Bread for the Journey
Written by: Rev. Steve Kelley, M.Div., MA, NCC, LPC - Caron Texas Spiritual Care Counselor
May 2013 - Metanoia: The Call to Transformation
Changing the way we go about life is not all that difficult. We all do it all the time. We diet because we want to change the way we look. We learn to ski or fish or bowl or play cards when we want to change the patterns of our lives. We move to the country when we want to change the clatter of our environment. We change jobs, states, houses, relationships, lifestyles over and over again as the years go by. But those are, in the main, very superficial changes. Real change is far deeper than that. It is changing the way we look at life that is the stuff of transformation.
To be spiritual we must be transformed to the consciousness that makes us one with the universe, in tune with the cosmic voice of God. We must become aware of the sacred in every single element of life.
It is simply a matter of being where we are with a different state of mind. It’s about being in the world differently. What needs to change in us? Anything that makes us the sole center of ourselves. Anything that deludes us into thinking that we are not simply a work in progress, all of those degrees, status, achievements, and power are no substitute for the wisdom that a world full of God everywhere, in everyone, has to teach us.
My belief is that we all have the capacity for transformation. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this vocation. We are here, you and I, because God has placed us here, wherever ‘here” is, even if just for a season, here we stand. Through the unique gifts that each one of us brings---and they are unique---we play a part in providing an opportunity for transformation within our own lives as well as those around us. The rest—well, that’s God’s work.
Grace and peace,
April 2013 - “The three greatest obstacles to trust are amnesia, inertia, and tomorrow.”
Prayer Is a Hunger —Edward Farrell
Amnesia: Forgetting our Higher Power’s faithfulness in the past.
Inertia: Our laziness to act on the divine promises.
Tomorrow: Postponing until tomorrow what our Higher Power is asking us today: childlike abandonment in trust.
Trust is easy when things are going well and the illusion is strong, that, in some small way, we are responsible for it. In those moments we run the danger of our autonomous self running amuck inflating our sense of self-importance and reducing the Higher Power of our incredible journey to the role of spectator on the sidelines. One of the most arduous tasks is giving up control and allowing the Spirit of our Higher Power to lead our lives. From time to time, I hear, “Business is slow. The economy is on a downswing. Will there be freezes? Will I have a job?” What I hear is anxiety, fear, and worry. And all the clarity, reassurance, and proof cannot create trust, sustain it, or guarantee any certainty of its presence.
So what do I do?
Remember: Something greater than you or I is at work here, has been here, has been faithful in the past and is faithful now—always.
Act: Live and move in that knowledge.
Today: Trust the moment.
What needs to happen is happening.
Grace and peace,
February 2013 - “Vocatus Aqute Non Vocatus, Deus Aderit”
“Vocatus Aqute Non Vocatus, Deus Aderit”
Bidden or unbidden, God is present
- Carl Jung
A little over a year ago, I started a journey with a dear friend that, had I known what would be required of me, I would have declined. In fact, I would have run the other way. The journey began with three simple, but profound words: "I have leukemia."
My friend had been telling me for the past few months how tired she was and what little energy she had, but I chalked it up to her workaholic lifestyle. My first thought when I heard the news was, "No, what? What did you say?" Denial. It came out of left field. It didn't make sense. Denial. She was healthy, with no history of cancer in her family. Denial.
After the initial shock, I sprang into action by reading everything I could find on acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Within 24 hours, I was in my car heading to the hospital. The three-and-a-half hour drive gave me time to devise a plan on how we were going to beat this thing. Upon arrival, I had the opportunity to discuss with the doctors my battle plan. I got some polite smiles, a few nods and a couple of compliments on how much I knew about AML. Then the doctors began to share with me, ever so politely but firmly, that my plan, although well thought out, failed to take into account the highly individualistic nature of AML. What works for one patient may not work for another.
Slowly, the oncology team disassembled my plan and replaced it with phrases like: “We’ll try this treatment regiment, and if she responds, we’ll decide where to go from there.” Or, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” And my personal favorite: “We’re very hopeful, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
My friend went through months in the hospital in isolation as the chemo attempted to destroy the leukemia and everything else along with it. She had days which I doubt I would have had the strength to face, much less endure. But, she is a deeply spiritual person and that made all the difference is the world.
