I wish this blog would be about something else, but after the tragedy of the past week it will be instead about the lives that were lost and how we remember the fallen. I saw it in Viet Nam, I saw it in my family way too often and now we see Ashleigh, Rose, Normisha, Tina, Alishia and Kristie losing a life here on earth but alive in heaven.
First I ask you to consider they perished while trying to flourish. They were courageous enough to escape addiction and step into healing. The folks primarily responsible for housing them and nourishing them have been responsible for changing hundreds of lives and certainly these ladies were on their way. When others rejected them, even their own families in some cases, We Are Living Proof took them in and gave them a chance.
Just a week before this I wrote about two ladies helping a homeless man - one died, Ashleigh, the other escaped through burning fire but walks around shaken and searching for answers. Ashleigh urged me to baptize her, she couldn't wait, and truthfully I couldn't wait to do it, she was an absolute gem of a person.
Kristie sat me down and told me the horrific story of her past and the incredible pain she had to endure, and I again had the pleasure of baptizing her. Just the week before the accident she showed up in church beaming but asking for prayers for a back surgery she needed. She was a true woman of courage.
Tina came to church with us on Easter sitting just a chair away from me so I watched her praise the Lord in such a magnificent way, her booming voice shouting Hallelujah! She was a strong women of faith. Now she can do it with Him in person. Two of the ladies, Rose and Alishia I did not know very well but from what accounts I here of, they were equally special.
Finally, there is Normisha, or Normi as we affectionately called her for the two years we knew her. She was a blessing to so many others, spreading her joy and love - she too was baptized here at ATB. We often spoke of her struggles and her desire to become a leader. I would guess right about now she is leading a meeting in heaven and looking down at us concerned about our welfare. She will be truly missed.
We will remember them, we will mourn their loss, and we will never forget the struggle we face every day to win the battle over addiction. In so many ways these lives are a major loss, but in the most important ways, we helped them find a pathway to heaven.
Rest in peace ladies, and pray that so many of us who continue to struggle will join you one day!
The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me!" Matthew 25:40
Most folks know by now that we have begun our new program "Under The Bridge" designed to help homeless and helpless people. Just this week we helped two individuals maintain housing, and just yesterday we encountered two more homeless folks that we aided. To say God is opening a door for us is an understatement. We are planning a big event for June that will further open the door to this, but for now I want to talk about yesterday.
First of all I encountered a homeless man on the ramp leading to Hwy 20 near ATB. I gave him a few dollars and spoke to him about where the encampments were and how people would respond to our event. He told me where to place the flyers, where they were and then I unveiled to him some of what we plan to do and there was a definite excitement in his response. Many may give money but not too many also have a conversation.
Then, a few hours later two ladies who came to our meeting last night and had gone to get some food, ran back into our building into my office very disturbed about a homeless man they had found laying on the ground behind a dumpster near us and behind the convenience store on the corner. They grabbed some blankets and clothes, I gave them a few dollars to pass on, and they came back with a touching story about how he wrapped up in that blanket so thankful for the warmth.
Lots of folks may pause here and get upset that maybe both those men we encountered may spend the money on alcohol, etc. To us, and how it must look in God's eyes, we just helped two lost souls who would qualify as the least of these, which means we did it essentially for Him, not for how they use our kindness.
But there is a sidebar here. Helping one man opened another door to help another man, that is definitely how God works. And though the ladies knew nothing about me helping the other man, they know how we help every man & woman who comes to us at ATB. So they gave back.
That's how it works, from the top (God) to his believers, to the ones who become new believers, to the ones who may one day become believers. In fact one of the ladies was recently baptized at ATB.
I don't know about you, but I am jacked up to find just one more, and then another, and then another......
How do you look at people? Not just people you know, but those who you pass on a daily basis that may not look a lot like you. How we choose to do this is a great reflection of where our walk with Christ is.
I heard a great sermon today and in it the phrase "Looking at folks through God's eyes is looking through the lens of love." Our eyes? Often not so much like God's. We pre-judge, hold grudges, don't like those who do not agree with us, and will not stop to help those who look like they should be helping themselves. Many of us are still living in the Old Testament, which is named that because it is old but it is our background of faith for reference.
For example it is no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, it is love your enemies, and walk an extra mile with an adversary. It is love where it used to be hate, it is forgiveness when it used to be punishment, it is grace when it used to be stoning. Somehow we have not chosen to learn the new covenant we just like to live in the old because it is easier to point fingers, judge others and stay angry.
That is not how our vision is supposed to be. The lens of God's love has mercy on those who do not deserve mercy, it has encouragement for those who are discouraged, and healing for those who are addicted even by their own personal choices. If we were ALL not sinners, Christ would have no need to die for us, but he did, because we are all in need of forgiveness and restoration.
Next time you pass a homeless person and say why don't you get a job, send him or her to us, we know which lens to look at them through!
One thing people said always bugged me, "You have great potential". In your 20's that is a compliment, in your 50's it is a reminder that you have lived a mediocre life. Potential unfulfilled is mediocrity.
I read an article with this title that also mentioned the frog stuck in the pothole who finally jumped out when his life was threatened. It took that possible disaster to get him to go beyond an ability level he thought he ever had to act in a heroic manner. He leaped out of mediocrity into greatness.
There is also a book I read by Chuck Swindoll titled "Living Beyond The Level of Mediocrity". It reminds us that Jesus never called us to live an unfulfilled mediocre existence, in fact in the Book Of Philippians it instructs us as to what he might have us do. In Chapter 2 verse 15 it tells us to "Shine like stars in the universe" and it even tells us how to get there. Don't complain, don't argue, become blameless and pure and you will shine above others who are depraved and crooked.
If ever there was a generation where this is true, it is now. It is time for us who have "potential" to realize it and show others how to start shining. Think of it, look up in the sky tonight and see if you can spot a mediocre star?
Don't fall into the pothole of just existing, live and shine because others need to see that this faith we have means something.
Or, if you prefer, look to the life Jesus lived and let me know if you see mediocrity. He was a superstar that continues to shine above us and through us if we let him.
All is takes is one giant leap of faith out of potential and into fulfillment!
fThinking too much! It's a lot like worrying too much, it never solves the problem but usually makes things worse
and paralyzes us when we need to act. How that happens reflects what we believe.
For example, I don't need any more information to know Jesus came, was crucified, and rose again. I can read all the books, watch all the documentaries, hear all the arguments, but the fact is, I know my redeemer lives, because I have lived it out. C.S. Lewis speaks about it in the Screwtape Letters, the devil's goal is to get us confused so that we don't act our faith out. His demons operate as confusers, and paralyzers of faith.
Jesus recognized this in Mark 2 when he healed a paralytic and all the experts focused on who he was instead of what he did. Sorcerers and magic men may try to heal, but they can't heal like Jesus did, and he asked them this question - Why are you thinking these things? Is it not enough that he did the impossible, and why would he bother to heal such a lame ordinary person? To demonstrate who he was and why he came, question answered.
We can certainly think our way out of faith, out of recovery by questioning why methods that are proven work. In the Big Book of A.A. it says "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has followed our path". Yes we have a right to question things but why do we keep questioning to the point of not believing and not acting on the belief?
There's a simple answer - we don't want to let go of control of our lives, so we stay paralyzed in our own minds, thus the Paralysis of Analysis which usually keeps us in a non-focused state of mind. We become God but we are not. That's why Jesus said "Come to me like little children". No need to question it, just accept it.
The ups and downs of life may cause us to have that occasional question that asks "why God"? But where the rubber meets the road is still that he is God and I am not. Whatever question I may have was answered on the cross and in the tomb. He came, he died for me, he rose for my redemption. I am sober and alive because of him, now let's go get it, that which he created me for to do.
Empty tomb, appeared to many as a walking, talking dead man - what more do we need to know? That tells me he has all the answers I need to know.
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.