Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Disgraceful Story of God’s Beautiful Grace.

I’ve heard it said that for a drug addict who does not seek recovery, there are three ways out: ironically they’re all ins-: insanity, incarceration, or in the grave. I know I danced pretty close to the edge of all three in my teen years. I sampled more than a few mood-altering substances during that time, but I found my dance partner in crystal meth. She was my drug of choice and I fell head over heels for her. For nearly three years, during the time of life I should have been flirting with pretty girls and dating, finishing up high school and prepping for the real world, I was a hell-bent meth junkie. But here I am, relatively sane, free, and a helluva lot healthier than I was at 17-, 18-, 19-years old. Healthier physically, mentally and spiritually.

I probably sidestepped jail-time 4 or 5 times, usually with plenty of evidence to put me away. I know I sat in back of a police car far more times than I’d ever want to admit to my teenage son, Andrew. In retrospect, I can imagine God saying, “Really Scott? Again?” and working out the details of my inexplicable release. My buddy and I did spend one night in jail – for shoplifting brownies at a grocery store. It was stupid. We were stoned. We were stupid. I remember being scared to death, the bright lights of intake, the brute and scary faces, and everything so loud. During the processing, after fingerprints, the intake officer rolled up my sleeve, looked at my arm and asked, “Donate blood today?” and rolled his eyes when I nodded yes.

Obviously I’ve stepped away from the grave, but there were many times when I joked to my buddy that I probably wouldn’t make it to my 18th birthday. And we’d laugh and both say, “What a way to go!” Many nights I did enough meth for 6 or 8 people – in one shot. I can remember lying on my apartment floor, listening to Zepplin or Hendrix and feeling my body bounce off the carpet because of my pounding heartbeat. The thought would cross my mind, I wonder if I should call an ambulance. But that would open a big bag of pissed-off cats and I didn’t want to go there. Somehow, the day always dawned with me still alive. And prepping another shot for my day at work.

This was during the early days of the AIDS crisis and my buddy and I occasionally shared needles. How and why I survived this time, God only knows.

I don’t know for sure what insanity looks like, but I have a pretty good idea what it feels like. Toward the end of my meth run, I went through a period of amphetamine psychosis, when I didn’t trust my best friend, couldn’t hold a job, and alienated a lot of my other friends. I was also seeing things that weren’t there, thinking things that weren’t true – it was a bad time. We were living in a rundown pay-by-the-week motel, spending what little extra money we managed to keep in our pockets on cigarettes and Pepsi, occasionally food. And then one blessed day, God gave me a moment of clarity and whispered in my ear, “Call your mom.” I did and I left that world behind forever.

So I survived the 3 “Ins-” of addiction. I’m a successful husband, father, employee, even marathon-runner. I survived the dark night of my life story and came out alive and shouting: Woohoo – I’m great!

And that is the saddest, most despicable part of my story: that, while I wanted to blame my absent father or my abusive stepfather or my flighty mother or anyone else but me for pushing me into that life, when I finally cleaned up and got out of it, I wanted all the credit. I spent years, no decades telling myself, “Yeah, that’s right. I kicked meth's ass – without treatment or prison or Narcotics Anonymous. I did it on my own. I barely even missed it.”

But one day, about 13 years ago, the truth hit me: I didn’t do it; God did. He had covered my butt every step of the way. He kept me out of prison, out of a mental institution, AND out of the graveyard. He must have plans for me, though I’m still not sure what they are. I suspect He wants me to be a model, an inspiration. I have been told a few times that I have inspired people. I thought at one time it was just for Andrew, but I suspect it’s for a bigger target. Which is why I am willing to share this disgraceful story of God’s beautiful Grace.

I do know this: I am here – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend – only by His Grace and His Mercy. I have learned to listen when God whispers in my ear. It has saved my life before.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I Called Myself

…But He Named Me
16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”)…

When I was 2, my parents divorced and my father moved away and I called myself “Fatherless”.

When I was 5 or 6, the “bad thing” happened and I called myself “Afraid”.

When I was 7, my mother married a man who adopted me and I called myself, “Stepson”.

When I was 10, it had become clear that my stepfather was an abusive alcoholic, and I had learned to call myself, “Unworthy” and “Dumb”.

When I was 16, I discovered the fleeting pleasure and fictitious escape of drugs, and I called myself, “Junkie”.

When I was 22, I found a career I adored and I called myself, “Model-builder”.

When I was 29, the economy hit bottom and I called myself, “Unemployed”.

When I was 35, I married a lover of Jesus and I called myself, “Husband”.

When I was 38 I became a father of a little boy and I called myself, “Frightened Father”.

When I was 40, God called to me, louder this time and…a little while later I called myself, “Believer”.

When I was 45, I looked to Jesus and laid those other names at His feet. And He gave to me the name, “Beloved Child of God.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Direction, Clarification...Example!

Originally I was planning to skip church today – church as in a conventional church service at my stepson Jason’s church – complete with big screen projection system and no couches, recliners or big pillows on the floor, like I’m used to. I needed to get in my last long training run before next Sunday’s Minneapolis Half-Marathon.

But Jason and his wife Erika invited us, enthusiastically, several weeks ago to join them any Sunday. But with my long run already planned and my disdain for “regular church”, I opted to stay home to run and enjoy a little Scott-time while Minda and Andrew joined them in Eagan at Chapel Hill Church.

But almost immediately I felt conflicted and convicted. No doubt, we could all use an infusion of God-time; since stepping away from our home-church to follow the mission God has set before us, we are often times “wandering and wondering” what we are supposed to do in this mission of “loving people. Plus, we wanted to honor Jason’s heartfelt invitation and support Erika in her new found trust in Jesus. What better way to “love people” than to love Jason and Erika?

But real church? Yuck!

I love Jason. Jason the man is as interesting and likable as Jason the boy was challenging and dramatic. Seeing his faith – which was apparent even as a 10-year-old boy – grow rock solid is inspiring. His heart is big, and he loves God and His church home in Eagan. And to see him lead his new wife to Christ, as his mother did with me, is exciting and heartening.

But till  I went to bed Saturday night planning to run the next morning. And then I had this dream.
Like most “God-dreams”, the context was vague, the preamble sort of fuzzy, but what I remember was flipping through the pages of a notebook and then pointing to one page and telling whomever I was showing, “See, God told us that this commandment was above all the others: Love one another.” And then I promptly
awoke. God does that; He knows if He doesn’t I’ll probably forget the dream by morning’s light.

As we sipped our coffee, I told Minda that I could map out a running route through Eagan that ended at Chapel Hill Church to get my 6 miles in and she could bring a change of clothes for me. Ever the pragmatist, she suggested I run immediately and grab a quick shower at home before we headed out.

So I ran, showered and we headed to church. “Real church.”

We pulled into the parking lot to be greeted by the marquee – Love is God. Hmmm.

And then there was the program, with the quoted Scripture of John 4:7-9
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.)

And then the service began – focused entirely on…loving people. The “sermon” was 5 minutes of instruction – “stop talking about it and start loving people” – and then we spent the next 20 minutes greeting and talking and sharing with people we had never met. And it was good, warm, sincere greeting and meeting and loving God’s children.

How much reassurance did God think I needed to know that was what He wanted me to understand!?
First the dream to clarify and magnify His directive. And then an example and practice session in a real church that didn’t feel like a real church.

It felt like a home church. And I'm really glad I listened to God's latest direction: "Go to church today."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Must Read - Many Times

This is so profound and simple and emotional and true:

Tamara's post.

I wish everyone could see that this IS how Jesus truly is.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened at Ikea

God is relentless! I thought we had reached a happy place in our (His) quest to make me bolder. You know, I agreed I needed to work on stepping out boldly, living my life more on faith and less on knowledge. And I made a few forays into boldness, but like I said, I was working on it. Jesus, I'm not done yet.

But He had to ramp it up a notch on Saturday morning.

So we're sitting there in the Ikea restaurant, sipping on mediocre (but free before 10 a.m.) coffee, waiting for the 10 a.m. mad dash into the store when it opened. We were discussing the new direction God has pointed us in, a new mission we have started calling "the Eleventh Commandment mission". We were wondering what the next step God might have in mind for us to take. I glanced out over the sea of breakfast diners and soon-to-be-shoppers, and noticed a woman heading toward our general vicinity (on her way to the condiments counter behind us). She looked to be in her early 60's, wearing a bright yellow and green floral bandana cap such as a chemo patient might wear to hide her hair loss.

I made eye contact and glanced away and immediately sensed God telling me to look again. I did. And God told me, "You need to tell her I think she's beautiful."


I tried to ignore the instruction, drown out the voice, but that only resulted in tears crowding into my eyes. Why, I don't know. Minda said something about God's plans and I said, reluctantly since I knew it would make it more difficult to ignore, "God just sent me a message."

"What is it?" she asked.

"I'm supposed to tell that woman over there that she's beautiful."

"I hope her husband doesn't mind!"

"No! I'm supposed to tell her God says she's beautiful."

"Why are you still sitting here?"

So, we stood up, and meandered in the general direction of this woman, who was sitting at a large table rapidly filling up with her family members. I secretly hoped Minda would head out to the store instead, or someone would trip me and I would fall to the ground unconscious, or a fire alarm would ring and we would stampede to the exits - anything to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to a strange woman about something that might be a hot button for her.

But no, Minda stopped a few feet from the woman's table and waited for me with a half-smile on her pretty lips.

So I stepped over and rested my hand on the woman's shoulder. She looked up and I said, "This is a little weird for me, but God told me to tell you he thinks you are beautiful." She looked stunned, sort of smiled and said, "Thank you."

I turned and walked away and was washed with a rush of God love, feeling so strongly that this obedient son had just pleased his Father. The tears threatened again and I smiled at Minda as we waited for the store to open.

