Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Post 102

 ABOUT ESSENTIALS … ramblings to start the new year

The beginning of three very different days and nights began abruptly last Thursday.  We had just returned from an out-of-town visit.  Immediately, I went to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet … water streamed out normally.  I sighed a big sigh of relief as we began unloading the car.  While we were gone, the temperatures had fallen – unexpectedly – below zero; and I was concerned about frozen pipes since we had forgotten to keep a drip going and the lower cupboard doors open.   However, half an hour later my relief came to a halt:  there was nary a drop from any of the faucets.  Quickly, before the stores closed, we bought water jugs to get us through until the morning.

The way-below normal temperatures continued the next two-plus days.  Wet-wipes, hand sanitizers, deliberately speedy hand washing, and keeping an eye on our bottled water supply took priority.  The ground had become so frozen any possible rain on the third day was forecasted to turn to ice. Predictions for warmer weather estimated two to three more days following Day 3.  We bought paper plates and cups (the dishwasher had become quite full) – and more water.  I kept thinking about those mission projects where wells are built in otherwise waterless communities … and the lead-in-the-water crisis experienced by the folks in Flint, Michigan, as well as victims of violent natural disasters.   How blessed we are who have safe potable – and hot - water at our fingertips, my mind exclaimed repeatedly.
With these rambles, I was reminded how essential the bare basics truly are to our thoughts and actions.  Indeed, the world of recovery – elementally – is impacted:  one’s opportunities for healing and wholeness are based on the essentials of life.  SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) working definition of recovery defines recovery as such:

·         “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness

·         live self-directed lives

·         and strive to reach their full potential”  (www.samhsa.gov/recovery)
Breaking down this definition, SAMHSA further describes recovery.

1.      “HEALTH:  overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms, for example, abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem – and for everyone in recovery, making informed healthy choices that support physical and emotional well being

2.      HOME:  having a stable and safe place to live

3.      PURPOSE:  conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society

4.      COMMUNITY: having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope”     ( www.samhsa.gov/recovery )
As I review my thoughts and actions – which immediately took place once I knew we were in a water crisis - the above essentials of recovery (especially #2) seemed even more intertwined and dependent upon each other.  Moreover, how we respond to our life circumstances counts as an essential in defining recovery. healing, wholeness, and stability. 

A recent TV documentary followed the experience of an imprisoned inmate who had agreed to work with the staff psychiatrist with regard to committing to a faithful regimen of mental health medicines.  As he began to stabilize, he started to make a practice of finding things/people/circumstances for which to be thankful.  In turn, this helped him to respond more healthfully to his self-deprecating feelings of shame and guilt.  He grew to appreciate how having this daily giving-thanks goal - and truly being thankful - was an essential to his own mental health.

At the beginning of this new year, there will be countless numbers of people who will make resolutions and/or set goals.  Often by mid-February, those aspirations are cast aside or simply ignored.  One of the most realistic suggestions I have come across is to set mini-goals … for each day, week, month, etc. Working toward a better – not necessarily the best or perfect –situation seems more doable ... and  better can become better and better and even better!

This morning the hot shower felt heavenly!  Yes, the water crisis became solved (if only such crises had so quick a resolution) – last night around 10:30.  I noticed a drip-drip noise coming (on its own) from the kitchen sink.  Surely, the air temperatures had not been that warm to effect a thaw.  The warmer weather was still two days away.  Timidly, I opened wide the faucet - and out the water poured!  No sputtering, no hesitancy, just smooth, normal running water.  We checked the other faucets – all now with running water. We looked for leaks: nothing in the house, garage, or yard.  I ran my hands under warm, strong running water … and said a prayer of thanksgiving … for this very essential element in life.

Blessings,
           Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO
          
           Founding Director
           Gambling Recovery Ministries
           www.grmumc.org

For more information on problem gambling and recovery issues, visit:                                                                                                                                                      


www.ipgap.indiana.edu








Sunday, December 3, 2017


POST 101

Today I preached the first of a Four-Sunday Sermon Series leading up to Christmas.  As the words sunk in – again - this afternoon, I pondered how the contents of this morning’s message could be related to addiction.  The more I thought, the more clear the connection became between the sermon and those who struggle with the tenacious hold that addiction can have on those affected – directly and indirectly by addictive disorders.

Therefore, I am including a slimmed-down version of my twenty minute sermon for this month’s edition of the GRM Blog.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR THIS ADVENT?

 Today, December third, is the first of the four Sundays just before Christmas … it’s the beginning of the liturgical season we call Advent.  It is a time – set apart, supposedly, for prayer and fasting  … for Christians to be in preparation for the coming of Christ in the flesh … the Baby Jesus, the Christ Child, Immanuel:  God with us.

