Spiritual Rules for Life

You shall be Holy to me… God said to Moses, Come up to me…”
Exodus 22:30-24:12

In this portion the translation of the title is ” spiritual rules”. The chapter sets out a series of rules; Moses prepares to detail them to the Israelites.

They are referred to as “mitzvot” and number 613. Interestingly 365 are “thou shall not” corresponding to the days of the year and 248 are “thou shall” corresponding to the number of joints in the body. Symbolizing that living these laws allows us to serve our Higher Power with all of our body and soul, all the time.

The laws are about worshiping other gods, kashrut (foods allowed to be eaten and those forbidden), business ethics and treatment of animals. God also provides an angel to protect the Israelites from their enemies, and warns the Israelites not to worship other gods.

Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to meet with God for 40 days and 40 nights. This all happens in addition to receiving the Ten Commandments.

Why does God beckon us to come? In Spiritual Renewal, we are seeking to be closer to the Sunlight of The Spirit, our souls are yearning for this relationship and it is given to us if we simply come to it.

What is it to be holy? It isthe result of doing the work and living by the “laws”. It is beyond human understanding and is there for us if we are willing.

It is the path of living more from our heart and less from our mind.

One of the things that spiritual renewal offers the individual is a sense of passion about living; the bonus is that it comes through humility.

Spiritual Trust

Abraham had spiritual trust and followed the direction of his Higher Power.

“I am a shield to you. I will establish my covenant between Me and you. Walk before Me and be pure.” Genesis 13:1 – 17:2

Abraham has made a decision to turn his life and his will over to the care of God, and for this God has made another covenant with humankind. The promise goes beyond protecting the land and the waters where humans live, it will now extend to the people who walk before their Higher Power.

A Spiritual Renewal awaits those who leave idol worship and sinful ways for the purity of accepting God’s will in their lives. Abraham is whole-hearted in his devotion, living honestly. He stands before the Sunlight of the Spirit with a faith ready to journey to new places believing he is not alone.

This new covenant is one of the soul and goes beyond time and space, it connects with his past and secures his future. It measure all that he does, he lives it in all of his behavior, those he loves as well as those he hardly knows. He believes that his Higher Power works through people he meets, so greets all with love, admiration and respects. It insures his part of the covenant.

We all have different relationships with God. Sometimes where we are and what we are doing forces us to reconsider who we are and what we have become, all in relationship to God. Faith comes harder than belief. We can begin with little steps. Let The Sunlight of the Spirit’s presence be a shield about you until you are ready to be a shield for others.

Into your hand I entrust my spirit. Psalm 31.6

HIGHER POWER

The use of the phrase Higher Power—his, hers, yours, or mine—rather than the word God, reminds people in recovery of tolerance of individual differences in religious belief and spiritual inclination. The most basic understanding of the concept “Higher Power” within RECOVERY is that it is that which keeps me free of my addiction. In a sense, it is the ultimate pragmatic concept of God. For people in recovery who have tried and failed time after time to stay abstinent without a spiritual solution, who have tried and failed after using any one of innumerable techniques, that which finally does keep one away from substances or addictive actions becomes a “Higher Power”.
A psychiatrist tells this story:
A person in recovery was telling a friend that on awakening each morning he prays to his Higher Power for another day of recovery, and that each night before retiring he thanks that Power for having granted him a day of recovery.

“How do you know it was your Higher Power who gave you the day of recovery?” the friend asked.

“It had to be,” the man responded.. “My HP was the only one whom I had asked.”

Home – Prayer of Desperation

Pleading prayer of desperation, “Please God, please God, let me come home from the wars.” As far as I know, I have never read that anywhere. It came out of a heart filled with despair and anguish and self-reproach and self-hatred. But I knew the minute I heard it that the key word was home … home. It was coming out of a guy who had never ever, in his life, felt at home.
A home is where the heart finds rest and renewal. That’s where coming home is. I am far enough along in the journey now to be able to see that there is only one ultimate coming home, and that is the final, total, complete, surrender of self to a Power greater than myself. I’m also brave enough today to believe that there will come a day, there will be a place sometime, somewhere, someday, there will be an altar or a confessional, a mountain or a valley … probably in all likelihood .. just a plain, everyday, run-of the-mill AA meeting, where I will finally no longer pull back and say, “Oh, my God, no, no, don’t ask that of me, don’t take that away from me too.”
And when that moment comes, then I know that I will have finally come home. In the meantime, I am more at home here than anywhere I have ever been in my life. I’m more at home here for a very simple reason … you have never, ever asked anything of me … therefore I have been able to give you what I could afford.
What I’m trying to do tonight is to tell you that I have made a return, for as T. S. Eliot said, “There will never be any end from exploring, and the end of all our exploration will be to return to the place where we started and to see it for the first time.”
That is why I tell you, it took something that almost killed me to return me finally to the place where I started, to see it for the first time, and to return to you tonight and tell you that this journey has been worth everything I have been asked to pay to make it.

by Allen Reid McGinnis
The Rest Of Your Life
http://amzn.to/1T1xNRT

Thank You

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Meister Eckhardt

Some of us are more delusional than others, but delusion and grandiosity are commonly present in most alcoholics. My life was centered on perfection and the projection that I was always right. Saying or expressing thank you never crossed my mind. This wasn’t a compulsive disorder as much as it was arrogance and self-centeredness.

“Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. 
Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, 
we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes
they hurt us seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that
at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self
which later placed us in a position to be hurt.” Big Book

Several years ago a company recruited me to be its COO. It was an industry I was well acquainted with and the job came with a major increase in pay and responsibility. In my mind it was about time I was to be rewarded for my talents. This was while I was still a sober drunk without a program, steps or recovery.

It didn’t take long for me to alienate most of the employees and cause serious regrets by the owner of the company. My deluded self-absorption convinced me that I was doing a phenomenal job. I exposed company theft, poor decisions by ownership and a total lack of controls. I also did not waste any time letting everyone know how incompetent they had been and what actions we had to take to correct these poor decisions. Of course without any regard for the people I offended or feelings for them.

It took about six months for them tell me my services were no longer needed and I was dismissed. I left with resentments, anger, dishonesty and self-centered righteousness. I had been wronged and told everyone who would listen. Within six more months I was drinking again; much worse than before.

Within another six months I had crashed and burned. I crawled back into AA searching for an answer to the fear that if I drank again I would surely die.

Willingness to be teachable led me to a new path of recovery and a beginning to build a new life and a new mind. The 12 Steps, a sponsor and the unconditional love of people in the fellowship opened me to all the promises of AA.

I heard from one of my co-workers several months after I was dismissed that the owner of the company had remarked after I was gone that he had a God in his life and didn’t need another one.

Now it is time for me to do another 9th Step and make amends for the wreckage I caused with the people who gave me an opportunity that I destroyed. Thank God I learned how in the 12 Steps.

Overcoming Addiction

Alcohol Dependency & Detox

Reprinted from: http://www.lunaliving.org/

Alcohol is the drug of choice for most Americans. It can be the beginning of addiction.

Besides being legal, alcohol is relatively inexpensive and considered by most to be socially acceptable. Alcohol has been “sold” to us for thousands of years as a feature of good living. Our society celebrates special moments with champagne and drowns sorrows with drink.

From childhood we learn to hide or lie about liquor when we drink too much, or are underage. But apart from feeble resistance from a few religious groups, and a state’s legal restrictions, there is no barrier. Americans consume over $212 billion worth of alcohol per year.

If alcohol use is so widely accepted then what’s wrong with drinking? For most people alcohol isn’t a dangerous drug. But for the person with the chronic brain disease called Addiction, alcohol is pure poison and can be life-threatening.

Although the medical community acknowledges certain health benefits of moderate alcohol use (1 drink for women and 2 for men), they post a clear WARNING: More than three drinks a day for women, or four for men, puts you at high risk of irreparable brain damage.

An Alcohol Damaged Brain

Chronic alcohol abuse severely compromises your mental ability. In the short-term it can cause you to drink and drive. And, in the long-term it can irreversibly affect memory formation, abstract thinking, problem solving, attention, concentration, and emotions.

Alcoholics who abstain from drinking can recover from some alcohol-induced brain damage. But no one knows how much alcohol it takes to cause irreversible brain damage? Drinking can be like playing Russian roulette.

Alcohol immediately passes through the blood brain barrier, which is why people often say, “The drink went straight to my head”. Alcohol’s rapid absorption, in high concentrations (i.e., multiple drinks ingested quickly), can suppress the centers in the brain that control breathing causing you to pass out or even die.

Additionally, alcohol causes the release of a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine, labeled by neuroscientists, as the “addiction molecule” is responsible for the rewarding effect that keeps you drinking. For many this reward can be limited to a single cocktail but for an alcoholic this “pleasurable moment” can quickly turn into a life-threatening physical disease.

HOW MUCH CAN ONE DRINK depends on many factors – the rate of consumption, the quantity, how much fat and muscle mass you have, and whether or not you eat while drinking.

The kind of alcohol we drink is called ethanol. Once ethanol hits your bloodstream it travels to every organ in the body, which is why
heavy drinking is so physically, mentally, and spiritually debilitating.

HOW YOU DRINK ALCOHOL ALSO AFFECTS YOUR RISK. “Binge drinking” is particularly dangerous. When young people drink too much, too fast, they risk passing out and dying. Never leave someone who has passed out from alcohol alone. Too much alcohol suppresses normal breathing and is extremely dangerous. If in question, call 911.

