Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. Prayer and Meditation. A Wordpress Production

Lent 2011

The Artist …

Courtesy: leilockheart

It is ( 0c ) outside right now. A bit frigid. It is time for Winter to go already.

I’ve been collecting stories to tell you tonight on top of meeting updates and stuff like that there.

It was a sunny day and a good day was had by all. I am ahead of the reading game this week. I am hoping I did somewhat well on my philosophy mid term last Thursday. As of last night, the grades had not been posted on LEA.

I have an oral presentation to do tomorrow night in French. I hate oral presentations. I write them out and copy them into Google translate and then print out what comes out. I did that the last time and it worked for me. I need three minutes of material, like good stand up if you get three good minutes in, then you win.

The end of the month is upon us, and you know what the end of the month means? As long as there is toilet paper in the bathroom everything will be ok.

It was a busy day today, lots of errands to run, a little banking here and there.

Last Thursday on my way to my phone shift I needed to put tickets on my Opus card for the metro. In every station are ticket kiosks. And since we are on Opus now, it is all electronic between you and the bank.

I got to Guy metro and slipped my card into the magnetic reader and went through the motions of recharging my card. I got all the way through once and my transaction was refused. (BUT – the reader took my money anyways) but didn’t spit out tickets. So I tried it a second time, I swiped my card and it took the information, and a second time, (the reader took my money and didn’t spit out any tickets). Total loss $28.50

I was pissed at this moment. So I got on the train and went to PIE IX station in the East end and when I got off the train and came up into the station I stopped at the Opus kiosk there.

I stuck my card in the reader and tried to load my card up a third time. It went through the motions and denied my transaction again. (the reader took my money again, but didn’t spit out any tickets). So this time I tried a fourth time to get the machine to work. That proved fruitless. (the reader took my money and didn’t spit out any tickets.) Total loss $57.00.

Now totally angry I went to the station kiosk and spoke to a woman behind the glass and told her that my card wouldn’t recharge and that I needed to buy tickets. She took my debit card and played with it a bit, stroking the magstrip on the back. She handed back my card and told me to try it again.

So I went back to the kiosk and swiped my card a fifth time. And voila the transaction went through. Total spend $14.25 –  Debit spend total $71.25.

When I got to the office I started my shift and logged onto the computer and went to my bank site. I pulled up my transaction record to see what the bank showed. Two of my transactions were refunded back. Gain: $28.50

Two of the transactions that failed still went through, but no refund was pushed back onto my account. The fifth transaction showed on the account as processed. I called the bank to complain about the STM. They could not help me since it wasn’t a bank problem but an STM problem. Which brings me up to this afternoon.

On the way to the church I stopped off at the bank and talked to a rep there. I took with me a copy of my account transactions. She put all the information into the computer and took the transaction number from the successful transfer of tickets/debits. She told me that the bank would contact the STM and check the machine and that it might take 10 days to process …

The STM owes me $28.50.

*** *** *** ***

I stopped by Zeller’s to get milk and cookies for the meeting on the way to the bank. People love cookies, and that is a weekly part of the meeting, sweets!!!

I got to the church really early. It was all said and done by 4:30. Which meant I had two hours to kill before the meeting. A good thing I brought classwork and textbooks with me, we are reading KANT this week. A rather tedious read, if I say so myself. I don’t think that one read is gonna do it for me. He didn’t assign questions to go along with the reading so I didn’t highlight anything in the text. Which maybe I need to do before class on Thursday night.

*** *** *** ***

Attendance was slim at the first meeting. We had less than a dozen folks show up, but the discussion went the entire hour. We talked about Higher Power and how we came to find it, what we call it and how that has aided us in sobriety. It was our last beginner’s discussion meeting.

The second meeting showing was a bit better. The lion’s share of the seventh tradition came from the second meeting tonight. We had $25.00 in expenses for the week in literature, milk and cookies. Which basically ate up the bulk of the 7th, at least there was a few bucks to throw into the kitty.

Dave, Rick and I went to a meeting on Saturday night in Verdun and that’s where I found my speaker for tonight. I call him the artist. He spoke for us a few months ago, after an invitation in Laval one night.

There are certain old timers that I never grow weary of listening to. The artist is one of those men. He is sober 28 years and just has the most compelling story that I have ever heard. It was a treat because our group is 53 years old, and many an old timer in the city began their journey’s of recovery in this same church basement, years ago. Our room has seen thousands of people pass through our doors over the last 53 years.

He knocked it out of the park once again. I was just thrilled hearing him and the crowd who came was as well. The visitors from out of town were well represented tonight. Season has begun – as winter comes to an end we will see a lot more traffic coming from out of town. Which is a nice treat.

So the end of an era has come to an end. Next week, Tuesday’s Beginners will embark on a new routine, a new schedule and a new meeting. I need to call the office tomorrow and make sure they change the meeting info in the desk manual. We have a huge notebook with all the meetings listed which is handy for callers, it is a carbon copy of the meeting list, but on a larger scale.

They made the change in the data base and in the blue sheets, so we need them to change it in the book in case people call in the next week looking for a Tuesday meeting. Since the speaker meeting is now closed and the discussion meeting is bumped back to 7 p.m.

*** *** *** ***

I sat and listened to everyone share at the early meeting. Sometimes I find it better to keep my thoughts to myself. Since there were so many thoughts running through my head at that point.

Pondering higher power.

There are many parts to my sober story. People and places. Times and events. Situations and issues. I have a connection to God that began early in my childhood thanks to my Memere. She was the one person who cared about my spiritual education early on as a young boy. (You can find that story in the pages called “Naked and Sacred.”)

I’ve known my whole life who God is. Memere made a pact with God when I was a small child. You see I survived, Many things in my life. When I should have died. This story goes back all the way to my first run at sobriety.

I was sick, facing my own mortality and death in a time that hope was in short supply and death was a daily occurrence. There was one man who took care of me when everybody else walked away. He became my higher power when I really needed it the most. I learned to rely on another human like never before. In that first 18 months, God was tangible in human form. The closest I think I have ever gotten to God came in the form of my mentor Todd. The man I credit my survival.

I always knew who god was as a young person. I was not focused on the god of my upbringing at that point in my life, that would not come until much later, the memory of who I was, in the middle of total tragedy and loss. But God was there when I needed him. And what I needed was tangible evidence that God existed because I was going to die and I didn’t want to go alone.

What gay men of the AIDS era lacked, and I have written this before, was a connection to God. None of the mainstream writers during the height of the AIDS crisis ever mentioned the word God once. Not once…

Churches were turning away the sick. Families were throwing their children into the streets. People were dying left and right, for all intents and purposes, there was no God in the trenches. And I subscribed to that thought as well myself. I called on God to save me, and to protect me, and Todd showed up and it all happened as it did.

It would not come to pass for a few more years that the God of my upbringing would make its return to my life in the form of active religious participation in community, but it did happen. That’s when I met a holy man named Jeff. He changed my life.

I am certain today that God moved in my life in sweeping manners. My relationship to the god of my understanding has morphed over the last 43 years.

On my return to sobriety in 2001, I prayed to God certain prayers and one by one they happened. Call it miracle or not, God came to my assistance once again. I met a group of people in the rooms that second time who would carry me into sobriety once again. Some of those men and women are still part of my life today.

Coming to Montreal was an act of faith. Returning to my roots has carried me on this journey these last nine years. Getting sober this time proved educational.

In my youth, part of this journey of faith took me to a Catholic Seminary for a year where I learned to wait on god and get to know his voice. But that was not to come to fruition.

Fast forward to my move to Montreal and my introduction to family I never knew I had would bring me back to the God of my upbringing as well. I came to a new adoration for God through the eyes of my great aunt Sister Georgette.  I had three years to learn from her. She blessed me with stories of family, she knew who I was well before I knew who she was.

Returning to University here in Montreal gave me the opportunity to continue my religious education. I would not take the route through the church but climb the ladder on the outside of the building. I not only have the God of my upbringing, but also the wisdom of six years of religious and theological education to add to that.

