June 30

Prayer:  Practicing the presence of peace

       It is not enough to just talk about peace.  You need to feel it, experience it.  But how can you experience something that seems so hard to grasp, something that’s just a concept?  There is a way to practice the presence of God and to encourage the presence of peace in your life.  This section is not so much theoretical as it is practical.  In order to experience God’s peace you must do certain things in a certain way.  And it’s simple, but not easy.

       Learning to hear God’s voice is not as complicated as it may seem; in fact, it’s a very simple  procedure.  And it’s the simple nature of prayer that makes it possible to hear the still, small voice of God.  In the 12-Step program we refer to the God of our understanding as our Higher Power.  In prayer I am very aware of an “Inner Power” for the still, small voice of God can be heard within my own being.

       Call it intuition, or call it self-talk, God’s voice can be heard when I purposely simplify what I do.  When you begin to pray and to meditate, it will be difficult at first because you’re not used to sitting still for more than a few seconds.  It’s about the mind chatter… you know, the endless noise in your head that you don’t even notice until you stop to pray and meditate.  That’s what makes it seem difficult.

       The practice of prayer is a way of nurturing your relationship with God.  Your Higher Power isn’t something impersonal like a chair or a book.  It’s a person, but much more than a mere person.  Your Higher Power is the Source of all things including your very existence.  Be not mistaken; God is personal, and you can nurture your relationship with your Higher Power as you would with any other person you know.

       Communing with God begins with acknowledging His presence.  You need not doubt that God exists and that He desires to have a relationship with you.  To simply affirm that God is near and cares about you is where you begin. 

       One important part of prayer is petition:  Asking for something.  There are many scriptures that address the topic of prayer and, in particular, petitioning God.  Knowing how to ask is just as important as asking.  How many times have you asked God for something and received nothing?  There are ways to petition God, but mostly an attitude which I call “the open heart.”

       If you are deepening your relationship with God it’s because you are practicing three things:  Honesty, gratitude and humility.  Truthful honesty is what and deepens the relationship and establishes your prayers.  Gratitude and humility is an attitude that allows you entrance into God’s holy presence. 

 Tomorrow’s topic- Prayer:  Experiencing the power of God’s peace

June 29

Trust:  Accepting God’s grace

       If we trust God for things over which we have little or no control, for things that – without God’s help – would never happen, we simply show our trust in God by letting go of our limitations.  And without our letting go we would never be able to receive God’s grace.  As long as we think we are in control and remain in a safe place where we can feel self reliant, we cannot possibly accept God’s grace.  “Jesus, take the wheel” is a phrase that sums up not only our need for but also our acceptance of God’s grace.

       If you want miracles to happen in your life you’re going to have to let go.  Just let go! 

       Like those of us who have worked the 12 Steps of AA, you must begin by admitting your own powerlessness, your limitations.  You will never let go of your limitations until you acknowledge what they are.  These are the things that are out of reach, but things that we need in order to live victorious lives. 

       These are the things that cause us to turn to our Higher Power.  Without God we will never know the inner power to transcend our shortcomings and limitations.  There are things that need to be done that we do not have the power to do.  And it is for these things that we need the grace of God.

       Making positive changes in your life can be painful.  The old ways (addictions, obsessions, compulsions) are cozy and familiar.  In order to move past these old ways it requires courage, acceptance and trust. 

       The discomfort of positive change is enough to keep us stuck in our old familiar ways.  A German proverb goes like this:  “An old error is more popular than a new truth.”  The fear and discomfort of new and uncharted territory is enough to send us back to our addictions, obsessions and compulsions. 

       That is why trust is so necessary to make the change complete.  Trust in your Higher Power will carry you through any change that is difficult.  Surrendering to God is a matter of trust because you really don’t have any previous experience to fall back on.  All you have is faith.

       It takes faith to please God.  In other words, if you want God’s grace to flow in your life you must let go; you must surrender your life and will to God completely.  It’s up to us to accept God’s grace, to open up the spiritual channels of Divine Love. 

       Surrender (courage, acceptance, trust) prepares our hearts to receive God’s grace.  The soil of your heart is hard and fallow, and needs to be prepared for the seeds of grace.  Realize that God’s grace is, by definition, a gift.  One we must receive, if we are ready. 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Prayer:  Practicing the presence of peace

June 28

Trust:  Letting go of cynicism

                One thing that disappears if you truly trust God is cynicism.  You know the phrases:  “That’ll never work, it’s never been done before.”  It ‘s “the glass is half empty” attitude.  There is a ton of anger and resentment hidden beneath the surface of the cynic.

