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?

Perspective Imprisoned

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLT)

Empty vessel. An object used as a container. When I think of being an empty vessel for the Holy Spirit to use me for God’s glory, the human tendency is to look with fear. What about me? Where do I go? What will happen to me?

Does this mean I am to be a shell of a person? Does us becoming less and less like it says in John, mean that I am meaningless, that I am not special, that if I was only a shell of a person then life is pointless? Well, then God could find someone else to be an empty vessel if that is all it was! This is ego-centric perspective. The center of all choices, all decisions, all reasons for being are made with our best interests. Our needs first. Our well being above all else. This is a world perspective, a me-centered perspective and we are often imprisoned by it. My hope for humanity, for our kids, is to dispel that perspective. I hope to learn and love and live and teach in the kingdom perspective.

The Kingdom Perspective is seeing life through three viewpoints. God’s purpose, God’s process and God’s promises for our lives. By allowing our decisions big or small to manifest with the Kingdom Perspective we can live in peace, harmony and happiness that we seek in sometimes all the wrong places; drinking, drugs, sex, relationships, money, all the worldly security we seek out identity and it isn’t fulfilling because it isn’t the Kingdom Perspective. By looking at God’s purpose, God’s process and God’s promises in our lives we find the fulfillment in our purpose, we find peace in the process and we find happiness in the promises.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT)

What perspective do you need to look at today?

Suffer No More; The Key

In Buddhist tradition there are four insights to the way things are. They are suffering, our response to suffering, transforming our response and a path to transformation. The 2nd insight says for every external event or situation that life brings us, we have an internal response. It is the combination of the two (the event and our response to it,) that causes our suffering. This is good news! We can change our suffering, by changing our response to it. We have so much more control of our suffering than we allow ourselves to have. For instance, tricking ourselves that a life of procrastination is “just who we are.” Or “I do better under pressure.” Are we so used to the suffering? So used to the chaotic, ill-prepared drama of life that we can’t see God’s vision for our lives thus never realizing and living our potential? I think more than we realize.

“But have you not heard? I decided this long ago. Long ago I planned it, and now I am making it happen. I planned for you to crush fortified cities into heaps of rubble. That is why their people have so little power and are so frightened and confused. They are as weak as grass, as easily trampled as tender green shoots. They are like grass sprouting on a housetop, scorched before it can grow lush and tall. (Isaiah 37:26, 27 NLT)

If you feel weak, if you are suffering, if you feel more like the people of a crushed city than the people God empowered, take heart..

“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth! The people of the world will see all the good I do for my people, and they will tremble with awe at the peace and prosperity I provide for them. (Jeremiah 33:6-9 NLT)

The solution is Jesus. Don’t focus on the suffering. Focus on Him. If you need a church home, I encourage you to check out Evergreen Community Church They have a great pastor, staff and amazing people that will meet you where you are at, free to meet Jesus at your own pace.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)

What have you got to lose but a bit of suffering?

Keeping it Real

People are looking for a formula to their problems, pray the right prayers, do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, we are looking for excellence in our lives and while the 12 steps of recovery helps us do that, helps us to know how to line up our works with God’s will…we sometimes miss the point…in becoming more self aware, which is totally a good thing, the focus stays on us and not up.

So how do we move from inward to upward so we can share outward?

Once we are [re]born of the spirit, that is our life’s breath. We must try to never doubt and worry, but follow where the life of the spirit leads. The point of it all is Jesus. The point of it all is understanding the relationship between father and son and our role in that. 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?

step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

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

There are all kinds of different in the world. 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 walking rough terrain, they all remind me of God. To others though, these things may be a big fat distraction. Bugs buzzing, over stimulation of leaves and trees and rustling of branches. Taking a walk in the woods may be hell on earth for you.

For a few years in my childhood, my parents and I lived in the woods of northern Minnesota. We spent a brief season in a tiny log cabin that had no insulation (you could see it snowing through the cracks in the logs), no running water and no toilet. We did not even have an outhouse.

I was getting potty trained at the time, it is amazing how quick you learn how to squat over a log when you are scared a skunk is gonna come and spray you. It is worse in the summer when mosquitoes are biting you…or when you find a nice, secluded, lush, green spot to do your business, perhaps you find some great leaves to clean up with. And then you find yourself in a field of poison ivy. Yes, take it from me, there are fields of poison ivy. I even once squatted over a tick nest (unbeknownst to me) and had woodticks everywhere…I’m talking EVERYWHERE!!!

I think we take for granted running water. I think we take for granted flushing toilets. I think we take for granted being able to wipe our butts with toilet paper, even when we have to buy the cheap scratchy thin kind; we get so caught up in our circumstances, we keep our focus in and when we are so focused inward there is no room for the sunlight of the spirit to shine outward.

