Saturday, March 26, 2016

Power of Prayer in Recovery.

In our Celebrate group, one of our guys said he was having doubts about God and didn't want to come to our weekly meeting.  He came the next week and admitted that he only had a single day sober but we supported and encouraged him all the same and he seemed to be all right.  

This week he contacted me about going to the meeting  via text and asked if it was all right to come if he had been drinking.  I asked if he was drunk. He said no but he smelled like booze.  I told him not to drink anymore, to shower and brush his teeth, and I would pick him up.  The meeting was 3 hours away so I figured oh well better at the meeting then home alone drinking.  

I picked him up and he admitted to drinking since we spoke but he would behav himself.  I wasn't thrilled ( or sure about what to do) with the prospect of taking someone under the influence to the meeting. Part of me was ready to tell him to go sleep it off and to come next week but I decided to bring him so we could counsel him.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen and frankly I was annoyed with having to worry about his behavior.  

Fortunately, he didn't act outlandishly during the teaching portion and was respectful.during the small group discussion. He admitted that he had been drinking and he didn't know how he was going to move forward. He was receptive to advice but seemed to be consigned to his failure. He said that he knew he was killing himself slowly but was hopeless on doing anything to stop it.  His sponsor and I spoke on the power of God to change him and urged him to give himself back to the lord.  He had left the Lord but the Lord hadn't left him.  He broke down and cried that he wanted to be restored but didn't think he could do it again. We asked if we could pray for him.  His sponsor and I prayed over him to let The Holy Spirit inside him drive out this spirit of hopeless addiction.  As his sponsor prayed, I prayed in tongues feeling the spirit move me to.  (Okay I know most people think praying in tongues is charlatan tricks or just insanity, but that is not my experience.  I am no expert and would refer anyone interested in the subject to check out Robert Engelhardt's book "Speaking in Tongues: Heavens Language" ).  Then I prayed over him (in English!) for him to surrender to the Lord and to know that God's infinite love and forgiveness was enough to cover his failure and that the Lord's power could change his heart and mind to break these chains that were binding him if he would  just let go and let God. 

He thanked us for praying for him and I took him home.  I told him to get rid of any alcohol he had but he advised me that he had drank it all.  Although I prayed for him, I was not to hopeful. He lives alone and could do whatever he wanted. His attitude towards drinking and smoking weed ( "out of weed too, Marc! He had shared.) was pretty bad so I was afraid that he might fall I spite of his willingness to look for help.  The next day my fears seemed confirmed.   

"I try and I try to no avail."  He posted on his wall.  

I replied with “Deuteronomy 4: 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”

I didn't get a reply.  Work took me away for the day and after I went straight to church for a Goid Friday service.  

His sponsor was there and he asked if I had heard what happened.  My heart sank.  "He checked into detox. The Holy Spirit was there working last night when we prayed over him!"

"Praise the Lord! 

Unlike most Good Friday services, my church's was a prayerful worship filled celebration and I prayed and worshipped with great enthusiasm last night!   

I know praying for others might make you feel awkward but God can move all things and he is listening. So keep praying! 

Friday, March 25, 2016


March 22, 2015 was the day I woke up hung over, prayerfully, for the last time.  I had entered the Celebrate recovery program at Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY two weeks prior and had been excited at the prospect of cleaning up my life but circumstances had put me in an environment where I thought the pressure to not drink was too much, so I didn’t even try.

I wish I could say that the last time I went drinking was an epic party to end all parties but it wasn’t.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I didn’t say I didn’t have fun.  There was live music, nice people, lots jokes, and laughs.  There were also drugs, desperation, dysfunction, and the signs of 30 years of indulgence in the faces of those in attendance.  The ravages of alcohol and drugs and the emptiness of trying to recreate moments of youthful exuberance were all around me.   Even in the moment, I saw this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, or even wanted to do anymore, as a Christian.  The morning after my hangover wasn’t that bad but my soul ached that I had broken my fellowship with Christ.  I repented that morning, asking God to forgive me for walking back into the darkness and to help me not to go back ever again.

