Resisting New Patterns

…What if I become something I don’t like, what if I become one of those people that I never want to be, whatever that might look like… I am willing to take the risk at the thought that maybe it is better than what I am…

~From the video series By the Book. Click here to view.

If we have ever felt the need to make a change, in order to actually accomplish a life realignment, I have news….IT WILL REQUIRE ACTUAL CHANGE. And it turns out that our brains hate change. Our brains love habits and patterns. Habits reduce the energy it needs to produce to do what our body is asking it to accomplish. When I walk, I do not have to think about how to walk. I’ve practiced walking so long that I just do it. Meanwhile, my brain can go smoke a cigar and sit on the porch rocking away in contented abandon to thought or action. My granddaughter is not at the stage where her brain can smoke and rock while she walks. She has to concentrate. She has the tiniest, cutest little feet ever. She isn’t tall either, but the girl is solid. When she walks, she spreads her legs wide to maintain balance. She works so much harder to walk than I do. She takes long naps in response to her walks. I can walk for hours and not grow weary.

When our brains identify a pattern, it rewards us for this identification with a shot of dopamine. This feels good. Is the brain just over-producing dopamine and doing a dopamine dump to rid it of excess? No! It is rewarding us for identifying a pattern, because patterns, once learned, allow the brain to rest. Here is the really interesting fact - the brain does not care if we have correctly identified a pattern. The brain doesn’t care how well I walk, so long as I walk well enough to do so without conscious thought.

Does the brain like change? No! If you do not like the way your life is shaping up, you are going to need to override your brain’s desire to smoke and sit on the porch. You might need more naps. I’m totally serious - change is stressful. But it may be necessary in order for us to live the life that brings us peace. Are you ready and willing?

…I don’t know what is hurting me and what is helping me... I don’t know about any of it, not just the using but all these other things in my life. I’ll just say here’s the whole deal, I’m willing to let all of it be changed by this process…

~From the video series By the Book. Click here to view.

You CAN deal with the things you can't deal with.

What’s your biggest fear? What do you think you absolutely cannot handle? Guess what? There may come a time when you have no choice in the matter. A day may arise when you have to handle the very thing you think you cannot deal with.

Although I am a big fan of planning, I do not think it is possible to plan but for so much disaster. So, frankly, I’ve kind of let that need to prepare for the worst case scenario. Instead, I am building a life around wellness, joy, and living true to my core values. It’s plenty of work, but it is very satisfying, and much better than toting a survival kit everywhere I go.

I am, instead, building a thriving toolbox, filled with all I need for an abundant life. One of those tools is my thought-o-meter. I use it to check myself and my thoughts out. In yesterday’s blog, I listed a few common thought no-no’s. Today and tomorrow I am going to unpack a couple that I have had to work on changing.

The work of Byron Katie is great for this, you should check her out. But I also have discovered that my lack of creativity in my thought life means that if I pay attention, I notice my self-defeating thoughts without much effort. If I pay attention!! So - you can do this!!

I have learned that I practice habits but I do not regularly evaluate them for effectiveness. I used to think I needed to walk 10,000 steps per day or I might drop dead from a heart attack any minute. Today, I understand that there is no one right way to keep our bodies healthy. 10,000 steps is awesome, but we do not have to get out the nitroglycerine if instead of walking we decide to garden or ride a bike or lift weights.

What habits in all their many forms are you overly dependent on? Are you sure they are accomplishing what you want them to? Are there other options that are equally effective? Variety is indeed the spice of life! Are you spicy enough to have a joy-filled life?

Challenge Self-Defeating Thoughts

I was really shocked to discover that my thoughts are not always true and my feelings are not always the best gauge of my life situation. I spent decades assuming that my thoughts and feelings were pointing me to my “truth”. I was wrong. Here are some common inaccurate thoughts:

* I cannot cope with ______ unless I use/do/have _________.

* When I ______, I am more creative and productive.

* My friends would not like me if they knew the real me.

