mercy

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

A key element in sobriety is forgiveness.  Bill W. comments that until I have completed a 4th step inventory and then gone on to a place of showing and accepting mercy, aka forgiveness, I will not understand or achieve sober-living.

The power in this act is that it is a mutual undertaking, it’s a two-way street.  I ask my Higher Power to forgive me, I ask those whom I have offended to forgive me through amends-making, but I also must forgive those who have injured me in any way by word or deed.

This is a facet of the powerlessness necessary to overcome self.  When I am able to accept the forgiveness of God and of other people, I am giving up that sense of pride which has been telling me that I’m better than mercy, I’m going to accept forgiveness on my terms.  “Self-will run riot” is quick to return to me unless I am vigilant.  God uses me best when I am fully powerless, when I am humble.  Humility is defined in the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, pg 58, as “….a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.”  Step 5’s admission of my defects to another human is a step toward humility.

“Withholding forgiveness is a form of power over another person, a way to manipulate, shame, control, and diminish another.” cac.org

That’s a convicting indictment of my unwillingness to forgive.  My Higher Power does not play that game and neither should I.  In retrospect, owning up to the control freak that I can be, I should not be surprised that accepting forgiveness from God or from others has been difficult.  I did not want to become powerless.  Grudges are a result of this unforgiveness.  Grudges justify my resentments, my need to be right, and my anger.  And, yes, I have held grudges, resentment, and anger toward God.  It’s part of my alcoholic personality.  It’s part of that old personality which refuses to accept responsibility for myself and my actions.

“But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of harboring resentment is infinitely grave.  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT , pg.5

Forgiveness is the gift of mercy in action.  I desire mercy but, I also need to extend it.  In the Beatitudes, the message of Jesus compacted into the book of Matthew 5: 3-11, the author says:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  

 

 

 

 

just as I am

Are you an evangelist?  The dictionary definition says  (1) one who preaches the gospel (2) one who brings converts to Christianity.  Nope, I’m not an evangelist.  Before she retired, my aunt was a missionary and an evangelist.  I admired her.  Her family of nieces and nephews idolized her.  She was a great worker for Jesus.  Maybe I should be more like her.

My preacher at church urges us to go out into the community and spread the good news.  I think she means that we should take Jesus with us when we interact with our neighbors, our co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, maybe the homeless guy on the corner.  I don’t carry a Bible with me when I go somewhere.  Do you think I should?

Years ago the fellowship I worshipped with assigned us in twos to go door-to-door to share the gospel.  Talk about rejection!  Slammed doors, cussing, ridicule and only a few welcomes.  No, I’m not a door-to-door kind of guy.  Hey, I’m not knocking it.  God needs workers of all walks.  The preacher, the teacher, the organizer, the evangelist, the handyman, the errand boy, the writer, the cleaning crew, the PR man, the musician…..and me.

So, what am I?  Where do I fit in God’s scheme?  I know what my gifts are and I share them.  No, I’m not a talker.  I’m that quiet guy who sits in the 3rd to last pew at church service.  I sing but the choir doesn’t need my crow-like caws annoying the folks in the front row and the preacher.  I don’t play the organ or piano.  I’m not especially talented at organizing group functions.  So, what can I do?

I can listen to you talk about your pain and grief.  I can hold your hand when you’re sad.  I can share my strength when yours is running low.  I can tell you what Jesus did for me when I was in pain, when I was grieving, when I was sad, when I was weak.  I can come beside you and walk with you through the dark times, through the trials, through the loneliness.

Don’t you see?  I know the greatest teacher ever.  His teachings are eternal wisdom.  His love is everlasting.  His patience is bottomless.  And Jesus wants me to be the best me I can be.  He doesn’t need another front man for the missionary work, a speaker who can move crowds to ecstasy, a motivator, a leader, or a teacher.  No, he wants me doing what I do best…….just as I am.  The invitation is open, you can come too, just as you are.

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Songwriters: SUE C. SMITH, TRAVIS COTTRELL, DAVID E. MOFFITT
© Universal Music Publishing Group, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP

CANDLE

 

be careful little eyes

CANDLEA friend invited me to sit with him to watch one of the popular offerings on prime time television.  My viewing over the years has diminished to baseball, news, and college football.  Sometimes an old movie will grab my attention and I will settle down to watch and reminisce.  But, today’s 1258 channels on cable don’t get me too excited.

