Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A DIFFERENT DESIRE - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

A Different Desire

“Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

“We must be motivated from within, not from without. We must live our lives before God, knowing that He sees all and that our reward will come from Him if we persist in doing what He has asked us to do.”
- Joyce Meyer
 
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

We have failed to meet our own needs. Everything we’ve tried to make ourselves right has ended in failure. Surrendering our lives to God is more of an act of desperation than of virtue. We didn’t surrender because we were good or honorable or because we thought we had our lives under control. We surrendered our lives to Him in order to save our lives!

We must never lose sight of the fact that God is never gained by virtue. He is only discovered when a bankrupt man or woman seeks Him. Desperate, every one of us has had our own personal reasons why we surrendered our lives to God. Some reasons seemed like really good ones and others seemed very selfish, and that’s okay because any and every reason to seek God and recover from our brokenness is a good one. And there is never a bad reason to ask God for help.

In recovery, we learn to seek God for better and more important reasons than the reasons we had when we first started. As we progress, we learn to seek Him and to surrender to Him for the best reason: God himself. We came to God because we had to, but we stay with God because we learn to live in His grace. There is no other place for us to find a life that is worth living.

Darnell’s Story

I have never had a better life than the one I have today. For the first time I have the life I’d hoped for when I was a kid. Growing up, I saw how my friends enjoyed life. They had a positive outlook that always escaped me. My days were spent in self-loathing and envy and these feelings drove me to desperate measures. I was always trying to escape the way I felt but I never could.
But, thankfully things have changed. I got the help I needed with my drug addiction and I made the decision to give my life to God. As a result, today I am thankful to be alive. I am learning to be content with the way things are and I have hope for the future. Now I must say that even with as good as I am doing, I still feel a restlessness within me. I still want something more. It’s like I’ve been on a very long journey to get home and while seeing my home in the distance, the last mile is all uphill.
My deep yearnings have not disappeared, but now that God has met me in my pain, the way I interpret my feelings has changed. My feelings are not the chronic emptiness they once were. It’s hard for me to explain. My painful feelings are more like the kind of soreness that comes from good exercise. I feel a longing, like the longing for a loved one that I know is coming home to be with me soon.
Having come to know the greatest joy in the universe—God—I have been enlarged so that I am ready for more of whatever good God has to give me. My appetite for badness—my addiction that is—has lessened and my appetite for goodness has increased. My soul is not yet completely satisfied, but it is filled up with a joy that overrides my yearning when I direct myself to God whom I know through Christ Jesus.
I see life simpler now. It’s as simple as this: with God there is life; without God there is no life. This simple principle transforms everything I think, feel and do. With it, I become the kind of man who lives privately just like I would if everyone were watching me. I wrote this poem as a prayer. It sums it up for me.

Dear God,
The more I seek You, the more I find You; The more I find You, the more I love You; The more I love You, the more I seek You.
 

ARE YOU WILLING? - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY


ARE YOU WILLING?

Being unwilling to let go of a character defect or addiction is dangerous, potentially sabotaging our entire recovery effort. Unwillingness certainly limits our growth. When I felt like I was holding onto a character defect I didn’t want to let go of, I admitted my doubts, the fear I felt, and the stubbornness I felt inside. I admitted all these to myself, to God, and to another person. I also prayed and asked for God to help me with the fear and pride I was experiencing. I asked that He help me let go of everything that stood between me and a closer relationship with Him. The discovery of grace has never relieved me of my responsibility for taking the appropriate actions to deal with my character defects. When I’m in doubt about my attitude or character, I ask my sponsor or someone else who knows about my addictions and my desire to recover.

The moment we say, "No, never!" our minds close against the grace of God. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God’s will for us.
Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps and 12 Traditions pg 69


If we still cling to something we will not let go,
we ask God to help us be willing.
Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book pg 76

Letting go of character defects starts with acting as if God has already equipped us — and He has — to live well without them. We take the opposite action we would have taken if we were acting out with a character defect. We reverse course, acting as if God has given us what we need, and in religious terms, we repent. If I want to be like Jesus, admitting my struggle and failure, then acting in faith like I am becoming like Jesus is a great place to start. Over time, honest obedient actions begin to change the way we think. If you want your life to change, change the way you act.

