Maybe you have seen the movie starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger that depicts the true story of James J. Braddock who miraculously became the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World in the 1930's, and was given the nickname "Cinderella Man".
The story goes from journeyman fighter who was injured to a nearly homeless man with a family who could not afford to pay their utility bill to giving up his 3 children, and then to be given a second chance to do it over. He has to seek public assistance (welfare in those days) to survive and then gets a bout as a stand in who fights the top contenders and surprisingly wins. In an incredible scene James stands in line at the public assistance office then pays back the $323 plus dollars the government gave him.
He goes on to fight Max Baer, the Heavyweight Champ who had actually killed two men in the ring from brutal beatings. His wife (RZ) doesn't want him to risk it but James has never been even knocked out, he has no fear, his faith is based on feeding, clothing and providing for his family. 35,000 people jam Madison Square Garden and in a fashion that trumps any Rocky movie, he wins the fight, buys a home in New Jersey with his winnings, then spends a yearj and a half as champ before losing to the title to the legendary Joe Louis.
Louis said Braddock was the most courageous man he ever fought, and we can see by his life that this man was courageous in all aspects.
How would it be today if we as Americans paid our government back for how they have helped us? How many of us would even consider doing it? Or, more to the point, how much courage would we exhibit to protect our own families and the family of God?
In Hebrews we see the "Hall of Faith" filled with Cinderella Men and women. They gave back in major proportions what they were so freely given. They responded to the call of protecting and serving with great faith and courage. When we look, we see ordinary people (like James J. Braddock) or (like Abraham or Moses) doing extraordinary things through faith. In our faith, it is in the real Heavyweight Champ who gave himself up for us when we deserved nothing but getting our lights turned off for poor behavior.
To those who have experienced the extreme blight of life, we understand a man like Mr. Braddock, we understand that Jesus would die a hero, but we may never understand why he did it for us, maybe it was for those other folks who were much better.
But what he said by his actions, is that he wanted to do that so we would do it as well for others, that we would pay back our debt by loving and laying down our lives for each other. Like the Cinderella Man, we found our glass slipper. Only ours was in the mercy and grace of spiritual redemption.
Let us all find a way to pay it back, not by being good, but by being great! (And, rent the movie, you will stand up and cheer)
Desperate for Love
I met Allison Miller 17 years ago in a single parents’ group at North Atlanta Church. She was my neighbor, my friend, and I baptized her youngest daughter. When times were difficult, I stood by her, and she by me. Our relationship took a pause because of marriage, but about 6 years ago we reconnected. I have watched her transformation, her desire to find an intimate relationship with the Lord, and what she has found in her healing process. During this time she wrote a book on her life. Following is my foreword to her book and an excerpt that is a fascinating look into one experience she took while on her journey.
"This book takes you on a journey from rejection, to deception, to addictive infection and leads you into God's perfect place of protection. It is brutally honest and shows you the bruised and battered heart of a little girl looking for Prince Charming. She finally finds him, but not where she was looking." GY
From Desperate For Love, Chapter 12, "Bloodstains On The Sofa" (after a hospital stay for post surgery bleeding.)
"After convalescing at my Mom's I returned home to be with my husband, but I still spent a lot of time on the couch and in the bed to restore my strength and sanity. I was taking several medications related to my surgery, hormone changes, and for depression. One night, after getting the girls bathed and to sleep, I was awakened by the sound of the door opening from the garage to the kitchen. Eric and I had been in a major fight earlier in the week, so he had left home and was spending time with his friends. I had a bad feeling.
With my heart racing, I listened closely as I slowly inched my hand between the weight of the mattress and box spring on my side of the bed and wrapped my hand around the butt of the .38 caliber pistol my mom had given me for self defense in my previous marriage. I wasn't positive who was in the house, but I was prepared. I know it sounds crazy, but I thought if I didn't move, whoever it was might not bother me and go away. The weight of the mattress helped still my hand as I gripped the gun. I kept my eyes on the doorway.
