Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Disappointed in Life

     So many people I speak to are cynical about the negativity they see and feel and about pain they observe in the world, loved ones, and friends.  People often struggle with the observation of injustice and feel disappointed with life.  Why do some evil people prosper and good people struggle?  Why do evil people get away with injustice and a good person is persecuted?  Why are children starving and victimized? Why is there so much violence?  Those are the very tough questions we all have at one time or another.  Those are the doubts that threaten to take hold of the heart of the person of faith and render them powerless.  Those are the questions the atheist, agnostic, or nihilist ask to test our faith in a loving God and test our obedience to a Higher Power.  

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     What if, the world, the creation (a creationist premise there) was not cursed or broken?  What if, when the fall happened God had only banished Adam and Eve and disciplined them but had not placed the curse on the rest of creation (the earth and all creatures)?  So, essentially humans keep their internal struggle but externally the blessing is still on all of the creation and the external struggle is not there.  The ground easily produces food, the elements remain perfect for habitation, the animals don't attack or destroy one another and remain herbivores, life is plenteous.  Well, my first response is humans having a nature of self protection and self reliance would then make the earth and all its resources a type of heaven and would be satisfied getting all their sensual needs met right here.  There would be no further need for the creator because we are provided for on our own, without Him.  That is our nature.  

     God did strike the earth and the animals with a death sentence and struggle and turmoil.  We all experience this struggle in our everyday life.  Family life is trying and takes hard work and is never free of disappointment. Work can/may be hard, exhausting, and sometimes/often lacking enjoyment.  Getting along with neighbors can/may be exhausting and trying.  Cooperating in organizations, groups, churches, schools, etc can/may be very testing.  And as we all know, picking leaders, managing our neighborhoods, cities, states, and nation can/may be very trying and disappointing.  If you have your hands in all of these areas at once and for some of you maybe more areas of life than this things can get very difficult, complex, frustrating, and then disappointing.  Why?  Because it seems there's always conflict!  Things get going good and you're bopping along and then BOOM!  Conflict is present again. Why can't it just stay fixed?

The Journey of Life

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We all seem to expect to some degree ease and comfort in this life.  And if we will press ourselves deeper we probably expect a lot more than that.  It seems like some sick joke when we wake up every day to conflict or struggle when we expected happiness and comfort.  Its like being asked to go out to eat to a nice restaurant and your driven to some cheap drive through food.  You eat the burger but leave psychologically wanting.  The expectation of the "nice restaurant" still calling for fulfillment.  You may feel lied to, cheated even.  You may even drive to the fancy place down the street later in an attempt to fix or quiet the unfulfillment.  Being human is much the same as this illustration.  Being human, we expect to be treated fairly, justly.  We expect to be loved, needed, valued.  We expect to prosper, get what we want, have pleasure and live in peace. And we expect to watch others live the same.  When life takes us to the proverbial McDonald's or garbage can for dinner we react with, WHAT?  This cannot be.  Did I do something wrong?  Did someone else do something wrong? This is not right!  I demand answers! I demand justice!  I demand this to be fixed!  All this in an attempt to create a sort of comfortable environment. My or your personal garden of Eden.  

Facing Disappointment

Sometimes these demands take up an entire lifetime.  Attempting in many ways to force life to be seamless, placid, comfortable, peaceful, fair, just, etc.  This only exhausts and consumes those of us who attempt any one of these impossibilities.  That's because when we strive for "Eden" we are striving against a law set in motion that will not be undone by any human.  Realistically admitting, facing, and accepting the experience of being disappointed by life may be very freeing.  It also may allow the mind to finally realize, "Why do I have this demand for perfection or perfect peace and comfort and justice?"  Admitting your disappointment with life may also assist you to connect with your thirst for a REAL place of perfection, Heaven.  In fact, I believe that is the purpose of the curse on the creation.  To keep us longing for the "more" of heaven and for God himself, a very real place and person.  It is not an error in God's computer system that things are dysfunctioning down here!  I believe His intention is to allow need so that we will look beyond this world and its chaos for our needs and we will find the possibility of safety, love, and peace in Heaven.

     I am not attempting to explain all evil.  That's definitely another blog.  I am merely contending that disappointment in life is inevitable and so is the human struggle to extinguish it.  It's not possible.  Life is never going to stay, Le Bernardin NY.  God does not promise freedom from struggle and He doesn't promise heaven on earth living.  He does promise His love and His presence no matter what and the hope of a future living with Him.

"Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse.  But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay" (Romans 8:20-21, NLT).  

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Do the 12 steps lead a person to a specific religion?

The quick answer to that question is no. The 12 steps are a spiritual program developed through Bill W and others’ own experiences of being in the grip of alcoholism. Bill W. was not the first, but was himself the beneficiary of another recovering alcoholic’s testimony of the power of working a spiritual program for recovery from alcohol. Bill W. explained in the Big Book that before recovery he was not an atheist and did not believe many people really were. It was his assertion that atheistic belief would mean, “...blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere (Big Book, 2001, p.10). In fact, his scientific heroes of the time even “...suggested vast laws and forces at work....I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation” (Big Book, 2001, p. 10).
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The 12 steps of recovery

You see the 12 steps of recovery have one goal in mind: to bring those who become entirely willing to obediently choose honesty and humility 24 hours a day to a spiritual awakening not just once but again and again, each and every day that the steps and relationship with a power greater than themselves are practiced and applied through faith. Not blind faith, but faith that the steps combined with power from our higher power sought out in prayer and meditation consistently and daily WILL produce sobriety for sure! Then on top of sobriety the steps will build strength, endurance, hope, direction, maturity, self-control, the power to deny destructive selfishness, openness, community, belonging, accountability, self-respect, freedom through the gift of forgiveness, the reordering of behavioral choices, inner peace, mental clarity, joy in living and pleasure in serving others.

            Bill W. taught that he had a sort of profound awakening in which past memories aligned with the present testimony that was being shared with him such that God was able to remove his unwillingness to believe in a power greater than himself. The question from his friend, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” (Big Book, 2001, p. 12), led to the realization, “It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning” (Big Book, 2001, p. 12). 

Freedom in the 12 steps

You see, in the 12 steps there is a beautiful freedom given to each participant. Come as you are, where you are, and know that if you will acknowledge where your beliefs stand today and obediently and fully commit to working the steps that the God of your understanding will bring you to the faith you need to live the program successfully. This was called moral psychology by William D. Silkworth, M.D.; a doctor who worked with many alcoholics and whose writing is included in the Big Book. In Silkworth’s experience, alcoholism was a death sentence of sorts. He had not witnessed successful life change or recovery until he witnessed Bill W. share his story and his steps with those in the then institution for alcoholics. What Silkworth reports is that through what he terms “moral psychology”, Bill W. and the men he led out of alcoholism were able to achieve “unselfishness...the entire absence of profit spirit...[belief] in themselves, and still more in the Power which pulls chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death” (Big Book, 2001, p. xxvii).

            Dr. Silkworth had been convinced that emotionalism, merely focusing on behavioral band aids, or psychological tricks was not enough to help alcoholics. He said, the approach had to have, “depth and weight” (Big Book, 2001, p. xxviii). Silkworth testified of his own experiences of powerlessness when faced with healing an alcoholic and how he innately felt deep down that there had to be a power greater than the alcoholic sickness to heal it because human medicine/psychiatry had no cure. This has also been my clinical and personal experience with addicts of all kinds. This includes anyone that has a compulsive pattern, an addictive cycle, a “bad habit” they seemingly cannot overcome and it is bringing any level of brokenness into their life, their relationships, or their social/vocational functioning. The experience of powerlessness when attempting to help the mastered is quite profound. It is not until I, even I, surrender control of the healing to my higher power can I be of any assistance to my broken client. Many people, many addicts, are skeptics of the 12 steps and its programming. If that person is reading this, in the Silkworth tradition, I would encourage you to read the AA Big Book front to back, slowly and carefully with your ears open to hear and receive.  As Silkworth said, “perhaps [you’ve come] to scoff, [but you] may remain to pray” (Big Book, 2001, p. xxxii). The 12 steps will not lead you to a certain religion but they will lead you to a relationship; a relationship with a Power greater than yourself that is the power you need to change your life for the better.                       
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Big Book. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.,         2001.                      

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