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 MSG
 
This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

INTEGRITY INSIDE AND OUT - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Integrity Inside and Out

“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

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

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 recognize and admit how we lack integrity.

 

THE SOURCE OF OUR STRENGTH - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY

The Source of Our Strength
God did not create the problems we have with our character, but now we are asking Him to change the character problems that trouble us. We have been living by our own strength, trying to overcome things we could never overcome in our own power. As we surrender our lives to God, humbly asking Him to remove our shortcomings, we connect with His strength in a way unlike we have ever encountered before. Only in God and with the help of others can someone who has become sexually addicted receive the endurance, the stamina and the strength to consistently let go of their character defects and addictions. Just like everything else, we entrust our character and its defects to God. And the timing God chooses to use in removing our character defects serves His purposes. The best thing we can do is to accept the pain and difficulties we have caused as opportunities to learn and grow, so that we can benefit from these lessons once and for all.

            As we work to grow away from our character defects, there will be many times when we fail, sometimes repeatedly. Inevitably we’ll find ourselves in a place where we must choose between trusting God once more and applying our best efforts, even though all our previous attempts have ended in failure. Failure to try is in and of itself a failure to trust God. What we choose to do with failure is the profound indicator of who we are and who we will become. Failure with effort can be a frustrating setback, which produces sorrow and the discouraging feeling we will never overcome our lusts. Setbacks are inevitable so let’s make peace with the reality of their existence. It is in the midst of our failures and setbacks where we find the humble opportunity to keep turning to God to be the Source of our strength.

 
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


This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Monday, August 12, 2013

TALK IS CHEAP - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Talk is Cheap

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5:9 NLT

 
 
“Let’s not talk prudence while practicing evasion.”
- Alcoholics Anonymous


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

It is time that we begin repairing the damage and hurt that we have caused other people, whenever and wherever it is possible for us to do so. Initiating peace and healing will always be one of the responsibilities that we have in the life that God is giving to us. So, let us commit ourselves to helping others recover from the pain that we have caused them—pain that they didn’t create or deserve.

This will probably not be easy. Ask any recovering addict that has preceded us in the process of making Step Nine amends and they will tell you that making amends is hard work. And it is all the more difficult when we are offering our amends to people who, in all likelihood, may resent us. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut or magic wand in setting our wrongs right, especially where other people are involved. Looking for shortcuts will only get us lost in our own self-created world of fantasy and make-believe. Recovery from addiction and enjoying healthy relationships only happens in the real world. If we really want to recover and have good relationships in the future, we will have to be willing to live in the real world.

Making amends is not optional if we want to recover, grow and change. The best thing we can do is to help those who have been hurt by our addictions and the self-centered ways that we have lived our lives.

Copyright David Zailer, 2011

FACING THE FACTS - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only

Facing the Facts
My first encounter with real humility came when I recognized and admitted my addictions. And I grew in humility as I worked to see myself more honestly when doing my personal inventory. The work I did made it possible for me to humbly ‘own’ the facts about myself. When I have the real facts about my choices and my life, and see them realistically with clarity, I am less inclined to rationalize my destructive actions, minimize my difficulties or ignore the pain others have suffered because of my character defects. When I know the facts of my life, I know my own limitations and can accept my own needs and shortcomings.
 
            You and I, as humans, are not all-powerful. We do not control ourselves all of the time, nor do we control other people any of the time. Humility helps us to see these facts, giving us the eyes through which we will see God change who we are, the way we think, the way we handle our emotions and the way we act. As we are changed on the inside, our lives change on the outside. 
 
