Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Yesterday, my good friend Steve was such a friend. I've been a bit discouraged about my new job. Without going into details, the past two weeks has been challenging. After one brief orientation my supervisor went on two weeks vacation. My other coworkers have been nice and helpful, but too many things were out of their control. Frustrated, I was about ready to quit.
Then Steve came along. He was at the house on another errand and offered me a ride to work. On the way, he sang me my song, so to speak. In just a few short minutes he turned me right around and reminded me of what I am about. That brief moment in time changed my whole attitude.
My new job is perfect for me in that respect. I wish it paid more, but it puts me in a position to make a difference in the lives of young people. Few things give me more fire of passion than these wonderful, vulnerable, lovable youth. I am truly blessed to be able to serve them, in any capacity, but the one I have gives me so much opportunity that its overwhelming. I'm a Deputy Probation Officer for the Juvenile Court. My assignment is to run the work crew that enables the kids to work off fines and community service hours. I have an amazing amount of latitude with regard to how to accomplish that task. I even awoke in the middle of the night imagining creative ways to help them.
I hope, somehow, I can learn their songs and spend my time singing them back to them in their troubled hours.
Thanks again, Steve.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
All my life I had watched the Deacons pass the Sacrament at church with a measure of awe. They always deported themselves with dignity and respect for what we Mormons consider a very sacred ordinance. As I approached the age of twelve, when I expected to become a Deacon and have the honor of passing the Sacrament myself, I watched the Deacons with keen interest. I wanted to learn exactly how it was done so I wouldn’t flub up and embarrass myself when I first participated.
I turned 12 just a couple of weeks after we arrived in Himni and moved into the Himni 3rd Ward. Bishop Merrell interviewed me and found me worthy of ordination. My Dad conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon me and ordained me to the office of a Deacon. I think he was relieved to have actually been there. Four years earlier, when I was baptized things hadn’t gone so well. On the morning of my scheduled baptism my Dad and Grandfather had gone golfing. Grandpa had a heart attack on the third hole. Of course, Dad and Mom and Grandma went right to the hospital. My baptism was scheduled for 5:00 P.M. When the folks weren’t home by three I started to get nervous. When the clock struck four I was really concerned. I got my Sunday clothes on so I’d be ready when the folks rushed in. They didn’t. I had been left in charge of the kids. Todd, my brother and the next oldest was just six and a half. He thought he was big enough to take over and the neighbors were close, so I grabbed my recommend off of Mom’s dresser, left Todd in charge and rode my bike over to the church. I presented my recommend to the Brother in charge and got myself baptized. You can imagine my parents chagrin when they discovered their little boy had been baptized and they hadn’t even been there.
I was baptized by Richard F. Waters. To this day I have no idea who he is. Dad’s name did make it on the Baptismal Certificate as the man who confirmed me. That happened at church the next day. Grandpa recovered too.
So now we come to that fateful day when sitting on the front row in Sunday School I was nervously anticipating my first attempt at passing the Sacrament. (In those days Sunday School was in the morning and Sacrament Meeting was in the evening. The Sacrament was served in both meetings.)
I was prepared. I had learned exactly where I was supposed to go and exactly what I was supposed to do. The Deacon’s Quorum President had assigned me the easiest route, right down the side pews behind where we had been sitting. Just as the Priest finished the blessing on the bread a tickle in my nose produced a sudden and unexpected sneeze. I covered my mouth with my right hand. As I removed my hand I discovered an enormous glob of mucus in the palm of my hand. It was time to stand up and take the trays from the Priests. Panic! I had no handkerchief. What do I do? What do I do?! As I went to stand up the only thing I could think to do was scrape it off on the front of the wooden pew. Thinking of the words…”he that hath clean hands and a pure heart…” I felt so guilty taking the tray into my polluted right hand. I felt as though I had lied about my worthiness. Somehow I got through the passing of the bread. We filed back to the table, two rows of us. First the guys from the other side of the chapel returned their trays. They then backed up to allow my side to approach the table. The water was blessed and we took those trays. As we were filing out to distribute the water I followed one of the boys from the group that had backed up. There oozing down the back of his pant leg was my logie. He had backed up to the bench and gathered it up for me. I nearly fainted.
God has often re-reminded me of my humanity since that day. Thankfully, I have finally learned that my flaws, weaknesses and imperfections are the very reason we have the Sacrament in the first place.
Friday, September 25, 2009
As with most of my dreams, it was somewhat abstract and my waking view of it doesn't seem as clear and clean as it felt as I was waking.
I can't recall any story to the dream, only a concept and how it made me feel.
The concept is that when God grants us blessings, too often we waste them by passing judgment either upon the blessing or upon ourselves and our capacity to receive them.
The illustrations I offer, are not, so far as I can remember, from the dream. I wish they could be. Still, I hope they illustrate what I somehow discovered in the dreams of the night.
So very often, the blessings of which I speak come wrapped in seemingly unpleasant packages. Once, when I was younger, I awoke and found myself unable to urinate, though I had a very, unpleasantly full bladder. After two hours of such suffering, I called in sick and determined I'd better get some medical attention before I ruptured something. On the way out the door I grabbed a book I was reading at the time, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. As waiting is part and parcel of the Emergency Room experience, I hoped to distract my self from the pain I was suffering by reading. I did have to wait. So I read. I was at the place in the story where Corrie and her sister Betsie had been imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jew's in their Holland home. Betsie had a Bible and read it to the women crammed in their barracks. One evening as she read, she commented on the importance of thanking God in all things and interpreted that to mean that they should be thankful for the fleas. Corrie couldn't imagine being thankful for the miserable wretched fleas! Prayerfully, she sought the ability to do so. And finally, still lacking any logical reason, she was able to express complete and heart felt gratitude for the fleas. She discovered later, that the guards molested women in other barracks, but stayed away from hers precisely because of those fleas.
I sat the book in my lap and wondered if I could be thankful for my inability of void my bursting bladder? Prayerfully, I sought that gift. Somehow, it was granted. I expressed sincere and heartfelt gratitude for yet another of life's many afflictions. I'd lived long enough to know that affliction is often a great blessing. Shortly after my prayer, I was invited into an examination room. On the way, I saw my aged friend Slim Hardy pass by on a bed bound for a room in the hospital. He'd come to the Emergency Room and they were going to keep him.
As for me, the doctor determined that my urethra was blocked by a kidney stone which had become stuck as it tried to escape my bladder. He suggested more fluids. That treatment seemed frightening as I was already miserable enough, yet the alternative was something akin to a Roto-Rooter. I chose the water method and began to drink in earnest. Soon the pressure had built to sufficient a crescendo as to force the plug on through. It was instant relief, if you get my drift.
Cured, with no collateral damage, my thoughts turned to Slim. I stepped down to his room. He wasn't conscious. His daughter Fae was sitting beside him. She asked if I'd give him a blessing. In that blessing Heavenly Father praised him for the good, fine life he'd lived and invited him to come home. Slim passed away in just a few minutes. Fae thanked me and then asked if I'd speak at his funeral; an honor I'll always cherish.
