It is always good to be home. I only have two more of these reviews to do next week and then they are done for this school year. I enjoy the work, but it does take me away from other work I also enjoy. I suppose I’m lucky to have these opportunities where I get to work with areas I enjoy and have enjoyed all of my adult years.
Last night our recovery group leaders met for our 4th time going through the material helping us know how to be sensitive and effective leaders as we begin the efforts to branch into additional recovery areas. Each time I come home from one of these I thank God for the opportunity to be connected with this. Not only does it help me personally, but it also helps me realize much more fully that the work is God’s Work and I’ve been asked to help. The stress/anxiety of doing this does come and go, but I am quickly able to surrender it as part of old me.
God is really wanting me to Embrace the Cross. I said a couple days ago what the line in the movie, I Can Only Imagine, said about not running from the pain of our past, but to embrace it. God is replacing the image of embracing the pain with embracing the cross. The cross is where the pain of sin, along with the sin itself, is buried. It has taken me a lifetime to get to this mile marker but now that I am here I want to only be obedient to this command. I look forward to all that God will place in my life helping me use this embrace for His Honor and Glory.
Easter is coming and almost here. What God is showing me in His recent work is exactly what Christ came and did for each one of God’s kids. Our assignment is clear–Embrace Christ’s work on the Cross and help others come to this reality in their own walk. Christ is wanting to break every chain that binds us–He didn’t make any exceptions. He wants to do this for everyone. Praise His Holy Name!
It’s Spring! I’m in Challis Idaho where I had to drive through snow 4 feet deep to get here but it is still spring. I’m so glad.
I’m having to write this on my iPhone because I have no WiFi in my room for the laptop. I still want to get a message out today. I asked God today again if He really wants me doing this secular work I do? He told me to quit asking that question. If he wanted me to stop it he would tell me. My questioning is my character defect thinking what I do at the church is more important. He went onto say that I see the church as safe so I can do His work there more easily. He wants me to know he has placed me in the world to let the world know to Embrace the Cross. He came through His Son Jesus to give us a clear path to Him. Let people know this, especially those lost in their bondage where I have been lost for too long. I can do this in a church but more are outside the church needing to know this too. Isn’t our God amazing! I will serve Him wherever I am.
I don’t know how many readers of this blog have seen “I Can Only Imagine” in the theatres, but if you haven’t, it is well worth the time and effort. Also, if you have a past of hurt from abuse and the shame which follows, it will be painful, but richly insightful. There was a line in the movie that I must have repeated 15 times in my head as soon as I heard it. Of course this morning I can only give my version of it, but it was something like this, “embrace the pain of your past as a motivation from God to help others overcome their own.” I think I said last week that when I gave my testimony to our Celebrate Recovery group last Wednesday, I stayed in tune to it for the entire delivery. In the painfulness of telling it, my brain would simply block my memory so I couldn’t recall the details. I’d go into a shock type mode where I’d read what was on the paper, but I had no recollection of doing so afterwards. This behavior is now gone. I also stayed in tune during the share group time following it. It has taken me 9 years of CR to do this, but it is now possible. I was ready to hear this statement last night and actually put this to work for God’s Kingdom.
Yesterday’s class was an excellent one. There were five men who went deeply into our recovery needs divulging our most vulnerable areas so that our accountability can be very accurate in talking to one another. I am talking about the Relapse Prevention Plan. I had developed the follow-up form for the sponsor to complete which states scripture promises God has given us in the area, and what our roles look like for each category. Every one of the guys think this shouldn’t just be used with our step studies concluding them, but it should be used with any one interested in stopping an intense habit or addiction that owns them whether they’ve attended CR or not. The work of it may or may not lead them to Celebrate Recovery. The purpose is always to lead them to the Power of the Cross and Christ’s work there for each one of us. To God be the Glory–great things He has done and will do with each of us as we surrender to Him and relinquish all control to Him.
I feel as though I need to say thanks to you who dial in to this blog. Writing yesterday’s message was a big help. I was able to let go of a weight I didn’t like having to state. However, in so doing, I had a freer day. I also was able to listen to what my wife was telling me about the form. I then made an accompanying one. The first one is to be done by the Sponsee. The second one is to be completed by the Sponsor. It will outline the steps he/she will take adding a scriptural emphasis of truth from God’s Word.
