The Best News!

We are eternal. Isn’t that the best news?

I buckle the kids in the minivan. I worry if I have enough snacks. I check to make sure I packed the pull-up. Then I remember. I am eternal. EEEEK. In all of these day to day tasks, I stop myself and remember this. Wow. Eternal! 

I have written this post about 3 times now and the one thing that kept circling in my mind was this: we are eternal. I started to focus on this fact and here is what I came to realize: if we truly believe that we are eternal then won’t that change the way we live our lives? Truly believe it. After chewing on it for a while I started to think about how our perspective on life would change if we began to fully believe it. We would start to respect our bodies and our lives as something sacred. We would respect people’s lives and see value in them because we would remember: they are eternal too. Your outlook, as a whole, changes. You don’t get caught up in the temporary thoughts, frustrations and desires of the world. Things that might trip you up or aggravate you get washed out by the focus on eternity. Paul wrote in the book of Colossians (3:2) “Set your mind things above, not on earthly things”. Paul understood this kind of thinking. He was fully focused on the eternal and not the finite. It helped him escape traps of this world that bind us up and keep us from the doing the work that God has to do.

I get caught up in the finite. A lot. There…I said it! But in order to make this post authentic I challenged myself to really put the focus on the infinite. You start reminding yourself about what will truly last, what will end and you see your life focus change. I don’t think we realize how often we are seeking eternity. We try to create it here on earth. We seek the things that give us joy, pleasure, excitement but they aren’t sustainable. The high will always have low. The fun of the party will always have a next day hangover. The trip to the exotic will always come back to reality. The awards you sought after now sit on the shelf collecting dust. The thrill of the gift will end up in a thrift store. The bank account gets larger and so do the problems. You build the big house then have to downsize. But we keep seeking to sustain something that is not sustainable. Eternity is inside all us and that is why we crave it. We want the joy to never end here on earth but it always does. The only way to truly experience the never-ending joy is to know Jesus and what He came to do for us. On that good Friday the curtain was ripped in half and heaven was opened to us…to ALL of us. All we have to do is accept that He did that for us. To acknowledge that we are finite minded, messed up, broken people who get caught up in this world and that Jesus is so much bigger and better than all that we create or mess up.

After we acknowledge that gift of atonement for our lives,  we must start thinking eternally about what we will do with what we know. Will we start living our lives with an eternal purpose or finite purpose? Everything on earth has a beginning and end. I am beginning to think that we are ok with that. That we like there to be an end. Maybe it’s because our finite brain can wrap itself around “the end” but we have a problem wrapping around “the eternal” because it’s impossible to wrap.  It has no end. But that makes us uncomfortable. Oddly, the end is comforting. But once life is begun, it will have no end. Once life is created , eternity starts. Death is not the end nor does it have the final say.  Jesus conquered death for us! He came to give us hope beyond ourselves. Because of Him we will be able to call Heaven our forever home. Forever home. I find it interesting that people build what they call their “forever home” on earth. We can’t call it the forever though because it is like everything else in life: temporary. Seasons change, we grow old, and the house gets sold to someone else. But the one that remains constant is “I Am”. Our God. He is the past, the present, and the future.  He was here before time and He will continue to be throughout all of eternity. Today, and for whatever remainder we have here on earth, I challenge you to start turning your focus to eternity. Decisions that we make, things that we get hung up on, start holding them up to the light of eternity and see what holds water. Will it last? Does it matter in the light of eternity?You were made for a greater purpose and if we start respecting that in ourselves in others, I really believe life as we know it would start to radically change for the best. God’s best.

The I AM knew you before time began and knows what comes next. The I AM created you for eternity. Yes, that person who is getting into the minivan and worried about losing the baby weight 3 years later. YOU are eternal.  And the great I AM stands at the door waiting for us to answer. John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Eternal Present.

This Easter, as you are putting on the pearls and ironing the Sunday clothes remember: you are eternal. As you plan the meal and dye the eggs remember: You will be forever. If you find yourself worried about buying things for the Easter baskets remember: Christ paved the way for our eternal destiny. Change your mind to focus on the eternal and see how your perspective on life changes. When the end of your time on earth comes, you will not be disappointed. This is a forever promise. 

 

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton Photography

 

My husbands testimony

One of the most sacred things that Christians have is their testimony. We must protect it at all costs. No one can shut it down with their own philosophies. It isn’t a bunch of words you are talking(preaching) about. It is the action of your life. It is your story.  It is the moment when Christ began a good work in you. It is ongoing, it is always changing as seasons of our lives transition from easy “normal” days to the most difficult days we have ever known. Recently, my husband was asked to give his testimony in the newsletter that his ministry sends out. Now that it was in print I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share it on this blog.

On Thanksgiving of 2008 while attending the Hebron program I received an index card that had a simple quote stating: “An extraordinary plan for your life will mean an extraordinary trial to prepare you.” They also referenced James 1:12. It is not signed and I’m not really sure who wrote it, but I have held on to this card for many years. It permanently resides on the front of my refrigerator. James 1:12 (NIV) says: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” This verse (and quote) that we reference daily didn’t have much meaning early on in my new walk with Christ. Later though, it would prove as a daily reminder of God’s grace and mercy upon me and my family all the while giving direct instruction for our new lives in Christ.

My trials with alcohol started at an early age. Fast forward through a “lively” college era and a prosperous professional career and I arrived at 2008 where alcohol had become the center of my life. In 2008 I was coming off some of the most lucrative professional years of my life. I was married to the most beautiful Godly woman and we were expecting our first child. Life was good…Right? Well, despite all of God’s numerous blessings I found myself going into in a very dark place until my entire life became unmanageable due to alcohol. It was nothing short of a miracle that I learned about Hebron Colony Ministries and I began a journey that was no less miraculous.

I have my family to thank for paving a firm foundation in my life. I grew up with positive Christian influences in my life. When I embarked on attending Hebron Colony in 2008, it came with loving support from not only my expecting wife, but also my immediate and extended family. I looked forward to seeing God’s plan for my life unfold like many powerful testimonies I had heard from men who had taken the same journey through the Hebron program. The feelings of anxiety I had when I first arrived at Hebron Colony were quickly replaced with feelings of love and security that I had not experienced in long time. There are still no words to put it into proper perspective.

It was not long after arriving at Hebron Colony that I learned about the power of prayer and what a “relationship” with Christ really looked like. God used these men, the staff and ultimately His word to draw me back to Himself where I eagerly recommitted myself to Him for His purpose during my time at Hebron. While in the 10 week program my wife wrote me a letter. In that letter she spoke to me about what our life might look like given our new life. What I realized is that she was sharing this with me as a hope and a prayer. It was how she envisioned herself standing up and giving a testimony at Hebron for what we would have been through and how the Lord brought us through.

This is an excerpt from her letter:

“This is my husband Kirk and we have now been married for almost 5 years and we’re blessed with two beautiful children. Life wasn’t always so grand though. Our second year of marriage when I was pregnant with our first child his drinking became a severe problem and wreaked havoc on his health, our marriage and our families. There were many sad nights and days that seemed to never end. I cried out to the Lord alone in my room to heal him and protect me. I felt like the hand of God had left our marriage and was in a complete state of despair all the while Kirk slipped deeper into an alcoholic coma – there is no other was to describe it. Finally the Lord brought Hebron Colony Ministries into our lives and not a moment too soon. I was 4 months pregnant and 70 days seemed like a long time but the darker days could be coming to an end. When Kirk came home right before the birth of our baby he was a completely changed man. The Lord had restored peace in his heart, and a commitment to stay clean and sober not by his own strength but by the strength God gives us when we call out to him for help. I am so grateful that he was here for the birth of our first child and could believe that he would be the father he had always wanted to be. Since that time in our own lives the Lord has continued to help us through as a family and we are stronger than we could ever hope for on our own. To this day Kirk has never had a desire to drink again and I have continually supported this by not letting it be a part of my life. So here we are 5 years later and I am so in love with my husband, my children and most importantly my Savior Jesus Christ. He saves us from ourselves and He rescued my husband from himself and gave him back to me as a new man, changed forever by the grace of God.”

This letter had a profound effect on me. I keep it to remind myself of where we are now, how far we have come, and all that God has redeemed in our lives.

I returned once more to Hebron in 2010 broken beyond measure having turned away from God’s plan and will for my life and not understanding why. By God’s grace I was allowed to return and experienced radical transformation. By this time I was on the verge of losing everything. My wife, my child, my family, my friends, my job. What I came to realize this time is that I had only surrendered 99% of my troubles, burdens and self at the foot of the cross. It was out beside the Hebron Chapel that I fell to my knees. I said a simple prayer asking God to reveal to me “the known and unknown” that was deep seeded in my heart. Instantaneously, God revealed to me what it was that was fueling my drunkenness and pain: feelings of abandonment, resentment, shame, guilt, etc… It was that remaining 1% that I was finally able to turn over to Him. When I came to I saw one of my Hebron brothers passing by and for a moment I looked at that man with eyes of Christ. He allowed me to experience for a moment the outpouring of love Christ has for us. I believe God showed this to me for a reason and placed a calling on my life to serve Him. This was April of 2010 and I was a new creation saved by God’s grace.

In April of 2015 it will be five years since that calling.
We shall always remain amazed at His love for us and how He graciously answered that single prayer and hope that my wife wrote so many years ago. My wife and I now have a beautiful 5 year old daughter and a one year old son. God continues to provide for our family and we thank Him each day for allowing us to serve Him in the very ministry that provided an opportunity to change our lives forever. We thank God for our “extraordinary” lives and even the trials we’ve endured not our own strength but His alone.
In His Service,

Kirk M. Hamilton, Jr. Graduate 2010
Administrative Staff, Hebron Colony Ministries

Hamilton Family Final (46)

In perspective, we are all the same

dads camera 122
I had a friend send me a message on Facebook letting me know that she liked the blog because it gave it her perspective on addiction. That is definitely something I had intended to do and glad that it is coming through. What I have realized through research and real life experience is that people still don’t know a lot about addiction and there is great divide between what is known, the stereotypes and the perceptions that people have toward addicts. There is definitely a sense of superiority between those that don’t have any issues with addiction and those that do. It’s an actual sense of strength versus weakness. I would hope that through some of what I write here, people who do not suffer from addiction would at least feel a deeper sense of empathy for those that do. Because we all have our hang ups. We all have things that we are addicted to, that we use to escape. It’s just that some things are more harmful to ourselves and to others. Unfortunately addiction doesn’t really get noticed until it is at the “affecting other people” stage. When the money starts to dry up or work suffers or jail/car accidents happen. Those are the moments when we wake up and think “ok, there may be a problem here.” But like I said in a previous post, the threshold has been passed at this point. If life is going well, if work is good, you can buy the house, the new car and no one gets hurt…then whats the problem?

I have seen this scenario play out. The result is always the same. Somewhere, at some point, you do not control the drug. It controls you. It’s like a light switch that goes off and you are hooked. Just one extra pill a day and then it becomes two. Just one drink at brunch, one at lunch, one mid afternoon, two after work, two at dinner, and then 3 before bed. You wake up the next morning with hangover and repeat the cycle the next day but this time you tell yourself you will at least wait until after work. So you do wait until after work but you have 3 then, then 2 at dinner, then 4 before bed. You wake up the next morning with a hangover and vow you won’t drink that day. And you take the day off. Good for you. You can go a whole a day! Then the next day comes and it is back to it again because you proved to yourself that you can go a whole day and be just fine. Here’s where I have to add in some “perspective”. One day, Two days, and even 3 days proves nothing to yourself. You have just fed yourself the LIE. It is a false sense of security. Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, Shopaholics…they ALL repeat this cycle. We don’t want to have a problem. We are all the same in this way.

Here are some statistics about alcohol that I found to be pretty shocking:

•Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.

•People with a higher education are more likely to drink.

•Higher income people are more likely to drink.

•Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol.

•There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.

-one-third of all suicides involve the use of alcohol

•Three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics.

•In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes.

•A 2000 study found nearly 7 million persons age 12 to 20 were binge drinkers.

•Three-fourths of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once.

•Adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than their counterparts who do not begin drinking until the age of 21.

One perspective that I would like to offer is on the family dynamic. Because alcohol is so socially acceptable, it is often difficult for an addict to hear that they drink too much especially from members of their family or loved ones who drink heavily. The first thing an addict will do is want to remind them about the 3 fingers pointing back at them. But do you blame them? Its like an overweight family member telling another family member that they need to lose weight. Or a smoker telling another smoker that they need to quit because the other smoker smokes a pack instead of a 3/4th of pack. It doesn’t balance out in an addicts mind. The addict becomes extremely defensive. This type of intervention is usually not effective because of the source. This goes back to what I was saying before about it being a family issue. In order for an addict to truly get well, the family has to get well also. All habits need to be examined by each family member. When I started to realize that I could have my own issues with alcohol it really helped my husband not feel so isolated. Like it was just HIM with a problem. Yes, I was angry for awhile about it but then I just thought to myself, “whats the point? What has alcohol, to date, given to ME as a person? The 100% truthful answer: nothing but pain and heartache.” When everyone in a family starts examine themselves then you have just increased the addicts odds for a full recovery. If that is truly what you are wanting to happen for them the work needs to start within each of you as well. Time to take some personal inventory on yourself and any hang ups you could also work on. The best time to do this is when the addict is getting the help they need. Let them know that you are looking at yourself too. It’s amazing what kind of boost this can give to them while recovering.

Just recently my husband and I watched the documentary on Bill W., the man who started AA. Something very poignant was said about him as a man. Something I thought ends this post nicely: (in reference to his seeking out other alcoholics to connect with)

“He had a real thirst for more, but will it ever be quenched? We are all meant to thirst so the question then is where do we aim what we thirst for?”

I think this says it all. I think God made us this way. We are all meant to thirst for Him and until we find Him, we will keep trying to quench it with everything else the world offers. In this way, we are all the same.