Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: What a year!

A year passes and you look back at all the things that have happened and sometimes it’s a regular passage of time with few changes or challenges other than coping with the change of the seasons and growing another year older. 

2015 was not one of those years.  I reflected on my year and my journey today and was brought to tears of joy and was shaken by the unbelievable experiences that I had in 2015.  As David Bowie sang,  CH- Ch-Ch-Ch Changes, (turn and face the strange)….. CH –CH- Changes just gonna have to be a different man. 

The most significant change in my life is that in March I decided to pursue and surrender to Christ to the point that I decided to stop drinking and go into recovery.  I know that sounds strange but that really is what happened.  Granted after attempting to quit drinking in the fall of 2014 on my own and failing, I entered into a pretty low period of regular drinking and hopelessness wondering why if I was a born again Christian for four years I was still caught up in this viscous Jekyll & Hyde cycle where I knew drunkenness and my faith didn’t compute.  I had reveled in the forgiveness I felt after being saved but I fell into sin in some ways worse than I ever did before I was a Christian.   Much to my shame, I used my forgiven status as license to sin.  So in late 2014 and earlier this year, I sort of hit rock bottom.  I hurt others, myself, and my relationship with Christ. It was at this point that I didn’t care what anyone thought about me or my reputation.  I reached the end of my rope and was all in for Christ. I was going to put down the lust of the flesh and pick up my cross and follow Him. 
So I initially went into recovery for religious reasons.  I didn’t have a problem. I could quit drinking.  I was giving it up for my relationship with Christ.    BRAVO!!!  

You see, that was sort of a cop out.  “I wasn’t like the rest of these drunks and addicts who ruined their lives.  I have a job, support my family, and even go to Bible College. I’m trying to get closer to Jesus. I’m really more of a social drinker but I am willing to lay that down for Christ. ”  

You see this is denial.  Although I had the illusion of control over my “bad habit”, I soon learned that I was in fact “powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing”.  I could hold out for a while; just have a few drinks and stop here and there but that TENDENCY to get good and drunk was coming sooner or later.  I had a million reasons to drink: holidays, weekends, to celebrate virtually anything, to reward myself, to blow off steam, to deal with stress, game’s on!, etc.   The TENDENCY loved these reasons. It was my recognizing the TENDENCY that made me able to admit that I was powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors and that because of this my life (although sometimes organized, systematized, and regulated) was unmanageable.   

So I came out. I announced to the world I was in recovery and amazing things happened. 

I saw the presence of the Holy Spirit at work right in front of my eyes one night at recovery.  We had been at it for a few weeks and an older gentleman in our group (“Stan” age 70ish) was showing up but wasn’t sure about all this Jesus stuff.  We were getting started in our small discussion group and just going over the first couple of principles.    Principle 2 is “Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover.”  Stan wasn’t so sure about this but he let me continue to read the next one.  Principle 3 is “Consciously, choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control”.  To which Stan, said he wasn’t there yet.  We said that we respected that and continued along.  In attendance was “Brian”, a stereotypical addict, tattooed, intense, ex-con in his early to mid-20’s.  Brian, although his father was reportedly a pastor, had aspirations of being a heavy metal musician but had spent his life in addiction and incarceration.  Everyone took turns sharing their struggles.  Brian was discussing his girlfriend and how she suffered because of him and how he loved her. At one point Brian lamented how he wanted to quit cigarettes but couldn’t do it.  He said “If Jesus could just reach through the veil and tell me to quit. I could do it. “Breaking group guidelines; old Stan says something to the effect of “Son… you just…  (At which point Stan sort of brings his hands together and pulls them away from each other in an opening gesture)… let go and let God.”   This seemingly tame gesture hits Brian hard and has me saying “Stan… that’s exactly what we were talking about in the principles!”  Whether or not my comment was heard is hard to say because the next thing you know “Brian” is out of his seat and standing in front of Stan and says “Stan, you say you don’t know whether or not God cares about you but I’m telling you HE does! And we are going to pray for you, and you are going to pray to ask Jesus into your life!”   Stan hesitates for a second but quickly pulls himself out of his chair and starts praying to ask Jesus into his life!  The guys rise, join hands, lay hands on Stan and pray. Brian starts praying in tongues.  I reach out and lay hold of Stan and pray.  Meanwhile the group leader, my sponsor and Spiritual mentor Bob Costello, is in the other room dealing with new comers.  He’s been working with Stan from the beginning and Stan gets saved while he’s in the other room!  Stan is in his 70s and was in a bad place in his life.  He grew up on a farm and the tales he told of his childhood described a struggling existence where joy and love were not expressed but that night in the basement of Rock Solid Church he knew the love of Christ!  He was washed clean by the Holy Spirit and he was in awe of the power that had come over him.    Stan was struggling financially at the time, in danger in losing his farm.  Since coming to Christ though, Stan is no longer in financial difficulty and has started a foundation to help veterans that are struggling to readjust to civilian life after combat deployment. 

