You never know, when the subject of Faith and God will arise.
Earlier today, I got a call from my Friday driver, to say he was going to make a 12 step call on the way to the meeting, and if I could take the Metro to the meeting, No Problem.
I met with a sponsee for an hour and made my way uptown for 7 p.m. I got there 10 minutes early. I cranked it out and waited for folks to show up.
Little did I know, that the 12 step call would be for someone I know, from the Monday meeting. This particular man, talks about God, in words and actions that nobody else I know use, in the rooms, across the board.
The other night, he was talking to an old friend, as they shared old war stories between themselves, and he ended up with a crack pipe in his hands, on a two night binge.
Where his faith went, even he does not know…
I sat and listened in, to a conversation, and then I asked him about his faith life, If he had lost his faith, or was he still hanging on to it. From what I had been hearing from him, I just shot into the dark with an idea.
Last night, I listened to several talks from General Conference. Thomas S. Monson, Carol McConkie, and Robert D. Hales. For some strange reason, I was moved to mention General Conference to my friend. I had no idea where he had been, in the way of faith or church, but I began to talk, nonetheless.
I told him what I had seen last night about Prayer, and Community, Service, and Discipleship. He Listened, then offered that he was indeed Investigating.
We had an entire conversation about faith from the L.D.S perspective. A few minutes later, we were sitting there talking, and my phone rang, and it was the Young Elder, who was new to Montreal, calling to say hello and to arrange a meeting with his new companion next week.
Is that ODD or is that GOD ???
I had a thought, I acted on that thought, that led to a familiar conversation, which then was cranked up a notch with a phone call out of the blue, from the last person, I thought would have called me at that very moment.
Tonight, Bill spoke to us, about Higher Power, as We Understand Him. In this reading he talks about the many ways you can find your way, into the program, with very little faith:
“They just don’t realize that faith is never an imperative for A.A. membership; that sobriety can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it, and that our concept of a a Higher Power and God – as we understand Him – afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.”
This subject is treated in many different ways in A.B.S.I.
In a later writing in the book, Bill comments:
“It does not matter what you choose to believe in, whatever will work for you.” At the end of the page he throws a wrench into the mix by then offering this nugget:
“That in the end, it always comes back round to God.”
Tonight, many of us who have been sitting in that room for years and years have seen people come in, sit down, say NO and Go. They come in, sit down, say NO and Go.
I’ve said it before that God, this three letter word, is the MAJOR stumbling block that prevents MANY people from getting sober. No matter how we couch, frame or talk about the “multitude of choices” one has to believe.
The numbers of people who have come, gone, drank and used again, never came back, or ended up DEAD are very high.
It Boggles the mind to ponder how many people we have seen come and go over the last three years.
They say that words are difficult in the beginning. But we all also agree, that the first simple action we take, leads to more simple actions, which lead to feeling better, which leads to sobriety.
If you cannot pray, to begin with, then say anything. You don’t need rote prayers or words you don’t identify with, and speak them to a God, you may not necessarily believe in, YET …
I have atheist friends who are sober today. And they do just fine.
We all agree that action makes the world go round.
- Making Coffee
- Setting up chairs and tables
- Greeting the Newcomer
- Step Work
- Reading the Big Book
- Thanking the Chair
- Participating in Fellowship
Simple steps of action, that done, over and over, DO LEAD SOMEWHERE.
It is not your word that matters, it is WHAT YOU DO that matters.
When you don’t have words, then do the next right thing. Over and Over again.
This is a program of action. We all agree on that. Once you begin to DO and to ACT, the rest falls in place as long as you stick around, and have an open heart.
When I leave my life open to Heavenly Father, He tends to amaze me in ways that I could not imagine.
I saw Him move in a room tonight.
In closing all I can say is this …
- I am not the center of the universe
- My world does not revolve around my navel
- I have a God of my understanding, and that is great, as long as I remember that
- I am NOT HE ….
Our story tonight, comes via a man who is of the Jewish faith. This story highlights the conundrum that many face, when they come to the rooms. The dichotomy of a program of recovery, that operates on a Spiritual, rather than religious model.
You can’t get away with calling a program of recovery “Spiritual” when the word “GOD” appears in the Book, and through the steps. This One Single Three Letter Word, keeps many from getting sober, no less, having a spiritual experience that everybody needs, at some point in their journey.
How do you separate the Religious from the Spiritual ?
…The last big hurdle was closing the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. As a Jew, I was uncomfortable with it and decided to talk to my sponsor about it. So I said, “The Lord’s Prayer bothers me. I don’t like closing with it.” “Oh,” he said, “what’s the problem?” “Well, I’m Jewish and it’s not a Jewish prayer.”
“Well then,” he said “Say it in Jewish.” I said, “It would still be the Lord’s Prayer.” “Right,” he said. “Then say something else that you like. Your Higher Power, whatever you call it, is helping you, and you need to say thank you.”
That was a big step for me; I finally began to separate the religious aspect of my life from A.A. Spiritual program. Now the big difference to me is that religion is the RITUAL, and we all differ there, and SPIRITUALITY is the way we feel about what we do. It’s about my personal contact with my personal Higher Power, as I understand Him.
I laughed to myself as I read this story. This man, who came in, and against his better nature, did get sober, and found a life beyond his wildest dreams. He, a Jew, comes in and has problems, not with G-d but with The Lord’s Prayer, and its recitation to close a meeting.
I’ve spoken about the promise made to God, by Memere, about me, when I was just a boy.
Last night, I was reminded of that promise, by a passage in a book I am reading at the moment about Pope Francis.
The biographer is telling the story of the child, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and how his grandmother introduced him to a life of faith and prayer. A story, very similar to mine.
It was my grandmother who took me to church, promised me to God, and faith followed me, and God was always there, I just wasn’t always interested in listening.
Until I got sober the second time.
I read this passage last night and it rang so very true for me …
May the Man not betray what he promised as a child …
I had not made that initial promise, but I HAD made a promise to God, in church, as I was being groomed to enter the seminary. And while there, I did promise God my life, from that point in my limited life, to the extent I believed I could.
It only took me thirty four years to figure out that I needed to rekindle that promise and make my way into life with God in the drivers seat. And to be honest, I was good for that.
Life is there, for you to choose what you are going to do with it.
But if you are on Train B, and you are on your Do Over, better buckle up and do this right, because you may never get another kick at the proverbial can of sobriety.
Petty complaints, and a lack of trust and faith will destroy someone coming in the rooms with an “I Know Better” attitude.
It was Chabad, A Jewish Organization, who pointed the way for me, and IS the bedrock of my program of recovery. An Organization that still operates in our city today.
I find it funny, that our writer tonight, is a Jew who has problems with a Christian Prayer, and it was a Jewish Organization that helped me get and stay sober.
I owe them a debt of Gratitude.
A factual memory that rises to my mind when reading this story… The story of Louis and Irene Ziff, survivors of the Holocaust, and the Auschwitz concentration camp. I knew this couple well, they were friends of the family when I was a boy. They used to dine at our table for many years, before they both died.
I remember them fondly.
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 ?
It has been steamy HOT these past few days. We have seen a string of 30+c days, with humidexes in the mid thirties. Rain is on the way for the beginning of this week.
On Friday, I was at Rafa’s house and he gave me a book, well he gave me several books, the one I chose to read was “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Earnest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham.
If you are a Big Ole Drunk, this book, is spiritual Gold, as a friend said to me earlier tonight. The book came to me at a crucial point in my spiritual quest for understanding.
“You cannot expect to receive anything, if you don’t extend the same courtesy.”
Meaning: After considerable thought and conversations with my inner circle, and reading about spiritual imperfection, I have come to a new understanding of life, my character defects and my shortcomings.
At the beginning of the modern age, the nineteenth-century nun Saint Therese of Lisieux rediscovered the original sense of prayer as a cry for help. From total darkness, in utter desolation, she cried out, echoing the call of the crucified Christ: “J’ai soif”… I thirst
The insight is constant: our darkness – our sins, our doubts – it is a thirst … for “God,” for “the spiritual,” for whatever might alleviate this painful side of the human condition, for whatever might somehow fill the empty hole in our human be-ing.
We seek help for what we cannot face or accomplish alone; in seeking help, we accept and admit our powerlessness. And in that acceptance and admission, in the acknowledgment that we are not in control, spirituality is born.
Spirituality begins in suffering because to suffer means first “to undergo,” and the essence of suffering lies in the reality that it is undergone, that is has to do with not being in control, that it must be endured. We may endure patiently or impatiently, but because we are human beings, because we are not at each and every moment in ultimate control, we will suffer.
When I read this passage, I almost fell out of bed, because that is where I was reading, because the words “I thirst” have serious meaning to me. Firstly, I found that passage in a book about the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
When I turned 10 years sober, I had that phrase tattooed on my right bicep. Later, during the Roundup where we met Lorna Kelly, a woman who had been long sober, came to speak to us, and she tells the story about going to Calcutta to meet Mother Theresa.
In her book, “The Camel Knows the Way,” Lorna travels to Calcutta, and in the chapel of the Mother House written on the wall, adjacent to the crucifix, are the words …
I Thirst …
I have come full circle.
For the third time in sobriety, the words, “I Thirst,” have appeared.
Knowing that we are all human beings is too easy. But to understand that humans are imperfect, and that we have to understand the phrase:
I’m Not All Right, and You’re Not All Right, but that’s okay – That’s All-Right.
You cannot begin to expect to receive, let’s say, compassion or kindness, or understanding, or forgiveness, until YOU can fully, have compassion, give kindness, forgive, and have understanding.
The next thought that hit me was that, and I almost choked on these words myself, when they came, but, I have to forgive, and then let go.
I can either remain stolid and resolute in my hardened heart and punish and incriminate another human being, thereby, never allowing myself spiritual growth, OR, I can admit my powerlessness and lack of humility, in this case, and say, God help me, because I cannot do this on my own, I don’t know how!
This is where I am tonight.
We’re entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.
I am ready. For God to remove my defects of character.
READY — To Be Prepared…
Steps One through Five are preparation for Six and Seven.
The Spirituality of Imperfection is an ongoing process.
I just got home from sitting with one of my spiritual children, and several ideas came to mind as we spoke together.
- In Life, there is no dress rehearsal
- Do Over’s are not always a given
- Your Life Path is YOURS to choose
- We are NOT our parents
- We are living in Canada in 2016, not anywhere else in 1960
- Go into the world and do good, to the best of your ability
- There are some, in our lives, who are our spiritual children, in the best way possible
- What we have to give, on any given day, is what we have to give
- There are some people who are “Spiritual Sandpaper”
Oprah says that “Doing what you love to do is important. Because what ever you put out to the universe, will eventually come back. Some people, put stuff out there, and make money from it, which is good as well. But if you put something out there, and you’re not making money from it, that’s even better.”
I consider myself a teacher of sorts. I don’t do videos, and I don’t have a page on Facebook where I espouse my ideas for public consumption. All I have is my experience and this blog. I haven’t made a penny on my universal investment, but I can tell you that what the universe has given me, is more than I ever thought could be mine.
You know, not many people visit death, as intimately as I have and watched his friends die, and lived to tell the tale. I got a DO OVER. Now, in sobriety, we get a DO OVER as well.
I’ve had several chances at a Do Over.
How many people get the opportunity (read: Do Over) to grow up and do it well, and take that offer and run with it? Not many …
So the question came up … When do you know you are sure? When does the security come, when you know what you are doing is sure? Confidence?
