Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looking In All The Wrong Places For God

We have all been in situations where some tragedy has befallen someone we love. Perhaps a child has been hit by a car and is clinging to life after emergency surgery. Perhaps we have witnessed global military atrocities and pray for them to stop. We see refugees fleeing from organized governmental terror only to sit inside baking tents watching their children slowly die of starvation. We want that to be stopped. So we pray for these reasonable and compassionate outcomes. However, we will always end our prayers with some form of the phrase “… if it be Thy will.”
For so many of us we pray to the God of our understanding that His will be done – but in the back of our minds we know what it is we think Her will should be. If we look at scripture and review our favorite passages, then we think we KNOW what God’s actions should be. In fact we believe we have been spiritual enough or religious enough that our wills have been conformed to God’s will.
My friend, Michael Z ( in one of his weekly posts states, “… The harder I tried to control people, places and things presuming God’s will was in alignment with mine, the more uncontrollable my life became.“ He went on to describe how much more resentful, aggravated, disappointed, frustrated and angry he found himself. Nothing, not even God, was working in his favor. Where was his serenity as a result of working this closely with this God of his understanding?
Last week I wrote about my doing AA’s Twelve Steps and that now I am doing A Course In Miracles (ACIM’s) daily Lessons from the Workbook for Students. The emphasis I placed in last week’s message was in the doing! I have done ACIM’s lessons before, but this year I have done them with more earnestness – maybe because of the Trump phenomenon or maybe because I am really ready. “When the student is ready, the teaching (or teacher) appears.” I don’t know which reason it is and I don’t really care, because it doesn’t really matter to me.
What does matter is that I am doing the Lessons – not just reading them or reading the commentaries on them and concluding. “Well, that makes sense. I think I am getting the gist of this.” I am doing them. Just like doing the Twelve Steps transformed my life, doing these Lessons is having a profound effect on me.
The other day, I was at my pharmacy to pick up a prescription and they hadn’t received it yet from my doctor. I went to the doctor’s office, mentioned this to them and they took care of it then – apologizing for the delay. I went back to the pharmacy about 2 hours later and it still wasn’t ready. However, as I was standing in front of the clerk I was thinking, “He is doing his job. I can see in his face he is getting aggravated with the customer in front of him (and ahead of of me).” As I walked up, I thought of the short version of the day’s Lesson and from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, came the words, “Sometimes, dealing with unruly customers, I have found my patience stretched to the limit. You handled that very well.” He smiled and I told him about the prescription I was expecting. It wasn’t there. “Oh,” I said. “It should be.” “I tell you what,” he said. “I see we have received it. It is somewhere in the queue. If you have something else to shop for, please go do that and I’ll find your prescription and get it bumped up and filled. Can you come back in 10 minutes?” “Okay. I do have something else to get. I’ll be back shortly.”
As I walked away to go get what I needed, I noticed people were smiling back at me. All over the store. Every aisle I was in. I came back. The prescription was ready. I thanked him for his effort, and he said, “It’s been a real pleasure. It’s really a good job I have. I’m very thankful for it. Have a great day, sir.”
I left and went on to a lawn/garden/hardware store to get some pelletized lime for my yard. I asked where they had moved it because it wasn’t in its usual spot. The clerk said “Oh, I’m sorry. We are out and haven’t received the new batch yet.” A passing clerk stopped and related, “It just came in. They are putting the pallets in place right now. Come on. I’ll show you.” The second clerk went behind the temporary barriers they had set up, and got my five bags. On my way to the checkout counter, I saw a guy I had just met several days earlier who was in line ahead of me. We chatted for a moment and he motioned for me to go ahead of him, since he had much more stuff than I.
I came home a told my wife it had been a perfect day. There was no conflict. All problems that arose had been successfully resolved. No sullen faces – all smiles. No anger. No frustration. Just serenity. I was a very happy camper.
All this seemingly mundane stuff was the work of the Holy Spirit in ways I had never imagined. Working the Steps of AA changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. Rather than trying to force my will to be in concert with what I believe should be God’s will, I can just silently ask God to help me see what I am looking at in terms of acts of love or calls for love. When my perception changes, the day changes. When my perception changes, people change. When my perception changes, the results change. I normally would have looked at the pharmacy clerk and resented that I was going to get him while he was still angry with the previous customer. Instead, I saw a young man trying to be courteous and helpful – and it made all the difference in the world.
Small things. Unexpected things – in me and in all those I was meeting.
I try hard not to convince myself what it is that God would have me do. When I don’t do that, I confuse what I think I want God to tell me with what I think God’s will is. And, even though it may be high-sounding, it is all still of my ego. Felix. In the meantime, God is doing what He is doing and if I remain looking through Felix’s eyes, I will never see my Higher Power at work in my life – even if I think it’s mundane.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

#4 Mar 2017
Copyright 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Important Is HOW?

How important is HOW? Short answer: Very!
It was the key to my experience of my Higher Power, whom I call God. I was told in my first months in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that the key to changing my life was to be Honest, Open-minded, and Willing (HOW). That was the key to learning new skills that would change my life. “After all,” old-timers would tell me, “I will not think myself into a new way of living; I will live myself into a new way of thinking.”
And so it was.
I asked questions about the Twelve Steps of AA. I was very, very concerned about the 3rd Step [Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him] – in that I believed it was the crucial step in my recovery. And I was told I was correct. It is the crucial step.
My concern was that I would not do it perfectly or completely enough to really get sober and turn my life around. Again, when I voiced this concern, the old-timers smiled and told me not to think so much. “Don, you’ll do the 3rd Step correctly by doing Steps 4-12 for the rest of your life.
Aha! Finally! That made perfectly good sense to me.
By doing Steps 4-12 my life began to change: My compulsion to drink left me – very quietly, I might add; my willingness to ASK questions and DO the suggested responses I received grew and grew as I went on; my open-mindedness to the experience and hope of all who honestly shared began to guide me more and more; and, voilà, my life got better and better and my thinking, I noticed, was simply following along behind me.
I worked the Steps and, as promised, I had the beginnings of a spiritual awakening along the way. The spiritual awakening is still unfolding almost 30 years later. I am not perfect but I am still a work in progress.
I have used that same approach in my involvement with A Course In Miracles (ACIM). I am working the daily Lessons again. ACIM is divided into three main parts: The Text; The Workbook for Students; and the Manual for Teachers. The Workbook for Students states in its Introduction (italics are mine):
1 A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of this workbook to train your mind to think along the lines the text sets forth.
2 The exercises are very simple. They do not require a great deal of time, and it does not matter where you do them. They need no preparation. The training period is one year. The exercises are numbered from 1 to 365….
4 The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. The exercises are planned to help you generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is equally applicable to everyone and everything you see….
8 Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.
9 Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required.
For me the message of AA and ACIM is being aware of how the “HOW” and the “DOING” will change my life. My thinking will follow along like a welcome, curious puppy. Perhaps you may consider embarking on the same journey.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

#3 Mar 2017

Copyright 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Addendum to: “Reacting From Fear…”

Today, Sunday March 12, I was in the sunshine on a crisp cold day in eastern Tennessee reading a new-to-me novel. It contained a passage that verbally painted a secular picture of this spiritual phenomenon. I found the book last weekend in a thrift store. The title is: “The Twilight of Courage” by Bodie and Brock Thoene [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994].
The passage is describing the return to England by an American AP press reporter (Josephine – aka Josie) who had been trapped in Warsaw, Poland as the Nazi army stormed and devastated that country in 1939. She was escorted out and finally caught a boat from Amsterdam to Southhampton, England, where she was met by a fellow reporter named Alma.
The horrors Josie witnessed, as the German Wehrmacht followed by Nazi Waffen SS units, decimated the city and its people, were indescribable: rotting, dead and dying civilians, livestock, and pets; destroyed churches, mosques, and synagogues; purposeful bombing of civilian buildings of safety – municipal buildings, museums, opera houses, and block after block of residential areas.
Her last conversations were with a Catholic nun, Sister Angeline, as they desperately tried to assuage the suffering of victims in the Cathedral of Saint John in Warsaw. Then the roof began to collapse after the strike of yet another shell. It killed Sister  Angeline.
Alma has been pestering Josie for information by asking her questions like “What was it like?” and ”How did you manage?” and “Why didn’t you bring your luggage?”
[From pages 41-42 – italics are in the original text] “Alma’s mindless chatter grated like fingernails on a blackboard.  The final words of Sister Angelina echoed in Josie’s mind. No man limps because the foot of another man is injured. England will not come to help us, Josephine. They will not think of us again once we are buried. To do so would make them ashamed. But you? Leave this place with joy in you heart, daughter. You will never see the world as you saw it before. You will find God’s presence in ways you had not imagined.
“They stepped out into the sunlight. For the first time Josie felt the glory of all that was ordinary: church steeples and slate rooftops standing as they had for hundreds of years, the tangle of chimney pots.
“The unbroken skyline of the city gleamed in russet hues: brown brick, red brick, black brick. The day throbbed with color. A seagull cried as it soared overhead. The air smelled of ocean and the musty scent of leaves about to drop from the trees. Autumn would soon arrive in England. There was a wonderful living aroma. Had Josie ever really noticed before? And if she had noticed, had she tried to define what made it so spectacular? She was suddenly filled with an exquisite joy.
“’What is wrong with you?’ Alma grumped.
“’It’s lovely here. So ordinary.’
“’Lovely warehouses? Lovely seagull droppings? Lovely screaming American tourists stumbling out of taxis?’
“’Yes, I suppose.’
Alma could not comprehend. She had not yet witnessed the world turned upside down. She had not breathed the air in Warsaw, and so she could not know the sweet air of England, even in ordinary Southhampton, was something holy. How could she understand what had happened to Josephine? Drawing a breath in safety had become an act of worship.
“’I’m really thankful to be alive, Alma,’ Josie said in a tone so serious that it made Alma laugh. Her laughter did not matter.
“’Well, so am I!’
“Josie stopped her on the sidewalk at the end of the taxi queue. ‘No. I mean . .  . I am truly glad I was in Warsaw. Glad I got left behind. That I met all those people…. It’s okay. I’m different, you know? Nothing to worry about. I mean . . . I am thankful.’”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Seeing with gratitude is seeing with love – with vision. It’s responding rather than reacting. As I closed yesterday’s message, I can close this addendum: “These are the moments of unity we need to focus on, the collateral beauty in the midst of chaos….”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

#2a Mar 2017

Copyright 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reacting From Fear/Anger or Responding From Love

Early in February I tried to explain the difference between reacting to the Trump/GOP agenda as an anger-versus-anger action as opposed to responding out of love – attempting to correct an error. 
From Msg-2-Feb-2017 (Being Politically Active and Spiritually Serene): “Now, I know I cannot treat members of Congress or the Administration as two-year olds grabbing for unreal floating spots before their eyes. (Well, maybe a little!) But I can try to correct an issue on this 3-dimensional world I perceive with incorrect perception. I can try to treat these politicians with the same tolerance I treat drivers who cruise at 30 mph in a 45 mph zone because they do not pay attention to road signs. (I admit I’m still working on this.)
“I need to understand that my perception of things, people or events is not really real. I have to acknowledge that these things certainly appear to be very, very real. But they’re not. I need to ask for a different way of looking at the situation. I need to “see” not with physical sight, but with spiritual vision – to “see” the same way the Holy Spirit “sees:” Everything is either an act of Love or a call for Love. That ability to “see” like the Holy Spirit is given to me as a gift from God.
“So, I can protest, write my congressional representatives, send emails, sign petitions, or contribute money sensing that this movement of our new government is simply a call for Love. It is an attempt to assuage fear by accumulating and exercising power to provide themselves with security. I can try to accept (which is to be aware without fear or judgment) their insecurity and attempt to correct their “not knowing” rather than screaming out of my self-righteous anger and fear.”
In the March/April 2017 issue of “Holy Encounter” (a publication of the Miracle Distribution Center,, Beverly Hutchinson McNeff writes about Collateral Beauty – a term she borrowed from a new Will Smith movie by the same name. She states, then proceeds to expound, on the theme of the movie and its similarity to the message in the Course In Miracles (ACIM): Both the Course and the movie ask “…us to look for the collateral beauty in tragedy, instead of the damage….”
She goes on and states what I tied to state in this earlier February message. I quote from her article: “… We are entering a very different time in our country’s and the world’s history. Fear seems to be gripping most arrears of the world and calls for isolation are being sounded. From the United Kingdom’s Brexit to our country’s election of Donald Trump, there is a fear… and a focus on separation. A focus on the ‘other’ as being responsible for our problems is a focus on the ego’s doctrine of ‘seek but do not find.’ As long as we are looking outside of ourselves for the solution to our problems, the more the solution will elude us. Therefore, it behooves us to not make the same error we see being made.
“If we project our own anger onto those we see as attacking us or others, we will miss the answers, the collateral beauty, the miracles that are all around us. To truly lift our minds to the healing solution of God, which is being held out for us, we must remember [ACIM’s] early workbook lesson that says, ‘My attack thoughts are attacking my invulnerability.’ [Lesson 26] If we want to feel the strength God is holding out to us, then we must act from our invulnerability. Attacking back [against perceived threats] proves we are vulnerable, but a focus on love and unity proves our strength. Once we believe it, we will see it.
“The Women’s March that took place the day after the presidential inauguration was a wonderful example of how this truth can be put into action. This powerful event ... supported women’s rights and other causes including immigration reform, health care reform, protection of LBGTQ rights, racial justice, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. It was not a march against someone but a march in support of everyone….
“These are the moments of unity we need to focus on, the collateral beauty in the midst of chaos….”
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

#2 Mar 2017

Copyright 2017