Letting Go

A woman’s son had taken her to the point of bankruptcy with his constant drug use, legal troubles from arrests, and not working. When he was jailed she made sure he had money on his book for food and necessities. She ignored what she was told about enabling her son’s bad behavior. “I love my son, I just can’t let him go hungry, be homeless, what kind of a parent would I be?”

She finally had to surrender and told her son he was not welcome back home until he had a job and was clean and sober. She made this hard decision knowing she may never see her son again, he may die alone, freeze to death, or even starve! But she would lose her home if he stayed and continued doing nothing other than sponging off of her. She feared finding him dead in their home.

For five years she never heard from Him. She was heart-broken, fearing the worst but continued to pray to God in hope for his safety and recovery.

Then one day her son walked in the door, clean and sober, had his own place to live and a job! He had also found Christ and was in the ministry!

She had finally let go and let God. There is hope when we make the decision to trust Him. Luther said, “I’ve held many things in my hands and lost them all. But those things I placed in God’s hands I still have.”

I hope this little true story helps parents who don’t know how to let go. I certainly know it is hard. Pray, give the care of your child into His hands, or as one man said, “Pray and let God worry.”

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The Gateway

The mountain of hurts experienced from others throughout your lifetime has likely left you with some deep scars. Some are quick to say they not holding a grudge or resentments from abuse or being mistreated by others. Their words, however, are proof they are still nursing the wounds, even to the extreme, medicating the pain. Like one lady said regarding a friend who hurt her deeply;
  “Oh yes, I forgave her alright, but let me tell you what that old devil did to me!”

What about the mountain of hurt you may have inflicted on others? It is, to me, more painful knowing I hurt or let others down. Now I have to ask their forgiveness, but also I have to forgive myself. That is much more difficult to do. I mean, I have to forgive myself or live with regrets rueing over my bad behaviors until remorse sets up fortress inside my heart. And it can, and does. At one time I didn’t care, let em’ think what they think of me, it’s their problem. I was very sick back then.

  “To err is human, to forgive divine.”  Alexander Pope
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Jesus

I believe the gateway to forgiveness is gratitude. I have discovered from my alcoholic past that being grateful for sobriety opened my spiritual eyes to see my fallen nature ruled me, thinking I was entitled to having everything, including my own way. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I became ungrateful for what I did have. I became envious of others success. I became angry at my job for not getting a promotion, and jealous even at my church for their blindness to my hard work for God… (oh what a baby). My solution, the bar stool and ears to agree with my whining.

 “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
“When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson

When grateful, color seems to enter the world, sounds are heard, handshakes and embraces are sincere, suddenly purpose comes into play, and empathy becomes the heart mate of hope and love. Seeing those who hurt me, including myself in the mirror, as broken by life, poor upbringing, etc., with an understanding that only God’s Spirit within could give me. I also feel pressed to ask forgiveness to those I hurt. I am truly thankful for my awakening to the gateway of gratitude.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I hope you can take the time to be grateful for what you have. A life of gratitude is the gateway to forgiveness, and the mother of all virtue.

Disregarded Help

I don’t know the number of times I made snap decisions over important matters in life. The number heavily outweighs how often I sought counsel from others, or more importantly, inquired of the Lord for direction. I am asked by some I work with in recovery, “what is your favorite verse in the Bible?” I have several verses that I may quote, but one stands out to me most often is Psalm 119:130:

The entrance of Your word gives light, it gives understanding to the simple.

This being a favorite causes me to ask myself, “why don’t you try referring to this verse when you make decisions?” This verse doesn’t help me make a right decision within itself. I makes me aware to seek the scriptures for counsel, where I find help and great advice for any situation in life, like:

Where there is no counsel the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Pr.11:14

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates instruction is stupid. Pr.12:1

What I see from these verses and scores of others is, get instruction, take advice, don’t be wise in your own eyes, pray and wait on the answer! Do I like pain? I must because I do not ask advice often, people may think I’m spiritually stupid after all. Well, why don’t I pray? Because God will make me wait and I don’t want to wait, I want the answer now so I will make the choice and God will bless it because He loves me, I’m His child. Wrong!

You know the old hymn’s words:

Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. (What a friend we have in Jesus).

I want to do what I counsel others to do, inquire of the Lord on every decision, look to the scripture, get wisdom from others by asking for help. It is true God loves me, I’m His kid. His love allows me to face the consequences of bad decisions, even though He could fix my goof-ups. Pain from those bad choices causes me to not do that again, I can see to repent, go the other direction, toward His counsel.

God doesn’t enable my bad behaviors. He isn’t a celestial Santa either, giving me my wants. My needs, however, He supplies to His glory and my good. I need humility and patience.

Thanks, I hope you can identify. Blessings to you all.

