Space for Grace

“Gratitude prepares a space for grace to reside.”  A.A. old timer

I am a firm believer that there are two primary ways that God’s grace comes to us, there are unfathomable ways for that to occur but these are the two prime ones in my life: they are through a wound in our hearts and/or when space has been prepared.

You see I know God is in the “Grace Business” for I am a wounded sinner who has experienced divine grace more than I can even recall.  But I am learning that grace does not force itself into me, rather I must open myself up to it, empty myself of all that is ego, then and only then does grace come rushing in.

I must be intentional in preparing a space and for me that space is created through gratitude.  Gratitude is a reality that claims that God IS and therefore all is well.  Gratitude knows that all things, moments, and experiences can be and become blessings when seen through the eyes of ‘thank You.’  Gratitude understands that nothing lies outside of God and God’s will for if anything did stand outside of God’s hands then God is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

Gratitude understands that in truth all things are present now, that I do not need to beg God for them, and that trust and thankfulness are the keys that open us up to the blessings of grace in all things.  Gratitude is about fleshing out my “thank You” to God.  It is about knowing I am only what and who I am because of God’s grace.  And let me tell you, I need grace, daily, sometimes minute by minute because the world wants to ensnare my heart, strangling it with fear and dread.

I have to empty myself out and make some space for grace and the space I need to empty out is where the ego resides, for my ego takes up a great deal of space.  But empty I must if there is to be any room for grace.  I am called to be like Mary, who in order to be so full of grace, had to be emptied of herself…as in when she said “be it done to me according to Your Will.”

I am rarely in the head space for grace, but when I shift into gratitude, I am always in the heart space for grace to come and come it does: in ways unexpected, messily, tenderly, forthrightly, surprisingly, but always, always does God’s grace faithfully come.

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Soulpatch Musings: 2 frames of mind

Frame 1:

I am a firm believer that God comes to us in ways that are unique and specific to us; ways that make our knowing the divine voice easier, clearer. Like many others, I have found God and grace more deeply in the basement of churches than in the sanctuary, experiencing radical grace surrounded by the salty saints who claim the title of ‘grateful recovering alcoholic.’ I have seen and felt God’s movements in subtle and not so subtle ways through the words and lives of men and women who are being transformed through the stories and struggles of sobriety.

Hearing and seeing God’s movement in those spaces has been one of the most powerful spiritual movements of my life.

God comes to each and every one of us in personal ways I am convinced for one reason: God longs for relationship with us and through us. And when God does come to us we are asked to follow in ways that are inviting, safe, and ever deepening. But far too often, I confuse “inviting and safe” with certainty and being comfortable. In my mind, certainty is a form of arrogance that stagnates my spiritual journey, closing me off to the essential ingredients of an earthy Journey: awe, wonder and curiosity.

Jesus said we are to come to him if we are burdened and weary, afraid and sacred. Far too often, I have seen and experience people (who in the name of God) wrought fear and terror, telling me of a God I should more fear than adore.

It seems however, that Jesus always points us to a God who is so much more than we could ever fathom or were taught. And I am not speaking of the “more” of addiction, that shrill voice that screams out like the Black Flag song, “Gimme, gimme, gimme. I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme…don’t ask what for!”

No, I am talking of the more of abundance – of joy, of embracing all of life, more of God. We are called to let God have more of us day by day, hour by hour so that we can co-create a life that is way beyond what we ever thought possible or imagined.

God always calls us deeper, always calls us to more, and always I believe to that one end of being in deeper relationship with us.


Frame 2:

I wonder often why I write. I mean, I know I write because I need it and it’s a conversation I am having with God that is being overheard and documented. It is also a conversation with myself as I wander and fumble for clarity and healing.

But who cares? Who really cares what I have to say? Just today (January 13, 2015) there will be more than 1.8 million blog posts, so why in the hell would I think that anyone really cares what this little peanut has to say?

The truth is no one does.

I say that not in self pity or false modesty, but in clarity. At the end of the day it truly does not matter if anyone cares what I have to write or my perspectives on God and the like. I write because I must. I write because most of what is coming from my finger tips are the very things I am struggling and striving to believe, hash out, understand, and live out. Most of the time I do not write from a place of clarity or the comfort of 20/20 hindsight; most of the time I am in the muck, somewhere betwixt and between the already, the not yet, the maybe-never-will-be and the Eternal. Truth is most of the time I am writing I am in the dark; I rarely write when I am basking in the brilliance of it all sad to say.

And out that darkness hopefully comes some glimmer of light, some knowledge that maybe, just maybe, I am on the write, oops, I mean right path. I write because maybe just maybe I can be of service and live out my calling of helping people grow spiritually. And that is my calling – growing spiritually and helping others to do the same. I have known that for decades. I’ve also run from it as well.

 

Musings on Musings…

I wrote this little poem over 12 years ago and I am now trying to start my days by reciting it:

Empty mind.
Open heart.
Good start.

I am trying to simplify my mission on earth, in this flesh, and I have found that it is summed up from the words of the “Big Book” of A.A. (in paraphrase): my mission is to be of maximum service to God and to my fellow man (and woman). Period.

There is one thing I can do better than anyone else: be me.  God made me, me, so I can be a dynamic expression of divine love on the earth through the quirks, cracks, gifts and goofs that make up me.  And the same is True for you as well.

An old-timer reminded me that a good moral credo starts with this: “doing the Good that lies nearest to you.”  And he meant that literally.

I am learning day by day, sometimes moment by moment, that the only way up is down and the only way out is through.

I pray my life becomes a safe place for people to land.

One truth I see in action daily is that one of the greatest powers that exists is harnessing the power of “we” instead of merely harnessing the power of “me.”

The greatest miracle is what happens in me more than what happens to me.  And all this from the miracle called God’s grace.

I have this amazing power, the power of choice, so I can choose to wrestle with God or I can choose to nestle with God.

Musings on Paradox…

The thought of discovering spirituality and a deepening relationship with God in a room full of drunks and drug addicts telling stories might seem like a paradox.  But as ancient truth reveals to us, stories are one of the very foundations God uses to reveal himself to us and to the journey of transformation; and stories are exactly what are found in the rooms of us 12 steppers.

Jesus told stories – some offensive, some hilarious, all of them insightful – as he taught and lived these very stories as a means of communicating God’s infinite and tender love for us.

Stories in general, and our stories in particular, are what keep people like me clean and sober.  We share what we have done and who we have been in the hopes of opening up our hearts to let the grace of God fill and transform us, so we do not remain those fractured characters of our stories past.   In sharing our stories, in sharing my story, I find I am freed from the bondage of the past and the restraints of the disease named addiction.  When my story is unleashed, I am unchained.

Stories are the vehicle for God’s grace as it comes in tenderness, in messiness, in darkness and shifting shadows…but come it does when I open my heart and share the truth of who I am and what I have been like.  And in stories, in the sharing of my past wreckage and destruction, healing is found and divine light is released into the world, shining so as to light the path for those who walk with me and those who will come after.

Addiction is indeed cunning and baffling, but only for us, it is not so for God; for God is not baffled by my dis-ease.  For God is the great Mystery that swallows up all the mysteries of the how’s and why’s of addiction; God is the truth in the lies; God is the light in the darkness; indeed, God is the tenderness to my sharp edges.

That is the grace and power of paradox.

Only in a room full of addicts and alcoholics (the walking wounded and wonderful) do I learn that I cannot keep what I do not give away.  And like the ancient echoes of the prayer of St. Francis, I learn daily that in giving, I receive; in pardoning, I am pardoned; and in dying daily to my selfish ego, I am born anew in the living grace of a loving God.

The Gift of Failure

Failure is a gift from God…and I need spirituality to teach me that for religion only speaks to the shame of failure and not to its giftedness.

Spirituality teaches us how to deal with, and accept, failure as a gift and a needed tool for our journey with and towards God; for failure is the twin of success, much the way doubt and faith are inseparably linked.

One of the foundational ‘tenets’ of Alcoholics Anonymous states that the journey of sobriety is about “progress not perfection…[for] we are not saints.”  Imperfection and failure are two of the tools God uses to draw me closer to him; for by embracing imperfection and failure, I am reminded of the glorious truth that I am indeed human.  And in my being human, nothing is drawn away from God and his relentless love, and I find that if I embrace that truth, I am also fully alive.

My failures prove only that I am not a saint, but they do not take away from any goodness that God has placed within me.  I am fond of saying if there is anything in me you find good, then you can give thanks to God and my mother, but if you find anything in me that is not good, well for that I apologize.

As I look over my life I see a wreckage of pain, failure and broken hearts and trust strewn across the path.  I feel regret, and rue some of the poorer choices I have made.  But God is eternally good, forgiving and loving so that in his hands my past wreckage becomes malleable clay to be remolded into a shining example of divine love mixed with utter humanity.

And like or not, that is indeed good news.

I am a jar of clay, cracked but valuable when surrendered fully into the hands of a loving God.  My failures become familiar scars, gentle reminders of the power of forgiveness and choice all held by the urgent compassion of God.

God does not judge my failures, only I and other people do that.  God’s love is a merciful cauldron burning the dross of my failures away turning them instead into divine gifts meant to be of service to God and others.  God’s love is greater than any human perspective, judgment, religion, or persuasion.  God’s love embraces my failures as a vital part of me and my journey back Home to him.  And if God embraces my failures, then I can do no less.

So today, I embrace all my failures…all of me, surrendering them over to the hands of God, asking not for them to be removed but to be transformed into the living gifts of a merciful God.

 

The Myth of Addictus…

The myth of Addictus was about a slave who’s 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.

The rest of this article is from a spirited writer and addictions specialists, Thomas Lavis.  The original link seems to be dead but was found at http://www.lapismagazine.org/return-of-the-spirit-by-thomas-lavin/

To be addicted comes from the Latin word addicere, “to give my voice over to.”  Someone who is addicted has no voice.  Linda Leonard wrote a wonderful book called Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction in which she talks about the word “addiction”:

What does it mean? Where does it come from? “Ad” means to or toward… [and] “Dicere” means to speak

[Addiction is when I] give my voice to or toward some person, place, thing, or even a process. Process addictions are rigid attitudinal ways of approaching the world.  Addiction need not be limited to alcohol or drugs. I can give myself over—hand over my voice—to anything.

In fact, the original meaning of “addictus” was spiritual, in the sense of someone dedicated to the gods, one whose voice was given over to the Divine (e.g. the 3rd Step of A.A.).  Thus, inherent in the meaning of addiction is the sense of dedication, or bearing witness, to creative energies.

Among the Romans, addiction also signified the making over of goods to another by a legal sale. A slave was even known as an addictus, someone who had no voice, who was a slave to a master. Addiction is the act of giving oneself over to something as one’s master.

Addiction is terrible, it is true, but addiction can be transformed. How can the addict get her or his voice back, so that they can respond [to what they have been called to]?

Within every addiction there is a vocation, a calling (vocation coming from the Latin word meaning to hear or listen and therefore to respond).  Addiction is [far from] the end of the line.

Like the biblical prophet Samuel did in the night, how do I respond if I don’t have a voice? Samuel went to his guru and said, “I think I hear my name called.” And he’s told by the Prophet Eli, “Say ‘Here I am.’” [ref: 1st Samuel, Chapter 3].

Saying yes is part of dealing with addiction. The spiritual part of addiction…getting my voice back…is to be able to say yes to all of life. No one, no thing, is excluded, precluded, left out.

In dealing with addiction, we have to see it as one side. It might be a sad story, maybe generations of sad stories, but we can’t talk about addiction, whether positive or negative, without pain, because people who get their spirit back have to deal with the pain of staying with their own creative spirit.”

An Essential of Spirituality: Listening

Continuing on in my ‘musings’ on spirituality, I have been looking at my history of experiencing and practicing spirituality and the evolution and transformation of it throughout the last quarter of a century.  I have grown from a black and white (rigid) understanding and interpretation of what it means to be led by the Spirit towards a more tolerant, compassionate experience and view (grace-filled).  Over the years I have become less arrogant that my way is the right way, much less even “a” way.  I have come to taste and see that the Spirit is indeed like the Wind – blowing wherever it wills and not as I will.  For who am I to judge the Spirit’s leading and intention?  I am called but to submit to the Spirit’s leading, and this through prayer, wise counsel and my history.  But the truth of the matter is God can work in any way God sees fit, and can obviously do so without any input from this particular painted soul.

And what the Spirit has been teaching me these days is summed up in one word: listening.

Listening is one of the indispensable foundations of spirituality (and spiritual growth): listening to God, to our hearts, our fears, our pain, our joys, and to others (especially the cries of the broken and marginalized).  Spirituality (and spiritual growth) can and does occur in solitude, but for them to flourish deeply they must grow in relation to another – in community.  And I truly believe that all community begins with listening…listening to a call from the Other (God) Who leads us to others who either share in the same call or are the recipients of the call.

Listening is closely aligned with obedience for in its original meaning ‘obedience’ means to “hear or listen” and in the New Testament, the word used for ‘obedience’ means “to trust”.  So obedience, listening and trusting are all connected and this comes from Love; for I can truly only listen and trust those whom I love.  So for me to ‘hear’ God I must grow in trust, and the more I trust, the more I listen, the more I listen, the more I trust…with God and with others.

Listening involves mutuality as well; in order for me to be listened to it must be in mutual relation to another be it God or people.  It is in this mutuality (that grows from listening) that our deepest spiritual moments can occur.  For in order to be listened to, I must be ‘telling’ someone my story.  Knowing someone will listen without judgment and knowing that someone can tell their story knowing it will be heard is the power of movements like Alcoholics Anonymous.  For it is in the mutual listening and telling – the story telling – that our struggles become shared and therefore lessened, and healing begins to occur.

Those of us who are wrestling with spiritual dilemmas and awakenings do not necessarily need answers but ‘presence’ – the permission to confront the dilemma, struggle with it out loud knowing we will be heard, and find solace in defeating our sense of aloneness.  This is one of the paths to God, to others, and to healing.

Listening begins and deepens our spiritual experiences: it affords us the space and silence needed to empty out our pain through storytelling and mutuality and their find God, grace, and each other.