Monthly Archives: October 2014

Threads in the Tapestry of Life

Picture of several tapestry bobbins with different colors of thread. Tapestries are woven on a loom. Like most textiles created on a loom, the weaver sees the tapestry from the back side as he weaves.  One of the things that makes a tapestry unique is the design, often representational, using tiny threads of different colors to create a picture.

In life, we are like the threads of a great, God-woven tapestry.  We each have our own unique color and texture which we add to the beautiful picture as God weaves us into the fabric of life.  Sometimes we travel, for a time, with certain other threads, whose path is parallel to ours in the design.  Then our paths may diverge as we (or they) are taken over to another part of the tapestry for awhile. There will be some whose paths cross ours repeatedly; not traveling together but bumping into each other from time to time.

What makes it hard for us is that we cannot see the front of the tapestry while we are in this life.  Rather than seeing the beautiful picture we are helping to create, we see the somewhat chaotic, seemingly random underside of the tapestry. We wonder why some people are in our lives, and why others have drifted away or have been removed from our lives entirely. We may feel like our own thread is going nowhere, or around and around in circles.  When we get to the other side of the veil, we will see the tapestry from the front, and we will understand why we needed to have these experiences.  We will be able to observe first hand the beauty that has been created out of our lives by the master-weaver’s hand. And we will feel joy, happiness and gratitude that God has indeed had a plan for our lives all along.

  • Identify people in your life who travel the same path, no longer travel the same path but once did, or cross paths with you briefly from time to time. How does it make you feel to think of them as threads in your tapestry?
  • Can you catch a glimpse of or even try to imagine what the front of the tapestry looks like?  Describe the beauty in your corner of the tapestry.


Slogans for Living – Part 1

In 12-Step meetings you will hear a lot of slogans. They encapsulate basic truths about life, and how to live it sanely and abstinently. They are easy to remember, and good to apply in moments of stress. Here are a few of my favorites. I think you will find them useful whether you are working a 12-Step program or not.

“What others think of me is none of my business.”

When I stop worrying about what others think of me and just go about my own business, doing the best I can in each moment, I am less stressed, and I stop wasting precious time and energy obsessing about something I cannot control. Most of the time I don’t really know what others think of me anyway, and they probably think about me way less than I think they do!

“Take what you like and leave the rest.”

When I talk to people about my own experience, and how it might be applicable to their situation, I try not to give unsolicited advice.  I am not perfect at this yet, but I am getting better. However, I am pretty consistent at telling them to “take what you like and leave the rest.” Just because someone listens to me talk about my own experience – even if they actually have asked me for advice – does not mean that it applies to their situation. I cannot possibly know what they really need to do in their situation. But if they hear anything at all in my experience that strikes a chord and feels like something they want to try – great. And if not, that is fine, too; which brings us to the next slogan.

“It is what it is.”

Having specific expectations of anything is a great way of being disappointed and frustrated. It leads to resentments and relationship trouble. Accepting people and circumstances as they are, seeking guidance on the healthiest and most productive way to deal with them, and leaving the results up to God are great contributing factors to living in a state of serenity. To see this slogan in action read my post Peace: It Is What It Is.

“Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.”

When we pray we put into words the (hopefully righteous) desires of our hearts. In the scriptures we are taught that our thoughts affect who we are. (see Proverbs 23:7). The more we think about something, the more we call it into our lives. Worrying about something does not make it go away or fix it. Worry is a form of obsession. If you know you need to stop worrying about something, try putting it in your God Box, which I describe in two other posts: Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 4 and Learning to Let Go.

  • Would it help you to internalize and apply any of these slogans?
  • Which slogan(s) seem most applicable to you?
  • What can you do to learn it and make use of it in your daily life?


Digging Deep: the Step-work Sandwich

There may be as many ways of working the steps as there are people who work them. When someone finishes Step 12, they may work the maintenance Steps (10, 11 and 12) for a while or start over with Step 1. They may work the Steps quickly or slowly. They may choose a particular issue to work on as they start over, or may just go down deeper on the same issues.

In this post I am sharing an in-depth approach to working the Steps that relies heavily on the tool of writing. It may take days or weeks to get through a Step this way, and months to get through them all. If this feels overwhelming to you at this point in your program, it might be best for you to save this approach for later. It makes me dig deep and learn more about myself and about living in a sane and abstinent way. It is most effective if you have a sponsor and report your progress, discussing any insights you receive as you work through the steps.

Materials List

(see Resources page to find out where and how to obtain these materials)

  • He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, Colleen Harrison
  • Optional: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous (if you are working on food related issues) or Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Al Anon (if you are working on codependence) or any other twelve step manual that is relevant to your addiction or issue
  • Optional: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (no matter what your issue is)
  • The ARP manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing

Step-work Sandwich Overview

Think of this method of working each step as assembling a sandwich (see diagram below). The “preparation” questions at the end of the previous step in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage (“HDDM” in diagram) are one of the slices of bread. The questions at the end of the same step in A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing (the ARP manual) are the other slice of bread. The lettuce leaf just inside the first piece of bread is the step (“principle”) in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage. The lettuce leaf just inside the other piece of bread is the step in the ARP manual. Between the lettuce leaves are your choice of optional materials, listed above, to help nourish and nurture your emotional, physical and spiritual healing and growth. Each of these optional materials brings something unique to your understanding and application of the Steps. The book that specifically addresses your addiction helps you identify with how the Steps have been worked by others with your addiction. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA 12 & 12” in diagram) is a very powerfully written book that does not pull any punches in its description of the nature of addiction and the importance of overcoming it. If you leave out the optional materials you will still be fed, but not as thoroughly and you may miss some “nutrients” that you really need. Nevertheless, you could certainly work the Steps this way – just skip items 3 and/or 4 in the “Working the Steps” section below.

