Tuesday, October 10, 2017

INTEGRITY INSIDE AND OUT

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

God is in charge of human life, watching and examining us from the inside and out.
Proverbs 20:27, The Message


“The genesis of an obedient life is our confession, most notably the confession of our disobedience is what prompts us to live an obedient life with God.”
- Ann Lamott, page 99, Bird by Bird

Integrity Inside and Out

Ever notice how easy it is to become more concerned with how we look on the outside than with the honest reality of our inner character? It’s not like we intend to be dishonest because we don’t. We want and intend to live right and to do good but, inevitably it seems, we slip off the path of God’s leading when we become overly concerned with how we look to others. Then, the failures that follow make us feel embarrassed and ashamed so we naturally – instinctively - cover up and hide the failure and powerlessness that we don’t want others to see.

Trying to act ‘good’ on the outside in order to show that we are ‘good’ on the inside sets us up for failure. It adds to our dysfunctional way of thinking and living. We think and feel one way but then we act out in other ways, ways that are contrary to what we know to be right. And, when our actions go against our true convictions, we get split into pieces spiritually and psychologically. This results in a kind of deep interpersonal disintegration that, sadly, we will probably not even realize is happening to us. Just like with our primary addiction, the only way to break this cycle of denial and disintegration is to admit that we have a problem. Specifically, we have to be willing to admit that we suffer from the great obsession that all human beings, with the exception of Jesus, seem to suffer from; we want to be bigger and more powerful than we really are.

To address this kind of deep-rooted sinfulness effectively, we have to admit that we are obsessed with getting our act together so that others will be impressed with us and our efforts. We must admit our struggles if we want to be free from them. This even includes admitting how obsessed we have been to overcome our struggles. We need to admit that we don’t have our act together and that we never did have our act together. We need to accept in our innermost selves that even if it were possible for us to get our act together, all that we would ever have would be nothing more than an act.

The first act of integrity is to admit that we lack integrity.



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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

THE DECISION

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

“If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow Me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for Me, you will find it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26


“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything.”
- Bernadette Devlin

The Decision

It has been said that everyone will have their Waterloo. Now, in addiction we have found ours, too. We can no longer deceive ourselves, or anyone else for that matter. Our addictions have been profound. We know it, and other people know it too. Because of this, we just don’t have the energy to go on the way we’ve been going. Physically, mentally, and spiritually we’re done. It’s all over. It’s the end. It seems that we’re as good as dead. But here, when we’re at the end of ourselves, there is a calling for us. God, the giver of life, is calling for us to accept the loss of our own lives in order to accept the life that he has to give us.

The decision to surrender ourselves to God’s care is far more personal and practical than religious. We surrender our will and life to God because if we continue to live as we have, our addictions will destroy us. We’ve simply come to understand that God is a life-or-death decision for all of us. And today, each of us decides whether we are willing to trust God or continue our journey alone. Failing to trust leaves us spiritually alone and unprotected against our own progressing addictions. This is a potentially fatal mistake for anyone who has an addiction.

When we decide to trust God we are not making a religious decision, although many religions encourage us to do this as well. You see it’s not religion that we need. If religion was the answer for our addictions those of us who came from religious backgrounds would never have had the addictions that we’ve had. What we really need is intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is far more personal than religious. It is an intimacy that transcends all that we are as human beings. Intimacy with God puts God inside of us. It makes us bigger than what we could ever be on our own. We call it a surrender because we can’t be exactly sure how this intimacy with God will affect us. But while we may not know exactly how God and his goodness will play out in our lives we do know that it will be far better than staying in our addictions.

Ultimately, all of us will stand before God with their future literally in their own hands, making their life decision for themselves in their own personal way. Some recovering addicts, when they made their decision to trust their life to God, experienced immediate and profound gratitude with dramatic emotional outbursts. Others experienced only a quiet sense of relief that their life would change. Whatever the experience is for us as individuals, each of us must understand that it is far better to make the decision to surrender and trust than continue on the way we were going. We know that we must have God’s help and we have decided to ask for it.

As we make the decision to surrender our lives to God, let’s pray in ways that are personal and intimate. Let’s pray like this…

Dear God,
Only you are God and I am not. You are the Maker and Fulfiller of life. As for me, I know that I originate from you, that I exist because of you. Today, I make the decision to give myself to you, the best I know how. You own me, as far as I am concerned. I am yours. I give you my old life and I ask for you to give me your life. You can do with me anything you want to do.

Now there are times when I get deceived and I become distracted from you. When I do, I feel that you are far away and I am hurt, from the inside out, when I sin. But, according to your Word and your promises, I know that You are always with me. Only You can save me from my addictions and my sins, renewing me in the center of my soul, my will. You protect me, You save me, You transform me.

I thank You for the changes in me that You have promised. I want to be more of yours. I seek You, and by your grace I am finding and knowing You. It is my desire to know You more intimately and to more effectively live out the life You have for me. Amen

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

MILLIE ANN'S STORY

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23,24, NLT


“As you discover your faults and sins, make no effort in your own strength to overcome them. This is a waste of time! Rather, abandon yourself immediately to God. Only He is able to destroy in you all that displeases Him.”
- Jeanne Guyon, Intimacy with Christ

Millie Ann’s Story

It seems like I make the best discoveries when I am going through the toughest times. As a result of one particular issue that has repeatedly brought tough times to me, I’ve come to realize how God can help me to better deal with all of the difficulties that I suffer.