* I cannot relax/sleep/function without _____.

* I know that I have missed some family functions but kids are resilient, they will get over it.

* I am not hurting anyone but myself.

* My loved ones just do not understand.

* I can stop ________ whenever I want. I plan on changing when life settles down.

It is possible that our life is unsatisfactory because we are living with unaddressed, inaccurate, and self-defeating thoughts. Compulsive thoughts create heightened anxiety and depression. It is crucial to realize that we are unaware that our thinking is distorted. We will need to look outside our mind palace for answers that are fundamentally beyond our brain’s capacity to grasp without outside intervention.

Don’t assume that you know it all.

Run to God! Run from evil!

Your body will glow with health,

your very bones will vibrate with life!

~ Proverbs 3:7-8, The Message

I like to ask myself the following question on a daily basis: what if I am wrong about _______? As I discover that I am wrong, I find new opportunities to change, seek help, and walk humbly with my God and others! Try it! It is so much easier than having to be right and strong all the time!

Meditation Moment

Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”

~ John 8:32 The Message

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Take this step for you. You are worth it. Find some quiet time to sit and breathe. Imagine what it would be like for you to stick with your faithful pilgrimage. Dare to dream of what it would be like to be a spiritual being in an earth suit. What would your day and evening look like? Just imagine. No pressure.

Recovery is a puzzle

“To me, recovery is like trying to put together this puzzle. There are all these different puzzle pieces. They are not the same for everyone, but for me, those puzzle pieces have been therapy, medication, fellowship and 12-Step. All of these puzzle pieces come together to allow me to stay sober, and they are all really important. However, they are different for everybody. I wish there was one solution that worked for all people, but unfortunately, that is not the case.” Excerpt from Beautiful Boy: An Interview with Nic Sheff, John Lavitt 10/12/2018, thefix.com.

You were created by a loving God with great intentionality. You are not alone in figuring out your puzzle.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out,

you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

before I’d even lived one day.

~ Psalm 139:15-16, The Message

Seeking wholeness in all the wrong places

Dr. Carl Jung, a noted psychiatrist, once said that addiction is an unconscious quest for God. Restated, Jung believed that we are seeking wholeness for ourselves through artificial sources. Obviously, there are tons of ways to journey through life. Some have more side-effects than others. But Jung believed we cannot escape this primal quest for wholeness - nor should we!

Nic Sheff began his quest through an absolute commitment to drug use. His favorite was methamphetamines, but he was not too picky. Nic’s story is laid out for the world to see in the books, Beautiful Boy, written by his father David and Nic’s book Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.

“Smoking pot for the first time felt like the first real answer that I had ever found. I kept turning to drugs to cope with everything from success to failure to shyness and everything in between. Thus, when I wasn’t using, I really developed no skills to handle what life threw at me. I kept going back to the drugs because they were the only coping mechanism that I’ve ever learned.”

If smoking pot was the answer, what was his primary question?

Long before he [God] laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

~ Ephesians 1:3-6, The Message

The quest is a sacred pilgrimage. But in Nic’s case, and mine, my brother’s and maybe yours - we stumble upon an answer to the wrong question that does not hold up for the long haul. In recovery, we can choose to embark on a healing journey with intentionality. This will lead us into a whole new way of being. Recovery does not return us to who we were before we started using, it breaks us out of the prison of our mind, clouded by dysfunctional thinking, feeling and behaving. Maybe you think this does not apply to you. Are you sure? Is there any person, place or thing that you absolutely believe you cannot live without? You might just have a dependency!

We want to do dangerous things...without dangerous consequences

There’s an old substance prevention commercial with a line that goes like this: “‘When I grow up, I want to be an addict!’ Said no child ever.” Well, of course that is true. Sort of.

But many of us do end up becoming addicted to things that we absolutely did want to use. My brother said the first time he drank he thought it was magical. When I learned how to not eat for days at a time, which did take quite a bit of practice, the chemicals this kind of starvation released in my brain made me feel powerful and in control. My friend Doug says that drinking and using made him feel funnier, more likeable. Has anyone ever gotten addicted to broccoli? I don’t think so!

