Fringe Benefits

(image courtesy of epipoli.com)

Fringe benefits. We’ve all heard the term and know basically what they are: things above and beyond basic compensation from an employer. It can be an extensive list that includes paid time off, health insurance, profit sharing and retirement plans, to name just a few.

Where’s this heading, you may be wondering. I’m glad you asked!

I was reading from the Gospel of Mark earlier, and came upon this passage describing Jesus in his travels: And wherever he went, into villages, or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56 NRSV)

There you have it! The benefit of touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment. People had heard the stories of miraculous healings being done by this Jesus and in their desperation were hoping to just touch what he was wearing that they might experience a miracle too. And the gospel accounts tells us of many such folks who received healing from Jesus. He sometimes laid a hand on the sick or at other times and over a distance simply spoke a word and healing happened.

As wonderful as these accounts are, they truly represent only the fringe of Jesus’ ministry and purpose. He healed because of his compassion toward the hurting. Yet the driving force behind any of the miracles attributed to Jesus was to point people toward God. Physical healings are great, but to the best of my knowledge everyone restored by Jesus still eventually died a natural death.

None of what I’ve said is meant to minimize the wonder of Jesus’ actions, both then and now. My point is this: supernatural healing is a fringe benefit; of having faith.

If you have faith, you have already received the greatest healing you can ever get: You know the love of God! And the news gets even better: Faith is not something you and I have to develop, it is the gift of God! We are not given faith as a result of our good efforts or stiving for perfection. Rather, God knows we need it and that we are incapable of truly developing it on our own.

Enter Jesus, the Great(est) Physician! No matter how far modern medicine progresses, it will never attain the ability to cure us on an eternal level. And that’s ok, because Jesus has already seen to that for everyone. In so doing, our Savior has provided the vehicle of faith for us to grab on to. And we don’t have to reach for the edge of the Savior’s garment because through the blessing and activity of the Holy Spirit we have 24/7 access to the Lord.

So don’t be satisfied with touching just the fringe, but wrap yourself up from head to toe in the love of God; a love that is for all, always, forever and ever! Amen.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

Pastor Chuck

The Baby King

Luke 2:1-18

Visual search query image
(Image courtesy of praywithme.com)

Do you remember playing musical chairs as a youngster? That supposedly fun game that had you march around a circle of chairs only to try to sit down in one when the music stopped. The object, of course, was to sit before everyone else because there were less chairs than people. The number of chairs would then be reduced and the music started again. The process continued until there were two kids and one chair with the winner being the last one to sit. It was plenty of fun for the winner, but I can recall feeling pretty lousy at not making it to the end.

I can also remember that sinking feeling of being the last one chosen to play baseball and off to right field I would go. There was also the pain in the pit of the stomach sensation when I had been excluded from a gathering of the other kids in the neighborhood.

It’s not my purpose to dredge up old feelings of being left out this Christmas, actually quite the opposite. Instead I would point your attention to the miraculous fact that the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, came to the world as the infant whose birth we celebrate today. An infant, it turns out, that wants all people everywhere to feel included by the love of God.

The King as an infant! What a radical way to set a salvation plan into motion! As a father of two children, I can recall the total and complete dependence of my kids when we first brought them home. There was nothing (well maybe one thing) they could do without adult help. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Yet, the bible tells as that the Son of God spent his early hours wrapped in rags and lying in a barn or cave inside a feeding trough! Hardly an A-list reception.

Pondering this momentous occasion again, I can see the love and logic in the divine plan. Jesus, so the theologians tell us, had to be both fully divine and fully human in order to perfectly carry out the plan of salvation for all humankind. Though I’d be lying if I said I fully understand this, I take it on faith because God has proved totally faithful in all things.

The great comfort that comes to me today is the fact that Jesus, growing up from that baby to pre-teen to teen and finally adult, experienced all the feelings and emotions that I did and do. All those left out feelings I mentioned, the Lord felt them too! And what is even more wonderful than simply knowing that Jesus can relate is the fact that if I bring my pain and hurts to Him, He will minister to my heart in a way tailor made for me and all the while assuring me/us of the love of God that will care for us now and forevermore!

So take please take a moment as you unwrap those beautifully done up gifts today, to consider the absolutely most awesome gift ever given once again, Jesus Christ; the life giving present that did not come to us in a perfectly prepared package, but instead was wrapped in old rags, lying in a manger. And as you do, allow the love of God to minister to all the old hurts you might have so that you can more fully rejoice this day (and always) in the love that was given to us all in Jesus Christ.

May the blessings of this season be upon you,

Pastor Chuck

Thanksgiving First

Visual search query image
(Image courtesy of drexelguzy,com)

While working on a sermon for the Sunday before Thanksgiving, my mind wandered back to early grade school times and the lessons we were taught about that first Thanksgiving. The pilgrims, we were told, gathered to have a dinner of thanksgiving, though by today’s standards the amount of food was paltry. That first Thanksgiving was more about being thankful for being alive as opposed to being grateful for an abundance of food.

As I continued to ponder the differences between now and then, I began to feel convicted about taking the blessings of God for granted. How often or how deeply do I reflect on the fact that my every day needs are met. I am faced daily with deciding what to eat, not wonder if I will.

With these thoughts in my mind, I decided I wanted to be more intentional and genuine in my thoughts, words and deeds with regard to being grateful. The idea struck me, as I continued to contemplate the first Thanksgiving, to put thanksgiving first.

As you who have been with me in the blog-o-sphere for a while might guess, I found the inspiration to do this in the Scriptures.

The Bible is full of passages that encourage the reader to be thankful. Here are just a few from the New International Version:

1 Thessalonians 5:18: give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 107:1: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 100:4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise

I could go on, but you get the idea; being thankful to God encompasses all of the human experience. Realizing this, I still was not sure if my being grateful for the blessings I receive does not sometimes get delayed because I am distracted by this or that.

To help me with this issue, I came across the solution in another favorite passage of Scripture of mine: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

Did you catch it? We are first told to pray instead of worrying. And then we pray with thanksgiving as we are making our requests of God. Don’t wait for an answer, instead be thankful as you pray. This is how we keep God in the forefront of our hearts and minds. Basically, we thank God for being God. And if I might add, the request we might make most often is that the Almighty increase our trust in Him.

The wonder of the promise here in being a thanksgiving first people is that we are promised the peace of God. Let that sink in a moment. The peace of God. It is given to guard our hearts and our minds according to this verse from the Letter to the Philippians. In my opinion, the primary role of God’s peace is guarding our hearts and minds from worry.

I pray for all of us that we become willing to be thanksgiving first people and that as we do, the Holy Spirit will draw us to a place of deeper trust in God. As this trust continues to grow, we will experience more and more of God’s promised peace as our tendency to worry becomes less pronounced.

So not only a Happy Thanksgiving to you all, but also one that grows you and me in our love and trust of God as we give thanks for all God has done for us and as we do, pray that God keeps our eyes open for the opportunities to share these abundant blessings with the world around us.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

You’re Included TOO!

See the source image

Inclusion. Certainly a word we hear frequently of late (and that is a very good thing!) For a person professing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, being inclusive ought to be second nature. Sadly, what ought and what is are many times not the same

There is no place where it is proper to exclude anyone simply because of skin color, gender identity or any of the other social, religious, economic, etc. labels that get thrown around. What many consider as ‘being different’ is often someone living in a way that we are not accustomed to. Being inclusive means to drop the idea that different equals bad.

The Lord Jesus taught frequently about being inclusive, which tells me that this struggle is not a new one. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are most comfortable when around others who look, act and believe as we do.

What blessings we miss out when we throw up those types of walls. We waste our precious time and energy if we spend it trying to protect what we have from ‘outsiders.’ Likewise, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to share life with various groups of people who might very well have invaluable lessons and experiences to share with us. From the personal perspective of a parent of a child who is a member of the LBGTQ community, I can tell you God has poured forth abundant blessings on the relationships my wife and I have made here. That’s not to say we have done anything special, except maybe to be non-judgmentally inclusive.

