Patience & Tolerance

(I apologize to those of you that have been checking this blog and reading my personal applications and journey.  Much of the following was actually written back in May on Mother’s Day.Due to the nature of that day, the week that followed, and events surrounding my work (employment), I’m just now getting back to this blog. I’m sorry for the absence and will try to do better at combining my ministry with … life.)  
Well … let’s just start out by admitting these (patience and tolerance) are not innately natural human qualities. Consider any newborn, toddler, child, teenager, … I’m not really sure where to draw the line or even if a line can be drawn. Patience and tolerance are acquired characteristics and biblically taught but they seem to come and go on a daily basis. Christ himself taught that each day will bring challenges. My phrase for this is being “lifed on.” It is inevitable to one extent or another each and every day. This year, on this Mother’s Day, I sat aboard an airplane delayed 90 minutes due to a cabin panel that inevitably was ductaped back to the ceiling. This delay was adequate for me to lose my rental car reservation resulting in alternative arrangements at double the cost. Additionally, it made me 15 minutes late picking Mother up for the family Mother’s Day event.

Extraordinary circumstances or events? No, not really. Frustrating and infuriating, ABSOLUTELY! What are we taught?

(Ephesians 6:10-16) Know that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” Self will is strong in most. It is self centered and not the way of God. This selfishness comes from the earliest “powers of this dark world.” The power to resist these “spiritual forces of evil” must come from God himself. God tells us, through the Apostle Paul, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Never forget to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.”

(AA Step 11) “Sought through prayer and meditation to maintain constant contact with God.”

You see, God knows, by personal experience, that life in the body is not easy. He knows that without His wisdom our human self will takes us away from God’s will for us. Paul described these daily attacks as “flaming arrows” extinguished only by the “shield of faith.” My most frequent prayer on days like this past Mother’s Day, are for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry it out. Even after this little chapter in my life came to a close, I knew I had challenges lying ahead on through Mother’s Day and the week that followed. Due to that trip I wasn’t able to hear Pastor Brian’s insights into “Family Angst” but I had the choice to experience the angst or accept and practice God’s advice passed to me through Paul and relayed again through AA’s founders’ and their Biblical study and application.

Truth be told, my effort is shown through this very writing. Rather than turning inward toward the fire inside I was led to God’s Word for situations like this and expressed to you exactly what I need to practice myself between now and when I give thanks at day’s end.

Disease Isn’t a Choice


I was initially directed to AA by my family doctor. I had opened up to him with as much detail about my history as I was able to conjure. To be certain I left nothing out I had even prepared a written document with it all. When he finished reading he leaned back and asked if I ever drank more than I had intended or wanted to … clearly, YES. He asked if I had ever experienced consequences as a result of drinking … again, YES. He leaned in and said, “I suggest you think about being an alcoholic. Perhaps of the “binge” type, but none the less, an alcoholic. The treatment for you is the same as the daily drinker. You can’t drink at all.”
I was incredulous but, for the first time, a weight I had carried for a long time was somewhat lighter. You see, every time I “blew up” I swore that it would never happen again. I’m smarter than that and I just won’t allow it. It was pure stupidity, I thought, and I needed better self control. My doctor’s words suggested that I didn’t have any choice or power when it came to alcohol.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” (AA Step 1)

Call it what you may, an illness, disease, or flawed genetics, for some reason there’s a very large number of people that just can’t reliably control alcohol (or drug) intake. For us, this isn’t a choice we make, its simply the way we are.  I absolutely accept that I am not wired like everybody else. My “off button” didn’t always work when I was drinking and that’s a VERY dangerous way of life.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-8) “This precious treasure – this light and power that now shines within us – is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.

The Apostle Paul states our condition very clearly. When it comes to alcohol, I am weaker than most. He also states our solution. We can defeat this weakness through the power of God, power than we have shown over and over and over … we personally lack.  We didn’t choose this and we can’t control it.  However, as Pastor Brian frequently says, “God’s got us” and as the past 8.5 years of my life testify, He’s got me.



(Luke 17:11-19)
Ten Healed of Leprosy
As Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem 10 lepers approached him pleading for his help. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, they were cured of their disease. Later, only one, a Samaritan, returned in praise and gratitude. Jesus said, “Didn’t I heal them men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except for this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
As we move further down our Christian path getting ever further from the wrongs of our past while avoiding the pitfalls of committing more, we often fail to recognize the blessings that we have. Recently a man asked me, “Do you always get what you pray for?” I answered, “Since entering this path I always get what I need which is not always what I want.” He continued to explain that he left the church because he was not given what he asked for. His examples were mostly earthly possessions. I spoke of gratitude for the life and gifts that I have and that my prayer is usually for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out. Additionally, I will pray for God’s power on behalf of others. I pointed out that my focus is not specifically for my benefit. By the end of the conversation I do not think he was all that impressed.
I feel fortunate to recognize blessings and that God guides me through this life. For those in recovery, gratitude is vitally important as we try to build a positive life by doing “the next right thing.” God grants me that wisdom for the simple asking and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Harming You & Me

“We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” (AA Step 8)

Listing all the people we have harmed will probably trigger a natural defensiveness. With each name we write down, another mental list may begin to form – a list of the wrongs that have been done to us. How can we deal with the resentment we hold toward others so we can move toward making amends?

