AlanGustin Blog2

Happy Birthday, Mommy!

Posted in Uncategorized by alangustin on August 30, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Happy Birthday, Mommy!, posted with vodpod

Older Than Dirt/Eating Fish/Trust

Posted in Uncategorized by alangustin on September 24, 2009

I received an email today from my faithful email-forwarding friends, Dave and Kay, who live in the town in Arizona where my family lived before we moved to Virginia about a year ago.

The email was titled, “Older than dirt”, and included a list of things that people of my generation might remember such as, black & white television, milk delivered to your doorstep, party-lines on the telephone, ice cube trays with the metal release lever, 45 rpm records, etc.

I was dismayed to find that I was able to recall almost all of those things from my past, and of course that qualifiied me as being OLDER THAN DIRT!

So, as I contemplate getting more serious about training myself in web development, I ponder the ramifications of trying to teach an “older-than-dirt” dog new tricks. Do I jump right in, diving head-first into the reams of material I’ve purchased on the topic, without a set curriculum or lesson plan? Do I attempt to catalog in my brain, what can be tedious minutiae included in HTML, PHP, ASP.NET, JAVASCRIPT, MySQL, XML, C#, etc? Ow… just thinking about all those platforms and languages makes my head hurt.

What to do… what to do? I thought about grafting another, younger brain onto my own, feeble, substance affected, dried up, old brain cadaver, but I don’t think that the medical technology exists for that. Hmmm… maybe I should watch “Young Frankenstein” again and get some ideas. Argh…!

My other option, and one that I’m a bit reluctant to choose, is to partner with someone who already knows all this stuff. You see, I have (what I think is) a brilliant idea for a web site. But it will require a sophisticated design, huge database, and lots of automated functioning. I cannot afford to approach a web development company for fear that they would simply steal my idea and do it themselves. So that brings me to the topic of trust.

Trust has essentially disappeared from view lately. Who can trust anyone today? It seems that the game of “Ha-ha, I screwed you!” is the most popular game in town these days. I suppose it would be prudent to do some research about someone I’m considering as a business partner, but I’d rather just trust. Guess I’ll just have to resign myself to getting screwed? It’s terrible that I have to think that way. But there’s yet another thing that I miss from my “older-than-dirt” days… back then, I could shake a guy’s hand, look him in the eye, and get a sense that he was trustworthy. Is that naive, even for back then? Maybe so. It sure would be nice to be able to trust people again. But I suppose if I try that, I’ll truly be acting my “older-than-dirt” age. Sad.

Okay, enough digressing. What this post is really about is: Does Eating Fish Really Help Your Brain?
Since this blog is viewed by millions of people every day, I thought I’d just throw that question out there. Along with this one: Are there any web developers out there that I can trust with my idea?

Performing for God.

Posted in Uncategorized by alangustin on August 19, 2009

Here’s another interesting post over at TheWorshipCommunity.Com

This will link you to a great reply to the main topic. Click the “thread” link to view the entire discussion.

Attention Span

Posted in Uncategorized by alangustin on August 19, 2009

Interesting post over at TheWorshipCommunity.Com about this topic.

Find it here.

diggin’ up the past…

Posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized by alangustin on April 6, 2009

speaking 101

I was going through some old documents on my old PC and I came across this speech I gave at a baccalaureate assembly at the high school in the town where I used to live. (No… they didn’t run me out of town for this speech) I just felt compelled to share it here on my blog that deals with spiritual matters.

“I Had A Dream”

When a young lady by the name of Lindsey McCarthy first approached me about giving an address at Baccalaureate this year, I chuckled inside. My first thought was, “That girl is just insane.” Then, as she shared with me how she had been touched by the testimony that I had given at our church one weekend several months ago, a light began to come on. This would be an awesome opportunity. Lindsey, I hope this won’t ruin your reputation as being someone who possesses sound judgment.

In our country today, drug and alcohol abuse, and teen suicide is far too prevalent. Some of you students are probably thinking, “Aw man, he’s just gonna give us a lecture about drugs and alcohol.” Well, my story does touch on the topics of substance abuse and suicide, but I hope and pray that this will be somewhat more than just a lecture as from your mom or dad.

Lindsey, and the others on the Baccalaureate committee, decided that my story is important enough for our young people to hear, so I will share some of my story with you tonight. I have had to pray hard while considering what parts of my story to include, and what parts to leave out in the interest of time. Like some other people I know, I love talking about me… at least I used to. Okay… I still love talking about me. But now I also love talking about how God changed my life. Since anyone’s life could fill volumes, and take hours upon hours to relate, I’ve had to include just those segments that are pertinent to the message God wants me to share tonight.

I’ve never delivered an address like this… I’ve never been to college… I’ve never taken any public speaking courses… and I certainly don’t possess the ability to memorize a speech of this length. I don’t have the ability to memorize a speech of any length for that matter. So please excuse me as I read from my notes. And don’t worry… it’s not that long.

I am extremely grateful, and I am honored to have this opportunity. I thank the Baccalaureate committee and the principal of this school for allowing me to speak tonight. I thank Curtis for his prayers, and I pray that God will bless our time together.

Martin Luther King Jr. once started a speech with the words, “I have a dream.” My words will certainly not be as powerful as Dr. King’s were, but my address to you tonight starts with similar words: “I had a dream.”

As a young man of high school age, I dreamed of one day becoming a famous recording artist, along the lines of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, or Pete Townsend. These names might sound strange to some of you, but these guys were the pioneers of early rock guitar. I cut my guitar playing teeth while learning the songs of Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Who.

Just in case you students are wondering about how much of a geezer I really am… I’ll tell you that I graduated High School in 1972. You do the math – I know you’re smart enough – you all went to Wickenburg High School, right? I wish to forget about how old I am… so those of you who come up with the answer first, please don’t yell it out.

So I gained local notoriety as a singer/guitar player in my home town in Pennsylvania, and I enjoyed playing in bands and everything connected with that scene. I always considered music to be the language of the universe… able to cross all racial, social, and economic boundaries. Everyone could relate to music at some level. Everyone I knew had music in their life. The music that I most identified with was music that carried a message of love, or social justice. Songs with the message of peace for mankind were the songs that spoke to my heart. So my dream was to write that epic song. You know… the one that would cause the whole of humanity to stop warring and come together in peace and unity.

Are you starting to get the feeling that I was a hippie? Back then my visions were always of spiritual bliss. Through my music, I wanted to shine the light of love on the whole world. I wanted to give the world a Coke and live in perfect harmony. It seemed that a career in music was the path that I would take in life. The future looked bright, and I was excited about what lay ahead. But being a hippie put me among certain individuals who were experimenting with a more dangerous means by which self-awareness and social reform might be realized. So I took to hanging around with some of these folks, and in time I joined the “drug counter-culture”. But at that very point, my dreams started fading away into the realm of the forgotten.

Now, fast-forward. Because it seems like the very next thing I knew… I was 40 years old, living in a state-funded rehab center, after trying to kill myself because of drug and alcohol abuse. Everything was gone; my innocence, my love of life, my love of music, my longing for spiritual awareness… all gone. I felt like I had just spent the last twenty years as the character Gollum from ‘Lord of the Rings’. But as the object of Gollum’s desire was a precious gold ring that harbored much power, my only desire was the ever more elusive euphoria of drugs, alcohol and pornography. Gollum ended up a wretched, slithering, pitiful creature with just a very small portion of his former self still intact. His story is so sad. I felt just like him except without that small portion of my former self intact. I felt like I was completely gone. My addictions took me down; down to a place from which I felt like there was no escape. I became so full of shame and guilt that all I wanted to do was die. So I set off to kill myself. I wrote a suicide note, I sawed the barrel off my 12-gauge shotgun, and took a ride up the Pennsylvania turnpike. I told myself that wherever I ran out of gas – that’s where I would end my life.

So… I ran out of gas, and I pulled off to the side of the road. I had exited the turnpike with barely enough change in my pocket to pay the toll. I was at a point of no return. With no money, and no way back, there was just one thing left to do. As I lay across the front seat of the pickup truck, I stuck the gun in my mouth and began to squeeze the trigger. I squeezed my eyes shut as hard as I could in anticipation, and as I did, an image came across my vision – even though my eyes were shut tight. The image was of my mom, crying hysterically over my death. This is all I could see each time I tried to squeeze the trigger. Many times I stuck that gun in my mouth. Many times I squeezed on the trigger. But each time, I saw my mom… crying.

Today, I know in my heart of hearts that my Savior, Jesus Christ was the One who put those images before my eyes and kept me from ending my own life. You see, I just couldn’t bear the thought of hurting my mom that way, and God knew that. He met me in my exact time of need and saved me from certain death. And I’m so glad He did. So very glad He did.

I woke up after my first night in that rehab center and just started sobbing, uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop crying. I later realized that I was crying due to grief over the loss that I had just experienced; the loss of more than 25 years – at that time, over half my life. That’s how long I had been escaping reality by means of substance abuse.

I stayed in rehab for 28 days. When I got out, I entered a recovery program, and I found God. Don’t despair, I’m not going to preach the Gospel to you tonight, although I would love to have the opportunity to do that sometime. Everyone needs to hear the Gospel of Christ. What I will say, is that a Muslim heroin addict named John, told me while we were in that rehab center together, that I needed God in my life. He didn’t attempt to point me to Allah, or convert me to Islam. He simply said that I needed God in my life. That statement contained the most important words that were ever spoken to me by another human being.

