There are many things we notice about other people, sizes, shapes, attitudes, how they talk, how they walk, all the good, bad and ugly. One thing that I particularly find myself doing is spending more and more time with people with a positive, enthusiastic outlook on life. I call them those who "make every day count"!
Tomorrow is never promised to us, we are told often in scripture to live for today, because "it has enough problems of it's own". If we live for today, that means L-I-V-E, and it is very hard to live under a constant dark cloud of despair, negativity and complaining. We really don't need today's current guru's to show us how to do this. We just need to understand that even problems present us with an opportunity to succeed.
History gives us many examples of folks who overcame enormous odds and lived life with passion and flair. We see holy people making major differences in the lives of others by giving more than anyone could imagine of themselves. What we are really seeing is the shadow and influence of Jesus.
In the three years of His ministry, He was a non-stop highlight reel-miracles, lessons with stories, sermons with purpose, influences on the poor, giving hope to the destitute, healing the sick, instructing the wayward, and talking a lot about his favorite subject, God. He hung around with sinners, tolerated the so called religious hierarchy, and traveled to spread the good news of redemption.
He showed us how to make every day count, even though His days were numbered.
To us, we waste it if we are wallowing in the difficult situations we find ourselves in. Yes, we are broke sometimes, sick, hurting, out of a job, and even blocked from success for some unknown reason. But if we look at a trial as an opportunity to overcome the odds, break into freedom or just plain find our way out into the clear, then the effort to get there becomes an adventure that teaches us what the Lord had an abundance of - passion to persevere under any and all circumstances.
If we "make every day count" then we are always engaged in the gift of life, there are no wasted efforts. Along the way we influence others by our faith, attitude and desire to serve. It becomes contagious to our fellow manand brings hope to the hopeless. We become like Jesus, a highlight reel of overcoming and becoming.
Now, that's what I call living and that's the kind of people I want in my life!
The national statistics are not good for people who are battling addiction. At best 30% get right, 30% are always in an up and down battle that may or may not end wrong. And a whopping 40% end up incarcerated, in treatment or in a pine box because of it. So when someone beats the odds to be in that 30% who make it, we celebrate!
Sounds a lot like the story of the lost sheep. Even though the odds of finding it and it's safe return are low, God would leave the other 99 to try to find it. So He and those rejoicing angels have a party when a lost sinner comes home, and not just a party but an eternal celebration.
Pause here for a moment and parallel the story of the prodigal son and consider his brother. Imagine how he felt always trying to do right, and here comes his wild man brother who gets the fatted calf and fancy cloak. Jealousy, envy, holier than thou....fill in your blanks. Maybe today there are some who feel like addicts should never celebrate finally getting it right, but from what I read, that's not biblical or Christ like.
What Jesus taught me was never to give up on anyone, despite how far they fall away. Always be ready to welcome them with open arms when they return with remorse. And if they become a model of healing that others can take hope in then give God the glory, and never consider yourself any better, just be happy God can claim another victory over darkness.
Maybe that's why Jesus ate with the despised tax collectors and notorious sinners, he saw their potential instead of their credentials. He saw their need rather than their greed. He saw a story of redemption not perfection. He saw you, he saw me and he sees that old broken down man on the street corner begging for money, and I would bet his words are something like, "that's my guy, wait and see".
So let's all celebrate anyone who has the courage to make a major change, they need our help to continue to fight the battle. And those that have always gotten it right, please be an encourager not a discourager!
(Webster's Dictionary) def....rapacious: 1. taking by force, plundering; 2. greedy or grasping
In AA literature these words are used to describe this disease of addiction. While there is some debate that we call it a disease, there is evidence that it is hereditary as well as a bad habit, and that it is like holding a loaded pistol to your head with the trigger cocked, just waiting for you to snap. Even with the salvation and cleansing that is provided in a relationship with Jesus, unless you provide daily maintenance for it, it can return to be "rapacious" like a cancer relapse. It spreads like a plunderer, possibly worse than before, because it is greedy and does not want to let go.
Luke 11:24...."When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says I will return to the house I left. When it arrives it finds the house swept clean and in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first."
These are the words of our Lord, a warning. Better clean your house every chance you get or dust, dirt and grime return. Being a Christian, being a recovering person takes daily maintenance because the touchy feely feelings of the highs we experience with God are usually balanced out with the reality that life has many ups and downs, and we better be ready, or we quickly relapse into old or destructive behavior.
The "Rapacious Creditor" takes no prisoners, tears families apart, destroys lives and burns everything and everybody in its wake, and we better not ever get on a "pink cloud" where we think we are above all of this. It is sudden, it is mind boggling and it happens to the very best of us.
That's the bad news, here is the good. If, and that is a very large word, IF, we pray, study, stay in accountability relationships, and go to meetings/church, we begin to develop really good habits and an incredible relationship with our creator and fellow man. This gives us the best chance to ward off that creditor who wants to collect our past due debts and throw us back into dysfunction.
Truly the power of grace, forgiveness of our sins and the creation of a new us is a gIFt.That's right, there is that IF in the middle of it, it is a gift that we must receive and use wisely. IF we treat it at such, that it has nothing to do with our own accomplishments, that it can go away in a heartbeat IF we don't stay humble, then our reliance on the power of God's Holy Spirit will pull us through every attempt by that Rapacious Creditor to collect.
And then you will see the truth, and the truth will set you free!
(This blog is dedicated to Paige and her kindness, as well as her amazing change of life)
It was a simple offer. While spending time at our Hyundai store in Daphne, AL this Saturday, Paige who works as a service rep offered me her extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She explained that she makes an extra one every time in case someone else is in need of food. After thinking about the Pizza alternative that the sales staff was having, I chose the PB & J.
Of course, this made me think of several things, always a dangerous proposition.
The mind of an addict is always thinking about how to do things that are against the grain. PB & J just goes together, like salt and pepper, ham and cheese, burgers and fries, ying and yang and anything else that comes to your mind that complements something else. Like recovery and helping others, giving back what we have been so freely given, which again reminded me of grace. And the kindness of Paige.
But to someone out of sorts with life, basking in dysfunction, the Pizza would have been the choice just because it was more exciting or different. If you would, please, align your mind with mine for a moment...........
There is the word of God contained within the Bible, and much of it in the Old Testament is about conflict, death and destruction. Fast forward to the New Testament, there is more written about love, forgiveness and grace. So we could respectfully say the OT was the peanut butter that needed the NT jelly to make it make sense, to make it palatable.
Christ completed the sandwich of salvation, which tastes oh so sweet to those of us who spent so many years trying to go against the grain, who were always making the wrong choices. Without His grace, we are still trying to get a pardon on our own merit. Have you ever tried PB without jelly? It tastes okay but seems dry and incomplete. The jelly brings it to life!
We always say, "there but by the grace of God go I", which loosely translated for this blog, and I do mean loosely, says this PB & J reminds me of how the grace of God made my life make sense, and gave me a chance to get things right. But only by His grace. It was my missing piece.
So when I took my first bite of that sandwich, it felt so graceful to eat such a thoughtful, perfectly made food, that it indeed reminded me how the Lord's way is so much greater than the way I chose before.
Eating a PB & J will always be special now!
One of the most difficult things in life is to find a balance of spiritual, emotional and physical well being. We often feel like a high wire act, either just on the edge of great success or possible total disaster. One day God is right there with us, next day we are asking where he is hiding. Our job is great, our job is terrible. We look great for our age, but man do I look fat.
And the funny thing is when we are in balance and life seems good, we get bored. Go figure!
This past year has required new and exciting challenges for me, especially with all the travel. Last week I forgot my Men's Devotional which is the first thing I read in the morning, and it threw me off balance because it is part of my life line while away from home. Thank God for the internet and Bible apps on the phone, but still, going away from the familiar was an adjustment.
For folks who have addictive personalities, we live usually in the high's and low's. Normal, or being in the middle, is a setting on a washing machine, and means little to us, except that boredom. There is no adrenalin rush in the middle, only peace. But when life begins to change, we begin to make personality adjustments, we find that scripture we love in Philippians to be a constant companion:
"....and the peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
I am glad the word "minds" is in there because when we are in our own mind we are often behind enemy lines, and that is what causes the chaos and imbalance, the highs and lows because we are focused on us instead of God. We do our will instead of His and we find ourselves in a wilderness searching for a way out and there seems no path of freedom.
What I have had to grasp to get in the middle, to get in balance, is that my relationship with God is enough, and everything else added to it is a bonus. That way, when something good happens I rejoice, but I don't expect everything to always be great. And when bad moments occur, I feel the pain but don't let it linger. Because in either, God remains the same, and I remain going to the same place when I depart this earth.
The balancing act is accomplished by letting God be that pole thing that those high wire walkers carry (not sure what it is called). When in balance it helps us get to the other side, avoid dangerous falls, and yet when we get there the enormous adrenalin rush of knowing our creator just walked us through a difficult part of life is a feeling that does pass all understanding........we are at peace because we are His piece of work.
If we let Him, He will always balance out the situation, no matter what danger lies ahead!
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.