How to Enjoy Christmas

How does one enjoy Christmas? For many Christmases in my life, I was fed up by the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. Sometimes I was outright angry at secular disbelief, insisting how offended they were by “religious symbols” or live nativity scenes invading their darkness…the true Narcissists of modern times. A few times at Christmas, I loathed my inability to lavish unnecessary gifts on my children and family members. And finally, often, the holidays passed while I boozed through them.

I should never judge how people see the Christmas season, but pray they get the point. I never want to be disappointed that I will be working and not with family, missing the family gathering and meal, watching the children beam when they open their gifts. That is precious, and should burned into thoughts or memories forever…with gratitude. That isn’t the point. So, what is the point?

The point I see today, as a follower of Christ, is the purpose of His visit, my gratitude and acknowledgement of that. I am transformed by believing in Him, His virgin birth… His life and teachings… His sacrifice on the cross… His blood destroying my sins past, present, and future… His resurrection guaranteeing mine from eternal death… and His continual intercession as advocate, defending me from accusations by the evil one. I am lifted when my belief turns to gratitude as I see the real Gift of Christmas, He gave Himself.

The point is seeing entire world is different because of His coming. Invention, exploration, and discovery may have been a part of mankind’s history, yet because of His coming and commission to His disciples to “go ye into all the world,” was catapulted as the Gospel spread, especially through the nations that accepted the message.

In fact, within modern history, from the past 150 years, technology has grown exponentially. I’m filled with gratitude, knowing He is the reason for this, His Spirit, Jesus promised, would come in His stead. The Holy Spirit brought the light of understanding and knowledge to people for invention, exploration, and discovery where His message is freely expressed and received. Where the message is rejected as truth, There is practically no invention, and the people would be living as people lived a millennium or more in the past without the discoveries from others.

How Christmas can be truly good, even wonderful, is refusing to allow the holiday to be about all you have done for others. You may have worked hard to cook, get everyone together, and to find that perfect gift for family and friends…and they don’t offer thanks for your toil. Think about what He has done for you, and be grateful by not expecting accolades…just give.

One last thought, and this is a “biggie.” You may not have time to go serve at a “drop-in,” or soup kitchen-meal-station for the homeless. Take a moment, pause and say thanks for what you do have. Ask God to bring comfort to the homeless, the widow and orphaned, the addict, the alcoholic, those trapped in darkness. Don’t forget to ask for our men and women serving the country, away from their families. Ask God to protect them from danger, from evil, comforting them in their loneliness…and their family the same.

Bonus thought. While you are asking, ask Him to foil the plans and schemes of the grifter running scams, preying on the elderly and weak. May God protect them all.

Merry Christ-mas to all, God grant you light to see His Truth…for His glory!

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Relief for Holiday Depression

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
Right. “Maybe for you, but not for me. I can’t even afford presents for my children. We plan to have a bowl of corn flakes and toast for Christmas dinner.”
“If my husband would just quit drinking for the holidays, then we may be grateful.”
“How can the holidays be happy when your child is clinging to life after an overdose? Christmas will never be the same.”

These are some of the laments of families facing personal problems during the holiday season. I empathize with them. My heart goes out to those suffering depression brought by outside forces, or household divisions from addictions. I also have sorrow fro the lonely, those who have no one to enjoy the season with. The unmarried, widowers, orphaned children in foster homes that do not celebrate, etc.

There are also people so caught up in their work so deeply, or in so much debt, they cannot see celebration or purpose in Christmas. This form of depression hides itself from its victims, and renders killer-stress eventually. Where is relief for the many problems?, how can we celebrate and get free of depression during this time of year?

Pat answers are many in number; be grateful for what you have, pray, get counsel, go to an AA or NA meeting, (for those in recovery), etc. But none of these seem to help at our darkest moments, which may compound around this time of year. I want to offer something different to the mix of answers. This will take minimal effort but I know this works.

Many families read the Christmas story found in Luke 2 as an annual tradition. Try this, read around that story. Luke 1 is the story behind THE story. The angel appearing to Mary with the message of her selection, being the mother of the Promised One.
…”let it be to me according to your word.” was Mary’s response in verse 38, and the angel had said to her in vs. 37, “for with God NOTHING shall be impossible.”

These two passages are two sentences, as a person believes them, and speaks them, have tremendous power to affect the attitude with faith, in replace of the inward fears resulting in  depression. The pit of depression is a place of hopelessness. Saying prayers may seem unthinkable to the depressed and hurting, having tried to pray already, getting no results. But praying what is written, what the Word says, causes faith to rise and fear to run.

Here are two short passages, read them aloud every day until Christmas. Along with that, read aloud, or even better, pray aloud the Magnificat, Mary’s praise to God in vs. 46 through vs.55. Make it personal, saying to God in prayer:

“My soul magnifies You Lord, and my soul rejoices in You, my Savior. For You have regarded my lowly state, and from now on, people will call me blessed…You are mighty and have done great things for me”….

Continue this praise to God through verse 55, and do this aloud until Christmas Day. Get alone by yourself, sit in your car, or in a secluded place in your home. Take this serious, do it in praise and thanksgiving to God in your dark moments, in spite of the problems you face, or the challenges ahead that seem impossible…nothing is too hard for God. Scripture reveals the heart that is broken or fearful, will be liberated as that person praises God. (i.e. 2 Chron. 20, Nehemiah 1)

It is okay to doubt this. God is not angry at you for doubting. You’ve tried everything else, things of physical, or mental in nature have not worked. Let’s move over to the unseen, the spiritual things, bringing The Savior into your situation. Whether you doubt or not, put praise to God in your day and He will invade your world with life, joy and celebration.

Let today be the day you have the courage to believe in Christ’s purpose, and find your purpose. One more thought; read more of the stories around The Story, chapters 1-2 of Luke. The whole story is great and faith-building.

How to Have Faith…(when you feel faithless)

Something I hear often in recovery meetings or in conversation with others is, “I don’t have faith.” I can respond from my personal experiences and understanding gathered from study, but seldom do. The reason is that people have their mind made up regarding how they view self, religion, life, etc., and mostly unwilling to listen to any answer until their pain is great enough to want change in life.

The truth is, we all have faith. We are born with a bit of it. But faith has to develop, grow from a seed into a thriving tree…even an entire forest. How that occurs is through the ears, hearing…to understand. An example seen in recovery meetings is the newcomer.

Newbies come to AA or NA, unsure if they will be helped at all. They hear how others with similar issues or problems, kept coming back until they found hope, got clean and sober, and their life improved beyond their dreams. The newbie finds that hope and returns again and again until their faith grows a belief worthy of total trust.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17 ESV
(To amplify this passage, I like to say, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing, and hearing…)
Jesus said: Have faith in God…”I say to you, whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:22, 24 NKJV

Faith goes in through the ears, into the heart and mind, then out of the mouth. This is a fact for belief systems, no matter what the belief system is. Even the atheist has faith in no God by the same method; they hear atheist teaching, their mind accepts those teachings as truth, and their mouth speaks their faith in there being no cause for life, it just happened.

What if I am not in Recovery? How can I get faith?
Here are a few suggestions to grow your faith.

1. Pray, whether you believe in God or not. A simple, “God, are you for real? If you are, will you please help me believe? I really want to know.” (You will be contacted…I have faith in that fact.)

2. What are you listening to right now? Turn it off. TV, music, negative thoughts bouncing around in your head, or a negative friend or relative-do-nothing griping there is nothing to do. Sit down and read this post aloud to yourself. Or, read Mark 11, Romans 10 aloud to yourself. Read a devotional or the Big Book of AA. Allow something positive to enter the ear and lodge in your heart.

3. Affirm aloud to yourself, “I belong to God”…or, ” I’m getting better every day, my life is improving as I hear truth, I believe.

This is just a start to cultivating the greatest resource, or spiritual tool we all have. Faith is essential for recovery, for learning, for every endeavor attempted by mankind. Invention, exploration, and discovery are all born of faith. Be savvy to this as well, doubt and fear are the arch-enemies of faith. These little imps produce questions in spite of proofs, tear down the most powerful of dreams and hopes.

Choose faith over fears. Take this final passage with you into next week and personalize it saying it aloud to yourself:
…Be strong and courageous, don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!”

How to be Grateful…(when you don’t want to)

The question I had to ask myself was, “what in the world has happened to you?” The past two years has been nothing short of a real smack-down of sobrietal reality. Depression? Frustration? What is going on, and furthermore, what did I do to deserve this garbage? All I wanted to do was help others get, and stay clean and sober. Yet, here I am struggling to do the simplest tasks in every area of life.

We alcoholics and addicts tend to look at everything external to find who, or what to blame. Eventually with God’s help, the message is clear…look in the mirror and you’ll see the problem.
It is me. I look at the inward self and see how I am seldom prepared for battles life delivers. The core of this onslaught is ingratitude. If I see gratitude as an action word, then ingratitude is a lack of action, not giving back what I’ve been given.

How can I stay grateful when I don’t feel it? 
It’s words. Not a fake-it-till-u-make-it way. I have to look beyond the veil of deceit that this existence offers through mankind’s fall from grace. That is, count blessings, say words of thanksgiving to God, and DO little actions to cause zeal for service to others to return.

I was so grateful to God early in my recovery that I wanted to give back any way I could. I was willing to clean the men’s room, empty trash, both at church and at AA. When I felt down, or felt old behaviors trying to rule me, I went to the AA meeting place, having a key, and cleaned. I cleaned and prayed. God heard and answered, not because I cleaned, but because I put faith and gratitude into action. Things changed, I was restored and refreshed with those little actions, giving back without anyone knowing but God.

Those early experiences catapulted me to spiritual fitness, hungry to serve, thirsty for knowing more because….this really works! Expressions of gratitude filled my conversations and prayers. I understood what people had said in meetings, how the grateful souls are those who DO gratitude, not merely say it. Those who express gratitude, live with purpose and experience joy, peace, and confidence in God’s ways, that are far beyond human comprehension…I mean, how can being thankful change my situation from distress to feeling fulfilled with purpose? It is a God thing altogether.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s decree. “For as the skies soar high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, the way I think is beyond the way you think….the words I come out of My mouth will not come back empty handed. They will do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Is.55:8-9,11. (The Message)

God Does Nothing like humans. Our gratitude is nutty to people’s way of thinking. People think being grateful for anything they cannot eat, spend, possess, etc., is foolish entirely.

Gratitude may be hard when I don’t feel grateful. But if I say what I hear others say; “well, that’s just how I feel, I’m just being honest,” I will not come out of this funk until I stop saying junked-up words from that trashy attitude. To know “this too shall pass,” is a nice saying, and true. When I stand up and thank God when I do not want to, and every thing is going wrong, He is pleased, making changes in me. Those changes lead me from that funk, to a clear and meaningful peace, a joyous way of living.

Think today of what you are not grateful for, write them down. Think today of what you are grateful for, write them down too. Then thank God for both for one week. See how the things you were not grateful for change,or ratherhow you view them. Will you be grateful for bad things? Will you see them as lessons in life? Maybe, maybe not. You will feel differently, I’m sure. For me, I know gratitude changes me from the inside out. I am grateful. Time to express it with action, and be healed.

He Went Where?

The Pope sent a message to every leader of every Christian sect worldwide. “Meet with me in Washington. I have wonderful…and disturbing news for you all…God has given me a message for you all!” They gathered, every Christian leader in D.C., awaiting the news. The Pope rose to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have news, both good and bad…”Christ has returned to Earth!” He has not come for judgment at this time.”
A Baptist minister stood up and asked, “If Jesus is back, what could possibly be the bad news?”
The Pope responded, “He called me from an AA meeting in Ohio.”

Jesus, if He attended an AA meeting, would not be there to treat alcoholism. Don’t think I am trying to be irreverent. When He returns, He will come as it is written, and for the purpose He said He would return…and that appears to be the next major event on the prophetical date book.

The humor of the story is that Jesus has to come back to the Earth to do what the religious should be doing first and foremost…but cannot without disturbing their flock, or rocking their place of comfort, or studying to prove themselves right and all others wrong. Down the street, the widow is eating cat food, the orphan is being taught survival by the criminal element in the “hood.” In real life, most churches today have food banks, and emergency funds for the truly needy. They strive to serve the best they can, I believe.
That is good and follows Christ’s commands. But we who sit in the pews only throw a few bucks in the plate to fund these programs. That takes care of our guilt and we move on with our life, satisfied with our goodness. We may go a little further with a moment of silence for people suffering…like that does any good. Really, don’t think something nice, do something human, take action.
Jesus is here today in the person of the Holy Spirit. I sense His grief, I believe, over our division within Christian ranks, our hunger for more of everything that perishes, and drive for self-importance. “If Christ is here, where is He?”, the unbeliever, the cold or lukewarm believer asks.He is where the hurting, the broken, lonely are…AA, NA, and those places and in those hearts looking to serve the needs of all for God’s glory. He is where those who hunger and thirst for knowledge of Him and want His presence. 
Jesus is where darkness is the greatest. It is reported He has appeared in dreams of people in Islamic countries saying, “follow me!” That is from their mouths, those who followed Him at the risk of losing everything, family, possessions, or even their lives. Jesus is exactly where He was when He came to the planet two thousand years ago…among the people looking for a savior, for truth without strings to support scientific facts or educational falsehood of our origin.
He is in the churches that gather to build the spiritual house for Him to dwell. Not those who insist on exclusivity, believe our way or else go to hell. He shuns the bless me clubs that come together to agree on social status, who gets the lead in the holiday program, or individuals serving Him for self-promotion.
Today, it is of extreme importance that we who believe make every effort to test ourselves to see that we truly believe. I feel certain from the direction we are heading, away from anything godly and everything that removes Jesus, days of the end are here. We need to go where He would go, do what He would do, without concern of shame, or fear of mans disapproval.
Like my uncle Don used to say from the pulpit, “get in, get out, or get run over.” 
Blessings.

I’m Going To…

“As soon as baseball season is over, I am going to get serious about my drinking problem.”
“Sure, I really want to be a Christian, but I need to clean myself up first. When I stop drinking, cursing, and other things I know is wrong…then I will serve God.”
“I know I need to pray and read my Bible more. As soon as the kid’s soccer season is over, I really want to start a daily program.”

The above statements are those of us all at one time or another. For some it is a way of life. Putting off important matters because of being too busy will continue until we see fully what it is we are doing, or not doing. That is, when it is crystal clear the damage inflicted on ourselves and others by procrastinating. I heard a man say in a AA meeting, that procrastination is ultimately self-centered. A chronic procrastinator only does what they “feel like doing.”

Putting off getting ourselves to recovery until football, baseball, or any sport or activity we enjoy season ends, is really saying, “I am not ready.” There is no reason to nag this person in an attempt to get them to see their need. Their mind is made up. The bottom awaits, normally with legal consequences like a OVI/DUI, job loss, divorce…procrastinating until it is too late.

The same is true in statements like trying to clean oneself up before asking Christ to come in to their life. They have the mind-set of playing out their life the way they want, putting Him off to live as they choose. They are not ready, and probably never will be. God will go to any means to get to them, guaranteed.

The parents that think they will suddenly have an urge to get serious about their relationship with God when their kids activities come to an end are only fooling themselves and setting a terrible example for their offspring. Their kids will follow how they are taught, everything goes ahead of spiritual matters, God is somewhere down mom and dad’s priority list. Do you really want your children to place importance on everything ahead of Him? In fact, for me or any believer to say, “I need to pray and read the Word more,” is repulsive. Praying and reading the Bible are both privileges for us, we “get to,” not need or have to.

I’m fairly well convinced procrastination, those five syllables of death, can only be beaten by our seeing it as a problem. Then accepting that we are procrastinators, and asking God to forgive us and help us overcome. Once we have done so, I suggest making a list, from things we know we dodge, from smallest to greatest, then back to pray for help, list in hand, confessing our weakness and inability to “want” to do these things. The realization of our unmanageable ways, the admission, and the desire to stop, lead us to surrendering to Him, the only hope of real healing.

He will help. My other suggestion is to take the list and do the smallest item on the list first. Then the next smallest, etc. When the little things we postpone are accomplished, the bigger issues become smaller, easier to do when handled with prayer. Give it a go, don’t delay.

Recovery Killers, 5 Things to Watch Out For

If you are recovering from addictions and attend meetings on a regular basis, you are aware of triggers that lead many to relapse. Most of the effort used to help those in danger of relapse is focused on individuals new to recovery, or perhaps those going through difficult times at present. For any and all in recovery, relapse is a real threat. Whether that relapse returns us to actually using what ensnared us, or to returning to old thinking and self-service. Recovery is getting your life free from addiction. Sobriety is living life, personal growth, having ambitions to strive for, seeing life with a sense of purpose.

We have all experienced shock when someone with many years in recovery suddenly fell and returned to using, boozing, and doing what landed them in recovery originally. We were sure they were cognizant of what to watch out for, so why did they relapse?

There are many considerations as to why that were obvious, or not so obvious, and some not even considered. Here are a few to give pause and consider…and they are killers.

1. Forgetfulness
I’m forgetful, you’re forgetful, all God’s children are forgetful…that’s not a song. Forgetting how you felt when you first landed in recovery meetings can do great damage to ones sobriety. Remember that first meeting? Remember those first few weeks, months and learning how to accept what you became. From what may have started innocently, brought you to the bottom. That memory can keep sober living fresh, and you enthusiastic about sharing “how to” with others. To forget is saying to self, I’m really not as bad as I thought, having a drink or two won’t do me harm…I am not a foolish teen any longer.
2. Remorse
No matter how many meetings some people attend, or rehab, or church attendance, they never seem to get over what could have been. They had aspirations, perhaps were well-known athletes, musicians, or brilliant academically, but became addicted, and hit their bottom in shame. They cannot forgive themselves even years later. They dwell on their lot in life until they just give up trying to recover.
3. Personal Pride
This is something everyone needs to be aware of in recovery. Somehow, as time passes, we learn how to speak well in meetings, newbies and others look up to us as knowing our stuff about clean and sober living. Getting free of addiction then having a lack of humility, to a realization that we are leaders, with the most sober- time in the room, is a fall in process. Never take the “what you need to do is”....as though we have every answer to every problem.
There are many unique situations, i. e. mental disorders, difficult upbringings, some grieving from personal loss, etc. Though twelve-step recovery works for all that have the mental capacity, none of us unique, there are unique situations. Have enough humility to listen before suggesting.
4. Criticism 
This is a recovery killer we all may struggle with. I nearly quit attending meetings early on, criticizing, and over-analyzing every thing I heard in meetings. On one occasion, I had enough of hearing one individual’s story in every meeting. The same story took ten precious meeting minutes that I could have used to speak, though nothing I said had value. I knew little.
At the boiling point I told a friend I have had it with this guy, when another came to join our conversation saying, “wow, did you hear that dude’s story…that was awesome! I slowly learned to stop criticizing and to listen with the heart as well as the ears. The change was dramatic. That experience also helped me stop the gossip of others in recovery.
5. Ingratitude
To a point, we all have gratitude, or maybe a sense of relief that led us to be grateful for finding our way to the sober life. When in the depth of addictions, we are grateful for little, and have a sense of entitlement that makes us obnoxious for the most part. Learning the importance of gratefulness for every little thing is a addiction-breaker.
Taking a hot shower with a clean towel, clean clothes to put on, water to drink, food to eat, things we never gave thought to be thankful for become a point of grace to us. In time, we may go from feelings of that’s all behind me now, it comes natural to stop being grateful, feel entitled, after all, we may think, I worked to have these things. But without recovery, help from God and others, you and I wouldn’t have a job to afford the food, clothing, and roof over our heads.

These killers may not top the list in our thinking. Be aware, they are real, and the list not nearly complete. There are many others not mentioned here or in meetings. The idea is to keep the principles and process fresh in your thinking. Don’t allow people, places, and things to be more important than personal growth through sober living, service to God and others. Stay small in your own eyes with gratitude for everything. Forgive yourself because you are forgiven. If you cannot jump that hurdle, seek professional help.

And one last thought, don’t gossip or criticize. Talk others up, especially those who get under your skin. Say good things and compliment them with sincerity will help you mature to see them in a different light. Stay critical and you will face from others what you gave to them.