Image of layers of a sandwich labeled with a method for working each step. The method is described in following paragraph.

Preface and Introduction

  1. Start by reading and highlighting the Prefaces and Introduction in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage. Do not answer the questions at the end of the Introduction at this point.
  2. Make notes in the margins or in a notebook when you have thoughts about how the text applies to your life.
  3. Read, highlight and annotate the Preface and Introduction in the remaining books on the materials list, in order.

Working the Steps

  1. Begin each new step by answering the “preparation” questions which are located at the end of the previous step (or at the end of the Introduction in the case of Step 1) in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage.
  2. Read the step in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage and “capture” it as you go (as described on page A-3 of that book). Share what you have written with your sponsor or someone else who is working the Steps.
  3. Read the step (capturing as you go) in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Al Anon (if you are working on codependence) OR in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous (if you are working on an eating disorder or food addiction) or any other 12 Step book that you find sheds light on your particular addiction.
  4. Read the step (capturing as you go) in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  5. Read the step (capturing as you go) in the ARP manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, and answer the questions at the end of the step.
  6. Do any footwork required by the step (e.g. make a written inventory when you are working Step 4, pray for those you are trying to forgive in Step 8, make direct amends wherever appropriate in Step 9, etc. There is some kind of footwork required by each step.)
  7. Do a quick review of all the writing you have done for this step. Keep your mind open to promptings about any footwork you might still need to do before being ready to move to the next step.
  8. Pray and ask the Lord if you have completed the step and are ready to move on to the next step.
  9. When you receive a confirmation that you are ready to move on to the next step, start with the first instruction in this section, for the step following the one you have just completed.

If you do not receive a confirmation that you have completed the step, return to the step you have been working on, or even the previous step if necessary, praying for direction on how to proceed. Allow your sponsor to help you identify stumbling blocks and find solutions.

  • Do you have a way of working the program that is getting you the results you want?
  • If not, are you willing to try a different approach?
  • What are you willing to do to improve the quality of your program, if necessary?

Love: Turn Your Umbrella Upside Down

Upside down umbrella catching rain drops. Imagine that you are a gardener. It’s late winter and you excitedly plan your garden. In your mind you can see what it will look like when everything is in full bloom. You can smell the earth and feel it between your fingers. As soon as it is warm enough you get out and turn over the dirt, carefully planting each seed, fertilizing it and tamping down the ground around it. And then, you wait.

Are you going to go out and cover your garden so that the sun can’t shine on it, the rain can’t fall on it and the insects can’t pollinate it? No! You’re grateful for those things that nourish your garden and gently coax the seeds to sprout and help the plants to grow. If there’s not enough rain you carefully water, because you know that without enough water, your garden will wither and die.

God is also a gardener. He carefully planned for each one of us. He eagerly anticipates our blossoming – each of us reaching for the full potential of what we can be. He knows what we need to grow and to bloom. He pours his love out upon us each day in so many ways: in the gentle smile of a stranger, the kind words of a friend, a sincere compliment, the gratitude of someone we have helped, the smell of a baby. He sheds a myriad of tender mercies upon us, things that others might miss, and some might call coincidences: A comforting song on the radio, a whiff of perfume in a crowd that reminds us of someone we once knew, turning on the TV just in time to hear a story that answers a prayer, finding just the right Bible verse, running into an old friend.

Much to God’s dismay, many of us don’t receive the love he pours out on us. It’s like we’re holding up umbrellas that say “I am not worthy” or “That couldn’t be for me”. We allow God’s love to run off the umbrella and fall on the ground instead of soaking it up and blossoming.

He wants us to stand in the rain of his love, look up to the sky, open our mouths and drink it in. We need to turn those umbrellas upside down and catch as much of his love as possible. Then we can gently share his love with those around us who still have their umbrellas up, letting them taste it and helping them to find the courage to peek out from under their own umbrellas and receive it for themselves.

Make Him happy. Receive his love … and share it.

  • What seeds has God planted in you?
  • How does he nurture them in your life?
  • What form does “the rain of his love” take in your life?
  • Are you using an umbrella that blocks his love from fully nurturing your life?
  • What are you willing to do to turn your umbrella upside down, catch his love and share it with others?


Jealousy: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Burning Campfire of JealousyFrom time to time I become aware of great things going on in the lives of those around me. Sometimes they have a wonderful marriage and when I see them together it is obvious how much in love they are. Perhaps their children are bright and accomplished and a joy to be around.  Maybe a new job that is everything they have been working towards in their career has finally come into their lives.

Generally, my heart is filled with gratitude for these blessings in their lives and I am happy for them. Occasionally, when their blessing is one that I have wished for, or even prayed for, there is also a tiny little spark of jealousy. I have come to understand that these feelings are natural, and I don’t want to beat myself up or feel shame for having them. The important thing for my ongoing recovery and healing is what I do with them when they come.

If I always have a little pile of dry tinder and an abundant supply of kindling and firewood, those sparks may start a fire in my life.  I can blow on the little embers that I ignite with those feelings and feed the flames of jealousy with ever-larger pieces of wood until I have a bonfire which consumes me, and keeps me from enjoying the many blessings of my own life. Or, like the Forest Service cleaning out unnecessary brush and dead wood to be able to better control forest fires, I can make sure I don’t keep a supply of fuel on hand for the jealousy fire by letting go of resentments and hurts as soon as possible, and avoiding comparisons of my life to others. I can keep a handy supply of living water, accumulated through gospel study and service, and use it to stamp out and douse those little sparks when they come flying through my life.

  • What feelings are sparks in your life?
  • Do you have a supply of kindling and firewood?
  • What steps are you willing to take to eliminate that fuel from your life?
  • What are you willing to do to increase your supply of living water?