The Space Between

space
Sometimes you just have to let a moment speak for itself, right? Sometimes it’s about what you don’t say, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s the space you leave around the notes you play, amen? Sometimes it’s about just listening, at least that’s what I’m discovering.

I think back to my early years of being a musician and the way I thought about and approached music vs how I think now are so drastically different. I was raised in the days of metal/hair bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Skid Row and the like. In those days, almost every song had a guitar solo sometimes more than one. Not all, but most of the solos were a flurry of notes, tapping, harmonics and all the fancy stuff that was trendy back in the day. I still play a mean air guitar when “Talk Dirty to Me” comes on.

Fast forward many years later I picked up the guitar and started to learn scales and chords and when it came time for me to solo I tried to squeeze as many notes into as few a bars as possible because I was just emulating what I heard growing up, plus it looked cool. Then I had an epiphany. I began to listen to guitar players like Eric Clapton, who I swore must have been drunk because he played slowly, very slowly and with lots of space between the notes, I thought “he’s just lazy” where are all the notes? I asked myself. Then, I dug and listened to people like Freddy King, BB King, Buddy Guy, Miles Davis and I started to notice they all played slower and with more space in between notes, on purpose. It was a revelation, and I thought I might give it a try.

What I noticed at first was because of my pattern of playing of flurry of notes that this new technique that involved space was very strange and uncomfortable, it felt very unnatural, it still does sometimes. It’s taken years and years of playing slow and melodically to undo my stubborn technique that I like to think of as guitar vomiting. What I noticed is that my playing became more soulful, more spacious and more engaging than when I play a flurry of meaningless notes. I mean, think about it if we applied this to our regular conversations, what if it’s really about what we DON’T say sometimes.  This got me thinking, where else in life am I not leaving enough space? How else could I apply this concept to my life?

I get the privilege of facilitating some group therapy from time to time. My experiences in life have left me the ability to reach and connect with other people like myself, broken, hurting people. At first when I led these groups I had some insanely grandiose thoughts. I said to myself “I’ll just listen to these folks and then I’ll help them with their problems by giving them a response or a solution to each problem.” I’m not gonna lie at first it felt good to have all the answers for these folks. It seemed like there was nothing they could bring up that I didn’t have some response for. Then it happened, I realized that I was vomiting answers and that wasn’t what the situation needed or called for.

So, with a nudge from The Spirit I began to try to minimize my responses and just listen and leave space. I would use my words sparingly and my response often became “Me too.” It was awkward as hell at first for all of us! I had laid down a foundation that had to be undone. Sometimes there would be long periods of silence and I would have to fight the urge to break it up with some sort of interjection. What I discovered was so beautiful. The space and silence began to bring forth new levels of intimacy, if you can believe it, the silence and space produced more productive meaningful, fruitful conversation.

I was thinking about an incident in the Bible (John 7)where there was a woman caught in the actual act of adultery. The woman was drug in front of Jesus and the religious leaders of the day tried to provoke Jesus. They tried to get him to agree with them by quoting the mosaic laws of the day and get him to agree to stone her to death. How does Jesus reply? He doesn’t, at first just silence. In fact, he leans down and begins to write in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what he wrote but evidently it spoke volumes. The silence was deafening. The religious leaders continued the provoke Jesus He at last, replied simply, “whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” One by one the woman’s accusers drop their stones and go home. Mic drop/stone drop….see what I did there??

If we believe that Jesus was who he says he was then we know that he had all power and authority to do whatever he wanted in that situation. He could’ve entered into an argument with these religious leaders and surely he would have won the argument, but that’s not what he chose to do. Even though he had all the knowledge at his disposal to argue them into submission, He chose to let the moment speak for itself. He chose silence and space and and the result was far more powerful and made much more of an impact that a flurry of words would have done.

So, what happened to the woman. She’s left alone there with Jesus because all the accusers have dropped their stones and walk away. So, then I would think this is the part where Jesus gives her a long lecture about adultery and sin and a 7 point illustration of why it’s not a good idea etc, etc. but again Jesus responds with a question to her, not an answer, a simple question. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus said. She said “they’re gone” and Jesus then said “I don’t accuse you either” then I imagine with compassion he said “go home, and sin no more.” Again, Jesus with very few words let the moment speak for itself.

