July 15

Wisdom:  Engaging the study

       The best teachers remain students.  They teach what is new and fresh, not old and stale.  Teachers who keep studying have students who feel that they are engaging.  The attitude of a wise teacher is one of student rather than just mentor or instructor.  Teachers who are studying and learning new things are more engaged with their students because these teachers are fellow students.

       A wise teacher knows that there is always something more to learn.  Wisdom is never satisfied with the status quo; she questions everything and seeks to understand what others take for granted.  And the study of wisdom is ongoing.  Connecting the dots about our universe and our place in it is a study we could never exhaust.

       Your continuing study of wisdom will involve the relationship between fear and resistance.  It will involve connecting the dots between responsibility and blame.  It will involve the relationship between your powerlessness (weakness) and your Higher Power. 

       Your lessons in wisdom will entail the study of awareness:  Your personal and conscious contact with your Higher Power.  You will need to learn the difference between what is fantasy and what is reality.  The wise person knows the difference between illusion and truth.  Wisdom will attempt to peel back the layers of misconception and confusion about our emotional lives.

       The pursuit of wisdom entails making a long list of things (your personal inventory).  It means that you accept your own humanity and God’s Divinity.  The wise person knows the proper relationship between creature and Creator; the creature asks for grace and the Creator gives it.  It is a wise person who knows his/her limitations and has learned to depend on God for the things that are out of reach.

       The student of wisdom is seeking to shed more light on our darkness.  Every lie and every half-truth must be revealed.  The student of wisdom seeks to remove the smoke and mirrors that surround us and pierce through the darkness by shedding the light of truth.

       The wise person knows that we are not autonomous; in and of ourselves we are incomplete.  There is a “God-shaped hole” in every human, and we try to fill it with all kinds of substitutes that just don’t cut it.  The fool looks for love in all the wrong places, and never reaches the destination.

       The wise person is never satisfied with simplistic answers to complicated questions.  Wisdom patiently untangles the knots that bind and hold us back.  Wisdom doesn’t give up if the answer doesn’t come immediately.  Patience is necessary when an addict is seeking to work through the 12 Steps and break the bonds of addiction.  Shame is something that repeatedly comes up in my experience and tempts me to return to the addiction.  The patience of wisdom knows the difference between “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can.”

       “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…” 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Purpose:  Practicing the Presence of Joy

July 14

Wisdom:  The Willing Heart

       Wisdom is not the result of finishing a prescribed number of steps that can be found in a book – any book.  Wisdom is not just an intellectual exercise or a course of study that will certify you in “wisdom.”  Wisdom is much more than mental strength.

       Wisdom is the ability to make good choices, and that involves the heart.  It involves learning from and obeying your Higher Power.  The bible talks about the fear of God:  “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10

       What is the “fear of God?”  We mentioned earlier that it is humble surrender: The surrender of your heart.  And so the fear of God is the opening up of your heart to receive truth and wisdom.  This willingness of heart (the open heart) allows God to continue to give more wisdom because of your willingness to practice what you already know to be true.

       In a 12 step program we allow each member to choose their own concept of a Higher Power; but they must believe.  Each member of a 12-Step group must be willing to accept the possibility of a Higher Power.  This is critical to his/her recovery.  It is this willingness to believe that begins the journey back to sanity.  After all, they are not their highest power.  There is evidence that they are powerless.  Their lives are chaotic and unmanageable.  Each member knows this, and must, then, believe in a Higher Power if they are to have any hope of recovery.

       It is this willingness that is key to admitting, believing and deciding.  And it is the act of surrender that says, “I am willing.”  When someone in the program suddenly decides one day that they are not willing to continue in the 12 steps is the day they begin their decent back into insanity. 

       Wisdom begins with a willing heart.  A heart that remembers the years of insanity that is now past; a heart that is grateful for the sanity of this present moment; and a heart that is not afraid to face the future because of the hope that it feels now, in this present moment.

       An unwilling heart is afraid to let go, to give up the illusion that it is autonomous.  The unwilling heart does not believe in a Higher Power, and doesn’t trust in any other being – higher or otherwise – to make a positive difference.  “I can do it myself” is the motto of the unwilling heart.