Jesus’ instructions for life are quite clear: Love your neighbor. Period. There is no place for judging or trying to change someone. To love means to listen and to always advocate for justice. It is to seek means of communication, not for disparaging thoughts or words.

While are thoughts are turned toward inclusion today, please remember that you are included too! We need to set aside our tendency to see things in an us v. them mentality. Being inclusive is to put those types of thoughts away, for good.

What helps me in this regard is taking to heart the words of inclusion Jesus spoke for everyone. In other words, from Jesus’ perspective we, that means all of us, simply are included. The Lord spoke in broad terms that were applicable to individuals.

For example, in Matthew’s gospel Jesus is quoted as saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). You need not be a bible scholar to understand what “all you” means: Everyone! Jesus invites us, all of us, individually, to come to Him and receive His blessing of rest and relief when the weight of the world gets too heavy. I love this. No prerequisites, no condition, no being a certain this or that, but rather come to Jesus, the One who loves you because you are you.

Yet the inclusion of God can take us even further. If we take the Lord up on His offer for peace and rest, He then as an assignment for us. An inclusive assignment. We are to take this awesome gift of His love and share with the world around us. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a NIV).

Here is another case where all means all. I realize most of us are not going to be called to another nation to carry the message of God’s love, but that does not release us from our responsibility to doing so in our own context. We are to share God’s love with everyone with no excuse acceptable for exclusion. What that looks like and how we do this will vary from one person to the next, but the common bottom line is this: God’s love, His forgiveness and care are not to be restricted or withheld by us for any reason because God includes all!

God includes all. Period. Let’s include that in our personal lives as well!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Hang in there!

See the source image
(Image courtesy of quotesgram.com)

Waiting for something can be quite difficult. The more important that something is to us, the harder the wait usually. Maybe it is that long-awaited get-away vacation or the opportunity to reunite with an old friend. Perhaps, like often happens here in the Northeast US, the waiting for warmer temperatures seemingly takes forever. The wait for these types of things, hard as they can be, hold the promise of something positive when they do arrive.

But what about the waiting when the outcome or result is not known? I am thinking know about those of us who spend time praying for the healing of family, friends, co-workers, etc. We pray, seeking God’s mercy for these folks, but often we see little to no change for the better.

If this describes you, may today’s short blog entry serve as encouragement for you to hang in there. Reading Chapters 3 and 4 from the Acts of the Apostles got me to thinking about this. In Chapter 3, Peter and John meet a man crippled from birth. This person is carried to the gate of the temple courts to beg for food or money every day. Peter, when he has the crippled man’s attention says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 NIV). Instantly, this man is given the ability to walk.

This healing was instant when it happened, but it was a long time coming for we find out later in Chapter 4, verse 22 that the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (NIV)

Here is another example of an instant healing that was a long time coming. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the religious feasts when He encountered a man hoping to be healed by the stirred up water at the Sheep Gate. The Bible says of this man, One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5 NIV). John then tells of the conversation Jesus has with this individual and then of the Lord’s speaking a word of healing over him. As He does, this long-term physically handicapped person is instantly healed.

These are just two examples of people who had to wait what had to seem to them like forever before they got relief. But God did move on their behalf.

Like them, we are all captive to the passing of time as we understand it. God is not. He moves in perfect ways, in perfect timing, to His perfect will. This is of course far from our grasp.

So what are we to do? My encouragement is to hang in there! The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s faithfulness. His love and mercy are evident on nearly every page. We also have some experiences in our own lives where God has done something wonderful, just not on our schedule.

We also must remember that because God is outside of time as we know it, we will never fully (or even partially) understand His plans. But hang in there. Keep on praying and seeking His favor or blessing for someone. God’s track record is impeccable. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says this best: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing, and hang in there!

Pastor Chuck

Rejection

See the source image
(Image courtesy of calibreforhome.com)

I have been at this ministry thing for quite some time now. It has been a challenging time in many ways; challenges that without God’s constant help and support I never could have withstood. It has also been a time of countless blessings. These have come in every shape and type imaginable. The joy and peace God has bestowed on our efforts in His name fill my heart with gratitude.

