Friday, November 30, 2012

Does God Really Love You Unconditionally?

This was a post on Facebook from one of my friends, Ralph Gray. 

One of the biggest lies ever told to us is "God loves you unconditionally".

Is this true?
Let's see.
"If you love Me, you WILL keep My commandments" John 14:15 emphasis mine.
"He who has My commandment and KEEPS them, he it is who loves Me; and he who Loves Me, shall be loved by My Father,and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him." John 14:21 emphasis mine.
"You are My friends, IF you do what I command you." John 15:14 emphasis mine.
Jesus' love is very much conditional.
"The one who say ,'I have come to know him' and does not KEEP His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" 1 John 2:4 emphasis mine.
Do you have the truth in you?

We get so self centered when we say "Jesus loves me."
Me, Me,Me its always all about me.
If you serve the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. 
You do not love God.
If you refuse to condemn sin and parrot "judge not". 
You do not love God.
If you do not have a humble and repentant heart.
You do not love God.
If you refuse to love your neighbor and your personal enemies.
You do not love God.
If you parrot the line "The law was nailed to the cross" and continue in sin.
You do not love God.
If you refuse to have HIS will on earth as the the Lord's prayer commands.
You do not love God.
If you haven't obeyed the command to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. 
You do not love God.
These are all commandments of the Lord!
If you refuse to keep His commandments you do not love Him and According to His holy Word He won't love you.
What is sin?
Transgression of His law/ commandments. 1 John 3:4

Do not become one of those in Matthew 7:22-23 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' " And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'. Emphasis not mine but the Lords.
If you want Jesus to love you keep His commandments.
Make it all about Him, Him, Him. Not me,me,me.
The good news is you can repent of this. Humble yourself and obey Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16 and the many, many other commands to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins .
If you repent He will love you and forgive you and know you.

"And why now do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" Acts 22:16

I would only add this:
A lot of people have dead faith and no works. Works do not earn us salvation, grace which is unmerited favor shown to us by God through the crucifixion of Christ gave us an opportunity to gain salvation. That said, works are the EVIDENCE of salvation. If you do not have works, you do not have salvation. Too often we hear "God loves you as you are" without hearing that God also expects us to change. 

I loved my son when he could not even roll over, but I expected him to learn how to crawl, then walk and eventually be able to run. I would not have accepted anything less out of him because I know he is capable. God knows we are capable and because of that expects more from us. So, we need to do more. We need to not stop asking God what He can do for us but instead ask ourselves what more we can do for Him.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Shack to Temple Weight Loss Wednesday Thanksgiving left me Thankful

Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday about.....................EATING!! More so than any holiday, it is about getting together with family and eating. Christmas is about eating, but it is also about presents (It should be about Jesus but a lot of people have taken Jesus out of the equation unfortutunately). The 4th of July is about eating (mmmmmmmm, BBQ!!), but it is also about fireworks. Thanksgiving is about eating, and more eating while watching football then snacking on leftovers while talking and playing cards/board games with family. Eating, eating and more eating!! Not a good time for dieters.

I generally have gained about 5 pounds during the holiday, especially since I have began going to Arkansas to hang out with my wife's family there for multiple days. This year was no different in one of those respects. I went to Searcy with my family for Thanksgiving for several days. I ate, and I did not eat Paleo for a couple of days. It didn't kill me, because I controlled it.

What I did do was eat the things that I wanted to, just like I always do. But there were some major differences from the usual:
  1. I took a smaller piece than I normally would have. Think an 1/8 of the pie and not 1/4 of it!
  2. I chewed more and savored the food. I didn't just swallow and shovel, but chewed and enjoyed.
  3. I ate more salads and vegetables than I ever have before and skimped on the starchy foods.
  4. I talked in between bites, instead of just shoving massive spoonful after massive spoonful into my mouth.
  5. I did not snack on the unhealthiest things there. I would snack on white turkey meat instead of chips and dip.
  6. I drank mostly water and limited the tea and soda and when I drank tea it was unsweet.
  7. I took time and went outside and played football with my son instead of being sedentary the entire time.
These tips allowed me to accomplish what I did over the last two weeks. I didn't gain 5 pounds. In fact, I lost 2.6 pounds. That is not a lot, but it is better than any Thanksgiving in my past. How did you fare this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Occam's Razor and My Faith

So, there was a guy named William of Ockham that was a philosopher about 800 years ago. He posited that the easiest explanation was the correct one. This became known as Occam's Razor. That is the term that now describes Occam's philosphy.  So, what does Occam's Razor have to do with my faith? Everything!

