There is something that is inside each of us that pulls away from feeling like we belong. Instead of identifying with a common thread in a group, we look for ways to distance ourselves from the group. Poor me, I’m the only one who doesn’t have a job, or I’m the only one with kids that act like this, I am the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Right? Don’t you think that so many times we think our issues are so separate than other people problems? 

It is satan’s great plan to distract us and separate us from each other and God. Satan gets us trying to answer questions no one is asking… and we lose focus and drive and motivation to keep moving forward in recovery. But lets be clear, in terms of heaven and hell, they are real places on opposite spectrums but satan and God are not equal, God still has victory over satan, so no matter what we go through, what conflict we need to work through or addiction we need to kick or pain we need healing from, God is still victorious and we can also be victorious when working in line with him!

When we invite the Holy Spirit, He goes to soul to soul to soul, we can’t do this life on our own, it is more than mere friendships, we are redeemed and redeeming, transformed and transforming loved and loving, Jesus asks that we do to others what you would have them do to you…so what does dealing with people really look like biblically? How are we to BE community and not just do community? How do we be recovered from addictions and compulsions and not just go to recovery meetings? How do we not feel so alone with our problems? You can tell me to love like Jesus loved, but without some tangible takeaways, I have no idea what that means, and then I start misinterpreting what I am supposed to do and I start picking and choosing what I want the bible to say to me instead of reading it for truth. I need tangible ideas to practice on.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT)

Dang, if I just stopped there I would be like, looks like I am so not getting into heaven! Isn’t it funny that when people see other people, especially christians doing life with impurity and outbursts of anger and wild parties and the like, there first accusation is hypocrite! You are a big fat hypocrite. We use that as an excuse to not attend church or believe of a better life. 

What we have to keep in mind is that it isn’t hypocritical to sin. It isn’t hypocritical to continue to go to church in your sin, to go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus. What is hypocritical is to deny Jesus’ love and Grace to wash over you, to deny the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and your life and to be transformed. We can have a transformed life that leads to a transforming community. We can be a part of something. We don’t have to be alone. 

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT) 

Ok, this is where I get tripped up…so I can identify with all the bad things that are going to keep me from the kingdom of heaven. I look at this list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control AND I FALL SHORT. EVERY. TIME. 

Here are four things that make up a healthy community that can allow us to practice this list as best as we can.

So what does healthy community look like?

1. Progress not perfection.  What is so great about recovery and recovery in community is that it is about progress not perfection. So we can look at this simple list in Galatians and say, ok…how can I today breathe positivity into my life and those around me using this as a sort of guideline? See, we do not need to be perfect before we join a group or volunteer somewhere…we are not going to be a kinder person if we never practice being kind. This means we need lots of practice…and Im not talking the be kind to your friends kinda practice…I mean God put those people hard to love in our lives for a reason! Those people that just get under your skin and annoy the heck outta you? Yeah, they are there for us to practice patience and peace and joy. Jesus said to turn the other cheek…yeah, I got your cheek right here, go ahead and kiss it, that is my first instinct!

The more we are in relation to Christ the more we can be containers for the Holy Spirit and the more that happens, the less work we actually have to do to be who God designed us to be. 

 Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:30-32 NLT)

2. Give up your right to be right.  In community we also have to give up the right to be right. When we can get to a place of humility where the team success is more important than my opinion, we are working in a healthy community. You see this in marriages all the time, it’s bad when two people who both need to have the last word get married, they never shut up and just talk in circles!  

3. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Many times we don’t deal with conflict properly. We avoid or deny responsibility. This is why step 8 is so important. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. in order to be willing to make amends to people and say we are sorry, we need to recognize our part, our side of the street, the behavior that we contributed to, in an unhealthy way. And in order to recognize our part…and properly make amends and truly let it go, we need to forgive their part. Give grace when they don’t deserve it, forgiveness always.

4. Principles before personalities. Don’t be afraid of feeling betrayed. Don’t hedge your bets with people in community. Don’t only talk with or associate with people you get along with, you won’t get much practice if you only hang around friends.  

 There are so many promises in the bible that are for us! We are promised transformed lives and with that we can have a transforming community! And God promises to help us.

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NLT) 

I pray that our community can grow, that we can see fruits in our own lives, in our behaviors, in our habits in everything we are Lord, let us see hope and not despair, let us feel faith and not doubt, let us feel love and not hatred for those we need to forgive and who need to forgive us. Like it says in scripture Christ has truly set us free. Thank you Jesus, please help us to stay free!