Resolutions for the New Year

In the past I made, like so many do, annual resolutions. They would begin to come together right after the Thanksgiving Day feeding frenzy. My aims were always based on becoming someone other than… well, me. It was my annual self loathing and desires for others to see my value as a person, you know, be admired. Resolutions, as I reflect back, should have been named, “planned failures for the upcoming year.” I failed annually, which gave me the loser complex, helping me fail at other ambitions as well.

Today I have a clearer view as to why the many failures. No resolve, no plans on the how to, no book on Resolutions for Dummies. The understanding came to me slowly, but it did come as I came into recovery from alcoholism. “The best I could be is out of me,” I learned in AA meetings. Those past me-gotistical aims I once had each year were about me getting what I wanted. Today helping others get what they need and want is more satisfying, far above personal gain.

I still want to improve annually, but now to improve my serve, putting God, then others ahead of yours truly. I don’t want that to sound like I’m such a swell person, (that false humility garbage). Humiliation from my past taught me real humility which I must continue to work on. That opened my eyes to discover serving is far more valuable than being unique and being admired.

I do want to become better in 2019. I want to be a better husband, father, friend, worker, helper to those still suffering with addictions. That takes me to look for the know-how to hit those noble goals. Honesty, loyalty, kindness, courage, diligence, are virtues to strive for, under-girding me to accomplish those resolutions. But more importantly I must Trust God, continue to help others, and keep my side of the street clean. Prayer daily, even day-long prayer is key to the success and discovery of the above virtues.

God is faithful as you and I aim above all else to please Him. He then gives us a purpose and passion to improve ourselves and experience wonder, which is far greater than personal desires.

I’ll finish this post with thoughts we could seriously consider as resolutions for 2019:
Choose patriotism over political parties.
Choose friendship over isolation.
Choose to know for yourself about everything, not what someone told you.
Choose carefully who you admire, admire values above things.
Choose to be a part of something worthwhile, then you won’t fall apart.

Blessings to all for 2019… far beyond happiness that fades!

Dear Younger Me

I wanted to share this short poem written by a man I met recently. He is one of the fortunate ones, still alive and by God’s grace recovering in a rehab facility. I hope you take a moment and read his heartfelt words to his younger self and his promise to Jesus, his Savior, to finish his life well in Christ’s service.

Dear younger me
I did not see,
What my whole life
Was meant to be.

All the heartache
All the pain,
The guilt and hurt
And all the shame.

The things I did were all in vain,
All wasted now yet I remain.
So I can see my purpose now,
To You Lord Jesus I will bow.

Now I see what I’m to do;
Just follow You, only You.
You will lead me down a path,
Help me to forget my past.

I will tell them of Your love,
And of forgiveness from above.
Thank You Lord for saving me,
What You have done to make me free.

Your true love and sacrifice
Has given me a better life.

Kevin Long

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 any holiday season for one. That means any 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.

Remember Not to Forget

This year Memorial Day seems more real to me than in times past. Perhaps the reason is personal research regarding twentieth century events, and watching the American Heroes Channel whenever docs on war are on the tube. In every conflict throughout the twentieth century, more lives were lost that in all known wars on record.

I honor every person who has served our country and lost their lives, and those who served at all as well. God bless their memory, may their sacrifice never be forgotten.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
Winston Churchill

I have this foreboding sense of days to come and potential looming wars to come. Anger and hatred are newsworthy, networks or media from various sources bombard us with possibilities of conflict, their escalation daily. Within our nation there are conflicts just shy of turning deadly violent, but not portrayed as such. We really learned zero from history though warned not to do so.I believe pride has told us we are too smart to repeat historical mistakes, which I believe is laughable.

Keep the memory of the fallen alive by refusing to allow politicians and leaders at any level to stop giving away guaranteed rights our men and women gave their life for. Freedoms are in jeopardy, mainly, religious freedoms, freedom to bear arms, not to forget freedom of speech, which seems only to apply to the press anymore. The rest of us must be politically correct not offend anyone.

We seem to drop all of our differences and prejudices in times of national threats, i. e. 9/11/2001. We come together across multicultural lines as Americans, grieving lost American lives, you know, our family. I would love to see that togetherness thrive in our country, but I don’t foresee that ever happening.

Politicians, ethnic leaders, and media outlets are determined to keep unity at bay, increase their personal power, fanning the flame of discord without impunity. I believe their speech doesn’t match their actions, they want us to forget those who lost their lives for freedoms they freely give away, pointing out opposition’s faults to conceal their own.