What we never, ever want is consequences. We do not want the things that once soothed, empowered, normalized us to turn on us and take away our power to choose, our capacity to have a normal life and the right to vote. No one actually signs up for this stuff.

We do end up off course. Recovery allows us to re-remember. It gives us time to get out from under the obsession and compulsion to keep using things that once made us feel great but no longer do - choices we once thought made our life better until all of a sudden they were no longer a choice. Most of us struggle to accept the reality that the early promises our bad habit of choice no longer delivers.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

~ James 1:16-18 The Message

The best advice anyone ever gave me when breaking old habits and forming new ways of living was simple: Hold on. One day at a time. Corny? Only until you understand what you are up against in the fight to regain your footing and find your way back to your real self.

God is willing to start over

1-2 God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”

3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel. At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, but if they don’t cooperate and won’t listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them.

11 “So, tell the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem my Message: ‘Danger! I’m shaping doom against you, laying plans against you. Turn back from your doomed way of life. Straighten out your lives.’

12 “But they’ll just say, ‘Why should we? What’s the point? We’ll live just the way we’ve always lived, doom or no doom.’”

~Jeremiah 18:1-12, The Message

In what ways does this story move you? Are you in danger? Are you grateful to the potter? What’s up with you in this process of creation?

God forms us

Editor’s note (from Scott): My apologies on the absence of the devotionals over the fast few days. I forgot my computer when I went on vacation. If you need to a refresher, click here to access all posts.

Recently I completed a massive project. I had made a decision that if I completed said project, I would treat myself. I carefully thought this decision out. My treat wasn’t going to be a new pair of shoes or a gelato. This treat needed to compensate for the time I spent with my nose to the grindstone in order to churn this baby out. In other words, my treat needed to serve as a realignment of sorts, an adjustment to a brief season of over-working.

I chose to take a pottery class. It TOTALLY fits the bill of self-care. It is something completely new with no promise of competency. It will require humility and concentration. It breaks my routine. It fits a dream to learn how to use a potter’s wheel that I have had since childhood.

I am taking the class. It is hard and wonderful and thus far, I have not crafted one use-able item on that darn wheel. But I see the need for the clay to cooperate with the process. It has to have certain properties - it needs to be moist, centered and balanced on the wheel. The hands of the potter can only do so much. The clay must be malleable. It is the wonderful synergy of the clay and the potter’s hand that makes the lump morph into something use-able and lovely.

As my teacher says all the time, “We only learn by doing and as we do this work, we are constantly pushing the edge - how much can the clay take of our pushing and prodding? It is at the limit of tolerance that we find the beauty of the object.”

Are you tolerating the pressure of the potter’s hand? Could you cooperate a bit more in the transformation process?

Learning what you don't know won't hurt you

My friends and I talked about the researcher’s findings as they related to our brain. Some of the data was daunting. A few of us wondered if recovery was even possible in light of these findings!! Then we added up our sober time. We had hundreds of years of sustained sobriety between us. People do recover. There is hope. Research is great but the healing power of God is amazing!!

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 The Message

God heals. Are we willing to use our powerful God-tools so that we can fit every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ?

A few truths for early recovery

Living in a city with a large university dedicated (in part) to researching Substance Use Disorder (SUD), provides me wonderful opportunities to learn from the experts. In a recent talk, I heard a guy who researches the “brain on drugs” speak in depth about the nature of SUD and the broken reward center. Now, who is to say whether this particular bit of the brain was broken because we abused our brain with compulsive over-use of a particular substance OR whether our brain was broken before we used and because it was malfunctioning, we ended up with a compulsion we could not control? Researchers study these things and I am grateful for their hard work. Hopefully we will learn more soon.