Discipline of Humanity

  The life we are called to is humanly impossible. This is because we are to be like Jesus, and He is not human, therefore, it is impossible, as a human, to be like him. For many years I understood this on rudimentary level only. For those in recovery a common phrase is “progress not perfection.” Ok. I get that. I understand that perfectionism is egotistical in nature and that I do not need to work so hard to attain perfection as I usually only have egotistical motives deep down.

 I end up feeling defeated, “Well, it’s impossible for a human, but hey, we gotta keep trying, right?” Wrong! We do not need to worry about the continuation of sin in our lives, nor do we need to worry about making wrong choices or bad decisions. The key isn’t to try and try an try and persevere with futility. The key is to invite Jesus into our hearts and he will give us the strength and desire to experience the full calling for our life. Simply put, we can closely tie the definition of humane into this equation. To be humane is to be marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering. Jesus wants us to be concerned with what he is concerned with. When we pray for Him to open our hearts and minds with the love that is manifest through connecting in true relationship with God, we begin to be concerned with finding solutions to problems that He cares about. We begin to be concerned with finding opportunities to be of service to others rather than thinking only about what we get out of a realtionship with a friend or spouse. We begin to be concerned with being generous rather than working to buy the next toy, hello iphone seven hundred and seventy two.
We will not always get it right. We are not designed to get it right. Our goal isn’t to try to get anything right. Our goal is to remain as close to the Holy Spirit as we can be by putting guardrails, boundaries and disciplines in place in our life that keeps us close to the spirit. Some disciplines I was taught

:Practice self-care daily. It doesn’t matter what it is, something as simple as walking your dog, joining a zumba class or taking a bath can help alleviate the pressures of being human and give us time to gain proper perspective about our life and calling.

Read scripture daily. In today’s technology, there really is no excuse for not reading a verse or two of the bible a day. One verse read daily, coupled with one minute of reflection about the verse can help improve our human perspective. Oh, and don’t let your identity of being a “non-believer” be an excuse either. That doesn’t need to stop you from gaining wisdom from the pages.

Do at least one thing every day to be of service to someone else. This can be as simple as playing with your preschooler at the park when you would rather sit on the park bench and scroll facebook, making dinner for the family AND do the dishes or asking someone how their day is going and then actually listening to their response.

The list is endless of the disciplines we can build into our day that will help ourselves and help others and gain a kingdom perspective on our calling and our life.  

What do you do that gives you a better perspective about being human?



The Point of Love

  Many people are looking for a formula to their problems. If I pray the right prayers, do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, then life will be peachy keen.   We look for excellence in our lives and while seeking a spiritual life helps us do that, helps us to know how to line up our works with God’s will…we sometimes miss the point. We inadvertently keep the focus on us instead of focusing on Jesus. 
The point of it all is Jesus. God’s love is pointed to us through Jesus.  The point of it all is understanding our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What habits or routines do you have in place that keep the focus on your relationship with God? What habits and routines keeps you distracted?  

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16

 We are all different. What practices that keep me close to God may not work for you. I love going on hikes. The fresh air and beauty of creation, the birds, the sounds, the feel of rough terrain, they all remind me of God. To others though, these things may be a big fat distraction. Bugs buzzing, over stimulation of senses due to leaves and trees and rustling of branches. I liken it to camping. Some people love to camp. There are others, though, that would rather be staked through the heart than have to eat a cheap hot dog on a stick and poop over a log out in the woods! 
Some people feel close to God worshipping in a church, others feel close when they can give to others in generosity, still others feel connected to Jesus when they are serving others or when they are studying or learning new things.  Whatever the spiritual pathway, the key to a personal relationship with Jesus is to seek out what disciplines make you feel connected and practice taking a risk in faith.  

 When we have relationship, we can have trust and faith.  God wants us to put our trust in him not the money in the bank account. Not the relationship with the guy or girl, but in Him! To trust in the knowledge that the all powerful, all knowing everlasting God loves us and desires an abundant life rich with peace and serenity and goodness.  We get the promises of God when we remember to focus on Jesus and on His love for us.

 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10 NLT)

It isn’t so much about how hard we work or how spiritual we seem.  It isn’t even about how much we love God.  It is all about His love for us, His sacrifice to us and how He desires a relationship with us. When we can tap into believing God’s love for us, love will overflow, abundance will overflow, our life will be overflowing.

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT)  

What do you need to do to spend some time in relationship with God today?

