Friday, August 31, 2012

Operation Integrity in Christianity Today: "Real, Deep, Honest"


Christianity Today: "Real, Deep, Honest"

Operation Integrity's David Zailer believes the ministry of Christianity Today opens the conversation for difficult issues.
 

byChris Lutes
 
David Zailer, executive director of Operation Integrity, received a call from a respected church leader who'd been struggling with a secret porn addiction throughout his four decades in ministry. He'd found out about Zailer's addiction recovery ministry through a Leadership Journal article titled "Surprised by Addiction." So, he decided to give Zailer a call. The man is now taking positive steps to deal with his addiction—steps he was willing to take, says Zailer, because ministries like Christianity Today wade boldly into some of the church's most taboo and troubling issues. ChristianityToday.org recently talked to Zailer about why the church benefits from Leadership Journal and the entire ministry of Christianity Today.

What role do you believe Leadership Journal plays in your ministry and the church at large?
When Leadership Journal publishes stories like "Surprised by Addiction," it helps create an open and honest conversation about difficult issues that are often not discussed in the church. Articles like that strip away the veneer to reveal what's really there. Leadership Journal willingly wades into territory often uncharted by religious culture. I find that refreshing.

It gets beneath the surface of polite church conversation, doesn't it?
Articles like "Surprised by Addiction" and "Help for the Sexually Desperate" [that appeared in Christianity Today magazine] humanize the issue of addiction—they put a personal story behind the struggle. Now, there will be those in the religious community who'll look at articles like these and wag a judgmental finger at these pastors and church leaders. But there's also going to be the pastor who says, "I have no finger to wag, no more stones to throw. In fact, I think I have an addiction too."

Talk more about how these articles humanize the issue.
They help us see good in these pastors. You come to see them as courageous for their honesty and for the positive steps they've taken. It's the kind of courage that causes someone to cry out, "You know, I am past worrying about what people will think of me. I have some serious work to do here—and now is my opportunity to do that work."

What about the entire ministry of Christianity Today? Why do you feel it's needed?
Christianity Today is a voice of balance in a religious culture that can be so divided. You seek to unify—to find common ground. While you strive to be theologically accurate, you don't pick sides on issues that don't have black-and-white answers.

Finally, what do you appreciate most about this ministry?
I both admire and appreciate Christianity Today's willingness to deal with difficult topics in such a sensitive and human way. You don't simply do inspirational fluff stories. Your articles are real, deep, and honest. You don't gloss over issues, pretending they aren't there. You also don't follow the latest trend or simply cover what's fashionable. Those sorts of qualities and commitments give you a great deal of credibility.

Chris Lutes is on the editorial team of Christianity Today, serving the ministries of Men of Integrity, ChristianBibleStudies.com, and SmallGroups.com

 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Emotional Triggers

We became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8 The Message

“No matter what we do or where we hide, we can’t escape our essential design. We long to be free of shame’s restraints, immersed in the passion of giving and receiving.We long to live a sacrificial life that matters today and tomorrow.” - Dan Allender Ph D

Emotional Triggers
It is a good idea for us to review our Step Four inventory along with our sponsor or counselor. When doing this review with an open mind and heart, we can begin to see how difficult emotions can be triggers for our addictions. While emotions can be our triggers, our character defects are the building blocks of addiction, and our self-centeredness is the cement which holds our addictive nature together. We will never find the freedom to recover and live well until we remove all of these addictive components from within us.
 
In reviewing our inventory, we can see how our character defects began innocently when we were children. They were our means of survival. We learned to manipulate to get our needs met. We lied to protect ourselves. We hid our emotions to avoid embarrassment and shame. We rationalized things in order to escape ugly realities that were too much for us to bear alone. Our character defects are really ineffective tools for coping and control. They are our methods of minimizing pain and diffusing threats that we see coming our way. Without realizing it, our character defects have become a kind of strategy to care for ourselves when are afraid that no one else will.
 
We may feel afraid when we think of losing our defective coping mechanisms. After all, we have, at least to some degree, subconsciously thought that our character defects were important for us to survive. Thinking this way, we will subconsciously mourn the thought of having our character defects removed from us. Because letting go of our character defects can be painful, it is important that we lean on those who have been working at recovery longer than we have. Those who have more experience will understand our pain and fear. Fearing the loss of a coping mechanism is understandable, but it is essential for us to grieve these losses without complaint so that we can effectively move on down the path of recovery.
 
Exercising courage makes it possible to learn new and healthy ways to live our lives without resorting to the addictions that we have relied on in the past. With courage, we trade our destructive emotions and addictions for the simple gift of gratitude. Gratitude posts a guard at the door of our hearts, which is to be accessed only by God and those whom He allows. Gratitude will help us to be thankful for life as it is, not how we wish it or expect it to be. Today and every day, we stand at a crossroad. But we don’t stand alone. Our recovery fellowship stands with us.Even better, the Source of all power, God, has joined the battle for us to live a new way, to become new people, to be free.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Would you help Operation Integrity help others?


