I have learned over years of ministry that making yourselves available for God to use you does not make you special, it only makes the moments special that God uses you. So as I write this unusual second blog of the week (thought about saving it for Sunday but then everyone would not hear about it), I do so humbly and with a thankful heart that the Lord chooses to use such an imperfect person as me - to Him always be the glory.
I am now finished buying 25 cars this week, spending 3 days out in 100 plus degrees heat between Orlando and Tampa, but amazingly my mind is sharp and I am not having a heat stroke. That said, last night was an awesome night, much more valuable than the fruits of my work.
I checked into the motel in mid afternoon to rest before a day of more travel. I got a call that the front desk clerk had not returned my drivers license, and would I please come get it. I fell asleep for awhile, then got hungry and went walking toward the office. I passed a young woman coming down the stairs who looked a little odd, but I didn't think twice about it until she was right in front of me as I prepared to walk down to the restaurant.
She said "where are you going" and I said "to dinner". She asked to walk along, that's when I noticed the marks on her neck. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was going home to her 8 month old, but then asked me if I wanted to "go on a date" first, revealing that she was a prostitute and that since her boyfriend (the child's father) was away in prison for dealing drugs, that's how she supported the two of them.
Naturally, and without hesitation I declined but asked her if she wanted to eat. Later I learned she had been shooting up with needles in her neck a combination of cocaine and heroin and lost 90 pounds, so her acceptance was out of pure hunger (or maybe she thought I might accept the date later). As we walked she unveiled her life story, drugs, men, abuse, one I had heard many times in many ways. When I told her about what I did, and about ATB, she asked if I was going to give her a lecture during dinner?
As we entered the restaurant (Pollo Tropical, one of my favorites) there were a half dozen police odfficers in there eating, she recognized two of them as ones she had sex with before (this is real, not Mickey Mouse fantasy), and she kept looking over her shoulder as they were also narcs. Me, I wasn't bothered because I had just done a thing on Jesus eating with "notorious sinners" and knew I had my 12 Step business cards with me in case we got questioned. Plus, I was led by an undeniable Spirit to minister to this woman.
My acceptance of her, joking about how bad I used to be, and even talking with her about the Celebrate Recovery meetings she had attended, I quickly realized that the Lord had sent me to this woman. I also realized that you cannot be arrested for socializing with a prostitute so I had no fear of a problem (though she was terrified). I told her that instead of sending her a "trick" God had sent her a "treat" to let her know everything was going to be okay. Then the tears came............
To make a long story short, she spoke about how difficult it would be for her to detox in a state approved facility, because they would take her baby away. But she wanted to quit, so naturally I called Tosha and let her speak with this woman and that added to my credibility.
We left, I walked her almost home, gave her a hug and thanked her for our "date" which turned out to be pretty special. I gave her my card to call, and only the Lord knows if she will.
But as she crossed the street I called to her and said, "God must think you are pretty special, he sent you a guy who could give you what you needed most, hope". More tears as she waved goodbye.......only in Disney World can these unusual things keep happening, but only in God's world can he take broken folks and put them back together again, to help other folks help put their lives back together as well!
When you wish upon a star, our amazing God is never far, he's everywhere you are!
Yesterday while trying to find an acceptable place to eat for my oldest daughter, her 3 small kids and myself after an hour of trampoline jumping, we came upon a McDonald's near Disney World. Naturally, everything associated with them is somewhat of a fantasy, so as we came in from the parking lot, my anticipation was high that possibly Mickey Mouse would be serving our meal. (Hey I remember watching the Mickey Mouse Club....when you wish upon a star!)
Anyway, I carried some trash in from the car, opened the trash can basically without really looking and heard a voice say "thank you for your trash". I turned around to look for someone but quickly realized it was the automated trash can speaking to me! It could only happen at DW!
Then it occurred to me, that although we sometimes have unrealistic expectations of God, we equally fail to realize that he actually thanks us for giving up the trash of our life (our sins/addictions), to become his ambassadors of Good News. We instead think we have been so bad so many times that we have run out of forgiveness.