One more step forward in boldness...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Overdue Book

For once I don't have an overdue library book in my house! Of course that's because I returned it this morning. And it was one that Andrew checked out on my card...but I'm stalling...

I am happy to announce I have published my novel Such is Life as an E-Book on Smashwords. I call it an overdue book because it has taken me over ten years to write (and at least that many "final" versions) before I had the guts to finally call it complete. And then I let it sit out there on the Internet, no fanfare, no bottle of champagne, no marketing plan or book tour. Just sit there in the ether waiting for my millions of fans to just happen along and find it sitting there, crying to be read.

The truth is, it scares the hell out of me to announce it!

Lots of reasons: may be construed as blasphemy - I do have Jesus Christ as a main character doing a few un-Jesus like things (not like that, just goofy things like enjoying rock and roll, fast ride in a car, hanging out with sinners - oh wait...). And it could be considered a little too autobiographical (please note: the wife in the book, Sherry is NOT Minda - don't let her tell you she is!). And it could be a really bad example of really bad writing by someone who is too dense to understand he really can't write.

But the truth is - and I say this humbly - I re-read it this week and I really like it! And I haven't touched, edited, modified or tweaked it since March (in order to read it with a clean palate). I was surprised, I was moved, and I think it might actually be pretty good.

And despite the playing around with the time/space continuum and putting Jesus in a Cardinal's baseball cap, I believe I have absolutely glorified God with this story. And that was my intention.

So, if you are so inclined, please check it out on your Nook, Kindle, Kobo, iPad, iBook, etc. Here's the synopsis:

One man's need for forgiveness is another man's cross to bear. Just ask Steven Todd. Twenty-five years ago Steven was a teen-aged druggie surviving from needle to vial in Austin, Texas. Now he’s a respectable family man, a quiet but confident  Jesus-freak and a small-business owner on the verge of major success—he’s meeting the U.S. president next week. Most importantly for Steven, his wild past is buried. 

At least until his old friend and shooting partner, Randy Oliver, hitchhikes to town. Stunned to see his old friend wandering St. Louis--alive, no less--Steven welcomes Randy into his home, his family and his church. 

When Randy reveals he has less than six months to live, Steven hopes to introduce him to Jesus before it’s too late. But when Randy reminds Steven of their dark secrets, secrets that could disintegrate Steven's veil of success, he makes a decision that could damn his life—now and eternally.

(This book contains a few instances of rough language
 reflective of the harsh lives and times of the characters.)

And here's the link to Such is Life.

And here's the coupon code to get Such is Life for half-price: AJ24A

Monday, October 22, 2012

God is a Screenwriter

So I have this new friend, Lisa. I don't know her very well - yet. But I am already captivated by her. She has this...presence about her that is part confidence/part vulnerability - perhaps it is part defensive bravado/part childlike-ness (not sure if that is really a word, but I'm the blogger here, so I declare it so!).

Lisa has a simply pretty face that is often serious, and yet, when she smiles, she glows! Whatever it is about her, I strongly believe she is the recipient of God's overflowing lovingkindness (now THAT's a word that has to have God in the definition!) I also believe (instinctively for I have no knowledge or evidence to back this statement up) that she does not realize or recognize that God is raining His lovingkindness down on her.

It's not that she wouldn't love to to accept this gift, I'm sure. I think she has so little experience in receiving such a gift from the people in her world that she has moments of little reason to believe it could come direct from God to her. (I also may be over-analyzing this person I barely know!)

My other new friend, Jennifer, must recognize something in Lisa also. Last night at our weekly get together, she was praying for Lisa and she said two things that perked up my ears. She mentioned God's EXTRAVAGANT love for us, particularly Lisa. And she pointed out that God "dreamed you up, Lisa, to be exactly who you are and that's how he sees you". (That last was paraphrased as I have hit-and-miss memory as we shall see...but it's close!)

Extravagant is another word that I believe requires God's name in the definition. I love that word!

But it was the second statement Jenn made that triggered a memory for me, of an event that happened the previous Sunday night after our meeting. Minda and I were home watching a DVD and one of the characters in the story told the other character, "I wish you could see you as I see you." And at that precise moment - not after, but during the time the actor was saying this line - I heard God whisper, "You need to tell Lisa this." I sat up and hit the pause button on the remote and told Minda, "Wow! I think God just told me I need to tell Lisa those exact words."

It kind of freaked me much so that I immediately started doing what Satan wanted me to do, which was to question, analyze, doubt and ultimately dismiss it as my imagination. Crafty little devil, he is. (At the time, Minda thought I meant our other friend Lisa, who is not experiencing as much drama in her life as this Lisa, so even Minda looked at me a little tilt-headed!)

And so I promptly forgot about it.

Until last night when Jenn's prayer reminded me - and made me realize that perhaps this was the moment when God wanted me to tell her - she was in tears, questioning, doubting, hurting.

So I told her and she smiled, tears running down her cheeks. I think she even glowed a little with the knowledge of God's lovingkindness.

I can't wait to get to know my new friend better.