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Through the Red Door Blog

In the early days of the Church, when the front door of the parish was painted red it was said to signify sanctuary – that the ground beyond these doors was holy, and anyone who entered through them was safe from harm.

In the lives of many recovering people, it is through these same red doors that sanctuary is found on a daily basis. Initially that sanctuary may not have started in the rooms with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, but in the basements and back rooms of churches where 12-step meetings are held.

This blog was created for recovering people to share the experiences they found walking through those doors of safety, refuge and peace.

To submit a entry to the blog, please click here for the details or contact us at info@episcopalrecovery.org.

  • 02/27/2019 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    On Ash Wednesday a few years back, I decided I was going to give up drinking for Lent. Somehow I knew that I couldn’t do it by willpower alone, and I really wanted it to work.

    I figured that if I could surrender my whole self - my life - to God on my knees back in the Cathedral ten years earlier and not turn into a Jesus freak, I could surrender to the power of alcohol and turn it over to God for the forty days of Lent until Easter.

    I always remembered a little sign that I saw in a Christian bookstore, it said something like … “Nothing is going to happen today that you and God can’t handle together.”

    I thought to myself, “If I put aside the masculine - ‘I can do it by myself’ - part of my ego, and let God help me, it might work.”

    I’m an optimist. To me the glass is half full, not half empty. Maybe that’s why I’ve loved the saying, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

    Well, that was like my plan to abstain from alcohol until Easter.

    Here’s what I did: Every time I had a fleeting thought about that next beer or glass of wine, it would be like a signal that God was tapping me on the shoulder. The Holy Spirit enabled me to turn cravings for alcohol into a chance to pray. Turn lemons into lemonade. Turn dependence on alcohol into dependence on God.

    Also part of my plan - what I didn’t know was a Lenten Devotion - was to drive the half hour to work in the morning with the radio off - (that was a toughie) - and use that time to pray. But day after day my mind would wander when I ran out of word prayers, even though my intention was to spend that whole drive to work praying. But every day when I pulled into the parking lot and look back at that half hour ride in silence, I’d kick myself for only giving God the first four minutes - and then the monkey chatter would begin and I’d be thinking about earthly trivialities that my self-centered ego generated. I hoped God wasn’t timing me.

    Well, I did make it to Easter without drinking that Lent. My Lord and I did it together.

    God and I worked together to forestall and prevent so many tragic outcomes that would have ensued if I had continued drinking. He and I had preserved my cherished marriage, my fathership, my family, my job, my financial security, my friends, my faith, my life, my sanity, my self-worth, my self-pride, etc, etc.

    That Ash Wednesday, the disease of alcoholism had not progressed to a crisis. My drinking had not caused legal or marital, or employment or medical problems. So why would I quit? I can only explain that it had a lot to do with what God laid out for me  to follow:

    Lent in the church calendar calls me, every single year, to deny some particular worldly pleasure that takes my eye off my intended relationship with God.

    Prayer called upon God’s outreached hand to help me. In my life in 1987, it was to resist alcohol. I can only thank God for this affliction. It led me to a closer walk with Him, strengthened my faith, and blessed me with a spiritual healing.

    Thanks be to God, Ash Wednesday this year will be 32 years since I have had any alcohol except the blood of Jesus from the chalice at Eucharist.

    Think about using this Lent, and God’s help to give yourself a cherished gift at Easter, and get to know Him better.

    Jim Fox
    St. Mary’s Church, Bonita Springs, FL

  • 02/20/2019 8:08 PM | Anonymous

    One of the gifts of the spiritual program outlined in the Twelve Steps, is the possibility of constant renewal, peeling away layer after layer of my personal onion. This is one such story.

    I have long had an ambivalent relationship with the Blessed Apostle, my sainted namesake. In Sunday School, if the teacher mentioned Paul’s letter to, say, the Romans, the other kids would point and giggle, “You don’t know any Romans!” And I would flush with shame.