It is not fantasy thinking that the grace of God is everywhere at all times ready to cover our transgressions. It is however DW thinking to believe that what we do won't cost us something in this real world we live in. Trashing ourselves and others usually has a steep price tag.
Twenty years ago, my oldest daughter wouldn't speak to me because she was hurt and mad at me. Last night we laughed, jumped (them, not me) and enjoyed our ever expanding family. The difference, God opened the door when I was ready to throw away my trash, and he applied his amazing grace to my self destructed life.
"Come to me all that are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Thank you Walt Disney for giving us something to fantasize about. But, thank you Lord for really giving us the reality of forgiveness and the power of grace.
Glenn,from the land of palm trees!
Last night’s celebration of Step By Step night was a joyful and glorious pleasure. We had a crowd of about 60 folks that was not only enthusiastic, but able to enjoy a whole lot of home cooking and filled with encouragement from many different kinds of people, more like a church should always be. From the original poem by Leo, to Brother Freddie’s booming prayer, to Bridget’s remarks, to the amazing skit performed by Will and his wife called “Tomorrow”, to the ebullient and glowing Willie Mae who has become quite the chip giver, we had a blast!
You couldn’t tell that in those rooms were a whole bunch of “notorious sinners”. I love the Life Recovery Bible translation of the day Jesus called Matthew, it goes like this in Matthew 9:
As Jesus was going down the road, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax collection booth…..this could be equated to our modern day of Jesus passing by a drug dealer, in practicality they were both thugs. “Come be my disciple”, Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Yes, a thug became a disciple, and a really good one at that. Notorious to Glorious!
That night, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. Can you imagine what the table setting looked like that night and what the conversation was? Maybe one of the notorious sinners posed this question to Jesus……So we have heard of your miracles, we have seen other men do magic, what makes you different?
Don’t know his exact response but he certainly wasn’t pointing fingers like the Pharisees. His words were more than likely glorifying his father, not condemning the guests. The Pharisees were indignant. “Why does your teacher eat with such scum” they asked the disciples. It is exactly that “church” attitude that helped start AA, when the notorious sinners couldn’t find refuge from their sins in a church setting.
But, last night Campus and ATB welcomed with open arms, people who were seeking to find their God in a place where they were accepted. All of us broke bread together, shared our talents and went home wanting to do it again. Sound familiar (Acts 2)? All we did was follow the example of our leader who said “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do”. So, he made a house call, so did we.
And then the Lord added a line that I will never forget, which propels my passion to lead ATB and be in the midst of as many notorious sinners as I can find. How Glorious! Then he added, “For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.”
Here is what I have learned to be true about our God, the more notorious you are when you come to him, the more notoriety he wants to give you. Sort of Notorious to glorious!
*Step By Step is a halfway house in Lawrenceville for addiction recovery. Click here to learn more.
Most of us with some Italian persuasion in them recognize the title of this blog as being a sign of respect and if you’ve seen the Godfather, the name “Don” Corleone reminds us of the wisdom and power that one shown this respect possesses. In many past meetings I have even pulled out my character, “The Godfather of Recovery” to use as an example of how one’s life can change from crime to one of God’s perfect rhyme.
Last Sunday our own “Don”, Don Latham taught on Step One of the 12 Steps For Christians, and did what many of us believe to be, his best effort in all his years of putting forth the name of the Lord. He and his wife Charlotte have been tireless warriors for Christ, and their signatures of encouragement preface many of the books in my library. But “The Don” as we may affectionately begin to nickname him has never been as on fire for the Lord as he is now.
What a great example Elders set for us of loving, wise shepherds who are not there to judge us, but to be a light for our own dark moments. Don and Charlotte are not afraid to share their own, and they were involved at North Atlanta as mentors for those in the recovery ministry there. They will readily step in to the middle of a distressful situation and help to create peace. They are also encouragers of the highest magnitude, even when their own lives are imperfect.
At Across The Bridge we welcome a very diverse group of folks, people who are of course in recovery, but also just people who care, or people who want to improve their relationship with the Lord. Doesn’t matter why you are with us, someone like Don and Charlotte, or many others who are ready to serve, will be there to not only put their faith in action, but also show us how to get excited about our salvation, and about our healing.
