What If?

I think about this question every year, so I thought it good to ask you, the reader to think about and answer if you wish. Give it thought, serious thought. See if you know how much our world has been affected by Advent.

 What if Christ never came into the world; what would the holiday season be like?

My thoughts:
There would be no holiday season for one. That means no Santa, Christmas carols, family gatherings, school “winter celebrations,” no shopping or gift giving. There would be no paid days off, no football Christmas Day, no big meal other than the normal daily dinner.

If Jesus had not come to redeem mankind, wipe the slate of our sins clean with the shedding of his blood, there would also be no Easter either. There would be no ACLU fighting to remove religious artifacts from stores, or secular judges ruling that the displaying of the manger scene is unconstitutional, citing the separation of church and state, (which, by the way, does not appear in the constitution).

The words, “do unto others”…would have never been heard, as well as, “For God so loved the world”…and “judge not, lest you be judged.”

What else? How about anytime since the church of Jesus began, the flood of giving aid to victims of disasters? How would education be affected? Slavery? The arts? Literature? Science? Invention? Even Christians have no idea how Christ’s birth affected these.

Think about that as we all enjoy the blessings and benefits of His atoning grace this season. And just so you know…there is more, much, much more.

Thing One and Thing Two

Two things, and I’ll keep this short. Quick thoughts for the quickened. Long post get likes but aren’t seldom read.

Thing One:
This is Thursday, Dec.11, 2014. It is 5:23 in the afternoon. Here is a couple of questions for you to ask yourself:
1. What have I done for my recovery from addiction(s)?
2. There are 86,400 seconds in today.

Have I used one second to say thanks?

Thing Two:
From this moment through what is left of today, stop and think of what may help turn your day around if you answered the above questions no.
1. Say thanks to God for your recovery, for keeping you alive, that you can read this…how grateful are you? If you’re not “feeling it” right now, say thanks anyway, and add as many things as you can think of that you are thankful for.
2. Are you planning to go to a meeting tonight? If you can’t because of work, prior engagement, or you are bed-ridden, that’s good reasons. I’m sure there are more. If you are just too busy with cleaning or cooking, watching your favorite shows on the boob-tube, or maybe inundated with emails and blogs you have to clean up, like me…stop, hit the meeting instead. Else you are on thin ice. Maybe not to the point of using, or getting drunk, but in the danger zone, heading that direction.

It is a busy season, with shopping and all that stuff. Use your head. If you aren’t moving toward recovery, you’re moving away from it.

“First comes pride, then disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom.” Prov. 11:2

The Mighty Fall

We think one person has developed to the place in recovery that they are above temptation’s ability to deceive them. Our admiration of such a person places them as heroic in our minds. Then, this mountain of stability takes a major tumble into relapse. Some of us are quick to point out why, in a judgmental pose from our own perch. Others say, what’s my chance to stay clean and sober when someone with their knowledge of sober living comes  to this? They go ahead and give up, and relapse. “What’s the use?” they ask.

We cannot be deceived to think we are too full of recovery smarts that we cannot fall. Relapse can come from many sources, in ways unexpected. The first way is pride. The thought that we do not need to go to meetings regularly.

Never think that you have paid the price and can’t see the need to get to meetings. Prideful people are very fast to judge other’s sobriety. I really feel pride has such a negative impact on an individual that it’s presence affects the spiritual plane of our existence, causing one to face the weaknesses they see in others.

Another biggie is complacency. This little booger is closely related to pride. The difference is the complacent individual is awareness they aren’t above relapse. Their issue is not “feeling” like going, not feeling like reading positive materials, or praying, or helping others. This kills most people’s recovery about a year, more or less, ahead of the actual fall back into their addiction.

Procrastination, the five syllables of death has ruined the recovery of many. Putting off working the steps to recovery, or doing the next right thing because they are so loaded down with other tasks they cannot see a meeting, calling their sponsor, or helping a neighbor, etc.

Also, some are laden with consequences from the past. They try too hard to “fix” or undo their past by taking on the bigger problems. If unsuccessful, they just quit. Do little things first, the big ones will become easier as each little problem solved builds confidence.

Religion can be a bad thing for a person choosing to go the church attendance route instead of AA, NA, GA, CR, etc. I am all for church attendance for aiding recovery. Keep this in mind; Recovery meetings teach you how to recover from your addictions, help you understand and accept and surrender what you have become, and help you learn to deal with consequences.

