Saturday, December 16, 2006

Not Talking to God

The eleventh step suggests that we seek "through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God" and that is, perhaps, not as obvious a thing as it seems. The second part of that step mentions knowing God’s will for us.

Hearing all this stuff in the early days, I once asked Joe Kelly how I could know what God’s will was for me and he just smiled and replied, "When you want to know, you’ll know." I asked if God would tell me and he shook his head and repeated what he had said, adding "You won’t be in any doubt."
It was a bit frustrating to me at the time because I felt that he was being deliberately obscure and I didn’t understand what he was getting at.

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but I get there eventually.

Prayer and meditation are different things to different people. Each of us has to explore and find the way that works for us. I cannot tell another person how they should perform this daily discipline. I can only share what works for me, and that is best summed up in three short stories.

There is a line from the bible that has always seemed to me to have great power, and when I say always I mean since long before I stopped drinking. Long before I had any real conscious contact with God this line impacted me whenever I heard it. I don’t know where it is in the bible and I don’t really care. I use that line today as a nexus for meditation. It goes,

Be still and know that I am God.

When I lived in Tucson there was a column in the daily paper written by a Benedictine monk. I read that column exactly once the whole time I lived there, and I don’t remember what it was actually about or why I read it the one time I did, but in it I was given this,

Prayer is not something I do, but rather prayer is something that God causes to happen within me when I am still.

Then there is a story about a reporter and Mother Teresa that I like. The reporter asked Mother Teresa how often she prayed.
"I always pray," she replied, "I’m never not praying."
The reporter asked her what she said when she prayed.
"I don’t say anything when I pray," she replied. "I just listen."
The reporter asked, if she was just listening, what did God say.
"God doesn’t say anything either." she replied. "God listens too."
The reporter, baffled, didn’t even know what to ask next.
"If I need to explain that," Mother Teresa said, seeing the reporter's confusion, "you won’t understand the explanation."

She sounds like Joe Kelly.

We are told that prayer has great power, and I do not doubt that. But for me prayer alone does not establish an ongoing conscious contact with God until I add stillness, until I stop talking and listen. The more carefully I listen, the more I realize that listening is all I really need to do.

Mother Teresa and Joe Kelly planted that seed.

There is a joke about God saying something to the effect of "It must be 7AM, here come all those alcoholics with their 24-hour books."

I am not mocking the practice of daily morning meditation, nor do I mock any method or usage of that discipline. Quite the opposite. I start each day with a period of formal meditation whenever I reasonably can. There are times that a "fast start" for a doctor’s appointment, to catch a plane or something similar mitigates against my usual morning discipline, and when that happens it does not by any means ruin, or even disturb my day.

Morning session or not, I meditate throughout the day as frequently as opportunity presents, at length when possible, sometimes only a minute or so, taking myself away from the noise of my surrounding and being still, being entirely focused on listening. Allowing God to create prayer within me.

More important, for me, is to use the meditation to create an art of listening that I can maintain as a constant state of my being. So that I can be, like Mother Teresa, never not praying. Always listening.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Expectations Exceeded

"If I do not ask God for things, if I rather ask for direction and strength and I focus on what I am putting into life rather than on what I am getting out of it, then God gives to me things that are better than anything I would have thought to ask for."

That was given to me by a man named John C. many years ago, and I have to tell you it has proven to be absolutely consistent with my experience.

When I started on this journey into sobriety I didn’t know what to expect. What it has given me has not only exceeded whatever expectations I might have had, it has given me things I would never have thought to want, would never have known were desirable.

When I was a kid I always wanted an electric train, and one Christmas my dad gave me a locomotive kit. Not the electric train I wanted, but a kit to be built. I was actually disappointed that I couldn’t put it on the track and run it but it helped when he said he would help me build the kit.

Fifty years later, though no longer active in model railroading, I still have that locomotive that my dad helped me with, the first model that I ever built. It is a treasure that I will not part with. And I still have a passion for building models: trains, cars, ships, planes…

Dad knew me, you see. He heard what I said, but he knew what would really work for me and he provided it. It turned out to be a better gift than what I had asked for.

If we focus on our wants we often live lives of frustration and disappointment. When we "take charge" and get what we want, we may have gotten in the way of God providing us with something that would have served us better. When we let go God tends to provide us with what really works for us rather than what we think we want.

"..God gives to me things that are better than anything I would have thought to ask for."