The holidays are usually joyful and blessed times, but in every family, there can be intense tension from negative history, hurt and pain that never healed and even outright cruelty and rejection. What is the mechanism that makes forgiveness possible? It is love and putting the other person before ourselves. Selfishness and self-centeredness breed pettiness, anger and cruelty.
I have had to forgive many people in my life including family members and other people in my life. I definitely hurt a lot of people though my 28 years of addiction. It was my fault, and I am sorry for my sins. I was able to make amends to most of them. Some of them forgave me and some did not. Some of them pretended that they forgave me, but never did. All we can do is to extend our hand of friendship, love and forgiveness and if they reject us, then we move on to repairing other relationships. We do not chase after people who hoard their own resentments and anger to fuel their spirits. These negative and hateful people are toxic to us, and we should forgive them and move on.
I have been sober by the Grace of God for 18 years, and there are still relationships that remain damaged, because people refuse to drop the stick of judgement, resentment, fear and hate. Of course, resentment eats its own container, like a powerful acid burning through our stomach. None of it is good for us, and all of it leads to our own destruction. For addicts, we cannot afford to harbor hate, resentment and anger because ultimately they will destroy us, and lead us down the path to relapse. Relapse is death for us. Therefore, all of this is important life and death stuff, and we must respect it and take intelligent and sacrificial action. Many addicts and even some non-addicts feed off of anger and resentment like it is a life-giving elixir. Sometimes we hang onto our anger and our resentment like it is our baby, our child and we cling to it for dear life! Some people feel like they will become like the hole in the doughnut, if they give up and release their anger and resentment. They are prisoners.
In my life, I was like that. I used my intense anger, rage and resentments to drive my insanity, my hate and my addiction. I also used it to manipulate people. I did not want to give it up because hate, anger and resentment made me feel powerful. However, this acid destroyed my world and it came close to taking my life five times.
I believe that God was just waiting for me to humble myself, surrender and ask Him for help. Getting help from God is as easy as a simple prayer, and at the end of my addictive journey, my prayer was: “Jesus Please Help Me!” Two days later, I went from the streets of Denver, Colorado to Minnesota at Hazelden Foundation for chemical dependency treatment. My second surrender came when they strongly recommended that I complete nine months of treatment because my condition was so bad.
I said, “Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes to be free of drugs and alcohol. I never want to go back to that living hell.” So I had to humble myself and make many sacrifices to get well and I had to trust God with my life! If I had chosen not to go to treatment and to surrender my life to Jesus, I would have died the ugly, lonely, painful death of an addict alone on the street. I would never have the life that God has given to me today.
God always had a plan for my life. When I got sober I began to help other addicts and I found that I have a passion and a talent for touching people’s hearts. After I was sober for 15 years, I wrote and published a book entitled, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace–Dungeon To Sky“. This book is an intense story of my addiction and recovery. I shared absolutely everything that I experienced over 28 years of addiction, including my one year of homelessness in Denver, Colorado. I experienced jails, hospitals, living outside, violence, terror, fear and a bone-aching loneliness as I approached certain death.
I described what it is like to be both an untreated addict and a manic depressive at the same time which made recovery near impossible. I ended up going to 13 treatment centers over 28 years. I was reckless, and filled with rage and emotional pain. I became a wild raving lunatic panhandling for money and shoplifting whenever I could. I was no stranger to county jails and detox units. I was the poster child for self-destruction. My final treatment center, Hazelden, finally coordinated treatment for both my manic depression and my addiction. This was the key that was missing all of those years, treatment for both conditions.
What would we rather have, a relationship that is wounded and fragmented and burning with resentment, or a relationship that is healed and repaired and glowing with love and forgiveness.
There are actions and choices and sacrifices that must be made to bring a relationship out of the smoldering ashes of the past, and into the promise of a loving future. The ugly head of selfishness and self-centeredness may continue to come to the surface and try to sabotage your loving efforts. It is a battle that you must win through love, sacrifice, patience and courage.
So what if I have to humble myself and admit my wrong-doing, my sins and how I hurt the other person. We must take the lead and be the better person. We must swallow our deadly pride and become more like a servant, just as Jesus humbled himself and became our servant here on Earth. Jesus is the ultimate good example and He led the way for us. The reward for us is that we can often create a new relationship that is free of all poison and which is based on love and respect. All of this takes time, but sometimes one honest, heart-felt conversation can turn the tide and turn a new page.
We cannot wait for the other person to make the first move. We need to be the leader who is willing to sacrifice his or her own pride and become emotionally real and vulnerable. We talk about our “side of the street” and focus on our shortcomings. We do not criticize or judge the other person because that will only lead to conflict and additional resentment or even an explosive encounter. We focus on our fears, our resentments, our disappointments, our insecurities and our faults. In the process of making ourselves vulnerable, we allow the other person to become emotionally real and forgiving, and then progress can be made. Repeat: We do not criticize or attack the other person, because we are coming from a perspective love, not selfishness and hate.
If our desire is to repair the relationship and to enjoy a new freedom and a new happiness with this person, then we have to give something up, we must make sacrifices. Do we love the person enough to put them first and ourselves second? Do we have the courage, strength and wisdom to become a servant? Remember this: the devil wants there to be hate, resentment and anger in the relationship, because that is the river that he controls. He will always fight against love and reconciliation. He is the destroyer, and sometimes he is at play in some of our relationships.