       Cynicism can reveal itself in basically two different forms.  It can either have an edge to it like, “What makes you think that you’re going to be able to do that?”  Or it can have a resigned, powerless tone like, “I’ve got this black cloud hanging over my head… nothing ever goes my way.”  In either case, you’re either judging someone else or you’re making a judgment about yourself. 

       The person who trusts God and trusts him/herself simply wouldn’t exhibit this kind of attitude.  The person who trusts God has a quiet understanding about what to expect from God.  This person knows that ‘come hell or high water’ they will receive what they need.

       The person who believes in him/herself has a positive expectation about the future.  Even though it hasn’t arrived (and it never will – it’s always right now) the future holds great promise for the trusting soul.  Positive expectation is pretty much the opposite of cynicism.  The person who has a positive outlook sees the glass half full.  “The sun will come out tomorrow” becomes the theme song of the trusting soul.  This person knows that all things are possible to those who trust in God.

       Does this mean that bad things will never happen to the one who trusts?  At the risk of sounding negative I’d have to say that we all know this isn’t realistic.  Bad things happen to good people all the time.  Then what’s the point of staying positive if “things aren’t going to work out?”

       The point is this:  Good stuff happens, and bad stuff happens every day.  What makes the difference is all in our attitude.  Positive or negative; grateful or cynical.  It doesn’t take any courage to become a cynic.  It’s actually the easy and ‘safe’ route; but it leaves the soul empty and afraid.

       Trusting souls don’t wait for things to happen; they make them happen.  The one who trusts in God first gives before receiving, gives love in order to receive love.  “Give and it shall be given unto you.”  I think we’re talking about the “Law of Attraction.”  If you want more of something, give it away to others, and it will all come back to you in spades.  Giving generously, from the heart, will ensure that your future is bright.  Giving is also a way of telling your mind you have confidence, that there is no shortage, and that there is no poverty.  Giving generously causes you to move confidently toward a life of abundance. 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Trust:  Accepting God’s grace

June 27

Trust:  The reality of abundance

       “Yeah, but…” you say.  “If I get my hopes up too high I’ll just be setting myself up for disappointment.”        That’s right.  There are no guarantees.  And, yes, things don’t always turn out the way we planned.  Life is full of disappointment.  People let us down, the weather lets us down, and the economy lets us down.  It would appear that things are stacked against us. 

       Don’t you feel this way?  Who doesn’t?  And so we play it safe.  We don’t get our hopes up so we don’t get disappointed.  We don’t dream too big because it hurts when things don’t work out.  We know people who try to get ahead; they put together a plan and then they spend money on their plan.  Things start out pretty good but end really bad with more debt than when they first started. 

       And we smile knowing that we were smarter than our more adventurous friends.  Didn’t they know?  There just isn’t enough luck to go around in the world.  Success is for the lucky few; most of us are grounded, destined to peck away in the chicken coop of our lives.  “It’s best that we stay inside the coop where it’s safe.”

       This kind of thinking springs from the belief that there is a shortage, limited resources in a shrinking world.  And like the great depression in war torn Europe, there isn’t enough to go around.  We believe in lack, scarcity, and deficiency.  We were raised that way.  “Do you think money grows on trees?” was a favorite one of my parents.  I heard it recited many times, and grew to expect very little from life and from God.

       But God actually teaches us a very different notion.  With God there is no shortage, no limits, no lack.  However, we fail to believe this truth about God, our Source.  We forget that God is our Source, the One who put us here, the one who sustains us, and the One who can save us from ourselves.  We don’t believe in God, or at least in a God of abundance.  And so we stay ‘grounded’ in our safe little lives inside the chicken coop.  We choose not to venture outside the confines of our pathetic little lives because of fear.  Fear of poverty is one dread that holds us back.  Fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, and fear of failure prevent us from stepping out to do what might actually improve our lives.

