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.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Prayers for Paris.

My family is at a local theater enjoying a production of Shakespeare's Richard III. I happen to check the internet and see the news of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. The reports are saying that there are up to 130 people dead at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

If you hear someone say that these people were killed in the name of God, know that to be the lie that it is.

Christ told us to love one another.  We are never promised tomorrow and we don't know when or how death will come.  We can find peace and life eternal in Christ alone.
My prayers go out to all the victims, their families,  friends, and the first responders.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celebrate Recovery? Celebrate Freedom.

Thursday is recovery night in my life and with my schedule sometimes I get tired and see going as an obligation that just has to be done. I put on a happy face, lead worship, and try to encourage others.   Bob teaches on a principle ( or step) of recovery and then we have a small group discussion.  When Bob asks if anyone has issues or needs prayer, I usually don't feel the need to share my petty complaints and let others get ministered to. Part of tonight's lesson had to do with playing the blame game and Bob went off script and asked the group "What are you whining about? You know....You need some cheese with that whine? What are you whining about?" 

I shared with the group. Boy did I share.  I had to preface my whine with a disclaimer.  "Now I don't do this anymore.... I used to but I don't anymore... I don't whine about it.... I don't give voice to it... I try to stay positive but my thought life sometimes is caught up in this."  After the disclaimer I let loose with a the flow of consciousness of my internal monologue of my fears, frustrations, and failures,  As I confessed my inner most thoughts I admitted to the faulty logic and lies that my thought life was based on.  I said that I was addicted to unicorns..... I was enamored with the idea of things that didn't exist.  Walter Mittyesque fantasy and general discontentment with life and myself all got exorcised. You see as these illogical thoughts and feelings rise up, I was pretty effective at shooting them down and moving forward but I was fighting alone.  

That's where the power in community can really set you free. You need your brothers or sisters in Christ to know you are human too. You struggle with stuff like everyone else and in confessing it the power in those secret thoughts and frustrations are dispersed.   

Psalm 55:22 says "Cast your burden on the LordAnd He shall sustain you;" 

James 5:16 says "Confess your trespasses  to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." and 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says "Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up"

That is why recovery can set you free: community.  Those who isolate themselves hide their hurts, pain, and secrets.  God counsels us to come to Him with our burdens and to lean on one another.  God will never leave us or forsake us but sometimes we need to confide in one another and get healed.  

So many things happened at recovery that blessed me and I came out grateful for all I had taken for granted coming in.  I will be 8 months sober come Monday November 16th and I never thought I would ever want to be sober that long but as I walk this walk with the Lord I am further and further from the old man I used to be,  I am not white knuckling this sobriety I have learned that booze and drugs are simply a lie. Looking for comfort in anything without God is an empty pursuit. My heart is changing. I have a genuine desire just to abide with the Lord through His word, service and through community with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  If you are reading this and drink and get drunk on a regular basis, you have a problem. Surrendering to drunkenness is a response to fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. Alcohol is a depressant. You feel happy for a short time but it all ends in dehydration, pain, and confusion.  You are looking for rest.  Find it in Christ.  Take off the chains of addiction.  Set yourself free by putting your trust in Christ.   Jeremiah 29:13  "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."  When you seek God you will find Him. Seek the freedom only Christ can give. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

No Man Left Behind - Happy Veterans Day.

On this Veteran's Day I ran in the 10th Annual Valatie NY Veterans Day 5K in my on going mission to recondition my body from the life of overindulgence and sin I was caught in for most of my life.  I jogged for a short time in my 30's but never was much of a runner, I placed 66 out of 109 with a time of 30:18 with a pace of 9:45, a nice steady run. I have had better times in a few 5K's I have run recently but I am becoming content in just running a steady race.  Running sure can humble you. A pair of boys,  9 &10 year olds, and an 11 year old girl were just in front of me at the finish line.  So if speed comes I'll let it but I am not going to kill myself to get 63rd place! 

I only recently decided to let go of alcohol from my life entirely and treat my body like the vessel that carries the Holy Spirit that it is.  The truth is to my shame I at one time tipped the scales at 320lbs!  I wasn't there long because I knew that over 300 was way too much, even at 6 feet tall.  So I started to exercise, stopped drinking, took pills, and watched what I ate and got to 290 lbs.  Last fall I had got down to 270lbs, I wasn't in recovery at the time so on Thanksgiving I was encouraged to have a beer or two.  I only had 2 that day but man when you open the door to seeking comfort from anything but God you can go wrong fast.  The next thing I knew I was drinking 8-10 beers on a daily basis, feeling like crap and repenting each morning and falling right back into it come sundown the same day.  So after a few months I was back to 290 again, depressed, convicted, low.  Luckily God put it in retired Pastor Bob Costello to start a Celebrate Recovery program in our Church back in March. When Bob announced it in front of the congregation he might as well had been talking just to me. I knew this was for me.  