            So, I have learned to think of my improving character development as a responsibility and a gift at the same time. The growth and maturity I experience is a gift God gives to me as I responsibly admit and correct my character defects in the most honest way I can. When I notice my character defects expressed in my thoughts and actions, I choose to change my thinking and my actions as well. My character defects lose some of their power when I do this. Every time I say no to them, the grip they’ve habitually had on me loosens a bit. Nothing is so helpful to healing addictions and changing character defects than to stop doing the addiction and change the way we live our lives day-to-day. Great empowerment comes from God when we live in obedience.
 
As we work and make progress in our recovery, our priorities and the things that concern us will become re-oriented. We will discover a humility that desires obedience more than blessing and character growth more than comfort — all so that we may help and not hinder the work of God. The greatest blessing for any sex addict is to live free from addiction, fully aligned with the will of a loving God. Even before we asked, we received from God everything we ever needed. He satisfies our heart! God is always one-step ahead of us!
 
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
I Peter 5:6-7 NLT
 
A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than as something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven.
Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions pg 75
 
            I can’t count how many times — usually motivated by guilt and religiosity — I would ask God for patience, only to get angry with myself if patience didn’t show up when I wanted it to. This obviously proved I wasn’t really interested in being more patient. I think what I really wanted was to feel relief from the tension and other uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing at the time. With what I now know, I find it much more helpful to me to simply admit to God and to someone else the fact that that I struggle with being an impatient person. I tell them, sincerely, I want to change, to think, and to act differently, in a more patient way, as I move forward in life. Seeing myself honestly and sharing what I see is humility for me. This builds a willingness to ask others for direction and a humility with which to follow the direction I receive. 
 
            Saying, “Dear God, I want to be more patient” sounds good, but we may miss the subtle demand we are making, holding God responsible for our character defects and problems. But by saying “Dear God, I am an impatient person and I want to change,” we offer up the truth about ourselves and we accept responsibility for being impatient. Humbly asking is asking for change internally, with no demand for changes to the current conditions or external circumstances. Changes in our circumstances are optional; changes in our character are necessary. We become the changes we desire. The ultimate purpose of all prayer is to get hold of God, and to do so, we let go of our pride, inviting God to act according to His purpose in our lives. God will be our strength. He will empower us to do what we are responsible to do. 
 
My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.  Amen
7th Step Prayer, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
 
            Character defects cultivate and facilitate our addictions. They reduce us to shame-filled, fearful little children. When we face and admit the failures we most want to hide from others, we discover God has been waiting for us patiently, ready to make a life-transforming connection with us. Moving to become His in this way, we get hold of a life and goodness that was impossible before. We let go of the personality characteristics which have held us back for so long, so nothing will keep us from “knowing the measure and stature of Christ.” Though previously we were ruled by lusts, addictions, and other people, we are becoming the kind of people who admit our character defects and, in doing so, we more fully receive the transforming spirit of Christ. In humility, we become good and powerful men. 
 
God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic – what a find! – and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
Matthew 13:44 MSG
 
            Our relationship with God and our spiritual growth must always come first, being more important than career, hobbies, church, even our friends and family. This is because without recovery, nothing else matters very much because nothing else will survive our addictions. Anything good stays good only as we couple our humble heart with God’s love and care. Without Him, nothing is worth having.
 
So in terms of what every man needs most crucially, all man’s power is powerless because at its roots, of course, the deepest longing of the human soul is the longing for God, and this no man has the power to satisfy.
Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat pg 33


 
This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Monday, August 5, 2013

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LIFE ~ from OUR JOURNEY HOME

The Responsibility of Life

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31 NLT

"We make good actions and let those actions speak for us."
- The Men of Operation Integrity

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

We started to identify our shortcomings, all of which stem from our self-centeredness, in our Step Four inventory. We realized that we had lived for ourselves (usually without realizing it), and other people have suffered because of it. Now, because of God’s power to transform us, things can be different. The recovery that we are experiencing today brings with it an increasing awareness of our shortcomings, which further illuminates our need for God and deepens our desire for the kind of life that only God can give to us. We see ourselves and the world around us differently from the way we did before. We can have hopeful enthusiasm for our future. This new life that God is giving to us is good. It is better than anything we could have provided for ourselves. But, as good as we may feel about ourselves and our recovery, most of us—if we are willing to look deep enough to see it—still experience a deep, nagging sense that there is unfinished business that we need to tend to. This new life in Christ that we are receiving will be short-lived if we don’t continue to grow away from our selfishness, or if we forget how we have negatively impacted the lives of others.

