Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A GOD THING

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

“The strength of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.” -Henry Ward Beecher

It’s a God Thing

Medical doctors call addiction a disease because it embeds itself into our bodies physiologically, creating dependencies that have definitive symptoms. Psychologists will often refer to addiction as “attachment” because in addiction we become “attached” to things in ways that are destructive to us. Religious teachers often call addiction idolatry and sin because of the way that addictions skew our personal priorities. Because addiction can be seen from differing points of view it is important for us to understand that each viewpoint has merit because addiction affects the whole person. That is, physically, mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Addictions hook our bodies by creating bio-chemical dependencies in our brains. It takes hold of our lives by creating attachments to people, places and things that we addictively think are necessary for us when they really are not. And, our addictions keep us from having a meaningful connection with God because we value the things we are addicted to more than we value God. Whichever viewpoint is considered, the result of addiction is the same. Lives erode and people die in one way or another.

It has been said that addiction is the most human of all diseases. After all, addiction has been around since man has been around and in one way or another we are all addicted to something. In the past, addiction has affected us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But we don’t need to stay addicted any longer. When we become willing to seek a spiritual solution to our addictions, we will begin to find solutions for the physical, mental and emotional problems as well. The willingness to look for a new kind of spiritual solution is a kind of grace. We say it’s grace because as we admit that we need help and in coming to believe that we can be restored to sanity, the downward spiral of our addiction has been interrupted. This is something that we could not do on our own.

Furthermore, it is grace that we have the opportunity to take steps that will help heal us. This is a decisive dignity that we had once lost to our addictions. Somehow, in grace that is at the precise point where our hopeless desperations collided with the hopeful desire to find sanity for our lives we’ll find a decisiveness that we didn’t have before. Because the pain of staying the same was more than the pain of changing, we decided, without even realizing it, which is grace, to reach out and grab onto what we’ve come to believe will restore sanity to our lives. Seeking to recover from our addictions, through the power of grace, we seek the Kingdom of God which means to simply make God the King of our lives. For you see, The Kingdom of God is nothing more than the place where God is King.

Remember our friend David from Psalms 38:3-8? Some believe that David had serious problems with addiction. We don’t know for sure but it’s possible that David may have been addicted to sex. Considering how he pursued a sexual relationship with Bathsheba, who was a married woman, and how he orchestrated the circumstances where her husband would be killed in order to hide his sexual impropriety, there is evidence to the real possibility that David was addicted to sex. Most poignant of all is that he seemed to be in deep denial of the consequences of his actions. David, like any addict, was blind to see how his actions where hurting others.

To David’s credit, when his wrongs came into the light, he did not waste a lot of time arguing. He not only realized how wrong his actions were but he also realized that he had unwittingly become, in his addictions that is, his own worst enemy. This helps to explain how David, as he wrote in the Psalms, “I'm on my last legs; I've had it - my life is a vomit of groans,” had found himself at a decisive crossroads. He realized, as we have, that his life was unmanageable and he needed to change in order for his life to change. David was, as we are, at the crossroads of faith and decision. The ultimate question for David, as it is for us as well, is what will the future be like. David, in Psalms 18:1-3 tells us how he expressed his willingness to reach out and connect with a Power that would make a difference in his life.

Our friend David would not allow his addiction to define his entire life, though there was no escaping the consequences of his past. He decisively committed in his heart and mind to seek out a relationship with God. In so doing, David began to find a new and healthy identity for himself. Ultimately, David came to be known as a man after God’s own heart, even in spite of his addictions. The same can happen to us. As we come to believe that we can be restored to sanity, we gain the opportunity to discover and live out a whole new identity. It’s an identity and life that is a perfectly scripted plan for our lives by the design of a loving and caring God. The possibility to live this miracle is here so the only question for us is, will we be willing to live it out?

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHEN THE BLIND SEE

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, "Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!" Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, "Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped in his tracks. "Call him over." They called him. "It's your lucky day! Get up! He's calling you to come!" Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus. Jesus said, "What can I do for you?" The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "On your way," said Jesus. "Your faith has saved and healed you." In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road. Mark 10:46-52 The Message

"It's really very simple, either God is going to save me, or I'm screwed."
~ Robert Orman

When The Blind See

Enmeshed into and promoting all addictive behaviors, is a self-defeating and destructive way of thinking. It’s the way that we’ve seen ourselves and life as a whole that has been the problem. This includes inaccurate and distorted personal beliefs and self-centered agendas that send us time and again into insane activities. With this in mind we can begin to see that our problems are deeper than our behaviors; our problems are how we perceive ourselves and life as a whole.

We all can change the outside of our lives temporarily, but it’s been changing the insides that has been impossible up to now. As we get honest about our addictions we can begin to see that some of the most pervasive damage done to us has been the result of a way of thinking that was closed-minded, selfish, and chronically frustrated and negative. At best our lives have been a groping around in darkness. At times we would see something that we think will help us and we grasp for it only to find that it was nothing more than a vapor or a shadow. Life was always getting worse, never better. We were dying a little more every day. All this is what God wants to change.

In Mark 10:46-52 we read about a blind man who encountered Jesus and came away having had his blindness healed. This blind man, whose name was Bartimaeus, can be our guide as to how we, too, can find our blindness of perspectives healed and made whole by God. Bartimaeus’ blindness was apparently physical, where ours is more a spiritual and psychological blindness. But, the principles that we need to apply to our lives are the same. Bartimaeus, when he heard that Jesus was coming down the road, abandoned his place, and in “throwing off his coat” made a mad dash to seek out Jesus. It seems that Bartimaeus was hungry and desperate for healing. This desperate hunger, along with a hopeful belief that it was possible for Jesus to help him, caused him to take decisive action. Bartimaeus’ belief in the possibility that his life could be made whole drew an amazing affirmation from Jesus himself. Jesus said, "Your faith has saved and healed you."

This is what it can be like for us. As we come to believe that it is possible for our lives to be different, God, working through others, can heal us, giving us renewed sight to see perspectives of sanity and health. Our lives will be different. We can be healed. We will be healed. Most likely it will not be an instantaneous healing like our friend Bartimaeus had, but a healing restoration of sanity nonetheless. Most often the healing that we will experience will be a slowly developing correction of poor eyesight. As we seek out the help that God provides, we will, one day at a time, experience increasing clarity of thinking and a growing sense that our future will be bright, happy, joyous and free. Furthermore, as we accept the friendship of the blind man and as we place our hope in Jesus, we come to believe that God loves to heal the blind.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PROCEED WITH CAUTION

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

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never – I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Luke 6:35-36, The Message

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, “What are you going through? - Simone Weil

Proceed with Caution

Most of our lives have been spent in a ditch of selfishness alongside the road of life. As we move forward, trying to get our life back on track, it is critical that we maintain a balanced perspective. It is very easy to overcorrect and end up in another ditch where we obsessively think that we have to right every wrong perfectly. This kind of perfectionistic thinking will hurt us. It is fanciful, make-believe, and it will stand in the way of our relationship with God. Perfectionistic thinking is of the devil. Even God, while He is perfect, is not a perfectionist and we should not be one either. Having a balanced point of view that recognizes both our responsibilities and our limitations will help us to make rational decisions and find workable solutions as we make our amends.

There will be times where it’s impossible for us to make amends because we simply do not have the internal fortitude that we need. There will also be situations where we lack the resources or the opportunity we need, so we will have to defer our efforts to another time. And, there will be situations where approaching certain people is not a wise thing to do because we may do more harm than good.

We need to be careful when contacting anyone that we have had inappropriate sexual relationships with, or when contacting anyone who has acted out our addictions with us. Old acquaintances, with no ill will, can easily derail us and we can derail them too. In light of this fact, it is essential that we keep ourselves away from situations where we may relapse and lose the freedom that we have worked so hard to gain. In addition to this, we must be vigilant to avoid situations where our best intentions may create more hurt and harm to other people, especially to the innocent bystanders that are close to us and to those whom we have hurt. If God wants us to see former lovers and acquaintances, He will arrange for us to meet them in a way where we can all be safe. We should ask our sponsors and our counselors what they think regarding these situations. They will have good advice for us as to how we can safely and reasonably, make these most difficult amends.