That was eleven years ago, almost to the day. And I have been walking with God ever since. I’ve been drug and alcohol free for eleven years. But more importantly, eleven years ago I turned my life over to Christ. Now every day is a blessing. Every day is a gift – because I know what God saved me from. Today, I experience life; the kind of life that Jesus promises us in the Bible… abundant life. God brought me the perfect life-mate, my wife. Today, Valerie and I have a great marriage and two beautiful children – Ali, now five years old; and Evan, now seven months old. God is so good. You know, my life isn’t all peaches and cream now. I don’t walk on a bed of roses everywhere I go. Life’s difficulties still come. But today I am able to deal with life on life’s terms. Today I lean on this Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Listen, I don’t share my ugly past with you to glorify that old lifestyle. Or to give you the impression that it’s okay to use drugs and alcohol for a while. It’s not okay. I don’t want any of you to go from here thinking to yourself, “He abused drugs and alcohol, and he seems to be okay”, or think, “I would never get that bad. I can handle the drugs, I can handle my drinking”. Listen, you don’t handle drugs and alcohol… they handle you! They will ruin you. I lost twenty-five years of my life! God has a far better plan for your life.

I have the key to success in life. That’s what you might expect to hear in a speech such as this, yes? You can have it better… much better. You are all at an exciting point in your lives today. Some of you may be scared. Some of you just can’t wait to go out into the world and enjoy your independence. Some of you may not know what’s next. College? Military career? Long term missions? American Idol? Many choices, many decisions to make. Why complicate things by dulling your minds with the wrong kinds of activities? Realize your potential. Then realize that your potential diminishes rapidly with substance abuse. Abusing drugs and alcohol cannot enhance your mind, or increase your ability to do anything. It simply dulls your mind and crushes your spirit.

I always look forward to sharing with young people about the terrible consequences of drug addiction. My new dream is that I can somehow short-circuit the plans of the enemy to steal your hearts away from God. Today, the enemy is using drugs, alcohol and sexual immorality to ruin the lives of our young people. There are thousands of older people out there living ruined lives – locked in the grips of addictions from which they cannot escape. Addictions that started way back when they were young… maybe fresh out of high school or even earlier than that. You can have it better… much better.

Today, there are people who believe that the enemies of our great nation need not attack us directly in order to conquer us. They think that all they need to do is be patient and we’ll destroy ourselves from the inside. I don’t believe that, because I believe in our young people of today. I believe that your generation will not allow us to continue this head-first dive into that pool of self-destruction. You can have it better… much better. You can be that light, shining in the darkness. If just one of you hears these words and can avoid the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse, then my dream will have been realized. Because I know that you guys can go out and do the things I would have done if I could be sitting where you are right now, knowing what I know today.

You may be asking, “What things would I do?” Some of those things are these:

I would respect and value a close relationship with my parents. They don’t know everything, but they love you and they want to share life with you. Show them that you are a Christ-follower by the way you love and respect them.

I would value the advice of those older than me. You may never be able to believe this, but most times… most times, people who are older than you are also wiser than you. There are more than a few exceptions. But learn to listen. Learn how to benefit from the pearls of wisdom that are given to you from those who have more experience than you.

I would reject the culture of those who try to get everything they want by stepping on everyone in their path. These people are like evil speedboats, quickly plowing their way through life, leaving ruined lives in their wake. And for what? Wealth? Fame? Vainglory? These people may reach their goal quicker than others do. But when they get there, they find that they are empty, unhappy, unfulfilled, and without true friends.

I would do my very best to try to bring some goodness into this world. I would like to be able to say that my life’s contributions in some small way, made the world a better place.

But most of all… I would never… allow… anyone… to try to steer me away from my God-inspired dreams.

Most of you will go on in life to do great things. Most of you will make healthy life choices. Most of you will avoid the pitfalls that people like me didn’t avoid. Most of you will lead happy, meaningful, productive lives. But my prayer is that all of you will do these things; that all of you will allow God to direct your lives in everything that you do.

I mentioned earlier that I had the key to success in life. This key is contained in just a few words from the Bible, and is available to everyone. My Lord, Jesus Christ, the greatest teacher that ever did – or ever will – walk the face of the earth, spoke these words.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Seek God, and He will give you great dreams. Take the key to success in life with you on your journey, and your dreams – those God-inspired dreams – will become reality.

Would I have attained those goals of my earlier years and lived out my dream if I had managed to stay away from the dark path that I ended up on?
I don’t know.
Why did God allow me to go through years and years of living hell before bringing me around? I don’t know.
I do know that God gives us free will to choose. I believe today that when my will doesn’t line up with God’s… anything goes. Today I believe that when I align my will with the will of my creator… I have a far better chance of success.

I couldn’t stand before you tonight and say, “It’s a tough, cruel world out there, you kids. It’s a dog eat dog world, and you’ve gotta be strong to survive.” But you know, the fact is, all of that is true. And I suggest that you face the world only with the strength of God on your side.

I would like to conclude my part of tonight’s program with a song. But first, here’s one of my favorite verses from the Bible:

Philippians chapter 4: verse 8 says,
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
May God be with each and every one of you, as you continue on into this next, challenging and exciting phase of your life.

Then I played and sang “Give It All Away” by Aaron Shust.

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