Just recently, my life has been blessed with photographs from my youth, when times were better. The people I loved the most were still alive and having those photos once again, tangible evidence of family, has brought me an old joy.

In Christian tradition, relics and photographs are something that connect us to the holy. They remind us of the past. And they carry with them blessings and memories of saints, blesseds, and the holy. You see these venerations at places steeped in religious history: churches, holy sites and grottos.

I carry with me a small satchel of relics from Mere D’Youville, given to me when Sister Georgette died some years ago. It is something that I hold dear. Keepsakes from her are special and I carry them with me where ever I go.

Memere is amongst the holy I venerate. Seeing her again has brought me back to my roots, I see her every day now, not like a memory in my minds eye, that can fade over time, with distance and life. I have that daily tangible reminder of who she was and what she meant to me when she was alive. That memory never left me, but has been reinforced in a way that I can’t explain, you just have to be in this place to get it.

God is never far from my daily routine. Over the years I have expanded my belief in a power greater than myself. I know what I grew up with, I know what I learned in university, and I know what I have experienced throughout my life.

The artist spoke about those events in our lives that in hindsight we know happened, that cannot be explained. The ways god remains anonymous. But people and events happen in our lives by no choice of our own, but by the grace of god.

I know who God is today, and I know who God is not. At least to me.

It may not be the same for you. And that’s ok.

It was a good day.

It is getting late. I need to eat dinner and get some sleep.

More to come, stay tuned …


ASH WEDNESDAY: Why Bother?

Susan Russell – All Saints Church Pasadena

I can’t post the video – But I can post the writing for you to read and ponder.

ASH WEDNESDAY: Why Bother?
March 9, 2011

It is Ash Wednesday once more – the entry point for yet another 40-day Lenten journey toward Easter. And today we hear again the words as familiar as their outward-and-visible signs etched on our foreheads: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

On this Ash Wednesday, as the liturgical season shifts from Epiphany to Lent, we are called to make a shift, too. Our focus shifts, as it does every year at this time, from stories about the outward manifestations of God’s presence among us to a more interior place as we journey with Jesus on the road we know leads to Golgotha – to the cross – and ultimately, to the resurrection.

And so, on this Ash Wednesday, here is my annual advice for the journey ahead: Do not give up epiphanies for Lent!

It’s another commercial for “the Land of And” … Let us not become so inwardly focused that we forget to notice – to give thanks for – to respond to – those encounters we can and will have with the holy in the next 40 days. Let us not become so focused on our own “journey with Jesus” that we forget that as long as there are still strangers at the gate, walking humbly with our God is not enough: let us not forget that we are also called to do justice.

Called to do justice. During Lent? Really???? Yes. Really. And it’s not something Ed Bacon came up during a glory attack or an idea that’s exclusive to All Saints Church. It’s a call that was issued by Isaiah and incarnated by Jesus. It’s as old as the prophets and as urgent as this morning’s news … it’s a call to fast for justice:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly

.

The fast Isaiah calls us to isn’t about giving up Twitter or Starbucks or Girl Scout cookies for Lent … it’s about getting ANYTHING out of the way that gets in the way of our being aligned with God’s love, justice and compassion … as we journey into these 40 days of Lent and beyond. It’s why we bother – not just with this service and these ashes this season of Lent. It’s why we bother to follow Jesus.

Let’s face it … you could all be doing something else with this hour at noontime … Eating lunch. Picking up dry cleaning. Going to the gym. Playing Farmville on Facebook. But you’re here. In this church. In this moment. Remembering that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Why bother?

It’s a bit like a question I got on my blog this week in response to Sunday’s sermon:

So if we’re all going to heaven anyway, what’s the point of going to Mass or even bothering to have a relationship with Christ and following any commandments at all? Why bother?

It’s a classic question and one I’ve had on my heart getting ready for today. What is the answer we give to those who wonder why we’re here … who wonder why we bother. Lots of people don’t. Bother. With Lent. There’ll be a lot more people here on Easter Sunday than there are today. And there are even more who have dismissed the “whole Christian thing” because it was reduced for them to “follow these rules and you’ll get into heaven” – and condemns to “the Lake of Fire” anybody who doesn’t. Follow the rules. The way you do.