God is good to forgive us our sins if we ask (1 John 1:9) and even though I failed, I felt that God had answered my prayer.  I went to the next Recovery meeting confessing my failure expecting criticism but finding acceptance.  I left with a determination not to fall again and to surrender my life daily to God. 

God has been faithful.  I haven’t fallen.  I had never conceived of the possibility of living without alcohol for a year.  Some of you, who read this, may not either.  However, if you trust in God, pray to Him to help you, and continually turn to Him to lead you; He will set you free.

I have completed the Celebrate Recovery program and now lead worship at our meetings (NOW with live mic and electric guitar! WHAT?!?!?) .    I have begun teaching, on occasion, because I have been there, I get it, and I know what is possible if you put yourself into it.   If you are in the Hudson area on Thursday nights, we meet at 6:30 pm at Rock Solid Church. 

More importantly, I stand as a sign post pointing to the one that can save you, heal you, and free you: Jesus Christ.  It’s great to get sober but He can do so much more.  He has revealed to me that getting sober was only the beginning of a new life in partnership with him.  With Christ, I have earned an Associate’s degree in Biblical studies, conquered the fear of public speaking, and gone on mission to Africa.  In my journey, I have gained continuing revelation of truth and my purpose in life.  He has revealed to me the errors in my thinking and changed my priorities to be a faithful follower, husband and father.  

I don’t know what issues, problems, hang ups, or concerns you may have.  But I know this: Christ cares about you. He loves you. And He can give you new life.  This Sunday we celebrate His Resurrection: the proof that He is the Son of God and everything He said is the truth.  This Sunday can be the day you can start a journey that ends in joy and eternal life.  I invite you to celebrate His Resurrection this Sunday at Rock Solid Church; services are at 8:30 & 11 am.  For information about our church go to:

I wish all who read this all the best and I pray that you let Christ be the one to lead you in this life and beyond in His eternal Kingdom.  God Bless You!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's DAY 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to ALL!  I wish everyone a joyous, festive, and safe day.  I also would encourage those celebrating to recognize that St. Patrick’s Day is more than just celebrating a national heritage; it is the celebration of the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life that was brought to the people of Ireland.  Below I am sharing an excerpt from David Jeremiah’s book “Upward Call”, that I hope you will find as informative and inspirational as I did. Erin Go Bragh!

“Patrick’s Troubles
“Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4:10
Today is the day that the patron saint of Ireland Saint Patrick is honored.  A native of Britain, he was captured in the late fourth century A.D. by Irish pirates at the age of sixteen and enslaved for six years in Ireland. During that time he committed himself to Christianity. He escaped and returned to his family in Britain where a few years later, he had a vision of the Irish calling him to return and minister to them.

            Rather than resenting his years as a slave to the Irish, Patrick used the time as a shepherd to contemplate what it meant to know Christ, what it meant to know God’s forgiveness.  He left Britain as an unconverted teenager but returned as a believer in Christ. Without those six years of suffering, who knows how different Patrick’s life may have been. And who knows how many Irish might have never heard the Gospel through Patrick’s ministry in Ireland in the 5th century?

            Times of trouble in life, be they brief or extended, require a change in perspective.  Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” we must ask, “What is God doing in my life? What does He want me to learn in this situation?”  “   -David Jeremiah from Upward Call    

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Bloggers blog right? or write? RIGHT!  
I have been gone too long. I need to share to tell you, and to remind myself, of all the wonderful things the Lord has done for me.

Well I made it back alive from my mission trip to Africa.  My life was never really threatened but we are never promised tomorrow and I suppose there were plenty of moments in my trip where my life could have ended:

 plane crashes (6 flights in total),

disease (Ebola screenings!),

street violence (I’m assuming Soldiers/police in downtown Harare and in the Shop Rite in Livingstone carry AK-47s for show),

falling to my death from a fool hardy trip halfway down a 500 foot gorge (I was wise enough to turn back when I realized that Crocs didn’t offer the best footing and that it wasn’t  worth it.  An exhausted companion who did the entire trek later confirmed “It was stupid!” Apparently the river below didn’t offer much more than the view from above, except swarms of mosquitoes and flies. )

However, the Lord watched over me and I am safely back home.

