How to Have Faith…(when you feel faithless)

Something I hear often in recovery meetings or in conversation with others is, “I don’t have faith.” I can respond from my personal experiences and understanding gathered from study, but seldom do. The reason is that people have their mind made up regarding how they view self, religion, life, etc., and mostly unwilling to listen to any answer until their pain is great enough to want change in life.

The truth is, we all have faith. We are born with a bit of it. But faith has to develop, grow from a seed into a thriving tree…even an entire forest. How that occurs is through the ears, hearing…to understand. An example seen in recovery meetings is the newcomer.

Newbies come to AA or NA, unsure if they will be helped at all. They hear how others with similar issues or problems, kept coming back until they found hope, got clean and sober, and their life improved beyond their dreams. The newbie finds that hope and returns again and again until their faith grows a belief worthy of total trust.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17 ESV
(To amplify this passage, I like to say, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing, and hearing…)
Jesus said: Have faith in God…”I say to you, whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:22, 24 NKJV

Faith goes in through the ears, into the heart and mind, then out of the mouth. This is a fact for belief systems, no matter what the belief system is. Even the atheist has faith in no God by the same method; they hear atheist teaching, their mind accepts those teachings as truth, and their mouth speaks their faith in there being no cause for life, it just happened.

What if I am not in Recovery? How can I get faith?
Here are a few suggestions to grow your faith.

1. Pray, whether you believe in God or not. A simple, “God, are you for real? If you are, will you please help me believe? I really want to know.” (You will be contacted…I have faith in that fact.)

2. What are you listening to right now? Turn it off. TV, music, negative thoughts bouncing around in your head, or a negative friend or relative-do-nothing griping there is nothing to do. Sit down and read this post aloud to yourself. Or, read Mark 11, Romans 10 aloud to yourself. Read a devotional or the Big Book of AA. Allow something positive to enter the ear and lodge in your heart.

3. Affirm aloud to yourself, “I belong to God”…or, ” I’m getting better every day, my life is improving as I hear truth, I believe.

This is just a start to cultivating the greatest resource, or spiritual tool we all have. Faith is essential for recovery, for learning, for every endeavor attempted by mankind. Invention, exploration, and discovery are all born of faith. Be savvy to this as well, doubt and fear are the arch-enemies of faith. These little imps produce questions in spite of proofs, tear down the most powerful of dreams and hopes.

Choose faith over fears. Take this final passage with you into next week and personalize it saying it aloud to yourself:
…Be strong and courageous, don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!”

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How to be Grateful…(when you don’t want to)

The question I had to ask myself was, “what in the world has happened to you?” The past two years has been nothing short of a real smack-down of sobrietal reality. Depression? Frustration? What is going on, and furthermore, what did I do to deserve this garbage? All I wanted to do was help others get, and stay clean and sober. Yet, here I am struggling to do the simplest tasks in every area of life.

We alcoholics and addicts tend to look at everything external to find who, or what to blame. Eventually with God’s help, the message is clear…look in the mirror and you’ll see the problem.
It is me. I look at the inward self and see how I am seldom prepared for battles life delivers. The core of this onslaught is ingratitude. If I see gratitude as an action word, then ingratitude is a lack of action, not giving back what I’ve been given.

How can I stay grateful when I don’t feel it? 
It’s words. Not a fake-it-till-u-make-it way. I have to look beyond the veil of deceit that this existence offers through mankind’s fall from grace. That is, count blessings, say words of thanksgiving to God, and DO little actions to cause zeal for service to others to return.

I was so grateful to God early in my recovery that I wanted to give back any way I could. I was willing to clean the men’s room, empty trash, both at church and at AA. When I felt down, or felt old behaviors trying to rule me, I went to the AA meeting place, having a key, and cleaned. I cleaned and prayed. God heard and answered, not because I cleaned, but because I put faith and gratitude into action. Things changed, I was restored and refreshed with those little actions, giving back without anyone knowing but God.

Those early experiences catapulted me to spiritual fitness, hungry to serve, thirsty for knowing more because….this really works! Expressions of gratitude filled my conversations and prayers. I understood what people had said in meetings, how the grateful souls are those who DO gratitude, not merely say it. Those who express gratitude, live with purpose and experience joy, peace, and confidence in God’s ways, that are far beyond human comprehension…I mean, how can being thankful change my situation from distress to feeling fulfilled with purpose? It is a God thing altogether.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s decree. “For as the skies soar high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, the way I think is beyond the way you think….the words I come out of My mouth will not come back empty handed. They will do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Is.55:8-9,11. (The Message)

God Does Nothing like humans. Our gratitude is nutty to people’s way of thinking. People think being grateful for anything they cannot eat, spend, possess, etc., is foolish entirely.

