Spending so many hours in a car driving, you begin to find ways to amuse yourself, ways to keep you alert and just pass the time for some of those long boring stretches of road. Especially when you are alone you can do some outright stupid and funny things. Like this past week......
I was driving on I-85 towards Pensacola and I slipped in a Diana Krall "live" CD. On it were many of the classics that she had performed her rendition of, including "I've Got You Under My Skin". Well it didn't take long for my mind to wander and I thought, let me sing along the way Barry White would have done it. Since I can do a fair impression of him, it seemed quite a natural thing and helpful to stay awake.
Fortunately, as I was crooning, I looked down at the speedometer of the 2013 Red Dodge Challenger Hemi that I was driving and noticed it was past 90, in fact I had gotten a little too carried away, and you know how the police love to stop red muscle cars. Must have been God redirecting my thoughts back to reality as I passed at least 4 speed traps doing near the speed limit and came out of the trip with no tickets. Thank you Jesus!
If you listen carefully to the words of that song though, it says, "I've got you under my skin, I've got you deep in the heart of me." It continues with words that indicate how much the love for the other person has become "such a part of me." Now, I began to think of my own faith, and whether my love for God is "under my skin" or sometimes is it just a surface faith that looks good to others? My answer maybe somewhat like yours, it wavers between flowing freely through to my heart, and those days when I have to struggle to get the blood pumping. But definitely more of the first than the later.
The great joy of the times when we feel so close to Him have to compensate for those naturally human moments when we feel a little lost and unsure. We have to remember as the Psalms say often, those days when we walk with Him, talk with Him and are filled with His glorious Spirit because being human, some days are just going to be a grind.
I would certainly recommend Diana's songs for anniversaries or any other special romantic moments, but we can also dream a little about what our days would be like if the love of the Lord is always "under our skin" as we listen. As for my Barry White rendition, I am saving it for that special moment when everyone needs a good laugh, and when I am not driving a red Challenger.
May God bless you, Glenn
When a class of middle schoolers were asked about whether they could identify with Jesus, most answered "not really” I wonder if we asked ourselves that same question what the answer would be? It might differ depending on our stage of spiritual awakening, our circumstances or our knowledge of scripture. Then again, it may be confused by how we as humans have covered it up with our own interpretations.
In the next few months, our Sunday ATB will be devoted to uncovering what Jesus really meant when he spoke to the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, when he raised the widow's son from the dead without her ever asking, and other compelling parables and scripture. "Jesus Unfiltered" is designed to bring us all closer to him, to be able to identify with him, and to embrace our walk every day with him so that it changes our lives. Here is a comment made about the treasure of an unfiltered relationship with the Lord:
"Unfiltered is the freedom to be who God created me to be with no excuses or apologies. Living unfiltered means being okay with who I am at this moment and trusting that he will finish the good work that he started in me. Unfiltered is loving others without the fear of rejection: and if rejected, recognizing that it is not personal & not reacting negatively or turning it inward........"
An unfiltered life comes from really understanding God, understanding that scripture is not intended to bind us up, it is clearly designed to set us free from the schemes and allure of evil, and help us to live with joy as we walk this road with the "Unfiltered Jesus". Our goal, is that through this series, you will take scripture personally, and your walk with him will have a little more bounce in your step, and you will be free to soar in your spirit in your life's journey. When asked that question again, whether you can identify with him, we hope your answer is clearly "absolutely".
And by the way, this is an ATB original series, you will not find it in a book. Actually you will find the basis for it in one book and one book only without a filter..........just bring that book with you to our 10:15 class!
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11
No matter who you are, who you work for, how often you work out, how often you praym or how many times you have to change a diaper, sooner or later you will experience "The Grind.” Those are the times when it is not only tough to do what you know what to do, but it feels like you are pushing against a brick wall to try to do it. Those moments are when major character, toughness and great faith are built.
Most of you know what a joy it has been for me to experience this new job, the travel, the palm trees, the added income........Oh how God has blessed me and I am doing Hallelujah's nightly! I cannot be happier. But this trip, this week, has been a grind. Tough to drive the 7 hours, tough to get up this morning, hard to face the 98 degree heat today and worse, everybody buying cars lost their minds and decided to pay retail at a wholesale auction. Somewhere along the way, I lost my mind too, but it was not from paying too much if you know what I mean!
Like I said, after changing a thousand diapers you Moms know what I mean. After 50 crunches, a 26 mile run and 20 laps of the pool, you workout nuts know what I mean. And, all of you stuck on 285 reading this blog know what I mean. "The Grind" is where our mettle is tested. Jesus experienced this with the crowds and probably all of their groaning, complaining and neediness might have worn him out just a little. So he took a little trip to a place where he could be alone and spoke with his father about peace and grace and love and all of those things which make us accept "The Grind" as part of life.
Me, I am fixing to go eat some Chinese food after writing this blog, looking forward to a better day tomorrow, and have scheduled a visit with my oldest daughter and 3 grandchildren. I am hoping that my fortune cookie doesn't say "tomorrow will be big challenge for you.” But I am praying, I am realizing just how fortunate I am to have such a loving, forgiving Lord who blesses me beyond what I can comprehend and still puts up with me.