Why bother? Here’s my short answer:

We bother because we gather here today not to try to earn God’s love by following rules but to give thanks for God’s love that transcends all boundaries. We bother because we follow Jesus not in HOPE that he’s our ticket into heaven but in RESPONSE to the promise he incarnates that nothing – even death – can separate us from the love of God. And freed from that fear of death we are free to live life abundantly … and to risk journeying into the wildernesses that cry out for the love, justice and compassion that God calls us to live out in the world.

We bother because there are many “wildernesses” into which we are called this Lent 201l: If we are to be a people who have bread to share with the hungry we must challenge those who would balance our budgets on the backs of the least of these.

We bother because we serve the God whose fast is “to let the oppressed go free” – and so we continue to speak out about protecting family values that value ALL families.

We bother because in order to choose the fast Isaiah offers us this Lent we must continue to undo the thongs of the yokes of racism AND sexism that continue to keep this country and this church from being all that God would have them be.

We bother because living up to our baptismal covenant calls us to advocate for just immigration policies that will truly respect the dignity of every human being.

We bother because today we choose again to follow the one who calls us to journey with Him into those wildernesses — bearing the Good News of a God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.

It is Ash Wednesday once more – the entry point for yet another 40-day Lenten journey toward Easter. And now IS the acceptable time. May we be given the grace to choose the fast our God calls us to choose … trusting that the One who calls us into this wilderness will be with us and bless us on the journey.


40 days and 40 nights

I was gonna wait to post this, but the spirit is moving me today, So here is one of my favorite pieces of writing. I wrote in a few years ago, and I repost it every year at the beginning of Lent. And since I don’t have anything fresh to offer you – you can read this and prepare for your journey … Enjoy..

And so it begins, the walk through the desert. God is moving tonight, I can feel it in my bones deep within my soul. I am in Preacher mode and the message is loud and clear…Write and share the journey.  Here is my Lenten exercise of the journey, it is called “Will you walk with me a step or two.”

One day the Lord spoke to them and they started walking through the desert. Men, women, children the elderly and the herds and flocks. Where they were going was not known, but it was apparent that they were going to get somewhere. If only they walked a step or two.

A young man spoke up and said “I will walk ahead of the tribes, I will lead them as the Lord leads me.” And the Lord asked the young boy, “are you ready to walk for the glory of God,” why “Yes,” the boy answered. So be it the Lord said, “now lead them, but take only that which you need and nothing more.” I will walk with You Lord, he said without a second thought.

The Lord said that the way will not be smooth and there are things you will see on the way that will test your faith, yet I the Lord will make the way straight and the path smooth, if you have faith in Me and the Glory of God the father. Yes, I have faith, the boy replied, so walk my son.

A few days into the journey the boy came across a woman with ragged hair and little clothing. She was elderly and needed some water. The boy was only carrying what he had, and he gave drink to the woman and quenched her thirst. She said to him, that she was lonely and afraid of the road, and the boy replied, woman, have no fear, for I will walk with you until nightfall and we will camp under the canopy of heaven. That day they walked together and the woman was grateful for the company and the water.

That night, they made camp, the tribes of the Lord.

The Angel of the Lord came down and struck the rock and water flowed. They all drew water from a spring that appeared and everyone’s thirst was satiated. And the animals were watered as well. Food was passed from group to group until every last one was fed. That night they sang the song of the Lord until everyone was sent to a sleep protected by the Lord himself.

The very next morning, rested and fed, the tribes packed up their wares and started the journey as they did the day prior. The sun hung low in the sky, and by high noon, sweat was pouring off the brows of the people. The young boy made his way in front of the pack, leading them as he was guided by the spirit of the lord. Soon after noon the boy came across an elderly man who was being carried by two men, visibly shaken and tired.

The boy looked up to the sky and said, what can I do Lord?

The answer came and the boy took the arm of the litter and helped carry the man for the rest of the day, until darkness fell and camp was set up for the night. Once again, the Angel of the Lord came down and struck the rock and from the rock a spring came up from the earth once again, the people and the animals were watered. The tables were set and the people were fed to their fill. Once again, they praised the God of Abraham and in the coolness of the night they slept under the canopy of the heavens.

On the third day they awoke to a cloudy day, grateful for the relief from the sun, they gathered up their wares and began to walk once again. Today the young man was tired. He had been leading this lot for days now, and yet the lord said, Keep walking. So he did.

On this day he came upon a young person drawn from travel, covered in dust from the desert. Visibly the boy had not eaten in days and was close to death.

The young man stopped and knelt down next to him and shared his water and some bread from his pack. He lifted the boy into his arms and carried him for the rest of the day. Hours passed and the boy was filled with faith and strength as he carried his charge on his back. That night at camp, the young boy gathered some bedding and laid his friend in a cool soft place.

That night the Angel of the Lord appeared and once again, struck the rock and water flowed. He bathed the young man whom he had carried all day, then they broke bread and shared living water from the earth. Miracle, you ask, quite possibly so.

That night all were fed and after the plates were cleared and all had been fed, they gathered before the fires and praised the God of Abraham. They rested beneath the canopy of heaven.

For 38 days and 38 nights, the boy walked with his people, helping each soul he encountered to the best of his ability as God had commanded him to do.

On the 39th day they awoke. The angel of the Lord was there at first light and he told them, the journey was almost over, walk on as the Lord commands.

That day was no different. On that day the young boy would meet his final “person.” She was laden with child, and was walking alone carrying everything that she needed. No man walked by her side, no assistance came to her. She was visibly close to giving birth, and the Boy took her hand

As night fell, the boy gathered the women together and they prepared the woman for birth. A call went out to the men and they gathered together some wood for someplace to keep the child. As was foretold, the Angel of the Lord appeared to them once again, and struck the rock and as happened each night before, water flowed.

That night the stars shone brightly, the heavens were alight with song. Something was about to happen. For after the meal, the woman called for the boy and he appeared by her side. The time had come and she wanted to share the birth of the child with him, for he walked with her a step or two. That night under the canopy of heaven a child was born and she asked the boy his name.

He answered, “My name is David.” She smiled at her son, and spoke to the heavens, May God in heaven be blessed and may he bless my son David, born this night. The heavens replied with a thousand shooting stars… What a glorious vision the host of angels come down from heaven to sing to David, the newest member of the tribes of Abraham. That night they rested and slept in peace.

On the 40th day the young boy awoke, there standing before him were 40 men, women and children. All of those whom David had walked with through the desert. At that moment an Elder man spoke to David and said follow me, there is someone who would like to see you David, HE has asked for you by name.

The people before him parted and through them David walked until he reached a hill that was green with foliage and there a spring bubbled up. “Take off your sandals David” a voice spoke to him. David did not skip a beat. As David looked up from undoing his shoes, There the Master sat on the rock before him.

David’s eye welled up with tears, he had done exactly as he was instructed, as the Lord had told him. He had led his people through the desert helping each soul he met on his path. The Master knew what was in his heart and soul. David was without words. The Master got up from where He sat and approached David and wrapped his arms around him, and said……..

“Well done good and faithful servant. In YOU I am well pleased.”

What for? David said, all I did was what you asked of me while I walked. And the Master replied, “you know David, each time you helped one of these souls on your journey, you helped ME.” “What the least of these you have done for my brothers and sisters you have done for me.”

The Master reached down into the pool of water and blessing the water he blessed and baptized David the Boy, and then David the infant. And for a moment the heavens opened up and God’s voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

And from the sky a beam of light shone forth into the desert and the sands were parted and there in the swirl of dust a city appeared. It is there that the people made their homes. The journey had ended. And a placed blessed by God was theirs to live in.

So will you walk with me a step or two. The journey is long and the road may be rough, but as the Lord says “I will make the path straight and your burden will be light.” Take only that which you need. And if you meet someone of the road, stop and ask your questions, share your water and food, for you never know when the Master will reveal himself to you.

Are you ready to start walking !!!