8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I had recently spoken to a man named Quaid. He is an alcoholic and he was trying to determine why he had recently relapsed. He told me adamantly that he wasn’t a Christian, but that he was actually far from it – he was a Pagan. He continued to say that he respected my views as a Christian and that all religions, in his view, follow the same viewpoints, just from different perspectives. I intern, respect his views and only desired to hear his struggle with relapse and possibly offer suggestions. Being no expert on Paganism, I had to do some careful research in order to offer any suggestion. I did, however, find myself caring and taking it on personally. I wanted to ensure I didn’t cause confusion which might add to his relapse struggle.
To start, I had to understand what the definition of Pagan was. I found that it simply means a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. The synonyms (heathen, idolater, infidel) stir up negativity to me and interestingly enough, “heathen” has Christian roots. I don’t like titles like that, so I am going to make myself feel better and say that Quaid just holds different beliefs than myself. Most people do!
Next, I wanted to know if Quaid had realized what brought on the relapse in the first place; the catalyst. He responded by telling me about his profession and some of the frustrations he has encountered. He is a caregiver to the elderly, which I find very honorable. As many of us follow in our parent’s footsteps, he began as a youth after school, sitting with his Mom who was a nurse and in his own words “interacting” with the residents at a nursing facility. Quaid went on to explain that now, as an adult in the profession, he sees situations of abuse and neglect carried out in his field by other caregivers and he is so passionate about the residents that he courageously reports the instances to his superiors. That is a valiant thing to do – and the right thing to do. He goes on to say that nothing gets done about it, his complaints are ignored, and it has brought him to the point of disliking and even changing his career path. So much so that he said, “Oh Gods, I wish I could this instant”. Quaid finishes by telling me that when he sees something wrong, He tries everything in his power to do something right. He can’t just sit idle, letting things happen. That has NEVER been him. He speaks up despite the trouble it may lead to, but with his alcoholism, his temper flares. He calls it passion.
I haven’t had a chance to talk more with Quaid and I am glad to have the time to reflect on his issue. This gives me time to study and hopefully offer a decent response to him.
While telling me the beginning of his story, I found a few details curious. First that he used the words “interacting, passionate, in his power, and Gods”. “Gods” in the plural sense. Everything about his story (besides alcohol) screams love. He loves the residents enough to stand up and fight for them. He loves them so much that in his confused way of thinking, that he is drinking to quell the anger and frustration of mistreatment of people. Yes, he is only hurting himself, but we all may be guilty of that charge at times.
Myself being a sinning Christian winced at the plural use of God, but dissecting his story to try and establish a root cause, it dawned on me that love was his motive. That I can relate to with my God. God is love, so maybe Quaid can take the “s” off of the gods he believes in. At a minimum, this will make things less confusing to him. Secondly, a career change at the reasoning of others wrong doings essentially makes the wrongdoers Quaid’s god. He would be allowing his gods of neglect and abuse to others win and direct his future. Ironic. Alcohol is temporarily one of Quaid’s other gods as well. That’s a lot of gods to juggle.
My God today is love. I learned the hard way that I can’t have more than one. If I continue to love – including myself and others – this will be all I can handle and I won’t have time for a relapse.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need.
The book continues… This exert is following a chapter on suicide (a failed attempt) and dual diagnosis. I can’t give away the entire book, but the suggestions and emails that I am receiving are encouraging to say the least, so I thought I’d post a little more. There are solutions.
…as I look back, I wonder what it would have taken at that moment, to admit myself into a detox. Clearly, I needed it. Clearly, I was spiritually dead. Or was I? If someone, a stranger, would have approached me and said to come with them to their church service at that very minute, would have I went? Probably not, however, I would have wanted to deep inside of me. What would have stopped me? A couple of reasons that were very true in my sober mind now, and exaggerated in my drunken mind then:
A perceived judgment from others. At a church? At a 12 step meeting? Yep.
A perceived judgment from God himself. Definitely.
…and lastly, but most importantly: self-imposed detachment from my vodka – my god.
