Lord, Help Me See

from Meghan

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Matt 5:23-24

On each Sabbath Day, we are invited to the table of the Lord to offer our gifts as we partake of the Sacrament. The gifts the Lord requires are a broken heart and a contrite spirit. What does that mean? One meaning is to come repenting of our sins, recognizing where we have fallen short, asking forgiveness, and resolving to do better.

How can I approach the alter of the Lord with my gift and be sure that there is nothing unresolved in my life that would interfere with my communion with the Lord? How can I be sure that my heart is truly broken and my Spirit contrite? How do I develop the self-awareness to recognize my faults, ask forgiveness or make amends, and come to the Lord’s table with nothing to prevent feeling a full measure of his Spirit?

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Step Four has taught me how to develop that required self-awareness, as I have walked through the process of making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I didn’t approach this step with enthusiasm—the first few times we discussed this step, I recoiled from it. I was afraid of it. It was overwhelming and distasteful to me. But when the time was right, as we read the step materials in Healing Through Christ I kept seeing reassurances of compassion, love, gentleness, and the Lord’s willingness to accompany me on this process. I was encouraged to see myself with “honesty and gentleness.” I was reassured that “without shame or self-contempt, we become willing to be changed through the revealing illumination of the spirit of truth. This reflective journey will become a joyful transforming experience for each of us.”

My heart became ready for this reflective journey, and for the first time I read the Working the Steps section, committed to doing the painful inventory that I still somewhat dreaded. The manual encouraged me to start with two topics that were much less dreadful than I expected:

  1. Remembering God’s Help in Our Lives
  2. Listing Our Positive Traits

Those two topics were the perfect way to start! Remembering God’s help in my life helped me to see the many tender mercies in my life, reassured me that God had been with me even in tough times of my own making, and gave me hope for his continued sustaining love through this next journey.

Listing my positive traits kept me from going right to a list of everything that is wrong with me. It helped me to start from a place of hope and balance. I was able to see a more complete and honest picture of myself.

I have done a long inventory by breaking up my life into small sections. But I also do small inventories now; if I have a difficult experience with someone, I inventory that experience or relationship. I try to stay balanced by starting with the two topics of recognizing God’s help in this situation and the positive traits I brought to it. I also don’t shy away from recognizing my part in the problem. I invite the Lord to help me see more clearly and objectively what I have done well and what I need to change.

If I discover a relationship which is uncomfortable, I know there is an opportunity there for me to discover my part in it. I search for what I need to do to come unto the Lord unencumbered by clutter that will block the Spirit and the joy that my Father wants me to feel. On a daily basis, I can become open to recognizing what is interfering with God’s promise that I will always have His Spirit to be with me.

Repentance can be a joyful process, as the Lord helps me to see and change my thoughts and behavior so that I can welcome the Spirit more fully into my life.

Daily Accountability

from Duane

A woman once told me that in the 12-step group she helps with, a 63-year-old participant told her he had been sober for 8 months.

We should celebrate victories like this. But we should also be vigilant that such victories not be reversed. We have all experienced the sting of sin and the joy of repentance. I bear witness that when we repent, we are forgiven. However, should we slip and repeat our sin, Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 warns us: “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”

I believe this verse is telling us if we have repented and been forgiven of a sin, and then repeat the sin, it is as if we had not previously repented. Matthew 12:43-45 makes that point forcefully. Once we have been healed by Christ’s atonement, we don’t want to slip back and wound ourselves again.

No matter what our addiction or weakness, we are never far from it. If our addiction was to alcohol or overeating or compulsive shopping, every time we drive we will pass potential pit stops on the way to sin. If our addiction was to pornography or online gambling, we are never more than a few clicks away from sin and addiction and bondage. Given that we don’t want to backslide, we need to be ever vigilant of those small decisions that bring us closer to temptation to slip.

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Once we have become sober, steps 10, 11, and 12, the maintenance steps in 12-step programs, help us stay clear of temptation. These become the most important steps to us to keep our hard-won freedom from bondage. Not surprisingly, these steps are similar to the standard answers to many questions asked in church meetings. Step 10 is to recognize the wrongs we have done, ask forgiveness of those whom we have wronged, and humbly participate in the Sacrament ordinance weekly to cleanse us of our sins.