Combining alcohol with drugs is a huge NO-NO! All sedatives can become deadly when combined with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with narcotics can result in overdose.

Alcohol should not be mixed with any drug that makes you sleepy – opiates (heroin, oxycodone, and morphine), Valium-like drugs (benzodiazepines, sleep medications (Ambien) and antihistamines found in cold medications.

• Mixing alcohol with antibiotics can cause convulsions (seizures), nausea, and vomiting.

• Mixing alcohol with antihistamines can enhance sedation and excessive dizziness, which is particularly dangerous for older adults.

• Mixing alcohol with Tylenol (acetaminophen) creates a chemical that causes liver damage.

• And, the list goes on.

Alcohol Dependence vs. Alcohol Abuse

In general, alcohol abuse refers to patterns of drinking that cause health problems or social problems, or both.

Alcohol dependence, more commonly known as alcoholism, refers to the brain disease we know as Addiction.

Addiction leads to lack of control over drinking and life. Signs of physical dependence (withdrawal) appear within hours of stopping to drink and may manifest as anxiety, hallucinations, seizures and tremors.

Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is characterized by cravings. A person, who suddenly stops, without the proper medical care, can experience severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms. If you are an alcoholic do not try detox on your own. Seek medical help immediately! Don’t drink if you are pregnant

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is the full range of neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and learning disabilities associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol passes the blood brain barrier and immediately, and negatively, affects an unborn fetus. There is absolutely no safe level of drinking during pregnancy. Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) suffer learning impairments for life.

Addiction

Addiction is a primary, chronic brain disease that affects brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Without treatment and engagement in recovery activities, it often results in disability or premature death.

HOW DO I KNOW I AM ADDICTED? Addiction is characterized by your inability to consistently abstain; cravings; a dysfunctional emotional response and a diminished recognition of significant problems with your behavior and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, Addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission and premature death if left untreated.

A widely used screening test is CAGE. If you have two or more positive responses it is likely you have a problem with alcohol.

• Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?

• Have you ever felt Annoyed by someone criticizing your drinking?

• Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?

• Have you ever felt the need for an Eye-opener? (a drink at the beginning of the day)?

NO ONE IN MY FAMILY IS AN ALCOHOLIC. AM I AT RISK? Overexposure to alcohol can lead to alcohol dependence. Alcohol changes the brain of everyone! Anyone that chronically abuses alcohol will eventually become dependent. If you drink to self-medicate for co-existing conditions it is likely you will become addicted, if you aren’t already.

ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL

Alcohol sedates your brain. Your brain works 24/7 to protect you, to do its job the brain offsets the sedative effects of alcohol consumption by producing larger and larger quantities of norepinephrine, a chemical similar to adrenaline. Although you abruptly stop drinking, your brain needs time to respond. It may take a few days to rebalance your brain chemistry, which is why the excess norepinephrine in your bloodstream causes withdrawal symptoms.

Only about 5% of alcoholics experience a dangerous withdrawal, known as delirium tremens, or DTs. Because your brain is unable to adjust to the quickly changing chemistry, you can experience confusion, hallucinations, and you are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. There is no way of knowing in advance if you are one of the 5%, which is why you should seek medical care to detox your body.

Learning To Listen

Learning To Listen – Ki Tissa

“When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain…”—Exodus 32:1.

This week’s portion describes one of the most misunderstood events in the Bible – the sin of the Golden Calf. Taken at face value, it is difficult to comprehend how the same people who had witnessed the miracles of the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai could be led to worship a molten image. However, a deeper understanding of the episode reveals that the people did not intend to replace God with the Golden Calf. What they were looking for was a substitute for Moses. They were an imperfect people who had yet learned to listen to the Sunlight of the Spirit, or to rely on each other.

Moses, a human being of flesh and blood, represented the people’s tangible connection to a Higher Power. Although it was God who redeemed the people from Egypt and gave them the Commandments at Sinai, it was Moses who served as the visible medium through which these wonders were brought about. Without Moses to facilitate their relationship with The Power of the Universe, the people were in a quandary and sought to replace him.

Their mistake was that when they thought that they had lost their appointed intermediary, they took it upon themselves to choose their own way of connecting, contrary to what they had heard on their journey. An idol represented that substitute they sought.

If it is true that the essence of finding spirituality is looking within us; it also has behooved those on that journey to choose a teacher. The connection we seek is not a solo search; it is one of community and learning to listen.

One of the cornerstones of spiritual renewal is our willingness to be receptive to the message when we hear it. If we seek knowledge of God’s will for us is by listening, then we understand imperfection and accept that the journey will not be perfect. Just as the Israelites stumbled by choosing to replace Moses with a Golden Calf, we too may not always be perfect.

