Step 1: Upstairs, downstairs people

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1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Before moving on to Step 2, there is an important point to be made about Step 1. It has to do with the last entry on Friday when I created an imaginary church where the regular crowd was worshiping upstairs while the AA group was meeting downstairs. It’s important to make this point clear because the whole of our study depends on it.

I made the point that we all have addictive personalities — we are all addicted to many things, if only to sin. I then went on to list some of my own addictions as an example of how to think about this, and then I proceeded to set myself apart from the alcoholics downstairs. I stated that because I wasn’t an alcoholic like them, that I could keep my addictions under control. Because I was dead serious about my addictions in the first part of that Catch, some people thought I was also serious about setting myself apart from those downstairs. A few of you with experience in AA felt it was necessary to disagree with me and write about how proud and happy you were to be downstairs. I understand; you should be.

I was serious about the addictions; I was facetious about the cover-up, because I was trying to get you all to think about how the “upstairs” people hide and isolate themselves from their addictions and from each other. The upstairs people are better than the downstairs people. They are not; they just think they are. The point is that the people worshiping upstairs in church are just as addicted to unhealthy things as are the people downstairs at the AA meeting. We’re all powerless to change ourselves and the upstairs worship experience would be so much more real and effective if it could embrace for its people what is going on downstairs. That, in fact, is what we are trying to do here.

If you don’t plan on agreeing that you have a problem with addiction and that your life has become unmanageable and you are powerless to change it, then you might as well take a break from the Catch until March. All the steps hinge on this one. You can’t skip this and go on. Nothing else in this study will make any sense if we don’t all start at the same place.

It’s been said that religion is lived by people who are afraid of hell; spirituality is lived by people who have been through hell. If this is true, then spirituality is more likely to take place downstairs, but then again, I think we can all be happier` in the basement.

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He had a dream

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Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

If we ever needed to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., it is now. Racism is raising its ugly head all over the western world. The needs of immigrants and refugees are pressing the issue. The shape of the world is changing. It’s natural to fear change.

The first step of AA is that we are powerless to change. Racism is a powerful force. We all have it to some extent. We are comfortable with the same and suspicious of the different. We need the power of God to overcome racism, and we have that power. We can use it.

Martin Luther King Jr. taught us to respect the intrinsic value and dignity of every human being. The fact that we are all made in God’s image is not a nice idea somebody thought up; it is a biblical truth. It’s not an option.

Celebrate Dr. King today. Take a few minutes to listen again to his “I Have A Dream” speech and talk about it with those you love. We can’t change the world but God can change us. Ask Him to teach you to see people the way He sees them.

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Step One: AA Meeting Downstairs

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Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

I have an addictive personality.

I am addicted to sin. I do not have to work at sinning. It comes pretty easily. I can do it without thinking. Certain ones seem to come up again and again, but fortunately they are quiet sins and I can conceal them well so no one gets hurt.

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Step one: Remember the Fire

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Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

“When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” (Daniel 3:5-6)

This was a decree put out by the king of Babylon during a time when the children of Israel were in captivity there. During this time there were three Jews named  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whom the king had put in charge of a province, who refused to bow down to the gold statue. Their place of influence and their defiance of the king’s order made them highly visible. So the king had them brought before him and he gave them a second chance to bow down to his god, which they refused, so he had them thrown into the fiery furnace. The king was so upset over their second refusal that he had the furnace cranked up to seven times its normal temperature. In fact, the fire was so hot that the guards who threw them in were singed by the heat and died, but the three men miraculously lived. Indeed they could be seen walking around in the fire unharmed, and much to everyone’s surprise, they were not alone in the fire. Another figure appeared with them in the furnace.

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Step One: The Lordship of Anything

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Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Hear me out because now it gets gnarly.

I wanted to get personal today. I wanted to come at this 12-step thing a little like: “Hi, my name is John and I’m a __________.” This is where I’m going to confess what I am powerless over. It’s not alcohol, but it’s something else. We’re all addicted to something, right? That’s how we’re going to make this applicable to everybody — make everybody powerless over something. Surely there’s something. It’s just that I couldn’t think of what it was. So I finally asked Marti, after wracking my brain to come up with a couple things I might be powerless over, “What do you think I’m powerless over?”

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Step One: Pieces on the Ground

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Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Change begins with an admission of the fact that we are powerless to change ourselves. Nothing truly positive can happen in our lives until we admit our powerlessness to produce it. There is no solution in this step, just a reorienting of ones approach to life, and it usually begins with something cataclysmic — something big enough to get our attention. (After that, though, it becomes a part of us — but that will come later.)

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Step One: stepping down

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Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

It has been estimated that over two million people worldwide are currently partaking in the assistance provided by an Alcoholics Anonymous group, and AA has been in existence for 83 years. That alone should tell us that the twelve step principles are connecting with something common to us all. As Christina, one of our readers wrote last week, “I have come to believe that everyone should embrace a 12-step program and just adapt it to the areas of life that are particular to you.”

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Course correction

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AA is one of the only places I know where you can claim to be the worst person in the room and have to fight for the title.” – Tom, commenting on one of this week’s Catches

Time for a slight course correction. You need to always leave room to be able to do this in your journey through life. You can’t always get it right. Especially if you happen to be married to my wife, Marti, which, of course, you aren’t since I am — for 43 years now (yesterday was our anniversary, by the way. Thank you very much). Marti has vision gifts; I have prophetic gifts. We need each other. She needs mine to be accurate; I need hers to be relevant.

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