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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, March 16, 2007

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 8

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

It is one thing to say - to yourself or to someone else - that you have
"generically" been dishonest,lied, stole, betrayed a confidence, gossiped, slandered, slapped, cursed, intentionally used someone. It is quite another thing to go through the years, a month at a time, and recall your offenses - and then picture in your mind the face and name of the person on the receiving end of your violence or bitter displaced sarcasm or deceit.

Take time to do this - all the time you need. Being realistic, you may only be able to do this step in increments: it may take you some time to recall details during those blurry self-medicated or particularly self-serving periods in your past.

Begin by praying for the courage and strength to face this step with complete honesty, recalling all the other steps you have gone through. Know you are loved and forgiven by your Higher Power. You have grown into the knowledge that it took you a long time to get to the bottom of your own personal barrel and it will take time to surface once again.

Set time aside to work on this step. Do it in a private, quiet place with little distraction. You may need past diaries or journals or yearbooks to help refresh your memory - perhaps a stack of photographs or an old address book (or books). Do your level best to stay on task. Other than these aids, I suggest you use only paper and pen. No eraser. No delete key. Pour out the names- and a short line of what you did to that person.

This step assists us in putting faces and names to the consequences of our prior actions and faults.

Consequences. Probably not one of those things that crossed your mind or conscience when you were on the slippery slope of your own downward spiral. In an age where people imagine that they only experience consequences if they are CAUGHT doing something wrong, the idea of learning from the consequences by holding ourselves accountable (in effect, catching ourselves in the act)is almost novel--and a very good beginning for us. Putting a name and a face to our misdeeds will make them real, not imagined. We own them.

When we look over the list that we amass in this step we may be able to recognize patterns, find situations that trigger our character defects. This list underscores just how much our lives had become unmanageable. At this point we can give thanks that we have come this far!

OK. The list is done. Hard as that part was, part two of the step is to become 'willing to make amends to them all'. Gulp. Wrapping your mind around saying you are sorry to those you have injured - revealing to them you have become aware of what you did and how that affected them. Asking for forgiveness, forgiving those who offended you so that you can let that baggage go.

This step - just like all the others - will take time. There is NO time limit. Take all the time you need. Your quality of life will improve with each day you stay on the program, regardless of how long it takes you to move from one step to another. You are growing into the wonderful person that your Higher Power dreamed that you might be!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 7

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

It should seems easy after you've been through the six prior steps to face this one liner.

When it comes to making changes in your life - the way you live it, the way you treat people, the way you govern your affairs and finances - "should" is a word that gets bantered about quite a lot. Often - most often- it has been some entity outside of yourself showering you with 'should's. Everything from you should stand up straight and stop biting your nails to you should be nice to that older person who can't hear very well to you should buy the most expensive, gas guzzling car because it says something powerful about you.

We are thin-skinned creatures and the shoulds soak into us - often insignificant 'should's. This outside guide - which in our early years is a positive tool to guide us through unknown waters- over the years is rejected (remember those rosy teen years???)and at the same time internalized.

Instead of the 'should's being showered on us from without, the inner shoulds have taken hold and are fierce.

What does all of this have to do with 'removing our shortcomings'.? In entering into this level of radical surrender, we must face our daily demons on a daily basis without the inner battering ram shattering an appropriate level of esteem - self esteem. We cannot fall back on could-a, would-a or should-a any more. We fall back on God who knows intimately what our shortcomings, failings, temptations (and their accompanying excuses, rationalizations and reactions)are.

Without these shortcomings we are approaching a new slate - wonderful and scary at the same time... and in the next few steps will get the chalk and the eraser to look at our situations less through the lens of pity or blaming others or resorting to substances to dull the pain that is either real or anticipated. We we be seeing clearly - freely - unhindered by the expectations on the interior or the exterior.

That Higher Power - in all, with all, through all - can become our compass, pointing us in the direction best for us. If your shortcoming is trust, this will be yet another big leap - and you will make it to the other side with a mantra from our prayerbook.....'I WILL, with God's help'.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child ...

....... a long way from home.

I had a mother. She was the mother she could be considering the circumstances that she had come from and the opportunities available (in the 1940's) for a woman to be living anywhere except in the family home until such time as one became married and made a home of one's own.

My mother married my father - who had served in WWII in the Merchant Marines - after he came home and they both had graduated high school (he in abstentia).

My mother married my father.... in part because he may have been perceived as a 'bad boy' from the next town over; in part because he was learning the trade her father had for years and years; in part to get out of the house.

Being the eldest girl in an Irish Roman Catholic family of - at one point 11 siblings - decidedly had its DIS advantages: you became the surrogate Mother, the other one to turn to, the one who set the standard against which all the sisters who followed were compared. That's a tall order. ESPECIALLY: 1) if you don't necessarily agree with your Mother and 2) you do not have the fortune of being the eldest SON.... to whom fell other entitlements which involved significantly fewer messy diapers.

She started a family within the "right" time frame: i.e. at least more than 9 months after the marriage..... which resulted in .... me.

My brother was born exactly one year later.

My sister was born one year one month and one day after that.

My brother died in infancy and a gap was left for me to fill.

I know she struggled as a stay at home Mom for the first 8 years of my life. We lived on a racially mixed street one block in from the main drag in town. We lived in a 3 story apartment building. Mare, my father's Mother lived below, we occupied the middle and the Stricciola's had the top floor. Czech on the ground floor; Czech/
French Canadian/Irish/English in the middle and pure Italian on the top floor... what a sandwich!

I have glimpses of my mother working around the house... but not many of her smiling.

My father was one of two children - both boys. I'm sure competition was often involved and there were many rumors of why I had no recollection of my paternal grandfather - mostly that he was physically abusive and would drink and was basically run out of town.

In fact, my maternal grandfather also drank.... and finally left my grandmother when my youngest aunt was still in or just out of high school.

Living in an alcoholic home becomes a way of life - or maybe a way of avoiding landmines that are constantly moving. It isn't until much later in life that one comes face to face with the fact that the survival techniques you utilized in your early years don't translate well into trusting, intimate relationships in adulthood.

With time, good friends, some truth telling, some inspiring examples of love without strings attached help. A surrender to the healing love of God helps.

Spending the weekend with Barbara a a group of adventurous people who came to a retreat entitled Death: The Lighter Side we each found ways to revisit some of those sad places and also chart some new courses for the remainder of our lives.

It's amazing how the impact of voicing the fact that is only whispered about can free us in one way or another. It has taken a couple of days, but I don't have the same sadness about not being the favored one, the one that made them proud, the pretty one in pink that stuck up easy conversation.

I can feel my mother now - even my father occasionally - in their new frame of reference - encouraging me in ways they could not before. I am motherless no more - nor an orphan nor an outcast. I am on my way to a destination they have already reached....home...... and there are no outcasts there, no not one.

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