Hope

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:4, 13 ESV. http://bible.com/59/rom.15.4,13.esv

Hope is a byproduct of living through difficulty with endurance. If Peter’s denial of Christ means anything, it gives us the confidence that, by God’s grace and mercy, there are second chances. We will make mistakes. We will deny Christ in word and deed. But if we acknowledge our errors and remain faithful in believing, by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.

None of this is our own doing. It is through the God of hope that we may be filled with joy and peace in believing. Our task is to find encouragement in the Scriptures, to remain in Christ, and to endure. We must learn that the most profound lessons of life are given by God for our good. Life will throw all kinds of shit at us, and it takes discipline and also patience to endure it. Our God is a God of hope and he sends us his Holy Spirit so that we may also be alive with hope.

Without hope we are dead. We live like corpses, dumbfounded as if sleepwalking. There is so much more to life, if we are just a little willing to live with hope. And hope doesn’t have to stretch into the distant future. We can hope that this afternoon God will instruct us in His will. He makes known to us the path of life, bit by bit, not all at once. This is for our own good, because if we had the entire plan, we would be discouraged and crushed under the sheer weight of its entirety. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Today has enough to deal with so save what hope you have for this afternoon. God, by his great grace, will show us the way.

The LORD Is With Me

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalms‬ ‭149:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/psa.149.4.esv

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NASB‬‬ http://bible.com/100/jos.1.9.nasb

Difficult days have passed. My soul is numb with grief over what I have done. Yet yesterday, by God’s grace, I was able to wait through the suffering and experience the deep, deep pain without running to hide or isolating myself or resorting to old habits. God’s grace was sufficient in my weakness to make me strong. His power was made perfect in my weakness.

Above all trust in the slow work of God. I am quite naturally impatient in getting to the end without delay. I would like to skip the intermediate stages. I am impatient of being on the way to something unknown , something new. I am on the road less traveled and it is making all the difference.

I am working hard to recover from my addiction. Yet I am discouraged to find that this work is not yet bearing fruit in my relationship with my wife. She does not know me. She does not believe me. She does not trust me. Yet, by God’s grace in my recovery, I do speak the truth.

My complete honesty was confirmed in another polygraph on Saturday. When under the machine, I am bound around my chest and a cuff is tight around my right bicep. I can’t take a deep cleansing breath without messing up the results and my speech must be soft and quiet. I feel like a trapped animal. But God quieted my heart, I told the complete truth, and the elusive machine with it’s wiggly lines confirmed it was so.

I know I have brought pain to myself and even greater pain to my wife for forty years of marriage through my addiction. On Friday, I confirmed the deceit and lies I have lived when I read to her the emotional restitution letter I had written. There is nothing I can do now but wait on the Lord. In Him is the strength I need, measured out only for this moment.

The Lord takes pleasure in his people. He is with me wherever I go. I will look unto the mountains. From where does my help come? It comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. He will not allow my foot to slip. He will guard my going out and my coming in from this time forth and forever.

Help me to be fully present today to see the opportunities you bring to me to share the healing presence of Christ with others. What can I do today for those who are still sick? Whenever appropriate, grant me the courage to share how God is healing me from addiction.

Broad Phylacteries and Long Fringes

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:26-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/rom.8.26-28.esv
“So do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” Matthew‬ ‭23:3-7‬ ‭ESV‬. http://bible.com/59/mat.23.3-7.esv

My greatest sin is self preservation. I am guarded. I won’t reveal something about myself unless I know there will be some benefit to my reputation. I want to be noticed and important. I want people to mention my broad phylacties and super long fringes to their friends.

Lord, help me live today by your mercy and according to your will. I suffer from flashbacks to times and encounters that fan the flames of lust and addiction. My mind is trapped with images and the memories of euphoric experiences. I am too weak to free myslef and cannot even pray that the chains that bind me to my addict may fall off. “For [I] do not know how to pray as [I] ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for [me] with groanings too deep for words.

Lord have mercy on me. I do that which I don’t want to do and the things I should do I leave for another day. Yet, even typing these words has helped to release me from bondage. This is the healing miracle of confession.

Humble yourself before me and I will raise you up to give greater praise to my name. Those who consider how great are their sins, how small their virtues, and how far they are from godly perfection are far more acceptable in the sight of God, than those who dispute about their greatness or smallness. – Thomas A Kempis

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stags of instability – and that it may take a long time.

