The Way of Life

I find hard at times to take orders from anyone. That has plagued me lifelong. After all, I know it all. Those who command me to do anything had better be paying me to follow their orders, or they can take a flying leap into the abyss of eternal darkness. Then, I read this little passage in Proverbs:


“For the commandment is a lamp and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life”… 6:23
…and this one too:
“He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.” 10:17


I repent. I realize part of my recovery from addictions has much to do with my listening to those who have experienced success in recovery, and doing what they instruct. So it goes with my life as a follower of Christ. I hear the instructions from scripture and often taught or preached in a church service, and my faith grows. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. (Rom.10:17)


But I have to do what is written and heard or I remain as I am, a know-it-all, self-deceived. (Jas 1:22) Doing as I have been instructed to has given me the gift of sobriety, and more importantly, grace for salvation in this life and eternal life with Christ. It is vital that I remember this in every instance in life. I receive favor with God and man when I hear instruction, and am reproved, following orders when commanded, taking advice without regard of thinking I know better.


Chronic relapse individuals have this common problem. They hear instruction and agree entirely, but do not “do” the instruction. Or they may plan to follow such good advice at a later date. Others with a relapse problem disagree entirely thinking, “that may work for you,but not for me, I have my own way of doing things. You aren’t going to tell me how to do anything.” Down the road they see their error…if they survive.


There can never be enough dialog or teaching about compliance and taking action when under the rule of others. This is the way of life as the Proverbs says. Of all topics in recovery or church, we cannot afford to ignore these. 


I recently witnessed a dramatic descent of an individual that refused to hear godly advice from others, venomously criticizing leadership with words that made me cringe. They returned to addiction after being marvelously delivered from impossible situations. May God have mercy and restore them again.


I know it is very difficult to take advice. It goes against our nature, fallen nature that is. Not all of the instruction or orders commanded of us are correct either. But if we are under authority of others we have to do as we are told, even under protest, and without criticism. I’m learning painfully at times, but the reward of obedience and compliance is joy, and peace. 


Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Advertisements

Happiness?

I am trying to get this into my thick head once and for all; STOP TRYING TO BE HAPPY!People cannot make me happy. Mark Twain’s famous quote,“familiarity breeds contempt…and children,” may be true to a point. Expecting happiness to come from another person is saying your happiness depends on that person meeting your expectations of them. Good luck with that one.

I bought a new Chevy truck, a crew cab, 4×4 Silverado with all of the gingerbread, bells, whistles, and stuff I have no idea how to work. It didn’t make me happy. I also purchased a nice Cape Cod home with all wood floors, manicured lawn, and a back yard that looks like an arboretum. No happiness did I find here either. Things do not provide long-term happiness either.

The thought of going to Europe, the Far East, the South Pacific, or spending the summer in the beauty of America’s great Northwest, or New England in the fall, Florida in the winter should make me, or anyone happy, one would think. Nope, not happening. Although I have not had this experience, I’m sure a week or two outside of home would leave a void and take away the happiness I thought I would find there.

In recovery, I have learned that people, places, and things are unreliable in providing happiness. Those items can put me back on a bar stool if I make them my aim, or give them my worship. Early in sobriety I was taught to shun them like the plague. Going back to old friends, haunts, and doing the same things are ground zero for relapse. The same holds true for followers of Christ. Idolize this world and the belongings that render me immediate sensual gratification, and Christ is removed from my center, only I matter. Selah.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Ps. 16:11

God sees to the removal of happiness from my life. That’s not a bad thing. It is a wonderful thing because He replaces fleeting happiness with something  permanent…joy. Taking a trip, sitting peacefully in the back yard watching my little dog play, (Kitty’s her name), or taking a drive in the truck, knowing God is the center and the reason for all good things…and present within me, makes me say to myself, “shoo happiness, you deceiver, joy lives here.”

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Stay in the Fight

Giving up is easy. Standing your ground, refusing to accept defeat is hard. Are these statements accurate? People have this tendency to hang on to things they need to let go of, and let go of things they should really fight for.

Recovering from a bad addiction, or alcoholism is worth fighting with everything within you. No one plans to die alone in some back alley, or having a loved one find them dead having over-dosed. It happens daily. Why would anyone give in? Mainly they have had  too many failures, little support, or too many helping them when they should stop.

Arrogance is another problem. Many who like the dog returning to chow on his vomit, pride gives them this feeling of being unique, and this time it will be different. (Yep, I’m very frustrated)

I don’t want to give up, nor do I even look to that old way with a desire to drink or drug. I know with God’s help I can stand. Where I struggle today is from those I know personally who are so full of self-diluted pride that they don’t want help, or want to give help to others. They learned one thing well in their addiction…how to con, they think. But there again, that’s an illusion, their con is plain to all.

Don’t give up. Fight it out, fight to win. Take advice. Believe God will help you. And for you who follow my blog, pray for me, like Paul asked the church to pray for him:

“And pray for me too. Ask God to give me the right words so that I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jew and Gentile alike.” ( for everyone) Eph.6:19

Recovery is for all too, but only works for those who want it, not those who need it. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Little Reminders

In my book, Under The Influence, I wrote of the importance of doing the little things consistently. By doing the small daily tasks, the larger things become smaller and easier to do. That is, we learn diligence by doing something, even small and seemingly insignificant, as opposed to doing nothing, yet still expecting something to happen. When nothing is acted upon, small or large, something does happen, we sink deeper into sloth, procrastination, and self-loathing.

I have recently struggled hard with many issues in life. Of late, I have not taken my own advice and avoided many of these little issues. That is a dark place for anyone who is a recovering addict or alcoholic.

Making a to-do list before lying down at night is relatively simple. Asking God to help me stay sober each morning, turning my will and life over to Him each day is a snap. Taking five minutes to read a short page from a devotional isn’t difficult either. Each small task can become a monumental task in my mind. That happens only because I stop making these life changers a habit.
Every time I see someone in relapse-mode, or actively back doing what destroyed them before, I think, “why are they”…..you fill in the rest of the sentence. I want to jerk them up by the hair if available, and say, “what’s wrong with you!” But inside myself I get a “spiritual jolt” saying, “they stopped doing those little things they did to get sober…just like I am doing now.” My immediate anger for their downfall turns into gratitude for the little reminders God sends me.
Think, Plan, Act
Maybe you are there now. Take a moment to examine your recent actions, think about recent thoughts or confrontations with others. When you were actively working on your recovery, thoughts and actions controlled your temper. Spiritual fitness was your daily aim. Are you still there? Think about where you are now. Plan, your next meeting, pray for God’s help right now. Act on your thoughts and plans. Return to humility, remember how you came to sober living.
Or maybe someone you know has stopped going to recovery meetings and you notice a change in their behavior. What action should you take? Walk the razor’s edge. Don’t start-up a conversation that directly points out their obvious slide downhill. The way of wisdom would be to ask them about how they got sober in the first place, or ask them what recovery meetings are like. Use a little imagination.
In most cases, they will appreciate your interest. People like to talk about themselves, and they will probably say something like, “I need to get to some meetings, I have been skipping and slipping lately.” If you are really concerned, ask them to take you to an open meeting. Showing genuine interest is a motivator, and by your taking a few moments and having real concern, you may save them from full-blown relapse.
Little reminders are of major importance. If you are struggling in sobriety, do a check-up from the neck-up, a run for help today.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

What the Future Holds?

Grandson Rowen
Grandson Rowen
Greeting new babies into the world remains one of the pleasures of life. To think after I leave this life, my posterity continues. Yet, my joy can be interrupted by questions as to what will become of them, what they place importance on, what they will think and believe.With our government shutting down, through their leadership of finger-pointing, name calling, and with major gaps in philosophical differences on how this nation should be ran, my concern for their future is grave. What their parents teach them now will determine their values, and dreams.

My concern is not about the parents ability to provide food, clothing, and shelter. My concern is directed by my own short-comings in how I raised my children. Hindsight is 20/20, I have a clear view how emphatic I was to see the kids raised to be popular, or athletes, maybe even famous, was in error. 

It was my entering into recovery from alcoholism, by God’s grace and the help of so many in AA, that helped me see the importance of integrity, and thinking about purpose, not having a constant party. I see the necessity to raise children with a foundation base of morals that guide them to good living, as the passages above teach.

We all can hope they find their way. We can trust that the parents will see that they must be responsible enough to see society’s slide into immoral thought and actions, and direct their children away from secular thought,“if it feels good, do it.” If it feels good, it is probably wrong. We also may hope that parents pay close attention to what their kids learn, and question the education constantly. All areas of a child’s rearing needs directed, not taught by osmosis, as previous generations have learned. Daily teaching a child is tedious, but necessity in today’s world.

Will They Know God?
This disturbs me the most. The majority of my baby-boomer generation, were raised in church. Ensuing generations have gradually become less and less interested in God, and especially in church attendance. Why? Lay the blame where you wish, but the reality is what is believed and taught in their home. I know not to expect a church, or a school to feed my children a proper diet. That is not their job. Parents are to provide food. In the same respect, the parents should provide their spiritual food, and teach them about God. Will they?

I could go on, but I won’t. I don’t even know if this post matters in the mind’s of  readers. As my generation was well “churched,” they were also riddled with drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, and the generation that stopped taking their children to church. What a legacy.

Prayer is needed. Pray daily for your children, but pray that you can have enough spiritual stamina, and understanding to teach them integrity ahead of materialism, as well as other virtues that guide them to a good “God-centered” life.

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.

The Right Path

When things go awry in life we tend to believe we took the wrong road, why our problems are mounting. Be assured, you and I do make bad choices. The “trick” is how to avoid making every choice the wrong choice. Watching the many people entering recovery these days is an indicator that many are on the wrong path in life. How does this happen to so many?

Fragile: Breakable product inside
Knowing the right way isn’t automatic. Needing acceptance by the “crowd” is saying “don’t leave me out, I’m here, I exist!” No one wants to be sidelined or left out. Being one of the gang means everything. Don’t doubt that. Body art has become a major necessity among the crowds of young and old alike. That is tragic and coupled with apparel that is dark and rugged, often an attempt to intimidate. When those don’t get the desired result, substance abuse, if it hasn’t already, begins.
The tats, dress, and dope, still house the broken person underneath. The self loves facade, the flash, having a sizzle for attention. Does it work? Sure, for a moment, at least, in their perception. Unfortunately, the addiction process is the new and necessary path, needing the next “fix” or drink, or bet sheet, or argument, etc. The path to being noticed took the innocent to the pit of despair.
Clarity: Coming to
The way that leads to what everyone truly want in life requires something we do not want to give. We must be able to keep our authority, and rule our own lives, make our decisions right or wrong. We then reject direction, warnings, and good advice. Left to our own devices, the decisions most of us make end up causing our feet to be on the wrong path. We need help, and eventually come to, out of the ether of self-will. Recovery is necessary for all of our hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter unto the full day.” Prov.4:18
“Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Ps. 119:105
The advice I could give, is the advice I received…don’t run with the herd.  We lose our sense of direction thinking that if we do as the herd does, we will find love, success, happiness. This leads us to allow their ideas, wrong ideas, to enter out hearts and minds as perceived truth. Marching to a different drummer and doing right is viewed as abnormal, freaky. We agree, follow along off the provided path God prepared for us personally.
That way of good is maligned by the perishing. 
Think about your direction in life. The values you had from youth, the goodness of living without the stress of everyone’s approval, are now an enigma of truth. The right path has standards of integrity, and purpose, no need for approval. To get on that path again is possible. Ask God to help you. Break self-will down, stop the denial, get to recovery.
The path is prepared for you. A way of peace, joy, and laughter.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Moving Forward

Made Easy
Prayer, faithful attendance to meetings, daily readings, working steps, serving others, are all vital to recovery from addictions. Not doing them are the steps to relapse. You are either moving toward recovery, or you are moving away from it.

Wrong/Right Motives
No amount of biblical knowledge is of value unless it is personally used as a guide through life, and shared with others. A desire to have God’s wisdom and understanding is noble, but only obtained by awesome respect for God’s ways, only retained by giving it away. God knows the heart of the seeker.

Question
These treasures are never for hoarding. If you struggle with having the ability to remember the Word you may want to check your motivation. How does recovery and following Christ connect?

Paradox
Both following Jesus as a Christian and living in sobriety are programs of action. Carrying these messages to the lost or to a suffering alcoholic are battles that can be extremely intense at times, and never-ending. Looking to know God better the reason to study the timeless truth of scripture. This is where your motivation should lie.. Working the steps to sober living should be the motivation to change everything that creates the impulse to drink.

The Way
Our motives are always seeking change, improvement, and purpose. That is discovered through serving others. Not serving others with self in mind. No “look what I’ve done for you.” Always the motive is, “thank you God, for all you’ve done for me.” This moves you and I toward maturity in Christ, and recovery from self.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Disturbing Trends

I do not think it is important to live my life worrying about things that have little probability of happening. Nor do I want to have “conspiracy theories” bouncing around in my head, creating paranoia. As a follower of Christ, I hold to His teaching in the gospel of Matthew:
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matt.6:34 NLT
How do you argue with that logic? Of course, taking this verse in context, Jesus isn’t saying “sha-la-la-la-la, lets live for today,” He is saying don’t WORRY about tomorrow. You can have concern about your future, save for retirement, plan vacations, and so forth. He doesn’t say, “pay no attention to tomorrow.” Tomorrow looks very disturbing to me, and for very good reasons. But I know there is light in the darkness.

I have been reading certain articles, as well as a book I strongly suggest you read, “The Reason for God,” by Tim Keller, in which he addresses questions like, “why does God allow suffering in the world?” “How could a loving God send people to hell? ” Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive?” All of these are legitimate questions of the day we live in. The articles I find interesting are related to trying to convince our dominantly secular society’s young college age, to re-see Christianity, and the Bible, from documented proof. There also needs to be a demand the documented proof for secular theories, such as, biological evolution, and the origin of life they claim as fact. Keller’s book does a great job, explaining so many of secular society’s complaints against Jesus, and against the Bible.

So many of the objections people have are truly a result of viewing Christian’s “life attitudes and actions,” serving God in word only. Plus effectively convincing young minds through crafty educators, unproven philosophies of man’s supposed wisdom taught in our institutions of “higher learning.” The trend I find disturbing, is as we look at the spiritual dumbing down of the young in this nation, though the elimination of the very thought of a God who created this vast universe. There seems to be no resistance put up by the Christian community itself. They could teach that we get all of our cheeses from the man in the moon, without challenge. Why? Do we want our young to follow the teachings of Christ? Of course we do. So why aren’t we horrified that by the time most of college age young people, raised in Christian homes, leave their faith as they enter college or the work-force?

Tomorrow is important enough to start today, not in worry, but in sincerity, turning this disturbing trend of spiritual ignorance away from our youth. We can give them a strong foundation of belief. The reliance we place in the Sunday service to give the young-uns the whole counsel of God is wrong, totally wrong. Trending downward along with the dumbing down of the young is that the parents aren’t wiseing up. As a parent, what do you believe? Is the Bible really God’s Word to man? or is it just bunch of stories that aren’t relative for today? What is the Nicene creed, the Apostle’s creed? Who is Jesus really? Is He the son of God, for real? If you and I don’t know, how do we relate this to the children in an understanding way?

I know that I am really not answering these questions. My intent is to provoke thought. Working with young people in recovery, mainly from drug and alcohol addictions, as well as my own personal struggles, has caused me to want to know how “churched” people end up on skidrow, in prisons, or in the graveyard from these insane addictions. Furthermore, many of these struggling to recover, grew up in Christian homes, and know nearly nothing about their faith. They have no hope, thinking they just can’t live the “Christian life” that they know so little about. When challenged by secular thought, they have no answer. Nobody gave them solid evidence of their faith. Is this the future of your children? Is sports, fame, material goods more important than their life with Christ, their eternity?

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Relapse: Powerless Grad School

What causes anyone to return to misery and pain they had found freedom from, I may never figure out. I know addiction has power over the addicted, so I am not finger pointing. I may never know why, but I do know how it happens for many. Some people have what is called, “chronic relapse syndrome,” that they seem to have no control over. “I was in line to pay for my fuel, and I saw the cooler and my favorite beer, and then that was it,” you may hear them say. I really do not believe that.
When does it Einstein?  
I believe relapse happens long before the drink, before the drive past the old dope house and being dragged inside from the addiction. The day the one recovering thinks they do not need a meeting, don’t feel like calling their sponsor, have no intention to help another needing help, forgets to pray, the return to hell is on. The little things we did to get clean and sober, somehow becomes unnecessary to us, so we taper off a little here, a little there, then, oops! Those vital “little things” become a major task when we see doing them as work, not seeing each of these are blessings from God to teach us how to live again.
Think, Think, Think
Remember when you arrived? How you felt? When hope was found? When family and friends began to trust you again? No? You don’t remember? …That is the beginning, forgetting. You were eager to get to a meeting….now you find them monotonous. You were surprised strangers wanted to help you….now they bug you with their little “sayings” and advice. You were shocked that when you asked God to help you stay sober each day, it really worked….now, it’s been days since you even thought about God, or asking for His help.
These are a few of the many reasons for relapse, yet what caused the complacency is no longer avoiding known “triggers” that influence your thoughts. Hanging out with the old crowd to show them how tough you can be but not drinking is a danger zone. Isolating yourself because you can’t be around people right now, is another. Getting into the nightly TV rut, listening to the music you always drank to, compromising your boundaries, a couple more reasons.
How can I get it back?
Here’s a few short ideas. I am no different than you. I have struggled myself with all of these simple little daily to-dos, so don’t feel you are unique.
1) Have a morning program. The first conscious moments ask God to help you stay sober today. Have a reading regimen, putting wisdom and positive thoughts in your mind before starting any tasks. Find 3-5 things you are grateful for each morning. Reflect in meditation about where you are now, and where you came from.
2) Go to a recovery meeting as often as possible. If you are in a funk from the same meetings, change up, go elsewhere. This is the place where you discover those little “things” you do have a major effect on your recovery. Being around like-minded people brings the notion that you are not the only broken person needing help. I am so grateful for every meeting, and sorry I didn’t get to more of them.
3) Be available to help another. Ask God each day for an opportunity to help someone, anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone in recovery, maybe an elderly neighbor. You will never understand what serving others does for you and your recovery until you get involved. “I don’t have time,” is a way of saying, “I don’t want to.” If you asked God for someone you can help, He will provide the time.
If you are complacent with your recovery, take that as serious, as serious as though you have already used or drank. In reality your mind is already uncomfortably back doing what earned you a seat in recovery.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.