Church meetings can reinforce and help with these problems, but it is highly doubtful the weekly sermon will be about your recovery. Many take this route because of pride, not wanting anyone to know they are anything other than a sinner, not a weak, out-of-control addict or drunk.

There are other things that bring down the mightiest of recovering individuals. For your information, I don’t have these thoughts from just observing others. I have, and still do face many of these issues personally. My enemy, or addiction is me. Self- serving is my real problem, addictions to anything are side effects.

For all of us working our recovery, don’t get too smart. Don’t be dishonest of where you are when things are awry. Total honesty is an admission that may save us from pride, complacency, and putting off recovery. The season of joy is here when we celebrate the birth of Christ, and welcome the new year. Humbly ask God’s help for understanding the purpose of Christ’s coming, and the purpose He has for you today, the upcoming year, and direction to keep you from falling.

What do you think? What would you add as a reason for relapse?

Hide and Seek

We played the game as children. In fact, I play it with my grand children when they stop over. I always try to make them think I’ll never find them. “Where are you,” I’ll say, their little giggles gives them away. Hide and seek with “pappy,” they call me, will always be a good memory they will retain.

The cares of life have often caused me to continue to play hide and seek. I hide when in a crowd, a group, or even a family gathering. I hide my troubles and feelings most of the time. That isn’t stressful to me. I do not turn the problems inwardly hiding them, hoping they will disappear. I found a hiding place. If I stay within that hidden place, like my grand children, when the storms of life gather with intent to discourage me or even destroy me, I can giggle.

“For He will conceal me in his shelter on the day of trouble, he will hide me in the folds of his tent, he will set me on a high rock”…Ps.27:5 CJB

“You who live in the shelter of Elyon, (Most High), who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai, (Almighty), who say of Adonai, ‘My refuge! My Fortress! My God in whom I trust!’ -he will rescue you from the trap of the hunter and from the plague of calamities: he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge”…Ps.91:1-4 CJB

The rules of this hide and seek I speak of, allows the player to hide and seek at the same time. We humans are always looking for some hidden treasure of sorts. Most often, that treasure turns out to be gravel, not gold. The person we were sure was the one, is more like two, or three. The one good quality they had came with two or more bad qualities. The car we just had to have was a lemon, the dream home turned out to be a nightmare, that drink turned into a life of drunkenness, etc., etc. So we may learn to look before we leap into a search to realize dreams and hopes that are mostly unrealistic.

There is a solution that satisfies the seeker. That is, for those are followers of Christ. But anyone who seeks him, like the magi who sought the child Jesus two thousand years ago, are wise to do so. Only he can satisfy the longing in every heart. Seeking is required. But in the discovery of Christ, the individual continues to seek him out…HE always has more to give and that never stops.

“So if you were raised along with the Messiah, (that means your life has been changed from giving you to him), then seek the things above, where the Messiah is sitting at the right hand of God. Focus your minds on the things above, not on things here on earth. For you have died (to self), and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.” Col.3:1-4 CJB

“”When you seek me, you will find me, provided you seek for me wholeheartedly, ‘and I will let you find me,’ says Adonai.” Jer.29:13-14

This hide and seek has no loser, you always win with hiding from the insanity of wrong-doing, of a life totally given to self, its appetites and desires. I have used the illustration of Biblical text to show how this hide and seek works. I have used more scripture than normal, that’s good. Here is one more:

“The clever see trouble coming and hide; the simple go on and pay the penalty.” Prov.22:3 CJB (Complete Jewish Bible, it is an excellent resource)

Be assured of this; seek trouble and it is yours. Don’t hide from danger and you will own it. To know what trouble is does not take a twelve year college degree. We know. To those that hide in the “Rock” trouble may hide from you in time. Those who seek God through relationship, along with serving mankind, and pleasing God by actions and attitudes, blessings will not hide from you, favor will follow you, and go ahead of you, everyday.

I pray those little grandchildren I’m so blessed with learn what to seek in life…or rather who. I pray they hide in Chist and hide from following the herd. I pray that you do likewise. Be well.

Failure to Understand the Story

The Big Books of AA and NA have examples as to what happens and causes so many that fail to recover. In recovery meetings, we say they didn’t “get it” when someone relapses. Celebrate Recovery offers explanations as to why the failure, being based on a “Christ-centered” recovery from various types of addictions. If you are taking the time to read this post, you may be a victim of relapse, or know of a loved friend or family member that has been.