But there is a simple and easy solution to that– pray to Jesus every day and just ask for His help! In fact, make sure to pray a lot before having a relationship encounter and then leave the results up to Jesus.
It is always worth it to humble ourselves, put our pride to the side, and heal the relationship with sacrificial love. Of course, God is the great healer, but remember that we are his messengers!
Never give up on a person, but there might be times and certain relationships where you just need to back away for a time, and just focus intently on your own life, your own goals, and your own family and let there be peace.
”I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Peace, Love and Blessings to you!
About The Author
Steve Jobs’ Last Words –
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world.
In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success.
However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.
At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.
In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of god of death drawing closer…
Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…
Should be something that is more important:
Perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days …
Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth.
The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me.
What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.
That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.
Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands.
What is the most expensive bed in the world? – “Sick bed” …
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.
Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.
When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – “Book of Healthy Life”.
Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.
Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat yourself well. Cherish others.”
All of this reminds me of the Bible verse:
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
King James Version (KJV)
I pray that Steve Jobs will find peace and love.
He certainly helped and positively impacted millions of people while he was on this Earth.
We can all learn from him.
About The Author
Performance, eternity and love, how are they related? I used to believe that in order to receive love I must perform well in school, work, athletics and be popular socially. It started when I was a little boy. I was always focused on pleasing others – my parents, my teachers and my coaches. I can remember getting perfect grades in high school and rushing home to show my parents my accomplishment. I was constantly chasing approval so that I could receive love.
When I worked as a professional sales person, I worked exceptionally hard for ten years and I ruined my health. My blood pressure was near stroke level at 180/90, my hands had a distinct tremor and I was not sleeping at night. I was anxious and nervous and I was irritable. I gained 35 pounds. Remember this Bible verse: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” Matthew 10:37-39 When I was chasing money and success, I was distracted away from my relationship with Jesus and I became like a cork tossed in a restless sea, running scared and worshiping my own accomplishments.
The company I was working for loved me because I was intensely focused on making them money and making money for myself. The company did not care if I drove myself to an early grave because they would just replace me with another sucker. Jesus tells us that performance and good works are not needed to get His love. Jesus is not looking for our good performance or our good works. Performance and good works do not bring us to heaven. However, when we love Jesus and when we love others, we naturally will want to do good works and to help others.
Here is what the November 20th reading in the Jesus Calling book tells us: “I am pleased with you, My Child. Allow yourself to become fully aware of my pleasure shining on you. You don’t have to perform well in order to receive My Love. In fact, a performance focus will pull you away from me, toward some sort of Pharisaism. This can be a subtle form of idolatry; worshipping your own good works. It can also be a source of deep discouragement when your works don’t measure up to your expectations.
Shift your focus from your performance to My radiant Presence. The Light of My Love shines on you continually, regardless of your feelings or behavior. Your responsibility is to be receptive to this unconditional love. Thankfulness and trust are your primary receptors. Thank Me for everything; trust in Me at all times. These simple disciplines will keep you open to My loving presence.”
What about eternity? The Jesus Calling book has this to say about eternity: “Modern man has lost the perspective of eternity. To distract himself from the gaping jaws of death, he engages in ceaseless activity and amusement. The practice of being still in My Presence is almost a lost art, yet it is this very stillness that enables you to experience My eternal love. The ultimate protection against sinking during life’s storms is devoting time to develop your friendship with Me.”
So how do we get saved? The best selling book of all time, the Bible, is very clear about how we can be saved: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
The best thing for all of us to do is to focus on our relationship with Jesus and not obsess over performance and good works. To be clear, good works and acts of service to help others is great and we should do it, but let’s not use them as distractions that take us away from our personal relationship with Jesus. Peace and Blessings to you!
About The Author
I am grateful that Jesus saved my life seven times. I had two car accidents and one motorcycle accident that were near fatal. I had two grand mal seizures as a result of over-dosing on crack cocaine. I had two violent encounters with people on the streets who wanted me dead. I narrowly escaped losing my life to these lunatics. So yes, I am grateful for my life and all the blessings that Jesus has given to me.
My life today is rich and abundant and filled with hope and promise. Contrast my life today with the fear, despair, anger, rage and burning loneliness that I carried every day of my addictive life and you can see what a relief and what a joy it is to be free of chemicals and the addictive lifestyle.
At the end of my addictive journey I was sleeping in a utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar. My health had deteriorated quickly. I had pancreatitis from alcohol poisoning, I had lost 35 pounds and I had contracted Hepatitus C from sharing needles. I was very weak physically, I had dizzy spells and my thinking was confused. I was getting very little sleep, so my body could not repair itself.
Today, my physical health is good. I am free of Hepatitis C after a special 60 day treatment. It is a miracle that there is no trace of Hepatitis C in my body at all. I am back to a healthy weight, I have a healthy diet. Jesus has restored my body. Yes, I am grateful to be physically healthy.