Together, we were honest about the pain, fear, exhaustion and frustration. But, we also were honest about the fact that she was not alone, that prayer/meditation is powerful and that every day is gift. The one thing we kept coming back to was our belief that God was present, there in the room, there in the hallways with the doctors, there at the nursing shift change, the labs, the housekeeping staff and so many others. We sought God and found God daily.
"Bidden or unbidden, God is present." I’m told Carl Jung hung this in his doorway as a reminder to all who entered his home that God was truly present, always, even when not asked. I like that.
Eventually, my friend went into remission and was sent home. During the next nine months, she fell and broke her arm in three places, and not long after that, fell and broke her hip, requiring partial hip replacement surgery.
In the foreword to the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, it states:
“Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”
It’s that last sentence that, over the past year, has become important for me. The 12-Steps are indeed a way of living. Living and working the Steps provides us with a new lens to see ourselves, others and the universe. Working the Steps works with any disease, including leukemia. Since I began this journey with my friend in January of 2012, the Steps have helped me address powerlessness, unmanageability, surrender and that God is present, bidden or unbidden.
My friend relapsed about six weeks ago and finished her most recent round of chemo about three weeks ago. Soon, she will be back in the hospital, hopefully, to have a bone marrow transplant. We continue to work the Steps. Vocatus aqute non vocatus Deus aderit.
Bro. Steve Kelly
January 2013 - What are you doing?
“…we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”
--Foreword to the First Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous
What are you doing? This is all you have. This life. There are no other lives. This moment is all you have. There are no other moments. What are you doing with it? Are you mining it for all its richness? Or are you asleep? Are your eyes wide open to the wonder all around you? Or are you choosing to be blind? Are you postponing? Do you say to yourself, “Well, when the kids are grown,” or “When I get that promotion,” or “When I……”?
Stop it! Stop it right now! Don’t wait! Don’t put it off anymore! Live now! Live rich! And decide how you will live. The 12-Steps offer us a way of living that is rich, fulfilling and meaningful.
So, what’s your modus vivendi? You know, your way of life? If it is true, and all the great spiritual traditions say that it is, that what happens along the spiritual journey, the process if you will, is just as important as the outcome, then the way we go through life makes all the difference in the world. So our way of living will determine the amount of unnecessary or neurotic suffering we experience, the amount of joy we experience as well as the depth of meaning we will experience.
The 12-Steps tell us that if we follow the way of living as presented in the Big Book we will be assured of the following:
- We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
- We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
- We will comprehend the word serenity.
- We will know peace.
- No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
- That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
- We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
- Self-seeking will slip away.
- Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
- Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
- We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
- We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
These promises, we are told, can be experienced in this lifetime. So, as we enter another year, I pose the question to us all — What are you doing?
Grace and peace,
December 2012 - Promise #1
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
- We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
Freedom and happiness: many of us thought we would never know or experience these two human conditions again. While in the grip of my addiction to alcohol or drugs, freedom and happiness elude me. Many of us in the midst of our disease resolve ourselves to the belief that freedom and happiness are no longer available to us. We may catch glimpses of it, feel it brush against our skin like a cool breeze, but never does it permeate our very existence or fill our spirits. No, those days are gone and, for some, they have never known such days. And so, we settle into slavery and hopelessness.
Once we embrace the 12-Steps as “a way of living” (see the preface to the first edition in the Big Book), one of the very first promises that becomes a reality for us is the freedom and happiness that we have denied ourselves for so long. What we could not generate for ourselves, through working the Steps, begins to bubble up from our very soul. It begins to coarse through our veins. It is as close and as available as the air that fills our lungs. Gradually, the chains of our addiction begin to fall off and happiness begins to dispel hopelessness. The heavy sighs become fewer, our gaze turns upward, spiritual enchantment returns and we begin to experience a new freedom and a new happiness. Don’t miss that—a new freedom and a new hope. Nothing up to this point will compare with this new freedom and new hope.
This is one of many promises offered to us through living the 12 Steps. Notice, by the way, I said living. My prayer for us all is to be what we were created to be free and happy.
Grace and peace,