First, let us look at creation of human life. I believe that there is an eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful God who created the entire universe and saw it fit to take the time to create humans. That only requires one leap of faith, one supposition and humans are explained.
  1. GOD
If I believe in evolution, I probably also believe in the Big Bang. So, I first have to believe that an uncaused cause was behind the big bang (I think that some of us know who banged it, we know the cause). Then I have to believe that all I see, the billions upon billions of planets and stars all came from an immensely dense and hot singularity that just happened to exist for the Big Bang (or expansion) to occur from. Next I have to believe that the sun was just perfect: the right temperature and distance from Earth. Then the moon was put perfectly in orbit around the Earth and the Earth had just the right atmosphere to support the transformation of non-living matter into living matter, which has never been observed. Then another never observed process called macro-evolution occurred. Not just once, but millions of times in order to create humans.
  1. Densely hot singularity
  2. Uncaused Cause
  3. Big Bang
  4. Order and Structure from chaos
  5. Sun perfect temperature and distance from Earth to support life
  6. Moon perfect distance from Earth to support life
  7. Atmosphere on Earth perfect to support life
  8. Non-living matter somehow evolved in to living matter
  9. Millions of instances of macro-evolution
That list above is a really short list, too. There are actually so many more things we could talk about, such as the complexity of the human genome with it's 3-6 billion pairs of DNA and how they all have to be perfectly placed in sequence. Then there are 35 parameters that make life possible as well as the 66 parameters that influence the sun-planet-moon system that cannot fluctuate an nth of a degree without causing the entire system to collapse. We have barely dipped into those above. But, we will not go any more indepth. Instead I will tell you that Occam's Razor has been able to help strengthen my faith, because in the end God is the easiest explanation there is and therefore the correct one. Now here's some Dilbert:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Accountability Partners Drop Like Flies

I have been having no luck lately with accountability partners. They seem to come and go, going more often than they are coming around. I have witnessed several of them relapse and others get caught up in what I would not consider to be the most appropriate behavior. Some of it risky behavior and other times it is downright unChrist-like.

My accountability partners have claimed to follow Christ, but then have done things that they felt the need to justify. "God asks too much from me" and "I am pretty sure God wouldn't care." I know that God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but we have to make changes in how we live our lives. After all, "You can't put new wine into old wineskins." In other words, we can't live for Christ if we continue to engage in old behaviors and keep the same playgrounds and playmates.

So, my former accountability partners have reached the point that they are tired of giving their all for Christ.  It is funny how we feel that God asks too much from us. God sent Jesus, His only begotten son, to die for all our sins. We received the ultimate blood sacrifice in the form of a crucified Christ on Golgotha after a  walk of shame spit on and cursed at which preceded the flogging that ripped flesh from Christ's body. But, God asks too much from us???

We looked at Abraham last week in church. Abraham was told to leave his family and friends, to leave the very country he lived in, all on the command of God. Then he was led by God to circumcise himself at the age of 99. Furthermore,  Abraham is a man who wanted a son. After his wife finally gives birth to Isaac when he is 100 God commands him to go to a place he shows him in a vision and offer up his son as a sacrifice to God.

Look at all that Abraham went through, and all we are asked to do is live in moderation. Don't do things that could cause your brother to stumble. Love people, be they Gay or straight, white or black, Liberal or Conservative. But that is asking too much. I would rather write on Facebook about how only idiots voted for ____________(fill in with name of the candidate you didn't support).

Other great excuses:

  1. "It's just a beer. It's legal." If you feel that maybe you shouldn't drink it, maybe you shouldn't! Any time you feel the need to justify doing something that is a great indicator you shouldn't do it.
  2. "It's only weed. God made it." He made poppies too, and I would never advocate doing heroin. 
  3. "It's just a couple of cookies." An couple of cookies does not constitute an entire box.
  4. "God wouldn't expect me to die a virgin." That is what marriage is for.
  5. "Everyone else is doing it." We are called to be salt and light. We are in this world, not of this world. 
  6. "50 Shades of Grey is a book. It's not like I'm watching a porn." No, you are reading one. Saying you read it for the love story is like saying you watch pornography for the acting or buy Playboy for the articles!
  7. "It is easier for us to live together and not get married financially." If you are doing the right thing and living your life the right way, God will provide for your needs. Maybe not your wants, but your needs.
The truth is, stop making excuses to live your life wrong and start making excuses to live your life right. We need to lead stellar lives. I pray multiple times daily that God make me like Jesus, let me be His hands and feet and act as salt and light to all of those I come in contact with. We are not called to be ordinary, but extraordinary. I don't want you to be good Christians, I want you to be great Christians. That requires living as Christ did. 

