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.



Available through all major book sellers

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.






Available through all major book sellers.

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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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A GOD THING

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

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

“The strength of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.” -Henry Ward Beecher

It’s a God Thing

Medical doctors call addiction a disease because it embeds itself into our bodies physiologically, creating dependencies that have definitive symptoms. Psychologists will often refer to addiction as “attachment” because in addiction we become “attached” to things in ways that are destructive to us. Religious teachers often call addiction idolatry and sin because of the way that addictions skew our personal priorities. Because addiction can be seen from differing points of view it is important for us to understand that each viewpoint has merit because addiction affects the whole person. That is, physically, mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Addictions hook our bodies by creating bio-chemical dependencies in our brains. It takes hold of our lives by creating attachments to people, places and things that we addictively think are necessary for us when they really are not. And, our addictions keep us from having a meaningful connection with God because we value the things we are addicted to more than we value God. Whichever viewpoint is considered, the result of addiction is the same. Lives erode and people die in one way or another.

It has been said that addiction is the most human of all diseases. After all, addiction has been around since man has been around and in one way or another we are all addicted to something. In the past, addiction has affected us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But we don’t need to stay addicted any longer. When we become willing to seek a spiritual solution to our addictions, we will begin to find solutions for the physical, mental and emotional problems as well. The willingness to look for a new kind of spiritual solution is a kind of grace. We say it’s grace because as we admit that we need help and in coming to believe that we can be restored to sanity, the downward spiral of our addiction has been interrupted. This is something that we could not do on our own.

Furthermore, it is grace that we have the opportunity to take steps that will help heal us. This is a decisive dignity that we had once lost to our addictions. Somehow, in grace that is at the precise point where our hopeless desperations collided with the hopeful desire to find sanity for our lives we’ll find a decisiveness that we didn’t have before. Because the pain of staying the same was more than the pain of changing, we decided, without even realizing it, which is grace, to reach out and grab onto what we’ve come to believe will restore sanity to our lives. Seeking to recover from our addictions, through the power of grace, we seek the Kingdom of God which means to simply make God the King of our lives. For you see, The Kingdom of God is nothing more than the place where God is King.

Remember our friend David from Psalms 38:3-8? Some believe that David had serious problems with addiction. We don’t know for sure but it’s possible that David may have been addicted to sex. Considering how he pursued a sexual relationship with Bathsheba, who was a married woman, and how he orchestrated the circumstances where her husband would be killed in order to hide his sexual impropriety, there is evidence to the real possibility that David was addicted to sex. Most poignant of all is that he seemed to be in deep denial of the consequences of his actions. David, like any addict, was blind to see how his actions where hurting others.

To David’s credit, when his wrongs came into the light, he did not waste a lot of time arguing. He not only realized how wrong his actions were but he also realized that he had unwittingly become, in his addictions that is, his own worst enemy. This helps to explain how David, as he wrote in the Psalms, “I'm on my last legs; I've had it - my life is a vomit of groans,” had found himself at a decisive crossroads. He realized, as we have, that his life was unmanageable and he needed to change in order for his life to change. David was, as we are, at the crossroads of faith and decision. The ultimate question for David, as it is for us as well, is what will the future be like. David, in Psalms 18:1-3 tells us how he expressed his willingness to reach out and connect with a Power that would make a difference in his life.

Our friend David would not allow his addiction to define his entire life, though there was no escaping the consequences of his past. He decisively committed in his heart and mind to seek out a relationship with God. In so doing, David began to find a new and healthy identity for himself. Ultimately, David came to be known as a man after God’s own heart, even in spite of his addictions. The same can happen to us. As we come to believe that we can be restored to sanity, we gain the opportunity to discover and live out a whole new identity. It’s an identity and life that is a perfectly scripted plan for our lives by the design of a loving and caring God. The possibility to live this miracle is here so the only question for us is, will we be willing to live it out?

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHEN THE BLIND SEE

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

As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, "Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!" Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, "Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped in his tracks. "Call him over." They called him. "It's your lucky day! Get up! He's calling you to come!" Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus. Jesus said, "What can I do for you?" The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "On your way," said Jesus. "Your faith has saved and healed you." In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road. Mark 10:46-52 The Message

"It's really very simple, either God is going to save me, or I'm screwed."
~ Robert Orman

When The Blind See

Enmeshed into and promoting all addictive behaviors, is a self-defeating and destructive way of thinking. It’s the way that we’ve seen ourselves and life as a whole that has been the problem. This includes inaccurate and distorted personal beliefs and self-centered agendas that send us time and again into insane activities. With this in mind we can begin to see that our problems are deeper than our behaviors; our problems are how we perceive ourselves and life as a whole.

