Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WHAT GOD GIVES

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

One day one of the local officials asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don't you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother." He said, "I've kept them all for as long as I can remember." When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me." This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God's kingdom? I'd say it's easier to thread a camel through a needle's eye than get a rich person into God's kingdom." “Then who has any chance at all?" the others asked. "No chance at all," Jesus said, "if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. Luke 18:18-28, The Message

Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. - Simone Weil

What God Gives

Luke 18 tells the story of a successful man and it shows us why he is a good example of how we can hinder our own growth. The man in the story enthusiastically came to Jesus seeking to increase his quality of life, but he walked away devastated with sadness and sorrow. Apparently, this man’s life included wealth, talent, social standing and religious excellence. But this wasn’t enough for him. He wanted more. Can you relate?

This man had confused personal success and having the good things in life with a satisfying life. Knowing this and knowing that having a good life alone will never satisfy anyone, Jesus did not give the man what he wanted. Instead, Jesus challenged the man’s virtue by questioning his lustful desire for more material, social and religious goodness which the man called “eternal life.” Scripture tells us how the man had no effective response to Jesus’ challenge because he wanted what he wanted more than what Jesus had to give. Let no one be confused here. The man had all the information that he needed to know. He had every opportunity to make the right choice. He was fully responsible for making the decision for his life and he was fully responsible for his own sadness. This is because his sadness was not a result of Jesus’ challenge; it was the result of his own inability to let go of the things he valued so much. It was not things that were his problem; it was his attachment to things that kept him stuck where he was. The man’s problem would have been easily solved if he had just been willing to let go and follow Jesus.

How many times have we been in a similar situation? How many times have we sensed that God wanted us to fess up and admit that we were holding on to well-polished idols? Perhaps God is pointing out certain things like personal qualities, talents, desires, interests, reliances or relationships that show that we are not as close to God as we would like others to believe. The message for all of us is clear. Jesus is calling us to let go of the things that we think we need or things we think we are entitled to. But, it’s more than that. The calling Jesus makes is not really about things at all; it is about the letting go. It is about our priorities, our relationships with things and our willingness to let go of things so that we can be free to be filled with the better things that God has for us.
“Sell all that you have and follow me.”

This is an excerpt from Our Journey Home, By David Zailer
Copyright David Zailer, 2012

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THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DECISION


The Most Significant Decision

Addictions diminish one’s ability to make effective personal decisions. And as a consequence of our addictions we can also lose opportunities to make certain decisions. But, there is always one opportunity for choice that will forever be ours. What I do with my will is the single most significant and personal decision of my life. It can never be taken from me. I can never escape it. I am always responsible for it. We all have the opportunity to choose what our lives will be like, what kind of people we will be and who we will belong to. It’s a simple decision that we face every day. Who will I trust? Who will I follow? 

            Always — or at the very least, most of the time — my intentions were honest, my goals seemed clear to me, and I absolutely never intended to become the kind of person who would make a disaster of one’s life. But I did. My personal willpower and ambition not only abandoned me, but also propelled me to become a prisoner to the very things I once felt entitled to. My addictions cost me the mental clarity I needed to make certain specific choices, and they caused the loss of opportunities to make others.

            The decision to surrender myself to God’s care is a different kind of decision — one that is far more personal and practical than religious. I surrender my will and life to God and His care or I continue as I was and die. God is a life-and-death decision for all of us. In one way or another, and sometimes without consciously realizing it, we all decide whether we are willing to trust God or continue our journey alone. Personally, I recognize that failing to trust God with my life leaves me spiritually alone and unprotected against my own progressing addictions — a potentially fatal mistake for any addict. 


This is an excerpt from When Lost Men Come Home, not for men only  copyright, david zailer 2012

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

RELATIONSHIP - NOT RELIGION ; REAL FAITH

Relationship — Not Religion

Whatever I had previously thought I believed and then professed to others regarding God and/or religion didn’t matter much because it obviously had not been authentic enough to really work for me. Others in the fellowship have experienced this same realization about their own religious beliefs and opinions. Those who claimed no God were in trouble and what others may have professed about God hadn’t helped either. We all ended up in the same place — addicted. Call it whatever you want. What we really needed was real and effective help, and with an open mind and heart, we became ready to receive that help!