Laugh as much as you can and enjoy everyday of your recovery, and sober life, remembering your first visit.

Choosing Where to Live

It is nice to live in a place where the climate is always suitable, the neighborhoods are friendly and crime free, and of course, everywhere you look you see beauty. That would be ideal, a Shangri-la, I suppose. That is totally non-existent, I believe. Where we live in this physical world may not be our choice, but how we live in our environment mentally, is a choice, mostly. That is, even in captivity from our enemies, and placed in prison, we still have a choice to dwell there in tranquil state of mind.

I know that is really a stretch. I say this living in a “free” country, in my home (the banks home), with electricity and running water, and gratefully healthy and mentally stable…I believe. I can refer to the stories of men and women imprisoned for their faith in Christ, for POWs, et al, coming through extreme difficulty, or ending in a martyrs death, yet through it all, had peace, had joy.

From my own experience, I have known great difficulty since arriving in recovery from alcoholism. Some of these experiences may have mentally crippled anyone, including myself, if not for God’s grace. Whether those who I mentioned, or myself, or others in similar situations, our choices now are paramount to survival and sanity. Preparation is key in any case. Prior to self-incarceration in our mind’s prison, or imprisonment from war, or beliefs, or whatever, filling the mind with good, with knowledge and understanding, can make us free in chains.

There is a place in the that may cripple the strongest of wills. That place is knowing truth, then for pleasure’s sake, rejecting truth, ending up in spiritual confusion, an unholy bondage.

By the rivers of Babylon we wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137 (regarding Judah’s captivity in Babylon)

Many people arrive in recovery from addictions, find hope and recover. They find, as it were, a new life, a new song, moving to into a new neighborhood in their hearts and minds. They learn to live in gratitude…a truly lovely place. They begin to see beauty in nearly everything, as God takes them each step forward. They still face major obstacles and unbearable situations. The choice to leave the old neighborhood of self-service, where crime ruled and misery pressed every thought, brought liberty and order.

Others prefer their captors chains, for now. The song-less life in darkness, hung up on the “good old days” misery, trying to recapture the feeling of that first high, their first drunken experience, and sexual experience. It never returns, forget it. There, joy and peace are exchanged for drama, for turmoil, phoniness, hoping for the next buzz to “get right.” The songs there point to rebellion, or to  enlargement of self thinking, “Now everyone will know who I AM.” 

Before evil raises it’s ugliness, make the choice to move to that neighborhood of wonderment where God creates new things just for you. Refuse the self-way preferring His way. Fill your mind with God, your actions be Christ’s, your direction of His Spirit, guiding you to discover living free of chains in your neighborhood. There is no limit in where He will take the surrendered will.

Knowing What I Want

Living with one foot in God’s service, the other in mine, doesn’t make life very good. It is easy to live for me in theory. The reality is, living to please myself is pure misery and impossible to overcome by myself, willpower-ing my way to freedom that never will be. My will says “I can fix it,” as though I were a jack-of-all abilities. Being full of self brings out an ego-maniac trying to control outcomes and giving un-asked for advice.

The only thing worse is me with the one-foot in, one foot out of service to God in any capacity, recovery included.That is a lukewarm nonsensical life that leaves me totally wondering if I am on the right path. In this sorry existence, I question God’s will, procrastinate important decisions, fly off the handle at the slightest infraction from another. Half-spiritual, half carnal, fully idiotic, and yes, I have lived there.

“I know all of the things you do, that you are neither hot or cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! ”     Rev 3:16 (NLT)

I know what I want today. Yet like every one that has decided to follow Jesus since the Church began, I struggle to do that “thing.” That thing is dying to self once and for all, no more struggling with recovering from additions, no thoughts of drinking, no more sneaking to smoke a cigarette, eating poorly, crushing my pride to powder, until all people see is Christ, not me. But I know that no good dwells in me, a slave to sin, controlled by….wait, hold it, just stop the rambling here.