…I once walked into a random church (on a Friday evening) straight from a detox hospital. This particular church had started a “movie night” and I literally had nothing else to do. I was going to sleep outside that night. I had no food, no alcohol, and no money. I was in a city that I was completely unfamiliar with. I had never been there before. My backpack with everything I owned on my shoulder – and I just kept telling myself that people would think I was a student of some sort. Right! 40 something years old with a 5 o’clock shadow and I could smell myself – a student! I recall walking through the enormous parking lot that had just begun receiving cars. I told myself that once I got closer to the building, people wouldn’t realize that I had walked. They would believe I had a car just like everyone else. I remember being impressed that the church had the city police directing traffic and there were members of the church holding up signs to help point people in the right direction.
I walked in and proceeded down an escalator! Yep, this place had an escalator. I had never seen that before. I continued to follow the crowd and couldn’t believe my eyes, when, near the entrance to the sanctuary (or auditorium) were coolers full of soda, coffee pots lined up with fancy cups (with lids!) and more “members” handing out bags of popcorn and candy!
How did they know I was hungry? I couldn’t show any eagerness and take these snacks and drinks – could I? Nope, that would make me appear homeless. I did get a cup of coffee and thought: this will numb my stomach hunger pangs and get me through.
I entered the massive auditorium and found a seat in the nosebleeds, away from everyone else. The music started. There was live music with real instruments. There were laser lights and smoke machines. The soundboard was as large as a dining room table and there were professional movie cameras everywhere – one of which was on a telescoping boom that looked like it should be at a professional football stadium. The music boomed. The singer’s voices were incredible and sent waves of shivers down my spine. God was there. No doubt, no disputes, God himself was sitting right next to me and tears were streaming down my face uncontrollably.
If only the church knew what was going on with me.
Would they help me?
They didn’t ask.
I won’t tell them – and I didn’t.
…What did the 12 Apostles do and say at their brand new churches to convince sinners that Jesus saved them? Why can’t I feel this way? If I did feel this way, would I stop (or try to stop) drinking? How did they persuade thousands of people to feel the mercy and grace of our Lord? I had to know. I don’t want to hang my head down anymore, but people and shame hindered my every move. Do I quake in fear of being identified with Jesus? Yes, but why? Probably in part due to the fear of the same persecution that they encountered. Maybe the same reason the “big book” added later “as we understood Him” to simply God. Fear and self will…
I haven’t been able to write for a few days due to the fact that we’ve been traveling. During our travels, we encountered an animal rescue. We have been on the search for a dog or puppy lately and we refuse to buy one when there are so many “free” or discarded dogs already available. We passed the rescue and went about our daily plans, but we couldn’t stop thinking and talking about the rescue and maybe we could find the pup we’ve been looking for finally. We decided that we would make time to go back there and look around. There began the problem. We noticed that almost all of the dogs were malnourished and unhappy. I am not a dog whisper, bud they all seemed sad. It would make sense if a couple of them were skinny, but not most of them! When I enquired about the condition of the animals, I was not given any suitable reasoning, and in fact, the fella in charge seemed to not care at all. We left angry. In my drinking days, this anger would cause more drinking! Today, I don’t, but I still have the fierce determination to make things right.
We recite the Serenity Prayer at most 12 step meetings. Do we ever break it down and reflect on what it means to us? What do we do when we need to stay sober and a major personal issue affects us so deeply? Let it go? Fix it? Can we?
Breaking down a problem and solving it sober, politically correct, Christian like and not self-serving: Tough one.
Our Bible study topic this morning: Doing the right thing when you feel that your attempt might cause unjust consequences. But if by doing what is right fixes injustice and provides truth we would essentially be “…doers of the word and not hearers only…” (James 1:22)
A small mouse crept up to a sleeping lion. The mouse admired the lion’s ears, his long whiskers and his great mane.
“Since he’s sleeping,” thought the mouse, “he’ll never suspect I’m here!”
With that, the little mouse climbed up onto the lion’s tail, ran across its back, slid down its leg and jumped off of its paw. The lion awoke and quickly caught the mouse between its claws.
“Please,” said the mouse, “let me go and I’ll come back and help you someday.”
The lion laughed, “You are so small! How could ever help me?”