Brian never returned to recovery after that night.  Ironically, Brian, the son of a pastor, was used by God to lead an old man to Christ, who upon being saved made it his mission to help young men who are struggling to adjust to society, like Brian. 

Stan and I finished the 16 week recovery program.  Stan went on to do his thing with his farm and the veterans.  I went on to be part of the leadership team when our recovery group, Celebrate Freedom, started up again in the fall.  Three weeks in to the program, I picked up my guitar and lead the group in worship.  Just two songs a week; but man to use my guitar (which I had only played in my basement, alone, and usually under the influence) to give glory to God for what He has done in my life is something I would have not believed 12 months ago. 

Our group is on hiatus for a while but when we start up again, My friend, Bill Hamm, and I will be doing the teaching each week.  

In May, I earned an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Telecommunications Technology from Hudson Community College completing a course of study that took five years, going to school one day a week through my employer. 

Also that month, I earned my Associate Degree in Biblical Studies from Vision Christian Bible College & Seminary, taking classes at night one day a week for the past two years at Rock Solid Church, Hudson NY.  I just completed my first semester of my junior year as I pursue a Bachelor Degree. 

This year also saw my physical body transformed.  I started reading Men’s Health magazine and started exercising every morning.  I get up at 3:30 am and exercise while listening to an R.C. Sproul teaching about God each day. After my work out, I pray thanking God for everything I have and the earnest intension to surrender my will for His will for my life.  I pray for friends, family, and the pastors that have crossed my path. I pray for the persecuted church, those suffer throughout the world for their faith in Christ. I then pray for the lost, for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and to bring them to Christ for their salvation.   I then read the Bible.  I then read a couple of prayers out of 2 devotional books I have. Then it’s off to work. 

I know it sounds intense. I share this though because God wants our relationship with Him.  The way to build a relationship is to spend time and to put in effort.  More than once this year the prayers I have made in the morning have been answered in an amazing way. 
I started doing the physical work of a lineman and walking on my lunch breaks during the summer.  In autumn, I start to run.   On September 26, I ran in my first 5k.  I have since run in 11 more.   Through nutrition, exercise, and faith, I have built muscle and have seen changes in my physique.  I have lost 45 pounds this year and I continue to train to be healthy. 

I have had spiritual breakthroughs in my understanding of Christianity and my relationship with Christ that I didn’t think were possible.  It is my goal to glorify and serve the Lord with rest of my life.   I have committed myself to a missionary trip to Africa in February where I will perform humanitarian work and where I will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am not sure where God is taking me but after a year like this one I know it won’t be boring. 

I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to press in to your faith and surrender yourselves to Christ.  I wish everyone who reads this a very Happy New Year!  First Sober New Year for me in 25 years! God Bless You!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2015: I am certain

First and foremost, Merry Christmas to you my friends!  Anyone clicking on a link to read my blog, I honestly consider a friend.  In this, what is often, a cold and lonely world to know someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say is no small thing.  Even though we are all interconnected as human beings on this earth and we may be surrounded by friends and family, we may seldom speak about what we really feel or think.  So if you just stumbled upon this blog, are an old friend, or just want to see what I say next, thanks for checking in and I hope your Christmas was as peaceful and bright as mine was today. 

My last blog post was entitled uncertain times. I wanted to blog during the last 24 days since I last posted but I was surrounded by rumors and speculation of where I would be going and what I would be doing. If I had posted all my thoughts and anxiety during the last couple of weeks, you would have thought I was caught up in the heights of political intrigue or on the verge of a mental collapse. On the surface it was all business as usual but when you are going through a change it can cause you to worry and wonder.  Add to it the stress of preparing for Christmas, finishing classes for the semester, maintaining sobriety, and the pondering of questions of faith and purpose, and you can see where my mental dialogue may have been a little chatty and chaotic.   On the outside, I was all: “Whatever will be, will be.”  “It’ll be fine.”  

And you know what? It was fine. 

I now report to the Schenectady garage as a construction tech.  I took the truck I had been driving in Albany with me.   I am more suited for construction work so I am happy with this although I would have preferred to stay in Albany.  

So there you go. My employment situation spelled out in three simple sentences.  The content of those sentences could have been different but no matter what those sentences said about my job, I was going to have to be fine with them.  I get good pay and benefits. I have a family to help support and leaving the company doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now.  So whether it worked out to my liking or not, I was still going to have to go in.  That can be a distasteful reality to accept but even in my most paranoid and anxiety riddled moments, I was able to maintain my composure (never let ‘em see you sweat, right?) because of my study of the Bible and my relationship with Jesus Christ.   

During this time of contemplation, I grabbed hold of verses like:

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5  “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Genesis 28:15 “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

I constantly reminded myself that wherever I went God was going with me. I wasn’t alone and I never will be alone again.

At one point, I had received some less than favorable news about my reporting assignment, to which my colleagues were outraged by the news but were more perplexed by my seemingly docile acceptance of my less than favorable fate. They expected an emotional outburst of anger I think but as a Christian I have been taught:

That I am to be obedient to authority:

Hebrews 13:17  “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

That I am to be content:

Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

That I am to be slow to anger:

James 1:19-20 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Like I said above, regardless of what decision was going to be made about my job, I was going to have to live with it.  So I didn’t get angry because, for all I knew, this “bad” report was the final report. I was going to have to be obedient and content with it so I thought it best to wait and see if this report would be final, knowing that it very well could be. 

