breathe, just breathe

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

Breathe!  Inhale.  Pay attention to that breath as it filters into your lungs expanding the chest and replenishing the body with life-giving oxygen.  Exhale.  With that exhalation release the spent air along with emotional baggage, stress,  and fear.  Focus on that moment of nothingness between each breath.  Thought-less, care-free; this is you, whom God meant you to be.  Don’t go back, don’t go forward, just be now.

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. Amen

Do I appreciate how sacred is the life which has been given in me?  The marvel of my body, the functions of my organs, the amazing coordination of all the parts, the depths of understanding, the inherent ability for compassion are all components of this gift which I inhabit.  Life is a gift.  Do I appreciate this unique blessing flowing from an indescribable, indefinable Oneness, the energy which I call God?  Breathe, just breathe.

This is the Christian season of Lent.  Slow down, contemplate, meditate, ponder, sacrifice and prepare for receiving the greatest gift given to mankind – life.  Not just a functioning physical presence, but a realization that there is more, much more than just enduring each day with resignation.  Life!  Appreciating the sounds of nature, the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of children, the voice of a lover, the greatness of Bach and Beethoven, the thrill of each new day, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the rain which refreshes and soothes…..all of it, Life.  The stumbles, the pain, the heartache of loss, the dark days of depression, the joyless times of loneliness, the fears, the journey through the valleys….all of it, Life.  It is ours to behold and cherish.  Breathe, just breathe.

Divine energy, cosmic Presence, the Giver, the Restorer, Higher Power, Comforter, Oneness, God.  With every breath accept the gift of life.  Receive that which is available to every creature, every man and woman, every butterfly.  Life. Just breathe!

Shrove Tuesday

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

When I was a young boy, the house filled with the aroma of homemade donuts sizzling in a pan of hot fat on the day before Ash Wednesday.  We called them Fastnachts.  Nothing which Dunkin Donuts creates could ever compare to those pastry delights.  Our family was preparing for the six-week period ahead leading into Easter Sunday, the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.  This time period, Lent, embraced a sincere endeavor to right the wrongs on our hearts and walk with Jesus to his death on Calvary.  Some families observed a weekly day of fasting during Lent.  Some eliminated a favorite pastime or a certain food as a means of sacrifice.

Shrove Tuesday is also observed as Fat Tuesday, Carnival, or Mardi Gras.  Over the past 500 years the call to be absolved of one’s sins on this day has evolved into a time of partying, drinking, and merry-making.  “Shrove” is the past tense of “shrive” meaning to confess one’s sins, repent and be absolved.  To me and my family it provided a path to clear our slates of wrongdoing and resentments within a corporate faith fellowship.  Personally it provided a time to carry a daily routine of prayer and forgiveness to an especially focused effort to take an inventory and cleanse the heart of wrongdoing.  We ultimately carry our crosses with Jesus through the season of the Lenten journey to a time of crucifixion of self, death of selfish motivation, and then spiritual renewal.

Contemporary Christianity seems often to be joyless and even dead because it has relinquished the joys of celebratory church observances to preach instead a Gospel which dwells on prosperous worldly achievement or social justice activism.  The “holidays” of the Church are meant to enrich the daily routine of our faith walk.  Jesus loved a party, a wedding, a time with friends.  I’m sure he would have appreciated a plate full of Fastnachts.  I know that today he shares our humanity, smiles and laughs when we do, celebrates when we celebrate.  That’s who he is.

 

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