Tuesday – Act or Not to Act – The Thin Line Between

tumblr_l8s7v2G5CF1qaz2rlo1_500 steffrawrThe last line of the Serenity Prayer says … “And wisdom to know the difference.”

Tonight we read from Living Sober and “Avoiding Anger and Resentment.”

Every time I come around to these topics, some of the same thoughts come to mind, the same old pains and hurts and sometimes new thoughts come as well.

When I think of anger, it brings up my delusional self that has a bent towards revenge and vindictiveness. The alter ego of the man I am today, who wields a very large aluminum bat.

Quietly plotting in the back of my mind, onerous things.

Tonight, that thought came, and I realized that I’ve already inflicted pain and suffering right where I wanted it to land. All because I chose to act.

Every action has consequences, either good or bad consequences.

I remember points of anger as they played out and I spoke of them to my friends.

It is always good to have men who are more than twenty five years sober to talk to.

When I got sober the first time, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.

The location I got sober, was not healthy at all. The location I worked in was very healthy for all the right reasons. So I overlooked the negative.

The first year, when I got to a year, I had won the race. My horse came in first. I stayed sober, even while my fellows were all betting that I would go back out and drink, and made it plainly aware that the bets had been laid down.

As my sponsor gave me my chip, I told them all to go fuck themselves.

Not healthy at all. And that clouded the rest of the time I was still in the rooms. That unhealthy beginning only led to more unhealthy decisions and actions not to mention, unhealthy and not so sober men and women.

The second time I got sober, I followed the local playbook. And I played by the rules and did what ever I was told to do. And I have to say that, over the last 13 years and some months now, I have lost more friends to anger and resentment, in sobriety, than I did growing up.

When I was newly sober, I stayed away from conflict and kept my head down and when shit happened, if it didn’t involve me, I walked away. Said nothing. Did nothing.

As it went, people I loved and respected and adored, usually became casualties of their own shortcomings. It was my loss, but it was their anger and resentment that drove the wedge.

Today, in sobriety, I have a choice. To Act or Not to Act.

In most cases, if it does not directly involve me, I usually avoid the problem.

That has been my personal decision over the years.

The longer I am sober, I grow up, and I change.

When there is injustice or inequality or an inequity within my friends, for the most part, I am invested in the lives of my friends, I will sometimes offer counsel. Only when asked.

I never assume to have all the answers, because it is not all about me.

When my friends come to me for advice, I can do one of two things, One, give a solid answer, or Two, allow them to choose what they want to do, enlightening the subject they have asked about.

My friends trust me because every once in a while they come to talk.

Recently, I have shared a situation that has been on the stove.

The situation does not directly involve me. but when more than one friend comes to talk about the same subject about another friend, I chose to act. That action came full circle and I lost in the end. Not because of me, but because of someone else’s anger.

I spoke to several old timers about this situation, and not one of them had the same answer for me.

I owe and amends, I don’t owe an amends, I did the right thing, I should have stayed out of it altogether.

My sponsor has the last word in the consultation process.

But I see today, how sobriety has affected what I listen to, what I devote my time to, what I chose to act on, and what I choose to ignore and walk away from.

Situations arise. And the fine line is drawn. That fine line of wisdom to know the difference.

I see that today, that although I don’t always think about life in these terms, the serenity prayer always applies to any situation I have on my plate.

In the beginning, the better wisdom was to do nothing and not get involved.

Because, I did not have the ability to be objective and solid. They say that hindsight is our best teacher. And I have that today. The old timers have much more than I do.

Tonight’s revelation came when I realized that fine line that sits between action and inaction and how that applies to my life. And everyone in it.

People are where they are in their lives. And we have to allow them that latitude. Sober people are all over the map, when it comes to people, places and things. I am powerless over my friends, and I surely don’t want to be like some of my friends.

So I keep a safe distance, and I learn what NOT to do, based on the actions my friends choose to make on any situation. I’ve been doing that for almost 14 years now. My friends have been my greatest teachers. A good number of them drank again. And some of them never made it back and are either drunk or dead.

I stayed sober, because I did not follow the trend. I sat back and watched the fireworks.