            The concept of faith may offend those who consider themselves too smart to believe in God. For some, the mere mention of the word “faith” threatens self-indulgent egos and self-mastered lives. Some of our group had believed God was nothing more than a concoction of weak-willed people who were searching for answers through religious distraction and effort. And I agreed with them in one respect. Any “god” created within the mind of man is not God. Any “god” defined solely by human terms and descriptions serves only the dictates and demands of someone’s predetermined thinking, which is to some degree, always flawed, shortsighted and ignorant. In these ways, whatever is believed cannot be God.

            In a similar way, indifference, complacency, defiance, self-sufficiency and prejudice are in some ways understandable for those who, like me, were raised in religious environments that lacked nurturing love, were abusive or didn’t affirm the human dignity God created within all people. We all suffer from pride and our own prejudices, which block us from discovering God in a way that truly makes a difference in our lives. However, with hope for a new life connecting with the painful motivations created by our addictions, we realize we must seek God on His terms and not our own. We must allow Him to tell us who He is and what He is all about.

 
Real Faith

Real faith is humble and willing to accept answers, any answer that helps us recover. A faith that hopes in a power greater than we are will not seek to debate, to conquer or win unnecessary arguments. In real faith we realize the need to live well is much greater than the need to be “right.” Through a humble faith like this, the humiliation of sexual addiction can be molded into an openness that maximizes the chances for recovery and the restoration of a life truly worth living. In faith, we are transformed from victims to survivors, the kind of people who are able to help and guide others. Real faith is the catalyst of revolution for every man, be they religious minded or non-religious minded. 

            And faith is much more common than we may realize. Each of us exercises faith daily when we tap into the power of natural physics to make life more convenient. When you turn the key to your car, what do you expect? Power to start the engine. When you flip a light switch, what are you looking for? Light. What are you looking for when you pick up the telephone? To get connected. We have faith in the benefits of modern technology through personal experience. In the same way, we can learn faith in God by personal experience, too.

            This is how I discovered a faith that gives me the power to recover from my addictions. In varying ways and with varying degrees of progress, I’ve discovered that I can trust in others, “higher powers” if you will, and The Higher Power, God.  

            So, if the thought of trusting God is troubling you, don’t worry about it right now. There are lots of “higher powers” who can assist you in your recovery. Relax! And allow God to help you learn to trust Him. This, we believe, is the genesis of real faith after all.

            In our fellowship today, there are men who rejected God initially, but in their hope for recovery stayed open-minded. They made good use of other “higher powers” which helped them move into recovery, but only to the degree that they remained honest about themselves and open-minded about God.

            The true “Higher Power” will reveal Himself to anyone who sincerely wants to know Him. Faith springs from hope for life. It flourishes from humility and honesty and openness, making us more and more aware of the goodness God seeks to give us. That’s how it’s been for me.

            Faith is all about possibilities: the possibility that we can be restored to sanity, the possibility that we will truly gain freedom from our sexual addiction, the possibility that our personality and life will be changed and that God will be known in a personal and profound way. You don’t need to know who to call for because when you call for The True God, He knows that you call for Him and only Him. There is no one else.  

 

 “But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now.

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.

We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book pg 59

 

            As we said before, some in our fellowship were very religious when they began their work of recovery. They asserted that their way of life was “the way,” the “right way,” or the “only way.” But even with their powerful and prideful professions of faith, they became sexual addicts just like the rest of us. It was like their religious professions were more of a handicap, propping them up like religious scarecrows, empty and worn, unable to acknowledge and admit their needs and shortcomings. This is why it’s so easy to hide in religion. I’ve done it personally many times and I’ve done it very well. The truth of the matter is this: while “religious” addicts maintain well-intentioned commitments, and may even speak eloquently about theology and God, their religious experience is contained within their own personal thinking and will never be sufficient for true spiritual living, as proven by their addiction. Sex addicts are sex addicts whatever their religion. And, religion by itself never cures an addiction of any kind. In reality, misguided rule-keeping religion promotes and deepens addiction, and can even become an addiction itself.

            True religion becomes reality only when it is relational, and part of a personal revolution that transforms someone — their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, and their actions. Anything less than this is not true faith or true religion. But, having said all of this, we don’t encourage anyone to leave their church or denomination. Where we had failed to find a true personal faith and live it out in an honest and sincere religious experience, many others from various churches have succeeded. 

 

Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally – not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! 

2 Corinthians: 1:9 MSG

           

So, is your “religion” working for you? Are your personal convictions successfully guiding you through life? Are you experiencing inside yourself the kind of life that keeps you free from the internal conflicts that result in addictions? If so, why are you reading this book? Addictions of any kind prove that we need to become spiritual where we have been pious, humble where we’ve been self-confident, honest where we’ve been self-deceived and open-minded where we have been stubborn. Before God will be anything to any of us, He will be our Savior. Either God is everything or He is nothing! 

            When God touched me in His own time, I experienced a power that is deeply personal, beyond my comprehension and impossible to explain. New ground had been broken within me. God was revealing Himself in a way I had never imagined He would. And I hope the same for you.

 

“When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God’s love; I was alone no more.

Bill Wilson, The Grapevine January 1962

 

 “In my own case, the foundation of freedom from fear is that of faith: a faith that despite all worldly appearances to the contrary, causes me to believe that I live in a universe that makes sense. To me, this means a belief in a Creator who is all power, justice and love; a God who intends for me a purpose, a meaning and a destiny to grow, however haltingly, toward his own likeness and image. Before the coming of faith I had lived as an alien in a cosmos that too often seemed both hostile and cruel. In it there could be no inner security for me.”

Bill Wilson, As Bill Sees It
 
excerpt from When Lost Men Come Home, not for men only
copyright, david zailer 2012

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.

Our Journey Home - Copyright 2012, David Zailer
http://www.amazon.com/Our-Journey-Home-Inspirations-Christian/dp/0615521312/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1361298547&sr=8-5&keywords=our+journey+home

OPERATION INTEGRITY PRAYER


Operation Integrity Prayer
I pray that I will learn to desire obedience more than blessing or comfort and to know that the greatest blessing in life is to live obedient to your will. May I learn to better give up my will and find my complete and total satisfaction in your will. My self-centeredness destroys me but seeking you and doing your will brings life to me. Realizing this, I have decided that my mind, my heart and my will, will be directed to you. I will find my purpose and identity in knowing you more personally & living more powerfully according to your Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

RECOVERY IS A GIFT, BUT IT IS NOT FREE

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23, 24, NIV

Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.
- John F. Kennedy

Recovery is a Gift, But it is Not Free

The kind of work that we do in our recovery program helps us to better recognize the work of God in our lives. We can now begin to see that we have been made for supernatural purposes and that it is possible for us to fulfill the destiny that God has planned for us.

God created us with a plan. He has divine purposes in mind. As we prepare ourselves to make amends, God is preparing us to pass on to others some of the goodness that He has given us. Our life, addiction and recovery is all part of God’s plan. He is the master creator who specializes in bringing goodness out of tragedy. This is what our Step Eight recovery work is all about – turning bad into good. It is all about the turning of bad into good. We are now ready to begin directing goodness into the lives of others whereas before it had been directed into our own lives. Our personality, our talent and our charm will never be enough to do this. We will have to have God’s help and He will be sure to give it to us. Our friends and loved ones need a love that is not based on who we are. They need a love that is based on who it is that we are created for. Any attempts that we make by our own power alone, no matter how great, sincere or committed will inevitably become little more than co-dependency without the connection of real love, which only comes from God.

The power to love and live well is a gift from God and it comes with profound. spiritual and social responsibilities. God provides the power but we are totally involved; the part we play is indispensable. Our place in the universe begins to make sense as we begin to figure this out. As we develop authentic, God-centered relationships, we become whole and well-balanced human beings that are able to live out our responsibilities and fully enjoy the pleasure of giving and receiving.

Our job and responsibility at this point in time is to make a list of the people whom we have hurt. There are no excuses. No ifs, ands, or buts. Excuses, procrastination and delay for any reason are understandable, but unacceptable. Excuses stop our recovery dead in its tracks. There is no reason to delay.



From Our Journey Home, Copyright David Zailer, 2012
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HOPELESSNESS TO HOPEFULNESS

Hopelessness to Hopefulness

Almost every day, I found comfort within the fellowship of other recovering sex addicts, receiving support from those who’ve been wounded by life, then suffered and survived their own addictions. When I experienced the heartbreak of failure, they guided me from their own experience, helping me to feel a sense of hopefulness for my future and not the hopelessness I had felt in the past. They would tell me they felt themselves being strengthened every time they helped me. They would even thank me for calling them and asking for their help. In a real recovering fellowship, the weak get stronger and the strong get stronger by helping the weak. I experienced true faith for the first time in this way. It came to me before I knew it was even there. 

Faith, as we experience it in Operation Integrity, is characterized by a hope-filled belief that compels us to take effective action. By understanding faith in this way, it becomes authenticated, making it an antidote for and the antithesis of addiction. Addiction kills our dreams, but faith gives hope for life.

