Tag Archives: Jonah

12 Steps of Christmas | Eve of the Epiphany

Step Twelve – “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Morning Prayer for today can be found here. Since tonight is the Eve of the Epiphany, today is the 12th day of Christmas.

Thank you for joining me in these reflections on praying the Daily Office and practicing recovery; I hope you have found them useful.

Having had an awakening

The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. (Jonah 2:5-6)

Step Twelve begins with a recounting of the previous Steps and of our progress to date. It’s a little longer than the previous chapters in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, but I invite you to take a few minutes to read it.

Among other things, you will find that “alcoholics” are mentioned no more than 20 times in 20 short pages. The Twelve Steps are basically human wisdom about living by spiritual principles, though for us the essential starting point was a crisis brought on by our drinking.

It mattered little whether we had sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness or had plunged in recklessly and willfully beyond our depth and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly perished in a sea of alcohol. (123-24)

Today, “we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety” (106).

Carry the message

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:15)

The A.A. meeting that I attend each week opens with the Serenity Prayer and a moment of silence.

Then different people read three key texts: the Preamble, “How It Works” (the chapter from Alcoholics Anonymous that lays out the Twelve Steps), and the Twelve Traditions.

The last reader finishes with a “Responsibility Declaration”:

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.

The first part of “Twelve Step work” is to be willing to serve any alcoholic who still suffers. After all, we are people who are in recovery, and we have something that the alcoholic needs, so we must be ready to share that knowledge humbly at any time.

Many of the people I know “in the program” are truly generous with their time and talent in the service of others. My sponsor, for example, attends several meetings a week with the several people he sponsors at any given time. He also brings A.A. literature into the jail and prison system and arranges for newly-released prisoners to find a meeting close to home.

Just so in every church I have served, which is full of people willing and eager to go the extra mile in order to make visitors feel welcome, to reach out into the neighborhood with invitations, to feed the people who come several times a week for a meal, to teach classes, to visit the shut-ins.

The list of ways that we extend our hands to others is nearly endless.

Practice the principles

Now comes the biggest question yet. What about the practice of these principles in all our affairs? Can we love the whole pattern of living as eagerly as we do the small segment of it we discover when we try to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety? Can we bring the same spirit of love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family lives that we bring to our A.A. group? Can we have the same kind of confidence and faith in these people who have been infected and sometimes crippled by our own illness that we have in our sponsors? Can we actually carry the A.A. spirit into our daily work? (111-12)

In an earlier post, I shared a couple of occasions when I realized that recovery practices — especially admitting fault promptly — were not just about alcoholism but about a new way of living.

Like other membership groups, A.A. and the church alike run the risk of turning inward.

If the church doesn’t connect Sunday with Monday, we go back into our daily lives and act no differently than those around us. If we attend lots of meetings but stay “in the rooms,” we may still be out of control in our daily lives.

Just like the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” we might sing that “They’ll know we are recovering by our sobriety.”

Just as the point of the Daily Office is not to check another prayer task off the eternal to-do list, neither does attending meetings alone secure any benefit for us. Both of them are examples of the “maintenance of our spiritual condition” that keeps us on the path of sobriety in our daily lives.

We pray the Daily Office not only to be in relationship with God, but also to equip us to see God at work in the world around us and to see Jesus “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” (Matt. 25:31-46).

We attend meetings not only to share the company of those who understand our problems, but also to help us live lives that are “sober and upright” in order to draw into our fellowship those who are still suffering.

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

God hates nothing God has made

Pinned Insects

Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 217)

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Since late last year, following a serious lack of judgment at a company event, I have been on a disciplinary plan at work and have been seeing a counselor through our Employee Assistance Program.

Having my failings made visible is really uncomfortable — the first image that comes to my mind is an insect pinned to a board — but the process of dealing with the issues openly and with help from other people has led to some long-overdue changes in my life.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of discipline in the reading appointed for today.

Endure trials for the sake of discipline … [God] disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems unpleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:7, 10-11).

On Ash Wednesday, we rehearse the heart of the Christian message about sin and forgiveness.

God hates nothing God has made, even though we fall short of the mark again and again.

When we confess our sins and get them out in the open, when we allow others to help us deal with our failings, we open ourselves up to receive from “the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.”

Having received forgiveness, having been trained by discipline (not just once, but as often as it takes!), we in turn extend that forgiveness to those around us.

Yes, we are mortal — ashes to ashes, dust to dust — but we are God’s. “He himself has made us, and we are his” (Jubilate, BCP 83).

God hates nothing God has made, and God forgives the sins of all who are penitent.

Unworthy as I am, you will save me,
in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing your praises,
and yours is the glory to ages of ages. Amen.
(Canticle 14, BCP 91)