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!

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How to Live a Long Life

 
Mom, dad, and my wife Judy holding baby Georgia, 10 of 11 great-granchildren

    How do you explain someone living to be 83 years old, having been diabetic for 47 years? Most people with that disease are fortunate to see 70 years. My mom turned 83 yesterday, and still takes care of herself, her home, and is actively serving others. Happen-stance, longevity in her family, remarkable strides in medicine, living a life smoke free, no drinking? These may all contribute, and are facts of living healthy. But I want to submit this truth to you as well:

“My child, never forget the things that I have taught you. Store up my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying.” Prov. 3:1-2

“Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commands you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land your God is giving you.” Deut.5:12 (This is the first of the 10 commandments that has a promise attached)

My mom accepted Christ into her heart at 9 years old, and has never looked back. She has never stopped loving God, and serving Him by serving others. She and dad are givers, not just money to their church, but to the needy, giving to spiritual and physical needs.

Don’t think for a moment her goodness made her this way. It is God’s grace alone, and she knows it. To see the two of them, along with Audrey, a sainted woman, so dear to our family, go out and visit the elderly in retirement homes, sing to them, pray with them, and just talk to them, is the radical, furious love of God in action. Mom, dad, and Audrey are aware of this, and do this ministry quietly, without attention.

My mom, honored her parents. She stored up God and His Word in her life, and has been obedient to Him. God has given her long life. Raised poor, but unaware. Raising her children to know God, without question. Serving others, without thought. This is a life well lived and I hope not over for a while to come.

I don’t want anyone to think that she is perfect. She gets put out by the lack of manners and kindness of this age. She will never understand weekend sports tournaments that interfere with church attendance. She will tell you what she thinks if you ask, but will refrain if she knows it won’t help, or will hurt you. To our family, she is worthy of sainthood. Blessings to you mom, I love you very deeply.

I really believe that her life, dad’s too, has been preserved by God from their obedience to Him, their honoring and doing whatever God directs them. I also don’t have all of the answers why people like them die younger, and do. But just maybe the difference is action…not just a hearer of God’s Word, but doers of His Word.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Be Careful Little Mouth

Please Lord, make my words today sweet and tender, for tomorrow I may have to eat them,” -anon
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

The children playground saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” was originated by a person who obviously had skin made of steel. The saying is actually attributed by some from slaves that were talked down to, and called every unholy name by their overseers. The reality is that words effect go far beyond the ear and into the brain. Words go into the very depth of a person’s soul, and there, take residence, Words break up homes, friendships, split churches and civic groups, and words can shut down corporations. With all of the high tech being used as media outlets, words can end a political career by someone’s cell phone footage used on the evening news.

Words can have the opposite effect as well. Encouragement expressed to another, down on themselves and needing confidence, can turn their life’s situation completely around, and turn the misfortunate one onto the pathway of a positive existence. Words from a coach to his team at halftime may motivate players to overcome a mistake ridden first half, into a flawless performance in the second. The right word from an AA, NA, CR sponsor, can cause the one struggling minute to minute to make it one day to the next. A pastor delivers his sermon, maybe the one word he says from scripture lands in the heart of someone that becomes the next Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Augustine, or Francis of Assisi.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Ps.19:14
“A man has joy by the answer from his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” Prov.15:23

How do you talk? Are your words a healing balm to someone that has been badly beaten by life? If not, you have the power to change that. You have the ability to inspire, motivate, and cause those around you to create an environment of achievement. People love being around charismatic, smiling people that encourage them. They feel just the opposite of the negative ones that are only interesting if they are spreading dirt on others.

If your memory serves you well, think back through your recent conversations with others. What did they say? How did you respond? If you are completely honest, and can see that you may not be the person you hold so highly above reproach, you can change your way of speaking from negative to positive. Ask God to help you, and make you aware of what you plan to say, whether it edifies or tears down. Be a life-changer with the way you speak.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Struggling for Sleep