            Like a gift, the simple hope for life gave birth to a personal open-mindedness I had never experienced before. It appeared quiet and close, even before I asked for it, coming from outside of me, but working within. By seeing the changed lives of others, I came to believe that I too could join them in freedom. My lifelong hopelessness had changed to hopefulness. 

 from When Lost Men Come Home - not for men only
copyright 2012, David Zailer

Monday, February 4, 2013

CHANGING THE WAY WE LIVE

CHANGING THE WAY WE LIVE

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions, ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance for life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Galatians 5:19–23, The Message


“A fault which humbles a man is of more use to him than a good action which puffs him up.”
- Thomas Wilson

Changing the Way We Live

It is dangerous to be unwilling to relinquish one of our character defects; it potentially sabotages our entire recovery effort. At the very least it limits our future. When we feel like we are hanging onto a character defect that we don’t want to let go of, let us admit our doubt, our fear, and the struggle and stubbornness that we know is inside of us. We admit these things to ourselves, to God and to another person. Let us pray while we admit these things, asking for God’s help starting with relieving us of the fear and the pride that weigh us down. Let us ask God to help us to let go of everything that stands between us and a closer relationship with Him.

Praying in this way assures us that we will receive what we ask for because we are praying for what we know to be God’s will for us. Knowing that God will be working in us in this way does not take away our responsibility for taking appropriate actions to deal with our character defects. We must always be people of action, effective action. When we have doubts about our conduct or character, we will find it helpful to speak with our sponsor or someone else who knows about our addictions and our desire to recover. Letting go of our character defects begins with prayer but it also includes acting and living as if God has already equipped us (and He has) to live well without them. Prayer without action is little more than mental, emotional and religious daydreaming. Our letting go of our character defects requires that we be willing to take the opposite action of the way we would act in the character defect. We reverse course, acting as if God has given us all that we need. This is called repenting in religious terms. If we want to be like Jesus, acting as if we are already becoming like Jesus is a great place to start. Over time, our honest and obedient actions will begin to change the way we think. If we want our life to change, we have to change the way we live it.

From Our Journey Home - copyright 2012, David Zailer
http://www.amazon.com/Our-Journey-Home-Inspirations-Christian/dp/0615521312/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360013722&sr=8-1&keywords=Our+Journey+Home+by+David+Zailer

WHAT WORKS

What Works

In Step Two of the Twelve Steps, “came to believe” expresses open-mindedness and faith, the willingness to look in a new direction for the power and resources that make a difference in life. “Came to believe” also suggests that we bring ourselves physically and emotionally to be with others who are living their lives with recovery and change successfully. We literally replace the old environment(s) that have been part of our addictive cycles with new ones that help build healthy ways of living. 

            In my case, I “came to,” — out of the addicted coma I had been living in for so long — and became consciously aware physically, intellectually and emotionally of the ugly reality that was my life. I “came to” realize that the only rational and reasonable thing to do was to look outside of myself, and let go of the self-centered belief that within myself I possessed everything necessary for a sane and healthy life. I “came to believe” that my only hope for a life worth living was to look beyond myself in order to find what was needed to make a difference in my life. 

            In the Operation Integrity fellowship, we admit our struggles to one another often. We admit that we sometimes feel like we are disconnected mentally and emotionally. We realize and we admit that at all costs we must stay away from our addictions if we hope for a real and meaningful recovery and personal change. Remembering the suffering our addictions brought us and the fact we are powerlessness over our addictions keeps us moving forward in the right direction.

            We also separated ourselves from the people, the places and the things that promoted our addictions. Following what our friends from Alcoholics Anonymous suggested, “we became willing to go to any lengths.”

            Getting free from our addictions didn’t guarantee that life would be perfect, but to continue in the way we had been going almost certainly guaranteed our destruction. We had to gain some real integrity if life would ever improve. And together we are learning to have an authentic faith for recovery, which is to say we stop claiming faith only in ourselves.

            On the occasions when we failed, which I did many times in my early recovery, we disclosed our failures honestly to one or more of our partners in recovery. This taught us we could regain some integrity simply by making an honest and open admission of our failures to someone who could understand our struggles. Amazingly, no one ever got tired of hearing about my failures. This is what a recovering fellowship is about — I am loved for who I am and who I am becoming regardless of my failures along the way. Recovery partners are more interested in me than my mistakes.

 
It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. 
2 Corinthians 1:9 MSG

 
from When Lost Men Come Home - not for men only
copyright 2012, David Zailer