We all can change the outside of our lives temporarily, but it’s been changing the insides that has been impossible up to now. As we get honest about our addictions we can begin to see that some of the most pervasive damage done to us has been the result of a way of thinking that was closed-minded, selfish, and chronically frustrated and negative. At best our lives have been a groping around in darkness. At times we would see something that we think will help us and we grasp for it only to find that it was nothing more than a vapor or a shadow. Life was always getting worse, never better. We were dying a little more every day. All this is what God wants to change.

In Mark 10:46-52 we read about a blind man who encountered Jesus and came away having had his blindness healed. This blind man, whose name was Bartimaeus, can be our guide as to how we, too, can find our blindness of perspectives healed and made whole by God. Bartimaeus’ blindness was apparently physical, where ours is more a spiritual and psychological blindness. But, the principles that we need to apply to our lives are the same. Bartimaeus, when he heard that Jesus was coming down the road, abandoned his place, and in “throwing off his coat” made a mad dash to seek out Jesus. It seems that Bartimaeus was hungry and desperate for healing. This desperate hunger, along with a hopeful belief that it was possible for Jesus to help him, caused him to take decisive action. Bartimaeus’ belief in the possibility that his life could be made whole drew an amazing affirmation from Jesus himself. Jesus said, "Your faith has saved and healed you."

This is what it can be like for us. As we come to believe that it is possible for our lives to be different, God, working through others, can heal us, giving us renewed sight to see perspectives of sanity and health. Our lives will be different. We can be healed. We will be healed. Most likely it will not be an instantaneous healing like our friend Bartimaeus had, but a healing restoration of sanity nonetheless. Most often the healing that we will experience will be a slowly developing correction of poor eyesight. As we seek out the help that God provides, we will, one day at a time, experience increasing clarity of thinking and a growing sense that our future will be bright, happy, joyous and free. Furthermore, as we accept the friendship of the blind man and as we place our hope in Jesus, we come to believe that God loves to heal the blind.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PROCEED WITH CAUTION

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

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never – I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Luke 6:35-36, The Message

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, “What are you going through? - Simone Weil

Proceed with Caution

Most of our lives have been spent in a ditch of selfishness alongside the road of life. As we move forward, trying to get our life back on track, it is critical that we maintain a balanced perspective. It is very easy to overcorrect and end up in another ditch where we obsessively think that we have to right every wrong perfectly. This kind of perfectionistic thinking will hurt us. It is fanciful, make-believe, and it will stand in the way of our relationship with God. Perfectionistic thinking is of the devil. Even God, while He is perfect, is not a perfectionist and we should not be one either. Having a balanced point of view that recognizes both our responsibilities and our limitations will help us to make rational decisions and find workable solutions as we make our amends.

There will be times where it’s impossible for us to make amends because we simply do not have the internal fortitude that we need. There will also be situations where we lack the resources or the opportunity we need, so we will have to defer our efforts to another time. And, there will be situations where approaching certain people is not a wise thing to do because we may do more harm than good.

We need to be careful when contacting anyone that we have had inappropriate sexual relationships with, or when contacting anyone who has acted out our addictions with us. Old acquaintances, with no ill will, can easily derail us and we can derail them too. In light of this fact, it is essential that we keep ourselves away from situations where we may relapse and lose the freedom that we have worked so hard to gain. In addition to this, we must be vigilant to avoid situations where our best intentions may create more hurt and harm to other people, especially to the innocent bystanders that are close to us and to those whom we have hurt. If God wants us to see former lovers and acquaintances, He will arrange for us to meet them in a way where we can all be safe. We should ask our sponsors and our counselors what they think regarding these situations. They will have good advice for us as to how we can safely and reasonably, make these most difficult amends.