Integrity of the Tongue

1. (n.) moral soundness; 

As addicts and people in denial of truth and reality, we can manipulate what is means to have moral soundness. We justify, we lie to others, to ourselves, we compare and grade on a curve. Even as christians we pick and choose what the bible says and what we believe based on what is easiest for us to get as close to sin without sinning as we can get. To live a life of integrity is complex, here are some of my thoughts on integrity for today:

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. (James 3:2-12 NLT)

1. What three things does James compare the tongue to? What point is he trying to make through these illustrations? A ship who is guided by a small rudder, a fire that sweeps through the forest and a poisonous animal that cannot be tamed. he also talks of a horse being led by the small bit in its mouth and a spring that cannot hold both fresh water and spring water. Words are powerful, we taught our kids to say sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, which is ridiculous and not biblical! Words are powerful, our tongues can be like poison, killing everything it slashes with our bite, or it can be a small rudder or bit guiding us and those around us. It can be contagious like a wildfire and it can either destroy or it can rebuild growth depending on the control of it.

2. Why is the relationship between what a person says and what a person believes so important? Much of our human expression is through words. If you want to know someones heart you need to listen. Too often we are on the defense in life and we are not out to listen, we are out to protect what we are really feeling. We may be dishonest so we don’t hurt feelings, or making sure that other people who we don’t trust don’t figure us out cause if they figure us out then they will not like what they see. We don’t like what we see in ourselves so we may assume they will not like the authentic true self either. We haven’t fully surrendered our position as a child of God, so we take on responsibilities we were not intended to take on, identities we were not meant to carry and it steered us so far away. A big fear is we will never get back so we fake it. 

integrity, say what you mean, do what you say. 

Do not over analyze, stay focused on God and you will bear fruit in your life. You will feel healthy, fulfilled, and your purpose will be shown by simply say what you mean, do what you say.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18 NLT)

One last thought. Let’s look at the second definition of integrity.  

2. (n.) an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting;  

The God-sized hole we either currently or used to try to fill with drugs, sex and rock and roll still left us feeling divided, broken and incomplete. With Jesus, we find integrity of this proportion, a completeness with nothing wanting. Better than any other high, any other idol any other solution. 

When we can admit our wrongs, when we can own up to the past and our pettiness, our responsibility in our irresponsibility, we are practicing humility. We gain wisdom and integrity in the process. And though he came to scoff, may he remain to pray.


Just Call Me Toots

I grew up identifying humility with humiliation. I had it in my head that when you became too prideful God came down from heaven to put the smackdown on you and take you down a notch or five. 
Who else grew up thinking of God this way? That whenever you were getting “too big for your britches” He would knock you down? 

 I tried really hard to stay under Gods radar so he wouldnt have to teach me any lessons since I was so scared of being embarrassed and making mistakes.  I think it all stems from my most embarrassing horror that ever happened to me…

It was the 6th grade, during math class.  My math class was right after lunch and at the time it was my favorite class.  I looked forward to it all day, every day, even test days. No, not becasue I loved math, in fact I hated math.  It was because I got to sit next to my 6th grade crush, Jeff Hopner. His freckled nose, his mouth full of braces, Jeff was the coolest boy in 6th grade. I was the chubby girl in our grade so I knew I had to win him over with my charm and wit and brains. Only, I was so shy around him and since I wasn’t all that great in math, I didn’t have too many opportunities to impress him.   Until that day.  It was a pretty ordinary day, the highlight so far had been italian dunkers for lunch.  Since I am a carb freak, I loved italian dunkers, those big slabs of garlic brad and the sauce in the little syrofoam cups to dunk them in, dee-lish! I always knew how to con my skinny friends into giving me their extra bread, they didn’t like italian dunkers because then their breath smelled like garlic the rest of the day.  I said, I don’t care, garlic gives me the farts, but I love it anyway, I’ll take yours!  And down the hatch my extra slices of garlic bread and sauce went.  Fast forward to math class.  Tummy gurgling, breath smelling and brain foggy from all the carbs overload, guess who gets called to the front for problem solving at the board? This girl!  And of course, since I was concentrating on holding in the garlic gas, I hadn’t been paying any attention and had no clue what problem I was supposed to be working on. But that isn’t the impressive part.  I’d like to say I figured it all out and impressed everyone including the teacher and Jeff Hopner with my mad skills on the board.  As I stood to walk to the front of the room after the teacher had to call my name twice, I let out the loudest fart in the history of farts, and not just loud, but long. So long I toot-toot-tooted my way to the front, each step immortalizing the moment with another toot.  I tried to hold it in. I tried to pinch a penny. But it was no use.  I was powerless to stop the toots.  And as I got to the front and picked up the chalk, Jeff said what they were all thinking. I’d like to remember it being said with reverance or approval, but it was said with a crinkling of that freckled nose turned up in disgust as he pinched his nostrils closed and immediately yelled, “EWWWW! Jeni sure knows how to toot her own horn- she farted!” I was mortified. And as any normal kid would do, or at least in my book of working hard not to be humiliated, I tried to deny it.  “I did not!” That sealed my fate for the rest of the year.  Not only was I that girl who farted, I was that girl who farted and then lied about it, which made it ten times worse.

