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Archive for November, 2013


God’s Will and Your Next Move

 

 

Refer to Step 10: I believe that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

 

 

You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by.

—Ray Bradbury

In America, we have the notion that “flawless people” are the ones who should be in charge, which means that our elected officials and religious leaders are those who have no negative “check marks” next to their names. Somehow, being without blemish—at least outwardly—is a sign of being worthy to lead. Those who have experienced difficulties have a negative check mark against them, which makes them less desirable, whether as a political candidate or as a religious leader.

In God’s Kingdom, where all have sinned and fallen short of perfection, the exact opposite is true. It’s the people who have sinned much that have the capacity to love the most. They understand the value of being forgiven, of being restored, and of being used by God.

Once a person has been broken of his or her self-will and self-serving ways, that person has a far greater capacity to seek God’s will. Brokenness produces character qualities that God esteems in men and women, particularly as we face the daunting task of rescuing Christendom from narcissistic religious abusers. This is also true for anti-Christian political leaders who promote traditions diametrically opposed to the ways of our Founding Fathers. We need God’s help more than ever as we attempt to wrestle control of our nation from those whose self-will and worldview is consistently at cross-purposes with God’s will.

Now that you have gone through the difficulties associated with religious abuse, can you begin to see your value? Can you understand why it was important for the abuse to occur? Do you understand why you are far more important to God than you were before your difficult experiences?

Now that you’ve experienced substantial recovery, you are in a unique position to help the myriads of others who have had debilitating experiences equal to yours. Recognizing that, does the necessity of having gone “through the wringer” make sense to you now? If so, you are in a position to thank God for everything that has happened, and you can say, “Father, what do you want me to do next?”

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

Jack Watts

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You Are Where You’re Supposed To Be

 

Refer to Step 8: I share my experience with a trusted friend and confess to God the exact state of my heart.

 

Persons with any weight of character carry, like planets, their atmospheres along with them in their orbits.

—Thomas Hardy

I had an interesting and instructive experience recently at my small group Bible study. A young couple in the group had spent the preceding year in Boston where the wife worked on her master’s degree at Harvard. Before they went, as a group we prayed about whether or not it was God’s will for them to go.

As our group sat and enjoyed a meal, during the couple’s spring break visit, she said that it was not God’s will for her to go through this program because it had been so difficult for them in nearly every area of their lives. She believed this was especially true because they were without the nurture of those who knew and loved them so well.

Several minutes after she spoke, I said, “I think you’re mistaken. I believe it was God’s will for you to go.” Looking at her and then her husband, I continued, “You’re stronger—both of you. I can see it and so can everyone else. Your heart for the Lord has been strengthened by this experience, as well as your heart for one another. That’s what God wants, and He will allow you to go through as much sorrow and pain as necessary to produce it. It creates character, which is highly valued by Him and beneficial to others.”

As I reflected about the incident, I remembered two years earlier when I went to their wedding. She radiated as a young bride and was very beautiful. Two years later—to the day—she also radiated, as tears streamed down her cheeks. But this time the beauty was stronger and more pronounced because it originated from inside. The strain of the experience had produced a likeness to Christ that was undeniable.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Jack Watts

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Discipline Is God’s Way of Coaching

 

Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted.

 

Lord, help us to accept the pains and conflicts that come to us each day as opportunities to grow as people and become more like you.

—Mother Teresa

For prospects, training camp in the National Football League can be very stressful. Coaches “get after” each player repeatedly, frequently chewing them out, being no more than two inches from their face when they do it. It can be quite intimidating, but most players are grateful—that’s right, grateful. That’s because when the yelling stops, the player knows the decision has been made to cut him from the squad. Players realize that as long as they are being yelled at, they are still on the team. When it stops, they will not be part of the team much longer.

In a way, it’s the same with you and me in our relationship with the Lord. As long as He is “making things warm” for us, as Mark Twain used to say, you can be certain He has something important for you to do. It’s His way of coaching, and it’s quite effective. His voice isn’t as harsh or as rough as a coach’s, but His disciplinary hand is much firmer.

If everything is going well and there is no stress or conflict in your life, there’s no way for you to grow. Stress produces an opportunity for maturation. Without it, you would become stagnant and cease growing.

You’ve heard the expression, “No pain . . . no gain.” It’s not in the Scriptures, but it’s certainly what most of us experience in life, isn’t it? If you can keep this in mind, it will make it easier to accept unique and difficult situations, which is the tough stuff of life.

Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. (Job 5:17-18)

Jack Watts

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Father,

When I came to You in my distress,

All I wanted was for You to “make everything better,”

To nurse my bruises like my mom used to do

When I was a little boy and hurt myself—

To tell me I would be okay and my pain

Would vanish and soon be forgotten.

But that’s not what You did nor what You wanted.

Instead, You made it crystal clear that

I could not nurse my wounds in solitude,

Nor enjoy the bitter fruit of self-pity.

Instead, You insisted I “suck it up” and be a man,

You stretched me far beyond my comfort zone,

Insisting that I be more open and vulnerable

Than I had ever been in my entire life.

You guided me, leading me to do

The next right thing, regardless of the consequences,

Regardless of what the outcome would be.

Despite my fears and my desire to run away and hide,

Which I masked with a disingenuous smile,

I obeyed, doing what You made clear for me to do.

I know following Your will is never a mistake,

Even when being obedient makes me look weak.

You know what You have planned, and I do not.

I can’t see the future or understand it—none of it.

But I know that by following my conscience,

Even when it would be easier to simply walk away,

Something of value is being created within me,

Which never existed before—but now does.

It makes me stronger and wiser than I have ever been.

For this I am grateful, knowing my growth comes from You.

Jack Watts

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Father,

Lord, my days are in Your hands, and You alone know

When the time for my deliverance will come.

Until that time, I know what I must do.

I must relentlessly press forward

And never, never, never, never give up.

Question: Is this how you think? How quickly do you give up on your dreams, calling them unrealistic and unattainable? Is this an area of your life that needs improvement?

Adversity is a way of life in recovery—a constant that needs to be recognized and accepted. An easier, softer way just isn’t in the cards. The trick is to look at life from a growth perspective and not as an end result. You may never win the game, but you can always be a winner in the process—if you keep at it, taking life one day at a time.

Question: When apprehension becomes overwhelming, say to yourself: “I’ll do the next right thing—one day at a time.” Will you make the effort to do that?

When you first believed, God gave you a spirit of love, power, and of a disciplined, sound mind. It resides just below the surface of your troubled heart, waiting for you to do the work necessary to appropriate the inner power that rightfully belongs to you—just as it does for all of God’s children.

Question: Do you rely believe that God has given you a sound mind? Is this a real, tangible promise or just a noble idea?

 

If I can be there for you, reaching out to you with words of encouragement and exhortation, it makes my abuse worthwhile. There’s so much pain and suffering—so much dysfunction—in the lives of nearly everybody I meet that experiences such as mine can and should be very uplifting.

Journal: React to the paragraph above. Write about how you feel about it and about how it might apply to you.

We’re in trouble because Christianity has more weak, Scripturally ignorant, morally corrupt, worldly-minded materialists than those who will stand by their convictions, regardless of the price they have to pay for doing so. To make matters worse, those who appear to be strong are often so self-righteous and judgmental that they turn off more people than they influence.

Journal: Write about this paragraph as well, making sure to either agree or disagree with it, naming your reasons.

Resources

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Why Christians Have so Little Influence

 

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

 

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;

I woke, and found that life was Duty.

—Ellen Sturgis Hooper

Every Sunday morning, you can go to thousands of churches across America and listen to a diatribe about what’s wrong with our nation. During some times of the year, it would be difficult to find a church where “Jeremiads” are not being preached. Nearly all of these messages place blame upon liberals, progressives, political correctness, and increasing godlessness in America. It’s rare for a church to cast the blame where it belongs—upon Christians like us, but I believe that’s where it resides.

We’re in trouble because Christianity has more weak, Scripturally ignorant, morally corrupt, worldly-minded materialists than those who will stand by their convictions, regardless of the price they have to pay for doing so. To make matters worse, those who appear to be strong are often so self-righteous and judgmental that they turn off more people than they influence.

For society to transform, something has to change, and we are the ones who need to change—not hedonists and liberals. They never change. We’re the independent variable, not them.

We bemoan how far America has strayed from our noble origins. That may be true, but it’s the strength of Christians that has changed—not the influence of non-believers. If righteousness is to return to America, Christians must be the ones leading the way, but we have to do it from the inside out. Self-righteous condemnation of others will not get the job done. Neither will increasing church membership with people who haven’t a clue about who Christ really is and what He expects of His disciples. We already have enough of them.