For years I had been working myself into a frenzy over my inability to handle my finances. Now I want you to know that I make a good income and I have always known that there is no good reason for me to run out of money. However, time after time I would overspend and have to borrow money to make ends meet. This happened numerous times and every time I would end up in great despair, feeling isolated and hopeless about ever overcoming my bad habits and problems related to money. I can’t count how many times I promised to do better and to change, but the harder I tried the worse things got for me. Each day I was feeling more inadequate. I seriously doubted my ability to manage my own life. I was becoming ever more desperate.

Then one day, when I was quietly considering my situation, I realized that I was dealing with a very serious character defect. I had never thought of my problem in this way before. I had always thought that I could solve this problem as long as I worked hard enough or smart enough. But when I started to think of my problem in terms of a character defect I realized that I could never solve this problem on my own. It was, at the very least, bigger than me. I knew that I had to turn myself over to God in a more profound and personal way, otherwise this character defect would continue to rule me, ultimately destroying my and my daughter’s future.

My sponsor from AA led to me Christ when I was about 6 months sober. While I had grown up attending church with my family, I had never known Christ as anything more than someone the priest talked about at Mass. The Christ I came to know by way of my sponsor was someone who had an interest in me and someone who I believed would want to be with me all of the time. Now, in turning over this most desperate problem that lived so deep within me, I felt like I wanted Christ to move into me in an ever deeper way in order to get rid of this deeply-rooted character defect. Later that same day I went into my bedroom and I got down on my knees beside my bed and prayed (pleading and begging was more like it) for Christ to take away this horribly defective part of my character. As I prayed I began to experience a very quiet sense of relief. Obviously nothing had changed in that moment except for maybe me. I knew that I did not have to bear this burden by myself anymore. I knew that God was going to be with me and He was going to help me. This made a world of difference.

Over the next few weeks I began to think a little differently about my problem. I began to see money differently too. I realized that I had always been afraid of the responsibility of money and I had always been scared of success. Not wanting to be scared anymore, I started to look around for someone who could help me learn to better manage my income and finances. Remembering that someone once told me that prayer without action is a waste of time, I enrolled in a credit counseling program that was free of charge. The people at this program helped me to develop a budget that was workable, one that did not put my back up to the wall. I made no promises to anyone, not even to myself. My only commitment was to continue to surrender my character defect and my fear to God and to act in accordance with the guidance given to me by my credit counselor. It took over two years but I finally got all of my credit cards paid off and I have begun saving money in the hopes of buying a home for me and my daughter.

My life is now marked by an increasing number of surrenders. Most are more subtle than the surrender I made over money. I have gained a greater appreciation for Christ and I believe more strongly than ever in His love and compassion for me. Life for me is far from perfect. I am, after all, a single mother who spent much of her life living wrongly and there are still consequences for my failures. But, right in the midst of the hardships of my life, I know that the power of God is always available to me as long as I ask Him for His help and I surrender my will to His.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LIFE LIBERATED

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

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law.
Romans 13:8, NIV

“Honest men fear neither the light nor the dark.”
- Thomas Fuller, M.D.

Life Liberated

Learning to love ourselves the way that God loves us will give us an ever increasing freedom to live our lives. This freedom to live is not just a freedom from our addictions; it is a fully liberated life that begins on the inside of us and then it moves out into all of the ways that we express ourselves. 

The liberty that God gives is not subject to the limitations and demands that we experience in our day-to-day lives, and while this freedom is bigger than our everyday lives, it does not make us immune to feeling fear when we are faced with uncertainty. God gives the kind of freedom and liberty that empowers and equips us to act with courage even in the face of uncertainty, when we feel fear. And, in the same way, we may feel pain but we can act with kindness even when feeling pain. The gift and responsibility of freedom is most evident when we address the negative consequences we’ve created, and when we make amends to those who have been hurt by the way we’ve lived in the past. When speaking with those to whom we owe amends, we will want to share with them that we recognize that we have had an addiction, that we know that our past actions have been hurtful and that we want to make things right to the best of our ability. Sharing the facts of our addictions and our mistakes in a general way allows us to communicate with others from a standpoint of humility and honesty. We don’t have to share every gory and ugly detail with them. We don’t need to air out all of our dirty laundry either. This is not about the past; it is about the present and about the future. We should only share what will be helpful to them and to others. Being forthright in this way, we begin to establish healthier communication with those that we’ve hurt. It will also help to put them at ease and it will put us in a place where we can more effectively make the amends that we need to make. Sharing in this way will also open the door for others to honestly share their feelings with us. Dialogue must be an honest two-way street. We must be willing to listen – honestly and openly listen -- in order to understand how we have hurt them and what we need to do to help them.

Some amends can and should be made face-to-face. Some can never be made directly. Others will have to be postponed for a better time. We’ll be of little benefit to anyone, if in our attempts to clear our own conscience, we offer ourselves as sacrificial lambs. We should consult with our sponsors and our counselors about situations where we face serious consequences. We never want to run away from the reality of our past mistakes but we also do not want to be shortsighted, disregarding our current relationships or responsibilities in an attempt to be a hero to the past. Our sponsors and counselors helped us to know how to handle each situation. When we face situations where people demand certain answers from us that we do not want to give, we consult with our sponsors and counselors. Sometimes a three-way meeting between us, our victim and our counselors is necessary for things to get going in the right direction. There is rarely a good reason to hurry. It is far better to do recovery well than to do it fast!

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