I would be willing to be be that Christ didn't get drunk or smoke weed. He also never would have read 50 Shades of Grey or had premarital sex. And as for fitting in and blending with popular culture, Christ did everything but that! To quote Ezekiel Azonwu, "An almost Christian looks right but lives wrong. Can't stand the conviction in Romans so they sit down to be comforted in Psalms."

God calls you as you are, but expects you to change. Works are not what earn you salvation, they are the evidence of salvation. Does how you live your life show that you are saved? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From Shack to Temple Weight Loss Wednesday Paleo Rocks!!

I have discovered something over the past two weeks. Eating paleo/primal/cave man is two things: expensive and awesome!! I have managed to lose 8 pounds over the past two weeks (242 to 234) and I have got to eat..........a lot. I don't have to skimp on serving size and count calories. That may change as I progress, but only time will tell. I want to lose a bunch of weight and I am already almost 20% there. How amazing is that after only two weeks.

BlueBerry Nut Balls

I have had urges and temptations galore. I walk into our break room some mornings to a couple dozen Krispy Kremes sitting on the table. The next afternoon I walk in to several boxes of Oreo Double Stuffs. There has been left over wedding cake from the weekend before as well as our kitchen making amazing smelling things: fresh bread, cinnamon bread with icing, cashew chicken, fried chicken, etc. Some days it is rough, but I have so far avoided temptation. 

I have found ways to do that. I have nuts and fruit with me at all times. I have a recipe for blueberry nut balls that is good. It is macadamia and walnuts, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, dates and blueberries and it sates my sweet tooth. Over the weekend I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with cacao nibs, pure maple syrup, cinnamon, organic pumpkin, nutmeg, coconut flour, butter from grass fed cows, pure vanilla extract, cloves, ginger and sea salt. It was a special treat, but they were amazing!

Main dishes have been salmon, top sirloin, pork tenderloin, tilapia, shrimp and chicken breast. Lots of eggs and uncured bacon and ham as well as vegetables out the wazoo. I don't think I have ever eaten this many vegetables in my life. And I like it. Then I have occasional sweet potatoes and sweet potato baked fries, tons of water with an occasional squeezed lemon and various decaffeinated hot teas. Good Earth Sweet and Spicy hot tea is my favorite by far! 

I realized how dependent I had become on caffeine. It took me over a week to have energy after 9ish in the morning. I would get up at 4, go to the gym and workout, come home to make my wife and I scrambles then go to work. An hour or two into my work day I would be physically and mentally exhausted. That has passed, thank God!

What I have discovered so far is that as long as I am eating foods that I enjoy and adding some variety I am fine. I do not constantly miss the foods that I used to eat. There are times when I have sweet cravings, and those need to be tackled as soon as possible. I can't cheat, because I have no self-control when I do. Instead, I use a mixture of cacao nibs, unsweetened shredded coconut and a variety of nuts mixed together. Fruit has saved my butt also.

Add that to the exercise I am getting everyday and the 30 minutes of prayer my day starts with and I am feeling better than I have in a long time. Will talk to you in two weeks and keep you updated on how my fight against food is going. Right now, I am winning and that is awesome.

Here are some of the pictures of the treats I have created with my wife and enjoyed eating over the past two weeks:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Paleo Pulled Pork

Top Sirloin, Sweet Potato Fried, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, Salad

My Daily Scamble Ingredients Just Add Eggs

Apple Cinnamon Pork Tenderloin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What I Am Thankful For

I have seen a lot of people on Facebook, doing a daily list of the things they are thankful for this month. I am certain this is happening because this month contains Thanksgiving. Well, that and I have an almost Sherlock Holmes level of intuition. I have decided to do my list all at once and make it a post that everyone can read. If you have a list I would love for you to share it with me. I am also certain that I have forgotten a lot of thing, since I can only do one per day of the month.

  1. God - For without Him we would not be here. To create all that we see and still have taken the time to ensure that the sun was the exact temperature it needed to be, the Earth was placed the perfect distance away from the sun, the moon was placed in orbit around Earth perfectly and that the atmosphere on Earth was exactly right to allow life to be supported is amazing. Then, out of all of the billions of people who have lived, He saw fit to create my mom and dad and then me is nothing short of miraculous. Finally, to use a police car and Brandon Heath's song, "I'm Not Who I Was" to lead me to sobriety. Wow! Thank you, God!
  2. Jesus - For without the blood sacrifice made by Him, my life would be lived for naught. Through Jesus we have been forgiven for all of our sins. That He would be the sacrifice and suffer the ultimate death for them goes beyond words when trying to express my thanks!
  3. Holy Spirit - Without it to guide and comfort me in times of stress, depression, anger, thoughts of relapse, etc, I do not know if I would still be clean and sober.
  4. Grace - Unmerited favor...........basically, that which I do not deserve. God has somehow deemed me worthy of his blessing though I did nothing to receive it and could never do enough to earn it.
  5. Prayer - Since I started doing a half hour of prayer two weeks ago I have had several people at work tell me that I seemed less stressed and anxious. It is amazing how beneficial prayer is to me, not to mention how it blesses all of the people I pray for!
  6. The Bible - How amazing, to have a guide to life that is God-breathed and beneficial in all situations.
  7. Paul - Paul was the person in the Bible that really resonated with me. He was the black sheep I could relate to, and his words have led me to have a stronger and stronger relationship with God and more and more confidence that I could turn my life around.
  8. James - That James would write a short, perfect plan for how we are to live our lives is awesome!
  9. Julie - My wife is such a boon to me. She has lived her life so well and I am so thankful that my children will have her to look up to and learn from. I look up to her and learn from her, and without her support I would be lost. Her mother and step-dad have been a huge help in watching Addison, too!
  10. Michal - My sister has always been there to support me, and at times she even enabled me. That said, I know that she was the only person in my life other than my dad that always had hope I could quit my old lifestyle.
  11. Dad - It has been a few years, and sometimes when I think of you it still makes me cry. Without your love and guidance, I would not be the father I am today. I will be forever blessed to have had you as my dad!
  12. David Jr. - I never knew real love until I saw you. I never knew real pain until I had to look at you in an incubator after you were born. You have been and always will be my mini-me. I will be forever thankful if you learn from my mistakes instead of having to repeat them.
  13. Addison Grace - You are the strongest little girl I know. To see you still smiling after going through two surgeries before you were two months old let me know how tenacious you were. I am so thankful that when you get older we will get to go on father/daughter dates and I can show you how a man treats a lady by my relationship with your mother.
  14. Mom - You gave birth to me and always tried your best. I could not have made the change from Branson to Springfield if you had not opened your doors to me when I needed it most.
  15. My Past - I am so thankful for my past. It has made me who I am and equipped me with the wisdom and strength to help me impart hope to those who struggle with life-consuming issues.
  16. Recovery - It has allowed me to rebuild a life of substance on the same foundation a life of chaos once existed on. I have gone from a soldier for Satan to a diplomat for Christ, from dealing dope to dealing hope.
  17. The Wessleys and Kearbeys - Without your love and non-judgemental attitudes, I never would have gone to church in the first place. I want to thank Nate and Becca for loving me to Christ and to Becca's mother for being a pit bull for God when we talked. What a beautiful family every one of the Wessleys and Kearbeys I have met has been.
  18. New Life Church - If not for the Celebrate Recovery group, the tattoo wall, the casual dress, the awesome music, the great pastoral staff and the loving, nonjudgemental people who go there I would have been one and done with my church experience. Instead, I was met with love and compassion and I kept coming back.
  19. Pastor James - If not for your taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me about all of my doubts and to use logic and history to make your point, I would never have gotten saved.
  20. Pastor Dan - The knowledge that you impart every week to us in service is like mana for me. Not to mention meeting me for lunch and taking time to help me continue to grow in faith.
  21. Brandon Heath - Your song I'm Not Who I Was is one of the major causes of me keeping the deal I made with God and transforming my life. Your song Love Never Fails was my wedding song. You have been instrumental in many of the best things that have ever happened to me and now I listen to you for 30 minutes every morning in the background as I pray. Thank you for the music you write and play.
  22. Lee Strobel -  I am thankful for you because of your book, The Case For Christ. When I was having struggles with my faith it was your book that Pastor James gave me to read and it answered so many of my questions and doubts.
  23. Friends - I may not feel like I have many, but I have a lot. I know that every time I am down or need to hear something there are always people in my life who are there to pick me up and tell me what I need to hear. I hope that my time to spend with you grows.
  24. Worship - There is nothing that improves my mood more than worship music. Whether it is LeCrae when I need some beats, Brandon Heath when I pray or all of the people who are on my page Music of Recovery I thank you all because you have played such an imminent role in my recovery and growth as a Christian.
  25. Celebrate Recovery - I am thankful that I found a group sans cussing, 13 stepping and filled with positive Christians. There are ups and downs, but the ups are more frequent and I have gotten so much out of the meetings. I truly found recovery in the CR groups
  26. Narcotics Anonymous - It was great to go to these at the beginning. I became abstinent while I attended them, but relapses were always on my horizon. I have known many who have found what they needed but as my sobriety grew I moved on. I needed more Christ!
  27. Better Life in Recovery - I could not be more blessed than to have an opportunity to share my testimony and other's testimonies in schools, colleges, communities, events and churches. I can only keep what I have by giving it away and there is no better service than sharing the dangers of addiction and the wonders of recovery with our children, young adults as well as their friends and families. 
  28. My Readers and Listeners - I would not continue to write blogs, work on my book, do random vlogs and share my testimony if it was not for the encouragement I have received from all of you at one time or another. If you continue to read it, I will continue to write it. 
  29. Alternative Opportunities Treatment Services at Carol Jones Recovery Center - It is a blessing to work at a place that cares about the people who are struggling the most in our community and reaches out to give them hope. I have amazingly compassionate coworkers who truly care about the clients we work with. My boss, Mary is one of the most loving, caring, big hearted, compassionate, driven and motivated Type A personalities I have ever met and working for her has taught me a lot.
  30. The United States of America - I am so thankful that I live in a country that allows me to worship and speak as I want. I am allowed to bring Christ and recovery to the masses and never once have I worried about the government imprisoning or beating me for doing it. 
  31. Heidi and James - I am thankful that I have a good relationship with my son's mom and her husband. It is such a blessing to my son to have his parents get along and be on the same page. I am just as thankful for Heidi's parents, Rick and Betty. Both of them and their spouses are great grandparents and it is so obvious how much they love DJ. 
So this Thanksgiving, I also look forward to reading your thanksgiving lists. It is always a joy to see people show that they appreciate the things they have. I will continue to be thankful for all that I have, and to begin and end every prayer with this, "God, please make me each day more like Jesus. Let me be your hands and feet to all those I come in contact with. Let me be salt and light to those around me, and use me as you see fit. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The State of America: 4 More Years

