It was a great week for me last week, good business, good weather and good family time. I call "family" my blood relatives, my church spiritual circle of friends, the recovery folks, and my new extended family in my Florida travels. I am such a blessed man, but more so for being part of the Family Promise, that is a promise that no matter whether we succeed or fail, do good or fall into bad habits, that no matter whether we are rich or poor, happy or sad, there is a family that loves us, and it is headed by a grace filled, loving God!
When we see this promise turned into action, we see God through us in our finest moments. Last Friday, I was happy to surprise my oldest daughter for her birthday on my way back to ATL. The fact that they were near the beach was also a draw, but their purpose in being there was to raise awareness of homeless families in Brevard County, FL. They were having an event that drew a few hundred volunteers to spend the night outdoors in tents and boxes. I was privileged to walk a few laps with her and listen to all the great work her organization (Family Promise) was doing.
The highlight was speaking to a Navy veteran who with his three kids was previously homeless and had been helped to get back on his feet by her organization. The government was unable to provide what he needed but Tara (my daughter) and these volunteers acted as a family to help him succeed.
Conversely, Tara told me about a woman whom they were also helping, but had not disclosed that she had $2,400 in the bank. Instead of just booting her out, they sat down with her and spoke of accountability and honesty. Not sure of the final result, but the point was that when there is a Family Promise, we act like a family, we forgive like the Lord taught us to do, and then we talk about straightening out the situation.
In ATB, we act as that family as well, and we are not the behavior police, only the arm and a few fingers of the body of Christ. We have great success, as well as multiple failures, and through it all, we rely on the covering of grace. We have a saying in 12 Step circles, "There but by the grace of God go I", and our Family Promise to you, as is that of Tara's organization, is that we don't remove you from the family unless you remove yourself.
Even then, as did the Prodigal Son's father, we will be waiting with open arms to have you come back. That for sure is our Family Promise, and that of Tara and her volunteers. Please pray for them, and for those of us who may be experiencing a lack of that grace within our own families.
It is a very lonely life that isolates from family, and even worse when it causes isolation from God.
Ever notice that you rarely see anyone considered an elite executive or person of outstanding notoriety be baptized in church? Or how about responding to an altar call? It is certainly a humbling experience to be public about things, but it is also the easier way to think that believing in your heart, and confessing with your mouth in private that Jesus is Lord will save you. Plus confessing our sins in private allows us to continue to live without real accountability.
Without debating a long standing issue, let me just bring up something that I have noticed in all the baptisms that I have been a part of. People take off "The Suit" and put on the waders and come with an attitude of humility and gratitude to make a public statement of faith. To many of us, putting on "The Suit" dresses us up to look good on the outside and is often a power move to make that person feel superior to those around them not dressed as well. Is there a difference?
In all of the Gospels there is always a public statement of faith, an outward expression of the inward faith so to speak that often caused severe persecution because of it. Maybe that holds some back to take off "The Suit". We feel somehow protected if we can keep things private between us and God. Looking outwardly good makes others respect us more, we think, makes others look at us more, we think, and consequently makes us feel better about ourselves, we think.
I did my best drinking and imitation of a successful man in "The Suit". So when I came to Christ, I actually stopped wearing them except on special occasions, and that is the only time I have seen our preacher, Dusty, in a suit as well, when we did a funeral together. In truth, in a public statement of baptism, we put on the full armor of God, we put on "The Suit" of humility, honesty and honor. It it is invisible in looks but highly visible in actions.
It is a way for all of us to let everyone know where we want to go, who we are, what we are all about and it is not a work, it is a public commitment to take off "The Suit" we have often hid behind. I left after the baptisms yesterday feeling so thankful for Tabatha and Angie that we shared that experience, and even one of them took their wig off for the occasion. (Not sayin' who)
For her that might have been "The Suit", and she left it in the closet when she came to the Lord!
Do they play that game anymore? Maybe they call it Simon Says now. To me, this phrase hit home in Viet Nam as we followed our point man on patrol through enemy territory. It comes to life even more now as I struggle every day to follow my new point man and leader, Jesus.
Among the great benefits of following Him, is that he has been there, he knows what it is like to be human, and to struggle with the trials of this world. It says he was tempted in every way as we are, and still maintained his sinless nature and his beliefs. Always easier to follow when the point man knows the way.
This Sunday during our first service at 9 AM, two battle tested women are making the commitment to follow Jesus. Their faith has been honed in the struggle to overcome addiction and the life style that it brings. They know that the battle is not over, but may just be beginning, because snipers are always after their new point man, and looking to alter their new direction.
Both graduates of the awesome Mary Hall program, Tabatha and Angie are two very special ladies, and as we baptize them, we must remember that is is always good to walk down a dark alley of life with folks who know how to get out of there. So, we who have been there are not only asked by the Lord himself to take this new walk with them, but we are also supposed to act like we are following that same leader.
I always recount the story of when we first began a recovery ministry at North Atlanta when one of our ladies mentioned to some of her friends that she was part of our 12 Step group. The reaction from the other woman was to say "Why do you belong with those people over there?" Seems I read a similar story in the Bible.
