Working the Steps: Step 4




Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The first time I worked this step was in therapy almost eight years ago. It was shocking to see all my addictions, compulsions and perversions written down on paper. Because much of my life had been lived in a daze of fantasy and denial; it was like reading about someone else.

In Steps One, Two and Three, with the help of the Virtues: Honesty, Hope and Faith, we have submitted to God’s authority over our lives and have converted our doubt and fear into peace with God. In Step 4 we beginning the growth steps, by examining our past behavior we will work towards understanding and eventually finding peace with ourselves.

It’s critical when taking our inventory that we look at our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Often when reflecting on ourselves we focus on the bad things and beat ourselves down with guilt and condemnation. But when we include our strengths in the evaluation we can see the potential for greatness God has put in us which accelerates us forward on our recovery journey.

In the traditional AA Step Four, we take only a moral inventory: weaknesses, wrongs, character defects, faults and shortcomings. In the Christ-centered Celebrate Recovery, Step Four includes also a Spiritual Inventory. Let me clarify with text from the Celebrate Recovery Bible:

Inventory:

  • THE PERSON: List persons or things we resent. (Fear and anger are clues.)
  • THE CAUSE: List specific actions someone took that hurt us. (Why we resent them?)
  • THE EFFECT: List how the specific hurtful action effected us.
  • THE DAMAGE: List how that specific hurtful action still effects us.
  • MY PART: Honestly determine any resentments, sins, or injury we’re responsible for.

Spiritual Inventory:

  • OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS: Who hurt us? Are we still holding a grudge? Seeking revenge? Jealous? Bad attitude? Who have I hurt?
  • OUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE: Is there an area of life we’re keeping from God? What have been our life priorities? What was wrong with those priorities? Who did those priorities affect and how?
  • OUR BODY: How have we mistreated our body? Are there activities / habits that caused physical harm?
  • OUR FAMILY: Have we mistreated anyone in our family? Do we owe them amends? What family secret are we denying?
  • OUR CHURCH: Have we been faithful to our church in the past? Have w been critical instead of active and supportive? Have we discouraged our family’s support of their church?

Step Four begins the process of coming clean. With pen and paper in hand, prayerfully ask God to reveal His truth about you to you. Remember, God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2Tim. 1:7) With strength given by the Holy Spirit we can push through the denial, past resentments and the fear of acknowledging who and what we have been, to become free and whole in Jesus Christ.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. — Lamentations 3:40

I hope you enjoy the theme song for our Working the Steps series:
Step by Step by @Bryan_Duncan http://youtu.be/swNgb9ya6WM

Resources: Life Recovery Bible, Celebrate Recovery Bible, The Twelve Steps for Christians.

Healing Hurts :: LONELINESS

In hopes of targeting topics to fit my reader’s needs, I recently took a poll of the hurts women struggle with. My poll listed: depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual addiction, loneliness, self-hatred, and inferiority. The survey results were interesting, but not surprising.
Loneliness overshadowed all the other struggles listed. 
Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, AARP surveyed 3012 people over the age of 45 and found 35 percent are chronically lonely compared to 20 percent in a similar survey ten years earlier. 
According to the 2010 Census, 25 percent of American households are maintained by a single person, a dramatic increase from 7 percent in 1940. 
Over half of all Americans report having no close confidant or friends outside their immediate family; 25 percent of American have no meaningful social support at all, not a single person they can confide in!
All this means serious trouble for our health. Lonely people tend to have higher stress levels, exercise less, have more substance abuse, weaker immune systems, and the list goes on.
What is Loneliness? 
Loneliness is a state of sadness resulting from feeling separated from others.
Chronic loneliness is continually feeling disconnected from others; often leads to personal isolation, bitterness and destructive behavior.

Loneliness today seems to come with the job. Not only are more children growing up with single parents, but where there are two parents, often both parents are working with an average commute of 46 minutes. By the time everyone gets home, there’s no time to visit with the neighbor while the kids play outside. We wear busy as a badge while the value of community connection all but disappears.
Alone vs. Lonely  
Being alone refers to the physical state of being separated from others.
Being lonely refers to the emotional feeling of isolation or rejection.
Being alone can be a positive time of creativity or meditation with God.
Being lonely is always negative with feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. 
What about all my social-media friends and followers? Studies show rather than building community, social-networking sites give a false sense of connection that increases loneliness in people who already feel alone. A lonely woman may get on Facebook and see all the cool things her friends are doing with their exciting vacations, romantic dinners and happy families, she then begins to feel discontent with her own life.
Causes for Loneliness
Situational Loneliness: divorce, death of a loved one, empty nest, loss of job or home, physical disability, major move, illness, aging, abuse, new job, estrangement of family, etc…
Spiritual Loneliness: bad things happen and you feel God has abandoned you.

Social stigmas surround Loneliness. It’s seems acceptable to be on medication for depression, but being lonely often means unwanted, unlovable, unattractive, unintelligent. Loneliness is compounded not only with feeling alone but being alone in that feeling. It seems no one understands.
Some helpful solutions…
  • Ask God for guidance and He will help you!
  • Evaluate your loneliness. Take the UCLA Loneliness Test.
  • Take charge of your feelings; remove negative thoughts and self-talk.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Join and get plugged into a local Bible believing church.
  • Reduce work commute to free up time for friends, family and activities.
  • Don’t substitute electronic communication for face time.
  • Take an adult education class, start scrap-booking, knitting or quilting.
  •  Be determined not to isolate. Nurture personal relationships. 
  •  Meet your neighbors. Start a ladies lunch or dinner once a month.
  •  Get the resources listed below. 
  •  Read and memorize Scripture.
  •  Listen to praise and worship music. 


Personally, loneliness is high on my list of struggles. It’s gotten better as I’ve grown in the Lord but it still shows up when I least expect it. I’m not a doctor or a counselor and don’t pretend to have all the answers. The more I researched loneliness the more I discovered what a huge problem it is in our world today. I spent several weeks studying and found volumes of material on the subject. There was no way I could possibly cover all the areas needed so I’ve added a few resources below. 

If you suffer with chronic loneliness and have no one to talk to, please feel free to contact me here. 
The three best resources I found to help with loneliness: 
Worship music helps me most when I’m lonely. Here are some of my favorites. Rest in the Father’s Hands and receive His love for you…


Jesus Culture – All I Need is You http://youtu.be/MvL6evyRFgY


Misty Edwards – My Soul Longs for You http://youtu.be/mWC3J4Wz0wo


Michael W. Smith – More Love, More Power http://youtu.be/MhnmLNfyqY4

Photo Courtesy 123RF Stock Photo

BOOK REVIEW: Who Switched Off My Brain? by Dr Caroline Leaf

WHO SWITCHED OFF MY BRAIN? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions
by @DrCarolineLeaf
Published by Inprov, Ltd.
2009
175 pp

I’ve read countless books and have never gotten more excited. Not just about the book, but the topic, the science, and the implications this information can have on emotional and physical healing.

With creative schematics and easy to understand layman’s language, Dr. Caroline Leaf explains the fascinating brain science behind why and how our thoughts effect every area of our physical bodies down to the cellular level. She has an amazing talent for teaching both the scientific and spiritual aspects of the brain with incredible clarity.


Proving with science what Scripture has been saying for thousands of years. 

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. ~ Proverbs 23:7 AMP

Who among us doesn’t struggle with our thought life? 

Leading us out of distress, Dr. Leaf reveals The Dirty Dozen ~ 12 specific areas of toxic thinking in our lives:

  • Toxic Thoughts
  • Toxic Emotions
  • Toxic Words
  • Toxic Choices
  • Toxic Dreams
  • Toxic Seeds
  • Toxic Faith
  • Toxic Love
  • Toxic Touch
  • Toxic Seriousness
  • Toxic Health
  • Toxic Schedules

Having recognized our toxic thought patterns we learn how to sweep our brains, step by step detoxing each area of our thoughts. By gathering, reflecting, journaling, revisiting, and reaching, we reprogram our minds to build a secure foundation for the change, health and wholeness we desire.


“Who Switched Off My Brain?” is interesting, educational, enlightening, entertaining, spiritually relevant… a step by step process that leads to physical and emotional healing!

An honest to goodness page turner. I literally couldn’t put it down once I started!

I highly recommend Who Switched Off My Brain?” by Dr Caroline Leaf.

Here is a video of Joyce Meyer interviewing Dr. Caroline Leaf. 
Click here for another part of their interview.