Even in the midst of possibly an unfavorable outcome, I had some peace knowing that I would do my best and that God was with me.  To be honest though I did pray for a change in circumstance and things have seemed to work out fine. 

One thing I learned during this time is that there is not going to be a time when things aren’t uncertain. I figured I shouldn’t speculate about what maybe and to wait until a decision was made before I wrote. However, I realize now that as temporary beings on this earth we are not promised tomorrow and we don’t know what the next day brings.  To live in fear is not to live. A runner runs. A writer writes.  To change what you’re doing on a daily basis because of some distant “what if” is not being true to yourself. 
I really wanted to write during this period but didn’t want to give power to my anxiety by giving a voice to them.  However, what I should have done was voiced my fears and remedied them with the word of God. 
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”

Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

So going forward, if I want to write I’m going to write. To be honest, it’s therapeutic.  It didn’t feel good to not tell my story.  You see because it’s not just my story anymore. I have the Holy Spirit living within me and my testimony is a testimony of the power, grace and love that I have come to know through my experience with Him.  When I fail to tell of what He has done for me, I am not giving the proper honor and glory that God deserves. 

Oh, first sober Christmas in 25 years is in the books! Sober for over 9 months. I exercise, pray, and read the Bible daily. This is all possible only through the power of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my life. 

 I am moved to tears of joy in contemplation of all the Lord has done in my life and especially in consideration of the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, during this Christmas season.  I encourage all who read this to seek God and make Him a significant part of your life with honor and service.   



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Uncertain Times -

Life is uncertain. Sure for the most part we know what is going to happen on a daily basis. We wake up, go to work, go home, eat an evening meal, relax, go to bed, and repeat.  However, at times, circumstances beyond our control change the game.  What you are doing tomorrow may not be the same as what you are doing today. 

In corporate America, the fourth quarter is time to reassess where you are and where you are going.  The last number on the calendar is going to change so it’s time to do something new.  A fresh new year means a fresh new start. It’s a great time to get better; a time to reorganize and possibly restructure.  In the overall scheme of things it is a simple change made on paper in the name of efficiency.  On the human level, people are redistributed.  For the vast majority of the work force nothing changes.  However for some it can be a whole new ball game. 

My department has been targeted for termination.  Don’t panic! We are just being reorganized.  Thank God I don’t have to worry about losing my job.  Say what you want but, Go UNION!   So that is good.  I am also pretty sure I will still be field technician in some capacity.  I am fully capable to do whatever I am called to do.  As the sole provider of my family, I have to be.  (To paraphrase an Oliver Stone quote “that’s why they call them “techs”; because a “tech” can take it, a “tech” can take anything.”) 

So in about a week I will be told where I am going.  I will have a new boss.  I may be doing the same job function, maybe not.  I maybe at the same garage, maybe not.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have the same truck, but possibly not.  So I am “sure” everything will be fine, possibly not. 

One aspect of these changes that is upsetting is that the cast of characters that I work with will change. After a few years together, you develop friendships and camaraderie that develops naturally from working together.  This isn’t the first time this has happened in my career and it is somewhat sad to have your path diverge from people you have spent a significant amount of time with.  You take these relationships for granted and at the whim of someone far removed from your situation, people are separated from your life.  I’m sure I’ll keep in touch, I’ll miss them, or maybe not…..   But regardless I’ll wish them well in their new situation. 

I also got some bad news on a personal front.  A friend in recovery has relapsed today.  Ironically, they were making significant progress and on the verge of a new situation themselves.  They were living with drugs and alcohol all around them in a lonely situation but they were resisting temptation.  They are due to move out there in a day or two and they fell from grace.  Moving is a stressful time?  Who knows? Maybe they thought that the drugs wouldn’t be around in the new situation and they had better get off while they could?  Maybe they thought they would have a going away party?  I am not condemning them. Recovery is not about perfection and relapse is a part of it as they say.  My friend is with their sponsor and I know they will give good advice and counseling. The fact that he confessed his relapse is a good sign I think. Hey we all make mistakes right?

I’m self-obsessed so my friend’s relapse makes me wonder if I’m doomed to failure.  The good news is “not today!” I joke about relapsing saying if I am going to fall it will be epic: multiple drugs, alcohol, & sex!  Scandalous! You know?  Like I have said before I am addicted to things that don’t exist, like a situation where that would happen and I would feel good about it.  You see, I have 25 years of experience of the lies of getting drunk or high and I now have some understanding that these things don’t make me happy and they cause more trouble than they are worth.  

Situations like my uncertain work future and my friend’s relapse make me glad that I have faith in Christ.  In the past, I would have turned to booze at least to say goodbye to another chapter of my career if not to bury my anxiety.  If I had been trying to stay sober in my own power, I would have probably felt utter hopelessness at my friend’s relapse and gotten wasted; failing on purpose just to avoid the inevitable by self-destructing.   