So, what happens in the space and silence? I’m not exactly sure but I know it often makes the words spoken or notes played more powerful and meaningful, the space seems spiritual. Why is it that I’m noticing that the people with the most knowledge, say the least? I don’t know, maybe I’m imagining things but I think there’s lots going on in these moments that we will never comprehend, at least not here. But I’m in the process of practicing this principal in all areas of my life. I’ll keep you posted…

Wanna Play?

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I recently took my kids to an indoor water park. For this of you who know me, you know that this was a feat all in itself. Why, you know my lack of excitement for anything having to do with water combined with my crippling fear of large crowds made for an uncomfortable weekend to say the least. Did I mention we were in water with hundreds of other people, sharing their germs etc, YUK. However, I knew it was something my kids would love so I just went for it and tried to make the most of it.

It was a place neither of them had ever been before. In fact, they’d never been to anything even remotely like it, so it was quite overwhelming for them in the beginning. I had visions of lounging by the wave pool in a reclining chair while they splashed around gleefully but this was NOT the case. Because this whole experience was new, they wanted me to be with them every second of the day. I kept assuring them, “you’ll be fine!! Daddy’s just gonna chill right here in this chair” but it was not to be as they insisted that I accompany them the whole time.

So one of the first things we did was get in the wave pool. When we first waded into the water it was calm and serene. Moms and dads held their babies close and let them float around in their life jackets and floaties. All the children around us splashed each other and played “Marco polo” in a carefree fashion. I thought to myself, “this is not so bad. These kids will be fine” and I started toward my comfy little beach chair when I was startled by an apocalyptic sound.

There was a loud, really loud buzzing noise followed by the piercing screams of the children at play in the wave pool. I didn’t know what was about to happen but it was the same reaction I would’ve expected if Luke Bryan showed up for a concert. Nonetheless, this stopped me in my tracks and I turned around to check on my kids. They were faced in the opposite direction as the water began to swirl and stir beneath them. At first the pool began to manufacture little, manageable waves. Excited at this new element, my kids went for deeper waters. I just kind of observed from a distance.

The waves kept getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER. Suddenly the look of joy on my children’s faces became a look of sheer terror. The once kid friendly wave pool had become a battlefield. Kids were being tossed and flipped and pulled under the water. The sound of joyous carefree play became shrieks and crys for help. “Daddy” I heard my little girl scream and I ran for her with no abandon leaving a trail of dizzy and confused toddlers in my wake. I finally got to her and she at once latched on to me.

She was terrified and began to cry when she wasn’t swallowing big gulps of the pool water and coughing and gagging as a result. What started out as seemingly innocent fun had become a nightmare in a matter of seconds. I grabbed my little girl and held her close to my chest and above the water. I tried to comfort her but in the moment she was inconsolable so we waded back out of the pool and gathered ourselves once again. I decided to use this a teaching moment. I said to my kids, “ok, see we’re fine, I know it was scary but let’s go back out there and show these waves what we’re made of.” My general Patton-esque speech was met with looks of disdain from my kids.

Finally, I was able to talk them into going back out there. At first they were skeptical but I stayed behind them with every step. We waded deeper and deeper into the pool and the waves got higher as we went. They met each wave with a new confidence and looked behind them for my approval. I applauded them and encouraged them all the while to go deeper because I said to them, “I’m here, I’m not gonna leave you or allow anything to hurt you.” If they got knocked down by a wave I quickly scooped them up, raised them out of the water and comforted them. I immediately put them back in the tempest and let them see for themselves that there was really nothing to be afraid of, daddy was here.

Eventually, The once terrified kids began to navigate the rough terrain and were once again playing. The environment that used to terrify them became their playground. It was a process but nevertheless they were aware that their father was always with them, would never leave them and this allowed them to be carefree even as they were being tossed about by the waves.

God does the same for us. There are tons of verses and examples in The Bible where he says he is always with us.  Genesis 28:15 says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” And yet another one is Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you or forsake you.”  Even Jesus says “Surely, I am with you always…” but even if it never said it in the Bible this is something I’ve come to see happening in my own life!

God used this time at the water park to speak to me about my own life and current set of situations. Even when it’s dark, even when I’m unsure of what’s about to happen, even when I’m afraid and being torn apart by the “waves” I know my Heavenly Father is with me and he won’t leave me, he’s promised! It may be a process and it may take a little time but he’s taking these times in life that used to paralyze and terrify me and with renewed confidence he’s turning what seems to be a disaster into a playground. Anybody else wanna play?