As I headed home, I glanced down at the book in my hand. I pressed The Hiding Place to my heart in profound appreciation for the gift it held for me. How thankful I was for my kidney stone. Were it not for that little obstruction, I'd have likely not even known Slim had passed away until I read his obituary in the paper, which came out the day after the funeral. I'd have been at work and oblivious to what I consider a great gift and tender mercy.
It would have been easy to judge my affliction as a curse, a punishment, an underserved annoyance. It would have been so very easy to have wasted a magnificent blessing.
I'm so grateful for this morning's reminder of that great principle. Even, in affliction, God is blessing us. Especially, if we don't judge the blessing to be a curse and God to be unkind.
Now, personally, I'm not as apt to misjudge my circumstances as I am to misjudge myself and my own capabilities. Too often, God offers me a blessing I don't feel qualified to accept. Too often I waste the blessing out of fear and apprehension. I'm not near as apt to think a blessing is not big or good enough more me; more often I think I'm not big or good enough for the blessing.
I'm wrestling with that right now and hence, perhaps, the dream. I have long, longed to be a writer. Since my unemployment I've done more of that than I've ever had time to do before. Yet, every day, I fight a battle with myself over whether I deserve such a blessing; whether I can measure up. I read other writers I admire and think I could never approach their level of performance. Time after time I find excuses to excuse myself from what my fears tell me is a foolish quest. This has been a pattern all of my life. Still, as I pray, my confidence is restored, accompanied by encouragement to carry on. I don't get to know if I'll ever be published or if my writing will ever touch anyone beyond myself. But I do get to know that a blessing is being offered me and, if I can just believe, it might not be counted to me as a waste, but a blessing.
I'm thankful this morning for the refreshed realization that I must neither pass judgment on the adequacy or desirability of God's blessings, nor on my capacity to receive them. He can make my circumstances big enough for me, but better than that He can make me big enough for my circumstances. What a blessing.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I can't ever seem to predict where things are actually going to go with these stories. The actual outcomes seem too impossible until the entirely credible solutions resolve before your eyes.
A master of the twist and turn of story and a genius of inventive imagination, Collins has blown me away again! Once again Katniss and Peeta are placed in the most awful of predicaments. Situations that commonly provide the Capitol with much amusement and predictable, controllable outcomes. The Capitol, is still attempting to clean up the mess these two, unpredictably created in The Hunger Games. But these two are not cast from a predictable mold and what the Capitol previously deemed a "situation" now turns into impending disaster. Never underestimate the strength of loyalty, integrity, devotion. If you have, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, will convince you otherwise.
It's going to be a long wait for the final volume of the trilogy!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Lew Hopkins always rode a motorcycle. I knew nothing about them and am a little fearful of them even to this day, probably because of hanging around with Lew.
Lew lived up the Canyon on a nice little farm nestled against the Dry Fork of Omner Creek. The creek ran in the spring and early summer, but most of the year was just a strip of cobble rocks. His dad rarely got a third crop of hay because the water petered out. Funds were tight for the Hopkins’ and 12 miles to school didn’t help. Mostly Lew rode the bus. After his sophomore year though, he got a job at a Winslow’s Auto Parts and bought a Honda 350 to ride to school and work. Even then he didn’t have a lot of pocket change.
School lunch was 25 cents and often Lew would offer to do loony stunts for a quarter so he could eat with us. One time he said, “If I lay down in the middle of the crosswalk to the Seminary building and using my shoulder as a pivot, spin a full 360 in the road with all the girls watching, would that be worth a quarter?” “Sure.” Or, “If I jump off the folded up bleachers in the gym, onto the, six foot in diameter, push ball, would that be worth a quarter?” “Sure.”
Heck, now I’m going to have to tell you about that one. Lew was a big kid even then. The top of the bleachers had to be 12 feet off the floor. That’s a six foot drop to the ball. I feared the huge canvas covered ball might pop. Or what if he missed? He stood there calculating a moment and leapt. He did a seat drop and landed slightly forward of top dead center. He sank deep into the ball and then shot at a 90 degree angle out across the gym floor, where he gracefully slid to a stop against the bleachers on the other side of the gym. I gave him a dollar.
Often, after work on a Saturday, Lew would pick me up on his Honda and we’d head up the canyon for some exploring. One evening we were coming down the canyon and we spotted a doe running beside us on the opposite side of the fence that paralleled the road. Lew decided to race her. We’d nearly caught her when she decided to jump the fence and cross the road in front of us. She landed right on the front fender and was gone, as quick as that. We stopped and shook it off. Examining the bike we found deer fur jammed between the fender and the front shocks.
Early one summer Lew got word that his friend and hero Billy Wainwright had been killed in Viet Nam. They were neighbors and Billy had been the big brother Lew never had. Lew was devastated. After the funeral Billy’s mom took Lew aside. She assured him that Billy loved him. Then she explained that she wanted Lew to have Billy’s old 1938 Harley Davidson motorcycle. “Billy would have wanted it that way.” Lew was thrilled.
He worked on the old worn-out beast for a month. One afternoon I was up there helping him try to get it started. Nothing seemed to work. The Hopkins’ lane had a nice downhill slope to it. It ran along an alfalfa field to the bottom of the slope then made a hard right and went out to the main road. We decided to try to push start it. The Harley had a foot clutch on the left side and a hand shifter on the side of the fuel tank. Lew put it in second gear and depressed the clutch pedal. I started pushing him down the road. The first couple of clutch pops had no results. We still had some momentum though so we kept going. On the third attempt she fired up and the old hind wheel started churning. Lew was way too close to the corner though, and was forced to cross through the hay. Flames were shooting six feet out of the exhaust pipe and a 20 foot rooster tail of green alfalfa was spraying into the air. I laughed so hard I had to step into the bushes.
Now she was running, we had to go to town and show her off. We put our ball caps on backwards and headed down the canyon. There was no second seat so I had to sit on the back fender. We got down to the intersection of Himni Avenue and Main Street and stopped at the light. We were in the left turn lane. While we waited for the light to change Mitch Warner pulled up next to us in his rod. He rumbled the engine. Lew responded by wrapping up the Harley. Just then his foot slipped off the clutch and the bike pulled a wheelie, through the red light, right out into the intersection where it dumped me smack dab on top of the manhole cover in the middle of the street! Lew went on to careen over the curb where he finally got control in the parking lot of Hanley’s Department Store. Aside from a sore rear end and singed eyebrows I was no worse for wear, just a little smarter.
I rode home with Mitch.
Monday, September 21, 2009
When this world gets a little too heavy for me, I love to travel to Disc World. Terry Pratchett has created a place of humor and perspective that always lightens my heart and reorients my thinking.
In this most delightful story yet, young Mort is taken by his father to the market in search of an apprenticeship.
