Reminder: In dark times

In your darkest times, in your most desperate moments, when all is lost – sometimes literally, sometimes spiritually – you can still bear witness to God’s presence in your life.

In our brokenness, in our addictions, in our depression, in our lostness – as much if not more so in our joy – we can still know that God is present in all things, as crazy as that seems.

It is a gift in recovery when we begin learning to experience God in the absence and darkness – the moments when grace breaks through our walls of despair – that we can share the Hope of Recovery, that God is indeed among us.

As we grope our way into God’s future, we can know that even in the most unchartered waters, we are being led by a luminous Power Whose name is Grace.

Advertisements

Thoughts from Recovery Cafe, Seattle

“We needed to stay conscious that planting ourselves in the soil of community and showing up daily through meditation or contemplative prayer as a means of surrendering our lives, was not just about our own self-actualization, but was for the sake of a wounded world desperately in need of healing and justice. That healing and justice can flow through us, but is not from us and is certainly not “about” us.

“The Sufi tell a story about a spiritual seeker who was distracted by the sick, crippled and beaten down who continuously passed by as he tried to pray. Finally he cried, “Great God, how is that a loving creator can see such things and do nothing about them?” Out of the long silence, God said, “I did do something about them. I made you.””

-Killian Noe, Descent into Love: How Recovery Cafe Came To Be. 

To learn more about this powerful movement: recoverycafe.org.

Short Musing on “God’s Will”

If you are in recovery, and if you are a ‘worker of the Steps’ then most likely you are often encouraged to seek and pray for God’s will and ONLY for God’s will to be done.  And if by chance you are like me and have a background filled with a toxic bit of the following – evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, and/or Catholic Christianity (the toxicity of which I am still healing from as well) – then you are taught to always seek to do God’s will.  You are taught at an almost obsessive level to be seeking this specific Will of God and you are simultaneously taught that God has a plan for everything in your life – from finding a wife to finding a parking space!

If you are like me in any way thoughts of God’s will can become an exercise in selfishness, self-will, and self-obsession: what is God’s will for ME; what does God want ME to do? What does God want for ME?

There is nothing wrong with the questions, but the focus still is me, me, me.  And selfishness is as dangerous to my soulfulness and sobriety as any drink or drug.

So, with that in mind, I am sharing the following quote from a man whom I respect spiritually and whose integrity is high in my book.  Enjoy the words of Dallas Willard that are found in his book Hearing God:

There is a neurotic, faithless and irresponsible seeking of God’s will, which is always taking its own spiritual temperature. In this state, people are far more concerned with being righteous than with loving God and others, and doing and enjoying what is good…

We may insist on having God tell us what to do because we live in fear or are obsessed with being right as a strategy for being safe. But we may also do it because we do not really have a hearty faith in God’s gracious goodwill toward us. If so, we need to [do a bit of growing up] and nothing short of that will solve our problem…certainly, more words from God will not!

The Story of Addictus: musings on addiction and calling

The story of Addictus, or the Myth of Addictus, was about a slave whose master set him free, but the slave was so used to his chains and his pain that when his master allowed him to roam and be free, the slave wandered the land with his “chains” still intact.

All the time he wandered his chains were unlocked and he could have simply taken them off but being so used to and so in love with his chains and pains he chose to NOT take them off.

That is what it is like for those of who have lived our lives enslaved to drugs and alcohol, or to religious systems and other abusive environments.  We are shown a life of freedom, but until a spiritual transformation occurs, we surrender our voice, surrender our very selves to the bondage of addiction.

Addiction is about surrendering our voices and beings over to a master whose end is death.  Recovery is about surrendering to healing, community and inevitably to a master whose end is LIFE: surrendering to God (as we ‘experience’ God) in order to find our voice and our very selves.

I stumbled upon an article years ago written by a spirited writer and addictions specialists named Thomas Lavis.  I have been unable to find a link to the original article, and I have not been able to reach Mr. Lavin to ask permission, but for the sake of healing and recovery, I have taken the liberty of revising his work to tell the story of the meaning of Addiction.  The following is my revision – my Voiced Version – of Thomas Lavin’s article, Please enjoy (and thank you to Mr. Lavin, wherever you may be):

The word “addicted” comes from the Latin word addicere meaning “to give one’s voice over to [something or someone].”  So someone who is addicted has no voice.  A breakdown of the word is something like this: the word “Ad” means “to or toward” and the word “Dicere” means “to speak”.  So, in essence, addiction is when I give my voice over to (or toward) some person, place, thing, or even a process. As most of us who are in recovery know, addiction need not be limited to alcohol or drugs.

I can give myself over, and my inner voice over, to anything: drugs, sex, alcohol, spending, food, pain, exercise, a person, my job, even things like worrying and stress.

The original meaning of the word “addictus” was spiritual – it had to do with someone dedicated to the gods, one whose voice was given over to the Divine for the purpose of worshipping and serving the gods.

Continue reading

Surrender or Resignation?

In recovery, we are told constantly that the key is surrender.  In fact, we are not only told that we are sometimes berated, beaten, and bludgeoned with this spiritual discipline.  But whether I like the delivery of the message, the truth of it does not cease to be life-changing.

Surrender or Resignation.

One of them is giving up and one of them is giving in?  One of them is active; one passive. Is there really a difference?  And if so, would I even know what that difference is?

As I ask these questions I am merely speaking to myself, not to anyone else.  At this point in my journey of recovery, and my journey with God, I’m not sure where I stand: am I at a place of Surrender or Resignation.  It could be one, the other or both.

I truly do not know.  But the good news is that God does.

