Bucket Problems: An Additional Post

B u c k e t    P r o b l e m s

Bucket with holes.

I wrote a post entitled “Bucket Problems”, about addictions.  One of the guys I try to keep up with, through his blogs, gave me feedback about that post.  His encouragement and insight brought me back to the writing desk, on the Other Side of the Trees, to write more about “Bucket Problems.”  Here is a hypothetical scenario, where addictions are at play:

A man pours his energy, heart and soul, into a bucket.  The idea is that the bucket will hold all that is valuable and sacred.  A shiny, good-looking, bucket.  But, emptiness happens.  Something is wrong.  He pours more of who he is, what he has, into the bucket.  But, the emptiness continues, and is stronger.  He pours out more of his sacred self into the great bucket.  The bucket, however, is not a great bucket.  In fact, it is not even a good bucket. The bucket has holes.  There are bucket problems.

“Addictions”, in our society, often refers to several categories: substance abuse; binge eating; alcoholism (even though alcohol is a substance).  Other addictions fly under the radar and are socially acceptable (and therefore are not considered addictions). Check out some of these potential addictions, a short list:

  1. Shopping
  2. Relationships
  3. Chocolate
  4. Sex
  5. Coffee
  6. Sugar
  7. Work
  8. Being a victim
  9. Eating

An addiction is not just about substance abuse.  Part of the human soul craves relief.  We want something that will ease the pain of living in this world.  We, as individuals, can (try to) hide in our addictions: work, reading books, eating.  My work in addictions, my work with addicts and recovering addicts led me to the realization that the addiction is not just about the addiction.  Something is driving the addiction(s).

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon (many people believe that the author was Solomon) wrote about his realization that everything he pursued for meaning and comfort was … meaningless. That is, everything but God.

1:12-14 ” …  I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I … study (studied) and to explore (explored) by wisdom all that is done under the heavens …14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

1:18 … For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Pleasures Are Meaningless (subtitle)

2:1-26 … I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test (self) with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?’  I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards … 5 gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem … the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Solomon’s words “chasing the wind” suggest that such pursuits are futile.  Such cravings, are part of a desperate search for meaning, for comfort.  How we manage that, how we control that, is up to the individual.  My belief is that it is only through the “reliance” on God, that the “holes in the bucket are plugged.” *Note: the words quoted came about in a discussion with a poet-photographer-friend who blogs:

The Book of Bokeh / https://bookofbokeh.wordpress.com

The Book of Pain / https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

I would like to acknowledge one of my “go-to” books on addiction: Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.  I would not say that this volume is “easy reading” ; but instead an excellent reference for looking at addictions from a non-religious, non-denominational, and non-judgmental spiritual perspective.  The same author wrote The Awakened Heart, which I heartily recommend.

Thanks for reading this lengthy post, and I hope you found some value here.

Bucket Problems

“How do you like my bucket?”  

“(Pause) Hmmm.  That bucket looks alright, on the outside.  Is it working for you?”

“Actually, I haven’t tried it out, yet.  Heck, let’s give it a trial-run,” … he picks up a water hose, turns it on, and points the end of the hose into the bucket.  Water comes flowing out, into the bucket).  

We both watch the bucket, and immediately water comes out of the bottom of the bucket; three or four different streams.  Apparently, there are holes in the bottom of the bucket. The owner, and the custodian, of the bucket is no longer enthused about his “new” bucket.  Now, he is concerned, confused, a bit angry, and embarrassed about his bucket. I speak into the uncomfortable silence: “You have bucket problems.  In fact, you have holes in your bucket.   (Pause)  What were you going to use that bucket for, anyway?”  

“I was going to pour my energy into this bucket.  I was planning on the bucket giving back to me, joy and relief from the hardships in this world, a place to escape for a while.”


In the realm of addictions, individuals pour their hearts and their energy into buckets with holes at the bottom.  But, the bucket never gets full.  I have quoted from three of Gerald May’s books numerous times  in my writing.  Now, I think of a word / concept May used in his book Addiction and Grace:  “attachments”, which he often uses interchangeably with the word “addictions”.  “Attachments” connects with us more effectively than “addictions”.  We get attached to ______________ (consider filling in the blank, even it it is regarding someone other than yourself).  The buckets that we use, sometimes, are deceptive.  We might believe that that there is joy, meaning, relief, to be found in that bucket.  But unless we rely  on God, most buckets have holes, toward the bottom.  The desperate sojourner responds by continuing to fill up that bucket, even though whatever we put into that bucket is simply coming out of the bottom.



David and the Giant

Slaying the Giants

“Our disadvantages can be our advantages.

Our advantages can be our disadvantages.” Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell's book.   DAVID AND GOLIATH.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book. DAVID AND GOLIATH.

We are in the midst of battle, and the giants we face can be huge.

One day, the battles are … beyond … intense, and just mean!  Other days, the battles are not that bad.  We are giant-killers.  We hang out with giant-killers.  We also hang out in the desert, tending sheep.  Not a glamorous job, tending sheep.  On a hot day, they can stink pretty bad.  When the opportunity comes to get away from those sheep for a while, it is good to seize such a window of escape: even if it means going into battle with a giant (Goliath); a giant no one else wants to face.  In David’s adventure (1 Samuel 17) there was no doubt for David about what needed to happen.  David was a “slinger”, incidentally. 