What we do know this - most people who experiment with substances of various kinds even when they do so with gusto and in excess, do NOT end up with a Substance Use Disorder. This is a puzzler. Did the 90% of “others” not try hard enough? I do not know. Are the 10% or so who do end up with an addiction unlucky? And what about the genetic component? We know these things run in families, what is that all about? Research continues. Many questions in the field remain open for debate. But while we wait, many of us in long term recovery have learned a few things about getting sober.

These are practical truths that I am sure will one day fit into the models of recovery that research supports. Please do not miss my point. Research is awesome. But we also have a world of experience built up over decades from folks who fought the disease and survived. Here are a few practical truths that we can apply TODAY (while we wait for the research to figure other stuff out).

* We have a lot of thoughts that need to be examined for accuracy; many will need to be rejected and replaced with thoughts that are closer to reality. (SUD has a thought-disordered component that responds well to treatment if people stick with the program.)

* Our emotions are all over the place in early recovery. We were SHOCKED to discover that our feelings are real but may not reflect our current situation accurately. (We need support as we navigate recovery because it is hard and we are freaked out.)

* Our impulsivity gets us in trouble. Regardless of what our brain is doing, we all need to figure out a way to slow our roll and reduce impulsivity. (In recovery, we need adult supervision. It is not a good idea to spend time alone with our thoughts and feelings without regular reality checks with supportive mentors.)

I love research AND I love learning from folks who have clean time. Who can you go to today for support in your own journey of transformation?

Over-spiritualizing creates big problems

In my work people often ask me, “How do people get sober?” They are skeptical, curious, hopeless, angry, afraid.

Some even come looking for actual answers. Their question sounds more like, “HOW DO people get sober?” These people want answers. They want action steps. They want solutions.

All the different ways people show up with these questions are fine - no judgment here. But the attitude that they bring into my office impacts my answer because frankly, there are many, many ways to get sober.

One way it does not work is to super spiritual-ize the journey. I learned this years ago when a spouse came in and wanted to know how to fix his wife. He brought his Bible (this NEVER happens) and the following passage:

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

~ Ephesians 1:11-12 The Message

Then he raged. He spoke of his wife’s issues and her stubborn resistance to treatment. He talked about their place of esteem in the Christian community and how God did NOT want them living “like this”.

“What do you mean exactly by ‘like this’?” I asked. He went on to list all the ways he felt his wife was a disappointment. He felt cheated. He wished for a wife who loved the Lord and submitted to her husband’s authority.

Three days later he was arrested for assault and battery of his wife. A week later she was in treatment. Ten years out she works with abuse and trauma survivors; he is in and out of jail for a nasty habit of trying to beat his subsequent wives into submission with the same fervor he used on his first wife.

I believe in the message of Ephesians 1; I worry when we try to use it to control other people’s decisions. I do not believe that Ephesians 1 is talking about designs for us that give no regard to who we are and how we want to live. This is more of a divine tango than an order to march in lockstep with God. God is relational and intimate. He does NOT beat us into submission. He is not codependent. Dr. Dale Ryan often speaks of God’s patience with us. He talks about how God is not concerned that his work in our lives will extend into the next life. Our cooperation requires that we are honest about ourselves and not hide behind false spirituality. A person who beats their spouse may be spouting the words but they are not living the life. A person struggling with a Substance Use Disorder who admits their problem and seeks help is daring to hope.

Who are you? Are you admitting your stuff or pointing the finger at others?

Change? We fear change.

We resist change. I think it is, in large part, because we believe it is harder than we can manage. Change is hard, but we make it feel insurmountable when we expect more of ourselves than the process of recovery actually asks of us. In point of fact, believing the lie that change is too hard is pro-addiction thinking. It is the disease system trying to trick us into believing we cannot do it, so why try?

I suppose this is why I believe that spirituality is such a key ingredient for desperate folks looking for their freedom. In a spiritual program like the 12-Steps, we are NOT asked to do the heavy lifting, we are promised that God will do the hard stuff - and he is eager to do so!