    As an adolescent struggling to understand my sexuality, the religious milieu of Pauline purity codes and predestination created an enormous amount of inner conflict and anxiety. This combination caused me to pursue a long list of accomplishments, hoping to prove my worth as a person while distracting the eyes of the world…and of God.

    So, fast forward to January 25th of this year, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It’s a day that I have observed but had never really celebrated. This year was different.

    Several months ago, a friend had introduced me to a prayer app that takes the form of a guided meditation; it is produced by British Jesuits. The reading is heard twice, with questions offered as points of meditation during the musical interludes. I’ve grown attached to this method, adding it to my morning routine of readings from program literature.

    The reading was the familiar story from Acts 9 about Paul on the Road to Damascus. After the first hearing, the guide talked about Paul and his credentials of being righteous before God.

    Then the guide said something like, “Are there moments when you feel the need to get beyond those ‘externals;’ and deal with the real person behind them? How might doing that change my life and my attitude to other people?”

    And suddenly that morning, what felt like a thick layer of my onion was peeled away, and I heard myself thinking, “Paul’s credentials are important – until they’re not. Maybe they kept him looking in the wrong direction. The horse, the brilliant light, the bottom, the blindness, the help of others.” For the first time, I was able to stop comparing. This was a story I knew in my own body.

    I listened with different ears to the second reading. Then, the guide asked, “Is there a direct and personal dialogue that you want to have with Jesus, right now?”

    And the words that popped out of my mouth were, “Thank you for saving my ass!” And I took a deep breath, thinking that was that. But it wasn’t over. The conversation between Jesus and me continued.

    “Why are you persecuting me?”

    “Who was I persecuting?”

    “You were persecuting me -the one who made you to be who you are. Stop hiding behind all those walls of credentials. Just be you.”

    That’s a lot for 12 minutes of a Friday morning! What does it all mean? How might learning to deal with the real me, so long laden with externals, be? How might it continue to change my life and how I see those around me? Today, I don’t know. But I do have faith that, if I continue to listen with the ears of my heart, more will be revealed.

    Paul Jacobson
    February 20, 2019

  • 02/13/2019 6:35 PM | Anonymous

    After eighty years of life, and almost 19 years of continuous serene sobriety, I have a few observations about my ego.

    I don’t claim a unique path of any growth or fall-backs. Here are some random thoughts:

    First, let me tell you what my ego is and how it reveals itself. Sometimes it comes when I am stressed out, under a lot of pressure, over-scheduled, tied up in the old “should-ought-musts,” or just plain worn-out. I think it is accompanied in my case by the “poor me’s.” That is, “I’m so burdened, I have to think of JIM to the exclusion of others and I deserve [ …something …]. And, in the old days that “something” was always that old addictive substance. 

    Second, it also seems to come about when I have not been able to complete some personal tasks that have been postponed, partly by over-scheduling. For example, when I have made a commitment to write an article, or attend a meeting, or just plain trying to take an hour or two so I can quietly read a new library book.

    Third, I believe that when we took the first 3 Steps we were essentially our old worn ego, the old “me-first” attitude. That feeling that we could control everything, that we were so important and others got in our way to stop us from doing important stuff. Like our addiction, that seemingly sudden re-emergence of our ego as our guiding light reflects our ego’s own essence – it’s “cunning, baffling, powerful.” 

    Fourth, when I sense my ego’s call I have to stop and ask the question, “Is this a result of a return of the old ‘me-first” attitude?”

    Fifth, I think the curtailing or abandonment of our ego is life’s guiding light. Essentially, it is surrendering to the Will of God. It’s quite simple, actually: “my will or God’s Will for us.” Have we prayed about our over-scheduled lives and asked for His Will for us in that regard? Are we the only ones that can do a particular assignment we have assumed responsibility for?  Are we really in charge of life’s activities or do we ask for divine guidance? Are we just looking for lots of praise?

    Sixth, this last point is for some the center of the problem, for many of us trace our own personalities back to the teen years of inferiority complexes, lack of self-esteem, always seeking the praise of others, using an over-schedule to achieve a degree of prominence based on our excessive work for the group.

