More Posts Soon!

HELLO EVERYONE, SO SORRY for the delay in posting new articles. I hand surgery on my right hand two weeks ago. I am progressing nicely, albeit not as fast as I would’ve liked.

I have been working on Part Three of my “Church History” series, which will cover Christianity’s battles with Islam and the Crusades. Part Four will cover troubles in the church that led to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic counter-Reformation, and the start of Christianity’s global outreach. I am also planning to continue my series on integrating psychology and Christian theology. This is a topic that is key in my continuing master’s studies and my ministry to Christians struggling with active addiction and mental illness. There are several other projects on the back burner, including “The End of Me” based on Kyle Idleman’s book of the same name.

Steven Barto

My Prayer About Selfishness

Father God,

When I come before You,
I dutifully pay lip service
to how awesome You are,

but I must admit that
what I am really interested in is me.
I acknowledge Your sovereignty because
I want “things” from You—lots of things.
I want You to bless me—
to make my life easier and, most of all,
to rubber stamp my will as Your own.

Many of my prayers focus on
what You can do for me, not
how I can know You better.
This is my truth
and I need to be aware of it.
I wish I were a better,
more selfless person.
I wish I had more character than I do.
Admitting the truth embarrasses me,
but You know my heart.
Help me become who
You need me to be.
Continue making changes in me,
never to be the same.

I want to seek You for who You are
rather than for what You can do for me.
Give me a heart that yearns for
knowledge and wisdom instead. Teach me
to look beyond my limited world.
Develop in me a heart of compassion.

Without you, I see my selfishness,
ever before me, never receding;
but I am a new creature

inside and out. You are
changing me, helping me to
become a better version of myself;
a child worthy of Your name.
Let this be what motivates me and
defines me.

© 2021 Steven Barto

On Becoming Wise

There is what I know―
the scope of things
in my head.
There is what I have
yet to know.
Ultimately, though,
There is what I don’t
know that
I don’t know―
the unasked and
the unanswered.

Judgment is
born from experience―
the benefit
of becoming wise and
sophisticated; schooled
and familiar with
what is true and
what is lore.
It is on this
that I can base
the soundness
of an action or decision.

©2021 Steven Barto

Upcoming Podcast!

I am in the process of starting a podcast regarding the same categories and issues discussed on this blog. I have not yet decided the frequency of postings, but ideally I would like to do one every day. The podcast episodes will be hosted by WordPress, and possibly one other mainstream host site. I am pitching to my board of elders at church for placing a link on the church website and Facebook page. Please watch for additional announcements.

I am very excited about expanding my ministry to include podcasts.

NA Meetings Available on Zoom

It has been difficult during the pandemic to find NA Zoom meetings. I decided to compile a listing and post it on my blog, and provide a link to my friends who are participating in a drug treatment court program. Each of these meetings are sanctioned by Narcotics Anonymous and will count toward any weekly meeting quota. Most (if not all) of these meetings provide verification (typically in the form of an email to your inbox which you can then forward to your probation officer. Just ask the chairperson of the meeting regarding how to receive a verification.

Remember, you can do it!
Steviebee77

Morning Wake Up Group of Narcotics Anonymous
Saturday
07:00 (7:00am) EDT – 08:00 (8:00am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2134996571
Chester County, PA

Mugs not Drugs
Saturday
08:00 (8:00am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/5463636379
Big Lake, MN
ID 5463636379 No password needed.

Carrying the Message Around the World
Saturday
12:00 (12:00pm) EDT – 13:30 (1:30pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/79162981566?pwd=SlkrM3RVUHRORkMrTVFXMC8wUEFxQT09
City of Brotherly Love, PA
password: jftna

Honest Beginners
Sunday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 12:00 (12:00pm) EDT
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/703237349
Joliet, IL

Just for Today
Bridgeton, NJ
Sunday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 11:30 (11:30am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9400801538
Bridgeton, NJ

The “After Noon” Group
Sunday
13:00 (1:00pm) EDT – 14:00 (2:00pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/722207704
West Chester, PA

Newcomers
Sunday
14:00 (2:00pm) EDT – 15:30 (3:30pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2045349460
El Paso, TX
password: RecoverE (Please Note: the last letter must be a capital E)

Start the Day Off Right NA
Monday
09:00 (9:00am) EDT – 10:00 (10:00am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/183339330
Atlanta, GA

Hugs Not Drugs
Monday
13:00 (1:00pm) EDT – 14:00 (2:00pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/82422942328
Houston, TX
password: JimmyK
[From Steviebee77: This is a great meeting. Might see you there!]

