Tuesday, November 19, 2013

READY AND LISTENING - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Ready and Listening

"The people I love, I call to account--prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you."
            Revelation 3:19-20 The Message

“The teacher is heard when the student is ready to listen.”
            - Ancient Chinese Proverb

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

We so often miss out on the deep moving of God’s Spirit because we are not available. Most of us live in a fog spiritually. God knocks and either we are not at home or we are too lazy or distracted to get up out of our easy chair to see who is at the door. God speaks to us—and all of mankind—through Scripture. The message of Scripture is meant to be assimilated as a love letter, one person at a time, yet we so often think of it as just history, teaching or principle. Scripture is certainly all that, but it is so much more. God’s Scripture is a calling of love and redemption. It is the ancient record of God communicating to us, individually and collectively, as people. Scripture is a love letter. It is a timeless record of how God wants to connect with us and draw us close. God has been speaking to us so very often and for so long, yet most of the time we have not responded.
           
Being ready to change means that we will want to be, first and foremost, in a love-fulfilling relationship with God. To some degree we are completely aware of how far away we are from this ideal. We tend to get so caught up in telling God where we want to go with our lives that we make ourselves blind and oblivious to the idolatrous ways that we try to sculpt and mold our own souls. If we stand around waiting for God to dump some sort of monumental task and duty on us, we will miss the powerfully subtle opportunities for change and transformation that God has already set before us. Those whose ears are not tuned to hear the quiet voice of God do not change. If we want to hear, we have to be willing to listen. The man or woman who strains to hear the quiet and sometimes seemingly distant call of love and change is the one who gains the great prize of a transformed life experience. Rarely does it occur to us that what God really wants us to do is to live out His transforming power in all the most mundane ways. It is critically important that we give up every form of grandiosity and recognize that God’s greatest work has to do with how we live our daily lives. He is more concerned with transforming us in the ways we interact with our families, run our errands, conduct our careers and live in our neighborhoods than He is in some sort of dramatic conquest. In real life, the greatest conquests are experienced in 24-hour segments right in the center of our routine everyday life.
           
The bottom line of true character transformation is understanding that God redeems people, not things. Then, as people experience God’s transforming redemption, His redemption is reflected in all areas of that person’s life. Becoming ready for God to change us means that we don’t have to get ready. We just have to be willing to be ready. We stay alert, listening for our Master Redeemer’s call. Changing us is God’s job. Our job is to simply be ready and willing to change.
           
The scriptural record of Moses’ life is a picture of a person who was made ready to change, even though he was seemingly unaware of the preparation that God had made in his life. The burning bush was God’s way of reaching out and capturing the willingness that Moses had in his heart—a willingness that he was previously incapable of acting on in healthy and productive ways. Scripture tells of how Moses had apparently lost all confidence in himself, and of how God used the humbling circumstances and consequences of Moses’ life to make him ready and willing to hear what God had to say. Moses’ willing, albeit hesitant response to God’s call is definitive proof that he was ready for whatever God had for him.
 
An excerpt from OUR JOURNEY HOME, Copyright 2011, David Zailer

FACING FEELINGS - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME

FACING FEELINGS

Many of us have held deep anger and resentment against certain people who were hurt by the actions of our addicted life. For years, I resented a person who could have stopped the abuse I suffered as a child. For reasons I may never know, this person chose to do nothing when he could have protected me — a small child. The anger I felt for him was so deep I did not even realize I felt the way I did. I repressed my rage as I grew older, and my addictions increased along with my rage. I became rude and thoughtless toward others, including, of course, the person who ignored my needs. My rage blinded me, making it impossible for me to see how I had hurt this person and others close to him. Even though this person and I lived in separate parts of the country, my addictions and selfishness brought pain and hurt into his life, as well as my own.  I can no longer side-step my feelings. I had to confront the feelings of anger I felt against this person, so, with help from others, I did. Even though the wrongs this person did to me far exceeded what I had done to him, I could no longer hold his wrongs against him if I was going to heal from my addictions. So I got in touch with him. I apologized to him for my actions, and offered to do whatever I could do to repair the hurt I had caused him. As heartbreaking as it is, today many years later, this person has never acknowledged the abandonment and pain he caused me, and I sadly suspect he never will. Nevertheless, his refusal to acknowledge his lack of care for me as a young child is none of my business today. I forgive him today and every day, not because he is innocent or because he deserves forgiveness. I forgive him so that I can recover and move on from the damage he did to me.

 Occasionally, the anger and resentment I felt for this person come back. But today I diligently work to let go of any remaining resentment I feel. While I have no real relationship with this person, today my attitude toward him, myself, and my family history has radically improved. I am much more honest about how things were for me growing up. I no longer make excuses for my family or for myself. Things simply were the way they were and they are the way they are. My hope is that someday things may change between this person and myself, that we can have a healthy family relationship. I also hope this person will one day see that my life and values are worth appreciating. However, moving forward and trusting God’s plan for my life, I remind myself that this person’s attitude toward me is none of my business. It is between him and God. I can hope for forgiveness but I am never entitled to it.

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


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Monday, November 11, 2013

JERRY GETS HONEST WITH HIMSELF - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Jerry Gets Honest with Himself

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
Matthew 5:5 The Message

“The heart is the deepest essence of a person. It symbolizes what’s at our core. The heart of the matter is that we can know and be known only through revealing what’s in our heart.”
-Brennan Manning

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

Hello, my name is Jerry and I am an alcoholic. I was 51 years old when I first said these words and I’ve been saying them almost every day for the past three-and-a-half years. I started drinking when I was in college. Getting drunk with my fraternity brothers was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, unlike most of my friends, I never stopped. Near the end of my drinking, I was actually drinking less often. Not because I wanted to drink any less but because I knew in my heart of hearts that my drinking was hurting my family and me. I never meant to hurt anyone.

I had gotten married at 25, and by 31 I had three beautiful daughters, a solid marriage (it looked like it on the outside), a great career and I was a leader in my church. While near the end of my drinking I was consuming less alcohol, the people around me were complaining about it more and more. They were pointing out problems that were happening because of my drinking. Even though I was drinking less, my drinking was affecting me more. Finally, the employee assistance director at work confronted me. He gave me the choice of going to a treatment program for alcoholism that the company would pay for, or the company would demote me to a less prestigious position. My ego refused the demotion so I chose rehab.

In rehab I was confronted by my wife and daughters about how my drinking and my attitude had been hurting them for years. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea how they felt. Also, the doctor at the rehab told me that I had suffered liver damage, and that I had what they called “level two alcoholism.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but it sure got my attention. I wasn’t able to sleep and my body shook for days. I was nervous and uncomfortable for three weeks after my last drink. Worst of all, as my head cleared, I became more and more ashamed of how I had let the years slip by and how I had hurt my wife and daughters. I knew that I had always loved them, but I could not escape the reality of how I had held them hostage for so long. Being given the opportunity to recover, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to change.

I started to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings while in rehab and I have never stopped. I go to an average of two to three meetings per week, depending on my schedule and my disposition. I got a sponsor and I began working the steps on a personal basis. I spent about a month working through my Step Four inventory. I worked on it every day. Finally I sat down with my sponsor and read much of what I had written down to him. I also told him a lot of things that came to mind as we were sitting there talking.

While doing Step Four, I learned a lot about myself. In a nutshell, I learned that my alcoholism was only a disease and not my real problem. My real problem was me, and I would continue to be my own worst problem until I admitted this to myself, just like I had to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic. If I were to ever become a better person, free from alcoholism and selfishness, I had to admit just how selfish I had been. Being intentional and committed to self-honesty was the only way that I could help myself overcome the deep-seated selfishness that had ruled me throughout my life.

In doing Step Four, I began to see what I needed to see in order to confront the self-deception that had hurt me and those around me, particularly my wife and children. As I admitted the exact nature of my personal wrongs to myself, I was able to feel my lifelong self-idolatry begin to fall away. It felt like God was helping me to set myself aside and make other people more important than me. In doing this, I surrendered 51 years of misguided assumptions that had made me think that I was invincible, entitled and important. My alcoholism proved to me that I had lived in a self-imposed delusion. I had been trying to rule myself, rule my family and rule my world, all in the name of being the “leader” in my home.

As I admitted these things to myself, I accepted myself at my worst for the first time in my life. As I accepted myself at my worst, I began to know grace as only God can give it. This new grace is more than just a subject I had heard about in church. It is a real world, here and now. It is an overpowering, and sometimes painful, movement toward honesty. I first noticed it when I sat alone in rehab, crying uncontrollably. That day, amidst the pain that I was experiencing, God’s grace helped me to have a sense that things were going to change and that I would get the help that I had been too afraid to seek.

I know that I don’t deserve the goodness that has taken hold of me. As I have become honest about my character shortcomings, I have been able to surrender a battle that I had been losing all of my life. The more explicit and honest I have been with myself, the more effective my repentance has been. And, I have found an energy that gives me the stamina to follow the path that God gives me to travel. Without an effective path to follow and the strength that God gives me to follow it, I could never truly repent or change. I thank God for my alcoholism and for my Twelve Step journey, specifically Step Five. Getting honest with myself and learning to accept myself as someone that God is willing to work with has been a turning point in my life. Letting go of my self denials has not only helped me to quit drinking, but helped me to become a new kind of man who now brings goodness and delight to his wife and his family.

Copyright 2011, David Zailer


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EMBRACING THE WORLD AROUND ME - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME

EMBRACING THE WORLD AROUND ME


My sponsor consistently spoke to me about my social and relational responsibilities, which meant working to repair the damage and hurt my addicted life had caused other people. It has always been and always will be our responsibility to initiate peace and healing in relationships. With this in mind, I began the work of helping others recover from pain I caused them, pain they did not ever deserve. And, my sponsor also told me, the best way for me to continue my own recovery work was to help others, especially those who have been hurt by me and my addictions.
 
Making amends is not easy. Any recovering sex addict will tell you that making amends is very challenging work. It can be complicated too, because we may face situations where we need to make amends to people who deeply resent us. As much as we would like to have one, there is no magic wand in recovery or in making amends. If we go looking for a magic wand, we will lose ourselves to a world of fantasy and make-believe. Recovery only happens in the real world. If we really want to recover, we will be willing to live in the real world. Making amends is not optional.
 
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9 NLT

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


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