That’s The Way It Goes by Don Riggs

First we have no age at all. Then we’re one.
In another year we turn two, then three,
as our stumbling gets a bit steadier.
Suddenly, we are five, an entire hand
that we look at in wonder. Let’s skip
the first few grades, because when we are eight
we have begun to discover novels
on library shelves, and not long after
we’re teens. Then old enough to drink, which we
do on that first opportunity. The
hangover lasts until we’re 34,
which is not quite time for midlife crises,
though some manage. 55 is one’s prime
but, we know then we’ll soon be 89.

Salutation by Ezra Pound

O generation of the thoroughly smug
And thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
And heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
And do not even own clothing.

Entirely Ready

Steps Four and Five give us a blueprint as alcoholics to take an honest and thorough look at ourselves, and to admit the exact nature of our wrongs. This can only happen after we complete several crucial beginning steps. First, we must admit that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives are unmanageable. The statement in the First Step that we are “powerless” refers to the lack of control over our compulsion to drink, which persists despite any negative consequences we might endure as a result.

We need to recognize that only a higher power can restore us to sanity.  Once we come to believe in a higher power, we need to turn our will and our lives over to God. After coming to grips with our addiction, we then need to examine our past errors and admit them to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. Part of the purpose of the Twelve Steps is to learn how to live life with a new code of behavior.

Step Six says, “Were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character.”

As we work on changing our character, we need to look at how we think about and talk to others. Do we curse a lot? Do we make crude remarks, or use biased or prejudiced language? Do we gossip? Are we unduly sarcastic? Are we prone to anger or violence? Do we hold grudges or engage in “paybacks.” As we take a look at these behaviors, we consider how they fit in with a spiritual approach to living. We ask ourselves what value we have as a human being. What do we have to offer to others in the way of service, wisdom, and support? Who are we becoming? How can we increase our worth as a person? How do we define ourselves?

I believe that although pride is at the top of the list of seven deadly sins, healthy pride is a necessary part of self-esteem and character growth. This is not the pride of arrogance, egotism, grandiosity or narcissism.  It will not harm our spiritual growth to feel pride when we freely admit to ourselves that our progress is not made by us alone. Humble pride acknowledges the guidance of others and a faith in God. With humility, we learn to have healthy pride in our good works. We are able to recognize the grace we have been granted by God.

Before we got into recovery, many of us wanted what others had, but we didn’t know how to get it. In fact, we were willing to take what we wanted without working for it. Now, in recovery, we are happy with the miracles we receive as we progress. We have discovered that doing is more important than having, and experiencing is more important than possessing.

It is important to put all our habits into the context of becoming entirely ready. If we overlook one little addiction, or one minute bad habit, or one small defect, are we just a “little” addictive? How can we claim abstinence if we still hold on to our bad habits or character defects? Remember, half measures avail us nothing. It is important that we realize Step Six is not just about alcohol or drugs or overeating or gambling. It is about putting our lives back in alignment. How honestly we work Step Six is in direct proportion to our willingness to take a look at everything.

In order to be entirely ready to let go of our character defects, we must have a fairly accurate idea of how we view life and how we operate. We need to be thorough about this. We cannot be deluded about our behaviors. We must take the time to closely examine our manner of living. The Twelve Steps provide us with a great opportunity to reclaim our lives. By accepting help from God and others, we learn to think clearly. We become able to honestly examine our lives, play fairly, and give generously. Our values change in recovery as we become less selfish and more useful.

We no longer seek out situations that only comfort us; we also find ways to comfort others. We find that we feel better about ourselves when we help others. We learn from the Twelve Steps that what we were searching for our whole life is wrapped up in being of comfort and aid to others. Our most valuable relationship is the one we have with God. In a way, when we reach out and help others we come closer to God. That is precisely why Matthew 25 says when we help “even the least one of these” we do it unto the Lord.

I can see now why Step Six is the one that separates the winners from the losers. It’s gut check time. Are we ready to change our way of living or not? This is not a “maybe” proposition. It’s likely that many of us approached this step in a less active manner. Odds are we may still be battling some pretty major defects of character. Step Six requires commitment and specific action. There is no better time to get to it than right now. The values we develop as a result of working the Twelve Steps look different from the ones we held while in active addiction. Every day brings a new opportunity to work on our character defects. Our values no longer change with every passing fancy. Our life now means something, and counts for things that are good.

A Special Prayer For Those Who’ve Lost a Friend or Loved One

Jesus, we seem to face far too much loss these days. In times like these, we choose to rest our heads on Your sacred shoulders. Weep alongside. Lift our heads. Rejuvenate our vision. Bring us back to a place of play. Of wonder. This world is dark, but we recognize right now, in this moment, that You are glorious light. Please, please shine down on us so we can see You at work. Replace our mourning with dancing. Hold our hands, our hearts, our dreams. Amen.

“I Am Redeemed” by Jessy Dixon

I am redeemed, bought with a price,
Jesus has changed my whole life.
If anybody asks you, just who I am,
Tell them I am redeemed.

Where there was hate, love now abides,
Where there was confusion, peace now reigns.
I’m a child, a child of the King,
It’s all because I am redeemed.

I’ll tell of His favor, I’ll tell of His love,
I’ll tell of His goodness to me.
He purchased my redemption with His own precious blood,
And from sin I’ve been set free.

There’s no shackles on me, I’m as free as I can be;
Because Jesus changed my life.
He died up on the cross,
That’s why I can tell the world that I am redeemed.