Globally speaking, there are many conflicts alive and well. This is not a surprise however. Foretold a couple thousand years ago:
Jesus, questioned by his disciples about the times of the end said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation shal rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places”…. Matt.24:6-7

World-wide conflicts have always been. Yet from the twentieth century until now, never has so many soldiers and civilians died from such. Through in ethnic, political, and religious purging by Mao, Stalin, the killing fields of southern Asia, etc. The numbers are incredible. don’t forget to remember, not just on memorial day, but when you pray, when you vote.

Now, how do you say this…Happy memorial day? Have a nice holiday? How about REMEMBER.

The Key to Solid Recovery

Don’t think I come up with everything I write about regarding recovery from drinking and drug use  Much of what I post comes from what I hear from successful people in recovery meetings. I also ask God’s help to express thoughts to the reader. The purpose of this post is the latter statement, God’s help.. Time after time I have heard the recovering admit that praying to God was key to their recovery. I totally agree.

The issues of addiction to drug and alcohol are regarded as a spiritual malady. Don’t doubt that for a second. even if you do not believe in God, or agnostic. I have witnessed several who had no spiritual belief remain clean and sober as they followed THE program. Yet those who rely on God through prayer have much stronger recovery, my personal observation. If our addictions are indeed a spiritual malady, the remedy must come from the spiritual plane. We could not use physical to fix the spiritual no more than putting a set of wings on one’s back would cause one to soar among the clouds, defying the physical law of gravity.

Simply put, physical laws cannot alter the dimension of the spirit. However, spiritual law can, and has, altered the physical and mental realms. This isn’t arguable in this reality we dwell in, and only realized by having faith in such. With that in mind, the practice of daily prayer to God for help to remain clean and sober is the key to solid recovery, and much more. As individuals follow what has worked for millions in AA, praying for God’s intervention to help just today a clean and sober day, their faith in His reality grows. They find God loving and ready to help them though at first, praying seems foolish, a waste of time. With days passing, their faith grows to ask for His help for other issues, until prayer develops into dialog, a relationship.

I have been asked about what God’s will is by several over the years. Why I was asked in most cases was I had been the individuals sponsor, not from having been in seminary.  Sometimes I answer that with a question….”do you know what God’s will isn’t?”

The answer to that is that they do not use drugs or alcohol. That’s a given. Also, I believe God’s will is obvious to the one asking…He wants you free of addiction, He wants you changed entirely, body, soul, and spirit.  That normally means, everything about the individual needs to change. Recovery from addiction programs are programs of “self reduction to others minded.” You may enter a rock star, but aspire to be a servant. (God’s will leads to real life in spite of how that may sound to your ears).

In truth, most that want to know God’s will having underlying reasons. In most cases, the hope of side-stepping consequences, or wanting to have someone agree with what they think. Others really want to know what I feel God wants them to do. That may cover many things, relationships, how to work their recovery out when opposed by family or friends, or for a desire to know God. For me, I find answers in scripture first of all. One particular place I look is in the “poetry sections,” Psalms, Ecclesiastes, mainly the book of Proverbs. These books are crammed with workable, godly advice like an atlas insert for my personal locality.

To be honest, I still hit walls often. though I look for spiritual answers through prayer and Bible readings, that doesn’t make me a spiritual know-it-all. Example being that I was absolutely sure a my last relationship was God’s will. For me, God had to be my priority in life in. Second, I knew whatever I wanted must come second to my mate’s needs and desires. Right priorities make perfect relationships…right? Not even close. The other individual has a say too. They may agree verbally, but hold to different priorities. If so, that does not mean the relationship is wrong or doomed to fail. But it may require more effort by both.

Though we agreed at the onset, and marital bliss seemed unending, vigilance was required daily. Even though I prayed before, even had solid counsel throughout, it ended badly. God, how did I miss Your will? That way of thinking can devastate one’s recovery if help is not immediately sought. My expectations, God’s will, her will, and enemy attacks, etc., all converged to where I could not see God’s will at all.

In retrospect, I remembered I had a check inwardly, but disregarded it thinking, “get behind me devil!” (Only comical now). God wanted to keep me from trouble, but my desire for a relationship held sway over waiting for His perfection. Ouch! I don’t know what hurt worse, the broken relationship, or being wrong at this stage of spiritual recovery, or…at my age.

In conclusion, pray for God’s help as a daily priority. This is the priority for solid recovery. Do meetings, get a sponsor that isn’t so cool but has a real spiritual side, do what you hear the successful in recovery have done. If you miss God’s will for whatever reason, He isn’t mad, ask Him again and talk to your sponsor about it.

Working Through Problems

We all have problems. No one is exempt. When individuals enter recovery from addictions, problems from past actions can be overwhelming. Often, the recovering try to tackle big problems first, which can be a costly mistake. When the attempt proves unfruitful, some give up entirely thinking their situation is hopeless. I advise everyone I can to start with the small problems and work their way to the big ones.

