Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Default Settings

When I wrote my post about the roller coaster of addiction, I had just begun to formulate the idea of a default setting. I am still trying to put into words exactly how the concept of "default settings" fits into the treatment and recovery of those struggling with addiction. The trouble is that like many things, this is not a fix-all, easy answer that will render addiction immediately powerless and guarantee no more relapsing into the addiction-recovery cycle.

What is a "Default Setting"?

Simply put, the default setting of something is the pre-programmed setting at which the original programmer or designer intended an item to operate. This is a technical term, but anyone who has ever worked with computers has had at least some dealing with "default settings". An example of this is when I upgraded my computers from regular CRT monitors to LCD flat panel monitors. The LCD monitors had a much higher resolution than the CRT monitors, but when connected to the computer, they looked no different. I had to go into the controls and change the resolution of the display driver to a new setting in order to get the benefit of the high definition screens. Now, when I go into those computers and click the restore "default settings" button, the computer reverts to the lower resolution because that is the program that was last set as the default. now if I were a computer programmer, I could go into the internal programming and change the default so the new higher setting is now what the system defaults to, but since the default is most often the optimum setting recommended by the manufacturer, the new setting may cause things to not work as they were intended.

So how does this fit into the world of recovery? We have discussed the idea of the "God shaped hole" in past blogs, the concept that when God made us, he programmed a need into our lives, a need to be connected to or part of something altogether greater and outside of ourselves. A need that we have come to refer to as the divine void, that longing albeit undefined, for connection to a divine person or being, which drives us to look for divinity in the world around us. It is our contention that this programmed void is the necessary result of the lost relationship with God as a result of mankind's fall, and that God left the void there to remind us of our created purpose. Accordingly, the only think that can ever satiate this void is genuine connection with the loving creator God who Himself wrote the default program. 

From the very beginning, man has sought for some way to compensate for this void. Over its history, mankind has tried every conceivable method of self medicating in a vain attempt to cover this longing. the result, man has become addicted to everything from work and religion, to alcohol and drugs, all in the pursuit of a sense of connection or numbing the sense of disconnection they experience. It is also our belief that life circumstances can make the divine void more pronounced. Traumatic life experiences, like loss of a loved one, or physical or emotional abuse are just a few examples. These stimuli somehow magnify the sense of disconnectedness and are often key elements in driving he addiction cycle.

Each of thees things that we look to to cover or medicate or fill up the missing part of our life, can be described as alternate settings. They are not the original default setting, they are some other setting that a person is attempting to change the setting to. The trouble is, that in the case of the human computer, in order to alter the programming, one need only to do something often enough for it to become a habit, and in the cases of some mind altering substances, only one use is sufficient to alter the natural programming. IN any case, the result is that a longing, a sense of disconnectedness that was intended by the always good Creator -God to point our default towards seeking relationship with Himself, instead becomes corrupted and  points towards some counterfeit alternative.The new default settings are no longer optimum, and the end result will be more not-as-it-should-be-ness. We will talk next time about correcting the default setting.

Pastor FedEx.

The Roller Coaster

Working with addicts is hard, it is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Probably the hardest part of working with addicts is riding the roller coaster of the recovery/relapse cycle. Over the years of working on the streets, I have seen it time and again. An addict will come to the point where they recognize the emptiness and futility of their addiction and commit to getting clean. Often, they will even go into a sober living program, or attend recovery meetings. For a time at least, they seem to gain traction, counted sober days turn from days to months. But then, like clockwork, old triggers pop up, old influences begin to creep back in, and the addict slowly is drawn back into their addiction.
In some cases, these cycles are progressive, they seem to be moving toward larger numbers of sober days or months each time with shorter periods of addiction between. In other cases, it looks like one big downward spiral with the addiction winning more and more frequently and the periods of recovery actually shrinking. Each time another addict gets clean and starts the sobriety countdown once again, my mind immediately begins to weigh the odds of their relapsing and pondering just how long it will take for them to relapse this time. Always hoping that this will be the time that their recovery actually sticks and yet in the back of my mind also knowing that the odds are not in their favor. As I was discussing this cycle with a friend of mine, the question of why came up. Why once you have realized just how destructive this addiction is to your life, would you ever go back there? What is the draw that causes an otherwise logical person to make the unbelievably bad decision of returning to the addiction that is quite literally destroying them? Even more incredibly, many of these relapsers are people who have found faith in Jesus and have tasted of the life reconnected to God that He promised. How is it possible, then, to ever again buy into the lies that there is life to be had in drugs, alcohol, sex, religion, or any other counterfeit source of life.

