Sunday, August 24, 2008

"I trust You."

Read Deuteronomy 1:31-32.

I and most of the people I sponsor have trouble right now with food and, for my part, other addictive substitutes especially games. I listen to MP3's at night and Friday night one of them with Peter M. caused me to turn on the light and take notes. Here's a link to it.

He's talking about the First Step, lack of power over alcohol in his situation, comfort behaviors for all of us. He talks of a lack of power of choice and control, talking to those of us who know full well we're powerless over food (and comfort behaviors) but can't for the life of us -- and that's exactly what the stakes are -- can't at this point get hold of it. It's the "It won't be that bad this time" thinking, the "just a bite" that leads to more and more and bigger and grosser. It's "I'll look odd if I don't eat the refreshments" and "that looks so good!" It's symptomatic of the lack of control -- we're sure of that. And sometimes we can exercise enough self-control to eat the right foods, but then the powerlessness goes underground and surfaces as something else, like games or rage or resentment or, or, or. Peter M. calls it drama, that we all need drama, if not in our lives, we look for it somewhere else. But that's the issue. We can't control it. It's circular. "We admitted we were powerless over food, that our lives had become unmanageable." So, how do we get there? It's spiritual. That's the whole essence of the First Step, the whole essence of ALL the Steps.

What is OA without the spiritual aspect? A diet and calories club. Dealing with the food, but ignoring all the other chaos in our lives. Abstinence only is arrogance. We're still wreaking havoc in the lives of everybody around us, including us.

A couple of comments Peter makes catch my fancy:
  • "What gets in the way IS the way." 
  • "It's one day at a time, but God doesn't wear a watch." 
If you read the scripture from Deuteronomy in its context, you'll see a bunch of people who look just like we do, despite the fact they lived four thousand years ago. They're gritching about how unfairly they've been treated. God hates them. He hates them so much he brought them out of Egypt just so they could be destroyed. Not just God is against us, but our brothers won't support us either, they make us give up and lose heart, telling us how much better than us the others are.

Moses looked at them, shaking his head, hands on his hips. He agreed, yes, God brought them to this place -- and out of slavery! Yes, he brought them, taking care of them every step of the way, carrying them like a parent carries a toddler on a long journey. My sponsor and I have been talking about this passage, and she says, "Oh my gosh! That is the program. Trust God and clean house."

She goes on with the comparison:
Moses called the people to commitment. God still calls us to be committed to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Moses made some serious mistakes, but he had lived uprightly and carried out God's commands. Moses died with integrity. We too may make some serious mistakes, but that should not stop us from living with integrity and godly commitment.
The essential question we need to address when there's a problem with our lives is, "Where are you with God?" A member of my OA group recently said her prayer has become simply saying to God, "I trust you." Yeah! I've been praying that, and it seems like my life, like hers, takes off and flies when I really say that, meaning it. Hey, God! I DO trust you!

And with the father of the boy with convulsions told Jesus, I say, "I believe, help thou my unbelief." (Mark 6)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Words of the Amen!

Consider Revelation 3:14.

I've read over it time and time again because I love the words to the church at Laodicea, but the first phrase...that didn't grab me until today. "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation." (NIV) Wow!

Amen in Greek of course means "So be it!" God told Moses, "I am who I am." He directed that Moses tell the Israelites "I am" sent him. Does that sound presumptive? Yes! Of course. Is it boastful? Nope. To tell the truth about who you are can sound boastful, even to yourself. But if it is the truth, it may actually be a duty to say it. A very painful and difficult duty for a diffident person, but a duty.

We're within weeks of the presidential nomination conventions here in the United States. The media is aghast at the revelations about one of the eliminated candidates, proclaiming, "Just think, he could have been our NOMINEE." The remaining candidates stand daily before the public, telling us they're the best possible choice for the office. Few people believe them. Naw, that's not necessarily true. I don't believe them. But that's not the issue. I got into this to talk about how hard it is to run for office, to put yourself out there and ask for votes. Gee, I hate even to ask for money for worthwhile causes! But to ask people to vote for me? I've tried it. It's excruciating. But if all people of good character shy away from talking about their virtues, we'll have only people of low character running the nation, the state, the county, and the city. God help us then!