Step 11 is meaningful prayer, meditation and scripture reading. Step 12 is loving service to our fellow man, including sharing the gospel. Who knew that attending Church could be such an integral part of working our recovery program?

Heavenly Father and Jesus Love Me

by Amy

As a young girl, I remember a church lesson being taught, which said that prayer is the way I could find answers to my questions, get direction for my life, and for me to feel His spirit. I was told these answers would come by way of a warm and happy feeling or by a still small voice. I tried. Nothing happened.

Sometime later, I had heard a story about a boy who habitually fell asleep at the end of the day with his music still playing. One night, he decided to turn his music off before falling asleep. As he drifted off, the spirit communicated with him. Without the interference of his music, the door of communication was opened between the boy and the spirit. I wanted an experience like that, too. My very own experience. This would surely make me happy. I tried everything, I thought, even burning my favorite music cassette tape. Still, no luck.

I wouldn’t say that I was un-happy, but being the second to the oldest of five children, all having been born in four and a half years, caused every- thing to seem like a daily rush and routine. I didn’t feel close to my parents. It was not a persona relationship for me with them.

I knew that communication from Heavenly Father comes in as many forms as there are varieties of people. I always knew that He lived. But, when I prayed, I didn’t feel the feelings of warmth and happiness that I was told I would have and I did not hear His still small voice. These feelings of disconnect with my parents and with my Heavenly Father remained with me for years. Even before I graduated high school, my logical mind thought that I should be weaned from depending on my earthly parents and my Heavenly Father. Of course, being independent of earthly parents is the goal of being an adult, I also felt Heavenly Father was showing me that I needed to learn to stand on my own, and not rely on Him. I thought this was a natural part of life, part of adulthood.

As a teenager, my new life scope was to be completely independent. Both temporally, and spiritually, I would be able to support myself. I would  eventually be the money maker in my future marriage and home. Learning to be independent would make me happy.

However, nature abhors a vacuum. When I stopped relying on Heavenly Father, I started to rely only on myself. I started making choices that I felt would make me happy at last. Then, fear came. Instead of making decisions to bring me happiness, I started basing my decisions on the fear of being unhappy. This fear caused me to make a choice that put me in a situation where I feared for my life, and I needed to stay alive. This independent time in my life was the peak of my unhappiness. Although I was glad to have survived, I was at my lowest in life that I had ever been. The very life I feared for the week before was something I no longer felt hope for or a future in. Yet, it was at this lowest point I discovered my Heavenly Father was listening to me. My Young Women’s leader, Linda, knew I needed help. She was informed by a special spirit that I needed her. She contacted me and then took me to her home for a few days because my family was away on vacation at that time. I am happy to say that I have never returned to those dreary depths again. Heavenly Father, Linda, and that special spirit had saved me!

lost-lamb-art-lds-425852-mobileAlthough sadness tries to return at times, I know that my Heavenly Father and Jesus love me. I have learned to rely on them. They know me. They love me. They are my sponsors in Healing Through Christ. I am thankful for the important tools of this gospel and program that improve each of my days and to be so much happier. Although there will always be challenges tailor made to help me to grow, I am thankful for the tools to navigate through them. I am now happy and independent through and because of Heavenly Father and Jesus.

My Heart is Whole

This was shared at our ARP/FSG training conference in October, 2017

Hello, my name is Jason. I am a family member of someone that suffered from an addiction. I was asked to give a brief message about how I came to the group and how it has impacted my life. With that in mind I will start at the beginning.

In July of 2012 I filed for divorce from my wife. She developed a prescription drug habit after surgery. When I filed for the divorce I had no clue the Healing through Christ Program existed. No one had ever talked about it. So I thought I was using “tough love” to try and force my wife into recovery. In September of 2012 the divorce was final. I was heartbroken. I thought my wife didn’t love me enough to get help. I thought I didn’t do enough to get her the help she needed.

