Archives for posts with tag: working AA’s 12 steps

Jesus

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Everywhere I have gone today I have encountered the word “blessed.” Different meanings of the word blessed were talked about in our Sunday school class; those meanings included “happy,” “wonderful news” or “fortunate.” Then, once I had gotten home and eaten lunch, I read the material that had been electronically sent to those of us who participate in a Sunday afternoon 11th step focused study of Matthew’s “Beatitudes.”  Of course, it was information about the various meanings of the word blessed.

In the Sunday school discussion, the beatitudes were presented as a proclamation Jesus made of how he was starting to create God’s kingdom on earth by turning things “upside down,” and the author of the book we were studying (Wright, N. T.,2002, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, Louisville, KY: John Knox Press) emphasized that these “blessings” were not something we are rewarded with in heaven after we die for having lived the “right kind of life.” Instead, Wright points out that these blessings are present-tense blessings and suggests we should try living according to these principles in the present moment.  He doesn’t specify how to do so, but I sure he means to live in a manner that helps create God’s kingdom in the present moment. I cannot imagine he means to purposefully become poor, hungry, persecuted,  or look forward to mourning the death of someone you love.

According to Bob Towner (2014), the convener of the 11th Step Beatitudes Study Group, the blessings Jesus was addressing in what is traditionally thought of as the “Sermon on the Mount” were actually an invitation to search one’s inner self in order to find peace and happiness—–even in unhappy situations like those specified in the beatitudes. Towner’s spin on the meaning of the beatitudes suggests Jesus is actually  “offering me [us] the choice of finding worthiness and benefit in attitudes and conditions which the world finds useless or shameful.” This  means I need to apply what I encounter in my inner searching into changing my attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

So, I am faced with considering two different perceptions of the message Jesus was trying to give those who were listening—-as well as to those of us who are reading the account of what he said. They both seem to agree that they are more “here and now” than future focused. They both seem to  agree that the “blessings” are in direct relationship with actions one must take to feel blessed in the present moment.  I have experienced peace and happiness within my inner being when surrounded by the very things mentioned in the beatitudes, and practicing the 12 steps has taught me that much of my inner peace depends on changing my attitudes and actions.

I think I just figured out my take on all this. Blessings are something God gives to me if I am willing to seek them in a spiritual manner. They are not concrete, measurable rewards to be stacked up in heaven or here on earth. I don’t have to do things to make myself miserable in order to receive them. However, I would be the first to admit there have been times in the past when I was only able to find such blessings because I was miserable enough to surrender my will and to actively seek God’s will.  Fortunately, I am learning to work on my “God seeking” skills, and I am much more able to realize and accept blessings now than I have been in the past; I am also fortunate that it doesn’t always take “hitting bottom” to motivate me to seek God and his blessings these days. Although I still work on changing my attitudes and behavior for the better, I still have lots of room for improvement.

So, when I close my blogs with “God bless and keep you,” I am not suggesting you just sit around and wait for God to drop blessings on your head. I am inviting you to actively seek those blessings and hoping you will find and express them in your attitudes and behavior. Although I would like my closing to be some sort of magical spell that guarantees my readers will be blessed and safely held in God’s arms, it is actually expressing my hope that you will actively seek, find, and share God’s love and the peace that “passes all understanding.” God bless and keep you.

 

self

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I am not just talking about “personal hygiene” here—-or even “mental hygiene” as the Veterans Administration folks used to call it. I am talking about steps that need to be taken for the miracle of recovery to occur. I cannot count the times I have heard people talk about the importance of completing AA’s 4th step in supporting recovery. This step involves taking a self-inventory. There are a variety of ways to work this step; many old-timers are “big book thumpers”  who insist it has to be done exactly as outlined in the “big book.” Personally, I think each person needs to find a way of working this step that works for him or her, and I tend to think it is as important to look at assets as it is defects.

After this inventory is completed the person working the steps is expected to talk it over with another human being and to eventually “make amends” for the past wrongs that were identified. Sadly, in terms of acknowledging wrongs done and making amends, the person working the steps is the one most often overlooked. I believe it is essential for both the inventory and amends to include both the harm done to oneself and forgiving oneself.

I just finished reading a meditation for the second time today. I want to share part of it with you. It is from John Kirvin’s Where Only Love Can Go: A Journey of the Soul into the Cloud of Unknowing (1996, pp. 122-123, Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press). This particular book is a book of meditations based on a book written anonymously in the thirteen hundreds. Text from this ancient book is still used today as one of the basic cornerstones of contemplative prayer.

One of Kirvin’s selections from this ancient text  addresses how we must start our spiritual journey by “cleansing our consciences, and enduring the pain of restoring creation to its proper place in our lives” (p. 122).  It basically says that those of us who have sinned will have a harder job of it, but that “God gives his  grace in a special way to the least of us and to the amazement of the world ” (p. 122).  It points out that many honored in this life will be pushed aside on judgment day while “some who are now despised and considered of no spiritual worth will take their place with the angels and saints.” It ends by admonishing us to “Judge no one in this life, least of all yourself” (p. 123).

Both anonymous works (The Cloud of Unknowing and AA’s big book) stress the importance of self-inventory and conscience cleansing. However, not judging yourself is not emphasized in the big book, and, in my opinion,  doing so is essential for true recovery to begin and to continue. Most of my professional life has focused on two things: teaching mental health nursing and promoting recovery in women who are alcoholics and addicts. Time and time again, one of the major obstacles women often encounter in their recovery journey is the difficulty they have in forgiving themselves. Our culture and most of our religious teachings does not stress the importance of self-forgiveness. But forgiving ourselves is an essential component of being able to begin to love ourselves as God does. After all,  if God through his grace can forgive us, who are we to question his judgment?

Enough said. Just because I am obsessing about a particular topic, it is not fair for me to keep going on and on about it. I hope your spiritual journey includes. self-forgiveness and a growing self-love. I am still working on it  one day at a time myself—–even after over thirty two years of recovery. May God bless and keep you.