Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Do You Do With The Old Stuff?

I get this question a lot. Does God not heal the addict completely? Am I doing Him a disservice by bringing up that old stuff all of the time. I got an email today just as I was getting ready to write. Never one to waste effort (translate that..lazy) I decided to kill two birds with one email.

Hey Mike,

In my devotional time today I was thinking about you because I was reading from the Life Recovery Bible.  I struggle with the fact that you categorize yourself as an addict and that you still go to 12 step meetings.  I guess the questions I have are:

Does this negate the idea that God can bring ultimate healing?

Does it not bring all the negative junk back every time you go to a meeting?  

In Christ,




First let me say you have better things to think about during your devotions than me. J But...thanks for thinking.

It’s a good question and I always answer it on two levels. As a Christ-follower and a student of both scripture and theology I say “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things are passed away and all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  I am not an addict any more. My heart and my identity have been changed.

That does two things. It frees me from the shame of my past and it also allows me to look at my life honestly, filtered through the mercy of God. King David said, “My sin is ever before me.” Then he said, “Create in me a new heart” (Psalm 51) He did not say take my past away but change my heart towards it. So in my mind, the redeemed addict gets almost more benefit and blessing in remembering his sin and recognizing how much God has done for him than in trying to forget it.

Probably should stop there but.....as a recovered addict let me say, the 12 Steps, and the idea of never forgetting how dreadful your “before” life was, has worked for a lot of people for a very long time. And if it works….. I’ll wear a pink tutu and whistle Dixie 24 hours a day if it keeps me sober. So I go to meetings with my head held high. Thanking God that He changed me and I am no longer who I was. But also remembering that I am just one slip away from being back there again. There is tremendous grace in both sides of that equation.

Now, get back to your devotions.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Years Step 1

We are two weeks into the New Year. For most of us the holiday weariness is just passing and we are starting to get our traction again for the winter days ahead. Maybe we are reevaluating our New Year’s resolutions or 2013 goals. I was going to read through the Bible this year but I’m already 30 chapters behind. I was going to lose a little weight and so far I’ve gained 4 pounds. For me, the first two or three weeks of the year are the time when it takes every ounce of discipline I have to even keep looking at the track, much less stay on track.

It occurred to me this morning that goal setting is a lot like living in recovery. We have to be clear about where we are headed. We need some accountability and support. And we must break it down into small chunks or it is just too overwhelming. To use my 12 Step language, I have to take it one day at a time.

If that is true (and it is) then it might be a good idea to rehearse the recovery mantras while I’m trying to make this year productive. The 12 Steps are not the roadmap for the path to recovery from addictions, character defects, or sins; they are also super tools for achieving our goals and accomplishing the mission that we believe God has set before us this year.

So….let’s top and revisit Step 1 today in this first period of the New Year. Step 1 says “We saw that we were powerless over our (you fill in the blank but for today I am going to say WEAKNESS) and our lives were out of control. We saw that we were powerless over our weakness an our lives were out of control. Listen, I am not a goal accomplisher. I don’t have it in me to do great things or even stay steady in the race. I am weak. I am lazy. I am selfish and self-centered. And when it gets right down to it, I would rather enjoy an extra slice of pie today than pay the price to be more healthy in six months. I am powerless and I have a long history to prove it.

Well, that should cheer you up. Okay. Good luck. God bless. Have a great day!.......Wait a minute. That’s not the end of the story. It is all true but it is not all of the truth. I (and I believe you) are pretty helpless when it comes to overcoming our weaknesses and making ourselves better. Oh, we can read the books, join the gyms, make out the plans, and they work for awhile; but in the end, nothing has really changed in us. Praise the Lord for Steps 2 and 3. We’ll look at those steps over the next few weeks. For now, the great news is that I am powerless but I don’t have to be in charge.

Remember what Paul says to us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” Is that good news or what? I am powerless. I can’t stick with this diet. I can’t accomplish my goals. I can’t make myself get up and run. AND I DON’T HAVE TO. I just put it in God’s hands. And with His help I can do it all. Man, I feel better already. Hope you do to.