Consistent with the acceptance that we do not always know what is best for us and that we need to always remain open, receptive and teachable; is the relevance that when we get out of our own heads long enough to truly listen to someone else, we may be able to hear the voice of God.

When All Excuses Fail… Exodus

By Mendy Wolf

A recovering alcoholic described the catalyst to his rehabilitation and recovery. “I thought alcohol could drown my sorrows,” he said, “until I realized that sorrows float.”

Human tendency is to blame our problems, mistakes and failures on everyone but ourselves: “If only I had grown up with more loving parents, I would have more self-esteem…” “If my teacher hadn’t embarrassed me in second grade, I would have never ended up like this…” “If I hadn’t been surrounded by such bad friends, I would be different…”

The giving of the Torah at Sinai was a monumental event. It was a moment in time that radically changed the world and left its mark on every human being. The Power of the Universe had been revealed! The Almighty appeared to millions of people and declared, “I am the Lo­rd your God.”

No room for doubts or ambiguity: it was the “If only God would tell me He exists…” moment we all wish for.

When all excuses fail…

But the continuation of the dream we all have – “…then I would never do anything wrong!” – did not materialize. Mere days after this awesome experience, the Jews succumbed. Afraid that Moses had abandoned them, they created a golden calf and began worshiping it. Never mind the “You shall not serve any other gods” they had just heard from the A­lmighty’s voice. Forget the certainty and intense belief with which they had been filled. They were the same fallible human beings with doubts and temptations as always—and they failed.

Ultimately, no one can change our lives. Just as alcohol can not solve one’s emotional challenges, inspiration can not take the place of effort. Just as the giving of the Torah could not prevent the Jews from sinning, neither can better parents, teachers, friends or financial conditions. We, and we alone, are the creators of our destiny. We have been granted free choice.

As a child, a famous Jewish sage watched as his home went up in flames. As he stood beside his mother, watching the last remnants of their house reduced to ash, he saw that she was crying inconsolably. “The family tree!” she exclaimed over and over. “The book that records our beautiful lineage! It is lost forever.” The little boy comforted his mother, declaring, “Don’t worry about that book I will create a new family tree. I will establish a new lineage that you can be proud of.”

Let us abandon the “if only I had…” and begin replacing it with “I will establish a new lineage.” Let us not look past at what could have been, but rather forward at what must be. What could have been would not have changed things anyway. What will be is in our hands.

Faith and Resentment

Genesis 47:28-50:26

—”And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I instead of God? You intended evil but God meant it for good…”Genesis 50:20.

 

rust God
Faith

In the last portion of the Book of Genesis, Jacob passes away, leaving his sons to fear that with their father gone their brother, will take vengeance upon them. They feared he would be revengeful for the wrong they did him many years ago when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. The brothers approach Joseph and beg him to do them no harm. Joseph is taken aback. “Am I instead of God, he asks rhetorically, “You intended evil for me but God meant it for good.”

The words with which Joseph reassured his brothers are quite telling. Certainly, he could have said something that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” But Joseph communicated a message far more profound than that. Not only did he have no desire for revenge, he would not even concede that his brothers had actually succeeded in doing anything to him for which he should feel wronged. He allows that they had intended evil for him – for which they are presumably accountable before God – but that is none of his concern anyhow, as he says, “Am I instead of God?” As far as what they actually did to him, Joseph completely dismisses any grounds for feeling ill will.

In other words, he explains the reason for his lack of resentment: God was in control all along and his brothers had done nothing to him outside of God’s plan. If one has truly given one’s life and will over to a Higher Power then there isn’t a place for resentment. If Joseph believes there was pre-destined plan for him to come to Egypt, to become Pharaoh’s viceroy and to save his brothers in time of famine. Then it matters not what his brothers had in mind, for Joseph that was irrelevant. Life, as he saw it, was not a result of anything that any human being could ever have done to him, but rather, the culmination of the Power of the Universe’s beneficent plan.
A person in Spiritual Renewal knows that resentment is the number one obstacle to our path/journey. When we take stock of our lives, we attempt to face any resentment we may still hold toward anyone in our lives, past or present, and to let the hurt go. Our spiritual journey is best traveled lightly and we can scarcely afford to be weighed down by such useless, heavy baggage.
But getting over our resentments is not just a matter of unburdening ourselves of emotional pain. It is also how we get in touch with The Almighty’s purpose and plan for our lives. When we attribute to the actions of others any power to define our lives, then we give ourselves to the tyranny of people, places and things and not surrendering to the loving care of Sunlight of the Spirit. Even when there have been people in our lives who have intended us harm, our faith tells us that none of that could have ever derailed our lives from God’s plan. Even those who have genuinely wronged us have been no more than unwitting players in a show that is constantly being written and directed by God. To state it succinctly, to carry resentments are to grant power to a created being. To truly let go of resentments means to grant power only to God.