Knowing when to act or not to act is wisdom in the bank.

“Wisdom to know the difference.”

More to come, stay tuned…

Monday – Early Edition … “BULLY”

tumblr_lywgauGWfc1qgdvbco1_500 stalkerThere are few things that piss me off. And I rarely get mad at anything, I do admit that I get upset over things, when I know I am powerless to change situations, or hope that my friends will rise to the call to love and serve unconditionally.

I am a Gay man. And I am a Gay man who lived through and survived AIDS to date.

I do not deal well with heterosexual men with ego’s. I can smell them at fifty paces. I have been discriminated against because of who I am and the disease I carry. I’ve been asked to leave certain meetings because I was gay/live with AIDS by not so sober people, I’ve been denied services because of this fact.

And in the end, there were times in my life when I have had to resort to becoming “A Cast Iron Bitch,” to get help and assistance because my life depended on it.

That is not a pretty place, but when necessary, has been quite useful and successful.

Based on my history, and what I have survived, when someone pushes the wrong button intentionally, that’s when I take action.

Several weeks ago, a good friend, walked into a meeting and announced to us all that he was spearheading a drive to kick a certain woman OUT of a certain meeting.

The Third Tradition states, “You can declare yourself in, nobody can kick you out.”

It is obvious that my friend disregards this reading.

After that meeting, several other friends came to me to ask my opinion about how they should vote in a group conscience meeting about this contentious issue. This push to deny access to meetings has been gaining strength over the past few months (again).

Recently, two women I know well, were kicked out of their home groups because of how they identify themselves in those meetings. The group voted, and they are both out the door.

I had several conversation about our issue with my friends who spoke out of fear because they don’t want to jeopardize a friendship and vote against the bully. They believe that if they vote against a certain friend, that that is akin to treason against a friend.

I shared my thoughts but left them to decide what they were going to do.

Because several people came to me to ask, I made the decision to approach the woman whom we were talking about. I am told I caused her pain by telling her the truth, that people were plotting and scheming behind her back, and without any defense and not knowing, I did not want her to walk into a meeting and get blindsided.

I defended a friend in unfriendly territory.

Was that my bad ?

She spoke to her roommate, who in turn, verbally assaulted the bully in open community, and when pressed, told the bully who had delivered the original message, Me. At the end of that meeting, the bully got in my face, fists in my face, screaming and yelling at me.

To Date, I’ve never seen another member get in my face with that kind of anger before, ever.

I took two weeks off to let the issue die. It didn’t …

I went back to that meeting last week, Friday.

I walked in, the bully was there, and I said not one word to him the entire meeting. He got in my face, originally, and I walked away, allowing him the last angry word. He in turn did not say one word to me either.

I did not respond. I walked away.

Sunday night, I was sitting out front of the Sunday meeting, and the bully showed up, and I was sitting and talking with a sponsee, and he walked right past us, in the door and down the stairs, once again, I said not one word to him. He said not one word to me again.

We read Tradition Nine.

And on his turn he let loose with his grievance to the entire meeting present.

The meeting ended and we had a business meeting. On the way home I spoke with my long time sober lady friend, who gave me some advice and told me what she thought of the situation. But she told me to speak to my sponsor in any case.

When I got home, I called my sponsor, who was at His home group on the West End.

We spoke at length.

He told me that I did not owe anyone an amend, that my only issue was that I meddled in somebody else’s business.

He knows the bully, well.

He told me to stop going to the Friday meeting until this issue works itself out and not to get involved any further. He also told me that our bully is violent and is prone to violence and bully tactics to get his way, based on past behavior.

He as much threatened to go out and drink again, if people did not say hello to him.

Hell will freeze over, before I say another word to him. He crossed that invisible line, that as a gay man and a sober man, I have in place to protect myself.

I am told that it is up to him to rectify the situation, not mine.

I do not take a bully in any situation, sober, gay, AIDS or any situation.

I’ve lived far too long to allow someone to disrespect me and get in my face.

I’ve handled worse situations, and I am well trained in ignoring people to their faces.

I’m a gay man.

I don’t like this at all. I don’t like it one bit.

But I am told this is a sober learning opportunity.

Mom and Dad placed that button very carefully.

Sunday Sundries – Papal Apology

popeapologize-660x330My problems and dramas, pale in comparison tonight. So we close the weekend with hope from The Holy Father. If his actions of late are true, and His words mean anything to anyone, this is the one issue that needs to be heard, acted upon and dealt with swiftly and decisively.

And we (read: I ) know that Jorge Bergoglio is a decisive and thoughtful man, when pushed to act he acted decisively. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the next series of discussions Pope Francis will have with his Vatican counterparts.

Goodnight.

Lifted From: Joe My God

“My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, I am grateful for this opportunity to meet you. I am blessed by your presence. Thank you for coming here today. Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

“We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God’s gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord’s promise to be with us always.” – Pope Francis, speaking today at a Philadelphia meeting with the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, family members, and teachers.

Friday – Choices

tumblr_lndtyet7pF1qhlja3o1_500We are sitting at 11c at this hour, but I could have sworn it was colder than that.

I had checked the forecast prior to leaving, since I had been out earlier today, and it was markedly cooler outside. One layer was just not enough, so to play it safe tonight, I layered and wore a big comfy hoodie. My toque came in handy. I think next time, I am just going to go with my jacket, it’s warm and one layer …

Trains were in both stations on the way out and back, which made it painless and quick.

Tonight’s fare from A.B.S.I. was about choices:

“Looking back, we see that our freedom to choose badly was not, after all, a very real freedom.

When we choose because we “must,” this was not a free choice, either. But it got us started in the right direction.

When we choose because we “ought to,” we were really doing better. This time we were earning some freedom, making ourselves ready for more.

But when, now and then, we could gladly make right choices without rebellion, hold-out, or conflict, then we had our first view of what perfect freedom under God’s will could be like.”

When I was a boy, I listened to a great many things people said around me, and because of those words, I was faced with a choice that I had to make. There was nobody to talk this choice over with, nor was there another “choice” offered.

I could not be GAY at home, hence I had to leave to find my fortune.

The ONE piece of advice I got, was from a shrink who said the following:

If you want to fit in and become part of, go to the bar, sit on a stool, and have a drink, hell, have two, and see what happens.

That really wasn’t a choice, it was more like a command. Thinking, at my age, that that was my destiny, that that was what I had to do to find my way in, I took that choice. I know now that it was a bad choice, because my alcoholism followed me out of home, to where I went (read: Orlando).

Once again, I did not get any other choices offered. Nobody said Stop, and Nobody thought to ask me if I thought I had a problem.

I HAD a problem from day one.

When I turned twenty five, I hit one tragedy after another. The only way out of the pain was to drink. I did not see any other choice to deal with it. At Twenty six, when I got very sick and doctors told me I was going to die, once again, I made a choice, I tried to drink myself to death.

Another bad choice…

When Todd stepped in He finally said the word STOP. He really did not give me a choice in what was going to happen, but I guess you could say, I could have said “go fuck yourself!”

I didn’t.

He wanted me to live. And to do that, I would have to turn it all over to Him, (read: God) I “must” quit drinking, and I “must” find the will to live. These choices were “MUSTS.” They started me in the right direction.

But that success was short lived, because I got lonely, and based on that loneliness, I made another choice, once again, ill informed and solely based on self will.

I drank again.

When I took my last drink in December 2001, I had made another choice. A choice that I “ought” to make, because it was the right thing to do. I knew it was the end of the road, because to continue would have probably hastened death much quicker.

I wanted a way out of dead end living in misery, and getting sober was only one portion of that decision (read: Choice). The second came when I was offered a way out. I came to Montreal.

Once again, because I “ought to” take this once in a lifetime opportunity.

This time I did it right. I chose to connect with other folks in the program from the outset. I got connected right away. Those right decisions changed my life, in ways I did not imagine.

It has taken all this time, to find God, because that is who I was seeking. He didn’t need finding, He was right here all along. I just needed to reconnect. I’ve worked very hard at that over the years.

I am not ever alone. There are people to talk to. Life is full of things to do, people to see and choices to make. I’ve learned the importance of having the ability to NOT make decisions or choices all by myself any more.