Suffice to say, I have experienced a large range of emotion in doing Kingdom work. Please note that I did not say the full range of emotion, because I experienced a new one to me yesterday.

Allow me to give you some background first. As many of you are aware, Lakeside Christian Ministries primary purpose is to meet people where they are, sharing the Good News of God’s love for them. Jesus met folks this way and we see no need to improve on or change His method.

As I have mentioned in the past, we have had a long-standing relationship with a group of people who live in one of the low-income housing projects here in Fulton. We gather on Sunday evenings for fellowship, a bible lesson and prayer. This time has been one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The warmth of love and the desire to know more about God there has been wonderful. We are humbled to be placed where God is moving hearts.

You may also remember that this part of our ministry was birthed from a Hospice patient who had wanted pastoral care. God formed a connection from our very first meeting (more than three years ago!) that grew into various other family members, neighbors and the occasional stranger coming to their apartment to be prayed with or merely talked to about Jesus. Many interesting questions came from these encounters that led to mini-sermons that weekend.

Sadly for us, this dear Saint was called home to the Lord a month ago. We rejoice that she now is living in the fullness of joy with the Savior, but we miss her here.

The concern Betsy and I had about providing continuity at her passing was seemingly assuaged when one of the neighbors who would join us from time to time on a Sunday, invited us into her apartment. Wonderful, we thought.

However, prior to what would have been the second week gathering at her place, she left me a voice mail saying she had other things going on and would not be available. I returned her call, assuring her that we understood and looked forward to seeing her again the next Sunday.

Yesterday (Thursday), I received another voice mail. This one was quite different in tone. She told me that we could no longer gather in her apartment and that she was simply not interested in spending any more time with us.

Wow, I thought as I played the recording. This is a new one. A feeling of rejection came over me. Selfishly, I thought of myself first. Hadn’t I given of my time to be with her? Didn’t I make every effort to listen kindly to all questions and concerns? I felt rejected, there is no other way to put it.

Praying about this last evening and again before bed, I sensed God ministering to my heart. The Lord certainly knows a thing or two about rejection, even telling His disciples that they would be rejected because of Him. In His gentle way, God was leading me out of any self-pity I had so that I could refocus on Him. I prayed for this dear lady and drifted off to sleep.

This morning I awoke to a new sense of hope that only could have come from the Lord. I am assured to the depth of my heart that God’s plan is going forward in Fulton and that He would have us be a part of it. I repented of my self-centeredness and asked Him to show the way!

And though it has not yet been confirmed, I believe we will have a new place to minister this Sunday. One of the long-time attendees has recently moved from those apartments to a senior high-rise here in town. Something tells me we are heading there next!

Please stay tuned. I will let you know what God is up to here!

Thanks for reading. Please pray for our ministry that we honor God in all we do.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

He Got Out of the Boat

See the source image
(image courtesy of jw.org)

As we walked Violet, our Goldendoodle, early this morning, my wife Betsy asked what I had planned for my day. I listed several chores I was going to do around the house and added that I hoped to publish a blog, if only inspiration would come. I explained that the well had been dry the last few days, but I was remaining committed to share what I believe God puts on my heart.

Things still appeared a bit dry, even as I began to research John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as a possible blog. It was at this time that my phone let me know I had a new text message from our dear friend Cheryl. (I highly recommend checking out her blog, Care for Parkinson’s, found here on WordPress, to get to know her as we have. She is a blessing!)

Anyway, Cheryl shared a devotion for today that had spoken to her in such a way that she wanted Betsy and I to have access to it as well. Having now read this, I feel the prompting of Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on this passage of Scripture. Thank you Cheryl for the nudge I needed today!!

Chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel contains the familiar account of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea toward the boat the disciples were struggling against the wind in. Verse 26 tells us what they felt as this unexpected sight: When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (NIV)

Jesus then attempts to assure them that it is indeed Him, and they need not fear. At this point Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)

You probably know the rest of the story: Jesus tells Peter to come to Him on the water. Peter jumps out of the boat and does start to walk on the water, only to start sinking when he took his focus off Jesus and put it on the waves all around him.