When he entered the room I could tell by the outline of the shadow, it was Eric. I asked, "What can I get for you?" I could tell by the way he was staggering toward me he was drunk or high. Rather than answer he punched me in the face. It felt like a brick hit me in the head and I felt dizzy, but it also kicked in my adrenaline. When he hit me, my hand was still on the loaded gun. I pulled the gun out, sat up and pointed it at him. "Get out of here, get out now, you need to go."
I hadn't counted on him wrestling the gun away from me and pointing it back at my face. He slurred his words, "Now what are you going to do you little (word deleted for this blog)?" The sound of one of my girls crying out distracted him, and I was somehow able to grab the gun from his hand. By now he was more tired than hostile, and he staggered out the bedroom door and up the hallway. Grabbing a loaded gun from the hands from a drunken man in the heat of a battle was crazy, but in reflection, I see how I was protected and given the courage and strength I needed at the time.
I waited a couple of minutes, and then I inched my way up the hallway, stepping carefully so not to cause the creaking floorboards underneath the carpet to give me away. There was no sound other than voices coming from the television in the living room ahead of me, so I figured he was asleep. I walked toward the sofa, one of the few pieces of furniture I cherished from my first marriage, and saw him lying there, snoring, already passed out.
I lifted the gun, pointed it at his head while biting my lower lip, and peered through the site to make sure I would not miss. Then I had a strange thought: If I shoot him now, the blood will ruin my sofa."
(A few paragraphs later)
"I vividly recall sitting in the courtroom waiting to stand in front of the judge for a final ruling. My husband leaned toward me and whispered, "Are you sure you want a divorce?" I didn't say a word, but I know he saw goodbye in my eyes, I had never been so sure of anything in my life."
This is a great book for anyone to read, but especially for women for a wide variety of reasons. This is a true story of how God can fix a shattered heart that was in a self-destruct mode, and reconstruct it with his amazing love. As a man I read Allison’s book thinking of all the mistakes I made in marriage and how tender is the heart of the woman sharing your life with you. As she so aptly says, what you do not know will hurt you. Before we are able to choose to love someone, it is best to take the time to find out how unloved we or our mates have really been.
I will have some books you can buy or you can go to her website at allisonmmiller.com/shop and order for yourself. And, thank you Allison for the courage to be honest and for your desire to help others find the Right Man, before they find the other right man!
excerpts reprinted with the author's permission
The Lunch Break
Today was a difficult day to buy cars for me. (And everyone please shout aaawwwhhh). Too high prices, too many buyers and not enough of the vehicles I needed. I just didn't feel right, some days are like that, you feel like an alien landing in the middle of another planet. That was the beginning of my day, so I decided to go eat lunch in the cafeteria afterward.
I usually eat alone but when I got my salad (yes, eating healthy), I saw a man I knew from a leasing company and sat down with him. I asked him to pardon me while I prayed. After doing so, he asked me, "You are a minister aren't you?" Flattered but humble I went into my talk about where I came from (the addictive background) and what we do at ATB and how all that tied into today. He probably wished he didn't ask I thought but before I knew it he began to share his faith conversion, 20 years clean time, and how at 53 he and his wife had adopted a 3 and 7 year old to raise. He shared the challenges of teaching them about the Lord when their backgrounds were from such dysfunctional families.
We had a great conversation, agreed to meet again for lunch, and when I walked out of that cafe, there was a little spring in my step that had been missing from that disappointing morning. So, I decided to go to a second auction where I had some success and am wrapping up my day in Lakeland, FL soon to be visiting Red Lobster for the all you can eat shrimp night. Not a bad finish to a day that started badly.
You know, God is like that. If we take the time to talk about him, honor him, something good usually happens next, right away. I am not saying we do this for a blessing, I am saying we do this to spread the blessing. And, the Lord in his can't help it but be generous personality, wants to confirm our moment of faith, as if to say, I see you Glenn, and you did what I wanted despite not feeling like it.
Remember the fishermen who had no catch, and then Jesus told them to cast out their nets again, in faith. What did they catch by being obedient? How about the man who he asked, "Do you want to get well?" And when he believed in faith, he walked as never before. God always honors us when we honor him by faith.
Tomorrow is another day, another auction in my travels this week, but even if it turns out poorly, there may be another hidden blessing right around the corner! Now about that Red Lobster, that's my catch for today.......
Live or Let Die
Ancient Chinese Proverb: When you fall into a pit you either die or get out
That was the question Jesus asked the man at the pool, "Do you want to get well?" In real every day life, despite all of the therapy, meetings, spiritual faith, etc. the question remains-Do we want to live or die? Do we want to get well?
You may think that pretty severe, but think of this, in 2007 roughly 35,000 people took their own lives. But in 2014, millions of people are gradually killing themselves through their addictions to food, drugs, alcohol or sexual promiscuity. May not be immediate, but it essentially is the same thing. For many reasons including major depression, it seems people have lost hope that they can get out of the pit they have fallen into.
In our series You'll Get Through This, Max Lucado points to the story of Joseph as an example of how hope can bring us through any situation even if it looks hopeless. He didn't have a choice in many of the situations he found himself in, but in the beginning of his story, Joesph's arrogance and pride led to his initial downfall into a pit. Once we start the downward slide, it becomes very hard to stop it even if it seems very unfair.
But the question always is do we want to live or let die? Do we want to continue to self destruct when there is but one life to live and we are spending it trying to die? Think of that for a moment. The man at the pool spent over 30 years waiting for someone to help him because he was paralyzed. We, on the other hand, are only paralyzed by our fear, insecurities, penchant for bad choices and thoughts that we will never be any better than we are in our pit today.
Think again my friend. When you decide you want to get well, the Lord is extending his mighty hand to lift you out of that dark pit, to bring you out into the light that never stops shining. Maybe a few clouds appear, but hand in hand in a walk with almighty God, we can conquer any addiction, problem or enemy that comes before us. The choice is simple, life or death.
Riding down the road a few days ago, I looked up at the sky, thinking of my six decades on earth, all the ups and downs, good and bad, and I thought it really didn't get good until I found hope. I put my hope in the Lord, and he has never let me down, only my choices have taken me out of the light and into the shade.
When I was in that pit of destruction, he never gave upon me, so why should you or I ever give up on ourselves?
C O R R E C T I O N S
"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15
Do you remember, as I do, those times in our lives when we were rebellious, hard headed and so caught up in how great we looked or what we had achieved that we were unreachable and unteachable? We thought we had it all together, and if we were involved in addiction, we thought we were superman or woman. If we were raised in a good home, church goers, maybe we thought we were always right.
Me, I was a combination of all the above, but it wasn't until I came to the cross that I realized the depth of my dysfunction at that miraculous junction. That's why I call it Dysfunction Junction, a place where there are direction corrections.
We don't admit we are lost (guys can relate especially to this), but we are, mostly because of pride and arrogance. We become self centered, the universe revolves around our will not God's, and we are all about us. But when life strikes us down, we find getting up is very hard because the same people who were on our bandwagon have abandoned a sinking ship. All about us has become shallow and has no solid ground to stand on.
Then comes a man riding into town on a donkey with humility and a courageous spirit to save the day. That donkey knew the way as did his rider, and later when crucified the Lord said, "forgive them for they know not what they do". Virtually everyone who hung around Jesus or received one of his miracles were thinking in a misguided direction. What could he do for them, how could he lead them out of bondage, how he was going to change their religion, etc. etc. and of course these things are important in life but what was most important?
We, as they did, miss the point often. It is what can I do for him, not what can he do for me. And when we come to realize that fact, our life changes direction dramatically. If we are thinking what can I do for him, the dysfunction junction becomes a clear change of direction toward the will of God. Now we take the advice of His Holy Spirit, not of our seriously flawed thought process.
There were a few other donkeys in the Bible, one in 2 Peter 2:16 who was used for another direction correction. Seems false teachers in their similar pride and arrogance were attempting to influence folks on their own personal god. Follow me for a moment on this. Here is the account of that donkey's use:
"But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey - a beast without speech - who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness."
You are probably laughing now thinking what I am about to say, but I won't say it. What I will say is that if the Lord can use a donkey for his purposes, he can certainly use you and me, even if we have been a fool in the madness of our direction!
(See Psalm 91 for further directions)
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 email@example.com.