STEP TWO – Taking off the God Pants

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STEP TWO
 We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical comparison: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
There is a God out there. And I am not Him.
Seems a reasonable enough, right? I’m pretty sure YOU know that I am not God, that I didn’t mastermind the universe and place the heavenly bodies in orbit.
But at one point in my life as an active alcoholic – on some really deeply corroded level – I behaved as if I were perhaps God.
No, I didn’t create the universe, but I believed I was able to control my consumption from a liquid in a bottle.
Yet, over and over again, I made hollow promises to myself that tomorrow I would not drink. Period. After a period of thousands of ‘tomorrows’ and repeating the same behavior, I began to question my sanity. Isn’t the definition of ‘insanity’ doing the same thing the very same way over and over, expecting a different result?”
 Time, Higher Power, and that pesky Sanity
Step Two is an action step, in that it takes movement and time on your part.
It doesn’t say “We believe that a power grater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
It states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Another way of saying “I came to believe” is that I have faith. How do you ‘get’ faith? We have long heard that you either have faith or you don’t, that you can exercise your ‘faith muscle’, and even that faith is ‘blind.’ I believe none of those things, actually. Because each and every one of those misconceptions places the glory of your faith squarely on you. Faith is not earned, it is a gift that our Father wants us all to know we have. Ask God to help you trust in the faith he has already planted in you – trusting Him to do what you cannot do for yourself – and your faith will grow.

He is a good father. If you ask for bread, He will not give you a stone.

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:11 (MSG)

In Luke 17, the apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”  But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy-seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”

Wouldn’t you like to tell your addiction to go jump in a lake?

Understanding that and really embracing it is a process. It’s a faith thing, not a ‘knowing’ thing, so I cannot open a text book and show you it’s true. It takes time to allow what you are wrapping around your mind to melt down into your heart and get gooey love into the deepest crevices of your spirit and what you believe.

What is the catalyst for making that happen in Step Two? Higher Power, of course. My Highest Power (and personal friend, and counselor, and Creator who masterminded the universe and placed the Heavenly bodies in orbit…yeah, that one) is Jesus Christ. I know that in many 12 Step programs, many different applications of a Higher Power are utilized – and in some, none is recognized at all. All I can tell you is what works for me, and Jesus is the ONLY way I’ve maintained sobriety for over fourteen years now (still, one day at a time.)

He is as real as can be – even more so than you or I. Ask Him for help every single day, and he will never forsake you. He loves the brokenhearted, the addicted, the desperate. And He is a Restoration Specialist, especially when it comes to Sanity. We are all a little crazy, right? I think that’s fair to say.

The sanity referred to in Step Two is not addressing our quirks and individual weirdness. It is speaking to rebuke the insane behaviors that we engage in as active alcoholics and addicts.

The insanity that spurs you to place your drug of choice above your children and family.

The insanity that manifests when you tell yourself, “never again” (and really MEAN it each time,) only to drink and use the next chance you get.

The insanity that keeps you down, telling you that you will NEVER be well. You will NEVER get clean.

The insanity that makes you a person that you detest, who does things you know are wrong and destructive.

There is a better way, and Step Two puts it at your fingertips. Take off the God Pants (they are an awful fit, anyway) and ask your Higher Power to restore you to sanity, to really living.  Ask Him to take that poppy-seed sized grain of faith you have and activate it so that it can expand and you can apply it to your recovery. He is the Restoration Specialist, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.

Prayer: Father God, fill us with Holy Spirit in all the spaces chemicals used to reside. Don’t let our faith lie dormant, but help us understand the power we carry that makes all things – sobriety among them – possible through you! We’ve done it our way….Jesus, do it your way now, and help us to trust you through every step. – Amen

Life Expectancy – Listening to God

This is 30 Doradus, deep inside the Tarantula Nebula, located over 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Millions of "baby stars" are birthed inside the thick clouds of dust and gas, and our God knows each one by name. Source: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/2012/01/results/100/ NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Anybody out there? This is 30 Doradus, deep inside the Tarantula Nebula, located over 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Millions of “baby stars” are birthed inside the thick clouds of dust and gas, and our God knows each one by name. Source: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/2012/01/results/100/NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

By: Jana Greene

“When you wait to hear from God, expect him to give you a dream, an insight; this is the faith factor where you wait expectantly.” – Rick Warren

Listening.

All day long, I’ve been asking God to tell me why He gave me the word “listening” to write about today. The problem is that my mind wouldn’t be still enough to listen for His answer to my questioning. When my spirit finally became still, the communication was as clear as a bell.

“Are you listening expectantly? Or just putting prayers ‘out there’?” Said Abba.

That’s an excellent question, and the answer is often the latter.

I immediately thought about the SETI Projects – scientific research using the best technology on earth to put signals out in space, so that if there were any intelligent life ‘out there,’ they might give us a  signal in response.

“There are great challenges in searching the cosmos for signs of intelligent life, including their identification and interpretation. SETI projects use the best available scientific knowledge to conduct experiments, which has traditionally led to searches for electromagnetic radiation emitted by advanced technologies. Radio telescopes are used to investigate the cosmos using large radio antennas.” – Wikipedia (which knows all, of course.)

When it became perfectly reasonable to embrace the likelihood of extraterrestrial life while denying the existence of God,  I do not know. Somewhere along the line, things went terribly wrong. Many scientists consider SETI to be pseudo-science – adding an itchy faith issue to what is accepted as hard-and-fast method. There is something out there, we just don’t know what it is….but we are sure enough that it exists to keep listening!

It occurred to me that nobody goes to the trouble to send out signals without making the effort to listen for a reply. Parts of the scientific community have been listening for a response from space for decades now. They just keep listening because they ultimately expect a response.

Which is more than I can say for myself at times, because listening is not my strongest attribute. But I’m learning.

When I pray and then listen expecting God to answer, my antenna is up, and the signal is clear.

When I pray just to put prayers out there, it become pseudo-spirituality.

Listening and expecting a response from Holy Spirit opens up all kinds of supernatural, extra-celestial communication. God wants us to expect a reply. He expects us to listen with expectancy, and He wants us to hear from Him.

Clear as a bell.

“Keep Going, Kiddo” – God

keep going By: Jana Greene

No matter what circumstance you are facing today, God says push through. No, you cannot do it on your own strength (pushing through is one of the most exhausting actions known to all mankind!) but He will lend you the strength to keep pushing. That circumstance? It is temporal. As you are His, and you are eternal.

That opportunity that you’ve been praying for that has come and now scares the daylights out of you? God says reach for it. He orchestrated the universe to offer it to you. You are His, and it will work to your good as His child called according to his purpose. Either it will be a success that brings you gain, or it will be a success that brings new people into your sphere of influence that you wouldn’t have known any other way – people who might need to see the light and salt only you bring to the world. You are His, and He wants to share your light and salt with the world.

Be encouraged! The Creator of the Universe adores you. You are the apple of His eye – so much so, he sent his Beloved Son for you on this planet of challenge and trial, so that he can call you ‘friend.’

“Keep going, Kiddo. You’ve got this, and I’ve got YOU” – God

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

Only love to lose

Oh Dear Created One,

Do you know who you are to me?
I am Love….only ever good.

And you are my handiwork.
By avoiding me, you have only love to lose. And love is everything.

I am not angry with you. In Jesus, I gave myself to you, for you – redemption in one fail swoop. When you have a misstep, I am saddened because you are hurting. But I will never leave you. I am with you to the ends of the earth and in the deepest crevices of your spirit.

Your hurting places don’t scare me away.
When you deny me, curse me, hide from me – I do not shy away, nor do I condemn you. The finished work of my Son ensures you that I keep no records of your wrongs, but are  courting you all along.
Where there is love, I am.

This fallen world – where hope seems in deficit – does not merit your trust. But I do.

I am trustworthy.

All the things you’ve been foolish for have torn you down, yet you are so afraid to be a “fool” for me?
Enough of the fallen. Enough of the foolish self-dependency. Walk with me – I long to raise you up!

That small, still voice? It’s me nudging you. Can you feel it? Let yourself consider that I am never more than a nudge away. That roaring storm of emotion that pulls at you? Called by 1,000 different names, the emotion is my urging , too. You were created to feel.

Without relationship with me, you have only love to lose. But love is everything.
I delight in you – created to love, created for love.

Your quirks and your passions make you one of a kind, in a world of billions. I see you.
I see you!

And you matter to me.

“This life is hard,” you say – and I know that it’s true. You see, I am human, too. The friend I left to you – the Holy Spirit – is available to you, in you.

The Spirit rejoices with you in times of celebration, and in times of sorrow, she brings great and all-encompassing comfort.

Cut through what others have told you about me. Throw away the ritualistic, legalistic, egotistic religion. Cut through the culture of shame. Have your own relationship with me – I dare you to seek me for who I truly am…

Not a figment of imagination in stories from dusty texts, but a force of creation, life, and love to be reckoned with.

Nothing is happenstance. Believe in me, and you have all the love to gain!
In your hurting places.
In your hiding places.

There is no deficit of hope, Dear One. Only the great gulf between us that you’ve erected in the name of self-preservation. I would love to close that gap and draw you so near that you feel my breath in your ear as we embrace. I do so long to embrace you!

When you seek me, I am there waiting – with wild, reckless love.
I delight in you.
Seek my face, and I shall never hide from you. There is no other like you – You are my BELOVED!

With love,

Your Papa God

“Hallelujah! Sing to God a brand-new song, praise him in the company of all who love him. Let all Israel celebrate their Sovereign Creator, Zion’s children exult in their King. Let them praise his name in dance; strike up the band and make great music! And why? Because God delights in his people, festoons plain folk with salvation garlands!” – Psalm149:1-4 (The Message)

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Losing my Religion

The truth will set you free. But first it's going to be pretty uncomfortable.
The truth will set you free. But first it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable.

By: Jana Greene

I have been reading “Mystical Union” by John Crowder. And it is wrecking me, absolutely wrecking me. If you are a Seeker, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Getting wrecked can be a good thing.

“It will turn everything you believe on its ear,” I was told by the person who suggested I read it. “In the best possible way.”

Oh, goody. Because everything I believe is all that I know. And I know so little, really.

The word “mystical” can be off-putting for Christians, although it shouldn’t be – you don’t get much more mystical that the Creator of the Universe becoming human to reconcile himself to his creation – Christianity 101. The whole thing is mystic to the core.  Still, I am rattled by what I am reading.

Among the  dozen or so ideas that have taken me aback – in the book I’m only half-way through with –  is Crowder’s assertion that  “God is never looking at your performance as the indicator of His pleasure toward you. So many people live on an emotional roller-coaster ride … ”

Raising hand, and wearing the promotional roller coaster T-shirt, nauseated from the marathon ride…

I am on a quest to lose my religion – religion being all  the spin that man has put on relationship with God through the ages – and turn down the noise of it, so that I can hear what God is really saying.

That we cannot fathom how much he adores us, every one of us.

That He is always in a good mood, not temperamentally mood-shifting, like we are.

That He is only always good.

That He is less the stern-but-loving Father-figure that churches have historically made him out to be….assessing our accomplishments and shortcomings – and more of a laid-back,  hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love (Christ), welcoming, tolerant Father – in a way that transcends all time, space, and reason.

(What if He isn’t even disappointed in me for comparing him to a hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love, welcoming, tolerant, Father and Creator  who transcends all time, space, reason with pure, unrelenting love?)

I usually invite a challenge, especially the kind in which I can easily prove the challenger wrong. But this time, I know the Challenger Himself is Almighty God, and He is  pulling me away from the idol of religion, and into Him. My weaponry of thin, papery religiousness powerless against His embrace of Truth.

He transcends all with pure, unrelenting love. He transcends the regulations, pontifications, rules – all the things we’ve made it about for more than 2,000 years. Surely he can transcend my own dirty deeds; my wonky quirks.

Maybe that’s what Jesus meant, when He uttered his last words, ” IT. IS. FINISHED.”

I don’t think I’ve ever grasped the finality of what happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of God. If it is  finished, the residual guilt and shame I keep picking up and hauling around is not my cross to bear– as I’ve always believed.  The grace I ask for and receive is not meant to counterbalance the heft of my shame. I do not receive grace by the bucket-full to douse the fire of each indiscretion – I am already drowning in it. So are you. The work of the cross was the catalyst for God to flood the world with grace.

Religion says that God swoops down and saves me from myself a thousand times a day, and that is what grace looks like. But the theology of Mystical Union says (and with scripture, I might add)  that we believers were co-crucified with Christ and in one swoop. God reconciled us to Him….

We can stop trying to make perfection happen. Perfection is not going to happen.

It is finished, period. Mind blowing.

Sometimes being a Seeker gives me a headache.

Religion says we are responsible for aspects of our salvation – ergo, we can turn the volume up or down on our spiritual speaker, tweak the boom of the bass, turn down the treble, change the center with the fader of our deeds and actions.

But God cannot be moved from Center. He is the Center. He is undeterred by the noise we create.

Fundamental to this spiritual epiphany is the idea that we are not “sinners saved by grace,” which I have – over the years – convinced myself was my identity. After many years of sobriety and much prayer, that had been the only conclusion.

But what if the work of the cross – that event in which Creator God heaved toward humankind with such love and power that it knocked the evil in us to the ground and buried it with Christ – was powerful enough to resurrect us in glory with Christ, while leaving evil in the grave?

What if God only sees us through the lens of his living, life-giving Son, and not as sinners wearing toe-tags that say “Admit One – Heaven.” I am going to have eternal life, yes. But I don’t want to slog out my existence here during my mission on Earth, not understanding and appreciating what my birthright truly  is. I want joy now too, please.

Hey, has  anyone seen my “everything I thought I believed?”

Oh, there it is – on the ground. On it’s ‘ear’

Wreck me, God. Wreck me.

I’m after Truth. Help me to accept it, and to share it with others as I walk the journey. I’m ready to be fully, 100% set free.

Amen.

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To Introduce the Stars

Vincent Van Gough's "The Starry Night."
Vincent Van Gough’s “The Starry Night.”

“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.  And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere.”
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

There is just something about a starry night. I love stars because they are  both seemingly random, and magnificently predictable…. both brilliantly solid from our point of view, and intangibly vaporous.

Their brilliance and number give us pause.

Today during worship at church, the band led us in a song about God that mentions stars, quoting Psalms 147:4:

“He counts the stars,
  and assigns each a name.”

So many stars!

We humans like to number the stars too, although we admit there are too many billions to count. We name them things like Ursa Major, Yed Posterior, and BSC 6067; and catalog them by groupings into constellations.

The constellations are so consistent, night after night for thousands of years, that we can navigate ships by their design.  Seemingly eternal, the stars have all the time in the world to guide us.

Human science has determined that stars are but fixed, luminous points of  incandescent celestial bodies, burning as the sun.

And human seekers have determined that the same stars create a zodiac system that can set the course of their lives.

How much power in the Cosmos! How badly we want to explain their workings…

But as I sang the words of the Psalmist (and when my soul quieted enough to hear the Holy Spirit) a vision emerged that transcended astrological phenomenon.

I imagined the Crafter of the universe –  and all that is beyond it –  taking me by the hand to introduce the stars – one by one, by name.

What an odd image brought to my mind!

But what a comfort to my spirit.

Not the clinical, but the mystical – more majestic than can ever be cataloged. You see, I need something more predicable than even the stars to lead me.  I need something that lasts longer than the average life-span of a star – 15 billion years.

I need a forever God.

God – who knows what he’s doing with a billion stars –taking me by the hand. A God who could touch my life from a trillion miles away, coming close enough to breathe light into me, because he loves me – and you – more than a billion stars.

God – steadfast his brilliance, day after day, night after night….even though I am such a paradox, myself  – random and predictable… a vapor on this spinning orb, but eternally a solid being.

Me, you,  and the stars…

Our Creator has all the time in the world to guide us.