I trust my God. And my days are not always carefree or easy. I must apply myself every day to make sure I do the right things, make the right choices, for the right reasons, at the right time.

Working with others, is a daily practice. And must come from the right place as well.

All I have to do is ask, when I am in need.

And God provides.

More to come, stay tuned …

Mary Untier of Knots

Mary-Untier-of-Knots

[Jorge Bergoglio] Made a pilgrimage to the Bavarian city of Augsburg where, in the Jesuit church of Sankt Peter am Perlach, he contemplated s Baroque-era painting from the early 1700’s known as Maria Knotenloserin, “Mary, Untier of Knots,” which was the object of a local devotion. The painting’s story goes back to a feuding married couple who had been on the verge of a bitter separation. The husband, Wolfgang Langenmantel, had sought help from a local Jesuit priest, Father Jakob Rem, who prayed to the Virgin Mary “to untie all the knots” in the Langenmantel home. Peace was restored and the marriage was saved; and to give thanks for the miracle their grandson commissioned the painting and donated it to the church.

At First glance, it is nothing out of the ordinary; the painting shows the Virgin, surrounded by angels and protected by the light of the Holy Spirit, standing on a serpent with the child Jesus in her arms. But the middle of the painting is striking: an angel to Mary’s left is passing her a silk thread full of knots that she unties, handing on the un-knotted thread to an angel on her right.

Father Rem’s prayer to the Virgin had been inspired by an ancient formula of Saint Irenaeus: The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.

Obedience was precisely Bergoglio’s knot. It is the key vow for Jesuits, and one he strongly believed in; it was what made mission and unity possible. Yet what he had been given was not a mission, but a means of getting him out (sic. Of Argentina) because he was an obstacle. What obedience did he owe?

Obedience comes from the Latin obaudire, to “hear” or “listen to.” The vow is meant above all to free the heart from the ego in order to listen to God, and submit freely to His will: the Virgin is the perfect model of such obedience.

What was God’s will, now, for Bergoglio, in the middle of his life?

Bergoglio took a handful of Maria Knotenloserin prayer cards back with him. In the 1990’s, after a local copy of the painting – known in Spanish as Maria Desatanudos – was hung in a church in Buenos Aires, it took off in an extraordinary way, leading Bergoglio later to say he never felt so much in the hands of God.

Thursday … “Siempre Adelante …” Always Moving Forwards

20140127-pope-x624-1390859938Tonight, Pope Francis is in New York City.

“Siempre Adelante …” Always move forwards,

is a motto Pope Francis has shared for years and years.

I’ve listened to what Pope Francis has said so far. And he has stuck to a theme, a Catholic Theme of being “Our brother’s keepers,” “Charity,” “Being good stewards to the earth,””Respect for life,” and that we should go out from our homes and serve the least of these with all that we have, because as Christians, we are called to serve.

Along this process, I am reading, “The Great Reformer,” about Pope Francis.

Last night, as I was reading, I came across a sermon that the young Archbishop Bergoglio was giving to the church in Argentina. And I found that the message he was sharing so long ago about people, the “Pueblo Fiel,” and what a nation must do to build up its people, to care for the poor and to take care of the world, is the very same message Pope Francis has spoken in the U.S.

Along with his words, are words that come from politicians, who believe they know something particular of the Holy Father, and they speak with indictments against him. One Marco Rubio says that “The pope know nothing about the poor, and also that he wasn’t a scientist, so should keep his counsel to himself.”

I beg to differ…

Jorge Bergoglio was a Jesuit who worked in the Jesuit order for his entire adult life, until he left the order upon assuming the Throne of Peter. He worked in the slums of South America, with the poorest of the poor. Many Jesuit priests worked with the poor, much to the consternation with the church hierarchy, and at one point, with Jorge Bergoglio himself.

Which leads to the term the Pope of the slums …

Jorge Bergoglio is also schooled in science. He is very well learned for a pope.

It was the issue between many of the priests who worked in the favelas, who thought that their work was too important to be stopped. And two priests lost their licenses and ended up being kidnapped by the guerrillas and held captive and tortured.