 As we know, here in America, the opposite takes over the approaching days to December 25th.  Often, PRAYER is replaced by impatient cries of   I can’t wait! … If you don’t behave, I’ll tell Santa Claus … and I’m exhausted: there’s too much to do and I’ll never be ready!

FASTING takes the form of cookies, eggnog, Christmas Parties, and new recipes, definitely not found in the Weight Watchers’ Cookbook!

This morning – in the spirit of preparing ourselves for the celebration of the Christ Child’s Coming, I want to talk about WAITING … and I know it’s commonly not a favorite topic for most of us.  Many times, I’ll hear folks say, I hate to wait in line or in traffic … AND we know for sure, what being put on-hold by a robo-clerk does to us! 

Well, neither was WAITING a favorite thing for my younger brother Jack when he was a boy.  He must have been around 10 at the time of the story I’m about to tell you.  He had been sick and absent from school.  When he was feeling better, our mother let him stay home from school one more day to recuperate. She was substitute teaching that day and I would be able to come home and eat lunch with him.  I was glad to see that he seemed so much better during lunchtime.  After school, I came right home. 

 As soon as I walked into the living room – where the Christmas tree was – I knew something had changed and was wrong.  A number of the presents’ wrappings were messed up.  Sure enough, only the ones with his name appeared to have been opened and then re-wrapped – awkwardly. I found Jack in his bed, crying.  Curiosity had won out … and he had opened each one of his presents … and then tried to disguise the torn wrappings and un-tied bows. 

Mother had done a very good job of teaching me to care for and love my little brother. I knew immediately of his disappointment and feelings of guilt. I hurt so badly for him.  His feelings of spoiling his own fun at Christmas were mine too.  I tried to console him as best I could.  I helped him re-wrap the presents and told him that Mom and Dad wouldn’t be mad - and that he could forget what was in the packages - and then be surprised on Christmas Day. To be sure, our parents didn’t get angry and my older brother  and I never teased him.

That was an odd Christmas for Jack:  he learned a lesson about what not to do while waiting - and in this case - waiting for Christmas.  BUT ALSO, he came to know – even more – how much his family loved and cared for him, no matter what.   

I’ve entitled this sermon, What are you waiting for, this Advent?  OR perhaps, we can modify the question to ask: What Are You Waiting for This Christmas?  OR … let’s just keep it short: What are you waiting for?

Perhaps, you have prayed the same prayer for many years … hoping for an answer from God ... or possibly, something with a negative impact has happened recently and we want a different result.  Maybe feelings of disappointment or frustration or fear have weighed heavily upon us and we are asking God to bring a change into the situation. Again, possibly, somebody has held out a promise to us - and it hasn’t materialized.

If we have ever felt stymied, slowed down, plateaued, or even trapped … we know that WAITING is not only difficult and disappointing … it can, also, bring on feelings of defeat, demoralization, and quite possibly despair.

Especially in Psalms, there are numerous scripture passages ** that address WAITING:

·         Psalm 37:7a:    Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him

·         Psalm 130:6   My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning

·         Psalm 62:5  My soul, waits silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him

Andrew Murray, author of “Waiting on God” writes about so many who are - yes – waiting on the Lord.  This is a highly inspirational read which brought me to new understanding – and motivated me to write today’s sermon.
 
There was a time in my life when my spirit life had plateaued … it seemed the deeper connection with God was not progressing.  Moreover, the realness of spiritual life had dissipated.  Perhaps too many intrusions had invaded my prayer life … or everyday responsibilities seemed out of control … whatever the reason, my spirit felt flattened … and waiting on the Lord for me to experience a reversal in this downward spiral was not in the picture.  Simply put, something was missing: I knew it, and I felt it; but there didn’t seem to be an answer.

And then one afternoon, as I was running errands and listening to the car radio, a pastor was speaking about that very same thing.  He spoke of what it feels like to be spiritually plateaued … about a feeling of spiritual distance from God.  And then he said something that I have never forgotten; he said, when you are experiencing this feeling of being on a spiritual plateau, KNOW that this is when God is paying PARTICULAR attention to YOU.

Like I say, I have never forgotten this: GOD IS PAYING PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO ME!   Even when I wasn’t feeling His presence in my spiritually, plateaued life!

This morning, I want to talk about what is happening on GOD’S SIDE of those times when we are waiting for an answer to prayer … when we are waiting on God.    

As we look back over God’s prophetic message, let us see the OTHER SIDE – GOD’S SIDE – OF THE PEOPLE’S WAITING.  What is God preparing for them once they turn to Him – in trust … in repentance and in confidence … to God?

                                     AND WHAT MIGHT GOD BE PREPARING FOR US –

AS WE PRAY AND WAIT FOR ANSWERS?
 

The following words from Isaiah 30:18-26 give us affirmation that God’s side of our waiting is one in knowledge and care.  A thumbnail sketch lists the nature of Divine waiting:  

Verse 18:  “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.” **

 GRACIOUS: The verb “to be gracious” indicates “un-merited favor … a response of interest toward the people – an active interest on their behalf” … also, “to do a kindness for”; “to treat gently”; “to give support to”  (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G & C Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1967)

MERCY: According to my Study Bible, mercy  is related closely to the Hebrew word womb – denoting the tender compassion that a mother shows to a child of her womb.

 HOW PERSONALY COMFORTING TO THINK THAT GOD’S INTEREST IN US IS BOTH ACTIVE AND SO VERY COMPASSIONATE!!

Verse 19:  “For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem;
You shall weep no more.  He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;  When He hears it, He will answer you.” **

Once again, we hear the word GRACIOUS … affirming to us that God’s response to our prayers is NOT to ignore or turn away.  He hears our cries … He know what we are crying about AND why we are crying.  AND those first 5 words of this verse forecasts that those who cry out to him will weep no more … AND God will answer!

Verse 20:  “And though the Lord gives you
The bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore,
But your eyes shall see your teachers
.”  **

Verse 21: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left
.”   **

The teachers or the spiritual leaders will no longer be persecuted … and God’s people will now be ready to listen to them … they will see and understand what their prophets and priests are telling them.

God will give direction and guidance … and it will be CLEAR.  So many times, I hear people saying, I just wish God would tell me what to do!  This verse assures us that God does provide direction … The Holy Spirit conveys divine wisdom to each of us.  Our spiritual ears must be open to hearing God’s instructions for us.  God provides this in myriad and many ways … again, we can hear Divine direction and see God’s wisdom only with spiritual ears and eyes … basically, it is our choice to allow God’s wisdom and guidance to become and take on an active response within us.

Plainly speaking, not seeking God’s wisdom, direction, and guidance will – no doubt – place us right back in the feeling of being distant from God.

Verse 22: “You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, and the ornament of your molded images of gold.
You will throw them away as an unclean thing;
You will say to them, ‘Get away
!’”  **

When the idols of addiction are no longer revered … when the fascination dulls and disappears … when the compulsion becomes controlled and does not create eminent danger, reality can take on an entirely difference world.  The old ways no longer hold appeal or value; and life – without them - becomes new and healing.  The old ways’ purposes no longer minister to our inner and spiritual needs!  You will spiritually know that you know their lack of value and harm … You will want to – and will - part from them: period!

Verses 23-25: “Then  He will give the rain for your seed  with which you sow the ground,
and bread of the increase of the earth …”  **

These verses describe a blessed land of plenty – beginning with rain for the seed – to change the desert into fertile ground.  Often times, our spiritual life seems like a dry desert without any growth; but God’s message now paints a very different picture. Along with the spiritual blessings there will come material blessings: plentiful crops, healthy herds, and great prosperity!

Verse 26: “Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold,
as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people  and heals the stroke of their wound.”  **


To me, this passage speaks spiritually.  I see it as God’s assurance that God's answers to our prayers will dispel the dark darkness … that living in God's light will be beyond scientific explanation … and that the unbearable wounds of grief, sickness, pain, and disappointment will be healed!

In closing, I want to share additional words from Andrew Murray’s Waiting on God:

“He waits that He may be gracious unto you.  And, each time you come to wait upon Him … you may look up and see him ready to meet you.”  [Waiting on God, Andrew Murray, public domain]

**  [The Women’s Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995]

Blessings,

Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO
Founding Director
Gambling Recovery Ministries
www.grmumc.org

For more information on problem gambling and recovery issues, visit:                                                                                                                                                       











 

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Post 100

Giving-Thanks Screen: Model # 2

Six years ago, I came up with a Giving-Thanks Screen for the GRM Blog’s November 2011 Post.  There was very positive feedback from the recovering community.  Recently, it has crossed my mind that being thankful as well as proactively looking for reasons to be thankful provide very effective antidotes for maintaining recovery-strength and serenity. 
As indicated originally, it is significant for persons in recovery to make note of mile markers that chart progress being made.  Screening tools such as GA’s and Gam-Anon’s sets of Twenty Questions, the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), and the DSM V Diagnostic Criteria prompted me to put together the 2011 model - in keeping with the season of thanks-giving.  Now, with Thanksgiving Day rapidly approaching, I offer a second Giving-Thanks Screen.  This time, the inspiration for such a model comes from the Gamblers Anonymous pamphlet Suggestions for Coping with Urges to Gamble (Gamblers Anonymous, www.gamblersanonymous.org ).  Once again, the following items are in the form of thankfulness questions.  Prayerfully, each will not only provide progress-assessments but also measurable reasons for giving thanks, notably in preventing urges from occurring!    

