“Remember Your Why”

img_0986I was watching a movie recently – I think it was on the “UP” channel (Fios 738 in these parts) – in which a character repeated several times, “Remember your why.” (Unfortunately, a google did not reveal the movie title.) But it’s a message that finally got through to me this morning.

Remember those days in the past [or early days of your faith]
when you first learned the truth [were enlightened]. You remained strong [endured; persevered] through a hard struggle with many sufferings.
Hebrews 10:32 EXB

I’ve written previously about how the end of the year holidays had disrupted my routine and knocked me out of a productive cycle. Last month (January) I felt like I was slogging through, unclear about what I had set out to do. (Or I should say, what I had been set to doing by my Lord and Savior.) Today I’m feeling rejuvenated about Sharing God’s Story in my one, little life.

When I kept things to myself [silent],
I felt weak deep inside me [my bones wasted away].
I moaned all day long.
Psalm 32:3 EXB

Here it is: I sinned in the past, grievously. (Sin is sin; it is not relative.) I tried to hide it; to cover it up. This only left me miserable and crying out. My guilt and self-condemnation got so bad that I was driven to end my suffering. That was when Jesus himself intervened and literally took my place, saving me. He brought me to a week committed at the Highlands Ranch Behavioral Health Center, where I spent all my time marveling at the miracle I had been privileged to experience. Have you ever had that feeling where you have finally realized that something you thought unbelievable is instead totally true?

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Then I confessed [made known; disclosed] my sins to you
and didn’t hide [cover up] my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my sins [transgressions] to the Lord,
and you forgave my guilt [the guilt of my sin].
:5 EXB

 
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
Happy are those who are pure in heart. Matthew 5:8
(Celebrate Recovery Principle 4)

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 (Twelve Steps, Step 5)

Here it is: the what that happened was not the miracle. A simple kitchen timer going off is a commonplace thing. It is the when that it happened – exactly at the only perfect moment in time – that is miraculous. I don’t believe in coincidences, because there is something very, very intentional about these events happening when they do. It is God’s timing that we witness, upon which we are instructed to wait.

Happy [blessed] is the person whose sins [transgressions] are forgiven, whose wrongs [sins] are pardoned [covered].
Happy [blessed] is the person whom the Lord does not consider guilty [imputes no guilt to].
Psalm 32: 1-2 EXB

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Here it is: the evidence of my life since that day (and, in hindsight, many moments prior to that day), is proof of God’s blessing in my life, and his forgiveness. Many times my life should have been over and myself condemned, yet I remain alive, now with a salvation purpose. And I intend to see to it, staying in thankfulness to God all the while. Nothing else is as important as sharing this testimony with the people I love, and practicing the presence of God every day.

You are my hiding place
You protect me from my troubles [distress]
And fill [surround] me with songs [loud cries] of salvation [rescue; deliverance].
:7

Yes, the Lord is my refuge – in plain sight – and He protects me from my troubles – with the peace and acceptance that faith brings. He fills me with song, which is why I will keep on (literally) singing His praises.

My name is Marshall. I  blog, give testimony, and play worship music in order to Share God’s Story.

Speaking ‘Of’ Myself, Not Talking ‘To’ Myself

Speaking ‘Of’ Myself, Not Talking ‘To’ Myself

In Twelve-Step small groups, men or women with similar life-struggles gather together to speak plainly about their pasts and their present progress (or frequent lack thereof) in emotional and spiritual maturity. (Y’know, those touchy-feely subjects that aren’t taught in week-day school.) The purpose is to provide a non-judging and supportive environment in which each – before his/her Maker, and before witnesses – can describe learning and practicing this thing called integrity, aka self-honesty – the opposite of the self-delusion each had previously perfected.

One of the guidelines for participation is to “keep your sharing focused on your own thoughts and feelings.” We meet to provide support to each other, not to ‘fix’ each other (like by giving advice).

In my meeting, it has been noted that a common deviation from this direction is the use of the Second Person Perspective, or saying “you/your” when what is meant is “me or I or my.” For example,

“Y’know, when you just can’t help yourself, and you relapse.” (<-yes, a period not a question mark. This is accusatory, not supportive.)
vs
“I felt helpless and couldn’t keep myself from falling. Have you ever felt like that?”

I find this interesting (and worthy of a Sharing God’s Story blog post) because it has a direct relation to how I am currently communicating internally. Do I “speak of myself” or “talk to myself”? Am I sharing my testimony or presuming to know exactly what another human has done and his/her motives for doing so?

I find this important because it indicates whether I’ve ‘got out of myself’ and am in danger of the old habit of judging or self-condemnation, or observing my own obviously self-destructive behavior as if it were someone else’s (and, therefore, out of my control). For example:

“So, you drank again after you said ‘never again’. Big surprise. Loser!”

I believe that maintaining a First Person Perspective (and Present Tense) is a key part of my recovery journey, perhaps, primarily, because it reminds me of 2 Corinthians 5:17

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new.
(CEV)

If I am talking ‘to’ myself, saying “you”, then I’m interacting with that old me, the one who thought he was only a victim and therefore deserved to (fill in the blank). I may then also be dragging down others, guilty by association.

Instead, when “I” remain “me”, then any use of the “you” pronoun will refer to God (and not my fellow attendees). This helps me to stay in a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, loving him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. This reinforces the purpose of the sharing:

I acknowledged my sin to you,
And I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
(Psalm 32:5 ESV)

Note:
“I confess and you forgive.”
Not
“You confess and he forgives.”

 

In a sense, if I am looking to others for supportive understanding, rather than seeming to presume them guilty (or becoming judgemental of them), I am better able to love them as myself.

Heavenly Father, You are holy, separate, different, special, sacred. Lord, I choose You and Your way for my life. I confess I cannot do this perfectly, but I seek daily to become more like the man You made me to be. I know You forgive me these faults, as I humbly admit them to You, to myself, and to my neighbor, that I may be a source of Your forgiveness, understanding, mercy, encouragement, strength. God bless us all. In Jesus’ life-saving, life-changing name. Amen.

Let’s Get Serious, Sober, and Significant

person-reading-mapAddictions were a bad response to my feelings of emotional pain and insignificance. I needed to learn how to get over these feelings – by being seriously sober, and by believing that someone cared about me. And not just anyone, but God, The Creator of Everything. He knows me – all about me. He loves me – deeply and unconditionally. He provides for me here on earth and promises to keep me with Him for all eternity. And, most importantly, He desperately yearns for me to notice Him. I want to share with you how He convinced me to live believing this wholeheartedly.

Believing is simple, but it’s not easy. However, there are small steps which can be taken and checked off like items on a to do list.

Plan, now do [check]
Commit, then complete [check]
Faith, with action [check]

The trick is, faith works like magic, just not by magic. Faith takes effort. God does His part – always. That’s just who He is. But I have a role to play, too, and this is what recovery from addictions- from any kind of obsessive, procrastinating, isolating, or avoiding behavior – is all about.

img_0855A journey of 1000 miles begins with 12 steps.

April 20, 2009
Salt Lake City, Utah
One Year, Six days into Recovery
Gas for rental truck: $140
Burger and St Pauli N/A, plus tip: $23
Hotel Room: $53
The trip of a lifetime: priceless

I once owned a business, a video studio, transferring home movies from film and VHS to DVD, and doing some video production. But it was home-based, and being my own boss was not a perfect thing for me – I found it far too easy to surf the internet and knock off early to start drinking instead of working. I entered entrepreneurship with these bad habits, and they didn’t help me succeed. In turn, the stress of failing at my ‘calling’ led to more indulgence. This catch-22 was definitely a major factor in my hitting rock-bottom.

By the end of the first year of my recovery journey, I sold all my equipment and shut the studio down. (I would also move with my family 2000 miles on faith alone – but that’s another part of the story.) The deal included my transporting the equipment from Colorado Springs to Reno, and my doing my part to make this happen is a great example of how God has changed me.

img_1047I’ve said before that my motto used to be “waiting for something to happen.” But what is true is that I have to make something happen, and let God handle the results. I had to decide to get out of the business. God guided me to the next steps. I had to let it be known that I wanted to sell. God found a buyer. I offered, God certainly influenced the counter offer. I had to rent the U-Haul, pack it up, and drive it. God made sure I arrived safely.

Plan, now do. Commit, then complete. Faith, with action. All of this done with great seriousness. This is not a part time gig. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something to pursue only when I feel like it. Recovery, like mapping out a trip and then traveling the road, doesn’t just happen. It must be fought for with firm determination, sticking to a process over long days of combatting urges – one day, one moment at at time – to take time off for more pleasureable activities.

“Combat” is a good way to describe it. Recovery is a war, a conflict with myself. I must have a plan of battle and follow it, fully understanding that losing has serious costs. Recovery is serious, and I have to seriously want it.

Let’s look at some definitions:

Serious:
– thoughtful or subdued in appearance or manner, SOBER
– requiring much thought or WORK
– of or relating to a matter of importance
– having important or dangerous possible consequences

IMG_3340A matter of importance?? Dangerous possible consequences?? This is life or death! My life! My being alive! My living (including what I do to earn my way). In truth, every addiction is ultimately an Addiction to Death. This is deadly serious, and I must appreciate it at that level. These bad habits are self-destructive and self-defeating. I was still alive, but only because I was not brave enough to literally pull the trigger. I wished I were dead – or non-existent, because that is how life made me feel. Insignificant. Unloved. How desperate I was for the message that someone did care about me, despite how low I could fall. Things could not get more serious.

Intention:
– a determination to act in a certain way, resolve

Resolve:
– fixity of purpose, resoluteness, marked by firm determination

Determination:
– the controlling or deciding of something’s nature or outcome
– the act of establishing something exactly

Determined:
– having made a firm decision and being resolved NOT to change it
– firmly decide

Recovery / Recovering:
– the act, process, or instance of recovering
– being in the ongoing process of recovery

– the process of combatting a disorder, or a real or perceived problem

There is great news! It is possible to recover, to get back to where we were when everything was right.

Recover:
– to get back – regain
– to bring back to normal position or condition; RESCUE
– to make up for (usually costs)
– to find or identify again

img_0931My Maker made me to be this way. His way. Not my way of destroying my health and my family. I was created to be something better.

Recovery is taking steps to replace how I get my good feelings and ‘highs’. Instead of addictive, destructive, dangerous, or harmful activities, I spend my time journaling, worshipping, reading the Bible, praying, singing, supporting and serving others. These are all things I do, and can even put on a checklist. The more I do them, the more ingrained they become until I am doing them without thinking about it. And that, my friends, is how a life is changed.

Along the way, the hard evidence of the success of this outlook and activity – that I was being provided for, sometimes miraculously; that I was, in fact, still alive and breathing; that I woke up each day and could sometimes get out of bed – these are the facts that proved to me God exists and is who He says He is.

A pastor once said that faith is the result of education and personal, spiritual experience. God provided the experience for me, many times over. I had to take the initiative to get educated about Him and His plan for me. This process is History (His Story) in my life.

In closing, here’s a poem I wrote during that first year of my journey:

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Everyday
Not temptation
But evaluation
Confirming
That past behaviors
Do not lead
To hope
Come true
So, on to something new:
Today!