In July of 2013 she was found dead in her bed by her niece from a drug overdose. I feel into a deep depression. I thought about ending my life for a time because I hadn’t done enough, because I couldn’t save her. After her funeral I left the church. All anyone at the funeral could say was “She finally beat her addiction.” I went inactive. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the church. I thought there could have been more done to save my wife and the church was just as much to blame as I was.

Through my inactivity I was emailed regularly by a member of the church. He had gone to the branch where my wife and I attended. He was polite and didn’t push. But I was angry and didn’t want to have anything to do with the church or its members.

December of 2015 I was very depressed. I was lost. I was unhappy and searching for something to make me feel happy again. I was praying for help but not really believing I would get it. In late December or early January 2016 this Brother reached out again via email. He asked me to go to breakfast. He just wanted to catch up and talk. Not about church or why I wasn’t attending. I said yes. Halfway through the breakfast I was in tears  and telling him everything. I told him about my grief, my anger with the church, my guilt over my wife’s death. He listened to it all. He didn’t judge me. What he did do changed my life.

He told me there was a program called Healing through Christ. He told me that it was for family members of those with addictions. He told me I didn’t have to go to church but if I wanted to go to the meeting he would go with me. I wanted to go. This Brother told me the time and place of the meeting and met me there. He even purchased my manual. He attended with me for a few weeks until I felt comfortable.

pablo (7)Today I am a facilitator of my group. Today my heart is whole. I have peace. I am happy. I have learned through this group about my role in my wife’s addiction. I have learned about the things I could control and those I could not.

More importantly I have learned to forgive myself. I have learned to deal with my emotions in a safe and healthy way. I have learned that I too suffer from an addiction. I have learned that I too can rely on God and his promise to be there for me when I turn to Him for support. Through coming back to church I have been able to strengthen my testimony of this church. I have been able to testify of my progress in this group and how it has changed my life.

I am currently dating a wonderful woman who gained her own testimony of this church. She has a testimony of seeing how this group has affected my life for the good. She was baptized a member of this church in March of this year.

In closing, my first step was praying and asking for help. My second step was accepting an invitation to breakfast. I urge any and all church leaders to make sure all members are aware of this program. I urge you to attend a few meetings with those members who are seeking help. An invitation to go to a meeting means more, and may accomplish more, when it is accompanied by the offer to go with them.

Forgiving and Judging

By David
When I arrived as a new missionary in Lille, France, the missionaries of my zone were planning a bicycle trip to visit the WWI American Military Cemetery of Flanders Field and had already secured our Mission President’s permission as we would be traveling outside of our zone. My 3rd day in the mission field, I purchased my bike, a beautiful green Peugeot 10 speed, and on my 1st or 2nd P-day, we were on the road.

BicyclesThe topography of Western Belgium is very similar to the ground between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids–gentle rolling hills of fertile farmland. Almost immediately as we left the bumpy, slow-riding cobble-stone streets of town, I found myself at the end of the line of riders. Sometimes a very long line with them massed at the front and me far, far behind. I was not riding at the end to make sure everyone else was ok. I simply couldn’t keep up. The other missionaries were constantly having to stop and wait for me. They never said anything mean or derogatory, but every time I rolled up to them standing patiently beside their bikes, I felt embarrassed, weak and inadequate.

With the day passing faster than the miles and my frustration probably evident on my face, several missionaries slowed down to ride beside me. After a time, one of them suggested we stop and raise the seat on my bike. In my emotionally vulnerable state, I could have snapped back that I knew how to ride a bike. Fortunately, I swallowed my embarrassment, and we raised my bike seat about an inch. At first, I felt uncomfortably high but found to my delight that with every pedal-stoke I had more power in that last inch and had a split-second of rest with my leg almost fully extended. The other missionaries were still more accustomed to bike riding, but now I could pedal faster, longer and I could keep up.

