The weather has gotten dreary, wet, humid and miserable. Thanks to tropical storm Cindy. She stormed the gulf coast, and now she is making it rain here, and it is supposed to rain for the next three days.
Which meant numbers were down. But we had a good showing.
Faith … What is Faith. Not sure ? Take the action.
We talked about Faith and Action tonight. If you don’t have the former, then you need the latter. And how do we do the latter ? We go to a meeting.
As many meetings, as it takes, for you to hear someone who has a message or you identify with the words, and you take that EXTRA step and go talk to said person to see
- What it is that they have
- How did the learn what they said and/or did
- And how do you replicate that piece of advice
- You take a SUGGESTION and you RUN with it
- As far as it will get you
So many of our young people struggle with Faith, and God and Suggestions.
Many people want the easier softer way, and only the die-hard newbies will listen when you tell that WHAT it is that YOU DID, and WHAT happened because you did that thing.
If you are new to the rooms. Sit down, open your heart, and listen.
Listening is an ACTION step. It will come to pass, that if you sit in your chair long enough, you are going to sink in and then you will hear just what it is you need to hear.
You might have to hit a number of meetings, over a LONG period of time. In Montreal, there are plenty of choices of where to go, around the clock, every day.
I know, I did not know what to do, and I needed people to show me what to do. And I connected to all the right people when I needed them. And over the years, certain special sober folks appeared, because I went looking for them, where ever sober people gathered.
Meetings, Step Series, Round Ups. Going out-of-town.
It may happen for you tomorrow, and maybe it won’t. That is the adventure, RIGHT ?
If you want to get sober … If you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it, THEN you are READY to take certain STEPS…
It’s written in the book.
If you don’t have faith, let us show you faith. Sit with us and listen to our stories. At some point, even you will identify with at least one human being sitting in that same room as you.
The last Paragraph of tonight’s read mentions the first meeting between Bill W. and Doctor Bob, on that fateful night, I wrote about a few days ago.
Dr. Bob got sober, because Bill told him HIS story. And for the first time in his life, he met another human being, who knew what Dr. Bob was going through. Bill was speaking his language. On June 10th 1935, Dr. Bob recorded his first full day of sobriety…
And what did that take ? One alcoholic talking to another.
If you don’t have something, then take your needs to a meeting, and lay them down on the table and speak your words.
ALWAYS take your needs to a room. ALWAYS. Because you would be surprised how often you will find exactly what you NEED on a need to know/have basis.
If you glean everything a room has to offer, EVERY single human being who walks into a room has something you might need. All you have to do is ask. That is why we stress the 20 minutes before and after.
Every single person in the room has something to offer, even if they don’t know it themselves.
The forward action of faith, is showing up, every day or every night.
You might not know what that looks like, but if you just try, one day at a time, your actions will become faith.
I promise you that.
I spoke to three people on the way out tonight. Hopefully they will return the next week for another dose of Friday Night Sobriety.
It’s the Best night of the week.
In the Original Manuscript of the Big Book, on page 26 of that manuscript, Step Seven reads: Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings, holding nothing back.
There are such religious notions, peppered throughout the Original Manuscript. Not all of them made it into the first printing of the Big Book in 1939.
I actually have a First Edition Big Book, printed in 1939.
Some of the more drastic “suggestions” that might seem, just a little too harsh for the sensibilities of those who see the Judeo-Christian influences in the Big Book, a problem in getting sober, were scrubbed from the final copy that went to print.
In one pass at my Steps a few years ago, in reading the Twelve and Twelve, approached Step Seven with this process: Read Step Seven, and find every word Humble or Humility.
Step Seven is the Step where we encounter this term. Humility.
- What does it mean,
- What does it look like,
- And how do I find it for myself ?
For me, as I have stayed sober, Humility has been defined and refined over my years.
One friend tonight said that for him, “Humility was the recognition that he was not as big as he thought he was, but also that he was not as small as he thought he was either.”
Others talk about being “Right Sized” What does “Right Sized” mean ?
My definition of Humility, at this moment, means, “I don’t know.” I also add that, one specific old timer has offered to me that, “If I think I know something, I’d better sit down, and keep my mouth shut.”
Humility asks us to be Vulnerable to that Power Greater than Ourselves.
We constantly work towards turning it over, to that Power, which I choose to call God, every day.
Humility has been the lesson that has been hammered home in my life over the last year.
When the Orlando Tragedy happened, I threw in my spiritual towel and I cursed God. I fell apart in public, and fell to my knees, sobbing, pleading God to help me, because I was bereft, and had no idea how to begin to figure out why I was on my knees sobbing.
It all begins, when we get on our knees.
We might not know the reason why ? But to defer to God, and set one’s self before God in humble supplication, begins on one’s knees.
I learned that in Seminary. Why we prayed, and why we knelt and what it meant as men who came together to learn how to follow God. The men who were leading us, in the end, turned out, not to be the finest example of humility, based on the scandals they caused during their tenures in their priesthoods.
I wanted, so badly, to count myself as a man who would serve God. I made God that promise all those years ago, as a teen-ager, with stars of God in my eyes.
That promise to serve God would take my entire life to figure out.
It has to be the right time, the ground fertile, and I would be able to fulfill that promise, one way or another.
A year ago, I fell to my knees, and was rebuked by a man who was LONG sober, rebuking me that “You think you are so special, that we should treat you differently, You are such a child.”
I could have slapped the shit out of him right then and there. I could have hurt him seriously, in that moment, but my better judgment took over, and I got up, wiped my face and walked away, keeping my mouth shut, and not saying a word or acting on my impulses.
Thank God, Elder Spencer came into my life.
I don’t think I would have made it without him, today.
Sometimes, I have shared, that I need to be Bitch Slapped by God, in order for Him to get my attention.
Oprah has a better definition of this process:
God speaks to us in a whisper. If He whispers and we miss it the first time, He will whisper again. If we miss it the second time, He hits us over the head with a 2 x 4, if we miss Him the third time, finally, He drops a wall on top of us.
I actually lived this out a few years ago.
I’m not sure God was trying to get my attention, with a catastrophic massacre of kids in a nightclub to get me to notice Him. But He had my attention for sure.
Which led to an entire year of trying to find God, after I had cursed Him as I sat where I am sitting right this very moment.
Enter Elder Spencer … There are no coincidences. Only God.
I was there at one time, now I am here.
Now I Know !
The message is loud and clear. My life and sobriety are all about God and His goodness and kindness. I can let go of that old, tired and miserable story.
Sobriety today is about Humility, Faith, Love and the Atonement.
The Atonement makes everything work.
Without it we are nothing, and can be nothing.
Humbly, on our knees, we asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Holding Nothing Back.
It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood. Much warmer than it was yesterday, and we will take any day full of sun, as we can get. It might be the second week of June, but before we know it, it will be the beginning of September, and Summer will all but be gone.
For the past few months, I have witnessed new members coming to our rooms, that we have not seen, at all, in the past. Montreal’s Jewish community is legendary. When I got sober, this time around, it was the Jewish Chabad community, who took me in and cared for me when I needed it most.
Whenever I am able, I give back, until I am empty.
It seems, as of late that, we are serving the Hasidim community on a much more personal level. I’ve been listening to our men talk, about their struggles, their families and their troubles with addiction.
Addiction knows no barrier when it comes to the who and the why. Everyone is fair game. With communities that are insulated, they usually deal with daily problems, “in house, among themselves.”
Montreal is a city that is based in communal living. With many religious and ethnic communities existing side by side. But again, there are certain conversations that are only dealt with, inside the sacred circle of that respective community.
For a handful of men, they have left the security of their communities, and they have found their way into our rooms. And I have been paying attention to them, personally.
Today we read from the book, and the chapter: The Perpetual Quest.
It is a story about a woman, who reaches her bottom, and finds her way to the rooms, in her city. The portion of the read I focused on was the last three pages of the story, where she hears just what she needs to do to stay sober.
I chose the reading, because, if we could cut, copy and paste this portion of the story, and hand this document out to newcomers or, more to the point, to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, we would have our work done for us, in one swing.
Many people talk about the suggestions.
Service, Meetings, Big Books, Steps and Sponsors.
Everybody hears the same message, from the get go. Many of us would rather eat dirt, than follow a simple suggestion.
This problem exists everywhere. There is a lot of anger being spoken about. Yet, we come to meetings, anyways. Because we are told that if we show up, the rest will fall into place.