Lessons abound on this point, as much has been written and said about Peter’s apparent lack of faith. Even Jesus points this out to the Twelve when He and Peter get into the boat with them as He chastises them for having doubt instead of faith.

To be honest, I sometimes want to get a little judgmental toward the disciples. I mean, they had seen Jesus do so much. He had healed many and produced food for thousands out of basically nothing. His teachings and overt actions of love toward so many had been witnessed by this select group.

But I am not in judging mode today. Today instead of pointing a figurative finger at the disciples, I am instead marveling that Peter got out of the boat at all. I do not have much experience being aboard boats, save a few canoe trips (on a calm pond) and sight-seeing cruises around The 1000s Islands here in Northern NY.

This makes me appreciate all the more what Peter did. At least he got out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. We can safely assume he was as startled/scared as any of them at the sight of someone walking toward them on the water; water that the 12 had been struggling to cross for some hours in the dark of night.

Yet, Peter got out of the boat. I believe I understand a few things better now as I re-read this narrative. First, Peter asked Jesus a specific question (If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water. V. 28) to which Jesus simply said, “Come.”

Despite what he was feeling, Peter heard from Jesus, and got out of the boat. He could have stayed aboard with the others, waiting to see how this played out. Sure, it was windy and wavy, but he was an experienced mariner and probably knew he would survive this squall as he had many others before. Lesson received, Peter: Don’t stay paralyzed in a circumstance. Rather, seek Jesus. Ask Him what to do and then act in faith on His response.

This took a fair amount of courage on Peter’s part. Talk about literally stepping into the unknown! He trusted in Jesus, and got out of the boat! And for a few wondrous moments, he too was walking on the water. Next lesson from Peter: There may well be great wonder when you step out in faith. To get the fuller extent of this wonder, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. It is my intention to do so, but I/we all know that the world around us is often in upheaval, revealing things that often vie for our attention. Thanks to Peter’s example, I am going to make a better effort to stay focused on Jesus.

Yes, I plan on getting out of the boat more often because the One who calls me to is ever faithful. He will not allow me to fall by the way, so long as I realize I need Him for every step I take (be it on dry ground or not!?).

How about you? Any ‘getting out the boat’ experiences you would like to share?

 I would love to hear them.

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

A Day is Like a Thousand Years

See the source image
(image courtesy of pinterest)

According to the most recent statistics from hospicenews.com, the average length of time a person was under hospice care in the United States was 77.9 days during 2018. That is just a tick over 2 and a half months. I have always had an affinity for numbers, as I find they help me in my expectations and plans.

This is well and good for most of the mundane activities and sports that I enjoy. However, I have found that God pays little attention to the conclusions that we draw from our statistical findings.

Never up to this point in ministry have the words of St. Peter rung more true to me: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

This tells me that it is God who created time for us. He is outside of its restrictions and constrictions. But we, like all living things, need the passing of minutes, days, weeks, etc. to help us mark time for the things of this life. In His infinite wisdom God set time in motion the way He has for our benefit. He works to a far different schedule than us, hence the helpful description of time passing by Peter as mentioned above.

I mention all this as a little background as I now tell you about Mrs. M. She was one of the first patients I had as a Pastoral Care Provider for our local hospice organization. When we first met, she had been given the prediction from her doctor that she had 2 to 4 months to live, well within the established length of time for most hospice patients.

The thing is, this was going to be an great example of God not heeding our statistical knowledge. I was invited into Mrs. M’s home in March of 2018! I just received word late last evening that she had been called home to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her expected 2.5 months of hospice care turned into just over 3 more years of life!

And please understand, she was not merely checking the days off as they went by. In those early months after I first met her, she was still mobile and enjoying many of the things in life. She spent time with her large and extended family members, went shopping and got out to play her beloved bingo as well.

But most importantly, Mrs. M. spent much of that time deepening her relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an honor for me to be a part of this.

To be clear, in my role as Pastor in hospice, my primary focus is to provide spiritual care for the patient and any family member that chooses to join. I am not to be overtly Christian in my approach, but rather simply listen with care and provide support in ways that are appropriate to each situation.

