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.



Valley of Elah: There’s Going to Be Some Trouble

They came from the south … 

at least that is what some say.  Mean-looking fellows.  And in this case, their looks matched up with who they were.  

These thuggish men were born and bred for battle, and intimidation, and violence.  Bullies, they were.  Bullies indeed.  They were the bad-guys of the Hebrew Bible, residing in a place called Phillistia.  Phillistia went from Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north.  A giant of a man, Goliath, traveled with these fighters who had been pushing their way into the Valley of Elah toward a place known as Judah; a place controlled by Israel.  Now, just a few thoughts about giants:

Goliath was 13 ft.  Gath, Goliath’s stomping grounds … no pun intended … was a place where other giants lived.  It is believed that Goliath had brothers who were giants there in Gath.  Archaeology is producing more evidence, as time rolls on, of the reality of giants.  Studies of the Nephullum, the Rephaim, the Anakim, all suggest that giants were not uncommon.  It is also believed that the Philistine leaders hired giants to fight for them.

This land … the Valley of Elah … was a strategically advantageous area of real estate.

  1. It was close to the sea;
  2. It had travel routes;
  3. And it was a great location for a potential resort area with pool, tennis courts, free wireless, free continental breakfast … Maybe?  No. ‘Wasn’t going to happen, not at 1010 b.c.

Seriously, the Philistines (from Phillistia) were on a mission.  Here is a diagram that gives you a bit of a picture of what was going on.  Note the red route.

Reconstruction of the battlefield in the valley of Elah ( Reds- Philistines; Blues-Israelites) / http://www.biblewalks.com/sites/ElahValley.html

The resident king, a fella by the name of Saul, was given some good intel about these boys from Phillistia coming up into the Valley of Elah.  The alarm was sounded, and the Israelite military guys high-tailed it to Socoh, where they  blocked the Philistines.  There was a ridge on the south of the Valley of Elah, where the Philistines gathered up, established their camp, drew up their battle line.  Across the Valley of Elah, on the north side, there was another ridge where the fellas from Israel gathered, set up camp, and drew their own battle line.  You probably know the rest of the story.  One of my paraphrased versions of what happened, there, in the Valley of Elah is found in another one of my posts that is similar to this post.

I often return to the story of David and Goliath because it inspires me, and because it is powerfully applicable to our lives.




Once I Was A Wild Man

Once I was a wild man, and Old Man was in the wild man.  One wild man, among others, who I looked up to was John Belushi … my high school days, on through early college years.  A solid candidate for the quintessential wild man.  

‘Few fellas, couple of years older,
inspired me during these years.  They were definitely cool. I know they were definitely cool, because they told me so. They were, in fact, wild men.  Women mysteriously gravitated toward them. 

Because of John Belushi, because of these two guys who looked after me whenever they could, I was focused on, highly attentive to, being a wild man.  In an uncharacteristically sober discussion following one of my stunts, standing up on a chair in a bar yelling “TOGA! TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!”, one my friends told me: “You know, Bro, being a wild man is not always where its at.”  As soon as I heard it; I blew it off.  I knew … being a wild man was my calling.  Funny how you can “know” something at one point in your life, confidence  unshakeable, and then a few years later … what you thought you knew to be true was in fact a “non-truth”

1986, March, I was at a bar down the street with a bunch of folks I worked with, on top of the world.  I do remember walking out the door of the bar, homeward bound.  At some point, I became aware of going backwards in my 1973 Dodge Charger, passenger side of the car bumping and screeching along the guard rail.  I miraculously turned the car around and got my idiot self back to my apartment, eyes as big as tennis balls.  I still tremble at what could have happened, and immeasurably thankful that no one died as a result of my neanderthal stupidity.  Things were getting crazy, and less enjoyable.  As a philosopher, by the name of B.B. King, once said, “The thrill is gone.”  He didn’t just philosophize.  B.B. King played some amazing music at the same time.

1987, fall, shortly before midnight, a profound change came in my thinking and in my life, from the unknown: unknown, at least initially.  The unknown became the Known.  It was a God-thing.  Change for the better.  Old things gradually dropped off.  Old Man faded. And yet, Old Man kept coming to visit, even though he was unwelcome.   He talked a lot.  The Old Man still comes by, sometimes quite ramped up ready to start trouble.  As Old Man started to fade, my wild man started to fade.  It was tough.  It was like … a loss.  I grieved the loss of the wild man, while sitting in an unprecedented peace acknowledging that this wild man had to go. I had found a new calm. There were better decisions; still mistakes, but different kinds of mistakes, and … yeah … better decisions.  The big thing, though, was my future. If and when I quit breathing, I would be in a good place, not a bad place.

