True story of addiction

champagne-1118232_1920Last November a very close friend of mine died. Brad and I were part of about a dozen very close friends in high school who played football together and went to parties together. We were “The Fellas.”

 

Brad left behind two young children and a professional banking career that would put him in the upper-middle class in any American suburb. He loved to golf and he loved college football.

But somewhere along the way he became addicted to alcohol. It cost him his marriage. It cost him his job. Ultimately it cost him his children, the only hope he had left. After that he was beyond help and his march towards death began.

I was honored to be asked to read from Romans 8 at his funeral. While it is true that nothing can separate us from God’s love it is certainly possible for us to be separated from the love of one another. Far too easy in fact.

As I gathered with my friends in Texas to mourn we consoled each other and tried to make sense of the events. Weeks later when the pain started to soften one of our group sent the following letter to us all. It was brave and loving and truthful. I asked him if I could share and he agreed because our story is not unique and sadly it will probably happen again somewhere.

In a world full of machismo and attitude I hope we can humble ourselves to serve one another and show some genuine caring before it’s too late.

 

All is not Well…

Losing Brad has affected me deeply since his funeral. I am so upset by Brad’s choices that led to the end of his life. I get angry just thinking about it. His funeral was so sad to me to watch his kids and know that Brad could have been a phenomenal dad to them.

When was the right time for Brad to “get help”? On May 15th I sat in the hospital room with him and watched Chad plead with him to stop drinking. He was committing suicide before our eyes. Brad’s hands shook and his body trembled. He had been bleeding and the doctor told him his body could not handle any more alcohol.

It just seems like Brad chose death years ago. Like when he would drink before coming home after work or wait until the family went to bed so he could drink till he passed out. I am sure he thought he is an adult, it is his choice, and he isn’t hurting anyone. Brad did have a choice back then but lost the power to choose this past year. In the end, it was impossible to get him to help himself (so many tried).  He saw no value in changing or even value in himself. Brad viewed his life as unimportant to the point of choosing death.

Death did not quietly or swiftly take Brad away. Death deliberately and violently dismantled Brad. Death ripped us off. No more lunches, emails, golf rounds, Aggie games, watching kids’ sporting events with Brad. We all lost.

We have lost a friend to ALCOHOL. That makes me mad. If he died of cancer or heart disease I’d feel so different. ALCOHOL destroyed Brad. You saw his body in the casket…he looked terrible! He looked twice his age. He wasn’t the Brad so many loved- fun loving, inquisitive, competitor.

Normal life is scary, boring, unfulfilling, exasperating, and lonely sometimes. But HOPE, often found in our faith, family, and friends carries us through these things. This confidence in the unseen or incomplete around us is what makes life meaningful. It proves over and over that problems grow character, and finally that something good can come out of something bad.

What good could come out of Brad’s death?

  • One big thing–None of us again die of alcohol related causes. Our funerals need to be a multigenerational celebrations of a full life not destroyed ones.
  • We commit to live life sober and alive, for others not ourselves.
  • WE LIVE!  These should be the best years of our lives.

I will fight for life within our group. We are the Fellas. We are stronger together than apart. I was reminded of how important that is this month. We are life-long friends. I am grateful for you. So even when it’s awkward and painful to say… I will fight for each of you if necessary the same way I fought for Brad. Why, because I love you and would hope that if I was in the same dark spot like Brad, one of you or maybe all of you would help me to choose life. That’s what friendship is to me at least.

Is it well with your soul?

The big question for us all… “Is it well with my soul?”

In the chaos of life, don’t you sometimes wonder about that? In our move to Texas and through all of the things that have happened since, there have been times that were unsettling at best and at worst, making me question whether it was well with my soul. I’m sure you’ve been there too. There’s a lot in life that attempts to rob us of joy destroy our peace and make us question our self-worth and purpose in life.

Raising kids, taking care of elderly parents, corporate climbing, being a good dad and husband, being a Jesus follower, also all bring their own sets of “growth opportunities!”  It seems especially challenging when you’ve done everything you thought was right and it still doesn’t turn out the way you had anticipated. Questions like… Am I the right guy for this?… Who am I to think that I deserve or can do this?… How could God forgive someone as broken as me?… I’m not good enough to be what God has called me to be as a parent, spouse, disciple, etc.… I fail so much, should I just give up trying so hard? Does any of this resonate with you?

