Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. B-Down Gobo Light Show – Memories. A Wordpress Production

Posts tagged “God

Friday: Humbly, On Our Knees …

17191492_1866704746945038_5263523050693755398_n

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.


Sunday Sundries: The Changing Faces …

o-BRENE-BROWN-ORIGIN-MAGAZINE-facebook

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.


Tuesday: Sacred Spaces

st-porphyrius

St-Porphyrius Church

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.

Sacred Spaces: Jeremy – Don’t Eat Trash

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.


Monday: Thoughts

9c805eac4710cda268a840b735e273de

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


Thursday: God Is About His Business

0001124_mini-appetizerjam-jar

 

This visual of the “Jam Jar” came up in our Elder discussion tonight.

My Elder friend works at the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah. As a leader, it is his job to bring new missionaries into service. And hopefully before they depart Provo, they will have a basic understanding about what they need to have within, a foundation in service, to be able to give, and a working knowledge about The Book, they need to share.

Ministry and Sobriety are very similar.

In my life, and in my experience, service is the foundation for survival. When I was very ill, and Todd was taking care of me, the “doing” of service was the tool or lesson, so to speak, was where we began.

In Sobriety, this time around, way back when, people in the rooms, basically said, “You will do this, and learn to love it.” It wasn’t a suggestion, it was Gospel. Service was the beginning of getting sober. And service is something I live by, to this day.

Today’s generation cannot be bothered when you tell them what to do, because they look at you and say to your face … “You’ve got to be kidding, You can’t be serious, Why do I have to get my hands dirty, to stay clean and sober ???”

People don’t want to be told what to do, but in reality, this is what you NEED to do. It will keep you humble and focused on doing for others, just because, because this is what I did, and it worked for me.

People today, don’t have respect for long term experience. They cannot wrap their heads around it, service. Like us, Young Missionaries who come to the center, need to know how to serve and get their hands dirty in the classroom, because when they get into the field, they might need to get dirty, or wash dishes, or rake leaves, or something like that.

And if they are not prepared to give FIRST, they surely won’t be able to share the book, well, or at all, because they won’t have foundational abilities to give.

Having Elder Christensen in my life today is SO important to my spiritual growth. I have spiritual teachers in my life, spread all over the word, that I speak to regularly, who keep me on the spiritual beam, so to speak.

So here is my jam jar, filled with every little lesson I can teach you. Take that lesson filled jam jar home with you, open it and begin to use the tools within.

In the beginning, all we want you to do is serve others.

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

Tonight we heard a woman from our community speak. What she shared, struck me familiar, because I had heard some of her story in others, in the past. Familiar themes exist in a community, and you hear of them every once in a while, they are not constant.

After several stops and starts, our woman makes her first pass at the rooms. She reaches her year and her husband says to her, after all that work that …

“You did a good job this year, getting and staying sober. Now you are CURED, you don’t need THOSE PEOPLE any more.”

What does she do? She walks away, and never returns. But she does stay sober for SIXTEEN YEARS.

She gets a real estate job, and she wants a particular listing. She takes this client out for dinner and a local ritzy restaurant in Westmount, very close to home. The waiter walks up to the table and the client orders a glass of wine.

Our long sober woman, takes a five second pause, while she considers ordering a glass of wine for herself. Those Five Seconds, change her life. She does indeed say to herself that, wow, I’ve been sober all this while and I haven’t had a drink, a glass of wine, how much harm can that cause ?

She orders a glass of wine and then has a second.

In six weeks time, from that point, she looses her marriage, her children, her job, and those clients she covets.

Four years of in and out begin.

Women suffer too …

By this time, almost twenty years have passed and she has not logged another long sober period, until she has a blackout and comes to, in her living room, surrounded by 20 wine bottles, laying on her living room floor.

She makes the call, and tries to find herself in a ritzy, spa, rehab. She does not.

There is a rehab here called Toxico Stop. It is rough and tumble. Not the kind of place a ritzy Westmount wife would find herself in. But that’s where she ends up.

A few of us in the room tonight were familiar with it, so it made us all giggle …

She meets some serious drug addicts and learns about heroine, and crack and all kinds of sordid addictions. All this is unfamiliar territory for her.

Three weeks later she comes out and finds herself at a meeting, and at the door, are two women, who knew her from almost twenty years ago. They recognize her and they take her in.

They give her the ground rules.

  • You’re gonna go to these meetings,
  • you are gonna do service,
  • and your gonna READ the BOOK.
  • These are non-negotiable.

It was like that for me too, fifteen years and six months ago as well.

NON NEGOTIABLE.

Drunks and Addicts today, don’t want non-negotiables. They don’t want rules. And they sure as shit, don’t want to be told what to do. Because let’s face it …

It’s us who are crazy, not them. I would never listen to your suggestions, firstly, because this is the way ( I ) am going to get sober. They say …

The above notes experiences, I have heard them all before, never all together, but as bits and pieces of several story tellers.

Our woman is sober today. By the Grace of God.

She’s not so focused on old timers, but finds joy and humility is working with New Comers. Because they have the most to teach us about ourselves and our sobriety.

I know what I have to do now. I know who I want to be. I want to be like my Elder friend Spencer. And in order to be like him, I have to act, every day, LIKE HIM, and in that be LIKE Heavenly Father.

True to God and True to myself and my Fellows.

This is where it begins, and will follow.


Monday: Safe Haven

Prisons

If you are not grateful for the fact that you are free, you should be
If you are not grateful that you have not killed anyone, you should be
If you are not grateful that you have family, friends, and loved ones, you should be
If you are not grateful that you did not drink today, YOU SHOULD BE

There is no greater witness about what can go really wrong when we take that drink, than hearing someone on the INSIDE telling us how he went from mild mannered child to an alcoholic.

Accused, Sentenced, and Serving time for MURDER …

And in the midst of being incarcerated, our writer has found Inspiration, He has found his God, and has moments of Grace, all within the walls of PRISON.

I think we all have stories about what we used to be like when we drank. I heard a number of them tonight, including my own.

I may not agree with MANY of the things I heard come out of my parent’s mouths, but certain one liners, remain in my minds eye, even today.

My father used to say that: Once you speak words, you can never take them back.
Sadly, he did not listen to his own advice.

My mother used to tell me, in fact, I think she only said it once to me that: If you drink, you better never get caught, because if you do, we won’t bail you out.

Impressively, those words stuck in my brain, a very long time ago. I may have been stopped, once or twice, but I never ended up in jail.

Thank the Baby Jesus …

All it takes is that First Drink. For us, that is all. And we are off to the races. For most of my friends, in the program today, had we all kept drinking, like we did, we’d be fucked, literally.

A man I respect a great deal, just turned 67 the other day, and he has been in a really weird place as of late, he was a man with one goal in life, to use, drink, and cause trouble. And at one time, found himself INSIDE, looking OUTSIDE.

Today, he is on the OUTSIDE, looking inside. A good number of my long, sober, double digit friends, are all in separate spaces, themselves, even while they sit in the same room together, for a meeting.

A number of my OLDER sober friends, in their late 60’s and early seventies are trying to figure out why they are still here, where they are going, and how they are supposed to get there.

I was God Damned lucky this time around. I was lucky to meet the men I met, at Five O’Clock Shadows, when I first came in. Those men, my sponsor, his friends, and a handful of others, were all hard timers, who had made it back out, in one piece.

They had been on the INSIDE. And it was their jobs, to bring us newbies, INSIDE to talk about living sober on the OUTSIDE, to inmates, who were locked up for double digit sentences.

You have not lived sober, until you carry the message into the H.N.I’s …

Hospitals and Institutions.

If you need a reminder of why we stay sober, you need not look any farther, then those who paid the price for their stupidity, arrogance or just plain alcoholism.

At the end of our story tonight, our writer quotes things he heard early on, by people who were on the outside, coming in and out.

All those Warnings about WHAT you SHOULD NOT DO, in the first year …

We all know what those things are. We’ve seen them in action. We know what people do, before they end up walking out the door and drinking and using again.

Safe Haven is a double whammy of just how bad things can go, if you drink, and drive.

Or things that can happen, if you mix alcohol and stupidity.

Or the things that can happen if you say to yourself, “AH, I might not be an alcoholic, even if I don’t remember what I did last night, after drinking heavily …”

Act One: Normal – Human Being
Act Two: Introduce Alcohol
Act Three: Consequences
Act Four: Institutions, Jail or Death

There is a saying that alcoholics either get sobered up, locked up or covered up.

Since I was not genuinely willing to do what it took to get sobered up, I had the other options to face. I never dreamed it would happen so quickly.

If you are sober today, and you did not take a drink, you are FUCKING LUCKY.

Because, really, you could be like some of my friends, who pissed away years of time, due to their arrogance and ineptitude and inability to reach out for help, because they believed they had a handle on the black hole they were sinking into…

They drank and used again.

Thank the Baby Jesus, I am sober.


Friday: As WE Understand Him …

9781606410691

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.

BOGGLES !!!

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.

  • Service
  • 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 ….

 

 

 

 

 


Monday: Lamentation … 417

love

AND Acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

NOTHING, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes…

…Acceptance is the key to my relationship with God today. I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and I leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.

This reading should be tacked at all points of view in everybody’s home, no matter who you are, alcoholic or not. It is a reading that I should have used recently, for some of my guys, and most importantly for myself.

I am told, and I tell this to my guys that, it isn’t the destination that matters, it is the journey in between that matters, and will mean something. I heard one of my guys talk about the counter-intuitive nature of the above passage.

In his work, he is sober. But his workmates are not. And the million dollar millennial has stars in his eyes, and is idealistic, and is of the mind, that if he puts in the time, work and talent, that at 35, he is going to be a millionaire, and be able to retire on that yacht in Monaco.

I am afraid, and we are afraid that the end point is nigh, and may not happen, and placing such expectation on God, is folly…

They say that: We make PLANS and GOD laughs …

Acceptance comes, daily. In the moment. Every moment.

I’ve seen people come in, having lost everything, some who have lost some, and even others, who lost nothing, but their self respect and dignity. I watch people come in and have stars in their eyes, and hear them say,

“Well, I’m going to get it all back, just you watch and see…”

And how many of those people recoup their losses on any kind of grand scale ?

Very Few …

You might get sober, and then come to realize that God has bigger and usually better plans for us, than we know ourselves. God’s time, is a long haul proposition.

Waiting for God, is like watching paint dry on a house.

Every time I read this story, or think about acceptance, I get choked up. Tears fall from my eyes, and I feel lamentation, in the worst way.

Mental Illness is serious business.

When I met hubby many years ago, he was ebullient, romantic, sexual, dynamic and young. The early months, of our relationship was filled with things, that have long since disappeared, never to be seen again.

It was good, that, at the time, people were quoting page 417 to me constantly.

Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.

Because when Mental Illness struck us, the man who went into treatment, was NOT the same man who came out the other end. The doctors failed to tell me this truth while it was happening right in front of me.

Talk about Acceptance …

Relationships are built on Love, Trust and Respect. If you commit, you commit. Even before we spoke vows in front of family and friends, shit had happened. Cruel shit, that nobody knows about, to this very day.

Not One Person …

Nobody knows how bad it got. Nobody knows the finer details of what mental illness does to a couple. But I was damned sure that what my family and friends saw, was the best possible vision of a man who survived treatment for Mental Illness. And on that very day, He was the Best Presentable Image of a Whole Man, Body and Soul.

That was the man I married. We were celebrating who HE was, in that moment.