August 21, 2012


Dear Operation Integrity Supporter,


This summer has been blazing, both in temperature and in speed in how the days have flown by. I am in full prep mode for a very busy Fall Season of service and Christ-centered recovery programming, both here in southern California and elsewhere in the US. As I prepare to meet our scheduled obligations, it is clear we will need help and need it fast.


Currently, our scholarship budget is depleted. These scholarships help fund recovery programs for those who show intense diligence in their Operation Integrity recovery program, but who cannot afford it. These scholarships frequently benefit pastors and other clergy whose modest incomes make it impossible for them to cover the costs of their care. With your help, Operation Integrity can continue to help those in need rebuild their life from the inside-out, which in turn heals their marriages, families, churches and re-strengthens them for future ministry.


We also need immediate help for travel expenses. Operation Integrity is sending me out on the road for most of October. While some expenses will be covered by churches and organizations who have invited me to come teach and speak, it is our intention that I visit some of the very small recovery groups that Operation Integrity has planted and grown around the U.S. I will travel to Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Kentucky. I will travel in the most economical way possible, staying with friends and families who are connected with Operation Integrity whenever possible.


We are seeking immediate assistance to cover costs we anticipate to be $7,200.00. I ask that you help us accomplish the work we believe God has laid out for Operation Integrity to do. I also want to thank you  personally for your past support, and ask for your support in prayer, which is always of utmost importance.


Donations can be made conveniently online by going to this link for Operation Integrity…




Or you can mail them to                Operation Integrity
                                                            24040 Camino del Avion #A115
                                                            Monarch Beach CA 92629            



Sincerely yours in Christ and recovery,



David Zailer
Executive Director


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.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Seeing The Big Picture

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

… First! Wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too. Matthew 23:26NLT


"I am not good, only God is good.However, as I get to know God better, I am being made better." - Anonymous


Seeing the Big Picture
It is vitally important that we recognize all of the possible ways that addiction has become part of our lives. Tragically, many people begin their recovery journey only to become derailed by other addictions that they didn’t recognize and address. Addiction, most often thought of as related to alcohol, food, drugs, sex, and gambling, is most accurately thought of as any kind of destructive dependency. Addiction is almost limitless in the way that it can destroy our lives.

Today, it is becoming ever more common for treatment centers to diagnose their patients with co-occurring addictions that parallel and commingle with the originally identified addiction. For the sake of our recovery, it is important for us to evaluate all aspects of our addictions(s), the best we can. If we don’t, our most pronounced addiction cannot be healed.

The list of common addictions includes:
  • Mind and mood-altering substances like alcohol, nicotine and other drugs
  • A burdening need to work, achieve or succeed
  • Overspending, gambling, or hoarding money
  • An unhealthy view of sex, craving pornography and/or romantic relationships
  • Approval seeking and having unhealthy dependencies on family and other people
  • Unbalanced desire for exercise, the need to look good or pursuing unnecessary medical procedures
  • Addictions related to food and/or the aversion to food
  • Unhealthy view of religion, and/or over emphasis on religious practice that reduces the intimacy of personal spirituality

Honestly addressing all of our addictions helps us become more open to God. Exercising the humility to recognize and admit our most subtle addictions enables us to experience courage like we have never experienced it before. In this way, God will make it possible for all of our addictions to be transformed into healthy and powerful assets. With this in mind, let us not blind ourselves to any of our addictions. Whatever addiction we ignore can potentially reignite our most powerful addictions and this can bring great harm to our lives and to the lives of our loved ones.

Things to Think About
·How would you describe your most profound addiction?
·Write down some of the various ways that you have been triggered to act out in your primary addiction?
·What are some of the social environments that tempt you to act out?
·Who are some of the people who tempt you to act out?
·What are some of the things that you do under the influence of your addiction that you would not otherwise do?
·What foods do you crave when you are sad, lonely or tired?
·Name some things that you have done while acting out that you would not had previously thought you would never do.
·When you think about your addiction, what are some of the other things you crave that you know are not right for you?
·How have you “accidentally” found yourself acting out in your addiction when you just meant to have some fun in another way?

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer  Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Monday, August 6, 2012

God As We Understood Him

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



This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
John 3:16-18 The Message

God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.May I do Thy will always!Amen
- Third Step prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous

God As We Understood Him

I am not God and neither are you. We must fully accept this simple fact if we are to ever have an effective and workable understanding of God.

