Tag Archives: Addiction

Personal Captivity

Source: Doug Floyd
Source: Doug Floyd

Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Psalm 142:7 (NIV)

The key to understanding David’s “prison” is by reading the liner notes to this particular song’s lyrics: “A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.” The fact that the note is specific in mentioning “the” cave means that it refers to the Cave of Adullam which was a secret fortress and a bandits hideout. David was on the run from King Saul who unjustly wanted to wipe him out. There was a price on his head. For David, as time passed, the cave transformed itself from a place of refuge into a personal prison.

One of the definitions of “prison” is “any place of confinement or involuntary restraint.” Our prison can be any number of places that have nothing to do with steel bars and razor wire. Our prison can be a house or a room within a house. For a weary traveller, an airport, airplane or auto can become a prison. Relationships can become tortuous places of confinement. For those struggling with addictions, disorders, disease or handicap, our very own bodies can become our prison cell. Any who have struggled with the weight of guilt and shame know that our very soul can become our personal penitentiary.

David’s song is a wailing blues number and a desperate cry for salvation from his intensely personal problems. Each of us experience our own places of confinement. Sometimes we have been placed there involuntarily. Other times we find, like David, that a place we once ran for refuge has become a source of torment. Crazier still, we sometimes choose to stay in our personal prison because the torment we know seems less fearful than the freedom that is available to us.

I am reminded this morning of the quote from the prophet Isaiah which became the core of Jesus’ first public teaching:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [emphasis added]

Today, I am praying for myself and all those who know the pain of captivity in all of its diverse and personal manifestations. My prayer is rooted in Jesus’ words: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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Confession of an Ex-News Junkie

from Mickeleh via Flickr
from Mickeleh via Flickr

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.
    Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
Proverbs 9:7 (NLT)

I used to be a news junkie. I grew up in a time when the television had four channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, & PBS) and my hometown of Des Moines had two daily newspapers. One newspaper came in the morning (The Des Moines Register) and the other newspaper was delivered in the afternoon (The Des Moines Tribune).  News was delivered on a specific schedule each day and you had to wait to find out what was happening in the world. Even as a kid I was anxious for the newspaper to come and the nightly news to begin.

With the advent of cable and satellite television, my natural cravings and curiosity could feed its appetite 24/7/365. The news was always on. When there wasn’t any actual news worth talking about then talking heads emerged on both the radio and television to perpetuate and regurgitate old conversations and keep viewers or listeners sucked in. At first, I gorged myself. Talk radio was always on in my car while news channels were always on my television at home.

At some point I began actually listening to the discourse of the conversation, or lack of conversation, that I was hearing. Intelligent opinion gave way to ideological rants. Objective analysis morphed into slanted perspective. Brash personalities with big mouths and bigger egos began a relentless mocking of anyone who didn’t agree with them. Depending on your interest or persuasion you can find the mockers on the left, on the right, and in the sports arena. They act just like the mockers in Solomon’s proverb who insult and injure anyone who dare stand up to have a civil conversation about an opposing view. One cannot surf through the news and sports channels without hearing a steady stream of people yelling, interrupting, and insulting one another.

When I first began imbibing a steady stream of non-stop news I reacted with equal brashness to what I was hearing. I raised my voice. I shot back. I quipped and cajoled. I traded barbs and insults. I screamed at the television to those who disagreed with me and cheered on the mockers from my team. Eventually I found myself strung out and numb. The mockers in the media entrenched themselves firmly in their own positions and raked in the fortune and fame. I began to realize that I was the one getting hurt by all of this. My own mocking alienated others and isolated me from people I was called to actively love. I didn’t like what I had become from my non-stop binge of news channels and talk shows.

That was when I remembered that both my television and my radio had buttons which changed the channel. There was even a button to turn them completely off! I quietly put myself through private rehab for my news junkie addiction. I walked away from mockers of all persuasions cold turkey. Now I’m on a healthy news diet that is mocker free. I choose my news intake wisely and digest healthy portions from a select menu. My spirit, my heart, my mind, my relationships and my life are in better places because of it.

Let the mockers mock. They will always be on. I simply choose not to subject myself to them, nor follow their example.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 24

1998ish - Clint's room - screens & clutter - 1
1998ish – Clint’s room – screens & clutter – 1 (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
    The world and all its people belong to him.
Psalm 24:1 (NLT)

My brother has lived what I would describe as a nomadic life. Having spent most of his adult life going to and living where the work is (which for him has been all over the world) he has by necessity scattered the stuff of life around at various places. There are a few things of his that are in my keeping. In some cases, they have been in my keeping a good long while. I use the phrase “In my keeping” deliberately because while they are not mine I am responsible for them while they are with me. In my keeping implies that I’m taking care of them for him.

Ownership and possession are interesting concepts. If you’re like me, you don’t take time to think about them very often. Perhaps it’s because as a people we’ve become so addicted to owning things and possessing things. We enjoy the luxury of ownership for so much that we easily dismiss irresponsibility and as both a right and privilege.

Throughout God’s Message we are reminded that possession and ownership are an illusion of this life. In God’s economy we own nothing. It all belongs to Him – every thing – everything. In God’s economy, I no more own any single thing I possess than my brother’s guitar which is in my keeping. But, like my brother’s guitar, every thing I possess is in my keeping. I am responsible for it.

Today, I’m grateful for all of that God has allowed to me have in my keeping. I am humbled to think how irresponsibly I have handled much of it. I am so blessed that the amount of things in my keeping is almost entirely up to me. I am reminded that the responsibility of having too many things in my keeping can take up so much time, energy and mindshare that I neglect more important, personal and eternal matters of my soul.

