Spiritual Musings from an Educated Redneck

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Archive for the tag “Twelve Steps”

I’m Mad as Hell

“It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.”  Exodus 32:19

I just got the phone call that young Jay Menifee, age 24 was found dead in his apartment.  We don’t know yet if it was the “Money Shot” that intravenous drug users refer to when they purposely overdose to end their life or if it was accidental.  Jay was a drug addict that we had been working with for the past year and a half.  He had a little daughter not yet in kindergarten. When the call came in I was driving down the street.  I felt like someone had hit me in the gut with a sledge-hammer.  I had to pull over for 15 minutes to cry and mourn.  Once they started the tears wouldn’t stop.  He had been doing so well from where he was when he came to us nearly two years ago.  He had been sober.  He had gotten a good job with a friend of mine in the HVAC business and was doing a good job. He had a natural aptitude for mechanical things.   He had gotten his own apartment.  He was involved in church.  Now he is dead and I’m mad as hell.

I’m not mad at Jay.  I feel a deep sense of loss and sadness for Jay.  Such a young life with so much potential wasted.  I feel sadness for his little girl who won’t have her daddy to watch her grow up and who won’t be there for her at those crucial times of her life.  That is my sadness.  No I’m not mad at Jay.  Some might say, “Well James why are you so upset?  He was just a low-life drug addict who got what he had coming to him.”  No, he was a human being for whom Jesus died and he was a very very sick person.

I’m mad as hell at the worthless vermin who peddle the drugs!  I’m mad as hell at the scumbag that sold the drugs to Jay.  Right now I would give a great deal to have just five minutes alone with him in a locked room.  I’m afraid only one of us would walk out of that room.  Is it bad for a pastor to say that or even think it?  So be it.  I guess I’m just not a very good pastor because I mean it with everything that is within me.

The next week when we held Jay’s memorial service it was a packed house.  People got up and spoke and as people are want to do they spoke a lot about good memories of Jay and there was even laughter.  I understand the need for people to do that but something was boiling up in me.  Then as I sat there, waiting for my time to get up and wrap the service up, Jay’s little girl wandered over to me, put her arms around my neck and hugged me.  That sent me over the edge.  Her daddy should have been there for her to hug and he wasn’t.  He never would be again. In fact, one week ago he had been a living, breathing being, and now he was nothing but a pile of ashes.

I stood up and said, “I’m mad as Hell.”  This thing here tonight is a pig pure and simple.  A nasty, smelly pig.  No matter how much lipstick we put on this pig its still a pig.  This is a pure tragedy, and nothing we say or do is going to change that.  I have nothing tonight to feel good about, to laugh about, or to smile about. This is a pig and it’s a huge tragedy.

It was less than a year ago that I got the call about Shane Higgins.  Shane wasn’t a drug addict like Jay.  Shane was an alcoholic.  He abused the legal drug of alcohol.  He did it in fact to the point that the organs of his body shut completely down and he died.  He was 39.  We had worked with Shane for about six months before he went back out to his drug.  He was dead three months after he left us.  My own father died the same way at the ripe old age of 41.  Shane outdid him by two years. Shane was the first alcoholic I ever met who beat my dad to the grave simply from the abuse of alcohol.  Shane was no doubt a top-notch, professional, git-er-done alcoholic in order to accomplish that!

I guess the call today reminded me of the sadness and loss I felt when I got the call about Shane, and perhaps my own father when I was just 18 years of age.

It reminded me also that I guess I’m mad as hell at so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who treat the legal drug of alcohol with such a cavalier attitude while it wreaks havoc on families and individuals in our culture many times more than illegal drugs.

That’s the dirty little secret that most don’t want to talk about.  But it’s legal so we scream about our “freedom” to drink socially and the Shane’s and the Jay’s of this world who will “die if they drink” don’t get a whole lot of support from us.  We are exercising our “freedom in Christ” after all and if you have a problem with it then sorry.  That makes me mad as hell!