It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. The fact is dedicating two weeks of my life solely for the Lord’s purposes was one of the greatest things I have ever done.   I felt like I was my ideal self:  all my time could be categorized as working for the Lord or proclaiming the gospel and my personal testimony.   All throughout the trip I felt I was being led by the Holy Spirit. Every devotional or gospel message seemed to lead to the next in a purposeful unfolding that made everything I encounter seem truly momentous: AS IF IT WERE MEANT TO BE!!! 

The mission  team from my church were united in spirit and purpose with no division or conflicts which isn’t always the case with large groups of diverse people (16).  I found a new level of respect for Pastor Jaron Halsted and Pastor Mike Lambert as they ably lead and ministered to the group with great skill. 

The team spent a week in Harare Zimbabwe where we did concrete and tile work that would help support an orphanage that was funded by Pastor Ephiel Mukamuri of Logos Rhema Ministries. Pastor Ephiel welcomed the team into his home and was a most gracious host providing for all the teams needs during our visit.  While in Zimbabwe, I spoke at Pastor Ephiel’s church and two schools that he supports sharing my personal testimony and the Gospel.   We ended our time in Zimbabwe with a picnic with the orphans, dancing, and praising the name of Jesus in song.   

The team then went to Livingstone Zambia where we did brick and mortar work for a school that the Temple of Power church is building.  Pastor Nelly Chibwela opened up her home and heart to the team richly providing for our needs during our visit.   While in Zambia I preached at Temple of Power Church and at Pastor Buster Tembo’s House of Testimony Church.  Near the end of our trip the team crossed the border into Botswana for a day long Safari, where we took a river Safari and then hopped into trucks going into the bush!  The African landscape was graced by spectacular blue skies and sunshine as the team spied, herds of elephants, lions, wart hogs, baboons, crocodiles, hippos, impalas, lynx, and cheetahs.  Our final day in Zambia we went to the awesome splendor that is Victoria Falls. 

My time in Africa was well spent and I don’t regret it but in life sometimes things aren’t always so wonderful. 

The truth is my wife, who doesn’t share my zeal for missions or evangelism, was not happy with my decision to go to Africa.  I had made a determined decision to go regardless of her feelings and she barley communicated with me while I was away. What made matters even worse was that Michele suffers from recurring kidney stones and infections. She was hospitalized just before my trip but she was out when I left, granted with a subsequent appointment to remove a stint while I was to be away.  Things took a turn for the worse and she had to be hospitalized while I was away, another stint had to be put in.  She was extremely angry for what she sees as me abandoning her.  Upon my return , she was cold telling me she had contacted a lawyer in regards to getting a divorce.  She was also very ill. She refused to go to the Hospital that day but after a night of vomiting and not being able to keep anything down we were headed back to Albany Medical Center.    

While I was in Africa, I had left under the strain of a spouse who didn’t fully support me and I could understand why some people leave their families, or some people go into the mission field for good.  The problems of my life back home were gone, geographically distant and removed.   I really felt the urge to leave, find a nice Christian woman, and spend our lives being missionaries.  However, the Holy Spirit was leading me while in Africa. The messages I heard were about forgiveness, hope, and love.  I strained and prayed mightily for guidance but as much as I was taken with the life of a missionary and preacher that I had come to experience everything I heard told me to go back home and minister to my wife, to show her the love of Christ that has changed my life so much.  I sulkily agreed that this was what the Holy Spirit was telling me to do, so I reluctantly agreed to go home, apologize to Michele, and to begin to honor, love and obey her as our wedding vows commanded.  

So I apologized and started to do things to be there for my wife, reluctantly agreeing to stop going to Bible college to be there for her.   I took her to her doctor appointments and started doing things around the house to get things in order.  I still had fantasies about running off with some Christian woman and being a missionary but I decided to serve my wife regardless of my irrational feelings.  Understand me when I say I was really grieved about this conflict between my desires and what God was telling me to do but I also felt good about being there for Michele and getting the house in order (AS IF IT WERE MEANT TO BE).   