And thus my fear of humility was born.

Being overly concerned with the approval of others. 

The need to lash out in anger or lies when embarrassed. 

Blaming others. Blaming God.   

Isolating. Not allowing my weakness to show.   

I shared all of this to say, breaking down the reasons for our behaviors, breaking apart the moldy facade to get to the real mortar and reinforce our foundation…all of that is meaningless and will cause us to spin our tires unless we keep this in mind…

True biblical humility implies that we see ourselves as God sees us. 
Not as others see us, not the identify our parents or friends, or peers or even Jeff Hopner puts on us, but that God puts on us as His children. It is putting ourselves in proper perspective in light of God’s plan. It does not matter what others think of us. What matters is, who are we modeling life after?

Appropriate humility is seen in Christ’s life, who emptied himself to obey God’s will, to serve others and to fulfill Gods plan for His life.  

We can do all the self analyzing we want to…read all the self help books we can get into our amazon account, but it isnt gonna make a world of difference unless we are willing to place ourselves under Gods control and submit to His will and plan for our lives.   Start today by reading the book of John.  It may just be the identity changer you need today.

Escaping the Bermuda Triangle

  When I first began practicing the twelve steps, I really identified with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous’ explanation of barriers we self inflict in the chapter, We Agnostics. 

Particularly, “We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious.” 

That was me. Full of doubt. Full of prejudice. And chock full of anger. I was fully anti-religious. I was a woman of the world. Independent, self-sufficient, I had the snottiest I can do it myself kind of an attitude you can imagine. I didn’t date. I didn’t tie myself down to a career and I didn’t pay attention to my health, my finances or my relationships. The further down the rabbit hole of self neglect I went, the heavier I became, the heavier I was, the angrier I became and the more excuses I made up. The fat gene. It’s my parents fault. It’s my thyroid. Whatever the excuse, it became clear I did not want to be the way I was. I was living a lie. A facade. The self-righteous anger and closed mindedness of my thoughts painted me into such a tight corner and I ate even more to escape. And I blamed God for the bulk of it. If He made me, and He made me fat, He must be a cruel, ruthless God. “What did I ever do to deserve this?” I thought to myself time and again.  

I made it to a meeting through a loved one. I received outreach calls and felt supported for the first time in my life. I could relate and understand the language of recovery. By the third meeting I realized, the reality was, I wasn’t allowing God into my life. I was running. Running to food, to spending, to gossip magazines and partying, caught in the Bermuda triangle of fridge, couch, tv. My cycle of dysfunction, my spiral into the abyss, my boxed in self, whatever geometric shape you want to call it-I needed changing. And I couldn’t change myself. I was too weak. I wasn’t a strong independent woman. I was a scared, selfish little girl who had been deluding herself for years.

My journey is a spiritual one. It involves recovery, discipline, sacrifice. It revolves around love, hope and healing with faith. We need not be held back by doubt, prejudice and anger. A wonderful future can be had by recognizing God’s power and recognizing we are weak.

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Where do you need to admit weakness?

Forest for the Trees

I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.- Andrew Murray

How do we know when a defect of character has been set aside? How can we tell if we are different now that we are clean and sober? An important reminder I tell myself is that I am so close to the source, it is okay if I don’t notice right away.  I mean, HELLO!, I am with myself ALL the time!  It is hard to see progress and growth when I cannot get away from the forest or the trees for that matter. Especially when I have days in the dumps. The times when I slip into wallowing.  The moments of woe is me, it’s my party and I’ll have a tantrum and throw a fit and whine and cry and try to make your life as miserable as I feel kind of party. 
But truly, when we are living life in a program of recovery, those days are so few and far between anymore, we can allow ourselves to celebrate. To say, hey, I have grown and to see growth with humility, not in a look at how awesome I am kind of a way. Having an inflated ego never did much good, just like have a deflated sense of worth doesn’t put us in positions of purpose. Acceptance of where we used to be, gratitude at where we are at now and constant thoughts on grace, keeps life into proper perspective.  We can recognize the blessing of God’s grace in our lives, and then the next step can be a willingness and even desire to practice forgiveness. it is much easier to practice forgiveness when you have a framework to solidify the foundation of a truly changed life.  

If we claim to be without sin, we decieve ourselves and the truth is not in us. -1 John 1:8.  

Pray for the willingess for full disclosure at your defects of character and they will be revealed. Truth can be at our fingertips.  Faith can be our understanding.