The truth is, I am worried for America. Not because O'Bama is president, or that a democrat is president once again. I have seen some people insinuate that America is heading to hell because we elected O'Bama. How dare you! I will address this statement later. What concerns me is that I have never seen our country this polarized. If we are not united, we will fall. Our hate for each other is causing a divide that someone could easily capitalize on. United we stand, divided we fall is true for our country as it has been true for every super power before us.

Atheists and Agnostics, this is for you. I had a friend say that he is content today knowing everything does not count on this fiction called God. He said that science and common sense once again won out over those who believe in unicorns because O'Bama is president. He said that O'Bama won by secular votes because no Christians would vote for him. I have many friends who are Christians that voted for O'Bama (I don't believe they are going to hell). I know that horrifies both the Christians and non-Christians alike, but it is true.

To address the unicorn part, I don't believe in unicorns but I do believe in God. I find it easier to believe in an all powerful God that has always existed than the uncaused cause causing the Big Bang (just saying that is confusing), chaos causing order, life springing from non-living matter and then micro-evolution. It's called Occam's Razor. I find God to be the answer containing the least assumptions.

To Christians, be careful. Your hate is showing. It is okay to say that you are unhappy about the results, but saying, "Everyone who voted for O'Bama is going to Hell," is taking it a bit far. How about realizing that in the end, all things happen for a reason. A long time ago I learned that not all things happen the way we want them to, but they happen the way they are supposed to. God always has been and always will be in control.