Trouble sleeping? You might want to try one of the contour pillows. They range in price from $19.95 to $75. Not a bad deal if it works. Or you may want to look into your local health food store for a supplement that has melatonin in it and promises sleep. Price varies up to $50, depending on the maker. If it works great, but then you have to do the $50 monthly, because the pills run out. You can spend up to $8000…or more for one of those space mattresses and sleep like a baby, they say. We can spend buckets on every new sleep aid that comes down the pike and still toss and turn, no sleep to be had. 
One of the problems that a newbie to recovery has is sleeplessness. Reasons vary, some from the type of drugs they were on, or from the amount of booze they ingested nightly. The good news is that they will get better if they are dedicated to working the program and keeping a solid daily prayer and meditation time. Many of them can sleep better as they understand the first three steps, that they are powerless over their addiction, the come to believe that only God can help them, and make the decision to turn their will and life over to His care. They accept that they are alcoholic, or addict, or codependent, and need help. Accepting who we are and what we have become allows surrender of self. We will be able to sleep and rest better when we understand this.
“..God was going to be our director…as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow and the hereafter. We were reborn.” Big Book of AA, pg.62-63
“I will lie down in peace, and sleep, for You alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Ps. 4:8
 Save your money. Before you buy that expensive  mattress, get on sleep aids, or buy pillows, take an inventory of you. Are you still trying to run your life like a movie director? Are you determined to fix your spouse, your children, or your friends? You may need to forgive someone for their crime against you, or stop cheating your employer from not doing work assigned to you. You may hate without thinking you do, hold resentments and say you don’t. You could just be full of fear, resentments, anger, and think you are okay.
We strive to be like Christ from the time we believe He is Savior and Lord, yet never achieve that goal, but fight on in faith until the time we pass on. The idea is to continue the battle and learn to surrender or die to self. Sleep, peace of mind, and all virtues are found here, the yielded soul. We all need to see ourselves as we are, but be confident in what we will be as we continue our adventure following Christ and serving others. Keep in mind that an area of surrender doesn’t make the problem go away for good. These issues we deal with continue to re-surface periodically, yet if we refuse to give the problem a foothold in our lives, we win battles here and there until we are a major threat to darkness, and become more like Jesus.
Thanks for reading, god bless and keep you all!

The Hurting and the Hidden

I really had intended to lay off the blogs for a time, you know, I was kinda looking at how many hours I spend weekly on these posts, and if it were not for the stats I receive from my web host, I would think I’m talking to myself. Thanks again for those of you who read my blogs, I hope they are helpful to you. A new year has arrived and my intent is to work harder to serve more while staying balanced body, soul, and spirit. I’ll need God’s strength for that goal to be realized.
I went to the Hope House tonight and told my story to the men living there. The youngest of these was a young man of 18, struggling for hope, reaching his hearing for words of inspiration that may change the direction of his life. There were many others in the room and some listened intently, others were there to maybe just get out of their room. All of these bottomed out from a life of self-serving, or pushed to the bottom from their upbringing. That is a strange word, isn’t it. Down-casting may be a better way of describing the lives of some these dear men’s lives. Yeah, I know, they had a choice, they chose wrong, you didn’t, so it becomes easy to point out how their life went south.
My previous talk to a group was in a golf clubhouse in a neighborhood of which the low-end homes were probably a half a mil, easy. I sensed their sincerity and concern for the bottomed out and broken, and in that room as well, there was hurting and brokenness from addictions and co-dependency. The rich, the poor, and the in-between, problems seem insurmountable. All of us need help from our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We must have direction, leadership, parenting by the godly to return to this country, or heaven help us.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 25:21
Do you sense the hurting of the drug and alcohol addicted? the porn addict? the gambler? the co-dependent family and friends? It’s their choice, right? I wonder who has the greater addiction, the one using drugs, or the one passing the judgment so easily. I am disturbed in my spirit by my own insensitivity towards the judgmental crowd, their addiction to their opinions and personal haughtiness. And disturbed I should be…I’m in their number. It isn’t just the drug user or the alcoholic that do what is right in their own eyes. We all do, thinking we’re above reproach. Mercy, humility, concern…where are you?
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Get Up Off of Your Sorry Butt

The title of this post does not have anything to do with advent, I needed to change directions today. I’m a little perplexed today so I thought I may  vent a moment, you kn0w, be angry and sin not. Actually, I am not angry, a bit frustrated by all of us recovering addicts, as well as those with hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and are sitting on our hands thinking any moment we may have an epiphany that provides the answer to overcoming our problem. “I’ve been praying hard,” or “I don’t know why I continue to struggle,” are two things I hear so often that really make me want to puke. If you and I hold our hands close to a fire and exclaim how hot the fire is and it is burning our fingers, what in the name of all that is good should we do? Try moving away from the fire!

When I was still in the throes of my addiction to alcohol I knew that this problem would not go away. I knew that God would help me if I asked Him to. So I asked, and drank, and asked and drank, daily, nightly, until I picked up the phone and called the pastor at the local Vineyard. He made several suggestions of things I could possibly do to overcome this addiction. Of course, I had an excuse for why those wouldn’t work for me. He said he would get back to me. I attended church faithfully for several weeks following our conversation and each time he saw me he would say, “I haven’t forgotten you.” Right, this guy couldn’t give a hoot if I live or die…another one of those too busy working for God to reach down and help you types, I thought. There was a method to his madness. He knew, I think, that I would get tired of the way I was living and finally take one of his original suggestions. And that is exactly what happened. I became so miserable that I prayed and then acted, and made my way to AA. If I had not put my faith into action and walked through the doors of AA, I would still be wrapped in the grip of alcohol. God didn’t walk through the door and hand me an addendum to the scripture. He didn’t cause that TV evangelist to look into that camera, describe me to a tee, and pronounce a miracle in my life….ah, sudden and miraculous healing!

No, God prompted me to try AA, and when I sat in recovery for a time, the epiphany came, the miracle happened! I can see how His grace worked marvelously for me. It was not just freedom from alcohol that I needed. I needed to understand my denial, accept and tolerate others with different problems, in short, I needed to get up off of my butt and grow up. That word tolerance is probably the reason for this post. If I were intolerant, I would not be posting this, I would be in someone’s face instead of typing. God is gracious and kind, and I am striving to imitate Him in patience and wisdom.

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ has loved us and given Himself for us. an offering and a sacrifice to God”…Eph.5:1-2a

There it is. I want to be as much like Abba (daddy) as possible. I can say with righteous indignation, that you MUST do what I had to do to get better. Stop setting on your brains a rise and get healed! Don’t look for God to part the Ohio, and Mississippi rivers as a sign. He knows you would think, “wow, what a coincidence, I just prayed that would happen so I would know what to do, hmm, what about that,” then go on asking for a sign. You cannot lie in bed a wonder why your sick. You cannot look at the family Bible on the coffee table and believe it, nor understand what God wants you to know. Action, Action, and more action. Rise and be healed, body, soul, and spirit.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!

Celebrate Recovery…who needs it?

There are many self-help and 12 step programs that avail themselves to the public free of charge, and in my humble opinion, can do as much or more than rehab and professional counseling. I do not mean to down play the need for professionals, they are vital to many, and these programs like AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery cannot handle certain situations that arise within their meetings, i.e. threats from individuals to end their life. What I feel these programs offer is group help and the understanding that we are not alone in our problems. They also keep individuals problems within the confines of the group, what is heard and happens in these meetings stays there.
I have been somewhat familiar with Celebrate Recovery for the past few years, but now am becoming very familiar with the program because the church I attend has begun this program, a Christ-centered program of recovery. Stratford Heights Church of God has placed this as a priority, realizing the epidemic of alcoholism and drug addiction in our society, as well as the hurts habits and hangups, followers of Christ face in today’s world. What I find somewhat disturbing is that so many believers choose to remain in denial rather than choose to be free from their personal hangups. Why? So many do not want anyone to know that they need help, people may think I am not so spiritual, seems to be the main cause for their denial. Also, many think this program is mainly for drunks and addicts, and others may think they are addicted if they attend.
We already know you have a problem, we all do. If you are human, clothed in flesh, you can use this program. Depression, control issues, codependency, poor self-image, porn, gambling, overeating, smoking, and on and on it goes, and you either deal with one of these, or have family members and friends who do. If you are living “at the foot of the cross” and have no issues whatsoever, you can still attend, and help, you know, be Jesus to the suffering. The fact is that so many people want to be serving in a ministry, but not this, thinking, “I don’t know anything about this.” Some also want the up-front ministries like singing, teaching, or preaching, things that draw attention. Believe me, those people who are in the forefront, have a certain humility that God can use, at least most do. They didn’t necessarily intend to be up front, so God put them there. Be willing to do anything to serve and God will promote you.
But serve, don’t sit. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 “…but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you let him be your slave_just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”_Mat.20:26-28
This is the ministry of Christ to the broken and downcast. I don’t feel most Christians feel they are too good to minister to the lowest, but they really don’t know how. Celebrate Recovery is designed to teach you to teach the, and to reach them who have come to believe that nobody cares for them. Everyone has value in God’s eyes. We need to get a glimpse of what He sees in the creation He loves.The answer to the title of this blog is simply…we all need it, but for different reasons.  And I can say with confidence that every church should have this, or a similar program in place to handle what lies ahead. Do not think for a moment that your family is exempt from issues of the streets and back-alleys of society. Addictions, mental health problems, and sin is a part of our world. But be of good cheer, Christ has overcome this world, and has inspired these programs for all who suffer, that includes you and I. Consider this and get involved. You can make a difference.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all..

Came to Believe

I can be fixed on my personal way of thinking that I cannot see another’s point of view. The way I was raised was the right way. The foods I grew to enjoy were the right foods. The clothes I wore were the right clothes, there was nothing that my family did that was wrong. I’m sure you felt the same about your upbringing. The many things in life that I refused to accept as the right way changed for me and in time, and increased learning, I came to believe that there was other ways of doing things. Today I don’t feel there is much left of my past way of thinking I hold on to.

I have always held onto my belief in God even through years of alcoholism and drug use in which I seldom prayed or thought of God. When i came to the end of myself and began to ask God for help, He then took me places I didn’t expect, to experience things I would have never believed was right earlier in life. I finally made myself attend a meeting of alcoholics Anonymous because I could no longer manage my life. I was powerless over alcohol, the drink had whipped me good.

Step two: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous pg.59

This step puzzled me. A power greater than ourselves…isn’t that God? I thought they should say God could , not a higher power. I later discovered that AA is a program to help everyone, even the atheist or agnostic. Anyone seeking help would get help. All they needed was a desire to stay sober whether they believed in God or not. Many came to faith after they came to sobriety, because they came to believe. In AA/NA, Celebrate Recovery, and many other addiction programs, when people come to, they come to believe in God, at least the majority do.

Sanity needs to be restored for the addict/alcoholic. We have tried to control our drinking and drug use through various methods, switching from hard liquor to beer, drinking six days per week instead of seven, or going to pot smoking to avoid drinking altogether. But none of these methods came close to relieving us of are addiction. What worked for those early pioneers of AA was there same thing that relieved me. It was surrender. The total admission of my powerlessness and need for God’s help was the beginning of a new life, drink and drug free.

I have stopped thinking that my way is the right way. I have given up running the universe, that got me a seat in AA and was very expensive. Not money only, but broken relationships, loss of property, and letting down people who looked up to me. How about you? Have you surrendered your will and life over to God’s care? Maybe you are not an alcoholic or drug addict, but a family member is, and you are codepedent. Surrender is a must for you too. God is waiting, come back to the land of the living, you won’t be sorry.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!

I Struggle With…Recovery Meetings

Recovery from addictions can be difficult for some, easy for others. Once the compulsions to whatver the addiction is goes away, then the one with the problem is able to relax little by little until they seldom remember their cravings. This is a great feeling, and should make the sufferer see how that they had been driven to near insanity from the pain they had endured. But too often it doesn’t. When the pain subsides, the committee holding sessions in your head adjourns, the recovering addict or alcoholic tends to relax, entering the danger zone.
Getting clean and sober is accompanied with an important stipulation, staying clean and sober. Too many people come to recovery meetings and make a snap judgment about AA, NA, and especially Celebrate Recovery. I say that because so many people attending CR are believers that fear everyone will know that have an issue, and judge them not as perfect any longer. In AA/NA, many come because everyone already knows they have a problem. In all of these helpful programs, many come and go without ever getting help. They think, now that I have been clean and sober for a while, there is no need to continue those meetings. They never grasp the true concept of real life-changing recovery…the spiritual side.
This is from page 568 of AA’s Big Book:
“We find that no one need have a difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty, and open mindedness ar essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.”
True and truer words were never spoken in this book. Some give up on recovery meetings because they do not like the spiritual side of the simple 12-step programs. Others do not like the spirituality of the program because they were not raised to believe that way. In that particular case, I say you need to look into changing the way you were raised, it obviously did you no good. I see that these true spoken words really can keep you sober as the statement indicates, for honesty and willingness can get you far in any endeavor.
The problem is that without a direct relationship with God, most people tend to not be honest, willing, and are definitely closed minded, including religious people…especially religious people. Walking away without giving these programs a chance helping you get better is foolish when you know millions have been helped. That knee-jerk reaction can land you in a morgue.
I know that not everyone that reads my blogs have issues like this, but they have loved ones who do. These loved ones leave meetings and tell you anything to make you happy, and you take the hook, line, and sinker with one gulp. Investigate, give these programs a chance to work for you. You were in trouble, you asked God for help, He saw to it that you made it to recovery meetings, but you, or your loved one didn’t like the way something went, and back they go for another round of self-destruction.
Check out these programs if you are the one with the addiction, or if it is your friend or family member. If you and I refuse to at least get to these God-sent programs, we will die as we are right now. We may think we will change one of these days, a lie from that devil speaking into our ears, or from an over-inflated ego, but the change will not come “one of these days.”
Page 568 ends with this quote:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance- that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”   Herbert Spencer
I will end with this. You cannot say to God on the day of Judgment that you didn’t like CR/AA/NA, and since you did not know, you went head on and threw your life away, self serving all the way. The believer cannot stand before the judgment seat of Christ and complain about their reward not being big enough and they didn’t know they could actually serve in CR at their church. Why? Because I just told you about it! Now get in, get out, or get run over.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

The Privilege of Prayer

The book of Hebrews in the New Testament has a passage that puts into perspective what Christ truly accomplished when He came and gave His life’s blood for all, and then rose from the dead. This may be considered a little extreme to the masses in other beliefs, and this is exclusive to Christianity in that the Creator God, would send a part of Himself, His only begotten to die for His creation, man, so that He could fellowship with man once again. That is how much God loved mankind. He even loves man enough to give Him the choice of serving Him, or rejecting Him.
This passage in Hebrews refers to the completed work of Christ. He came to earth, born of a virgin, so no one could say He was born in sin. He grew up like every man does, and faced every temptation like every man, so no one can say that He does not understand the temptation to sin. And in His perfect purity, without sin, without fault, He willingly paid for all of man’s sins. He took our place entirely, and when He rose, He ascended into the heavens and set down at the right hand of God where He makes intercession for all who follow Him. Here, at last the passage:
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. LET US THEREFORE COME BOLDLY to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb.6: 14-16
Jesus restored us, who follow Him into the fellowship with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden before their fall. We can now talk to God everyday, all day, throughout our lives without Him saying, “you cannot come in here,” because we have the rights as sons daughters. We can ask Him for help, or for any need we have, or just hang around and talk to Him. Prayer is an act of faith, prayer changes things, prayer affects nations, prayer keeps people with addictions clean and sober, and we can open and close doors spiritually with prayer.
Many of us have the problem of entering into prayer. What do I say, how can I remember to pray, does God really listen, does He really answer? All of these questions are questions evryone has  in regard to prayer. The place we go find the answers to these type of questions is the Bible. I have put together a new ebook called, “How to Pray Constantly,” that may help a person that has a hard time with prayer. The book springs from my own struggle praying, even though I understand the concept of Biblical praying, there are many unseen attacks from behind enemy lines that interfere with my time with God.  Take a look at www.amazon.com/author/skeithbarnes if you’re struggling, this will help you.
 I am more and more convinced that the times we live in now may well be the last days. So many of our friends and neighbors have addictions, and with constant bad news on the economic front, the job markets being down, the nation is in spiritual denial, and now worship science as God, running off every sign of Jesus from government property telling Him that He is not welcome there. So we watch education of our youth flushed down the drain of humanistic idealism, placing man on the throne as creator. The violence, the immorality, even wars and catastrophic storm systems sound the warnings of the end of days. We must pray! When we do pray, we need to pray with purpose and have faith for answers.
Give thought to this need we have to petition God for our confused nation, and the global problems. If you have children, elderly parents, and you are weighed down financially and spiritually, you need to be a person who prays daily for all of these needs. Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.