2 Words

Rocky

Ahgitupa, gitonuppa!  What’s it mean? Is it Hebrew or Greek? What’s the significance? Say it again. Does it sound familiar? If it doesn’t it’s ok it’s just my spelling of what I hear James Brown rappin’ at the top of one of his most famous tunes “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) A Sex Machine.  Now, if you’ve read my other blogs you might be thinking “what in the world does this have to do with spirituality or God or anything really.” In fact, you may think I’ve lost my mind but here we go, so buckle in and hold on. In the words of The Staple Singers, “I’ll take you there.”

Everybody on this planet struggles with something, right?. (If you think this doesn’t apply to you, just keep reading anyway) It’s that thing that you say you aren’t gonna do anymore but somehow we always do. For some it’s drugs and alcohol for some it’s materialism for some it’s unhealthy relationships, for some it’s pornography or food and the list could go on and on and on and on.  If you know me then chances are you know my struggles at least some of them but I KNOW I’m not alone.

The beautiful thing about this life we get to live is that God is all about helping us recover from the things we tend to hold on to that don’t give us life. He says in his word that Jesus came to give us life and give it abundantly or in some translations to give us a FULL life. That’s good news for someone like me!! I’m experiencing a little more of that full life daily.

He also says It’s the sick that need the doctor, not the well! That’s more good news for me cuz most days I fall under the category of “sick.” No matter what your struggle today just know that God absolutely loves you. It’s hard for me to imagine that he loves me being the mess I am but he keeps showing me that he does and he loves you too, so very much even when we fall short..and we all fall short.

He says in Psalm 34 that he’s “close” to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. I’m never more broken hearted than when I fall. I find it odd that when someone falls that most people tend to run the other way. It’s like we’re saying “don’t get your mess on me” but Jesus runs right toward our mess and meets us there. My experience is that spirit filled believers seem to follow suit.

Maybe you’re familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible. It sounds to me like a King who has everything is still unsatisfied. One day he sees Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop and in the moment decides to have his servants go get her. They bring her back and he puts on some Marvin Gaye and then we’ll, ya know. But then, it gets complicated. Turns out Bathsheba gets pregnant and is married to another man. Rather than face the other man and tell him of their mistake, King David decides to have her husband killed. What a damn mess…sounds like it turns into a Jerry Springer episode.

King David, who is supposed to be a Worship leader, a man of God falls and he falls terribly. The story gets even messier but eventually David comes to a place where he realizes he’s lost his way. He’s fallen time and then again and realizes that where he’s landed is a place that isn’t part of God’s plan for his full and abundant life. David then writes one of the most beautiful psalms he’s ever written, Psalm 51(please read it.) One of the lines says “Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” It’s at that moment that David gets back up!

It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves and remain full of excuses.  Jesus encountered a man like this who had been paralyzed and knocked down by life for 38 years it says in John.  Jesus asks the man “Do you want to be well?”  The man responded with a bunch of excuses as to why he couldn’t be well. Then it happened, Jesus spoke to him and set GET UP! He did just that, can you imagine how shocked he was, how shocked everyone else. No religious jargon, no ceremonies to perform, no magical waters to be stirred by the angels. It was just 2 simple words from Jesus, Get up!

The word says that a Godly man may fall 7x but they get back up again.  I think there’s probably some real significance in the fact that it says 7x but I think God has said to my spirit in these moments that he doesn’t count like we do. Whether is 7x or 47x the important thing is we keep getting back up…NO MATTER WHAT!

So, where am I going with all this? You may have seen it coming but I want to encourage those who have fallen down, I too know the pain and disappointment, the feeling of rejection. However, this is just part of our testimony, God will take this mess we’ve landed in and will use it to bring about good stuff in the life of ourselves and others. There would have never been a Psalm 51 if David hadn’t messed up!!

Romans 8:28 says that ALL things work together for the Good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, lemme say it again ALL things. Our worst disaster, our worst failures, ALL of it!! That’s for you, that’s for me, that’s for everybody!!! So, WHEN we fall down, let’s not stay down, don’t let the enemy or anyone else keep us down. This is our moment, God is calling us to freedom, to A FULL LIFE, so cue the James Brown record and 1, 2, 3, 4… Ahgituppa, GitonUp, Gituppa, Git on up!!!

