Mess in the Mirror

From Andy Stanley’s, “Its Your Move” February 2017

A hot mess.” You’ve likely heard this phrase many times or even used it yourself, but you probably haven’t stopped to ponder where it came from. This phrase goes all the way back to the 19th century when “a hot mess” referred to food like a mess hall or a mess kit.

But in the 21st century, with the evolution of the word “hot,” a hot mess is actually defined as an attractive disaster. Somebody whose life—or some portion of their life—is in obvious disarray, and yet they remain somewhat functional and attractive. They’re in a mess but they can still show up for work and they look a lot better than their circumstances are because they clean up well. Sound familiar?

There are all kinds of messes. For some, the mess is financial—because of debt they acquired or something beyond their control. The mess might be relational—a bad marriage or complicated family dynamics. Sometimes the mess is professional—perhaps they got themselves into a sticky situation at work and now they’re trying to find a way out.

It’s always easier to see someone else’s mess than to acknowledge our own. Perhaps you’ve seen somebody making a decision and thought to yourself, You’re going to regret this, or You’re about to make a big mess of that.

But before becoming critical of people whose lives are messy, it’s important to look in the mirror at ourselves. More often than not, we’ll be silenced by the reminder that we are messy too. The reality is either we’re in a mess, we’ve just emerged from cleaning up a mess, or we’re one potential decision away from a mess.

So when it comes to the messes of others, we should practice being students rather than critics.

You see, isn’t it true that when you hear the story behind someone’s mess—when you listen to their challenges and understand their circumstances—you view them differently? Suddenly you’re more sympathetic than you are critical of them. You might even start to identify with them.

We’ve all dug holes we can’t get out of by ourselves and we’ve all made messes we can’t clean up by ourselves. It’s what brings us together. And Christians believe that the mess that brings us together is the mess that brought God near. We believe that God looked down on a messy world and decided to send his son to address the mess. And when Jesus showed up, instead of bringing criticism and judgment like everyone expected, he introduced grace and compassion.

So here’s a challenge for you. When you see someone else’s mess this week, instead of being critical and thinking, I’m better than them, or I’d never do that, try saying to yourself, I know a mess when I see one because I am one.

It’s Your Move.

A letter to a dead addict

Well, you did it. You’re dead. Your body is lifeless and now we wait for someone to find you. Who knows how long it will take, but your friends and family are either sleeping or coming home from work when they get the call you are dead.dead1

The police have been called and now the coroner. They place your body in that bag you’ve seen a hundred times on TV and haul you to the morgue. They make the first call to your family to tell them you’re gone and someone needs to identify your body.

The loud, hysterical cries are unbearable to control. Who do we call first?   Your best friend? Your sister? Do we send an email to inform everyone of what happened? What do we do? Oh, my God, do we have an open casket or do we cremate you? Oh, my God, how is Grandma going to handle this? The crying is uncontrollable. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t breathe.

We are at the morgue sitting in the hall. Your aunt and uncle are with us. It’s cold in here and I can’t control the tears. The medical examiner approaches and escorts us to the area where we identify you. I can’t swallow. I can barely breathe. I grab your hand; it’s cold. The tears fall from my face on to your hand and it brings the only sign of life to your corpse. Your uncle is sobbing and we all hold on to each other as we leave the room. This is not the way we wanted to say goodbye to you. If only I had one more chance to talk to you. One more hug. One more dinner.

We’ve tried so many times to help and have spent a lot of time getting you in the right rehab center. I don’t understand. Why do you go back to the drugs? Why have you lied when all we’ve wanted to do was help you? How have we failed you? Why do you love the drugs more than yourself or your family? I don’t understand why.

dead2I think we have contacted everyone we know about your death. I have to call off work so I can meet with the funeral director. We look at casket options and then discuss cremation. It’s hard to decide since we never talked about this. Why would we? You were so young.

Oh, my God, do I bury you in your favorite hoodie? I can’t bear the thought of cremation, but it’s probably the right thing to do? We can’t decide but have no choice. Where do we bury you? Who keeps your ashes? It’s hard to fight back the tears and uncontrollable sobbing as the funeral director hands me a tissue.

It’s the day of your funeral service and people are starting to arrive. There are lots of tears and I can see anger on some of the faces. Some people are really mad at you and I don’t blame them. It’s hard to stand here, next to your dead remains, trying to console the line of people here to pay their last respects. I feel like I might lose it again. A few of your friends and family stand up to speak about your life. It is so painful to listen to as they struggle with their words and fight back tears. I am numb.

Life will never be the same without you. I think about you every single day. Your best friend is keeping your dog and it has been a struggle sorting through all of your clothes trying to figure out what to do with everything. We kept the watch we gave you at Christmas. We knew how much you loved it and will never forget the smile on your face when you opened it.

I guess you’ll never really know how much you were loved. And we’ll never fully understand why you choose drugs over life. We hope you are resting peacefully, addiction free and know how hard we all prayed for you.

We’ll miss you.

Michelle E
Fayetteville

Jesus Speaks These Words – Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O YE OF LITTLE FAITH?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

george.png

Letting Go and Letting God

One of the most important principals of Alcoholics Anonymous is to let go of the things we can’t control and let God take the reins. In most things in life, the more rewarding a discipline the more difficult it is to employ, and this concept is no exception.   Many times it is tough to determine exactly where “our part” ends and where “God’s part” begins, especially considering our innate ability to fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe combined with our disproportionate obsession to be in control. In my own life I have found that “practice makes perfect” and the more frequently I give in to this idea, the more I see things work out, which in turn builds my faith and confidence in God, allowing me to let go a little bit more the next time.

The analogy below helps me understand the concept of “letting go and letting God” in a less abstract manner. Indeed, the only difference here is the relationship between surgeon and concerned parent fails to capture the true gap of understanding and capabilities between our Father in Heaven and his children on earth.

Let’s say your child has to have a major life-threatening operation. Over many days, weeks or months you have tirelessly but efficiently been to dozens of doctor offices and hospitals for appointments, testing, discussions, and more testing. You have prayed and asked for others to pray as well. Perhaps you bought books or read online about your child’s condition and maybe even sought a second medical opinion. Up to this point you have done everything you believe you can do, but in the end surgery is required and that day has now arrived. The surgeon tells you to make sure you have your child get plenty of rest, have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, and be at the hospital by 6 am.

The next morning you arrive and after some time, they call your name. Soon they wheel your child back to the operating room and your heart sinks as you see your whole life whisked right by you. Your very existence seems now to depend on the outcome of this event and worse, it is in the hands of someone you hardly know. You question whether that surgeon is really up to the task. Does he realize what is at stake here? What if he had a bad morning? With all his other patients, does he even know how much is riding on him coming through for you? And now, for the first time since this painful journey began, there is nothing you can do. It is out of your hands. And the undeniable truth is, there isn’t anything else you can do, except…

Pray.

But if you are like this alcoholic you are driven to do more. Your heart races as you wonder if you can sneak in and find a window to peer through just to see what’s going on. Maybe you can tap on the window and get the attention of the surgeon and get a reassuring thumbs up. If we make it that far, why not go in the operating room just to offer help; maybe you could hand them fresh towels or wipe a brow or offer words of encouragement. Certainly this surgeon would benefit in knowing what the outcome must be and you could list out the ramifications of what happens to you should he not complete the task successfully. If things don’t go according to your plan, you would be right there to grab the scalpel yourself and elbow your way through the surgical team to complete the work on your own.

Despite our best intentions, it is easy to see that all we can do at this pivotal time is screw things up. And even though deep down we know this, there is something about us alcoholics that makes us struggle with turning over control, and therefore our fate, into the hands of any other entity, whether that be a surgeon or God.

It becomes clear in this example that doing more than we have been tasked to do will negatively impact the results we so desperately hope to see. And in real life, that same axiom applies. The minute I begin thinking my job is to play God or “help him” with his work; that I can somehow improve the outcome by meddling in areas I have no control over, I begin to alter the natural flow of God’s will and His ability to orchestrate the appropriate course for my life.

In all of our struggles in life, to the extent that we are able to differentiate our part from God’s, does God’s will for us have the breathing room to succeed. And if God’s will succeeds, then we succeed as God always works towards good, even though that “good” is sometimes not abundantly evident under the microscope we tend to view our lives.

“Letting go and letting God,” when practiced daily in all our affairs is the elixir that allows peace and serenity to settle over us and in us, soothing our battered hearts and our calming our restless minds. It is what gives us the strength to maintain continuity of purpose when the world around us seems to be falling apart.

Mike LaTella

whyworry.png

Alcoholism Doesn’t Care Who You Are

Alcoholism isn’t prejudice, racist, religious, or judgmental. It wants to kill all of us. If you have the “disease” or “allergy” that is alcoholism, the only way to beat it is to never allow it in your body. You can’t pray it away, will it away, or get medication to make it go away.Untitled

I’ve spent many Sunday’s in church with a crushing hangover. Despite my best efforts and sincere intentions of trying to stick to one of my many failed controlled drinking plans, I always ended up getting violently drunk. Even though I knew the next day would be absolute torture while I tried to be a “Good Christian”.

The reality is that you’re either an alcoholic or you’re not. Nothing will take it away, not even your Faith. Despite this harsh truth, there’s some good news. With the help of others who have survived the torturous hell that you’re going through, along with a willingness and belief that God will guide you along the path of recovery, you can be saved from the ultimate final ending that all committed alcoholics face.

So maybe you’re wondering if you’re an alcoholic. Usually if there is any concern at all about whether you are or not, means you probably are. Normal drinkers never question this. Nor do they obsessively think about drinking. Do you struggle to stop drinking once you’ve started? If this sounds like you, trust me, it will only get worse.

I didn’t start out drinking like an “alcoholic”. But I did drink differently than most of the people around me. I didn’t realize it at the time because I thought everyone felt the way I felt when I drank. I just assumed that they stopped drinking after a couple of drinks because that’s what responsible people do. Even though I wanted to keep drinking, I was able to behave like all of the other responsible people. What I didn’t know is that they weren’t still thinking about drinking after they stopped.

Eventually I started giving into the temptation to have at least one more drink…. Often times I would talk those I was with to join me in just ONE more. This helped me justify it. Over time this went from just one more, to two more, to a dozen more, to drinking until there was nothing physically left to drink. Hopefully by that point I would pass out, because if I didn’t I would find a way to get more alcohol. More times than I can count, this resulted in me getting behind the wheel of a car and driving while highly intoxicated to get more booze.

During the last few years of my drinking career, I would deliberately isolate myself from friends and family so that I could drink alone and not worry about anyone judging the amount I consumed. I loved drinking alone. I loved it so much that eventually that’s what I was… ALONE. And very drunk.

I wasn’t much of a praying person until the pain of loneliness and the physical results of daily drinking started to hurt more than any supposed relief that my old friend alcohol could provide. Now don’t get me wrong, I prayed a ton of “Fox Hole” prayers. Dear God, please don’t let that be a cop behind me. Lord, please don’t let my wife find out how drunk I got last night. Father, please let me live through this vile hangover…

One night my prayer was different. It was sincere. It was an acknowledgement that I was defeated. It was a cry for help and admittance that only God could help me. I wish I could say that I was healed from that point forward and never drank again, but that’s unfortunately not the case. But something amazing did start to happen. I started to be reminded daily that I needed help. These reminders came in the strangest ways and at the oddest times. Like the one night that I was watching a movie that showed a scene where people were in a recovery group. That was the final seed that took root in me. It was that scene that convinced me to seek help.

As much as I didn’t want to, I felt compelled to walk into an AA meeting. I don’t remember much about my first time, but I remember the feeling I had. I wasn’t alone anymore. These people were saying everything that I had been thinking. They knew exactly what it was like to live life addicted to alcohol. They also seemed to have a grasp of how to live life without alcohol. I wanted what they had.

This was the beginning of an ever evolving spiritual journey. A journey that’s been filled with doubt, absolute certainty, fear, joy, and ultimately… Peace. I had to get over my stereotypical thinking of 12 step programs and be willing to try anything. Looking back I can see how God sprang into action to get me to take the first step.

By following and implementing the 12 steps of living, along with the guidance of Scripture, the days keep getting better and better. Does this mean bad things no longer happen? Of course not. But this new way of living, literally having easy steps to guide me through life has brought about a peace that passes all understanding.

This is my hope for anyone out there who is dealing with the fatal destroyer, Alcoholism. Don’t let it go any longer. You will lose the battle if you try to deal with it alone. Please seek out help, and maybe be willing to open the door just a little for God to walk into your life.

Steve C