January 22, 2016

Book offers tips for growth in spiritual life, daily living

By Daniel Conway (Special to The Criterion)

Love and Service: A Meditation Focus for People in RecoveryLove and service are simple concepts, but putting them into practice isn’t easy. No matter who we are or what challenges we face, we all need help staying focused on the simplest and most fundamental things—such as love and service.

After many years facilitating retreats and workshops for recovering alcoholics, Dave M. has responded to what he believes is a growing desire for “God consciousness.”

Drawing inspiration from sacred Scripture, from Thomas á Kempis’ spiritual classic, Imitation of Christ, and from Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”), the author has written a practical—yet very profound—guide to meditation, and “the consolations of prayer.”

Although his book is intended to serve the spiritual needs of people in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions, its format and content speak equally well to all who want help expanding their God consciousness through growth in the spiritual life.

Love and Service: A Meditation Focus for People in Recovery is divided into three parts, each containing a series of very brief chapters. Each of the 96 chapters serves as a self-contained meditation on themes of practical spirituality. When read or prayed daily, Love and Service provides thought-provoking insights into basic principles of daily Christian living that can help anyone regardless of his or her religious affiliation.

Readers who are not familiar with what might be called “the language of recovery” may wonder at the origins or basic meaning of many of the chapter headings.

Staying right sized, this too will pass, soulcalm, let go and let God, and similar terms or phrases represent the attempt of ordinary people who have had genuine spiritual experiences to describe their reflections in simple, everyday language.

Classic spiritual masters speak of kenosis or self-emptying, whereas people in recovery speak of abandoning ourselves to God. The principles are the same, and they are worthy of prayerful reflection by every spiritual seeker regardless of whether he or she happens to be in a formal program of recovery.

“What’s really happening here?” is a question posed near the end of each chapter. The author is eager to make sure that readers pause for a time to consider the practical implications of the preceding meditation. Contemplation is not an esoteric art. It is a tool—not unlike deep breathing—for stepping outside the hurry and worry of daily life to see more clearly and experience more deeply God’s love and mercy.

Love and service are not abstractions. They are practical virtues that can have a genuine impact on the lives of both givers and receivers. That’s why each chapter concludes with a one- or two-sentence admonition such as: “Resolved: Today enjoy the joy of the journey by giving God the complete care of your thoughts.” Simple, but not easy.

Dave M. doesn’t claim to be a great spiritual writer or a renowned guru. He simply shares with readers his experience, strength and hope as one who seeks the face of God one day at a time as an integral part of his recovery. In Love and Service, we learn to enjoy the joy of the journey in imitation of Christ, and in complete fidelity to the principles of Alcoholic Anonymous. That’s a program of recovery for everyone!

(Daniel Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial board. Love and Service: A Meditation Focus for People in Recovery by Dave M. is available on Amazon.com.)

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