It took me a long time to reconcile who He was, with who He became, through treatment. I kinda felt cheated that I was short changed in the end. But I was committed. Those wedding vows were tested for damned sure, before we even hit that altar.

Acceptance was the key.

It was a very good thing that I was getting sober, and I had at least 15 months in the program, before SHIT hit the FAN. Because it took all of my friends, some serious work, to keep me ON THE BEAM, for the next year of treatment.

I do not regret one day of it. I did the best I could do, given the circumstances. I did everything possible to make hubby comfortable and to care for him, to the best of my abilities. Every Single Day, and I still do, to this day.

I miss the ebullient man he used to be. And every time someone suggests this passage, I get emotional, because I know, to my very core, what this passage means to my life, in a visceral way.

We have two choices in our relationships.

  • You can either accept life as it unfolds, knowing you are powerless over many things, and you won’t have all the answers, or
  • You run, in the other direction, when life gets tough.
  • You either LOVE harder than you have ever loved before, or
  • You never love that way ever again …
  • That is what makes a marriage, every bit sweeter …
  • That you can live up to, and into those vows you speak

Marriage vows are written in a certain way. They are a warning about what may happen to you, when you least expect it, and better be informed as you stand before God, and you commit to your husband/wife/partner/significant other, that you are promising these certain unknowns.

That if they happen, you were once warned.

Running out when shit happens, is not suggested, but many people fail this test, when shit hits the fan. Which is why 417 needs to be plastered in every home on earth.

If you can accept that whatever is going to happen, probably will happen, and that God, in his infinite wisdom, ordains the universe, and that you might not get, that end point filled with expectations, you just might get, whatever God believes we are due …

That is total acceptance.


Saturday: Odds and Ends, and Everything In Between

tumblr_ombbgjnhan1qbrivdo1_540

On my trip to see Alexander, we engaged in serious debate about the state of the world. I am not the best at politics, world issues, and everything in between. Our lives at home consist of one cable news channel, and at 11 p.m. we turn to CTV for our nightly news fix.

I cannot go to bed without the last word coming from Lisa LaFlamme.

I’ve never been totally political, as in, devoted to politics or politicians of any stripe. I’ve always known where I sit on issues of the day. But expanding my brain to other news outlets only began when I moved to Canada in 2002. And over the time I have lived here, I’ve explored other points of view.

Alexander encourages that I step out of my bubble and echo chamber to see the world from other points of view. And this is one reason I love my best friend, because he is from somewhere else, (read:Brazil) and he has world knowledge that I do not. He has a smarts about him that no one I know have themselves.

So I read, I watch, and I listen to other points of view. If you polled me online, I rank in the NDP sphere of thought. But I voted for Justin. And he is proving to be a challenge to me.

Alexander sits on the Conservative side of life. And that is NOT a bad thing at all. Because he forces me to see the world, like he sees the world. He challenges me to spread my vision and take in others words, and not just accept words by people I am accustomed to listening to.

Politics and world events are two different spheres for me. I care very little for U.S. politics. And I do not consume politics like I used to because I cannot be bothered on a daily basis to know or listen to repetitive redundant news about a mad man in the Oval Office.

Cannot Be Bothered.

I spend a good amount of my sober life, buried in books. I learned long ago, while in University, that reading “other literature” that situate itself “around” a topic I was studying, as it went along, was very useful.

Reading side literature around a specific topic whether that literature be fiction or non-fiction, built a world for me to engage with on a wider basis, rather than on a single note in time.

I read, Every night.

There are places in the world that interest me. There are social issues that I am passionate about as well. Issues in the world, and issues right here at home are on my dashboard, quite often. I worry about our less fortunate, our homeless, and our indigenous population.

Because I am in the rooms, I’ve seen so much suffering. Friends of mine, in the program have gone on to work in those specific areas of helping the less fortunate. So I am engaged in their work.

Studying Religion and Pastoral Ministry opened my eyes to World Religions, as well, taking care of those people I am engaged with on a daily basis. I have stayed away from posting anything incendiary on this blog, certain world issues, that I am not clearly well-rounded or well versed on, to write coherently or knowledgeably.

I’ve always been interested in Israel and Palestine. Our Jewish Community here in Montreal served my early sobriety solely. The Chabad organization does work all over the city for many people, I just happened to be one of those people.

During my studies I spent time at the Ghetto Shul at McGill during my Judaism studies. And I often said that if I would become anything other than a Christian, I would certainly be a Jew. Palestine is a new subject for me, since being introduced to that area by a friend who wrote a book on the subject, from a point of view we don’t hear about ever.

When I finished the book, all I could write about was what was in Ben’s book, by the words he wrote. Which began my reading slant into books that were written, on the ground, within the Palestinian community. There are not many in circulation, that don’t begin with a premise situated in Israel, and merely spits on Palestine.

I need to figure out what I know, what I need to know, and where I sit on the spectrum of politics and on the ground situations. I know where I would like to be, but that point needs to be plotted on a map so that I can see it clearly.

Israel and Palestine is such a deep topic with some serious history, people, and problems, that I am unable to touch because of the complexity of the state of that area of the world. But while in Ottawa, I picked up another tome that I am reading at the moment.

I just cannot read a handful of books and expect to be able to write anything that is worthy of print on this blog, because that would be stupid and green of me.

The entire Middle East is a quagmire of instability, political strife and religious intolerance. And we just cannot say, incendiary things about people we know little about or those points of views or lives that we don’t even care about informing ourselves about, because it is easier to hate outright, then find a point of agreement or understanding.

How many people do you know who really care about the Middle East beyond blanket hatred of those we don’t even know, or care to know ?

Because they are not “Christian?” or “Jewish?”

If we don’t read, or listen to other points of view and study areas of the world that interest us, and take the time to get informed, how can we relate what we are reading/studying?

That is a thing …

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

Colorful Metaphors

Any Star Trek fan knows the line from Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, where Kirk and Spock are on a bus, and Spock relates his confusion of people’s use of “Colorful Metaphors.”

I don’t know if it is age, or my sensibilities to certain colorful metaphors and words, used by people I listen to, or something else, but I’ve grown weary of people using certain language.

Since the dawn of the Pod Cast, when I got my I Phone for Christmas, my nightly bed time schedule was shifted when I started listening to Pod Casts. They competed with my traditional book reading time before bed.

Over the past few months, I’ve listened to a number of Pod Cast presenters. And I’ve come to the point that the Ardent Screaming Host, or the host who litters his show with the word FUCK, every other word, I just delete their shows from my phone.

I love me some Bill Maher. But he is incessantly insane. And over the last month, I’ve also grown weary of him as well, because his devolution into insane screaming by the end of the hour podcast.

People who talk on the Pod Cast, are not bound by ethical language rules. Although many men and women, do take listeners into consideration when it comes to words. Others, not so much. I just don’t have the mental energy to listen to people swear and use foul language. It is just no longer appealing.

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

Social Media

Over the last year, I have had to unfriend many people from my Face Book Profile. Certain friends litter my time line with shit I am not interested in, and they persist. Others, all they can do is post POST after POST of political bullshit, incessantly.

I went as far as to neuter my feed from showing me anything related to topics I have no interest in. That meant turning certain people off, for my own well being and sanity.

Aside from news online, that I do consume, Face Book and Twitter are two sources of news and current events that I utilize on a daily basis. But I don’t do either on my phone, so I deleted the apps from my phone.

  • I make phone calls on my phone.
  • I listen to music on my phone.
  • And I Pod Cast on my phone.

That’s it.

I am trying to set some news boundaries for myself. I have built a wall around me on social media that is useful, because I have a life, and I am not connected to social media 24/7. That is insane.

I turn on my computer when I wake up, I run my set. All those sites I look at and participate in and when I am done, I just shut off the computer until I need it again, and I go read, or better yet, I nap …

All the time…

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

Sober Realizations

I wrote to a friend of mine recently …

I no longer have the desire to engage most people who believe so strongly what they do, contrary to any evidence of acceptance and respect of humanity in others. Religion, like politics, are two areas I intentionally stay away from, because I know who I am, and what I know, and that is good for me. Sobriety teaches me that I don’t always have to argue when it is not necessary to do so.

He replied that this portion of my comment is a post in itself.

I spend my days working with others. I spend a few nights a week in meetings. Only three meetings a week now, instead of my prior, six meetings a week, spread over two fellowships.

I love what I do. Because the men and women I work with are accountable. We are all moving forwards. And that is a really good thing. Because I am not a born leader, however I think I “could” lead. I’ve had time in the past where what I did and what I said meant something to those I spent time with.

You never know WHO you are going to meet or what conversation you are going to have with them, until the meeting happens, and conversations take place either before or after.

I want a clean break going into my fifties.

God has made that something that I work on daily. Recently, certain friends have gone dark, for one reason or another, that I am not understanding at the moment, but it is what it is.

I have a routine that works. I have a life that is fulfilling. I have friends whom I love and adore. And a best friend, second to none.

Discussion was brought up the other night, by someone I trust, when he asked me why I just did not adopt the baby, and give her a father, who wants to be in her life, and someone she can rely on, because I am reliable and accountable to her and Mama.

And my reply was this … I want the biological father to pay his dues like the law states. Because he is a dead beat and a looser. And I want him to pay up.

I don’t want to step in and absolve him of any responsibility towards the baby.

I need to research this before I head to New Foundland in April.

I think I know what I want of life and of myself. But that is subject to change because sobriety is not a one trick pony.

Shit happens. Life happens. And you never know what to expect when you walk into a room full of your friends and fellows.

You might just learn something you did not know, or realize something you had not before, and it wasn’t until that particular moment that God opened up your eyes and spirit. And you heard something you realized you really needed.

But did not realize you needed it until right then.

This is the filler that happened between the lines over the last little while.

Sobriety is Magic. Sobriety is Miracles. Sobriety is God, it is Us and it is We.

I love the “We” that I am part of today.


Monday: Flooded with Feeling …

Do you believe in Love

Friday night I saw some folks I don’t usually see at the Friday meeting. In fact, I haven’t seen either one of them since last September. Not a call, Not a meeting, Nothing …

Saturday I spent time with one of my women I work with. And she told me a story, about one of those men I saw the night prior. Many, Many months ago, our man went to Florida and he used, pissing away 11 years of sobriety … I know, of him, that he stopped coming to meetings for a long time, so long, that I was given his key and his treasury responsibility. He did not call, nor did he talk to me or anyone else in that particular room, for that matter.

Now I know why … He used and came home and isolated and kept a secret. For MONTHS. And I know, from his history, how hard he worked to get sober, quoting the book, like he knew the book, like the back of his hand … He didn’t …

Friday night, he sat next to me, and did not say two words to me all night long. He and my other friend left after the meeting and did not stay to talk.

This is what happens when you stop going to meetings, you stop talking to people, you keep secrets and your sobriety looses its priority.

Sad. That particular meeting did not feed him, like it needed to and he stayed away from meetings that might have fed him and kept him “on the beam.”

But addict for addict and alcoholic for alcoholic, we are going to do what we are going to do, and damn the torpedoes.

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

You never know what is going to rise to the surface, when you step into a room.

Tonight’s read talks about:

  • Drinking,
  • Drinking some more.
  • Driving Drunk,
  • Driving drunk some more.
  • Going to a meeting because it meant more for them, rather than for us,
  • Coming to realize that “hey, maybe I’m an alcoholic too !”
  • Coming, Coming to, and Making a decision …
  • Speaking the Third Step Prayer for themselves …

Flooded with Feeling, has been the story of my life for the past good chunk of months. Many of my friends, men and women, are in this mix right now, themselves. The Monday night meeting is a wealth of experience, strength and hope.

The line that stuck out in this story goes like this …

“I just wanted another drink …”

 

My Momma once said to me that: “You better Never find yourself in jail, because if you do, I will never bail you out, you will be on your own.”

I did listen to some of the advice she gave me, however backhanded that single piece of advice was, when it was delivered. I did, many times, get behind the wheel while intoxicated. And it is a good thing that nobody ever got hurt. Because I was seriously stupid. But what is an alcoholic going to do ?

Nothing stands between us and that next drink …

Happy hour only lasted from 4 to 7. Then you had to go home, change your office clothes for dance clothes, and return for the nightly debauchery. Over and Over and Over.

Until one day, You become a character written about in the Big Book, being that tornado, running ragged, in the life of someone trying to get sober at the same time.

Sadly, I would remain that tornado for three more years, until Todd stepped in and said the word STOP. I am amazed, that all the people I drank with, who got sober, before I did, never said a word to me, while I was IN IT. And to this day, I don’t know why they didn’t try to help me. Because the trajectory of my life would surely have been different, had that actually happened, but didn’t.

Our man, in this story, relates his approach to the Third Step and the Prayer. While on the phone, with the lady friend who took him to his first meeting, he writes that “while on the phone he read the Third Step Prayer to her… then afterwards he returns to the prayer and repeats it to himself.”

When I got sober the first time, I had Todd in my life. And every night, coming to work, the practice was, to turn my life over, every time I crossed the threshold into the bar. I practiced that task every night for two years. I learned how to do that and trusted in the man I was turning my life over to, because I am still alive.

When I got sober the second time, It was just me, and my prayer to God. There was nobody else out there, holding my hand. And let me tell you just how unsure I was of myself, not knowing IF I could TRUST myself alone … IF I could do it RIGHT.

It did not come for a long time, the revelation of Todd and Step Three, being the incarnation of God Himself in my life when I really needed it. I did not make that connection until I began to relate my memoirs on this blog many years ago.

I had seen God, in the flesh. I knew there was a God, all along. I knew the drill. I just did not trust anything that I did, on my own.

But I am getting better at it, today.

Over the years, I’ve watched the men I worked with, who for some, did not necessarily believe in God, how they worked around the Third Step, each for their specific sensibilities. The Friday meeting has been a proving ground for our young people, who also, many of them, could not see past the word God, and got and stayed sober.

Many of them came, stayed a bit, left, and never returned.

Even though we spent years studying the word God, trying to find work around’s to allow the belief in whatever worked until they figured God out for themselves.

Every day, we have an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

Do I want a thimble full of God, one day at a time, or
Do I want a bucket full of God, one day at a time ???

And when is it that I realize that I am a drop in the big ocean that is humanity (read: God). And that I am one with ALL that is, because a little of all that is OUT THERE, is within me, and that a little piece of WITHIN ME is one with all that is OUT THERE.

And that, as I live and breathe, the universe out there, knows, before I even utter a single thought, prayer or word …

How amazing is that ???

 

 


Friday: The Language of the Heart

tumblr_lxerkgwvpi1r556eno1_500-followeed

Why, at this particular point in history, has God chosen to communicate His healing grace to so many of us ? Every aspect of this global unfoldment can be related to a single crucial word. The word is “communication.” There has been a life saving communication among ourselves, with the world around us, and with God.

From the beginning, communication in A.A. has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes. Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.

There is a reason that the Friday night meeting is the BEST meeting of the week. There are times when the depth of gratitude appears and we are reminded just how lucky was all are to be sitting together in a darkened room for an hour.

They say that the opposite of addiction is not recovery, but CONNECTION.

We all need someone in our lives to stand in our corner and cheer for us. We all need that one particular friend, who is going to show us love and encourage us to step out of our boxes and expand to meet the world head on when we get clean and sober.

The words Gratitude, Silence, God and Rooms came up in discussion.

Another friend spoke about how scientists found Seven planets orbiting a cool dwarf star, Trappist One, some 39 light years from Earth. And if we can prove LIFE on another world, in the coming decades, that is going to blow all of our socks off and change the face of humanity as we know it.

I talked about silence. And how important Silence is to me. I also talked about “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” a book that is making the rounds with the men I work with. And just how important that book is, in teaching us to be spiritually aware, connected to God and connected to one another.

One of the things I think, is important in the lives of my men, is that we learn how to pump GOOD into the world. To ourselves, to our spouses, to our friends, and also to the people we work with on a daily basis.

Pumping good into the world, just for the sake of it, is not the goal here, but for us to engage our fellows with communication that may, one day, come back to us …

Juan works with our young millennial who is stuck in tunnel vision which I wrote about a few days ago. Juan’s job is to pump as much good into his young friend, that one day, he might sit in his office, and have a moment for himself, maybe a moment of clarity, and walk up to Juan and say … “Remember when you said “this” to me, well I get it now !!!

We need to communicate on many levels every day, with many people. And this is something we work on every day, to engage, polish and hone our messages. Because one day, all that work will come back to us, when we least expect it.

That is why, working with others is crucial for our recoveries. The communication of self worth, faith, love and charity can change a life, in ways we just cannot imagine. Which is why we hone our skills together, so that we can welcome a newcomer and spend precious time with them “showing them the ropes.”

God, is the hardest word to communicate to new folks. As we heard tonight, from one of our young men, who is in rehab here, who came from an evangelical home, who later turned his back on God, and went down the addiction rabbit hole, only now, “Coming to, to finding out, who the God of his understanding is, one day at a time.”

The words, keep coming back are appropriate here, because each day we return for another dose of sobriety, we hear communications and we see God (read:Higher Power) move in the rooms.

When I realized this, early on when I got sober this time, watching other people have spiritual experiences themselves, proved to me that there was something outside of myself that was working on my friends. And I wanted that for myself, so I kept returning to particular meetings, watching my friends get sober.

