As Iron Sharpens Iron

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17

They are not therapists. They are not professionals. Conquering Life Prison and Recovery Ministries (CLPRM) are just a group of folks who are on a noble quest to help those suffering from the voluntary slavery of addictions overcome their problem through Biblical means.

For CLPRM, relapsing is a major concern. It has become such a big deal that on September 8, it will hold a relapse walk and fundraiser. 

Quitting the voluntary slavery of an addiction is one thing, but staying off an addiction is another thing. It’s not just a matter of simply abstaining, which is good, but you need to get at the root of the problem. When people can’t handle life on its own terms, instead of seeking God’s help, they look for deliverance in the god of this age. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

Despite being rescued from an initial addiction, addicts continue to engage in destructive behavior which only brings them misery. What the demon Screwtape tells his demon nephew Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in their mission to bring down a Christian to their father, Satan, applies: “An ever- increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return – that is what really gladdens Our Father’s heart.”

The promise of being delivered and creating better living through chemistry so to speak, only to be let down is analogous to the lines in Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night.”

Another fella told me he had a sister who looked just fine
Instead of being my deliverance, she had a strange resemblance
to a cat named Frankenstein

The dark world of the drug culture is the world of Frankenstein! It’s a monster created by sinful people. Users go broke, are alienated from their loved ones, they enter the pit of despair, go to jail, rehabs and sometimes institutions, and go early to the grave as well as the nuthouse.

I’ve known and heard of people who have engaged in such destructive behavior – repeatedly relapsing for as long as 30 years. One I knew well finally got clean after decades of living in the dark world of voluntary slavery and came into the light of Jesus, which was the only way to break the chains of addiction. But it was too late! But the chains were broken and heaven’s gates were opened.

You don’t have to be a drug addict or a drunk to mess up your life. I did.

I had lost my job and was going to lose my house. I lost things bit by bit, as did a woman in an episode of The Twilight Zone. In the episode, every time this spendthrift missed a credit card payment, she lost something. First the cat, then the dog, then her kids, then her husband, then her car, then her house. I lost my home Internet connection, I was soon to lose my wife, my dog had already died, and I was running low on food. I was also starting to lose my mind.

For food, I went to a local Salvation Army pantry. I also needed someone to talk with, as I was anxious and depressed about my situation. I took a Salvation Army magazine home with me and started reading it. I emailed a particular section. Someone replied to my email and wrote that it was a of a call for help. It was! Following the respondent’s advice, I visited the church come Sunday. One of the officers was in early. She let me in and we talked before Sunday school. I hadn’t been to church regularly for years. I listened attentively. I was broken. During the singing of “What a Friend We Have Jesus” I hung on every word, which was projected on a screen. When we hit the lines “oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear…” I broke down in tears. The thought that I didn’t have to have the mental pain I was in and that I could find peace in Jesus just touched me.  “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:8

The root of my problem was that I was sinning, not living a Godly lifestyle. I prayed to God, confessed my sins and asked Him to bring me back to him. I got on the right path. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

To help me get back in the pink, which certainly wasn’t in a wink, I volunteered in the food pantry. It’s good to have responsibilities. More recently a homeless guy who had a drinking problem told me he got a job, and added it would keep him out of trouble. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop!

I took my laptop to the local library and started doing online freelance writing. After a time, I started writing these blogs. For a time, I worked doing deliveries and working in the store doing odd jobs at a furniture and mattress business.

Both the drug user and I continued to keep destructive behavior at bay, by hanging with the right people and by doing the right things. Informal counseling and going to meetings such as Celebrate Recovery, an “addiction” meeting at a church, which morphed into a Bible study, reading Christian materials and to church. The drug user called the addiction meeting a Bible study.

Counseling, as Biblical Counseling movement founder Jay E Adams explains in “Critical Stages of Biblical Counseling”, is basically a pit stop to take care of problems that slow down progressive sanctification so the putting off of sinful ways and putting on Godly ways can continue in the church and other venues that help the believer become more Christlike.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save “good” people, but sinners. Addicts are no different than anybody else.

It’s important to attend a church that follows the Bible strictly and doesn’t succumb to every whim of doctrine.

In the 1920s, mainstream protestant churches were polluted with worldly ways.  They were not holy, which means to set apart from the sinful world. Their world view was reflected in the moral and financial poverty of the times. It was ministering to broken people that helped Christianity have more fidelity to scripture.

To help people who abuse alcohol, in 1921 “A First Century Christian Fellowship, later known as The Oxford Group, was created, founded by a minister who was truly born again, 14 years before Alcoholics Anonymous. Although AA used Biblical principles from The Oxford Group, it minimized God. The added “God as we know him” was incorporated to appease non-Christians.

The practice of regular people with problems using the Bible to help one another, as CLPRM does, was the case with The Oxford Group. A “professional” could not help a drunk back then, and shrinks, along with all the other professional horses and all the king’s men, can’t today.