The reason for this approach is with each small issue resolved, the individual sees success, or progress, actually making headway. Each problem is a personal victory removing the impossible bit by bit. Their confidence grows, hope becomes faith, and through diligence, all of their past will be just that…the past. Many times, those attacking from this method experience self confidence for the first time in their life.

I go a step further by reminding them, (and myself), to ask for help from God. I have listened, over time, to scores of people in recovery meetings, that have given personal testimonies, how their prayers were answered. The trick here was asking. Humbly asking God for help eliminates personal pride and control, proving to self our inability to manage our life.

There are many others that never attempt to amend past problems.
“It’s no use, I’ll never get through this garbage, there are too many things and people blocking me.”

True as that may be, this failure to launch will lead them downward. They do not try, nor ask God’s help from looking at the giant as too great. God’s specialty is the impossible. David, in the Bible had so much confidence in God that when he went out to battle the nine and a half foot Goliath, he ran out after Goliath, trash talked him and took him down, then took his head off.
Israel’s entire army feared this monsterous man. When young David struck the giant down, the confidence poured out of David onto the soldiers…and they soundly beat the opposing force.

Not attempting to amend the past is fear based. Unwillingness to recover from not wanting recovery at all. There is nothing that can be done for the unwilling, but for the  individual, daring to go to any length and try, asking God’s help,  will get through problems. And like David’s story, their story will invoke hope in others. Others will hear, receive necessary faith to fight their problems away too.

If this is you, or you have a loved one willing but having no confidence, take this approach. List out your problems or consequences. Don’t leave anything off if possible. What is the least important? Then go to the next least, the next, etc., all the way to the major issues. Once that is complete. Go to a place you can be alone, humbly ask God…

Please God, help me remove these problems from my past. I cannot do this alone, even though I caused them alone. Nothing is too hard for you. Please help me. Amen.

One more thing. As each problem is resolved, thank Him, don’t take all the credit. Share your successes with others as each victory is achieved.

Ask For Help

When I first entered into recovery for alcoholism, I found it nearly impossible to ask for help for any reason. I would ask God to help me without thinking twice. But not people. What I did not know was how God used people to help me in response. I still struggle to ask others for help for things in general, even when they offer to help. This is a real character defect I must deal with.

My understanding changed as so many in AA reached out to help. I knew then that I needed what they had to offer. Even greater was the understanding of how my prayers were not wasted words. God really cared, really heard my petition, really loved me. Today when I pray to Him, I know He will answer.

I read accounts in the Bible regarding prayer. Two in the Old Testament stand out in my mind. The passage in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, gathered the nation to ask God’s help as they were besieged by a massive army. In Isaiah 36-37, Hezekiah, king of Judah sometime later, had a similar experience. Read these awe-inspiring stories. Both give direction to praying in unity, in desperation, in faith that God can and will rescue if we only ask.

Some may say, that was then, or think, what a nice fairy tale. So perhaps an event in recent history may be more convincing. Have you ever heard about the story behind the story of Dunkirk, during WWII ? The British army, numbering nearly one-quarter of a million, along with french allies, were backed to the sea, with eight hundred thousand German soldiers closing in for the kill. Hitler was bent on annihilating the Brits.

Winston Churchill earlier, had called for a national day of prayer. I heard a woman, then a young girl account how the people responded, though unaware at the time how dire the army’s situation was.

“I remember my mother and I walking to town to the church, to pray, asking God’s help for our nation, the military, and our leaders for guidance. When we neared the church, I saw people kneeling on the sidewalk outside of the church, and along the sidewalks, for all of the churches were packed with praying people.”

No one knows why, and this is still being discussed by historians, Hitler suddenly decided to halt his charging army, and give the soldiers a little R and R…highly uncharacteristic. Simultaneously, a British leader had a flashing thought…let’s gather every boat available, no matter how small, to rush across the English Channel and rescue the soldiers.
Please don’t insult God and say, “what a coincidence!” The two events were a result of a people asking God’s help in unity, like Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah did, as well as accounts throughout scripture.

We all have an army of problems and mountains of impossibilities facing us in life. We do not have to fight alone, often not at all when we call to God for help. We have to ask. James 1 says, ‘you have not because you ask not’…or ask selfishly, (amiss). Jesus said ask and you shall receive, or say nothing and receive it.

So that’s it. Drinking was prolonged from my resistance to ask for help. Life and freedom came from humility enough to ask God and others. Great victories are realized when we have the courage to humbly ask God to fix our situations. Start asking, watch for results, be open to receive help from others.

One other thing. The times seem extremely dark, our nation is totally divided and double minded concerning right and wrong, politics, education, et al…A mountain of troubles are in view. We need to pray for our nation as never before. Please do so everyday.