David Was A Slinger

David, the Slinger ...www.bible-archaeology.info

David, the Slinger …www.bible-archaeology.info

This was something David was good at.  Few knew David was a slinger.  Goliath didn’t know it.  Interesting: David had no doubt about what he was going to do.  David’s brothers doubted David.  David’s king was even skeptical.  

http://youngfoundations.org/12560_This_Great_Warrior_DavidGoliath stood, waiting for a man to come to him for hand-to-hand combat, swinging swords, and crashing shields.  When a young boy came into the battle zone, the giant taunts David:I’ll make roadkill out of you for the buzzards … “ (paraphrased, 1 Sam 17:44)  Goliath tried to convince himself that this boy was a fool to fight the giant.     David thinks about Goliath’s trash talk and the giant’s disrespect for David’s God.  David’s response, a liberal paraphrase (1 Sam 17):

“I see you have a sword and a spear, and a few other toys.  And I hear you mocking God.  Well, it stops now, Bubba.  I’m going to kill you today, and I’m going to cut off your head, and I’m going to serve you up to the crows and to the coyotes.  Everyone will know today that God is in The House.  In other words, you are a dead man.”

David sprinted toward Goliath, swinging a rope over his head, before giant ever figured out what was happening, and what was about to happen.  When the giant did figure it out, it was too late. A stone came from the rope sling; flying like a rocket … sinking its way into the giant’s head. The giant fell, the sheep-tender boy sprinted to the giant …

… ran up to the Philistine, stood over him, pulled the giant’s sword from its sheath, and cut off the giant’s head (a liberal paraphrase from 1 Samuel 17:51).

I’ve got my own Davids: individuals that inspire me, individuals fighting for me, individuals who remind me of what courage looks like.  I’ve got my own Goliaths, and I choose not to describe them.  Sometimes I am alone.  Sometimes I need help.  Sometimes, I am David.  Either way, I have to fight … fight well … with spiritual strength, insight, wisdom, and … the strengths that God gave me.  David was good with a sling, and that is how God used David.  He uses our giftedness, our strengths, our skills, and then tells us

“Go get em!”







Wants to Hide and God Knows Her

This post comes from “Be Real, Please!!, found on one of my blogs: “Other Side of the Trees” blog (http://tdanieldavis.wordpress.com)  This post is rewritten specifically for SpeakListenPrayDon’tBeStupid.

I learned about a woman, today, who wants to be Barbie  As I am writing this, I think of the woman … at the well, where Jesus came and talked to her.  Why would I suddenly think about the woman at the well?  Maybe I will know the answer to my question when I am finished; maybe I won’t know; maybe you will know.  Being a guy who lives at 8800 feet in the mountains, chops wood, snow blows, a family man, psychotherapist … I have no interest in Barbie, never have.  My daughter does not even like Barbie!

But …

This story was surprisingly disturbing.  My heart is heavy beyond measure for this woman.  I see this story as a vivid and disruptive metaphor for … fear of authenticity, fear of intimacy: both coming from the enemy, in the form of deception and lies.

“Blondie Bennett, Barbie-Obsessed Woman, Uses Hypnotherapy To Make Herself ‘Brainless’ … “

Is it just me? Or does the title of the article sadden you, as well? Here are excerpts from the article in the Huffington Post.      (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/19/blondie-bennett-barbie-woman-hypnotherapy-stupid_n_4815495.html)

    • A California woman who describes herself as Barbie-obsessed says she uses hypnotherapy sessions in the hopes that it will decrease her IQ.
    • “I just want to be the ultimate Barbie. I actually want to be brainless,” Blondie Bennett, 38, told Barcroft TV. “I don’t like being human, if that makes sense… Natural is boring… I would love to be like, completely plastic.”
    • Bennett … five breast augmentations … other procedures in the hopes of attaining her goal. But now … undergoing hypnotherapy sessions two-to-three times a week in order to dumb down her thoughts.
    • She says it’s working.
    • “I’ve had 20 sessions and I’m already starting to feel ditzy and confused all the time,” Bennett told the Daily Mail.
    • She … loves her looks, (but) her plastic features tend to turn off a lot of people … friends and family don’t approve of her lifestyle.

Live Authentically

I am not able to get past my belief that this story is about a woman who has great pain: not so much physical, but emotional … psychological … possibly traumatic.  We can all agree that life is intense, and at times some of us want to hide.  At other times our hiding is found in joining the crowd.  To be so passionate about removing your pain to the point that you don’t want to think, anymore, about anything … It feels tragic to me.  I hurt for this woman, and I wonder if she ever cried out to God from a dark hour. Sometimes we wonder where God is. But God is there.  We cannot ever buy into the lie that He is not with us.   https://i1.wp.com/joshfults.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/where-are-you-god.jpg

Then, my last thought, this is a jagged picture of the deep desires to self-medicate.


