Always within reach Sunday, May 29 2011 

Two ancient sayings remind us of the power of an aching heart. One is an inscription found on sundials: “Without the shadow – nothing.” The other is from an unknown author:

” The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.”

Nothing is more familiar to the recovering Christian than sorrow and grief. The knowldege of repeated failure, of continual mistakes, of past broken promises – all are a heavy load of mournful shame and sorrow. Yet our grief is not to be given permanent stature; our tears are to be cleansing showers, not an endless flood.

Mother Teresa had a comforting bookmark with this inscription to help heal her grief:

Let nothing disturb thee;

Let nothing dismay thee;

All things pass;

God never changes.

Patience attains

All that it strives for.

He who has God

Finds he lacks nothing.

God alone suffices.

God is the anchor that always holds, the solid foundation that never weakens, the companion who never leaves us. Our Lord, Jesus, knows the agony of the broken heart. He knows our pain, and when we hold his hand, he understands and holds us safe and heals our hurt. His hand is always within reach. All we have to do is grasp it.

Prayer: Dear Christ, I know your open hand is always stretched out to mine. Help me to clasp your open hand, especially in times of sorrow.

-A. Philip Parham- excerpt taken from John 16:20-22  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

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Giving back what you’ve received Friday, May 27 2011 

The more you grow spiritually, the more you will want to serve others in ways that enhance their spirituality. Service may mean a commitment to worshiping in a way that fits your own beliefs. You may want to go back to your old church and religious denomination. If you return, you will have a new outlook and greater awareness. If your preference is a church that emphasizes the liturgy and sacraments, you can participate in the commemoration of the mighty acts of God as you understand God. You can exprerience yourself as part of the past and part of a living tradition.

Service also means caring for others and giving back what you’ve received. The Twelfth Step urges us to carry our spirtual awakening to others who suffer the “toxic shame” of a dysfuntional background. All of us who have come out of hiding need to bring the light to others. Carrying the message is done by modeling, not by moralizing. It is done by those who “walk the walk as they talk the talk.” This means that there are no gurus. There are only those who have walked a little further down the path.

Service and love for others flow directly from service and love for ourselves. I love the motto of the Dominican priests: “To hand on to others what you yourself have contemplated.” We truly cannot give what we haven’t got. We cannot teach our children self-valuing if we continue to be shame-based.

Service is a true mark and fruit of spiritual growth.

Prayer: As I grow in my recovery and my faith, Lord, help me to give to others out of the riches you’ve given me.

-John Bradshaw- excerpt taken from John 13:12-17  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

What are YOU made of? Monday, May 23 2011 

Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Do you have a stout heart? Are you strong like a mighty oak tree? Do your roots go deep? Are you a person of substance? When the sky gets dark and the weather gets rough, does your character stand strong like a growing tree, or does it fade away the same way a shadow does when the clouds roll in?

The choice is yours. You can spend the day hoping for the sun to shine, so that you look good. Or you cultivate your character, growing it daily inch by inch, until one day it not only provides your strength, but also stands as a symbol of stability to those around you.

-John Maxwell-  excerpt from “The Choice is Yours”

Character cannot be

Developed in ease and quiet.

Only through experience of trial

And suffering can the soul

be strengthened, vision cleared,

Ambition inspired,

And success achieved.

-HELEN KELLER-

The need to grieve Friday, May 20 2011 

At the beginning of a class in college, a professor asked about a missing student. He was told that the absent student’s mother had just died. When the professor asked for a show of hands of those who had lost a parent, several hands went up. “You students please write notes of comfort,” the professor said. “You know what it’s all about.” Loss must be experienced in order to be shared, and it must be shared in order to be healed.

A little boy made a special Christmas ornament for his parents. On the way out of school with his gift, he dropped it and it shattered on the pavement. He immediately screamed with grief at his loss. His father rushed to his side and said, “Hush, Son, be quiet. It’s all right. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” But his mother, more acquainted with such deep moments, took the sobbing boy in her arms and said, “Oh, it does matter, it matters a great deal.” And she wept for her son’s loss, adding her tears to his.

Grief is a profound part of recovery and new life. Tears of regret, remorse and despair water the roots of love and of life itself. To deny and avoid the hurt and pain of life’s losses is to negate life’s importance. To fail to cry is to fail to live.

Prayer: Jesus, as you grieved over your friend Lazarus, allow my tears of grief to flow as well – for my own losses and those of others.

-A.Philip Parham- excerpt taken from John 11:32-36  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

What God really wants for us Thursday, May 19 2011 

Each day, ask God what God wants us to do today; then ask God to help. A simple request, but so profound and far-reaching it can take us anywhere we need to go.

Listen: All that we want, all that we need, all the answers, all the help, all the good, all the love, all the healing, all the wisdom, all the fulfillment of desire is embodied in this simple request. We need say no more than thank you.

This Plan God has made for us is not one of deprivation. It is one of fullness, joy and abundance.

Walk into it. See for yourself.

Prayer: Show me what you want me to do today, God, and then help me do it.

-Melody Beattie- excerpt taken from John 10:10  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

Stress Addiction Sunday, May 15 2011 

Many people find they need extra time to wind down before they can begin to relax. Some individuals know this pattern so well that they plan their vacations around it. “I have to take at least a two-week vacation because it takes me almost a week to relax, then a few days just to sleep, and then I can have a couple of really enjoyable days.”

With more severe stress addiction, people may be totally unable to relax unless they do something that gives them their fix of stress chemicals. Many people choose jogging or some other physically stressing activity. Such activities provide enough chemicals to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay, while freeing the mind from normal worries and work tasks.

It is in the realm of spiritual practice, however, that attachment to stress becomes most obvious. Spending time in quiet, receptive openness is an essential part of prayer, meditation, and most other spirtual practices. For many modern spiritual pilgrims, the simple matter of taking time for daily prayer can become a battle of will excruciatingly similar to chemical addiction. The mind can generate wondrous excuses to do something instead of just being open and present. Issues of control and willpower, surrender and defeat rage with all the drama of true spiritual warfare.

There are many things all of us might rather avoid in prayer: relinquishing our sense of self-mastery; hearing what God might ask of us; facing the self-knowledge that comes to us in quiet. And now, increasing numbers of us are discovering that we would rather not experience the discomfort of being peaceful.

Prayer: So often, God, I find it difficult to simply be quiet and alone with you and myself. Set me free from my addiction to activity and stress.

-Gerald G. May- excerpt taken from 1 Samuel 16: 14-25  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

The Judgement Trap Saturday, May 14 2011 

It is easy to judge other people. Judgmentalism and blame come naturally to us. Other people’s faults and failures are simple to identify, it seems. Many of us can remember a time in our lives when throwing the first stone was not only – it was what we thought good Christians were supposed to do.

One of the most dramatic changes which takes place early in the recovery process is an increase in self-awareness. We begin to see patterns in our own lives that need changing. We begin to see our own self-destructive tendencies. We begin to see how we have brought pain to others. As these insights dawn on us, we begin to lay down our stones.

Of course, as our self-awareness increases, many of us attempt to refocus the blame and judgmentalism from others onto ourselves. We can blame and judge ourselves as ruthlessly as we may once have blamed and judged others. But it’s not really progress in recovery to give up throwing stones, and then to start banging our heads against a stone wall.

What makes recovery possible is when increased self-awareness leads to an increased capacity to experience forgiveness. Gradually we learn to accept forgiveness from GOD and others. We receive mercy. As a result, we begin to treat ourselves and others with mercy. When we accept ourselves as humans even though we struggle and sometimes fail, we can become far more gentle with ourselves and with others.

Prayer: Remind me, LORD, to keep working on my own moral inventory, not that of others. Help me to quickly forgive others, and myself, for our shortcomings.

-Dale and Juanita Ryan- excerpt taken from John 8  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

Free Friday, May 13 2011 

Addictions and compulsions are a kind of bondage. Painful memories are also like chains that bind us. We try harder and harder to change. But sometimes the harder we try, the tighter the chains become. Recovery begins when we recognize that our bondage is too great for us. None of our powers will break these chains. Either we will find a power greater than our ourselves to help us, or we will stay in bondage.

Many people find the idea of powerlessness to be very troubling. We want to be competent and self-reliant. And many of us have increased our shame and self-contempt. So, why should we welcome the God-who-rescues? Won’t he also shame us?

First, notice in this passage that God’s intervention is in response to a request (v.13). We do not serve a God who is entangled in our compulsions. He will not rescue in ways tht are shameful. He knows that we need to be ready to be helped and that we need to cry out for help.

Notice also that it is the God-of-unfailing-love who is our higher power (v.15). Because so many of us are convinced that God is vindictive, punitive and abusive, it can be terrifying in our powerlessness to focus on the power of God. We are sure that all of that power will be used against us. But the God-of-unfailing-love is not a vindictive, punitive or abusive God. He is a a God of love. He is not aginst us. He is for us.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for setting me free from bondage by your powerful love.

-Dale and Juanita Ryan- excerpt taken from Psalm 107  NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

Connected Thursday, May 12 2011 

The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one. Those who have grown the most spiritually are those who are more experienced in living. And there is another joy, even greater. It is the joy of communion with God.

Those who have attained this stage of spiritual growth and awareness are invariably possessed by joyful humility. When asked the source of their knowledge and power, the truly powerful will reply: “It is not my power. What little power I have is but a minute expression of a far greater power. I am merely a conduit. It is not my power at all.”

Their humility is joyful because, knowing they are connected to God, the truly powerful feel a lessening in their sense of self. “Let thy will, not mine, be done. Make me your instrument,” is their only desire. Such a loss of self brings with it always a kind of calm ecstacy, not unlike the experience of being in love. Aware of their intimate connectedness to God, their loneliness vanishes. There is communion.

Prayer: Lord, make me ever more aware of your presence within me. Bring my desires and my actions into line with your will. And give me the joyful humility that comes from being connected to you.

-M Scott Peck- excerpt taken from John 7 NIV Recovery Devotional Bible

Attitude is the Difference Maker Monday, May 9 2011 

What’s all this fuss about attitude? Does it really make a difference? You bet it does!

Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude. When facing an opponent of equal ability, the right attitude can give you the edge. Who enjoys everything more, sees more opportunities, and lives life with greater enthusiasm?

As you examine your attitude and decide what to make it, remember these truths:

1. No Matter What, Your Attitude is a Choice. Circumstances may not be of your choosing, but your attitude is all yours.

2. It’s Easier to Maintain the Right Attitude Than to Regain It. Fight to develop a positive attitude, and then don’t let it slip.

3. Your Attitude Determines Your Actions. Your outlook will determine your life’s outcomes more than any other single factor.

4. The People You Lead Refect the Attitude You Possess. If you have any responsibility for others – as a boss, parent, or volunteer leader – the attitude of your people is a reflection of your own.

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. -Leo Tolstoy-

Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed. -Abraham Lincoln-

excerpt taken from: John C. Maxwell, “The Choice is Yours”

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