Day 10: Your Views on Drugs and Alcohol

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 10: Your views on Drugs and Alcohol.

I find that people’s views on drugs and alcohol are largely shaped by their early experiences in their family of origin. In my family, adult beverages were consumed regularly but never to excess. My Grandpa Spec always enjoyed a “beer and a belt” at the end of the day referring to a glass of cold beer and a shot of Old Crow or whatever cheap whiskey he had in his shelf above the refrigerator. My Grandpa V enjoyed a tall little cordial of his favorite Cream Sherry before bed, and was known to make a Christmas fruit cake each year that was so doused in different liquors that it weighed about fifteen pounds and was inedible to everyone but the most adventurous souls. My folks would drink beer with certain meals and wine on special occasions. Moderation, responsibility and self-control with alcohol were modeled for me as a child and I have tried to model the same for my children.

I’ve never really been tempted by illegal substances. Drugs were never my deal. But I think that “drugs” has a much broader interpretation than we typically apply to it. I wonder at the hypocrisy I occasionally encounter with those who would zealously prohibit certain substances while refusing to acknowledge our addiction to others.

Sugar is a drug. It is a chemical to which our society is addicted. It creates a chemical reaction within our body leaving us with a false sense of pleasure and well being and it easily leaves us craving more and more until we are overweight, unhealthy diabetics. We scoff and criticize those who drink alcohol or those who would legalize pot while we snarf down another chocolate frosted sugar bomb at the church potluck. I don’t hear a lot of outcry about that.

Caffeine is also a drug. It is a stimulant that has a chemical effect on our body. It easily lures us into an unhealthy, even addictive cycle of being so stimulated we don’t rest well. We’re tired and strung out from not sleeping well so we return to our sugary caffeinated coffee or “energy” drinks . Not only do we refuse to acknowledge this, but we culturally promote it and celebrate it.

I’m reminded of the words of St. Paul when he said all things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial. All things are permissable, but we should not be mastered by any of them. Responsibility, moderation, self-control.

Would you like cream and sugar with that?

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 5

“When you are guilty, immediately confess the sin that you’ve committed and bring as your penalty to God for the sin you have committed a female lamb or goat from the flock for an Absolution-Offering.” Leviticus 5:5 (MSG)

A guilty conscience is a killer. It robs you of sleep. It ties your gut into knots. It gnaws at your thoughts. A person may be able to keep a lid on a guilty conscience for a time, but it will eat away at your soul until the guilt starts oozing out of your life in unexpected, often unhealthy ways.

When those burdened by addictions walk through the Twelve Steps, they are really walking through a systematic process of confession and atonement. The Twelve Steps are rooted in the understanding that our addictions are unhealthy ways we’ve habitually and ritualistically tried to medicate and cope with deeper guilt and pain. Through introspection, admission and making amends, we deal with the deeper issues which led us to our addictive behaviors.

The cool thing about the ancient law of Leviticus is that it presents and attempts to deal with core spiritual, relational, and personal issues with which we continue as human beings to struggle today. The prescription may look very different on this side of history, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the empty tomb, but the issues with which we silly humans grapple at the root of it are the same ones they were wrestling with 3500 years ago.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and evilerin

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 9

Round and around and around. Appetites insatiable, stuffing and gorging themselves left and right with people and things. But still they starved. Not even their children were safe from their rapacious hunger. Isaiah 9:20 (MSG)

I have an appetite for food that, left to myself, finds me overweight and unhealthy. I have an appetite for sex which, left unchecked, leads me to all sorts of dark places and disastrous consequences. I have an appetite for leisure and, if I allow it to take over, it will lead to several areas of my life falling apart. I have an appetite for riches that, without proper boundaries, will leave me indebted and empty-handed. I have an appetite for pleasure that, if I'm not careful, will lead me into a never-ending cycle of looking for new highs for which I will sacrifice anything and everything.

I wish I'd thought more, and understood more, about the core issue of my appetites when I was younger. Increasingly, I begin to understand how much of the life-pain I experience comes from uncontrolled, unchecked, insatiable appetites which demand to be fed constantly and increasingly. Heedlessly feeding my appetites always leave me empty, craving more.

As I've learned to choose the path of contentment over the insane roundabout of my appetites, I've gained increasing clarity. God's message says that godliness with contentment is a means of great gain. I'm finding it true. I can't move forward if I'm running in circles trying to endlessly feed an insatiable hunger.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mrjoro

Chapter-a-Day Judges 20

My life had become unmanagable.  But they wouldn't do it. The Benjaminites refused to listen to their brothers, the People of Israel. Instead they raised an army from all their cities and rallied at Gibeah to go to war against the People of Israel. Judges 20:13 (MSG)

In today's chapter, the fledgling nation of Israel sinks to new depths of chaos. Their moral compass left true north as they disobeyed God's number one command and mixed their religion with the idols of Canaan. As morals fell aside, authority fell to the tribes and leaders who wielded the most power. People did as they pleased. Now, the moral failings lead to civil war as the tribe of Benjamin defends the rapists among them and stands against their fellow tribes.

As I read today's chapter, I reminded that we must sometimes hit rock bottom before real change can take place. The downward spiral I'm witnessing in the pages of the book of Judges bring to mind the first of the Twelve Steps. Many who have raised their lives out of the ashes of the downward spiral of addiction began with the words "I admitted I was powerless over my addticion. My life had become unmanageable." God's message to all of us is that forgiveness, hope and redemption are available to each of us no matter how deep we find ourselves in the chaotic consequences of our actions.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bulletmagnet