Sunday, May 25, 2008

Service or Obedience?

Consider the first eight verses of Matthew 6.

My kids just left--at least one set of them, a son and daughter-in-law. It's been a good weekend, but with somebody around when Hubby directs me to do this or that, I find it necessary to gripe and mutter about it. Why? So I don't look weak? Does playing the martyr make me look strong? I think not.

I really don't have the feelings of resentment anymore when it's just me and him. It's not that I don't do the same things, but I do them in the attitude of service, not obedience. What a difference!

It's like Jesus said, you can get the reward of doing right--praying, fasting, giving--from God who sees it in secret and rewards it, or you can do it in the open and get what you're trying to get--like sympathy, scorn heaped on another, others' belief you're long-suffering and saintly--or you can get God's blessings. I choose God's blessings.

God, help me to stay aligned with you, no matter who else sees or doesn't.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I wrote this yesterday for a woman I sponsor who was struggling. The only problem was, I had a tough day yesterday as well, back into the computer games I had licked--which obviously I have them no more conquered than I do the food. I ate too much cheese yesterday, then to top off the day I had a package of sugar-free pudding mix with 2/3 cup dry milk and the rest of the dates in the bag... none of which is even on my food plan much less that it was at a stupid time of day for eating. But I was struggling, like my friend. And here's what we both needed to hear last night:
  1. I admitted I was powerless over food, that my life had become unmanageable, that I was tired of struggling to manage it.
  2. I came to believe that the God I'd always known and trusted with everything but the parts of my life that shamed me, that embarrassed me, that seemed like I was a disappointment to him could restore me to sanity even in this area of my life.
  3. I made a decision to TURN MY WILL and my LIFE over to God's care, to quit struggling to do it on my own.
  4. Then I did what I could to clear my junk out of the rubble so he would have room to operate. I looked carefully at just what mess was in the way.
  5. I admitted it to God and to another human being, embarrassing though it might be, and I felt it actually quite freeing, letting go, quitting trying to hide, to be in charge, to cover up, to look good.
  6. I took another look at the disaster I'd made and shrugged my shoulders and said God could have it, nothing I'd spent all those years trying to make better, patch, fluff up were worth anything to me at all.
  7. I told God he was welcome to any of it, all of it, just let me free from the burden of carrying it.
  8. I looked around at the helpless victims of my arrogance to see what harm my pride had brought them.
  9. When it didn't hurt anything (but my pride) I did what little I could do to patch things up.
  10. I didn't let things get back into my old patterns, kept giving it over to God.
  11. I stopped and talked to God and LISTENED to see what he wanted to do with my life and asked for the power to be what help I could.
  12. I shared the good news with everybody I could find who would listen!

    Give up the struggle. But don't give up the path, the steps.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Is Gullible a Character Defect?

Gullible. Easily duped. Easily taken in. Unworldly. Stupid. Foolish. Trustful. Unsuspecting. Gullible. Is it a character defect? Maybe it depends on what your IQ is. Reckon?

Galatians 3:2-5 and I Chronicles 21:8.

Yeah. Gullibility is a character defect. And I own it. One of the mp3 AA speakers I listen to at night talks about realizing one year that the financial portfolios he managed for other people all did substantially better than his own. On analysis he realized he did things with his money that he wouldn't think of letting his clients do, for he was an expert and understood it. Yeah. And I can and do write contracts for other people, just forget to do it for me. I insist on clear terms for other people. I read people well in situations where I have no stake, almost instantly and with an accuracy that jolts me sometimes. Then I put my own faith in people I've been warned about because I "know them." Or at least I believe I do, and hey, I'm an intelligent woman, and it benefits me. I won't get burned. No. I won't. "Get burned" is passive. It seems that instead, I actively burn myself. Or I did.

So what's the opposite of gullible? If we are to practice the opposite of our character traits to fill the void when God removes them, what's the opposite of this one? Sophisticated? Wary? Suggestions include astute, discerning, knowledgeable, perceptive, suspicious, unbelieving, untrusting, wise and shrewd. Maybe the best is skeptical. No. It's perceptive. That's what I need to practice. That and prayer. And I've languished way too long without an effective sponsor. I need a sponsor. And that's my assignment to myself. Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Consider Genesis 50:19-21

Joseph, sold into slavery, imprisoned, isolated and living by his wits remained true to God. As a result, God led him to interpret dreams and thus to be placed in an extremely high position within Egypt. And his brothers appeared. Had he wanted them hurt, humiliated, humbled that was easily within his power. Instead, he sent them home to bring his full brother. Then, seeing they had really changed and didn't return with lies but having actually been honest with their father, he forgave and embraced them. I wonder if he could have done that the day after they sold him into slavery.

I sit here betrayed. I have been wronged, financially, emotionally, psychically, physically. I have been robbed of time, money, talent, I have been betrayed. By a friend. A "sister." And in wronging me she wronged my other friends who trusted her on my recommendation. She betrayed us all. 
We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.

This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. (AA Big Book, pp. 66-67)
I know what the Big Book says. I am familiar with Emmet Fox's discourse on the absolute need for us to forgive "our trespassers as we forgive those who trespass against us." He talks about the fact a person with a resentment is tied to the person they resent, that to hold another person prison, the jailer, like the jailed, is confined and loses freedom. I know the right course, and even when this happened, when I became aware of it three hours ago, I knew the answer and the rage that was to be expected didn't happen. My counselor has told me the woman is jealous of my recovery, that she can't deal with being as near to me as she was in this situation where she backed out then stabbed me in the back. Gee, it would have been nice to know that before the fact. Sigh.

I can come close to managing forgiveness now, and I know it will come completely. The freedom from resentment, too. But where does it stop being retribution to keep from getting stabbed again? I don't have to trust her again. I don't have to share my confidences. Is it wrong to protect my partners who were also wronged by seeing legal damages? I don't know. I don't think so. But I don't know. God help us. God bless us every one.

Thanks for being out there, being my supportive community. Bless you.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fear is a Snake in the Grass--or Garage

Consider Psalms 34:4.

We bought our first house the summer of 1976 and moved from there in March of 1979. That's as near as I can come to dating the story I tell. My husband came to me, agitated, afraid. He told me there was a snake in the entryway. I went to look, but didn't see it. He insisted and got near enough to show it to me. I hadn't seen it because the animal, not more than ten inches long and the breadth of a lead pencil, rested on the metal right beside the screen door. But this had hit on my husband's fear, and it was up to me to take care of the matter. I did. I don't remember how, probably with a broom and sending him flying toward the grass. That was the first, but far from the last. 

It's not that I'm not afraid of snakes. My heart is still racing from the last snake story I'll tell today, but my fear is trumped by my husband's. For years, the problem wasn't mine. We raised two boys. More explicitly, we raised two Boy Scouts, both members of the Order of the Arrow. Each of them spent time in summers working as staff at the nearest scout camp, and each was in turn the nature expert there. They got their herpetology merit badges--but not at OUR house! I think the younger was in middle school the last time I dealt with a snake--or was around when one was dealt with. Until today. That snake wasn't a great deal longer than the first--maybe two feet at the most. And son proudly had him in an old box from the garage, one I had painted in the 60's for hubby when we were students. It was an old cigar box. 

I went out of town a couple years ago, and husband found one at the back door. He called animal control. I kid you not. The snake had vanished by the time they got there, and after looking around and I think kidding him some (or a lot) they left. He was still wishing when I returned home he'd had the presence of mind to turn a bucket over it so they could have removed the offending presence.

A few minutes ago we were in the kitchen. I picked up a stack of orange peels and coffee grounds to take to the compost pile. I stepped out the door into the garage, took three steps, and turned back around. "There's a three foot snake on the driveway. What do you want me to do?"

"I didn't want to know that." 

Yeah. Like I didn't know that. I started back out.

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to put a bucket over it. I'm willing to do that much."

"Aren't you going to put some shoes on?"

I laid down the laundry basket and went in search of shoes. Wearing the heels I'd removed after coming back from the church this morning, basket in hand, I headed back out. To an empty garage. I came back in and reported the snake was gone.

"Where did it go?"

"I don't know. I didn't see it under my car."

"Where was it?"

"Right at the edge of the garage and the driveway." I picked up the peels and grounds and took them out, scanning the garage and adjacent hedge a little better. Nothing. Neither husband nor I am comfortable with the result. 
Notice that the word "fear" is bracketed…. This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it…. Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.

…. We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.
AA Big Book, Chapter 5

I saw a joke this week, saying that there are 4000 species of snakes and 3998 of them live in Texas. Or something like that. Snakes are no big deal, and this wasn't a rattler and certainly wasn't a water moccasin or some such. I don't know the names of other poisonous snakes, but I think this one was innocuous. 

But the fear was real. And other things I've always feared aren't as innocuous. I have a new project and need it to be a financial success, for a lot of reasons. For me it's a matter of pride. But others are involved, and it needs to succeed for a lot of reasons. Yesterday I went against my grain and flat out asked my friends to help make it a success. There are others things I'll need to do this week for that purpose. And as long as I'm doing my best to understand God's will for my life each day and asking for the power to carry it out, I can confront the fears one at a time, outgrowing them and watching God reveal what plans he has for me, how far my comfort level actually can expand. I know, though, he won't quit, that he'll keep me pushing back the comfort level, outgrowing my fears. Thank God!
What would happen if you outgrew your fears?