Further more, we are to show love to our fellow man, not hate. Empathy not apathy. This election outcome impacts a temporary world, not the eternal Kingdom we should be focused on. If you are feeling hopeless today because of the election's outcome, that is not a political problem. That is a spiritual problem. Remember who is in control. 

I would encourage all to pray for our country, as well as all of the other countries out there. I would encourage you to pray for the leaders on a local, state, national and global level. We are to be salt and light, and I am not seeing that the way I would like to today. We need to be that for people. We are to love our fellow man, not hate on him. So let's start doing that!

The Bible says we should pray for our leaders. Please, join me in praying this day and every day after for the United States and other countries, for Democrats and Republicans, for blacks and whites for the rich and the poor. All people deserve our prayer and love, not our derision and hate.

For those who say, to quote one of my friends, "If you didn't vote then keep your mouth closed you have no right to say anything" I guess I had a little to say. Since my friend was a Christian who said that I will say that my kingdom is not of this world. I have my eyes focused on the eternal. I look forward to that kingdom finally coming. Until then, I will pray for all politicians and all nations to have the wisdom and courage to do what is right. Maybe someday they will.............

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I Have Chosen Not to Vote

I know that this will anger a lot of people. I am no longer going to be a good American, based on their their beliefs. I will also not have the right to complain, because I didn't vote. After all, I have been reminded often that it is my duty as an American to vote and that you have no right to say anything if you don't vote. In order to be a good citizen, voting is considered to be a requirement. If you want to have an opinion, then voting is a must.

I would wager that there were many great Americans that were unable to vote before the 15th Amendment was passed in the late 1800's. I would also guarantee that there were ladies with very good opinions before the early 1900's, when the 19th Amendment was passed and they gained the right to vote. But, according to some people they could not have been because they didn't vote. That is pure and absolute hogwash. (I know that is not what they are saying, but I am making my point through an example. Sure they couldn't vote, but this is an extreme example.)

So, I have decided that I will not vote in the presidential elections this year. This is done while knowing that it is my duty as a citizen and Christian. Yes, I have also heard that as a good Christian you must vote. I guess that I will be not only a bad American but a bad Christian, too. Although I am unsure what the measurement is for good/bad American and good/bad Christian. If voting is your measurement, than you need a new way to measure. Not judging, I'm just saying.

So, here is why I have chosen not to vote:
  1. I am tired of voting against someone and not for them. I should not have to cast a vote to the lesser of two evils. Why can I not have a candidate for president that I truly can stand behind?
  2. I do not really agree with the way the candidates are living their lives. If I can not outright support somebodies actions, choices and morals I can not support them. Period.
  3. I want a candidate that tells me what he/she will do and not how bad their opponents suck at life. Act like a gentleman and show people some respect! I have never seen so many negative campaign ads in my life.
  4. After watching the primaries I have heard most of the parties bash their candidates. I heard it this year for the Republicans and in 2008 for the Democrats. If so many of their own party members were very recently against them, how can I possibly be for them?
  5. I want someone who does what they say they will do. I have not seen that from any of the candidates.
I know that voting is a priviledge. I chose not to take advantage of that priviledge. Gun rights are a priviledge, yet I know a lot of people without guns. I guess they are bad Mericans'. I am sure that there are people who would die to have the right to vote. There are also many who would die to have food, yet there is a lot of it allowed to rot or get thrown away over here. That is flawed reasoning.

So, should you vote? That is entirely on you and you alone. You are not any better or any worse than the next guy if you do or don't vote. If there are issues that speak to you, then by all means vote. It is your right to vote. Use it if that is what you are led to do. I would say pray and let the Spirit lead you. After all, that is what I do.

I am a Christian and every day I pray that God use me as His hands and feet and make me more like Jesus. So, before I came to this decision I prayed about it. I heard that whisper tell me not to vote for Romney or Obama. I immediately began to question where governments came from and why there is so much name calling and strife in them. They are man made, not God made no matter what anyone says. How dare a candidate or party claim to be "God's Choice."

It was laid on my heart to do what Christ would have done. Who would Jesus vote for? I don't think He would have voted. He would have prayed for ALL of the candidates and ALL of the voters, though. How dare anyone call themselves a Christian one minute and then say that anyone voting for ________(fill-in name of candidate or political party here) will go to Hell the next minute. SHAME ON YOU!!!

Christ would have seen that there are inherent evils in every political party. Yes, even you 3rd and 4th party candidates have huge flaws. He would have seen that there was also good in all political parties in this election. Then He would have continued to heal the sick and lead the lost. He would continue to talk, but not about how much better He was making this world or some politician was making this world. He would say, as He did to Pilate, "My kingdom (government) is not of this world."

Because of all that, I chose not to vote this year in the presidential election. Does that mean that I don't want change? My life is spent in service to others. Therefore, I will continue to enact change through my daily life. I will use my life to impact others. My eyes are not focused on the next 4 years, or even the next 20. Afer all, I am a citizen of a far greater Kingdom than the United States. I have my eyes cast on a much higher governing body.

I know that I am blessed to live in the United States because of our many freedoms. I do not take that for granted, nor do I take it lightly! I will not, however, cast my vote this year because none of the candidates are the ones I would stand behind. Instead I will continue to help those who are struggling with their faith, addictions, mental illnesses, or other life consuming issues and I will continue to preach the gospel. After all, that is what Christ would do.

I'm Hacked Off

I was hacked off this week. Once again a friend relapsed, and it made me angry at first. I tried to figure out how anyone who has clean time could possibly relapse. Once you have several years and are seeing that life can be amazing without drugs/alcohol, what could possibly possess you to use again?

Then I remember the cunning, baffling and strong aspects of addiction and I calm down a little. While I calm down, I remember my relapses in the past. There were relapses with old friends I thought had quit using, new prescriptions after accidents and oral surgery, new friends I thought didn't use that did, hanging out in bars and having friends that used and feeling that I would be strong enough to always say no. I learned otherwise. But I always got back up!

Now, in the wake of my friends relapse I reflect on the things that have kept me clean and sober. I want to remind you right now that your addiction is in the back of your head: running on a treadmill, lifting weights and doing research on the computer! It is getting stronger and smarter each and every day, trying to figure out the best way to take your life over. This is to be avoided at all costs!!

If our addiction is getting stronger and smarter, we obviously need to keep our recovery even stronger than our addiction. The question is, how do we strengthen our recovery? I have to stick with the 5 Pillars of Recovery:

  1. GET A HIGHER POWER (God, NA/AA Group, etc.) This is the foundation of your recovery! Your Higher Power needs to be something that can give you validation, love, compassion and acceptance. Door knobs need not apply.
  2. GO TO MEETINGS (NA, AA, Celebrate Recovery, Living Free, small groups, etc.) Great place to meet like minded people, realize we are not the only ones who struggle and get some hope restored. Without hope, recovery is impossible.
  3. GET A SPONSOR (Mentor) This is someone who is living their lives the way you would like to be living yours 5 years down the road and is willing to take the time to help you get there
  4. STEP WORK (12 Steps) This is a set of things that we need to do in order to work through our addiction. The truth is, most of us are not working the steps for drugs/alcohol/food/pornography/etc. We have deep rooted problems that must be taken care of first and when we do that our addictions will begin to sort themselves out. Think of going to a doctor missing a finger and all he did was clean up the blood and then said you were better. Are you better? Of course not! He has not taken care of the problem, only a symptom of the problem. Our addictions are the same way, just a symptom of the real problems. We need to take care of the deeper issues and the 12 steps are the way to do it!
  5. GET ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS (Friends that are positive and sober) These are people you can set up in your life who will help you stay on task. They will call you when you miss a meeting or don't show up at work just to tell you that you're missed and ask if everything is okay. They may even show up unannounced, drag you off of your pity-pot and take you out for coffee. 
If I have these 5 things in my life I need to also make sure that I pray and meditate every day. Working steps, going to meetings and working with a sponsor will cause issues to come to mind. We need to address these, and prayer and meditation is a great way to do that. If you don't have time, you need to make time. Some nights I don't get off of work until 9 PM, but I am still up at 4 AM the next morning to lift weights for 30 minutes then walk. Why do I do this?