James M.Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas

Author:  Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)

Life Change For Every Christian

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To Drink or not to Drink – The Question of Alcohol

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” I Corinthians 8:9

I often get the question, “Why does Celebration Fellowship ask everyone in leadership to totally abstain from the use of alcohol.”  It’s a good question and one that deserves an honest and well thought-out response.  In essence we do it out of love for the person for whom social drinking is not an option.  That includes the alcoholic, who is either still in his/her addiction and is seeking sobriety, or the recovering person who has been sober for years.

You see, we are a church who actively reaches out to the addicted person.  We strategize to reach them.  We go after them.  We welcome them into our midst and then help them live in victory over the things that have completely destroyed their lives, and so often the lives of their loved ones.  The truth is, they are in every church.  Even yours.

There are some things we know.  One of them is that anyone can become an alcoholic with enough practice.  One of my dear friends, and mentor, who has enjoyed over 20 years of sobriety after nearly 40 years of alcohol abuse, replies when asked how he became an alcoholic with simple words: “Practice, Practice, Practice.”  In other words, “I worked hard to destroy my life and family with alcohol abuse.”

But we also know that a percentage of the population doesn’t have to work at it much at all.  They have a genetic, inherited, pre-disposition toward addiction.  For them it doesn’t take very much practice at all before they are into a full-blown addiction.  Medical science has made huge strides in recent years to help us understand that truth.  In some of us there is a switch that gets flipped early on in alcohol use.  Once that switch is flipped, we experience a craving that quickly gets out of control.

We ask all of our leadership to abstain so that we can stand in support and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in our midst for whom an occasional drink is not an option.  For them it is very simple.  If they drink they die.  One drink is too many and twelve or twenty are never enough once they get started.  Our stance is an act of love not law – an act of freedom.

A number of years ago we had a young man come to our church who had years of substance abuse in his past.  He and his wife experienced a great deal of growth after years in our fellowship and he is now the pastor of a church in another state for which we were the sponsoring church.  A couple of years ago he was involved in a training program through a large, well-known church that actually encourages social drinking as a means of ministry.  After a morning training session this young pastor was at lunch with several of the staff of the church and fellow trainees.  He was the only one not drinking a beer at lunch.  One of the church staff asked him why he wasn’t drinking.  He replied, “You don’t want me to drink.  I wouldn’t stop with just one and before it was over I would have torn this place down.”  He is a hulk of a man and anyone who has seen him would have known immediately that he has the ability to make good on that promise.

That afternoon the senior pastor came into the training session because the word had spread. He asked the young pastor about his stance on alcohol.  This was the young pastor’s response.  “Well if I take your encouragement and drink with you, as I said, I won’t stop with one. Then if I go home and beat the crap out of my wife are you going to accept responsibility for that?”  The senior pastor had a blank look on his face and couldn’t give a reply. Neither did he re-examine his position on the casual use of alcohol.

When my young pastor friend told me of that encounter it brought all kinds of images from my own childhood of watching my alcoholic father “beat the crap” out of my mother.   Far too many adults I know today have those same images in their minds.  Sadly enough, many of them have gone on and repeated the pattern.

So back to our original question, “Why does Celebration Fellowship ask all of its leadership to abstain from the use of alcohol?”

Out of love.

We do it out of love. We want to be able to answer when asked by the alcoholic, “Do you drink?” with a simple “No, I don’t.”  When asked why, we want to be able to say, “Because I love and care about you.  I want to stand by you and with you in your sobriety.  I know your life depends upon total abstinence even if mine doesn’t but I stand with you.  This is a choice I make freely out of love.”

When a Christians personal freedom to drink becomes more important to them than the good of the brother or sister who must abstain in order to live, something is really amiss.

We know everyone doesn’t agree with our position on this issue, and that’s ok.  Each one must decide before God for themselves on this and ultimately their accountability is to God for the attitude of their heart not to man.  I am ok with the position I have come to.  I pray that it honors the heart of God for the hurting and that it is an encouragement to the person who is learning to walk in sobriety one day at a time.

James M.Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas


Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)

Life Change For Every Christian

Life Change For Couples


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