Bread in My Jar

images2‘And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say ‘man what are you doing here’ – Billy Joel

For years as a musician I’ve struggled to make ends meet. It was WAY worse 20+ years ago when I was trying to “make it big” but it’s still quite the grind sometimes. I don’t not love it, I just love it and it’s in its proper place in my heart and in my life. The thought of “making it big” no longer consumes me. I wish I could tell you it’s because I came to my senses but honestly I think I beat my head against the same brick wall for so long that I finally realized that I needed a different approach If I was going to maintain any type of sanity.

I’ve gotten all sorts of useful advice over the years regarding music/gigs but none of them has been as fruitful as the “Tip Bucket.” My friend Stephen said to me after seeing me play a show “man that was good but where’s your tip bucket? You really NEED a tip bucket.” I thought to myself that Stephen has been doing this for years, maybe I ought to try it, what’s the worst that could happen?

For decades I played without one because I thought it was the same as begging for $$ like one of the poor souls on the side of the interstate with a sign that says “Will Work for Food” or something to the like. Honestly though, I think it was my pride and my ego wouldn’t let me put out a tip jar because I thought it was just a dumb idea and it made me look desperate…um HELLO I was desperate.

Then one day I was playing a gig and I noticed a man walk in front of me with some $ in his hand. He approached me after a song and said “how do I give you a tip” I made it even more awkward by refusing to accept the money. I shrugged and said something like “just throw in down.” He proceeded to put the money back in his pocket and walk away.

The next time I encountered this phenomenon I was playing and everything seemed to be going right. The songs were sounding great, everyone was singing along. People approached me mid song with money in hand and basically started throwing it at me like I was working a pole. Anyways, then the set ended there was lots of money scattered around my mic stand and there I knelt and awkwardly scraped the money from the pavement and shoved it in my pocket, all the while hoping nobody saw me, cuz I probably looked desperate and fiendish.

So, finally I decided to take my friends advice and put out a tip jar. It’s just a little plastic bucket with Budweiser written on the side. The next gig I put the simple empty bucket at the base of my mic stand in front of my feet, unsure of what would happen. Something magical happened, It was as if someone opened a firehose, they made it rain if you know what I’m saying. It was that simple, really? Up to that point in my musical career I’d never even expected to get a tip and now they were pouring in. All I had done is just give them a place to put the money! I just kept thinking, why didn’t I do this sooner?

I believe this one way that God works, we are asked to wait but wait expectantly  Odd concept maybe, but I think that it means we make room in our lives for God to bless us and the have faith that he is gonna do so. No, I’m not promoting the “prosperity gospel” but maybe this will make some sense! His word says that he will withhold nothing that’s good from us. He also says in Jeremiah, I have plans for you, plans to prosper you, to give you hope and future!! Now, that my friends is a generous “tip”. It’s worth more than any $$ I’ve ever collected in my newfound tip bucket! How many times I’ve treated God like I didn’t have room for what his plans for my life and just like my tip jar I refused to even acknowledge that he wanted to bless me.

For years I’ve thought to myself that it was a ridiculous notion that God would wanna give me anything but HE DOES because we’re his children!! I just have to have my spiritual tip bucket out and wait on it to show up. When I leave out a “bucket” for God to fill up I’m now saying God, I’m waiting on you to show up, I’m looking for you, I KNOW you’ll show up and I’m ready to receive my blessing!! It’s so easy to miss it if we’re not looking for it! It’s really just a mental shift to say “we’re ready to receive what you have got for us God, we’re looking for it, we’re waiting expectantly.

My sister in law just had a baby boy last week who is ridiculously handsome/adorable. She was a champ in the delivery room and got little Langston into the world FAST(much props). It’s said that when a couple gets pregnant that they’re “expecting” a baby. That just means they know that at some point this child will move from a prayer, an idea or a concept to a real live person!! In other words, they’re waiting expectantly. They picked out a name for him MONTHS in advance, they prepared their home for the new arrival, they had baby showers etc. Side note, I don’t think there’s any way to prepare our hearts for a babies arrival but all that to say THEY KNEW he was coming and they made room for him.