When American politicians speak about what THEY think is the truth about the Pope, and try to indict him, those men should really shut their damned mouths.

There are common themes that Pope Francis repeats over and over again. They are themes that were born when Francis was a young Jesuit. And as he rose in the ranks of the church, his influence only grew. And the words became flesh for him, in the way he worked so hard for the “pueblo” and what he saw as justice, charity and peace.

We could all learn a little about the life of Francis, and what he sees and believes as important.

But we need to dig a bit deeper to learn that knowledge. The papacy of Francis is still young, but there is a wealth of words written about him, if you know where to look.

I think the themes of Charity, Love and Caring for others is universal. In his speech to Congress today he quoted the Golden Rule …

“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto You.”

**** **** ****

It has been a challenging few days indeed. I work every day to be present and accountable; consistently. If it were possible, I could use a few more “me’s” right about now.

I had a conversation with a friend the other night. And I am confused as to why people are the way they are. I am powerless over people. And sometimes I place unattainable expectations on them, knowing, that I am flirting with stupidity.

To this end, still, people continue to astound me with their selfishness and self centeredness.

I am not preaching from some lofty perch, like God. And I am surely not arrogant to think I hold sway over anyone except myself. I hear my friends speak words, and they don’t ring true. I have implored my friends with things to do. Certain, Specific, things that need to be done.

We must succeed, or else, great failure is at hand.

We must go out and serve our brothers and sisters with all that we have, if we are able. I am able, and I devote serious time to that outreach work. The more I talk, the less goes into action, by any of the people I need to act. Before I speak, I consider my words carefully. And the other day I found an opportunity to talk and I did that. Hoping that it would bring results.

I am saddened to say, nothing has changed.

I was talking to my friend and I told her my story. Well, one big story. To demonstrate where I learned to be present, accountable and consistent. And she does not dispute my abilities.

But she said to me that There is only one of me. And she fears that I will burn out and go away when I have had enough. I’ve learned that lesson, I am in it to win it.

But she is of the mind that every human being needs three Strong, Present, and Consistent people to guarantee their survival. She doesn’t have those three people. She has me and one other woman, who’s mother is suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease, but when needed she shows up and attends to what needs to be done. The other couple of folks, are unreliable, and inconsistent and can’t be depended on, not for lack of trying, but the lack of desire to be 100% present.

We all have lives. But one of our number is in dire need of support and I do not know what to do for her but to repeat, as often as I can, that right now, I am here.

I fear that message isn’t going to be enough to ground her permanently.

If I can’t get any other players into the game, and things don’t start looking up soon, my friend is going to pack up herself and the baby and go back to New Foundland. Forever.

I don’t know what else to do. My words fall on deaf ears, and my friends are unable to rise to the occasion. And that IS a problem, that I have no solution for.

In the end, I am only one man. I am not God and I can only do so much.

**** **** ****

I drank, I stank and I sank …

That is the short version of the share we heard tonight.

One of my friends spoke tonight. It was simple and to the point. In seeing another alcoholic drink, get drunk, loose his family, his job, his home and end up sleeping in the park, our man got sober.

Coming in, at first, he believed we’d all be brown baggers, dirty clothed, and sleeping in the park, but much to his surprise, we were happy, clean and well dressed people who welcomed him.

It was the commonality, the identity, and the honesty that kept him.

And for more than twenty five years, our man hasn’t had a drink since.

Tomorrow is Friday. We’ll see what that brings with it.

More to come, stay tuned …

Sunday Sundries … The Baby, The Pope, GOD and Me … Not Necessarily in that Order !

pope-francis-do-not-disturb cropPope Francis, as we speak, is in Cuba. Having Celebrated Mass in Revolution Square this morning, has met with Raul Castro and today, his brother Fidel. It was an informal but cordial meeting between the two men.

The Pope wants “Change.” Change in a good way, Change in an internal attitude way. Of leaving our safe homes and safe lives to go out in the streets and serve “the least of these” in the best way we can, from our hearts, not our minds.

He wants to unite the world in the ways of God. Francis sees God in a very particular way. He invites us to share in the divinity of God through Jesus, and come into that special spiritual awareness that comes with the resurrected Christ on Easter morning.

