of priorities.

I know this because that was me many years ago.  I prayed only in times of desperate need, in times of absolute loneliness, in times of crushing personal defeat.  I advocated a Jesus who gave people nice cars, fancy homes, and steaks for dinner every night.  When times were good God did not make the top ten.  In all other times, Jesus was  a convenient Santa Claus who bore gifts, a big sugar daddy in the sky.  There was no dedication nor devotion and, as a result, life was chaotic and tumultuous.  In my life there was no peace because I did not know the Lord of peace.

I do not claim perfection but I know He who is perfect.  That power has freed a sinner from the prison which sin will impose.  I will stumble often before my earthly time is over because I am still a part of a humanity which is inflicted with character defects.  But, I no longer need to be imprisoned by my character defects.  One by one they will be overcome and defeated by my personal freedom fighter.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36smiley 3

 

repentance & new beginnings

I’ve never had a problem with the concept of ‘repentance’.  I remember repenting many times at the altar of the toilet.  “Oh, Lord, get me through this night and I promise to never drink again.”

Years later, I followed the exhortations of my Christian brothers who recited the verses in the Gospel’s plan of salvation, I knelt at the sanctuary altar, and I called myself ‘born again’.  That was simple.  I immediately knew that I would spend eternity with them in heaven sitting atCANDLE the feet of Jesus. Or, at least, I hoped so.   Unfortunately, it was a brain job, not a heart job.  My character defects were still there, my old self was still there, my heart remained stone cold despite being born again.  The promise of a new beginning was not the miracle which I expected that would change me in an instant, in a heartbeat, in a brilliant flash of divine renewal.

After many years of stumbling within my own self-will and pretending to understand  renewal, regeneration, and rebirth, I once again found myself at the altar begging my Higher Power, Jesus, to clean up the mess I brought with me to kneel at his feet.  “Just as I am, Lord, take me and fix me.”

There were no bursting fireworks, no hallelujahs, no light shows to welcome me; instead there was a simple peace, a knowing that this time I was sincere in my plea and I now had the work of engaging in a new beginning.  I had to do the leg work, I had to do the soul-searching, I had to do the inventory of character defects, I had to make the amends necessary to cleaning up my mess.  I was finally serious about that decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.  But, I found great comfort knowing without question that God would walk with me every step of the way.

“17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 

This verse from the author of James in the New Testament is often quoted in recovery programs to teach us that our sobriety is dependent upon working the 12 steps and extending ourselves to encourage other drunks like us to attain sustained sobriety.  Faith is fine and absolutely necessary, but, for a recovering alcoholic, works are equally important.

The same is true when I apply this inwardly to my own soul.  I believe that I have always had faith; however, I was never able to follow through with a plan of self-renewal.  I was weak and unwilling to give up my favorite character defects.  I prayed, bowed, meditated and then prayed some more, but never developed a sustained plan of action.  Oh yes, the New Year’s resolutions were always written on paper and the desire to live by them was there on January 1st, but the action to follow through was missing.

Today, I do my best to live by my Higher Power’s plan.  As a result life is more than I everchristmas emoji 3 expected, better than I deserve.  I am an unworthy Jesus freak who knows that each day is a new beginning underscored by a mindset of repentance.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

LENT

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The clean air, the smell of pine straw, the miracle of butterflies and bees give our brains a necessary airing-out from the challenges of our day.  We accomplish great things and solve many of the world’s problems as we stroll, march, or jog around the trails which meander aimlessly through our woodlands.  It’s as if this is exactly how God intended our lives to be before we stepped up to the plate and took over.  Thanks God, but I’ll handle this myself.  Those of us in recovery are especially proficient in running our lives our own way.  And we paid heavy tolls along the ego highway.  “Self will run riot.”

Those of us who profess Christianity are now observing the season of Lent leading up to Holy Week.  In my younger days Lent was a dreaded time of year because it meant sacrificing something which was dear to me.  Favorite foods, movies, sex, alcohol, and sweets were among the suggested targets of abstinence.  Needless to say, with the ensuing alcoholism of early manhood, I chose to abstain from Lent.

In my personal quest for truth, celebration, and relevance in faith, Lent now has become a particularly solemn occasion.  It is a soulful journey with Jesus to my personal cross.  I stumble, I endure temptation, I become fearful, and I question God’s will just as Jesus did.  I feel the humiliation, the stripes, the blood running down my body just as Jesus did.  I feel the nails in my wrists and feet, the sword in my side, the unquenchable thirst just as Jesus did.  Two thousand years ago Jesus and I were one essence, just as we are today, and I was there with the historical Jesus of Nazareth when he was crucified.

In 2017 Lent will culminate with the  crucifixion of ‘self will run riot’ and will celebrate the resurrection to a spirit filled life with whatever name we ascribe to that Higher Power which now directs our lives.  Our journey is a soulful expression of meditation and dedication.  It is a time of refreshing renewal.  It is a time of discovery and rebuilding. We don’t need to call it Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, or Easter and we can practice it throughout the year.

In a nutshell isn’t this what our recovery programs are all about?  Bill W. and Dr. Bob demystified religion, revealed God as an inclusive and loving essence, and built the program of Alcoholics Anonymous on ancient spiritual principles. It works because those of us who were losers, misfits, and runaways now have a spiritual home with a loving Higher Power.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  JOHN 8:36