Brothers and Sisters, we all will have challenges in this life that will give us opportunities to become more Christ-like. Some of those challenges will be times of weakness and pain to teach us faith, obedience, diligence, humility and forgiveness. Some challenges will be times of strength and plenty to teach us faith, obedience, gratitude, compas- sion, and charity. Sometimes we choose these challenges by our actions. Other times our challenges are the result of mortality or the choices of others. In both times of personal weakness or of personal strength, it is vital for us to remember that God has a greater purpose for us than the joy or sorrow of the moment. I am grateful for the few moments of focused attention my missionary associates gave to me on that bike ride long ago. Both they and I were immediately blessed for their gift.

In our life-goal of becoming more like God, we cannot afford to nurture feelings of anger, jealousy, or resentment. The Savior tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is like unto it: to love our neighbor as our self. When we refuse to forgive, we slow our own progression as we falter in keeping the second great commandment to “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Matthew 22: 37-39). However, “forgiving” does not mean we allow ourselves or another to continue to be abused. It does mean that we leave to God all issues of fairness or punishment while we move on to greater things. It does mean that we focus on improving our future rather than on how we were treated in the past.

We make judgments all the time, and almost always our judgments are based on faulty or incomplete information viewed through the distorted lens of our perceptions of the world around us. I assumed that the missionaries of my zone were impatient and irritated with me because I felt that way myself. Whether or not they were, they clearly spent some time trying to figure out if they could help me. We would be wise to always judge or interpret the actions and words of others in the best possible light we can imagine. We may be wrong occasionally, but I believe we will all be happier if we assume others have positive intentions.

Step Nine: Whenever Possible, Make Direct Amends to All Persons We Have Harmed, Except When to Do So Would Injure Them or Others

By Cathy, Church Service Missionary

Before writing an article about Step 9, I realized I needed to do something for Step 8. So I wrote a letter to all my children. I will copy it and give it to them soon.

In the letter, I mentioned how ARP has helped me better understand Christ’s Atonement and how to access its power. I’m learning how to trust Heavenly Father by asking for His help in my life and allowing Him to help me. I know the Savior’s atonement covers all the things I go through. He has suffered through them already. He knows how to deal with it and help me through it.

writing letter

In the letter, I asked my children to forgive me for not having dealt with my own issues, and because of that, I wasn’t able to be as responsive to their needs. I was often a stressed mom who tried to encourage her kids, but it probably came across as being a nag or being negative. I also missed opportunities to be a better mom. Through asking for Heavenly Father’s help, I’ve learned I don’t have to solve my children’s problems. They can receive revelation for their own lives. I can share with them when they ask me or when I feel prompted to.

I feel more peace in my life because I’m listening to the Spirit better and I’m not trying to help my children do what I think they should be doing.

Yes, as a parent, I can still teach and encourage my children. I have greater peace because I’m asking Heavenly Father to guide me and help me to do it in a way that allows my children the opportunity to experience life through their own choices.

Step 9 helps me let go of the things I’ve made mistakes with in my past. It helps me try to make things right with others for situations when I haven’t made the best of decisions. And in that process I have peace, and hopefully those to whom I make restitution feel peace as well.

I’m grateful I can continue to try to trust Heavenly Father and the Savior and ask for Their help in getting through the challenges of life. I’m grateful I can set things right with the people with whom I interact.

Carry My Burdens

from Meghan

Today in my Healing Through Christ Family Support Group call, we read this as part of Step Two:

Because our Savior respects our agency, He will not take from us what we are not willing to give. We become ready to willingly give and completely surrender our fears to Him. Then we prayerfully ask our Savior to take from us the fearful emotional burdens that are creating so much hopelessness and pain in our lives. Rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into painful emotions; we continue to choose to fall to our knees and surrender all of our emotional struggles to our Savior, allowing His tender mercies and grace to bless our lives. We are learning to let go and let God for His “perfect love casteth out fear.”

I thought about whether I cling to burdens that the Savior would willingly take from me. Then I remembered my experience when I was in labor with my daughter. I had been in the hospital for several hours in hard labor when the nurse told me that I had made no progress in the last few hours. When she left, I turned to the wall and told the Lord I had nothing left. I couldn’t do anymore, and I asked Him to help me and take over. From that moment things started progressing, and she was delivered not long after.

The message I learned at the time is that when we have done all we can, we can ask the Lord to take over and He will help us. That idea was a comfort to me, as I believed that God would support me when I am overwhelmed.

But today, I realized that I have been limiting what the Lord can do for me. I have depended on my own strength until it is absolutely depleted, and only then I have turned to ask God to take over. He didn’t set that limit—I did.

I wonder how many times I have needlessly clung to a burden that He was willing to take from me? I wonder how often I have trusted to my own strength and missed the calm and increased strength and healing He was eager to give to me? Have I remained in fear when He was ready to give me peace?

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I want to learn how to let go, and let God, and feel His love and Redeeming power in every minute of my day. I want to depend on His strength to sustain me rather than my own.

As part of “always remembering Him” I want to remember to offer my burdens to Him. Perhaps sometimes He will take them, and I will be relieved of the suffering they inflict. Other times He may give me greater strength to carry the burdens that are mine for a now. But either way, I will not be carrying them alone.

The Sun’s Love for the Moon

from Annette

And I, God, said: Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years;  Moses 2:14

Each day both the moon and the sun move across the daytime sky.  As they travel above us one always appears to lead the other.   If it is during the phase of the moon when it is growing bigger and brighter the sun appears to lead the moon across the sky.  If the moon’s light is dimming, it appears to stop following the sun and leads out on its own.  Yet to me this is more than just two heavenly objects crossing our sky, it is a story of love, the love of the sun for the moon.  When the moon stops following and leads out on its own, the sun does more than just follow, the sun appears to move faster to catch up to the moon as its light fades with each passing night.  Finally the moon will vanish completely as the sun reaches the wayward moon.  Then for a moment the sun and the moon travel together across the sky until the sun pulls ahead again with the moon following close behind.  We can see the result of this change as the sliver of the new moon appears again in the evening sky and its light begins to grow again.

On August 21st everywhere in the United States we can see the very moment that the sun catches the moon in the daytime sky as we experience the total eclipse of the sun.  If you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality you will see the light of the sun completely surround the moon as it is held briefly in the arms of the sun.  It will be an unforgettable sight to behold.

Eclipse

For me this is not only a story of love between the sun and the moon, but a story of love between “the Light of the World” or “the Son” and a little wayward moon, me.  As I obediently follow “the Son” my light grows brighter inside me.  I can feel the light growing by the joy I feel in my heart for myself and others.  But if I think I no longer need to follow “the Son” and pridefully lead out on my own, that light begins to disappear.  I know when it’s happening by the joy and happiness that vanishes from my life.  But “the Son” will never give up on me even if I feel I no longer need His guidance in my life.  As my light slowly vanishes “the Son” draws closer to me until He catches me in His arms, surrounding my darkened self with His light.  That moment in His arms changes me and once again I choose to follow and my light begins to shine again. This light first begins as a tiny sliver, yet with each passing day, as I faithfully continue to follow the Son,  my light  grows bigger and brighter until it become as beautiful as the full moon in the night sky.

President Uchtdorf has shared, “Oh, it is wonderful to know that our [Savior] loves us……His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.” I am grateful for this reminder of His love for me in the coming Eclipse. How I love my Savior, the Son, the Life and Light of the World.

Reviewing My Life

by Annette
As I again face the task of “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself,” I become discouraged. I have been working on this step for several years. I have struggled with writing about my life, sorting through years of depression and addictions. Why does this step follow “trust in God”? I found the answer in the garden I never planted one summer.
I live on a small farm and should be harvesting bushels of produce out of a productive garden by the end of August. That was a difficult year and I found no time to plant one. Did that mean I had a beautiful brown spot of furrowed soil to look at in my backyard? Of course not. Without care and attention, I had a garden full of weeds, some of them 8 feet tall. It was really just a source of embarrassment.