Getting sober is just the tip of the iceberg for many members and my friends. Many people come with multiple problems, and are cross addicted, or have more than, “just a drinking problem.” And I heard those words spoken again tonight.
Our new men, who come from their respective communities have said to us that they deal with more than just drinking. And people across the board, beg the question, “what do I do with the twenty four hours, each day?”
One answer I heard tonight was, “well, as long as you are sitting in a meeting, you can knock that hour off the time line.” And “the more meetings you fit into your weekly schedule, the less time you have to spend in your head.”
When we come into sobriety from whatever addiction we inhabit, we begin to cleanse the temple of our bodies, that God has given us.
I was not sure how to approach this topic with our men, I just spent the last hour with my Elder friend Spencer and he gave me some sound advice, at how to bridge faiths.
Now I have an idea of what I need to do. God brings certain people and problems into our lives for a specific reason. We either know what to do, or, we know other people, who might know what to do, or we ourselves learn what it is we need to know, in order to serve the greater good.
I have faith. I have the book. I have my knowledge. And I have God, in my pocket.
If some have left the security of insulation, searching for a solution they need, because they have suffered and have transgressed their scriptures and proscriptions and doctrines and covenants of Judaism, they have come to places that I exist in.
I have a desire to help them, and tonight, I was taught, what it was that I did have, by someone I respect fully, and now from him, I know what I can do, with the tools God has already given me.
There is a three fold recipe that is necessary for transmission:
- One, you need a Human Being
- Two, you need the Book
- Three, you need a problem that you can give context to, teaching wise
If you have these three dynamic pieces, miracles happen.
Spencer was at the MTC this week, and he met a young missionary.
While Spencer was here, in Montreal, he worked in Cornwall, a few hours drive from Montreal. While there he ministered to our young man’s grandfather, who was, later, baptized in the church.
His grandson, our young Elder in training, there in Utah, had met Spencer here, while on his mission. It was a Miracle Full Circle moment for him. Because our young man said to him, weren’t you in Canada, that answer was yes. Weren’t you in Cornwall, that answer was also yes, he put the pieces together that before our young man was called to his mission, he met Elder Spencer here in Canada, during His mission.
How often do you see someone in a foreign country, and meet them and share time with, and then find out that they are right in your own back yard, preparing to go on their very own mission ???
That is a miracle for sure.
Today, I spoke a second time, I got to finish what I had begun a couple of weeks ago, when I spoke for the first time in years. Tonight, I spoke about God. And I was on fire. It went very well. Our Second Speaker knocked it out of the park. She was just amazing. I was so moved, the story was beautiful. I may get her to speak for me later on.
A thought that came to me as I meditated on my talk, last night before bed, came in a whisper. In order to find God, one must begin with Gratitude.
We are given the authority to label things. Then we live with the consequences.
As I sat in a building purpose built for worship, I watched as at least a hundred people walked in, crossed them selves, knelt, and labelled that space as sacred. The same naming has been done by thousands of people for decades in that place. The walls are painted and named on behalf of certain stories and blessings. And daily prayers and rituals are done in that space bringing even more purpose filled direction to that specific space.
It finally clicked. After watching my catholic housemates do things that my ex-evangelical mind didn’t understand for a few months, it finally clicked.
We label things, and that labelling holds with it such power.
Every time I walk into a Catholic church, I am filled with awe. A deep respect. Even if I don’t agree with every conclusion made about the physical building. There is still honour and awe enough in me that I take off my hat, and I walk around quietly.
I grew up in a church that was a white shoe box. No decoration. No labelling. No awe inspiring. Just dirty carpet, weird smells, and white walls. But there was always something special when a bunch of us would gather. We would gather around a campfire and sing into the night. We would gather on a soccer pitch and compete. We would gather to go on a road trip. And thats where our labelling was held. Not a building. But a gathering point.
So as we gathered for pentecost, we combined the two. This physical location that had been drenched in prayer and labelling and a gathering of a community. One that loved each other and celebrated a time that the spirit was first liberally poured out on the people of God. And the spirit fell again. I have journaled that much in a long time. I haven’t felt joyous shivers down my spine whilst songs I didn’t understand were sung around me for months or more. Tangible yet spiritual God, met spiritual yet physical humanity, and we celebrated the union.
Fast forward to this morning. A week ago I had finished reading a history of the orthodox church. And I wanted to see what I had read in action. So I figured out a place and a time. 8am, old town. And got there on time. I waited for an old lady to walk in, and following her I found myself in an almost empty giant church. I found a seat (not normal in orthodoxy, everyone stands) and got my journal out. A man started singing, occasionally responded to by another man behind a door. And after awhile a group of women started singing to. It was heavenly. It smelled awesome. And although there was only 5 people there, once again, this space had been labelled a place of worship. Of community. Of meaning. Once again I journaled like crazy, and then moved on to a second orthodox church. Smaller. More intimate. But just as beautiful.
We live in houses that get labelled “home”. We are educated in the halls of schools that are sometimes labelled as safe spaces, but are more likely places of tumult. And ultimately we are all apart of nation states that have labelled out populace, our neighbours and our history, one way or another.
And after a year and a half in a country not my own, watching my own from a far. I have this deep desire to walk nations through a process of conviction. We parts of our history we need to deal with. And what parts of our future we need to dream about and work towards.
I want to paint this world with life, because death sucks. And a life paint for ALL, not just an elite few. And i feel like God calls us to label sacred spaces, to connect with Him, but also to become sacred spaces that walk this earth, connecting with others so that God can work through our sacred spaces in his redemption plan for eternity.
Be a sacred space. Clean house.
What does one say, after another senseless killing of innocents ? How many times can you say “I’m sorry, or I feel your pain, or I stand with you ?” If the world does not stand together every day and every hour and every minute, we aren’t doing our jobs.
This utter disrespect of life, needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth.
The governments who support terrorism, need to be stopped. The Radical Teachings of a religion that is based in peace, need to be eradicated from teaching institutions. Weeds like this need serious weed killers. The world is in a position that extreme measures need to be taken.
We need to stop the killing at any cost.
I’ve been hearing people talk about where the Islamic Order for killing came from, it came from Mohamed himself. Sadly, there are those who have taken his words quite literally, and this order of Jihad has brought us to he point where, the world needs to act decisively.
I am not a scholar of Islam. I studied Islam in University, and was the only branch of my studies that I failed. I just was not able write a paper worthy of respect and recognition.
Bastardized religion is a scourge on our world, and this problem is not confined to one single faith practice. This problem is well-known, and wide-spread, however some would never admit that they speak a creed, and follow a faith, that is not true faith.
This evening I had a discussion with a friend about what needs to be done. I’m not sure a radical idea would gain traction and work. We are just not in a place to radically change the face of our world.
Canada is a country that has had its share of religious violence. Canada has its issues with people from other places, and the length this nation stooped and did irreparable damage to entire populations of men, women and children.
We have irreparably tarnished our relationships with Indigenous people’s who were here well before we were all here. And even today, recognition and reparations are long in coming.
Radical Islam has found its way into our country. And terror has been visited on both Canadians and Muslim’s alike. This is just fact.
We are not a nation that is immune to terror related violence. Then again, we are not Europe or the Middle East. We are removed from those theatres by an ocean and we lie much distant from the center of ignition.
Our citizens far and wide worry that with the Canada 150 Celebrations and here in Montreal, for our 375th, are we really safe and insulated from terror, that which we have seen happen world-wide ?
The Answer is NO.
Millions of people will be gathering over the summer months to celebrate, and we wonder, are we next ? How will our governments and our authorities, provincially and locally, provide protection when we have seen the lengths some will go to wreak havoc on unsuspecting innocents ?
We hear the words, “Canada is safe …” “But we cannot guarantee you 100% that you will be safe in public spaces.” But life must go on. Our nation has spent some serious money, preparing the ground for celebrations.
Underneath, how can you openly celebrate your country and your life and your good fortune to live here, when in other big cities around the world, people are dying in the streets.
I just don’t know what to tell my friends, who live in other cities, when they speak their questions to me. They beg the questions, and they know the answers, but still, we live with uncertainty.
Tragedy has become commonplace around the world. The perpetrators of Islamic Terrorism, have infected our national conscience. Too many people have been killed in too many places, for us to be able to ignore this taint in our common lives.
Living with having to have eyes in the back of ones head, or living with the need to always be looking over ones shoulder is terrible. yet, this is where we stand today.
We are wary of our neighbors. We do not love each other as ourselves. We are suspicious of those who are different. We hate too easily. Hatred is such an easy out for us, as the “Go To” way to live… Just Hate Everybody.
Hatred is easier than knowing yourselves, or your neighbors. Hatred is too easy, when we need to understand and have compassion.
You cannot point your finger and your fist towards everyone at the same time. It is far too easy, to judge everyone and everything. But what other choices do we have, when the world seems to be complicit in the blind, financial, and religious support of those whose only goal in their religious observance, is to kill the Infidel Indiscriminately.
Is this what God would want ? Is this what the Greater Power wants of us, to hate, and to persecute and to kill each other ?
That answer is categorically NO.
We must go on living, but not accept what it seems to me, a world that has allowed this unconscionable killing to go on for as long as it has been going on.
This centuries long episode of Conquer, Convert and Kill has to end.
We must find the resolve to call on our governments and our leaders to do Something, Anything. Everything.
Living a life in constant fear is not a life at all.
THE WORLD NEEDS TO ACT. DECISIVELY. NOW
You never know, when the subject of Faith and God will arise.
Earlier today, I got a call from my Friday driver, to say he was going to make a 12 step call on the way to the meeting, and if I could take the Metro to the meeting, No Problem.
I met with a sponsee for an hour and made my way uptown for 7 p.m. I got there 10 minutes early. I cranked it out and waited for folks to show up.
Little did I know, that the 12 step call would be for someone I know, from the Monday meeting. This particular man, talks about God, in words and actions that nobody else I know use, in the rooms, across the board.
The other night, he was talking to an old friend, as they shared old war stories between themselves, and he ended up with a crack pipe in his hands, on a two night binge.
Where his faith went, even he does not know…
I sat and listened in, to a conversation, and then I asked him about his faith life, If he had lost his faith, or was he still hanging on to it. From what I had been hearing from him, I just shot into the dark with an idea.
Last night, I listened to several talks from General Conference. Thomas S. Monson, Carol McConkie, and Robert D. Hales. For some strange reason, I was moved to mention General Conference to my friend. I had no idea where he had been, in the way of faith or church, but I began to talk, nonetheless.
I told him what I had seen last night about Prayer, and Community, Service, and Discipleship. He Listened, then offered that he was indeed Investigating.
We had an entire conversation about faith from the L.D.S perspective. A few minutes later, we were sitting there talking, and my phone rang, and it was the Young Elder, who was new to Montreal, calling to say hello and to arrange a meeting with his new companion next week.
Is that ODD or is that GOD ???
I had a thought, I acted on that thought, that led to a familiar conversation, which then was cranked up a notch with a phone call out of the blue, from the last person, I thought would have called me at that very moment.
Tonight, Bill spoke to us, about Higher Power, as We Understand Him. In this reading he talks about the many ways you can find your way, into the program, with very little faith:
“They just don’t realize that faith is never an imperative for A.A. membership; that sobriety can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it, and that our concept of a a Higher Power and God – as we understand Him – afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.”
This subject is treated in many different ways in A.B.S.I.
In a later writing in the book, Bill comments:
“It does not matter what you choose to believe in, whatever will work for you.” At the end of the page he throws a wrench into the mix by then offering this nugget:
“That in the end, it always comes back round to God.”
Tonight, many of us who have been sitting in that room for years and years have seen people come in, sit down, say NO and Go. They come in, sit down, say NO and Go.
I’ve said it before that God, this three letter word, is the MAJOR stumbling block that prevents MANY people from getting sober. No matter how we couch, frame or talk about the “multitude of choices” one has to believe.
The numbers of people who have come, gone, drank and used again, never came back, or ended up DEAD are very high.
It Boggles the mind to ponder how many people we have seen come and go over the last three years.
They say that words are difficult in the beginning. But we all also agree, that the first simple action we take, leads to more simple actions, which lead to feeling better, which leads to sobriety.
If you cannot pray, to begin with, then say anything. You don’t need rote prayers or words you don’t identify with, and speak them to a God, you may not necessarily believe in, YET …
I have atheist friends who are sober today. And they do just fine.
We all agree that action makes the world go round.
- Making Coffee
- Setting up chairs and tables
- Greeting the Newcomer
- Step Work
- Reading the Big Book
- Thanking the Chair
- Participating in Fellowship
Simple steps of action, that done, over and over, DO LEAD SOMEWHERE.
It is not your word that matters, it is WHAT YOU DO that matters.
When you don’t have words, then do the next right thing. Over and Over again.
This is a program of action. We all agree on that. Once you begin to DO and to ACT, the rest falls in place as long as you stick around, and have an open heart.
When I leave my life open to Heavenly Father, He tends to amaze me in ways that I could not imagine.
I saw Him move in a room tonight.
In closing all I can say is this …
- I am not the center of the universe
- My world does not revolve around my navel
- I have a God of my understanding, and that is great, as long as I remember that
- I am NOT HE ….
Always pay attention to the coffee maker, at whatever meeting you go to…
Six months ago, when it came time to change up my meetings, I realized that there was a meeting, just down the hill from home. Essentially, a 10 minute walk through the tunnel to a little church of a building, not far from home.
The Padua Center, is a building that houses the remains (read: Altar, Statues, Lectern) of an old church that was demolished, but the core of that church had been kept, and now mass is held in that building on Sunday mornings.
Many years ago, there was another meeting that was began by an old friend, who has since died. I used to go to this little meeting, when it was up and running.
Fast Forward to November 2016. I looked up Love and Tolerance in the meeting list and headed down one Monday night. Every meeting, has its resident coffee maker. One of the most unsung jobs in the fellowship. Nobody cares WHO made the coffee, but it better be damn well perked by the time those ungrateful alcoholics walk through the door.
Hell hath no fury like an Alcoholic, with coffee not ready to go…
Danger Will Robinson, DANGER !!!!
I’ve known some crazy coffee makers in my time.
That night I met our coffee maker extraordinaire. Back then, the meeting was sparsely attended, and only needed a small, 12 cup perk coffee maker. Over the last six months our intrepid coffee maker invested in a full bore 60 cup, standard issue, coffee urn.
The number of meeting attendees, has more than doubled in six months. And all of us are grateful for the coffee maker. He is there every week, busy or not, making coffee.
This past Monday, I asked him if he could give me “thirty minutes?” He understood that I was asking him to come to a meeting to hear ME speak.
Funny that …
This afternoon around 1 p.m. he texted me saying that he could not make our date for the meeting. I was on my way to the bank to prepare for my trip to N.L. next Thursday.
I came home and made two phone calls. One came back as a NO, and the other message was not received prior to the meeting. I took that as a sign, to trust God and head to the meeting as usual. While setting up, I told one of our women that I needed a speaker, and she volunteered to speak for me.
Not ten minutes later, my coffee maker texted me saying his late meeting at the office had been cancelled and that he was on his way. Little did he know that HE was the one who was speaking and not ME.
That realization came about 5 minutes before I introduced him to the room.
Color him surprised…
It all went as God had ordered it. He knocked it out of the park.
After the meeting I told him that newcomer quote I heard a couple of weeks ago that:
If you get asked to Speak at St. Matthias, You Have Arrived …
Our little Monday, Love and Tolerance meeting is a wealth of Sober Experience, that I have been tapping since I joined St. Matthias a few months ago. Lots of sober men and women who don’t usually hit the Thursday meeting, so, fresh minds are fresh stories to hear.
Last week, into last weekend, New Foundland was hit by a severe blizzard, which prompted some serious considerations of not making the trip next week, due to weather concerns. I called Air Canada, and spoke to them about weather. Then I called the bank, and tried to get some insurance on my $650.00 airline ticket. (That was a bust)
Tuesday would be the day that I would decide to either get on a plane or cancel my trip, because getting an airplane into St. John’s is dicey, frequently. Wind, Weather, Snow, are a given on any day. Tonight, it seems that the weather will be looking up, thanks to Environment Canada’s six day forecast.
I have cash in hand, and a good weather forecast, at the moment. In New Foundland, weather is never a given. All it takes is a little weather headed into that area, and Mother Nature can dump up to sixty centimeters of snow on any given day.