As I thought about these questions, I began to look at my own life and ask what are the things that cause me to move from trusting God to doubting him and seeking life through my own means? In almost every case, it came down to an issue of trusting God as my source of life, especially when things in my life are not going the way I think they should. I have come to have certain expectations of what life as a Christian should look like, and when those expectations are not met, I find myself going back to the things that I found at least some measure of fulfillment in before I was a believer. Even though I know in my head that these things do not bring real fulfilled life, I still go there, at least in part because I know the result I can get from them, and that gives me the illusion of being in control.

So it is, I believe, with so many of our friends who are struggling with addiction. , They realize that their addiction is only a temporary filling, and in many cases, even find the true source of life in Jesus Christ. In the beginning at least, they experience genuine life connected to God and are able to live without their addictions. But then, the difficulties of life rise up once again and they are left questioning whether or not God really does give them everything they need in life. Finally, when they feel like they have completely lost control of their life, they grasp for the control that they know is available in their addiction, and the cycle begins all over again.

So what do I take away from all of this? I guess, the first thing that I take away from these thoughts is that when I realize that my own grasping for control and life in things other than Jesus is not so much different than what the addict is doing, even if it is more socially acceptable, it is not so hard to believe that someone could return to a counterfeit source of life after all. Second, when I am talking with my addict friends, I spend some time trying to identify the unmet and often unrealistic expectations that have caused them to feel like they had to try to take control of their lives through their addictions. And mostly, I realize that while I don’t look for life in a needle, bottle or pill, I still struggle to trust that God is the true source of life and to completely let go of control of my own life. Maybe in the end, the struggle we see so radically defined in the life of the addict is the cycle of trust and control that we all struggle with and that plays out in each of our lives as we try to reconcile life in a world tainted by not rightness with our own expectations.



This post was originally published on 04/27/2015 at Revealministry.org as part of a series about shining light in dark places.

Neat little packages.

During my time at college, my favorite subject was creative writing, and in particular, the genre of the short story. You introduce and develop your characters a little, present a singular issue, then present a resolution all in the space of a few pages. Much like a television show, the resolution needs to wrap up the problem in a tidy little package that leaves no loose threads, no unresolved issues, and of course nothing to be continued.

Like many other people, I like my stories to have a happy or at least positive and complete ending. I want to be able to say like they do in the fairy tales, “and they lived happily ever after”, or at least part of me wants this.  When we do get to see the end of the story, its almost always because something tragic ended it all too soon. This was the case with Bree who after celebrating eight weeks clean decided that her life was too difficult and went back to heroin one last time. Her ever after began with an overdose that left her frozen lifeless body in the doorway of a nearby shop. Or the story of Chief, who would go for weeks at a time without a drop of alcohol, then go on a drinking binge that would only end when he passed out in the worst possible places. One time he passed out face down on a sidewalk and before anyone found him, he had severe frostbite on his face, arms and hands. On his last night, however, he passed out in a park frequented by a gang of teens who beat him into a coma from which he would never recover. These are the “ever-afters” that I see, single decisions that end some of the most incredible stories with little or no chance of happiness.

We have come to recognize that the kind of work that we do does not lend itself to stories that fit into such neat and tidy packages. As we ride the roller coaster of dependency and addiction with people, we are only able to see the present, always aware that the next plunge into the darkness of counterfeit life is always lurking just ahead. And so we learn to live in and celebrate the here and now, the present victories, the right now of life, rather than look at what the end of the story may hold.  We celebrate every new clean date, even if it is only a few days, with true joy and zeal. We relish and support every decision to change, no matter how small, and even when we suspect that the change will only be temporary. But mostly, we learn to trust in the goodness of God, the only one who can know how each and every story ends. We trust that when we love and serve those He brings to us, in His name, that their lives will be changed by the encounter with His love. We trust that God loves them even more than we ever could, and desires for them to be connected to the source of true life, the only way for anyone to have a truly happy ending.

Pastor FedEx


This post was originally published on 05/12/2015 at Revealministry.org as part of a series about shining light in dark places. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The-Not-As-It-Should-Be World Revisited

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT)

      A little over a year ago I published a blog article titled Heartbreak, Groaning, and The Not-As-It-Should-Be World. In this post, I talked about "suffering with Christ" as walking along with people as they experience the not-rightness of our fallen world. I opened the post by pointing out that "In fact, the first few chapters of the book of Romans spell out how all the world has become affected by this not-right-ness, to the point where no person can claim to be as they should be, and the result is death. Death in both body and spirit, spiritual deadness resulting from being disconnected from the source of all life, God, and ultimately, subject to decay and physical death as a visible demonstration of the effects of this not-right-ness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chain Reaction - May Synchroblog

        I know its happened to you. Well, unless you never drive a car or you live in a place where there is no traffic at all. You are in a line of cars traveling the same direction and one of the cars way ahead of you, perhaps a half a mile or more ahead suddenly slows or stops and then all the cars behind them suddenly slow way down or stop. All along the line of cars, brake lights flash, tires squeal, and tempers flare up. This exact thing happened to me just the other day as I was sitting in traffic, a car somewhere about 15-20 cars ahead stopped for some unseen reason, and all the cars between us did the same, then me and my rather large truck also came rather suddenly to a stop.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Does Eternity Start Now?