The lion laughed so hard he had to hold his belly! The mouse jumped to freedom and ran until she was far, far away.
The next day, two hunters came to the jungle. They went to the lion’s lair. They set a huge rope snare. When the lion came home that night, he stepped into the trap.
He roared! He wept! But he couldn’t pull himself free.
The mouse heard the lion’s pitiful roar and came back to help him.
The mouse eyed the trap and noticed the one thick rope that held it together.
She began nibbling and nibbling until the rope broke. The lion was able to shake off the other ropes that held him tight. He stood up free again!
The lion turned to the mouse and said, “Dear friend, I was foolish to ridicule you for being small. You helped me by saving my life after all!”
Moral of the story: No matter the size, everyone can help, and be just as important!
What happens if the mighty lion instead turns and eats the mouse?
I think inaction is out of the question, but the lion can sometimes be very intimidating. Maybe wisdom tells us that many mice would have a better chance? We thought that maybe by donating money that it would, in turn, help the animals. We only needed to recall the fella in charge’s demeanor and realized that wouldn’t help. We also thought about volunteering, but the rescue was too far away. Should we have faith that there must be a reason God is allowing this to happen? We don’t think so. God is love.
Today’s Bible study is more of reflection than a possible solution. Doing the right thing takes courage, prayer, and faith. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments if you have time.
Todays verse to “chew on”:
17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
15 Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.
The shame, remorse, guilt, sorrow, and pain of my regrets have many a time led me straight to the liquor store (or gas station)! In the past, I have “played the tape” over and over and the result was always the same: I am a failure.
People don’t need me.
Employers don’t want me.
And there’s no way that God can love me.
Better drink. I’ll feel better and forget about that sh*t. That works, we all know it or we wouldn’t do it.
But wait a second… If I read the Bible verse above, isn’t God Himself angry at these people (referring to the people of Judah who won’t listen to God’s repeated warnings) for NOT being ashamed?
In fact, they were hard headed and spent 40 years wandering around the desert instead of just listening to God in the first place. How long am I going to “wander around in the desert” before I listen? It is important to know that their decision killed some of them, but at the end of the day (when they decided to change) God redeemed them!
The old me firmly believed that alcohol (and sometimes money) was the only solution for soothing my terrible emotions brought on by regretful actions AND this is important: Those regrets were caused by my solution!
Being that I am fairly new in sobriety “this time around” and that I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible, I have two choices:
Plan A: Drink.
Plan B: Verify this new solution, and CHANGE my old ways.
I am ready to minimize my possible future regrets, so I choose B.
18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new.See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
2 Corinthians 7:10
10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
Even better!! Getting excited.
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Kind of makes me regret never taking the time to surrender to change years ago. I’m guessing some of the Judeans thought the same thing.
Well, here I am now and I know that I don’t want to drink again. I’d like to respect myself. I know that I’d like my family, friends, and employers to do the same and I need God in my life.
I know that it is a sin to continue to do or even entertain doing the same things that caused most of my regrets. Also, at the root of most of my regrets is the failure to love. The failure to love myself, my God, my family, friends, and others.
Here is an experiment that I am going to present you with to give an idea of that love:
Fill in the blank with any description or title you’d like: Alcoholic, Addict, Gay, Lesbian, Angry, etc., etc.
“When you claim you’re a(n) ________, do you mean that you embrace something good and God like? Or, do you view that as something to resist and by participating in it you will develop future regrets?”
Just for today, I will look ahead at my alcoholism as something to resist and I will stay sober and grow in Christ.
I will not regret the time wasted on entertaining regret and instead, I will reflect and be comforted by the lessons learned. That comfort will propel me forward instead of backwards.
Sorry, this came out so late today. I hope it helps someone. Comments are welcomed.
Today’s verse to “chew on”:
2 Samuel 12:13-17
13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.
It’s Wednesday. For most of us, the positive spin we put on Wednesday is: “It’s Hump Day”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t put a spark in me. Most just put on a half smile when someone else reminds us that we are in the middle of the week.
Recovery can be monotonous at best. It’s almost at times like I am a robot. The talk around the kitchen coffee pot this morning was scattered. There was little talk about God. We were running way behind. I knew that I wanted to write this morning, however, I had no topic. No Bible study prepared… Uhhhggg.
Once the pace quickened and I finally sat down to start writing, and upon opening the laptop, I saw that there was a comment on a previous blog post of mine on a different social media site. As of yet, I hadn’t received anything negative, so I was excited to view the message. It wasn’t from a follower. Part of their username had the acronym “LGBT” and some numbers. At first, I had little idea of what that stood for. The comment stated simply: “This is just incoherent rambling”. Nothing followed.
Hmmm…. (yep, had to pull out this pic)
So, I immediately went to the blog post that they were referring to and read it myself. You can find the post here. I found nothing wrong with it. I even “jerked a tear” watching the video again. I then looked at the comments at the bottom (in an effort to lick my wounds) and they seemed positive enough.
“This is just incoherent rambling”
I replied to the comment and tried my best to stay “Christian like”. I learned what LBGT stands for and my reply probably hit the mark. I typed: “So is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, but I’m for ya! Thanks for the revelation on the post.”
Now for anyone who knows me personally; this was about as Christian like as I can sometimes muster. Work in progress, I guess. I thank God I don’t have an acronym to describe me, however, I do care about that person and I would help that person if needed. I will pray for that person. I will do an inventory and at the end of this post, I will apologize to that person for being cynical towards them, But I will not be defeated!
The comment did give me a powerful reminder to watch the things that I say to others.
1 John 4:19-20
19 We love because he first loved us.20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen can not love God whom he has not seen.
Then it dawned on me! Why is one comment bothering me so much? The comment almost “took the wind out of my sails” and stopped my forward progress for the day. I realized also that my character defects were instantly shining through. Anger, resentment, hate, etc., etc! All over one comment. Dangerous place to be (as some of you may be aware).
I have to remember that the devil will jump in wherever I allow it. I opened the door and he came in. I don’t care to start controversy. I care to get through my day as the Lord directs and I care to do that sober. I suppose all of my posts can’t be uplifting because we all deal with these issues daily and I want to keep it real.
The video below is very helpful to me; if any of you have time.
Have a great Wednesday and comments are welcome!
Today’s verse to “chew on”:
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
A religious process of re-formation which “aims
to recover the original shape of man,” oriented at “the image of God”
Returning to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
I truly value when someone asks for my ideology. This topic has been presented to me by a friend who is trained, experienced and highly respected in the field of recovery – and more so in Holiness. She is ordained, has nearly 30 years of experience, and is the leader of a large addiction treatment program in fact!
My initial belief when I heard the word “holiness” was that it is a dangerous word – trying to explain an unattainable state of being by a lowly unholy me. A “white glove inspection” of whom I am not, however striving to be. And why not? Well, the definition includes the word “total” and that is infinite, final and no greater. Recovery I can do. The word “total” isn’t included and only an action is required. I see the word “normal” though – and there my mind wanders! My definition of normal is acting and doing the exact same thing as anyone and everyone else. This would only be possible if there were only one other human in existence and that person did, said, thought, felt and acted identical to me. I will never be normal and that’s okay. Recovery is a process. Holiness is a state.
In an effort to simplify my response to my friend, I am going to explain my thoughts on holiness by mellowing the word to spirituality. I have experience with both recovery and spirituality. For many years I tried to solve the question of why I was not “normal” in my state of health, mind and strength. I needed a “root cause”.
In its infancy, for example, my alcoholism obviously affected my health and my strength. I didn’t begin to think that there was a “deeply rooted” issue and that it was a “mechanical” problem brought upon myself by repetitive drinking which evolved into habitual drinking and therefore could be solved employing mechanical actions. I was conscientiously unaware that my spiritual condition was distorted and which was opposed to material and or physical things. I felt numb and dumb and that was different than I had ever felt. I experienced being calm and translated that into peace and I believed that to be physical. Looking back today, it is obvious that I was spiritually sick prior to alcohol and searching for a solution. The mechanical actions and solutions included such things as hospitalization, medication; attending meetings designed for people like me – and of course, the mechanical action of not picking up the alcohol and ingesting it. These actions were tried and unsuccessful for years, however over time and much introspection, I did start to realize that my problem was not simply mechanical/physical but had to be something greater.