Everything we say and everything we do affects the lives of people around us. In ways that are big and small, and often in ways we don’t even realize, all that we say engages other people, bringing reactions and consequences back to us. Like it or not, we make an impact on the world—good or bad—beginning first and foremost with those closest to us. It is impossible to escape the impact and influence that we have. The most honest questions we can ask ourselves are, What will be the result of our lives? What impact will we have? Will we be men and women of change, growth and integrity or will we live for ourselves, taking from and consuming the people and the world around us?

Names of people we hurt: What we did to hurt them:

 
 

 
 
 
Copyright David Zailer, 2011
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A NEWER YOU ~ from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME - NOT FOR MEN ONLY

Newer You
There was a lot I needed to learn to keep moving away from my addictions. Fortunately, I had come to know a number of people who were successfully living their own addiction recovery process. They generously shared their experience with me, which was a great help.
            One of the important things they shared with me was to think of the word humility or “humbly” as an attitude that chooses to follow God’s will over my own will. This appeared to be very simple. But doing it has been difficult, and I have not always made it happen like I would have liked. Making this decision consistently marks a deep shift at the core of my character, who I am, and the way I live my life.
            Now today, when I do think “humbly,” it feels like I live in a place where impossibly good things happen to otherwise impossible people like me. I experience peacefulness, even when the world as I know it gets turned upside down, inside out, with things changing all around me. Humility helps me feel like my life is becoming right. Like life makes sense. On the other hand, when I choose to go my own way, which I often do without even realizing it, my self-abusive tendencies return, I struggle with self-preoccupation and the silly notion that my life revolves around me. When I try to be the master of my own kingdom, humiliation becomes almost inevitable. 
            Learning the true meaning of humility was new to me because as a child I learned a distorted meaning of humility from my family. I was taught to confuse humility with self-loathing and self-hatred. From their example of abusing themselves and one another, I learned that it was “humble” not to like myself. By grade school, I believed my feelings of uselessness, self-pity and defeatism meant that I was “humble.” This was not my family’s intention, but their confusion about humility resulted in confused and angry family relationships. 
            Real humility has nothing to do with a low self-esteem or a negative self-image.  Low self-esteem is often the result of not understanding the care and concern God has expressed for us in His Word. Misconceptions of God create spiritual and emotional blindness and this can cause us to betray ourselves without knowing it. Self-betraying thinking triggers self-betraying behavior, which is hand in glove with our addictions. And, with denial being a stronghold of addiction, we become all the more blind. We rationalize. We make excuses. Our low self-esteem becomes a sick excuse to stay stuck in our miserable condition. It becomes a sad and sick way of saying, “I don’t want to be responsible. I don’t want to be held responsible.” 
            Recovery is impossible as long as we find excuses — or reasons —not to change, even when our excuses and reasons are rooted in our family of origin or the way we were raised. Blaming others does not work either. By blaming others for where we are today, we try to put the problems we are responsible for on to others who most certainly should not accept them. We are the only ones who can take real responsibility for our lives. And this requires — yes — humility.
 
For just so long as we were convinced that we could live exclusively by our own individual strength and intelligence, for just that long was a working faith in a Higher Power impossible. This was true even when we believed God existed. We could actually have earnest religious beliefs which remained barren because we were still trying to play God ourselves. As long as we placed self-reliance first, a genuine reliance upon a Higher Power was out of the question. That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God’s will was missing.
Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions pg 72

 

This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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