And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

Dare to stay in your pain – Nouwen.

Dare to stay in your pain. Nouwen’s words ring true. Leaning into pain in the moment does not cause relief, but it does make your heart more supple and better able to handle life’s shit without breaking apart. The heart breaks open so that the things that we have placed on it are able to fall inside. Only God can put things in our hearts through the path of life he makes known to us throughout the day. As we traverse the path and the rough, tough parts break the heart open, truths fall inside and God keeps them hidden there.

Two Paths Diverge, Part 2

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I’ve had some trouble trying to understand the second phrase in this verse from the Psalms. “In your presence is fullness of joy” brings two mind two difficult questions for me. When am I in God’s presence? What is Joy?

At first glance, these questions might seem easily answered. After all, isn’t God omnipresent and isn’t joy that deep gladness we have knowing we are in God’s loving hands? For me, there is more of a mystery here than comes to light in these somewhat simple answers.

If I’m constantly in God’s presence, then how and why do I sin? Even if God is everywhere, I must acknowledge God’s ubiquity in order for it to have an impact on my life. I suppose it is a little like the perspective of a small child. I remember a time when our children were quite young, around 4 and 1. The oldest had just received a Christmas present that included a bunch of marbles. I was using a camera to capture the moment, but since I was behind the large video camera, he ignored the fact that I was in the room. His mom was behind the wall in the kitchen. He dumped the entire container of marbles out on the floor and they went everywhere. His mom heard the commotion and said, “Oh honey, why did you do that?” His reply was, “I didn’t, David [his little brother who was sitting there watching] did it.” The whole thing was caught on video.

I don’t believe he would have blamed his brother if his mom had been there present with him. We tend to behave differently when we are in the presence of others. Just take the anonymity of the internet as another contemporary example. There is a ton of evidence to the fact that people think no one is “watching” when they post text, pictures, or videos online. What we do when we think no one is watching reveals a clearer picture of our true character. It that is true, then it must also be true for our actions before an ever present God. So, we must be mindful of his presence to experience fullness of joy. But what is joy?

For me, this is even a harder question. Some writers think that joy and happiness are the same. Others say happiness has to do with circumstances and joy is unrelated to what is going on around us. Joy is somehow deeper, more related to our frame of reference than to our current situation.

When we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, we have the opportunity to experience a deep peace and gladness knowing that we are traversing the path of life that God constantly reveals, bit by bit, as we are able to receive it. So I can be sad and still experience joy. Joy has nothing to do with happiness. Full joy is God’s grace in my life to live through each moment, good or bad, as though God is right there with me. Moreover, I cannot begin to understand joy without grace because I don’t have it in me to see moments as God sees them. According to His Word, all opportunities, even trials, are a means for me to become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In His presence is fullness of joy. When we acknowledge God’s moment by moment presence with us on the path of life, we can experience full joy. This is another example of His grace and mercy at work within us. When I look at the opportunity in this moment to experience God’s loving presence, I see two equal roads.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

So, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Grace and peace,

Henry

The Valley of the Shadow

I want this blog to be my honest story about recovery and not simply hopeful bullshit. Yesterday and today have been really hard. I’m looking for pleasure in the wrong places. My eyes are hungry, starved for a hint of naked flesh. I want to release the pressure on my own, without God. My heart yearns to return to my addiction, to a mindless euphoric state. I’m distracted, off track. I’m supposed to be writing a disclosure statement, but all I do is play Texas Hold’em online, feel guilty and then stare at a blank screen trying to write down the specifics of my addictive behavior.

This morning I wrote down ten things for which I am grateful. While I was doing it the soupy fog lifted outside exposing the sun and blue sky. Sunshine was number nine on my gratitude list. Slowly, very slowly, writing the list and now blogging in the moment about the struggle is creating a gap in my soul just big enough to allow the warmth and light of a single ray of sun to massage my heart. My attitude is less bad but far from good. I cling – no my bloody fingers dig into the earthy edge of the precipice of recovery – to hope that God really can help. I don’t want to believe it. I’d rather let go and Fuck Everything And Run. But today, in this moment by God’s disruptive grace, I will haul myself up over the ledge of recovery once again.

Grace and peace to others on the journey of recovery,

Henry