So what is our part? Here is what is being asked of you:

* Believe that God has more power than you do.

* Accept that you do not have enough power or capacity to reason to solve your problems without a higher power.

* Trust that restoration is possible for you.

I’m not going to kid you, this is the first part of the solution. But boy wowser gee whiz - it is a pretty freaking big part with a lot of implications.

Answer the following:

If I believe that God has more power than I have, what changes for me in terms of my relationship with him and my actions on a daily basis?

If I accept that I do not have either the power or the capacity to solve my problems, what changes in the way I deal with my problems?

If I trust that restoration is possible for me, what’s my next right step?

A mind trick that's not a mind trick

Life threatening problems like eating disorders, depression and Substance Use Disorder need solutions that are effective - not gimmicks. It’s a Jedi mind trick to follow George Costanza’s methods for dealing with inconvenient truths - “It’s not a lie if you believe it” - is not a helpful way to live.

It is NOT normal for a 5 foot 7 inch adolescent to weigh 92 pounds; to claim health with these stats is pulling a George Costanza. Although my eating was a problem, it was not THE problem. It was the symptom. My problem was that I was dedicated to believing things that were not true. When we persistently hold onto thoughts and ideas that are not true, we are living in denial.

When the experts sat around and wrote up a definition of addiction, they all agreed that denial is a tell-tale sign that a person is suffering with a Substance Use Disorder. As hard as it is to admit, the issues we are in denial about are obvious to others. It’s like having the measles but denying the rash. Others stare at the rash or avert their eyes; we collude with the disease when we avoid mirrors to avoid noticing the spots. This is not easy work; it takes a long time to untangle beliefs and actions that spring from a place of denial.

Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”

Mark 9:23-24 The Message

I love these two verses in scripture. Jesus encourages the dude to believe and not doubt as an invitation. The father responds beautifully. He is not in denial. He is willing to tell Jesus the truth.

“Then I believe!” He cries. But he knows that there is also doubt and he is honest about his condition. “Help me with my doubts!”

By the time I began eating again, my brain was compromised from malnourishment; my heart was damaged; my body was weak. I was not at my best. Neither are you, dear reader. But no one expects you to be at your best right now.

In this process, from a spiritual perspective, what do you think is being asked of you? Tomorrow, we will discuss that - and you might be surprised by what you hear!!

The Costanza School of Theology

George Costanza offers us another perspective on insanity that might be helpful in our pursuit of recovery and faithful living. (Click here to view on Youtube.)

George and Jerry have been having coffee in the diner. Jerry has been dating a girl who he told a ridiculous lie to in order to project a certain image; the woman, a police officer, half-jokingly demands a polygraph. Jerry goes to George, a guy who lies constantly, for advice on beating the polygraph.

George says: “Jerry, remember one thing: it is not a lie if you believe it.”

George was wrong; just because something FEELS true to us does not make it so.

There came a moment in my illness when I, inexplicably, decided to believe that which is true. I didn’t so much know what the truth was, I just knew that I was not living truthfully with myself or others. I was in hiding. I collapsed and in that moment came closer to the truth than I had in a long, long time. I did not realize it at the time but I completed one part of the second step. I was admitting to my insanity and I knew without doubt that I needed help and restoration.

I white knuckled my recovery for a long time. I forced myself to behave differently. I began to eat more and exercise less. I relapsed regularly. My mind was obsessed with food and counting calories in and out. My behavior changed; my weight returned to a more normal range; people stopped asking me why I did not eat dinner because I started showing up for meals. But I was not in recovery.

I had not yet completed my Second Step - which asks me to believe that God is powerful and can restore me. Until I took that step, I was making the same mistake over and over again. I was trusting myself to come up with a solution.

Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

In the meeting rooms they talk about “half measures”; I was half a measure short of a full commitment to restoration. I had exceeded my capacity to save myself.

Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.

~ 2 Corinthians 1, selected verses, The Message

Fortunately, God works with half-dead people all the time. No problemo.