I Feel Your Pain

To desperately be someone other than who you are.  Why?  Because of the pain.  And when it comes to pain, your pain is your pain.  I have NOT walked in your shoes.  But Jesus has walked in our shoes.  And Jesus is the one that can reallly FEEL YOUR PAIN.   And to some degree, I can feel this woman’s pain.  And I think you can, too.



God loves each of us as if thereGod loves each of us as if<br />

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Read more at http://www.quoteswave.com/picture-quotes/25713#hp2k8mvKqwwUZArY.99








The Call Of Saul and Messing With God


The Call of Saul: one in the O.T., and one in the N.T.  The first, Saul called by God through Samuel, to step up / step out and be a king. 

Not “The King”, but “a king”. 

The second, Saul called by God on the road to Damascus through a sudden blinding force, to be an apostle of Jesus Christ; to speak about hope, salvation, and living right.  Ahhhhhh, the Call of Saul.  O.T. Saul was called before he started messing with God, and N.T. Saul was called after he had been messing with God.  I was backpacking through 1 Samuel 13 through15, and like all backpacking journeys I saw some things worth remembering.

  • Samuel had instructed Saul (13) to wait on him to show up … so that Samuel could do burnt offerings … But Saul chose not to wait (a faith issue?) and did the burnt offering himself … resulting in Samuel chewing Saul’s butt;
  • Sam the Man opened up a can of “Come to Jesus Meeting”, and gave Saul a “What are you doing?!” (ouch! those can  hurt!) … Samuel then explained to the Saul-boy that God was going to get a new man for the job … a man who would go after God’s own heart;
  • But in the 15th chapter, Samuel came to Saul and said “The Lord has sent me to anoint you King …”, which suggests to me that Saul might have had another shot at keeping his job … Samuel brought along a message from God to attack a place called Amalek, with some specific details;
  • Saul apparently didn’t take the details of Amalek seriously, or at least not serious enough … God was ticked, Samuel was ticked, because the details Saul ignored were high-priority;

  • Before Samuel’s debriefing with Saul (which included another can of “Come to Jesus Meeting”), Saul stopped off to set up a monument for himself (is there some self-idolatry going on here?);
  • And lastly, the Amalek debriefing: Saul did a full-blown denial with Samuel … not once, not twice, but three times before he finally broke;
  • Saul lied, initially, when he sad he had complied with God’s directions … and what followed was mix of excuses and rationalization … And Saul wouldn’t settle for it.
  • I can only imagine … I feel quite certain (don’t ask me why) that Samuel had virtually no sarcasm as opposed to me.  I can picture my self saying “Bro … cool story. Now, tell what REALLY happened.  If there was ever a time to come to know Jesus, its right now.”

Entering the Emptiness

“Entering the Emptiness” is one of the chapters in a book entitled The Awakened Heart, written by Gerald May (June 12, 1940- April 12, 2005).  As a notable psychiatrist, Gerald May wrote some good things to ponder.  Instead of searching for quotes from others who have reviewed The Awakened Heart,  I am going out on a limb and simply express some of my thinking. 


 The first book I read by Gerald May was a book on addictions, entitled Addiction and Grace. I’ve worked with, walked with, many folks struggling with addictions.  Because of that I had read a number of books and articles about addictions prior to reading Addiction and Grace.  I was intrigued by (at least) two observations while reading Addiction and Grace: Gerald May’s use of spirituality, and his use of the word “attachments”.  I then came across The Awakened Heart, and was blessed by his insight on spirituality, being still, and getting space: ” … we need space to allow the compulsions to ease and the bonds to loosen…”  These words are from “Entering the Emptiness”, the chapter I am writing about from The Awakened Heart.  These words (this quote) were also used in a blog in 2006, by a writer named Sharon Richards.

http://shashwrites.com/2006/09/16/entering-the-emptiness    I was unexplainably intrigued that someone else had blogged on the same book, same chapter, in 2006, that I was writing about today, seven years later. Here is an excerpt from Sharon Richards’ blog:

“Now I”m not exactly sure what to ‘do’ with this as it strikes and touches my heart. Some of it is my constant inner struggle of somehow feeling that I’m not ‘doing’ enough. I’m  ready to ditch that belief. God, help me to enter into emptiness, be willing to be in spaciousness and love myself and see myself as you see me.”


“Entering the emptiness” shows me my own urgency to fill in the space that is uncomfortable, like hunger.  I want to be satisfied, filled up, not lacking. And yet there is some degree of emptiness in the trappings and the strappings of this world, the space that I desperately fill up to stave off anxiety, fear, insecurity.  To address this subtle, under-the-radar, emptiness, Gerald May writes about moving into another emptiness: one that is paradoxically not empty; an emptiness that is similar to the desert.  The “desert”: where the Desert Fathers spent time; as did the Desert Mothers; as did mystics; as did Jesus; and Moses.  The “desert” is not a place where many folks are in a hurry to go to.  But … in the desert one finds space, and a potential stillness, and an opportunity to experience some transcendent change.  (Image above, www.cap.org.za)