If you run across anybody that used to know me,
Tell them I’m doing fine.
The last time that you saw me,
I was lifting up holy hands,
Tell them I’ve been redeemed.

God Brought the Syrian Refugees To Us In Order To Hear The Gospel

Did you ever think that the reason non-extremist Muslims (Refugees) are immigrating to our country is because God wants us to speak to each one of them about the Gospel? We certainly weren’t going to them in great numbers. Perhaps we were afraid. (And rightly so. There’s much to be afraid of in the Middle East. Extremists appear to be in charge there.)

Remember, God knows every man was born into a sin nature. Doesn’t matter his “religious” leanings, he’s a sinner. Muslims believe they merely need to do more good deeds than bad. Tip the scale a little. That will get them into heaven. So we obviously need to get the Good News out to Muslims. But are we doing that?

Despite Christ’s command to evangelize the world, 67% of all humans from AD 30 to the present day have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Of the 140,000 protestant missionaries, 74% work among nominal Christians, 8% among tribal peoples, 6% work with Muslims, 4% are working among non-religious/atheists,3% among Buddhists, 2% Hindus, and 1% Jews. Over 160,000 believers will be martyred this year. Many of the Syrian refugees coming to America have been shunned by their families, disowned, cut off, sent away, because they came to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

We weren’t sending enough missionaries into these regions to preach the Gospel. So, maybe God said, “Well, since you’re not going to them, I’m going to bring them here.” And He did just that.There’s tons of them. Hey, you know why we didn’t go to Heaven the minute we got saved? Because God left us here for the specific purpose of loving others, and leading them to Christ. Sharing God’s love with them. Letting them know what it means to be loved by God. That’s why we’re here. And God equips us to do the work He expects of us. There’s hope, and purpose, and peace and love, and salvation, and that IS the Gospel. That is the Christian message. And it is worth absolutely everything.

So if you have Muslim friends, neighbors or co-workers among you, they need to know. They’re just like the rest of us before we knew the Lord. I was a horrible young man before I turned my will and my life over to Christ. I burned buildings, got high on drugs, drank to excess, stole a car, robbed people, used women for sex, failed to meet my basic obligations as a human being. As a man. As a husband. As a father. I turned my back on God and everyone, and did my own thing for decades, and yet God saved me. He took me back after numerous times of backsliding.

These Muslims who are moving into our neighborhoods, or who get jobs where we work, or have children in our schools, they need hope, they need life, they need purpose, they need meaning, they need love. Don’t be afraid just because they look different or talk different or eat different foods.That is no excuse to hold back from them this type of love. The Gospel cannot truly be held back by anything. The Gospel conquers all.

Let us pray that we are able to meet with and witness to these lost souls, just as Paul, and Peter, and Barnabas, and Timothy, and Titus, and James and all the others who spread the Gospel throughout many peoples and nationalities despite concern for their personal protection. God does not want one soul to perish, no, not one. And that is the Good News.

Swing

My good friend David J. Bauman has been a poet for longer than I know. I had the privilege of working with him at the Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library in Northumberland, PA for about a year before he took a position at the Plains Township Library. Seems I met David at the right time in my career (life?). He taught me a great deal about poetry and coached me in establishing and maintaining this blog of mine.

I’ve been writing poems since I was a teenager. Many of them never saw daylight. They remained closed up in old journals, existing but unrealized. Forgotten. (Several never even made the journey out of my imagination, down the pen and unto paper.) Meeting David, however, quickened something in me. Words and phrases that had suffered sequestration due to lack of rectitude somehow found a rebirth. I began to believe that my words had meaningfulness.

But this post is not about me. Rather, it is about showcasing a poem David wrote which has found a well-deserved home in Contemporary American Voices, a journal of poetry. June 1, 2014. I know you’ll enjoy it.

Swing

While I was waiting
for the bus, Miss Shaffer said
“Get off the gate!
It’s not for swinging.”

But I knew better.

Another, on the playground—
I don’t recall her name,
But she yanked
me by the arm, right off

the swing set, and screamed,
“Don’t call me ‘old Lady!’”
I was only trying to yodel
(Yodaladie, yodaladie…).

And one time I wasn’t doing anything,
so I was sent to the principal’s office.
That was when days were for doing
nothing when you could.

When swings were for singing
anything that came to mind.
Fences were just in the way
and every kid knew the truth;

gates do that for a reason,
and it goes against nature
not to swing them.

“Mess of Me” by Switchfoot

I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah, there ain’t no drug to make me well

There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself

I made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my life alive

I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my live alive
The rest of my life alive

We lock our souls in cages
We hide inside our shells
It’s hard to feed to the ones you love
Oh, when you can’t forgive yourself
Yeah, forgive yourself

There ain’t no drug
There ain’t no drug
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself

I made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my life alive

I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna reverse this tragedy
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my live alive
The rest of my life alive

Ahhhhooo

There ain’t no drug
There ain’t no drug
There ain’t no drug
No drug to make me well

There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
We’re breaking up
The sickness is myself
The sickness is myself

I made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my life alive

I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna reverse this tragedy
I’ve made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my live alive
The rest of my life alive

A Prayer for Those Addicted to Drugs

Most loving God,
I ask your blessing upon all
who suffer from addiction.
Strengthen them to reach out for help.
Enable them to take the first step to recovery.
Bless them with the ability to persevere
in the fight to be free.
Give courage and hope to their families,
drawing them close together
in the power of your love,
which alone can transform our living.
Amen.