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It seems that unquenchable fires besmirch social media, crisp psyches of world leaders, and incinerate trusted values, that planet Earth is afire. Dulled by decades of saber rattling, of “limited” wars, of police in riot gear and protesters hitting the streets, of arrests and imprisonments and torture, these clashes seldom shock—just more of the same. Yet, violence continues stalking the unaware, sucks them into the security of the humdrum within which addictions proliferate and jam emergency rooms.

No amount of intelligence gathering seems to stem this escalation. No amount of special committees, with more than ample funding, produce effective strategies. No amount of prayer vigils with tears, flickering candles, flowers, and Teddy bears stay God’s hand over this mayhem. Always, there’s more.

But there’s another way to look at this deadly scenario. We know that firefighters fight fire with fire. We must do similarly, but first we must uncover our instinctual fires, burning within shit-piles, hidden within our unconscious; then name them: pride, anger, greed, sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, and envy; then, own their domination over our thoughts and choices; and then, practice restraint—a tall order, to be sure.

Despite this malady endemic to the human condition, there is help.

Jesus cried, I have come to cast fire upon the earth and what would I but that it be enkindled (Luke 12:49). This purifying fire requires clamping firefighters’ protective gear around our spirits and consciously setting to work on our stuff. That’s the rub. It’s a rough discipline, but the only path toward harmonious living with others. It works. It just takes practice…

 

 

Totally relaxed, I awoke with this dream:

After a long time I complete an arduous task. Others have helped me. The sky is jubilant with light.

 I turn over onto my back, blinking hard at the ceiling. Such joy baffles me. The first morning of creation must have felt like this: fresh, colorful, whole, energized. I am loath to clamber into another day of living with terminal illness, preferring, instead, to luxuriate beneath my flannel sheets and comforter. Yet, I must and I do.

The dream suggests one of profound affirmation. Its task took everything in me to complete and would not have happened without others’ willingness to lend a hand. I sense that my daily practice of CPA plays into this task, given the support that I receive in this spiritual fellowship from others thriving with chronic pain and illness.

But more to the point—yesterday’s completion of the moral inventory with my sponsor—Step V—has left me light as a feather.

Indeed, I am a new creation.

 

Yesterday’s snowfall recalled a striking image from the prophet Isaiah: Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…if you are wiling to obey… (1:18-19)

This 8th-century BCE prophet likened sin to the color scarlet, its dye not easily washed from costly robes seen in the Temple precincts. His listeners would have understood, but their obdurate hearts blocked compliance. Too onerous was the Law of Moses: its discipline irked their comforts, stifled their imaginations, and kept them in bondage, even the duress of Assyrian swords.

Similarly today, the invitation for cleansing persists for those willing to obey. Sin is still around but with different names: shadow in Jungian depth psychology, character defects or shortcomings in the 12 Steps of AA, as well as lapses, blind spots, blunders, mess-ups in popular parlance. Inherent within such darkness is the scrim of denial, rationalization, and idealization: They becloud honesty and muddle hearts. Living becomes a slippery slope with multiple injuries, with Band-Aid fixes, with still more visits to emergency rooms.

I know. I was on that slippery slope until I discovered my damaged heart and Isaiah‘s invitation to change, within 12 Step living. The snow is present, in season and out. God’s passion to deify me, and all humankind, makes this possible.

I’m in good company as I move through my end time, within each twenty-four hours. Even now, there is Kingdom joy in whitening.

 

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