It has been pissing rain in Montreal for two days now. A Rain/Snow mix may fall tomorrow night, and more rain. We have heard, mentioned, double digit positive temps for this weekend … Let Us Pray …
Friday, last week, a good friend of mine witnessed me, two nights in a row, drinking my favorite Orange Soda. He was not impressed with that. On Friday night he said to me that I needed to stop the sugar intake and that I needed to look into the Keto Diet.
Saturday night, I did some serious investigating and came away with a diet plan that I was willing to work with. The Keto Diet, is strict. Lots of No, No’s. And very little leeway in the eradication of sugars and carbohydrates.
The Keto diet has a scientific basis. On the second link, you will find all the scientific data with Diabetes and Cancer patients.
I haven’t had a sip of soda in five days. I haven’t had any sugar whatsoever, in five days either. I wrote down the dietary restrictions on the fridge, and now we both eat very well, based on the Keto Diet restrictions in place.
Let me tell you that Detoxing from Sugar is BRUTAL … The first three days, I thought I was going to loose my mind. I was hormonal, and seriously demented. I had headaches, and I was terribly, emotionally, cracked.
One of my women, whom I work with, read my F.B. Page and she has serious time invested into the Keto Diet. So she called me the other night and we tweaked my plan, with a few changes and substitutions.
I spoke about having realized in February that I had, in fact, lost ten pounds, which spurred me into a radical lifestyle change, personally. I want to feel good, and look good, and look good doing it too.
People are noticing.
Thursday, after the meeting, is my “teaching night.”
My Elder friend in Utah, and I talk weekly via Google Hangout. We get to see each other and talk about how his life has changed since he ended his mission in Montreal. It was important that we kept our friendship going, because i want him in my life and we are friends, and each week, I get a little Faith Boost from him. General Conference was last weekend, this year, he got to see it live and in person. I get to watch it here at home.
His takeaway was this:
Community is important. Faith is Important. Charity is important.
Distilling a theological message to three points …
The number of walls you can knock down when ministering to your community, friends, and family, the better. We don’t need any more walls, we need community, we need love, we need charity and we need to love one another fully.
This message, in three parts, is familiar to me. I’ve heard it repeated many times on many fronts over the past month or so.
The Blessings of Easter is quickly approaching. The whole reason the Atonement is central to the church and her people. The sacrifice of the Cross makes this life possible and grants us life, love and faith.
Tomorrow is the Best Night of the Week.
Surely more to come.
“The more you realize, the more you realize that there is nothing to realize. The Idea that there’s somewhere we have got to get to, and something we have to attain, is our basic delusion.”
Our story tonight, comes via a man who is of the Jewish faith. This story highlights the conundrum that many face, when they come to the rooms. The dichotomy of a program of recovery, that operates on a Spiritual, rather than religious model.
You can’t get away with calling a program of recovery “Spiritual” when the word “GOD” appears in the Book, and through the steps. This One Single Three Letter Word, keeps many from getting sober, no less, having a spiritual experience that everybody needs, at some point in their journey.
How do you separate the Religious from the Spiritual ?
…The last big hurdle was closing the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. As a Jew, I was uncomfortable with it and decided to talk to my sponsor about it. So I said, “The Lord’s Prayer bothers me. I don’t like closing with it.” “Oh,” he said, “what’s the problem?” “Well, I’m Jewish and it’s not a Jewish prayer.”
“Well then,” he said “Say it in Jewish.” I said, “It would still be the Lord’s Prayer.” “Right,” he said. “Then say something else that you like. Your Higher Power, whatever you call it, is helping you, and you need to say thank you.”
That was a big step for me; I finally began to separate the religious aspect of my life from A.A. Spiritual program. Now the big difference to me is that religion is the RITUAL, and we all differ there, and SPIRITUALITY is the way we feel about what we do. It’s about my personal contact with my personal Higher Power, as I understand Him.
I laughed to myself as I read this story. This man, who came in, and against his better nature, did get sober, and found a life beyond his wildest dreams. He, a Jew, comes in and has problems, not with G-d but with The Lord’s Prayer, and its recitation to close a meeting.
I’ve spoken about the promise made to God, by Memere, about me, when I was just a boy.
Last night, I was reminded of that promise, by a passage in a book I am reading at the moment about Pope Francis.
The biographer is telling the story of the child, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and how his grandmother introduced him to a life of faith and prayer. A story, very similar to mine.
It was my grandmother who took me to church, promised me to God, and faith followed me, and God was always there, I just wasn’t always interested in listening.
Until I got sober the second time.
I read this passage last night and it rang so very true for me …
May the Man not betray what he promised as a child …
I had not made that initial promise, but I HAD made a promise to God, in church, as I was being groomed to enter the seminary. And while there, I did promise God my life, from that point in my limited life, to the extent I believed I could.
It only took me thirty four years to figure out that I needed to rekindle that promise and make my way into life with God in the drivers seat. And to be honest, I was good for that.
Life is there, for you to choose what you are going to do with it.
But if you are on Train B, and you are on your Do Over, better buckle up and do this right, because you may never get another kick at the proverbial can of sobriety.
Petty complaints, and a lack of trust and faith will destroy someone coming in the rooms with an “I Know Better” attitude.
It was Chabad, A Jewish Organization, who pointed the way for me, and IS the bedrock of my program of recovery. An Organization that still operates in our city today.
I find it funny, that our writer tonight, is a Jew who has problems with a Christian Prayer, and it was a Jewish Organization that helped me get and stay sober.
I owe them a debt of Gratitude.
A factual memory that rises to my mind when reading this story… The story of Louis and Irene Ziff, survivors of the Holocaust, and the Auschwitz concentration camp. I knew this couple well, they were friends of the family when I was a boy. They used to dine at our table for many years, before they both died.
I remember them fondly.
This is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Photographed by a friend of mine who lives in the U.A.E.
The week that I had crossed my first year sober, my addictions counselor asked me a question… She said, “You’ve been sober a year now, what do you want to do for you?”
I really had to think about my answer. In the end I decided that, at age 35, I would go back to school, and complete my studies in a field that I had begun in, when I was only nineteen years old.
I did not make it into ministry through the front door. And a lifetime would go by until the day I reached the point that I would finish my religious studies “in the field.” Almost a decade in studies took place, and I got my two diplomas.
World Religions and Pastoral Ministry …
It was odd, getting sober, in the rooms, AND studying Religion, by the book. I learned about God, by the book. I found Him as real, IN the rooms.
A requirement that we were invited to do was, at each unit of study, in whatever religion that was, we had to in-bed ourselves in that particular faith community. We did not just study the books and go to class, we participated in every religion we studied.
Islam, was a unit of study. The good thing about Concordia University, is that there is a very high population of Muslim students, from all over the world. And in the Hall Building, the university set aside two rooms that are dedicated prayer locations, so that students can come and make their prayers and participate in their own community and not have to leave the university while they are there.
I have Muslim friends. I am intimately familiar with the Muslim population here in the city, mainly because of my participation in the Muslim community when I was a student.
For many Friday’s, I attended Friday Prayers with my fellow students, both men and women. Those first few years, after coming to Montreal, I had to find my own footing. politically, mentally, and spiritually. The many faith-based communities helped me find my way.
The way people hate so hard is common, around the world, no matter where you come from. In my case, it began at home. I learned how to hate hard by my parents.
Thankfully, I never hated that hard in my life.
People tend to hate what they don’t know, it is easier to hate, then expanding their minds to learn about others, so that understanding is possible.
In the United States, Americans live in a predominantly Judaeo-Christian society. What did we know about Islam, for a very long time? I had NO exposure to any other religion than Christianity and Judaism.
I was not introduced to World Religions on a grand scale, until I moved to Montreal.
My father lived in the thought that, He loved his country, fought for his country, and you either loved it or left it. New comers to the states, be they immigrants or religious minorities or religious communities, the “Other” was always viewed with suspicion, as if something “New” had come to supplant what was already there.
The old Judaeo-Christian conquest conflict of East Meets West, Islam is coming to the West to take over the world mentality, is pretty scary to people who grew up in generations past, with all they know of is Christians or Jews, to have to expand to open themselves up to Islam, or Asian religions, or South East Asian religions was preposterous and not to be attempted.
People tend to freak out, as we have seen over the past fifteen years since 9-11.
It is easier to hate everybody and not know why we hate, then to figure out who we hate, and why, and not pigeon-hole Everybody into One Lump Hatred Society.
