Archives for posts with tag: self-will

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Photograph:”Easter Sunrise;” courtesy of K. Farwell

How many nudges do I need before I start doing the things I know I have to do to be healthy? So far, I’ve had foot pain, back pain, headaches, clothes fitting tighter, and now…..my fasting blood sugars are starting to creep up 2-4 points above what they should be. My blood pressure and pulse are fine, and I am not experiencing any pedal edema. But I think I recognize this road I seem to have detoured onto. I’ve been on it before…..only then I tried to deny how bad I felt or how big I’d gotten. That time I didn’t know I was developing diabetes. That time I had to be hospitalized with my lungs filled up with water and the scales tipping over an unmentionable poundage before I realized how seriously ill I had become. Years ago I let go of the fantasy that I could ever drink alcohol like “normal’ people……but it seems I am still hanging on to the fantasy that I can eat like “normal people.”

I’ve been telling myself if I just eat what I know to be healthy foods with no flour or sugar listed in the ingredients that I should be able to maintain both my weight and my health. There is something about having to weigh and measure these “healthy foods” that my stubborn “I want to be normal” ego resists—–and keeps resisting.  I delude myself into believing I can accomplish adequate “portion control” without the aid of scales, measuring cups, or measuring spoons. I seem to have been seeking a “middle way” that was easier than totally disciplined eating and yet healthier than compulsively eating unhealthy snacks whenever I desire to do so. I am a slow learner, but it is beginning to sink in that, for me, there is no “middle way” when it comes to what I eat.

If I compare pros and cons it seems logical that weighing and measuring what I eat is a small price to pay for being healthy and feeling good…….and staying alive. I am writing these words this morning because for the first time in months I weighed out 2 ounces of meat, 1 cup of fresh sliced strawberries, and 1/4 cup of cottage cheese for my breakfast. Having a fasting blood sugar of 94 scared me into “following the straight and narrow” pathway to my own health once again. Then after I slowly ate this delicious breakfast, as is my habit, I began perusing what my friends had posted on Facebook.  Here I encountered these encouraging words Bishop Charleston had posted this morning, and I want to share them with you because I think these words may help some of my readers free their minds from whatever trap has ensnared them:

” Like a beam of sunlight the energy of the Spirit can come to you, warm you and renew you, enlighten your mind with brighter visions for your future, bring you to life, lift you out of the shadows and give you strength to take the next step. Turn to face the sun. Do not look down into the same swirl of dark water that has captured your imagination for too long, but look up to see possibilities grow around you like a field of flowers. Even if your movement is limited, your mind can fly to any corner of reality. You are free, like sunlight, set free by the gift of the Spirit, touched by the mind that first dreamed when all the world still slept, made of grace and wonder.”

Did you get that? We are all set free by the gift of the Spirit——and we are part of God’s creation—-we are part of the grace and wonder. One day at a time I will, with God’s help, lift myself out of the shadows and be given the strength to take the next step. May god bless and keep you!

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Rolling Stone

Image courtesy of Vlado/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

My mind seems to be cluttered this morning with bits and pieces of thought and memory floating around trying to tell me something. I have been “feeling down” because I spent three days watching the aging process slowly robbing  my father of his mind. It hurts to see him struggle to form a single word, a meaningful sentence, or to untangle a splintered memory. Yesterday’s bible readings in church spoke of dry bones and Lazarus being given God’s gift of life. Of course, being in my somewhat befuddled state of mind, I focused my attention on the Lazarus story’s detail about how Lazarus had lain dead for four days and, in his decay process, he had begun to stink. Jesus still had them roll away the stone, commanded him to live, and had them “unbind” him so he could be free of the cloths that bound him.

First, of course, my mind went into a flight of free association and attached the “stink of decay” concept to  the phenomenon of “stinking thinking” we talk about in twelve step recovery.  Stinking thinking is a thinking process that sneaks back up on us in recovery and replaces our new Higher Power directed way of thinking with our old self-will powered thinking . And, yes, if we stay bound up in that morass of self-will our spirits will begin to decay and we will have a spiritual “stench” about ourselves. If we let go of that self-will and allow our Higher Power to once again guide our thinking, we will be freed from the bonds of self-will that were slowing killing us even though we had momentarily escaped our past addictions.

Yesterday a dear friend asked if I was okay. I explained I was caught up in the pain of watching my father lose his mind, and my friend quietly but emphatically informed me, “it could be much worse.” I needed to hear that. I know aging and gradual decay are part of life. Am I so terminally unique that I really think my father and eventually myself should be spared that part of living? God has held my hand through absolutely everything, and he will hold it still as long as I let him. Instead of obsessing about my father’s comment when we parted that “this may be our last hug” I should be grateful that we were given that wonderful hug to hold in our hearts. I should trust God and know that when it is time in his own way he will breathe the breath of life into those he has created so that we  may live once more outside the stench of aging and dying.

And, lastly, I know that one day at a time I can allow God to breathe the breath of life into my being, my experience, and my recovery. Whatever comes my way can be faced in partnership with him. I should stop worrying, grieving, and being afraid. I need to trust God to be there to roll away whatever stone blocks my progress and to un-wrap whatever binds me and keeps me from living a life in partnership with him. May God bless and keep us.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Have you ever been so happy that you were afraid to trust your happiness and found yourself intentionally distancing from that emotion? Are we so used to longing for that which we don’t have that when we get “it”—– whatever it is—–we quickly begin to feel restless and “not quite right” once more and begin to search for something else that will make us happy?
Is finding happiness like putting ourselves in the midst of a geographical cure only to find that our problems came with us? I apologize for asking multiple questions, but I am in the midst of a confusing emotional journey. I received very good news recently that something I had wanted for a long time was going to happen. I was very happy and very grateful, but an hour had not yet passed before I started feeling restless and uneasy. I could bring fleeting moments of joy back by focusing my thoughts on the good news I had gotten, but now, days later, that has given way to a minor depression, and I find myself not willing to seek out the solution to this emotional state. I know God is always with me and that if I “tune in” to that love and peace, I too will be peaceful and content. Once again, I seem to prefer floating around in a sea of uneasiness and “agitated depression” rather than relinquishing my will to God’s will. I find myself praying less, eating more, and thinking and writing less about spiritual matters. I seem to be purposefully avoiding consenting to letting God’s will and love empower me.
Years ago I was at an addictions conference, and one of the speakers talked about the research he had done with people addicted to gambling. He reported that as soon as such people won money from a slot machine, even a jackpot worth thousands, they immediately felt restless and dis-eased until they once again put money in the machine and began pulling levers or pushing buttons. The speaker explained his research suggested these addicts were more addicted to the potential of winning than they were actually winning. Perhaps, all addiction is about being addicted to something imagined and/or potential rather than reality.
I know working in partnership with God brings me happiness, contentment, and serenity. And I know I periodically distance myself from that partnership. I know intimacy scares me because of life experiences I have had, and, perhaps, I am more uncomfortable getting closer to and staying close to God than I realized until just now. Then too, on the tails of that insight, comes another “aha moment.” That may explain, somewhat, why I seem to be more comfortable in the familiar comfort of my “self-will run riot” than I am in the serenity I experience when I consent to God’s love and will. Could it be possible that I am not as addicted to chaos, food, or alcohol as I am to the illusion that I can control my life on my own? Perhaps the bottom line is I am a “self-will addict” that can only enjoy happiness, contentment, serenity, etc. temporarily and, just like the gambler putting money back into a slot machine, I am the one who distances myself from God to chase the illusion that this time things will be different and I can control my life with less help from God and by being less connected to God’s will. I have to “break the strong connection” or else I will not be able to chase the illusion of independent or mostly independent control.
Well, that is enough insight for today. I know what the solution is, but I seem to be choosing chasing the illusion over re-connecting more closely with God. And so, I get “sadder” and more restless, and I believe God may be crying—–or very, very irritated because his child repeatedly gets caught up in this approach-avoidance dance . I know he is used to it and me by now, but I know he also wishes I’d stop putting myself in harm’s way by periodically putting distance between us.

Antique heart

Image courtesy of  Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now I know why it is important to keep a disciplined writing schedule. It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote, and I am finding it most difficult to come up with a topic. Needless to say, during this dry spot I have had what I call a “bit of depression.” My sinuses have been fighting this awful “bug” that has been flourishing in this region, and they haven’t “won” the battle yet; however, progress is being made. I have tried not to bury myself in “should be doing” and, instead rested in “just be.” The result has been more self acceptance and less guilt. Guilt has been replaced by limited regret that I am not consenting or surrendering to God’s will and love—–at least not totally. Doing so only at a  “50%” level means the other 50% is being run on “self-will” which can be ruinous.

So far, during this past two weeks self will has let me eat two bags of pistachios, and it has allowed me to stop weighing and measuring what I eat. I can, of course, still consider myself abstinent because I am not eating flour and sugar.  Once again, I am finding that nothing “fills the void”—and nothing really tastes appealing. I know if I go back to “squeaky clean” abstinence by  weighing and measuring the food I eat it will once again taste good. Eating will once again become a pleasurable exercise in mindfulness, and it will be a pleasure to chew each bite mindfully.

Wow! I just got interrupted by a phone call, and when I turned my attention back to the screen, I re-read the above paragraph. It is literally screaming “Half measures availed us nothing!” Obviously, I know what I need to do, and I am close to willing. However, “close to willing” never got me anywhere except closer to “hitting bottom.” I need to stop “counting my yets” and start looking at the reality of what I am doing to myself. I am not allowing God’s love to envelop me, and I am not loving myself or caring for God’s temple as I should be. There is that word “should” again!

I am going to re-direct my thinking this morning from “should” to “let it be.”  Today, “let it be” will mean “let me be willing” and “let God’s love happen.” Each day in recovery is a miracle, and I need to once again be mindfully aware of the miraculous gift God has given me.

Hope all is well with my readers. May God bless and keep you.

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A Face Book status posted by Bishop Charleston yesterday morning got me thinking about the simple, or not so simple, act of asking “why”—–something I do often, and not always with good intentions. As a small child I was reprimanded and punished for asking why, but it is something I continuously do even today decades later.  Because of Bishop Charleston’s words I am more certain than ever that I should have instead been encouraged to ask “why.”

Here is an excerpt from what Bishop Charleston had to say: “….our God invites us ever forward, following the endless path of why….Our faith, therefore, is not a law but a lab, a place of inquiry, a process by which we come to learn, and in the learning, love.”

Accessed 2/10/14 at: https://www.facebook.com/bishop.charleston

Reading these words freed my spirit to soar to the heavens…..vindicated, validated, and “right with my God.” Then I had to stop and think. What a relief it would be to have all my decades of “why” questions  justified! However,but in good conscience, I am not convinced my motives in asking why served to promote learning and love.  What I replied to the Bishop’s post was: ” I must confess I have a tendency at times to let this bothersome question of ‘why’ keep me distanced from God. At those times I think there is a degree of anger and resistance influencing my questions. With that type of ‘why’ question I am not open to learn and to grow in love. I am learning to temper my inquiring spirit with acceptance, faith, and trust. And, of course, I am still asking ‘why’ and gratefully learning and allowing love to grow.”

What did I mean by all those words? Sometimes asking why is my way of rebelling and saying “no….it is my way or no way” or “why didn’t things turn out the way I wanted them to?” Sometimes it is a criticism meaning “that’s not the way I would have done it.”  If you look closely, you can see the common denominator in all those “non-productive why questions” is “I”——my ego, my false self, or my self-will run riot, depending on which school of thought you use to categorize negative actions that are grounded in “self.” Twelve step recovery teaches that one needs to surrender this type of self-centeredness for God/Higher Power centeredness in order to enter recovery and survive life’s challenges.  As children of God we need a sense of identity, but we do not need to play God.

When I can ask “why” from an honest, non-critical place of wanting to understand, to learn, and to grow, then “why” is an excellent question to ask. It is one I will continue to ask. However, I will also continue to analyze my motives in asking the question. In doing so, I may find that I need to surrender my will to God and accept life on life’s terms.  When I am able to do that it is amazing how much simpler my life can be and how much my spiritual horizons expand—–and how many answers to “why?” I discover.  May God bless and keep you.

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Image courtesy of  tratong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the sermon I heard in church this morning a question I had asked several months ago came up as a topic of discussion. The church I belong to suggests we pray a series of prayers and read accompanying scripture 3-4 times daily. Included in each prayer session is a prayer of confession apologizing and asking God for forgiveness for our sins and promising our repentance. Today in our adult bible study class we learned that repentance is more than an attitude—-it also means actively turning away from what one is repenting.  The question I had previously asked was why  do we need to confess four times a day? My reason for asking the question was that I am uncomfortable asking for forgiveness when I promised “not to sin again” just a few hours earlier.  I am reminded of the story of the little boy that cried wolf too many times, when he finally did spy a wolf and run to tell the people in his village they wouldn’t take his warning seriously. By repeatedly confessing, asking for forgiveness, and promising to repent several times a day, do I not run the risk of God not taking me seriously—-or worse yet, not taking myself seriously?

The answer I was given to this question,  both at the time the priest and I had our conversation and again in this morning’s sermon, was basically that since we are imperfect humans we  tend to sin whether we realize it or not; hence the need to repeatedly confess and repent. I still have a bit of trouble with this philosophy. If repentance is based on a sincere apology and a promise not to do something again, wouldn’t we need to consciously know what sin  we were apologizing for in order  to avoid repeating it?

When I turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power as I understand him, I need to  begin looking at my past and present actions to identify things I have done or am doing that hurt myself or others.  According to AA’s 12 steps, one then needs to  “make amends” and change one’s  behavior accordingly.  If I am sincere about changing something in my life, I ask for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out on a one day at a time basis. And, yes, I often repeat that prayer several times a day.  AA’s 12 steps suggest we take a careful look at what we have done each day and make amends in a timely fashion. Nowhere in AA’s “Big Book” have I read a suggestion that we ask God to forgive our mistakes, promise not to do them, and then repeat the exact same prayer three more times in the same day.

Now that I’ve gotten that “rant” off my chest, I need to look at what is really important for me to realize in the midst of all this spiritual “free association.” Obviously, I and my self-pride are the problem. I doubt God is bothered by repeated requests for forgiveness and promises to repent. It is my pride/ego that resists “humbling” myself that often. I need to get over myself and  ask my Higher Power to forgive me for thinking I am above asking for forgiveness several times a day.  In reading what I have written so far, it is also obvious that many of my sins fall in the realm of attitude and false pride. My character defect of procrastination also lands a lot of my “sins” in the “things left undone” category. I need to “open the bridge” between God’s love and forgiveness and myself by being willing to ask for and receive it more  often than I do—–especially since I tend to deny my sins and not recognize them until I force myself to take a serious “mental inventory.”  Perhaps following a discipline of structured prayer sessions throughout the day may offer me a way to cultivate this habit.  May God bless and keep you.

building blocks

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Last  night at a book study we were talking about what it means to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as AA’s Big Book instructs those who wish to remain in recovery to do. The group seemed to unanimously agree that it did not mean you turn everything over to God and then just sit there waiting for him to do everything. After all, we are humans who were given the gift of choice by God, and, consequently, that makes us accountable for our choices, actions, and  the subsequent consequences that occur. As a group, we agreed that when we let God’s spirit empower us we still have to do the footwork.

There are always, at least for me, a committee of rebellious “naysayers” having a debate in my head during conversations like this. One is saying, “Yeah, right. If I give up my life and my will nothing will be left.” Another is saying, “I gave up alcohol, cigarettes, compulsive eating,……why is it always about giving something up?”  Another is saying, “Yippee! Go for it! Let God run things, then you can do anything you want because it will really be God doing it—-anything you do will be God’s will.”

I could go on, but listening to my mind’s “committee meetings” can be tedious at best. Instead, I would like to try to answer my committee. I realize I will be defending my beliefs, much as I had to when I defended my doctoral dissertation to my dissertation committee when I was in graduate school. First, every time I have given something up, my God has given me much, much more in return. Relief, serenity, peace of mind—–all of these are inherent in realizing I no longer have to control everything and that it  is unrealistic for me to expect to be able to do so. What has been left for me at those times when I have voluntarily turned something over to my Higher Power is a strong faith that provides fertile ground for the growth of my emerging, evolving spirit. When I continue to let God be in control things go well—-or at least I am, with God’s help, able to handle whatever comes my way. However, when I “take back” whatever I’ve turned over to God,  things start building up into problems yet again. And again. Someday I hope to leave things in God’s hands permanently, and I am encouraged by the fact that I can now go for longer and longer periods without rebelling against the way “God is driving the bus.”

This brings me to the second question, why is it always about giving something up? For me, the answer is because I have spent a life time building an identity/ego that defines, in my mind, who I am. My inclination is to hold onto that identity tenaciously, no matter what. So naturally, I am reluctant to let go of anything that I feel is necessary to “stay who I am.” Again, in my case, many of the “blocks” I have used to build my identity are faulty. These faulty “blocks” cause continual problems for me, yet I hang on to them because I think I will not be me without them. For the sake of brevity, I have found that I have to let go of these faulty blocks gradually over time, and sometimes I have to do so more than once.  For me, it is about “giving something up” because I need to do so to not only survive but to build a better life. The good news is, I really like the new “me” who is evolving because this new identity realizes it is not all about me—-that it is about God’s love and sharing it.

And to the last committee member that thinks turning things over to God offers an invitation to “party hardy” I have to say, “In all due respect, Mr. Committee Party Man, you are a remnant of my ‘stinking thinking’ that got me into most of my life’s messes in the first place. I am still accountable for how I do the footwork and carry out God’s will—-and if I start practicing my old bad habits yet again, it only means I have purposively divorced myself from God’s guidance and help.” Perhaps this response is a bit harsh, but this is the point where I need to be hard on myself. I seem to think I can turn things over to God and take back bits and pieces of what I’ve turned over because “I’m better, I’ve changed, things are different now, and now I can handle it.” This is the type of thinking that always brings me back to being enmeshed in self-created problems.

Wow! I did not mean to write for so long this morning. If you have stayed with me and plowed through all this, I thank you. May God bless and keep you.

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