Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DESTINY ARRIVES AND WE SHOW UP

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Philippians 4:8-9, The Message


"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
- Frederick Buechner

Destiny Arrives and We Show Up

None of us ever meant to get addicted to anything. We didn’t ask for it, and we didn’t intend it. In the beginning, addiction was the last thing we ever thought would happen to us. But, nonetheless, we got addicted anyway. In the end, no matter how naive or innocent we might have been, we have had to confess that our addictions have been deeply rooted in our bad thinking and our lack of a real faith in God. We now know how a lack of authentic faith and bad thinking go hand in hand.

Recovery became possible for us when we admitted our need and began to accept the help that God made available. Making this confession helped us hope for a better life than the one we had known in the past. We began to see that God had bigger and better plans for us than we did. Following His plan, both our addictions and our healing became a pathway. They became like stepping-stones to a revolutionary kind of personal transformation that we never could have envisioned when we first started our journey. And along the way, we receive much more than we ever could have expected or anticipated. We have been changed on the inside. We have learned things that no book could ever teach us. We have gained insights and had experiences that we could never get in any classroom or from any other person, either. There is a new presence and reality within us and it is more than our senses can identify, more than our physical bodies can contain and very, very much more than we can ever explain. We have God’s Spirit working inside of us and through us.

The way we experience recovery is a unique and personalized gift from God. We receive it and experience it on an individual and personal basis. It is a redemption that is deeply intimate between God and us, together, just the two of us, connecting and being close. This is why none of us will ever have the exact same experience in recovery or with God. And while we all have our own intimate encounter with God, the recovery experience He gives is not ours to keep for ourselves. We must be willing to share it if we want to keep it long-term. And as we share our experience with others, we will discover that we have much more in common than we ever realized before. This is how God expands and multiplies the intimate life He has shared with us.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

FEELING AND DOING

We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step by step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. I Peter 2:21–23, The Message

“It is not until we love a person in all his ugliness that we can make him beautiful, or ourselves either.”
- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat, page 42

Feeling and Doing

Let’s be honest about the deep anger and resentment that we have held against some of the people to whom we owe amends. All of us have suffered to some degree because of the anger we have stored up on the inside. If we take a moment to honestly consider this, we will see that there is really no question that we have felt this way. Anger and resentment are some of the core feelings that drive our addictions. The only real relevant question now is, Can we – will we face our anger honestly, with integrity, and not let it stand in the way of our recovery?

Recovery and future growth will not allow us to sidestep our feelings. We have to be willing to confront the destructive feelings that we have felt for certain specific people (this may even include a group of people or a particular demographic) if we want to recover and make healthy changes to our relationships in the future. Feeling the way we feel does not excuse us from taking the important steps that we need to take in order to make amends to the people we have harmed. Feelings are feelings and nothing more. They are like lights on the dashboard of our lives. They tell us about important things that are going on under the hood but they are not intended to dictate the actions we take nor do they excuse our procrastinations.

There may be times when we realize that some of the people who are on our amends list have caused us harm and the wrongs they’ve done to us far exceed anything we’ve done to them. It is vitally important that we keep our focus here. The wrongs that other people have done to us are not our concern at this point in time. We need to make the decision to no longer hold their wrongs against them. After consulting with our advisors, let us contact these people and apologize to them for our inappropriate actions, offering to do whatever we can do to repair the damage we have caused. These particular people may have never acknowledged the hurt and pain they have caused us, and maybe they never will. Nevertheless, let us continue to forgive them everyday, not because they are innocent or because they deserve forgiveness, but because we need to do so in order to continue to recover from our addictions and to heal from the damage they did to us.

Occasionally feelings of anger and resentment will return. Because of this, we should diligently monitor our own thoughts and feelings and be willing to let go of any renewed anger that comes up. While we may not have a future relationship with these particular people, our attitude toward them, ourselves and others will be radically improved only to the degree that we are willing to forgive them and make amends to them. We can be honest about how things really were in our past relationships. We don’t need to make excuses for our friends, our families or for ourselves anymore. Things simply were the way they were and, today, they are the way they are. We can hope and even pray that someday things may change, that we can have a healthy and happy relationship with all people and that all people will recognize that our new life and values are worth appreciating. But, in order for us to continue to grow in God’s plan for our lives, we must remember that other people’s attitude toward us are none of our business. It is between them and God.


