God keeps me sober

I’ve known people who have mocked me for my religious practice.  Some have been coworkers. Some have even been friends.

What they don’t understand is that if it weren’t for God, I’d be still stuck in the hell that is addiction.  My religious practice helps me to remember that, to give thanks for that, and to keep connected with God to keep the healing happening. Recovery isn’t a one-time thing, but a daily (sometimes hourly) struggle.  You have to keep doing what you did to get sober, or you will quickly regress. If you aren’t going forward, you’re going to go backwards.  There is no staying still in sobriety.

I have a tattoo of Raphael the archangel on my calf as a testimony to how God has helped me.  When people ask about it, I tell them how Raphael’s name means “God has healed” and I tell them about what I’ve been through, and how God has pulled me out of it.  They don’t get it – they say that I did the work.  I tell them that it is God who gave me the strength to make it happen.

Part of my religious practice is to say blessings. There are hundreds of things to give thanks over according to Jewish practice.  Food is just one category.  There are blessings to be said upon seeing a rainbow, for hearing thunder, and even for buying new clothes.  There is a blessing for almost any kind of human experience you can think of. Some rabbis state that you should say 100 blessings a day, and while that may seem excessive, just being on the lookout for that many things to give thanks about is the best game of hide-and-seek you will ever play.

 

When I say a blessing,

I’m not blessing the food

(or the event).

I’m reminding myself

that I am blessed

to have the food

(or experience the event).

I’m reminding myself

of the One

who made it possible.

 

It is modern to talk about mindfulness.  Most people who practice mindfulness run as far away from religious practice as possible.  However, I say that you can’t beat saying 100 blessings a day for a mindfulness practice. Looking for things to be grateful about and to give thanks over to the One that gave these gifts to you helps keep depression at bay.

I leave you with a traditional Chassidic Jewish saying – “When a man suffers he ought not to say, ‘That’s bad!’ Nothing that God imposes on man is bad. But it is all right to say ‘That’s bitter!’ For among medicines there are some made with bitter herbs.” Attitude makes the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.  It is your choice.  And my choice is to have a religious practice to keep me on the right path.

Reap and sow

Jesus told his disciples that “You reap where others have sown” – but it is also true that you will sow where others will reap. You may never see the fruit of your efforts, but do them anyway.

Do not be jealous for fame or attention – it may never happen in your lifetime. Or at all. Do good deeds anyway. Do what God calls you to do without attachment to outcome. If God calls you to the task, it will reach fruition in God’s time – not yours. God is meant to be glorified – not you.

We may be “standing on the shoulders of giants” – but even giants have to stand on the earth. Be humble enough to be earth – to provide a stable footing, a sure foundation, for those who build after you.

Hand it over

When you forgive, you aren’t saying that what happened was okay. You aren’t saying that who did it to you was justified. However you are saying that it isn’t your place to exact judgment or revenge.

To continue to hold a grudge over something doesn’t punish the criminal, but yourself. You hold yourself hostage. It is better to give the situation over to God – the true judge – and let justice happen when and how it is best.

When you hand things that are too heavy over to God, you are not only lightening your load, you are also handing them over to the One who is the most able to handle them. Leave it with the expert – God. You don’t need to carry it anymore.

 

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

He is referring to the verses in Deuteronomy 32:35, where God says:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.”
Also, consider these words from Psalm 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army deploys against me,

my heart is not afraid;

though a war breaks out against me,

still I am confident.

However, consider also the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, when he was on the cross, being tormented and attacked –

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

He didn’t call on God to avenge.  He called on God to forgive. Now we often aren’t that spiritually evolved, especially when we are in the middle of the situation.  However, we aren’t alone in our struggles.  We have Jesus to help us.

 

 

(All Bible translations are HCSB.)

In the room

Just enduring is hard. It is living, but not being alive. It wears us out. The more we endure, the more we get closer to the edge.

You don’t have to be suicidal to get help.  You don’t have to be standing on the ledge. Just being in the room with the open window is enough.

It might help to call and talk to someone who knows how to hear what you are going through in a way that can help. You can’t lose anything by calling – and you might gain a lot – like a new perspective. The person on the other end of the line might know of something that you could do or some resource that will open things up.

Here is the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-8255.  There is someone available to listen all the time. It is free and confidential. Please call.  You are important.

Play

I like to play the piano. And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform. I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”. I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create. I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.
How do songs get created? Just like this. Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions. Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.
There is something interesting about how music is taught these days. We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own. We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music. Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.
Writing isn’t like this. We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up. We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience. With writing, you write what is in your head and heart. Playing a musical instrument should be the same.
For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”. They see it and don’t know what to do. Where to start? Then what happens next? How will it sound? One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing. Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard. You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.
Playing music is like driving on a road without a map. You are guaranteed to find new places that you like. But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out. This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process. Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.

Poem – It isn’t them

Don’t blame other people
for your problems.
Don’t expect other people
to rescue you
either.

They are not
the cause
or the cure.

Your choices
determine your reality.
Things happen
that are beyond your control
but your reaction
is within it.

What you do or don’t do
is your choice.
How you respond
in thought, word, and deed
is your choice.

Take ownership
of your life
and take
your own life
back.
It was yours
all along
after all.

Begin again

When we are raised with abusive or neglectful parents, we learn maladaptive coping mechanisms. When we grow up, we often unconsciously continue those habits, reflexively acting, mindlessly being. With the new life that is offered to us through Jesus, we can begin again, with a new Parent in God, who loves us unconditionally and without measure. We can learn how to act in new healthy ways, rather than being stuck in our old mindless habits. Jesus calls us to a new life of being awake and fully alive and present in every moment. This is the promise of new life in Jesus – a slate wiped clean, a chance to start again. No longer are we slaves to our past. No longer are we consigned to repeat our actions, over and over, flinching from blows that no longer come.