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!

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.

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.

Under The Influence

The end of 2013 is near, 2014 around the bend. I hope you had a good year in 2013. This year is not quite finished, but this is a time many people begin to contemplate goals for the next year ahead. However, those of us in recovery from addictions know the importance of living in today without long-term projections.

I never questioned the logic of the statement, “one day at a time” earlier in my sobriety. So many come to recovery with consequences from living a self-indulging life, and we cannot focus on the problems that lie ahead, or we may go right back to where we were. Today, after some time in recovery, not to plan can be as dangerous. We all need to understand this paradox, stay in today  plan for tomorrow.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Alexander Hamilton
If you have read my past blogs, you know how strongly I urge the recovering to have a daily ritual directing the day focused on God’s help through prayer and meditation. Some take the advice, and have developed a strong sense of doing the “next right thing,” as well as dealing with daily challenges and confrontations that arise. We are either moving toward recovery, or away from it.
I have all of the respect for the devotionals offered through AA, NA, whether they are actual literature that is approved by the programs, or from Hazelden. The aim of these are for the reader to remain clean and sober, or free from whatever binds you. They worked for me in my recovery, but as a follower of Christ, I needed something more. As it turned out, so did many others in recovery.
The end result was my book, “Under The Influence.” The “more” I needed, as many do, was to develop a deeper walk with Christ in my recovery. The book delivers what I hoped it would, helping people to grow in recovery, in relationships with others, and in their walk with Christ. It seemed odd, why, I don’t know, but those without recovery issues have said it helps them, and they read it daily. I do not want to appear braggadocious, but grateful.
If you are planning for the year ahead, to begin a daily regimen with God in devotion. Check “Under The Influence” out. Here’s how to get the book:
Or you can get the book through Barnes and Noble, and it is available at any bookstore if you have the name and author correct. Or you can go to the publisher:
It is 388 pages, but only one page a day, one day at a time, and takes 5-10 minutes daily. If you want to send the book to an inmate, contact me at skeithbarnes.com. 
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

When I’m Wrong

I admit, I’m no genius. Doing the steps to sober living, I have messed up quite often in my journey. Step Ten of recovery, the place where I try to live, poses some of those questions that make growth possible for the recovering addict, alcoholic, or whatever the addiction.

Step 10: 
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” pg. 59 Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Taking time daily to review conversations, events, and decisions from the day is important, actually vital to the recovering. This is where we grow into a mature individual, developing conduct and thought of an adult. Those are things we abandoned to live self-serving, self-seeking lives, wrapped in addictions. In review of the day, any confrontations or situations that went awry, we look for our part, and ask God’s help to avoid similar situations in the future.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Prov. 17:9 

Knowing we have a part in a problem, even if we were not guilty of starting the episode, we still need to make amends. That is not conventional wisdom. That is godly wisdom from being humbled by humiliation. Pain drives change. To say you’re sorry for something you did not cause, or even do, is signs of real growth.

“When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them.” Prov. 16:7

How can that be right? It is right because of your willingness to realize the significance of humility and forgiveness. If these two virtues are omitted, you cannot live in step ten. You are still trying to control outcomes, people, and situations, having rule over your life. Let go, and let God.

“Sensible people control their temper, they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” Prov. 19:11

By not admitting your wrong promptly, you may as well plan on doing the steps again and again until you “get it.” That does not mean you have to feel the guilt of your part, or feel anything. The feeling you should get is a feeling of doing right and knowing you please God. Being the bigger person is yielding to the other may make you a “door mat” in the eyes of others. But you are recovering and know to do what people who do not recover refuse to do.

I hope this helps you see step ten from a different perspective. Be open to continual improvement, but true to your recovery. Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

You Can’t Fix Them

My heart goes out to those who have children, a spouse, parents, or close loved ones in the throes of substance abuse and alcoholism. I know  that you who do, have tried everything you can think of to help them. The many tears and fearful nights, lying in bed waiting for that “call,” sends chills down your spine. It appears that you want them well, but they don’t. You may want to look at a different approach.
“If you are going to pray, then don’t worry. If you are going to worry, then don’t pray.” C.S. Lewis 
Family Help?
I can’t tell you how many have asked me if I would be willing to talk to their loved one with a problem. I am willing. When they do not call me, however, I know that they probably agreed to call me so you would let them be. That is no different than the many times they have told you they would change….but did they?
Ideas that will help.
One major step for you to take is to get help for YOUR addiction. What? Yes, you have a problem. You are co-dependent with your loved ones problem. You are playing hide-and-go-seek. You deny it to the world, HIDING behind a facade of pride, that your spouse, your chilld, or your loved one could possibly have problem….then you SEEK help for them quietly, desperately.
What will people think?
Don’t worry, they don’t think. They may be worried about the same thing. If, God forbid, you get that call in the middle of the night that your loved one has overdosed and in the ER at a local hospital. You will not care what everyone thinks then, so you better not now. 350 people die everyday from heroin overdose. Shout it from the housetop if need be. Come out of your denial, be honest. How you look to people doesn’t matter more than their life, does it?
Here are a few ideas that may help you:
You can be heroic. (These are suggestions, not legal advice)
1.) If this is your child, when you introduce them to someone say, “This is my son/daughter, who I love dearly, and they are an addict.” (no more denial) This will shock your child, and frighten them. They sense you are done playing.
2.) Get the help for your addiction. Go to Celebrate Recovery, or al-anon, and seek help from co-dependency. When you stop enabling them, you may hold the keys to the beggining of their recovery. Many people in these programs can help you, they’ve been there.
3.) Learn all you can about their addiction. Seek to understand. There is nothing abnormal about your loved one. WE are all fallen, sinful, and habit-ridden.
4.) Most important. Give this to God…then let go of the steering wheel of their life. You have no control, with each suggestion you offer, they will agree to, then ignore. You have to let go…and that is very hard. Follow this advice:
“Give all of your worries and care to God, for He cares about you.” 1 Pet.5:7 NLT
Believe me, once you give this to God, and let go, you will experience peace. How will you know if you have truly let go? If you have, you will catch yourself before you advise them, and skip the advise. You will stop helping them get high by not handing them money for gas, food, etc. Let them see you mean busuness. God has control now…and let them know that.
I hope this helps you. Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