    Seventh, we need to be aware that the stresses of this attitude, of “I can do it all,” leads sometimes to frustrations, stress, self-pity, anger, resentments. And then, at some point may turn into a relapse--an escape from the chaos we have created.

    So, check that old “ego-meter” periodically. If it’s somewhat out-of-balance, get to a meeting, call your sponsor. Refresh yourself again about your abandonment of that “me-first” command and stick with all you have learned and worked through in the Program. Ask what God’s Will is for you and the power to carry it out. That will keep you centered and in the right direction.

    BUT, there’s always a” but” in life, and I’ve run out of space. So watch for future sections of “EGO.” The teaser is that we will discuss in Part 2 “the good ego” in all of us.

    Jim A. Covington, Kentucky

  • 02/06/2019 8:09 PM | Anonymous

    Not long ago, a friend of mine, I’ll call her Susan, went on a trip and brought home a gift for me (she does stuff like that).  It was a pair of work gloves—I had mentioned my gardening hobby to her.  The gloves are white and sturdy and on the back of one of the gloves, stenciled in large, black capital letters, is the word PRAY.  I will never use the gloves.

    I put the gloves on the top shelf of my gardening rack.  It stands on the front porch and I pass the glove several times a day in my comings and goings.

    Each time I pass the glove I pause and see that word, I pray. I don’t have a prepared prayer I read somewhere in a book.  I don’t pray for my friends, for good weather, for world peace.

    I do this. I alert myself to the presence and responsiveness of my Higher Power and all creation.

    Now that cold weather has come and gardening chores are few, I have brought the glove indoors.  It sits on a small table near the front door.  I pass it several times a day and think a little prayer. I have two: “Thank you for keeping me sober today” and “Help me get through the day.”

    I am reminded what it is not: my Higher Power is far, far away someplace up there and I am just down here tied to the ground.  We are not separate.  We are the singer and the song.

    I will never stop using Susan’s glove and it will never wear out.

    —Ron B.

  • 01/31/2019 8:18 PM | Anonymous

    Step Twelve charges us with the responsibility of “carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” It is easier to do so sometimes, but not so easy other times. When the alcoholic is a friend or relative or spouse, or when someone simply seeks us out and inquires, usually, but not always, we can have a positive constructive conversation passing along our experiences with the disease and our recovery.

    But sometimes we are carrying the message in a hospital lock-down psyche ward or a jail-like facility for repeat DUI offenders, any compulsory confinement.  It appears that when the person is being held against his or her will, they’re not interested in much of anything, especially comments causing them to look at their own addiction; they may be only hoping to find ways to game the system. They may simply have overdosed and need to be locked-up for a few days for a medical evaluation. It may not be their first encounter with a lock-down ward—or, they are attending the weekly meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous you are chairing merely to gain favorable reports for their parole officer.  

    You find that “yes,” you are carrying the message—perhaps very effectively. But the reality is that your meeting attendees will probably continue their addictive behavior. After all, what should we expect? Most of us didn’t show any interest in the Program until we were good and ready and had fallen to the depths of our spiritual well-being.

    Of course, the state of our egos drives our reactions to this “stone-wall.” We may wish for a more positive reaction. There may be a messianic aspect to our work—we may feel as we enter the rooms that we will “save” them from themselves and deserve credit somewhere for doing so.

    Stop this self-pity! … this “self-aggrandizement”. Step Twelve calls on us to “carry the message,” not to save their souls or their lives. Look at us—our ego rears its cunning, baffling and powerful head once again maybe where and when we don’t expect it. It’s our addiction in a different costume. Your job is to open the door. If they don’t want to enter, that’s their decision. Who are we anyway to assume the power or seek to think we might wave a wand over the addict releasing him from his malady? This is the stuff that really caused us so much of a problem.We couldn’t do it for ourselves. We’d tried and failed. Do we believe we now can wave that wand over someone else, someone else who may not want to have anything to do with us or anything else to achieve that “desire to stop drinking?”

    But, look… never give up! You are a product of a miracle. Your higher power carried you through the early dark days. Maintain contact with your higher power as you embark on Twelve Step work like this. But don’t give up … “carry the message.” Who knows, you may even see one of these souls at your next meeting.

      Jim A., Covington, Kentucky

  • 01/23/2019 7:57 PM | Anonymous

    Somewhere in his biography CONFESSIONS St. Augustine wrote that he heard a voice from a nearby home of a boy or girl that sang, “Take and read. Take and read.”  When I was early in recovery, I remember a meeting at which I quoted from a book that I had been reading (showing off my intelligence!!). I can still see that tall husky man from across the table, stand, slap his hand on the table, and say, “We don’t read anything that is not in the Big Book.” That, thank God, was some thirty-nine years ago.

    Since then, I have read everything I could get my hands on about this allergy/ disease or sick relationship or whatever it is that one wants to call alcoholism. I totally and entirely believe that being alive today depends on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. The maintenance of my spiritual condition requires me to, “take and read.”

    What set me off on this reading spree some years ago was that somewhere I heard or read that Bill Wilson said something to the effect that everything in Alcoholics Anonymous could be found in various religions and philosophies. If that were true, I wanted to know more about it since I came into this program pretty much a fundamentalist in my beliefs.

    When I was in high school I could not remember much of what I read, so I was considered to be a slow learner/stupid. Then, one night, I was reading a novel, and I could “hear” the author read to me. From then on, I wanted to read everything I could. So, when I was told, “we do not read…,” my reaction/response was to ‘take and read.”

    Since then, I have enjoyed the spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of what came to us in the 12 steps. In The Upanishads I read, “Forgetting our divine origin, we become ensnared in the world of change and bewail our helplessness.” In The Bhagavad Gita, I read, “Even sinners become holy when they take refuge in me alone." I had already read the Jewish/Christian Scriptures.

    Early philosophers discussed the question of how one should live his/her life. It was Aristotle’s view that the happiest people were those who lived a virtuous life. The discussion continued throughout the centuries as to how we should live. It can be concluded that those of us with addiction issues are philosophers since we are all discussing the issue of how to live a good life.

    Charismatic leaders created programs to help people mediate in order to find God; study groups to lean the scriptures; prayer groups to help fight their character defects. For those for whom alcohol and other drugs were an issue there was the drunk tank/hospitalization; abstinence programs, religious programs etc.

    Then came a Wall Street atheist who couldn’t get sober, and someone told him he could pick his own description of God. One day something happened, he had a spiritual awakening and that was the beginning of our recovery program.   

    Someone once said at a meeting that the 12 Step program was created to keep our life simple; that the Big Book was written for a bunch of drunks to understand their sickness.  Bill W. may or may not have been aware of the beliefs of the religions or the philosophies he said were the background of this program. Sam Shoemaker, who Bill frequently cited as being a great influence on him, was an avid reader and had travelled in China and the Middle East. Bill did not know of St Ignatius until Fr. Ed Dowling showed him the parallel between the 12 Steps and the Ignatian Spirituality. 

    Today, my gratitude is for the gifts and talents of the early founders who were able to take traditions and philosophies and formulate them into a simple program that is suggested as a program of recovery.

    I am grateful to Bill W. for pointing out that the roots of our program run deep and wide. Everyone, everywhere, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs or their philosophy, can take the Big Book and the 12 Step program and there find a distillation of religions/philosophical beliefs that provide a program for a life of sobriety and serenity. “Take and Read.”

  • 01/17/2019 12:25 PM | Anonymous

    We have dealt a bit with relapses, in many ways not a pleasant subject. From the prospective of the addict, a relapse represents failure yet again. Strange, because sometimes the effort to work the Program seemed destined to success—Big Book, Sponsor, Steps 4 and 5, even a bit of service work like chairing a meeting, and so forth. I brought it up at a discussion meeting the other day and everyone had something to say—some concentrating on “the why” it happened, others on “what to do” about a relapse. A couple talked about the “cunning, powerful, baffling “aspects of our disease. A few spoke to our usual question: “How does one deal with life’s bumps and grinds without alcohol as a crutch?”

    I think all of us have experienced to some degree a relapse or a complete discouragement with the Program or a feeling of uselessness – a lapse about our ability to deal with the disease.

    The answer is clear to most—keep working the Program. There is no holiday from our disease. Go to meetings, read the Big Book, do some service work and so forth. This litany of “working the Program” has been shown by most of us as an effective way to prevent a relapse and, for that matter, what to do when working his or her way out of the feelings of their relapse.

    Those generalizations work for life’s normal bumps and grinds. But what about catastrophic occurrences—your spouse develops Stage 4 breast cancer, a child is in a coma following a bicycle accident, your spouse asks for a divorce. The worst kind of problem you encounter may be one that has an extended life with an unknown path of resolution and fearful possible outcomes, a problem impacting the entire family – a genuine life-altering matter.

    A feeling of “entitlement” may raise its ugly head: “By God, I have 3 months to live and screw AA!” or “I’m going out with a bang” or “No one is going to prevent me from tying one on.” or, “They’d do it, if they were in my shoes.” “Besides, after all this time, I know enough about the Program so that I can come back if I need to.”

    The thought that made the most sense to me was, ”There isn’t a situation extant that can’t be made worse by continuing or resuming our active alcoholism.” Solutions we come up with while intoxicated make no sense, assuming we can remember the ideas or read our handwriting. We have layered over the problems with our addictions, masked so we didn’t have to meet their challenge.

    Sometimes in some cases like a divorce or long-term medical issues, we face a likewise long-term remediation outlook, issues associated with medical problems, divorce and the confrontation of new marriages and new families and limited accessibility to your kids. It can be just like a scab. We mentally pick at the scab until its gone and we conclude we have no options.

    But, cheer up. Going to meetings, working the Steps, a gratitude list once in a while—it’s all there for you to utilize in the real long term of life’s encountered roadblocks. But never, ever, give up!

    Jim A., Covington, Kentucky

  • 01/11/2019 1:33 PM | Anonymous

    My name is Shane, and I am a grateful, recovering sex and love addict. By the grace of my higher power and the power of the twelve steps I have been sober from acting on my bottom lines since February 20, 2013. My journey to addiction began when my adopted father, an alcoholic and sex addict, introduced me to pornography at the age of six. I now realize that exposing a six-year-old boy to pornography is a form of sexual abuse. As a child, I lacked the maturity to deal with the feelings I began to associate with these images. My secret activities continued into adolescence, where they collided with my struggle with same-sex attraction. About the time I hit puberty, I became a born-again Christian. Over my teenage years, I repeated a cycle of being attracted to boys my own age, looking at pornography, sex with self, experimenting with same-sex peers, and then drowning in a sea of religious guilt and shame. By age sixteen pornography and sex with self became my drug of choice to medicate my shame, guilt, confusion, and fear of being gay.

    After High School I entered the clergy and was married, mistakenly believing doing so would cure me of my struggles. How wrong I was! These issues persisted despite prayer, fasting, and faith. It left me convinced that I was unworthy of God’s intervention. Regretfully, my need to control everything (so the real me would never be revealed) drove a wedge between my wife and I and we divorced. I eventually married again with an honest commitment to do the right thing. However, I quickly returned to my addiction, this time discovering the internet. Addiction is progressive and debilitating, and every barrier I said I would never cross I did. In the 15 months I was acting out I had scores of sexual encounters, one of which was with a young man I met on line who was under age. Sex addiction is a sure pathway to insanity. How else can I explain the perfect sense it made (to me) to imagine that an emotional and sexual relationship with a teenager would be acceptable? I had so detached from the reality of my life that I was trying to maintain the public persona of a faithful husband, respected religious leader and member of the community while hooking up with men at the risk of my freedom, my family, my career, and my sanity.

