February 27, 2017

* Major League Baseball spring training games have commenced proving that, regardless of how things may otherwise seem, all is still as it should be in the universe.

* Weirdness, like pornography, is often hard to define; but you know it when you see it. Over the past 18 months, my line in the sand of acceptable weirdness has moved considerably. However, I crossed even that line this month. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I serve as an unlicensed hair care professional here at the Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp barber shop and styling salon. A bald inmate asked me if I would trim his back with the trimmers. Even more weird, I said, "OK." What the heck; times are tough. It could be 3 Honey N Oat Bars, even though haircuts are free...;), and it revealed a large tattoo.

* One mile north of the camp is a dog food plant which emits a sickening odor. One mile northeast is a laboratory animal crematorium which has its own unique odor. Two hundred feet south is our sewage lift station which...

February 23, 2017

Basically, one who is obsessed with his own inner unity is failing to face his disunion with God and other men.

--Thomas Merton

Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

The 12 Steps are not theoretical. To be transformed by them, we have to live them. Step 9 is the logical consequence of deliberately making a list of those we've harmed and becoming willing to make amends. If Step 8 was about recalibrating, this is about reconstructing.  Our ultimate purpose, once we have honestly identified the people we have harmed, is to repair and rebuild relationships. These are people who have experienced our worst, often close friends and family.

This step requires wisdom. If not done correctly, we can make matters worse. We often gain wisdom in life from making mistakes, but Step 9 is not a learning exercise to gain wisdom. This is our humble attempt to own our behavior, to rectify it and ask for forgiveness. We want to get it...

February 19, 2017

Our histories are never all good or all bad, and running from the past is the surest way to be defined by it. That's when it owns us.

--Brené Brown 

Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 

Recent studies indicate that an effective way to treat combat related post-traumatic stress disorder can be for the soldiers and marines effected with PTSD to travel back to the area where the combat trauma occurred. The treatment protocol is based on the premise that there can be freedom and healing in going back to the source of our pain instead of just trying to forget that it happened.

Too often we try to forget the pain caused by our addictive and compulsive behavior. When we do that, we miss the opportunity to learn from it. The byproduct of our forgetfulness is our ability to lie, to rationalize our conduct, or to shift the blame to other people. As we face our past, we ultimately have to take a step back in time, moving beyond ourselves...

February 15, 2017

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

--Carl Jung

Step 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

There is a mystery to asking God. It goes to the heart of why we pray and meditate. I like the way Richard Rohr puts it in his book, Breathing Under Waterwhen he writes, "We ask not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to form a living relationship, not to get things done. Prayer is a symbiotic relationship with life and with God, a synergy which creates a result larger than the exchange itself."

Often when we pray, God doesn't give us an answer, but an acquiescence or peace about the answer. God has to engineer a change in us that we are incapable of making ourselves in order for the answer to make sense. Were we to self design our own plan, our addictions would still be in place, only now rationalized as acceptable, normal, just me.

There is in each of us an inherent desire to connect with...

February 11, 2017

When Jeff Buckley asked if he could record Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Cohen sent over a notebook with 80 verses telling Buckley to just pick the ones he liked. The song, like life itself, is complicated, confusing and contradictory. It's lyrics, like many of our hallelujahs, are indeed cold and broken, yet beautiful and tender. That reason alone made the song fitting for Walton's memorial service.

Well, I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...


February 7, 2017

Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.

--St. Augustine

Step 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.

Our ego tells us that life works either like this: sin-->repentance-->transformation-->love,
or like this: sin-->punishment.

However this formula is totally recalibrated by God to be this: sin-->love-->transformation-->repentance

God doesn't love us if we change. God loves us so we can change, and God's love is infinite and everlasting.

With this step, we come face to face with paradox. We are called in Steps 4 and 5 to confront our own defects of character, but now we're to wait until we are entirely ready to have God remove them. For some of us, this is all a new way of thinking that may seem like "hurry up and wait." So far, we've realized our powerlessness to control some of our behavior. We've acknowledged a greater universal power who can bring sanity back into our lives. We've turned our lives over to that power in response to...

February 3, 2017

I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive. Alive.

-- Walter White, Last Episode of Breaking Bad

Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

In the dualistic system of retributive justice that has been promoted by most western religion for the last 500 years, good behavior is rewarded while naughtiness is punished, sometimes forever. The 12 Steps, on the other hand, follow the life and teachings of Jesus by stressing that our failures can, if we let them, actually lead us to transformation and enlightenment. 

Once we sweep the searchlight of Step 4 back and forth over our lives and honestly expose our delusional thinking, we need to talk to someone about it. The searching and fearless moral inventory that we took of ourselves in Step 4 was, after all, only a look. Our solitary self-appraisal was a great start, but it isn't nearly enough. We need the help of God and another person. While we might bel...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones