There are so many beautiful things in this world if we take the time to look. A friend of mine sent me some pictures from Montana. What a great place with incredible scenery. How about Alaska, little babies, pregnant mothers about to deliver (my personal favorite), grandchildren, the Braves winning, flowers in spring, and the list could go on and on.
But I think if God directed us toward THE most beautiful thing, and we can learn this from Jesus, it is one person helping another person in a wide variety of ways. Jesus passed on the good news, healed the sick and lame, spoke to those whom others would not speak to, gave food to the hungry, comforted those in grief, raised his friend from the dead, and provided refreshment for a wedding when they ran out. He broke religious barriers, told amazing stories, acted without any prejudice, loved being around little kids, was an amazing fisherman, taught others how to pass on faith, and generally showed us the real meaning of love.
His was A Beautiful Life!
We can try to emulate it but I have found in my own life I have come way short of where I would like to be. But I tell you that taking this ATB Ministry to where others are at has given me a much closer relationship with my fellow man. I hear their stories, feel the pain of their past and see the joy on their face when they are encouraged by what we say. And most of what we say is about that beautiful life Jesus led.
When you stop talking in church language, something that creeps into all of our vocabularies, and approach people with the plain and simple truth of what a beautiful example God on earth left for us, they listen. I am shocked in the past few months how they have listened and it is not due to my mostly non-eloquent words. They respond to the honesty of people who have met the Lord in crisis, and have come through with a new perspective on what a beautiful life is all about.
It is all about the power of God to heal a broken life and restore us to sanity and symmetry with Him!
Every moment we spend helping another find their way, find a job, find healing or just find love, we are doing the will of God and our lives become beautiful for it. When someone sends us a thank you note or says because of you I now have hope, they are really saying it is because they see God in us. Our spotlight is focused on God not ourselves, and they can see that the truth is in us.
That my friends is A Beautiful Life!
I remember how much I enjoyed watching the game show "Let's Make A Deal" when it first aired. All the excitement of winning prizes and the choices of doors that had hidden treasures behind them, and then to watch the reaction of the contestants when they chose was totally entertaining.
That was fun. Recovery is not. But there are some similarities between this show and the doors we choose when dealing with addiction. The obvious doors we have the pick of are #1 Incarceration, #2 Death or #3 Recovery. Some others may add constant misery but I count that in #1 as internal incarceration. These are our choices, but the words of the popular song "I Believe I Can Fly" give us another Open Door which leads us to pick door #3.
I used to think that I could not go on, and life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love, I'm leaning on the everlasting arms
If I can see it, then I can be it, If I just believe it there's nothing to it
I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day, spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar, I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly
The Open Door to recovery can be surrendering, working the steps, finding a sponsor but in addition to that the real answer that unlocks our souls to make the right choice comes from leaning on the everlasting arms of a loving and grace filled God.
He gives us a formula how to do that in Matthew 7:7-8: Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened. In simple terms, Door#1 is to ASK for his help and to open your heart, Door#2 is to SEEK his guidance and will for your life, and Door #3 is to KNOCK and don't stop knocking because this is the right door to a better and sober life.
Eventually the door will be opened wide and you will run through it to freedom in those everlasting arms. And you will spread your wings and fly like the eagle God intended you to be!
During my time away from ATL working in Daphne, Al there were many discussions between a man whom I greatly admire and me about doing something to reach more folks in addiction, life changing situations and homelessness. We weren't sure how all of it would play out, but we knew between his vision and mine something was going to happen because God had tweaked our hearts to explore it.
Then when the opportunity came for me to come home, I knew how to begin. My role was to be a catalyst in our present Across The Bridge ministry and add this Mobile Recovery Ministry to its resume. I must thank him (his name is Ben) for his wisdom, foresight and encouragement (he was an elder, a teacher and mentor) and maybe one day soon we will be united again.
This vision was born in the great commission where Jesus urged his disciples to go ye therefore......in other words go find people who want to hear the good news and tell them about it. Most folks who know they are lost have a hard time finding the desire to come to a modern day church and often find themselves intimidated by the surroundings and even if they are accepted and loved when they go, they feel ashamed and don't return.
There are a ton of reasons why this occurs, but the alternative is to go to them, take the message and show them the love of Christ and prepare the way for their return home to Him. In my case my desire comes from being a recovering alcoholic who found God before I came to Church and then they helped me find the truth. That crowd of folks back at Sandy Springs Church of Christ in the 80s showed me how to treat a man like myself, how to knock on doors that weren't previously open, how to go beyond conventional church going.
So now, here we are entering two different recovery houses with the message of hope and it is working. They are receptive and open to more information about God. We go to them with meetings that are spiritual, recovery oriented and often become very emotional. Then we add some celebration and worship in them and have formed the basic part of a mobile team to do so. It is a very exciting process.
What our motivation is, is not just spreading the message or talking about recovery, but the sheer fact that young men and women are not only ruining their lives but dying of overdoses every day. So many young lives are being lost to addiction that it tears your heart apart to sit in a meeting and think that someone may not make it back. The love of Christ compels us to go ye as often as possible.
Here is what we do so far in this Mobile Recovery Ministry in case you want to participate in any way:
Step By Step (SBS), a recovery house in Lawrenceville of about 35-45 men and women:
Tuesdays 2-3 PM meeting every week with those unemployed or in community service (usually 6-10 people)
Once a month, 3rd Thursday, we do a Celebration worship experience where there are about 50 people
Sober Living Recovery (SLR), a recovery house in Duluth of about 100 men and women:
Monday 3-4 PM meeting every week with those unemployed (usually 15-20 people)
Wednesday 7:30-8:30 PM meeting and Celebration every week (usually 50-75 people)
In addition some of the SLR folks come to us in our Monday night 12 Step meeting at Campus at 7:30 and are seeking sponsors and mentors so even if you do not have previous recovery experience and have just a heart to serve, you are welcome.
We are rapidly growing those we reach as God is opening new doors every day, we are going out, and they are starting to come in as well. Where is it all going, we leave that in the hands of God, but we know this as another great mentor, Bill Long used to say, we are going to heaven and taking as many people as we can with us!
How great it will be when one day we get all the information about God, learn exactly how he works, exactly what he is thinking and whether or not he would recycle us as his angels (not from the Bible, just my personal wish). But as of this moment today is not that day.
Last night after a meeting of a about 50 people in a new recovery facility, several different men came up to me with unbelievable stories of how God had interacted in their lives at unique moments. I had asked those who wanted to talk to stick around and the time I spent with them was longer than the meeting. Their stories, which will remain private, were awesome and in some cases led me to ask myself a question, how much do I really know about God?
All these different denominations teach so many different things many of which are loosely interpreted from the Bible, that it has confused your average seeker of spiritual peace. I recommended to the whole group to go see the movie "The Shack" because that might rattle anyone's died in the wool concept of what the truth of God is. Hearing these near death and life altering stories not only last night but almost at every meeting, I have totally come to realize what the story of eating with tax collectors and sinners was all about.
In the passage in Mark 2 comes this verse 15: While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples (but please take notice of what follows) for there were many who followed him.
Is it possible that there were many tax collectors and sinners who followed Jesus because they saw truth about God in what he said? Jesus did not give us the whole story, but he gave enough of it to where you and I and drug and alcohol users and folks who want to recover from a life of darkness can see daylight in the message of hope and healing.
So Understanding God in just a small way is to follow and do what Jesus did. Along the way other truths about the human race will show us that God does little work in religions or denominations who are locked into a human belief, but he does a whole bunch of work where people are seeking "him" instead of seeking "them".
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.