Irrigation
On the back of my garden spot, buried beneath those weeds is an irrigation system similar to the ones used in the west. Lack of rain made it necessary for me to dig it out to water my pastures. When I went to put the system together I found it under a jungle of briers and thorns which cover my garden/weed plot. I went out and fought to haul the first 40 foot pipe out and soon my legs were scratched and bleeding. As I laid the pipe out on the lawn I could see it was broken from being stepped on by my horses. Discouraged, I worked to bring out the rest. Almost without exception I found the same thing, somewhere the pipe would be broken. The last one was buried beneath stinging nettle and my bare legs were burning before I finally got it out.

My husband helped me lay them all across the lawn. All I could see was the broken mess of pipes. How could I get the system to work and water my pastures? I wanted to just tear it apart. My husband encouraged me to first try to see if I could find where the damaged sections went together. I didn’t want to; I was frustrated because my lack of care had produced this situation. My husband was persistent. After about an hour we had moved things around until we could see where all the breaks were. My husband got the bucket, the spare parts, and using primer and glue it was soon back together again, ready to water my dry fields.

It never is easy to look at the reality of my life. Like my garden it is covered with weeds of all kinds. It is an embarrassment I would rather hide from others. But the Lord encourages me, with help of someone I trust to start digging through it, sorting and analyzing what is there. As I dug through the weeds in my garden/weed plot, I found my watering system. Though it needed a little repair my husband was there to help me. As I sort through the garden/weed plot of my life I will likewise find the “treasure” the Lord knows is there. He will help me sort through it, repair it, and make it whole. As for the weeds in my life He has already taken care of them through the atonement. But before it is possible, I have to first discover what is amiss, then pull those nasty weeds out, roots and all, using the gift of repentance. Then all that will be left in my garden is the person I really am, a wonderful child of God the Lord wants me to discover.
I just have to trust Him enough to step into my garden and start searching.

Sources of Support

by Susan
The name for Step 6 in the Spouse and Family Support Guide has been changed to “Thy Friends Do Stand by Thee.” The scripture that accompanies it is Doctrine and Covenants 121:9, “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.” I have felt this very love and support. Step 6 is a beautiful section focusing on seeking support. It says: “In addition to relying on the Lord, seeking support from others can be helpful as we face our loved ones’ addictions. We don’t need to suffer alone. President Henry B Eyring said, ‘All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us so that we may retain the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (‘True Friends’).hugging Sharing our struggles may be an uncomfortable and vulnerable experience. Many of us feel fearful or ashamed about our loved ones’ addictions and do not want others to know about the problem. We may be concerned that others will judge us or our loved ones. Our loved one who is struggling with addiction may ask that we not tell anyone, even ecclesiastical leaders. However, it is acceptable and important to ask for the help we need or desire.

As we identify sources of support, Step 6 suggests considering the following:

Family
Friends
Priesthood and Relief Society Leaders
Mentors
Support Groups
Professional Help

I have personally made each one of these part of my recovery.

At the end of Step 6 we are asked, “How can you be a support to others passing through similar difficulties?” This one is a toughie! It requires sacrifice on our part, but on the other side of sacrifice are great blessings! Step 6 quotes Elder Orson F. Whitney (as quoted by James E. Faust) in saying, “To whom do we look in days of grief and disaster for help and consolation? …They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?”

Accompanying this quote, is this suggested under Personal Learning and Application in Step 6: In what ways could someone who has been through a similar situation to yours help you? Who do you know that has been through a similar situation that you could
turn to? Consider asking local leaders, such as your bishop, quorum leader, or Relief Society president to refer you to someone who has overcome similar challenges.

I certainly am far from perfect and I do not have all of the answers. But I am on this road. My hope in doing this article was to give others on this road a hand of love and support. We can’t fix each others’ problems. Boy I wish we could! But knowing that we have a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and a heart that understands has been a huge part of my recovery. I am so grateful to those that made the difficult sacrifice of telling me their stories so that I knew I was not alone. It was more than an “anonymous” article, it was a name, a face, a loving Daughter of God who reached out unselfishly to me. I will be forever grateful to sweet sisters (I call all of you sisters) that share this road with
me.