(Matthew 18:23-35) – Jesus told a story of the king that decided to bring all accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. One such servant owed a HUGE amount. The man begged for forgiveness because he couldn’t pay. The king was filled with pity and forgave the debt. When the man left he went to a fellow servant that owned him much less and physically threatened him for payment. When the king heard of this he summoned the servant he had forgiven. “You evil servant,” he said. “I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant?”

When we look at all that God has forgiven us, it makes sense to choose to forgive others. This also frees us from the torture of festering resentment. We can’t change what others have done to us, but we can write off their debts and become willing to make amends for our wrongs.

Clinging to Character Defects


Only one has ever walked among us that had no character defects. For the rest of us, we must make concerted efforts to minimize the damage these shortcomings can, and will, cause. Clearly, this is yet another undertaking that is beyond human power. We have to rely on God. Becoming entirely ready to give up these personal “enhancements” (AA Step 6) and then humbly asking God to remove them (AA Step 7) is actually more difficult than it may seem. On the surface it would seem that we’d eagerly ask God to strip us of such negative and problem causing traits. Control was just such an issue for me. It was the source of a great deal of strife in my life resulting in frustration and anger which, of course, fed my alcoholism. Who wouldn’t want to “take the edge off” when feeling like that … right? Upon entering recovery the control issue quickly surfaced and, to be honest, I have been relieved with the results of God removing (most of the time) this weight from my life. HOWEVER, there are other shortcomings that I am apparently quite comfortable with and I am uncomfortable without them.

A Practical Example

For some reason I am one that tends to move toward the fight, fire, argument, disturbance, controversy, noise, anger, frustration, … you get the idea. Most people move away from these situations. I don’t! I understand this fuels my angst and angst fuels my alcoholism. Again, who wouldn’t want to “take the edge off” after … that! Reborn in recovery I am better about this but I have not let go completely nor have I asked that God relieve me of it all. Stubborn, aren’t we. Even though I absolutely know that I cannot afford to be fired up about anything for very long without compromising my recovery, I still, to this very day, wake up in the morning, fix a nice cup of coffee, and then sit down in front of the national news and get REALLY riled up first thing in the morning. This behavior defies logic but it is very human. Were I a moth I’d be starting each day with a good flame. I need to fall back to Step 6 and become entirely ready for God to remove this character defect and then I need to let Him take it away (Step 7).


This is real life recovery and I don’t believe it matters if any particular addiction is involved. Character defects are a fact of our humanity and we either get God’s assistance with them or we do not. The middle of the Serenity Prayer asks God to give us the courage to change what we can. We can only change ourselves, my friends, and everybody else has to handle the job for themselves. The first step is knowing that we can’t do this alone. We have to draw upon God’s power. The quality of our life and the life of those around us depends upon it.

Scary, But Not Insurmountable

In the 12 Step Program, two pairs of steps may appear to be insurmountable obstacles. Steps 4 and 5 ask for a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and then for us to confess to ourselves, to God, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Steps 8 and 9 ask us to make a list of all people we have wronged and then to make amends to each.

On their surface these seem very difficult and maybe even punitive. In Pastor Brian’s Easter message, however, he pointed out two very important directions we are given as Christians. First, understand our reliance must be on God. Indeed, we may not have the strength to complete what these steps require. This is exactly why, in Step 3, we turned our will and lives over to the care of God. Now, we have the power, strength and determination to complete such demanding acts. Second, we need to keep in mind WHY we are asked to complete such challenging work. Attaining true freedom from our past and avoiding the same trappings in our future is why. We need to identify our wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and God’s help in removing these defects of character (Steps 6 & 7). The amends process allow us to walk through life looking everyone squarely in the eye knowing that we have done the right thing in cleaning up any messes left behind in our past.

The freedom we gain is truly remarkable. Personally, I found the amend process to be extremely positive … ok, with one exception but even that was anticipated and not all that bad. Did these steps eliminate all regrets? No, not really. But they allow me to live knowing there’s nothing hidden. One of our sayings is, “We’re no sicker than our secrets,” which is why all of mine were shown the light of day and I actively try to not generate any more. I believe that living as an open book is a good thing.

The Fires of Life

I entitled this piece from Pastor Brian’s sermon series over 8 years ago when I first arrived at Harvest Community Church. His message that day and our work together with God’s guidance is the very reason I’m still at Harvest and still following Christ’s lead.

Its been a couple of weeks since my last post due to the fires of life. A good friend had fallen seriously ill and after two weeks of struggle went into the hospital where he was diagnosed with cancer. Initially he was told he had less than a year and to begin getting his affairs in order. It couldn’t have been worse. 8 days, several gruesome biopsies, and one chemo treatment later, he walked out of the hospital looking 100% better. Mark still has a long road ahead of him and there are no guarantees in this life. Still, Mark knows he has a guarantee of being healed and whole whether it be here or in his Heavenly home. Prayers through the week were to deliver Mark from this storm built upon our faith in His will. As children of God we maintain confidence in our future and pray for knowledge of God’s will for us and power to carry it out. His will, not ours, be done.

During the course of the week Mark’s doctor’s closed in on exactly what he had and developed a plan of attack. Through this same period of time our Tuesday group closed ranks and rallied behind Mark. My unofficial count was at least 10 of us spent time in those hospital rooms. The point I want to make is that this is exactly what seeking and finding God’s will looks like. People, each and every one of us, snatched from the fires of our life stepped forward in support of a brother in sobriety. I’m personally humbled to be associated with such great people.

My gratitude for God’s grace cannot be expressed in words. He pulled Mark from that fire. We don’t know why or for how long but we know there is a reason and his fight in the body continues.