1.      Are you relieved and thankful that your mind is now comfortable with and has accepted the fact that you cannot gamble safely?

2.      Do you give thanks for those persons you can – and do – call for support when the urges to gamble come?

3.      Thankfully, do you leave cash, credit cards, and checks, etc., to go and meet with someone?

4.      Is your mindset throughout the waking hours thankful to be free of dwelling on any urges that may be coming?

5.      Do you feel thankful to be – proactively – of help to others?
6.  Are you grateful that you can now play the tape forward and see how any attempts at
          gambling can lead to uncontrolled devastation – rather than visioning, as before, big wins?

 7.   Do you give thanks for having multiple choices as to how you will spend your free time, instead of feeling compelled to gamble?

  8.   Are you thankful to know that you know that the individual urges to gamble will fade within minutes – and that you are able to wait out these times?

  9.  Are you grateful that you can meditate and experience the blessings of a quiet mind that will be able to dissipate and expel a gambling urge?

10.  Do you give thanks for the wisdom and strength offered through the words of The Serenity   Prayer?  (Reinhold Niebuhr)
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

 courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference ...

Amen!
Happy and abundant  THANKS – GIVINGS!

Blessings,
            Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO
            Founding Director
            Gambling Recovery Ministries
            www.grmumc.org

For more information on problem gambling and recovery issues, visit:                                                                                                                                                      
  www.indianaproblemgambling.org










 
 



   
 

Monday, October 30, 2017


Post 99

Go and sin no more … ???

Once again, my mind returns to a recent bible study series on passages that are commonly quoted - but are often either misunderstood or possibly misrepresented.  The above instruction by Jesus, stated in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, is a frequent admonition in some religious circles.  Jesus had just saved a woman from a stoning death sentence, presumably because of adulterous behavior.   The proposed executioners brought the woman to Jesus and sought his opinion as to whether the Law of Moses should be, accordingly, carried out.  Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  (John 8:7, NKJV)  One by one, the people left; and there was no one to condemn her.  Jesus then said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  (John 8:11, NKJV)
There are many opinions about this passage – and questions:  were the potential executioners just testing Jesus as to His willingness to follow the Mosaic Law?  how would Roman Law be followed in this scenario … juxtaposed upon a subjugated people’s ancient law?  how, indeed, did the mob of executioners actually witness the claimed act of adultery?

Then the most challenging question arises from verse 11:  go and sin no more.  How does one never sin – period! ??  Is it possible to be perfect, thereafter?
Frankly, when this admonition comes to mind along with the enormity that sin can be, potentially, in the form of thought, word, and/or deed, I balk.  I know I strive not to sin … however, given human nature, yes, it is easy – and certainly possible – to fail in this quest.  We will sin … and God does forgive as we repent.

Recently though, a new realization on go-and-sin-no-more was brought to my attention.  A person, eighteen years abstinent from smoking, relapsed ... and it’s been more than a year now.  Old associations, habits, routines, and a sense of normalcy have set in.  Although thoughts of quitting are being entertained, the difficulties in breaking re-established patterns and fears of withdrawal are daunting and hard to face.  Suddenly, one afternoon, a revelation came:  Jesus was saying to the woman (in John 8:11) go and sin no more … because (and here is the revelation) if you do return to your old ways, you will face even greater difficulties trying to break from and leave yet again - this harmful way of living (i.e., particularly, the sin from which I have saved you from death). 
How true it is … relapse can happen … and when it does, quite often it returns with vengeance.  Another person - an ex-three-pack-a-day smoker – shared that if he ever relapsed, he would undoubtedly start back on four packs per day!

From the Gamblers Anonymous (Yellow Combo Book), the question of returning to gamble (after abstinence) is asked: “Can a compulsive gambler ever gamble normally again?”   Here is the GA answer:  “When it comes to gambling, we have known many compulsive gamblers who could abstain for long stretches, but caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances, they started gambling without thought of consequences …  some of our members have tried some small bet experimentation, always with disastrous results.  The old obsession inevitably returned.  Our Gamblers Anonymous experience seems to point to these alternatives: To gamble, risking progressive deterioration or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life.”

In closing, I say an AMEN! to the following good news from GA:
Most of us feel that a belief in a Power greater than ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain a desire to refrain from gambling. 

Once more, the GOOD NEWS  is that there is recovery in addiction – and yes, even in relapse!
Blessings,

Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO
Founding Director

Gambling Recovery Ministries
 
For more information on problem gambling and recovery, visit: