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30 Years Sober…

Each March 24th, I remember the anniversary of the day back in 1993 that I quit drinking. In fact, I have written about this several times throughout the years, but as the days of drinking fade even further into the past, it seems good to celebrate the milestones each year that mark the dramatic change in my life 30 years ago.

It is evident to me that things would be quite a bit different if I was still participating in my old habits. In fact, during blood tests done back in 1993 before my annual physical, the results indicated that I could be consuming too much alcohol. Nobody accused me, but I knew it to be true… In a very real sense of the word, that day I was scared sober. I knew that if I continued on the course I was traveling, I was in line to have some severe medical issues to deal with.

I wasn’t the only one in my family to have a problem with drinking. The specifics aren’t important but suffice it to say that I enjoyed alcohol and when I got my test results, I quit cold turkey and never looked back. It was easier than quitting smoking back at the end of 1979. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss drinking on occasion – but I know that it would be impossible for me to be a social drinker.

My resolve has become even stronger as my ordination included signing a covenant that I would not consume alcohol. By the way, as a sign of encouragement and support, Janet joined me in this commitment. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it but I do mark the milestones.

When I was in seminary, I was struck by a passage of Scripture that we were required to translate. It had to do with the consumption of wine and Paul, the author of the verse, pontificated on how we should be filled with the Spirit as opposed to being drunk with wine. For some reason, this passage really convicted me and ever since that time, whenever I have to urge to think about a taste here or there, I think about that day in class when we were encouraged to learn about singing hymns and psalms – being filled with the Spirit, rather than succumbing to the attraction of drinking.

After that class period, things became easier for me. It’s almost as if God was laying something on my heart that day in seminary and I have always been grateful for that verse of Greek translation.

Of course, I shared the struggles that I had faced with my classmates. That class period will go down as one of the most impactful, and memorable, days I have ever experienced during my seminary adventure. It also reinforced my thoughts on salvation and different facets of theology connected with Paul’s ministry. One of the things that I appreciated about my education is the fact that we could talk about anything – no judgment or pushing for details beyond what had been shared – only words of hope and encouragement that had a profound impact on my life.

Our verse for tonight is the verse that we worked on that day in class. It’s a verse that I have used each March 24th for the past several years. Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, his most theologically deep church, tells us in Ephesians 5:18-20, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (KJV)

My encouragement this evening is that you never know where and when the word of God will change your life in a drastic way. My prayer is that each of us will always be open to listening and acting on the nudging of the Holy Spirit when we are struggling with the day to day issues of life. After all, we all have challenges to deal with from time to time. But all things are possible with God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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