It was the chase for spiritual experience.

Something I tell people who are new, is the most thrilling aspect of going to meetings. Instead of chasing a buzz or a high, or a drunk, we chase healing, spirituality and in the end, God.

Last week, I got on a bus, traveling from Montreal to Ottawa. That ride, is the most peaceful ride. I can find my seat, usually, two rows from the back, on the right side. I sit down and I sink into my seat knowing I am turning my life over to the driver. And however long it takes us to get from point A to point B, is how long it will take.

I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The return trip, both times I made this transit, is a quiet ride. The “coming home.” People usually sit quietly, not necessarily listening to music or reading, but it is like, we all know, we are, “returning.” And this ride is almost silent, aside from the bus moving and creaking along.

Last fall, on the way home, we were rewarded for our silence. Because as we entered Downtown Montreal, on the highway, a bright, Rainbow stretched from one side of the city to the other. It was magnificent. Everyone on the bus was stunned by the beauty of God.

What do we do at meetings is, we learn to turn off the chatter in our heads. We learn how to sit still. We learn how to listen. And we learn how to communicate.

And one day, it will happen for you, when you sit in a room and you share from your heart, and someone walks up to you afterwards, and says, “what you said changed my life…”

In the rooms, we expect miracles, because where else can you go and witness the miraculous ?

 

 

 

 


Friday: The Beauty of Islam

100910_grandmosque03

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.

100910_sheikh-zayed-grand-mosque02

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.


Friday: Humility … God Giveth and God Taketh Away

918

 

My story begins a long time ago, in a nondescript church, with Memere and God.

On that day, she had a conversation with God, and the covenant was made. And for the whole of my life, God was there, running in the background, even if I did not always want Him or see Him.

When we are born, we are given a body, a soul and a spirit. Our bodies, some say, are the temples of God, created in His image, and we should take care of that body, soul and spirit. Because it is the only one we have, and this is not a dress rehearsal, this IS the BIG SHOW.

When we reach the age, where addiction begins, nothing else matters, but the consumption of whatever we are addicted to, unto the bitter end.

I know what Humility is. I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeing where, I had to humble myself before God. And there were those times.

I am a man who desires structure. A man who desires to be with others, and not left on his own. I need that communion with those who participate in my life. I need a steady hand, every day that I live this life. I am nothing without those around me.

For a great portion of my twenties, I craved a new addiction, “Acceptance.” And what ever I had to do to get it, I did it. Not only did I never “find my way into acceptance fully,” it seemed, in retrospect, that “I would never arrive.”

My drinking career did not last that long. But for a very long time, I was abusing myself, disrespecting my body, my soul, and my spirit. And I had turned away from God, because I had forgotten that a covenant existed between God and myself.

If you think you can run your life, for the whole of your life, addicted and abusive, your God-given body, soul, and spirit is polluted.

I heard a friend say that at times, God might take something away, but He also gives something back. And my life, as it was lived, up to today, has been a series of God taking things away, however harsh it may have been, in God’s wisdom, I believe He knew what He was doing.

I had abused my Godly Covenant. I had forgotten.

Human beings are supposed to make it in the world, against all that happens, we are supposed to go out into the world, be fruitful and multiply. Well, I may be fruitful, but I sure as shit did not multiply. Thank God …

In the gay world, we are told we must be fit, sexy, tanned, rich and pretty. We are told that in order to “belong” we must imbibe great alcohol and do great drugs, because that is what we gay boys do. At least that was the message I got in my twenties.

I was fooled into a delusion that took me to the bitter end. Because I was none of those things, but for a few short years. Alcohol is capricious, patient and cunning.

I believe now, that God knew exactly what He was doing all the time.

But at the point where I had humiliated myself in public, drank myself into the ground and sexed myself up to the point that I was going to die because of my actions, God needed to get my attention, once in for all.

The Evangelical crowd believed that AIDS was the Gay’s punishment for sinning and that AIDS was what we earned by sinful behavior. They wanted us to die. And they vehemently encouraged us to die.

God brought me to my knees, in grand fashion. With plague …

He took away my ability to be fruitful and to be sexy and to be sexual. He removed me from that insanity, I thought I really needed, come hell or high water.

In retrospect, Was my sex life all that it was cracked up to be? No…

Only when I drank.

Taking away that part of my life was part of the deal. But God did not leave me, he incarnated and came into my life in human form. Todd came and saved my life.

I was going to learn some humility. And that is exactly what had happened.

I learned over the course of two years, what humility meant, and why it was important.

Humility was necessary to survive. Approval may not come all the time. And we must stand up and know that we are good. That we can be good to ourselves.

HUMILITY — Definition: When your toilet is stopped up with a cup placed backwards in the bowl, and shit and piss fill the bowl and is all over the floor, your job is to get that cup out of the toilet and clean that mess… humility …

We know today, well at least some of us do that:

My belly button is NOT the center of the universe. Therefore I am not the center of the universe.

As long as I was orbiting my sun, my moon and my stars, I was good. As long as that hand was there, and I was not alone, I trusted Todd with my life and I flourished.

We know that time came to an end. I did not know what to do. Honestly, I did not know what to do with myself or how I was going to survive on my own.

I tried for a while, until A.A. asked me to leave and not come back.

Never tell an alcoholic to go away and not come back. Because if you do that, their life becomes your problem.

Once you speak words, you can never take them back.

I had to venture on one last odyssey. God was there, on silent mode. But I had to get to the point that I recognized that I was done abusing myself.

And that night, I got on my knees and humbled myself before God.

And with miraculous Godly power, God moved heaven and earth to bring me back into my covenant.

The rest, I can say, is history. Good history.

The steps are written in a certain order and should begin with the First, through the Twelfth. Because we need to admit, come to, and decide that (God) for me, is the director and I am a servant. Then I need to clean house and throw out the trash.

Only then can we entertain the word Humility. Step Seven is all about humility.

