The Titanic Sails At Dawn

“The Titanic Sails At Dawn” -Bob Dylan 

Despite warnings that the Titanic was approaching a huge iceberg, the Titanic steamed full speed ahead. The Titanic’s captain smugly stated that he “could not imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” 

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” -Proverbs 16:18 

Despite warnings that drug and alcohol abuse is destructive, thinking they are indestructible, people continue destroying their lives with drugs and alcohol. Engaging in these sins pull people apart from one another, alienate them. Love and caring is lacking. Relationships become mercenary, where people use one another just to satisfy their own selfish needs. And, as Neil Young sang, “Every junkie’s just a settin’ sun.” 

The Needle and the Damage Done” is a song by Neil Young that describes the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew. Though not specifically about him, the song was inspired by the heroin addiction of his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of the Tonight’s the Night album that reflects Young’s grief over the heroin overdose and death of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse. 

The root of the addiction problem is sin. People think they can resolve life’s problems by escaping through drugs or alcohol. This only makes things worse. We create problems for ourselves then we think we can deal with everyday life and its problems through an artificial remedy. We are not the captain of our ship! God is! 

Increasingly, churches, including many in Bucks County, PA, are offering programs to help people overcome the sin of addictions by getting to the root of the problem. 

Is your ship ready for an iceberg? Who is your captain? God is a captain who can get you through troubled waters. 

Something’s Happening Here!

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”

-Lyrics from Buffalo Springfield’s  For What It’s Worth

Something is happening here. What it is is abundantly clear, but the why is puzzling.

In lower Bucks County, PA, it seems like local municipalities are competing for drug overdoses. The Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue squad reports that’s since January 1, 2017, there were 15 overdoses in Levittown, with two deaths.  As of January 17, Falls Township had 16 overdoses since the new year.  No fatal overdoses were reported for Falls in the article on

Update: Woops, after rereading the article I  realized that five people have died of overdoses in Falls Township, only half way through January. This puts Falls Township ahead of the report from the Levittown-Fairless Hills ambulance squad’s for both drug overdoses as well as overdose deaths.

Nationwide, 29,000 Americans died from opioid overdose or unintended drug poisoning in 2014, surpassing car wrecks as the leading cause of “accidental” deaths. In high school, during the Viet Nam era, my drivers education teacher told us that deaths from car accidents exceeded deaths in the war, and added “you don’t see people burning their drivers licenses.”

Why do people do drugs? Evidently, there’s a void in their lives. Alcohol abuse has a similar root of the problem. The girlfriend of a drunk, whom I’m told now is back in treatment, said that he thinks he can find the answers to problems in the bottle.

No, drug abuse is not a disease, like the flu. Instead, it is a character flaw, which we all have. It’s a matter of kind and degree. As I told a Christian brother, I don’t have a substance abuse problem but I’ve made up for it in other ways.

A few years ago I overheard a conversation in the men’s room in the Levittown library. A guy said that drugs are getting more and more lethal. Another guy remarked that drug users don’t care; all they care about it getting high, that they don’t think about what they are doing to themselves.

As Neil Young sang, “but every junkie’s just a settin’ sun.”

As we see the number go up, we also see more recovery houses and treatment centers. There are in the neighborhood (not Mr. Rogers) of 100 recovery houses just in Levittown, PA. People come from all over the country to go through the revolving door. Many of these refugees become part of the local homeless population, and some of them also go through the revolving door at the alleged emergency shelter, where there is a months long waiting list to get in.

Substance abuse not only destroys the user, but also society. Crime has gone up in neighborhoods that are infested with recovery houses. There’s also a mushrooming homeless population in lower Bucks County because of drug problems.

I personally know and know of drug abusers in Lower Bucks County. Some of them have overcome their problem.

Happiness is a warm gun. I didn’t know what this lyric on The Beatles’ white album meant until one of the “clients” at the methadone center where I worked told me. It’s about shooting up dope.

The people of whom I learned overcame their substance abuse problem found their “happiness” elsewhere. In God. Christianity isn’t an instant cure, a quick fix, although being saved casts a burden off your shoulder, as it did to Christian in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrims Progress. You won’t live a life of ease in your yellow submarine. It’s not a life of instant gratification, but it’s a good life. And God continues a work in you that he started as you are sanctified, putting off bad habits and putting on Godly ways, as you become more like Christ.

People try to find satisfaction, happiness in life. Robin Williams had fame and fortune, but there was a hidden, deep sadness. Outside of God, we are nothing. With God, even though we are a speck in the grandeur of the universe, God gives us value.

There was a painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Dutch Landscape With A Waterfall – where humans in the picture seemed dwarfed by the hugeness of creation. Unlike the trend in the Renaissance, they were not the center of the universe. Yet as depicted in this 17th century work of art, influenced by the Reformation, we have value.

Message in a Lord Byron poem:

When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan—
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

We are not like a drop of rain sinking into a bottomless ocean!

Substance abuse is not a disease but a besetting sin, a bad habit that leads to death. This doesn’t have to be the case.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

The Damage Undone

“I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.”

–lyrics from Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done

Neil wrote this song about two close friends who had heroin addictions. They died after the song was recorded. The sun went down on his friends. Heroin addiction, like other addictions, left unchecked, is a death sentence.

This ballad is a warning for those who engage in destructive behavior such as using heroin. There is a little part of destructive behavior in everyone.

A drug addict once told me that he wished he hadn’t engaged in the behavior that put him in the sorry state he was in.  Although life is not a video game, where you can erase everything you’ve done and start over, you can, with God’s help, start fresh.

The book of Lamentations records the story of Jerusalem ravaged by war. The Israelites were run out of  town and were oppressed after having turned away from God. “Those who pursue us are at our heals; we are weary and find no rest.” Sounds like the state of the homeless in Bucks County, PA.

The prophet Jeremiah reluctantly called on God to intervene. “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old. Unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure,” he lamented. But despite the Israelites messing up, God answered prayer and returned the exiles to Jerusalem.

No matter how much we mess up, if we come to God and trust in Him he will have mercy on us and will restore our ruined lives. After turning away from God, my life spun out of control and I was in a downward spiral. I suffered greatly, hurting myself and loved ones. The anxiety and depression I had suffered from but kept under control got out of control.

God restored me, pulled me up out of the pit after I returned to God.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of adults in America suffer from some form of anxiety related disorder. For the Christian, there should be an inverse relationship between such afflictions and their faith. The more you have faith, the less you are afflicted with such ailments. One Christian sister told me that if you pray, you don’t worry. If you worry, then you don’t pray.

“[Thou], which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”

–Psalms 71:20

Time Out!

It seems sometimes that, in the words of James Taylor, people are too much for me to take. They continue in their destructive behavior which not only hurts themselves, but other people.

A long time ago, a man named Jonah found the people of Nineveh too much to take. When God told Jonah to go to this wicked town to minister to them, he blew God off and walked the other way.

As the story goes, Jonah gets aboard a ship and out of nowhere comes a storm. Jonah told the crew that his running away from the Lord caused this. They jettisoned him and Jonah got swallowed by a whale.

Time out!

Inside the whale, Jonah got to think about his attitude and his disobedience to God. He repented and asked God to guide him. Jonah returned to Nineveh and the town repented and turned to God and from their evil ways.

Jonah, however, didn’t like God’s compassion for the wicked city.

Jonah had written off Nineveh as a lost cause and wanted them destroyed. God didn’t.

Like a sibling who couldn’t wait to see his brother or sister punished, Jonah sat waiting to see God open a can of whoopass on Nineveh.

God made a vine grow over Jonah to protect him from the hot sun but then he brought a worm to chew the vine, leaving him exposed to the blazing hot sun. Jonah grew faint and wanted to die. He was angry at God.

God gave Jonah the message similar to the opening of the science fiction series The Outer Limits:  “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.”  God showed Jonah that He was in control.

He compared this demonstration  to the people of Nineveh and told Jonah: “You have been concerned about the vine, though you did not tend it of make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than 920,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

The homeless community in lower Bucks County, PA is my Nineveh. Members of this community engage in destructive behavior – stealing, conniving, lying, manipulating, being drunk and disorderly in public. Some knuckleheads caused more responsible people to have to vacate their makeshift dwellings. A druggie stole two coats and a cell phone charger from a cancer patient I’m taking care of, after she was shown great hospitality as if she were a daughter.

It’s a human character flaw to wish, as Jonah did on Nineveh, bad things to happen to people when they wrong you. I told the victim of the druggie’s theft that I wished she would die out in the street from withdrawal.

The victim admonished me, reminding me that this is not a Christian view. She’s right, and I prayed to God to deal with the SAM (lower Bucks County PA druggie) the way Jesus would.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” –Romans 12:19

God gives people 2nd chances. He gave me another chance. Like the people in Nineveh, I persisted in my sinful ways. After falling into a pit as a result of my behavior, I called out to God, who forgave me and rescued me and directed my paths.

Despite people, including myself, reaching out to people in the homeless community, they continue their destructive ways. I felt bad to see people I’ve tried to help turn to the dark side.

I’ve had to come to grips with the idea that my task is to obey God and show love towards others. After doing all I could do for someone, I’ve had to walk away. A friend told me that it was their choice and it wasn’t on me that she didn’t change. God, not I, am responsible for outcomes.

A counselor at a treatment center I visited told the visitors to make rules and set boundaries for their loved ones with addictions but to never condemn them. Good advice!

Don’t give up. Some time ago, a drug addict said that he wished he didn’t do what got him into the sorry state he was in. Although, as I told him, life is not a videogame where you can delete what you did, you can get back on the right track.

Drug users use more and more to try to get satisfied. They never reached their nirvana and end up flatlining. We strive for nirvana but never get completely satisfied. Drug addiction, like other sins, leads to destruction. As Neil Young sang:

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done

A little part of it in everyone

But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun”

Like Nineveh, which God threatened to destroy if the people there didn’t come back to him, addicts and other people who regularly engage in other ungodly behavior still have a chance before they become toast.  At the 12 Steps Journey program I attend, which is not just for addictions but for other problems, I’ve seen people with big problems get their act together. It’s not quick as a wink you’re in the pink, but a long journey that requires devotion and constant turning to God.

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” –Psalm 40:2

No Particular Place to Go

I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.

— Neil Young from his song Needle and the Damage Done

At my 40th high school reunion, I learned that many kids I knew from school had died as a result of drug overdoses. Today our country is plagued with drug and other addictions. The homeless are no exception.

There is a special problem with drug addicts in the homeless community. As people without a home need to sneak into public and private lands out of need, when, on rare occasion in lower Bucks County, PA, for example, a drug addict overdoses and needs emergency medical help, it calls attention to others hiding from the authorities in the woods, including those who are discreet and have little impact on the land.

In the woods, on land under Bucks County jurisdiction, shelters were put up for feral cats. So if humans who just need shelter are kicked out of the woods because of the actions of others, then why not kick out the cats?

Like illegal aliens, the feral cats are given special privileges. These cats live in a gated community. “No dogs” and “close the gate” is posted at the entrance. So if no dogs are allowed, then if follows that the homeless are also not allowed. Perfect liberal logic.

Outside the homeless community, if a neighbor is on drugs, do all the neighbors get kicked out of the neighborhood? Of course not.

If the homeless could be in legitimate, organized communities, like Dignity Village in Portland Oregon, then problem people would be filtered out, and it would not jeopardize other people, who play by the rules

Bucks County knew about the homeless problem since the late 80’s. The county has done a poor job of resolving it. The solution so far is just to chase the homeless, who scramble for a place to go, away, as if they were hunting down a predator.

People need a place to go. The right place. Like the guy riding in the car in Chuck Berry’s song, people have no particular place to go.

People with addictions need help. But they need to accept the help. This is why people of faith need to reach out and develop relationships with them and help them help themselves. And get them to the right place at the right time.

Today’s society is lost. This is why Christians need to bring light into the world. People have lost direction and borders — they have lost their rudder.

Neil Young saw the problem that starting during the baby boomer age.

A recovering addict recently told me that people who can’t stop their addictions are weak minded. That’s right. But to become strong, we need God’s help to overcome addictions and other character flaws that create problems.

One place to go for help is the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation program in Trenton. An alternative to this three month live in program is the free 12 Step Journey Program, held Tuesday nights in Levittown and Saturday nights in Newtown.

The Salvation Army and similar faith based program has a higher rate of success than secular institutions such as the Penndel Mental Health Center.

Penndel Mental Health has been scouring the woods trying to drum up customers among the homeless. For this institution, becoming a mental health patient is the talisman to finding housing. Holy synthetic demand, Batman!

Upcoming Funding Time (parody of Fats Domino’s Finger Popping Time).

It’s upcoming funding time

It’s upcoming funding ti-eyem

I feel so good

I’m on the public dime

Hey now hey now hey now hey now

Here comes Allen here comes Keith

Here comes Chris and here comes the heat

It’s upcoming funding time

It’s upcoming funding ti-eyem

I feel so good

I’m on the public dime

Hey now hey now hey now hey now…

Years ago, I worked part time in a methodone (heroine addiction) clinic. I had a good possibility of working there as a counselor. One of the counselors sat down with me after work and talked with me about counseling people and showed me some literature. It turned me off and I did not pursue the counselling positioning.

One of the problems was that what I read actually mocked the idea that we have character flaws and the need to admit them and ask God to help us overcome them. An alternative is to blame problems on others.

Many of the kids mentioned at my high school reunion were clients, as the director called them, at the clinic. This helps verify my call that the clinic’s methods were flawed. They were based on human, not God’s ideas.

Is it better to burn yourself out or to fade away?

My my, hey hey…