While it may not be wise for us to contact certain people directly, we can begin to make amends to them by assisting other people who essentially represent them in some way. Changing our attitude towards people in general, especially to those to whom we are sexually attracted, and giving all kinds of people appropriate and dignified respect is a great beginning. Making amends to former lovers and to people that we have objectified is vital for us to increase the integrity that has taken root in us. Letting go of titillating fantasies or memories of sexual conquest is a great place to start in making these kinds of amends. And we also must be willing to give up the notion that we need others to meet our needs, financially, socially, relationally or romantically. Making amends requires that we stop seeing others as objects for pleasure, protection or provision. People belong to God, not to us. Making amends requires that we redirect our memories and see the past with realistic clarity. Doing this will help change the way we think. One way to do this is to pray for those whom we’ve held hostage in our fantasies and memories. We just let go of our lusts, sexual or otherwise. This pays off for us in a big way because praying for others changes us at the most fundamental level of our mind and our emotions. Prayer, over time, changes the way that we see others and ourselves. As we pray for others, let us pray for their health, their safety and their happiness, praying that they would experience the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams and, more importantly, come to a place where they experience the ever increasing power of God’s love.

As we are willing to change the way we think and act, we will develop healthier ways of responding to the thoughts, the memories and the varying stimulations that have driven our addictive and destructive impulses in the past. And, as we make amends to others we will see a positive change in our current and future relationships.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BEING THE REAL DEAL

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the Lord. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 
Psalm 32:5

“We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing.  We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty faces is what we really look like.”
-Simon Tugwell

Being the Real Deal           
Honesty is the best investment that we can make in our recovery. No one can do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves. When we invest ourselves, honestly, it will always pay off for us in very, very good ways. We will discover an authentic goodness about ourselves that we never knew existed. We will find an inner confidence that is unlike anything we have ever known before.
           
Most of us, like our friend Marie, have gone through our lives attempting to solve problems that were not ours to solve. Focusing on other people’s problems keeps us from facing the reality of our own lives. It’s been this kind of avoidance that has kept us from experiencing the happy, joyous and free life that God has to give. Marie’s growing honesty, while still in progress, gives us a wonderful picture of how we can, like Marie, make peace with ourselves by accepting the reality of our failures and shortcomings and then openly and honestly sharing them with God and another person. By recognizing and admitting the painful reality of her splintered heart, Marie was able to find the quality of life and personal relationships that she had been searching for all of her life. This kind of openness and honesty transforms our perspectives. It changes how we think and feel about God, ourselves and other people. It breaks down the walls of isolation. Having the experience of being heard, observed, known, included, loved and embraced, in spite of our addictions, sins and mistakes, radically changes everything about us. When we receive the power of love that someone else gives to us through their listening ear, compassion and understanding soak into us deeply. The poison of self-hatred and condemnation get washed away.
           
Like Marie, we need to recognize and admit the ways that we have been trying to control our lives by manipulating others. We need to admit how we have been selfish, even when we have hidden it within religious practice or good appearances. The masks we wear will suffocate us. Without honest confession, we will begin to believe our own deceptions. We will begin to think that we really are the actors and pretenders that we have portrayed ourselves to be. On the other hand, getting honest with another person is the foundation of healthy, trusting relationships. If we don’t do this, we will have no one to trust but ourselves and we will make ourselves a prisoner of our own fear and deceit. We’ll become all the more alone. Inevitably, we will become more foolish and less capable of making solid decisions for our lives.  We will want relief from our pain, but we won’t have it because we are unwilling to open ourselves up to God and get honest with others. To not be open and to not share ourselves honestly puts us in the horrible position of being our greatest abuser and our greatest victim, as well.
           
If we are not willing to share all that we are with God and another person, we will not move toward wholeness and integrity. Establishing a trusting relationship with God and another person creates an environment where spiritual and emotional wholeness will flourish inside of us.  In Scripture God says that we are all sinners and that we are all loved by Him. God also says that we can all be saved by the grace He showed us in the life of Jesus Christ. All that God requires of us is that we become honest about our sinful condition and honestly ask for his help.

If we think or claim anything more than this, be it good or bad, we will deceive ourselves. If we deceive ourselves we will never enjoy the life that God has to give to us. God gives real life to real people. If we want to have the real life that God has to give us, we will have to get real ourselves.

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