A Merry Heart

This post is a page from my book “Under The Influence.” I wish to thank all of you that have obtained your copy, and thank you for all of the kind remarks. Most importantly, it is helping those struggling to stay clean and sober as they grow in Christ, and oddly enough, those without addictions to substances are using it, and benefitting daily as well. It is a very simple daily guide written by a very simple person, proving God uses simple things and people to achieve His purpose and confound man’s wisdom. I feel this work will enhance any recovery program, especially Celebrate Recovery, AA, NA, and the like. Here we go:

Today’s verse: “A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you fit as a fiddle.!” Prov.15:13 MSG
Quote:
“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.” Mignon McLaughlin

I love to laugh. Who doesn’t? I love the company of those who love to be jovial all of the time. When I’m around an elderly person that is spry in spirit and has a twinkle in their eyes, I could listen to them talk for hours. What a blessing they are! Whenever we get a chance to, we need to be around laughter and merriment because it edifies us and builds us up.
Remember those times before Christ entered into our hearts. Never forget how addiction to drugs and alcohol stole the joy from our lives. By our keeping those memories alive, we avoid the thoughts of living in that misery ever again. Laugh everyday. Laugh for no reason, just laugh! Life today is glorious, even in trials, because we know where we are going, and the joy that awaits us there.

Prayer: God, You are so awesome! You have given me joy for sorrow and given me a reason to laugh. Thank You, amen.

Today I am grateful for these things:

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all! If you would like to get a copy of “Under The Influence,” go to www.tatepublishing.com or you can get it from your local bookstore, order from www.skeithbarnes.com or Amazon, Nook, Kindle. Get it and make it your daily devotion!

Looking Ahead

 

2012 is nearly in the history books and I can say, goodbye. I think that this past year has been the most challenging year for me personally, great in many ways, and disappointing in others. Things I planned to do remain to do because of time, mainly. In ways, I feel that I have been able to have an effect on some in a positive way, in others I have more than likely disappointed them…there’s just not enough time. People can be gracious, thank God. If they have a hurt feeling as a result of my lack of attention toward them, I apologize sincerely.

The Plan
2013 looks like a carbon copy of 2012 from a natural standpoint. But I don’t care to view the “natural standpoint” as normal for me personally. I want to attain a higher quality of service to those in recovery from addictions, spend more time with my wife, my aging parents, the children and grandchildren, writing, promoting my book through speaking engagements, and keeping spiritually fit. This is a tall order when you add 40+ hours per week on the job that is shift work. None of what I am saying is an excuse if I do not accomplish these things. I know whoever is reading this probably are thinking about their busy life, and how they can self-improve as well.

How is this possible?
The fact is, this is not an attainable goal. Too much on the plate can cause one to overeat. Overeating makes one lethargic and seeing how much they need to choke down. Less will be accomplished. My head says, I can do it, my family needs me, there are people to help…for crying out loud, “Lord how do I do all of this?” He is silent. He knows the exact answer to this dilemma.

“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of his father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters-yes, even one’s own self!-can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27 MSG

This statement by Jesus cause many to think the cost is too great to get serious about following him too closely. God wants us to take care of what he has entrusted us with, be a good steward, they think. This gives us the excuse we need to not do his will because we are busy doing his will. A bigger dilemma. Most of us have an issue with this passage, because we don’t understand what Jesus is saying. His statement here is the answer we are looking for.

Willingness, Attitude, Surrender
He is saying this: You just be willing, surrender trying to hang on to the controls, and please change your hopeless attitude. Those things that overwhelm you, impossible lists of things to do, and trying to please everyone, blinds you to the most important thing you need to pay attention to…time with me. I have to respond to him…yes you are absolutely right. All of the insane attempts to serve the world of problems of others and my own, must be put to death in my mind, surrendered. I have to be willing to ignore the important things in my head, change my attitude completely about being “there” for everyone. I need to only be “there” for One…Christ Jesus. My long list of improvements, my concerns about 2013, must come second to Him. So I die daily to my ambitions, to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of His sufferings…not my sufferings.

The funny thing is this: Those things placed at his feet get accomplished with less effort on my part. He finds the way to their fulfillment when you and I place our focus on Him. So spending more time in communion with Him is the goal for the upcoming year, at least for me.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!