Tag Archives: Redemption

A heart formed of barbed wire

There I Am Also

This material was developed for my memoir Masterpiece: A Love Story but not used in the book. (A five minute read)

Who am I now, anyway?

For many years I answered that question only by comparing myself against the signposts I saw in the world. That left my identity fluid, easily distorted, and subject to my whim of the moment. I used to compromise my values in the moment for the moment, instead of faithfully investing for the long term.

This all led me through about 40 years in the wilderness, where I refused to choose God’s best for me. Everything good was relative. Victory meant I got ahead of you. Success came when you thought I was doing well. Prosperity was about avoiding lack or punishment, not enjoying a full life.

These battles were all fought on the human playing field, the one where no one truly wins for long. When I suited up for that game, I had no time for God. He was the bad guy anyway, keeping me from the things I desired. If I couldn’t reach them, it was because He hadn’t made my reach long enough.

Apparent Failure is Not the End

But God being God, showed mercy, even though I was his enemy. My loss of a moral center had made me morally destitute. But God can redeem anything and anyone, including me. And He always has His best in mind.

Sometimes I still doubt that. When I do, it means I temporarily believe one or more lies about myself, instead of the truth. My recovery program is simple. I read the prayer written by the apostle Paul for the church in Ephesus. It’s a reminder of the promises God made to those of us who believe in Jesus.

It’s powerful to read it aloud and insert my own name in place of the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘us’ and ‘you’ and ‘your’. I won’t quote the whole thing here, but here are a list of the promises it contains. The next time you doubt yourself (or the Almighty!) remember these. And if you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus Christ, well, these will be true for you as well, when you take a knee for Him.

A Few Promises

  • You are a saint
  • You are faithful
  • You are blessed with every spiritual blessing (though Christ)
  • You were chosen by God before the foundation of the world
  • You were chosen to be holy (set apart)
  • You were chosen to be blameless before Him (thanks to the sacrifice of Christ)
  • You were predestined to adoption (into God’s family)
  • God’s grace has been bestowed to you (in Christ)
  • You are redeemed (through Christ’s blood)
  • You are forgiven of your sins (through repentance)
  • God has lavished the riches of His grace upon you
  • God will make known to you the mystery of His will (through the Holy Spirit)
  • You are part of God’s eternal plan
  • You have received an inheritance through Him
  • You get to live for the praise of God’s glory
  • You have been sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit1

A little further on, Paul reminds me about the sinful lifestyle I used to live. Yes, I still wrestle with these temptations, but they no longer guide my steps, just cause an occasional stumble.

I was spiritually ‘dead’ in the sins I used to walk in, Paul writes.2 This was all the way the world and the devil said I should live – insensate. I once pursued these things with abandon, and they almost killed me. I did only what my body and my mind demanded, and I was by my very nature a disobedient enemy of God.

When the Light Changes

What changed? He met me in a seedy motel room in Vancouver, Washington in August of 2003. I was a broken-down drunk crying out for mercy. I meant my plea. He knew it. He responded. By grace I was saved.

He pulled me out of the dung heap I’d made of my life.3 Why? Because, as Paul concludes, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ 4

There’s a plan. I’m an important part of it, and so are you. Our success only comes by being who God says we are, not what others say we should do.

So – how does it feel to know you are part of God’s plan to save the world?

1. Adapted from Ephesians 1:3-13
2. Ephesians 2:1-3 ‘And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked..doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind.’
3. ‘I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God; many will see it, and fear, and will trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:1-3
4. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Christmas presents

12-Step Christmas

This is an expanded version of material originally prepared for my memoir Masterpiece (A Love Story).

(A four-minute read – read part II here)

Collecting garbage

By my early 40s, the world of weed was just too spooky. Maintaining a respectable image while simultaneously patronizing drug dealers became difficult. The dread of being busted was balanced uncomfortably with the fear of running out of weed. I carried an intense level of denial. Eventually, the pot did run out and booze took over. It was legal, easy, cheaper.

Where marijuana was a spirit guide, alcohol was a balm, a saviour, and finally, my master: the only thing I truly cared about. Even my sense of self-preservation was subservient to the need to drink. I lived to drink, and ultimately, drank to live.

Within ten years, I crashed onto the floor of a seedy motel room and began the return to life. I had to unlearn lies before accepting truths, undo evil consequences before accepting fresh ones and unburden myself of baggage before packing a new kit.

Doing the work presented by the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was like getting through a busy Christmas shopping season. For many of us Christmas is jolly and joyful, but it can also be full of rush, pressure, expectation, a need to perform, and an undercurrent that something is not quite right somehow, as though Santa is about to drop the other boot.

12-Step Christmas

The softening of my heart was a 12-Step Christmas. It was messy and demanding, even while liberating. It centered on the greatest gift I could have given myself, the gift of forgiveness. The more time I spent drunk, the more the perceived wrongs done to me piled up.

When I got sober, I could finally smell the stink of them. They had to go.

I resisted the idea that I could only get rid of them by getting even. There’s no value in getting even, only in getting free. It’s a simple act; not always easy, but it changed my life.

Forgiveness of others can be a difficult, demanding and painful thing. I know. Some of the grudges and resentments I found myself with I’d borne for years. I needed to unburden myself.

Let’s consider them as a ‘burden’ because that so well illustrates what the unforgiving soul packs around. Unforgiveness itself is literally that: a burden, a drag, a friction. It keeps me weighted to an unhealthy past instead of releasing me for a better future.

An uncomfortable picture

To illustrate, imagine yourself walking along having just finished all your Christmas shopping in one go.

On your left shoulder is a very large bag, the long strap of which is over your head to keep it from slipping away. Your arm hangs out over its bulk in an uncomfortable arc. The hand of that arm grips another shopping bag, this one hanging low and heavy, outboard of your knee.

These stuffed satchels would have you tipping hard left if it weren’t for the oversized weighty sack you desperately clutch with your right hand as a counterbalance. Meanwhile, you’re kept from being hunched over by the giant rucksack resting heavily on your back.

That one appears to keep you above the center of balance, but it’s an illusion. In reality, it weighs you down even more, creating additional pressure.

This is the picture we need to see when we choose to bear a grudge or carry a resentment. Grudges are heavy things, and they get heavier over time; their inertia grows. It’s as though gravity increases where they are present. They are truly weighty matters.

This is an expanded version of material originally prepared for my memoir Masterpiece (A Love Story).

Read part II here

Alan, 1972

Repetitive Idiot Child (Part Two)

(A five-minute read)

This essay was taken from material originally developed for my memoir, “Masterpiece (A Love Story),” now on sale.

[Read Part One here]

As a teenager, I was willful and self-indulgent and on a desperate search for meaning, which led me to seek many illicit things. I chose a path of self-destruction and was blind to my folly, like a lamb that gets its own ideas.

# # # # # # #

All the neighbors were involved in the fun. Their fun, at my expense. The phone rings: ‘Your lamb is caught in the fence again.’ I am 12 miles away at work. The phone rings: ‘Your lamb is caught in the fence again.’ I make a call to see if someone else can make the trudge. Quickly, I have had enough of this lamb with the misshapen horns.

At first, I thought Dippity would somehow get smart and realize that when she sticks her head through the fence, her horns get caught every time. Yes, well this is a sheep we are talking about, and ovines are not known for their problem-solving ability.

More fool I.

I briefly considered the plastic Elizabethan collar I had in case I ever needed to treat an injured dog. Nope – too flimsy for a lamb. Then the household engineer remembered a friend’s brilliant idea involving a short length of PVC pipe and duct tape. Thus, the “Ovine Curb Feelers” were born. The firmly anchored PVC stretched horizontally from one horn to another, jutting out far enough on both sides to make fence-trapping impossible.

When Dippity was released with her new fashion accessory, it was clear she knew something was wrong. She shook her head. She ran in circles. She was immediately shunned by the rest of the ewes, lambs and yearlings. This is because sheep, remarkably, have an acute ability to remember faces. For example, every year after shearing, a newly-shorn ewe returns to the flock, only to be stared at by the others as though they had never seen her before: ‘Who in the world are YOU?’

So when Dippity appeared before the befuddled staring crowd, antennae akimbo, and began shaking, stamping, circling and spinning, the stampede was on. She ran to join them. They ran away. For comfort, she ran to her mother, Sera. Sera ran away. Dippity ran faster. Sera ran faster still.

Dippity stopped and started. The others danced away. She stopped, confused. Bobby the Guard Llama came over to investigate, bowing on his long neck for a closer look. Dippity shook her head as if to say ‘Stop staring at me, Bub’, and ran off to join the flock. They scattered again.

Eventually the flock got over it. As a bonus, Dippity was weaned in the bargain.

# # # # # # #

God slapped an outsized accessory on me during an encounter with Him in 2003. I walked into this in great psychic pain. I walked away stone cold sober and eager to know more about this God who saved my life. The outsized accessory was His Spirit. It served the same purpose as the PVC pipe I put on that lamb. It brought an awareness that I was no longer my own master.

Dippity had no choice. I used mine to surrender. Oh, it wasn’t done happily, nor willingly, but it was done. God now had the ability to turn my head the way He wanted me to look, which then caused me to follow.

I had been told years before in driver’s education never to stare at an accident or a slow-moving vehicle, or a pedestrian on the side of the road – I will have a tendency to steer into it. Life is exactly like that. I turn aside toward the things I fill my vision with: an escapist lifestyle, my victimhood, the illusory pleasure of a pornographic image, that greener grass on the other side, or God Himself.

My choice.

The day came when I was no longer fence-trapped. My days as a lost lamb ended. But not before the Shepherd came to find me and I let Him carry me home.

To read more about my journey, you can buy my memoir, Masterpiece (A Love Story) in eBook and paperback.