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?

Majesty Over Mountains

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. (Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Is it the mountains that gives us breath? Look past the mountain. Look beyond the mountain, further than those purple mountain majesties, just for a moment. No matter how majestic, how ginormous, how impressive a mountain view is, how powerful the force of an avalanche or the eruption of volcanos, none of that power can compare to our Lord, who created those impressive masses. And if He has the power to create something so powerful, His power can help us in any and all of our situations.  

What is so encouraging about this passage of scripture is the idea that God does not sleep. Let that sink in for a moment. He isn’t like the picture of a stereotypical TV dad, who after a hard day at work, just wants to relax and sit in a chair and we (his children) are sitting there buggin’ saying,

 “C’mon dad, lets go play! C’mon dad, can we go get ice cream? I need help with my homework, so and so is being a pain, will you tell him to stop!”

 And he is just sitting in his chair, saying, 

“Oh, for the love of Me! Can’t you see I have been slaving away all day creating the universe and making sure the tides go in and out!? Your fellow man has been filling up the streams with their all their garbage and now I have to re-adjust the ecosystem so y’all don’t implode! I really don’t have time for whatever your little problem is right now! Figure it out yourself!”

God doesn’t say that. Scripture says He will not let you stumble. He doesn’t need to rest, therefore we are always protected. This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us, things we don’t expect or events we would rather not have to go through. All experiences, good and bad, are a part of life. But these verses are clear promises from God. He stands by us as protective shade.  

 “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.” 

 Do you ever have moments when thinking back to your teens or 20’s and all the stupid stuff you did and think, I should be dead right now, why aren’t I dead, all the dangerous stupid stuff I did, I really should not be living right now. Yet, here we are, with God watching over our life. And even if we come and go, even when we take our self will back, He keeps watch over us now and forever. Outside of time, outside of space, outside of our circumstance.

What is it you need help with today? Pray to Him, the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He will supply all your need.   
  

Attention Retained

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT)

Why did the apostle Paul pray for the church to be rooted and grounded in love?

In a 2012 poll taken, 76% of Americans identified themselves as Christians while only 36% of those attend church on a weekly basis. We attend church and listen to a sermon, message, teaching, whatever the title of the talk is, the point is the same- to teach us biblical principles and how we can relate to scripture and apply it to our own lives. The trouble with saying we are christian but not having regular church attendance is the lack of retention of what we learn or the ability to carry the principles we learn on any given Sunday morning into the rest of our week. Well, we can hardly call ourselves something we know nothing about. It would be like me calling myself a pilot because I fly as a passenger to Florida once a year. What’s more, there are different styles of learning and if we are not connected to a christian community the chances of retention drops dramatically.

Paul wanted all people to be made complete with the fullness of life and God’s power. To fully experience God and the love He is takes training. By learning how we and our children retain information we will be in a better position to practice biblical principles in all our affairs and thus gain a better understanding of God’s love and experience the promises He gives.

There are four styles of learning. They are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Here is a description taken from and article by Dr. Mary Smialek.

“Visual learners best remember what is seen. They tend to remember faces instead of names, are good readers and have good imaginations. They respond best to instruction that includes reading, posters, graphs and videos. Visual learners:
take copious notes
often close their eyes to visualize and remember
usually neat and clean with carefully coordinated clothing
benefit from illustrations and visual presentations
are attracted to written or spoken language rich in pictorial imagery
seek quiet, passive surroundings ideal

Auditory learners best remember what is heard. They remember names well, respond easily to phonics instruction and may like to talk when writing. They benefit most from instruction based on lectures, discussions and questioning. Some good methods to use with auditory learners include singing songs or listening to tapes that relate to content area to be studied and developing rhymes and mnemonics to help remember information. Auditory learners:
remember names, tend to forget faces
may not coordinate clothes but can explain what they have on and why
hum or talk to themselves
enjoy listening to themselves and others
likes to read aloud
remembers best by verbalizing
have difficulties reading maps or diagrams
have little trouble learning in a noisy environment

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, experimenting and involvement. These learners remember what was done, not necessarily what was seen or heard, and might have difficulty paying attention and staying focused on their schoolwork or homework. Kinesthetic learners benefit most from hands-on instruction, using manipulatives, role-playing or building things. Kinesthetic learners:
need to move around, be active and take frequent breaks
speak with their hands and with gestures
seek out and find ways to move around
tinker when bored
rely on what they can directly experience or perform
enjoy manipulating materials

Tactile learners like to use their hands and fingers to learn. Those learn best by writing, drawing, doodling and tend to be creative.They benefit from instructions such as sewing, painting or drawing. Tactile learners:
need to touch or feel objects when learning a new concept
enjoys designing things
likes to illustrate written work
finds sculpting, painting and drawing relaxing
Appreciates physically expressed encouragement (e.g. a pat on the back)”

It is not only helpful as individuals and parents to know the differences of learning styles to understand how we learn but it is helpful in understanding how we can teach. When you are involved in a church community you begin to serve. Whether you serve in a church service or the children’s programming, creating an environment that serves as many of these styles as possible helps church attenders retain and grow. And the more we know, the more we grow in Christ’s love. Make church attendance a part of your life, find one that suits not only your style of learning but everyone in the family. When we are connected to a church family we gain wisdom and understanding of humanity, ourselves and in the fullness of God, we are made complete.

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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Migration

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Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Eagles are considered spiritual messengers between gods and humans by some cultures. There is an eagle that has taken roost near my home. I get to see him on my daily hike and I don’t know if I am conditioned because the eagle is the national symbol of freedom or if it is sheer size or their predatory nature, but they are fascinating creatures to me. Seeing them soar down river or upstream, I always feel a sense of God’s presence and peace. An eagle’s majestic nature stops me in my tracks and I am able to stop, stare and revel in the present moment. Whatever worries or challenges or stress of the day melt away when the eagle flies my way.

When we stop our busy lives for even just a moment, we are open to hearing from God, from gaining clarity over a situation, peace around a problem, hope for our future.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:26, 27, 34 NLT)

What causes you to stop and pause?