Keep in mind that regardless if we feel blessed or punished in our circumstances, we often are not rooted in truth. Stay focused up. Practice being in relationship with God, not the things he gives you.

The feeling of safety, of all things being right in the world, when you are at peace and contentment when you feel safe and warm and loved, God wants us to feel that way about him. He wants us to put our trust in him. Not the money in the bank account. Not the relationship with the guy or girl, just 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! It is these truths we can meditate on.

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)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9 NLT)

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)

Heavenly Father, thank you so much that you have created us to rule over earth. You are such a gracious God, you give us rest, you give us peace, you are our comforter and our strength and guidance. I pray that whatever we each are going through in life, that we can lift that to you Lord, please bless us today with wisdom and discernment for our circumstances. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, AMEN!

As you pray, keep it real and focus up. Your circumstances will change because your heart will change. Even if your only quiet time is in the bathroom (or out in the woods)…use that time and connect with God!

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Lightning Bugs

To be a witness to life change means you can see the awakening in a person’s eyes. You see individuals dress better, take care of themselves better physically, and there is a light that awakens inside them that is real and true and hopeful. It is that light that draws other people to you. People who are growing in Christ are like lightning bugs on a warm, dark summer night. And who doesn’t love a good lightning bug?!

“And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. (John 5:25 NLT)

You have an opportunity to witness life change this Sunday at Evergreen for their 10am service. And don’t forget that mason jar for the lightning bugs…who knows what you might catch!

A ‘God Showed Up’ Moment

I was digging in one of my two junk drawers looking for some old matchbox cars for my 2 year old nephew to play with, rifling under batteries and notebooks and crayons when a small bookmark fell out of the drawer. I picked it up and was about to just shove it back into the pile of miscellaneous odds and ends when the first sentence caught my eye. I remember tucking this card away years ago. I used to refer to it daily and it was so helpful in my first days of abstinence when I first joined recovery. And it was just what I needed to read today…

Dear God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself…and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe this: I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. I hope I have that desire in everything I do. I hope I never persist in anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it at the time. Therefore I will trust you always, for though I may seem too be lost-and in the shadow of death-I will not be afraid, because I know you will never leave me to face my troubles all alone. -anonymous

FIRST THINGS FIRST.
The way to a firm foundation of recovery is complete surrender, not just in the beginning but on going, again and again. Layer after layer of surrender deepens my relationship with God and helps me identify my primary purpose. God always shows up, even when we don’t know Him, even when we don’t know where we are headed. He knows and He has already equipped us for battle.

I am The Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am The Lord, and there is no other. -Isaiah 45:5-6

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Crazy Train

I was recently challenged with this assignment: think the thoughts you would think if you believed God’s promises completely. You would think it would be easy to meditate on that, perhaps there are even people out there that naturally truly believe God’s promises, but I have talked to too many people who doubt their worthiness, that doubt God’s love, who doubt their ability to do anything through Him who gives them strength, so I know I am not alone in questioning God’s promises for me. In order to wrap my head around, to retrain that crazy brain of mine, I turn to scripture. So let’s test it…

I can believe God wants His church to succeed in reaching lost people.

Ephesians 5:29-33 “No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That is how Christ treats us,the church, since we are part of his body.

Unfortunately, there are too many of us that actually do abuse our bodies. We indulge in unhealthy habits, gorging ourselves with food, booze, drugs, forgetting that our bodies were given to us by God, therefore we should be wise in taking care of it. If we can’t take care of ourselves, how are we to take care of His church? This is why it is so important to remain healthy. To rest, eat well, live well and have time to balance family, work and play in order to be useful to the greater good of mankind. Jesus pampers His bride as should we.

Evergreen is having a Loco Mojo Christmas party on December 23rd at 7pm! Everyone is invited to come and bring everyone you know! Because at Evergreen we believe this second promise…

I can believe I have a new life in Christ.

“Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life,a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” -2 Corinthians 5:15 msg

No matter what stress the holidays bring you, no matter how crazy the family is or how broke you are, believe in the promises God has for you. Study the bible, it is riddled with examples. Pay attention and you will be able to retrain the brain.

Psalm 136:23-26
“God remembered us when we were down.
His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot.
His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
His love never quits.
Thank god who did it all.
His love never quits.”

Is Gratitude a Give-In?

“O Lord, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind you promised.”-Psalm 119:169

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. I love that we get a day off work to reflect on the gratitudes in life. To be with family, sharing good food by a warm fire, enjoying the company of the out-of-towners arguing good-naturedly over football teams. Well-behaved but active children playing tag in the back yard. Ahh, a picture perfect holiday. Too bad we can’t leave well enough alone.

For the unfortunate majority, this holiday is spent gorging ourselves on grandma’s pie, slipping into the turkey-induced coma, only to get a power nap in before the stores open nowadays as early as 10pm the night of to buy the cuisinart 5 in one griddle and other useless items just for the last minute revenue reports for the already tanked economy. Sorry. Just had to get that off the chest.