How about you? Are you in "The Grind?” Hold on, go through it, and on the other side you will see a bright sun shining day, with all the hope of success on the horizon. All of your hard work and toughening it out will pay off...........but for those who doubt, I will let you know how tomorrow is!
Though it is way to early, it is time for back to school, time to get in a comfortable family rhythm that allows some time for the adults to breathe and the kids to act like kids with other kids. Time for the football teams to wrap up training camp and get in a rhythm to begin to play for real. Time to have a fixed schedule of normalcy, and time to see more of our friends home from vacation and back in church.
For me, this week is one I can come off the road and spend in ATL and get back into a normal rhythm that my recent travels have interrupted. Love the travel, the business, but also love that sense of home and family. Getting to do the Monday and Wednesday meetings already have also helped my psyche and being around has definitely made my grandson Logan happy. Walking to the bus stop, hearing about his day, giving Briana a break, and getting attacked by the little ninja warrior when I least expect it, have all brightened my week. Next week, back on the road again, but feeling the love from family to use as added fuel.
What this makes me think of is our connection to God, to each other, to our immediate family, our church and our groups. All of these form a lifeline of love that we stay attached to and sustains us even when we are away traveling by choice, or by conflict. But when we let go of that line it drains our life and makes us feel isolated. And when we feel isolated, the chairman of that itty bitty committee that meets in our minds declares a state of emergency that makes us do really stupid things.
Without the spiritual and family life lines, we breathe air of insignificance and despair, we travel without a GPS to guide us and we often try to plug the gaps with the quick instant fix that fills the void temporarily. Far better is to return home, make amends if needed and find that love and forgiveness that allows us to flourish.
I have learned some important things, but near the top of the list, is never write off a family or church member, or a fellow addict because God never wrote us off even when we were at our worst. If your kids are acting up, show them tough love, but never shut the door on a comeback. If you disagree over a spiritual point of view with another Christian, be patient, be kind, agree to disagree, and remember they love the same God you do (and her loves them just as much as he does you).
If that addict acts in the same stupid manner that you did when you were in a state of insanity, hang on and look for a recovery don't spark a relapse. If we leave all of these things, all of the good, the bad and the ugly that happens in a family in the hands of a loving and merciful God, things always work out in His best interest, and he passes that back to us in his time and rhythm.
Just remember, ET phoned home, we can too, God keeps his line always open, and so should we!
Back in Rhythm, Glenn
Now that I have been on the road in Florida for more or less 3 weeks, I have seen many exciting things that have made me see more of God in our world. I know that sounds contradictory, that dealing with tourist drivers and tolls should by and large make you a little insane, but when you are "living the dream" as I am right now, not a lot bothers you. Instead, we see the good.
Like seeing an incredible sunrise over alligator alley, which is a desolate strip of I-75 where it is mostly Indian reservation. Not only the beauty of that sunrise surrounded by lavish palm trees and land as far as one can see, but the security of miles of fences that have been constructed to keep 'gators and deer from wandering onto the highway. Kind of reminded me of the security that we have in our relationship with the Lord, and how, as we travel this road of life with him, that he protects us from unforeseen enemies who may attempt to destroy our faith. As a matter of fact on a flight into Pensacola airport last week I saw a rainbow that brought out thoughts of His reminder to us of no more flooding to destroy the world despite how hard it has rained.
And then there are those sunsets that seem to bring the sky right down upon you, somehow in Florida, the sky seems closer almost as if you could reach out and touch it. It gives me encouragement that God is always with us especially when we are alone with him and can focus on just who he is and how he cares for us. You could just reach out and touch his hand and feel the presence of His Spirit within us, it comforts our soul.
Then there are those inspired toll booth operators who say "God Bless You' after yet another few dollars has left your wallet. I am so thankful to contribute to keeping our highways safe and secure. Kind of like contributing to Campus, helping to keep our Church a place of security, love and acceptance, a place where we can always feel like we are traveling on the right road of faith, especially with all the enormous outreach programs in action. Our "Toll" actually helps keep the Good News flowing.
Right about now, I can truly say that I miss you guys tremendously, but every day you are in my thoughts and prayers as I travel, it is another thing that inspires me, to think of you and to think of what a difference we are all making for His glory. Be safe as you travel your own road today, and remember God has that protective fence up to stop those 'gators from crawling in your way!
The Road Warrior
What is it that holds back faith when we know what God is capable of doing? Why do we become a lot like Peter, good for a few shining moments and then left to sink when we see how deep we are in?
Here's what I think, we are afraid of failure, rejection and in some cases even success. Truth is we tend to filter most things through the eyes of humanity not through the eyes of God. Thus, we never achieve great things because we are afraid to go for it. Past failures have left us timid.
Recently experiencing some of these feelings I decided to let go and let God decide the outcome. In other words, do my part to "walk on water" since the water was ready to be walked on. God had clearly opened the doors, I just had to have the courage to enter into uncertainty, from a human perspective that is.
Scary but when you succeed it sets you free to do even greater things. Your confidence in God's ability to deliver builds and builds and eventually any form of failure only becomes a springboard to future success because you don't quit. You get back up and try again knowing God has your back.
So this week, don't be afraid to take a risk, let God show you the way and reap a harvest of courage. Go for it and let us know how it turned out.
Remember when he began to sink Jesus pulled Peter out to safety. I am certain it was because he was not afraid to try!
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.