I thank God for everyone involved, but this week I am especially thankful that people like Don and Charlotte help make the world go around, and help show us how we are supposed to live our faith! The Don made us an offer we couldn’t refuse this week….live like sheep who shake the mud and mire of a messy life off, or live like hogs who want to continue to wallow in it. Take your pick.
This week we have a visiting blogger- John Thomas. He has an experience to share that I think will lifft you up this week. - Glenn
It is my desire also to become a better and better witness for our Lord in the midst of 12 step recovery in the modern world, where very often there is a diminishment, and sometimes even a disparagement of God, and even more of our Lord Jesus. I have for a long time not perceived my Christian walk and my AA walk as two separate things—they are both part of the Kingdom. If Jesus were to visit us in the flesh today, I would expect to find him eagerly engaging in our ATB class on Sunday’s and at our AA meetings at NABA during the week! And after the meeting, he would have lunch with the “publicans, tax collectors, and sinners, which of course would include me!” Even as I write this, I am aware that Jesus IS present in all those places with me—because, if I let Him, He walks before me in Spirit in all things and at all times. I am learning, and hope to continue learning, how to “share my faith—use words if necessary!”
I had an experience early last week that I would like to share with you. I was in our regular Monday 11AM step study meeting at NABA—usually we have close to 100 in attendance at that meeting. The topic was Step 6. We begin the discussion with reading the chapter in the 12X12, then open for discussion. I listened at that meeting, and did not volunteer to share, although I usually do volunteer. The discussion leader, however, called on me to be the last to share, and “wrap it up” for the group. We have a good contingent of old timers in the group, as well as many newcomers and half-way house folks. We also have a small contingent of “two-steppers” in that group, some with a lot of sobriety, who only want to share about “not drinking,” and how they are achieving that goal without using the steps—especially the steps “about God” (of course, all the steps are about God). There is a younger guy—sober a couple of years, who is very vocal and very belligerent about this—the poor guy is trying to convince himself, and others too, that he can stay sober, have a good life, eliminate God from all 12 steps, and be an atheist--all at the same time
(I will interrupt my story here to tell you that one of my persistent character defects is that I am easily offended and over-sensitive to the words and acts of others, especially if they are directed at me! I have grown a lot in this area, and I am grateful to tell you that if I remember to turn to God in these moments, I am almost always able to contain these judgmental and self-righteous thoughts to myself, and no-one but God and I know that I have had those feelings. I will take step 10 right away. I share the experience with Marsy and we pray about it. I, like you, also have a handful of very close, long-term, co-sponsor/accountability partners. Never-the-less, unloving thoughts do sometimes spring up, and I am thus put in the position of either processing them through the Grace of God, or acting inappropriately on them.}
So, continuing the story, immediately after the discussion leader called on me to wrap up the discussion, our friend the atheist piped up in a loud voice, “oh, ****, call in the God Squad, **** that!” It took the discussion leader off guard, and stunned me. The leader thought for a moment and then said, “John, please go ahead.” Glenn, the words that came out of my mouth were not my own. Thank you, Jesus. I said, “It’s OK. Why don’t we let (the atheist) share if he has something he would like to say?” At that point, Mr. Atheist got up and stalked out of the room. The Lord gave me some words to say on the topic, and the meeting closed. I received many personal comments of encouragement from folks after the meeting
But, following the natural trend of my thoughts (have you ever popped yourself with a hammer, or stubbed your toe real bad, but not had the pain show up till several hours later?!) I began to have a growing crescendo of “unchristian” thoughts later, complete with the scenario of the imaginary conversation my “defect” wanted to have with Mr. Atheist. When I got home, I shared the experience with Marsy and we had a prayer about it.
Not too much later, a thought came to my mind about a certain scripture. I hadn’t thought about it in probably years. I knew it was in Matthew, but had to locate the chapter and verse.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5: 11-12.
Because of this Grace, I was freed from the prison of my thoughts almost immediately. I have been able to return to offering honest prayers in behalf of Mr. Atheist. And I have again been led to understand that Jesus once more stepped in front of me to take the blows Himself, and protect me from the “flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6: 16).
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.