       God is good.  God is our Source and can be trusted.  Trust is what we have because we believe in a God of abundance.  God is not poverty stricken.  In fact, God knows no limits.  Your Higher Power can take your life of poverty and limitations, and cause it to flourish and blossom with Life.  But if you have not faith, if you choose not to believe, then you have a huge block in your life.  This block, this lack of faith, will prevent you from receiving good things from your Source.  Your belief in scarcity will bring you poverty.  Your belief in God’s abundance will bring you Life.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Trust:  Letting go of cynicism

June 24

Trust:  Looking to the future

       Trust begins with belief.  Belief in God, yes.  Trust in God also translates into belief in one’s self.  I was taught (mostly by attitude and example) that you can’t trust yourself, hence, you shouldn’t believe in yourself; your belief is in God, not yourself.  But I think more accurately that without surrender you cannot trust or believe in yourself.  It’s really not a question of whether I should believe in myself – I simply cannot.

       “Somebody bigger than you and I.”  What gives me courage and faith is trusting in my Higher Power.    If I am surrendered to God, I can therefore have faith that my Higher Power will give me the power to do what seems to be impossible.  Trust in my Higher Power allows me to look to the future with boldness and confidence.

       And it’s this confidence – in God and in myself – that helps me to face the future.  I am no longer attached to my past failures, disappointments, hurts and resentments because I have hope for the future.  The past will always try to hold me back, and it will if I let it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

       We all want guarantees.  I worked for a company that makes suspension helper springs sold as an after-market product.  (That just means that they were sold as an accessory to strengthen the existing suspension.)  We offered a lifetime warranty and a customer satisfaction.  And the product sold like hotcakes.  If a potential customer was at the tipping point and ready to buy, the mention of these two guarantees helped them make up their minds. 

       But we do not have the same guarantees in life.  If your life is shattered and falling apart, you can’t just take it back for a new one.  No one’s going to refund your money.  The future is not ours to see.  But that doesn’t matter.  What gives us hope for the future is not some ‘guarantee’ about how life will turn out, but a daily assurance that we can live with confidence today, in this present moment.  We don’t need to obsess about tomorrow.  If we do, we will miss out on what is happening today.  And it’s all good!

       Trust begins with belief in God and one’s self; this belief turns into faith and hope.  Hope for the future eventually crystallizes into a vision of the future.  This is a picture of how things ought to be.  This is not a goal with steps all mapped out scientifically.  This vision is a mental picture without all the steps, and without any definite plan on how to get there.  If you have a clear vision that inspires you, you can hold your head up high and move in the direction of your vision with confidence, and without shame.

       If you have accepted your human limitations, you then need to let go of them.  Then place your trust in your Higher Power to provide you with the people and the resources that will enable you to do the impossible.  

 Tomorrow’s topic – Trust:  The reality of abundance

June 23

Trust:  The presence of hope

       “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”  Nelson Mandela

       This quotation inspires us to let go of fear.  For “as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  There are self-imposed limitations in all of us, limitations that keep us from accomplishing something really great. 

       But we do have limits; we are not God and thus we are not unlimited.  On our own the sky is not the limit; on our own we are quite limited.  But we use this as an excuse for not doing the things of which we are capable.  If we are to exceed our present circumstances, then we must be willing to let go of our limitations.

       When we surrender to God we expand our human efforts and establish the presence of hope in our lives and in our world.  It is this hope that causes us to move forward with faith.  Our actions are a result of our faith, for “faith without works is dead.” 

 Trust.  The ingredient that defines our newly surrendered relationship to God.  For our relationship is one of trust.  How can you depend on someone else if you don’t trust them? 

       And trust will increase with continual action:  I call it “baby steps.”  If it were not for the faith and hope of its parents, a young child would never learn to walk.  A child that suffers from such trauma will remain in the crib, and eventually die.  Baby steps move us out of the “spiritual nursery” and into a more responsible and mature adult life.

       Baby steps are required in order for us to learn.  No one is required to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  No miraculous come-backs or death defying leaps across the Grand Canyon… just hopeful and trusting baby steps.  We simply move in the right direction with cautious optimism.

       Surrender requires trust.  Or perhaps you could say that surrender is trust, for you cannot have one without the other.  Just as courage is necessary for you to surrender (you must overcome your fear) and also acceptance (you must do it responsibly), trust is a requirement for those who would move forward with a heart full of hope.