Working the Steps: Step 3

“Step by step, I’m walking on water to a land no man can see.” Bryan Duncan



Step Three: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.


Because Step 3 is so critical, we must check our progress on the previous steps. If we haven’t done the work of Step One and Step Two we can’t go forward. If we still think we have everything under control and our sanity isn’t a problem, we probably aren’t ready to turn our lives over to God.
To prepare ourselves for Step Three we fully accept our inability to manage our lives and receive the seeds of faith God planted in our hearts. Having done those things we are ready to turn our life and our will over to God’s loving care.

Just as a building needs a firm foundation, Step Three is central to all of the steps.  We need this important cornerstone for an effective, peaceful life in recovery.

Without God in control our lives will be just as they’ve always been… a mess!

With a clear mind we commit ourselves to the decision, surrendering to God and His outcome. The more we learn to trust in the Lord, the more we will trust ourselves and that trust then extends to others. Now free from the bondage of self-will, our negative behaviors fall away; daily routines improve and life begins anew.

With God’s presence in our lives our sense of self improves, we begin to believe we are worthy human beings. We are able to give and receive love again.


I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship. ~ Romans 12:1

You may want to pray this prayer:
God I humbly offer myself to You, build me and do with me what You want. Remove this bondage of self, so I can do Your will. Give me victory over my difficulties so others will see Your power and Love in my life.

Our theme song for Working the Steps: Step by Step by @Bryan_Duncan

**Excerpts from The Twelve Steps for Christians

HEALING HURTS :: Depression

According to the Mayo Clinic about twice as many women as men experience depression. Let’s examine a few factors that increase a woman’s risk of depression.

Puberty: emerging sexuality and identity issues; parental conflicts; school pressures
Premenstrual problems: cyclical hormones changes disrupts brain chemicals that control moods.
Pregnancy: hormonal changes affect moods; mixed feelings about pregnancy; relationship issues
Postpartum depression: anxiety, inability to care for baby, thoughts of suicide
Perimenopause and menopause: erratically fluctuating hormone levels


Aside from hormone and chemical imbalances, all too often we allow life situations and culture to send us into anxiety and depression. When life isn’t going our way we may throw an emotional temper tantrum because God isn’t doing things our way. In time the anger takes root and grows into depression.

As Christian women, how can we overcome anxiety and depression?

Give up the illusion of control.
We must realize only God has the power to control how our lives play out.

Let your emotions lead you to ask questions.
Rather than ignore the depression, face your feelings and ask, “What’s going on? Why do I feel this way?”
Turn worries into prayers.
When anxiety hits, pray! Unlike worry, prayer accomplishes something positive. 
Discipline your mind.
Think about what you’re thinking about! Instead of problems focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. (Phil.4:8) You can’t be depressed and do this! 
Don’t blame illness when the problem is poor choices.
Half our problems we bring on ourselves by bad decisions we’ve made. Taking responsibility for our attitudes and actions leads to maturity and healing.
Exercise discernment considering medication.
Pray for wisdom to discern emotional stress from a true medical condition.

Check to see if physical symptoms are tied to feelings.
Are you sleeping, have stomach problems, headaches, etc… See a doctor if physical symptoms continue.

Let go of what you cant change, change what you can.
Stop trying to change things that are out of your control. Let go and let God!

Look for meaning in your suffering.
Ask God to help you learn what He wants you to learn in your time of trouble, so that you can help others in the future.

Pray for the right perspective.
Ask God to show you His perspective on the situations that are troubling you. This will help you make better choices.

Forget about suicide!
More than anything else, if you are considering suicide, PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE! Know that there is always hope. Turn to God and trust Him with your life. Things will get better.

Make time for rest and relaxation.
Overwork, lack of sleep can cause a great deal of anxiety and depression. Take time to enjoy life, play games, soak in a hot bath, walk the dogs… Whatever can help you relax… Do it! 

Change the way you talk to yourself.
We must recognize the negative recordings that play in our head. To change them, find scriptures that you can write into declarations and speak them over your life. If you don’t know any, email me and I’ll send you some!

Tap into the power of forgiveness.
Often we can forgive others, but can’t forgive ourselves. Ask God to show you any area where you need help with forgiveness. 

Draw strength from Scripture.
Most importantly, let the Truth of God’s Word refresh your mind and soul. Read, study and meditate on Scripture daily. It will make you glad!

Take a few moments and relax with this video of Darlene Zschech singing “Made Me Glad”

**Excerpts from Crosswalk.com “Overcome Anxiety and Depression” by Whitney Hopler;
MayoClinic.com “Depression in Women: Understanding the gender gap”

Copyright © Reaching Hurting Women Blog

BOOK REVIEW: Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer



POWER THOUGHTS ~ 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind 
by @JoyceMeyer
FaithWords 2011
270pp

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Joyce Meyer fan. Not because she’s a marvelous teacher, although she is. But through Joyce’s transparency, sharing her hurts and struggles, God has brought me healing and personal transformation. I’ve read most of her books, watched her television broadcast and listened to her CD’s, consistently for seven years. Without a doubt, Joyce Meyer’s ministry has had more impact on my life than any other. You can’t go wrong reading any of her books, but today let’s talk about Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind.

Power Thoughts isn’t a book just to be read. It’s a textbook that needs to be studied and used over and over again. Joyce frequently admits her own struggle in the area of her mind. And like a good teacher, she’s passing on tools she knows work, because they’ve helped her. In her traditional “Mama J” style, with review questions and Power Pack Scriptures placed throughout, Joyce gives us 12 Power Thoughts to help corral our mind. Here’s a sample…

Power Thought 1: I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ.

This one’s a biggie for me. It’s easy to get into a pity party about doing housework, thinking I’m not making a difference in the world. Then God reminds me that whatever I need to do today, is what He wants me to do and I can do it through Christ’s strength if I will keep my mind on Him!

Joyce encourages us to focus on one Power Thought for a week, posting it on a 3×5 card in visible places around our home or office. Then throughout the day it’s available to review, thus keeping it top of mind. I’ve used this technique over the years with Scripture and affirmations with great success.

Often we don’t realize our problems start with a thought. If we’re depressed, we need to stop and have a “think session.” By reviewing what’s been running through our mind, we’ll find negative thoughts are the culprits. Once we get control of our thoughts, we’ll change our attitude and eventually our actions. Then we can enjoy the life Jesus died for us to have!

No matter what your struggle, thoughts are critical to overcoming any situation. I encourage you to get Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. Don’t just read it. Really do the work. It can and will change your life…

I offer you twelve “power thoughts” that can revolutionize your life if you will believe them, allow them to take root in your mind, and act on them in your everyday life. ~ Joyce Meyer

Working the Steps: Step Two

“Step by step… I’m walkin’ on water to a land no man can see” ~ Bryan Duncan

Having recognized our brokenness in Step One we may feel empty and lost…

“O.K., I’ve admitted I’m powerless. Now what!?” 

Our next step will birth hope in us.

Step 2: Came to believe that God could restore us to sanity.

At this stage we are still hurting and fearful of trusting God about anything. But before we can see evidence of real change in our lives, we have to take a step of faith.

We have to step out to find out. Take the leap. Walk out on that branch.

We’ll never know what’s there until we do.

In my experience God honors that courage and meets us at the level of our expectations. Did you catch the little condition here? If our expectations are low, our results will be low. In the same way, if our expectations are high, the results will be high.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. ~ Philippians 2:13

This Scripture is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I like to break it down like this:

First of all, God’s going to give me the desire to do what He wants me to do. It doesn’t stop there. He’s going to give me the power to do it, too.

You may say, “That’s awesome! But it  looks like God’s doing all the work. What do I have to do?”

Believe.

Step Two gives us new hope as we begin to see help is available. We must simply reach out and accept what God has to offer. Here a spiritual foundation forms that will help us grow into the person we want to be. All we need to do is be willing to take the step.

Remember, God never asks us to do anything without first giving us the ability to do it.

You may want to pray this prayer:
In humility I pray to believe in the only Power greater than myself–God. Give me increased faith so I won’t be crazy any more.

I hope you enjoy the theme song for our Working the Twelve Steps Series:
Step by Step by @Bryan_Duncan

Copyright © 2012 Reaching Hurting Women Ministry

Healing Hurts :: DENIAL

We started the first week of the year working Step One. Next, I shared a review of my new favorite book. And in week three we started our series Virtues-n-Vices with the topic of Honesty. This week we begin a series of posts called Healing Hurts with the focus today on Denial.

Denial: is a defense mechanism in which a person, faced with an uncomfortable fact, rejects it, insisting that it isn’t true despite overwhelming evidence. It’s an unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening.

We use one of the following…

  • Simple denial: denying the reality of the unpleasant reality altogether.
  • Minimization: admitting the reality but denying it’s seriousness (rationalization).
  • Projection: admit both the reality and the seriousness but deny any responsibility.
Denial, a type of pain reliever, represses stressful thoughts from the mind; whether subconsciously or consciously, the goal is to avoid dealing with the situation or problem. People expend exhausting amounts of energy maintaining their denial state.

Denial is serious. We can’t heal as long as we pretend our hurts don’t exist.

The Celebrate Recovery Bible lists six negative effects DENIAL has on our lives:

– isables our feelings
E – nergy drain
– egates our growth
I  – solates us from God
– lienates us from other human relationships
– engthens our pain

The bottom line…
The faster we engage (feel) our feelings, even though it hurts, the quicker the pain will end and our life will truly be happier.

God will be with us if we will just let Him into the pain with us.
Press through the pain, step out of denial into the victory of freedom! Trust God, He will take care of you!

Listen to this sweet song as you receive God’s help…

Copyright © 2012 Reaching Hurting Women Ministry

Virtues-n-Vices :: HONESTY

Last year I was privileged to take a wonderful class called Christian Virtue. What a joy it was to be with a group of ladies all wanting to be more virtuous for the Lord. While praying for the direction of my blog, God impressed me to begin sharing what I learned in that class. This year I will devote the third week of each month to a particular virtue that I believe relates to areas women struggle with.

Let’s start first with definitions…

Virtue: a positive trait deemed morally excellent; a valued foundation of good moral behavior.
Vice: a habitual practice of wrongdoing, essentially corruption of the virtue.

Sadly, our modern culture doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on virtue these days. However, if we listen to conversations around dinner tables or watch the evening news, it’s easy to see most of the problems we face relate directly to the lack of virtue in our world today.


Honesty: the quality of being honest, upright; truthful, sincere; freedom from deceit.


There are two ways we can look at this virtue: honesty with ourselves and our honesty with others. More than likely, if we’re not being honest with ourselves, we probably aren’t being honest with others either.

Often, we see a virtue and think to ourselves, I’m an honest person. I don’t really need to work on this one. I’ve found by looking at the opposing sin or vice, I see better my areas of weakness.


Vices: Dishonesty, duplicity, cheating, lying, deception, treachery


As a recovering addict, I’m all too familiar with the above list of vices. What a relief it was when I was finally able to be honest with my husband after being deceptive for many years.

An honest life is a simpler life. You don’t have to remember all the lies you’ve told!

No matter what our struggles are, we can’t deal with them unless we are first honest with God and with ourselves.

Take just a moment… Ask God to show you where you are being dishonest. He is always faithful to reveal our brokenness when we are willing to make the change.

Without beating ourselves up for past behavior, let’s go forward a new creation today!

Enjoy the music video below as you meditate on your fresh start!

Copyright © 2012 Reaching Hurting Women Ministry

BOOK REVIEW: Think Differently Live Differently by Bob Hamp

Think Differently Live Differently ~ Keys to a Life of Freedom
by @BobHamp
Thinking Differently Press 2010
252 pp

I can’t think of a better way to start this new year than to review the book I’ve placed at the top of my recommended reading list! 

In 2008, my husband, Bill, and I were blessed with the opportunity to participate in Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church in Southlake,Texas. It was there I first encountered the incredible gift Bob Hamp has for communicating spiritual principles. Not unlike the parables in the Gospels, Bob’s stories tug at your heart strings while imparting truths you can easily understand and apply to daily life.

A culmination of life-long spiritual growth and years of counseling experience, Think Differently Live Differently lives up to its title. Through beautiful analogies and humor woven among the teaching, we are drawn into a story that completely changes the way we see original sin, our Creator and ultimately ourselves. With this new perspective comes revelation and suddenly we find freedom as never presented before.

There are few books I will push this strongly. It’s a must read for everyone! 

After all isn’t true freedom what we’re all looking for?