Mugs not Drugs
Tuesday
08:00 (8:00am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Big Lake, MN
ID 5463636379 No password needed.
https://zoom.us/j/5463636379
[From Steviebee77: I enjoy this meeting as well. This is Mugs Not Drugs, not Hugs…]

Waking Up Clean
Tuesday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 11:00 (11:00am) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/266540613
Reno, NV
password: 457382

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Wednesday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

Any Lengths Group
Wednesday
12:00 (12:00pm) EDT – 13:00 (1:00pm) EDT
Richmond, VA
Password: AnyLengths
https://us02web.zoom.us

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Thursday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

Mid-Day Miracles
Thursday
15:00 (3:00pm) EDT – 16:30 (4:30pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/5786365647?pwd=Vy9QYWV6MzhJMm9DSGg2ZEJBNmdxdz09
Kennewick, WA

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Friday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

The 12 Steps of NA
Friday
19:00 (7:00pm) EDT – 21:00 (9:00pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/727210620
Detroit, MI
ID 727210620

Contact Numbers

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can order free publications.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.
Learn more 800-273-8255

For immediate emergencies, call 911. Another resource is the Poison Control emergency number: 1-800-222-1222. This is a free and confidential service open 24/7 to talk to a poison and prevention expert.

A Plea for Mercy at a Poetry Reading

Be patient please
as these words stumble
off my tongue or as they tip-toe
nervously to the precipice of my lips
nervously to the precipice of my lips
before leaping into your lagoon of thought.
Listen, these words have traveled
long years through the swollen rivers
and frenzied trees of a jungle mind
battered by storm. They are weary
as well as wary. As iron is bent
and tortured across the blacksmith’s anvil
these words are twisted and torqued
over the most trivial of fears;
they are raw with tedious obsessions.
Their blossoming has been withered
by the stale breath of isolation.
But know this, they are honest
and unassuming
as the tip of a blind man’s cane.
So take them gently as you now
lead them through the obstacles
of their own making.

© 2021 Jason James Sheppard

Riding the Coattails of the Morning Sun

Like a knob-kneed colt
with wild mane flying
I galloped carefree through my youth.
Muddy potholes and thorny hedges
were no obstacles but welcome challenges.
Sparks bounced off my radiant body
as I rode on the coattails of the morning sun.

Now I sit by candlelight,
a crocheted comforter around my shoulders,
recalling old wrongs and shortcomings
as well as the delicate beauties of my life
—and tell stories.

©2017 Ute Carson

Retrieved from: http://www.longshotisland.com/2017/02/08/momentary-poems/

The Connection Between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

From National Institute on Drug Abuse

Many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa. Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. Although there are fewer studies on comorbidity among youth, research suggests that adolescents with substance use disorders also have high rates of co-occurring mental illness; over 60 percent of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs also meet diagnostic criteria for another mental illness.

Data show high rates of co-morbid substance use disorders and anxiety disorders—which include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance use disorders also co-occur at high prevalence with mental disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychotic illness, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.

Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population. As Figure 1 shows, the overlap is especially pronounced with serious mental illness (SMI). Serious mental illness among people ages 18 and older is defined at the federal level as having, at any time during the past year, a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders that cause serious impairment. Around 1 in 4 individuals with SMI also have an SUD.

This graph shows the percent of co-occuring substance use disorder and serious mental illness in the past year among people aged 18 or older from 2009 to 2015.

Data from a large nationally representative sample suggested that people with mental, personality, and substance use disorders were at increased risk for non-medical use of prescription opioids. Research indicates that 43 percent of people in SUD treatment for non-medical use of prescription painkillers have a diagnosis or symptoms of mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety.

Source: NIDA. 2020, May 28. Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness on 2020, October 8.

Let’s Go to Theology Class: Be Still and Know

The following is from my class in Spiritual Formation in pursuit of my M.A. in Theological Studies.

