January 30, 2017

You wear a mask, and your face grows to fill it.

--George Orwell

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

In my experience with 12 Step programs, participants invariably start flaking out at Step 4. Christians particularly can fake the first 3 Steps, as we know the language and can wear the contrite mask. When that happens, the program becomes merely a 12 Step waltz where we repeat steps 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3; never making any significant progress. However, if we're serious about recovery, Step 4 is a necessary result of turning our lives over to God's care. It's hard work, and it's not uncommon for 25-50% of a 12 Step group to go AWOL in Steps 4 and 5.

There are obvious reasons for that attrition. Introspection is not that much fun. At least it isn't for me. There's just a lot of stuff deep inside me that I'd rather not be reminded about. I've worked too hard to bury it. Of course, that way of living hasn't worked so well for me, either. It's one of the...

January 26, 2017

Today's post provides a respite from the 12 Steps. We've covered 3 steps so far, and I realize that many of you have short little spans of attention, just like me. We'll continue with Step 4 in the next post, but today it's time to ramble, as we review the first month of 2017 from Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.

* Donald Trump is now President of the United States. No, seriously, he is really the President. I'm not kidding. I have to give him credit, though. He's already managed to accomplish what the voters of Alabama have been unable to do for many years. President Trump has removed Jeff Sessions from the US Senate by appointing him to be our new Attorney General. Sessions and Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have been the staunchest impediment to the passage of any meaningful federal prison reform legislation that otherwise has wide bipartisan support. Sessions says he's not a racist, but he does seem unable to recognize a racial bias in the federal criminal justice system.

* David Bro...

January 22, 2017

He is the Truth
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety,
You will come to a great city
    that has expected your return for years.  --W. H. Auden

Step 3: We made a decision to turn over our will and our lives to the care of God as we understand God.

What does it mean to turn my life and will over to God? Experience tells me that this can be problematic. I've seen and heard people claim to be acting in accord with God's will before, and there's no way in hell it was God's will. And isn't it my misdirected will that got me in trouble in the first place? So do we just give up on our will? In a word, NO! There's a good reason that we often look down on people who seem to have no will. 

So how do we do this? In short, we don't give our will UP, we give it TO. This "giving to" doesn't just happen. Changing our intentions requires desire and discipline, traits which are born and nurtured in a spiritual direction that only come through ego emptying and meditation. It's a balancing act of ac...

January 18, 2017

"Religion is not understood. Those who wish themselves pious, in order to admire themselves in this state, are made stupid by religion. What is needed is to lose ourselves completely in God; what is needed is perfect silence, supernatural silence. 
Pious talk has something revolting about it."  --Julien Green

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

My favorite definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Our ego or false self tells us that our willpower, our intelligence, and/or our work can save us. In my case, those attributes just kept digging an ever deeper hole of despair. Any illusion I had of self reliance and circumstantial mastery was eventually shattered. Transformation, however, comes through other characteristics, which are more challenging for me, like honesty, humility, vulnerability, and surrender.

When Bill Wilson co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, as a desperate alcoho...

January 14, 2017

Sometimes in life we need to go where we don't want to go. More often, we want to take the wrong route to go where we need to go. From either perspective, we begin our journey today through the 12 Steps of recovery.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behavior and that our lives were unmanageable.

Step 1 of any 12 Step recovery program requires brutal self honesty. People arrive at the realization that their lives are out of control in different ways. We might wake up in a strange place with no recollection of how we arrived. We may be forced into powerlessness by losing a job, or going through a divorce, or finding ourselves in prison. Maybe we're just lost and alone and scared. How we get there matters little, save for the consequences; but an admission of powerlessness must occur for meaningful recovery to begin. It's a spiritual experience that requires a touch of hopelessness to get it started.

No red-blooded American wants to admit he/she is powe...

January 10, 2017

For some time I've wanted to write about the 12 Steps that were originally created for Alcoholics Anonymous 81 years ago by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. There are many recovery programs active today that are based on these principals. My own experience was through a Christian-based program called Celebrate Recovery. I've said many times that it's the best thing I ever did at church. While the data about the long term success of AA and other 12 Step programs varies, it seems undeniable to me that if we are serious about the program, diligently working and incorporating the steps into our way of thinking and living, we will achieve a spiritual transformation that will forever change our lives. 

We are all addicts. The behavior manifests itself in various ways--maybe we prefer chemicals or sex. Perhaps our addiction is money, power, work, family, security, ego feeding, or anything that gives us a rush. All these addictions and compulsive behaviors are a symptom of delusional thinking--li...

January 5, 2017

There are almost 30 volunteers from many faith backgrounds who come to Bastrop Federal Satellite for religious services. Many have been coming for a long time, one for over 22 years. Unfortunately, all that came to a screeching halt in December.

We were told that the Bureau of Prisons has adopted a new nationwide program statement on volunteers. The former policy required volunteers to submit to a background check. Once approved, they could drive to the camp, check in with the camp officer on duty, and walk to the chapel un-escorted. That policy had worked here efficiently for many years.

Beginning in December, volunteers must now be subjected to an FBI background check which costs $150 per person (an amount not in the Bastrop budget) or they must be escorted to and from the chapel by one of the chaplains, who is supposed to stay with them until they leave.

We have 2 chaplains who work at the camp, but their offices are at the Low Security Federal Prison with which we share a campus. They...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones