The Thread In Between

So, over the past several weeks the conversations at Hopesprings have been about walking, finishing the course and now, finding the thread of God in that journey. Jonathan, my pastor, has challenged (perhaps that’s too strong a word but it seems to fit me at this juncture) me through these conversations to chronicle my journey with Presence. Finding Presence in the mundane as well as the momentous. Frankly, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

You see, lately I’ve been talking about feeling disconnected with Presence. I shared with some friends how I had these “revelations”, these “spiritual awakenings”, early in my recovery. It seemed that I was having these “magical” moments on a weekly basis – you know, those moments when everything seems to click, to mesh, and a universal truth is “revealed”. Looking back on that time period, perhaps those moments felt so dramatic, so euphoric, because for so long I was spiritually bankrupt. The light always seems brighter when you step out of the darkness. Through4284919085_13c1190738_mout my struggles I felt like I was slipping further and further into the inky blackness of the abyss. The light got ever fainter; my soul was leaking. It felt like I was all alone. No Presence … at all. And yet …. the light never was extinguished. Presence was there; I was just too messed up to notice.

Some how, some way, Presence never abandoned me. It never stopped believing in me. It saw that I was worthy of “saving”, that I had a mission to fulfill, a mission that only I could fulfill. Even though I felt shameful, degraded, worthless and hopeless, Presence said I had value. Presence said, “I’ve got plans for you whenever you’re done with this nonsense.” A series of unfortunate (?) events occurred like dominoes falling, events that would break me down enough to allow me to be rebuilt better than before – jail, divorce, cars repossessed, family lost, friends leaving me, career lost. Presence was there throughout all of it, guiding me to a place where I could be reborn.

Some information was placed right under my nose – a small news article in a local newspaper that I never read very much. The article discussed a “recovery day” sponsored by an addiction out-patient facility in Bangor, PA; there would be speakers, information and free food! Yahtzee! A faint voice in the deeper recesses of my mind whispered that this would be good for me, that I needed this. So, I signed up in over 8 years ago – penniless, jobless and hopeless.

Thus began my more meaningful journey with Presence. This time it would be a much closer walk, a truer walk, a humbler walk with my leaning into Presence to help get me through the tough times and to show gratitude during the joyful times. My new relationship did not come with any guarantees in life. I faced many challenges and will continue to work through difficult situations. So what’s the difference between then and now? Here it is: I know that no matter what happens, no matter what life throws at me, I will be okay for Presence will not and never has abandoned me. Even in the darkest times it was me who walked away from It, not the other way around. Anne Lamott wrote about something like this when she describes feeling as if Jesus is sitting on His haunches in her room, waiting patiently in the dark for her to turn around and ask for help. She can palpably feel Presence. She resisted for some time but eventually broke down to Presence sitting in the corner, waiting patiently. I can relate to that!SAMSUNG

That being said I come to the root of today’s post … feeling Presence in the mundane, in the everyday routine, in the repetition of daily tasks, in the blah, blah, blah of the days, running into weeks, running into months. While I “know” that Presence always has my back and is always within me I don’t always “feel” Presence. Perhaps “notice” is a better word than “feel”. I don’t always see the “wow” within the monotony. I don’t always see the color within the gray. It’s easy to see Presence and feel Presence when things are going really great or really awful. It’s harder to find the Thread during the “in between”. I dare say I think that most of the living and loving and crying and dying happens in the “in between”.

In all likelihood I suppose my expectations were unrealistic. I may have expected that those moments I experienced early on, those moments of elation and awe when the clouds parted, the sunshine beamed down and revealed the universe’s secrets, to continue in ever-increasing frequency and intensity. I didn’t get that. What I got was a healthy dose of reality – dogs needing to be walked, laundry piling up, groceries to be purchased, bills to be paid, a job to go to and people to interact with. Honestly, I was feeling a little deflated. “Is that all there is?” I asked myself. “I thought it would be different.”

Gradually, the everyday rhythm of life and all it’s demands tempered those moments of “awe” and connectedness to Presence. I started to feel like Presence was busy in the next county taking care of someone else’s dreams. Every once in a while I would get those reminders, those “coincidences”, that Presence would send up to reassure me that I was being heard and cared for. Still, I felt like I was adrift.

So when Jonathan talked about finding God in the “Wow!” and in the “Ho Hum” I took notice and sat up a little straighter in my seat. Something clicked. While those “Wow!” moments are beyond description and are cherishable in their own right it is in the mundane, the tedious, the boring, the grayness, where the rubber meets the road.12814240514_8aaebd4df7_z

Presence was there when I marked up the apartment walls with crayon as a toddler. Presence was there when Dad dropped me off at my first day of kindergarten when I was too scared to take the bus. Presence was there when we went on picnics with my brother and sister. Presence was part of the conversations I had with my Mom throughout my life. Presence was there when my grandparents passed away.

Presence is in the satisfaction of putting in an honest day’s work. When there is laughter among friends, Presence is laughing right along with us. Presence is listening in on the phone call with Dad. Presence is in the ordinary encounters with people struggling to make it through their troubled lives. Presence sees the sparkle in my wife’s smile. Presence enjoys the sounds that come from my guitar. Presence is there when my dog greets me in the morning with a wagging tail. Presence was there when we hosted Daniela and when we met Nelya. Presence was with us in Jaycee’s kitchen when we first met Kris. Presence is there in Peter’s joy. Presence is in the kindness shown to others. Presence is in the little finch at the feeder as well as the eagle soaring high in the sky. I’ve just been to busy with16602238939_e87f048c34_m the “busy-ness” of life to notice.