Honestly though, our ability to be happy, to be content and recognize the blessings and feel gratitude is up to us. I used to be so negative I had no real good reason to even get up in the mornings. Thanksgiving wasn’t about the people in my life and my thankfulness for them, it was about the food and the shopping. This was all due to my frame of mind. When life didn’t go my way, when people didn’t respond or act how I wanted them to, I harbored resentment and self-pity. I thought it was my job to control everything, and since I didn’t have a relationship with God, I thought I was God. Admitting I have compulsive behaviors that have caused character defects was the first step to changing my thinking and thus changing my life. The surrender of my thoughts came next. Where the mind goes, the man follows.

By spending a few moments listing out gratitudes, I am conditioning my thoughts. Our part, our responsiblity, is to practice controlling our thoughts, our emotions. We can train our brain to think positively. This isn’t just rhetoric, daytime talk show dribble-drabble. It can be our reality.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. but letting the spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”-Romans 8:6

I am grateful for a forgiving and gracious God who gave me a loving husband, a family that cares for me, friends to walk with and a lake to play on. What are yours?

Gritting Your Teeth Causes White Knuckles

As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you have the strength to stick it out over the long haul-not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us. – Colossians 1:11-12

When I used to go on diets I ALWAYS white knuckled it. I could cut back days, weeks, months at a time but it was always such a sacrifice to say no to the double-stuffed whatever-you-call-em. I felt angry that I couldn’t be like the skinny people. Felt sorry for myself that I had to order salad instead of red velvet cake. Hated myself for my lack of self-control. It wouldn’t take long before the old excuses set in;

“You’ve been workin’ so hard you deserve a break.” What? I suppose a KitKat break?
“See, but if you work out for 20 minutes at the gym, that should buy you at least enough calories for a cheeseburger, right?” Yeah. Right. Maybe one of them cheeseburger hors d’oeuvres that you pop in your mouth without chewing.
“Oh, this one little piece won’t kill me.” Yeah. But, the 40 after it might.

Thank GOD I don’t white-knuckle it anymore! God took my craving away as soon as I let him have my compulsion to eat more than what is healthy. As soon as I admitted powerlessness over the snickers and pizza rolls, He granted me the glory-strength promised in the scripture above. Not because I am special. Because He is just that awesome. And He can give YOU the strength to endure whatever you are going through too. A broken marriage. Debt up to your elbows. The kids that you would die for are slowly killing you with their poor choices. Nothing is too big or too little for God to grant you strength to overcome.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. -Colossians 1:13-14

Trouble DeConstructed

 

Have you  ever ignored trouble hoping it would just go away?
In college I got my first credit card.  It had a whopping $500  limit.   Over time (hmmm-within a year I’m sure!) I “whittled” that $500 to an available balance of zero.  And then preceded to  ignore the credit card statements that came to the dorm room every month.  I was hoping trouble would go away and that credit card company would just forget all about ‘lil ol me.  I mean, c’mon what is the big deal anyhoo?  $500.00?  Dang, that’s nothing!  My friend down the hall had $10,000 racked up of cd’s and clothes, so my trouble is -in the words of Sinead O’Connor- NOTHING COMPARED TO YOU!  And anyway, it is the credit card companies fault for giving a college student with no income a card in the first place!  Not my fault.

 

What trouble have you found yourself in?

 

“Oh, it’s not THAT bad, I  know people that do meth like it’s going out of style, a little pot won’t hurt.”

 

“Drugs are bad, but Beer doesn’t hurt anybody!”  I’m not THAT bad.  I only swear a little.  I only lie on my taxes  a little.  I  only spend a little.   And anyway, I work hard, don’t I DESERVE a little fun?”

 

We try to get as close to the line between right and wrong all the while justifying, minimizing and just plain LYING TO OURSELVES because we assume we miss out on the fabulous party that happens on the spider’s silk tightrope between the dichotomies

 

I pray we can all admit that  trouble is a fact of life for everybody- a fact to be understood and dealt with. When we begin to deal with our trouble in partnership with God’s grace, trouble turns into unimaginable blessings.

 

Indeed, that was  the essence of A.A. itself: trouble accepted, trouble squarely faced with calm courage, trouble lessened and often transcended. -Bill W.

 

Jesus found himself  in the worst kind of trouble. Pharisees hunting him down.  Friends deceiving him. Sorrow plaguing him.

 

“Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My father, if there is any way, get me out of this.  but please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”- Matthew 26:39

 

Jesus’ trouble, by God’s great grace, turned into the most unimaginable blessing to EVERYONE thereafter that is willing.  Willing to do God’s grace.  Willing to face trouble.  What are you willing to look square  in the face today?