A familiar exercise is to read the Twelve and Twelve and Step Seven, and highlight how many times the word humility appears in that step work.

God giveth and God taketh away …

And I know that I could never have provided myself with what God has given me over the last fifteen years on my own. I was no normal mortal human being who was supposed to go into the world and make it on my own.

I had no idea how that was going to work.

Alcoholics and Addicts in recovery, We Get Our Do Over…

In the rooms we find what we have all been missing. I’ve proved, over the years, that God can be found in the rooms of recovery. I’ve seen Him move among my friends.

And He has moved in my life. Over the years, little by little, God has removed certain things from my life. In order that He might give me something better.

An Empty vessel that can be filled with grace. A Body, Soul, and Spirit that is Clean and Sober, that can flourish and be of service to my fellow-man.

Having lived as long as I have, I surely do not take my life for granted.

People rely on me. They trust me. And they love me. If I took for granted one day, of this covenant that I now inhabit, I would surely lose my life …

A long time ago, I had a conversation with God. And I told him that I was ready to sacrifice my life in order to serve God.

An entire lifetime would go by, until I reached the point where the time was right, the moment had arrived, the ground was fertile, and I was ready to step up and serve God with all that I had.

For me, in order to serve God, in hindsight, required great sacrifice.

It has taken me a lifetime to realize just what that meant.

Tonight a friend reminded me of why we were sitting in that room tonight.

Because God giveth …

 

 

 


Physician Heal Thyself … “Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”

friends-become

Tonight, January 9th …We read, Physician Heal Thyself. A story about Humility. A story about Higher Power, A story about Turning it Over.  And this topic that I had written on some time ago, repeats itself. So I present it again.

An old friend came to the meeting tonight. A friend I have known since he came in some time ago, and I had an amends to make to him, because, on a particular night, I stood in front of a meeting, and spoke. It was the first time I had spoken at a meeting in over five years. In retrospect, I was not very sober.

I might have had some time, but on that particular night, I was all over the map. And not seeing this friend since, I have had time to see the past, in the light that I see it now.

Lessons come, but the real nugget only comes in retrospect.

And my friend said to me that he was in the market for a sponsor, that his double digit sponsor was fading away into the air and away from meetings. On the way to the metro the discussion we were having had a sense of urgency to it, incomplete though it was.

Hopefully we will cross paths again.

Juan is set to speak, for the first time in his sober journey at St Matthias on the 26th. I wasn’t sure he would accept, but he did gladly. Its a very important job when you get to do it for the first time. I’ve never heard him tell his story to a room, no one has. But I know his story from our work together over the past two years.

I’ve had some time to regroup, and re-order my life. Now I know, really, at this point, what I want, where I am going, and what I need to do to get there. I’ve made some new contacts in other meetings. I’ve taken on a service position at the Area level for the Friday meeting, which is a two year commitment. I’ve joined the Thursday night meeting, officially, and I chaired the business meeting last week. The Monday Big Book meeting has become part of my regular meeting schedule.

We are off to a good start. Everybody has work to do. We are all ordering our lives accordingly, using new tools, (read: Bullet Journal).

With that I give you … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly, Redux.

RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. We thought that we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find him now.

When I arrived at the point that God felt I was ready to work with others, he opened the gates and sent me my troop. And ever since then, I have endeavored to be absolutely, completely, thoroughly, honest. Over the past few days, it has been said that I have kept my troop honest. Which filled my heart with joy overflowing.

There are things we do daily, weekly, and often that keep us on the path to staying honest in all our affairs. Over the past few weeks, we have heard stories, and I have written about them here. The overarching theme lately has been, what happens when we are dishonest, when we keep secrets and when we tell lies.

I can’t repeat often enough, the warnings we are hearing from the chair at speaker meetings. Because now, I listen to my friends talk about their stories, and the varied choices they had made and continue to make, and I utter that prayer …

There but for the Grace of God go I … I could be them !

How it Works, is a staple reading, you hear at almost every meeting, one way or another. It is repetitive, and the words never change. They were written decades ago and are words of wisdom from a bygone era. After hearing this reading read, one too many times, I heard a particular woman, get up and read this passage, slowly, passionately, word for word, slowly, methodically, with a sense of meaning I had not heard before in the past.

There are two types of How It Works Readers…

  • The Machine Gun barrage – from beginning to end without a breath
  • The Toss it all Together reader – who does not respect the comma or period.

Tonight, we listened to it read at the top of the meeting, and we heard the reading parsed by our speaker tonight.

“Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”

There comes a time in sobriety, that we think we have this all wrapped up, and we are doing well, and have no fear of that first drink. Scary …

But when the chips are down, and we are against the proverbial wall, are we able to speak to our friends and fellows, and tell them that “maybe we are not doing so well, and that we may be in trouble, and that the outsides might not be congruent with our insides?”

We go into meetings, and we always want to look good on the outside, because we want our fellows to see calm, sober, good looking people. But just beneath the surface, the reality might be that we are not really calm, or sober, or good looking.

Sometimes, we are just not 100%.

The truth is when we are able to say, “I am not okay!”

If we are rooted in honesty, even if it hurts, we can share anything with our friends and sponsors. This is where, secrets and lies, arise. They say, and I heard it again tonight, that “While we are in meetings, our alcoholism is out in the parking lot doing push ups … Waiting patiently for us outside.”

And you never know, when it is going to happen. We begin to keep secrets, and our old alcoholic behavior rears its ugly head. Our old thinking returns, old patterns return, and we slip into old behavior, oh so quietly. And we might not recognize it right away, and if we don’t, we are off to the races.

They tell us that when we hit a slip, that it is premeditated. That often, what starts as an errant thought, becomes an errant action. Time and time again, we listen to stories of people who go back out, and when they return, we hear what happened and what led them back out the door.

Sobriety Looses Its Priority.