Did you know that sometimes… no, I would even say most of the time, those closest to you can answer the big question better than anyone else? When it is well, our reaction to life is different and they see that. Failures don’t rob us of our self-worth. Challenges don’t derail our journey. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. There truly is a different peace. The one spoke of in Philippians 4:7.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NIV) 

You see, true peace, true contentment and soul wellness only comes through Jesus Christ… and it’s something that is beyond our comprehension. It’s something that isn’t shaken by circumstances, failures, or even death itself. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, told his disciples that he was going to die… devastating news, but then he said…

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV) 

Those words are for you and me. Even in the midst of the darkest times, you can have hope and His peace.

So, I bet you may be thinking, how can I fix it? As guys, we like action items! Going back to the Philippians passage helps us understand some practices that will help. Here they are…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV)

So, did you catch it? Be in prayer, give thanks for all things, and control what you think about! So guys, here’s our challenge this week. Experiment doing more of just one of the three. Maybe pray one more time each day…or look back on the day and thank God for the things you see… or be mindful of what you read, listen to or watch and don’t let anything that is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable sneak in.

As you start practicing these more and more, you will understand in a much deeper way that “it is truly well with your soul.” Not because you worked at it enough or got it totally figured out. But for one reason and one reason only… it’s in Christ Jesus that you truly have that peace. As His dearly beloved child… a member of the Kingdom of God, you can be assured of that. Even when you fail, don’t feel like it, or question everything… it’s in Christ alone that your worth is beyond measure. It’s in Christ’s strength that you can be what He wants you to be. It’s in Christ’s forgiveness that you can keep going in the midst of sin and failures. It’s in Jesus that it is well with your soul! And those around you will see it!

My prayer for us all…

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV) 

Brothers… It is well… because of Jesus!

through it all

This song has really resonated with me lately… Kristene DiMarco, It is Well. I hope it encourages you!

-Gerry

 

April 2017 Newsletter – Youth Sports

pablo

This month’s topic is youth sports. And really it can be about any youth activity; music, education, art. The structured activities that our kids participate in are an important part of their lives. They lessons they learn and the experiences they have they’ll take with them for life. The negatives are there too. Is it for them or for us? Is it for the coaches? What about the $7 Billion a Year industry that is youth sports? Do the activities of a 10-year-old trump the needs and schedule of an entire family? Have we made ourselves defacto chauffers, agents, and personal assistants to 11-year-olds?  What do year round sports or activities do to kids? There’s a reason, given in the video below, 70% of kids quit sports by 13 years of age.

 Read

An Open Letter to My Dad, who Makes Me Want to Quit Sports – John O’Sullivan

I used to love when you watched my play when I was younger, but now, I wish you weren’t there. I think I am starting to hate playing soccer.

This can be a tough, but necessary one to read. Our kids pick up on how we act and what we say. When we tell them to respect others and then we bad mouth the coach, refs, and other players, that sends them mixed messages.

Are parents ruining youth sports? Fewer kids play amid pressure.Mike Rosenwald

The number of children playing team sports is falling, with experts blaming a parent-driven focus on elite travel clubs, specialization in one sport and pursuit of scholarships for hurting the country’s youth sports leagues.

What is your goal for your kids when they play sports? Likely the goals are intrinsic, such as hard work, being a team player, and learning. The percentage of kids who get scholarships to play in college is low (about 2%). Single sport specialization hurts them physically and mentally. So, why, if our goals for them are to learn hard work and sportsmanship are we putting so much pressure on them?

Benefits Of Sports To A Child’s Mind And Heart All Part Of The Game – Patti Neighmond

If kids can learn to fight their fear and work through it, he says, that steadiness comes in handy later in life — when the stakes are much higher.

I played football, baseball, and wrestled throughout junior high and high school. I learned a lot of lessons during those years. How to push myself, how to work with others, and how to putting winning and losing in perspective were just a few of the lessons learned. All of us have a tendency to seek comfort. Sports will help our kids do things that are uncomfortable but produce lasting benefits.