You see, my focus really is on my faith in Christ.  I don’t know what God’s plan is for my life.  Right now I’m trying to learn more about Him through prayer, through service, through meditation on His word, and by going to Bible College.  I look forward to my trip to Africa where I will surrender two weeks of my life in service to Him.  So I don’t know where I’m going to be working by the end of the year, I don’t know if my friend will back at recovery on Thursday, or if I will fail someday but I do know that where ever I go Christ goes with me and that has made all the difference. 

 This world has temporary remedies but the answer lies in the Truth, Jesus Christ.  I encourage all who read this to seek after God.  It can start with a simple prayer to ask Him to come into your life.
I know what suffering is. I know life is hard. I was so full of myself. I found peace by becoming empty for Christ. I made room for Him and He has shown me amazing things.  I wish you the all the best. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday – Out of the Darkness into the Light

No, I did not get up early to stand in line to fight my fellow man for huge discounts on Christmas gifts.  Not this year anyway. 

This black Friday I did my best to overcome a Thanksgiving Hangover.  No, I didn’t fall off the wagon. Although my family did come over to celebrate Thanksgiving with wine and German beer, all I had to drink was Coke Zero.  

You see, I have been training to run 5ks without dying and trying to lose weight. I have had success in doing so because I have been extremely disciplined in my exercise regimen and in what I eat.  On Thanksgiving I rose early, exercised like normal, and went down to Rhinebeck for Ferncliff Forest’s 8th Annual Turkey Trot.  It was 30 degrees and I put on a lite fleece, a winter hat, and gloves to keep warm.  I over compensated for the cold though because 5 minutes into the race I could feel the heat and my sunglasses started to fog up. It was okay, I thought not being able to see would keep me focused on running. I finished 27 out of 37 in my age group, so not so great, but whatever, I didn’t die!  

After the race, I went home and Michele had the turkey in the oven and everything ready to go. My Dad, brothers and their girlfriends, and my stepdaughter and her boyfriend all showed up and the feasting began!  I ate turkey, Michele’s awesome Italian sausage stuffing, peas and carrots, chips, salsa, crackers, cheese, pepperoni, cheesecake, buffalo chicken dip, brownie cupcakes, and 4 20z Coke Zeros. 

After training, my body is not used to eating so much and/or so many carbs.  So Friday, I rose early and it took much longer to get through my regular work out.  I did some online shopping for Christmas and then I took the kids into town go to Game stop so Haley could pre-order this game she has her heart set on.  We went into Walmart just to see the aftermath of Black Friday and seeing the picked over displays and frenzied shoppers sort of made me sick, or maybe it was my stomach.  We left after a few minutes without purchasing anything. 

After hitting the drive through at McDonalds, we went home and then, much to my shame, I was surrounded by leftovers, so day 2 of the feast was on: Leftover turkey, gravy, stuffing, cheesecake, apple pie, and then turkey tetrazzini for dinner! 

After a day of watching movies I didn’t enjoy, scrolling through social media, and filling up on food just to get rid of it, I felt somewhat physically ill and spiritually corrupted.  I had indulged the flesh giving into every whim of desire.  I felt like I had worked through most of the seven deadly sins

 (pride: I am running 5ks, hosting Thanksgiving, and am just awesome!
 greed: cyber shopping
 lust, envy:  Facebook, it’s all about lust and envy… for some people….
gluttony:  Mcdonald’s and thanksgiving feast = kill me now
sloth: lazy TV watching slug)

in 24 hours.  So last night I watched this series of teachings on Proverbs and it felt great to reconnect with the word of God.  After getting lost in the flesh (even in this seemingly normal overindulgence), it felt good to walk in the spirit even for just a short while.  

Holidays are nice break from routine but when you overdo the feasting (and in the past I used to overdo the drinking too) you see that you sort of missed the point.  It is nice to gather together and feast but I lost sight of what I was supposed to be most thankful for and to: God.  I spent most of my life trying to meet my needs, to feed my appetites, only to find out that nothing material can satisfy. Our temporary natures in this universe guarantee our eventual dissatisfaction with the things of this world. Physical objects age and fall apart.  Sensory pleasures fade away.  People (ourselves included) are inconsistent and disappoint.  Instead of going all out feasting, I should have taken a moment just to enjoy a breath and to reflect on the goodness of God. 

The great news is as I walk this road with the Lord, it takes me less time to get back on track. Every time things get out of balance I know that I just have to turn back to the Lord.  I just have to follow what I think would be His will for my life.  I am not always sure what that is but seeking His wisdom in the word of God is always a good place to start.  I sure am looking forward to Men’s Bible study tomorrow morning.  5:30 am at Rock Solid Church, in the basement, if you are interested.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Eve! Victory!

Traditionally on this night I would go out with my brothers to the local bars in Hudson and get ripped. My eldest brother Matt would roll into town from New Paltz and out we would go.  Since marrying Michele in 1998, this was one of the few nights of the year that I would go out drinking.  I would drink and smoke to excess, ogle other women, avoid getting into fights, and often not remember the walk home.  I would wake up at my parents’ house with a wicked hangover.  I had skipped last year. I had stopped drinking last September and was 2 months dry on the sly (Thought I would quit drinking unofficially all on my own). Although I skipped the Thanksgiving eve festivities, I gave into having a couple of token beers on Thanksgiving with my Dad.  I didn’t lose control that day but after giving in I soon was drinking regularly all through the Holiday season and into my vacation to Florida in February.  When I came back in March, Celebrate Recovery was starting and I was joined up. After a short slip up 2 weeks into recovery, I have been sober ever since, just over 8 months. 

So today is the day again, Thanksgiving eve, my brothers agree to meet for dinner and drinks before going out drinking. They know I’m in recovery and I was nervous about seeing them. I thought it would be weird.  I just before pulling into the restaurant, I had that strong pull to lose control and had a strong craving for a drink, lots of drinks, and any drugs or women I can get my hands on.  That “LET”S GO! ROCK –N- ROLL!” feeling.  Good news though, it was only a fleeting momentary thought. Michele and I went in. My brothers, their significant others, and my wife had drinks. I had a diet Pepsi. We had dinner and some laughs.  We had horrible service but over all a good time.  My brothers left to go out on the town and Michele and I went home. 

It was cool. They were drinking, I wasn’t.  No speeches or pleas.  Just some light conversation and catching up.  No big deal.

I was talking to Michele about it on the way there and I said I had an impulse control problem. I said that I was trouble.  I was joking and introduced myself to her “Hi, I’m trouble!”  In the past I was full steam ahead into drunkenness.  If there was an awkward pause in conversation I would fill it with a drink or two.  Now I’m comfortable in my own skin. I sit. I listen. I relax.  I’m at peace.  I can talk about drinking and laugh about it but now it is like I know better. 

In recovery I’ve said that I’m addicted to unicorns; I explain that I am chasing after things that don’t exist.   I’m no longer a college student back for Thanksgiving break.  I’m a 43 year old Bible College student, married, with children! I’m sure I could find trouble if I wanted to but I know that I wouldn’t find anything worthwhile.  When I relapsed in early March, after 2 weeks in recovery, I just remember that I felt it wasn’t worth it. My relapse was anti-climactic. I didn’t even have that good a time.  I felt like I let myself down and wanted to be right with God again.  I got back on the wagon and haven’t gotten off. 

I pray every day. I thank God for what I have. I ask for guidance, patience, and strength.  I never feel alone. 

I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

On Thursday people all over America will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving.  The obligatory question always arises. What are you thankful for this year?

I saw a “friend’s” post on Facebook and without naming names or providing exact quotes. They basically stated that they are “so over this holiday”.  They said they are thankful & see family every day already, the food blows, people will judge my food contribution, and something about an animal carcass as a center piece disgusts them. They ended their thoughts with a hashtag something like eff Turkeyday.  

First off: I was EXTREMELY tempted to comment “______, you’re not invited to Thanksgiving.”   You know, short and to the point.   I don’t know this person that well and no, they are not coming to my house.

(Confession:  I friended a lot of people when I was still drinking. I had some wild nights sharing on Facebook over the years, while under the influence too.  I think all those posts have been deleted. I hope.)   

Second: I thought it ironic that they said the “food blows” and then complained that someone would judge their contribution.  

Third: Animal rights can be passionate issue for some people. However, I’ll go with Bible on this one:

Genesis 9:2-3 saysAnd the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.

As for “unclean” animals, those food restrictions are gone with the New Testament (see Acts 10).

So we are having Turkey, or Ham, or Lasagna, or Ziti, or whatever (10 alternative Thanksgiving Dinners. Yikes:

 If you are a guest, deal with it and keep your petty concerns to yourself! 

Dinner is a 2pm! Glad you could make it!.....uh…

Whoa, I went Biblical there……anyway.  

The most distressing thing about my “friend’s” post was the blasé attitude that they had regarding being thankful and the subtle inference that “Thanksgiving is the day we are thankful for family!” 

Now I love my family. They drive me crazy at times and disappoint and frustrate me continually so I can understand where this attitude may arise from.   For instance, My son, Brennan, is extremely bright but has somewhat of an anti-authoritarian streak in him and chose today to misbehave in school so on the cusp of the holiday where we are supposed to gather together and be thankful (for Family!) I have to address a discipline problem.  At the time I most want to reflect on how much I have in regards to family, I just had to remind myself how “blessed” I am with wild teenagers! 

(Actually, my kids are not perfect but they could be far worse.  Truth is they are bright, obedient, healthy, humorous, and “good” kids. )

So I get it.  Family is the original F word but we must remind ourselves of another word that begins with F: Funeral.  My wife, Michele, had similar complaints regarding her parents, Arthur and Mary, and how they drove her crazy.  Although divorced and living separate lives for over 40 years, Mary and Arthur both died within 6 months of each other in 2011.  Michele feels the loss of their absence in her life every day, especially during the holidays. 
So although family may drive you crazy, if you have some that you can spend the day with be thankful.  When you look at the faces gathered around your table, know that one day their chair will be empty and they will be gone from your life forever. 