And by Everybody, I mean that because of some men who choose to do what they did, we hate all Muslims no matter where they come from, because we saw One thing and came away with One opinion. Because we were fed that opinion by the media.
We did not spend any time learning for ourselves what was either True or False.
And the way the media and society spins that hatred is mind-boggling.
And depending on where you live, that hatred is spun into an evangelical frenzy.
Evangelicals are some serious people who believe in a set way of life, with set scriptures and set teachers and believe they have ALL the right answers, no matter what ever info exists to the contrary.
Hatred, in many places, is as potent as Evangelical Frenzy.
Because Hatred that lives in an Evangelical vacuum is seriously dangerous. You cannot teach anyone who lives with evangelical truth or hatred, Anything… Because they know who God is and He is Christian, and nobody is going to teach them anything else, from any other perspective.
God said it, I believe it, that settles it …
I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the Quran. I’ve read it. Learned about it. I have a Quran in my reading library. Islam is part of my life today, because you know, there are Muslim men in the program of recovery here.
Many of them are my friends.
Before you judge ANYONE else based of country of Origin or Origin of Religious faith, take a step back, and think about respect and dignity. Think about their humanity. Think about their families.
You cannot go very far in Montreal, without meeting someone of Muslim faith in any shop, any restaurant, or any service industry, in this city.
The Middle East – all of the Middle East is fraught with serious conflicts.
Middle East religions were not part of educational curriculum when I was a kid in school. That was not introduced until University here in Montreal. Many, MANY people in the West know Nothing about Islam, but for what the media feeds them on any given night from television.
Or from the pulpits of their churches.
And the more evangelical that news presentation, the harder the hate and misunderstanding and misinformation. The harder the media tries to paint ALL of Islam by ONE brush, with ONE vision, and only ONE understanding, what does that do to those who are fed that message ?
They hate as hard as they are fed that message.
Do you know Muslim men and women, Do you know their families ? Are there Muslim citizens living in your community ? Do you know or do you even care ?
Hatred and Islamophobia is alive and well here in Canada. We are not immune to the messages of Hate and Exclusion. Social Media and right leaning news organizations fit that bill very nicely, not to mention the media that comes out of the United States.
You cannot blame ALL of Islam, for the failings of certain specific communities. We should not paint every Muslim man, woman or child with the same brush.
For decades, the Middle East has exploded into calamity. That portion of the world, that is so Steeped in Religious history, is fraught with complications, like I mentioned earlier.
The Powder keg that is the Fertile Crescent has fallen into mass civilization destruction and genocidal death.
Where do all those people go to flee war, killing, death, starvation ???
Europe is on their doorstep. And we all know how that turned out.
For the Christian West, as happened, was the bastion of freedom, of life and of the pursuit of happiness. Why would people NOT come to the West, to seek a better life for their families? And why as we, as Christians, not welcome the refugee ???
I mean, why does the Statue of Liberty stand in that Harbor, welcoming the huddled masses from all over the world.
We have forgotten or refuse to admit, that North America began with people who came from someplace else FIRST…
I mean, do we all get that Jesus was a refugee ? That when he was born, his parents took him from his home and fled to Egypt because of King Herod wanting to kill him ?
Do we all get that Jesus was not a Caucasian white man ? He was of Middle East parentage, and had Middle Eastern looks, and a life spent living in the Middle East, and preaching there as well ?
So why do we hate so hard, when Jesus taught us how to treat each other with Love and Charity ? I don’t get how you hate so hard and believe in a God that taught you what you should do, and in reality, you could not be bothered to accept the “Other” and love and respect them as God has taught you to.
All because they worship God in another form and tradition, and that threatens your safe and sound ideology that does not serve you well.
In fact it makes you hate harder, instead of Loving your neighbor better.
If we loved as hard as many Hate, the world would be another place …
That is what the rooms teach us. How to love ourselves, and each other. And we learn to serve each other, in the least of these on a daily basis.
Lessons the world at large could really benefit from.
Right now, here in Quebec, our Muslim communities have opened their mosques to the public, for us to come and participate in and learn from their community.
Will you participate ?
Hatred is NOT a Christian Value.
In fact it goes against EVERYTHING that Jesus taught us.
The reason so many people hate as hard as they do, is because they listen to only those people who feed that kind of fire. I call it Evangelical Hatred.
Evangelical hatred is much more energetically potent vehicle because God is behind that kind of hate. Gay men, during the AIDS crisis and to this day, suffer that same hatred by many.
Now the world is saturated with this kind of hatred of Islam and the “other.”
Hate everybody, because that’s what we are told to do by those who teach hatred from their pulpits. And all those people, voted for the man, in great numbers, who just banned Muslims from seven specific countries in the Middle East and Africa.
But he did not ban Muslims from countries where the President has business ties.
Hmmm … Business Security comes before National Security.
We cannot live in a world of peace, until we end systemic and evangelical hatred.
Systemic evangelical hatred is poison for the soul.
It tarnishes our souls, and separates us from truth and love.
It pits One God over Another, Allah.
Jesus against the Prophet, Blessed be His holy name.
Religions of the world exist.
And we are all here, because our God created us, and gave us a faith of origin. And what right do we have to be judge, jury and executioner, to say that one religion is the Ultimate Religion, and Truth, and that No Other Religion or Truth will be Listened to, Learned about, OR Accepted as Legitimate.
We sit in the balance of the war between the Christian God of the West versus that Muslim God of the East.
Nobody will win this war … More will die to defend their faith, than will survive it.
Where will you stand in this religious battle for truth ???
Will you love or will you hate ?
God weeps that we have let our world fall into this abyss of conflict.
When it all comes down to LOVE.
A comment that came in just now, I will explain in detail …
I’m curious about your change in church allegiances; first it was banners all about the pope, pope, pope, pope! Now it’s LDS. You know that neither of these institutions will ever accept you as a gay man, right? LDS has even given you the ultimatum.
My observation about you is that you seek a system of rules that will keep you sober and safe; The Catholic Church was first, now it’s the LDS church. Both absolutely and completely anti-gay. Although, let’s face it: the Mormons are ever so much more polite about it.
It’s our relationship with our Higher Power, independent of any institution, AA included, that is at the heart of our sobriety.
That’s why the lady stomped out when you asked her to delay her trip: she didn’t have that internal strength in place and was relying on external institutions to manage her sobriety for her. She knew it in that moment, and was pissed off.
What are you looking for outside that you don’t already have inside? Work on *that* rather than wanting people to like you. It feels to me as if there is an ancestor (Father? Mother? Aunt? Uncle?) who you are trying to please. Ignore them and please Jeremiah. For once figure Jeremiah into the equation. Be self-centered in a good way, because that is where your center IS.
The stewardess tells you to put your oxygen mask on first: if you’re not conscious, you can’t help anyone else. Jesus tells us to take the beam out of our own eye before even thinking about trying to help our neighbor. We can only give when our own cup overflows.
Just like the lady who couldn’t tell her adult children she couldn’t come to England, I know that you have a lot of rules about why you can’t put yourself first. Examine them. AA is supposed to be all about self-examination first, and helping others SECOND, AFTER you get truly sober. And I’m not talking about white-knuckled strict adherence to the rules as a substitute for true inner serenity and sobriety here.
Alcohol is not cunning, baffling and powerful — I don’t care what the big book says: the ginormous hole in your soul that needs constant feeding IS. Fix that. See it. Acknowledge it. Fill it with good things. I wish you the utmost best.
So, I’ve spent fifteen years adhering to the rules and suggestions of those I most trusted. And they have served me well, because I did not CRACK UP and I am sober still. And I think I am a little more sober this year, than I was last year.
At this time last year, there was open rebellion in the Best Night of the Week Meeting, and the alcoholics and the addicts were in open combat, and I chose a side and stuck with it. That almost ruined certain key relationships in my life, and when I took my chip last year, it was very apparent that I was terribly upset with one of my best friends in the world.
For the last two and some odd years, I had been serving a second fellowship almost entirely, and at the end of my run, my cup was empty and I left them to seek my own renewal. That has only been a few months in the works today.
I also left another meeting that was totally unhealthy for me, because of the toxic people in that meeting, so that cut me back to just two meetings a week, where I am homed today, the Thursday meeting and the Friday meeting where I open and set up as well.
I had come to the realization that I was not taking care of me, opting that if I served others dutifully, that I would stay sober. This was not a really good tack, because I know now that I really want to take care of me. And I wasn’t…
Which leads to the LDS.