After 28 years of addiction, my mental health had deteriorated to the point of lunacy. I was insane and completely controlled by the disease of addiction. I was on a fast moving train with a one way ticket to death and hell. Ever since I was in high school, I suffered from manic depression. In high school I did not even know what manic depression was, and I did not even know that I had it. I began using marijuana and alcohol to help me feel “normal”. I was self-medicating and did not know I was doing this.
My manic depression and my addiction started in high school and just kept on getting bigger and bigger until they controlled my life. I was what they call a functional addict. I was achieving perfect grades and I was an athlete in several sports. My mania helped me to achieve all of this, but later I would pay a terrible price. I had a nervous breakdown after graduating from college where I also achieved perfect grades. The manic depression was gaining in speed and my mental state was compulsive, reckless and volatile. I developed a hair-trigger temper and could be physically dangerous. Whatever thought came into my head, I just did it without thinking about the consequences. I was out of control and it only got worse. When you combine addiction with manic depression, you have the perfect storm for disaster and tragedy.
For the last 18 years I have taken lithium carbonate to treat the manic depression and I have had no problems. I went to thirteen treatment centers over the 28 years of my addictive journey and one of the top reasons is that I was NOT treating both the addiction and the manic depression. They must be treated simultaneously or no sobriety can be found. So yes, I am grateful to have my mind back.
Drugs and alcohol retard our emotional growth, because we are depending upon a chemical to handle the emotional ups and downs and pressures of becoming an adult. Our emotional maturity is stunted. Whenever I was facing something that was emotionally stressful or painful, I would run to the chemicals for relief. It got to the point where I could not function or cope with life without the chemicals. Eventually, I no longer controlled the chemicals, they controlled me. When I was frustrated or insulted or threatened, I would explode into either a physical or a verbal assault on whoever dared to cross the line that I had set in my mind.
Today, I am still very much passionate and intense, but my outbursts of anger or rage are getting fewer and far between. The emotional storms of the past, which caused relational damage and broken relationships, are rare. When I do make mistakes or hurt other people’s feelings, I am quick to recognize my character defects and I can apologize and repair the damage.
When I was an active addict, I could not keep any of my promises. I always had good intentions, but I could not keep my word. Today, when I make a promise I get great joy when I complete that promise and I hold my word as sacred. Sobriety has restored the loving, generous heart that I was born with. Yes, I am grateful for having much improved emotional health. There is always room for improvement, but I know that I am on the right path.
When I was living on the streets, I had isolated and separated myself from my family because I wanted to use drugs and alcohol in peace. The effect of my disease of addiction was to hurt everyone I loved and to deny the love that they had for me. My family members had all been through the disease of addiction with my mother, and now it was happening all over again with me. I damaged all of my relationships so that I could push people away and continue my affair with chemicals which had become my best friend and lover.
The disease of addiction wants us to be alone and isolated, away from the love of family and friends so that it can complete its ultimate goal: our destruction and death. Resentments and anger raged inside of me and in my family. The disease had started a war among us, and I was the bad guy. My addictive journey started back in high school and it gained in strength until I was homeless, destitute and full of fear and loneliness. Each family has distinct roles like the “hero” or the “scapegoat”. I was the scapegoat. I was the one in my family they could point to and say to themselves, “I am doing so much better than Bob.” As the years of my addictive nightmare progressed, I became the “scapegoat”. When I was in high school and college getting perfect grades, I was the hero. Several of my family members turned their backs on me and pretended I no longer existed, or perhaps they were just terrified at my life and did not know how to help. Or maybe for them, turning away was just the easier way to deal with me. Through my addiction, I created all of my problems, including relational divisions in our family.
Nobody knew what to do except my mother and my brother Chuck. My mother had been sober for years and she knew that love was the answer. My brother Chuck and his wife Beth took me into their home several times and helped me to heal my broken heart and crushed spirit. Love is the answer.
After 18 years of sobriety and freedom from chemicals, my family relationships are beginning to heal, slowly. People have long memories and the hurt that I caused them will not go away overnight. Overall, I feel like there have been miracles of forgiveness and the restoration of love and respect in our family.
Yes, I am grateful for the progress that has been made in restoring my family relationships. Jesus is the Great Healer and He has been busy helping our family.
During those 28 years of painful addictive hell, I had no peace in my soul. I was at war with myself and I was on a self-destructive path that had one end. It was like buying a ticket for a fast train that promised flowers and beauty, but brought you only terror, pain and misery. The train starts at point B and ends with death. I had a relationship with Jesus when I was in grade school, and up to my sophomore year in high school when I started using marijuana and alcohol. My prayers stopped and I felt separated from God. One important point: Through my addiction I separated myself from God. However, God never leaves us and as Saint Paul writes,
From the Bible: Romans 8:38-39 New International Version
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“I soon became alienated from my family and spent all of my time with my using friends. In the end, I learned that none of my using friends truly cared about me at all. They just wanted to have fun and get high.
I got sober in 1998 and God has blessed me with 18 years of sobriety. I have found a great church that has great music, powerful messages from the pastors and opportunities for volunteer work. I have gone on two mission trips with the church, to Nicaragua and Peru. We worked with the children, who probably taught me more than I taught them. I have a set time to pray and to meditate and in this quiet time, I read a chapter from the bible and I read the “Jesus Calling” book and the Twenty Four Hours A Day book. The messages in these readings are powerful and they help to positively feed my spirit.
Jesus has been calling me home all of my life. He has forgiven me and he loves me. He will guide me for the rest of my life and someday I will see Him face to face in paradise.
If you are interested in my full story, I have published a book: “Saved By The Prince Of Peace—Dungeon To Sky.”
You can order the book on my website which is: dungeontosky.com
Peace and Blessings to you.
About The Author
All of us live in a society that values action more than quiet times. We are rewarded by employers and our families for what we do and what we accomplish and we are judged accordingly. A high or excessive drive is admired and encouraged without looking at the cost to ourselves, our families and our physical and mental health.
We have become a world of “human doings” rather than human beings. All of this chasing after money, power and material things has left us exhausted, spent and damaged. The enlightened people have learned to draw a line between the pursuit of materialism and the pursuit of spiritual growth. Like the Bible says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”
Many people are groomed, trained and encouraged to be aggressive and to become rich and powerful. They learn the ropes as they progress through high school, college and graduate school. This is their rite of passage and their ticket to the game of success. The problem is that they are told many lies along the way. The lies are intended to control their behavior and to discourage independent thinking.
For example, I was told, not directly but by expectations that were established by my parents, that I would receive love and respect if I performed well in school and work. If I failed, then the love and respect would be taken away and I would be alone. I learned at a very young age to chase success and to achieve it at all costs. I was guilty of not stopping the fast moving train of success that I had agreed to jump on, and think about what I wanted in my life, what my goals and dreams were.
I was told to graduate from high school, then college and then graduate school. After that, I was to secure a high paying job in a fortune 500 company that had a prestigious name and reputation. Finally, I was to get married and have children while becoming powerful in my field. There is a nauseating quality to this kind of chasing. The chasing means nothing and ultimately, it is empty and meaningless. So what happens after you find and possess the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow? What comes next? More emptiness.
There are so many questions and important goals to think about and they do not include power, money or material things. What happens to us after we die? Are we eternal spiritual beings hidden inside of physical bodies? Who is God and what is my relationship with him? How do I develop a relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe? Is there a secret unseen battle between good and evil raging within me? How can I keep my focus on spirituality and my relationship with God when there are so many distractions, demands and temptations in our world?
Each of us has free will. Don’t we all create most of our own problems, and then feel sorry for ourselves or blame God for our misfortune? Each of us can choose to strengthen our spiritual life, or we can choose to ignore it. In the end, chasing money, power and wealth can leave us feeling empty inside, because our spirit is hungry for spiritual things, not material things. Our souls cry out for God and only God can satisfy this thirst. Given the fact that our eternal lives are dependent on what we focus on, it makes perfect sense to keep our eyes on God.
The November 12th reading from the “Jesus Calling” book opens our eyes and refocuses our attention: “My kingdom is not about earning and deserving; it’s about believing and receiving.” In the spiritual realm, we cannot do anything to earn God’s love and approval. All of us have sinned and have fallen short of God’s perfection. None of us deserve forgiveness or acceptance from God. We cannot earn our way to Heaven. If a man does a thousand good works, and has no faith and does not believe in Jesus Christ, than it profits him nothing. When we open up our hearts, minds and souls to God’s presence, love and forgiveness, then we receive the Truth and the Truth sets us free. Salvation is a free gift from God and all we have to do is accept it. We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, not by good works. However, our faith will lead us to love and to help others and that is very good.
One last point from the November 2nd reading from the “Twenty Four Hours A Day” book: “Keep yourself like an empty vessel for God to fill. Keep pouring out yourself to help others, so that God can keep filling you up with His spirit. The more you give, the more you will have for yourself. God will see that you are kept filled as long as you are giving to others. But if you selfishly try to keep all for yourself, you are soon blocked off from god, your source of supply, and you will become stagnant. To be clear, a lake must have an inflow and an outflow.”
If all we focus on is accumulating wealth and power and fame, then we most likely are not focusing on giving to and helping others. It’s O.K. to work hard and to achieve success in our work, but to ignore the spiritual power and wisdom of giving is an eternal mistake. Peace , Love and Blessings to you.
About The Author
When I was living outside on the streets in Denver, Colorado for one year, I became numb as a defense mechanism to protect my self from the horror of my situation. In one year, I had experienced, as a result of my own distorted decisions, many trajedies, accidents and spiritual nightmares. There was violence on the street when my life was directly threatened. I carried the burden of unending fear and an all-consuming loneliness coupled with an anger that had escalated into pure rage.
My spirit was crying out for relief and escape from an evil presence that pursued me every day and every night. There was no escape. I can remember like it was yesterday the night 18 years ago, when I walked out of the bar and saw snow coming down hard and fast. I immediately became fearful and angry because I had no place to live, and no shelter from a winter that had arrived.
I started searching for some place to get dry shelter out of the weather. After a few days, I found an electrical utility closet in a alley behind my favorite bar, where I had been drinking for the last year. I opened the door to the closet using a plastic comb and I could lock it from the inside. The closet was very small, too small for me to stretch out my legs. I was happy to have a safe place off of the street. I got my money hustling on the streets by pan handling and shop lifting.
There was no heat in the electrical closet. One night in January, the temperature was extremely cold, and I woke up at 3 am with pain in my joints and a cold that had penetrated my bones like a dull persistent painful ache. I learned that I must put down two layers of card board on the floor of the closet or the concrete would suck out all of my body heat and I could die of hypothermia. When I first arrived in Denver, late at night, I saw people sleeping on the heat vents on the sidewalks. These vents were exhaust vents from the big buildings. I told myself that I would never resort to sleeping out in the open unprotected from lunatics on the streets. I ended up spending a few nights on the vents.
I experienced violence on the streets and I often dreamed about people chasing me and wanting me dead. I became a thief and then one after one, my morals and beliefs came crashing down, as I did things that I swore I would never do. I experienced several county jails and a hospital due to a severe car accident. I lost the car and had to walk thereafter. I joined a caravan of walking homeless people and we walked all over the city in pursuit of breakfast, lunch, dinner and hot showers. There were charities that provided food, clothing and medical support for homeless people. I was like the walking dead.
My spiritual state had deteriorated to the point of bankruptcy. I felt separated from my true self and I had become a raving lunatic flipping off the world with hate in my heart. Pain was at the center of my being and it had overwhelmed my spirit and my emotions. I felt like a wolf that had been cornered, put in a cage and cruelly taunted. I was ready to explode in anger and rage at the drop of a hat. I had become an injured animal, ready to attack. My spirit was crushed. My confidence was gone and I felt lost. The condition of my heart was like Hiroshima after we dropped the nuclear bomb on that poor city. I became devastated spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. I had contracted hepatitis C and pancreatitus. I had lost 35 pounds and I was extremely weak. I was sick every day and getting worse.
Because of all of this pain, mostly self- inflicted, I chose to become completely numb. I did this to protect myself from my pain and the horror of who I had become. 18 years later, this numbness has subsided, but it is still deep inside of me, and it rears its ugly head when I am under stress. Any time that I start to think about my past, a lightening quick protective wall descends to block me from my past. This wall prevents healing. The wall is no longer needed and it is no longer my friend.
I knew several people who used to drink with me on the streets that lost all of their hope, and it was not too long afterward that they died. I was stumbling towards the edge of a high cliff, about to give up hope until I said the most important prayer of my life: I prayed, “ Jesus, please help me”. In three days, with the help of family and friends I arrived at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota to begin nine months of treatment for chemical dependency. This was the beginning of my new life of freedom from chemicals and a new way of living. I have been sober for 18 years by the grace of God. I met my wife after being sober for four years, we bought a house and have two West Highland Terrier dogs and I have returned to my true self. I do public speaking about addiction and recovery at high schools and chemical dependency treatment centers. I am now a walking, talking miracle thanks to Jesus Christ. I remain very grateful for my sobriety and I am passionate about helping others. The person I became in Denver during my homeless days is gone forever.
Today, I went to church and met with a priest to do confession. I was very nervous because I had not gone to confession in twenty years. By the grace of God, the priest was great. He was a good listener and he could read between the lines. He told me that he was impressed with the quality of my confession and then he invited me to meet with him at the church. I did not feel judged at all and I could feel the love of Jesus. He told me to go out to the church benches and just sit for 10 minutes without speaking. He said, “Just sit and be quiet for ten minutes and invite Jesus to be with you”.
I did this and I began to feel calm, and there were some small tears that welled up in my eyes. I felt listened to and I felt loved. However, I could feel that steely numbness holding me back, not allowing me to feel the pain of the past. I guess in many ways, I am still numb after all of these 18 years. Progress not perfection. Sin separates us from God, but today my sins were forgiven. May you find love and peace!
About The Author
This is one of the greatest mysteries and greatest truths in the world: The more we give, the more we receive. But the miracle is much bigger than that!
Our efforts to help others activates God’s power in our lives. Let’s say that we help three people with our time, our money, our love and our encouragement. We may think that all we have done is help three people, but that is only the surface of the spiritual power that we unleash when we give of ourselves to help another person.
Each of those three people have received your love, your time, your money and your encouragement. Guess what often happens? They have been loved and encouraged by you and there has been a spiritual shift in their thinking. They now have a desire to reach out and help others who are struggling with life and need a helping hand. Let’s say that each of the three people that you helped go out and help just one other person. Now your three people has grown to six people who have been loved and helped.
The equation does not stop there. Each new generation of people that is loved and helped creates more and more people that are helped. Potentially we could see an exponential number of people. It is possible for the numbers to double after each “Love and Help” event. For example, three people turns into six people, then 12 people, and then…..24, 48, 96,192, 384,768, 1536, 3072, 6144, 12,288, 24,576, 49,152, 98,304, 196,608, 393,216. This is the power of God expanding our small efforts into miraculous results.
When we have spiritual courage to reach out and help another person, God changes us and rewards us. He gives us power and even more opportunities to love and help people. The more we give, the more we receive. Every human being on the Earth is connected spiritually to all human beings. That is why if we hurt one individual we are hurting all of us. The phrase, “What goes around, comes around”, speaks to this truth. Every single action, thought and prayer goes out to the world like fast moving ripples caused by us throwing a stone into the water. The “stone” that we throw is our actions, our thoughts and our prayers. We do not live in a vacuum, all of us are connected.