One of my goals for 2013 is to be faithful about writing every Tuesday morning a brief word about recovery. In fact I’m thinking the blog will be “Learning Recovery - Living Redemption.” So stay tuned, lay off that donut, and let’s make it to the next step together.



Friday, January 4, 2013

Timing and Mr. Tumbles

Mr. Tumbles is my little hideaway cabin in the woods of Tennessee. It’s not much to look at and pretty austere on the inside. There are bunkbeds, a propane heater (nice to have), a tiny bathroom (even nicer), a kitchen area with a little gas stove, and a bookcase full of some of my favorite books. Actually the best thing in Mr. Tumbles is not in Mr. Tumbles. It’s the front porch that looks out over a little meadow and the hardwood forest that leads down to the Harpeth River.

I confess that about Thursday of every week I start thinking about a trip out to Mr. Tumbles. I don’t get to go very often but just knowing that it’s there, and a possibility, gives me a little solace in the middle of a hectic week. Cold weather or warm, there is nothing better than sitting on the front porch of Mr. Tumbles and watching absolutely nothing happen.

I went out last week for a night or two to do some writing and a little planning for the new year. It was cold, really cold. It got dark very early. And it was quiet. (Not the peaceful, get-some-rest kind of quiet but the what-was-that, did-you-hear-an-axe-murderer kind of quiet.) One thing I learned is that it is hard to write when you are shivering inside a sleeping bag with all of your clothes on and a butcher knife in your hand.  Another thing I learned is that the front porch is a lot more fun on a warm summer evening than the middle of freezing winter night. I stayed one night and came home the next morning.

As I begin the new year I am thinking about timing. Not so much mine but God’s timing. I am absolutely convinced that God always has my best interest at heart. (And yours.) His promise to Jeremiah for the children of Israel is valid for us today. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to bless you and give you hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11) St. Paul’s encouragement to us in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose” is as true today as it was when Paul was sitting in a prison cell. God is large and in charge and He loves us with an everlasting love.

But life is about timing. Not every horizon holds out smooth sailing. Not every morning promises clear skies. Remember Peter wrote “And AFTER YOU HAVE SUFFERED A LITTLE WHILE the God of all grace will restore you and make you strong.” (I Peter 5:10) Let me make a prediction for your 2013. There will be a lot of beautiful, sunny, summer evenings sitting on the porch watching nothing. I promise you that God has some amazing and wonderful days for you in this next year. He has promised that His goodness and mercy will follow you every single day. (Psalm 23:6) He says He will meet every single need that arises this year. (Philippians 4:19) He says if we trust Him He will direct our every path. (Proverbs 3:5-6) All of these things are true for you in 2013. I know it.

But, I am also sure there will be few cold nights when the best you can do is crawl in a sleeping bag and hold on until morning. You will be disappointed this year. There will be some heartbreak in 2013. I am pretty sure you will suffer some loss and say some goodbyes. Even those things God promises to use to make you better. (James 1:24) The key is to remember God’s timing. Morning always follows midnight. Spring always comes after winter. There is always a front porch waiting after you’ve gone through some dark, lonely nights. God’s timing is always right. So this year look for His blessings. Don’t get stuck in the trials. And while you are planning, plan a few evenings out on the front porch watching nothing. It will do you good.                    Mike

(I’ve attached a sheet from my friend Joan Collier that prompted these thoughts. Print it out and keep it in your Bible this year)

What can you expect God to do in your life in 2013? Some pretty incredible things. You can expect:

  • God’s mercies to follow you, and pursue you, every every minute of every hour of every day. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ” (Psalm 23:6)

  • God to meet every single true need that should arise. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

  • God to lead you, counsel you, guide you, and give you wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

  • God to freely forgive your sins each time you repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

  • God to wonderfully correct and discipline you if you should stray into sin. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)

  • God to continue working powerfully in you as you pursue holiness. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

  • God to help you overcome patterns of sin that have plagued you for years. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ” (Romans 6:14)

  • God to use trials in your life to refine and purify your faith. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

  • God to give you every good thing. “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

God has promised to do all these things, and many more. His promises are sure. 2013 is bursting with blessings.