I’ll attempt to get to the point. Everyone has this issue. You may not be a drinker, use drugs, be a gambler or hooked on porn…thank God. But you have flaws, vice, or sins that you deal with.

An example being someone who worries. This individual constantly fears what may happen. Because of worry, the nag at their spouse and children because they don’t comply to their repeated advice. They become angry over anything that goes against what they think is right, i.e. the government’s stance on various social issues. Or, they may be paralyzed by fears, ending up in deep depression.

This type of individual needs recovery too. The problem is that few people see worry, nagging, or anger as sinful. They feel above the addicts because they don’t smoke, or chew, or run with those who do. Hint: they need as much help as any alcoholic…they’re hooked.

Jesus taught using parables, or stories. People love to listen to stories. A good orator knows to keep the attention of a crowd, tell a story. One of Jesus’ parables was given with what seemed to be no final result or moral. In Mark 4, he tells of the farmer scattering seed for crop.

Some of the seed fell on the wayside and was eaten by birds. Some fell on rocky soil, sprouted, but the sun burned it up. Some fell among the thorns, which choked the seed, killing it. But some of the seed landed in a fertile loam that grew and yielded many times, perhaps making up for all of the failed crop. The end.

Jesus left the story there, and later, told the disciples the parable’s meaning. The Word is the seed. The scripture may reveal a message of recovery from any addiction, whether substances or emotions. His words explain, in my estimation, why so many fail in recovery, in business, in their faith, and in life. And why some succeed almost effortlessly.

The birds that ate the seed was the adversary and his imps. His aim is confusion and distraction. He is successful through many means, knowing human weaknesses, desires, and sloth. He capitalizes with fears like shame and loss of friends. He loves to complicate the simplicity of recovery by making “doing right” for wimps, totally uncool.

The seed burned up by the sun is those who accept the Word with joy, but the moment any sort of persecution, or trouble arises, they move on or back to their old life.

The seed choked out by the thorns is those that hear the message, but the cares of life, the deception of fame or wealth and living the life of the glamorous is their desired choice.

The one who hears the message, accepts it, and surrenders to do what it takes to find real life, is where the seed fell into the soil and took a strong yielding root. The Word thrived in these individuals and not only fed them, leading them to a life of joy and freedom, but also yielding so much crop, potentially feeding masses.

The teaching Jesus brought in this open-ended parable gives the religious a lot of ammunition to condemn those hearing but non-conforming. My suggestion to the religious is to unload your weapon. That goes as well for those who judge others in recovery as they hold court on the relapser. Stop and think. 

The message Jesus taught is true, the listener has heard, the seed is sown. We do not know where the seed falls in every person. Think and pray for God’s best. Expect that wayward Christian to return, the fallen addict, alcoholic, or any addicted to anything to give up and return broken, ready to comply. When they do, show how deeply the seed landed in you…accept, love, and help them.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!

Seeing Where I Walk

I was looking at a coyote sitting still, possibly drawing a bead on its next meal. It was around three in the morning when I first noticed the animal’s presence. It was very dark that night, and visibility was limited, but I looked its direction, curious as to what it was stalking. The night hound stayed completely motionless and I became impatient. I shined my flashlight in that direction only to see the coyote was actually a tree stump. I was convinced it was a living creature I gazed at for that hour or more. Darkness can play tricks on what my eyes tell my brain I am seeing.

So it is in my spiritual life. It takes the Light to help me see ahead. Being pressed within my desires and needs will cause me to look away from the light and focus on personal fulfillment. What I see in the dark I call God’s will, but it is a deception of my spiritual eyesight, telling my heart I see the path correctly…go that direction.

So I walk that way. My desire for the Holy begins to fade. The hunger to do good is then obscured by experiencing personal pleasure, good food, good fun,...”good Lord, where have You gone? Why have You moved away from me?” I question. Thinking I know God’s will takes a broad turn when what I thought I saw goes awry and I feel removed from doing anything right.

I to trip each step, getting further from having the ability to see spiritually at all. The path is no path at all. I am fully among the thorns and the briars and see no way out of this trap. I need  light to see.

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun that shines ever brighter till the full light of day.” Prov.4:18

You have been there too, I’m sure. God doesn’t move away from us. We move away from Him, looking for that which is not. We always tend to think our eyes aren’t deceived, or we can’t be wrong…we are followers of Christ, we are clean and sober and free of addictions. This is the home of constant error, the arena of spiritual defeat from arrogant pride, not leaning on the Eternal and trusting Him. We are restless, bored from doing the “norm.”

I experience pain from not looking at the lighted path ahead and winding up swamped in the quick-sand of sin and ignorance because I think I see spiritual matters so clearly. The only way to remain in the light and see trouble ahead is to reject the notion I have arrived and have the answers the world seeks.

Prayer gives me sight.
Prayer isn’t tossing up foolish repetitive words toward heaven hoping they stick. Praying with purpose brings results as Paul says he prayed for the Ephesians:
“I pray that He will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which He has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance He has promised His people.” Eph.1:18
This type of praying in faith moves God into action for us and far transcends “now I lay me down to sleep”… Even though Paul prayed this for others, pray that for yourself.

The Word gives me sight. 
“Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Ps. 119:105
If my focus is on God’s precepts, totally convinced His Word is truth and my steps are ordered by His decrees, I will stay in the Light of truth, unable to fall. But I don’t, we don’t. We all tend to stray from the Light from time to time. The Word, however, implanted in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, brings to our attention that we are drifting away. This is why we need to give time to the Word daily.

My moments with the phony coyote were comical. I also laugh at myself after I am drawn back into the Light spiritually as well. The truth is, I seem to spend too much time off of the path until the pain is unbearable. God’s mercy and grace is awesome! Like Jesus said, He comes looking for me, the lost sheep, misguided by self. Thank You God for the Light.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Judgment’s Effect On Me

It irritated me to no end. During break-times on the job, all of the younger guys sat and stared at the small apparatus in their hands. Geez, what’s the attraction?

That’s how I thought four years ago as the smart-phone craze developed. Then, I got my very own smarter-than-their-phone. With every free moment, I was doing what aggravated me so much about them. No more conversation with co-workers unless it was about how to use my hand-held tech better. I had become what I hated about the gen x-ers. Too busy with learning how to be a tech freak to hold a simple conversation.

“And the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to         me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, I have no rest, for trouble comes.” Job 3:25-26

Everything you and I may judge about others, we face. At one time I pointed my self-righteous finger at people living at the local tavern. I detested how anyone could spend their life at the bar when they had children and a spouse at home. That finger-pointing landed me a spot on a bar stool for nearly two decades. The thousands of dollars I gave to indulgence bought me a wonderful seat in recovery meetings too. Of that, I am grateful, but it was costly beyond measure.

Lessons in life come with our inability to view others kindly, without condemning them to eternal punishment, using scripture to beat people with, being a Pharisee religious people often become. God loves us enough to not allow us to feel we are better even though we seem to do the right things.

God loves that poor old sot in the pub too. He does not appreciate anyone standing in spiritual authority, judging with an iron fist. WE will always face what we find unlovable about others. We, like Job, will face what we dread at some point.

     “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end, 
       they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.” Lam.3:22-23

Learn to love the lost souls of this world. Everyone living drug free needs to love the addict enough to pray for them. These need forgiveness…the dope dealer too. The prostitute, the porn-freak, the overweight, the gambler, the angry, the slothful, the…you name that sin you think you are above, and ask God to help you get a sense of how desperate they are for deliverance, and much He loves those in addiction of any type’s grip. There’s no time for hate. We really need to feel their pain from love, or we may feel it from experience.

God allows us to face what we hate. We need to be spiritually fit enough to recognize and forsake that loathing of others, seeing ourselves in their shoes, or we will wear them. Think about that.

Someone very close to me relapsed and is now a full-blown heroin addict again. God did the miraculous in their life, delivering them and placing them in a position to fulfill their apparent calling. The enemy dangled pleasure in their face. Innocent pleasure they felt they were missing. They followed that temptation and fell. God have mercy!

That person often said, “why would anyone go back to heroin addiction once they get clean?… they must be crazy!” I feel such grief for them. I understand. I tried to help but I, according to them, don’t need to tell them anything. They know what they are doing is wrong…”I don’t need your hypocritical, self-righteous mouth saying anything!”

They are right, somewhat. I need to tell the One who can do something about it, not judge the individual and move on wherever I can help.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!