Wednesday, October 18, 2017

KEEP MAKING THE CHOICE

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.  I Corinthians 10:24, The Message

For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.
- C. S. Lewis

Keep Making the Choice

If we ever think that our healing is primarily for our benefit, the selfishness of our thinking reveals just how little we have been healed. On the other hand, when we believe that our healing is to be lived out for the benefit of others, our lives will bear witness to how we have been healed already. In either case, there is just one remaining question and it will never change. We will face it day in and day out, minute by minute, with every breath we take. The question is, Who owns us? Will we live for God and others or will we die in addiction and shame? The answer we give to this question will determine what kind of people we will be and how we will live out our lives.

How we answer this question is not the end of our responsibility; it’s just the beginning. All too often, we tend to compartmentalize our lives, and judge ourselves wrongly because we use the wrong criteria to evaluate and measure ourselves. We assume that we are doing well because parts of our life are in good order, while we ignore other areas of our life that are all messed up. Or, we judge ourselves too harshly because of one mistake, when in reality there is significant progress that we don’t see. Compartmentalizing and judging ourselves in this way is like determining the winner of a baseball game after just the first or second inning. It’s like judging a painting before the artist has completed his work. We need to always remember that God is the only perfect judge. God does not judge us by the pieces or compartments of our lives, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves that way either. He recognizes that the whole package of our lives, beginning with the condition of our hearts, is what really counts. He never looks down on us with a red pen and a grade book in hand. He judges us according to the love and righteousness of Christ. So, we should embrace His grace by measuring ourselves by our willingness to follow and obey Him. And even when we fall short and sin, we are not without God’s grace. Above all, God wants us to know that we are not worthless or hopeless, even when we are at our worst.

God’s grace through Christ gives us the power to recover from our addictions and to walk humbly with God, but it does not make us completely immune to sin or our addictions. We should never think that we are in full control of our lives because, if we go our own way, placing our confidence in ourselves, we become susceptible to relapse and the dire consequences that inevitably follow. If and when we hold even one thing back, we have not really given Him our lives. This doesn’t mean that walking with God is an all or nothing thing, because it isn’t. Walking with God is progressive. Walking with God is a growth in which we expand and enlarge our acceptance and expression of the grace that He has already given us.

All this is to say that no matter how well or how poorly we have surrendered our lives to God, there is still more to be offered up. Surrender is never relevant in the past tense, but it is always relevant in the here and now. We have to be willing to give the whole of our lives to God, all the good and all the bad, the best that we possibly can, or our life as a whole will not belong to Him at all.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

INTEGRITY INSIDE AND OUT

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

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, page 99, Bird by Bird

Integrity Inside and Out

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 admit that we lack integrity.



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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

THE DECISION

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

“If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow Me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for Me, you will find it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26


“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything.”
- Bernadette Devlin

The Decision

It has been said that everyone will have their Waterloo. Now, in addiction we have found ours, too. We can no longer deceive ourselves, or anyone else for that matter. Our addictions have been profound. We know it, and other people know it too. Because of this, we just don’t have the energy to go on the way we’ve been going. Physically, mentally, and spiritually we’re done. It’s all over. It’s the end. It seems that we’re as good as dead. But here, when we’re at the end of ourselves, there is a calling for us. God, the giver of life, is calling for us to accept the loss of our own lives in order to accept the life that he has to give us.

The decision to surrender ourselves to God’s care is far more personal and practical than religious. We surrender our will and life to God because if we continue to live as we have, our addictions will destroy us. We’ve simply come to understand that God is a life-or-death decision for all of us. And today, each of us decides whether we are willing to trust God or continue our journey alone. Failing to trust leaves us spiritually alone and unprotected against our own progressing addictions. This is a potentially fatal mistake for anyone who has an addiction.

When we decide to trust God we are not making a religious decision, although many religions encourage us to do this as well. You see it’s not religion that we need. If religion was the answer for our addictions those of us who came from religious backgrounds would never have had the addictions that we’ve had. What we really need is intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is far more personal than religious. It is an intimacy that transcends all that we are as human beings. Intimacy with God puts God inside of us. It makes us bigger than what we could ever be on our own. We call it a surrender because we can’t be exactly sure how this intimacy with God will affect us. But while we may not know exactly how God and his goodness will play out in our lives we do know that it will be far better than staying in our addictions.

Ultimately, all of us will stand before God with their future literally in their own hands, making their life decision for themselves in their own personal way. Some recovering addicts, when they made their decision to trust their life to God, experienced immediate and profound gratitude with dramatic emotional outbursts. Others experienced only a quiet sense of relief that their life would change. Whatever the experience is for us as individuals, each of us must understand that it is far better to make the decision to surrender and trust than continue on the way we were going. We know that we must have God’s help and we have decided to ask for it.

As we make the decision to surrender our lives to God, let’s pray in ways that are personal and intimate. Let’s pray like this…

Dear God,
Only you are God and I am not. You are the Maker and Fulfiller of life. As for me, I know that I originate from you, that I exist because of you. Today, I make the decision to give myself to you, the best I know how. You own me, as far as I am concerned. I am yours. I give you my old life and I ask for you to give me your life. You can do with me anything you want to do.

Now there are times when I get deceived and I become distracted from you. When I do, I feel that you are far away and I am hurt, from the inside out, when I sin. But, according to your Word and your promises, I know that You are always with me. Only You can save me from my addictions and my sins, renewing me in the center of my soul, my will. You protect me, You save me, You transform me.

I thank You for the changes in me that You have promised. I want to be more of yours. I seek You, and by your grace I am finding and knowing You. It is my desire to know You more intimately and to more effectively live out the life You have for me. Amen

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

MILLIE ANN'S STORY

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23,24, NLT


“As you discover your faults and sins, make no effort in your own strength to overcome them. This is a waste of time! Rather, abandon yourself immediately to God. Only He is able to destroy in you all that displeases Him.”
- Jeanne Guyon, Intimacy with Christ

Millie Ann’s Story

It seems like I make the best discoveries when I am going through the toughest times. As a result of one particular issue that has repeatedly brought tough times to me, I’ve come to realize how God can help me to better deal with all of the difficulties that I suffer.

