The holidays bring up all kinds of feelings, some of which are treasures and others that bring us much pain. There seems to be an equal amount of both in folks that I speak with, especially about Family. Let's talk about the later. What I would like to speak with you about this week is how this amazing God we know can completely turn around and mend broken relationship if we Ask, Seek, Knock (Matt 7:7-8).
Most of us in recovery have stories about Family where we have played a major role in hurting them and being at one time fairly useless. Mine is one of great dysfunction by me and of a total alienation to my children at the time. To say I was a mess is a major understatement. In my very slight defense I had no training to be a father, and it showed, as well as my total selfishness as an addict.
Everything was broken. That was 28 years ago.
Today, through the grace of the Lord and much time spent in prayer, meetings, steps, apology and discussion, I am the oldest in a family of 6 children, 4 current with spouses and one on the way, 8 current grandchildren and one also on the way, as well as 4 great grand children. That's 23 of us presently with 2 in the bullpen from a guy who was an only child. And if I think back, I can remember how lonely that first Thanksgiving and Christmas I spent in Atlanta was, alone with no family and no one speaking to me.
Sometime thereafter, I began the process of finding God. I remember one particularly lonely day, looking up to heaven and uttering the words, "God, please help me". And I remember one year pulling out a small tree out of the backyard woods that looked like something out of a Charlie Brown story that had very few branches and needles. I am certain you can identify with your own set of similar memories.
So I began to ASK (Ask, Seek, Knock) and God began to bring me closer, trim my dysfunctional branches, lift my loneliness and bring hope to reconciliation. Year by year things began to get better, but another problem developed. How could I get to visit all this family on a regular basis, especially the way business had flattened. There were 3 states involved in location, 2 that require a 600 mile trip. So I ASK'ed again. "God, help me find a way to see everyone in the next year, I am beginning to feel somewhat detached again." That was 7 months ago.
If the weather permits, I will land in Washington DC Thanksgiving morning to visit my two oldest sons and their families. This will complete my request that the Lord answered in a very thrilling way. He let me travel to Florida to go to auto auctions that allowed me to visit my two oldest daughters and their families, and to make the money in a wonderful new job that of course, allowed me to pay for my plane ticket for this Thanksgiving. He didn't forget to dot an I or cross a T, the Lord granted my entire request.
I would like to say that He did so because I was an angel and 100% faithful to His word every day. I wasn't, but I was always doing the very best I could, and I believe that is all he ASK's all of us to do. Not only doing my best, but consulting Him on how to get better, how to conduct myself as a businessman and father, how to continue to be involved in the ATB ministry and get others involved as well. And how, everywhere I went to show the grace he had poured over me to others.
It has been an amazing ride brothers and sisters, from the nowhere of loneliness and depression I put myself in, to the joy of having a family, and the love of He who wants me to thrive on His behalf. If you are where I was or somewhere on that journey toward healing, don't give up, ever, do not give up even when it looks the darkest. Just Ask, Seek and Knock over and over again, until that day he answers your request......and He will!
Happy Thanksgiving! Glenn
So much of our every day life revolves around feelings. Think about it, it's how we roll as a human race. "If it feels good do it", "I'm just not feeling it man", "You hurt my feelings", "I've lost that loving feeling", "I don't feel good", "I feel wonderful", it is how God made us, to feel and to eventually understand how to manage our feelings in a positive way. Even in death there is joy, in heartbreak there is always a new adventure just around the corner, in a loss (this one still hurts from Saturday), there is always tomorrow to win again. Like it or not, feelings dominate the way we make decisions.
Think of Thomas. For years he followed Jesus, only to watch him die like a common criminal instead of the Messiah he thought he was. How excited he must have been for those 3 years to watch the crowds, see the healing, experience the miracles and hear the exact words of God. But how low he actually was when all was lost....(inject yourself right about here)....he wasn't feeling the love, the hope, the encouragement, he was downright stunned! His Messiah was gone.
And then something happens that we have famously criticized him for.......when told Jesus had come back to life he didn't believe, instead he became the doubting Thomas. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I won't believe" were his words. He was told by witnesses who had seen the Lord, but he just didn't feel the joy others had. He needed proof.....(inject ourselves here again).