For fun make a list of those you would like to see gone first!   

Okay, being thankful for family can be a big part of the holiday but it is not the only thing you can be thankful for.  We can be thankful for so many things in our lives: like our friends, our livelihood, our pets, our health, etc.   I was going to share a link to a list of things to be thankful for but I will not subject you to some of the saccharine delights I saw (“Big piles of leaves you’re never too old to jump in!”  Attention seniors: you may be too old to jump in!). 

The bottom line is all about perspective.  When approaching Thanksgiving, let’s lose the attitude and try to find gratitude.  This world is broken.  There is pain, suffering, and death all around us.  However, God made the world a beautiful place. We have to take time to stop and look around us and see the beauty. We have to be grateful for the experiences of pleasure that we have known and still enjoy.  We should not only do this on a Thursday in November. We should do this continually. 

This is going to be the first Thanksgiving that I am not hungover or drunk for since I was a child.  Since surrendering myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I have found the way to change my perspective to one of continual gratitude.  I pray every day to the Lord who loves me. I bask in the forgiveness that Jesus paid for with his life and live to honor and glorify Him.  I am not perfect and need to reorient myself to this perspective quite often but as I walk further in this journey with Christ, I don’t have to go as far to get back on track. 
So, what am I thankful for?  I am thankful for every person, place and thing that was part of the journey that led me to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  

Our lives are journeys. If you have known love in this world, you have much to be thankful for. Be thankful for what you have and for those you love.     

If you want to know love like no other, pray for Jesus to come into your life and be your Lord and Savior.   

John 3:16-17: 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads this.  Thank you to all my friends, family, loved ones, and acquaintances for being part of my journey! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

He’s a real addict…. What’d you call me? Denial and Acceptance.

MT 4 Christ’s tagline is “Personal Testimony of a Former Catholic, Atheist, Episcopalian, Buddhist, Drug Addict: Now Clean and Sober Living for Jesus Christ”.  Say that four times fast! 
Did you? You may have a problem….highly impressionable. 

I recently attended a narcotics anonymous meeting to support a friend.  Okay, I know how that sounds.  “Was your friend’s name?  Marc?”  No, I really have a friend who was giving his testimony and asked me to attend. I’m not on narcotics! ….at least not for a long time…Honestly.

Anyway before my friend spoke, the group went over their guidelines and rules. What I found interesting is that in N.A. they don’t differentiate between drugs and alcohol. If you are in recovery or attending these meetings you have already admitted that you have a problem and N.A. asks that you leave the distinction between addict and alcoholic at the door.  As most of us know, alcohol is a drug.  So I thought that was good guideline. One thing a support group doesn’t need is on faction of the group feeling that their problem is more socially acceptable or “not as bad as” someone else’s problem. 

This tendency to justify ourselves or minimize or responsibility of guilt expands far beyond recovery circles.  It is a basic coping mechanism that allows us to live with ourselves whether you have a substance problem or not. We have all done it.  “It wasn’t that bad.” “I’ve never killed anyone.” or “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  are all examples of justifications that seek to minimize our guilt or reassure ourselves that we are still “good” people.  

Now I know behavior and morality can be judged on a relative scale but the Bible says in Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  So if all have sinned, there are no “good” people.  We all have to answer to God for our sins. The only way we pass God’s judgment is to have faith in Christ who not only paid for our sins on the Cross but also led a sinless life.  If we have faith in Christ, His payment for our sins and his righteousness are imputed to us. 

I say all this because I believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” and that no one comes to the Father (God) except through Him (John 14:16) and I genuinely want anyone that reads this to be saved.     

I also say all this because I am just as guilty as anyone at justifying, minimalizing, or just plain old excusing my bad behaviors.  I hated the idea that some “holier than thou” person was going to tell me what to do, or more accurately, to tell me what I couldn’t do.  The Catholic Church I grew up in said it was wrong to have premarital sex or to get drunk. The movies (like Animal House, Porky’s, and Weird Science) and my own desires told me that it looked like a lot of fun.  So I did what I wanted, which was to drink and to (eventually) have premarital sex.  I knew what I was doing wasn’t right and eventually ran away from the Church and denied God’s existence in order to be comfortable with my lifestyle of selfishness. 

            The problem is when you decide to do what you want over what you know to be right is that the compromises get bigger and bigger.  I think the real gateway drug is alcohol. I know some people don’t cross the line into anything illegal and just get drunk but once you establish taking a drink to relax or feel better you may seek out other experiences that booze doesn’t give you.  Before I started drinking I never thought of “doing drugs” but after you open the door to giving into intoxication it isn’t a difficult transition to marijuana or other drugs.  I held my ground at heroin and crack.