The fruits of our lives— individually and collectively—must exemplify love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, mercy, and other positive character qualities of Christ’s followers throughout the centuries. If we do this, a plethora of leaders with renewed minds will arise out of our midst. If not, we’ll continue to spit in the wind at the liberals with predictable results.

He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Jack Watts

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Recognizing the Value of Your Recovery

 

Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

 

 

God taught us to laugh again, but God, “Please don’t let us forget that we once cried.”

—Recovery Slogan

For your recovery to have value, you must to be willing to share your experience with others. Helping other abused people look at life honestly—without medicating their pain or revising reality—is what made my experience worthwhile. I’m firmly convinced it’s why God has allowed my painful experiences in the first place. In my head, I keep hearing the Lord’s voice—as gentle as a zephyr, saying:

It is for such a time as this that I have brought you to this place. If you look to Me and not to your circumstances, you can help many—perhaps millions. Be strong; be fearless; be transparent. This is your destiny. Accept it with dignity, helping all who ask, regardless of their situation.

So, that’s what I have tried to do. If I can be there for you, reaching out to you with words of encouragement and exhortation, it makes my abuse worthwhile. There’s so much pain and suffering—so much dysfunction—in the lives of nearly everybody I meet that experiences such as mine can and should be very uplifting.

If you are willing to work for your recovery, there is a life of abundance waiting for you, regardless of your situation. I know this is true; I’m not guessing. In America, millions live in fear of the truth, carefully concealing what’s really going on in their lives, believing exposure will make them look weak. But that’s an illusion. Freedom—true freedom—comes from being honest with yourself and with others. It releases you to be the person God intends you to be—a person who lives life to its fullest—as it’s meant to be lived. There’s power in this freedom as well.

It’s also why writing about your experience is critical. Putting it all down on paper will help you see your situation more clearly. If you want to become a complete person, transparency and vulnerability are required; they are not optional. There is no other way. You have to let the truth cleanse the wounds left to fester in the dark places of bitterness and resentment.

Be courageous and strong, understanding that being this vulnerable is not a weakness; it’s a profound strength. Only a strong person can stand the scrutiny transparency brings. Weak people have to mask reality because they don’t own enough of themselves to withstand the external examination of others.

 

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; do not destroy his resting place; for a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. (Proverbs 24:15-16)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 4: I believe that God understands my wounded-ness and He alone can heal me. I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself. He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

 

I do not want to die . . . until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me, until the last small twig has grown.

—Kathe Kollwitz

For most people, after being subjected to verbal and emotional abuse, life is never the same—not really. Deep emotional scars become crippling, effectively preventing them from experiencing the richness, fullness, and contentment they once enjoyed.

Although this happens routinely to abused people, life doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s most definitely not God’s will. Regardless of what you have done, God loves you exactly the way you are—in your shame, in your anger, and in your rebellion. After walking away from Him, you’ve probably been consumed with anger and fear, but that certainly didn’t originate from Him.

When you first believed, He gave you a spirit of love, power, and of a disciplined, sound mind. It resides just below the surface of your troubled heart, waiting for you to do the work necessary to appropriate the inner power that rightfully belongs to you—just as it does for all of God’s children.

It’s not easy to regain your composure after experiencing deep wounds from being abused but, if you do the work necessary each day, one day at a time, you will become a better person than you have ever been before—perhaps much better.

Purpose and resiliency will return to you, but in a more meaningful way, because you will become interested in others and not just in yourself. Your goals and aspirations will be tempered with humility, discernment, and wisdom—God’s wisdom. This is not an idealistic, utopian, of fanciful. It can happen; it can be your experience—not just for a while—but for the rest of your life.

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (I Timothy 1:7)

Jack Watts

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: Never Give Up

 

 

Refer to Step 2: I refuse to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

 

 Never, never, never, never give up.

—Winston Churchill

Facing adversity is a way of life in recovery—a constant that needs to be recognized and accepted. An easier, softer way just isn’t in the cards. The trick is to look at life from a growth perspective and not as an end result. You may never win the game, but you can always be a winner in the process—if you keep at it, taking life one day at a time, always doing the next right thing.

Maintaining an attitude capable of living like this reminds me of a story. Once, there was a little boy talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he announced. Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed.

“Strike One”, he yelled. Undaunted, he picked up the ball and said, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Again, he tossed the ball into the air. When it came down he swung again and missed. “Strike two,” he cried.