Back in 1931, an American businessman with a major problem with the bottle was treated by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung for a year and stopped the problem drinking. It wasn’t long before he relapsed. He came back to Dr. Jung, who told him that he was a nearly hopeless case and advised the businessman that his only hope might be a spiritual conversion with a religious group. He did. After attending meetings of The Oxford Group and having convinced the root of his problem was sin, he fully recovered.

Drug and alcohol abuse have a common root.

Dr. Bachman, the minister who created the Oxford Group, summed up the group’s philosophy:

  • All people are sinners
  • All sinners can be changed
  • Confession is a prerequisite to change
  • The change can access God directly
  • Miracles are again possible
  • The change must change others

The Oxford Group preached that addictions are a result of sin, and that confessing sin, asking God’s forgiveness is what will enable people to overcome their addictions. Addictions such as alcohol and drugs are not a disease, a problem that we just “catch” but are a matter of choice. Only God can allow addicts to gain control of uncontrollable lives.

To the Back of the Bus Homeless

Today, a film crew is shooting footage to call attention to the homeless problem, using actors to make a sort of docudrama about the homeless.  So far, it seems it’s a feel good dog and pony show and not about the reality of the homeless, as found here in lower Bucks County.

In researching material for The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck visited migrant camps in California, where the homeless Okies fled after they left their homes in places such as Oklahoma.  Today, actors on the film crew about the homeless walked by a group of homeless regulars who were at the Veteran’s Memorial, as if they were mannequins, on their way between a snack and beverage station and a playground at a church across the street, where there was pizza.

Volunteers for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN), who manned the snack/beverage station where the actors stopped, knew there were homeless at the memorial, and either didn’t mention that fact to the actors or the actors just didn’t want to acknowledge the people they were making the footage about.

AHTN also knew that there was no community dinner tonight, and there probably were hungry people at the memorial.  One AHTN volunteer used to bring food to the homeless, but not today so far.

James 2:14-18   What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

I hinted to AHTN volunteers about portraying the truth about the homeless, but I was told “it’s not about that”.  Hummm…  I was told the crew was making  public service spots of sorts and those spots may be combined later to make more of it.  I made the analogy to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, where Ms. Shelly wrote a short piece after she, her future husband Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, and another Romantic poet had a contest to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary was encouraged to expand her story and thus she created Frankenstein, the novel.

I could be off base.  Maybe someone already wrote the script and the crew was just filming.  I know from having make films and videos in college, a lot of work is involved.  But nobody said anything about that.

You would think that people on the crew, actors and directors, would want to talk to the homeless people, so they could really tell it like it is.  But maybe they don’t.  Instead, it’s about things such as a homeless person giving a non homeless person some food, so far.  Feel good. Kumbaya.  I feel your pain.

I can understand some of the schtick used in advertising to catch people’s attention, and that aspect is valid.  But you would think that the crew making the homeless film would like to get a first hand feel at least by talking with the homeless.  Right out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  Of course, some of them may just be complainers and just full of bull.  But, like a lawyer, it’s the art of an artist to filter out what’s true and what isn’t.

It could be that the people who say they want to call attention to the homeless problems in reality just want to feel good about themselves, and that they see the homeless as Frankenstein monsters, or a real live version of the walking dead.  In this context, something interesting happened this morning before the crews came to film.  A Bucks County security officer approached some homeless people and told them that County Commissioners were coming to visit the area, and asked them to be out of sight when they came.  An AHTN volunteer, who arrived by the time the commissioners were supposed to come, said they never came.

This is getting curiouser and curiouser, Alice!

This wasn’t the first time the security guard asked the homeless, in an indirect manner, to make themselves scarce because of the County Commissioners.  He implied that during “business hours” he didn’t care about how long the homeless stayed at the memorial, but a commissioner  might show up during those hours and “stuff may be scattered all over the place.”  Oh, he expects the homeless to make a mess.

On the contrary, the homeless have been cleaning up the place.  A local VFW (which created the memorial) volunteer, told the regular homeless people who frequent the memorial that their clean up efforts leaves him little to do there.  The homeless clean up trash and do other things to respect the memorial and keep it nice.  The only thing the VFW volunteer seems to do is trim the grass.  He knows most of the regulars by name, including myself.

Actually all this business of telling the homeless they need to make themselves scarce is just a ruse and is the equivalent of telling Rosa Parks to sit at the back of the bus.  The homeless are just supposed to shut up and know their place!

Instead of getting the word right out of the horse’s mouth by talking with the homeless and hearing their stories, we may be getting what people think the homeless are, from the opposite end of the horse.

I’ve hung out with the homeless before I became homeless, for a total of more than a year.  I’ve broken bread with them, slept around them, hung out with them, heard their stories, heard them cry, heard them laugh, helped move the belongings long distances over rugged terrain when they were booted from public property — I think I have an idea of what they are about.

I will continue to be their voice.  And I tell it like it is!

We will not go to the back of the bus.  We shall overcome!