"I am." God is who God is. I am who I am. If I am the most qualified person for a job, maybe it's my duty to subject myself to the scrutiny of people who think my truth is my boast.

Talk about a selection process, Moses didn't seek out the role of savior of Israel. He went kicking and screaming, telling God he couldn't speak effectively, that nobody would believe the end he just flat begged God to send somebody else. He didn't want to go. But he was up to the job, and God knew it. God woud not have selected him had he not had the leadership abilities needed. If God's sending you to speak to a newcomer or to a meeting or to lead the country, he knows what he's doing. These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. You want to give the commission a little more credibility? God doesn't send us to do things we can't do. He is absolutely awesome, and with his direction and in his service, so are you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

"No Longer Needing to be Right"

Consider Psalm 51:1-3, 12.

Several people I sponsor -- okay. When a finger is pointing out three are pointing at the pointer. Several of us in OA -- and we are legion -- have found some real recovery, but the food is messy, anywhere from too much of the right stuff to everything that doesn't grab me first. I went to bed the other night thinking about how to answer this issue, and the answer revealed to me the next morning was plain. Plain, but hard to corral into the blog.

I'll sort through the input:

  • For Today (August 10, page 223) starts by quoting Juan Ramón Jiménez saying, "A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition." Then it begins with, "Change is not compatible with stubborn pride" and ends with "giving up is not giving in, nor is it failing. It is no longer needing to be right."
  • As Bill Sees It, page 159, quotes Bill W. in a 1959 letter: "We know that if we rebel against doing that which is reasonably possible for us, then we will be penalized. "
  • The Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous says:
  • The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. (page 63)

It all goes back to who's in charge. "Wow! Thanks, God! That's neat! I can't believe you did that in my life. My hat's off to you. I've got it now. If I need you, I'll call you."

My sponsor spoke the other day of a character defect of "that of feeling like a bother." Oh, yeah! That's us. With each other, and with God. But we're not the carpenter. We're not the potter. We're the building blocks, the material, and it's necessary day after day after day to renew our Third Step resolve to offer ourselves to God to build with us or do with us as he pleases. Do you understand what "do with" could mean? If we're not building materials, what are we? landfill? decoration? tools? Whatever. And whatever is okay, because we're not in charge. We don't have to be important. We don't have to prove to anybody that we're the star, that we are in charge, that we can carry this whole thing off. Nope. We're not in charge. We have to let go after we offer ourselves--or in order to offer ourselves, or both. But have you seen some of the artwork made with what other people consider trash? That's the kind of artist God is. He can make something magnificent out of us, if we just yield and let him.

He strips away the dregs, the bitter ugly crust, the bondage of self. He relieves us of that dead weight. With that gone, we're usable, we're precious material to be used in oh, so many ways. With it intact, we're not worth much at all.

He takes away our difficulties, too. What difficulties? Well, the food cravings. The "clean your plate because the children are starving in China" rules that we pass on to our kids. What a gift we could give them by teaching them to throw away the food they're not going to eat. Instead, we nibble the edible portions, proving to them what we learned as children that an empty plate is a sin. What a legacy for those we love! He takes away the stupid computer games. He takes away the "feeling like a bother." He strips our financial worries, our chaotic home life, our difficulties. All of them. Why? Because we feel so much better without them, of course! It's all for us!

Nope. That "all for us" is one of the difficulties. He takes away our difficulties so victory over them can bear witness to those we would help, not of our goodness and usefulness. Nope. Of his power, his love and his way of life! Oh, that we may do that every day of our lives, to live in his shadow and be his putty. May we do his will ALWAYS!