The show we watched was not alarmingly violent, had little sexual content, kept cussing to that which 8 year-olds now use at school.  But, it was bizarre in the images presented and the script.  Actually, bizarre is not strong enough.  It was chilling, ominous, and dark.  It creeped me out.  The computer generated visual effects were graphically disturbing, not something I wanted to put into my memory banks and certainly not something I would want a 10 year-old to process in his/her developing psyche.

“Trash in, trash out”.  We seem to have lost as a supposedly advanced society the wisdom that what we ingest mentally is who we become as a person.  Those images and that music which I allow into my brain will affect who I become as a person.  I can fill that space in my head with soul-nurturing entertainment or gut-wrenching graphics.  I can honor the presence of Jesus within or I can dump trash on his salvific glory. It’s a choice I have to make every minute of every day.  And, being the broken piece of humanity which I am, I sometimes fall short.  There are times when the best I can accomplish is damage control.

Our entertainment industry has replaced a God of joy and peaceful coexistence with its god of sex, immorality, and violence.  We should not wonder why mass shootings are becoming commonplace in America.  The children are learning from the movies, music, media, and politicians that the best solution to a problem involves a gun and standing up for “rights”.  Even some of our churches are preaching a theology of exclusion.  “You are not like me, you do not think like me, you do not look like me; therefore, you need to be eliminated.”  The less violent of these misguided religionists are content with the thought that the elimination will be an eternity in hell for those who do not fit their narrow viewpoint.  But, increasingly in America we see an active pursuit of legislating hatred in the name of God.

I am a child of God, I need to be careful what I see, hear, say, think, and feel.

 

 

Charlie Chaplin nails it

Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death in 1977, and encompassed both adulation and controversy. charlie chaplin

(and you thought Chaplin was just another has-been comedian from the silent screen)

REALITY

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A friend invited me to a movie, said I needed to get out of the house and enjoy a few chuckles and smiles. Yes, I agreed. My brain was getting moldy spending too much time with the mundane chores of daily living and an afternoon at the cinema sounded like a good thing.

Of course when one pays $11 to $15 bucks for a show (forget about snacks and drinks) one doesn’t want to miss anything that he’s paid for. That includes previews and we arrived when previews had already started. That’s OK; twenty minutes after seating ourselves previews were still being previewed. Why not just call them “wastes of time” or “nappy time”?

However, not being one to complain, I sat through all the sex, bloodshed, violence, and cussing that was going to appear this coming summer and finally the feature presentation began. It was billed as a comedy and, indeed, the trailer showing on television as advertisement seemed to be quite comical. So, I had high hopes. The last movie my friend and I saw was “Cinderella” and I was rather enchanted that ‘good movies’ were still being produced by the industry.

I do not claim to be a movie critic. I do not claim to be main stream America. I do not claim to be hip…not anymore that is. I’m just an old fogey who wants to be entertained for my eleven bucks.

The opening 5 minutes included sexual innuendo, nudity, violence, a crashing car and volumes of blood. “OK”, I assured myself, maybe this will get better as we move along. I had even stuck my hearing aids in my ears for this special occasion so that I wouldn’t miss a word.

Bad move. The noise got louder, the violence got worse, and then the cussing began. Now, I’m not a prude and I can handle an “F” word once in a while. But my faith and religion force me to draw the line at profanity laced with the objects of my devotion. God and Jesus did not have any place in that movie script, and neither did I.

I waited outside the theater with a nice cup of coffee until my friend appeared when the movie had ended. He understood why I left and for that I was grateful. The movie carried an “R” rating. I should have checked beforehand.

But, the fact that this movie is being well received by the public forces me to realize that this type of behavior and language is mainstream America. It is no longer back-on-the farm civility and principle that rules our land. Young, pre puberty children converse with ‘F’ and ‘MF’ as if it were grammar school proper. Guns have become the common solution to difficulties which in a time past were addressed with conversation and compromise.

Which brings me to my point. Whose reality will prevail?  I refuse to surrender what is my reality.  I refuse to carry a weapon to the grocery store, to school or to my church. And I refuse to accept the rudeness and arrogance of contemporary America as normal.  Contrary to the rhetoric of supporters of our violent, sex-driven culture who adamantly declare that the movies, TV, and video games they enjoy are purely fantasy, I must counter with something my Grandpa taught me as a boy.

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see,
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little eyes what you see.

Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say,
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little mouth what you say.

Oh, be careful little hands, what you do,
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little hands what you do

Oh, be careful little mind what you think,
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little mind, what you think.

In today’s world I would condense Grandpa’s advice:

“TRASH IN, TRASH OUT.”

Matthew 6:22-23  (NIV)
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!