The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. He straightened his cap and said once more, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Tossing the ball in the air, he swung at it again, missing. “Strike three!”

Not at all ruffled by missing the ball three times, he exclaimed, “Wow! I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!” Instead of looking at himself like he was a failure at what he wanted to be, he accentuated the positive and kept playing the game.

That’s what people in recovery need to tell themselves every day—occasionally, ever hour. In recovery, you need to keep playing the game—win, lose, or draw. If you do, you’ll always be a winner.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3)

Jack Watts

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Never Give Up

Father,

As the vicissitudes of life have turned against me,

And it seems like nothing but misfortune

Will be in my path for the foreseeable future,

Anxiety and fretfulness fill my days.

I awaken in the night, filled with dread and foreboding.

My mind races, and my heart churns with apprehension.

Yet, at the deepest level of my being,

A quiet persistent voice tells me to never give up.

When I rise in the morning, I am filled with resolve,

Knowing the quiet Is Your voice, showing me the way.

As the days pass and the pressure increases,

I feel battered and beaten at every turn.

Everything that can go wrong certainly has.

Maintaining a positive outward demeanor,

I remain determined to do the next right thing,

Regardless of what that might be.

I have no other choice but to follow Your path.

My insides, however, feel numb and crushed,

As pressures from all sides intensify,

Weighing me down, relentlessly grinding me down.

As I bow my knee and ask for relief,

Which I know can only come from You,

I realize that I have no answers within me.

In the quietness of my heart, Your voice resonates,

Repeatedly telling me to never, never give up.

As the weeks turn into months, with no appreciable respite,

Having been abandoned by all but those who wish me harm,

Experiencing ridicule, slander, abuse, and castigation,

I feel undone, and fear my heart will soon break.

And yet, I have no choice but to press forward.

There is no alternative, and I cannot abandon my purpose.

That isn’t in the nature You have implanted within me.

With this in mind, I bolster myself affirming repeatedly,

I will never give up—never, never, never give up.

Lord, my days are in Your hands, and You alone know

When the time for fulfilled purpose will come.

Until that time, I know what I must do.

I must press forward and never giving up,

Knowing this is Your will for me and no other.

Jack Watts

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Father,

Oh, how I loathe the pompously religious

Who extol their virtues, with a never-yielding heart.

May I never be like them—like those

Who talk of Your love and guidance,

While seeking an advantage over the naive.

Let my witness be by my actions,

And not by my mellifluous tongue,

Which I know can be self-serving and serpentine.

Journal: Write about the character qualities you need to avoid. Be certain to name at least three.

Look at this as a time to return to your first love—to return to the Lord.  You’ve already experienced a measure of recovery, but you know your potential is far greater. It requires substantial work but, if you put your heart into it, you’ll never regret your decision to proceed. What do you say? Why not let today be the day when you become more serious.

 

Journal: Write your answers to the questions above.

Of all the reasons for abuse, perhaps the greatest is the steadfast determination that maintains, “I am right and the other person is wrong.” Militantly insisting upon this position causes more wounding than any other thing.

 

Question: How accurately does this describe your situation? How determined have you been to insist upon your own vindication?

What counts is being of value to your fellow man—to unfortunate, needy people. This is particularly true of people in recovery. To own your recovery fully, you must give it away by serving others. How you achieve this is between you and God, but it will probably never be flashy.

 

Journal: Write about how you have helped another in his or her recovery. If that hasn’t happened, describe an ideal situation where it might occur.

Although we should never encourage aberrant behavior, we can better understand the weaknesses of others. We didn’t always possess this character quality, but we certainly have grown into it. It’s part of the reason we have had the experiences we’ve had.

Question: If a religious abuser showed up in your life, what would be the keys to recognizing that person? 

Jack Watts

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Recognizing When Christianity Is a Mask

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

 

It takes one to know one.

—Childhood Taunt

After a person has been abused, including religious abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs. The person’s naiveté vanishes. They are no longer susceptible to being hoodwinked or, at least, they are far less likely to be. This is a good thing. It makes a person more discerning.

At the same time, it also allows the abused person to see others as they really are and not as they portray themselves to be. Christian groups tend to draw many people who, for whatever reason, are outcasts and misfits. These are people who learn to talk the talk but who are also broken on the inside. It’s not that they experience brokenness from pride and self-seeking; it’s more like they don’t have the capacity for wholeness—to be a complete person. The emotional wounds of these people are so extensive; they would be in the Special Olympics, if their limitations were mental rather than emotional.