I have one negative story regarding my connectedness to others and one positive example. First the negative. I was living in a small apartment in Racine, Wisconsin and one day I woke up with the idea of running off to Denver, Colorado. I told myself that before the sun went down, I was going to be gone, driving down highway to a new life. I took only some clothes, some food and my dog Princess. She was a beautiful Husky mix who one day would save my life. I had been dealing with severe manic depression for years, and it was not being treated.
There are several different types of manic depression. I had mild depression, but I had severe mania. Mania is defined as, “a highly excited state”. Basically, my mind was going 100 mph all of the time. Whatever thought came into my head, I just did it. Imagine how hard it would be to stay sober with a mind like this! I went to 13 chemical dependency treatment centers, largely because I was not taking lithium carbonate for manic depression. I also went to those 13 treatment centers so I could use them as an oasis or break from street life. I almost lost my life five times during my drug using days. I had two car accidents, a motorcycle accident, three grand mal seizures from over-dosing on crack cocaine and several experiences of violence on the streets. On one occasion, I was attacked by three people intent on killing me. The three men encircled me and one had a crow bar. It is only God’s love that allowed me to escape death. As I was surrounded by these lunatics, I felt a calm and I felt time stop, like it was in slow motion or someone hit the pause button on the TV remote. I heard a calm, powerful voice that said, explode now! I exploded with a primal scream and broke free of the hate-filled men and I scrambled up a small hill and into the light of a Shell gas station. I was safe and free.
I take responsibility for my countless poor choices and the effect that has had on people. I was homeless on the street in Denver and I had lost my car. My dog Princess saved my life down by the Platte river while I was sleeping at three o’clock in the morning. You can read my book, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace–Dungeon To Sky” for the complete story. Princess and I were asleep when I felt a sharp jerk on the thin rope I had tied to Princess’s collar and attached to my wrist. I stood up asking Princess, “What is it Princess, what do you hear?” She began to growl intensely and she was staring into the woods. The next thing I see is a man wearing a bright white hockey mask and moving quickly towards us. At this point, Princess became furious and she broke the thin rope attached to my wrist. The man with the white hockey mask came into view. Something was shining in his waistband. As he approached us and was about twenty five yards away, he pulled out two large butcher knives from his belt and said menacingly, “I’am a skin head, and I’am gonna kill you now!
Just then Princess lunged at the man and she began darting in and out, biting his ankles. He held the two knives up high, ready to stab Princess on both sides of her ribs, but Princess was lightening quick and he missed. I made a decision to run because I knew that with two butcher knives, I could not defeat him. While Princess was attacking his ankles, I ran up the river embankment and then I called to Princess and she flew up the hill and joined me and we ran for two miles down the river and found a safe place for the rest of the night. The thought that somewhere out in the darkness was an evil man with two butcher knives caused me not to sleep.
I hurt many people by my drug use and my selfish behavior. I ended up losing my best friend, Princess. She was stolen and I never saw her again. My actions and thoughts hurt all of my family members. The stone that I threw into the water was full of pain, disappointment, worry, fear and anger and this is what I sent to my family when I made that decision to run away to Colorado. I mostly hurt myself.
Here is the positive story. My wife and I have volunteered for “Feed My Starving Children” which is an international organization that packages and distributes food for the poorest of the poor. There were approximately sixty volunteers who donated two hours of their time and labor to produce as many packets of nutritious food that we could. At the end of our two hour shift, we had produced enough food to feed 4000 people for one year. So our work and our time went out to 4000 people all over the world and gave them the gift of food. The people who receive the food only eat once per day and without our food packets, they would not have eaten at all.
Yes, all of us are connected to one another and not just for today, but forever!
About The Author
What is better, to depend on God or to depend upon ourselves?
The October 1st reading from the Twenty Four Hours A Day book teaches us, “Whatever spiritual help you need, whatever spiritual help you desire for others, look to God. Seek that God’s will be done in your life and seek that your will conforms to His. Failures come from depending too much on your own strength.”
I have created a simple prayer that helps me to keep focused on Jesus. I keep this taped to the front of my computer at work: “In every hour and in every day, I am focusing on Jesus and asking Him for help”. It is true that when I rely on myself to run my life, I make mistakes because I lack power. Jesus invites us to tap into the His power. Jesus is the Creator of the Universe, He cares about us and loves us enough to help us with our lives.
Have you ever heard a quiet and calm voice that is calling to your spirit? The October 1st reading from the Twenty Four Hours A Day book reminds us of an invitation from the Bible, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will remain with him and him with me.” “The knocking of God’s spirit, asking to come into your life, is due to no merit of ours, though it is in response to the longing of our heart. Keep a listening ear, an ear bent to catch the sound of the gentle knocking at the door of your heart by the spirit of God. Then open the door of your heart and let God’s spirit come in.”
You know, it is amazing to think that what we see, that is the material world here on planet Earth, is not what we should be pursuing to truly live a vibrant life. It is almost like we are on the wrong TV channel and do not know that the Truth is just one click away. All of us are massively distracted away from the spiritual world and become focused obsessively on the material world. We live in the material, physical world like fish in a fish bowl. We can never receive eternal life and true fulfillment in this life.
