Over 2000 years ago Plato wrote these compelling words: "If the head and the body are to be well, you must begin with the soul, that is the first thing."
With news of the latest mass shootings, an ongoing ridiculous war that continues in Ukraine, along with controversy in our schools (the teacher of the year in Gwinnett just resigned in protest), and so many other issues that swirl around our world, we ask simply, what is the answer? Plato penned it, Jesus spoke of it - it's a soul issue.
It would solve gun control, abortion, hatred and the ugliness of mankind. God got so fed up with it that he destroyed most of humanity in a flood. But then, he gave us a way out, a way to change, a pathway for redemption and a gateway to grace. But to get there we have to be Fed Up with how we are living.
Jesus overturned the moneychangers tables when they disrespected his father. We can overturn anything using His power and formula for redemption if we quit talking about it and actually do something. An addict cannot quit by talking about it, it only "works if you work it" as the 12 Steps say, and as the two things our parents always told us agree, "Actions speak louder than words" and "God helps those who help themselves".
We cannot just sit around and hope God helps us we must act even if it requires painful changes. And here's where it begins as Jesus silenced one group of naysayers he spoke to another, and I am paraphrasing for modern emphasis. If you are fed up with your life and this world, here is a formula for change:
Love God with all your soul, love your neighbor likewise - everything hangs on this first thing, an issue of the soul
When we are fed up enough to let him feed us with his love, mercy and forgiveness, it changes everything else!
"Sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between." Quote from The Life Recovery Bible Commentary
In the Korean conflict and in Viet Nam they called it the DMZ. A de-militarized zone where no combat was allowed. It stood in both cases in between the north and south that were at war with each other, and was a place where not much was happening. In our lives we call that a lull, in between little action and lots of action, in between addiction and sobriety, in between relationships or deals, etc. etc. etc.
Fact is that unless we have the understanding and patience to exist in the In-Between Zone we have the tendency to try to make things happen rather than let them happen in God's timing. Often times we need to let go of where we were to get to where we are going during which time we are like a caterpillar in a cocoon undergoing a metamorphosis. The In-Between must exist like a bridge and cannot be interrupted or the intended destination is never reached.
Think about it, in business, in relationships, in an adventure like hunting or fishing. we made a move too soon, made a noise in the tree stand, pulled a lure up too quickly, there are a thousand things we can think of to make this point. If we have done everything we could have done and it is time to wait, then it is time to master the In-Between.
We pray, we meditate, we deliberate, we suffer because we can't control anything, even our propensity to jump into something, but we wait. I love Psalm 40's beginning: I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.
It's gut-wrenching, it can be painful for those of us who are fixers, but if God knows the right next move for us why would we ever move too quickly? Human nature for sure, but if we take upon ourselves His nature the game changes. Next part of Psalm 40: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand.
To grow, to prosper, to make the right choices we may have to stand firmly for awhile, until He tells us to move!
I learned this as a Marine, we don't leave our fallen comrades behind. But what does that really mean? It means we will do everything to bring home our wounded or dead even if it means risking our own life. One thing to say it, another thing to do it.
Yesterday while reading John 10 in it Jesus spoke mainly about shepherd's and sheep and how he knew them and they knew him, and how he would be the good shepherd and lay down his life to protect them. He said this in verses 28-30:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my hand. I and the Father are one!
This inflamed the Jews in the crowd enough that they picked up stones to stone him to death. He was making bold statements that they could not handle. He was God, he was the answer, he would die for those who believed him, especially the marginalized, and when they believed in who he was, they would be his forever, no one could take them away.
As a Marine we believed we were elite, the best serving in the best branch of service ever created. We would die for what we believed in freedom as well as our country, and our brothers would not be snatched away by anyone else, dead or alive. We rolled with confidence no matter what obstacle we faced.
At ATB we strive to put all of this into practice for those we serve with one exception: we are not God, so unlike him we cannot save everyone, But that doesn't stop us from trying because we want to Leave No One Behind. However, we do introduce everyone to the one who is God, even if they want to stone us after we speak of Him.
After all, he plainly said, if we become part of his flock. no one gets snatched away, no one is left behind. That part we can put into practice and assure you that no drug, no alcohol or nothing else that comes against any of us will snatch us away from him.
He said it, I believe it. Let's roll in His confidence in us. OOORAH!
I remember thinking to myself, I will be better than my father. I will become a present Dad and spend much quality time with my kids teaching them many things I did not learn as a child. I thought it, I tried it, but I fell way short due to my alcoholism and lack of understanding of how not having a Dad around affected me.