I’m happy to report that after days of speaking words of encouragement and serving my wife I had a revelation about my irrational thoughts.  I discovered that all my thoughts of running out of my marriage were just insane flights of fantasy that I had given power to by dwelling on.  I realized that in my mind leaving my wife and finding love elsewhere was built as an option to consider so I had opened a door to sin.  It’s the tenth commandment : You shall not covet (Exodus 20:17).  I was wanting things that weren’t mine and it was wrong.  As a married man, I was supposed to love my wife like Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). I haven’t been faithful to my wife like I should have been.   God was calling me to repent.
I am happy to say that Michele has fully recovered from her infection and that she has forgiven me.  I have made it plain to her that I am going to love honor and obey her to the best of my abilities and things are going well. 

I was chasing after God relentlessly to the exclusion of my wife.  I felt the call to the mission field and went in faith.  My visions of a revival sparked by my visit to Africa weren’t realized but the Holy Spirit spoke to me. Apparently, God wanted to get me alone for a while to show me what was important. Galatians  5:22-23 says” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” I have spent two and a half years learning about God and faith but hadn’t put the lessons I had learned into practice in my marriage.  God sent me to Africa to show me that He is awesome and ever present and to tell me to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in my life and marriage.  .

I know I will be challenged and I might fail sometimes. I know that I may never get my wife on board with the Spirit-filled Christian life that I want to live. She may tire of me and leave me but I am going to try to do God’s will for my marriage.

Pastor Mike’s wife, Sue Lambert, had to endure 8 years of marriage to him before he gave himself to the Lord. Now he is a Pastor!

In the Bible, Joseph was in prison for years before he was raised to prominence and saved his family and the entire nation of Egypt.   Moses spent 40 years in the desert serving the Lord and never set foot in the Promised Land.  Paul was rendered blind when Christ was revealed to him with no knowledge that his sight would be restored and he would go on to give his life spreading the gospel. 

The point is serving God isn’t without hardship and it is not about receiving a reward here on earth (Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.). 

I am going to try to do what God would have me do in my life and marriage without the expectation of reward.  I am going to serve, honor and love my wife as an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ.  .    

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Faith on 2 Continents: Off to Africa

Well today is the day! In a few hours I will be on a plane off to Africa.  The last few weeks have been crazy: getting acclimated to a new crew at work, hitting a deer on the Taconic parkway, rushing Michele to the hospital with a kidney infection, doing 4 papers in 2 days for the Bible college, and being in a frantic state of mind preparing myself for the trip.  Many would say to call it off and just stay home but I received a call to go on a mission trip almost 2 years ago now.  I have faith that I Am supposed to do this.  Believe me at times I have doubted it  especially since Michele's medical problems but I still have this sense that I am meant to go.  So I go!  I have to trust and have faith. 

I have to trust that Michele will continue to heal and with the help of her friend, Sandy, get the care she needs. I have faith that my kids will be obedient to their mother and do their school work.  I have to have faith that God will watch over them while I'm away.  

I have to have faith in the plane! I have to have faith I will arrive and leave safely.   I have to have faith that I will do some good work for the Lord while I am in Africa.  I am not sure wheather the purpose I am going has to do with the people I meet, the work we will do on the schools and churches, my walk with the Lord, or all of the above but I have faith that God is with me in this.  

This exercise in faith of mine is no different from yours really. Although I am going an ocean away and things are uncertain for me, those who stay home are trusting that things will be good. They are trusting they and their family will remain healthy, will keep their jobs, will be safe, and they won't hit a deer on the way to work!   I can tell you, though even here in the safe U.S.A., these things are not certain.  

Only one thing is certain. God is good, he came to earth as Jesus Christ and He paid for our sins on the cross.  If you have faith in Christ, you will have eternal life with Him (John 3:16).  

In Matthew 28  18.   Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Christ has given me salvation and a new life. So I go.  God bless you all.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Not so Fast: A fine line between Spiritual Renewal and Condemnation.

Well for anyone who actually reads my blog regularly (I guess that would mean anyone having read it more than once lol! ); I apologize for the 2 week hiatus.   My last entry was a memorial to my friend, Jim McEathron and it took a lot out of me emotionally.  