Reminiscent of those youthful days when two captains choose up sides for a ball game, Mort is picked last. He is apprenticed to DEATH. That's right, the grim reaper.
Mort has quite a time learning the ins and outs of his new job. And we get an inside look at the meaning of life, the burden of history and the power of choice.
Pratchett's writing and thinking are always off the wall. But don't assume you have to sweep it under the rug. You're reading along having the time of your life, laughing, shaking your head, wondering what antics he's going to come up with next and suddenly you realize, hey, this guy really has something to say! It's kind of hard to get your mind around, sort of like worshiping on a roller coaster, or meditating at the arcade.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes: "Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it's the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it's just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So lets just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound."
"Death gave Mort the look he was becoming familiar with. It started off as blank surprise, flickered briefly towards annoyance, called in for a drink at recognition and settled finally on vague forbearance."
"One of them had drawn a knife, which he waved in little circles in the air. He advanced slowly towards Mort, while the other two hung back to provide immoral support."
Don't miss this delightful read you're sure to have the time of your life, er, DEATH.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Here is a bit I wrote a little over a year ago. I just returned from an LDS Addiction Recovery Program Conference and what I wrote back then seemed pertinent to what we discussed today. I decided I'd post it again here. It all still applies.
As you know, my life has had it's ups and downs this Summer. While I have not fallen off the wagon, I have wandered some distance down the wrong road. My blood pressure has been up and my anxiety levels high.
You need to understand that addiction is not what it seems. The outward manifestation, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn, Twinkies, is just that, the symptom, but not the problem. The problem is something deeper and painful and quite possibly unidentified. I’ve been writing and pondering madly for days trying to identify the fork in the road that took me in the wrong direction.
Today, I was given my answer. I was writing, something I always do, to sort things out. I was expressing the dismay I’ve felt of late about my new job and my uncertain future. I’ve taken a job as a salesman. I have a lot of uncertainly as to the frequency and size of my paychecks. The economy troubles me. The price of fuel dismays me. My own inadequacy frightens me. I don’t know what the future brings and it gives me a great deal of anxiety. Then, a phrase of scripture came into my mind, “How long halt ye between two opinions..?” I had no idea where to find it, so I looked it up in the concordance. I found it in 1 Kings 18:21.
It was the story of Elijah’s famous contest with the priests of Baal during which God consumed Elijah’s offering with fire, while that of the false God did nothing. Elijah was calling upon Israel to make up their minds. Unlike Joshua who had earlier declared, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The verse was inspirational and encouraging but I couldn’t see the answer that was before me. I was still stuck on the decision regarding my choice of employment. I couldn’t see how that could be a choice between God and Baal. Surely, I was choosing the Lord, wasn’t I?
Then another phrase of scripture passed through my mind, “Oh thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” I found that in Matthew 14:31. Here is the story of Peter walking on the water. I'm not being facetious. I've never understood why we typically call it the story of Jesus walking on the water. That was no big deal. The big deal was that Peter walked on the water. The phrase was the Saviour’s mild rebuke of Peter who, fearing the waves began to sink beneath them. I wasn’t too sure what this story meant for me, but I determined to find out.
At my new job I have made a new friend. He is Pastor of a local Landmark Baptist congregation. His specialty at Divinty School was Coyne Greek. My good friend has taught me, that much can be gained from understanding the original Greek meanings of the words found in the New Testament. I just recently acquired Bullinger’s Lexicon of New Testament Greek.
I decided to look up the original meaning of the words in Matthew 14:31. Two words were most informative. I looked up faith and found that in this case the Greek word chosen had only been used four times in the New Testament and all by the Master himself. It has been translated into English as
'of little faith’ and means: to rebuke four states of mind, viz., anxiety, fear, doubt and forgetfulness. I felt my searching was on the right track. I was full of fear, doubt and great anxiety. I didn’t yet comprehend forgetfulness. Then I looked up the word doubt. The definition of the original Greek word translated as doubt was this: to stand in two ways, being uncertain as to which to take. I was shocked, for it lead me right back to my first prompting, “How long halt ye between to opinions….?”
It was then that I realized what Heavenly Father has been trying to tell me. I am like Peter. I am figuratively walking on water. My struggles of late have come because I have taken my eye off my Master and have allowed myself to look at the boisterous waves of economic and political commotion that surround me. No wonder I have been sinking in despair!
This is not a new concept for me. I have long considered my ability to proceed through life entirely free of my addiction to be no less a miracle than walking on water. To the flesh, they are equally impossible. Yet day after day, I go forth, temptation free, to live a life of joy as though I had never been an addict. I was foundering and in need of rebuke for my forgetfulness. I had forgotten to whom I must look for my safety and salvation.
My struggles came because I had taken my eyes off of the Redeemer, who sustains me in recovery and had looked in fear at the turbulent chaos around me. They were prolonged because I supposed the fork in the road that was troubling me was whether or not to change employment. Instead, however, I discovered that the real decision was, is and always will be, whether or not to trust God and keep my attention focussed on Him.
My heart is led to these words given of Jehovah to Joshua, and all of Israel, including us: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9) Whithersoever – no matter where I go or what paths in life I choose, if I can but ignore the turmoil around me and trust in God, I will be sustained above the stream.
Like Peter, I called out to my Lord saying, “Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught” me. I felt the anxiety, fear and doubt drain out of me. I had been so stressed that I felt ill, but now I was renewed and refreshed.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Somewhere in this process I heard someone comment that, "he's trying to catch up for lost time." The observer had supposed that our friend, due to his late discovery of the church, was way behind in his progress. I beg to differ. I think he was keeping pace, if not just a little ahead of the rest of us.
The supposition that Billy, for that is his name, was somehow behind, presupposes that life long members of the church are somehow ahead. Ahead of what? Ahead of who? Hopefully, we're ahead of where we, personally, once were; but I'd be loathe to suppose I was ahead of anyone else.
Such a supposition also seems to exclude Billy's former (pre-membership) life as null and void. As if we only get credit for the way we live if we're members of the church. As if our progress begins only after baptism. Billy always lived a good life. He was faithful to his wife. He responsibly raised responsible children. He worked hard for his employer. He was generous with those in need. He was honest and forthright in his dealings with others. He was happy, gregarious, enthusiastic, kind, thoughtful and good - even then. In fact, if I were to take Billy's measurement, I'd say 95% of Billy's goodness, in deed and character, preceeded his baptism. He certainly lacked the ordinances and with the covenants those ordinances represent, Billy became perfected in Christ - then - on the day of his baptism. He had no catching up to do. He was as caught up as any member of the church anywhere. His accounts were paid in full because he'd humbly entered a covenant with the only one who could settle Billy's account, or mine, or yours.
Was Billy perfect? Am I? Are you? Billy came to mortality for the experience to be had in a body. He had that in full. He experienced what a body has to offer; pleasure and pain, sickness and health, vigor and exhaustion. He came to earth to learn, serve and grow. He also came to mortality to reaffirm his faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of the Father's Plan to bring us home to receive all that He has to give us. Billy did all of those things and in my view, he did them right on time. Billy wasn't catching up, he was drinking in. Absorbing every ounce of mortal experience he could soak up.
Good on ya Billy!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I watched the opening of The Biggest Loser, until in disgust I had to shut it off. It isn't new to this season that Bob and Jillian have filthy mouths that have to be bleeped during every workout. But last night was over the top! Folks, that behavior is not necessary and need not be tolerated by the viewing audience. It's time to boycott the program and it's sponsors and see if we can't get it back on track.
Bob and Jillian are not the fall guys here. The editors can bleep their language. They can also edit such behavior completely out of what we see. Clearly, they choose not to and I can only imagine they're after ratings. Let's give them some - some lousy ones.
I'm sure they'll try to justify the language as a "boot camp" approach. I went to boot camp. In six weeks I never heard the kind of abusive language I witnessed last night. Things may have changed in the nearly 40 years since I enlisted, but I'll bet it has changed for the better.
Our society has such a sickening double standard. If Nancy Pelosi told some junior congressman, she was trying to school, that he was going to be her "bitch" for the season, she'd be out of a job. They didn't bleep that one last night, when Jillian was shown making such a declaration to one of the contestants. Call it reality if you like. I call it debauchery and disgusting beyond the pale.
I've felt for years now that this program was a helpful, inspiring force for good. I've changed my mind. Count me out, until such time as The Biggest Loser can lose the trash talk.
Here is a partial list of sponsors to include in the boycott. Leave a comment if you're on board and pass the word. We want NBC to get the message soon and emphatically!
- 24 Fitness
- American Express
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I'm pretty well steeped in addiction recovery methodology. I'm in recovery. I've worked the 12 Steps. I've taught the 12 Steps. I facilitate three 12 Step groups. I picked up Freedom From Addiction by David Simon, MD and Deepak Chopra, MD, to expand my understanding of addictive behavior and disease. Simon and Chopra have some pretty good theraputic methods to consider and certainly some wisdom to impart.
I liked this quote from early in the book: "Addictions serve a purpose. When people seek a shift in their emotional state and do not know how to create the change from within, they reach for something outside." I fully agree with that assessment. I agree with much of what they've concluded. Still, I struggle to recommend the book.
You have to understand how I feel about new wave philosophy, and Deepak Chopra's brand in particular. Who can know what motivates individuals within the movement. It appears, though, that in general the movement has seen holes in the world's religions. While they favor eastern thinking, they have drawn from all religious and scientific thinking. They've stepped up to the philosophical smorgasbord, so to speak, and selected what works for them. In one way this is good. I'll be the first to admit that most religions have clung to tradition and philosophy that glaringly contradict one another and because of rigid loyalty to their history are slow to correct obvious errors. Smorgasbord thinking makes the error correction possible, even attractive. In many ways, because of this, new wave thinking has the potential to step ahead of religions mired in archaic and apostate muck.
I struggle with new wave thinking, mostly because, I'd characterize it as me-theology. They have adopted the Nirvana view of me being god and god being me. I don't buy it. Like all modern day reformers, they, while shopping for truths to glean from the various sources out there, they have clearly neglected to look at LDS teaching and philosophy. They've allowed themselves to lump us in with main stream Christianity and thus overlooked revealed doctrine that has corrected the error so obvious to thinking seekers. Should they honestly investigate what we teach they'd discover they (and we) agree on many truths.
Now, the original 12 Steps as developed by Alcoholic Anonymous, is inspired of God, in my view. It so correctly mirrors LDS Doctrine that the Church has adopted the steps with only one clarification. Where AA refers to God in generic terms palatable to people of all walks of life, the LDS version refers to Jesus Christ. This is in no way a criticism of AA. Their target audience is broad and intended to encompass everyone. It is clear that Heavenly Father is cool with that. Legion are the AA stories of atheists and agnostics who, swallowing the possibility of some vague, inexplicable "higher power" have begun to find recovery and who consequently discover God in more and more detail and clarity. We in the church program are primarily focused on people who already have a pretty clear understanding of God, have been taught about the Atonement and have already clarified details about God that the population at large has not. We try to start from there.
Simon and Chopra have done the same thing; they've adapted the 12 Steps to match their paradigm. They make no mention of having consulted with AA (which the LDS church has done) and I doubt if AA would be pleased with their result. They remodeled the 12 Steps in their book beyond recognition. Now I'll allow them that privilege if they like. But I reject the result.
For me the 12 Steps only work because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. New wave philosophy rejects any need of The Savior's redemptive sacrifice on our behalf. They have some neat, practical and probably even useful psychologial therapy and some useful meditative technique that could be beneficial to folks with addiction problems. But, they have rejected "the power of God unto salvation." They think we can evolve into recovered creatures. I'm convinced that we must learn to repent and to rely upon the merits and mercy of He who is mighty to save. They think the power is in us. I'm convinced the power is in God and can only be in us by His grace.
For me, their approach to addition recovery seems hollow and while it may have resulted in recovery for some, cannot possibly provide the relief and healing the Redeemer has to offer. That said, I know the Master is kind and will grant grace to all who are sincere and there are certain to be Chopra followers who are experiencing a portion of His grace and goodness despite their lack of clarity as to it's source. The fact that any of us is breathing is rudimentary evidence of this. He came to redeem all of us. All of us. And He is about that business, even now, in all of our lives.
The Halloween Dance
Dances and ball games were Himni's primary entertainment in the 60's. 80% of the student body attended every Himni High football or basketball game. Much of the town did too. During basketball season the gym was always packed. The band was rocking the house. The Pep club was seated in uniform in a block H on the home bleachers. The place smelled of sweat, popcorn and Right Guard.
There was a dance after every home game. Often even the adults stayed to dance.
The Halloween of my Junior year brought the annual costume dance. I took Rhonda Wardley and we double dated with my best friend Mitch and I can't remember who. Mitch never went steady until the next summer when we met the twins at Boy's State. That's another story though. His date could have been just about anybody, but was probably Dana Williams.
Anyway, after showing our activity cards we walked together on to the dance floor and grouped up with a crowd that had already gathered. We had no sooner joined the circle when one of the Hooper twins handed me $20.00!
"What's this for?" I asked.
"For dancing with Celestia Hopewell," he said.
He grabbed the twenty back but I hung on - thinking about it. Twenty dollars was a fair chunk of change in those days and one didn't let it go all that easily. Celestia Hopewell was the oldest, meanest, hardest, strictest teacher on the faculty. She might have retired ten years ago, but teaching High School English was all she knew. The gang had taken up a collection and determined that for $20.00 they could get Jinx to do it. They were right.
Mrs. Hopewell had come in a very elaborate witch's outfit. It suited her and made her seem even more formidable. Rhonda came as a clown which was pretty much in character for her too. I had come as a pumpkin. Well, actually, I came with a Jack-o-lantern on my head and a double knit green suit put on backwards. There was a rule against masks. I thought I'd have a little fun, so I cut a large hole in the back of the Jack-o-lantern which completely exposed my face (no mask). The Jack-o-lantern face was in the back, but so was the front of my pants, faux shoes and jacket. It had it's desired effect too. Twice during the evening I heard the voice of a teacher behind me, instructing me to remove the mask or be kicked out of the dance. It was such a kick to turn around a see the startled look that resulted when they realized they'd been scolding the back of me. Pumpkin guts drizzling down my neck all night was not part of the plan though.
It took a couple of dances and lots of encouragement from Rhonda to get up the gumption to earn my twenty bucks, but I finally did it. I made a broad arch around the gym floor and kind of tricked myself into stopping in front of Celestia Hopewell. She politely commented on my clever costume and I mumbled something about how scary she looked. At least I didn't lie. Then I cleared my voice and, as politely as I could, asked her to dance. To my chagrin and consternation, she graciously accepted.
We walked together on to the floor. Lots of eyes were on us. I'd picked a slow dance because I just couldn't picture her doing anything else. We assumed the position, her hand on my shoulder, mine at her waist and the other two joined, and the music stopped. Well, that was awkward. Now we had to visit a bit while we waited for another song. I wasn't due to take her English class until next year and as it turned out, I chickened out and never did have a class from her. The result was that there just wasn't that much to talk about. The break lasted forever. I wondered if the guys hadn't paid off the band too. Finally, the music began. It was Blue Velvet. Once again we made contact and began to dance.
Now Rhonda is a great dancer. She went on to college and became part of a championship ballroom dance team. She always said I was pretty good myself. Celestia, though, was amazing. She responded to every lead I offered. Not once did I feel that she was doing anything but flawlessly following my cues. She let me lead the dancing, but she lead the conversation and was so charming and witty I was in shock. I was having a great time! Me, 16 years old and Mrs. Hopewell, at least 70! I couldn't believe it. When the song was over, I began to escort her to her seat when she practically begged me for one more. She explained that she hadn't danced a single time since she was widdowed over 30 years before. I gladly consented. I even relaxed.
When I did take her to her seat I was overwhelmed with how pleasant the experience had been. As she sat down she thanked me and then asked, "So, was it worth $20.00?"
The pumpkin surrounding my head began to steam. I was about to break and run, when she presented me with the sweetest, warmest smile. I took a deep breath and replied that I''d pay $20.00 to have the opportunity again. I meant it too.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I've been pretty low lately. I couldn't put my finger on it. As I pondered things on this Sabbath Day, having already been to church and having listened to Les' inspiring lesson, my thoughts began to collect in some sort of coherent form.
I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I still haven't put things back together since the flood that destroyed our basement. I tackled the repair on my own because we wanted to move the stairwell. Interruption, followed by set back, over shadowed by life has practically incapacitated me. When I want to do what I'm inclined to do, the unfinished basement haunts me. When I tackle the basement, more important things get neglected. The usual result is that, overwhelmed, discouraged, confused, I do nothing. I have a hard time setting priorities. Too often, I choose the wrong thing to do out of some sense of demand. I spend too much time concerned about what I assume others consider to be my priority, instead of doing what my heart directs. The consequence of this is that I'm unhappy, unsettled and stressed.
I shared my dismay with Sweetie, who listened empathetically, without judgment or duress. Thanks Sweetie for that. I told her that I didn't want to have this hanging over my head for what appears to be forever; but that I couldn't see a way out from under the problem.
It was time to take Kate to her Singles Ward. On the way she had me listen to a couple of her favorite songs. They were nice. After dropping her off a third song came up on her CD; Sucking Too Hard On Your Lollipop by Mika. It's a lively, fun, enthusiastic tune and I just plain enjoyed listening to it. I couldn't understand the words. When it was finished, I listened again, and again, and again. I began to pick up the lyrics.
I went home and moped some more and watched a little TV. Then it was time to go to 12 Steps at the Detention Center. I listened to the song a couple more times on the way. I skipped up to the door, to the beat of the song and rang the buzzer. Dorothy unlocked the door and I went on in bopping down the hall to the control booth to sign in. Amused, Dorothy asked me about the spring in my step, so I sang the chorus to her and explained that I loved one of the lines, as it applied so well to some of the love struck girls who've been incarcerated there. Something about how Mama says to "live your life 'til love is found or love's gonna get you down." Suddenly, Dot began to tear up. When she collected herself, she thanked me saying, "That's just what I needed to hear. It not only applies to love, it applies to life. I've been sucking too hard on my lollipop!"
Nobody wanted to come to 12 Steps today so I turned right back around and headed home. I bounced into the house singing "sucking too hard on your lollipop" and Sweetie exclaimed, "What's happened to you?!"
"I've had a paradigm shift!" I told her. And I had. Over the course of a couple of hours this afternoon and especially, with the help of Dorothy, I discovered that I have been suckin' too hard on my lollipop. I've been trying to force my life, just like someone who's trying to force love. I need to just go on and live my life or life is going to let me down. Its so characteristic of addictive behavior to be trapped in a vortex of "shoulds", "ought tos." In my insecurity due to the choices I've made I am overly concerned about looking good, about appearing normal and in control.
Once again, the process of my recovery has revealed an undiscovered facet of the nature of my condition, my mortality. The more I take control of my life the less control I have over it. Once again, I have to admit I have a problem over which I am powerless and my life has become unmanageable. Time to work the steps again! Just like my addiction, this problem is too big for me, I can't lift it alone. But, also like my addiction, God can free me from the bondage I've got myself into, but I've got to quit trying to rescue myself and give the problem over to He who can.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a paradigm shift changes everything; my mood, my clarity, my purpose, my faith. Talk about God's tender mercies. Suddenly, I know what I'm about and the direction I need to go. Finally, I can give myself permission to go there. At last I can enjoy my lollipop and quit sucking so destructively hard.
Thank you, Les, Sweetie, Katie, Mika, Dorothy, Darwin, Dr. Bob, Bill W., John, Bonnie, Kim, Heavenly Father, you are all so helpful and kind.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The premise is that, annually, in the land of Panem, the Hunger Games are held. Each of 12 Districts contributes two 12 to 18 year old, lottery-chosen children, a boy and a girl, to enter an arena and fight to the death. The winner is the one left standing.
I had read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, in my youth and found it so unsettling I didn't get over the experience for years. I could see no useful purpose in subjecting myself to a story so similar, yet in so many ways, much worse.
The Lottery was about grim resignation and oppression. The inventors of the Hunger Games have the same intention, but Suzanne Collin's book about them is not. It is about courage, integrity and triumph!
The triumph in our lives is never about the outcome. Bad things happen to good people. The triumph lies in our response to what happens to us. Will we do the right thing regardless of the outcome? Will we remain loyal, honest, true - regardless of what might happen? If, while reading this remarkable story, you are not asking yourself what you'd do if facing these obstacles and challenges, you are wasting a marvelous opportunity to understand your own character, to develop and strengthen your own integrity.
I read this masterpiece through the night. It just wasn't possible to put it down. I discovered, just now that the sequel is presently in the house. I'd better wait to read that one until I a few night's sleep under my belt.
I recommend it highly! If you liked Ender's Game, you'll love The Hunger Games. Collins has given Card a serious run for his money. Ender Wiggins is a favorite character of mine, but Katniss Everdeen could certainly teach him a thing or two.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I love a good story. Travel Writing is a number of them. In and out of the stories Perry describes the life, troubles, obsessions, self recriminations, confusions of the writer. He tells his own story along with those he is making up. In so doing he discovers that he is making up his own story too and like his students, he can barely wait to discover what happens next.
I found the book to be a bit too crass for my personal taste, but I carried on, in this case, because I identified so completely with the protagonist. Our stories were completely dissimilar, but I too have been, lately, full of confusion, self recrimination, obsession and troubles. I found it cathartic to observe how he dealt with a life spinning off course on some inexplicable, seemingly ridiculous tangent. I related to the seeming inevitability of surprise in our lives. I've long held that life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. Peter Ferry helped me see that sometimes our real hopes, our real dreams, our real selves just cannot be restrained from emerging, no matter how hard we try to hide in the comfort of the "normal" compliant, acceptable lives we've created for ourselves.
Ferry is teaching his students to write. He admonishes them to write what they know. From his own experience he tells of a critique he received from a mentor, regarding his own writing. "I like what you're doing. I really do. I think you are sincere, and I think you are talented. You haven't much to say, but you say it very well." I related, as well, to this. A while back I wondered how Stefan Merrill Block could have written such a deep and well crafted novel as The Story of Forgetting at such a young age. Clearly the answer lies in writing about what he knew. Ferry knew a lot about writing and he new a great deal about uncertainty, doubt, and confusion. In his first novel Peter Ferry seems to have discovered that he had something to say, not so much in what he knew, but in what knew he didn't know.
Maybe we're making it up as we go, but our stories and their characters, like literature, tend to take on a life of their own and always lead us to unexpected ends.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I wish I could explain it succinctly but the dilemma has its subtleties and nuances that I feel compelled to detail.
I'm in pretty serious need of a source of income. I've been actively looking for over two months now. Perhaps, not as actively as I should. My brother is Stake Employment Specialist in his Stake and the other day I heard him say (not to me) that the Church's policy on the matter is that if you're unemployed you should be spending eight hours a day looking for a job. Finding employment thus, becomes your job. He makes a very good point. So does the church. I would think this especially true if I were drawing assistance from the Church to support my family. The policy seems to be cut and dried and, if I were to take it at face value, I have been extremely lax in my duty to concentrate all of my attention to the task of getting employed.
Now, it seems to me that such a policy implies a few things that are unsettling to me. It implies that any job is better than no job. At least any honest, honorable employment, trumps no employment. Ordinarily, at least in the case of one drawing assistance from the Church or the Government, I would wholeheartedly concur. In my current situation I'm not so sure; let me explain why.
I have had a good, decent, exciting and promising job offer in recent weeks that I felt strongly impressed I should not accept. I didn't. I still feel good about my decision. Had my brother been helping me find a job, I expect he, or someone else in his role, might have been pretty aggravated with me for turning down such an opportunity. Perhaps, I could have persuaded them that I was going by the Spirit, which ought to trump Church policy; or should it. There's the rub.
I've had the feeling that God has something in store for me. I even have the notion that it will be meaningful and, spiritually as well as financially, rewarding. I have no notion what it might be. I have hoped it would lie in a realm that might use my talents and predispositions to make a difference in the world. I have even been willing to accept less money than I might otherwise make so it might be so. I'm at a time in life and to some degree, in a financial position to allow that. I have earnestly pursued such opportunities, as I have found, that might fit in that framework. So far, I have not been the best qualified or for other inexplicable reasons have not been selected for such positions.
My last job was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the people I worked for and those I worked with. In fact in that regard it was the best group of people I ever had the pleasure of working with. But, I hated my job, in that employment, with a passion I didn't think myself capable of. I even hated that I was successful at it. I was a salesman. I have a strong aversion to manipulation and as I participated in sales training, it seemed to me that manipulation with the core and fundamental sum and substance of sales. I refused to do it and yet I sold, or rather, I helped people buy. There was more to hate though. There was too much time when there were no customers and it was hard to stay busy doing "make work" activities. Especially when I was encouraged to do a lot of sales training in the down time. In prayer, during the year I was in sales, I begged God to help me get out of there and repeatedly came away convinced that I was right where He wanted me. I never fully understood why, but I stayed. I stayed until the firm went out of business. Because of the poor economy, I never made much more than enough to make ends meet.
The economy is still bad; restricting my prospects. I've had an interview that looks promising. It is for a part-time job that doesn't pay very well. I could manage with two such part-time jobs but I wonder if I'll find two that are compatible. I thought I might but the other has already hired someone else. This job, should it be offered to me, also requires I work six days a week which will severely restrict what I can do on the weekends and such. Part of my quandary is whether it is fair to the employer to accept the job and then abruptly quit when something better comes along. It costs money to train any new employee and an unplanned interruption will also greatly inconvenience them. Does my obligation to become employed supersede my future lack of loyalty? I would enjoy the job, but is it fair to accept it when I'm sure I'll need to move on as soon as something better surfaces.
Here's what I know:
- God is predisposed in my favor, He wants to bless me and help me prosper.
- His blessings come on His timetable not mine.
- I can be patient.
- I can trust Him.
- He has never let me down before. He has also never made me wait before.
- I'd rather prosper than just get by.
- I can accept His will in all things. I've proven that to Him and to myself.
- What God has in mind for me.
- If I should be doing more to facilitate finding a job. Am I too patient in waiting upon Him?
- Why He led me away from the one job I was offered and wanted.
- Does He really even care what I do to provide for my family?
- Is there any justification for hoping for something I might enjoy?
- Am I reaching beyond the mark in thinking I might be of significant service at work as well as in church or my personal life?
- Am I just settling for mediocrity if I don't hold out for "what God has in store for me?"
- Am I being irresponsible and unrealistic for not grabbing what's available?
- Did God have something in mind for me, but exercising their agency, did some potential employer choose other than God's course of action?
Anyway, if any of you have any light to shed on the subject, post a comment and tell me frankly, what you think! Maybe I should even take a poll - Faith or Foolishness. If you've followed my blog lately, you'll know that I'll keep you posted on what transpires.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Abandoned by his wife and left with three children Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) has his children taken from him. He fights a desperate and heroic battle to get them back.
It is a true story of love, desperation and triumph that will linger in my heart for a life time. The film is filled with the charm and desperation of a great people in a great land. Not since I read Angela's Ashes has the heart song of Ireland stirred so deeply within me.
Though I've proven Scottish and Manx ancestry the story and culture and music of the Emerald Isle resonates so deeply in my soul that I cannot doubt there is Irish blood flowing there as well.
Be sure to put this one on your list of movies to enjoy!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Last night at our LDS ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) Meeting, there were 12 in attendance besides the missionaries. It is so gratifying. The Spirit attended in abundance. All were edified.
As our attention moved around the circle and each person shared his experience, faith and hope, I couldn't help but observe that some, while relatively new to the program were making amazing progress. Over the years there have been others who despite coming to meetings for months or years made little if any progress and continually struggled with their compulsions. Why is this?
I think I could hear the answer in their words. Quite often, dead in the water, old timers know all the words to say. They are big on giving advice, quoting the Big Book and citing examples, they know the methodology cold. They understand the technology of recovery thoroughly, but they are stuck. Why is this?
I think it comes down to humility. In fact I think the bottom line of recovery is humility. I don't mean the dejection of failure heaped upon failure. Nor do I mean the humiliation of being found out. When I say humility, I mean the real and understood acknowledgment of one's utter and entire dependence upon God. We have good people, some in recovery even, who've never crossed that bridge. It is apparent in their words, in the counsel they give to others.
There is a method to the 12 Steps that is useful, even critical, to helping us find humility. Too often though, the method becomes the end rather than the means leaving the addict short of the goal. To me, the goal is not recovery, the goal is humility and the resulting companionship with God. Ether 12:27 is a favorite of most in ARP, but I don't see weakness actually becoming strength all that often. Why is this?
Perhaps its because in our short sightedness too many of us see abstinence and sobriety as the goal. While a worthy objective, it falls utterly short of what Moroni was talking about in that glorious scripture. God gives us weakness to draw us to Him (see verse 28). It is not God's objective to merely make us sober, His desire is to help us become like Him. In order to do that we must completely "turn our will and our life" over to Him. Yet it appears that to most of us Step 3 is just the means to a sober end, when in all reality, (see also Step 11) it is the end.
It appears to me that the difference in the progress I see in our little group boils down to the goal each individual sets. If the goal is sobriety, most won't reach it and even if they do, the struggle will continue. On the other hand, if the goal is humility, success is more likely and more rapid. Turning our lives over to God can be seen as a tool for obtaining sobriety, but too many take back control of all or portions of their lives upon successful abstinence and never experience the joy and freedom intended for them by complete surrender.
Someone said last night that one of our most prolific and superlative sponsors, who's been sponsoring for well over ten years, has only seen one of those she's sponsored make it all the way to and through the 12th Step. Most don't even make it through step six. Why is this?
I think it is because most people have set their sights way too low. They are shooting for abstinence when they ought to be shooting for recovery. They are shooting for sobriety when the could be shooting for the constant companionship of God. They are settling for so much less than what is offered them. Why is this?
It is because they are still holding back and that is what's holding them back.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I can't quite put my finger on Richardson's art. He can take the everyday, even mundane events so common to all of us and help me see them with fresh perspective. Something so ordinary as a dishwasher becomes an ethereal, even spiritual mentor as it chants it's soothing mantra.
Reading his description of life is so rich in detail and warm in color that its like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting, only you get to look in on the scene through every window in the house.
Some of the funniest things about ourselves come of how seriously we tend to take ourselves. So it is with Virgil, Hector and now Caedmon, a newly introduced character who drives an old bus with a thatched roof. All are, off the charts eccentric, and yet so ordinary, they could just as easily be me, or (even funnier) you!
Told from the perspective of practically every character the tale waxes and wanes through mists of amusement and then bursts into a clarity of invention that delights and satisfies. I enjoyed myself from beginning to end.
I'll leave you with Virgil's high noon wishes to ponder:
- I wish you a comfortable bed.
- A roof to withstand every storm.
- A pillow to cushion your head.
- An angel to keep you from harm
- I wish you remembrance of dreams.
- I wish you the love you require.
- In summer, the sheltering shade.
- In winter, a welcoming fire.
- I wish you the comfort of friends.
- I wish you an absence of fear.
- A wish for the right wish to end.
- And it's over. I wish you were here.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
When Bishop Bassett asked me to speak in Sacrament Meeting on the topic, Refrain From Swearing, he had no idea of my profound admiration for J. Golden Kimball. When I told the congregation as much, in my introduction of the topic, they say the blood drained from Bishop Bassett's face. Still, I made it through the entire sermon without a single slip. It's a good thing too because, back then I wasn't as quick to repent as Brother Kimball. I am repenting pretty dern fast these days, though.
He really had nothing to fear. I don't cotton to swearing. Clean language is a beautiful thing and I encourage its use. I personally, refrain from crude language most of the time, usually.
It is important to understand that J. Golden Kimball was called of God to be one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. Despite the occasional slip of the tongue, Golden, was golden. People flocked to hear him speak. There was humor, surprise, and profound testimony of the Atonement in every sermon he preached. There was also honesty. Sometimes painful, always enlightening, Golden's honesty and frankness opened hearts and encouraged transgressors. And that is the Golden Factor.
It is said that poor Elder Rudger Clawson had a painfully difficult time stomaching Golden's antics. Serious, straight laced, Apostle Clawson was appalled that the Church should be represented by such a rough shod cowboy. He is reported to have sought Golden's dismissal, but President Heber J. Grant wouldn't hear of it. Frayed, as he was around the edges, Golden had a place in the Kingdom and God had a use for him. And that is the Golden Factor.
J. Golden Kimball knew he wasn't perfect. In fact he once said, "I may not have walked the straight and narrow, but I crossed it as often as I could." To further enhance his uncharacteristic image, Golden was an avowed Democrat. He did, once, attend the Republican Caucus and, having been discovered in the crowd, was asked by Senator/Apostle Smoot to offer the invocation. Golden declined, answering, "No thanks Reed, I'd just as soon the Lord didn't know I was here." (See, he didn't always swear!)
I didn't set out to tell J. Golden stories, but I feel one coming on. Hugh B. Brown once said of a urge to tell a tale, "Its like a fit, there's no stopping it, you might as well go ahead and have it." Please forgive this fit: In a church welfare meeting Golden was assigned to check on a piece of property in Manti for a possible welfare farm. He was headed that way for a Stake Conference. In the next meeting President Grant asked if he'd had the opportunity to visit the parcel. Golden answered that he had.
"How was it?" asked President Grant.
"Well now, it was a nice piece of ground, about 180 acres, with a nice slope to it and a good stream of water at the head." responded Golden.
"How big was the stream?" queried the prophet.
"I could piss about half way acrossed it." answered Golden.
To which Rudger Clawson huffed, "Bro-ther Kimball, you're out of order!"
"Of course I am," said Golden matter of factly, "if I wasn't I could've pissed all the way across."
Golden often plead for the Saints to be kind to him and forgive him and one another. His message was one of repentance, redemption, and devotion. No one was more devoted than Brother Kimball and inspite of His weakness, God allowed him to do a great work in strengthening the church. A loving Heavenly Father knew that lots of the Latter-day Saints needed to realize that they were invited to the table, just as they are. The church needs its Rudger Clawsons, but it doesn't need 12 million of them. It needs its J. Golden Kimballs too and everyone in between. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone has someone to bless. All are blessed with unique gifts that the Lord can use. Gifts few if any others can offer as well. And that is the Golden Factor.
Sweetie's grandfather was such a man. On a rare weekend home from sheep camp, Willard was approached by the Bishop to get things started for him to go on a Mission. Willard was shocked and said, "Bbut, Bbishop, I've only been to the Second Grade and can hardly read ner write!" In great wisdom the Bishop responded, "The Lord will use those who are willing to be used." And Willard answered, "If the Lord can use me, then I'll go." And that is the Golden Factor.
This isn't the Stepford Church, full of flawless, Molly and Marty Mormons. The Church wasn't meant to be operated by perfect people or God would have to outsource it to Angels or something. The Church was designed for you, everyone of you, and even me, as a place to learn and grow. A place to try us, to teach us, to sharpen our skills, and test our mettle. If we can see it as that it isn't hard to see how well it is doing it's job. Every day humble Saints work myriad miracles for which they are lacking in experience and expertise. Who, because they love the Lord and acknowledge their weakness before him are able to be instruments in His might hands. And every day, myriads make mistakes and stumble along and mostly we understand and forgive them, help them up and help them along.
And that, is the Golden Factor.
When my sponsor discovered I had disregarded step two, he rolled his eyes and made me read Chapter 4 from the AA Big Book. Obediently, I complied, while thinking it was a waste of time. Boy, was I wrong! That chapter was such an eye opener for me! I was behaving like an Agnostic!
You need to understand that I've been active in the Church my entire life. I've had a testimony too! Long since. But somehow, as Stephen E. Robinson puts it; while I believed in Christ, I just didn't believe Christ. I believed He was there, created the earth and was powerful beyond my comprehension. I just didn't believe He could or would save me. Somehow, I had developed the notion that Salvation was my task, not His.
I couldn't imagine that Jesus would reach down into the mud, I'd got my self stuck in, fouled with, and pull me out, clean me up and set me off in the right direction. I thought I had to climb out of the mire of my life on my own; that I had to clean myself up and arrive presentable at the judgment seat on my own. How I could have come to these conclusions while attending church, Sunday School, reading the scriptures all my life, is simply beyond me. As Colleen Harrison so aptly describes it, I was spiritually dyslexic! It was as though I thought I had to excise my own tumor, before I could go to the doctor. I was behaving like an Agnostic while professing to be a believer.
The Twelve Steps are inspired and wonderful. Key to their success in helping me repent is the inclusion of the first three steps. They're about acknowledgement of guilt and about faith, trust in God. All of my previous attempts to repent, failed, largely because "faith preceeds the miracle" and I had skipped that part. There is a reason why Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. I had never truly repented. All I had ever done was stop sinning (for a while). True repentance requires a remission of sins which requires allowing Jesus to remove the guilt, heal the damage and change the heart. Quitting a sinful behavior, in the short term, is not repentance. Quitting sinful behavior, in the long term, without repentance and a remission of sins, is impossible. All my life the connection between the Atonement and true repentance was somehow lost on me. I guess I should have stood on the bench in church, then maybe, what was being taught wouldn't have gone over my head!
Today, I am free of addiction because I have repented and received, throught the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ, a remission of my sins. Not for any merit of my own, for I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak. This blessing has come because my Redeemer decended below all things that He might lift me up, knowing I would be unable to lift myself.
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died
I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
That he should extend his great love unto such as I
Sufficient to own, to redeem and to justify
I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay my debt
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Secure in the promise of life in his victory
Thus ransomed from death I will live to my Savior's praise
And sing of his goodness and mercy through endless days
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me
Oh, it is wonderful
Wonderful to me
(I Stand All Amazed, Charles H. Gabriel)
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Bucking Bales and Lemonade
We were bucking bales for Pop Wardley up near the canyon. Hot, sweaty, hard work it was. Especially if you were a skinny kid like me. Every afternoon at quitting time Pop would ask us what time we wanted to start in the morning. We would all go for six when it was cool. Every day Pop would reply with, “Too many tireds, how about nine.” And so we always hauled hay in heat of the day. At noon we’d skinny dip in the canal so we’d be all cleaned up and cooled off for lunch. Aunt Marge always fed us a great lunch. We’d work about six hours a day for $1.25 an hour. The older kids and some of the younger city kids got work in town for more than that. If you were 14 though, it was bucking bales or nothing.
Pop was a favorite to work for though, mostly because of Aunt Marge’s cooking and because Pop slip stacked. Lots of folks had given up slip stacking after Bobby Roberts’ accident, but not Pop. He was just too set in his ways. Someone drove the tractor (usually one of Marge’s girls) and one of us rode the slip. It was a large sheet of steel dragged by a chain behind the baler. The slip stacker (one of us) stacked the bales on that sheet of steel as they came out of the baler. At the end of the field all you had to do was step off the slip, stick a hay hook in a bottom bale and hang on. The slip would slide right out from under the pile of bales. Now the guys on the hay wagon would load them up and haul them off to the stack yard. It sure beat walking all over the field gathering up the bales. Bobby Roberts managed to get under the slip with a stack on it. It killed him and the thoughts of it kept us on our toes.
Usually, we shut down for a break midmorning and again midafternoon. We didn’t need to bring food but we always brought plenty to drink. On the day I’m thinking of Pop was driving the hay wagon and Mirtle was driving the baler. Butch was slip stacking and Delin Perkins and I were loading the wagon and stacking the hay stack. When we stopped for a break, Mirtle and Pop went to the yard for more baling twine and Delin was finishing up on the big stack. Butch got shaded up and noticed Delin’s thermos full of lemonade. Now, you’ve got to understand that, though we were the same age, Butch was two of me. I hadn’t quite cleared 100 pounds yet and I stood 5′ 10″. Butch on the other hand was a good 190 pounds and was already shaving every day. He didn’t really look like a bully, but his reputation and a particularly cold glint in his eye on top of his size kept me in my place. Anyway, Butch picked up the thermos and looking right at me, drank half of it down. Though I said nothing, I’m sure the glint of terror in my eye made it clear that I wasn’t going to say anything. I did wonder what Delin would say though. I glanced up at Delin on the stack and when I looked back, there stood Butch peeing Delin’s thermos back full.
I have never had a more confusing gumbo of emotions in my whole life as I did that day when I silently watched Delin Perkins down that entire thermos. He never noticed a thing and Butch never even flinched. Today the fear, revulsion, shame, awe, anxiety, delight and bewilderment have all boiled down to a thick greasy guilt. And every time I see old Delin I wonder about that facial tic he’s developed.