I was given The Gift of three beautiful children at a young age and though I loved them and did do some wonderful things with them until my addiction caught up with me before the oldest turned 7. I did not have the appreciation I have now as to how great a responsibility and how wonderful a joy it is to have children. Truth be told I was too self centered to understand.
Later on I was blessed with three more children, the later two after I came to the Lord. Only then did I start to get it, only then when sobriety came did I see where I had gone wrong. And then, slowly but surely God began to lead me to reconcile with the other four, and to be blessed with 13 Grandchildren.
I know this, what is impossible for man is possible with God. He can turn chicken salad into chicken soup, he is the only one who can. Not by my own futile means could I have humbled my self enough to seek this forgiveness. He gave us The Gift of his own son then takes us through a practical path to reconciliation by teaching us who have faltered how to become the fathers and mothers we should have been in the first place.
And then, when I lost my youngest son to death, I began to understand how great His gift and my gifts were and how short the time actually is that we may have the opportunity to enjoy them. I understood how he felt when he watched his son suffer, I understood the suffering I had caused my other children, and my heart was broken but my faith was reinforced.
Because I now understand The Gift and I will never give it away again!
One of my favorite songs is by The Crusaders called "Street Life". In it Randy Crawford sings of the perils of an addict with no hope. This is how the song begins: I still hang around neither lost nor found.
That my have been you, it was certainly me and I sang that song for far too many years. In the depths of addiction our only hope seems to be to do the same thing and get deeper into it. We escape into it to virtually run away from time. Later in the song are these words: I play the street life because there's no place I can go.
Hopeless, lost, no place to go that sums it up for that lifestyle. But then in 1984 it all began to change for me. In the Book of Luke Chapter 15 we read some different words from Street Life. This passage has three parables about being Lost And Found, some call it the lost and found chapter. There is the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.
They all have basically the same conclusion, that "there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents" However the Life Recovery Bible commentary adds something new, that God feels his kingdom is incomplete without us. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, he healed the marginalized, and in the parable of the lost son, his father ran to meet him after living the wild life. Proof that the father felt incomplete without his son.
But it was also someplace the son could go, and that is the same place I went, home to the father. Hard to imagine the size of the party when I came home from squandering my life away but I am sure it was huge because my sins were many.
Maybe you echo the words of that song today, neither lost nor found, no place you can go. That's what we come to believe with that addictive lifestyle. It's a lie, it's only a song, it's only a myth, and like addiction it is make believe, it's escape.
I love the last verse of that passage in Luke, let it marinate in your spirit: But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.
Don't escape, come home to the Father, and let's have a real party!
How many times in life have we been knocked down but gotten back up? What motivates us to keep getting up, and conversely what keeps knocking us down? For some of us this happens a little too often.
In my mind, I owe much to my mom who had a wonderful fighting spirit. But that was not enough for me, though it helped navigate some very difficult times. Ultimately what lifted me up out of the slimy pit in life I had fallen into was following an undefeated champion, our Lord Jesus Christ. I wrote this in tribute to Him!
He came into this world with the greatest intentions
To heal, show forgiveness and heavens dimensions
Instead of hate, he sowed seeds of peace and love
He tried to tell them he came from his father above
But they didn't listen, except for a few
They made him feel like an outcast Jew
They mocked him, beat him, hung him on a cross
They thought they had dealt him a tortuous loss
He was dead, he was down, they thought he was out
But they forgot what he said, he had heavenly clout
Three days in a tomb was all he could bear
When they came to check on him, he wasn't there
Where was he at, where did he go
For awhile, no one seemed to know
Then he appeared just talking and walking about
They had knocked him down, but he was never out!
That's more than enough motivation for me to get back up!
If you are like me you can read a passage of scripture, reflect on it for awhile hoping that the Holy Spirit will empower understanding, and then at another time read again and find another meaning we may not have seen the first time around. Thus, my daily reading through the book of Mark uncovered this today:
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, (10:43)
I have no problem comprehending that verse, but there is a comma followed by this:
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. (10:44)
Wait a minute, I can be a servant and that makes me humble enough, but a slave to all? A slave has a master, and that means you are my master, or does that mean He is my master and I should be the same kind of slave He was to us all? Either way it is extremely humbling and destroys much of today's modern Christianity philosophy.
We tend to make people want to come around to our standards of belief, our way of thinking, as if they should "come up" to where we are. Instead, we should meet them where they are at without judgement and with a spirit of Jesus foot washing attitude. Like eating with sinners and tax collectors, and in so doing we teach them how our master really is, accepting. loving and merciful.
We can all say the words, think we are walking the talk, but these verses humble us to a point of becoming like missionaries in our own neighborhoods looking to act like we are last so that we can put our neighbors first. In plain words it is not how much we have that we can show to others how much the Lord has blessed us with.
Instead, it is how much of ourselves we can give away to say to others you need to see less of me, and more of Him in me.
Then I serve, then I am His slave, then I become great, only then do I finish first. Read, Reflect, Repeat!
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Psalm 126:1-3
When I was very young I had a dream of being a Major League Baseball player. I would spend hours practicing my swing by hitting rocks into a cemetery and throwing the ball against a wall to an imaginary batter. I did great until High School, realizing my talent level was only ordinary and I could only go so far on my own abilities and power.
My life seemed to play out that way for many years as I turned myself elsewhere to find where my talents could best be used. I found incredible success in sales, which led to great success in coaching basketball, but for every great thing there was a fall into a bad thing. My alcoholism doomed my family and career, my attempts at greatness were only a fleeting moment of stardom. My own abilities were limited by my propensity to fail.
Then in 1984 I met the one who never fails, the one who makes ordinary things look great and as the Promises of A.A, state "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly" I began to realize the true talents God had placed on my life. And in that realization came the understanding that He wanted me to not just dream, but to dream big because His dreams are very big.
As a result of realizing those dreams comes the fulfillment of great things that God wants me, and each one of us to do. And when we accomplish those things, we become glad, very glad, because the Lord has restored Zion, he has given us his ultimate greatness, Jesus Christ!
Now I'm laughing. At all the dumb things I did that God has turned into great things by turning on the power in my life that I could never do by myself.
No more hitting rocks into a cemetery, he has better things for me to do!
For much of my life I have searched for my one true love. Through marriages and divorce there has been a struggle for me to be the right guy for someone, the good husband, and for many reasons including my struggle with addiction I have failed for more than just a few brief moments of being that person who finds that person.
In looking through my fireproof box of memories for a car title today I stumbled across a poem I wrote my very first love at 15 years old, along with a later sonnet I wrote to her as well. Her name was Sonia, a 4'11' beauty with the fire of the 100% Italian she was. When she was angry with me, plates would fly at me through the air, but man did she have my heart. I will save the poem for later, but but here is the sonnet:
My life could be worth but a few small frowns, thrown aside as never to be thought of
Yet you have placed it among the renowns, with your gentle warmth and wonderous love
When a day passes, which you are not near, I wonder if to this world I belong
My meaning in life seems to disappear, but with your love, I know I am strong
Strong, yet undeserving of your kindness, but to say I don't want you is a lie
Without you I am filled with blindness, with you, there is no greater man than I
So my love, for all of your devotions, I give you my life and all my emotions!
Reading this today, it hit me. Yes, I truly loved that girl as much as a passionate teenager could but all along my life leading up to now, all long It Was Always God that I was writing that sonnet to, it just took awhile for me to deliver it to him.
Thank God he waited patiently for me to find out who my first love really is!
In our measured lives separated from birth to death by a dash, it would seem far greater if we could use emoji's to describe the middle part. Laughter, grief, children, accomplishments, there would be a vast lineup of these that anyone could see and say that was a fulfilled life, or not. Hopefully mine would have many celebratory ones to symbolize a radically changed life.
There should also be one for pouring in to someone else's life. My life has been blessed with many such people, one who just turned 80 today that had a huge impact on my life and faith. His name is Wayne Collins and he has a gift to Evangelize without being judgmental. He handled teaching me and dealing with a virtual mess of a human being when I was coming out of addiction in a beautiful manner.
So, I too have tried, even after failing my own children for those years in addiction, to now be that one who also pours into someone else. It is so gratifying to watch someone grow as you lead them into a changed and meaningful life when their or your direction had been misguided. And then when you watch them do some special work, or become a leader themselves, and encourage as well as help others, it's a big win.
Jesus poured into his disciples, Paul poured into Timothy, they all poured into the early church leaders as the scripture also leads us all to do. And what is really amazing is that without the ability to rapidly communicate, no internet, no Tik-Tok or cell phones, they made a major difference in this world in such a short period of time.
That's what happens when God pours into us through his Holy Spirit, we can rapidly help to change the lives of others by simply taking the time by Pouring In! He does the rest.
Thank God for brother Wayne :) !!! *+* 100%!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.