Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Steps

A week or so ago, our senior pastor Dave Workman mentioned the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in his weekend message. The timing was fascinating to me. My faith has largely grown out of my experience with AA, and recently I felt a prompting to go back and explore the roots of that faith once again. As a result, about a week before Dave's message, I began reading what's known in AA as the "Big Book" which outlines the 12 Step program.

The 12 steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

One of the things AA taught me is that living a lifestyle based on eminently spiritual principles is ultimately extremely practical. Prior to AA, my concept of spirituality was that it was "out there," "other-worldly," and "unpractical." The people I knew who were into spirituality also typically adhered to strange diets, dressed funny, and/or used it as a cover for dabbling in hallucinogenics. AA was the first place that I learned spirituality could be approached in a relatively practical manner, within a program that promised results if approached with willingness and honesty. It provided an on-ramp for me to a spiritual journey that continues to grow more wonderful every year.

It is no surprise to me that the 12 Steps contain within them several of the spiritual disciplines that we recently explored in the Strong Challenge. Prayer, meditation, confession and service are all specifically mentioned. These are all things that, as you engage in the 12 Step program, you begin to do daily and they quickly become part of the fabric of life. Perhaps one of the brilliant stratagems of AA is that "steps" can seem far less intimidating than "disciplines" when trying to get someone else to do something they are already not inclined to do.

The 12 Steps are not easy at times. Because they are spiritual in nature, you never really "finish" them. We as human beings have an endless capacity to muck up our lives again just after we think we've gotten them all cleaned up. But I am extremely grateful to have the spiritual foundation the 12 Steps provided for me, a foundation I can return to every time I need to begin again. Which is pretty much daily.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Leadership Summit Day 1

Each year at VCC we are a satellite host site for the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, and today was the first of the two-day event. It may be my favorite event of the year. I am acting as the onsite Producer for the event this year, which means a lot of my time is spent monitoring the technical side of things and keeping up with a live chat feed with the producers at Willow Creek. Nonetheless, I still got to engage somewhat with the conference, and, as is usual for the Summit, today was a little like drinking from a fire hose.

I do think there was one overarching theme I took away from today, and that is, "as a leader, you need to do something." That may sound simplistic, but it is true. You may not know completely the direction you are supposed to be heading in. You may not have the resources in place to complete the task. You may not have a crystal clear vision. You may not be able to delineate every step it is going to take you to get from "here" to "there."

But you can take the first step. And you can head toward the thing you believe God is calling you to accomplish, even if you don't have the entire path mapped out. And you can invest the resources at hand toward reaching your goal and trust God to supply what you lack. If the thing you are trying to accomplish is really from God, it is safe to assume he will provide what you need when you need it.

I used to mentor a young guy who had a tendency to get stuck in ruts. He could never see a way out, and was paralyzed by fear because he couldn't see the entire picture. He didn't know where he thought God was leading him, so he didn't do anything, which only made things worse for him. I used to tell him that the first thing he needed to do was head in some direction, any direction. The analogy I used to use with him was of a ship in a harbor. As long as it was sitting still, all God could do would be to spin it around in circles. But if it got moving, then God could steer it; he could even correct the course if it headed off in the wrong direction. But sitting still, the boat is useless.

Sometimes, I need to heed that advice myself. I can fall into the trap of not taking the next step. At times, I don't take it because I don't fully know where God is leading. But other times, I don't take it because I do know where I believe he is leading but I don't have all the pieces in place to get there. But the result is the same. The solution is the same as well: take the next step. That's all God really ever asks of us. Do what we can, and when we have done what we can, he will do what only he can do.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gotta have it!....what's it do?

Vicki and I frequently joke that her dad has a simple mantra when he sees something new: "I've got to have that!!...Now, what does it do?" I have to admit I fall into that same category sometimes. I think my latest "gotta have it" is Google+. I want it bad. I signed up to get an invitation to it, and I eagerly check my inbox daily to see if I have been invited into the exclusive Google+ club that, from what I've recently read, has over 10 million members already.

The thing is, I have no clue why I want it. I've only read the briefest descriptions of what you can do on it. I'm rarely on Facebook anymore, so it's not like I'm enamored with social networking. Maybe I'm hoping that Google+ has all the good aspects of Facebook with none of the things I don't like about it, but in my heart I know that's probably not the case. But it doesn't make a difference. I still want it! what's it do??

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird

I have never read the book or seen the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, but I now know where the sentiment behind it must have come from. There is a mockingbird that lives in the environs of where we are staying here at beautiful Emerald Isle, and it would not surprise me in the least if someone desired for it to meet its demise. We don't have mockingbirds in my native Fairfield, Ohio. And for that, I am now eternally grateful.

From what I can tell, mockingbirds have three salient characteristics. First, they are loud. Obnoxiously loud. There can be a chorus of dozens of birds here on the island, and the mockingbird will stand out among them all like a bad soprano in a church choir. (My apologies if you are a soprano. However, I grew up in the Catholic Church and every parish choir I ever heard had one soprano who knew only one musical dynamic: fortissimo. And they inevitably held the final note of a phrase a beat too long to produce their version of a solo). Second, mockingbirds are persistent. They go on and on and on and on from one ripped-off bird song to the next with barely a breath in between. Their third, and perhaps most disconcerting trait, is they are early risers. This particular one seems determined to wake every other bird (and me) at the ridiculous hour of 5:30am. I am not amused.

Now that I've written this, I should probably add this caveat: I have no intentions of harming said bird. So if it perhaps comes to the end of its earthly journey during the coming week, I promise I had nothing to do with it. Pure coincidence.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I just completed my last undergraduate college assignment. Technically, I still have to attend one more classroom session, but that's not really work; that's just taking up space. But the important stuff is done. No more books to read. No more papers to write. And in just over one week, I will walk across the stage at Cincinnati Christian University, shake the President's hand, and officially be an alumni.

I will also be fulfilling a promise I made to my mom about thirty years ago. I dropped out of college when I was around 22 years old, and I promised her I would go back and finish someday. There was a long period of time when that idea seemed like a fantasy. I think I probably made a lot of promises to both my parents that I never kept and have long since forgotten, but for some reason this was one that I couldn't forget.

But God had some ideas in mind I couldn't foresee, and the most important of those was for me to meet, fall in love with, and marry Vicki Gabriel. If that didn't happen first, I am utterly convinced next Saturday would mean nothing to me other than another day at work. Vicki is the most supportive partner any man could possibly have, and she is largely responsible for it being possible for me to do this. So more than anything, this is in gratitude to her. Thanks, Vicki! You are one amazing woman of God.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Offices

Both of these offices are mine. The one on the left is my office at home. It really looks worse than the picture implies. The one below is my work office. It just makes me wonder: how can that be? I think I must suffer from some weird workspace split personality.