I watched the movie "Moonstruck" some time back. The movie starred Nicholas Cage and Cher, and in one scene, Cage tells Cher, engaged to Cage's brother, "I love you," in a very dramatic way. She slaps him in the face and says, "Snap out of it!" It was a hilarious scene, a very funny movie, well acted, about an Italian-American family, everyone wants to control outcomes, nobody can, love just happens.
I wonder at times why doesn't say to me, "snap out of it." Often my meditations go the direction of "curious rationalization." On one hand, I'm curious as to why God doesn't seem to answer a prayer I feel is unselfish, but is a benefit to myself. And then on the other hand, I rationalize, He doesn't answer that because of my past performance, or my having not dealt with a personal issue.
I may meditate along these lines, "God why am I struggling with this, when do I realize Your abundance?" Then here comes the rationing, "don't be a dope, you're paying for your bad decisions." Or maybe I think, "God, I'm tired of working a different shift every week. I'm getting older, going from midnight to second shift, back to day-turns, is getting hard." Here's the thought, remember you're here still working like a younger man because you lived the way you wanted to for two decades, be thankful for the job! This is a great place for God to say, "SNAP OUT OF IT!" The past is forgiven, He wants to answer my petitions, I'm His son.
"So I tell to you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. Everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:9-10 NLT
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6-7 NLT
I ask, but too often my expectations of how I want the answer to come are not met. God answers, however, in a way I didn't expect, in a better way. He knows the end...from the beginning, and He knows how His answer will ultimately fulfill His purpose in me. I pray about having to work shift-work, and the answer comes in that He gives me the strength to perform on the job, and gives me the needed rest, as well as the motivation to get up and get there...even excited to get there. He doesn't have to say to me, "snap out of it." I'm ready to jump into it.
When my book was introduced last August, my expectation, rather, my hope was that it would be successful and sell well enough that I could continue to write, retire from my job, get more involved in recovery groups and at my church in their various ministries. My wife and I had thoughts of helping released prisoners in their transition to freedom, to stay free by helping them find jobs, and a place to live, so they would not return to old neighborhoods, find a new life. This is a much needed ministry.
We wanted the success to be a spring-board to greater things, and it still may. The main thing we asked for is that the book would help others....and it has. One woman told me it literally saved her life while in a rehab in Florida. That is success. I snapped out of it. God's way is better than mine. He knows I can't carry the weight of trying to constantly promote it without His help, He has the outcome covered.
If you are trying to shape your prayers to meet your expectations..."snap out of it." Let go, let God answer your prayer His way. Down the road, when you look back at how the prayer was answered, you will see He knew what was best.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!
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.
Labor and love do not seem to belong in the same sentence, do they. The things I love to do I really do not consider that to be work. I enjoy shopping bargains. I could spend hours looking through old movies trying to find that special one vague to my memory. Books, music, and even vintage magazines, like old National Geographic editions can occupy me for long periods. It isn't easy to place the enthusiasm I feel for treasure hunting into my job. I am grateful for the ability to work, and very grateful for the weekly paycheck. But how can I consider loving a job?
Attitude toward anything in life can change our perspectives from monotony to thrill. I really enjoy working, preferably work I know how to perform. I am not a friend to the unfamiliar. I have found that no matter what the job may be, boredom can set in, complacency can follow, and complaining begins. So I have to go to the Source to get answers why something I once liked to do is now detestable.
"Workers obey your earthly employers in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Col.3:22-23 NLT
That passage is a real passage for me. A passage from disliking my job to enjoying my work. I find that when I enjoy the work I do for the money I earn, that enjoyment is like a hallway leading to enjoyment in everything, or any volunteer work I attempt. My attitude becomes infected to do good in everything, enjoying difficulties knowing it pleases God. That continues into doing the unfamiliar that I do not want to think about doing, let alone loving it.
Working in recovery groups was unfamiliar to me at first. When I could see that this could help others, as a follower of Christ, I determined to get involved. I love being a help, or at least trying to. The first month or so of blogging, well, I liked doing it, but I kept tripping over myself. I was more concerned how I was viewed by others instead of whether it may help them. Things change with our attitude and the purpose in whatever you and I do, do it to please God. He takes care of the results. Make your labor your love.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
How you view your recovery determines whether it goes smoothly and at a nice pace, or slowly as you kick and scream through each step. If you were dieting, say, and thinking how hard it is to drop a few pounds, it is tough. If you see an image of yourself, thin, full of energy, and wearing clothes that don't hide that spare tire you sport, you are motivated and will accomplish your desired weight. It's the old "half full or half empty glass" scenario. It really doesn't matter what you are trying to achieve in life, how you see the task determines the outcome.
There is a difference when recovering from addictions. Normally, a person new to recovery, has bottomed out. They care less about the glass being half full or empty. They are hopeless, broken, friendless often, jobless much of the time. Their spouse wants them long gone, children are embarrassed by their behavior, and many entering have legal consequences pending. They hear that there may be a chance of getting better by entering a twelve-step program, so they try it out. Newbies to recovery want the steps to be done quickly, like a couple of days, get their diploma to show their families they really mean business this time, and then back to what they were doing days before, once the pain stops.
The majority see that this is not a quick fix and that time is required to complete the steps to improved living. Once that is realized, they may hit the door, or keep on until the miracle happens. Those are the ones I hope see this post. Don't try to rush through the steps. The way to accomplish a steady pace is to choose a sponsor wisely, listen to their advice, and determine to see sobrieties steps as thrilling as climbing Mt. Everest. From the bottom, it looks impossible, unachievable. But with each step, the impossibility begins to fade and the awareness of making it to the end comes into focus.
As a sponsor, I have been both poor and good at the job. I feel I have had an epiphany, as it were, to motivate those I work with of their ability to make it work, no matter how down they are when arriving to recovery meetings. The way to do this must come from my own attitude toward recovery. Words are key when dealing with anyone looking to scale the mountain. Can, will, know, achieve, believe, must take the place of maybe, can't, won't, doubt. Yes, we are powerless, but the steps work for anyone with the mental capability to understand. Yes, we have an insanity problem, but God will restore our minds to better than before. Yes, we have done great harm to ourselves and others, but God will energize us to be a healing balm to others as He heals us.
Helping the ones new to recovery see that they can make it, will cause their recovery to go smoothly and at a good pace. No guarantees, their will comes into play. Like the dieter, they have to see themselves whole again, a new improved self. My job as a sponsor is to feed that need, not feed the negative monster. They will work the steps not ride them with God and good guidance.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
It is easy to get frustrated, tired, or burned out, trying to find the time to blog. No complaint here, I'm grateful that I am able to write these posts, and maybe help another struggling for freedom from addictions or with their spirituality. There are times you feel you are writing to the wind and the time spent in meditation may be better served painting a wall. Fortunately, web hosts provide stats that show how many are reading; so you can re-think posts if you are not getting hits, or press on with what you are writing about. In the past month, aside from regular readers, both sites have had over 3k hits. That is not a boast by any means. It is an invitation to some of you that have writing skills to get busy using that talent to encourage others. There are others too, that have stopped posting, thinking they were wasting time. You are not wasting a moment if your aim is helping another, thus giving honor to God.
"For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown love to Him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and endurance." Heb. 6:10-12 NLT
The strange thing is that so often you have these thoughts that people are saying you are self-promoting, or acting the expert, or they are reading just to gossip about you. They don't comment or like what you wrote about. Don't believe that...that friends, is exactly how the enemy works. If people are talking about you, you are doing what God wants you to do. The gossiper is merely a cheerleader for the enemy, and if they are talking bad about you, many are being helped, the devil doesn't like that at all.
These things have been in my face too often since writing, "Under The Influence." Support, I thought would come from certain areas, didn't, and probably never will. Support came from where I never thought it would come. This experience alone, had God not given me strength and courage, I would have been painting that wall, or watching the grass grow somewhere. Blogging is no different. I wanted to quit so many times from the time spent preparing, or from reading my own posts and thinking, "that stinks!" Then you have someone walk up to you at the store and say, "I love what you're writing, it really helps." Then you can crawl back to God repenting for the pity party, strap on your spiritual gear, and get back to work.
Get back on the horse. Start doing what God has called you to do, don't hide your talent waiting until you are perfect. If you teach, study and teach. If you sing, sing like a bird. If you counsel people well, make yourself available to do so. There can be nothing worse than coming to the end of life, knowing what could have been but you didn't do. Risk embarrassment. Like David, strengthen yourself in God, through prayer and the scripture. If you have never tried to use your gift, try, endure, believe, then work.
Finally, some have written books and have asked me questions about publishing. Don't fear sending your manuscript in. Don't fear the rejection. Don't expect for a moment that your publisher, if your work is accepted, will do much about the promotion, you will do the bulk of work. UTI is unique, one of a kind devotional dealing with addictions mainly to drugs and alcohol abuse that is epidemic in our society. You can get the book through many sites, but the sales aren't booming, comments aren't coming, and so it isn't on the shelves at bookstores...yet, seven months after the introduction. The thing is, put your work in God's hands, let Him deal with the outcome. There have been several tell me the book has made a difference for them. One woman told me it "literally saved her life"....good enough for me.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
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. you will easily see how you arrivedd.
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.
It is most difficult to ask people to help for one's self. I am chief of self-sufficiency, and need no one to help me. It took an addiction to alcohol, and nearly two decades of riotous living, to prove myself wrong. Crawling into recovery meetings at the local AA group, was a light shining brightly on my inability to be free, and humbly ask for help. I still struggle with asking people to help me do anything, but I must break every delusion of self in order to be transformed into what God has designed me to become, and to be a solid help to others.