       An unwilling heart knows all there is to know.  It trusts only in itself.

       The willing heart knows that it is in need of guidance from a Higher Power.  And it accepts that this is true.  There is no argument about a Higher Power.  It remains open to more revelations of truth, more wisdom to live by.  The willing heart remains a student.  Even after years as a teacher of truth and wisdom, the willing heart remains open to receiving more.  It knows that learning truth and wisdom is ongoing and each new day brings more challenges that require new insights and more wisdom.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  Engaging the study

July 13

Wisdom:  Understanding and Enlightenment

       “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

       The practice of wisdom is ongoing.  Just like prayer it is practiced daily.  Your education in the school of life never ends.  If you feel that you have “graduated” and you now know all there is to know, you are in trouble.  You are either practicing wisdom or folly.  If you aren’t pursuing wisdom then you are acting like a fool.

       Just as fear is the absence of love, folly is the absence of wisdom. 

       You may know a great deal of wise sayings and have even learned from experience the difference between wisdom and folly.  But the measure of wisdom is not based on your past performance, but your attention to wisdom in this present moment.

       The 12 Step program is one of self examination (personal inventory) on a daily basis.  Just like rust that never sleeps, so the addiction never dies.  It is a cancer that will come back without any encouragement.  All it requires is your neglect.  The addiction is cunning and baffling, and will make inroads into your life when you are not aware.

       Enlightenment is a revelation given by God.  It is never earned nor is there a formula that will guarantee this gift.  When you are ready to receive, it is granted.

       Understanding is practiced.  You can build on any gift of enlightenment or  “illumination” by putting into practice the understanding that has been given you freely by God.  It remains your responsibility to practice the things that are revealed to you by God.  Along with the privilege of knowing God’s thoughts is the responsibility to practice these precious truths by making them part of your daily life.

       So far we have talked about suffering, fear, chaos and religion; we have also covered seduction, lies, addiction and idolatry.  These topics all have three things in common: Resistance, Autonomy and Isolation.  Wisdom knows what these are, and avoids them like the plague.  It is a fool who understands the cause of suffering and yet continues to resist, to believe in autonomy and to remain in isolation. 

       The wise person understands that it is important to surrender to a Higher Power, and then to act with courage, acceptance and trust.  In other words, no wise action can take place until you have surrendered to your Higher Power.  True surrender requires courage to face your fears, acceptance of who you truly are, and trust in the process of life.

       Letting go and letting God is the first step to wisdom.  Daily self examination (taking your inventory) will keep you aware of your powerlessness.        And gratitude will increase your awareness of Who your source is.  For after all, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom…

Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  The Willing Heart

July 12

Wisdom:  Learning God’s Truth

       “If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”  James 1: 5,6

       Wisdom can be learned, but it can’t be taught.  A person can be taught all there is to know about love and life, and yet not possess the wisdom to be able to make the right choices.  Knowledge is power, but if it’s not pointed in the right direction it can be cruel and destructive.  The wise man has learned not only knowledge but also the ability to use that knowledge for a worthy and honorable purpose.

       Asking God for wisdom is a two step process:  1)  You see your need and humbly put in your request; 2)  You step out in faith and willingly do what is revealed to you even when doing so goes against all human reason.  If you are not able to wait patiently for direction from God and continue on your way making decisions the way you’ve always done, be assured that you will not receive what you asked for.  “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  James 1: 7,8

       When you are learning God’s truth you must be willing to give up all of your preconceived ideas.  You must be willing to do what you’ve never done before.  It requires faith because of uncertainty and fear.  It may require a little faith in people you never thought could show you the way.  It involves breaking through the prejudices that you have come to accept and being open to new ways of thinking and relating.

       You need to continually take your own personal inventory by examining your actions and asking yourself “how’s it working?”  Gaining wisdom is a thoughtful process and requires of you the willingness to call into question everything you think and do. 

       But taking action is necessary to gaining wisdom.  People frown on failure.  Nobody likes a loser.  Yet, only those who try and fail will learn wisdom; it’s the only way.  The experience you gain from winning and losing because you tried cannot be replaced with all the knowledge in the world. 

       That’s why a mentor is so valuable.  A mentor – a coach – can put things into perspective.  A mentor brings his own experience and wisdom to the mix.  This experience keeps the student on track.  Instead of allowing the failure to swallow the student whole, a mentor can keep the student on track by pointing out the benefits of trying and failing.  A mentor protects the heart of the student and offers encouragement to keep going.

       Wisdom is applied truth.  Only God has truth; no one else.  And God is the only One who can show us how to apply this truth to our lives.  Only God can teach us how to find the wisdom that will help us to lead our selves and others to serenity and peace.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  Understanding and Enlightenment

July 11

Wisdom:  Experiencing the reality of God’s Light

       I was taken to Sunday School as a child, and one of the Bible stories – and there were many – that stands out in my mind is when God offered a choice to King Solomon:  Riches or wisdom.  If Solomon chose riches God would give him riches; if he chose wisdom, God would give him wisdom.  It was his choice.

       And Solomon (wisely) chose wisdom.  Wealth was granted as well.  I think it says somewhere that “a fool and his money are soon parted.”  There is a definite link between wisdom and wealth (abundance).  Wealth does not make a man wise; but wisdom establishes a man’s wealth. 

       When it comes to Wisdom, there are two schools of thought:  Greek wisdom and Hebrew wisdom.

       The Greek concept of wisdom included thought, reason and logic.  The Hebrew concept of wisdom was very different, and included not just wise thought but prudent action.  The wise man made good choices.  “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” 

       It’s this kind of wisdom with which we shall be concerned.  Wisdom begins with the fear of God.  What is the fear of God?  Are we talking about the kind of fear that we began with in chapter one?  No, I don’t think so.  Fear of God is more a respect for all that is good and loving, honest and honorable.  It’s a clear choice in favor of truth and righteousness.

       “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” is wisdom offered to all who want to know God’s peace and provision.  The fear of God is making God a priority, demonstrating loyal trust in God’s kingdom of abundance.  We’re talking about loyalty and priority.  Just like Solomon asked for wisdom and received great riches, those who seek first the Kingdom of God shall be blessed with abundance.

       It’s interesting that making a few basic choices (a fork in the road) we either begin a journey into wisdom or folly.  Your decision to ‘go it alone’ will ultimately lead to folly and suffering.  But if you choose to truly surrender to God you will embark on a journey into wisdom and serenity.

       If you are convinced of your autonomy and continually make decisions not based on any divine principles but your own reasoning you will be fighting an uphill battle with the Universe.  You’ll be climbing a ladder that’s leaning up against the wrong wall.  And if and when you reach the top you won’t know why you climbed the ladder in the first place.  The words “it’s lonely at the top” will ring true for you.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  Learning God’s Truth

July 8

Wisdom:  Practicing the Presence of Light

       When it comes to Wisdom, there are two schools of thought:  Greek wisdom and Hebrew wisdom.

       The Greek concept of wisdom included thought, reason and logic which formed a philosophy.  The Hebrew concept of wisdom was very different, and included not just wise thought but wise action.  A wise man made good choices. 

       It’s this kind of wisdom with which we shall be concerned.  Wisdom begins with the fear of God.  What is the fear of God?  Are we talking about the kind of fear that we began with in chapter one?  No, I don’t think so.  Fear of God is a respect for all that is good and loving, honest and honorable.  It’s a clear choice in favor of truth and righteousness.

       Wisdom can be learned, but it can’t be taught.  A person can be taught all there is to know about love and life, and yet not possess the wisdom to be able to make the right choices.  Knowledge is power, but if it’s not pointed in the right direction it can be cruel and destructive.  The wise man has learned not only knowledge but also the ability to use that knowledge for a worthy and honorable purpose.

       Asking God for wisdom is a two step process:  1)  You see your need and humbly put in your request; 2)  You step out in faith and willingly do what is revealed to you even when doing so goes against all human reason.  If you are not able to wait patiently for direction from God and continue on your way making decisions the way you’ve always done, be assured that you will not receive what you asked for.  “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  James 1: 7,8

       Wisdom is not the result of finishing a prescribed number of steps found in a book.  Wisdom is not just an intellectual exercise or a course of study that will certify you in “wisdom.”  Wisdom is much more than intellectual might.

       Wisdom is the ability to make good choices; and this involves the heart.  It includes learning from and obeying your Higher Power.  The bible talks about the fear of God:  “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10

       A wise teacher knows that there is always something more to learn.  Wisdom is never satisfied with the status quo; she questions everything and seeks to understand what others take for granted.  And the study of wisdom is ongoing.  Connecting the dots about our universe and our place in it is a study we could never exhaust.

   Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  Experiencing the reality of God’s Light

July 7

Solitude:  Entering the Silence

      “Solitude carries with it a risk, and the risk is loneliness.” 

       We fear two things about solitude:  Loneliness and intimacy.  Those of us in recovery could not stand to be alone.  And yet we isolated ourselves in order to ‘act out’ in our addiction.  Solitude was not something that we knew how to do.  It took courage to remain in solitude and not act out because we feared to be alone.

       Loneliness is what all humans fear.  But it is possible to be alone and not be lonely.  It took several years before I could enjoy solitude.  Just sitting still was a feat that seemed to be impossible; I couldn’t seem to shut down all the random thoughts that kept popping into my head.  It was at these alone times that the addictive urge was strongest.

       But with patient practice over time I gradually began to enjoy the quiet times spent alone with God.  The mind chatter and noise subsided so that I could listen to the quiet. 

       In solitude you are alone, but not necessarily lonely.  Loneliness is accompanied by isolation.  One of the characteristics of an addict is the isolation, the loneliness.  But in recovery the addict can learn to be alone – in solitude – without feeling lonely.

       You don’t experience loneliness in solitude when you are communing with God because you are never alone.  There is a presence in your solitude with which you can communicate. 

       Another fear is intimacy.  It’s odd that the very antidote to loneliness is also the thing we fear.  We have spent so much time in isolation, hiding from others who we really are – afraid that if others knew who we really are they would no longer accept us – that we go to great lengths to avoid exposure.

       And here’s the thing:  Solitude is not isolation.  It is the courageous act of a trusting heart seeking intimacy with God. 

       Jesus accused the religious leaders of his day of hypocrisy.  He called them ‘white-washed tombs’ – nice on the outside, but “full of dead men’s bones.”  Intimacy requires honesty.  It requires that we admit who we are to ourselves and accept ourselves warts and all.  All that God requires of us is to come “just as I am.”

       There is a quiet place within you where heaven and earth meet, where you can speak with your Higher Power.  But in order to enter this quiet place, this silent place, you need to create some quiet around you.  It is necessary that you have quiet when you sleep.  You need it in order to be properly rested.  And the same applies to your time of prayer and meditation.  You need silence so that you can enter into the peace of God as you pray.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Wisdom:  Practicing the presence of Light

July 6

Prayer:  The Open Heart

       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 being open and honest.  Truth is what establishes and deepens the relationship.  And it’s this attitude of openness and honesty that establishes your prayers.  When you come to God and make a request it’s much like a son asking his father for something.  And the relationship has a great deal to do with the outcome.

       “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God… but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”  James 1:5,6 

       What is faith?  Is it believing?  Is it an attitude?  Faith is an attitude of positive expectancy… “for without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Why would you ask for something if you didn’t really expect to receive it?  It would be a waste of time because you would be simply going through the motions.

       And where does this ‘positive expectancy’ come from?  Desire.  We ask for things that we need and truly desire.  Why would you ask for something that you didn’t want?  And yet some people do, asking for things that they think God wants, or their spouse wants, or their parents.  Many of us don’t really know what we want, truly want and need.  We have settled for less and supposed that it was God’s will.  We didn’t feel worthy to ask for something we desired from the heart.  But don’t let this attitude lead you to entitlement.  There is such a thing as humility.

       So how do you ask with humility and avoid entitlement?  Gratitude.  What is gratitude?  It is sincere thanks, knowing that what is received is a gift.  It has nothing to do with whether or not you are deserving or worthy of your request.  It comes to you as a gift.  Life itself is a gift; your whole existence is a gift!  We take a great deal for granted:  The air we breathe, the food we eat, and the access to fresh water.  Without these things we would perish.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.  And the peace of God… will guard your hearts…”  Phil. 4:6,7

       Faith also involves action.  If you ask for something you’d better be prepared to take action, and do the things that you are capable of doing.  When you ask you may not be in any position to receive; you must be prepared to move, change your position.  Maybe you will need to part with something or someone; maybe you will need to move.  Faith is always followed by action – that which is in your power in order to exhibit your faith to God and to others.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Solitude:  Entering the Silence

July 5

Prayer:  Relationship and Communion

       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.  God is the Source of all things that are made, including your 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.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”  You must acknowledge that He is Deity, Divine, Above all.

       Communing with God also fosters a familiarity with the things that God loves.  I have lived with the same woman for over thirty years.  I know what she likes and what she dislikes.  It’s the same with God.  You can get to know what God likes, and what brings him pleasure.  You will also become all too familiar with the things that God hates. 

       Communing with God puts us in touch with how God feels.  You can know what brings God pleasure and what causes God pain.  “What?” You may ask, “God feels pain?”  Of course.  God feels what we feel, and He is familiar with our pain.  You are a child of God, and important to your Heavenly Father.  When you hurt, your Heavenly Father hurts too.

       A relationship with God is the same as a relationship with a human being.  It requires love to grow the relationship and to deepen it.  So how do you love God?  The same way you love another.  You tell them!  “I appreciate … about you.”  You show your gratitude.  You put them first.  You honor them.  You show them in little ways how much you love and appreciate them. 

       One final note.  A relationship can only deepen when you are honest with that person.  If you can’t be honest, how will you ever experience a deeper, more intimate relationship?  Your lies and half truths will keep your heart in darkness, far away because the relationship will be based on lies.  You cannot pray and know God’s peace if you withhold information.  (As if you could hide anything from God.)

       It is your relationship to your Higher Power that will determine your level of peace.  And it is the practice of prayer that helps to build that relationship.  The peace of God is the result of a close relationship with a Power greater than yourself.  God’s peace is a promise given to those who make prayer a priority.  We need a Higher Power so we can feel protected, provided for and empowered.  It’s what gives us peace.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Prayer:  The Open Heart

July 4

Prayer:  Hearing God’s voice

       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 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.  You’re not used to sitting still for more than a few seconds.  That’s because of all the mind chatter… you know, the endless noise in your head that you don’t even notice until you stop to pray and meditate.

       But like anything, you will get better with practice.  Prayer may be simple, but it’s not easy.  It’s best to begin a session of prayer by getting comfortable, physically comfortable.  God is not impressed if you are uncomfortable and hating every minute.  Prayer is something you do that is supposed to be enjoyable.  Prayer ought to be something you look forward to doing because of the enjoyment you receive from talking and listening to God.

       As you practice your praying, you will be able to spend more time in solitude because your mind will learn to relax, and the mind chatter will cease.  This inner noise is our mind constantly thinking, weighing, judging, complaining and talking.  It’s been said that we talk to ourselves at the rate of 5,000 words per minute.  That’s a lot of words and a lot of noise.  If you are ever to hear God speak to you, you are going to have to learn how to listen.

       “But how am I going to know if it’s God speaking and not just my own thoughts?”  Have you ever wondered how you recognize other human voices?  Partly, it’s the pitch, the tone and the texture of their voice.  But there are other ways we recognize these familiar voices. 

       First of all, we recognize another persons words – what they are talking about.  I would hardly expect my mother to be talking about stocks and bonds, or for my father to be talking about jewelry.  I wouldn’t expect my sisters to be talking about hockey or my brothers to be talking about recipes.

       I hardly think that God has a deep base voice or sounds like a high squeaky soprano.  That part really doesn’t matter.  When I hear God’s voice, sometimes it sounds like my mother, or father, sometimes it sounds like a friend of mine, or one of my children.  It’s not important how the voice sounds, but what God’s voice is saying.

       You can’t manufacture God’s voice; otherwise it will sound just like you.  God’s voice is never harsh, or judgmental, but always loving and nurturing.  When God speaks you know it.  The voice of God is inviting because it beckons you to come and rest.  If you hear a voice speaking to you and it’s causing you to become distressed, it’s not God’s voice.  It’s probably your own.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Prayer:  Relationship and Communion