While it may not be wise for us to contact certain people directly, we can begin to make amends to them by assisting other people who essentially represent them in some way. Changing our attitude towards people in general, especially to those to whom we are sexually attracted, and giving all kinds of people appropriate and dignified respect is a great beginning. Making amends to former lovers and to people that we have objectified is vital for us to increase the integrity that has taken root in us. Letting go of titillating fantasies or memories of sexual conquest is a great place to start in making these kinds of amends. And we also must be willing to give up the notion that we need others to meet our needs, financially, socially, relationally or romantically. Making amends requires that we stop seeing others as objects for pleasure, protection or provision. People belong to God, not to us. Making amends requires that we redirect our memories and see the past with realistic clarity. Doing this will help change the way we think. One way to do this is to pray for those whom we’ve held hostage in our fantasies and memories. We just let go of our lusts, sexual or otherwise. This pays off for us in a big way because praying for others changes us at the most fundamental level of our mind and our emotions. Prayer, over time, changes the way that we see others and ourselves. As we pray for others, let us pray for their health, their safety and their happiness, praying that they would experience the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams and, more importantly, come to a place where they experience the ever increasing power of God’s love.

As we are willing to change the way we think and act, we will develop healthier ways of responding to the thoughts, the memories and the varying stimulations that have driven our addictive and destructive impulses in the past. And, as we make amends to others we will see a positive change in our current and future relationships.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BEING THE REAL DEAL

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

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the Lord. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 
Psalm 32:5

“We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing.  We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty faces is what we really look like.”
-Simon Tugwell

Being the Real Deal           
Honesty is the best investment that we can make in our recovery. No one can do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves. When we invest ourselves, honestly, it will always pay off for us in very, very good ways. We will discover an authentic goodness about ourselves that we never knew existed. We will find an inner confidence that is unlike anything we have ever known before.
           
Most of us, like our friend Marie, have gone through our lives attempting to solve problems that were not ours to solve. Focusing on other people’s problems keeps us from facing the reality of our own lives. It’s been this kind of avoidance that has kept us from experiencing the happy, joyous and free life that God has to give. Marie’s growing honesty, while still in progress, gives us a wonderful picture of how we can, like Marie, make peace with ourselves by accepting the reality of our failures and shortcomings and then openly and honestly sharing them with God and another person. By recognizing and admitting the painful reality of her splintered heart, Marie was able to find the quality of life and personal relationships that she had been searching for all of her life. This kind of openness and honesty transforms our perspectives. It changes how we think and feel about God, ourselves and other people. It breaks down the walls of isolation. Having the experience of being heard, observed, known, included, loved and embraced, in spite of our addictions, sins and mistakes, radically changes everything about us. When we receive the power of love that someone else gives to us through their listening ear, compassion and understanding soak into us deeply. The poison of self-hatred and condemnation get washed away.
           
Like Marie, we need to recognize and admit the ways that we have been trying to control our lives by manipulating others. We need to admit how we have been selfish, even when we have hidden it within religious practice or good appearances. The masks we wear will suffocate us. Without honest confession, we will begin to believe our own deceptions. We will begin to think that we really are the actors and pretenders that we have portrayed ourselves to be. On the other hand, getting honest with another person is the foundation of healthy, trusting relationships. If we don’t do this, we will have no one to trust but ourselves and we will make ourselves a prisoner of our own fear and deceit. We’ll become all the more alone. Inevitably, we will become more foolish and less capable of making solid decisions for our lives.  We will want relief from our pain, but we won’t have it because we are unwilling to open ourselves up to God and get honest with others. To not be open and to not share ourselves honestly puts us in the horrible position of being our greatest abuser and our greatest victim, as well.
           
If we are not willing to share all that we are with God and another person, we will not move toward wholeness and integrity. Establishing a trusting relationship with God and another person creates an environment where spiritual and emotional wholeness will flourish inside of us.  In Scripture God says that we are all sinners and that we are all loved by Him. God also says that we can all be saved by the grace He showed us in the life of Jesus Christ. All that God requires of us is that we become honest about our sinful condition and honestly ask for his help.

