Listening to Our Pain

4 Jul

“Sometimes in our recovery the pain we are experiencing can seem unbearable. We have a choice we can make in the signal of the pain. We can ignore it and those around us that are advising us to make smart choices toward healing, we can act like it’s not there and hope it goes away on its own, or we can do what millions have done before us, go face the pain and see what is happening to cause the pain. As we say often, pain is inevitable in our life, but living with misery isn’t mandatory for us. Yes, God uses our pain to shout at us to get our attention. The question really becomes, am I willing to listen and do something about it? Freedom and change are possible. It can be hard to work through the pain but the result can be even better and so worth it. Are you hurting? Is something blocking you from experiencing a life with freedom? What is God trying to speak to you in your pain? God can use that pain for His glory if we make the right choice and allow Him and the body of Christ to walk through the pain. Through the blood of Christ, we can experience oxygen in our time of need to help equip us with the tools to grow through the pain. Don’t go at it alone. We weren’t designed to do it that way. His strength gives us the power. Will you allow his power to work through you? I pray you allow the Father to bring the comfort and healing that you are desiring. God bless you!”    

Rodney Holmstrom, Fellowship CR Congregational Leader and West National Director

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Confess

21 Jun

The Deep Dark Abyss

by Jim W.

Not sure about you or not, but early in my recovery I would find myself regressing into what used to be instead of what needs to be!  You know what I mean, right?  Living in the rearview mirror syndrome instead of looking forward to what was to come just around the bend.  Sometimes it even took weeks to get me back into reality before I could begin anew with moving forward.  The old saying of taking two steps back and one step forward definitely applied to my life at these times.  In case you still aren’t following along, let me use a story to demonstrate what I was feeling when I’d find myself in this deep dark abyss!  I’m sure if you’re reading this, that you too have found yourself in this abyss!

This story is true and took place some 30 plus years ago.  Longer than some of y’all have been around!  It’s the story of little Jessica McClure from Midland, Texas.  In October of 1986, little Jessica was playing at her Aunt’s house and accidently fell into an abandoned well pipe in her back yard.  She was 18 months old, and her cries of anguish could clearly be heard through the pipes at ground level.  There were 400 folks involved in her rescue attempt and they’re first step in the rescue effort involved getting someone in the pipe with little Jessica.  The entire country was shocked that so very little was being done to rescue her before this took place.  It was determined that before a rescue could be made, they had to quieten Jessica’s fears by having someone in the pipe with her!  Otherwise, they knew that Jessica’s mind would begin to start playing tricks on her and she would become even more irrational as time went on.  They needed someone who had been there to empathize with Jessica and prevent her thoughts from becoming destructive or worse, that she would just quit.  Well, I’m glad to report that the rescue efforts of those 400 people were successful.

And just like Jessica’s story, ours too can become all bogged down with fear and phobias and our thoughts will become completely disoriented if we allow ourselves to stay in this position for too long.  When we tend to hang on to that sin that we refused to let go of and or hold on to it as if it’s our only reminder of the real world and the old me!  We think we need to hold on to the past by not allowing the Lord to control all our lives and wills.  However, what we need is to Let go of the past and let God be in control!  He is anyway!!  Then and only then will we begin to live this life worth living that He has promised us and begin to feel the healing work of His Hands.  James 5:16, that we say almost every week in CR tends to make this point for me:

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed.”

So, when you find yourself in that abyss; that deep, dark, scary place with no hope, remember that even there; God is with us!  You’re not alone in this recovery process if you are a faithful and grateful believer of Christ!

Much Love,

Jim W.

Spiritual Inventory Part 2

21 Jun

By: Jamie Wilson

Spiritual Inventory Part 2: The journey continues…

I know what you’re thinking — how many times must we talk about our inventories?!? Trust me, I get it — there is a lot to cover with inventories, and the last four areas were not my favorite to dive into. In Spiritual Inventory, Part 2, we are asked to address the following areas — our mind, our body, our family, and our church.

I know for myself, when I started Celebrate Recovery, I didn’t really get how examining all these areas of life were going to help. It wasn’t until I had finished my inventory, that I was able to see it all laid out before me — this road map, of sorts. I was able to see the exact starting point, the moment I began needing recovery — and as I examined the areas identified in the spiritual inventory lessons, I began to see all the detours and the roadblocks, that I created for myself. But most importantly, as I prayed Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life,” God showed me the new paths He created to lead me to my ultimate destination of sobriety, freedom, and personal relationship with my Higher Power, Jesus Christ.

