Spiritual practices are a source of strength

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

~ Isaiah 40:29, NIV

It has been said by people way smarter than me that addiction is at its heart a spiritual quest. I don’t know about that. I do know that it is looking in the wrong direction. Research bears this out. We are learning that the SOLUTION to Substance Use Disorder that includes a spiritual component is far more effective than one that does not address spirituality.

So maybe those gurus are on to something! Although the using may fall far short in delivering a spiritually transformative experience, the recovery from the quest can be quite enlightening.

Today, take a few moments and just breathe. Give just a fraction of your time this morning to remember that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Where do you feel weak? What is causing you to be weighted down with weariness? Ask God to strengthen and empower you today.

Spirituality… “It is that sense of well-being I sought in drugs only it’s meaningful and lasting. It is not going to wear off when the drug wears off, it seems to come from within.”

Source of the quote: https://www.nacr.org/center-for-12-step-recovery/by-the-book-doing-the-twelve-steps/by-the-book-step-3

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?

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?

Compassion

As many of you know, I am a big fan of the Enneagram as a tool for self-discovery.  One of my favorite parts has become an increased awareness of how I respond to stress.  Before the enneagram I had a sense about how stress affected me without much vocabulary, context or understanding.


With greater insights comes the capacity, at times, to actually interrupt my stress reaction and choose to respond by using my tools for recovery.  This is a deeply spiritual journey for me and others who are traveling this same path.


Initially I was attracted to, and mesmerized by, all the descriptions of personality.  I enjoyed taking a profile and matching it to someone I knew.  It could have easily become a party game for me without the mentorship of a good Enneagram master teacher.


Today I am less enamored with the personality profile particulars and more invested in how much compassion I feel for all of us.  Whether or not we share the same vulnerabilities, I am coming to understand that we are all vulnerable to the waywardness of our personality and its tendency to steal our capacity for presence.


Decades ago I was focused on my religious education and was more interested in what I needed to learn and know.  Education is a great, even vital, component of spirituality.  I am often saddened to see the ways we have been so easily dissuaded from valuing seminary training.  


But the training is the start of the journey not the destination.  It is as we grow in our understanding of God that we develop a greater compassion for his people.  The Enneagram helps me do that.  Whether or not this is a tool you value, I would dare to suggest that if we are not growing in our capacity to hold compassion then we probably need to take a look at our program.

Reciprocity as Success

Brene Brown is phenomenal at articulating the problems we are struggling with in our families and communities.  Part of her work addresses the spirituality of relationships. Here is her stab at defining what it means to live spiritually:

 

 

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.  
Braving The Wilderness, p. 45

 

From my perspective, success is just a series of developmentally predictable distractions and chasing after shiny objects without framing it within the bounds of spirituality.  In particular, I love her definition. I believe her insights provide us with some light unto our paths of walking in love. In trying to determine a working definition of success for a spiritual community, I’m going to pick this sentence apart in the hopes that we find both inspiration and some practical steps to take a individuals, families and tribes.

 

#1. Recognizing…  Spirituality is an inspired way of seeing that requires us to recognize unseen things.  It compels us to look beneath the surface of a thing.

 

As marriages go, Pete and I do not have a ton of conflict but I am not so sure we were particularly competent at recognizing the spirituality of marriage until we got some coaching.  Early on in our marriage we unintentionally competed. We competed for attention, time (alone or together), winning at stuff. I have some understanding now of why we did this. But at the time, I didn’t really think much about the way we related one way or another except when I was unhappy about a decision.  When that occurred, I thought a lot about how Pete was to blame. One weekend we went on a marriage retreat. I heard one sentence that changed everything for me, “When your spouse wins, you win.” Ahhhhh...I got it. Just to be clear, I was not in an abusive, narcissistic, unhappy, troubled marriage. There weren’t red flags of neglect or disrespect.  We just didn’t have a lot of experience in loving well. But on that night I saw it: we were married. We would win and lose as one. It behooved me to help him win at life and vice versa. We needed to figure out where the “big win” was in every situation for both of us. This would mean that once in awhile a win for one might require the other to FEEL as if they were giving something up. (Pete could play golf on a Saturday and I could feel a little stuck at home with the kids after a long week of being home with the kids while he worked out of town might be one example.  But that might be a big win for both of us if he came home relaxed and ready to be fully present for the rest of the weekend.) But we chose to work hard to practice reciprocity so that overall, at the end of a long and mostly happy marriage, we would both feel like the two luckiest married people on the planet. And I do feel that way.

 

To be continued...

What is spirituality anyway?

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5, NRSV
 

We talk about spirituality a lot, but we don't often define it.  It's not an easy concept to define.  Our starting point, in a Christian framework, is that spirituality is fundamentally our participation in God's spirit.  God invites us into his community, he has gifted us his spirit, that spirit leads us, guides us,  and transforms us.  

Spirituality, as a reality, begins with God and travels down to us.  It does not originate somewhere inside of us, it ends up there.  Spirituality is not just a matter of spiritual disciplines- it is the lifeblood of a relationship between God and his people.  It does not merely bring us peace and calm, but character and hope.  

Over the next few days we're going to discuss some of the key ingredients in a thriving spiritual existence.