We struggle to view ourselves accurately

I am in recovery from an eating disorder. Mine took the form of starvation - commonly referred to as anorexia. Back in the day when I suffered from my condition there wasn’t much conversation about such things. Generally speaking, people thought I was self-controlled. Part of the issue was denial. People close to me did not notice (or pretended not to) that I started acting weird. I stopped showing up for dinner; I disappeared when my friends ordered in pizza. I skipped events where food was served. I over-exercised. I got really skinny, which was all the rage in terms of style. Dieting and starving and such were the norm. My grandmother even bought a contraption that was supposed to jiggle off fat. It had a wide belt and when powered up it would shake and shimmy and the user would wrap it around their body and just wait for the fat to melt away. In fairness, I am sure any veiled attempt to bring up and discuss my bizarre change in eating habits was met with resistance. I did not think I needed help; I certainly was not open to feedback. Denial complicates healing.

Denial’s common definition is “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” (but never getting different results). My denial fit that definition and then some. Scott McBean, Co-Pastor with me at Northstar Community defines denial like this: DENIAL IS AN AGGRESSIVE PURSUIT OF FANTASY LIVING; IT IS A DECISION TO CHASE THE LIE OVER THE TRUTH. I was NOT living in reality. In reality we need nutrients; I despised ripe red juicy apples, rejected chocolate chip cookies, and refused hot, warm bread freshly baked out of my grandmother’s oven. We need to socialize and hang out with our tribe; I stopped returning my friends’ calls. We need rest; I spent my nights doing crunches and running to keep my calories in the deficit column. My heart and mind were broken and I needed rescue.

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 34:18-22, The Message

How might denial be complicating your life?

Spiritual Blind Spots

In recovery I discovered that there were lots of things about God that people had conveniently forgotten to teach me OR I had failed to hear. It could easily be the latter. My parents were not spiritual people; my grandparents were the only religious influence I had growing up - and it is a lot to ask the church to cram all knowledge a kid needs about God into summer visits. But it was enough. It made me hungry for more.

As an adult, I worked a heavy duty spiritual program. Over the course of years of study I realized that many of my beliefs were off-target. I received the highlight reel of faith in bits and pieces. But much like families of origin - it is really hard to recognize that our families and our faith experiences often leave big gaps in knowledge, much less wisdom. We have a difficult time knowing what we do not know.

This is why it is important to talk through what we have been told, what we perhaps interpreted as truth that we just got confused, and how these beliefs are messing with our abundant living.

Have you ever laid out your beliefs and examined them for accuracy? Have you ever considered that if life and faith are not being wrestled with and confronted and then lived out in real time - maybe it is time to step up our commitment to our spirituality?

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?

Evaluating Your Own Decision Making

Today, I’ll put it to you.

What decisions have you been putting off making? Or, what decisions are you currently confronted with?

What values are at stake in this decision?

What do you want to value? How would certain actions add to, or take away from, that value (or set of values)?

Spend some time reflecting on what you want to prioritize in life and how your current options could play into those priorities.

Decisions Create Opportunities

Now, surely most of us have made decisions we knew to be out of accordance with our values. In fact we may even do this on a semi-regular basis. How do we explain this phenomenon according to this way of seeing?

One option is this: What we say we value doesn’t match what we actually value. Let’s be honest, sometimes we’re not honest with ourselves. When this is the case, it’s totally reasonable that we might act on a value different than what we say we value. I might say that I value being close to family more than making more money. If I get offered a job where I make 30% more money (but away from family), and I instantly take it, what am I communicating about what I value? I’m taking that money!!!

The other option is this: We aren’t being intentional enough about putting our practices into action. I’m guessing that we all want to be people who are able to live consistently, to value what we say we value, to prioritize whatever we deem to be “the right things” in life. Our decisions give us that opportunity. Sometimes there are confines, and sometimes the choices are less than ideal. Even in those cases we have the opportunity to choose to value something, even if it isn’t our “ideal.”