On the heels of my last entry there was another significant loss to the body of Christ.  On January 3rd, Pastor Vaughan Jarrold died unexpectedly.   I only had the pleasure to hear Vaugh preach and teach on a few occasions but was deeply impressed with this mighty man of faith.  I was so impressed with Pastor Vaughn that when he invited people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit a couple of years ago at Rock Solid Church, I eagerly stepped forward to receive it.  I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect but when Vaughn spoke over me I was filled with the Spirit and did speak in tongues.  It freaked me out at the time and I know people don’t understand it but I credit the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues for giving me direct experiences with the Holy Spirit and for being the catalyst for my spiritual growth and my ongoing victory over alcoholism.   Although I only had limited exposure to Vaughn, I am forever indebted to him for the impartation of the Holy Spirit’s baptism and the gifts and victory that have followed it.   I didn’t know Vaughn’s wife and family but my thoughts and prayers were directed towards them in the wake of his passing.

After New Year’s Day, Rock Solid Church observes a period of fasting and prayer to encourage spiritual renewal for the upcoming year.   The fasting and prayer are completely voluntary and you set your own guidelines.  After the stress of my job changes, the holiday season, and possible symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (where is the sun!), I was really looking forward to placing my focus on the Lord and doing a Bible study I had been intending to do.   

The fasting period was from January 4th to the 6th and with my busy schedule of morning exercise, prayer, commute, and work I discovered it was relatively easy to not eat during the day.    At night I stayed out of the kitchen and retired to my basement retreat to get into the Bible Study.   My general attitude and demeanor during this time was that of an Augustinian monk, complete with pullover hoody to keep me warm in the chill of the basement.  I think next year I will read by candlelight and do some Gregorian chants to up the ante. 

The Bible study was about Spiritual Warfare focusing on Ephesians 6:10-20 where the Apostle Paul encourages us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  It is a powerful study about Christians preparing themselves with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, prayer, the word of God, and the assurance of their own salvation to with stand temptations and overcome the challenges the face as Christians.   
 I wish I could say I made great progress with my study but the truth is that I didn’t get too far.  Distractions popped up and I was so tired that I only managed to study for a little over an hour the first two nights of the fast.  However, although my study was incomplete, the insights I had were eye opening.  

According to the study, “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…” but having fasted I felt the struggle was “against flesh and blood”, mainly my own! I had cravings to eat but then I realized that the cravings were not particularly physical in nature.  I stayed hydrated and my body wasn’t screaming for food.  All the demands for food seemed to be coming from my mind, out of habit, or just a compulsion to act or fill a moment with activity.  After the first day I realized I could live without eating constantly and I didn’t have to be a slave to answering mental cravings and compulsions.  

Going into day two of the fast I felt such relief and reflected that this could be what Jesus was referring to when he said in Matt 11:28 “I will give you rest.”  When we put aside the demands of the world and our own flesh and press into our faith, we can experience a clarity and peace that is only possible when we are directing ourselves to follow the Lord.  I was deeply impressed by how trivial my normal concerns and interests were when put in comparison with the things of the Lord.  I felt that there was nothing nobler than to seek and follow the will of the Lord for my life.  
With this perspective I examined my thought life, internal dialogue, personal narrative, or whatever you want to call it and I was deeply convicted of how mundanely selfish and sinful I am.  My introspection revealed what I considered to be a somewhat base reptilian instinct to serve myself and my selfish desires with little or no thought to consequences for myself or others.  Worse yet my reflections on my thought life revealed a historical tendency to indulgences in irrational and potentially damaging fantasy.  Mostly theses fantasies would stem from mental musings of “What would you do if”, “If you could do anything…”, and “If I wasn’t …” I realize these are probably normal mental diversions but I realized that they were a waste of time that encouraged irrational thought and discontentment.  So I would end up hoping for things that can’t happen or if pursued had the potential to destroy life I have come to know.  The major problem with this form of mental diversion is that the truth of who I am and what I have is lost.  I have realized that a lot of the crazy things I have done in my life have been the result of long periods of mental musings where desires over ruled common sense.  The great thing about realizing all this was that I now had the insight to break these trains of thought as they arise by focusing of who I am in Christ.  At the end of day two, I felt like I was really making progress. 

So on day three of the fast, the last day, I figured I had it made in the shade.  I had my busy day of work ahead of me to be followed by Wednesday night worship at the church and then straight to bed. Bam! Next morning = big breakfast of a spiritual champion!  So I was feeling great. I had a major insight into my thought processes and I saw myself overcoming all distractions to serve the Lord but then I told one of the guys at work that I was fasting and immediately I thought of Jesus’ comments regarding the Pharisees and fasting in Matthew 6:16-18, which basically says to keep your fasting to yourself; don’t make a public display of it.   By telling my co-worker I was fasting, I felt like I had been overcome with pride and whatever spiritual progress I had made was lost!  The condemnation came fast and quick after that.  After going home, I figured I blew so I ate.  After I ate I felt that I was a hypocrite and I couldn’t go to church which would be a prayer fest of faithful fasters!  I was a total failure!

The fast has been over for 10 days and I am happy to report that I got over my “failure” and I had a revelation that Jesus isn’t looking for perfection.  The gift of salvation is through faith in Jesus and what He did, not me.  It was a free gift and I can’t pay it back with my “good” behavior.  

I realize now that the spirit of condemnation that overcame me was not a spirit from God.  It is the works of Satan that tempts and that would have Christians condemn themselves.  I was focused on pressing into my faith in Christ.  Who would want to stop that? Ironically, I was doing a study on Spiritual Warfare only to end up a causality of it.  However, I am thankful for the insights I had during the fast and will try to use this experience to take up the whole armor of God in my defense in the future. 

I hope all who read this are well and I would encourage you to embrace your faith in Christ by getting into the word of God and attending a Bible believing Spirit filled church. I invite anyone in the Columbia County area to attend services at Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY, at 8:30 and 11 am Sundays, and 7 pm Wednesdays.      

I would also recommend listening to the Bible for free through the website or download the Daily Audio Bible App for your smart phone or tablet.  I started using it on the first of the year and it is a great way to get the Word in your life. 

Until next time…. God Bless You!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot....Good Bye Old Friend: Remembering Jim.

I only knew Jim McEathron for a short time but I am happy to say that he is my friend and brother in Christ.   

I met Jim at Rock Solid Church a couple of years ago because we were both regular attendees of the services there.  As I recall we both were participants in the living nativity that the church did at the Winter Walk in Hudson New York.  I was a Roman Soldier and I think Jim was too. 

Now Jim was a scruffy looking guy who you could tell had been through some hard times in his life. I had assumed that he was significantly older than me.  Let’s be honest he looked a little rough and when you add Bible carrying-religious enthusiasm to a rough exterior you may wonder if the person is mentally balanced.   I’m a little introverted at times and was somewhat standoffish in meeting new people.

Jim was friendly though and I quickly gathered he wasn’t insane.  He was a devoted follower of Christ.  He attended services on Sundays and Wednesday nights and was an enthusiastic participant during worship.  He was active in the Wednesday Night Bible classes, adding to discussions, and often quoting scripture and contributing significant insights. 

After Winter Walk, we would exchange pleasantries and greetings at church.  I knew his name so I would stop say Hi when we saw each other on the street or at a local store.  I even saw Jim at prayer the one night I went during the January fasting of 2015. 

In February, Bob Costello announced the beginning of Celebrate Recovery and Jim was on the leadership team.   When it was announced, I knew this program was for me and I knew I was all in.  I knew Jim and told him that I would be attending and he was very encouraging. 
After a few weeks, the recovery program starts to discuss getting the support of an accountability partner or sponsor and I immediately thought of Jim as someone I could turn to.  They say Celebrate Recovery isn’t therapy but for me it was. I had shared all my dark secrets and sins to the guys at Recovery and Jim was always there to offer his support and encouragement.  So after the teaching on accountability partners and sponsors, I exchanged phone numbers with Jim. 

One of my accomplishments of 2015, was celebrating the completion of an Associate degree in Applied Science in Telecommunications Technology from Hudson Valley Community College.  At the end of the previous semesters, my classmates and I would get together for lunch to celebrate another term over.  At the last lunch, I had enthusiastically drank more than a couple of beers.  So here I am, a few months sober and anticipating going into a social situation where drinking is an option, and in my head, an expectation if not an obligation.   It felt like the most normal thing in the world to throw care aside and drink deep in the celebratory atmosphere.  I was worried I was going to throw away my sobriety.  So I called Jim. 

I can’t recall Jim’s exact words but he talked me through it.  We discussed my options.  He suggested that if I was incapable of going in and just having lunch without drinking that I should just not go.  He told me it was my decision whether or not I drank.   He asked about the last lunch and whether absolutely everyone drank or if it was just a few.  I admitted that it was just a few that drank with enthusiasm, some only had one or two drinks, and some of the class didn’t drink at all.   Jim was showing me that not everyone drinks to excess and some don’t drink at all.  I was to for now on to consider myself as one of this last group: don’t drink at all.   I told him I thought I could do it; Just eat lunch and leave without drinking.   Jim made me promise to call him if I felt the urge to drink and to call him when I was done with lunch.   He wanted to make sure I made it through okay.  

That was the day I discovered, I could go to lunch with people drinking, laugh, joke, and have fun without drinking myself.  This may seem a simple thing for most but for me it was a milestone for sure.   I did it because Jim was there for me. He used common sense and scripture to show me that I was a new creation in Christ and that the habits of the old man really could be left behind.   I had a great time at the lunch and couldn’t wait to tell Jim when I got back in my car.  He congratulated me and I thanked him profusely for his guidance.   
After that day Jim was my friend, accountability partner, and brother in Christ.  He supported me in my recovery when I was extremely vulnerable.  He counseled me regarding my sobriety, faith and thought life. Jim always brought me back to the word of God to show me who I was in Christ and what I should do.  We talked on the phone regularly supporting one another. 

Shortly after this, Jim’s health took a very bad turn. His liver was diseased and without a transplant he would die.  Through tears Jim announced that He was going to Florida to see about getting treatment and possibly a transplant.   He was worried about his health but he was greatly saddened having to leave his church and the recovery group.   After Jim left we talked on the phone a few times and he shared that the transplant wasn’t going to happen but he was trying to be positive and saying that everywhere he was going he was wearing his I Love Jesus that and he was sharing the gospel with the doctors down there.   I was greatly saddened by what this meant but proud that Jim was staying faithful. 

A few months ago Jim returned to New York.  I remember seeing him at church for the first time in months and rushing to embrace him.  His countenance was somewhat jaundiced and you could see he was in a great deal of pain but he smiled and hugged me tight when he saw me telling me that I looked good.   I told him that I was on the leadership team for Celebrate and invited him to come. 

Jim was in a lot of pain but he did come to group one more time.  It pained me greatly to see that the disease had taken so much out of him and I could see he wasn’t going to last much longer.  That night I hugged Jim and told him I loved him knowing I wouldn’t see him again.  I started praying for God to take him home.  

In December, Jim went to St. Peter’s Hospital.  On December 22nd, Jim died. 

Obituaries list who you are related to, who died before you and who you left behind.   They sometimes tell you where you went to school, where you worked, and what your hobbies were.   They rarely give you any idea of the deceased’s status with God.  Jim’s tells of his active participation in his church, his love of the Bible, and his time ministering to people in recovery. 

When I heard the news of his passing, I was sad but immediately thought that Jim was in heaven with Jesus and that his suffering ended the moment his life passed here on earth.  I pushed away my tears and laughed thinking of Jim restored and new in heaven with a smile from ear to ear dancing on the streets of gold. 

 I miss my friend but he helped me when I needed him and I know he is in a better place now. 

Jim didn’t just die and cease to exist.  Jim went home to be with the Lord in paradise. 

I’ll see you there. Brother.   

For those reading this, please don’t be remembered for your love of a baseball or football team, a hobby, or where you worked.  Be remembered for the love you had for God and how you shared it with others, like my friend Jim did.   

Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.