This is what Gods challenge to me through this blog was. To wait with hope, to know and to make room to receive what he wants to give me (no I’m not necessarily talking about $$). So, that’s just what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna change my pessimistic mind set and shift it to a mind that waits expectantly. Yes, I’m putting out a tip bucket for God, can’t wait to see what he puts in it, I will keep you posted! Hopefully in exchange, he won’t ask me to play Freebird.

I Hear Voices….

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My youngest daughter just started TBall. This is the ages 6 and up league for beginners. They had something like 4 “practices” prior to their first game earlier this week. The girls bravely took the field and were shuffled into position by some very loving and extremely patient coaches.

If you’ve never been to a beginner TBall Game it will be somewhat humorous if you’re not that competitive or it will have you unraveling in your seat and yelling and Screaming for the players on the field like a crazy person. Through gritted teeth spectators scream at the kids on the field to “Run, Run, go, no…no..the other way” or “just throw it!” It’s really funny to watch when you have no expectations but I imagine it’s REAL frustrating if you do. Supportive and patient dad that I am ,I just yell “Go Cyclones, wooooo” in my best Ric Flair voice!

There are all kinds of rules in TBall that make it unique from an older league softball team OR Baseball team. To put it mildly, every time The Cyclones go to bat, it has the potential to be catastrophic event. One simple smack of a bat sends all the players into a frenzy. Out fielders run in try to converge on the ball, only for some reason they won’t actually touch it, but why?

That’s when it hit me. The players are new to this whole TBall experience and they still aren’t comfortable with what exactly to do or when a ball is hit in your general direction. Then, I noticed that all at once the games onlookers began yelling and screaming at the players. I know It was just concerned parents TRYING to help, however in the end the cacophony of voices created mass confusion on the girls part and they were so overwhelmed by all the voices that they essentially remained paralyzed. They often missed what would be simple, fundamental plays because they couldn’t differentiate the 1 voice that could tell them what to do.

That spoke volumes to my spirit. How could this be remedied ? If the girls had just one voice they could discern to tell them what to do, their ability to make key game plays would no doubt, be improved. But it’s hard to figure out WHO we trust in that situation? I think most of the time simply the loudest voice wins in this scenario. Is it gonna be the coach, mom or dad? Grandparents? Just who do they listen to?

This got me thinking about my own life experiences. They’re have been times in my life I was bombarded by voices and paralyzed. As an Aquarius, I already struggle with making firm decisions anyway but these voices make many situations something I want to pack up a leave or run from! The voices, although some meant to give me good advice, were just overwhelming and caused confusion and in turn, indecision and ultimately this made me ineffective in the moment.

So, how do we move from this chaos and confusion to peace and confidence in our decision making ? I am just stating from personal experience. We have to focus on just ONE voice that we can rely on that has our best interest in mind. Maybe their voice isn’t the loudest or even make the most sense in the moment but if you trust them and know they’ve got your best Interest in mind then you HAVE To go for it, trust and follow through.

Through my journey of recovery I’ve had several Sponsors along the way and most of them have been people I trusted so completely that I trusted them over all the friggin’ noise and chaos that tried to convince me and define me in that very moment. Even if you’re not in recovery I highly suggest a mentor or someone you can count on hearing from despite all the chaos and noise is the world.

Jesus said in John 10 that we as followers will know His voice and when we hear it to follow it. His voice should be the ONE voice for us. His voice will bring us peace in the middle of chaos but what does that voice sound like? How do we know it’s HIS voice? It seems kinda crazy to say that we can physically hear Jesus voice. In fact, if I told my psychiatrist that I could hear His voice they might immediately call mobile crisis and definitely up my meds!!

So, how do I listen for the ONE voice to guide me? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is the word relationship. If we have a relationship with this ONE voice we will have come to see over time and trial that the voice can be trusted and have our best interest in mind. We will recognize and know this voice because we’ve heard it time and time again. I don’t think this happens overnight, it hasn’t for me. In fact, sometimes I still have issues differentiating the ONE voice I need to hear for all the “noise” around me.

The one voice I trust isn’t necessarily just something I hear just by simply thinking real hard about it. Sometimes it happens through prayer, through The Spirit, sometimes through reading The Word and even through music but most often for me I seem to hear it through other people. People like my sponsor, or my pastor or sometimes friends or even strangers. This isn’t always the case but a majority of the time it is for me! I just have to be actively listening for Gods voice in order to really hear Him, it’s been a process to hear and trust His voice but it’s become The One voice I can depend on for direction.

In Isaiah it says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying “this is the way, walk in it.” Are you hearing that ONE voice today ? I’m praying that you do, that we all do!! In the meantime you’ll see me at the T-Ball field screaming like a madman “Goooooooooo Cyclones, woooo!!”

Sent from my iPhone

My “Stash”

apron-person-people-human

Getting and staying high isn’t a part time job or a hobby for me. In active addiction, it literally consumed every waking moment of my life, I’m not exaggerating. It’s really insane to look back on now but then, it’s all I knew. If I had drugs, I was using them, if I didn’t have drugs I was on the hunt to get more, whatever it took. One of my 12 step fellowships sums it up best like this we were “getting and finding ways and means to get more.” It is without a doubt all consuming. I sure did spend a lot of time feeding my habit. I’ve always been this way since I can remember. For me it was first baseball cards, then girls, then basketball, then music  and on and on but much later on it was drugs.

I’ve been reflecting on just how insidious the whole lifestyle is. One thing I remember for sure is when I was using, if I had any drugs, they were never far away. I kept them as close as I could at all times, it made me feel safe and secure just to know I had some more of whatever it was I was using. This is what I referred to as my “stash.” My “stash” refers to any additional drugs that I wasn’t currently consuming, my back up if you will. I fully relied on the next hit, line pill or drink to give me life in that moment.

My “stash” included all drugs and any paraphernalia that I might have needed to use to get the job done, and it was a full time job. These included but weren’t limited to baggies, pipes, needles, papers, pushers, straws, etc. I’m sorry if this triggers anyone but I’m making a point so just bare with me. Even just typing those things raises my heart rate 20 bpm. I’m so grateful that’s not where I am today, today I have freedom from active addiction and life is beautiful and not nearly as exhausting!

The term “stash” got me to thinking. Now that I’m not using drugs or alcohol, what is my “stash”? What I mean is, what do I draw from to make me feel safe and secure? For some people it’s a padded bank account, for others it’s that extra marital relationship on the side. I’ve traded my “stash” several times over the years for different things but here’s what I’ve been pondering.

I said “yes” to Jesus about 17 years ago. I was in so much pain when I did that I was willing to do anything.  As I reflected on this decision to follow Jesus this verse from the Book of Psalms came up in my mind. It says “I’ve hidden Your word in your heart so that I might not sin against you” The Psalmist is saying to God. He’s saying I want to be consumed with you so that I’m not ever apart from you. It sounds to me like he is saying that he wants God to be his “stash” if you will, his safety and security, his all, his everything, the thing that he draws from. In making His word our “stash” we set ourselves up for a richer existence, at least that’s what I’m coming to see.

So, what does that verse even mean? Am I supposed to sit down and just memorize lots of Bible verses and quote them like some kind of robot? I hope not, because I’m not the type of person who is gonna be able to sit down, absorb them and memorize them,(or beat someone over the head with them.) I don’t really think that’s what “hiding the word in my heart” means. I could be wrong, I do think that it could certainly be a part of it but that’s not the whole of it. I think hiding the word in my heart is much more about being consumed by God, to be infatuated and utterly convinced that His way is better than anything I could ever come up with.

When I say be consumed, I don’t mean get religious. What I’m trying to say, is that the same energy I used to get high, if it were used to seek God would produce amazing results in my life and the lives of those around me. Shoot, even a third of that energy would be life changing! So, how do I become someone who is consumed by God? I’m not sure I have the answers but here’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Before I shared you that I spent most, if not all of my time feeding my habit. It was a lifestyle, so instead of feeding my habit I’ve made a life changing shift. Now, I try to feed my spirit. I do this any number of ways and not that I am doing everything correctly but as we say in one of my 12 step groups I’m “willing to grow along spiritual lines.” If I actually follow through and do these things to feed my spirit I see tangible, internal as well as external results.

For example, I listen to music that moves me toward God(sometimes this is Jimi Hendrix, sometimes Chris Tomlin etc), I read books that talk about him, mostly books of personal testimonies of life transformation but sometimes I feel God speaking through someone like Russel Brand or a fictional piece of work. Other times I go to 12 step meetings, I talk to my sponsor, I go to the gym, maybe do some meditation or journaling.  I try to get connected to something outside of myself and my insane thought life. It’s not the same for everyone, these are just some of the things I’ve found that work for me. I try to make my relationship with God my “stash.”

On good days, He’s the source that I now try to draw from. Instead of having to change the way I feel with substances or whatever, I now ask God to help me wade through these feelings and see how I can grow from them. I try to discern what I’m supposed to be learning in the process. When I draw this wisdom from The Word I am not as quick to resort to the same behaviors I used to, but this has certainly been a process and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen from time to time but I’m seeing it less and less, IF I put in the work and effort to pull from my new “stash.”

The word says that we will be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In the same way that drugs used to consume my every waking thought I am now trying to be connected to God. The word also says that Jesus came so that we may have a full life, my life is definitely more full now, real strange sometimes but definitely richer and more full. Even just typing this I can see the internal shift, just the fact that the verses are coming to my mind are proof to me that I’m being transformed(no I haven’t been brainwashed), I’m not the same, Thank God.

Also, the fact that in this very moment I am writing a blog about this topic versus going to score dope is all the proof that I need that it truly works, I’m not looking for applause just stating a fact. If you know me, you know that is a miracle for real, and I know many who’ve experienced the same thing. It works, don’t believe me? Try it!!  I know for sure what it means to be consumed by drugs and alcohol and I’m learning what it is to be consumed with God. Just for Today at least I’ve traded my “stash” for something much richer and life giving! What is your “stash”?

The Work

Chisel

I was watching a toddler today while I was at a sporting event with my family. I think it was Johnny Depp who best described them as “drunk little people.” The little boy was very cute and equally as rambunctious. Every time his parents would put him down for a second, he was off to the races. He was climbing on and behind and under the bleachers beneath our feet, then he crawled at Mach speed toward any door knob or gate latch that he could reach and of course attempted to open them.

I laughed a little while and just observed the toddler and his parents. Don’t get me wrong, if the little boy had done something to hurt himself that I could have prevented I surely would have swooped down and helped him. Nothing seemed bad enough for me to intervene so I just watched in amusement. Over the next few minutes I felt God speaking to me. It wasn’t audible or anything it was just an awareness of his presence, his nearness. I think it’s always there but unfortunately most of the time I’m not really tuned into him.

So, the toddler breaks away from his parents on one of his first few attempts and starts to climb on these cold metal bleachers we are sitting on. It was almost predictable, the little boy hoists himself up and in the same motion falls forward just enough to hit his mouth on the bleachers. He immediately began to cry and scream for his parents, who, as parents should, came over to swiftly aid their son. There was no blood, nothing to really be alarmed about and soon the crying subsided and the toddler was once again trying to break loose from his dads clutches, why you ask? To get down and crawl around again and return to his rambunctiousness, as kids will do.

The toddler then began to do the exact things he’d done before. He was climbing on the bleachers once again and I thought to myself, “why would you do that?, don’t you remember what happened last time?” But obviously he has quickly forgotten because yep, you guessed it, he pulled himself up and did the exact same thing, this time a little less extreme, he bumped his head and began to cry again. Rinse, cycle and repeat.

This is where the light bulb came on, it was at this point that God spoke to my spirit and brought a verse to my mind from Proverbs. “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” I realized in that very moment I was just like the toddler I’d been watching. I mean the circumstances have been a little different and varied but I do the exact same thing, I’ve been a fool, ALOT!!

What comes to mind immediately is my own personal story of addiction and recovery. When I first started realizing there was a problem, in my mid 20’s, I would get into a drug and alcohol fueled frenzy and then realize I needed help. I was much like that toddler, crying for help. I would end up getting the help I needed , going to treatment or detox, but soon after I would forget the pain that drove me to my knees in such a desperate state and I would relapse or return to the exact same behaviors I’d done before. It made no sense, it still makes no sense but that’s the insanity of addiction.

Here’s where it gets even more tricky. I’ve been able to put the drugs and alcohol down for long periods of time but when I do it seems like I always have another issue that raises its ugly head, (in recovery we call these things defects of character) and the cycle starts all over again. I’m perpetually in this sick cycle and I feel like what the word says is a “dog returning to its vomit.” That May Sound extremely harsh unless you’ve ever been stuck in this type of cycle, then of course you know this is the truth.

