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

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.

Visions, Dreams, and Prophets

Peter gave his first message about the risen Christ in Acts 2, citing the book of Joel:

 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see
visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both
men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will
prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18 (Joel 2:28-29) NIV

I had this thought this morning: All people God? How is that possible when all people are not in the household of faith in Christ? I mean, how, without Your Spirit living within them could they prophesy, have visions, or dream dreams of You, and spiritual in nature? I was puzzled to say the least because that goes against my personal belief that God works through those that are in Christ, not unbelievers.

When I entered into recovery, I learned to disregard much of my “religious” thinking. I heard the phrase inside myself, leave your religion at the door Keith. It is all about Jesus, knowing and pleasing God, and living a life full of and directed by the Holy Spirit within you. Religion is worthless when religion is judgmental. Following that holy internal nudge, I began to hear for the first time, God speaking through the broken in recovery meetings.

I sought to understand this Joel/Peter message. My mental boat was rocked into a spiritual reality. As the Gospel went forth following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus; a light came on in the world, bringing salvation to whoever believes and repents to follow Christ, and an outpouring of unexpected favor of God toward all people. The active presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, opened up the darkened minds of mankind to more discovery, invention, and exploration.

The Light, as it was delivered to men through the preaching the Good News of reconciliation to God, came on. Even those rejecting the Truth, benefited from the Creator’s presence in the world in the Holy Spirit.  (I realize this to be arguable, as prior to this time, discovery and invention existed, the pyramids, the gardens of Babylon, the water/sewage systems of cultured cities, the Roman roads throughout their empire, etc.)

Furthermore, the argument of the Dark Ages and lack of anything new but plagues and wars after the light came on. So, these arguments I acknowledge, yet I realize the Light had an enemy that was a sore loser, and did all he could to destroy wipe out the way and darken men’s minds through the religious hoarding Truth from the world. Not all of the religious were in favor of controlling the minds of the unlearned and ignorant.
The monks of Ireland, for example, began universities throughout Europe. Through education and literacy, the age of the Enlightenment, His Light continued to shine into the New World, where the Puritans began public schools we have today so their children could learn to read the Bible. Within a couple of centuries, the people of Europe, and of the now United States becoming literate, slavery was abolished on both continents. That evil which displeased God removed brought an end to clouded ignorance, and much intolerance. God granted favor once again, giving the Spirit freedom to inspire invention and discoveries, which to this day have been off of the charts in number. Mankind is no longer crawling, but racing to the consummation of all things. Time is drawing to an end.
Men and women today are visionaries, they have dreams then find methods to achieve them. Also, people are learning the words they speak are self-fulfilling prophesies. Words that are positive have positive results. Negative words have negative results. It is, I believe, another dimension of the presence of the Holy One in our world. I do not discount Joel/Peter’s words not to mean God’s Spirit bringing God’s will through a special spiritual gift. The point is, these are the days spoken of in scripture.
Don’t doubt that. Man has undeniable abilities to do once impossible feats, yet this does nothing to grant anyone believer-ship. The spill over of those who believe in Jesus has a world-wide ripple effect. The light is on, but many of the people who benefit, many that discover, explore, and achieve, remain personal darkness, denying Christ, and opposing the Gospel. Pride of personal achievement leaves the achievers ungrateful to God, praising self and mentors opposing Christ’s sacrifice.
Here is the message; These days we live in are the days aforementioned in scripture. The evidence is obvious on every level spirituality, mentality, and physically. The warning bell has sounded for the believers to awaken, unite, and live their faith out in word and deed. In Noah’s day, people were living out their daily routine, eating, drinking, getting married, etc. They had no idea what day the rain would start, judgment be executed.
So it is with many of us today. The only thing that matters for us is getting and personal comforts. We have no time to teach and tell our children the Word at the risk of their eternity. Hopefully when you read this you shake yourselves to the reality of the day’s evil, and the promised return of Jesus. To ignore this has a ripple effect opposite of receiving it.
Who, of your family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors have you decided to lose to the ages?

To Authors, Poets, and Bloggers

The dry seasons come and go. If you are like me, you know the time and effort put into blogging has apparent little reward. Yet, we write, we take the time hoping someone reads our words and rhymes. The further hope is that by God’s grace, the reader’s life is changed. I aim this toward the bloggers writing in relationship to Christ, of recovery from addictions, of Christian conduct, values, and of matters of spiritual maturation.

I write every day but have only posted a couple of times this year. Work and personal issues have kept me fairly well side-lined the past year. I did question whether I would continue writing at all, unsure my feeble attempts had any effect on readers. I based particular thoughts of ending my short writing career on: 1) I am not a schooled writer. 2) The book I wrote that gave me this alter-ego;  mister-know-all- things-recovery-spiritualityman…well the book didn’t fly off of the shelf. 3) The battle onslaught from the dark side is horrendous if you are helping others, writing and working in recovery groups namely. I cannot allow these things to move me. The Greater One lives inside of me. These things are temporal and will pass.

