This song by Frankie Beverly and Maze has always been in my top 5 of favorite listening tunes. I personally like Jazz and the songs with no lyrics that allow you a brief mental vacation, but of those with words, this song always makes me think of real, true life. Many lines hit home, but one in particular says, "Don't it seem we go through life going up and down, seems the things that turn you on turn you around".
It not only makes me think of my own life, but the incredible lives and stories of those we meet in the recovery process. The trauma, the violence, the pain, the virtual stuck on stupid mentality that most of us have dealt with, surely always bouncing from high to low in a matter of minutes. It makes me think also of biblical characters like Peter, Abraham and David who also rode the roller coaster of emotions and events that make you shake your head in disbelief that anyone that close to God can stumble as they did. Easy for us, and for them as well, to be down on ourselves.
It can relate to these words from that song as well, "Suddenly the things you see got you hurt so bad, how come the things that make us happy, make us sad". Peter saw a way out rather than stand his ground, Abraham did what he thought was right, that turned out wrong, David saw what he liked, but it turned him inside out. We see things that we think will bring joy, only to end up in great pain because of it. Why oh why are joy and pain so closely related and so often experienced by momentary lapses of character?
David laments his feelings throughout the Psalms, and as Frankie sings, "when the world is down on you, love is somewhere around". Used to be that I looked for that love in every wrong place a man could, especially when I was down. But if I look to David and follow the trail of love to Jesus, I find that love being "somewhere around" is in a different place, and that place helps heal the pain and bring a lasting joy. No hangovers, no regrets, just pure joy that we are free to enjoy life without dysfunction dominating our decisions.
In Psalm 31:7-8 David absolutely nails it. "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy, but have set my feet in a spacious place".
That spacious place is in a world he created for us to enjoy, not destroy. That spacious place is in the freedom to be ourselves, not want to be like someone else, or like someone else wants us to be. That spacious place is in never ending grace, not always feeling like we are between a rock and a hard place. That spacious place is in a world where we can share Good News, not bad news. And, that spacious place is dwelling in the house of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, where there are rooms for all of us, even the ones who have screwed up the most.
Sometimes it takes a whole lot of pain to get to the joy part. Frankie says, "Joy and pain, like sunshine and rain, they are both one and the same". I like that analogy, they are both part of the weather of our lives, both necessary to succeed. Like Jesus dying on a cross (the pain), only to rise to redeem (the joy). Like the Olympic champion skier who had 7 knee surgeries (the pain) before winning the gold (the joy). Or like some of us who used up life and everyone around us (the pain), before we found the source of never ending love in His mercy and grace (the joy).
So, if you are living life in a box, afraid to come out and experience both the Joy and Pain, remember that God is giving you a spacious place to set your foot upon, not a narrow rock to stand on that you may slide off at any moment. Just behind that greatest pain you experience, is the greatest joy you will ever know. Feel it, enjoy it, live life with every breath you take, and don't sit on the sidelines because you are afraid to take a shot because you have missed so many times before.
"Remember when you first found love, how you felt so good, the kind that lasts forever, or so you thought it would?"
We found it Frankie, but it took awhile!
As we once again look to deal with some difficult weather conditions, I am reminded of the amazing stories of people helping each other during the recent other snow and ice storm. These were the unsung heroes who took it upon themselves to make a difference to those stranded and in need, and though the national news media had a field day making fun of how we cannot handle these types of conditions, I saw many stories of those good Samaritans who made all of us feel like we live in the right place.
Next Monday we celebrate the 7th Sobriety Anniversary of Willie Mae Bush, herself a recipient of many blessings others have bestowed upon her, but one who is always giving back as an unsung hero. Whether giving someone a ride who is in need, making coffee for a meeting and setting up, or just inviting someone over for a meal, she is always giving back, which is a major principle of the 12 Step program. Though, like many of us, still struggling to keep her life on track, she has followed the man on the road less traveled to overcome.
I could go on naming people who have had a major impact on ATB, but most would prefer to remain anonymous. To them, we offer our sincere thanks for your amazing service and love. But my focus today, aside from Willie Mae, is on those biblical and today folks who refuse to ignore the needs of others.
The Good Samaritan was on that less traveled road as well, willingly taking a risk that many of us in today's society might consider dangerous. What made him so fearless and selfless? What made those strangers in the snow take other strangers in for the night? Maybe like Willie Mae, and many others of us, he had been through hell and back and figured nothing else could really harm him. Maybe, he felt, like Willie Mae, so much had been given him that he just couldn't help not helping. Whatever reason, it is truly the spirit of an unsung hero who without hesitation lays it all on the line for another human being, that's what makes us stand up and applaud.
So today, and during this week, give those folks a round of applause as they may be joined by others during the current storm. Give Willie Mae a hand next Monday, but please remember that other unsung hero who hung on a cross and gave his life for a bunch of strangers. Give him the biggest hand, and then let him guide you through the snow and ice of your life!
Me, I'm heading for the son!
Listened to a great sermon this morning where these words were uttered by that preacher. Made me think a bunch, understanding that as much as I know, hard as I might try, I will never figure God out, and that's a really good thing. Because if we could figure him out, if we knew all that was before us (including the danger), we would never be able to deal with it all, nor rely on Him to guide us in directions that we may have never chosen ourselves. Nor would faith matter anymore, and without that, well, let's just say that it would be all about us relying on us and most of us know how disastrous that can be.
Also this morning, one of the History type channels has run a story on the Greek gods Zeus and Hercules, and how all of Greek mythology ties in with the Bible and Jesus. I must say that it caught my ear, but really sounds way out there. Maybe another effort of man to try and understand God from a human perspective instead of within the spiritual realm which we will never totally understand.
But let's take the title of this blog into our every day walk for a moment if you would join me. We would pray to whom about what outcome if we already had it figured out? We would hope to get out of a bad situation only to realize that it would last a long time, maybe 40 years before we got relief, and this really killed our hope. So many things we would like to know and be sure about but the fact of our faith is that God asks us to be like plain dumb sheep who only follow His voice.
That's not to say we shouldn't investigate who's voice to follow, only that once we trust that voice we would have a lot less turmoil and many more green pastures to graze in. Hey, why not start praying to Zeus and Hercules for a few days and see what results come from that (that would be the lost sheep)? Or The Oracle of Delphi, or Buddha, or the unknown god.......and see how much that gives you hope. Truly, these are part of that army of small gods that help destroy our lives rather than help us prosper and grow.
What we know and understand is only a mere speck of dust of what God is all about, thank God for that. It is truly an adventure to follow Christ and to defend Him though we have never physically seen Him. It takes faith, courage, and a willingness to let go of control to meet Him on levels that help us to believe that He is the way, the truth and the light. Our personal walk with Him is only enhanced by going to church, not defined by it. We lean on the Holy Spirit, not any form of man made rules, or definitions of gods, to construct the house of faith within our souls.
So glad he is not small like me, though me being small may allow Him to appear bigger to me every day!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.