What I want I have. Yes, I am learning that just as I am sober today, and having to die daily to drinking alcohol, I have to die to the desires of the flesh daily too. Honestly, I struggle in many areas, sin came embedded in my DNA, when I arrived here. As a child, sin was dead to me, not knowing right from wrong as an innocent youth.

Then, someone preached the Word to me. I was nine years old when sin came alive to me that night, and I died. That is, I died to God, separated by my sin from the Holy. The man said, come home to God, accept Christ tonight. I felt dirty inside and began to cry like an infant, spiritually I was. The little nine-year old, tears streaming, prayed that sinner’s prayer, and immediately felt clean, forgiven, unsure why. Discovery came with understanding later on.

I know I lived a foot in, a foot out until grace led me to recovery. God’s goodness brought me home. I discovered having what I really want. It was Jesus all along. The dying to sin is a process we always battle as believers. It is the fighting that counts, not laying down or yielding  ourselves to the ways of this world, that is hurling toward destruction. We need test ourselves whether we are in the faith or not…regularly. We have to know without question. The perks are wonderful, and like dying to self, it happens often along the journey. Each time we die to self, we go deeper in Him, from the “wow, thanks God,” to the “You are beyond AWESOME God!” I want that too.

You may be doing the foot-thing in and out. You won’t suddenly get the danger of your way. If you think everything is okay living full-blown for self, ignoring what pleases God, you become open prey for evil’s grip to tighten. You may not care about that until you want to break free. Today, right now, ask God for help, you will be contacted, and find what you really want.

When Plans Go Awry

I normally anticipate getting to church on those Sundays I don’t work. In fact, every long weekend I get, I plan for church, recovery meetings, and visiting grandchildren. Saturday’s plan is to do all of the household chores and shop for food and necessities. This being spring, outside windows and screens were scheduled, mowing for the first time, etc. Judy and I rolled up the sleeves and went after the work with gusto. We worked, really worked hard to get everything done…but didn’t.

I figured after church Sunday, I would be able to see the grandchildren, then finish our work. We were exhausted. I showered, laid down nearly comatose, and aches and pains with restless leg syndrome paid me a visit. I had to get up and take ibuprofen to sleep. It worked.
I awoke Sunday morning too late to even attempt to get ready for services. Guilt, my arch-enemy’s favorite tool, paid me a visit. I also saw that someone with a serious issue had tried to text me when reviewing my messages. For about an hour we talked over his problem. God gave me words to help him and I believe he was helped. I figured that since the day’s plans were already ruined, I would get back on the chores, so she and I went back at it.
As we were doing work, our neighbor, and elderly gentleman in poor health was riding his mower on a slant about ten feet behind us. We waved and yelled hello, as he did our way. Simultaneously, Judy and I saw the mower’s wheels tip, and the neighbor’s eyes flashed a big uh-oh. We darted over Judy grabbing the back, I holding up the front of the huge mower, the neighbor slid off of the mower, killing the engine.
He threw it in neutral and the three of us steered the mower to flat ground. I believe he would have been killed or permanently maimed in that short tumble had we not been there.
We went about our work. I didn’t get to see the grandchildren, go to the NA meeting, or the evening AA meeting. I sat on the bed thanking God for the great weather and apologizing again for missing services. The thought immediately came to my mind, “had I accomplished my plans today, my friend would not have received the help, my neighbor, well, I believe his wife may be making his arrangements today.” 
God is good all of the time, never doubt that. After God energized me to recognize His presence always, and guilt slithered away from me, these passages came to mind:
ADONAI directs a person’s steps and He delights in his ways. Ps.37:23 
A man’s steps are ordered by ADONAI, so how can a person understand his own ways? Prov.20:24
A person may plan his way, but ADONAI directs his steps. Prov.16:9 
                                                                                (Complete Jewish Bible)
My plans and every intention I have may be good, but good for who? Me, ultimately. You may have the same good intentions, but you find yourself on a complete opposite path, a different job, suddenly moving or in a different church, or even in a bad place you didn’t plan. Stop, thank God for where your feet are that moment, then listen and think with your heart. This is the place your spirit may see God’s goodness in Christ, you surrender, and healing comes to your body and mind.
Don’t stop going to church, recovery meetings, or planning. But when plans fail, remember He is present with a better plan for you.