My reaction then, as it is today, is that those people over there are now these people over here, trying as we all are to live as we are supposed to. That's how our leader wants it, and it may be that a test of our faith is to get out of that box that says "do not disturb" and get in a new one that says "open when ready for instructions" because we have been there and can share with openness and honesty what our struggles have also been.
Let's be there Sunday for support, and show them the love that happens when we follow THE leader!
Recently I purchased a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado for our Fiat store in Pensacola from the auction in Ft. Lauderdale. After it had been on the lot several weeks I walked past it and noticed the tailgate missing, and I was sure it had one when I bought it. Turns out someone stole it from the auction before it was transported, in fact they had an epidemic of stolen tailgates happen.
We will get a new tailgate and the auction will pay for it, but it has made me think of something else this past week. Of course, a truck without a tailgate is a potential road hazard, and without it might as well be a car. Made me think how in my life for so long my tailgate (the piece that secured my cargo.......my soul) was missing and had led me on a path of being a road hazard to my fellow human beings.
Useless and now useful, that's about the best way to put it. Which made me think of so many others I know as well, who have been or are missing that critical piece that completes their life. We look in every place except the right place for so long before we find that piece that fits, that was intended to make us useful.
If it would not be considered heresy, we could change that scripture in Philippians 4:7 to read, "And, the PIECE (for peace) of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus". He secures our cargo for sure, he secures our heart and soul, and he replaced our missing tailgate at His cost!
Don't let the devil steal yours, he wants you to remain useless. He'll never agree to replace the missing piece, he wants you to keep looking for it everywhere else and remain a road hazard while you do.
Oh, how I long for a few days at the beach, maybe a trip to see my heritage in Italy, or possibly just two days at Disney World, Universal or Busch Gardens. My body keeps telling me, you need a break, but so far no chance. Neither do so many other folks who have to undergo a constant daily grind to make ends meet, no chance any time soon for them. I feel your pain.
Yesterday I came home to be with 4 kids under the age of 7 and the money I could have used for me, I gave to my daughter and them for use during their own local spring break. As we were gathering around my desk to see how much change we had saved up (believe it or not it was $40), I looked at those kids (the 3 oldest) and thought, this is what I work for, these are the ones whose future I can have an impact on. Me, I have had enough spring breaks to last a lifetime.
Then today, as I was visiting my optometrist, I was assigned a new doctor because the others were on (that's right, you guessed it) spring break. To say she was a beautiful woman would be an understatement. But what got to me was her response as I was sharing a little of what I do, answering her questions, and she knew from her experience on E-Bay auctions that what I did was a definite adrenalin rush (the auctions). She said, "I bet you love what you do."
And you know, I do. I love and appreciate my job, and I cherish moments like yesterday in the ATB ministry when someone wants to follow this incredible God we serve. Bottom line, I guess I feel like I am on spring break all the time, primarily due to doing things that are my passion in life. If that's you, you know what I am saying- that we love what we do because we are doing it for all the right reasons, and when we see the fruits of our labor, we want to do more.
I arose out of bed in my hotel room Saturday morning and in the darkness I just paused on the side of the bed to communicate with God about how much I appreciated Him and what he had done for me and my family. They were moments of focus and joy that allowed me to be rejuvenated by the power of His Spirit. No surfboard ride could have given me more thrills, no Space Mountain journey could have gotten me more excited, and the aroma of an authentic pasta dish could not have heightened my senses more!
Spring Break? I got mine when Jesus arose from that grave about this time of year. That too, will last me more than a lifetime! Following Him allows us to enjoy even the small blessings of life, so that life feels like a new adventure where we find a new treasure every day. Why not, we are destined to eternal glory, so let's make every day a Spring Break along the way! Even in our trials and struggles there is a buried treasure within. I was in pain from a swollen eye due to so much pollen during you know what last week in Florida.
Oh BTW, the doctor keeps texting me asking how I am feeling? Spring Break? Thank you Lord that those other two doctors took one! I found my buried treasure for today............
Surrender: The word itself seems negative. The great generals of history have uttered sayings
that make it seem that if you surrender, then the war is lost.
In truth, losing a battle, surrendering to fight another day may be the beginning
of winning the war. Never so true, or important than in our spiritual condition.
"Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls........."
Does that sound like someone you surrender to who would be punishing and always
pointing out your weaknesses? In fact, surrendering to God is the first step
toward learning how to love ourselves, others and find a peace regardless of
what battles rage in our lives. His yoke is one of the fruits of the spirit, not
one that subdues us every time we take a wrong turn in life. Surrendering to Him
brings us to have a moral compass that always takes us back to the heart of
love, his love and his grace.
This Sunday, as our brother Danny who has been weary and heavy-laden begins that
surrender that will lead to that victory, we can all identify with that moment
when we too made that decision. And you know something, it is not only a great
decision, it is an eternal choice to unload the baggage of our past, and to
begin to walk freely into the light of a new day.
It feels a whole lot better to go into battle with a General who surrenders only to
the power of God and never to the power of addiction. Let us not only rejoice
for our brother Danny, but for each of us who have become battle tested.
let's go win this war! Glenn
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.