For years I had been working myself into a frenzy over my inability to handle my finances. Now I want you to know that I make a good income and I have always known that there is no good reason for me to run out of money. However, time after time I would overspend and have to borrow money to make ends meet. This happened numerous times and every time I would end up in great despair, feeling isolated and hopeless about ever overcoming my bad habits and problems related to money. I can’t count how many times I promised to do better and to change, but the harder I tried the worse things got for me. Each day I was feeling more inadequate. I seriously doubted my ability to manage my own life. I was becoming ever more desperate.

Then one day, when I was quietly considering my situation, I realized that I was dealing with a very serious character defect. I had never thought of my problem in this way before. I had always thought that I could solve this problem as long as I worked hard enough or smart enough. But when I started to think of my problem in terms of a character defect I realized that I could never solve this problem on my own. It was, at the very least, bigger than me. I knew that I had to turn myself over to God in a more profound and personal way, otherwise this character defect would continue to rule me, ultimately destroying my and my daughter’s future.

My sponsor from AA led to me Christ when I was about 6 months sober. While I had grown up attending church with my family, I had never known Christ as anything more than someone the priest talked about at Mass. The Christ I came to know by way of my sponsor was someone who had an interest in me and someone who I believed would want to be with me all of the time. Now, in turning over this most desperate problem that lived so deep within me, I felt like I wanted Christ to move into me in an ever deeper way in order to get rid of this deeply-rooted character defect. Later that same day I went into my bedroom and I got down on my knees beside my bed and prayed (pleading and begging was more like it) for Christ to take away this horribly defective part of my character. As I prayed I began to experience a very quiet sense of relief. Obviously nothing had changed in that moment except for maybe me. I knew that I did not have to bear this burden by myself anymore. I knew that God was going to be with me and He was going to help me. This made a world of difference.

Over the next few weeks I began to think a little differently about my problem. I began to see money differently too. I realized that I had always been afraid of the responsibility of money and I had always been scared of success. Not wanting to be scared anymore, I started to look around for someone who could help me learn to better manage my income and finances. Remembering that someone once told me that prayer without action is a waste of time, I enrolled in a credit counseling program that was free of charge. The people at this program helped me to develop a budget that was workable, one that did not put my back up to the wall. I made no promises to anyone, not even to myself. My only commitment was to continue to surrender my character defect and my fear to God and to act in accordance with the guidance given to me by my credit counselor. It took over two years but I finally got all of my credit cards paid off and I have begun saving money in the hopes of buying a home for me and my daughter.

My life is now marked by an increasing number of surrenders. Most are more subtle than the surrender I made over money. I have gained a greater appreciation for Christ and I believe more strongly than ever in His love and compassion for me. Life for me is far from perfect. I am, after all, a single mother who spent much of her life living wrongly and there are still consequences for my failures. But, right in the midst of the hardships of my life, I know that the power of God is always available to me as long as I ask Him for His help and I surrender my will to His.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LIFE LIBERATED

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

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law.
Romans 13:8, NIV

“Honest men fear neither the light nor the dark.”
- Thomas Fuller, M.D.

Life Liberated

Learning to love ourselves the way that God loves us will give us an ever increasing freedom to live our lives. This freedom to live is not just a freedom from our addictions; it is a fully liberated life that begins on the inside of us and then it moves out into all of the ways that we express ourselves. 

The liberty that God gives is not subject to the limitations and demands that we experience in our day-to-day lives, and while this freedom is bigger than our everyday lives, it does not make us immune to feeling fear when we are faced with uncertainty. God gives the kind of freedom and liberty that empowers and equips us to act with courage even in the face of uncertainty, when we feel fear. And, in the same way, we may feel pain but we can act with kindness even when feeling pain. The gift and responsibility of freedom is most evident when we address the negative consequences we’ve created, and when we make amends to those who have been hurt by the way we’ve lived in the past. When speaking with those to whom we owe amends, we will want to share with them that we recognize that we have had an addiction, that we know that our past actions have been hurtful and that we want to make things right to the best of our ability. Sharing the facts of our addictions and our mistakes in a general way allows us to communicate with others from a standpoint of humility and honesty. We don’t have to share every gory and ugly detail with them. We don’t need to air out all of our dirty laundry either. This is not about the past; it is about the present and about the future. We should only share what will be helpful to them and to others. Being forthright in this way, we begin to establish healthier communication with those that we’ve hurt. It will also help to put them at ease and it will put us in a place where we can more effectively make the amends that we need to make. Sharing in this way will also open the door for others to honestly share their feelings with us. Dialogue must be an honest two-way street. We must be willing to listen – honestly and openly listen -- in order to understand how we have hurt them and what we need to do to help them.

Some amends can and should be made face-to-face. Some can never be made directly. Others will have to be postponed for a better time. We’ll be of little benefit to anyone, if in our attempts to clear our own conscience, we offer ourselves as sacrificial lambs. We should consult with our sponsors and our counselors about situations where we face serious consequences. We never want to run away from the reality of our past mistakes but we also do not want to be shortsighted, disregarding our current relationships or responsibilities in an attempt to be a hero to the past. Our sponsors and counselors helped us to know how to handle each situation. When we face situations where people demand certain answers from us that we do not want to give, we consult with our sponsors and counselors. Sometimes a three-way meeting between us, our victim and our counselors is necessary for things to get going in the right direction. There is rarely a good reason to hurry. It is far better to do recovery well than to do it fast!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

LIVING LIFE

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

"Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out." - Galatians 6:1, The Message

“You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” - Alcoholics Anonymous

Living Life

We have good reasons to be proud of our growth, and we should also be proud of those who are growing alongside of us. Not proud in a boastful or self-confident way, but in a way that acknowledges and appreciates the role we have played in our own recovery. We have, after all, been desperate enough and smart enough to partner with God in the building of our new life. With His power and our willingness, we are ready and well equipped to give goodness and love to whomever we encounter. This doesn’t mean that we have fully recovered from our addictions, because we haven’t. We must remember that overconfidence and complacency can set us up, and then we easily become our own greatest downfall. We must never forget how we have been addicted in the past, and we must never think that we cannot be addicted again in the future.

