Am I a tuba or a piccolo?

Lord, let me be your instrument

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS – STEP ELEVEN

The chapter, STEP ELEVEN in “Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions” published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., uses as its theme prayer the popular Prayer of St. Francis.  The last stanza teaches:

“For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying to self that we are born
to eternal life.”

That last line of the prayer of St. Francis – it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life – creates a sense of timeless, never-ending spaces filled with nothingness.  Eternity is, after all, a long, long time.  I spent an eternity waiting for you at the grocery store.  That boring movie lasted an eternity.  The pastor’s homily seemed like an eternity.  I suppose my point is this: who wants a life of endless moments of boring eternity?  Eternity presents itself as action-less, a void filled with forever.  What happens should we substitute everlasting for eternal?  Everlasting life.

“Larry,” you are asking, “what’s the difference?”

I like to think that everlasting applies to values, to a faith that sustains, to a relationship with that Higher Power referenced in Step 11 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program.  Everlasting has survived religious philosophies, social fads, and worldly obsessions.  Everlasting will continue to the ‘other side’ of this life via the memories of us in those we leave behind and perhaps as a basis for our after-life continuance.  Yes, it is eternal, but it is vibrant and exhilarating to behold.

Along with other faith-based Scriptures we often turn to the wisdom writers of Christianity’s Bible for inspiration.  Galatians 5:22-23 names these everlasting gifts:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

Against such things there is no ending.  They endure. They are everlasting.  Hallelujah, we can choose our eternity filling it with good fruit.  Why would anyone want to fill life with hatred, unforgiveness, doubt, despair, darkness and misery when the everlasting gifts are freely available?

Make me an instrument of peace
where there is hatred, let me sow love
where injury, pardon
where doubt, faith
where despair, hope
where darkness, light
where sadness, joy
from the PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS

Again turning to Christianity’s wisdom literature, Matthew 19:16-24 relates the story of a wealthy, young man who encounters Jesus and asks,

“What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments, sell his possessions and give to the poor.

“Then come and follow me.”

The man went away saddened because he had great wealth.  We are not told what the man  chased – eternal joy or worldly comfort.  Where is my wealth stored?  Is it comprised of internal values that sustain or is it a temporal storehouse filled with stuff that will rust and rot?  Lord, let me be an instrument – a tuba, loud and thundering with your peace and kindness.  What would you be?speaking truth2

 

let go – let God

adult-adventure-backlit-915972

In the King James Version of the American Standard Bible there are 400 verses that mention the word “peace”.  The BARNES’ NOTES commentary on a passage from Philippians 4:7,

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding…..”

writes that “this peace is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God.”

“….shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The commentary goes on to say that ‘shall keep’  was translated from a military term meaning guarded and preserved lending further definition of peace as freedom guarded from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.

LET GO – LET GOD

In my first recovery meeting room, those framed words were hanging on the wall in front of me.  “What in the world does that mean?  Let go of what?  How does a man do that?”  Not an easy undertaking for an alcoholic dedicated to self-will run riot for his entire life.  “Absolutely not, I will not surrender anything to something I can’t see, touch or talk to.”

I was urged by the others, sitting at the tables sharing their stories, to embrace steps 1, 2, and 3, the surrender steps of the 12 step program which had graced their lives with sustained sobriety.

1) Admitted we were powerless over  alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2) Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3) Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.

Surrender – once and done?  Not really.  It became a daily practice which for most of us continues even after years of sobriety.  It directly affects the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.  Without surrender I will not enjoy peace. Without peace, life once again becomes unmanageable and insane.

This way of living, sober-living, is not about religion and Bible passages.  Neither is it about performing the 12 step programs perfectly until completion.  It is the way we approach all of life’s challenges and surprises.  It is an ongoing surrender to the energy which we call Higher Power.

One of my most trusted prayers is the prayer of St. Francis.  It begins:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace…..”