       It is this great hope that gives the surrendered heart the ability to let go of all limitations.  It is this hope that fills the heart with confidence that far more can be accomplished with God than without. 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Trust:  Looking to the future

June 22

Trust:  Letting go of our Limitations

       When we surrender to God we expand our human efforts and establish the presence of hope in our lives and in our world.  It is this hope that causes us to move forward with faith.  Our actions are a result of our faith, for “faith without works is dead.” 

       Trust.  The ingredient that defines our newly surrendered relationship to God.  For our relationship is one of trust.  How can you depend on someone else if you don’t trust them? 

       Trust begins with belief.  Belief in God, yes.  Trust in God also translates into belief in one’s self.  I was taught (mostly by attitude and example) that you can’t trust yourself, hence, you shouldn’t believe in yourself; your belief is in God, not yourself.  But I think more accurately that without surrender you cannot trust or believe in yourself.  It’s really not a question of whether I should believe in myself – I simply cannot.

         We don’t get our hopes up so we don’t get disappointed.  We don’t dream too big because it hurts when things don’t work out.  We know people who try to get ahead; they put together a plan and then they spend money on their plan.  Things start out pretty good but end really bad with more debt than when they first started. 

       And we smile knowing that we were smarter than our more adventurous friends.  Didn’t they know?  There just isn’t enough luck to go around in the world.  Success is for the lucky few; most of us are grounded, destined to peck away in the chicken coop of our lives.  “It’s best that we stay inside the coop where it’s safe.”

       One thing that disappears if you truly trust God is cynicism.  You know the phrases:  “That’ll never work, it’s never been done before.”  It ‘s “the glass is half empty” attitude.  There is a ton of anger and resentment hidden beneath the surface of the cynic.

       Cynicism can reveal itself in basically two different forms.  It can either have an edge to it like, “What makes you think that you’re going to be able to do that?”  Or it can have a resigned, powerless tone like, “I’ve got this black cloud hanging over my head… it’ll never work – nothing ever goes my way.”  In either case, you’re either judging someone else or you’re making a judgment about yourself. 

       At the beginning of this chapter we were looking at the idea of “letting go of our limitations.”  This isn’t about trusting God for what is in our power to do.  We trust God for things over which we have little or no control, and for things that – without God’s help – would never happen.  In this sense, we simply show our trust in God by letting go of our limitations.

Tomorrow’s topic:  Trust:  The presence of hope

June 21

Acceptance:  Accepting responsibility

       you recognize your responsibility for your anger and resentment, and accept it as your own, you are on the road to freedom.  Acceptance is not resignation; resignation only leads to more resentment.  Acceptance has more to do with embracing the present circumstances, not being resigned to them.  Acceptance brings closure to a problem; resignation does not.  Acceptance ends the suffering, resignation wallows in it.

       Acceptance is recognizing that you have the power to change things.  It recognizes the fact that you got yourself here and you are able to get yourself out.  You are finally ready to take the appropriate action that will give you your freedom.  Accepting your responsibility for your circumstances empowers you to take action.

       Accepting responsibility clears up the chaos in your life.  Let’s face it, you have enough chaos in a day, and you don’t need to create more.  But when you resist the chaos and play the victim, you simply extend the turmoil indefinitely and increase the suffering.

       When you “love what is” you allow it to simply be.  Much of what happens to you cannot be controlled or contained.  If you try to control or contain life, you resist; and that’s where the suffering comes from.  Resisting.  It’s not the circumstances that are causing you pain; it’s your resistance to your circumstances.

       When you “love what is” you accept life on life’s terms.  When you embrace your circumstances and take responsibility for your life, you clear up a lot of the chaos.  And the resentment that had a grip on you grows weaker every day.  You are no longer the victim.  You are taking control. 

       So you see, letting go is more of an embrace than a release.  You can’t hold more than one belief at a time; and you can’t hold more than one attitude at a time.  If you are going to embrace life on life’s terms, then you are going to have to release your resentment.  Keep on embracing life ‘as is’ without judgment, and you will begin to see resentment fade away naturally.  The willing embrace of life is an attitude that spells the death of resentment. 

       I spent years and years running from my responsibilities; as a father, husband, and friend.  I thought God would make things happen without any input from me.  “Things will just happen, you’ll see…” I would tell myself.  What I failed to realize was I was going with the flow, taking whatever came my way because I refused to take any risks.