So I went and was 2 weeks sober when I got called away for a rock and roll weekend in Hunter mountain, a bunch of 50 somethings reliving classic rock glory. I was new to Recovery and I was too weak to even try to stay sober in the midst of such a gathering.  Maybe I could have tried, but I'l be honest and say I didn't. I even picked up a couple of packs of smokes, even though I had quit years a go. I figured when in Rome... just do it, all in.  Well, truth is even though I drank to excess, I didn't have a "great time, it was okay but I felt like it wasn't worth it and I was really convicted on Sunday march 22nd that I was done for real. I reported my failures to the recovery group thinking I would be condemned for relapsing after 2 weeks  but was met with understanding and support. I am happy to say I haven't had a drink or cigarette since.  I completed the 12 steps and have joined the leadership team for the latest session of Celebrate Freedom (because Bob did a discipleship class after the program and we didn't meet every single week as Celebrate Recovery, we had to choose a different name).  A few weeks into the program I picked up my guitar and now lead the group in worship each week!  Don't get excited, Eric Clapton I am not, pretty messy but with feeling for sure. 

Anyway, since entering recovery I have become more disciplined with exercise, morning prayer and bible study.  Since March I have gotten my weight down to 250 lbs, and gotten some definition in my arms, legs, shoulders, and stomach, following tips from Men's Health magazine.  It is a work in progress but I am fighting the good fight having progressed from walking to running, having completed seven 5Ks since September.  My next scheduled 5K  isn't til December unless I sign up for another in the interim, I would but work is picking up and overtime is calling to help pay for my missions trip to Africa.  Oh yeah, going to Zambia in February for 2 weeks, also Zimbabwe or Botswana details still getting hashed out.  I am also working on my Bachelor degree in Biblical Studies at Vision Christian Bible College Through Rock Solid Church.  

Anyway, on this Veterans's Day I would like to take the time to thank my father, Mathew Clark, for his service in Viet Nam and the Navy Reserves during Desert Storm.  Also I would like to thank my brother Michael for his service in Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti 1994).  You guys risked your lives serving this country and I will never fully understand what it is like knowing that you could be sent into a situation where you don't come back alive.  I know our family was very fortunate that you both returned home safely without serious injury.  

Military service reminds me of the sacrifice Jesus made, living a sinless life and paying for all mankind's sins on the cross at Calvary. Jesus gave his life for us. The spirit of brotherhood that military service can instill is summarized in John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."   Service men and women at times have laid down their lives for their brothers in arms.  Acts of bravery should be recognized and I would encourage anyone reading this to thank and veterans or active service ment and women for their sacrifices for our freedom. 

With that said let's please use the freedom that so many have paid for with their lives to share the gospel. As great as life in the United States can be, it only lasts until we take our last breath. Without Christ, people are condemned to eternity in Hell.  We need to share the gospel boldly and let people know how serious it is to become a member of Christ's kingdom.  Jesus said in Matthew 13:45 -46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."   So the kingdom of heaven, is worth everything we have! When we die we hold onto nothing from this world. If we die without Christ, in Hell we will curse every moment of our existence. There will be no fond memories of our old lives. We won't be partying with our old buddies.  Luke 13:28 says "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out."   So share the gospel, save a soul.  Saving lives are heroic, but how futile it will be to save a life only to know that we failed to act to save others from Hell. We need to save our friends, family , and neighbors from Hell. We will boldly fight for the souls of all we encounter.  We should leave no man behind.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

7th Street Park Evangelist message & personal testimony

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A Matter of Life or Death:

Evangelist Message Delivered September 20, 2015, 7th Street Park Hudson New York

My name is Marc Clark and I was born and raised in Hudson. In my youth, I often passed through this park going from my friend’s apartment back to my parent’s house on Green Street; usually drunk, high on drugs or both. In fact, my friend lived on the top floor of that building on the corner and sometimes late at night we would go up to the roof to drink and smoke weed.  

I wish I could say those were just things I did in the wild days of my youth but the years passed and there were a lot of changes to my life but the booze stayed with me. I denied that my drinking was a problem for 25 years.  However, I am happy to say that I am now free of my addiction and the reason is because of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The Bible says Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  NKJV

I am living proof that this is true. Jesus Christ has the power to change your life forever.

Before I made Jesus my Lord and Savior, I couldn’t even imagine a life without alcohol.  The problem with bad habits though is that your habits begin to define you.  As much as I liked to say I didn’t have a problem, at times my whole life revolved around getting drunk. Booze was a reward for hard work and a remedy for my troubles.  I was incapable of living without alcohol and it caused all sorts of problems with my health, my mental state, and my family.   The worst thing is that at times I knew I should give it up but I felt powerless and hopeless to change.  I struggled for years trying to come to a place where I could be free of it. I would change from beer to liquor to wine and back again, trying to find the secret recipe to moderation.  I would dry out for a while but I would always go back to it.  Even though I was living the American dream, I felt empty and alone. I was depressed and anxiety ridden. Life seemed meaningless so I always turned back to booze. 
However, one day I was scanning through the radio stations in my truck at work and landed on a Christian station with a pastor preaching. Being an intellectually evolved atheist, I thought to myself “This will be good for a laugh!” So I listened.
 The pastor was telling a story about his daughter and how he was sending her off to college and about the love that he had for her. How he had raised her from a baby and now it was time to send her off into the world.  He said that his love for his daughter was so strong that He would do absolutely anything for her but he had to admit that there were things that he didn’t know about her. There was a lot of lost time: Time spent at work, Time at school, Time apart.  He wondered where all the years had gone.
The pastor went on to explain that unlike him, God knows everything about us and there isn’t a second of time in our lives that He couldn’t recall without perfect clarity. God knows everything we have done and every thought that goes through our mind. 