That is not to say I cannot share faith, but that I cannot lead with it. However, there are not restrictions placed on me should the patient have questions, thoughts or concerns about Christianity.

Mrs. M. made this abundantly simple for me. At our first meeting, after introductions around, she asked me, “What happens to me when I die?” Talk about an open door to expressing and sharing the love of Christ! As I began to explain what the Bible teaches us of our need for a Savior, I learned that she had trusted Jesus for her salvation by accepting His forgiveness for her sins some years ago. Like many folks, however, her knowledge of the possibilities of what that relationship with Jesus could mean to her in the here and now was limited.

From that point on, our once or twice meetings per week were mostly spent on exploring the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the Scriptures. What I was so honored and humbled to see was how Mrs. M. lived out these truths. As her many visitors stopped into chat when I was there, she never missed the opportunity to invite them to join us in discussion and prayer. The love, compassion and care she lavished on these folks, regardless of how she was feeling on any given day, continues to inspire me to be my best for God when I am given the chance to.

Watching God bless Mrs. M. in so many ways is one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me. As a matter of fact, after 12 months, the hospice agency re-evaluated her condition and released her from their care. She remains the only graduate of hospice this side of eternity I have ever known!

This ending with hospice did not cut our relationship short, thankfully. By this time, my wife Betsy and I were in there home on Sunday evenings leading bible studies and worship. As time went on, more and more family and neighbors were invited to join Sunday Night Church, as she lovingly called it. Again, the abundance of God’s blessing is incredible.

I have learned so much from her over these past 3 years with the single most important one being to follow the instruction of God: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I conclude these thoughts today by asking for your help in carrying the love of God forward as my dear Mrs. M. did without reservation. Please take the time today to let someone know how much you care for them. It does not need to be anything special, maybe just a call or a walk across to street to check in on a neighbor. Or perhaps there is a family member you are in tension with. With the love of God in your heart and mind, be the one to set the those issues aside long enough to simply let them know that you care about them.

Thank you and may you be inspired by Mrs. M. as I have been.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Improve your conscious contact

See the source image
(image courtesy of my12stepstore.com)

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Step 11 (of 12) from the Program of Recovery from Alcoholics Anonymous.

As many of your know, Faithful Readers, I have been blessed, by the grace of God, to live free from the bondage of alcoholism for nearly 30 years. Where once was a helpless drunk now stands a person living a sober life. I give God all the credit, for it is He who lifted me from the darkness of that former life into the light of His love, free from addiction.

I must also give credit to the program of recovery as laid out by Alcoholics Anonymous. The guidance offered by those who came before has helped me to live a life of personal growth, which I in turn try to share with others as was done for me. The 12 Steps of Recovery as explained in the book Alcoholics Anonymous have been solid guideposts for me all these years. Again, I learned much of what I share from those who took the time to help me get started and as we say in AA, ‘you have to give away what you have in order to keep it.’

Those 12 Steps that I mentioned were written in a specific order. They are meant to help a person get a foundation on which to base their recovery (Steps 1-3). The remaining 9 are more action steps. When followed honestly, they help us to deal with the wreckage of our past and give direction for a happy and productive life of sobriety going forward. In my opinion, there is no graduation day, as the working of the Steps into my daily life is an on-going process. This allows me to assess my thoughts and actions, while helping me to always remember that I am afflicted with a disease that is relentless. It wants me dead, but will settle for drunk. Continually working on the 12 Steps helps to safeguard me from slipping into bad thoughts or behaviors.

I write of this today because the 11th Step (quoted above), was brought up as a topic of discussion at an AA meeting I attended recently. As I listened to what was shared by others concerning Step 11, a few thoughts came to my mind. I shared some of them then, and would like to do so again here. I believe that these 12 Steps are vitally important for recovery, I also hold that they can be of practical help to anyone who wants to take an honest look at themselves with an eye toward becoming a better person, regardless of whether or not you struggle wit haddiction.

Step 11 is built on the premise that one has at least some conscious contact with a power greater than themselves. For me, as I have made abundantly clear in my blog, that power is Jesus Christ. It was the Lord who offered me the opportunity to live a sober life, and it continues to be Him who calls me to live a life that honors Him. I make no apologies for my faith, nor do I want anyone to think I water down what I believe in order to make it somehow more appealing.

Having said this for personal clarity, what the 11th Step teaches is that the offer to improve one’s conscious contact with a power greater than themselves is available to all. The key point is that for any lasting sobriety, a person must come to grips that they are totally defenseless against the ravages of addiction on their own. Hence the need for this Higher Power. It is a humbling thing, but by so doing we gain access to the awesome power that desires to help set us free.

Rather than go into a discussion of how one might accomplish the ‘prayer and meditation’ Step 11 advises, let me simply ask two more straight forward questions.

First, regardless of if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, where do stand in regard to a Higher Power? If you do not recognize one, may I humbly suggest that you investigate the issue further. My journey through life has been made infinitely more peaceful, with life’s speed bumps included, simply because I have entered into a relationship with the God of my understanding, Jesus Christ.

This leads to my other simple question: If you have discovered this power made available to you, a power that wants only the best for you, why wouldn’t you want to improve your conscious contact with it? For me, the many challenges of life, as well as its rewards and joys, have been kept in proper perspective because of this relationship.

By recognizing my complete dependance on my Higher Power to get and keep me sober, I have come to trust Him more and more as the days have turned into years. Improving my conscious contact with Him has allowed me to acknowledge the areas of my life that still need work, as well as to be evermore grateful for what I have come know as His blessings on me.

My advice: Take/make the opportunity to improve your conscious contact with a power greater than yourself. It will only do you good!

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

An Attitude of Gratitude

See the source image
(image courtesy of gratitudeseeds.com)

One of the suggestions I took seriously as I entered into recovery from alcoholism was the need to develop an attitude of gratitude. This required a total realignment of how I perceived things, as I had for so long only seen the negative and dreaded everything that was to happen. Existing in this black hole left me no option toward optimism or thankfulness about anything.

It turns out that my early mentors in recovery were correct: I had to adjust my way of thinking to develop a new way of life. Though it has not been easy to maintain the gratitude attitude all the time, I am happy to report that it has become easier the longer I have stayed away from booze.

Another of the practical tips my newfound friends gave me was to purchase and read daily the Twenty-Four Hours a Day book, known affectionately to AAers as the ‘little black book.’ This book contains daily readings and insights from others in recovery as well as prayers that are designed to help the one in recovery to navigate another day clean and sober. Like so many of their other suggestions, I took them up on this and am so happy I did.

I do read from it every day. In fact, I have been at this so long that my original copy fell apart and was replaced two years ago. I would like to share an excerpt from today, January 22nd, that has reminded me again of the importance of maintaining an attitude of gratitude:

Meditation for the Day

I will never forget to say thank you to God, even on the grayest days. My attitude will be one of humility and gratitude. Saying thank you to God is a daily practice that is absolutely necessary. If a day is not one of thankfulness, the practice has to be repeated until it becomes so. Gratitude is a necessity for those who seek to live a better life.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that gratitude will bring humility. I pray that humility will bring me to live a better life. (The above is quoted from Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Hazelton Publishing, for January 22nd)

Learning to thank God one day at a time for this chance He has given me has helped me to be a more grateful person. Yet, this does not come naturally for me. I can still to easily lose my focus on what God has done for me if I allow myself instead to concentrate on what I do not have as opposed to what I do. I must remember that it is my choice to live in this gratitude. When I do, I have such a greater appreciation of the world around me, and my place in it!

When my attitude is wrapped in gratitude, I am truly a ‘glass half full person.’ Not only am I more optimistic about the world around me, but in recovery I know exactly what my half-filled cup has in it (either coffee or Pepsi!).

It truly is a matter of perception. With a grateful heart/mind, I can have a much fuller and better appreciation of things. And when I start to look at the empty space instead of what I have, I need to pour the contents of that proverbial glass into a smaller one, thus reminding me to focus on what I do have going for me instead of lamenting what I don’t.

How about you? What are you grateful for today? And if like me you struggle in this area sometimes, what do you do to pull yourself out? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck