In just a few weeks it will be that time again when parents get a little relief, kids get to share their summer adventures with classmates and of course, there are moans and groans about having to go back to that 'boring' school. In the younger ones, there is excitement, in the middle ones there is apprehension and in the high school students, well, let's just say it is a major chore to get them out of bed.
There are obvious reasons why education is needed, most importantly it is for the basics of life learning. We must learn how to spell, count to prepare for handling money, a checkbook, etc., understand how our freedom was won, what the world is made up of, and how we should speak and appreciate literature. Then there are sports and the life lessons learned there, as well as the ever important fund raisers where we all strive as a family to get our kids a gold star.
Truth is, we all need to go back to school from time to time, in a refresher course of how to handle life. Even the sports pro's go to camp in sometimes the hottest months of the year to cover the basics again and again and again. No matter whether you are a millionaire star or on a minimum contract, you still have to do the drills of blocking and tackling.
We forget that we are all a work in progress, none of us, at least all the ones I know, have it all together, nor do we always handle life well.
But, using the owners manual as a guide, we can figure out how to work it out. Yesterday, I felt the need to go back to school, so my day began with 3 separate devotional readings, a few Bible verses, several spiritual TV programs, including a sermon from one of my favorites, Jentzen Franklin from Gainesville, Ga.
He spoke on the need for Christians to be excellent at whatever we do, in our families, our work and our relationship with our fellow man.
There are many verses in our owners manual that speak of being called out and separate and doers of good, and quite frankly we all need to be reminded that our actions always speak louder than our words. We can excel at preaching to others what to do, but how much more will it sink in if we, by our actions, show others how it is done.
So I awoke this morning tired from the grind at work, but refreshed in my spirit that going back to school helped me to re-focus and re-light my flame to be the best Glenn I could be. If I can accomplish that one thing, then maybe others will ask the reason why I am that way.
Lord knows there are some failures in my past, but most happened because I forgot what I was taught and learned. One major difference as an adult, we do have to be excited about continuing about life, we do have to tell stories of how we got here, and we do have to get off our proverbial seats (that is as kind as I can say it), and show up so the Holy Spirit can point us in the right direction.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to show up in heaven and say "Lord I gave you my second best".
In defining the 12 Step process this phrase is used as "we will learn to deal with life on life's terms". Sounds very simple, but to those addicted folks who are continuing to ignore reality, it is something that is to be learned with painful lessons.
For so many of us, we evaded reality whenever it interrupted our feeling good, or we hid behind a bottle or a pill whenever things were too scary. We had a similar mindset to the Peter Pan theory, we never grew up, we never went through the ups and downs of life without medicating. And that medication came in many forms of addictive behaviors, preventing us from experiencing maturity through growth of doing life on its terms.
Therefore, when you see totally erratic behavior from someone who has still not admitted their problem, or see one who relapses act in complete opposite of how they were the week before, what you are seeing is truly a child in maturity acting like a child. As Jesus often used phrases about children (come to me like little children), he was summoning us to worship and love God as our ultimate parent, our father.
But in the world of addiction, we come like little children (often making no sense) to worship and love a different god with names like Budweiser, rock cocaine, crystal meth, pornography, M & M's and on and on......
When you see repeat offenders, you see children who never listen, even after experiencing harsh circumstances because they have never learned how to deal with life on life's terms. They live in a man made fantasy land in their own mind. I know, I visited there for quite awhile. Maybe we watched too much Mickey Mouse Club and thought Fantasyland was the only place we would ever live, or in many cases maybe we lived there just to survive the world around us.
However, if we let this 12 Step process take hold of us, along with letting our faith in the Lord grow, we come to read some valuable words from 1 Corinthians 14:20:
Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regards to evil, be infants, but in your thinking, be adults.
But as in virtually all cases of addiction, we need more than one admonition, so here's another one to think on:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
That was from 1 Corinthians 13:11, and if we take it to where we are at today in plain language, it is saying learn to deal with life on life's terms by experiencing, feeling and growing into being an adult, and quit acting like a child. Plain and simple, grow up!
Truth, I still like to sing that Mickey Mouse jingle, but now that I am sober, I can remember the words.
I can remember it as it were yesterday. We were in boot camp at Paris Island and it was time to hit the obstacle course. There it was in front of me, what looked like a 50 foot wall we had to climb over. Now I had been in football, basketball and baseball camps, trained very hard but for some reason that wall became my enemy.
For several weeks I failed to make it over and the DI, Sgt. Martin was on me incessantly about it (any former Marines understand what I mean by incessantly). Finally I made it over, and that's the operative words of this blog: "I made it over". No one bailed me out, Sgt. Martin didn't assist me, my fellow Marines didn't lift me over...I had to do it myself. Why? Because each man has to carry his own weight in combat or it weighs down your fellow man from doing his own job, thus you become a liability rather than an asset.
We all have walls that are fearful and seem impossible to conquer. But a part of leaping over each situation is our participation. We need to understand that by doing the leg work, God adds the solution. That leg work may be by working, training, studying, etc. but in each case we are learning how to get over that wall. If others are always pushing us over, we never learn what is required to make it over, thus we become dependent on outward sources to provide inward solutions.
I had to get over that wall, so I would learn how to get over future walls that would come before me. Sure, God has played a major role in leaping over many new walls, but he needed me to believe I could make it over to help me. Confidence is built by faith.
In this new series, each Sunday is designed to help us learn how to "Leap Over A Wall". But first, we must be willing, we must participate in the process because, as in my case, we don't want those Sgt. Martin's screaming words of "encouragement" at us every minute because we have failed. As the Lord says, "What is impossible for man, is possible for God".
Our goal at ATB is to help you get to that wall, to face it, but you must get over it by yourself, and with your God by your side it is entirely possible, but you must believe that you can, and He will help you leap!
Join us for our Open House this Sunday (9-10 AM) and many Sundays thereafter.
I have seen some amazing and unusual things in my life, and I am sure we could share some stories for many hours. Anyone who has seen a sunrise or sunset at a beach, or gazed out from a mountain peak at miles and miles of natural beauty, or seen the majesty of a tiger or gazelle sprinting at high speed, been present in a natural childbirth, or even been on 285 when there is absolutely no traffic (usually in snow), can appreciate the rare occurrence that can happen where you are just left speechless.
While riding home here in Loxley (not Robin Hood's home, but Alabama), there are stretches of woods where deer, armadillo, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and assorted other animals parallel the road in their travels or actually try to run out in front of you. It is dark at night, real dark with few lights, so I always drive the last few desolate miles in caution. Then there is a bridge over the lake where there have actually been deer trotting across, so there too I remain cautious though one would never suspect a bridge to attract wildlife.
Now remember, our ministry is Across The Bridge. So often I think of the symbolism as I cross this bridge, thinking anyone or any animal can also get to the other side of the road and life itself. So last night shortly before a late night at work, I again cross that bridge to go home and see off in the distance something strange moving from right to left in the middle of that bridge, and as I get closer, I see it clearly then stop in amazement!
An ALLIGATOR is crossing from the woods to the water. And after a few stunning moments sitting there I think, an alligator in Alabama, coming from the woods to the water and it hits me........what is that gator doing in the woods it's supposed to be in the water, and did it get lost from its Florida home? And further, what a joy it is to live here in the middle of Wild Kingdom where anything can happen!
Then it really hit me......anyone can cross the bridge from death to life, addiction to resurrection, the woods of shame to the living water, all of this I am thinking while parked and still stunned by that gator's presence!
God does that, he sends us some often very weird signs that make us think. And, if we are thinking about Him, they always translate into a message for us. If I was drinking no telling what I might have thought, pink elephant, hallucinating, but I wasn't and it was because a loving, forgiving and amazing God set me on a path of recovery across the bridge from darkness to light.
Like that gator I may have looked a little unusual to the church folk when I was crossing, but hallelujah I made it to the water!
That's the sign you see when you cross from Florida to the Alabama border, and of course there's that song as well. But before I came here, my thoughts of Alabama were not so sweet. First there was that football team that always seemed to rob the Dawgs of real national notoriety, then every time I head to ATL down highway 65 I pass Selma, which reminds me of Rosa Parks and George Wallace.
Then there is that perception that the state is somewhat backwards in their thinking.
But in my last 6 months of being here I see something different, until two days ago that is, and then I saw something very different. A man walked into our Toyota showroom and was greeted by one of our sales reps who happened to be black. As the rep walked away to get an interview sheet, the man walked over to another white sales rep and said, "I don't want to talk to no #$%^&@&."
After a few minutes when any one of 20 different of us were ready to go out and unceremoniously escort this "gentleman" out, a manager went over and said something you may have heard in church, a Bible study or anywhere where people are not backwards thinkers. He said, "Sir, we appreciate you coming into our dealership today, but we are all one family here, there is no black or white, and though we cannot refuse anyone service here, we can refuse to sell you a car. You are welcome to look around and thanks for stopping by.".
Sweet Home Alabama indeed! The next day a white customer walked into our Hyundai dealership which is next door, and asked to speak to a manager. We both listened to him praise one of our sales reps (who was a member of the USA Olympic Handball team, and happens to be black), and said "no one has ever been as professional or treated us nicer". And, funny thing, they haven't bought a car yet -we have to find one for them.
So here's my point, it doesn't matter where you are, as was proven in the days Jesus walked this earth, there will be people who don't get it, and possibly at one time we may have been one of those. Ignorance and prejudice have no boundary, and whether you are a Pharisee shouting "give us Barrabas" or someone who lives in a state that has a questionable history, it only matters what you and I do, how we respond, how we react in love not hate, and how we represent the Lord.
We can point fingers at other folks, but as was mentioned this past Sunday, the fingers must point right back at us and question whether we have cleared the log and backwards thinking out of our own eyes. Sweet Home Alabama is just a phrase but it seems to me now that it is definitely a place where most of the folks are really sweet. And the ones that aren't, well, we just don't pay any attention to them as Jesus didn't in his day. He continued to be who he was in spite of the reaction of others.
Now if I can just get them to quit yelling Roll Tide so often down here........
In honor of the many times in my own life and in the life of those mentioned below, that God has shown up in the middle of a crisis and shown his love and mercy, this is for Him:
When the cupboard seems totally bare, he's there.
When all is falling apart and we need help, he's aware.
When the funds are out, broke and hopeless, he'll share.
When we have lost a love or loved one, he'll show his care.
When I was down and out, lost in my addiction, he was there.
When Don lost Charlotte, he surrounded him with love from everywhere.
When Camille was hurt, lost and alone, he answered her prayer.
When Willie Mae's life looked upside down, he sent angel pair.
When Russell's health knocked him down, He gave him a repair.
When Qadir and Danny were in foul ground, He made them fair.
When Colin needed a job, and good health, yes, he was even there.
When Rob and Tosha needed a family, God's love was everywhere.
When Angie and Tabatha needed Him, he saw the despair.
When the darkness was worst, His light provided a powerful glare.
When all seems lost, and all we can do is wonder and stare.
When we don't think he understands, he does, because he's always there!
And, I hope in this coming week if you feel like he hasn't answered your prayers, shown up in your life crisis or you just feel disconnected, you will find him, you will understand why he may not have changed your immediate situation, or you may just see that he has already provided an answer that you have overlooked.
It is in that exact moment of imminent crisis that He calms the storm, casts out demon of addiction, and lifts us up on the wings of eagles to soar through it with His amazing grace and mercy. Remember the words Chris shared in class, or if you have heard it before..........
It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!
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.