Friday, June 20, 2008

News from around the countryside

It's time for a catch-up session, just to recap the many powerful events that have been going on here in northwest Ohio...

It's a time of growth and renewal, outside as well as inside. The corn here has benefited from the periodic rains (much less than in other Midwest states!) so it actually looks half-way decent here. Chris (who whimpered all through January and February, "Will there ever, ever be anything green here again?") has been marveling at the green-going-amber waves of wheat, the corn shooting up out of the ground, and the soybeans growing across the main road from the condo. Spring has been much kinder to northwest Ohio - to the point where we actually could USE some rain, here.

Chris is still working 5 days at the hotel/insane-asylum, and then Sunday afternoons at the hobby shop. Even so, we managed to get away to Muncie, IN for the day to see the Saturday session of the outdoor remote-control Extreme Flight Championships (XFC) at the headquarters of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Their 1,000-acre facility is designed perfectly for model aircraft flight and competition. People from around the US and across the world (Germany, Spain, Mexico, Israel) homed-in on Muncie to see some great modeling and great flying. We had to double-back that night - Chris had to work Friday until 6, and then get back to his other job Sunday at noon - but the drive was worth it.

We also got to prove it - Michigan actually IS a third-world nation. All you have to do is look at their roads. Having gone up to Ann Arbor (cultural jewel of Michigan, home to a supposedly world-class university) and the area around Brighton, it only took 83 miles of US-23 to prove that we had entered third-world status. Of course, the fact that we were riding in a '96 F150 didn't help things either - but our trip two weeks later to the Red Bull Air Races in Detroit cemented the image (pardon the pun).

By comparison, the drive west through Ohio on the Turnpike to I-69 south to Muncie was an almost-pothole-free dream - smooth sailing for 170 miles or so. Where the heck is all of Michigan's road money going? People say to me, "But Michigan has always been that way," but they can't be getting any less road-money from the Feds than other states are... whose noses is all that cash going up?...

Chris went with me today to his first "real" AA meeting - the well-known "Raab Road Group" open discussion meeting outside Swanton, OH. We had lunch with my sponsor and his wife beforehand - it was the first time Brooke had met Chris - and it was a good time. And Chris got to see a classic AA meeting (there are people there from 2 days to 50-plus years of sobriety regularly attending), and he came away with a much better understanding of alcoholism and AA in general. I'm just so grateful that he took the time to use some overtime from earlier in the week and go into work a half-hour later so he could go with me. That says a lot.

I've had a couple nibbles on books I'm trying to sell on eBay and/or on Amazon. So far, it's pennies - I'm sure I'm probably ahead ten or fifteen dollars, after paying for shipping - but it's worth it to get these out of my hair. I need to reclaim my bedroom, and so whatever isn't sold by the end of the month is probably going to the local Lutheran church or the library. (I am one of those people who just can't bring themselves to throw out books.) If you want a list of what I'm trying to get rid of, I will send them to you for the cost to ship them...the primary goal is to get them a good home.

Next Friday, I will probably be presiding over my last official DeMolay event - the district Court of Chevaliers for two young men who should be named today as our newest recipients of the Degree of Chevalier. The award is given for outstanding service to the Order of DeMolay, a group of which I've been a member and advisor since the mid-70's. I gave up the job of chapter advisor a bit over a month ago, and though it's not been overly comfortable, I think it's the right thing. I was driving 200 miles round-trip to do much less of a job than the guy who was living right there in town, and it just made sense. Perhaps I will be an advisor again someday, but at this point in my life, it's just not what I'm called to do. I'm blessed to be able to preside at the ceremony this next Friday, though.

And Chris and I will celebrate his six-month anniversary as an Ohioan and nine months as boyfriends (though "partners" is closer to it, these days). I'm truly blessed to have him in my life - words don't even begin to describe how blessed I am. I'm sure we will have some challenging moments in the days and months to come. But that's the blessing of living "one day at a time" - the evil and blessings of each day are sufficient, to be honest.

There's lots more to write about -
- how the oil companies have finally tipped their hands about Iraq
- why I wish we could stop blowing crap up, and start rebuilding
- wondering how to pray for a gay man in the military going to Iraq
- considering the voices suggesting "lap-band" surgery for me
- why I'm both excited and not excited about Pride month, and
- an upcoming blogging anniversary.

For now, though, "th-th-th-that's all, folks!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seventy-three years, one day at a time

We have shown how we got out from under. You say, "Yes, I'm willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?"

(the text Alcoholics Anonymous, page 152)

The story says it was on June 10, 1935 that a broken-down stockbroker helped a broken-down, drunken surgeon to take his last drink, and make it his last. Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. started a fellowship that grew into the world-wide organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous. So this day is AA's anniversary, and the weekend closest to it (last weekend) is known as Founders' Day weekend.

About two hundred and ten months ago, I was the one asking the questions, wondering if the group of old men and weirdos that I met at the Chapter V club in Toledo, Ohio could possibly help me put my life back together. Today I can tell you that my life is a long way from "all better" - but I have never had to return to the life that I had before December 12, 1990. And that is a pure gift of grace on God's part, to be sure.

Last night, at the Monday Night Mens' meeting on Heatherdowns, I listened to a group of people who had been to the Founders' Day celebration in Akron, where it all started. Depending on which person you listen to, somewhere around 10,000 people in recovery make the pilgrimage
to Akron from all over the world. And listening to them took me back....

When I was last at Founders' Day, something like 150 people were in the international meeting alone, all speaking in native languages. Most of us couldn't understand what was being said - but all of us knew what was being said. We knew the stories; we knew the
struggles. And we all knew what it was to have walked through Hell, and to have found what the AA folks modestly called "a way out."

Tonight, I was downtown Toledo, again with the Monday Night Mens crew. Our group is on the volunteer rotation to hold an AA meeting at the Champlain Street Pre-Release Center. So about a dozen of us drove down to "the ugly part of town" - and not because we were wonderful, or because we were going to save someone, or because we were going to get a feather in our angels'-wings or anything.

We went down because we'd been given a gift - and part of keeping that gift involves giving it away. A couple of the guys were there, just marking time, because they have to get just so many of these meetings under their belt before they are released back into the community. One was grateful for our presence, but didn't think he'd ever be able to get off the merry-go-round. And one guy sounded vaguely hopeful - like maybe this AA nonsense might work for him, because what HE had been doing certainly wasn't.

I don't know. All I do know is that I'd been given a gift; I went down and shared what I knew; and we had some fantastic fellowship over Friendly's Ice Cream in Maumee afterwards. And despite a couple ongoing divorces, at least two bankruptcy cases, and one man who's dying of cancer, I'd bet that none of us are going to have to get drunk or high tonight.

So to Bill W., Doctor Bob, Sister Ignatia, and the army of sisters and brothers in recovery, I give thanks to you this night. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for accepting me when I was unacceptable, even to myself. And thank you for giving me a gift that only grows bigger when I share it. Soli Deo gloria.

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you - until then.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A fascinating "meme"....

For those who don't know better, a "meme" is something which you do, and then ask your friends to do as well. It usually is something informative about that person, or their interests (or something less-than-spiritual, on occasion...)

So here's Dr. Benton Quest's meme:
Step One – pull out a book on the book shelf.
Step Two – go to page 123.
Step Three – read and write out the 5th sentence.
Step Four – tag 5 more people.

I'll admit it; I cheated. I pulled about 8 books off the shelf looking for a page-123, sentence-#5 item that didn't say something stupid like, "And then Jim ran out the door" or "And this is what we find, time and again."

This is from my one of my favorite emergent writers, Renee Altson, from stumbling toward faith: my longing to heal from the evil that God allowed. Powerhouse stuff, as Renee's always is:
whenever you try to regulate Godliness you come up with something a lot less than God.
A close runner-up is James Bryant Smith's Embracing The Love of God, one of the books from the Renovare' movement. This is page 123, 5th sentence:
Doesn't God have something better to do than go around finding people tires?
Both are definite teasers to read the books in their entirety...

Anyway, I'm going to tag Michael, Erin, Penni, Hope, and Black Peter.

If anyone wants to chime in with a great page-123-5th-sentence from the book of their choice, feel free to comment. (Also, if you want to be rigorously honest, how many of you found a really, really cool line on sentence 3-4 or 5-8 that you would have loved to have used instead?)