Time and time again since I’ve become a believer and follower of Jesus I’ve gotten stuck in these “sin cycles” where some behavior I’m repeating is making me feel alienated from God and from who I really am. The good news is we have a God who doesn’t condemn us but instead continues to draw us to himself with what the Bible calls “cords of love.” Now, that makes no sense in my mind but I’m so glad it’s the truth. I’m so glad that his mercies are new every morning.  I’m also grateful for a program of recovery that allows God to heal me through the 12 steps.

I’ll close with this little children’s song that sums it all up for me. Sing it with me If you know it. “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the earth, the sun and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient he must be, he’s still working on me….”

Hiding Places

hiding

As I think back to my childhood I have a lot of memories stored away and that I have held on to that make me happy. Memories of family vacations to Florida in our 1984 Caprice Classic Station wagon, carving pumpkins, decorating a Christmas tree and the like. Then, there are also things I remember that I would have rather forgotten.

Recently I found myself in a scenario where I was forced to relive and process some of these things so I could finally move forward and I thought I would share those thoughts here. See, my mom was an alcoholic. She was very much a functional version. She never had any problems holding down a job, cooking dinner or whatever. She was never homeless or destitute or desperate which of you asked me now I’d say was to her detriment.

Mom would come home every day after work and almost immediately begin drinking. She poured a tumbler 90% full of Popov Vodka and a splash of grapefruit juice. She would sit and drink glass after glass and chainsmoke cigarettes and watch TV. This ritual went on night after night. As the night progressed her mood changed, She could go from semi jovial to volatile in a matter of a few short hours.

I remember trying to sit and have conversations with her and her speech slurred and her words became venemos. I was always on edge because for some reason she used me as the target for all her frustration. I remember the sinking feeling I had and the dread I had when I saw her sitting in her spot on the sofa. This pattern became a daily routine for our family, things always escalated as the night went on.

Of course at that age I didn’t know what an alcoholic actually was I just knew that I hated seeing her like that, I hated the effect it had on our family. This continued night after night for years. I recall actually pouring her vodka down the drain when she wasn’t looking and filling the vodka bottle back up with water but this was only a temporary solution, she always found a way.

It got so bad that I figured out the best way to avoid it was to just go straight to my room right after school and just stay there until she drank herself to into oblivion and finally passed out. My room became my hiding place, a place safe from all the chaos, a sanctuary of sorts. When I closed the door behind me I could leave all the bad stuff outside and just concentrate on being a kid.

As I got older and finally left the house to go to college I found myself doing this same behavior in new ways. I discovered alcohol and other drugs for myself. The feeling that they gave me was the same feeling I had about going to my room after school as a kid. It was an escape, with alcohol and drugs I could hide from my emotions. I never had to feel or deal with all the bad stuff, the hard stuff in life. When I was drinking or using I felt safe for lack of better words but I learned this was only a temporary fix, when the alcohol and drugs wore off, the chaos returned. My only solution was just to never stop drinking or using and it worked until it didn’t.

I really never made that connection until a recent therapy session but when I finally saw that it was like a light came on. I realized and saw this same pattern in other places in my life. There were other places too that I was searching for that same peace, the peace that I had discovered as a kid in my room and I’ve been doing it ever since.

The therapist looked at me during our last session together and asked me “Why do you think you work so much?”. At first I didn’t know where he was going with it. I replied with all the normal answers like “I got bills man” and he just looked at me, I knew that answer wouldn’t do. So we processed my insane work schedule. He pointed out that my schedule was too crazy for anyone to maintain any type of normal life or sanity and then he asked me, “Why do you think you do that to yourself?”

Then it hit me, I was using work as an escape from all my problems. Work had become to me a place where I didn’t have to feel. It became the new version of the room I fled to as a kid, it was my new safe place, my hiding place. See if I just maintained the unmanageable schedule there was no time for things like feelings or emotions. I couldn’t believe it once I finally saw it but now the question becomes what do I do about it? How do I correct this behavior? Where else am I doing this?

This is such a recent revelation that I am only just now discovering how far reaching this is in my life but it’s really helped explain some things for me. For example, things like my tendency to isolate as another coping skill. The list could go on and on but at least I’m beginning to see it. Now, I just have to begin to correct these behavior patterns which I am discovering is easier said than done. The good news is I’m not where I once was and I guess that could hopefully be said of all of us. In the words of John Mayer, “I’m in repair, I’m not together but I’m getting there.”