Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • Heaven – by Gracious!, 1970
    Do you have a clean mind?
    What do you think about, when you pass your time?
    Do you have a clean mind?
    Would you have a hand to help a friend of your sub mind?
    Do you have a clean mind?
    Who made you healthy in your body and your mind?
    Do you have a clean mind?
    Will you give some money to the church in time?
    Do you have a clean mind?
    Promise yourself that will never be unkind
    Do you have a clean mind?
    God will never try and stop you going on to find
    if you have a clean mind

    My concept of God has changed and evolved considerably from the God of my Roman Catholic upbringing. And yet, there is a core of the belief I had then that I still have today. Not a conscious thought concept, mind you, just an intuitive feeling inside. That hasn’t changed, per se, but has grown deeper and, for me, more profound. I always felt that God had my back, and I still do. It’s just my idea of who and/or what that God actually is that has changed considerably.

    God was my ace in the hole. When I got past all of the miserable bullying, abuse and misunderstanding of people all around me who never understood the real me, God would be there to take me home. God would lead me out of hell and help me to realize the real me. That turned out to be a pretty valid concept, at least one that eventually did work for me.

    For most of my time as a practicing Catholic, from my first conscious memory at age 2 ½ until age 16, when I made a conscious decision about religion and faith practice, I believed that my life was a lot closer to hell than it was to heaven. While there were moments that stood above the rest, overall I felt trapped in a life that made absolutely no sense to me, trapped in a person who basically had a crap set of coping skills, and who would just naively fall into one life trap after another. I was the biggest scape goat of my crowd, I was a “loser”, I was a loner and I was a “clod”. I felt basically worthless, and unworthy. Unworthy of what, I wasn’t sure. But, I thought that before God would accept me into his good graces, I would need to make myself worthy, somehow.

    Funny, though, it never occurred to me to blame God for my lot. In my mind, in my intuitive self, God was trying to lead me out of where I was. If I would only get with the program, whatever that was. That’s were the problems came in. I was confused about how to do that. I was waiting for God to be like the cool older brother who would take me under his wing and show me all the ropes of life, kind of the way my brother Chris had shown me all of the ropes of old Forbes Field, like that, only extending it to all of life.

    No one in my life had that kind of time. Dad certainly didn’t. None of my brothers did – the only one I really tried to make fit into that role was poor Chris, and I think I just wore him out. He came closest to it – he showed a genuine interest in me and would take the time to play catch with me, and to listen to me talk about my little world, but he was usually away at college or out with his friends. He did take me along to his basketball games sometimes, and let me caddie when he played golf, sometimes, and those were golden moments in my growing up years. But, they were never enough. No person could fill the role that I was looking for. It only made sense to me that that’s where God came in. It would have to be God, or I was basically fucked. But, I had to figure out how I could make myself good enough for God.

    The idea of a heaven and a hell, and that place I was always certain I would spend a lot of years in while the celestial jury deliberated my fate, Purgatory – these things always baffled the hell out of me, if you’ll excuse the unintended pun! I never really bought into the idea of spending my life making a reservation for one of those places in the next life. That just never rang true to me. I did not have that kind of patience. I needed to know sooner than the end of my life where I was heading. I wanted it now.

    Then, I did find heaven, right here on earth. Just like that! That first time I got a good load on was just like magic - all of my defenses slipped away, and the barrier that had always existed between myself and others fell away with them. I could talk intelligently, I could laugh, could actually “get” the jokes that people told, and could even tell a good one myself. I became bold. I became an adventurer. Life became interesting and fun.

    For me, this was heaven. I hadn’t been able to do any of those things before I discovered the wonders of alcohol. Alcohol became God. Then, even better, I discovered all of the heavenly saints and guardian angels – marijuana, acid, mescaline, magic mushrooms, cocaine, hashish, opium – all put me in touch with parts of my soul that I had never even known existed, and broadened my spiritual realm, considerably. The “spiritual” world became something I could feel and touch, rather than a mental concept I’d learned in school. The idea that the use of these avenues for getting there were frowned upon by my family, and by laws, made no difference to me, none whatsoever. All I knew was, where they took me felt right, and I embraced them with all of my being, and anyone who had a problem with that, just didn’t understand. Me and my God got it. I’d been right – God did have my back, and had led me to this nirvana, this heaven right here on earth. I had paid my dues to get there, 15 years of hardship and loneliness and loser-ness, and now that I had arrived, I was not about turning back.

    Turned out that heaven had an expiration date, though. It lasted a good two years, two years in which everything was right in my little world, it all fell into place and I was happy. I made a lot of friends, I did a lot of outrageous things, and it was all good. Life was one big adventure, I was in the middle of it, it all came to me, and flowed from me, and the rest was just minor details that would eventually get figured out. And then, just as suddenly, it all changed. Just like that. I “fell” from grace.

    I could feel the change, the chink in the armor of my newfound confidence, and then the very real sensation of falling, descending, down into hell. It all happened in the matter of days, a week at most. Only, this hell made the hell of my childhood seem like “child’s play”. This hell had very real demons, and they took root in my conscience and never let me rest. They got right into my skin, and crawled throughout my body and my soul. There was no escaping it.

    I quickly concluded that the only way out was to take matters into my own hands. I still wasn’t blaming God for all of this. I had done something wrong – missed a clue, taken a wrong turn, I had somehow screwed heaven up for myself. When the exit strategy didn’t work out – I gave it my best shot, but just couldn’t pull the handle on that door – I decided that I would have to settle for purgatory. Just get me the hell out of hell, and I’ll be happy with whatever I find when I get to the next place.

    And, that was good enough, for a while. Having been to the glory of heaven, and the fires of hell, purgatory worked for a good long while. But, eventually, a divine discontent took hold, and I became restless and needed something more. I hated this, because of the risk involved. Given the choice between the three, my personal preference was the safety of purgatory. But, it too had an expiration date.

    That’s when I found recovery. When I couldn’t stand purgatory any longer, I just gave up, and found myself back in heaven. Here on earth. And, the biggest revelation of all was this – I didn’t have to do a damned thing to make myself good enough to be there. I didn’t have to earn my way there. I didn’t have to have a clean mind. I didn’t have to be a saint. I just had to let it in. It was right there, all around me, and inside me, all along.

    It’s there whenever I choose to be there. The way that works best for me is meditation, and doing whatever puts me in the moment. There are days I think I’m too busy for it, or have more interesting things to occupy my mind, and my time. They are usually not bad days. They just aren’t “heavenly”. Those effortless connections and coincidences don’t happen quite as readily. It’s o.k. Heave can wait for me. Once I’ve had enough of my need to be in control, I remember, and I get back in touch with the heavenly energies of the universe. It’s beyond easy. It’s completely effortless. I just have to be here. Now.

    I have no patience for the after-life. I believe in it. It has its place. For me, it has nothing to do with heaven, hell or purgatory. It has to do with a broader energy field, less individualization of the life energy, less judgement, more freedom. I know that I will meet my Dad and my friend Reed there, when I go. I don’t know if I’ll recognize them, but they’ll be there for me. However, I don’t expect to meet God. I already have. God’s been with me all along. God is not a person, not a spirit, not a soul. God is spirit, is soul, is life, is love, is intelligence, is truth. Not mine. Just is. But, that said, I still do believe that God has my back. Everytime I have fallen, God has caught me. That’s all I need to know about God.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.