The journey through the inventory was not easy, and as I really investigated how my mind and the thoughts I bought into led me astray — it was redeeming to see that God’s truth could completely negate all the faulty thinking. I spent a long time believing God was not who His Word said He was, and I honestly had no desire to spend time in the Word of God. Even now, on days of temptation and struggle, I find my tendency is to avoid God. It is, however, the Word of God, the truths found there, that show me the way forward, the way beyond my hurts and habits, and addictions. In the midst of despair and negativity, it is God’s Word that provides hope.

A hard one to focus one was my body — and how I had mistreated it. I am one who neglects to take care of myself and I have used food to celebrate feeling good, to make me feel better when I am sad, and to calm me when angry — to excess. Why does that matter? Well, it is through our bodies or flesh that Satan works, and when I find comfort in food – I am not finding it in Christ. When I celebrate with food – I am not giving thanks to God; when I turn to food to calm an uneasy angry heart, I am not finding peace in God. And more so, the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God freely gives us the grace of His Spirit. He values us so much that He chose to place His Spirit within us. We need to have as much respect for ourselves as our Creator does for us.  Don’t believe me; well, just take a look at Scripture: “Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that He lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because He owns it.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Walking through the last two areas, church and family, were, enlightening. It wasn’t until completing my inventory that I saw just how I had mistreated members of my family by pushing them away and stonewalling them when they tried to reach out to me. And, with the church — until recovery, I didn’t even believe I had a right to a part of the church. Since, completing my inventory, I have been able to make amends and rebuild relationships and become a part of a really great church where I can be faithful and serve God as I continue my recovery.

So, in wrapping up the discussions on inventory — let me leave you with this — it is worth it!!! It’s tough; you face a lot of things that you wish you could forget and could ignore — but that’s how we stay stuck. Trust God — let Him move you forward!

 

 

Spiritual Inventory Part 1

21 Jun

By: Jamie Wilson

Spiritual Inventory: The beginning…

God’s Word tells us, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, TLB). That is what the inventory process is all about. As you go through the process of digging deep into the past and present — you are asking God to reveal to you the areas of your life where you need to pause and take a close, examining look.

That seemed impossible and overwhelming to me at the start of my journey in recovery, but that is what is so great about Celebrate Recovery — they give you certain areas of life to really focus on. In the first part of the spiritual inventory, we are asked to look at: our relationships with others; our priorities in life; our attitude; and our integrity.

Throughout the completion of my inventory, there were moments where I thought — ooohhhh… this is easy, like when I got to write down the people who hurt me. I had that list ready to go real quick. But, when it was time for me to write about who I had hurt, well, that was when I really wanted to turn and run right back into denial. God was pretty cool about not leaving me alone through the process though, which meant, that even though it was hard to face up to some of the things I had done, I was never alone.

Another area I found tough was dealing with my priorities and attitude. There were a number of times when God revealed areas of my life where I was not putting Him first. For a really long time, I tried to convince myself that, when I was in control,when my focus was on myself, and on how to make myself feel better, I was living the good life. Never have I been more wrong. When my focus shifted from me to God, and He became my priority, I truly began to see how good life could be. Now, let me talk about my attitude — it was bad. I hated myself, I hated others, I did not really like God (or who I thought He was anyway), and I really, really loved to complain about everything. I was like the posterchild for Debbie Downer. Having an “attitude of gratitude” is really hard for me, but in the midst of my tendency to complain and forget how good God is, I cling to 1 Corinthians 15:57, which says: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is certainly something we can all be grateful for!!!

This is just the first part of the spiritual inventory, and it covers a lot of tough stuff — but, God is faithful and with each area of life addressed through this process, He restores and cleanses — and you find yourself a little bit stronger in your recovery. Keep at it!! — Jamie

 

 

 

 

The Process of Writing Your Inventory

8 May

By: Jamie

The process of completing our inventory comes when we get to the Celebrate Recovery Principle 4. Principle 4 states “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Happy are the pure in heart. — Matthew 5:8)” What I like about principle 4 is that it is a working principle; it directs us toward the things we need to and guides us through the things that we have to make happen — and that thing we are doing, that thing we are making happen is… INVENTORY!!!

A few notes about completing the inventory: First, get ready to WRITE!!! Your inventory needs to be on paper. Writing or typing will help you organize your thoughts and focus on recalling events that you may have repressed. Second, remember you are not going through this alone. You are developing your support team to guide you; but even more importantly you are growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ!

Ephesians 4:31 tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” — and that is exactly what the inventory helps us do! Celebrate Recovery has provided us with an inventory worksheet that address 5 areas to work through as completing the inventory. As you prepare to begin your inventory, it is important to notice that the 5 area are related to one another; they are interconnected, building upon one another. All of the areas have purpose and value to our recoveries.

So, what are the 5 areas, you ask? Well – here they are: “the person”, “the cause”, “the effect”, “the damage”, and “my part”.

“The Person” — This is where you list the person/people you resent or fear. Go back as far as you can. Look into your heart, mind, and soul — and RELEASE ALL of it!!! Don’t hold anything back! As I completed my own inventory, I realized that as hard as it was to write down names and face all of the resentment that had burrowed down into my heart, it was also where I encountered the goodness of Jesus Christ. It was through my inventory that my resentments faded as the light of my faith in Jesus was allowed to shine.

“The Cause” — Let me just give you a heads up — this one is not easy at all. This is the part of the inventory where you write down what the people you wrote about did to you. It is during this part of the inventory that you may relive painful moments, situations, and experiences from your past. That is why having a support team (accountability partners and a sponsor) is so important; but while there may be painful memories and feelings brought forth — in the end, it is that process of drawing up and releasing them that allows you to be free. And… God made us a promise that will help us through it – “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10)”.

“The Effect” — Effect is defined as “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause. It is at this point of our inventories that we begin to identify the repercussions and ramifications that came forth from the people and the causes identified earlier in our inventory. For me, as I completed this part of my inventory, I came to see that the effect was not just external – as in how I choose to isolate myself from others around me or how I acted; but it was internal to – my thoughts and feelings; how I viewed myself, God, and others, it all changed as a result of holding resentments toward others, as a result of the situations in my life. It took the inventory process for me to see this; to see that the mindset I had, the beliefs I had about myself and others was faulty, and in Christ I found the strength to move beyond it.

“The Damage” — This is closely related to “the effect”. What are the results of the hurt done? What are the results that you have lived with through your whole life? This is where you start to identify or work through things such as — lack of trust, isolation, not letting people close, trouble with intimacy, being afraid, and feeling like there is no hope for the future (just to name a few). It is amazing to see how you can draw a line directly from the unhealthy things in your life to the damage caused. As I completed my own inventory, I became excited as I began to realize the connection, and was able to release it; because when I could release it, I could live in a healthy way.

“My Part” — Are you ready for this? This is where you ask God to show you your part; to show you what part of the resentment YOU are responsible for. As much as we may not want to admit we had any part in what led us to the place of needing recovery, sometimes, we did have a part to play in it. It is at this stage of our inventory when our prayer needs to be that of the psalmist, “Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23-24).”

**NOTE**

If you have been in an abusive relationship, especially as a small child, you can find great freedom in this part of the inventory. You see that you had NO part, NO responsibility for the cause of the resentment. By simply writing the words NONE or NOT GUILTY, you can begin to be free from the misplaced shame and guilt you have carried with you.

With our inventories, we face tough stuff from our past — but God is with us, and freedom is waiting!!!

So, start writing!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsor

8 May

A Sponsor “Leaves No Man Behind”

By: Gary

I left rehab in the fall of 2000 with several written mandates that included random drug and alcohol testing for three years, attend 90 meetings in 90 days, work the 12 steps and get a sponsor.  I really didn’t want to do that!  That implied that I would need to do my 4th Step with him; telling him “all” that I had done, and being accountable to him for my actions.

Oh my goodness!  Who in the world would “make” me do that.  Don’t they realize who I am?  Good grief, I have a doctors degree, I have been a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, and I really only did what I did, because I was struggling in my marriage, and my wife’s actions “forced” me to use drugs and alcohol to anesthetize my pain.  Daily life was a hard fought battle!

There was no getting out of at least asking someone to be my sponsor, and I figured if I asked someone really lame, they wouldn’t care, they wouldn’t ask questions, and they wouldn’t bother me about these resentments I have had.  When I asked for someone to help me, and be a sponsor, a tougher speaking man, a Marine named Bill, came over and said he would work with me, but I had to start at Step 1.

Little did I realize that this tough Marine was kind and caring.  He had survived the 77 day siege in 1968 for the American military base at Khe Sanh.  During that battle, 274 Americans were killed, 2541 wounded.   Afterwards, all Americans were evacuated, victory was declared for that battle.  Bill had survived a mortar blast that exploded right on top of his bunker leaving him shaken, hearing compromised, but able to walk.