       Acceptance allows us to let go and let God.  And when we truly let go we become free of all our attachments.  We are then ready to take life on life’s terms as mature adults.  We begin to realize that we are not the center of the universe.  God is.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Trust:  Letting go of our limitations

June 20

Acceptance:  Putting an end to resentment

       It has been said that resentment is a poison you swallow while you wait for the other person to die.  Resentment may taste delicious when we swallow it, but it eats away at our insides causing our bodies to break down.

       There is a connection between body, mind and spirit.  The body is more than just a machine; it is powered by the mind.  And the mind is more than just a brain; it is powered by the spirit.  If you shut off the supply of strength from the Source – (the Universal Mind, God) – your mind begins to spiral downward into darkness and insanity.  As a result the body is full of darkness and suffers as a result.

       When your intentions are to lash out and hurt somebody, you are the one who suffers the most.  This is how we swallow the poison of resentment:  Thinking and speaking words of bitterness and hate aimed at another.  Make no mistake; the words we think and feel and speak are like a poison that slowly spreads into our lungs and our major organs, traveling through our arteries eventually reaching our limbs and outer extremities.

       In order to put an end to resentment you must see it as a poison, not a pleasure. 

       When an addict begins recovery he/she must start at step one:  “We admitted we were powerless over (the addiction), that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Many alcoholics reach a point where they realize that the alcohol is no longer bringing pleasure.  In fact, the reason they enter into a recovery program is because of the suffering that their addiction to alcohol is causing them and their loved ones.

       But resentment, like alcohol, is not that easy to just walk away from.  Giving up resentment is like trying to give up cigarettes; it can really get a hold on you.  And medical treatment or psychological analysis is not going to stop it.  That’s because it’s a spiritual problem, and spiritual battles must be fought with spiritual weapons. 

       Oddly enough, these weapons aren’t really weapons at all, at least not in the way we normally think of weapons.  They are more like tools – ways we can maintain sobriety.  And, like any tool, they aren’t much good unless you use them.  The tools of a recovering addict are: 1) Sobriety; 2) Sponsorship; 3) Steps; 4) Service.  The heart of the program is the Steps – the 12 Steps. 

       The promise of the 12 Steps is a spiritual awakening.  This ‘awakening’ is how a recovering alcoholic begins his/her recovery; and ‘service’ (the 12th step) is how the alcoholic keeps it.  Resentment can be conquered only by looking at it squarely, in the face.  No sugar-coating, and no minimizing.  And action (the 12 Steps) is required to bring about a spiritual change and an end to resentment.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance:  Accepting responsibility

June 17

Acceptance:  The reality of ‘right now’

       We have spent a great deal of time examining illusion: how we see ourselves, the rest of the world, and God.  How do we know what is real?  If we can’t trust our thoughts, how can we tell the difference between reality and fantasy?

       Stop thinking!  Become aware of what is around you and in you.

       Stop judging!  Realize that what is, is holy.  We cannot judge a certain something to be good or bad without constructing a story around that person, thing or event.  We can’t be sure that our memories serve us well; they may be vivid, but we can’t be sure if our interpretation of the past is accurate.

       All we can really know for sure is that we are here in this present moment.  If we can’t be sure about this present moment then all is smoke and mirrors, a hallucination, a dream from which we will never awaken.  But if we are to begin somewhere, it is in this “present moment.” 

       The only reality we have is the reality of right now.  The past and the future are an illusion.  They do not exist.  There’s no such thing as time-travel.  You cannot go back in time or go forward to the future.  The past is a vapor, and the future is always out of reach.  They simply do not exist in reality – only in our minds, that is, our thoughts.

       If we are to experience God it will be in this present moment, right now.  We won’t find God in the past or the future.  If God exists, He or She will not be found by searching for tomorrow, or rummaging around in yesterday.  Our only reality is right now; it is in this present, eternal moment that God exists.

       This present moment is where you can be honest with yourself about how you feel – really feel.  This present moment holds great power for you because when you are “in the moment” you are truly aware of your emotional state, your true feelings.

       It’s the reality of right now that enables us to gain an appreciation for the magic in the moment, the little things that go unnoticed, the little miracles that occur every day of which we are not aware.  If our focus is on what we don’t have, we will miss what we do have. 

       When we get lost in all of the illusions we save in our minds, we miss so much.  When we are able to get past all the illusions, we are left with one thing:  Love.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance:  Putting an end to resentment