Select one of the following tools of worship and practice it: Silence, Walk, Pray, or Write. Post a reflection of what you got out of this experience. Stay focused on the uniqueness, spiritual value, and biblical fidelity of the experience rather than on the deep, remedial, or personal work God may have done through the experience.

Silence. A hard proposition for someone with a type-A racing brain that wants to know everything right now. I am not, however, driven by the notion that the more recent the information I learn, the better informed I am. So, when I choose to “study” and then sit and contemplate, I am not “memorizing” data; rather, I am experiencing a meeting of the mind and the heart. I was told many times in the past that I needed to get God out of my head and into my heart. One of my prior pastors said, “I don’t think you have a heart for God.” I did not take kindly to that suggestion at all.

Amazingly, I understand these comments today. I was reading for the “mind” of it and not the “heart” of it. I was accumulating information. It took about a year of struggling with this issue to see the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. There is no devotional quality to cramming my brain full of personal, genealogical, historical, and cultural information about Jesus of Nazareth. Christ is central to Christianity. He is, as noted brilliantly by C.S. Lewis, “mere Christianity.” As you can see by my comments, I do a lot of “thinking.” Analyzing and digesting. But this is not divine reading. Moreover, it does not lead to “silence.”

I spent three hours last night worshiping God. It started with watching YouTube videos of Hillsong United, Kari Jobe, Bryan and Katie Torwalt. I began singing along. I was awash with emotions: peace was chief among them, followed by gratitude, joy, contentment, and wonder. I ended up on my living room floor, face down, praying the words of the songs: I am Not Alone. Holy Spirit. Let the Heavens Open. Initially, the silence was in me. My mind simply gave the joystick over to my heart and said nothing. I just sang along and worshiped.

I did not know holiness, or sacrifice, or mercy. These godly attributes were swimming in and through me. God was so close. Jesus was so, personal. I listened to Kari and the band worship Christ for over ten minutes in a live performance, then hit MUTE. I poured out my heart to God. I thanked the Holy Spirit for helping me think about what I think about; to pay attention to my comments, especially about others. I asked Him to continue granting me discernment to be aware of the fleshly desires and evil spirits attempting to attach themselves to me: the spirit of pharmacia; the spirit of lust and pornography; the spirit of pride; the spirit of anger and resentment. My heart was praying. My joy and contentment were unbelievable. My sense of God’s complete forgiveness was crystal, and my usual “default” mode of 90-miles-an-hour changed. I thanked God for the call on my life; for delivering me from 40 years of bondage to addiction to alcohol, to drugs, to pornography—to fleshy living. I told Him, “I am yours.” And vowed to serve Him, acknowledge Him, and glorify Him by how I live, what I say, how I love, how I forgive.

Then, I just lay there, on the floor of my living room, face down, in silence. I focused on my breathing, slowing it, experiencing it. I imagined Jesus breathing, living, eating, sleeping. I imagined Him teaching, healing, gathering disciples. I imagined Him suffering, bleeding, stumbling. I saw Him dutifully walking to Calvary. Afraid, yet not afraid. I saw Him being nailed down, and then hoisted high. I could not move. I dared not speak.

There was nothing to say. No “thank you” would do. No words were necessary. But this is what is needed. This silence. This quintessential contemplation of God’s unconditional love. Edwards writes, “The kind of religion that God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless ‘wouldings’—those weak inclinations that lack convictions—that raise us but a little above indifference ” (1). For me, I cannot be fervent in of heart, praying without ceasing, without looking heavenward for the “vertical orientation” we lost when Adam and Even decided to eat the forbidden fruit and look inward for purpose, origin, the meaning of good and evil. Holy fear and affection were sacrificed that day in the name of pride and self-centeredness. Human will was exercised in a decisive and lasting manner. No longer could man walk with God in the cool of the day, in complete fellowship, listening with the heart and not the ear. Silence was lost. Peace was lost. Life became complicated. Unfair. Troublesome. Hard. Our friends started dying of heroin overdoses. Our parents got sick. Our bodies began to break down from toil. 

We stopped stopping. We stopped being silent. We stopped listening.


(1) Johnathan Edwards, “Engagement of the Heart,” in Devotional Classics (New York: HarperOne, 1990, 2005), 19.