 I saw a movie in health class when I was in junior high or elementary school about kids in New York City doing heroin and the main character dies of an overdose at the end. I didn’t like needles and I didn’t want to die so I didn’t seek out Heroin. I wasn’t going there.   
I tried cocaine in college but I was wary of it. Cocaine had a stigma of a “hardcore” drug that could ruin your life and was expensive. I was on a limited budget in those days and I was happy with booze and everything else so I didn’t chase after coke. 

I may have compromised with cocaine but drew the line at Crack. It was the 1990’s, ICE-T and Chris Rock were in New Jack City, and told me all about the dangers of Crack.  Crack, like Heroin, had a junkie kind of stigma to it. I was a college student, I wasn’t going there.  
Looking at the last few paragraphs, it may seem like I’m trying to paint myself in a good light but really I’m not. I just like to hold on to the few good decisions I made in my youth.  I thank God for whatever fear, trepidation, or discernment that led me to avoid making these mistakes because I could share volumes on the mistakes I did make. 

Am I concerned about my reputation? Of course! No one wants to think people are judging, looking down on, or (even worse) pitying them.  However, since coming to faith in Christ I have found freedom from my issues by confessing them and I am more concerned with God’s opinion of me than that of man’s. 

Part of coming to faith in Christ is humbling yourself.  The Bible says in James 4:6 “…God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” and in James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”   For me, humbling myself before the Lord was to admit that I had a problem with alcohol and going into recovery.  I had managed to lay down all other drugs in my life years ago but booze was socially acceptable and legal.  I was a somewhat responsible worker and father but I liked to drink to excess. After coming to Christ, I knew I shouldn’t be turning to booze to feel better or to stop boredom.  I could fool myself and had for years but booze was a major part of my life and at times it wasn’t pretty.  I wanted to be free but couldn’t even conceive of it. However, now I have put my faith in Christ and I see the truth of Matthew 19:26 where Jesus says ”With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  

That is the message of hope I want to share.  My life wasn’t unmanageable ( in my opinion at the time) but I was a slave to a habit when I could be free. All I had to do was to trust in Christ to free.

I went to my first recovery meeting thinking I was really trying to get myself right with God and that I didn’t really have a problem but was willing to give up booze in order to be closer to Christ. In my head, I was thinking that I was in recovery for sanctification reasons only.  I was so in love with God (or maybe I just thought I was so awesome) that I was willing to give up booze to show it.  I was going to be a credit to the recovery group and help the unfortunate ones that really had a problem get closer to Christ like I was.  You could call my state of mind, self-delusion or having visions of grandeur but the common term for what I was suffering from was denial. 

It may have been a well-defined partial denial, but like pregnancy, you either are or you aren’t.  I knew I had a problem but step one of recovery was to “admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life was unmanageable.”    
The words powerless and unmanageable were a real problem for me. I had the power to stop drinking for a couple of months at a time if I tried. I felt as if my life was definitely manageable. I was managing my drinking for 25 years, sometimes not as well as others but I felt I was managing.  However, I wasn’t there to fight the process.  Powerlessness means failing.  Staying sober was something I was powerless to maintain. I always would find a reason to give in, that was unmanageable. 

Like I said, that is step one. I would imagine, that like me, that these terms are a stumbling block for many people contemplating going into recovery.  The best way to determine if you have a problem is to get an outside opinion.  The national council of alcoholism and drug dependency has a test, to help make a determination of whether or not a person is an alcoholic at this link: . Chances are you know if you have a problem.

 The good news is you can do something about it.  Call on the power of Christ to change your life.  Contact your local church or look online for a Celebrate Recovery group near you.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

8 months sober - Lean not on your own understanding

Me most likely at my heaviest ever (with Son Brennan) 2008,? before Christ

 I got my start as a field technician in Schenectady and was there from 2010 to 2012. Since then I have been garaging in Albany.  Today I was working and had the occasion to go to my old Garage in Schenectady. While I was there I saw a few old work buddies and exchanged pleasantries.  At the end of the day one of the techs I garage with said that some of the guys in Schenectady were asking him who "that tech" was.  He explained that it was me and that I had lost weight.  They told him that they didn't even recognize me.  I  am not surprised, You see I am a new creation
Me Halloween 2015 MS 5k, after Christ

I was born again in 2010 and basked in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ but was still under the power of alcohol. I would even get drunk and rejoice at the power of Christ to save me because I knew that I was not good enough to save myself by a long shot.  I was so in love with God that I dove into the Bible, found a born again church,  and tried to learn more and more about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I went to church Sundays and Wednesday nights to learn about and worship the Lord.  I even joined the Bible College Rock Solid offers on Tuesday Nights. I eventually became an usher and then I manned the audio-visual duties on the worship team.  Even though I was committed to serve Christ and know Him more, I would give into my dark desires for lust and alcohol.  I was deeply convicted when I would read the Bible that I was not living a fully Christian life but I thought that giving up my evil ways was just impossible.  My thought life was filled with obsessive thoughts about the past and preoccupied with finding release through euphoric experiences.