Gratitude may be hard when I don’t feel grateful. But if I say what I hear others say; “well, that’s just how I feel, I’m just being honest,” I will not come out of this funk until I stop saying junked-up words from that trashy attitude. To know “this too shall pass,” is a nice saying, and true. When I stand up and thank God when I do not want to, and every thing is going wrong, He is pleased, making changes in me. Those changes lead me from that funk, to a clear and meaningful peace, a joyous way of living.

Think today of what you are not grateful for, write them down. Think today of what you are grateful for, write them down too. Then thank God for both for one week. See how the things you were not grateful for change,or ratherhow you view them. Will you be grateful for bad things? Will you see them as lessons in life? Maybe, maybe not. You will feel differently, I’m sure. For me, I know gratitude changes me from the inside out. I am grateful. Time to express it with action, and be healed.

Choosing Where to Live

It is nice to live in a place where the climate is always suitable, the neighborhoods are friendly and crime free, and of course, everywhere you look you see beauty. That would be ideal, a Shangri-la, I suppose. That is totally non-existent, I believe. Where we live in this physical world may not be our choice, but how we live in our environment mentally, is a choice, mostly. That is, even in captivity from our enemies, and placed in prison, we still have a choice to dwell there in tranquil state of mind.

I know that is really a stretch. I say this living in a “free” country, in my home (the banks home), with electricity and running water, and gratefully healthy and mentally stable…I believe. I can refer to the stories of men and women imprisoned for their faith in Christ, for POWs, et al, coming through extreme difficulty, or ending in a martyrs death, yet through it all, had peace, had joy.

From my own experience, I have known great difficulty since arriving in recovery from alcoholism. Some of these experiences may have mentally crippled anyone, including myself, if not for God’s grace. Whether those who I mentioned, or myself, or others in similar situations, our choices now are paramount to survival and sanity. Preparation is key in any case. Prior to self-incarceration in our mind’s prison, or imprisonment from war, or beliefs, or whatever, filling the mind with good, with knowledge and understanding, can make us free in chains.

There is a place in the that may cripple the strongest of wills. That place is knowing truth, then for pleasure’s sake, rejecting truth, ending up in spiritual confusion, an unholy bondage.

By the rivers of Babylon we wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137 (regarding Judah’s captivity in Babylon)

Many people arrive in recovery from addictions, find hope and recover. They find, as it were, a new life, a new song, moving to into a new neighborhood in their hearts and minds. They learn to live in gratitude…a truly lovely place. They begin to see beauty in nearly everything, as God takes them each step forward. They still face major obstacles and unbearable situations. The choice to leave the old neighborhood of self-service, where crime ruled and misery pressed every thought, brought liberty and order.

Others prefer their captors chains, for now. The song-less life in darkness, hung up on the “good old days” misery, trying to recapture the feeling of that first high, their first drunken experience, and sexual experience. It never returns, forget it. There, joy and peace are exchanged for drama, for turmoil, phoniness, hoping for the next buzz to “get right.” The songs there point to rebellion, or to  enlargement of self thinking, “Now everyone will know who I AM.” 

Before evil raises it’s ugliness, make the choice to move to that neighborhood of wonderment where God creates new things just for you. Refuse the self-way preferring His way. Fill your mind with God, your actions be Christ’s, your direction of His Spirit, guiding you to discover living free of chains in your neighborhood. There is no limit in where He will take the surrendered will.

Labor of Love

Labor and love do not seem to belong in the same sentence, do they. The things I love to do I really do not consider that to be work. I enjoy shopping bargains. I could spend hours looking through old movies trying to find that special one vague to my memory. Books, music, and even vintage magazines, like old National Geographic editions can occupy me for long periods. It isn’t easy to place the enthusiasm I feel for treasure hunting into my job. I am grateful for the ability to work, and very grateful for the weekly paycheck. But how can I consider loving a job?

Attitude toward anything in life can change our perspectives from monotony to thrill. I really enjoy working, preferably work I know how to perform. I am not a friend to the unfamiliar. I have found that no matter what the job may be, boredom can set in, complacency can follow, and complaining begins. So I have to go to the Source to get answers why something I once liked to do is now detestable.

“Workers obey your earthly employers in everything you do. Try to please them all  the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Col.3:22-23 NLT

That passage is a real passage for me. A passage from disliking my job to enjoying my work. I find that when I enjoy the work I do for the money I earn, that enjoyment is like a hallway leading to enjoyment in everything, or any volunteer work I attempt. My attitude becomes infected to do good in everything, enjoying difficulties knowing it pleases God. That continues into doing the unfamiliar that I do not want to think about doing, let alone loving it.

Working in recovery groups was unfamiliar to me at first. When I could see that this could help others, as a follower of Christ, I determined to get involved. I love being a help, or at least trying to be one. The first month or so of blogging, well, I liked doing it, but I kept tripping over myself. I was more concerned how I was viewed by others instead of whether the post may help them. Things change with our attitude and the purpose in whatever you and I do, do it to please God. He takes care of the results. Make your labor your love.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.