    Eventually I was found out and arrested. I seriously considered suicide when the police came to my door, but the thought of my children or wife finding my body stopped me from doing the deed. After a 93 day stay in sex rehab I was able to admit that I was an addict and came out to my family as a gay man. While there I was introduced to SLAA and made a half-hearted attempt at recovery. After rehab I did a one-year stint in state prison. I left state prison in 2012 thinking I had everything under control.

    Within six months I had relapsed. I did not believe the stories I heard about relapse being worse than the first go around with our disease, but I became a believer. I rationalized that I could handle a little pornography. That thinking error began a journey that led me back to prison for four years. During that time, I missed my grandfather and uncle’s deaths/funerals, the birth of my two grandchildren, and so much time that can never be regained. It took that second arrest and imprisonment to wake me up and get serious about recovery.

    I wrote SLAA’s office asking for a correspondent sponsor who would work with me while I was in prison. My higher power sent me just what I needed in my sponsor! He had been in prison as well and had an almost identical background. While inside, I began to work the steps, set my bottom, caution, and top lines, developed a daily spiritual routine that includes prayer, meditation, and affirmations. For a brief time, I actually met with other inmates for SLAA Meetings in our dorm. It has been said that suffering is a pathway to peace. Those four years were the most difficult days I have ever experienced – so much violence, darkness, isolation, and despair. Working the steps, the support of my sponsor, my family, a small group of fellow inmates whom I trusted, and my Higher Power were how I got through it. On December 20, 2016 I began my recovery journey in the “free” world.

    Since my release I have continued that work by seeing a licensed sex offender therapist, regularly attending our local SLAA meetings where I serve by setting up chairs, leading meetings, and serving as the chairperson for our Intergroup. I am beginning work on my ninth steps and have one sponsee. I have been able to find work and have a recovery job as a restaurant manager. I recently led a discussion group at my church that discussed the connection between the Twelve Step and the Gospel as Jesus lived out. An opportunity I never imagined I would every again have.

    I have built recovery friendships and meet regularly with a ground of men in recovery. I am actually developing healthy, intimate same sex friendships! I have a close friend who serves as my spiritual advisor and mentor who is well versed in recovery. I have surrendered my right to have sex anytime I want, with anyone I want, and have made peace with abstinence unless I am in a committed relationship.

    Almost five years of sobriety has restored much of my sanity and empowered me to begin to love myself. I am now fully present for my family and friends. My spiritual life is exactly where it needs to be, utterly human yet touched by the grace of my Higher Power. Now when I feel those familiar triggers creeping in, I call a trusted recovery partner or my sponsor. My biggest struggle is with loneliness and much to my surprise, feeling lonely does not kill me. Each day I do not act out is a step back to restoring my reputation as an honorable man. 

    I now pray for an opportunity to live out this hope by carrying this message to others trapped in their own struggle with sex and love addiction, especially those who are in vocational religious ministry. In that regard, I am now a certified Recovery Coach who focuses on helping recovering clergy stop living out a pattern of sex, love and pornography addiction. My recovery has not been perfect, but it has been the recovery I needed, including my prison sentence. I am thankful for the pain it brought and the hope I discovered behind those bars through the twelve steps of SLAA. 

    Shane M. Conway, Arkansas

  • 01/02/2019 9:43 PM | Anonymous

    Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

    In this gospel reading Jesus reminds us that it is not what we put into our bodies that causes us to sin. Now we alcoholics and addicts know well that Jesus is not talking about physical food or drink because that is certainly what finally got us into trouble. Jesus is referring to spiritual and intellectual food that we take in. It is what happens to the words, thoughts, actions that we hear and see and allow to penetrate our body and reach our heart, and then how our heart reacts to them can cause us to sin, to develop character defects. Someone harms us. We want to hurt them right back. Someone does not treat us with the respect due. We make sure they are put in their place. Our children act out. We throw up our hands and scream at them.

    Ours is a God of love and I love all the ways scripture and sacred writings give us images to pray and  meditate on about changing our heart. The collect for this passage from Mark talks about “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.” Some of you master gardeners know more about grafting than I do, but I hope you can identify with the personification of the word heart. Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.  Graft meaning to insert, implant, transplant into our hearts God’s heart of love.

    There are many other personifications of our hearts.

    In Lent in Morning Prayer we often read the Prayer of Manasseh (BCP pp. 90-91) where we appeal to God for forgiveness as we “Bend the knee of my heart.”  Our image is bowing our body and especially our heart as we ask on the bended knee of our heart for forgiveness for the harmful things we have done to others. Another great prayer image.

    In the marriage ceremony if the Song of Solomon (8:6) is read, we will hear, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, .. for love is stronger than death.” A seal upon our heart..a seal is a substance joining two together. It can be a substance with something stamped on it or a badge saying that this document comes from the sender. If we view this in our relationship to God we are asking to be stuck to God like glue and marked as at baptism, “marked as Christ’s own forever.”  

    Again, in a Morning Prayer Canticle, the Song of Ezekiel (36:26), God says, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” What a great image for our prayers:  asking God to take away our heart of stone.

    My favorite image of our heart is in the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict. The founder of the Benedictine monastic tradition’s very first words to us are, “Listen with the ear of your heart.”  What an image for our relationship to God and our neighbors. Listening to God, listening to those we meet with not just the outer part or pinna or lobe of our ear, but with the middle and especially the inner part of our ear and connect what we hear to our heart that no longer is a heart of stone but has been tightly grafted to the love of God.

    Hold on to these images of our hearts in this new year. They could be resolutions that could change our lives.
    Listen with the ear of your heart.
    Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.
    Set me as a seal upon your heart.
    Bend the knee of my heart.
    Remove from me my heart of stone.
    We will review them on February 14th

    Joanna. Joannaseibert.com

  • 12/27/2018 9:12 AM | Anonymous

    Seeing that we can’t go it alone, God delivered a Higher Power to restore us to sanity. Born of Mary into the House of David, He came to live among us to suffer with us and for us (Isaiah 53). 

    Now and still, we can’t go it alone. Richard Rohr says that when God looks at us, he sees Christ – so completely does his love align with our need for love. And when we look at each other, whom do we see? If not Christ, do we at least see ourselves in one another, in our addictions, our confusion and fear, our loneliness, our aspirations, our insights, our courage, our hope and joy?  There is so much to apprehend in one another and so much power within and among us. Other’s gifts and graces needn’t be “higher” – only present Our presence for each other is our hope and our salvation.

    Sober holidays and holy days invite us to recast traditions (especially those we may have defiled in the throes of our addiction) and invent rituals that enshrine our venerable principles and natures. The best of these celebrate the truth that we are no longer condemned to go it alone. We are not condemned by our addictions, by our failings, by our weakness. Christ is born. He is with us and in us.

    Christmas cards are a fading custom, but for me a ritual filled with luminous memories. This year, I am greeting stalwarts who have sustained me through trials and numbing losses and unexpected triumphs. Their heroic generosity and genius buttress me.  As I compose, sign and address the cards, I recall how these dear people, some barely acquaintances, by intense exertions and inspired gestures lighten my labors, lessen my load and lift my outlook. How wonderful they are! 

    I have adorned the face of this this special card with an iconic Botticelli madonna, and draped the backside with a verse sprung from the crannies of my soul:

    This Christmas

    My dear brothers and sisters,

    All you viscounts, vagabonds and visionaries,

    This year, let us celebrate the birth of Jesus.

    We’ll sing in tune with the angels,

    Rejoice in delight with the shepherds,

    Pray in accord with the sages,

    Let’s exclaim uproarious, unbounded, unanimous love for all.

    Let’s adorn every greeting with fond wishes and wrap every gift with affection.

    Let’s shed rancor and rage, and be mellow, light-hearted and merry.

    On Christmas morn, let’s rise as happy children,

    And on Christmas night go to our beds forgiving and forgiven,

    Hearts bursting with newborn love for one another,

    In the name of the child

    Whose love conveys us all from creche to cross to eternity.   Amen.

    Martin McElroy, 2018, from Shattered, Anthems of Healing and Rejoicing

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