If we think or claim anything more than this, be it good or bad, we will deceive ourselves. If we deceive ourselves we will never enjoy the life that God has to give to us. God gives real life to real people. If we want to have the real life that God has to give us, we will have to get real ourselves.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

THE SOURCE OF OUR STRENGTH

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. I John 5:14,15, NLT

A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than as something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven. - Alcoholics Anonymous, page 75, AA 12 & 12

The Source of Our Strength

We have, albeit unintentionally, created the problems that we have in our character. Now we are asking God, with as much humility as possible, to resolve the problems that stand in the way of us experiencing all that God has for us. Before, we had spent much of our lives and energy attempting to overcome what we could never overcome in our own power. But today, as we surrender our lives to God and humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, we discover a strength that is unlike anything that we have ever encountered before. Only in God, and through the help of others, will we receive the strength and the endurance to continuously let go of our character defects and our addictions.

Nothing in our recovery work is magical or unreal. We will forever be human and prone to all of our human inadequacies. As much as we may wish it to be different, not all of our character defects will be removed from us. The work that God is doing in our hearts and minds will be part of His overall purposes. So, we will help ourselves the most when we accept the consequences that we have created for ourselves without complaint so that we can enjoy the benefit of lessons learned once and for all.

There will be times when we try to get rid of our character defects and fail, sometimes repeatedly. We will inevitably find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between trusting God amidst our repeated attempts of trying and failing, and the certain penalty of failing to try, which is in and of itself a failure to trust God. What we choose to do with failure is perhaps the most profound indicator of who we are and who we will become. Failure with effort can be a frustrating setback. The setbacks and disappointments create the sad feeling inside of us that we may never overcome our problems. This is where we will need help from our friends in recovery and from God himself. We will have our setbacks. We will try and fail sometimes. But, let us stay honest and let us stay motivated because our own fatal failure is giving up. Failure to try is suicide. It is here, in our failures and setbacks, that we learn to keep turning to God, time after time, and in so doing we learn to experience Him to be our Source, our Strength and our Joy.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MOVING FORWARD, BACK INTO RELATIONSHIP

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

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV


“Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain."
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Moving Forward, Back into Relationship

We are going to make more and more amazing discoveries as we continue to make a list of the people we have harmed. One of these discoveries will be when we realize how incredible it is that there is anyone who loves us at all, considering the way that we have treated others in the past. However, at the same time, as we face the facts of our self-centeredness in more realistic ways, we will also learn that we have always been loved far more than we could ever understand, because of God and the love He has shown to us. Recognizing our depraved nature in contrast to God’s forgiving love enlightens us to a new way of thinking and operating. Fear becomes displaced by courage. Our relationships are affected for the better. We can positively relate with others today in ways that would have been impossible before because of our fear of being hurt and rejected. But, there is a new kind of power inside of us now. The life we live is no longer our own. God, through His love, has taken us over.

Following through with the change that is happening inside of us, we begin to treat people differently, respectfully. The first thing we must do to make amends to others is to stop hurting them. In the past we treated others the way they treated us, but now we will treat others the way God has treated us -- respectfully; whether they deserve it or not. What others do to us and how they treat us is much less important now. We hope that others will give us love and respect, but if not, we won’t need to get upset, retaliate or fall into self-pity anymore. Our desire is to simply love others with the same love that we have received from God and others. We don’t have to manufacture this love, we just pass it along. We share what we have been given. Thinking in this way helps us to set aside our fears of rejection; then we will be able to do for others what God, our sponsors and our counselors have done for us.

Motivated by the love we have discovered, coupled with the commitment to change the generational patterns that our families have developed, we set some boundaries for ourselves and we accept boundaries that others place on us. Then, we take these next steps forward. First, we became willing to make amends to those we hurt -- unconditionally. Second, we became willing to recognize and accept healthy limitations and to make “living amends” by the way that we relate to others in the future. Hopefully we have learned not to profess our “good intentions.” We don’t make promises, especially promises that we cannot guarantee. Instead, let us make good actions and let those actions speak for us.

If we ever refuse an opportunity to make a wrong right, we shut the doors and windows of the spiritual home that God is building within us. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out. Darkness begins to close in and we will miss the leading of God’s Spirit. Without the benefit of God’s Spirit leading us, we will inevitably create more of the chaos that we are trying to avoid.

So, let us take what we have learned and move it from our head to our heart and from our heart to our feet, where relationships are renewed step by step. With our feet of action placed firmly on God and a supportive recovery fellowship, we will find the stability that we need to make our lives, and the lives of others, change for the better.  Everybody wins!

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Thursday, February 16, 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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