How often I hear the words, "I just don't feel it man". In recovery people come in, start fast, get religion, then fade because they just aren't feeling it. They don't feel that the benefits of getting straightened out outweigh the cost of facing reality. Bills to pay, back taxes, parole, ex's, amends....the list goes on and can certainly make you feel stress, anxiety and hopeless. Others, facing just every day problems, feel like as long as everything is going their way, they are doing good things, therefore all should go well.....they are smiling and feeling spiritually grounded. Then, BOOM, the bottom falls out, the loss of a job, husband cheating, can't make the mortgage, again, different situation but same hopelessness. Now you know how Thomas felt. Our life feels worthless.
As all scripture does, this situation facing Thomas teaches us something. Jesus tried to tell him for years he was coming back, but he wasn't listening. He showed him the full extent of his love through the healing and miracles he performed, and also taught him every day. You see, as long as Thomas was feeling it he was okay. But Jesus also showed him multiple lessons of faith others had, faith stories about holding on even in the midst of a storm, about believing God has our backs each and every moment we live, no matter how bad it looks. Thomas forgot that, and so have I. Maybe you have too.
You see, in my life I lived by feelings for so long that converting to having faith in anything other than that which was right in front of me was unheard of. I had absolutely the wrong feeling of love, the wrong attitude of forgiveness, and not very good feelings for my fellow man. I was a non-believer that God would have anything to do with me. But Jesus changed all of that, and maybe in the story of Thomas, he can change all of that for you as well.
More importantly, look around at how others have been transformed, healed and set free and when you are not feeling it, ask them to help you catch a new
outlook. Or go to a Home Depot, grab a few 10" spikes, buy a good strong heavy duty hammer, and then go out in your back yard. Put the spike on top of your left hand (if you are right handed that is), hold the hammer in the other and then nail it in. That should make you feel it! Or maybe give you a little insight as to how much pain the Lord endured to show his faith in us.
I so remember the Bible Study I was in many years ago, when Carl Wade passed around those spikes to us all to make this point. Faith has absolutely nothing to do with feelings, it is all about letting go of them. Want to recover, let go. Want to heal, let go. Want to feel it, let go and then wait for confirmation from the Lord himself. Our God has continually confirmed faith with answers throughout the Bible in chapter after chapter, so why wouldn't it do it or us?
Need proof, go read it, but in every instance, faith was the answer to the problem.
In the conclusion of the story of Thomas, Jesus uttered these words, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed". Unlike Thomas we can't touch the nail marks, feel his wounds, but we can see the hurt in looking at those spikes, and we can look around and see that the rest of this human race has been greatly affected by the cost he paid to redeem us. Miracles of life are everywhere!
If it was up to feelings, God may have certainly felt like we weren't were the effort. But he didn't, and he won't ever forget how important we are, even when we have doubts. Ask Thomas when you see him.
Do you remember those old western movies where the hero always rescues the damsel in distress? Then inevitably they ride off together into the sunset to live happily ever after. That's the wonderful thing about movies, they allow us to dream of what might be, instead of facing the reality of real life.
As we age, reality really sinks in and we begin to think of how we are going to make our exit to a better place of eternity. Some might choose to ride into the sunset, and others would make the choice to charge into it. Some would just travel and play golf, others might become missionaries, or as J.C. Penney did, become a millionaire in his 60's. Some would sky dive at 75, others just sway in a rocking chair reading a good book. No problem, we are all different and after a long, often very hard life, we are certainly deserving of rest and recreation.
Then again, some of us are wired with those AAA batteries that won't shut off no matter how hard we try. Take Billy Graham as an example. At 95 he is still preaching (as witnessed by his message on his birthday), and it made me think back to 10-15 years ago realizing this man was literally on fire in his 70's and 80's. He is near his eternal homecoming, but he is one of those charging into the sunset. The passion still burns within, just a little slower.
As I am reaching that age where that determination must be made, my choice is to charge. Look at Moses, Abraham and so many others who just began to get going in their later stages of life. Look at the difference Jimmy Carter or Mother Theresa made by continuing to thrive, as did Ronald Reagan. Age does not limit the possibilities it actually multiplies them because we now know for sure what's going on and how to do it.
In my business travels these past few months some incredible things have happened, and I thank God every day for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. It is actually the "dream" job from a movie plot. How could a guy like me after so many do-overs, inherit this kind of chance to succeed? Like many of you, I have served the Lord, and that flame for Him continues to burn, but to be this blessed after thinking my time had come and gone, WOW, what a blessing!