I have found that taking a 30 minute walk most mornings allows me to focus on praying and meditating. I focus on the things that I am grateful for. Then I pray for: strength/courage/wisdom to accomplish what I need to that day, to make me a better husband/father, then help for my friends, family and others who are struggling. In addition I always pray for two things: To make me like Jesus and to use me this day as His hands and feet. This always gets my day off to a great start! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Accountability and Entitlement

As I watch the news after Hurricane Sandy and see all of the angry people, I am reminded of other angry people after Hurricane Katrina. I do not want to in any way undermine the pain, panic and stress that these survivors are going through. Some have lost homes, family members, friends, vehicles, jobs, etc. There is a lot of loss, and that is horrific. After doing psychological first aid for the Joplin tornado I have seen first hand how natural disasters affect people. Natural disasters are not kind, and they leave trauma in their wake.

That said, there is a sense of entitlement that I don't understand. When a natural disaster strikes, why is it everyone else's job to provide you with things? The people had a week to prepare, and they did not get supplies? You have no food or water two days after the Hurricane hit, and that is the government's fault. How do you suppose that? Just because the United States has FEMA does not mean that it is their responsibility to cater to your whims.

Some people were told to leave, and they came back to nothing which is horrific. These are not the people that I am addressing. Those who lost houses, that is horrible and they need help. I am talking about the people who never left their homes. Either that or their homes are still standing. Those are the people I am addressing. The people who were totally unprepared for the aftermath. When it is winter time or there are storms headed your way, don't get caught with your pants down. Be prepared!

I feel that we would never have lasted 100 years ago. People were stranded sometimes for a couple of months without the ability to get into town after blizzards. They faced hurricanes with far less warning than we have today. Yet our grandparents and great grandparents survived. I wonder how they did it? They did it by realizing that they needed to have supplies at the ready. They held themselves accountable for their own well-being. When a hurricane is headed your way, that is no small thing. To not be prepared is negligent at best and might even be criminal!

It seems we can't last a couple of days after a natural disaster without resorting to, "I need," "I want," "You need to"  and "You have to." How is it everybodys responsibility to take care of you? Why did you not take heed of the warnings you received and get water and non-perishable food, just in case? Due to lack of personal responsibility it has to be someone elses fault, right? "It couldn't possibly be my fault, it must be the ______________(fill in blank with which ever politician or political party you want to blame)." Buck up and take some responsibility for yourself and your family.

There are resources coming to you, but they are a gift. What you will get: food, blankets, water, places to sleep, funding to rebuild are much needed. They are not something you are entitled to, though. You are entitled to take care of yourself and your family. Maybe even your friends and neighbors, but that is your responsibility. Everything else you might get is a bonus. Consider it grace, unmerited favor, something you do not deserve. Just because you live in Merica' doesn't mean that you deserve to get benefits handed to you.

Unfortunately, we are becoming a country that expects others to do for them when they are unwilling to do for themselves. People sit back on welfare, not looking for jobs. They can't afford to raise the kids they have yet they continue to have babies. I once had a client tell me, "I don't have to work. I have kids." As if that was an option! But this is an entirely different rant, so I will stop it.

Instead, let's look at what we need to have so that we can be prepared for a natural disaster if one does occur. Several years back, I had a learning experience in the form of an ice storm that kept us living in freezing conditions with no electricity for over a week. It is important to have a disaster supply kit, and here is a list of things that needs to be in it:
  1. A gallon of fresh drinking water for each household member for at least 7 days each
  2. Non-perishable food items for at least 7 days per family member (don't forget your pets)
  3. Can Opener to open food
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Flash Light with extra batteries and Self-Powered Lights
  6. Self-Powered or Battery powered radio with extra batteries if needed
  7. NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  8. Waterproof Matches
  9. Generator (if you can afford it) with spare gasoline
  10. Sleeping Bags and Extra Blankets for each person
  11. Hand Sanitizer and Moist Towelettes
  12. No less than $50 in small bills
  13. Photo Copies of your ID
  14. Boots, Gloves, Jacket and a complete change of clothing for each household member
  15. Multi-Purpose Tool
  16. LED Lantern
  17. Duct Tape
  18. Plastic Sheeting
  19. Camp Stove with extra Propane or Grill with extra Charcoal (Volcano Kettles are nice)
  20. Clorox
  21. Toilet Paper
  22. Trash Bags
  23. Emergency Whistle
  24. Survival Knife, Shovel, Saw and Crow Bar
  25. 5 Gallon Bucket and Kitty Litter (Handy Restroom)
  26. Toiletries (Tooth Brushes, Toothpaste, Deodorant, etc.)
  27. Prescriptions
If you can think of anything else, let me know and I'll add it to the list