NOW HEAR THIS
Do not misunderstand my direction here. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and truly enjoy the challenge. The thought of giving writing up was not, and is not my way of pouting God-ward, asking Him what the big idea was...”You trying to make me look stupid or something, dear Lord.” No, no, a thousand times no. It was truly time and issues that gave me the notion to do something different.

I write this post with you, the writers, poets, authors, musicians, students, and everyone thinking about quitting what they sense God has laid on their hearts to do in His kingdom. God knows how to speak to me and I felt it necessary to attempt to convey this to you. Reading Galatians yesterday, (that is His way of getting me the message), Paul’s words reminded me that I, and you, need to fulfill our calling. Check this out:
“Live creatively friends…..make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then SINK YOURSELF INTO THAT. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” vs. 1, 4-7 (MSG)
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued in doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get a chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” vs.9-10 (MSG)
The dry seasons come and go. These times are where we learn and grow. We learn little on the mountain top experiences, singing, dancing, and all. Like the passage says, live creatively, put your all into Christ, and He will give you all you need to accomplish your ministry. Don’t be concerned with FB likes, Twitter re-tweets, and comments on your posts. Remember who you work for and Who is working through you.
Now get out there and…just do it, in Jesus name.

Why Bother Praying?

If God is God, why doesn’t He just save everyone? Why is it necessary to pray to Him if we aren’t sure He is listening…or if He even exists? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why should I believe in a God that allows so much misery?

These are the normal questions that fuel the fires of disbelief in the unseen. The thing I find curiously interesting is that those questions remain questions because people who ask them seldom try to find out the answer. If they decide one day to research their doubts for answers, they are seldom disappointed.
. Free will, God wants our fellowship, He wants us to trust Him enough that we ask Him, because we have given allegiance to self-will and darkness, are the short, short, incredibly short answers to the questions. Each question would be a 3000 word essay, which you wouldn’t bother to read.
What makes me think you wouldn’t bother to read it?
 It’s too difficult for one asking to read. It is the asking that prevents the discovery of spiritual matters.That is true even with science. Asking requires the individual with questions to cease asking and look for the answers. Looking, by the way, isn’t reading a few pages and saying, “now I know.” (You may actually read a 3000 word essay, but statistically most people seldom read a post longer than 600 words.)
 Do you really want to know if God exists? Keep in mind, if you find that reality, your life today is done for good. You will have a change of perspective on how you view God.
Do you want to know?
Okay, that brings us to this post’s title. Why bother praying? If you do not believe in God, I want you to do something completely stupid, but do it sincerely. Make sure no one is around you. When you are sure you are alone, quietly say these words….
….”God, if You do exist, would You make Yourself known to me?”
I have watched many people’s lives change in recovery meetings by using this simple prayer. Those entering recovery intent on finding hope of freedom from addictions, would do anything to know that there is a transcendent God that cares for them, not angry with them, and will help them. I am one, and have personally witnessed God change others too. No questions to us any longer. We were desperate, and so are you, but maybe for different reasons.
Give it a go. Those questions are waiting for you to find the answers to. Start first by asking God to reveal Himself. You will be contacted.
“When you call to Me and pray to Me, I will listen to you. When you seek Me, you will find Me, provided you seek for Me wholeheartedly, and I will let you find Me, ” says ADONAI.
Jer.29:12-14 (CJB)

Ideas For 2015

This is my first post in 2015. I understand there are a half million bloggers in the US. Thanks if you landed here by accident or on purpose. I’ll try to be brief and give you a few ideas to help you along in 2015.  

For those in recovery from addictions and follow my blog, take your recovery serious this year. Treat recovery like a person with diabetes. If they don’t take insulin, they’re a goner. If you do not pray, get to meetings, help others, and follow Good Orderly Direction (GOD), your recovery is subject to failure.

IDEAS For 2015

1. Hold on loosely. People, places, and things change. Gripping hard leads to disappointment.
2. Tell God thanks for grace and what you have. More comes to the grateful…the truly grateful.
3. Smile, for no reason. Even when you are alone.
4. Trust God only. People fail us. Don’t doubt that.
5. To move up, accept where you are as though you will always be there. That is surrender. Surrender opens doors to change.
6. Pray for your enemies. Do that everyday, pray for them first. Cover your loved ones in prayer. If you don’t…who will?
7. Choose to go second, or be last in line.
8. Finish well, in every endeavor.
9. Serve with fervor.
10. Give. Not just money. Time and effort are more valuable than your money at times, most of the time.
11. Read something worthwhile, no one. Let them feel they are not forgotten.
12. Listen, learn, love, live to know God better. That intention if serious will lead to devotion. That devotion will lead to understanding. That understanding will lead to knowledge of the Holy. That knowledge will lead to God imparting His wisdom to your life, leading to joy, peace, and love.