The October 23rd reading in the Twenty Four Hours A Day book shows us that, “Though it may seem a paradox, we must believe in spiritual forces which we cannot see, more than in material things which we can see, if we are going to truly live. Relationships can only survive if they have a spiritual foundation. “Between one human being and another only spiritual forces will suffice to keep them in harmony. These spiritual forces we know, because we can see their results although we cannot see them. A changed life—a new personality—results from the power of unseen spiritual forces working in us and through us.”
So how does all of this apply to my life and to yours? Eighteen years ago, when I was blessed with a new life of sobriety and freedom from addiction, I did not even recognize the spiritual changes that were developing inside of my heart and my mind. Before my surrender to Jesus, I had survived homelessness, violence on the street and I had become filled with anger, rage, fear and an aching loneliness that I could feel in my bones. I isolated myself from other people emotionally, and spiritually, I was like the walking dead. I was dead spiritually and running scared.
My spirit was crushed and there was no love on the streets. In fact, I had to become mean, just to survive. I became a stranger to myself and I used alcohol, cocaine and marijuana to become numb to who I had become and deal with my environment. The disease of addiction had stripped me of every standard, every moral belief that used to be the foundation of my conduct. I left no room for Jesus, and in fact, I was running away from Him. I was fearful that I had gone too far and that there was no hope left for me.
I was on the edge of death, looking down over a huge cliff as death smiled and encouraged me to jump. Death promised me final relief from the torture of addiction. There was nothing left for me in my addictive world, and I was so terribly tired of fighting the disease of addiction. I was minutes away from giving up and losing all hope. I saw several other homeless people walk to the edge of that cliff of no hope and they died. They never came back because with no hope they had nothing to live for. Their spirits were completely crushed and they died. Hope is everything and without it, addicts die.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, I am not that advanced in my addiction and I would never get to the point that Bob did.” I have a wake up call for you! The disease of addiction is an evil train that will kill you quickly or kill you slowly, but it is determined to succeed. The train from hell will faithfully take you from Point A to Point B whether you like it or not. The only solution is to get off of the train, surrender, and ask Jesus for help! You can find help at treatment centers, hospitals, churches and recovery meetings.
Even if you stop using chemicals for ten years, if you go back to it and relapse, it will be like you never stopped using. Why is this? Because the disease of addiction is progressive whether you are using or not using. So a person who stops using for ten years and then relapses will experience this phenomenon. When they relapse, it will be like they had been using chemicals for all of that ten years that they were sober. They will find themselves not where they were ten years ago, but they will find themselves where they would have been if they had been using for all of those ten years. So it is possible that they could be right at a “bottom” that they have never experienced before, because the disease of addiction is progressive. The disease of addiction continues to progress whether we use chemicals or not.
Can you imagine where I would be if I relapsed after 18 years sober? Since my particular bottom was homelessness, jails, 13 treatment centers and spiritual bankruptcy, it is most likely that I would die soon after relapsing. I have no intention of relapsing, but this is a disease that is “cunning, baffling and powerful” and it is vicious and very patient. I have a lot of respect for and healthy fear of the disease of addiction, because I almost lost my life five times, until I said a very special and simple prayer.
When I was at the end of my addictive rope and when I was sick with pancreatitis, and overwhelmed with fear and rage and an all-consuming loneliness and sleeping in a utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar, I cried out to Jesus with this powerful and simple prayer: “Jesus, please help me”. Finally, I made my surrender to Jesus. A few days later, I found myself in chemical dependency treatment at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. This is where I found my freedom from addiction and started my new life, because of what Jesus did for me. My first surrender was the prayer in the alley that I said to Jesus and my second surrender was at Hazelden when they said, ” you are devastated emotionally, mentally and spiritually, You may not make it. Are you willing to commit to nine months of treatment? I surrendered a second time by saying, “Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes not to go back to the hell of the streets”. I was on my way to my new life.
Yes, there were spiritual forces that blessed me with freedom from addiction, and a new personality and a new life. I had recovered from addiction and my old life was finally destroyed—thank god! I had become a new creature. This is the quote that I shared earlier: “These spiritual forces we know, because we can see their results although we cannot see them. A changed life—a new personality—results from the power of unseen spiritual forces working in us and though us.” If I can get sober after such a low bottom, and after facing certain death, you can recover too! If I can do it with the help of Jesus, so can you! I pray that my story will give you hope, a hope that will save your life! Peace and Love to you!
About The Author
Blind Spots and Repeating the Pain of our Past
Have you ever been driving your car at high speed down the highway and thought that there were no cars around you, so you begin merging over to the left lane, only to discover that you have narrowly missed hitting a car that was hidden from your view in your blind spot?
In life, it is my own blind spots that have kept me from seeing the truth about myself and how my life was out of control and dominated by the disease of addiction. During my nine months of chemical dependency treatment at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota, my counselor would often say to me, “Bob, listen closely to what I am saying, you have a blind spot and you are not seeing how the disease of addiction has been killing you.” One day, I was able to step back outside of myself and observe my own behavior. Finally, I saw what my counselor was talking about, and it was a breakthrough in my recovery. That was 18 years ago, but I still have dangerous blind spots, many of which arise out of my selfishness and pride.
