There is a point in time in all of our lives when we come to the end of our own free will choices and look for some form of divine guidance to get things right. It seems like we can make good choices, but even then they seem to turn out wrong. But sometimes we need to make a wrong choice to get things to turn out right. Confused? Read on..........
There is the book of Hosea in the Old Testament which contains the account of Hosea the prophet and Gomer, the adulteress prostitute. Let's get this right, God told a prophet to marry a prostitute, yes he did. To show Israel the consequences of their dysfunctional relationship with God, God actually directed Hosea to make a choice that looked really bad. But of course, what looks impossible to man is possible for God, read on.....
So they have three children, but Gomer returns to her life of prostitution (her addiction of choice) and then God does something even stranger. He directs Hosea to"Go show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress." Once again God directing what looks like a bad choice to create a good outcome.
Let's pause in the story for a moment, how about you? Ever thought that the choices you made, bad as they were, might be used by the Lord to make a point to someone or to yourself? Maybe what has turned out wrong can now be used for good, and,because you were in the middle of it, your credibility is greater to those who see the results of your life? Or even more, God helped you to become a leader by honing your faith through the darkness of your worst times.
So Hosea goes and purchases his wife back (think of how much he paid in money, embarassment and hurt), and she returns no more to her life of addiction. God, through this story, wanted to show his people just how far he would go to show them what he was like: loving, caring, never willing to give up on his people. Despite all the things Gomer had done, she was restored, and so are we because the price was paid for our restoration and forgiveness.
This is a message of promise and hope that those of us who have been there can repeat over and over again to our fellow man, even if we don't know many words from the scriptures. How far will God go to bring us back to him? How far can you see? And, then look much farther.........think about that for a moment, God thinks we are worth much more than we think we are. No matter how difficult our past has been, our future can be so much better.
Dysfunction junction is at the cross where we lay down the burdens of guilt and shame and pick up a treasure of forgiveness and grace. That makes everything else that happens us on this earth seem a whole lot less important, and makes our forgiveness of each other that much easier.
If you are a Hosea, is there someone you need to go way beyond normal to forgive? And if you are a Gomer, someone wants you back!
I just love to listen to that song, "Oh Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away..." It sends chills down my spine thinking what it would have been like to have been there, and I get emotional thinking about he "washed my sins away" because I consider myself an extremely fortunate man.
It is because of what he did for and in me that I can stand here today and enjoy the benefits of a mended family. In March my youngest daughter will be married and it will complete the marriages of all my daughters and in the process I will get two more grandchildren. From being an only child there will now be a family of 27 with one on the way also in March. Yes, I do remember the birthdays, but each year it gets harder.
So great is the joy of having so many blessings that I am always singing that song "Oh Happy Day." When I checked into the hotel in Lakeland this week, the counter woman asked why I was always so happy, always in such a pleasant mood. Before I had a chance to answer, someone else started talking and the moment passed, but in my spirit I said, "because he washed my sins away".
Let me tell you that where I was 31 years ago was at the bottom of that pit Joesph was in. I was in the mouth of that whale with Jonah. I had one foot in hell and was on a serious downward fall. But people who cared about other people's souls helped me with an extended hand to lift me out of that pit and onto a rock of faith. They were fishers of men who weren't afraid of a whale and were all about forgiveness, love and grace. My family and I thank you for pulling me out of that downward slide.
When I think of where I could be and where I am, it is indeed a very happy day. When I think of how generations down the road will be affected by my u-turn in life, I feel like it's a very very happy day. And when I think of all of the folks in ATB who are helping others, making a difference in lives that were broken and lost,
it makes me want to sing, "Oh Happy Day......"
Why I don't let myself get in a bad mood or a bad place, is that what I got the day I was saved was good news. From here on out it is nothing but good news even if the day comes crashing down with bad things, I will still be singing because one day I will be singing with Peter, Paul & Mary (some of you oldtimers will get that).........and it will truly be a Happy Day!
It was a tough choice for me yesterday, head to ATL and potential snow/ice or stay in sunny Daphne to head for Orlando Monday. Plus the fatigue was a factor, and ATB was well represented in service today so I opted to stay and get a day of refreshing.
In so doing I went for an early morning walk near the lake that surrounds this area and saw two Egrets sitting side by side on a log in the water. I thought what a pleasant sight to just watch them seem to be content in the company of each other. Then the first Egret took off, closely followed by the second, and I thought again what a joy to see two acting as one.
It's safe to say that if that second Egret in our life is God, we need to make him the one that flies off first and we follow closely behind. We know for sure that the direction he goes in can only lead us on the best path our lives could take. However, we often follow someone or something else that has the wrong flight plan. It would have been better to just sit on that log ourselves than to take off after them.
Two can always be better than one if that other one has a positive influence on us, but one can sometimes be better if we find ourselves out in the middle of lake of confusion with no apparent way to get off the log. I say that to match this great saying I saw this week posted on Facebook: "Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, but sometimes in the middle of nowhere is where you find yourself".
Many folks I know have found themselves and their God in the middle of nowhere, but yet some continue to chase after that elusive Egret who has no direction except immediate satisfaction. There seems to be no hope to find truth only emulation of the Israelites wandering around in the desert lost because they could not see clearly how to fly. So too, the constant relapsers and those of us who struggle to avoid past behaviors, must decide who sits on that log with us, and what is the cost of who we follow.
May I suggest that two are better than one only when that other one is full of wisdom, encouragement, love, grace and honesty, among many great qualities. On the other hand, the one who is us must possess the same or be seeking to be the same, or we will just be taking a brief flight.
And on that brief flight, we may find ourselves, once again, in the middle of nowhere!
Sunshine and Rain
These last two weeks have had the ebb and flow of some incredible high's and some equally distressing low's. The sunshine moments sustain us for those times when
for whatever reasons life takes a downward turn.
Problems come from all angles, and since we are not God we feel the human emotion of hurt, pain and joy, sometimes all in the same day. Sometimes we are the cause others we are the victim, yet through it all we continue to be sustained by a God who walks us throught the valley of the shadow of death, and thus we fear no evil that comes against us. Yet it still hurts deeply when we are sober and able to feel.
Whether it is a passing of someone we love like Charlotte Latham who is truly in the Hall of Faith, conflict on our jobs, in our churches or in our relationships, we are able to deal with it all because the grace of an amazing God we serve sustains us. And you know we must remember, we are but human beings, and that is why Jesus uttered those always quotable words, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We are all flawed, but sometimes we feel really flawed because others make us feel that way, and it hurts.
On the other hand, the sunshine comes usually after the rain. The light of morning comes after darkness. The son rose so the sun could shine, and we could feel all over our bodies the warmth of forgiveness, love and acceptance. Our sister Charlotte was one of those people who was the sunshine and made us all feel better than we really are. And that is what God does every day, make us feel better than we really are.
Don't take me wrong in this blog, my life is fabulous right now though I deeply miss the folks who have been a major part of my life in these past few years. I have been given the gift of seeing the pain others are in and though I have very few answers that don't begin with the Lord's solutions, I can see it, sometimes feel it and often feel perplexed when feeling the brunt of it.
As humans we say and do some really stupid things, but that is exactly why there is sunshine and rain, joy and pain, and a cross and a resurrection. We are the joyful recipients of the love of our creator even when we feel unloved, or just having a very bad day. Jesus arose to let us know there is always a tomorrow.
So if today the rain has you drenched, despondent and all wet from frustration, take heart that the son will rise, and the sunshine will bring you hope for a much brighter day!
This blog is in part a tribute to our dear sister Charlotte Latham who is currently on life support and her husband Don, who have been great examples to me of love, service to the Lord, and marriage. Our prayers and expressions of love go out to them and the entire family during this most difficult time.
Who Wrote The Book Of Love
Many years ago the lyrics to a song ask, "I wonder wonder who, who wrote the book of love?" In the past few weeks I have been tracing back over every male/female relationship that I have had in my life, taking each for a spin while listening to the attached song "Dancing Lights." As it so aptly says in the intro, it takes me on a journey to a different state of mind.
For example, who among us ever thought that love was like the way it was outlined in the book of Corinthians? That's one book of love that escaped me for a major portion of my life. Love is patient, kind, keeping no record of wrongs...get out of here, you are kidding me. Why certainly it was all about feelings, Barry White, and attraction. There was no way in my younger days that you could convince me that love does not demand it's own way or never gives up.
Then of course, when you meet Jesus, he changes all of that. Then you meet a couple like Don and Charlotte who have stayed together despite the feelings of wanting to quit that they so openly have spoken about, and consequently how their love had grown in the process. And you realize that we, the ones God created to love, the ones who God created a companion for, do in fact write our own book of love.
As I danced with each love of my life in my mind while listening to Dancing Lights, the lights literally came on for me. Instead of any negativity, I saw the good in each person, the things that attracted me to them, the great qualities they had, and wondered why I hadn't followed that Corinthian book on how to love. Yes, the fault was that my concept of love was flawed, and I had spent too much time thinking about feelings and not enough time enjoying the dance.
As you listen to this song, think of your own life, your own loves and what your book of love would read like. Mine reads very dysfunctionally, but it is not about wrong choices, it is about wrong thinking. Lots of folks have gone in and out of my life like those dancing lights. They flicker on and off, here for awhile and gone, but the point has now sunk in that love is about honor, respect and loving anyway because love never loses faith.
The good news is that if we are still above ground, we have the capacity to write better chapters of that book, we have the chance again to do it the right way in every relationship we are in no matter what the extent of that is. It is not a boastful thing, not a selfish thing, it is in fact something that is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. And, as it so aptly says in God's book of love...but if I didn't love others, I have gained nothing (NLT).
Ready again for a spin, take a listen and let's dance!
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.