When it comes to giving up or giving in, faith and fear become guides that in some ways ‘will’ me forward.  The question is which one will I choose to be my guide: fear or faith?

Surrender involves faith; faith in a God I have come to experience deeply as Love and compassion.  Resignation is about fear; fear that is a poisonous and ruinous drug.

Surrender is about journeying towards something while resignation is about running away from something (or Some One).

If truth be told, I have much and little of both.  But the choice is mine.

So which one will it be?  Faith or fear?

The answer will change everything!

 

Promoting Recovery is Promoting Community Betterment

Author’s Note: This blog post is a revision of a forthcoming Op-Ed piece that is being published in January 2019 in a southwestern Virginia newspaper.  I have edited it to speak more to any community affected by addiction and how promoting recovery is a tool for community betterment and community development.

In 2018, everyone knows something about addiction; whether from personal experiences or news media reports, addiction – especially opioid addiction – is front and center.  Everyone has heard the horror stories about the opioid addiction epidemic and its decimation of rural and small city American.  Everyone has heard or knows about people who are living with drug and alcohol addiction.

We keep hearing stories of addiction and the epidemic.  But where are the stories of people in recovery and the powerful positive impact recovery has upon entire communities?

Don’t get me wrong, the addiction epidemic is a major, catastrophic problem who negative consequences ripple out to all of society.  And I keep saying addiction epidemic, because although the numbers around opioids (overdoses and mortality) are atrocious, more people are addicted to and dying from alcoholism than opioids and cocaine combined. That we are an addicted society is not changing but what we are addicted to will fluctuate based on anomalous trends.

When we talk about addiction, the focus is far too often on the ‘problem’ element of it: the rise in overdose deaths; the lost days, weeks, months and years of peoples’ lives as they spiral out of control from drugs and alcohol use; the rise in crime; the losses; the scourge, the stigma, and the death.

But what if the greatest thing we could do to start creating long-term solutions to addiction was to begin a major shift in perspective?

What is if we started focusing more on the solution to addiction which is recovery?  What if we stopped the blame game (blaming addicts, families, communities, law enforcement) and started pointing towards solutions?

What if, rather than focus on the problem of addiction (and in sensationalizing it), and focused more energy on the solution of recovery?

What if we started looking at recovery and funding recovery services from a broader, community building perspective?

Continue reading

Advent Thoughts: God or the World? (Repost)

“We are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God IN the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world…[and] this turns out to be a sacrificial love.” 

– Sallie McFague

Here we are again at another Advent season (for those of us who like the “liturgical calendar”).  It’s that time of year again where we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace by proclaiming “Merry Christmas” as we over shop and overeat, rabid consumers in an age of technological saturation.

During Advent, I try and re-center myself by getting back to the simplicity of what this season means: the God of all creation entered our realm to be with us and to live and love as one of us.  And so we are called to do the same: to enter into the world and love it.  We are called to love the world as God loved the world, which included dying for it; which included dying for our enemies, those who are different, those who are not like us, those who do not believe as we believe.  That is the kind of love we need this Christmas.

We are called to love God through the world, by loving all that God has made: all of creation, all that is created, all people, and creatures and the entire cosmos.  For every created thing is but a mere reflection of God, a glimpse of the Beauty of the One Who is Infinite Love.

For if I say I love God but hate another then it is plain and simple: I am a liar.  Anyone who says they love God but hate another (regardless of whether that “other” is queer, gay, Muslim, atheist, republican or democrat, Russian or American, white or black) is a LIAR.

1 John 4: 7-8; 20-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And [Jesus] has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

And every Christmas it happens, that thing I find almost hilarious and odd this time of year: people seem more concerned about “keeping Christ in Christmas” than they are about actually loving people as Jesus loved people – unconditionally and lavishly.

And Jesus loved people where there were as they were, seeing them as images of his God, people created in love.  And I also find it odd that many of the people who are screaming about keeping Christ in Christmas don’t really care too much about keeping him in all the other parts of their lives or times of the year…

There is much hatred and fear mongering all around us; from politics to religion to my country versus your country.  But in the end, it is Love that will lead the way.  And if I am judged because I try daily to love as Jesus loves, then so be it.  I would rather be judged because I am to gracious and messy with love than to be judged for being an asshole.

So, I will show my love for God by loving this world as God loves this world; by actually loving it as it is, not as I would have it.

For God so loved this particular world – this hate-filled, messy, mixed up beautiful world – that God chose to come into it, as a fragile human being, to be close to us, to love us face to face, to love us even unto death.  And it is this love – this divine love – that is still scandalous even to this day.

Maybe the best thing I can do this Christmas is more about keeping Jesus in my living and loving throughout the entire year than just focusing on keeping him in my holiday greeting….

From Annie Dillard’s “Holy the Firm”

“There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead – as if innocence had ever been – and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been.”

-Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

 

Scriptures of Hope

As we begin Advent, a time of remembering that Hope springs eternal; a time of remembering that although love may be the greatest things, Hope is the most necessary.  As a child of a loving God, I am steeped in the Truth that I am also a child of eternal Hope.  Here are some Scriptures to meditate on to help you find the Hope needed to carry on and to trust…

 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:8

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

“The Truth of Who You Are” (Henri Nouwen)

“Prayer is listening to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved.  [Prayer] is to constantly go back to the Truth of who we are [in God] and claim it for ourselves. I’m not what I do.  I’m not what people say about me.  I’m not [my posessions].  My life is not rooted in the world, the things the world gives me.

My life is rooted in the truth of my spiritual identity.  Whatever we do—we have to go back regularly to that place of core identity.”

-Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life