When I reflect on those words, it is not a request to send me out into the world as a peacemaker among friends, peoples or nations.  No, it is directed inwardly to create a space within which is free of worry and anxiety.  The world’s insanity will probably not embrace peace in this day, but I can.  Join me?

beard-beggar-face-35015

 

Today – Pittsburgh

 

LOVE

What is love?  Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling that is felt when in the presence of special friends, family, a spouse?  Maybe.  But, what if love is not an emotion?  What if love is an action shared with the world encompassing all of creation including humanity and the earth itself?  Compassion, tolerance, understanding, non-violence, stewardship – perhaps this is the love that will save our earth and its inhabitants.  Perhaps this the love which the author of 1 Corinthians was setting before us as a challenge?  Let’s try it.

Today, the day after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh in which eleven of my brothers and sisters were murdered, it is extremely difficult to practice what I know the Lord of my life wants me to do – love.  Today, I am rebellious.  No, I will not love those who hate enough to kill.  No, I will not forgive those who hate enough to be unforgivable.  No, I won’t.

Then Jesus says, “But, you must because that is the beginning of healing.”

So, I will experience what humans experience.  I will allow the anger, the disappointment, the horror, the disgust, the sorrow, and the denial.  I will allow this and move on to the necessary work of forgiving.  And trust me, this is work.  It is soul work which is not inherent in our human condition.  I too want to lash out at those who are hateful.  I want to beat them to the ground and scream, “What is wrong with you?”

But  that would be giving them the victory.  That would be denying the instructions of the One who lords my life.  I would become an instrument of hate rather than love.

“God make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

outrunning the darkness

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

Outrunning the darkness.  Quite often my spiritual trek feels like I’m just keeping a few steps ahead of the darkness chasing after me.  Regardless of my belief concerning the hereafter, this journey being undertaken, this search which has transformed life not only  brings an awesome, reverential awareness of the brilliance of deity, it also brings a heightened consciousness of the ominous, surrounding clouds.

Of course, much of the darkness is external.  The injustices which governments inflict upon its citizens, the heresies which religions claim as inerrant doctrine, the social breakdown leading to intolerance and bigotry all have a part in darkening my world.

Fortunately, we Americans still have the privilege and duty to protest publicly on various forums the actions which we believe are inconsistent with whom we are as a nation.  We can talk, write, and rally until the cows come home sometimes with favorable results but more often with nothing more than hoarse voices and tired feet to show for our efforts.  It’s our right and our duty to stand up against what we see as social injustice.

But in the end summation, most of that darkness is beyond my control.  I have learned to recognize it, battle it, and then retreat to my quiet space to regroup, thereby protecting my soul from the hatred and savagery which darkness inflicts.  A good heart can sour quickly under an assault by the world’s horrors if the inner sanctum is not honored and cherished.

St. Francis of Assisi addressed another darkness, that which is indwelling, in his popular prayer:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where injury, pardon; where doubt, faith; where despair, hope; where darkness, light; where sadness, joy…….”

These words did not strike me as particularly inspirational until I applied the directives not as an outward display of compassion to others, but as an inward act of soul consolation.  Today, when I repeat these words, I am seeking comfort for my ravaged soul within.  It is the inner me which needs healing from the onslaught of the world’s darkness.

Equally disheartening as the dark powers and principalities of the world are the inherent human conditions known as the seven deadly sins, the “cardinal” sins:

wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony

Name them sins or call them character defects, the result of these conditions, when allowed to fester within, are devastating.  Take your pick.  Which one is your favorite?  Each one, if entertained in excess, will bring a threatening cloud over a trekker’s world in a heartbeat.  Running one or two steps ahead of this internal darkness can be a daunting marathon.

We trekkers and survivors in recovery are undeservedly blessed to have the necessary tools at hand to survive in a world which is broken, violent, and tumultuous.  However, we are not infallible.  Always we must vigilantly protect that essence within which is who we are as children of the universal Oneness.  The spiritual life is a race to outrun the world’s darkness and our internal demons.  Reflection, prayer, contemplation, and meditation take us where we can find a safe harbor, a refuge from the raging storms of life.

CANDLE

copyright 3