I recently was horrified that even after 18 years of sobriety, the ghosts of my past still haunt me, my past can come to live in my present. Here is a current example. I was taking a leadership and personal development seminar with 76 other people. All of us have automatic reactions to certain situations. My primary automatic reaction is that when I feel threatened or disrespected or mocked by a person, I explode into an exaggerated level of aggression, and I verbally shred that person as part of my defense mechanism and my survival mode. So the teacher said something that caused me to feel threatened and insulted and in two seconds, I went from being content and calm, to a full-blown Werewolf. In three aggressive sentences, I communicated my message to her, which was “Back-off and Leave Me Alone!”
I was experiencing a major blind spot and the pull of my past. When I was homeless and living on the streets, this response to being threatened or insulted was one way that I survived. I had no idea that I was going to react that way—it was automatic and lightning fast. I learned that I was using my past of addiction and homelessness, and all the rage and anger that I had survived through, as ammunition against anyone who threatened or disrespected me in my present. I was using my past as a weapon. I stayed for the rest of the seminar and I was able to open my mind to why I reacted the way that I did. I was able to work with the teacher to identify my blind spots, and I got a lot out of the class. I learned that I was still living in and being controlled by my past.
I had not completely released and said goodbye to my past, and it was negatively affecting my present relationships. I had a liberating experience in that seminar and I finally began to understand that I was living in a prison of my past, wondering why I felt so angry and depressed. My past was preventing me from being free in my present. Our past is bound to repeat itself unless we say goodbye to it, release it from us, and then start our new life of freedom.
I also learned a fascinating fact. Not only can our past dominate our present, our past can also live in our future. Here is an example: Let’s say that six months ago you purchased airplane tickets to Hawaii. Every day after you got the tickets, you think about how great the trip will be, how beautiful the weather is going to be and you dream about the beautiful Hawaiian mountains and the spectacular ocean. As the time to fly to Hawaii gets closer, you are super excited and smiling at everyone at work and telling stories with your family members about the trip. You are happy and excited, almost like you were already in Hawaii. You bought the tickets six months ago in the past, but you are living in the future as if you were already in Hawaii. Your future is being experienced by you in your present. One more thought: In our present, we create our future. We are not victims or slaves to our future. We create our future while we are in our present. The lives we have today, we have deliberately created.
I have been able to say goodbye to most of my past. All that remains are the few secrets that I have been too ashamed to reveal. They say that you are only as sick as your secrets—so I have a little farther to go before I am completely free. The disease of addiction came close to taking my life five times. I am very grateful to God for saving my life and giving me a new life. I want to use the talents that He gave me to encourage and empower others to get free.
How do we talk to God? Quiet time and prayer are very good, but an additional way to communicate with God is to empower others. If I help ten people to get sober and empower them to recover and then those ten people each help ten other people to recover, then we have 100 people who have been empowered and if each of them empower ten more people, then we have 1000 people who now have freedom from addiction. And it keeps on going forward like ripples in the water created by the stone that you throw. We create the future and we can change people’s lives!
About The Author
What blocks us and separates us from God?
So what does block us and separate us from God? The reading from July 17th in the book Jesus Calling, identifies “busyness” as one of the major blocks to having a personal relationship with God: “You live among people who glorify busyness; they have made time a tyrant that controls their life. Even those who know me as Savior tend to march to the tempo of the world. They have bought into the illusion that more is always better: more meetings, more programs, more activity. I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with me your highest priority and deepest joy…..as you walk close to Me, I can bless others through you.”
How can we get closer to God? I think that the answer is simple. If we want to get closer to a friend, then we need to spend more time with them. If we want to get closer to God, then we need to spend more time with Him. My ultimate goal is to depend upon God in every hour and in every day. The October 7th reading in the book Jesus Calling, gives us specific instructions on how to listen to God’s voice: “In order to hear My voice, you must release all your worries into My care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My face unhindered. Let Me free you of fear that is hiding deep inside you. Sit quietly in My Presence, allowing My light to soak into you and drive out any darkness lodged within you.”
There are more blocks that prevent each of us from getting closer to God. The July 17th reading in the Twenty Four Hour A Day book communicates this powerfully: “God does not withhold His presence from you. He does not refuse to reveal more of His truth to you. He does not hold back His spirit from you. He does not withhold the strength that you need. His presence, His truth, His spirit, His strength are always immediately available to you, whenever you are fully willing to receive them. But they may be blocked off by selfishness, intellectual pride, fear, greed, and materialism. We must try to get rid of these blocks and let God’s spirit come in.”
Many of us are blocked by our fear of the future. The reading on September 17th in the book Jesus Calling, shares a solution to our fear of the future: “I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. That is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all of your needs, your hopes, and fears. Commit everything into my care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of peace.”
My best days are when I am fully aware and focused on the present day and when I turn over my worries, fears, hopes and dreams to Jesus. I do not want to be blocked from Jesus, the Creator of the Universe. I am starting by making prayer and quiet time my highest priority in the morning before the world comes crashing in. I enjoy reading the Bible, the book Jesus Calling and the Twenty Four Hours A Day book. If I forget reading in the morning, I feel like something is missing and I do not feel quite right. If I can, I go back and do the readings and then I feel complete. So remember, God wants you to spend time with Him.