The Bible says:

Psalm 139
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. NKJV

So God knows all our secrets. He has seen us at our best. Unfortunately, He also knows every lousy thing we’ve ever done.  He knows the things we’ve taken. He knows the lies we’ve told.  He knows our hateful moments. He knows our lust. He has seen our sins.

For Bible says for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 NKJV

The pastor explained that besides having to live with the aftermath of our sins in our daily lives, there are eternal consequences to our sin.

For the Bible says:
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27 NKJV

We are not annihilated. We don’t just black out to nothingness when we die. We are not reincarnated. We don’t get a second chance. We only get one life to live. We have to make an account for our lives when we die.

As humans we are not perfect. We mess up. God saw that we were lost in our sins and unable to help ourselves.

The amazing thing is that even though He knows all of our faults and our crimes, He loves us. He is willing to forgive us. He wants to be with us forever. That is why he sent Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross for our sins. 

As the Bible says:

"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24. NIV


“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 NKJV

Jesus received our judgment on the cross. He paid our debt with His life in order that we can live in God’s presence forever. 

The Bible says 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.” John 3:16 NKJV

I remember hearing this verse that day in my truck as if for the first time. I finally understood that God knows me personally and he loves me.  He was willing to forgive me of all my sins if I would simply say yes to Jesus and ask Him to be my Lord and Savior.  I didn’t have to do penance or a life time of good works to make up for my mistakes. I only had to put my faith in Jesus. When the pastor on the radio invited his listeners to say a prayer asking Jesus into their lives, I followed along changing my life forever. 

I immediately felt the burden of my sin be lifted from me. I was no longer guilty in God’s eyes. I had been washed clean by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I am now a Co-heir with Christ in God’s eternal kingdom.  I am forgiven and there is nothing I or anyone else can do to change that.  

For Jesus said I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,” John 10:28 NLT.

So I know when I die, I will simply go on to eternal life with Jesus.  However, I started living the life God has planned for me progressively since the day I named Jesus the Lord of my life.  Since that day, my heart has changed. My anxiety and depression left me. I no longer have restless nights and sleep soundly almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.  I’m not perfect. I still mess up. I sin but when I do it grieves my heart and I confess it directly to Jesus knowing as the Bible says:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

That is what has been happening in my life since I have been saved by Jesus. I am sober for six months for the first time in 25 years. Sin doesn’t have the power over me as it once did. I am truly free for the first time in my life.

Now, I know you might be thinking. “That’s great for you, Marc. You found a way to clean up your act, Finally! But I don’t have problems like yours. I have made good choices for myself and my life is great. I don’t need God’s help. Why do I need Jesus?” 

I have dedicated my life to Jesus and I am compelled to tell others of the great danger that await those who die without Jesus in their lives. 

For the Bible says: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  John 3:18

And, of also of non-believers:

These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” 2 Thessalonians 1:9

And also

“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.“ Matthew 13:41-42

The Bible is speaking about Hell. I know lots of people joke about Hell but I don’t think there is anything funny about everlasting destruction in a furnace of fire where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.  These verses describe anguish and agony that lasts forever. Your beer drinking buddies might be there but you will be consumed by fire and pain that never ends.  Hell is not a Garth Brook’s song about friends in low places. There are no friends in Hell.  There is only opposition.  Like a caged animal you will lash out at everything you encounter.  You will curse every moment of your life on earth when it is revealed how foolish you were for never going to God. The pleasures you knew on the earth will be distant bitter memories and will be corrupted by the truth that they were the snares that kept you from God.  You will be filled with hatred for everyone you ever knew because they didn’t save you.  They didn’t tell you the truth. 

Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6

There is only one way to God and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.  The powers in darkness are growing in this world and the name of Christ is reviled now more than ever.  Purity and goodness are mocked and ridiculed.  Christian believers are going to their deaths at the hands of ISIS rather than renouncing their faith in Christ.  Would they do this for a lie? No! They know the truth; that the only lasting life is through Jesus and that their existence here on earth is only the beginning of the eternal life promised to those who believe.  The second those believers lost their lives to these terrorists, they were in His presence.  As Jesus said to the thief while both were dying on the Cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43 NKJV

This is your choice: Life or Death. If you come to Jesus you will be forgiven of all your sins and have eternal life. Jesus has the power to change you, to set you free. That life can start today. You don’t have to be a perfect person.  You just have to ask Jesus into your life. 

If you feel compelled to make this change in your life, please don’t wait. Talk with one of us and we will pray with you. Thank you and God bless you.