Daily prayer for 2015, from Psalm 19
Let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. I am grateful to You for everything you have given me, the things both good and bad that You used to teach me, and what You have in store for me today to grow closer to my being like You.

Prediction of the year 2015
I predict that Jesus will be the God-man of the year, as He has been for two millennia plus. He is also prepared to come to your house if invited.

Devotion, Recovery, and 2015

Wow, 2014 flew by! I can hardly believe 2015 is knocking on the door.My thought about 2014 is…goodbye, good riddance. I want to warn 2015, “don’t you come in here thinking you are going to run rough-shod and knocking things over like 2014 did!” That may be how I feel, but I know I cannot talk to a year per se, but I can be prepared.

If you are in recovery from any addiction of any kind, gird up your loins, get ready to rumble. That is not having the expectation of bad things in store for 2015. It is all about being ready to battle, if necessary, while eagerly expecting the many good things as we recover, one day at a time. Are you ready? Have you laid out a plan of action?

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Franklin/Hamilton (both old Ben and Alexander are given credit for that quote)

God has a plan for you that is fabulous and exciting, brilliant in design, but hard for the finite mortal mind to accept. People love to quote their favorite passages from scripture. I certainly do. Here is one of them, now popular due to the masses addicted to dope and drink these days. This is a promise of hope:

 “For I know the plans I have in mind for you, says Adonai, plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future.” Jer.29:11 (Complete Jewish Bible)

God is not against you and I. He is for us. He is for YOU! But I want to tell you there is more to that scripture than our getting a fuzzy feeling and knowing God is not against us. There is instruction for us to prepare to receive God’s plan:

“When you seek me, you will find me, provided you seek for me wholeheartedly; and I will let you find me, says Adonai. THEN I will reverse your exile.” Jer. 29:13 (CJB)

It is wonderful to know God has us in mind, and has plans for us. Do we have Him in mind, and plans for Him? Is God the center of your plans in 2015? He is sure recovery from addictions. He is the Rock we build our spirituality on, Whose plans never fail us, and keep us steady.

2012 was a hard year. 2013 was even harder. 2014…ouch. Through it all, God kept me sober and growing, aware that each trial is a learning experience. Some may have been avoided. I know often my spiritual guard was down, the enemies attacked with glee, I wanted to cry “UNCLE!” dozens of times. That is not in God’s plans or mine.

Think, Act, Plan (TAP)
Think about the year ahead. Act by talking to God as to how you want 2015 to be different for you in relation to Him and your life. Plan by writing down things you want to address and overcome, changes you feel you need to make, and how, a year from now, you want to see yourself body, mind, and spirit. Will you be able to say, “2015 was a great year?”

Watergate’s Gift to Us

The events of 1972’s Watergate scandal left a dark stain on American politics…putting it mildly. The truth is, that incident ruined political careers, sent men with unblemished records to prison, pressured Richard Nixon into retirement. Believe it or not, something wonderful came out of that dastardly affair.

Chuck Colson was one of those men that ended up in prison. He passed from this life in 2012, but not before the second part of his life shook the gates of darkness good, really good. He became a follower of Christ feeling the weight of the scandal, his spirit broken, wanting answers, or wanting to die.

That conversion was followed by his starting prison ministries and angel tree which is a program for the children of prisoners. He authored many books, held a daily radio commentary, began the Colson Center…to name a few of his accomplishments after coming to faith in Jesus. (There is more to say, but I’m trying to shorten posts for readability.)

What Satan meant for evil for Colson, God meant for good. Who knows the mind of God? Like Paul wrote in Romans 11:33; God’s ways are past finding out! And Isaiah 55:8-9, God declares His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Mortal minds could never conceive of a plan like this. Thousands upon thousands of lives have been changed by….Watergate?

It really is not that scandal transforming lives, but rather the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of one willing to give their gift, risking embarrassment and scorn, falling on the grace of God in total surrender.

 How does this relate to recovery from addictions to drink and drugs, or anything else?You can allow your past to entrap you for the rest of your life if you feel God couldn’t or wouldn’t possibly use your story to bring hope to others. Chuck’s story is a lesson of hope for you. God may have used Chuck’s prominence, but throughout church history, God has taken ordinary people and done extraordinary things. Be recklessly willing to give your brokenness for God’s glory and perhaps someone may be writing about you.

Merry Christmas.