This conclusion was drawn while standing in a pasture after the chores of turning out and feeding a few beautiful horses. One of the horses was curiously standing very close to me and at times brushing up against me. It was early morning, cool and comfortable and the sun was just rising over the hills in the east. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I could clearly hear the many birds singing. I was completely sober, not hungry nor tired, no pressing financial issues, and the four wheeler was parked outside of the fence waiting on me to go and explore the land, woods and nature. I had many opportunities of what I generally consider fun activities available to me that day. But I was miserable. I felt empty and sad, with no purpose or anything of value to add to anyone and anything. I felt mentally exhausted and undetermined to exert the effort required to even breathe. My heart felt physically heavy and this is where I decided that either I replace my misery with something mechanical – the distortion of alcohol – or with something spiritual – God, no distortion, or I didn’t want to continue on living. I needed a purpose.
I called my sponsor and agreed that I would do anything it took to stop drinking. I didn’t explain to him my spiritual condition – I didn’t need to, he could hear it and see it. He suggested a 6 month adult rehabilitation program in Ohio and I accepted. I left those horses and that land and began the program – and my recovery; the process of regaining possession or control of spirituality lost.
The question now was to personally define my spirituality.
The time afforded to me at the Salvation Army was just what I needed. I had already confidently decided that the physical and mechanical action of drinking was over.
I have previously read the bible – yes, from cover to cover. I, like many, grew up going to church. I considered myself (for the most part) a “believer. Scratch that, I had many questions about some of the concepts presented. I questioned whether God could, would and did come to earth in a human form – and why would he do that? I resolved that if it were true, He didn’t come to save me. Maybe others, but not me. I feared that I was going to hell and that I couldn’t be included in salvation. I did however always believe that The Book was comforting and wished it to be all true. I look back now and realize my mistakes in reading it. These mistakes include a lack of faith, not understanding metaphors (sheep: people, Sheppard: God etc.) and parables, self doubt and others, but I never gave up trying, re reading, thinking and meditating on the words. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
I periodically prayed earnestly for understanding and wisdom. My prayers were answered by the fact that with continued reading and prayer, I started to get it. The more I learned, the more I became excited and the more I became excited, the more I started to feel a purpose. I wanted more and still do to this day. I had always had it in me -something, a purpose, a pure love and compassion – almost one might say altruism. I learned during the 6 month stay at the treatment program God’s ultimate will for us, what was always in me. It clicked. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:3–4
As the Major told me one time in her office: I was on fire! The fact that she had the knowledge and excitement to point that out proves that that “something” is in her too. She may have not realized at that moment how right she was. That “something” in me was what Paul explained in Hebrews 13 as “…the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…” and that His will for us, the greatest commandment: “…to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.
Today in my recovery I realize that my heart yearns for people and their peacefulness. It is my goal and His will. Some choose to ignore it, some choose not to believe it, but the good news is that it’s in all of us! In the time that has passed since graduating the treatment program, I have been presented with difficulties that I recognize are able to be surmounted by the tools that I learned from the experience. I remain sober and I stay in the word.
I made the trip back to program center for a clients graduation and was overwhelmed by the welcome back. Shockingly, many other clients and graduates remain in contact with me daily even though I am over 5 hours away from them. They have texted and called me and Facebook messaged me looking for advice and suggestions. I always refer them to God’s word as the solution and amazingly they take my advice. I had left one of my Bibles at the facility and I recently had a guy ask me for it after I had texted him one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible – Isaiah 30:15. That was the catalyst and from the text, he located my beat up old Bible and uses it!
One of the most inspiring moments of my life – not the program – was when Nancy – the person, not the leader of the program, looked in my eyes at graduation and had tears in her eyes. Whatever or whomever has hurt us in the past, any challenges and difficulties that we both have faced was momentarily lost in that tear. That was love and she feels that way for all of the guys. No need for alcohol today, I need those guys and those tears. That tear – that defining split second is Holiness in Recovery.