What happens when we keep secrets and what happens when we begin telling lies, not to others, but lying to ourselves to begin with? It begins with us, in our heads. If we are not vigilant we can fall into this trap. Secrets and Lies.

It might be simple and innocuous, but after a while, becomes a snowball heading down the mountain at 100 miles per hour.

I sat there tonight, listening to a man tell a story about being sober a LONG time, falling into old behavior, and then he kept a secret and told a few lies, and then ended up in a bar, with not one beer, BUT TWO …

Then follows years of getting stuck in the proverbial revolving door. Our man is one, that I have seen in my time, who collect enough beginner’s chips to tile a bathroom with. He goes to meetings, but is unwilling to get honest. Sponsors turn him away and won’t take him on, because, let’s face it, if we are being honest, if you aren’t in the game, most men or women would not take you on, unless you are ready and willing to get honest, because this is your life/our life we are talking about.

The warning is very stark and very real.

We heard it again tonight, those similar words,

“Please, for the love of God, Do Not Do what I did.”

If you are out there in the room, and you are pondering a slip, or you are in any way feeling squirrely, or you are coming back, please, talk to someone, don’t leave this room with shit on your shoulders.

When I hear stories like this time and time again, I come home and I write them down, then I turn around and speak to my troop about warnings and prevention.

I remind them that this is not a game to be taken lightly. They need to be in the game 100%, and we work tirelessly, to maintain The Work at maximum efficiency.

Winter has not been kind to our numbers. For the last few months, on both the sides of women and men, we have heard how they have battled the bottle in sobriety.

I go to my meetings, and I know my friends, and I get there early enough that I get to spend twenty minutes talking to them. We know who the front row sobriety folks are, and we also know who the back benchers are. Which is why, at certain meetings, we have moved seats forward and off the back wall. We put out more chairs in the room proper, to make sure, everyone is sitting among everybody else.

That is why we stress, at my home groups that, the twenty minutes before and the twenty minutes after are the most important minutes in a meeting, because we get fellowship, phone numbers and friends. Not necessarily in that order.

The warnings have been clear … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly.

Anything else, is a recipe for certain disaster …

 


The Night Before, The Night Before, New Years Eve

tumblr_oiyyfq1dcu1t12qtyo1_1280

“Accept the Past with No Regrets. Handle the Present with Confidence. Face the Future with No Fear…”

Montreal weather, this week, has been all over the map. A flurry here, some freezing rain there, terribly dangerous conditions ensued. As the rain came to an end on Tuesday, Wednesday, it was warm enough that all that ice melted, not before wreaking havoc on the population.

Last night, clouds began to form from fronts coming from the Great Lakes, and warnings went up for some serious snow to fall. It snowed all day, and into the evening. When all was said and done, there was about 6 to 8 inches of snow on the ground.

Twitter exploded early this evening telling riders of rapid transit, that buses would be running late (read: Or not come at all) because of heavy snowfall.

I listened to Rafa’s advice, so this afternoon, I downloaded the UBER app to my phone and filled in all the info for tonight’s trip.

I told the app where I was, and where I wanted to go. I set up my payment option and hit the “Request UBER.” Within three minutes my driver was at my front door. He actually called me while I was coming down in the elevator to tell me he had arrived.

I will NEVER take another TAXI in Montreal, so long as I live here.

Taxi drivers here in Montreal have been up in arms about UBER operating here and decimating their bottom lines and livelihoods from direct competition.

If there is one dishonest taxi driver out there, there are more, I am sure !

Thank you UBER.

This will be the last post of 2016. I am looking forward to the WordPress end of year report that comes on New Year’s Eve. After a year of writing, I get the specific stats on just how well we did this year in regards to trends, numbers and readers.

God has been very busy this year, taking many of the most important people that entertainment has ever seen, and will never see again.

In 1977, I was TEN years old, ( My apologies ) when Star Wars came to New Britain, Connecticut. The first time we saw Star Wars was at the Twin City Theatres, across the street, from the store my mother worked in when I was a kid. The name escapes me at the moment.

Star Wars has been a HUGE part of my life, for all of my life. I remember when Return of the Jedi came out, And I specifically remember sitting in the theatre, weeping. I had had a spiritual experience, one of many through the franchise of films.

“Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, You’re my only hope ….”

While God is calling home luminaries of stage and screen, there are those who are speaking petitions to the Almighty, to remove certain people off the face of the earth, specifically. By name …

And I have to agree with them.

Death is never a good option, but, while God is doing what He is doing, why not take a few more for good measure !!!

Let Us Pray …

It is crunch time in the rooms of recovery. We’ve been prepping for this weekend for an entire year. making sure our folks have everything that they need, in terms of time and sobriety. And we even have printed worksheets for people to take home with them, along with a copy of Living Sober, for good measure.

Christmas and New Years can be real killers, both Figuratively and Literally.

As is usual, the stats go down through the weekend, and come January 1st, the stats rise and we welcome folks from all over, to the rooms. We’ve worked very hard this season to anchor our men and women in the rooms.

But, in the end, it all comes down to choices.

There are sober places to go on New Year’s Eve, all over the world.

Sober people really know how to throw a good New Years Eve Party. At least we do, here in Montreal. There are several choices one can make here in the city. Nobody has to be alone, or need to drink. You don’t have to be alone.

I thought about writing a retrospective on the past year, but decided against it.

Good Riddance 2016. It was my toughest year in sobriety for many reasons.

In the end, I am still sober and I listened to good advice where necessary

People might have LOTS of years, but some of those men and women, are not very SOBER.

There but for the Grace of God go I.

Let us turn towards goodness, hope and love.

Goodnight, for the last time in 2016.

I thank all of you who have stayed around, for those who read, and for a certain author, of my acquaintance, who LOVES the LIKE button.

You know who you are.

Many words have been written this year.

On Saturday we will see just how many words were written.

Thank You So Much.