There are 17 religious affiliations recognized at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, but not mine. I'm an unapologetic Recovering Baptist. To understand what that means, let's take a shallow dive into those words.

Most people have a mental picture, good or bad, of a Baptist. Historically Baptists are doctrinally "non-credal" which means we have no written creed but the Bible, which is inspired but not necessarily inerrant. Baptists believe we are all innately competent to approach God directly, without a priest or intermediary. These doctrines are called "Priesthood of the Believer" and "Soul Competence." Baptists believe in the trinity, which perceives God as "the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." I'll describe that later when I understand it. Don't hold your breath. Baptists practice believer's baptism, as opposed to infant, and immersion is almost always the preferred method. They also embrace the philosophical idea of the separation of church and state, but differ widely as to church governance and worship styles. Some Baptist churches limit how women can serve within the church, some don't. So the term Baptist means different things, even to Baptists. I have to say, though, that what we lack in quality control, we more than compensate for in confidence.

What does it mean to be Recovering? That term can be found in the dictionary and means to save from a problem or restore to usefulness. In my case, I'm recovering because I was "saved from" religion while at the same I was "restored to" religion. Carl Jung wrote that "religion is a defense against the experience of God." For a long time that was true for me. I was able to hide from God behind religion that reduced the mystery of God to the written word, a set of concepts and tasks, and a fear of failure. What I lacked and needed was a religion with a transcendent experience. While religion should be the pathway to God, it's often the ultimate obstruction to a clearer and larger perception of God. When God appears and is greater than our religion, we run and "preserve the faith." I've done that before, and I see it everyday here where inmates cling to the Bible in such a way that makes being transformed by its story of God's love almost impossible.

Frank Rogers, in his book Compassion in Practice writes that "Compassion is really a process of recovery--of retrieving an inherent capacity that has become, either in the moment or over time, buried and obscured. Jesus' knowledge, which is grounded in the Hebrew scripture, tells him that each person is created in the image of God--a God of infinite and extravagant compassion. (Genesis 1:27, Exodus 34:6) The image dwells unmarred with each soul...This compassionate core is our true self--our true face. We are most fully human when we live from this essence. We are most fully our true selves when we love."

If compassion is a process of recovery, I believe that recovery is also a process of rediscovering the compassion that is within us. God put it there when he breathed life into us. It might be hiding, but it's still there. That rediscovering process begins with compassion for ourselves as we remember that God's forgiveness and love have no limits. It then expands to compassion for others, and ultimately becomes compassion for our enemies.

The recovery bible is Bill Wilson's "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. These 12 steps are for EVERYONE and in 2017, I want to write more about how following them can change our lives.