I admire Pope Francis a great deal, because he asks simply to serve God in each other. Because we are all formed in the image of God, and we are also, star stuff. Which means that “Divinity” exists in each of us, as we are, warts and all.

If we stopped and took a serious look at our fellows, our neighbors and our friends, we too would see that divinity.

It comes to us to “change” to be able to see it.

We are called to serve. Not for our own good, but for the good of others. For the good of God, yes, “church” would be mentioned here as well, Francis has been stripping away the trappings of “Church” for a simpler way of life. We don’t need finery or gems and gold.

Jesus once commanded his disciples to go out into the world carrying only what they had on their backs, and to do the work they were commanded.

Just the same, Francis calls us to go out and do good works.

Because it is in those works that we exemplify the spirit of God.

I am slowly working my way through The Great Reformer, Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, written by Austen Ivereigh.

I have read a few other books about Francis. When he was elected Pope several tomes were released. Pope Francis has not escaped the past because he plays a much hated man, a much loved man, and a man who was once a very tight Jesuit priest with his own ideas and ways of life, until the time came, when God struck him and Francis had his spiritual awakening.

People have many opinions about Francis, and the role he played during the Dirty War. Was he complicit, was he flying under the radar, or was he a victim of the times as they played out before him?

Every writer I have read has painted a picture of Francis.

I do not stand in judgment of his past.

I do stand in awe of the man he became and the words he speaks and the challenges he puts before us as the leader of Holy Mother Church. Even there, he turned the Curia and the papal household on its ear, by living in Casa Santa Marta, and sharing his days working in the church, then at night, he changes into his spiritual superman suit and goes out and visits with the least of these, inviting them to dine with him and attend his morning masses at the Vatican.

There is a kernel of Holy Mother Church in me, I won’t deny that. I loved the church that educated me, the church that served me, and the church that went above and beyond to save me when I needed to be saved and looked after.

I am eternally grateful to those men who took time out of their lives to sit with me, to break bread with me, to minister to my spiritual needs, and to give me Hope and Faith, in a time when Hope and Faith were in little supply.

Churches … Many of them, Across the board, were not kind to the gays, especially us gays who had AIDS, because it was said that we got what was coming to us from God himself as punishment for our sinful lives.

I can say this with total confidence … I have NEVER met a man of God who EVER pointed a damning finger at me and said that God was punishing me for any reason whatsoever.

That is a thing …

We’ve talked of God these past few days again. God has been in high rotation for a while now, and I really did not have anything substantive to write, but it was coming.

We read “An Artists Conception” tonight. It opens with this quote from Appendix II in the back of the Big Book, in regards to Spiritual experience.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance –

That principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Herbert Spencer

Our man has a serious problem. And he knows what the problem is, Alcoholism. He has investigated the issue backwards and forwards, but he lacks one thing; the spiritual approach, because like many of us, religion is a nasty word, because of the taste it left in our mouths.

But he meets one man, who shows him the way, humbly and quietly. And our man GETS IT. Then he meets twenty other men who also have gotten it. And the desire to drink becomes pointless against all of his other problems. But he never picks up a drink again.

He says that it wasn’t the words they used, or the book they were reading, but there was an invisible force that he recognized. He saw it. And in some miraculous way, he finds that power greater than himself.

Many of our folks are still trying to figure it out for themselves. God as an intellectual pursuit is a rather hard task. But if you stick around long enough, you will find it, sure enough.

Did I tell you the time I met God ???

Yes, I have. Over and Over again. It is the best story I have in my bank.

After listening to my friend vacillate and try to figure out who God is for them, I had twenty minutes to state my case. And I tell them of the horrors I was living in the nineties. And how my life came to a crashing end when I was diagnosed with AIDS, and was told to go home, kiss my ass goodbye and wait to die.

I made one phone call that changed my life.

I had actually made several other calls that did not pan out.

So that one call I made was to Provincetown.

Todd and Roy returned from their holidays early because I needed help.

When Todd stepped up, it was because he loved me. He chose me to save, in the way he chose to do that. He concentrated everything he had into me in those first two years that saved my life.