  "Eternity is now"

    We hear the words from our Christian friends, we see them on motivational posters, we may even hear them preached from a pulpit, but do we really understand what the implication of this very simple yet profound thought is? Jesus spent a lot of time talking about life, particularly in the Gospel of John, where life is a major theme of the book. The word for life zoe is very often paired with another word, ai┼Źnios, a word that is translated eternal or everlasting or without end. and so we have Jesus over and over again promising to those who believe in Him, a life that is without end or eternal. But at what point does this new life start. Does it start with the point of initial faith, or do we have to wait until the disposition of our physical bodies before we can experience this life unending that Jesus is referring to?

How Do We Bear Fruit? (April Synchroblog)


                                           But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in
                                           our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,  
                                           goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. 
                                           There is no law against these things!
                                                                                               - Paul of Tarsus 

     When we think about spiritual fruit, particularly the "Fruit of the Spirit", we tend to think of DOING, spiritual fruit has become synonymous with some action or activity.  Often, we look for these outward actions as evidence that they have genuinely repented of their sinful ways. In fact, when we do not see these things in the life of a believer, we tend to push them to WORK HARDER, to try harder or to DO MORE to produce the fruit that proves the genuineness of their faith. But is this really a correct understanding of what fruit is and what it means to bear fruit - well, lets look at the context of the above quote from the Apostle Paul.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

3 Things Christians Can Learn From Other Religions (March Synchroblog)

             One of the reasons that I love to participate in the monthly synchroblogs, is that they force me out of my comfort zone to blog about topics that I would not normally blog about otherwise. This months topic is no exception, in fact, this is one of those topics that good Christian bloggers avoid altogether. I mean, what have you learned from other religions? Really, everyone knows that the correct answer is nothing, because we cannot learn anything from false religions. Of course I do not really believe that, but talking about learning from other religions is risky, people can begin to accuse us of buying into false religions or worse. But if all truth is God's truth, than we have a responsibility to look for all truth as it reveals God. I am sure given time, I could come up with a pretty extensive list of things that other religions can teach us, but I have come up with three that I think are pretty important.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

God is There! (January Synchroblog - Charity)

It has always been my custom to dislike new years. The last several years for me have been full of hardship, loss, difficult times and unwanted experiences. The thought of a new year is always scary! What if it is harder than the last one?? What if there is harder stuff, bigger messes? I always tell myself new years are scary because they are unknown, at least the mess of the old year was a familiar one. In case it isn't obvious, my natural bent is toward the negative. I am definately a glass half empty (and probably rotten) kind of person. With all of that in mind, I was surprised to get to the end of 2014 without the usual dread of the new year. I actually came into this year feeling a sense of hope, a sense of God being up to something greater in this new year. What has changed?

2014 - A Year of Changes (January Synchroblog - FedEx)

        If there is one thing that I would say has characterized my last year, it has been change. Some of those changes were easy, some of them not so much; some of those changes were clearly for the better, and in some cases, are still looking for the good. I hear people say all the time that they hate change, and I really do appreciate that sentiment, change is difficult, it causes us to leave that which is known and forces us into that which is uncertain. Despite, all this, I don't hate change, I admit I am not always enthusiastic about changes in my life, but I have learned a lot through these changes.

       2014 started out with a major change for my family. In January, we lost our house to foreclosure and were forced to move out of what had been our home for nearly seven years. This was not just one change, it was a whole series of changes, we had been used to owning our house and now we rented from another owner. We had to ask permission to work on our house or to make changes. We moved several miles farther away from our home church into an unfamiliar neighborhood. Our neighbors changed, as did the routes that we had to drive to go about our regular business. Even now a year later, we are still dealing with settling into our new house and there are some items that have not been unpacked and found new homes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christian Books Free - Giving away copies of Simple Church.

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity
Do you want a copy of the book Simple Church, but not sure you want to spend money on yet another book about church. OK, Redeeming Press, the publisher, is sponsoring this month's book giveaway at ChristianBooksFree.com . Just follow the link, and log in with your Facebook or e-mail address, and you are entered to win a paper copy(not electronic). And if you don't win you can still purchase your copy on Amazon.com or through redeeming Press' e-store here http://redeemingpress.com/authors/eric-carpenter/.