AA Speaker John A tells of a man who told him, "I hope you take the Third Step." He protested, said he'd taken it with his sponsor. The man told him it wasn't true. He knew that because John A was homeless and jobless, cold and miserable. If John had really done the Third Step, God would be taking better care of him. Settling down later to sleep in his car, he gave up and told God he had. Within a day he had a job and a place to live.

God's not bothered when we trouble him. Instead, he's relieved. It is his good will to give us the kingdom. Just ask.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cheek Turning and Forgiving

Consider Matthew 5:38-39.

Two comments today blended in my mind. A friend of mine was talking about her daughters-in-law who vilify and mistreat her. I don't know them and can't judge them (couldn't even if I knew them) but I know the woman they are talking about and know her to be a kind and gentle woman. She was saying her priest once said to her in connection with the directive from the Sermon on the Mount to turn the other cheek, "It's not necessary, though, to keep going back to get the cheek slapped day after day after day." The other comment was from a taped reading of Emmet Fox's analysis of the Lord's Prayer. It was that the person we hate most in the world is a person we are inexorably bound to with the tightest bond we have to any other person. Only when we forgive that person can we set ourselves free from the chains. Forgive? How can you forgive the person you hate most in the world?

Forgive can mean to excuse for a fault or an offense, to pardon. That feels like it's just letting the person get by with something, that the person will not--cannot--reform because the actions don't lead to the natural consequences. That's the sense of "forgive and forget." It's going back to get the face slapped time and time again. It doesn't make good sense for frightfully wrongful behavior. It benefits nobody. Forgive can also mean to absolve from payment. Again, it can be a disservice to the person being forgiven.

The other meaning of forgive, though, feels right in the context of the Twelve Steps. That is to renounce anger or resentment against. That's what Fox proposes as the means of forgiving those who trespass against us. In a state of prayer and contemplation, we consider the person and release them, let them go. We bless them, cutting the chain so we can move forward in God's will. A person suggested once that I mentally place the offending person in a bubble, state that they are released, bless them, and visualize them either drifting away or speeding away, out of my space.

My friend told me how freeing, how peaceful it is not to be tied to the bickering of the daughters-in-law. She and her husband are there when their sons need them, but the spitefulness on the other side of the relationship doesn't hold them hostage to the pettiness. Their cheeks aren't held out for slapping.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thinking about Uriah the (Innocent Victim) Hittite

Consider II Samuel 11:5-14.

As I sat in Sunday school this morning, the lesson dealt with the wrongs done by David and Bathsheba. The statement was made that Uriah the Hittite was totally innocent, and in my mind I started watching him write a 4th step inventory on the events. Certainly David and Bathsheba can be seen to have done wrong in the situation. But could Uriah find wrongs he did? I think he could.

Where was I selfish?
  • I wanted to show the king how a Hittite was loyal, that we were not just the leftovers from a people conquered two hundred years earlier, that we have spunk and make great warriors. I wanted respect from the king.
  • I wanted to look good, to have people know I hadn't even walked a stone's throw away to see my wife, that I cared about all the other soldiers out in the field who couldn't see their wives.
  • I wanted to look good to the king and his close advisers in the same way, so I disobeyed his direct command to go to my house.
  • I was full of pride the king wanted to eat and drink with me.
  • I thought of my reputation and not the fact Bathsheba was alone and might need me, even briefly.
How was I dishonest?
  • I should have let my wife know I was in Jerusalem and I didn't.
  • I pretended it was all about the other soldiers and the Ark of the Covenant when I just wanted to look good.
  • I convinced myself my depriving myself would make my fellows feel better about their own situation.
How was I self-seeking?
  • I was thinking about myself and my ability to impress the king more than my wife.
  • I set aside the scruples about not making myself comfortable in light of my fellows in the field when the king offered me drink and food at his table.
How was I frightened?
  • The king had invited me to the palace, and I didn't know why. I wasn't about to give him anything to criticize me about.
Yep. Uriah was certainly victimized by King David, and depending on what independence Bathsheba had in the drama perhaps by her. But like OAs who proclaim they've done nothing wrong to inventory, that's a lie we tell ourselves.