On that fateful day a few months ago, the elders appeared and opened dialogue. If you have read back some ways, I explain how we get around GAY in the LDS. The marriage issue is just a paper formality that is the stumbling block NOT my homosexuality. I am on the back side of Gay today. Been there, done that.
There is a reason and a method behind my pursuits. I’ve explained in detail in several posts listed below.
I talked to Heavenly Father prior to the Elders coming to me and set my 50th birthday as the cut off day to sever ties with everything that was not serving me. HE, in his infinite wisdom, set that plan into action much earlier than I had expected it to begin.
Hence where I am right now.
After seeing my friend crack up last night, I realized just how hard I worked to stay sober, by following the rules like Gospel, because had I done things that I saw my friends do, or had I taken a tack that some of my friends did, I would not be of such sound body and mind as I am today.
You might have the time, but you may not be very sober …
I’m really not in a bad place. I am happy, all things considered. I have everything that I need, and I seek contact with Heavenly Father on a daily basis. And for the most part I find Him when I seek Him. I know that for sure.
In reaching this anniversary, I was prepared to do what I needed to do for me, spirituality was one segment, and self care was the other. I am just trying to work out what I need to do, where I need to go, and whom to seek for advice. Because I am nothing without those I trust. And there are just a chosen few that I do trust today.
Over the last year, it has been made plainly aware that there are just some people I should stay away from, even though they are WELL double digit sober.
They might have the years, but they are certainly not sober, and I really do not want what they are peddling. So I’ve moved on from those folks over the last year.
Approval … As alcoholics and addicts, we are always seeking approval, one way or another, and I admit I am guilty of that myself. I want to be seen as a human being worthy of love, and human decency from people who will never give that to me, and that has been a thorn in my side for the whole of my life, and I am turning the page on that, and I’ve been working on that for some time.
That is going to take some more work, to be honest.
Self centered and Selfish for me … I’ve never been keen on doing things for me, however I do do thing for me on a daily basis. Meanwhile in the meetings, the plan of action is always to serve everyone else, to the exclusion of ourselves, because in serving others, we get to stay sober. Working with others also suggests that that work will guarantee sobriety.
But I know from experience, that throwing myself into serving others on a one to one basis is all time consuming and taxing on my spirit and I am glad that I have just my two guys that I work with today.
I am trying to find the balance, and I am seeking balance in places that most of you tell me are unwelcoming and judgmental. That may be the case, but I have found the work arounds, to a certain degree. And I enjoy the LDS community and the people in my ward. They are loving and kind people who only want the best in each of us who are part of that contingent of men and women. Elders and Sisters included.
I know what I need to do, these realizations have been coming for some time. And I have listened to my spirit more, and stepped up my prayer and spiritual life, and I am seeking spirit in the LDS church, because when they came to me they offered a way of life that was truly engaging and open to possibilities. And I was ready to hear their message and become part of something I had not found in the Catholic, Anglican and other faiths that I had studied and been part of for the last decade and a few years here in Montreal.
I know where I come from, and I may not know where I am going, but this journey is still ongoing, and I am seeking the way, the best way I know how and I am trusting Heavenly Father, that He knows the way and in time will show me, one day at a time.
Heavenly Father has a plan, I just need to Trust, have Faith and Believe.
Over the last few months after working this round of steps, and seeking a New Experience with the women who were in my study pod, I did have a new experience, and at the end of those studies, I learned just what I was seeing for the first time, and found out just who certain people were, on their insides, and I chose to walk away from that toxicity.
When people show you who they are the first time, believe them …
I’ve encountered old timers with LOTS of time, who turned out to be charlatans and fakes. And that truly turned my stomach and sent me into a tail spin earlier this summer after the shooting in Orlando. That was a totally catastrophic emotional bottom that I had never experienced before. And it took me months to work myself out of it.
I don’t suggest anyone go through that kind of emotional bottom if possible, but you know, shit happens.
Sobriety has been a challenge, and for the last year, I pounded service till it bled me dry and my cup was empty at the end of the summer and I have been endeavoring to refill that cup with good meetings, good people, and a smattering of service because I still feel that a little service goes a long way to keeping my head on straight.
It keeps me rooted in the basics of sobriety and keeps me mindful of where it all started, and why I still go to meetings, and why I want to stay sober.
Because I don’t want to CRACK UP like some of my friends are CRACKING UP.
At least that suggestion is still in active motion. I can’t NOT do service.
It’s like tossing a loonie in the basket …
My chip and its giver are stuck in San Diego at this hour, so we postponed my anniversary for one week, until next Friday.
More to come later tonight.
Thanks for your comment Bill, it was very much appreciated.
What a difference a day makes …
Yesterday I was talking about Heavenly Father and the church and all that was good in my life and how “on track” I was, heading towards the finish line, as one of my Elders, leaves for home, in Idaho, next Tuesday.
I have been the subject of high level talks in the Church hierarchy. Over the weekend while we were all at the Stake Conference, my name came up in discussion between my Elder team and the Mission President.
Tonight, after family night, I inquired about that discussion.
Eyes turned downwards, and they broke the news to me, and this is what was said.
My Gay Marriage, my On Paper Legal Marriage in the Province of Quebec, Marriage is unacceptable. In order for me to become a card carrying Mormon member, baptized with all the privileges due … I would have to end my marriage and get an ANNULMENT.
In a word, well two words … ABSOLUTELY NOT …
I knew this was going to be the sticking point. I just knew it. But I was holding out hope, and giving my hope more power than I usually give my hope, because I know how ALL IN I can be and what happens when I commit to ALL IN, I get my heart broken.
Well, my heart is broken tonight.
I am very saddened that my Young Elder Christansen will end his mission next week, and my journey will be incomplete.
Heavenly Father has a plan, I’m not sure what that plan is. I’ve been encouraged to follow through with my studies and prayer life and allow Heavenly Father to do what He is going to do, because I am ALL IN.
I love Levi’s testimony. It brought me great peace and spoke to my heart. The path to Heavenly Father is there, even if we don’t see it right away. He will show us the way.
**** **** ****
I think the thing that I want people to learn and feel from my story is that the Savior really does love all of us, and despite the challenges in our lives and the mistakes that we make, He is there for us; He is there to put his arms around us when we need Him to be there for us.
I was born in Boise Idaho and grew up in Meridian Idaho. I was born into a pretty big family. There is one girl, then six boys, and then another girl. I was the sixth boy in a row and so I grew up with a lot of brothers and it was a lot of fun.
Growing up though I did feel different from most of my brothers, and I definitely felt different from the people I went to school with, the people I had Sunday school with especially – I felt very different and very distant from them. I always felt like I wanted to be accepted by them and especially by the people I went to Church with. I felt like I could never understand why I didn’t feel accepted by them and why when we were in Sunday school I sat on one side of the classroom and they sat on the other side. I could never understand why I was treated so differently.
I think by the time I started middle school I really started to notice that although some of my friends had crushes on girls and girls that they liked, I had girls that I wanted to be friends with who I thought were great, but I didn’t really have a desire to date them. Even in middle school I would talk about, oh I have a crush on this girl, and I would talk about that, but I definitely didn’t feel it the same way they did.
I knew that something was different, but I honestly didn’t know or didn’t accept it at the time. As I went throughout middle school I started to have challenges with things like pornography at a pretty young age, around seventh grade. And even then I wasn’t sure that I had same-sex attraction; I just thought I had some sort of curiosity and I didn’t know why. I didn’t talk to anyone about it.
I kept going to Church and I always felt like I liked Church; I had a testimony, but I always felt so out of place. When I was around sixteen years old I started coming to terms that this was not some curiosity that I had; it wasn’t just something that was seemingly going to pass from my life. It was more than that and I decided that I needed help.
I decided to make an appointment with my bishop. I had never done that before. At sixteen years old I had been ordained a deacon, teacher, and a priest. I was never really honest with the bishop when he had asked me about my worthiness because I didn’t know anyone else who was struggling with the things that I was struggling with. I was so afraid that something bad would happen.
I finally gained the courage to go talk to my bishop and I was extremely nervous. I sat down with him and I said, “I have this problem with pornography and I have these feelings for other men. I don’t know where they come from and I don’t know why I’m having these problems, but I need help.” I don’t remember a lot of what he said to me, but I remember I didn’t feel good. Before too long he sent me out into the foyer and my mom was with me and he called her into the office. I sat out there feeling very uneasy and I didn’t know if I said something wrong, but I felt like I truly went in there to make amends and get some help. As my mom came out of his office she was crying.
We got in the car and we started driving home. I was so lost. I didn’t understand and I didn’t feel like I got any help from the bishop, and I didn’t understand why my mom was crying. So I asked her what was wrong and she told me the bishop had told her that I’d been looking at pornography and that I was gay and he also told her that I would never serve a mission, and that I would not be active in the Church.
I just thought that the bishop would be a little more helpful. I thought I would go in there and he would maybe give me a blessing or give me some counsel. I honestly hoped he would tell me that these feelings would go away or something like that. After that experience I…even though I had a testimony of the gospel, and I would say throughout my life I never lost that testimony, but I definitely felt there was no place for me in the Church.
My bishop said that I wouldn’t be active in the Church and that I wouldn’t serve a mission. Serving a mission was definitely something that I had been looking forward to, and I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t be able to serve a mission, but I believed him. I believed the bishop would say the things the Savior would say; that is what I had been taught.
At that point in my life at sixteen years old I kept attending Church because that is what was expected in my family, but I quit participating; I quit partaking of the sacrament. I didn’t feel worthy and I felt like if I wasn’t going to be active in the Church then I didn’t really understand what I was doing there anymore. It was actually very painful to go to Church because I loved the gospel and to be somewhere where you don’t feel like you belong…it’s just not a fun place to be once a week.
As I went through my high school years I tried to put on a face of – I’m happy – and people would ask me my plans after high school and if they included a mission. I would just say, “I don’t know.” As I turned eighteen and as I graduated high school I was at a really low point. I felt so confused and out of place and just so much like I didn’t belong. I honestly felt like I had two options at that point in my life. I was really upset and I felt like the two options I had based on what I knew was that I could either kill myself or I could live the lifestyle.
I didn’t see any other option; I couldn’t keep going to Church. It was painful. I wanted help, but I wasn’t getting it. I didn’t think there was help available because my bishop basically said there wasn’t for me. I had a friend who at that point actually told me he was gay, and I actually moved out with him and I started to meet lots of guys who were living the gay lifestyle. I started going to a lot of parties, drinking a lot, and started to act out with a lot of different people.
For the first time in my life I felt accepted by a group. They gave me a lot of attention and they were nice and kind to me, and they included me in different things. I had a good time being around them, and I had a lot of fun with them. We did a lot of fun things together and for the first time I felt like I was loved, and I felt like I was accepted. I felt like I had friends who cared about me and wanted to know how my life was. That felt really good. I didn’t have that growing up very much.
I think growing up in a large family, as fun as it was, it didn’t leave a lot of time for dad and I. So that was maybe something that was really difficult for me; just not being accepted as I went to Church by these people who I wanted to be accepting of me and they weren’t. I was actually made fun of by them a lot.
This went on for a couple of months, and in the beginning I was actually still living at home. At one point my mom was really frustrated with me, and understandably so. She said that I could either choose to live the gospel while I’m living under the roof of her house; that I would abide by the rules that were in place there, or I could find someplace else to live.
I already had all these friends so I just called one of them up and I said, “Hey, I need some place to live.” So I moved in. I signed an apartment contract and moved in and just lived there for a couple of months. I remember one Sunday, it was January 27th, 2008, I got a text from a friend from high school, and it said Gordon B. Hinckley has passed away this evening, and tomorrow everyone is going to wear their Sunday best to work or to school, whatever it is.
I’ll never forget that moment and how empty I felt; just this sudden emptiness completely consumed me. All of the happiness that I thought I was feeling was gone. The reason that had such a big effect on me is because growing up Gordon B. Hinckley was someone who I knew who believed in me. He always gave talks about the youth and how much he loved them and how much he cared. I felt like he was one person in my life, who wasn’t really in my life, who cared. It was very upsetting to me that I would be living the way that I was when this hero of mine passed away.
I tried to brush it off and not think about it. Throughout these months the thing I kept telling myself was that if I tell enough people that I don’t have a testimony that it will go away. When I tell my family I’m gay they won’t love me anymore and it will be so easy to continue living this lifestyle. As family members did find out they were very loving and that was confusing to me. I thought they would not be accepting. I thought that they would cut off communications with me because I had seen that with some of my other friends and I expected that as well.
As much as I told people that I never had a testimony – I did. I knew I was the person I was because of the gospel. So I went into work the next day and on the little coffee table in the entryway there was a newspaper and it had Gordon B. Hinckley on the front page waving his cane like he always did. I flipped the newspaper over. It was in my view from my desk where I was sitting at work and I didn’t want to see it. I really just wanted to block that out because it was extremely painful and I felt confused again. I went throughout that week with that in the back of my mind just trying not to think about it.
On Friday of that week I went back in the backroom to close up and that newspaper was again sitting on top of the recycling. I really stopped and I thought for a while. I picked up the article and I read it. It talked about some of the things he had accomplished in his life and it talked about how much he loved the youth of the Church. I felt that same feeling again that I felt when I got the text of his love…and just again, despair and emptiness that I was living this life outside of the Church when one of my heroes passed away.
So the next day was Saturday and I just wanted to shake these feelings off. We had a lot of friends come over and just drink a lot. I just wanted to shake these feelings of confusion and emptiness that I was having. I thought well…drinking, partying, having fun, and acting out sexually seemed to be making me happy so on Saturday I had some friends over, and I was just drinking a lot. Usually when I would drink I would have a lot of fun, act crazy, and it just felt good. This time it didn’t; it actually seemed to intensify the feelings of emptiness and sadness that I was feeling at that time.
I ended up going to my room pretty early that night and locking the door. I just laid on my bed and sobbed. I was so distraught and I didn’t’ understand why I wasn’t happy and why the things that usually make me happy weren’t. I was just so upset that when someone I cared about and loved so much, and who loved me despite having never met me or anything like that – I would be doing something that was so dishonorable as a member of the Church and as someone who had a testimony.
As I lay in my bed crying I decided to call one of my friends. She’d been a really good friend to me and she knew what I was going through. I had talked to her a couple of times before and told her how happy I was. I called her at three in the morning and she answered. She could obviously tell that I was upset and she said, “Levi, what is wrong?” I said, “I really just miss the spirit…I miss feeling that.” As I lay there I remembered how good it felt to feel the spirit and how much I was missing it.
She said, “Well, where do you feel the spirit?” I said, “At my house, I have definitely felt it there. I have pretty loving parents, good family, and a home where I can feel the spirit.” She paused for a second and she said, “Levi, what are you doing then? Why are you doing what you’re doing?” As I sat there and I thought about it I thought, “What am I doing? Why have I got to this point? Why am I here?”
So I grabbed some Church clothes because the next day would be Sunday, February 7th. I got in my car and I started driving home from Boise to Meridian. It was three in the morning and I was probably still under the influence of alcohol, but I made it. The whole way home I was just praying out loud. I probably hadn’t prayed in years except for when I was asked to pray for meals or something like that at home. I definitely had not had a personal prayer in years.
I just kept asking God to please let me feel the spirit. I just wanted to feel it again. He definitely denied me on that car ride home and I was upset, but as I pulled into the driveway of my house and started walking towards the door I started to have a good feeling. As I opened the front door to my house the spirit hit me like a flood. It is one of the sweetest experiences of my life and I knew at that very moment that what I was doing was right.
I went straight up to my younger sister’s room, my younger sister. I woke her up and I told her that I was home. She didn’t know exactly what was going on in my life; she knew I was having a really hard time, but she hugged me and I hugged her and she showed me that she was happy, and we cried. It was just a sweet experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my sister. It was just a sweet experience to share with her.
I didn’t wake my parents up that night. I knew they would find me in the morning and I told Marnie I’d be gone before they probably even got up because I was going to go to my singles branch. So I got up that morning and got ready for Church and went to Church for the first time in a long time. It felt good to be there.
I still didn’t know where I fit in the Church or how it was going to work out for me, but I knew I was in the right place because I had never lost my testimony. I still knew the Church was true and led by a prophet. So I went to Church and I knew that I needed to talk with my branch with president. At the end of Church that day I sat outside his office; I didn’t make an appointment, but I eventually got in and sat there with him.
I told him I wasn’t ready to talk with him about what was going in my life, but I knew I was supposed to be here and that I wanted to start working on things. I wanted to start reconciling the feelings that I had of same-gender attraction. I wanted to start the repentance process. These were all things that were new to me. I didn’t really know all that entailed…I just knew that I felt good again.
