Monday, July 18, 2016

BE STILL, BE QUIET, LISTEN

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.

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14, The Message

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:9, NLT


"Let therefore our chiefest endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Christ."
- Thomas a Kempis

Be Still, Be Quiet, Listen

Relationships are a two-way street. We need to share what we think and feel with others and we need to be good listeners, too, if we want successful relationships with those we care about. Our relationship with God is no different. He listens to what we say and we need to listen for what He has to say to us.

Meditation is a practice that is committed to hearing God’s voice and understanding the directions He gives us. We have worked very hard in our recovery, but meditation will be different from the work we have done so far. This is because meditation is not about doing anything; it is about quietness of mind, relaxation of body and openness of heart.

Meditation is the flip side of prayer. It completes the dialogue that takes place between God and us. We speak when we pray, but we listen when we meditate. In fact, prayer without listening to God is probably not healthy for us. Our prayers become very self-centered if we don’t listen to what God has to say. Very often the best thing we can do for our spiritual growth is to stop. Stop working. Stop playing. Stop everything. Be still. Be quiet. Listen. We should set all our distractions aside so we can make time and space in our minds and our hearts for God alone, so we can listen for how He comes close to us in the time and space we create for Him. As we do this, He will reorganize our wants and our worries in ways that are healthier for us and more useful for His purposes. God speaks to us not because of our special abilities, but because we are listening, wanting to hear what He has to say to us. Actually, He is always speaking to us. But it’s only when we listen that our ears will tune into what He is saying.

Learning to listen to God is simple but, just like learning other things, it takes some practice. We learn to meditate by meditating. We start, get distracted, start again, get distracted and then start again. With time we learn to become more capable of hearing and discerning the voice of God. This is not effort like most of us think about effort because it takes nothing from us. We just open ourselves up like we would open our hand to accept a gift. It’s like going outside when it’s raining if we want to get wet. It is the simplest of all things we do. It’s like enjoying music which requires no physical effort on our part. Listening requires only the intention and desire to accept the sound that someone else makes. It’s natural; like a mother’s intuitive ear that is tuned to the slightest sound her sleeping child makes. Meditation - listening for the sound of God - is a filling of our heart and mind with God’s heart and mind. It gives us a deepening friendship with Jesus because Jesus appreciates us listening to Him like any friend of ours would appreciate it when we listen to them. And as we listen – meditate that is – we can expect God to speak to us at the spiritual level.

Our imaginations will run freely as we meditate, like a child’s does. This is a good thing because God gives us imagination for a purpose and while our addictions deaden our capacity for creative thinking, meditation enlarges our capacity for creativity. Listening for God opens us up to the wonderful world of possibilities and goal setting. We will believe all sorts of wonderful ways that God will reveal Himself to us, change us, restore us and use us. But there is one thing we must never lose sight of. God has no obligation to serve us. He has committed Himself to love and care for us eternally, but He is not obligated in anyway to give us everything we think we should have. We must not allow meditation to become a breeding ground for selfishness and self-centeredness, which are most dangerous when they take on a religious tone. Guard against self-deception. If we are serious about walking with God, we will prefer obedience over comfort and blessing.

The discipline of meditation helps to balance our minds and our emotions and the best way to make the most of our commitment to this discipline is to meditate on Scripture. God gives us His Word to help us build a well-balanced point of view. The Bible is the most obvious and consistent way that He speaks to us. It is the grounding rod of everything we do in our walk with God. Making Scripture a daily part of our lives keeps our disciplines of prayer and meditation centered on God and His will for our lives. Without a consistent dose of Scripture we will never have a strong walk with God. And, no matter how much we study the Bible, our disciplines will be ineffective if we do not have the foundation of deep personal humility which comes from brokenness. Humility helps give us a balanced view of God’s word. And we have to have a balanced understanding of Scripture in order to have a balanced perspective about our lives.

The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us, not to give us knowledge. Just learning facts about God and Christian history really doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. This doesn’t mean that facts aren’t important because they are. They give us reference and context to help us better understand the compassion that God has for all people. Our goal in studying the Bible makes all the difference. Do we want to increase our knowledge about God or do we want to increase our closeness with God? This is the profound question that is always before us.

For you see, the Bible is more than just a history book. It contains the breath and life of God. Our commitment to meditate on Scripture opens us up to inhale the breath of God. This will transform us. The love, the friendship, the instruction, and the eternal message of compassion that are in Scripture will move off the pages of the Bible and into us. We should think of Scripture in the same way that a man who’s dying of thirst would think about water. We should want it like someone who is starving would want a pizza. We want to drink it, eat it, consume it. We want to get Scripture into us so that it can nourish us, strengthen us and make us healthy and strong. Taking God’s Word into us will teach us to listen intently, to speak softly, and to live powerfully.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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.

List names of people we have harmed.