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

FROM SHAME TO GRACE

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. 2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“We can accept God’s good gifts too easily. Grace can be accepted only when we face our own inabilities. Forgiveness can be embraced only when we lay bare our wrongdoing, and hope can be imparted only when we face the reality of our own despair.” - Charles Ringma

From Shame to Grace

Humility is an awareness that we are both imperfect and worthwhile at the same time. Humility is a high ground that traverses the bogs and swamps of grandiosity and self-hatred. Humility chooses to follow God’s plan over our own. When we live humbly, which we can be defined as consistently choosing God’s way of doing things over our own way of doing things, impossibly good things begin to happen to otherwise impossible people like us. We get turned inside out. Our attitude begins to change. Our outlook on life becomes healthier and more balanced. The destructive feelings we have had for ourselves will diminish. We will begin to see things differently. As we change on the inside, things around us begin to change as well. Life and the way we live it begin to make sense.

Humility is an acceptance of ourselves, sin and all. Humility helps us to see ourselves with one eye to evaluate and the other eye to appreciate. Humility admits to shortcoming and wrongdoing, then it reaches out and accepts the help that is needed to make serious changes. Humility helps us to understand the problems that we cannot solve on our own. This is why Jesus becomes increasingly important to us in our recovery. For you see, God never expects us to solve all of our problems on our own. He understands that our character defects and our addictions are beyond our ability to change. So, God offers to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He offers to transform us by taking our character defects and, in exchange, replacing them with the character of Jesus. All we have to do to is to give up our character defects to Him and humbly receive Jesus’ character as God, according to His plan, builds it in us.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

KEEP MAKING THE CHOICE

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.  I Corinthians 10:24, The Message

For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.
- C. S. Lewis

Keep Making the Choice

If we ever think that our healing is primarily for our benefit, the selfishness of our thinking reveals just how little we have been healed. On the other hand, when we believe that our healing is to be lived out for the benefit of others, our lives will bear witness to how we have been healed already. In either case, there is just one remaining question and it will never change. We will face it day in and day out, minute by minute, with every breath we take. The question is, Who owns us? Will we live for God and others or will we die in addiction and shame? The answer we give to this question will determine what kind of people we will be and how we will live out our lives.

How we answer this question is not the end of our responsibility; it’s just the beginning. All too often, we tend to compartmentalize our lives, and judge ourselves wrongly because we use the wrong criteria to evaluate and measure ourselves. We assume that we are doing well because parts of our life are in good order, while we ignore other areas of our life that are all messed up. Or, we judge ourselves too harshly because of one mistake, when in reality there is significant progress that we don’t see. Compartmentalizing and judging ourselves in this way is like determining the winner of a baseball game after just the first or second inning. It’s like judging a painting before the artist has completed his work. We need to always remember that God is the only perfect judge. God does not judge us by the pieces or compartments of our lives, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves that way either. He recognizes that the whole package of our lives, beginning with the condition of our hearts, is what really counts. He never looks down on us with a red pen and a grade book in hand. He judges us according to the love and righteousness of Christ. So, we should embrace His grace by measuring ourselves by our willingness to follow and obey Him. And even when we fall short and sin, we are not without God’s grace. Above all, God wants us to know that we are not worthless or hopeless, even when we are at our worst.

God’s grace through Christ gives us the power to recover from our addictions and to walk humbly with God, but it does not make us completely immune to sin or our addictions. We should never think that we are in full control of our lives because, if we go our own way, placing our confidence in ourselves, we become susceptible to relapse and the dire consequences that inevitably follow. If and when we hold even one thing back, we have not really given Him our lives. This doesn’t mean that walking with God is an all or nothing thing, because it isn’t. Walking with God is progressive. Walking with God is a growth in which we expand and enlarge our acceptance and expression of the grace that He has already given us.

All this is to say that no matter how well or how poorly we have surrendered our lives to God, there is still more to be offered up. Surrender is never relevant in the past tense, but it is always relevant in the here and now. We have to be willing to give the whole of our lives to God, all the good and all the bad, the best that we possibly can, or our life as a whole will not belong to Him at all.

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