As children, seemingly from birth that is, we tend to think that everyone and everything around us is connected to us. As we grow up a little we come to realize that we are separate from the world and only part of a larger context, but we still tend to think of the world in relationship to ourselves. It’s like we are the center of our own universe. We feel good when the ”world,” the people, the places and the things around us, give us what we think we need. But when the “world” doesn’t cooperate we tend to feel bad and then we try to change the “world” so that we can feel better. This has never worked for any of us. No matter how hard we’ve tried, we cannot control the people, the places, or the things around us all of the time. Because we believed that it was so important for us to be in control of our world, and because we invariably failed to control this world of ours, we could never provide any sense of security or well being for ourselves. No matter how hard we tried, we could not do what only God can do.

No matter how good or bad we feel, or what degree of success or failure we experience, one thing is for sure: things are going to change. God is the only constant. He is The Only Reality. The lives that we know are only temporary. The only way that we will ever experience any relevance or permanence in our life is through a relationship with God. As we understand that no one is God but God, we can begin to experience life in a way that not only transcends our addictions but all of our other failures and shortcomings, too. This is because our life, including all of our addictions and failures, becomes lost into the life that God will give to us. We’ll no longer be the center of our world. That job belongs to God and no one else.

When we really think about it, understanding God is a contradiction in terms. He is beyond our comprehension, after all. But, because of the way God made us, our hearts can know what our minds cannot. God, who is the ultimate above and beyond and more than us - actually, through the working of his Spirit - meets us within us, in our spirit that is. As God comes from the outside of us, and works within us we receive on the inside of us what it was that we needed in order to move up and beyond the addictions that have kept us down for so long. In short, God is the complete other than and more than what we can do in our own efforts. God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In our addictions, we had become attached to things in ways that are destructive for us. When we rely on our attachments (whatever they are) to make us feel okay, we expect more from them than they can ever really give to us. God, however, is the perfect attachment because He is not addictive in any way. While the attachments that we made in our addictions end up taking more than they give, making an attachment with God will always give to us more than we can ever need. Besides, all that we are really giving to God is our addicted life and He gives back to us a life that is free, complete, and eternal in every way. When God is the center of our world, our life and world get put right, in order, complete, and powerful. Our relationship with God is the only relationship we will ever have that cannot become addictive or unhealthy in any way. This is because God is totally good. He cannot corrupt us because there is no corruption in Him. He cannot become unhealthy for us because He’s not unhealthy in any way. Sometimes, religious pride or indoctrination masquerades as God. This happens when it is based more on human intellect and reasoning than on faith in God himself. When this happens, religion becomes nothing more than religious posing and faking which is both highly destructive and addictive. If it is unhealthy or addictive, it is not of God. Sadly, religious addiction is perhaps the most insidious of all addictions.

Scripture is a rich history that tells us that God loves people who have addictions. God not only loves people like us, he likes us, too. He delights in the way we yearn to experience life in the most full way. Individually, He loves us and wants us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. We know this because there are people who’ve been addicted like us and who have discovered God’s love for themselves. Thankfully, an authentic relationship with God is not a matter of how smart we are, but how sincere we are with Him. He takes care of the rest. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s the way God is.

All of us, whether we recognize it or not, need God. We all need to know that someone is loving enough and powerful enough to perfectly love and care for us in the ways that we really need. Jesus is the One Person who has always known God in this way. Jesus reveals to us who God is and what He is like. God will never be exactly what we want Him to be, but He will always be what we truly need Him to be. Throughout history, as recorded in Scripture, there has been only one person whose life displayed perfection of purpose, whose death exemplified the perfection of love, and who had the power to live again after death, which has changed the course of world history and our own addicted lives. This is Jesus. Unlike all other human beings, Jesus was not addicted to anything in any way. Jesus had all of the same human attachments that we all have, but He never became addicted to his attachments because He put His full confidence in God and God, alone. Because His life was fully centered around God the entire scope of Jesus’ life was free.

Through Jesus, God embraces everyone who wants to be embraced. Showing this through the scriptural record, God, as He was living through Jesus, even forgave those who were attempting to destroy Him. Scripture tells us in Luke 23:34 that he even expressed love for those who were killing Him, because He knew and understood that they just didn’t know or understand who He was or what He was all about. After giving up His life, Jesus lived again and as He appeared to His followers, He declared once and for all that He is The One who is capable of giving life to addicted and dying people like us.


Jesus lived His life close to those who were, just like us, in desperate need of Him. In so doing He calls us to himself, to his love and to his God our Father. It is in Jesus that we can have confidence for life and recovery. Through Him we are empowered to live.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Saying Thank You

I want to express my deep gratitude to my friends and partners in recovery, and to my Heavenly Father for His love that is expressed through so many. I spent much of my life trying to run with the "good" people and never feeling wanted or accepted, only excluded and judged. But now, in the presence of other people who, like me, cannot hide their shortcomings and weaknesses, so much so that we freely admit them, I find myself wanted and accepted and included by them, and the God of Grace who wants me more than I want Him. So, responsively, I thank you all and thank you, God!