You know, I know many things. I’ve studied, I’ve been tested on that knowledge, I’ve read a ton of books, I’ve sat in over 5,000 hours of meetings, had thousands of conversations, met thousands of people to this day, and lived almost forty nine years on this earth, and today I know a few things about God, and the universe.
When doctors told me I was going to die, I set out and I read every book that was on the shelf that spoke about AIDS, life, death, the afterlife, and anything else that had to do with the stage of End Of Life.
I even went so far as to consult not one, but two mediums, to contact family on the other side, so that I would know they were waiting for me and that there actually was someplace I would go when I shuffled off this mortal coil.
I am constantly studying, reading, listening, participating in my life and in the lives of my friends.
I read books written by people, who talk to people, who talk to God.
I also read books, written by people, who they themselves, talk to God.
Pope Francis is one of those men.
Over the last 25 or maybe 30 years, I know for sure, that God exists, that He showed Himself to me and He continues to reveal Himself to me to this very day. And this I know for sure, that the day Memere took me to that church as a small boy, and presented me to God, that she struck a deal with God for my safety and my life.
That is a long story, going into my book, that is still being written.
Of that I am sure, 100%
Pope Francis calls us out of our homes to go out to the fringes to seek out those who we would help, in any way possible, because that is what we must do.
My friend has colleagues at work, who are younger than him, who hold positions above him in business. He is older than them in age, but beneath them on the office totem pole. Yet each of those young people are “spiritual children” for him, because in our discussion tonight, I asked him, if he saw his colleagues as spiritual children, and he looked askance, and replied, that he had never thought about them in that way before. Because, every day he goes out and he does good, because that builds faith and character. Now he knows more about that job.
Every day we go into the world, I.E. work, recreation or at home, and we are with people. Our colleagues, our friends, our fellows, our peers, and our wives and children.
Then there are those who we call “Spiritual Sandpaper.”
Each person we come in contact with, IS an OPPORTUNITY to teach, whether by word or action. And we all know that actions speak louder than words. But, what if we are not sure of ourselves, our words or our actions?
Each one of us is a spiritual child of someone in our lives. Each one of us have someone in our lives that we go to for help, to talk to, to get advice from. And for some of us, we have spiritual children ourselves.
If there are young people in your life, is what you do or what you say, something you would do or say, for your own children, if you have them, or for those children, you might one day have? Every opportunity to teach a young person, about life, is great experience, that you will one day teach your own children.
There are are those spiritual sandpaper cases, those people who we don’t know so well, those we don’t know at all, but are in our lives for some reason, or those people who rub us like sandpaper on a baby’s ass… Those people exist.
These are the situation where we really get to practice spiritual truth and in the end spiritual growth. One of my lady friend sponsors, talks about this idea with her women, and I listen to her as well.
Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is the real deal. There are no do overs. You only get so many chances at getting it right. I am only as sure, as all the banked experience I have to speak of and the contents of the hundreds upon hundreds of books I have read to this date.
I am sure of many things. Fourteen years of sober experience was not wasted on me, I know I live on borrowed time. The end will come, when it is going to come, but until that happens, I live free and I do what is best, as it comes to me, on any given day.
I may not have all the answers, or the ones you need, but as I spoke tonight, sharing perspective and stories that relate, and drawing on my entire life experience, of living, almost dying, loosing, gaining, loosing and gaining, I know certain things for sure.
I would bank my life on that confidence.
Because it is tested and proven.
God exists. Of that I am sure.
The universe always knows, even if we don’t. Of that I am sure.
We are made of star stuff, therefore, a little piece of us, is always in contact with all that is, in the universe. Of that I am sure.
Go Hard or Go Home !
This is your opportunity to teach, live, love and learn.
And right now, is the most opportune moment to live.
OF THAT I AM SURE.