Even though I had my dark secrets, I was still committed to follow Christ so I kept pursuing Him in Bible Study, worship and prayer.  This spring at church, Bob Costello announced that the Church was starting a 12 step program that was Christ based called Celebrate Recovery (now Celebrate Freedom).  I remember working the A.V. at the back of the church and feeling that this program was for me. I had the conviction that not only would it be appropriate for my issues but I sort of had a fatalistic feeling like "as if it were meant to be" vibe. So I was in.  I worked the program successfully and I have given my personal testimony more than once.  I am over 8 months sober so I shared it again tonight,   I also led the group in singing two worship songs, playing my guitar!

Anyway, tonight's discussion question was: How has relying on "your own understanding" caused problems in your life? Be specific.

I shared : You know as you grow older you try to make sense of the world and you try to discover what is going to make me happy?  You think that if you meet someone fall in love and get married you will be happy. Or you think if you get a good job, or a house, or a car, or have kids that you will feel as if you have arrived. But I can tell you that I got the house, the  wife, the kids, the cars, the swimming pool, but I was still lost. The American dream didn't mean much when my son died.  Material possessions are meaningless when death comes calling.  Disillusioned and discontented with the world system I chased after euphoric experiences, sex, meditation, and intoxication because my understanding was that "feeling good was good enough".   So I would be the best worker and father I could be but when the kids went to bed it was "me time".  I even took up Buddhism for 5 years trying to gain understanding and wisdom of how to control the suffering in my world.  So years passed with the cycle of pain and intoxication.

Thankfully God pulled me out of it. He called me and I went to Him.  It took me 4 years to surrender the alcohol to Him but now that I have my thought life is virtually free of the temptations I used to be assailed by. I earned my Associates Degree in Biblical Studies and am currently working on my Bachelors.   I am going on a mission trip to Africa in February. I don't know what God's plan is for my life but I will try to follow His will for my life instead of my own.  So I found freedom in surrender.  I am done following my understanding.

The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  

People may think I have gone off the deep end when it comes to Jesus but I know my experience and my relationship with Christ.  It is not pie in the sky. It is not wishful thinking.  It is a life changing reality. I never could conceive of a place where alcohol wasn't in my life. I had tried to use moderation and every other method to control it in my life. Nothing worked.  I surrendered my will to Christ and now I am free. I am becoming the man that God intended me to be because of the Holy Spirit that lives in me,

If you are helpless in an area of your life or just know that the world doesn't satisfy, surrender yourself to Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "  

If one word of this inspires even one person to establish or deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, angels in heaven will rejoice. Holy Spirit bless those who see this and work in their lives like you are working in mine.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You don't have to be a Harvard Graduate to understand truth.

Tonight was my last session of Church History 3, and Pastor Romano presented the class with the original Harvard crest.

 As You can see the Word Veritas is surrounded by the words Christo Et Ecclesia which means Truth for Christ and the Church.  The First Rules of Harvard College stated "Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, 'to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3),' and therefore lay Christ at the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning, And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom. let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Prov 2:3)."

Harvard has changed. The crest only contains Veritas now.  Time marches on and Christ has to go....let's not discriminate... we can turn our backs on tradition... history...... The LORD..... yada dee yada da.  This is a good rant but this is not my rant.  

With that said, I was greatly encouraged to see that there is a group of students, faculty and ministers that "encourages students to pursue Truth, connect their academic and vocational life to Christ, and emerge with clarity and hopeful vision for our world."   Their website is  and I haven't dug deep but it looks like they are genuine in trying to reconcile Christ and people that have academic or scientific misgivings about the gospel. If you have questions, you may find your answer.  

I was quite taken with the statement of the First Rules of Harvard, above, particularly the phrases " the main end of his life and studies is, 'to know God and Jesus Christ "  and  "Christ ..., as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning,".  These simple phrases are profound statements of purpose and truth.   

Our purpose :  to know God and Jesus Christ.

Our truth:   Christ ..., as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning,

Reviewing Harvard's Rules, reminded me of a fundamental concept that only recently was impressed upon me: All truth is God's truth.   Apparently the founding father's of Harvard knew this.  The way I understand it is, that God created everything and that everything that exists and the way everything works and interacts has been set in motion by God for His purposes.  

The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand," - Isaiah 14:24

The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil. - Proverbs 16:4

"I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. - Job 42:2

So anything we try to understand should be examined in the light of The God that created the universe and who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to reconcile man to God by paying for our transgressions on the cross and by imputing His perfect righteousness to those who have faith in Jesus.  

Granted you can gain understanding of scientific principles and facts that have been proven through  direct experimentation and observation. We can learn a lot. We can understand a bunch.  However questions like: "What happens when I die?" and " What is my purpose in life?"  can only be understood when we consider the God who made us. He has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures (The Bible) and in the flesh (Jesus Christ).  

As Harvard's rules state: " the Lord only giveth wisdom. let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him" , so seek the wisdom that only the Lord can give.  Read the Bible. Pray for understanding. Pray for salvation.  If you know Christ already, I hope you know that there is always more to learn and I hope you dig deeper.  The revelations of truth are as limitless as the Lord is infinite.