God, in His loving way, will give us our reminders. Every now and then, our brains will make a spontaneous wrong turn and we will once again experience the conflicted impulse and desire of addictive thinking. Every one of us will have our temptations and mental lapses, especially when we are tired or stressed or hurting or afraid. So, let us never forget that we are people who are at risk of relapse. Our challenges start with our thinking, but it is not our first thought that gets us into trouble really. A first wayward thought is nothing more than a temptation and temptation is nothing but a fork in the road. It is a place where we have to make a choice. The real concern is what choice we will make when we’re tempted. What we do with the first thought will make all the difference for us. It’s with our second thought that we choose to continue to walk with God and enjoy the life that He gives, or go the way of sin and relapse, suffering the inevitable consequences that come with sin and relapse.

The only way to ensure our ability to make good choices in times of temptation is with our ongoing spiritual submission to God’s way of living through faith and obedience. He alone has the power to keep us safe from our selfish nature, but He cannot help us unless we obey Him! Sometimes, the temptations will be uncomfortable and other times they may be miserable. So, let us continue to admit that we are powerless over our addictions and that our lives are unmanageable without God’s care and control of our lives. Every time that we feel the urge to go back to our addictions and we don’t, the obsessions and compulsions associated with our addictions will lose some of their power. They will never go away completely, but new attachments for goodness are being made inside of us every moment that we walk with God by doing our recovery work. Ultimately, if we persist, these new good attachments will gain strength over the old bad ones. Increasingly, we will lose interest in our own life compared to the expanding thrill of giving God and His life to others. We’ll want to share the spiritual revolution that God is giving to us with the whole world.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

BECOMING OUR FRIEND

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

If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins – make a clean break of them – he won’t let us down, he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God --make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.  I John 1:8-10 The Message

“Tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.” ~ Mark Twain

Becoming our Friend

Jerry does a great job of telling us what it was like for him to get honest and admit what he was really thinking and feeling on the inside. As he became honest with himself, he was better able to get honest with God as well as those who were close to him. Jerry discovered that self-honesty was required for his good intentions to become reality. This simple principle holds true for all of us.

Trust, is a byproduct of honesty. It is essential for all healthy relationships, whether it’s a relationship with someone else or our relationship with ourselves. We all have people in our lives that we don’t trust because they have not been honest with us. When we can’t trust someone, we can’t feel at peace with them, comfortable with them or have a real friendship with them. It’s the same way with ourselves. When we are dishonest with ourselves we won’t feel comfortable, and we won’t be able to be at peace with ourselves. This is why we so often resort to some kind of mood- or mind-altering experience. Knowing this helps us to better understand how our addictions have become entrenched inside of us. We will also better understand why we have felt lonely and isolated for so much of our lives.

In the past, we’ve seen ourselves through a lens of deception and secrets. Now, we throw off the blinders so that we can see ourselves more realistically. By admitting the truth about ourselves to ourselves we become better integrated with the reality of life. The holes inside of us get plugged up and the bleeding stops. The broken pieces of our hearts and minds start to find their right places again. We become ready to receive God’s compassion and care, which will take root in the very places where our personal deceptions have lived. This blows the lid off the box that our addictions have placed us in. Our identity, that we were made in the image of God, finds new life as we become connected with God in this way.

We become the most blessed of all people when we get honest with God and ourselves. We go from being our own worst enemy to being one of our most intimate friends. In purging the dishonesty from our lives, we purge the things that have been destroying us. We will see our future will be good, irrespective of the difficulties that come our way. Our days will be brighter, the sun will be warmer, the breezes of life will be cooler and fresher. We will find that life that is well worth living.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVERSING THE PAST

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

I'm single-minded in pursuit of you; don't let me miss the road signs you've posted. I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won't sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, GOD; train me in your ways of wise living. Psalm 119:10-12 The Message

“When our desire is focused on loving God and others, we will realize our deepest longings for life fulfilled." - A Recovering Alcoholic

Reversing the Past

None of us will ever eliminate our character defects on our own, no matter how hard we try. While it is not possible for us to remove our character defects on our own, we can learn to change the way we think, the way we act and the way we live our lives. Letting go of character defects is never passive. Like everything else we do in recovery, character change requires action. Personal growth and change is a divine interaction between God’s grace and our choices. When we change our actions, we interrupt habitual patterns of thinking, believing and feeling. Motion changes emotion!

If we are willing to change, we will not make the same mistakes time after time. It takes some practice, but with a little commitment and a few failures (which we will want to share with another person), the changes to the way we think, the way we feel and the way we act will begin to come quite quickly. People from religious backgrounds call this repentance and that’s exactly what it is. Grassroots, down and dirty, rubber meets the road repentance. The simplest definition of repentance is to “change one’s mind.” It’s an about face. Turning and going in the other direction. Whatever you call it, it works.

Scripture offers an overwhelming abundance of practical insight and guidance for those of us who are looking for renewal and strength. There are some things that just cannot be said any better than the way Scripture has already said it.

“And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty- headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that’s no life for you! You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” Ephesians 4:19 - 23 The Message

Any questions?


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

OUT OF THE BOX INTO THE LIGHT

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark.   John 12:46 The Message

Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there.  ~ Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest

Out of The Box Into The Light

Most of us have had our addictions much longer than we first realized. Because of the destructive impact that our addictions have made on our hearts and minds, we’ve probably not known what it means to be emotionally healthy. It’s like we’ve grown up being locked away in a box. There, in our addictions that is, it would be impossible for us to see the light of freedom. Without light we could not see the future with any sense of joy or healthy expectation. Living in addiction is like being stuck in a cave for so long that we have forgotten what it feels like to have the warmth of the sun on our face. Because we’ve only known the dark up till now it’s been impossible for us to comprehend The Light.

But, as we get connected to a recovery fellowship we begin to see people who have seen “The Light” and the hopefulness that The Light brings with it. From the example of others whose lives are being changed for the better we can see that things can change for us: that the destructive patterns of our lives need not continue anymore. With what we can see in The Light, we come to believe that change can happen for us because we see it happening for others right before our very eyes. This is how God, The Higher Power, works. He works through people.

As God gives us The Light, through the guiding direction of others, we begin to see the pathway to recovery and change being illuminated right in front of us. We see that The Light for living is available to everyone. We find its usefulness not because we are special but because it is the nature of light to light up things around it. Our job is simply to put ourselves in the Light, which is another way of saying we put our confidence and trust in God. For many of us this was a radical but subtle departure from the ways we have talked about God in the past. Let’s get honest, simply talking about God really hasn’t helped us much in the past, has it? After all, many of us have spent much of our lives in religious exercise but have never really known God as any kind of real Higher Power. If anything, our addictions prove that in the past God, as we would refer to him, has been little more than a religious symbol or relic, impersonal words on a page of religious material, or possibly for some of us, a tyrannical overlord that demanded that we observe religious impositions that seem to be irrelevant and arbitrary.

For God to be The Light, our Higher Power that is, means to recognize God to be The One that we trust will show us the way to a life that is free from our addicted insanity. Then, in faith, God, The Higher Power, becomes our Protector, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. If we think of God in any way less than this we take Him for granted. And if we take God for granted we waste this chance to recover from our addicted insanity. Either God is The Ultimate Higher Power for us or He is nothing for us.

Furthermore, as God works in our lives, we find that The Light that illuminates the way for us is not always pleasant. Not only does The Light shine the way to a hopeful future, it also illuminates areas of our lives that we have not considered before. Many of these areas will need to be changed just as much as our addictions need to be changed. In his loving care for us, God does not discriminate.



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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

GOD UNDERSTANDS US

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

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:1-6


“So in terms of what every man needs most crucially, all man’s power is powerless because at it’s roots, of course, the deepest longings of the human soul is the longing for God, and this no man has the power to satisfy”
-Frederick Buechner

God Understands Us

Knowing that God knows us through and through can be very troubling. Nevertheless, our friend David from the Psalms didn’t seem to mind. He even expresses joy and amazement knowing that God is so aware of him. We might think that David would feel this way because of his self confidence. This may be partly true because David was a man of great success, but he was also a man of tremendous failure, too. It’s more likely that David’s joy came from his belief that God had a loving and careful interest in him. The kind of love and care that didn’t depend on whether he was a success or a failure.

David’s experience reminds us that no amount of virtue, religious or otherwise, will make us immune to temptation, to sin or to failure. To his credit, David honestly faced his failures, and as he did so he experienced an expanding relationship with God. David didn’t run, hide, or make excuses. He didn’t pretend and he didn’t minimize his mistakes. He accepted the worst about himself and openly surrendered his shortcomings to God right along with his successes. David, as he admitted his problems, used his failures as a lens through which he could get a better view of God’s forgiveness. As he did this, his failures became building blocks of growth and maturity. Knowing that God was a gracious and forgiving God enabled David to repent and find ever greater joy and health in life. David knew that there are no sins that are too big for God to forgive. He also knew that God was not impressed with his success and that, as he responsibly faced his failures, God would not condemn him.

God knows us in an intimate way just like He knew David in an intimate way. Like it or not, we are all naked before Him. As we acknowledge this, God’s love and power will heal our addictions and save our lives. Just like He did for David, failures and all.

For you see, God understands when we feel conflicted. And, He knows that we live in a conflicted world, too. He is aware that we are not happy ourselves much of the time. Because He understands this, He never holds our struggles and conflicts against us.

He sees that our intentions are good for the most part. But He also sees that we run into problems when we try to control things that are beyond our ability to control. It hurts Him when He sees how we create problems for ourselves and other people because we don’t ask for his help. But then, with compassion, God knows that there is a reason for everything we do, a reason that that we usually don’t know. When our addictions corrupt our motives, he knows it. He also knows that our motives are purified as we get honest. Feeling what we feel, He never loses sight of the fact that we pay a price when we get honest. But, nevertheless, He is always urging us to move deeper into honesty because He knows that the price that we pay for dishonesty is far greater.

In Jesus, God assures us that there are no sins that He is not willing to forgive and that there are no addictions that cannot be healed. With this in mind He wants us to recognize in a deep way that the desire of our heart and the direction of our lives go hand in hand. He has created a world where we always have a choice in who we will become and what our lives will be like from here on out. So, He holds us responsible for our lives. For you see, it is the subtle and intimate decisions that we make that will most profoundly impact our character and our lives. No matter what other people may say, God never laughs at us when we tell Him our plans. He never laughs at us, at all, in any way. God takes us more seriously than that. After all, He died so that we can have this opportunity to live.

God will, maybe, laugh when He sees how we try to make Him fit into the image that we make for Him. But then again, maybe not. After all, He knows that He is God and that we are not. Having expressed his love through Jesus, and having provided help for our addictions through people, God holds us fully responsible for our lives no matter of what we say or think about Him. At the end of the day, He knows that we have no excuses.

God is the ultimate “more than.” He is, in every way and at all times, more than we are and more than everything else, too. Only He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. With all of this in mind, it stands to reason that we will only know the intimate power of God once we have come to the end of our own resources and realize that we still need more. Having expressed himself in Christ, God is now willing to express himself in our lives as well. The only place for us to find life is in The Life of Christ, God. This Life of Jesus can never be contained in a history lesson or a theological discussion. He is more alive than that. He is to be lived in us! Jesus’ life is now our life. His God is our God. Our lives are His. And now, we exist for God.

Everything will make sense for us when we are willing to look through the lens of eternity. The recovery that God gives is not about rule-keeping, religious moralizing, or self-imposed corrections. It is really the love of God that is changing our hearts and as our hearts are changed, our minds will be changed, too. We are experiencing a complete change of personal allegiance, coming to prefer an intimate relationship with God above our addictions, above our lives, above everything.

