Running for my life

In the bible we find an amazing book of poetry that speaks to people living through impossible situations without much support. Early in my recovery I could not read the psalms; they triggered me. I felt irritable, restless and discontent when I read them.

I thought they were a bunch of baloney.

Then one day I was reading about David. My childhood had taught me about David, the giant slayer, but my summer-go-to-grandma’s church Sunday School teachers had definitely skipped over the chapters where King David became an adulterer, a murderer (by proxy), and a pretty unimpressive father. This fuller version of David’s life story completely opened the psalms up to me - since he is attributed with writing many of them. Today I love the psalms. They do not “should” and “ought” me with demands for perfect trust. Today, I read them with more context and a touch of imagination. When I read Psalm 23, I think of David running for his life, chased by his many enemies. I can see his arms pumping, his legs churning, his breath coming in deep and uneven gasps as he cries out, daring to hope but not quite believing, that what he is praying is true. He is disciplining himself to believe in a God who loves him in spite of his world offering little evidence that God does love him OR that he, David, deserves it. Got the picture? Now listen in…

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul...

~ Psalm 23:1-3, NIV

David is a guy who was a “man after God’s own heart” before and after the Bathsheba scandal. When confronted with his sins by Nathan, he confessed and received forgiveness. He did horrible things in his life; he loved God well and true for much of his life also. Complicated. Human. Loved by God.

How about you? Have you the spiritual bandwidth to live with such a complicated reality for David? For yourself? For others?

You are Divine

When our life is too disconnected and chaotic, too painful, too meaningless, too confusing to bear God’s image with dignity and respect, why wouldn’t we self-medicate? Why would we even care to try? The distortions caused by bad habits or forgetful living cause us to lose touch with our intrinsic value as children of God. Our conscious contact with God and our capacity to love others as a result of actively working to “bear God’s image” on a daily basis is awesome, but what about when we cannot bear up under the stress of daily living?

Often we are numb, isolated, lonely and ashamed. Or sometimes we are just really, really mad. Maybe, most likely, we do not even much care one way or another about our freaking core values. But here is a tough truth: our body cares, our mind cares, our heart cares. It is the dis-ease of disconnection from God, ourselves and others that does not care. Our body, mind and spirit are in open rebellion against a disease (think of sickness as the opposite of bearing God’s image) that kills and destroys our creativity, our joy, and our love for one another. Our being just knows that it is created for more than isolation, suffering, compulsions and forgetfulness of God.

Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them...God looked at all of this creation and proclaimed that this was good - very good.

~ Genesis 1:27, 31

If you have forgotten - here is your wake up call! Remember? You are divine!

Getting the Wheels Aligned

In practice, we are at our best when our body’s desire and intuition is joined with the emotional impulse of our heart and guided by our mind’s knowledge and insight to live daily in a way that makes sense with our beliefs. We live what we believe and our three centers of intelligence - thoughts, emotions and actions - all work in union with our core values. Our core values spring from what we decide to believe. Translation? We wake up in the morning and greet ourselves in the mirror without shame; we brush our teeth at night, stare into the mirror and know that we did a decent job at being human today. And on those days when we totally blow it - we know what to do to make it right. We know that God finds a way for banished people to come back home.

On decent days, we go about our day reflecting the image of God by loving what God loves, thinking as God thinks and doing as God would do if he were in our place. This does not have to be some big grand epic thing. Most of the time it will not be big or grand. But we can appreciate God, ourselves and others. We can live a reasonably peaceful and productive life in a way that makes the world a bit better because we are alive, fully present, and capable of doing the next right thing as best as we can understand it.

What happens when it all goes to hell in a handbasket? Again, we are going to wrestle with what we believe. BUT. The bad days often reveal what we doubt, what false beliefs we have buried deep inside, and where we need to ask for help. Bad days feel bad but can be great gifts and reality checks too.

Meditation Moment- The St. Francis Prayer

One way to increase our spiritual practice if we are rusty or just plain or reluctant is to rely on the words of others. Here is a prayer option to begin your day:

The St. Francis Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace -

that where there is hatred, I may bring love -

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness -

where there is discord, I may bring harmony -

where there is error, I may bring truth -

where there is doubt, I may bring faith -

where there is despair, I may bring hope -

where there are shadows, I may bring light -

where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted -

to understand than to be understood -

to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Want to add a bit of weight to your prayer? Spend a couple minutes breathing. Then re-read the prayer.

Open My Eyes

When I stumbled across the Second Step and actually wrestled with it, my eyes opened to the possibility that maybe I was confused about what it means to believe in God. Maybe I had been sold a bill of goods or maybe I just wanted to find a club to be “in” and misunderstood what I was taught. Maybe all this joining and sorting and being in versus out of the “Jesus Club” was a man thing, not a God thing.

In recovery I read “We came to believe…” and that got me curious. Could it be that coming to believe is a process? Is it possible that I can “come to believe” in a way that does not require my certainty or my membership?

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time. He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone; not even a finger gets broken. The wicked commit slow suicide; they waste their lives hating the good. God pays for each slave’s freedom; no one who runs to him loses out.

~ Psalm 34:17-22 The Message

Meditation Moment- The Serenity Prayer

One of the absolutely best ways to foster belief and transformation is establishing a daily practice that includes: silence, solitude, and stillness. Not great at any of those? Let’s practice! The Serenity Prayer is a common prayer in Twelve-Step programs and a useful a daily practice. Start today with this prayer. Sit with these words for a few minutes.

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

All you need to practice the three S’s is to repeat this prayer, breathe in and out, and be still. Try it!

Our Relationship with God

Step 2 of the Twelve Steps of AA says, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Plenty of us believe; but do we believe within the criteria of the Second Step?

Our struggles boil down to three primary issues:

* do we believe God is powerful,

* do we accept that only his power can restore us and

* do we believe we are worth his efforts on our behalf?

Christian writer J. Keith Miller wrote many books over the course of his long life. His first, The Taste of New Wine, described his struggle with faith. In his book A Hunger for Healing, Miller continues to open up and share his experience of recovery and faith.

“When I came to Step Two I realized that although I was a committed Christian and I really believed in God, my problem was that in some very important respects I was living a frantic, highly stressed existence as a Christian professional speaker and writer. I knew that something was not right: I was teaching about grace and freedom, on the one hand, and my life was anxious, stressful and over committed, on the other. But I was in denial and couldn’t see how bizarre the contradiction was. People in this program have helped me to realize that anything I do or think that is destructive to me or to my relationships with other people or with God is a kin of insanity, especially when I keep doing it month after month.”

~ J. Keith Miller - A Hunger for Healing

Do you ever worry – which would be a good thing actually – far better than being in denial!?! Do you ever worry that perhaps what you say you believe does not match up with how you behave? For instance, a person who talks about loving Jesus but is cheating on their spouse. Or an employee who believes that scriptures speak about respecting our earthly authority but is constantly undermining their boss? Or a person who says that they believe that God says love one another but there are certain ethnicities you just would not invite home to meet your mother?

Yeah? Me too. None of us get it right all the time. What do we do with all our messy ways?

How do we make sense of our saying one thing but doing another?