Listen

Building Men Through BaseballFamily Life Today

Can sports be a healthy part of a young man’s development? Sure! But only to an extent. Randy Stinson tells how his sports-loving family opted out of baseball for 18 months in order to stretch themselves in other ways: through mission trips and other gospel outreaches. Randy explains why it’s important to him to give his kids a big vision of the world.

Watch

Changing the Game in Youth Sports – John O’Sullivan

TED talk by a former college soccer player and current coach. Youth sports is about….the children. It’s not about the parents and the coach. There are tons of great stuff for kids to gain by playing sports. Those benefits get ruined when we don’t put the players first. Give this video a watch and find out the 5 words you should say to your kid after a game.

 

Here are some takeaways I gained from researching this:

  • Beware of idolatry and making idols out of your kids and the sport
  • Kids need breaks; year round single sport participation is detrimental to them
  • Kids need activity and the good stuff sports provide
  • We parents need to keep sports and our relationship with our kids in perspective
  • Sports are a huge opportunity for relationship building with our kids

As Michael said in the quote above, “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”  They’re just playing a game after all.

Stay Sharp,

Matt

Peace

peace_3

Peace

What enters your mind when you think of peace?

Maybe a picture comes to mind of tranquil surroundings.  Like resting in a hammock on a beach with the rhythmic sound of crashing waves in the background.  Or paddling a canoe on a glassy lake with the sound of water rippling against the hull.  Or fly fishing in a remote stream with the hypnotic sounds of water coursing over and around the rocks.

Or maybe you think of a Peace Treaty.  A cessation of hostilities between two warring parties.  Where damages are surveyed; strengths and weaknesses assessed; risks and rewards calculated; concessions made, and a peace treaty negotiated.

Or maybe you think of a greeting or salutation.  A “V” shaped hand signal you might flash to a friend or acquaintance.  “All is well between us”; or maybe “I hope things go well for you”.

Three different concepts of peace, but they all require a common component.  Circumstances.  And arguably good or favorable circumstances.

In the case of the hammock on the beach, that peace might be interrupted by a sudden downpour, or someone with a boom box.  The peace in the canoe swamped out by a passing ski boat, and the fly fishing tranquility dunked with a slip on the rocks.  These circumstances are perhaps especially applicable in the case of a Peace Treaty.  Only after certain conditions are met will the warring parties agree to cease war – and even then, with a wary, watchful eye.

But what about the kind of peace that doesn’t make any sense.  The peace that defies logic.  The peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances.  We read about it in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

We might speculate that Paul was having a particularly good day and was just seeing the world through rose colored glasses.  But then we remember Paul wrote these words while in prison for preaching the gospel.  Hmmm.  Not the sort of circumstance one would typically associate with a good day.  Or with rejoicing, thanksgiving, and peace.  And this prison sentence wasn’t an isolated incident.  Difficult circumstances were the norm for Paul.  Consider his “boasting” in second Corinthians:

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

An amazing list of challenges Paul faced while preaching the gospel, and yet I don’t get the sense he was looking for sympathy.  In fact, it seems these obstacles weren’t things he lamented, but rather they seemed to elicit wonder and joy at how God worked through these difficulties:

“That is why, for Chris’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Through Paul’s many trials and tribulations, he learned to depend on and trust in that peace that transcends all understanding.  It obviously didn’t mean that his circumstances improved because of that peace – far from it – but rather that he trusted God would use him and bless his work in spite of his circumstances.  His joy and peace seemed to deepen and improve as his circumstances worsened, until he was ultimately martyred.  Most historians agree he was beheaded at the order of the Roman authorities.  No, Paul wasn’t seeing the world through rose colored glasses.

More like eternity glasses.

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:19-21)

Challenging words from a man with his priorities in order.

And a reminder that our circumstances need not dictate our joy, peace, and contentment.  A reminder that we are dearly loved children of the most high God, regardless of our circumstances.  That in all things (any and all circumstances) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

May we seek to live our lives according to God’s good and perfect will, encouraging and exhorting one another in the faith and through the trials and tribulations of life.

Peace!

Ken