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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