Then, something strange emerged out of the fog, after a number of years.  A wild man stirred in my soul, my heart, my mind.  I was wary, as you can imagine.  This was a different wild man.  A wild man that stood apart from the old man.  I was a bit confused, and I gradually realized that this was the wildness of God.  Even though the old man and other thugs tried to gang up on guys like me, I decided I wasn’t going to be the enemy’s whipping-boy anymore.  

I allowed for a redemptive imagination.  I thought of Aragorn … who went up against the worst of the worst.  A wild man.  I stood with Moses, the bad guys coming for us on one side and the intimidating Red Sea on the other.  A wild man.  I walked swiftly behind Jesus in the temple watching him turn tables over disrupting the Pharisees.  A wild man.  I sat in the boat with the 12 guys that hung out with Jesus … there on Sea of Galilee, a mean storm on the verge of obliterating us when J-Man stood up and said “Hey!  That’s enough of this craziness!  Be still!”  And the waves disappeared, the ocean was smooth like a glass, the wind was history.  A wild man.  I had a better understanding, now.

It made sense that men are called to be wild men … redemptive wild men to stand up for what is right, to stand up against the lies, and the mind-games, and the attacks from the spiritual realm (for those who allow that to be part of their theology).  I think of courageous, passionate men, who are willing to fight for the death for what is right, like the “Three Amigos”There are many wild men who have been a part of God’s fun …  God shows His wildness through men.  We see it all the time. I’m still trying to figure this out.



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!”







Proverbs Fan Man

I’m a Proverbs fan-man.  Here some excerpts from Proverbs 1. I grabbed The Message off the shelf.  Mixed into these excerpts are some of my ramblings … in red to avoid confusion.  First section goes from verse 1 to verse 6; second section goes from verse 20 to the end, verse 33.  I hope you find this refreshing.

“… wise sayings of Solomon …
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
    to understand what life means and where it’s going …

I am a son, saved by the Son, and I want to hear, clearly, the Father.

A manual for living,
    for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
    and give our young people a grasp on reality.

God help me to hear You, to embrace your words.  

… something here also for seasoned men and women,
    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.”

I am here to hear, and to know what to leave, and what to grieve.

20-21 Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts.
    At the town center she makes her speech.
In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand.
    At the busiest corner she calls out:

22-24 Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance?
    Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism?
Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?
    About face! I can revise your life.
Look, I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you;
    I’m ready to tell you all I know.
As it is, I’ve called, but you’ve turned a deaf ear;
    I’ve reached out to you, but you’ve ignored me.

25-28 “Since you laugh at my counsel
    and make a joke of my advice,
How can I take you seriously?
    I’ll turn the tables and joke about your troubles!
What if the roof falls in,
    and your whole life goes to pieces?
What if catastrophe strikes and there’s nothing
    to show for your life but rubble and ashes?
You’ll need me then. You’ll call for me, but don’t expect
        an answer.
    No matter how hard you look, you won’t find me.

29-33 “Because you hated Knowledge
    and had nothing to do with the Fear-of-God,
Because you wouldn’t take my advice
    and brushed aside all my offers to train you,
Well, you’ve made your bed—now lie in it;
    you wanted your own way—now, how do you like it?
Don’t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots?
    Carelessness kills; complacency is murder.
First pay attention to me, and then relax.
    Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

I am here to understand, as a man, the words of wisdom.

Do I See It? No, I Don’t

“We don’t yet see things clearly …

We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”The Message 13:12

One man, one woman, sees the color “red”.  I see the color “maroon”.  I immediately assume that I am accurate in what I see (“maroon”), and anyone who sees “red” is inaccurate in what they see.  And yet, maybe I am the one … who do not see clearly.

“Perception is the ultimate reality, but not necessarily the ultimate truth.”                   Bishop Carleton

When I read 1 Samuel, I experience disruption and tension when I consider the lives of two prophets, and two kings: Eli the prophet preceded Samuel;  King Saul preceded King David.  I see the strengths of Samuel and King David, as apposed to their weaknesses.  David let his dark side get the best of him, but when Nathan confronts him on his crime,  David owns up to it and takes responsibility. I see David’s humility, positive character.

And yet, If I really see what is there, versus what I choose / want to see, I might see something ugly.  David had an innocent man killed, justified by his “kingship”.  David stole another man’s wife, justified by his “kingship”.  Translation: David thought he could do anything he wanted.  David’s choice about seeing … what he thought was a legitimate desire … was followed by a great conflict how he would see.  This process of change was facilitated by Nathan and by God.

Samuel, the “good” prophet had some murky “stuff” in his family that I chose not to see, initially.  Samuel’s two sons were abusing their father’s “prophet status”, and mocking justice, taking bribes, etc … which was similar to what Eli’s sons were doing.  Here is a factor: Samuel was raised without a father.  Is that an excuse?  No.  But, being raised without a good father is not something to ignore.  It is a huge part of why there is so much violence today in our society.  God, help us to see You, each other, and what is true.

Change Can Get Ugly, and Redemptive

I asked a man for directions.  

“Excuse me, sir.  I am trying to get to I-40 East.”

“You can’t get there from here.”   

Actually,  I  can  get  “there”  from  “here” when it comes to change, if I want it.  My journey has challenges.  There is intimidation ahead (always has been)  Goals … unrealistic?  Change is definitely doable: with some work; outside-the-box thinking; real prayer; acknowledging where my strength comes from; support.  And, change might get ugly.  But, I can get “there” … from “here”.  And, it will be redemptive.

A Young Boy, Samuel

Over-simplified version.  The boy – – -raised and trained by an older guy, a priest and a prophet, from the old days.  Samuel had a dream in the night.  ‘Dreamed God was talking to him.  Next morning the older guy, Eli, asked Samuel about the dream.  It wasn’t a pleasant dream.  God was telling Eli, through the boy Samuel, that Eli’s time was coming to an end; that God was not pleased, whatsoever, with Eli’s two sons … acting like complete knuckleheads.  Mean knuckleheads.  Samuel was a change agent. Samuel had the courage to dream; courage to listen to hard stuff; courage to speak when he needed to speak, and to say what he needed to say.  You can get the whole scoop in 2 Samuel; well worth the read. Things got ugly. What happened then and there was quite disruptive, and a bit violent. But, maybe all that needed to happen, for change to take place.  What came out of all that was a new prophet / priest / spokesman, truly a good man.  What came out of that was a new king: one of the most important men in the entirety of biblical history, another good man.  The ark of the covenant was returned.  The old guard was wiped out, because radical change had to happen.  It was ugly, and it was redemptive.


An Ark Issue: Re-write

Writing out loud, which is what writers do, right?


Momentum from chapter 1 brought me up to where the Israelites and the Philistines were squared off.  I camped there, in the canyon between chapter 4 on one end, chapter 5 in the middle, and chapter 6 at the other end.  The Philistines were riled up, and went out to meet the men from Israel in the field.  The Philistines were brutal; 4,000 men from Israel died that day.

Israel versus Philistines.jpg

Israel versus Philistines.jpg   aclutteredmind.org

Before the second battle, the Israelites brought up the ark of the Lord, from Shiloh.  The Israelites embraced a great deal of confidence that with the ark of the Lord, the Israelites would surely be victors over the brutal Philistines.

What was supposed to happen . . . didn’t happen.  The Philistines met the men from Israel, again, in the field, and defeated Israel, again.  The field was bloody from the 30,000 men from Israel that died that day.  It seemed fitting, apparently, for the Philistines to bring this ark of God into the “House of Dagon” and present it to their own god, “Dagon”.    

The Philistines god, DAGON, was not a person, but a man-made idol, also known as the “fish god”.  To the left is a colored engraving of “Dagon”, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagon

The next morning servants came to check on Dagon with the “Philistines Times” (newspaper) and his morning Cafe Latte.  They found their Dagon laying face down in front of the ark.  They picked him up, sat him in his chair, and told him to have a good day, and to call if he needed anything.  Apparently Dagon the Fish God lost its balance while sitting in his Fish God chair.

The second morning, the servants came by and saw their “fish-god” once again face down in front of the ark, but his head was separated from the “trunk” of the idol and his hands had been broken off.  This was a problem.

Word got out that the “fish-god” Dagon had been dethroned.  No one came anywhere near Dagon’s place, other than the special forces extraction team, to get the ark.  Dagon’s heyday had come to an end.  Dagon was now a bygone.

The ark of the Lord stayed with the Phillys for 7 long, nightmarish, months.  The Philistine Leadership called in the counselors, priests, consultants, transportation specialists, fixers, black ops team.  The question on the table was ….

“How do we get it back to where it belongs?” 

The advisors told the leaders to …

” … give glory to God …”

It seems odd that the counsel to the leaders was: “Give glory to God.”

Ark of the Covenant

Ark of the Covenant

When the ark finally made it back to Israel, Beth Shemesh specifically, some of the Israelites were not handling the ark right.  70 men were struck down.  A call was made to the big guys in Jerusalem:  (basically) “Hey, listen-up: some Philistine guys brought the ark back. You need to send somebody down here to get the ark …   What’s that? …. You want us to bring the ark to you? …  NO.  We’re not touching the ark.  YOU guys come get the ark.  See you when you get here.”

A fascinating story.  With the Philistines, the old addage applies: “Be careful about what you go after: you might just get it, and once you get it, you may not want it.”  And with the Israelites, a false sense of security can backfire on you.  But there is one more piece to all this.  I believe that what is happening from the first verse of 1 Samuel on, through chapter 6 is the story of how seasons change.  With young Samuel on the scene, and Eli dying, around the same time with his sons, there appears to be a “changing of the guard”.  What do you think?