So as Church ended I drove home and as I pulled into the driveway I got a phone call from one of my friends. She told me that she’d been thinking about me that day and then she told me that…and she knew also that I was having a hard time; she didn’t know what, but she called me and told me she was just thinking about me, and that she had fasted for me that day. As I talked to my sister again later that day I found out that there were a lot of people fasting for me. None of them really knew what was going on in my life, but they knew I wasn’t in a good place; I wasn’t in a good position. They decided as a group of friends to fast for me.
I just felt so loved at that moment – by God, by my Savior, my friends and my family. To think that…probably just a few hours into their fast Heavenly Father was answering their prayers. I was home by four that morning just because I missed the spirit. I don’t even know why I cared.
That Sunday night after having so many experiences, the Lord didn’t stop there. I think He really wanted to make an impression on me that day – that He was watching out for me and that His hand was in my life even though I tried to deny Him. I definitely learned that He never turns away from us even if our back is to Him. He is still there.
So after I left Church that day and had that experience talking to my friend I felt that I needed to get my things out of the apartment in Boise. I had a lot of things there. So I drove down to Boise and my cell phone had been going off all day, almost immediately after I left the apartment at three in the morning. Phone calls from people who were lying across the floor in my apartment.
I called two of my really good guy friends from high school; I had some really good buddies in high school. They knew what was going on as well, but I think they just didn’t know how to help me. I called them and I told them I needed to get my stuff out of my apartment in Boise because when I arrived and saw these cars of people who were still there I knew that I just couldn’t do it by myself. So within a half hour my friends were down there with me. We sat in my friend’s jeep and kind of made a game plan and said a prayer together. I was really nervous, but we went in and the game plan was I was going to go talk to my friend who I had moved out with and they were going to go in my room and carry my things out while I talked with him.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life to walk through a door because I was afraid of what was on the other side. I really compared, and think of the experience I had there of getting my things, to Daniel in the lion’s den. When I walked in nobody said a word to me or spoke to me. Nobody really moved and I had been getting calls from them all day that I hadn’t been answering. I took my friend in to his room and let him know that this was what I needed to do; that I wasn’t happy anymore, and that I knew I had to make changes in my life.
So that was a really sweet experience to feel that brotherhood with my friends again and to feel that the Lord was really blessing me as I did that. So later that night as I got home and went to bed that night I laid down on the floor because my bed was still in Boise, we couldn’t move that. But I laid down on the floor and I just started praying. It felt real good to pray after not praying for so long. I just started singing to myself as I was falling asleep – I started singing, I Feel my Savior’s Love. I’ve never felt it so strong in my life as I did at that moment. I felt His arms wrapped around me which is what I really wanted to feel from anyone up to that point, and to feel it from the Savior was really powerful – a very sacred experience.
From that point on I knew that I still had these feelings. They weren’t gone just because I had sacred experiences. I was able to meet someone who actually struggled with same-sex attraction. I didn’t know there was anyone else in the Church who struggled with same-sex attraction. This man had a wife, a family, and a very happy life. When I met him I felt like that was when I made the decision to go with it – to repent and figure out how to reconcile these feelings that I had because I knew that he had done it.
He helped me to get good counseling and really helped me on my journey. He was always there for me if I needed him. I could call him or go to his house if I needed to. The more I got to know him and see the relationship he had with his family and his wife, I just knew I could do it. Finally I knew it was possible, and it is what I always wanted to see and know.
So I kept meeting with my branch president and I finally told him what was going on a few months after meeting with him. It was really scary for me to tell him all the things that I’d been doing. Actually, I didn’t even tell him, I wrote it out because I didn’t even feel like I could say it. I wrote pages of everything that I’d done. I wanted to have a clean slate when I left his office that day. It was a really unique experience leaving the bishop or branch president’s office feeling good; feeling like a weight was lifted; feeling like I was on the right path even though I didn’t really know what to expect or what was going to happen to me in the next couple years of my life. I felt like I could do it.
Eventually it started to get hard again; just living in Boise around the same people who I had had struggles with. I ended up moving to Wyoming with one of my brothers who lives there and I got a job in the oil fields out there and began working. My branch president had commented around my birthday when I got a new set of scriptures – he said, “Those look like missionary scriptures.” And…I didn’t know that would be possible for me. So to hear him say those words…it made me do this (cry).
So I started preparing to go on a mission. There were a lot of things that had to be worked out and it was not an easy process. I did a lot of counseling and I went on a healing weekend in Pennsylvania, but I knew that I wanted to serve a mission because I had felt the love of the Lord and I wanted to share that with other people, and I wanted them to know what I knew.
I really felt like I was starting to change. I felt like the atonement was beginning to work in my life. I am not the same person that I was five years ago. The atonement has changed me. I kept preparing for a mission and eventually I started working on mission papers. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I was in Wyoming when I got my mission call. It came to Boise and I drove home that night to go open it with my family. I was called to serve in the Wisconsin, Milwaukee mission.
I had a permanent smile on my face for that day and for many days after. I felt like I had arrived at that place I wanted to be. On August 1, 2009 I was endowed in the Boise Idaho temple. I left on a mission just a few weeks later, and on my mission I was blessed to feel a reprieve from those same-sex attraction feelings.
I met some of my best friends on my mission. To this day one of them is still my best friend. I have since shared with him about my same-sex attraction and that has been a great experience for me to feel so accepted. But as I returned home from my mission it got really hard again. I’ve been home for two years now, and it is not easy. I think some of my most difficult times throughout this whole experience have come to me after my mission which is not something I expected. I expected to come home and feel like the world is great and my life is great. That hasn’t always been the case since I’ve come home.
I’ve dealt with bishops again who weren’t as helpful, but I’ve also dealt with bishops who are extremely helpful. My bishop right now at BYU Idaho has been one of the greatest blessings to me. I remember the first time I met him I wasn’t actually in his ward. The spirit told me that I needed to be in his ward, and so I got a contract for the apartments that he was the bishop over.
The first Sunday I went to Church he spoke and he said, “When you walk through the door of my office and you sit down in the chair next to me, you will feel that you’ve walked into the Savior’s office, and I will treat you the way that the Savior will treat you.” That was an incredible thing to hear because even though I’d had good experiences with bishops I had never really felt that way – that my bishop, he loved me the way the Savior does. But as I shared some things that were going on in my life with my bishop I had expected to hand in my temple recommend because I’d done that before.
He just expressed how much he loved and cared about me; how much he didn’t understand about same-sex attraction, but that he would try to learn as much as he could because he wanted to help me. When I asked if he wanted my temple recommend he said, “The temple is something that really helps you isn’t it?” I said yes. He said, “Well I think you should be going twice as much then.” That was a shock to me. I never thought that a bishop would say that to me. Then he asked me to text him every night and tell him how my day was, whether it was crappy or good.
He has continued to be someone who I can always talk to and ask for a blessing if I need one. I am so thankful to have the experience that I’ve had with him. It is a very stark contrast to my first experience talking with a bishop. I know that there are many loving bishops out there who care about what their ward members are going through and truly want to help the way that the Savior would, and love the way that the Savior would. So I’m very thankful for that.
Like I said, it has not been easy since my mission, but I know that I’m on a good path and I know that I’m making progress to where I eventually want to be. I know that at some point in my life I’m going to meet a special woman who will love me for me despite my struggles, and I know that it only takes one girl, and I know that can happen for me and I’m grateful for that.
It has also been wonderful to open up to people and share my story with them because one of the biggest lies that I tell myself all the time is that if people really knew my struggles they wouldn’t like me and they wouldn’t be my friend. I have definitely found out that is a lie and it’s not true. I have shared my story with roommates, with friends, and with my family. I have definitely come to know that people still love me, they still care about me, and so that is one of the biggest things that I’ve learned.
The atonement really does change people from what they don’t want to be to what they do want to be. I am still on that path of what I want to be. He loves us and He is only going to put people in our life that will help us if that is truly what we want. He has definitely done that for me. He has put people in my life who want the best for me and want to help me.
I believe that the Lord has given me a new heart, and changed it from what it was to what it is now. Even if my life doesn’t play out the way I want it to or think it is going to, I know that the atonement is there for me to change me, and to continue helping me on this path that will ultimately lead me back to Him.