There is a saying in the military to ”leave no man behind.”  When we met in 2000, and Bill agreed to be my sponsor, I was quite wounded physically – drugs and alcohol destroyed the nerves in my legs all the way to the level of my spinal cord.  I was wounded emotionally, and had lost the ability to feel happy or sad.  I was wounded spiritually, and had lost my connection with God through Christ.  When I didn’t feel like I even wanted or needed help, this caring Marine literally did for me, what I could not do for myself.  He asked me after the 3rd step if I would get on my knees and read the 3rd step prayer aloud.  I said sure, seemed like “just another” printed standard prayer.  But as I began to pray the words with Bill, the words took on meaning.  I was praying God would be everything to me, or nothing at all.  I could hardly see the words – I was weeping so strongly!  I was repenting, I was praying to God that I want Him back in my life more than anything else.  I had a sponsor who got on his knees and cared enough to make sure my heart was right with God.  I was still a wounded mess, but Bill led me back to God through Christ!  He was not leaving me behind, he wasn’t rejecting me, he was praying with me and for me on his knees.

I am forever blessed that God brought this battle toughened, but spiritually kind, accepting, and caring Marine – Bill into my life.  He really did do for me, what I could not do on my own, bring me back to a healing relationship with God.  I still walk with a limp today, and I still walk with my sponsor Bill by my side – He didn’t leave me behind.  And I know that God has His arm around both of us, He is always there, if I only turn around and ask.  I have known Bill for almost 17 years now, he is also still there for me, and we still meet as often as we can, or visit on the phone.  I am not alone; I am alive with Christ living in me!

Moral “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

17 Apr

The Good, Bad, and the Ugly!

Not many of you reading this were alive during the 1966 Spaghetti Western of “The Good, Bad, and the Ugly”, however, it fits pretty well with this week’s lesson on Moral.

In the movie for those of you who have not seen it, Clint Eastwood played the Good guy (he had no name in the movie), was referred to as Blondie.  Lee Van Cleef played the part of the Bad and was called Sentenza.  Eli Wallach was the ugly and his character’s name was Tuco.  It seems to me that in everything we get involved in, there’s always a good, bad, and ugly!

In every walk of life, we tend to hide behind something or we try to cover up or gloss over the real issues we’re facing!  One of the greatest things we do here in Celebrate Recovery is to insure that our masks are off and that the real reason for why we attend is always brought to everyone’s attention.  Our ability to fix ourselves was lost some time ago if we’re honest with ourselves.  And isn’t that the reason behind Moral Inventory?  Moral tends to run some folks off since they still live in never never land!  But we who are serious about our recovery have removed those masks and began to take the journey of recovery with no more pretending to be something we’re not!  The way I see it, we have three options and they are the good, the bad, or the ugly.

We’ve already tried “ugly” and that’s what has brought us here to Celebrate Recovery.  The “bad” is that old nature we tend to keep on picking up and preventing ourselves the restoration the Lord has promised us!  I know that it’s hard to change, but why is it so easy to change when we have a medical condition that requires us to change. That’s not an issue; but if we have a heart issue that needs to be changed, we tend to drag this thing out even to the point that we even go back into denial?  Don’t be like this old devil dog who tends to lay my back pack of change and doubt at Christ’s feet and then only pick it back up when I’m tired to waiting on Him to answer.  I mean really, I just left it at H

Enough of the “bad”, let’s go to the “good”.  The “good” is what we’ve been promised if we will just lean on Him and believe that He will do everything He has said He will do!  You know Moral just means the good that is before us!  The problem that I had in my recovery wasn’t the performance, but the obedience to God and turning all of me over to His will.  I wanted so bad to keep control and then allow myself to get all the Glory for the work that He has done in my life.  But, you see, He wants all of your will to be involved in His will and then and only then will you see victory in this step.  Before you tackle step four and the inventory, be sure you completed step 3 and surrendered your will to God’s Will.  Once that happens and we have shared all those dirty little secrets to our one and only Higher Power Jesus Christ and to someone we trust (i.e. your sponsor), then scripture tells us that then He will heal us!  (James 5:16)

Psalm 51:10 state, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  I’ve finally figured out in my life that change, although hard at times, is possible in our lives; but only if and when we are ready to accept it.  That time usually comes when our pain becomes greater than our fear.  Even when we have been in recovery for awhile, we can still struggle with change.  And yet change is necessary if we are to find wholeness.  Change is also constant, for we live in a changing world.  Let’s quit rebelling about the issues and look to our God who is greater than any issue.  Just like in the story of David and Goliath, no one else discusses God, yet David discusses no one but God!  Why not try a different tack than you’ve tried before?  Load up your sling and rush into your trouble or trial!  The way you load up your sling is to stay in His Word and on your knees daily!  Once God says you’re ready, attack that trial and God will do exactly what He has said He would.

Blessings Jim

Joshua 1:9