No matter how hum drum or gray it may seem I will try to find the color hidden in plain sight. I will endeavor to notice the Thread working throughout my story. I will try to remember that if I can’t see God in all, I can’t see God at all. I will strive to remember that Presence is present.

Always.

Choices

IMG_20150421_095725043I was taking a walk this morning in a nearby public park when I came upon this scene.  I thought of Robert Frost’s poem about coming upon a fork in the road and taking the path less traveled.  Then I thought about the metaphor of the fork in the road and the choices we make in our lives.  Take the path on the right and who knows where it will lead.  The same can be said of the left.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.  Flip a coin.

Most of the time in my life I’ve made pretty good choices.  They have usually been healthy choices that have lead to many blessings and spiritual growth.  There was a time, however, when good judgment went out the window and I couldn’t make a good choice to save my ass.  I made some very poor choices and those terrible decisions very nearly destroyed me.  Who knew where that path would would take me? God knew but I sure didn’t.  That path of addiction started out all bright and sunny but soon dipped into the forest primeval – dark, sinister and full of despair. Once in the quagmire, I had no more choices.  The addiction took that from me.  Fortunately for me, through the inky blackness of addiction, there was the tiniest pinhole of light and, following that light, I managed to crawl out of the great swamp.

For almost eight years I’ve been on the correct path of wholeness and spirituality.  That path is laid out before me by God and I travel that road one step at a time, one day at a time. I have been blessed by many people I’ve met along the road who have encouraged me and assisted me (sometimes unknowingly) along the way.  I am forever grateful for those tender mercies already shown me and those yet to come.

Today I have choices.  As anyone in recovery can tell you, that’s a blessing.

So today I first chose to go left on this fine morning and was greeted by beauty.  IMG_20150421_094508935IMG_20150421_094327391

The second time around I went right.  It led to the same grove of flowering trees.  Win win!IMG_20150421_094444634IMG_20150421_094348127IMG_20150421_094522446

A Challenge: #100artworksofgratitude

Sounds like a good thing to try.

the art of breath

image1 (1)

Lately God has been showing me so much about what it means to live in joyful hope. And also that I suck at it.

Negativity and discontentedness are everywhere, oftentimes created in my own heart and spewing from my own lips into the reality in which I live and breathe along with others.

Gratitude is illusive and escapes me in the heat of the little aggravating moments of mess-ups and maladjustments. And so I need to make a drastic change if I don’t want to be continually dragged down deep into the negative trench of discontent and pessimism. It’s hard to get out of when I’ve been practicing it for so long, but I’m ready to fight it with the persistent practice of positivity.

I won’t waste my words with more wanton phrases of failed attempts and disappointments; I will get down to brass tacks and just tell you what’s…

View original post 415 more words

Gratitude

It is a cold Sunday afternoon.  As I sit here the wind howls outside and drives the already single digit temperatures to below zero.  A perfect time to reflect on gratitude.

All too easily the sordid, the ridiculous, the ugly and the dark can carry us away and swallow us up; sometimes it swallows us whole and we can feel like our soul is leaking.  We lose sight of the beauty around us for the darker side of things sweeps us away like a flash flood, a veritable torrent, it seems.  Before you know it you wind up miles down stream and completely off the map.  I know, I’ve been there and it is not a fun place to be (more about that some other time).  It took me a few years to get back to a healthy, whole relationship with God and with others and it was a painful journey at times.  I’d like to think that I’m a better man for the journey but to be honest, I coast at times and slide down stream a bit.  But only for a bit.

It was suggested to me many years ago by people who possess more wisdom than I do, that I periodically make a gratitude list as a way to keep from slipping down stream and going over the falls.  The key is to give it some thought, some deep reflection.   I find that making the list serves me well on several key points: it keeps me positive; it reminds me that I have much to appreciate in life; it causes me to be mindful of the beauty in everyday things and the beauty in these “common” things are almost imperceptible unless I look for it.

Ugliness, hatred, evil, darkness and fear seem to scream loud and flash in neon lights but beauty … beauty is more subtle. It whispers. It is often shrouded in mist. You have to be open to, present in the moment, it in order to see it’s magnificence in all it’s glory.

So, here are my five things for which I am grateful on this day:

  • Francis Albert Sinatra – there is no one whose voice can turn a song, an arrangement, like The Voice.  No one!

    sinatra

    The Voice from an open source

  • Baseball – the greatest game ever invented; it is poetry and ballet on grass, teamwork and also individualism when batter faces pitcher. Today marks the opening of Spring training camp and soon enough there will be cries of “Play ball!”
baseball

From an open source

  • Language – as limiting as it is at times the ability to express ourselves, to try to be understood and to understand is priceless.
  • Music – it’s a variation on language but oh how it touches parts of our inner selves – parts that we thought were impenetrable – and suddenly we are connected with others who are touched in the same way.
music

From open sources

  • The cosmos – the magnificence and beauty of the universe … leaves me humble and in awe.

For a good read on the considered practice of mindfulness and appreciation of beauty (and the joy it brings) check out this little ditty: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/to-instruct-myself-over-and-over-in-joy/7296#comment-1628071