Are you ready to say…

God, I surrender my will and my life to You today, this very moment, without reservation and with humble confidence, for You are my loving Father. Set me free from self-consciousness, from anxiety about tomorrow, and from the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others, that I may find joy and delight simply and solely in pleasing you. May my inner freedom be a compelling sign of Your presence, Your peace, Your power, and your love. Let your plan for my life and the lives of all your children gracefully unfold one day at a time. I love You with all my heart, and I place all my confidence in You, for You are my Abba Father. ~ Attributed to Brennan Manning



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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CATAPULTED INTO SPIRITUAL LIFE

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.

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.  Matthew 7:7-8, NLT

“Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.”
~ Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Everyone prays. We all pray in way or another, often without realizing it. Instinctively, we have the need to connect with permanence, and prayer can be considered as our personal attempt to reach and touch eternity. Prayer helps us make sense of our lives. It helps us sort through tragedy and heartbreak and locate the treasures that are hidden inside of misfortune.Many of us have been trained to think of prayer as a religious activity or duty. Somewhere along the way we were sold a bill of goods. Someone convinced us that prayer had to be done in a certain way that was scripted or traditional according to certain previously defined standards. This is not true. Prayer is never limited in any way because God is not limited in any way. Prayer may be well planned or it may be spontaneous. It may be formal or it may be casual and conversational. It may be traditional and religious or it may be radical. Prayer can be expressed in many different ways and it is always real and effective as long as we are real and sincere with it. Prayer is not a matter of technique. It is a matter of attitude and openness.

The impact of prayer is reduced if we think of it as a demand or a duty that is required of us. We objectify prayer, we objectify God and we objectify ourselves if prayer is ever reduced to anything less than an act of intimacy. When reduced, prayer becomes nothing more important than washing dishes or making beds. And while these are obviously very good and very necessary things, they are not the things that help us, heal us or bring us into closeness with God. Prayer is more of an opportunity. It is a calling. It is a picking up of the ringing phone and completing the connection that God has made available to us through Christ. Prayer is the way we engage God at a personal intimate level. And while we are engaging God through prayer, we are engaging ourselves at a personal and intimate level too.

Prayer is a dialogue. It puts us at the kitchen table with coffee mug in hand, ready to enjoy a special closeness with our loved one. It is cognitive and intuitive. It’s a spiritual openness that increases our oneness with God and with ourselves. Prayer ushers us into private communion with The Perfect Father - God. And while He is perfect, our prayers don’t need to be perfect. The only thing prayer needs to be is real. What we don’t know how to say, God’s Spirit will say for us. He understands everything, even the things we do not know or cannot express. Prayer, in essence, breaks the silence. It closes the distance between God and us. It heals our splintered hearts and our broken minds. It helps us to know what we feel and it helps us to think better. Prayer fulfills our need to be known. Prayer teaches us to accept God’s unconditional approval and it teaches us to accept ourselves at the same time. Prayer teaches us to recognize treasures that we have not noticed before. We will be able to make sense of difficulties and hardships. Praying privately helps us to be more honest and more true to ourselves. It opens us up. It is the sound we make – the spiritual sound – when we don’t know what to say or how to say it.  Prayer catapults us into the frontier of an authentic spiritual life.



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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

GETTING INTIMATE WITH GOD

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

As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother." He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!" Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. Mark 10:17-22 The Message

“A saint is not someone who is good but someone who experiences the goodness of God.” -Thomas Merton

Getting Intimate with God

Scripture is full of people who can help us become more intimate with God. But it’s not always because they had such a good relationship with God themselves. One such person is the man we read about in Mark 10. Let’s call him Don. From what the Bible says, we know that Don rushes around in a big hurry, with all kinds of drama, all in an effort to do what he thinks he needs to do so that he can live forever. Sounds like some of us, doesn’t it?

From what we read we know that Don was intensely committed to his religious practice, rituals he had kept since childhood. Speculating a little, Don was probably the kind of guy who attended church without fail. We can almost see him, tall and well put together. We can bet that Don took really good care of his appearance, presenting himself to the world with great care and consideration. He knew he was doing good and it was important to him to impress others with just how good he was. He probably drove a nice car and, secretly of course, he was proud that he kept his car looking and running better than anyone else in his neighborhood. For sure, Don was well respected at church and at home. This made him feel important. Being the man that he was, Don was obsessed with learning all that he needed to know in order to get rid of anything that limited the life that he loved so much. It seems like Don thought of Jesus as little more than a means to an end. Because Don was committed to getting everything that he thought was important, he inadvertently treated Jesus as if Jesus was just an object that was there to give Don what he thought he needed. Don was in control, or so he thought. In the most subtle of ways, Don was playing God. This is what we do when try to use God to get our way. It happens even with our best intentions. None of us means to objectify God but we do, at least to some degree. It’s really not a question of if we have, but how often have we.

Jesus gives Don an amazing comeback. He didn’t directly confront Don’s religiosity and pride. He just suggested that Don should keep doing more of what he was already doing. Then, being such a hard worker and all, Don was apparently overcome with a deep, deep sadness. After all, since childhood he had been working harder and harder to get a better life and it obviously hadn’t been working for him. If it had, he wouldn’t have been so desperate for something more. So, deep in his gut, he knew it wasn’t going to work now. Do you know this feeling?

Here the story could have taken a great turn, but it didn’t. Jesus continued to respond to Don by challenging his attachments. (Don probably had some addictions mixed in there, too.) While challenging Don to detach and free himself from the things that he held so dear, Jesus extended an invitation to enter into the intimacy of living with Jesus on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of Jesus’ followers did. Sadly, Don could not make this decision. He could not find it within himself to let go of the old life of religion and take hold of this new life of relationship.
We need to be careful not to speculate too much because we can’t read Don’s mind. We can only know for sure what Scripture tells us. Perhaps Don just didn’t believe what Jesus was saying. Perhaps he couldn’t fathom the idea that gaining eternal life did not depend on him alone. Or, perhaps Don just didn’t really want what Jesus had to offer. Don seemed determined to think that his religious discipline and control would be enough to get himself right with God forever. He chose pride over life.

Don’s story will only benefit us if we are willing to learn from it. Sometimes we learn the most in observing the failures of others. It is important for us to relate ourselves to Don and his encounter with Christ, failures and all. For you see, Jesus is about more than just overcoming an addiction. He is about more than just going to heaven when we die. Any reason and all reasons are good reasons to come to Christ, but the only way we will continuously bring life to our sinful existence is to seek intimacy with Christ for the sake of God himself. Any other reason becomes sin sooner or later. Jesus is more than a religious icon. Jesus is how God identifies himself to us in a personal way. In Jesus, God shows himself as the perfect human so that all of us imperfect humans can enjoy a perfected relationship with God. It’s simple really. As we make the decision to surrender our will and our life to Jesus we get close, we get real and we get intimate with God. It’s a love story, not a religious story. God looks deep into us and no matter of what he sees, He loves us just like Jesus loved Don. What Jesus did for Don, God is doing for us. He challenges us. He calls us. He invites us to let go of the things which have been holding us back, most notably our religious attempts to prove ourselves worthy. God frees us from the demand that we get our act together. He knows that even if we did ever get our act together, all that we would ever have would be an act.

Christ, is here to give us His life if we are willing to let go of the lifelessness that we have known up to now. He has done his part now. Let us do ours.






Available through all major book sellers

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

GETTING INTIMATE WITH GOD

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

As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother." He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!" Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. Mark 10:17-22 The Message

“A saint is not someone who is good but someone who experiences the goodness of God.” -Thomas Merton

Getting Intimate with God

Scripture is full of people who can help us become more intimate with God. But it’s not always because they had such a good relationship with God themselves. One such person is the man we read about in Mark 10. Let’s call him Don. From what the Bible says, we know that Don rushes around in a big hurry, with all kinds of drama, all in an effort to do what he thinks he needs to do so that he can live forever. Sounds like some of us, doesn’t it?

From what we read we know that Don was intensely committed to his religious practice, rituals he had kept since childhood. Speculating a little, Don was probably the kind of guy who attended church without fail. We can almost see him, tall and well put together. We can bet that Don took really good care of his appearance, presenting himself to the world with great care and consideration. He knew he was doing good and it was important to him to impress others with just how good he was. He probably drove a nice car and, secretly of course, he was proud that he kept his car looking and running better than anyone else in his neighborhood. For sure, Don was well respected at church and at home. This made him feel important. Being the man that he was, Don was obsessed with learning all that he needed to know in order to get rid of anything that limited the life that he loved so much. It seems like Don thought of Jesus as little more than a means to an end. Because Don was committed to getting everything that he thought was important, he inadvertently treated Jesus as if Jesus was just an object that was there to give Don what he thought he needed. Don was in control, or so he thought. In the most subtle of ways, Don was playing God. This is what we do when try to use God to get our way. It happens even with our best intentions. None of us means to objectify God but we do, at least to some degree. It’s really not a question of if we have, but how often have we.

Jesus gives Don an amazing comeback. He didn’t directly confront Don’s religiosity and pride. He just suggested that Don should keep doing more of what he was already doing. Then, being such a hard worker and all, Don was apparently overcome with a deep, deep sadness. After all, since childhood he had been working harder and harder to get a better life and it obviously hadn’t been working for him. If it had, he wouldn’t have been so desperate for something more. So, deep in his gut, he knew it wasn’t going to work now. Do you know this feeling?

Here the story could have taken a great turn, but it didn’t. Jesus continued to respond to Don by challenging his attachments. (Don probably had some addictions mixed in there, too.) While challenging Don to detach and free himself from the things that he held so dear, Jesus extended an invitation to enter into the intimacy of living with Jesus on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of Jesus’ followers did. Sadly, Don could not make this decision. He could not find it within himself to let go of the old life of religion and take hold of this new life of relationship.
We need to be careful not to speculate too much because we can’t read Don’s mind. We can only know for sure what Scripture tells us. Perhaps Don just didn’t believe what Jesus was saying. Perhaps he couldn’t fathom the idea that gaining eternal life did not depend on him alone. Or, perhaps Don just didn’t really want what Jesus had to offer. Don seemed determined to think that his religious discipline and control would be enough to get himself right with God forever. He chose pride over life.

Don’s story will only benefit us if we are willing to learn from it. Sometimes we learn the most in observing the failures of others. It is important for us to relate ourselves to Don and his encounter with Christ, failures and all. For you see, Jesus is about more than just overcoming an addiction. He is about more than just going to heaven when we die. Any reason and all reasons are good reasons to come to Christ, but the only way we will continuously bring life to our sinful existence is to seek intimacy with Christ for the sake of God himself. Any other reason becomes sin sooner or later. Jesus is more than a religious icon. Jesus is how God identifies himself to us in a personal way. In Jesus, God shows himself as the perfect human so that all of us imperfect humans can enjoy a perfected relationship with God. It’s simple really. As we make the decision to surrender our will and our life to Jesus we get close, we get real and we get intimate with God. It’s a love story, not a religious story. God looks deep into us and no matter of what he sees, He loves us just like Jesus loved Don. What Jesus did for Don, God is doing for us. He challenges us. He calls us. He invites us to let go of the things which have been holding us back, most notably our religious attempts to prove ourselves worthy. God frees us from the demand that we get our act together. He knows that even if we did ever get our act together, all that we would ever have would be an act.

Christ, is here to give us His life if we are willing to let go of the lifelessness that we have known up to now.  He has done his part now. Let us do ours.






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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

INNER REALITY

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Let's take a good look at the way we're living and reorder our lives under God. Lamentations 3:40 The Message

"If we want to know God personally, the place to start is with the truth and reality about ourselves." - Anonymous

Inner Reality

Being real about our emotions is one of the healthiest commitments we can make. When we deny our feelings, we deny the reality of our innermost lives; we reject a fundamental aspect of our own humanity. We reduce ourselves. We become objects in our own eyes. We lose the very dignity that we most desire.

Nicole was a wonderful young woman whose life had become paralyzed because she could not honestly address her feelings. Along with the rest of her family, Nicole suffered because of her father’s domineering abusiveness, an abusiveness that he called religious leadership. As a little girl, Nicole often felt hurt because her mother and father ignored her attempts to gain their affection. Her parents, mostly her father, were so absorbed in their own lives that they didn’t care for Nicole in the way that a little girl of her age needed to be nurtured. Because of this, Nicole grew up feeling unwanted. No matter how hard she tried, she was never able to connect with her father in a way that made her feel loved by him. He had a problem himself. He could not connect with his own feelings let alone connect with the feelings of his little girl. Nicole feared that she would never get her father’s love. By adolescence, Nicole was angry. By college, she had a deep resentment toward her mother, her brothers and sisters, church, God, and, most of all, herself. Blind to her own feelings, Nicole continued to love her father and, with a desperate heart, she held out hope that someday he would love her, too.

The greatest tragedy of Nicole’s story is how she began to self destruct in her own addictions even while she maintained all the appearances of a successful businesswoman. Because she was unable to recognize and admit how she really felt on the inside, it was impossible for her to get the help she needed. Nicole fell into a pattern of dangerous addictions and ultimately she died at the age of 34 from complications related to alcoholism and anorexia. Nicole died believing that she was at fault and that her mother, brothers, sisters and God had all conspired together in order to keep her father’s love from her. She never recognized the fear and abandonment that she felt. Nor did she admit the justifiable anger she felt for her father. The last words she heard him say to her were words of criticism because of her drinking and her emaciated appearance. But still, even with her deep wounds, she idolized him till she died. She never could see that he was the one who was wrong. Nor could she admit that she was mad at him for the way he treated her. Nicole’s life and death prove that unacknowledged fear, anger and resentment can be fatal.

Identifying, recognizing and admitting how we feel is a commitment to intimate truth. If we want to be healed we must first be known. Being known starts with knowing how we feel about ourselves, our lives, other people and God. We are responsible for knowing how we feel. If we don’t know how we feel, we will carry our pain and fears with us, into the future. Denying fear actually makes us full of fear. Fear, like anger, resentment and all other painful emotions, swell up inside of us when they go unaddressed, setting us up in a sort of psychic paralysis from which we cannot save ourselves. We get stuck, we are alone. This kind of isolation is perhaps the worst of human suffering and nothing will free us from our emotional isolation unless we get real about how we feel. We have to have help.

Failing to admit what we feel and failing to get the help we need is what killed Nicole. So, to ensure that we don’t suffer the same fate that Nicole suffered, we get real as we work our Step Four. The purpose of Step Four is to help us recognize specific thoughts and feelings that we have that are not effectively working for us. If we are going to make effective changes, we have to know what needs to be changed. Human as we are, we are going to feel fear from time to time. We are going to get mad and we will become resentful sometimes, too. Having these feelings is not a problem. Denying them and avoiding them is. So, in order to get healthier we must get real like never before. We must exercise courage in Step Four. Just because we feel fear doesn’t mean we can’t act with courage. In fact, courage never exists in the absence of fear. It’s more like courage and fear are two sides of the same coin of emotion. To find courage, we must first acknowledge our fear. Then, we take our fear and we turn it over. We admit it and we give it up to God just like we gave our addictions to Him. When we turn over our fear to God and become ready to take action, He will empower us to act with courage even when we still feel afraid. The courage that God gives helps us to know the reality of our inner life in a powerfully intimate way. With the courage that God gives we can take the most personal areas of our lives and give ourselves away in empathy to others. In this way we can touch the very souls of those who are closest to us, passing along the courageous life that we are discovering, helping others to discover it, too. Doing this makes our lives all worthwhile.

As you read through and answer the following questions, take a few minutes and pray that God will help you to understand how to make the pain of your past a blessing to others in the future.

Look Inside

• What have you done in the past that most troubles you today?
• Name and write about the person or persons that make you feel angry, hurt or afraid when you think about them.
• Can you identify how some of your anger at yourself or others has promoted your addictive behavior? How?
• What do you fear most?
• How do you feel about those who are stronger than you?
• How do you feel about those in authority over you?
• Are you mad at any members of your family? Why?
• What have others done that has caused you harm?
• How do you punish yourself today for mistakes you made in the past?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your body?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your relationships?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your finances?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

THE EVERYDAYNESS OF PROGRESS


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



We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. 
Proverbs 21:2, The Message

"What helps at this point is to see your consequences as your teachers. You have been sent a lesson to learn. If you don’t learn the lesson this time, it will manifest itself again, and probably in a more painful form the next time."
- Patrick Carnes, Ph. D.

The Everydayness of Progress 
We need to practice our recovery principles every day. The daily monitoring of our motives helps us to have an honest view of ourselves and this helps to insure that we continue to recover from our addictions. God doesn’t tell us to bring our failures to Him just once. He tells us to bring our failures to Him continuously, day in and day out. For you see, recovery is a continuous process of character development. We can’t be what we’re not, but with practice we can make progress and move closer to the ideal example that God gave us in Christ. This means that we need to have a well-balanced understanding of our real needs and our most honest feelings. We also need to be ruthlessly honest about the health of our relationships, and the way that we live our lives when no one is watching. To whatever degree we have been guilty of playing to the crowd, so to speak, will be the degree that we place ourselves in jeopardy, risking a relapse of addictive destruction. We have to be real, everyday. We have to quit pretending.
           
When we lack character, we need to admit it to ourselves. We need to admit it to God and we need to admit it to someone else, too. When we lack integrity we need to admit that as well. As we admit our lack of character and integrity, we open ourselves up to an infusion of God’s transforming grace which is the most fundamental building block of character and integrity. This kind of construction is very personal. It is more intimate than anything we can ever do on our own, even with or without the help of other people. It is a gift from God and not something that we have earned on our own. The work we do is essential for our growth and recovery and we certainly need help from others, but in the end it is God who changes the condition of the human heart and mind.
           