"..He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and HE will lift you up." James 4:6-7, 10 (NKJV)
To a great extent, I have been broken, humbled to realize that I am clay. I need God to fix every little part of me that I want to control. I ask for help to be free of my addiction to alcohol, and freedom came. So why do I fight so hard to hang onto areas that are damaged? Maybe it's because I am an American, we don't need help for anything! Or perhaps it is my strong Irish heritage...that's it, or it could be my mother's side of the family is half Scots, half Irish. Scots are a proud people too. None of these play a part in my self-sufficient pride. It isn't self-sufficiency that is the problem. It is rebelliousness, the fallen nature I sport. God knows this about you and me, and patiently waits for our awareness, conforming to His will, so we can take the next step in spiritual freedom and personal growth.
In recovery meetings, the sessions always begin with reading "How it Works," taken from AA's Big Book, and regarding the steps to recovery. Every recovery program I am aware of has a similar beginning to their meetings. If you read this literature, "WE" is the word, it's all about we. WE need each other. WE need God's help. WE need to ask for that help. Don't allow pride to stunt your growth.
One last request. There is a young late-teen girl in a diabetic coma. I have known her since she was seven, and she was only nine when diagnosed with diabetes. She has never had parental direction, dad is an alcoholic, mother a drug addict that floated in and out of the young girls life. She has been responsible for her controlling the diabetes. She didn't do that very well at all, spending time in and out of the hospital. Please pray for her, her life is hanging by a thread. She thinks nobody cares, she has no value. Please care, ask God to heal her in this present need, and when she is released, to put people in her life that understand and will help her deal with her conditions, body, soul, and spirit.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
I do not want to make this a long post of the history of the" NDP", nor of it's recent neglect and finger pointing with all of the recent, "can you believe that" accusations. I would like for you and me to give the "NDP" some thought as to its purpose, and how we should approach God in petition for this annual event. Oh, by the way, "NDP" is the "National Day of Prayer." Don't stop reading since you now know what that means. I will try to be brief.
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, outside of Chicago, wrote a book called, "Too Busy NOT to Pray," some twenty years ago. It is a very good book on the topic of prayer that I recommend for everyone I work with in recovery to read. The reason is for it's simplicity and direction on how to pray, and what to pray. Bill uses a memorable formula in bringing our requests to God. A.C.T.S.
A- adoration. This is approaching God in praise of His, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence, as Lord God Almighty
C- confession. Asking for forgiveness for our personal sins and neglect, for selfish living, etc.
T- thanksgiving. Thanking God for all of His manifold blessings, and for answering us when we pray.
S- supplication. We then ask Him for our needs and requests.
Using this little formula does not make wishes come true. God is not a celestial Santa, a genie popping out of a bottle, or Bill Gates spreading out his wealth. No, He is our loving Father, desiring to grant us our requests as we ask in faith, and according to His will, which is His Word. I will not ask you to take my word on that, nor do I have the time to go through passages, giving Word-based prayer. (I am not being arrogant, I want to keep this readably short.)
The National Day of Prayer
Some things we should pray about as a body of believers and for our nation are:
1) Unity. We are a divided nation. Left and right, multicultural, evangelical and secularists, devout and post-modern in worship. In all of these separating titles, we have lost our way as a people. Our origins were intended to end tyranny, we have a government today that has become tyrannical, and think they know what is best for the people, which omits God and removes rights guaranteed by our constitution. Pray that God will draw our hearts as a people back to Him, loving each other regardless of our differences in belief, or in culture. We cannot expect the unbeliever to pray at all. If the believers pray for God to unite us as the body of Christ, and help us lay aside petty differences that have nothing to do with redemption, there will be unprecedented unity, and a harvest of those desiring to be in the light.
2) Repentance. We have national sins. Not only our neglecting God, but continuance of humanistic thought in the family from not teaching our children biblical truth because we're too busy, allowing their minds to be defiled by man's wisdom. I know we have the constant fight to end abortion, to define the family, along with many laws we consider ungodly. However, if we do not teach our young foundational truths, giving them a platform to denounce these sins, the ungodly laws will stand. We need to repent for not teaching the young, and learning about what we say we believe ourselves.
3) Being Jesus. We want to conform to the image of Christ, but hang on to personal prejudices. Pray that God helps us as followers of Jesus, to live lives of integrity and eliminate our dislikes and looking down our noses at those in darkness. Quit saying "hate the sin, love the sinner," and start doing so. The drug addict, the prostitute, the greedy, gluttonous, atheist, the homosexual need Jesus...and so do you. We must stop looking down, look across at those we think we are superior to.
I really tried to make this short, oops, didn't work. There are many things we need to ask God to save us from. We are fallen. We want godly leaders, nice neighborhoods, beautiful cities. We want prosperity, good health, and plenty to eat. But we also want these things on our terms, excluding others. God forgive us. We want good jobs, but we want the foreigners removed, "they don't belong here," we say. We want marriage to be a man and a woman, yet we have a 50% divorce rate. We don't know how to commit to anything, but we know what we hate, God forgive us, forgive our arrogance. Please consider these thoughts, pray today for the nation. Pray first for those you despise.
"In those days, Israel had no king, all of the people did WHAT SEEMED RIGHT IN THEIR OWN EYES." Judges 21:25 NLT
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.