While on my short trip to ATL this past week, I listened to one of my favorite jazz saxophonists, Candy Dulfer and her song Crazy Love. It has a wonderful beat that makes you want to get up and dance and is one of those fun songs you can go on vacation with. But, it reminded me of how often in my own life love was misunderstood, I guess you could say I was more crazy about love than loving in a loving way. Let me please explain.
I see two couples at Campus struggling with cancer, one a man the other a woman. Let's just use first names and say I have listened and looked at the struggles and thought of how their spouses, Randy and Julie have responded. Both post results, reports and have extended great thanks to all who are supporting them and at the same time have given their spouses all they have. They are true heroes to me and they have demonstrated what Crazy Love is all about.
I have learned with great pain that love is not love until it becomes hard to love. Easy to love when you are all tingly and giddy and everything is going great, but so much more difficult when hardships come, especially when they repeat. In the case of Randy and Julie, they had to stand by
their love when every day was a new adventure in what may transpire. They could lose, they could win, but they were still all in. They probably did not realize what impact they were having on other folks like me, but again what they have is Crazy Love.
Let's go back a little farther to about 2000 years ago when a man from Nazareth died for the sins of every good and every despicable person on earth, that was definitely Crazy Love! What was even crazier was that 12 men of courage and the faith that what they saw was real and what they felt was love for what they followed, would put their lives on the line for their belief.
Then, they wrote about it and those words absolutely jump out at you from scripture: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Or his spouses, his country or his belief in his cause. That is real unbelievable Crazy Love!
With all due respects to Candy, that love you are talking about got me in a boatload of trouble. That love that Randy and Julie, and Jesus and those apostles demonstrated changed my heart and though I may be still a little crazy, the way I love now is so much better and so much more fulfilling.
The words from that song take on a new meaning now, you give me crazy love. Difference now, I am crazy for Christ, seems like I read that somewhere else....
It is in the nature of both human beings and cars that they need maintenance to run well. We take some trade ins at the Toyota dealership that make you wonder how they made it this far. Others are so well kept, you question why they ever traded such a fine running vehicle. However, no matter what condition they are in, they still have to go through our Reconditioning process.
During that process the truth comes out. Was the oil regularly changed, the tires rotated, the tune up done at recommended intervals? Did they get the love bugs off before it ate through the paint, was the car clean or did it look like a moving dumpster? The good ones we keep to re-sell, the others we take to auction and let someone else fix them up.
When they do come out of Reconditioning, some become Certified and some others just regular good looking vehicles that you would be proud to own. But we have to remember that they are all Used Cars, they all have mileage on them, some just more than others. By now you may see where I am going with this analogy, but then again I just might surprise you!
First, the process of coming out of the darkness of life requires a major Reconditioning of heart and soul. We are trading in a life of no real meaning. Some of us never had the training or personal maintenance involved to gain knowledge of God or the Christian faith. We literally ran ourselves into the ground and blew the tires off our life ride. Now that process becomes very painful to go through because we never maintained ourselves before the change. It is not just a 50,000 mile check up, it is a complete overhaul.
Then we who are fortunate enough to make it through the initial "boot camp" of developing a solid faith come to realize that the road we have chosen to ride on is not filled with the prosperity gospel we had heard of, but instead contained a new set of road hazards that we now had to face without medicating. It is definitely the Road Less Traveled and one that requires good honest hard work to find the discipline of a relationship with the Lord to carry us through to the other side where that light shines so very bright.
And further, once we step into the other side of Reconditioning, we have to find ways to stay connected to our reconditioner so that our extended warranty of grace never runs out of gas. So what we thought was just one decision to change becomes many days of multiple decisions of mostly good now, but also ones that involve turning down instant gratification for long term happiness. We are now clear minded but sometimes terrified to rely totally on a God who we feel but have never seen or heard in person.
The ride becomes pretty scary unless the faith has been reinforced during Reconditioning. I am totally glad that we at times can be compared to a car but have a heartbeat and free will to drive our faith as far as we want. A car needs us as a driver to steer. We need a different kind of driver, one that not only knows how to steer, but also knows how to put us back together when we break down.
My advice - don't skimp on Reconditioning costs, they are there for our ultimate protection!
,There are times when things are so wacky in our lives that we may ask this question in utter frustration, God What Is The Meaning Of Life?
We are confused, dazed and seemingly with out direction. Everything we thought was important seems so trivial under the conditions we are facing. In the middle of it all we begin to look for answers from God, and then ask him to solve all our problems, most of which we have created.
When we put it on paper like that, doesn't it seem a little out of balance? Solomon, who had everything couldn't figure it all out but he eventually got close, and I think that is all we can ever hope for, to get close to understanding. Here are a few of his choice quotes from the Book of Ecclesiastes:
"Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
"The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
Solomon had everything literally, he was rich, famous, talented and smart, but nothing bought him total satisfaction. So he tried what we do, he tried more...
"I thought to my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good". But it also proved to be meaningless.........I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun".
Just like the opening statement of this blog implies, the man who had everything realized he had nothing. Nothing, that is until he found God somewhere in the midst of it all.
"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too, is meaningless, a chasing after the wind".
I am pretty sure Jesus gave Solomon an answer many years later when he spoke these words: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself". This, he said was the most important thing, the thing that would give our lives meaning of value, something that would last like the living water he so often talked about. From meaningless to meaningful. Back to Solomon:
"Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart".
The Meaning Of Life? It is in these words spoken from scripture, and it is up to each one of us to figure it out as Solomon did. I have no answers, let the word speak, but I will tell you this, my heart is full of gladness now that I have gotten close to understanding!
Luke chapter 15 is incredible. It's all about something that was lost being found, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. We see in here how important every human being is to God no matter what they have done, how lost they have been. What I like about all three parables is the similarity of the ending. Please read:
Luke 15:7 "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Luke 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Luke 15:32 "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."
In other words and in my loose translation God is telling us Let's Get This Party Started, let's go find something lost and bring it back to God where it belongs then let's celebrate!
In my 13 months here in Daphne I have surely missed our ATB family, wanting to stay more involved but at the same time wanting others to step up and take the lead because my presence would be only part time at best. Prior to coming here full time, there was much prayer asking God if this was the right move as it would take me away from ministry for the first time in over twenty years. Then recently I started to feel a tug to get more involved thinking He wanted me back in ATL.
Then one of our employees here got very sick and depressed. Then my roommate got prostate cancer and in both of these cases they were lost spiritually. One asked if we could start a Bible Study and day after day he and I spoke about the Lord, now he wants to be baptized. Then his girl friend got involved so there were three of us. Then last week the first mentioned person joined us and now there is a fifth that wants to come. And after last week's study, the awesome presence of God's Holy Spirit just overwhelmed my heart with joy.
And I thought, well this was the tug, Lord, I have a new assignment, and I could feel the angels cheering that some lost souls were coming back and I knew that the decision we had made to come here was the right one, and there was a great sense of peace in my heart. Having been a part of several spiritual growth movements, I can feel it coming and my soul is rejoicing about the possibilities.
Maybe the originators of that phrase and song had something else in mind, but God as always, has other plans. So I say with a loud voice that I hope you can hear in ATL as well as in heaven, Let's Get This Party Started!!!!!
,I remember the day clearly of Paul's life celebration. Looking down from the pulpit to the front row I saw his Mom, his wife and his little sister and seeing the incredible sadness in their eyes, I knew we had to deliver a moving and proper sendoff to this incredible young man. I knew that these three women would be the most important ones in my life for at least the next few months until his 30th Birthday had passed. I knew what I had to do and I called on God to direct my words then and now.
Grieving is not an exact science, and we all handle it in different ways. You can read all the books, go through the supposed 5 steps and attend as meetings as you would like, but every day in the immediate vicinity of a loved ones passing is a struggle. For me, having to be the strong one for the family it is just now after nearly 5 months coming to the step when you lose it 2-3 times a day and you want to shut all the noise around you that interferes with those tender moments of remembrance.
Almost back to back to back we have had his son's birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and now his Birthday next Monday. There has been rarely an hour when he doesn't come to mind, rarely a day when someone doesn't ask or extend sympathy. He is always on our minds and forever in our hearts.
Now on Monday as his gift I am treating our service department at Eastern Shore Toyota to lunch. These were his people although only one man from here knew him, but they are all like him, car junkies and some funny crazy folks. The one man who knew Paul was his team leader at Toyota Mall, and he still tears up at the mention of his name. His son was also a great friend to Paul.
This is my way of tribute, my way to work out some of this grief and turn it into something very fitting and positive. His Birthday Celebration!
As I have gone through all of this, God has been working on my heart, having me reach out to others here who are hurting. Got me back in ministry in an awkward way and shown me some insight into something very important, something I needed to improve on.
What if every day in all the ways I remembered, grieved and honored Paul I did the same for Jesus? We honor his life, his death and his memory but do I feel as close to Him as I did Paul? Surely I know Him, definitely I love Him and appreciate His forgiveness and all the things He did to turn my life around, but do I honor Him in the way I live my life? To you maybe that answer is yes, but to me, the one who really knows me, I must say I fall far short of that honor.
And during this time of grief, the Lord has clearly sent me a message that in every day, 100% he is behind me and always there for me. All he asks of me is that I love him with that same passion as my son, that I grieve for the ones who are lost who are still with us, and that I continue to
believe in Him 100% of the time.
"He walks with me and He talks with me, and He even knows my name........" Because He does, may I always return the favor of His presence!
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.