Meanwhile, at the bar, all of my friends were approaching death in exactly the way they chose. living fast and leaving a good looking corpse. Well, how good of a corpse is it when it is riddled with K.S. stricken with disease, plowed with exotic drugs and tanked on the best liquor a bar tender could pour ?

I had no other choice. Well, I did have a choice.

I could have taken that route myself. Todd had other plans for me.

He began to teach me how to live, with the reminder that BOB was in the cemetery right across the street from the bar. And if I was not willing to try to live, that I would end up there myself.

When I needed God, He came. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that I know what God looks like, I know His voice and I know for sure that He was with me in my hours of need.

And I looked at my friends after telling this story, (with more words used to get the point across) that if they need proof that God does exist, they need not look any further than myself.

I lived. I did not die. Because God saved me.

But like any mortal man, addiction knows no bounds. I forgot …

But when I returned, I said a single prayer to God for help.

And let me tell you, I prayed a specific prayer for specific needs in a specific order.

  1. I prayed for the desire to drink to leave me
  2. I needed an alcoholic to come to me, and
  3. I needed to get to a meeting.

Nothing is too difficult for God when we really need help. Because He moved heaven and earth and provided me that prayer in the order it went out, as if to say,

“Hey there, I got your back!”

Not a day goes by that I do not remember where I came from. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Todd. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for something. However, I admit, freely, that gratitude is not something I think about constantly.

It is an action.

I’ve chosen to live out my gratitude in my “Presence” to my friends. Like Francis calls us to do, I go out and I serve the “least of these” and those who need the love and faith I have.

Which leads nicely into the next portion of tonight’s read … The Baby

I work every day to be a man of honor, courage and strength. I work every day to make the right decisions, and to be of maximum service to my fellows. And let me tell you, that does not come easily.  Creating family is difficult. Maintaining family is challenging. Taking care of a baby is the most rewarding experience I can share in today.

Today, I got an entire afternoon with the baby, we had some lunch. She would not eat her food, by herself, so she did eat when I offered food to her. hen we played for a while with her blocks, but that did not last very long.

So we dressed her and popped her into her stroller and went to the park. This was our first park outing together. And we passed a few of my friends on the way, and it was said to me that “we probably started tongues wagging …” but you only live once.

We did some swings. We did some slides, and some playground rides. We played in the sand and got dirty. It was just me and the baby. It was the most wonderful feeling. There were screaming kids all over the playground, and their parents watching closely, and for a while, I was one of those parents, playing with his child.

It was immense …

I want to close with some thought’s by Pope Francis.

“Archbishop Quarracino invited Bergoglio in January and April 1990 to give retreats to dozens of his clergy in La Plata. In the first, “Our flesh in Prayer,” Bergoglio reflected powerfully on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the foreigner who comes to the aid of a traveler beaten by brigands. He showed that those who passed on the other side – symbolized in Jesus’s telling by the priest and the Levite – used a series of distancing techniques, which were all temptations: either they intellectualized the suffering they saw, or evaded the responsibility for it by reassuring themselves that this is how life was.

The Samaritan, on the other hand, got on his hands and knees to get close to the victim, opened his heart to him and bound his wounds, shouldered him and spent his money on him. “That is what we will be judged on,” Bergoglio told the priests, adding that this proximity was at the heart of the Incarnation. Jesus, far from “passing on the other side,” paid the ultimate price in sacrificing his own flesh for those who suffer; and God’s closeness to humanity is the reason why “Prayer touches our flesh in its very nucleus, it touches our heart.”

Prayer, he told the priests, meant enduring the possibility of change; it meant a willingness to suffer. When a person ceases praying and starts complaining, “he ceases to serve the Gospel and becomes a victim. He canonizes himself.” Making oneself the victim, rather than Christ, was blasphemy; and a flesh that is used to blasphemy, which does not know how to ask for help for its own wound and sin, is a flesh incapable of helping the wounds of others.”

Even if he dedicates his life to God he will only ever be able to come close to himself.: It is the asepsis of the Pharisee,” Bergoglio warned: “neither virus or vitamin.”

There is a God, and I am not He.

More to come, stay tuned …