Those of us who have been abused seem to recognize these people more easily than others, providing us with an opportunity for service. Because of the pain and humiliation we have suffered, we have a greater capacity to empathize than others. Because we can recognize the wounded-ness behind the mask of these unfortunates, we can also provide a measure of acceptance, stretching us beyond our comfort zone.

It’s why we have learned to be accepting people. Although we should never encourage aberrant behavior, we can better understand the weaknesses of others. We haven’t always possessed this character quality, but we certainly have grown into it.

We have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to everyman’s conscience in the sight of God. (II Corinthians 4:2)

Jack Watts

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 How To Measure Success

 

Refer to Step 10: I believe that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

 

 

Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us, and new beauty waiting to be born.

—Helen Keller

In our society, success is measured by notoriety, beauty, or the accumulation of wealth. If you’re young, good looking, and have substantial discretionary income to spend, whether you’ve earned it or not, you are living the American dream; at least in its current version. This goal is what most Americans strive to accomplish, but nearly all miss the mark badly. Those who do achieve it believe they are entitled to it.

When they lose it, most lack the maturity to move on with life to pursue other productive avenues. Instead, they choose to turn to vice as a medication for their pain. Examples of this occur often with athletes and young celebrities, but it happens to many others as well. They become addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs or pornography.

If this has happened to you, you understand how devastating this can be. It’s why you have made the decision to choose sobriety—a much healthier path. As you progress in recovery, your values begin to change. You realize that what the world considers worthwhile is never satisfying—not soul satisfying anyway. Being at the right party, with the right partner, and wearing the right outfit may be fun, but as your purpose for life, it leaves those who pursue it feeling empty. It’s an unsustainable existence.

What matters is being of value to your fellow man, to unfortunate needy people. To own your recovery fully, you must give it away by serving others. How you achieve this is between God and you.

It will probably never be flashy, however. In fact, you may never even be noticed. As often as not, you will not be thanked for your efforts either, but that doesn’t count either. What does count is receiving validation from Almighty God. That satisfies at a level no material possessions ever can.

Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)

Jack Watts

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Stop Blaming and Get Busy Healing 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.

—Sir Winston Churchill

When you’ve experienced abuse, regardless of the type, you inevitably lose your ability to trust. It just goes with the territory. Some people never regain their ability to trust and lead half-lives, ruled by suspicion and distrust—sometimes a great deal of it. If your abuse has come from a trusted spiritual leader, you’ve probably lost your ability to trust God as well.

Although the abuser will have to answer to God for the problems he or she created in you, you also have substantial accountability. Regardless of where the problem began, it’s still your responsibility to get back to the place where you began—trusting God. It’s easy to blame someone for your situation, but that will not solve the problem, and it doesn’t help you move forward, getting back to a life filled with peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Being in this situation is obviously very difficult, but the alternative is even worse. Once you’ve had a deep experience with the love of God, it’s impossible to settle for anything less. And chafing at the bit does nothing but waste precious years of your life—your years not your abusers.

Why not look at this as a time to return to your first love—to return to the Lord?  You’ve already experienced a measure of recovery, but you know your potential is far greater. It requires a lot of work, but if you put your heart into it, you’ll never regret your decision to move forward. What do you say? Why not let today be the day when you become committed to improving your life?

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:58)

Jack Watts

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“Talking the Talk” Isn’t Enough

Father,

You are the Master Architect

Engineering the events of my sojourn,

Providing me with an opportunity to rise

To the occasion each day of my life.

At times, Your guidance seems clear,

While at others, it’s as if You are so far away

I cannot find You, regardless of how hard I try.

But even when Your presence alludes me,

I know You are there. I’m certain of it.

You are always guiding me—

Always present, always vigilant.

As my life becomes increasingly open

And people look at me, and occasionally to me,

My life speaks of what You have done—

Of the person You have made me to be—

Not by my words, which seem so inadequate,

And appear to be petty, trite and shallow,

But by my actions, which are clear for all to witness.

Oh, how I loathe the pompously religious—

Those who extol their virtues, with darkened hearts.

Lord, I don’t ever want to be like them—

Those who talk of Your love and guidance,

While seeking an advantage over others—

The naïve, innocent, and unsuspecting.

Let my witness be by my actions,

And not by my mellifluous tongue,

Which has the power to be so self-serving.

Jack Watts

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