I called my sis yesterday morning and we talked for quite a while. She has some difficult decisions she needs to make so we were talking through some strategies to help her find God’s Leading in them.
Today in my devotional reading by the Blackaby’s I was brought to a truth I hadn’t seen articulated the way it is in their devotional . The scripture was Psalms 50:15. It reads, “Call on me in the day of trouble, I will receive you, and you will honor Me.” There are a number of verses in the Bible telling us God wants us to reach out to Him and He will give us relief, comfort, etc. I use to think these verses were for all of you. God didn’t give me the relief I begged Him to give. Some of this is why I say in my testimony that I thought God was a kind and powerful God, but He just didn’t think too much of me. However, the last part of the verse–“you will honor Me” has a connection I never attached to my request. In my mind, honoring God was going to be my being free of my past so I could sing for Him, work for Him, lead for Him, whatever He wanted done I could do it without my past baggage. God had been waiting for me to realize He wanted me using my past to honor Him. It was then He could “receive me” when I called upon Him. I was then completing the entire scripture just the way He had intended.
Yesterday I told how much my pride has stood in the way of my reaching out for help during temptation. Today I am outlining how I will reach out with others. I pray this will become a tool many can use to reach out and the ones being reached to will be able to act upon what God will show them to put on their form. The Blackaby’s go onto say people need to hear and know how God used our story so they can trust Him to do the same for them. It was God’s timing reading this today. I’m taking it so the other men can trust God’s timing for them also. Being vulnerable is putting Trust in God to work. I do want to be a good example of this.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Rarely do I sit down an my computer to write the blog with a sense of, “I don’t know what to say.” Today, however is one of them. I have much on my mind but it would take a chapter in a book to write all that is there. Last night my dear sis called saying her heart is enlarged and she’s been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The doctors will meet with her next week to let her know how severe it is at this point. I know enough to realize one doesn’t need to panic at this point but it is a wake up to the diminishing human life we have. My siblings still living are all at this point of losing ground. It is not an enjoyable time in life if I dwell on it very long.
Secondly, it is disturbing to me to do the assignment tomorrow I have all of us doing in the group working on the relapse prevention. Celebrate Recovery calls these feelings character defects. I hate being weak and I tend to beat myself up royally for it but I need help when I encounter times of temptation. Some of what I feel is sheer pride because I must tell someone/s and I always fear judgment. Along with this I hear that voice of not being good enough so just give in. Do I know in my head all the steps to take? Yes. Do I want to act on them? NO–because it requires telling. However, it is so good to have to write this here because it gets all of this out of my head and onto a means where others can see it and i can tell the tempter that it is no longer a secret. I have fought secrets way too long.
One of our guys working on this task of relapse prevention contacted me last night. He had been asked by a friend of his wife if her husband come come Sunday to the group? He has relapsed several times with his addiction and is presently lost in it. I know him well but Sunday’s group is to review the form, having spent this week going through it with our spouses as our first accountability and then tomorrow we will go through it with one another as a final test seeing if the form goes into the areas as it needs to do. As much as I’d like to help this man, the setting is wrong. So I told the one who contacted me that we can use it one on one with him if tomorrow’s session is a green light. I find the most difficult thing in relapse prevention is not about knowing the right steps to take, it is taking the steps one knows to take. We all deal with personal pride, and then we all have backgrounds which Satan uses to cripple us more with our thinking of self. I know this extremely well!
Now that all of this is written down I can more easily step into today. Thanks for being my escape today.
I wrote yesterday about staying very busy all day on Wednesday so I’d not fret about the delivery of my testimony. I thanked God for that and thought the work of it was done. I was totally unprepared for any attacks yesterday from Satan called temptations or false beliefs. I was emotionally spent yesterday morning as I’d stated. I went to the last day of the training and did what I felt God wanted me to do–listen well and only respond as I felt nudged. This I did. As I got home I was grateful for a little quiet time to sit down before I went to a lengthy quartet practice. I love these practices, but I was overly tired. As I sat down I found myself being hugely tempted. I hadn’t felt anything like this for many days and it seemed to come from nowhere. I was then glad I needed to go to a quartet practice so it would take my mind off of this.
This morning I brought this temptation to God asking what this was all about? He guided me through some things I need to know and do. I’ve learned well how to prepare for the delivery of a tough situation. What I haven’t done at all is prepare myself for the aftermath. I wrote about all the rawness I’m awake to and the Light of God shining into the darkness. None of this happens without a great deal of energy being spent. The emotional energy drains us physically. Yesterday I was drained. So did I ask God to strengthen me? Did I let any accountability people know? No, I didn’t do either. This Sunday a small group of us in Celebrate Recovery leadership is meeting to build a tool I’ve already created but not tried out. It is a form to address preventing relapse. In this morning’s guidance God was showing me how last night’s triggers and temptations can be my perfect moment to use in addressing this form with my accountability. This is how we will field test the form for thoroughness. God says He uses all things to His Glory. This is no exception. When we allow Him to be always in the lead of our life, He will do just that–LEAD. Thank You Father!
It doesn’t matter what we are doing, how busy we are or how relaxed we are, the journey continues. Yesterday was a very full day keeping my mind from going into the delivery of my testimony to our Celebrate Recovery group. I was thankful for that. In spite of the willingness to tell my story, it stirs the rawness of it and Satan always wants to try and give as much upheaval as possible. So, God was good in having the day as it was.
The first time I gave my testimony I recall starting it and then being in the share group following it. I have no memory of the in between time. I didn’t do that on purpose it is just something my mind does on its own. All these years later I am able to stay “awake” during the entire message. In so doing I am very raw when done. When the abuse was taking place I use to feel this same rawness but it was attached to the filth I felt within me. My brain knew to zone out and dislodge any memory of the event. This rawness today, even though the same, carries within it a body that is no longer filthy from sin. It is a new creation made clean by the Cross of Calvary–the very work of God’s Son–Jesus Christ. The rawness means I told it all just as God wanted me to do. I don’t feel dirty resulting from it. I do feel exposed, but that is from God’s Light being shed on such darkness. It is so humbling and rewarding to hear the words of others saying how much it helps them in their own work of recovery. This provides the freedom I’ve always sought knowing there is no judgment in telling, only freedom being offered for others.
Today wraps up the state level training I’ve been attending the past couple days for the consulting work I do with schools/districts. God is showing me many connections between the ministry of recovery and the consulting of recovery. The schools where I spend my time haven’t been successful in helping their students learn to the degree needed for today’s world. My role is to help them see what’s missing and then fill it with guidance for teachers and administrators. In many cases it involves helping the leaders know how to lead and support the work within their schools so the word is productive and resulting in a well rounded child learning all that is needed. Both worlds, the ministry one and the school one, need to have their focus adjusted and a belief system which gives them enough confidence that “I can do this” with the right help. I use to think the work competed with one another but God is showing me what He wants me to see. The work has many similarities and I am to connect them so I can strengthen both with His Wisdom and Leadership.
Yesterday, just as I would have expected, had the door open for me to talk to the individual about the troubling circumstance they are encountering. It took place at noontime when we were preparing for lunch. We stepped into an area unoccupied and talked for only a few minutes. I told them what God had laid on my heart for them and their words were simple, “Thank you. I needed to be reminded of this.” It won’t likely change steps needing to be taken, but it does change our attitude/heart when taking them.
When I was reading my devotions this morning I was stricken by a statement I’d not seen before or been awakened to until this morning. It is found again in my Blackaby devotional. The scripture comes from Luke 5:4 where Christ tells Peter at the end of a day’s teaching to go out into the deep water, drop his nets for a catch. The Blackaby’s are helping a reader to see that taking Jesus’ teaching into deep water is how we are to make the big catch.
The big catch is something God is helping me see and experience just as He was helping Peter. God has been teaching me so much about overcoming as a new creation. He doesn’t want me to just know that I’m now a new creation because of the work He has done for me. He wants me to take what I’ve learned into the deep waters of my world around me. In so doing there will be a big catch. Ten years ago we started our Celebrate Recovery ministry. Tonight I’m giving my testimony to our group that was originally 7-10 people. Today it is between 40-50 each week. In addition we are growing the ministry to begin 4 new areas this Fall. God is taking what we are learning from Him into the deep, dark waters of our sinful souls where people are so trapped. Yet, when Light is shown in this darkness–Hope is seen. What I hear every time I give my testimony is that it gives the listener Hope. I use to think I needed to do all of this so I could be worthy of God’s Grace and Love–earn it. Now I’m understanding that it’s earned through Jesus Christ’s Work on the Cross. I receive it as a Gift. I simply take what He has done for me into the deep water of the listener’s soul so Christ can help them know He will do this for them too. What a Loving God we have! The freedom He offers is found in this giving back.
I use to think I was a very flexible person and in some regards I believe I still am. However, I’m finding as God is helping me become the new creation He has created in me, I am not nearly as flexible as I thought. This morning God is nudging me to have a talk with someone I’ll be with regarding an incident in their work which is troubling them. I’ve already had the conversation with God about the “what ifs” and He simply reminded me He has already nudged me and obedience is my next step. I want to anticipate what the other person is going to think. However, God has pointed out that this is His territory, not mine. I know God is eternally right so I will take the step as the door opens.
My devotional by the Blackaby’s keeps hitting me smack in the face. Today they are talking about our walk with God. If we are comfortable in all circumstances in our life we likely are not obeying God in all areas where He is nudging us. Obedience takes us into areas of risk. I started the book of James today and only got through the first chapter. James is quick to tell us that faith is the key to following his half-brother, Jesus Christ. I love this book thinking what life must have been like trying to understand a brother like Jesus in your home and then to find out that this brother is the Savior of the world and I’ve doubted him so many times. James was awakened to the full truth of his brother, Jesus Christ, and God is wanting us to do the same both with Jesus and with Himself. He gave us His Holy Spirit to help us know when He is speaking to us and to also give us the words when we are to speak or give us the steps when the action is different than words.
This area of obedience is nothing other than full-time. I want to be a new creation flexible with God to obey as He nudges me. I’m sure glad He is a patient God!
I awoke this morning with my mind whirling. These next three weeks will wrap up the State Dept. of Education (SDE) work I do. The work with the schools is more year round. However, the SDE ends its work when spring testing begins for students in their schools which usually starts after spring break. Since I’m now leading our additional recovery program developments I find myself having conflicting schedules and commitments in the next couple weeks. Of course there is always choir & quartet practices to somehow work in also. I would have to reprioritize if these conflicts sustained longer than a couple weeks.
Yesterday afternoon our church held its quarterly leadership training. It is a new package of training that equips the attendees for “giving back” to God’s Kingdom Work. It is somewhat like the last lesson of the Celebrate Recovery year-long set of lessons. This lesson is “Yes”–saying Yes to God in giving back for what He is given you through your recovery. I enjoy and support what our church is doing. Kathy and I took part in the 3rd session last night which is knowing your spiritual gifts so they may be best applied where God is nudging you. These are not new tools to me for I’ve used them before in the school setting as well as the church one. However, I was struck last night that apostleship was 2nd on my list. That hasn’t been the case before or if it were I’d laughed at such a thought. I wasn’t even sure what this meant? Later it said it is the ability to start ministries and churches as well as move into new areas, regions or countries. I’ve done some of this in my life but I’ve never seen it as a gift. My top one was shepherding which wasn’t a surprise. Third was a tie between leadership and encouraging. I sense God using these more fully these days. In my earlier years I’d feel obligated to make these things happen dutifully.
Today, being much more awake to the new creation God is making in me (in each of us who believe) I realize these gifts being developed are the completion of the new creation being used for God and lead by Him. Before I thought I had to take charge of this instead of listening carefully to The Holy Spirit within me. Before I feared what I would hear and now I anticipate what I will hear. I trust God so much more now that I know He loves me as a son. I’m so humbled and grateful for this. God is so patient and kind. How much I do love Him.