As we continue to admit our wrongdoing and as we continue to correct our mistakes whenever and however we can - the best we can - we continue to live within the framework of God’s character. God’s character continues to be built into us and His character will help us to think and live more effectively in the future. 
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

REVOLUTION INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help? Romans 15:1, The Message

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”
- Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Revolution Inside and Outside

Our new life should be considered a gift, but it is not without cost. It carries with it a responsibility that, if left unmet, proves that we do not really appreciate the opportunity we have been given. Since we have admitted how unmanageable our lives had become, we cannot honestly claim ownership of our lives anymore. Our addictions have owned us in the past, but in recovery our lives are given over to God. Our worthless and tattered lives have been bought through the death of God’s Son, Jesus. And, the opportunity we have for a new life has been assured through His resurrection. This is, in a nutshell, the very basis of our faith. And this is why God is free to care for us in whatever way He thinks is best.

As we become assured of God’s active redemption, we will increasingly receive the most life changing of all good gifts - the gift of gratitude. Gratitude nourishes all of our God-given desires. It makes every area of our life an act of worship and praise. Even our shortcomings give glory to God when we are grateful for them. With gratitude, we return to God a portion of the goodness that He continually gives to us. For we need to always remember that the gifts that He gives are not ours to own. They are not to be used for our benefit and prosperity. The gifts that God gives to us are only ours to hold, to appreciate and to pass along to others.

What started with Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two alcoholics helping each other, has resulted in a movement that today helps millions of people recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has also spawned the Al-Anon movement, which helps millions of co-dependents and families of alcoholics worldwide. Additionally, AA has inspired the development of numerous other Twelve Step programs that help countless numbers of people recover from many different forms of addiction. Just like Bill Wilson and Dr. Smith, our lives can be multiplied many, many times over when we are willing to share them with others. Once again, this is because God’s power is without limit. If we are willing to do our recovery work faithfully, we will become a gift to the whole world one moment, one situation, one person at a time.

The greatest needs of our day will not be met by counselors, by doctors or by experts, politicians or professionals. The greatest needs of our day will be met by recovering people like us. We are grateful leaders in pain suffered and humble leaders in recovery gained. We are men and women who, having fought the fight for our own lives, now, more importantly, are willing to join the fight for the lives of others. The greatest need in our world today remains the same as it has always been: godly men and women who display a quality of character and life that ignites in others a desire to know God in a way that changes them.

And, on top of it all, each of us has a special role to play. God has given each of us, individually, a message to share and a story to tell. Yes, we are called to tell our story. We are called to tell how we had been blind and desperate and lost in our addictions. And we are called to tell about how God answered us when we, having gotten to our wits end, humbly asked Him for help.

Everyone needs to know that their secrets, struggles, problems, addictions and sins do not need to keep them from God. They need to hear that Jesus has solved all of these problems as far as God is concerned. Our job is to simply share the basic facts of our life and how God has given us our recovery experience. We don’t have to go into great detail or feel any pressure to perform, either. God is responsible for the results, not us. And, the people with whom we share are responsible for what they do with whatever we share with them. We just have to share, that’s all.

So, let us get up and reach out. Let us extend a hand to anyone and everyone who is dead and dying in their secrets, their struggles, their problems, their addictions and their sins. Let us say, “Come with us, we are going to God. We are going to life.”

Everyone needs what we have been given.



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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

PRAYER MAKES US REAL

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."

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.
Matthew 7:7-8, NLT


“Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.”
- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Prayer Makes Us Real

Everyone prays. We all pray in way or another, often without realizing it. Instinctively, we have the need to connect with permanence, and prayer can be considered as our personal attempt to reach and touch eternity. Prayer helps us make sense of our lives. It helps us sort through tragedy and heartbreak and locate the treasures that are hidden inside of misfortune.

Many of us have been trained to think of prayer as a religious activity or duty. Somewhere along the way we were sold a bill of goods. Someone convinced us that prayer had to be done in a certain way that was scripted or traditional according to certain previously defined standards. This is not true. Prayer is never limited in any way because God is not limited in any way. Prayer may be well planned or it may be spontaneous. It may be formal or it may be casual and conversational. It may be traditional and religious or it may be radical. Prayer can be expressed in many different ways and it is always real and effective as long as we are real and sincere with it. Prayer is not a matter of technique. It is a matter of attitude and openness.

The impact of prayer is reduced if we think of it as a demand or a duty that is required of us. We objectify prayer, we objectify God and we objectify ourselves if prayer is ever reduced to anything less than an act of intimacy. When reduced, prayer becomes nothing more important than washing dishes or making beds. And while these are obviously very good and very necessary things, they are not the things that help us, heal us or bring us into closeness with God. Prayer is more of an opportunity. It is a calling. It is a picking up of the ringing phone and completing the connection that God has made available to us through Christ. Prayer is the way we engage God at a personal intimate level. And while we are engaging God through prayer, we are engaging ourselves at a personal and intimate level too.

Prayer is a dialogue. It puts us at the kitchen table with coffee mug in hand, ready to enjoy a special closeness with our loved one. It is cognitive and intuitive. It’s a spiritual openness that increases our oneness with God and with ourselves. Prayer ushers us into private communion with The Perfect Father - God. And while He is perfect, our prayers don’t need to be perfect. The only thing prayer needs to be is real. What we don’t know how to say, God’s Spirit will say for us. He understands everything, even the things we do not know or cannot express. Prayer, in essence, breaks the silence. It closes the distance between God and us. It heals our splintered hearts and our broken minds. It helps us to know what we feel and it helps us to think better. Prayer fulfills our need to be known. Prayer teaches us to accept God’s unconditional approval and it teaches us to accept ourselves at the same time. Prayer teaches us to recognize treasures that we have not noticed before. We will be able to make sense of difficulties and hardships. Praying privately helps us to be more honest and more true to ourselves. It opens us up. It is the sound we make – the spiritual sound – when we don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Prayer catapults us into the frontier of an authentic spiritual life.

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