But the most important thing on my heart at the moment, is to let you know, if you haven't already figured it out, that God never stops using us to spread His message until our last breath. He never gives up on us after addiction, divorce, catastrophe or non-belief. At whatever age you are that you think you are too old to make a difference, to change or to have the fullness of joy, or that you are just plain used up, God is just beginning a new and exciting journey with you. Let Him take you places you have never been before. You are about to be a difference maker, a mover and shaker, or maybe, a soul winner.
Rocking chairs sound great every now and then, hey, I love a good book too. But show me a damsel in distress, a horse that needs to be broken in, a stray cow that needs to be roped, or a mountain that needs to be climbed and I am all in. (Okay the cowboy references may have been a little over the top). No question, I am going out with a bang, charging into that beautiful beckoning sunset on that same horse that almost threw me off when I was a young man. Now I know how to ride him.
Charging off on the road again, Glenn
I have so many fond memories of going on vacation with my family and stopping at Cracker Barrel to eat along the way. Then of course we would be faced with playing the peg game they have at every table, "Eg-No-Ra-Moose.” Based on the number of pegs you have left you are either a genius, very smart or just plain dumb. Have you ever played?
Wednesday night I ate at a CB in Lakeland, Fl and, sure enough, in my only attempt I ended up with only 1 peg, genius level. This of course made me think, and naturally it occurred to me that my mind was totally clear. I was very happy, but in looking at the pegs it reminded me of the times in life where I was just plain dumb. In those times I left many pegs on the board, many problems unsolved, or made bad decisions that caused even more problems which naturally caused major stress.
It is a very difficult thing to accomplish, but when we can be clear minded, life seems to unfold much easier whether we are in crisis or at peace. Either way we can see God in the situation or the solution. We can read scripture after scripture where people made sudden rash decisions that ended up costing them much pain or even death. They gave meaning to the word "Eg-No-Ra-Moose,” as have I on many occasions.
The absolutely accurate thing about God is that he never makes bad decisions, and if he left us with his counselor, the Holy Spirit, any decision made while leaning on his wisdom will eventually work out even if at the moment looks bad. But, the most important qualification to enter into decision is that we must be in close fellowship with the Lord to hear his voice, to know what is instinctively the right thing to do, or where to jump those pegs to end up with only 1.
If we are playing at being a Christian, one foot in and one foot out of the divine nature of a spiritual relationship with him, we will be indecisive and wondering which voice is answering. You know, there is another side that always puts his two cents in to confuse us.
When we are clear, when in focus, when in step with His Spirit, we know what to do. The pegs all fall into place. Just plain dumb is not an option. We usually end up looking pretty good to ourselves and others when we walk in the light and those electric gamma rays of charisma shine.
So what do you say, let's move those pegs in the right direction, it's called the will of God! And you don't have to wait until you eat at Cracker Barrel.
PS Pray for Russell and his heart procedure next week!
What does your CD/MP3 or IPOD playlist look like? Most Christians will usually rattle off some of the latest popular recording artists like Chris Tomlin or Mary Mary (my favorite), and add that they have a few sermons tucked away as well. But you never hear them talk about the other secular music they have because they are usually afraid someone else will think they are not "spiritual" enough. Sad but true, we are ultra concerned about image.
Not me. If God is not ashamed of how far he has brought me back from a living hell, then I am not ashamed to tell you that my playlist includes a myriad of variety. One of my favorites is Earth Wind and Fire. In the past it was about the rhythm, the flash, now I think of how the lead singer Maurice White has converted to singing Gospel Music, and I hear the words he composed in those songs I loved when I was too under the influence to understand. Let's take the song "In The Stone".
You can dissect songs like we did to the words of the poets we learned about in English Lit, as we attempted to understand what they really meant. What were they thinking as they so brilliantly wrote those sonnets? More importantly, what do we hear, what thoughts cross our mind as we read or listen? It can tell a lot about the content of our character, and what really exists within our hearts as we interpret. Some songs bring up memories we would just as soon forget, others put us in a difficult mind frame (I also love Barry White but I am presently eliminating him from my playlist because of what thoughts his songs bring to mind). Other songs inspire us as this song does to me.
Having listened to that song "In The Stone" over and over again, I am convinced Maurice was looking at the Ten Commandments, albeit from a somewhat altered state of mind back then, but what I hear is truth. Please read these words and let your mind wander a moment:
"I found that love provides the Key - unlocks the heart and souls of you and me
Love will love to sing your song, Love is written in the stone
Every man I meet is walking time, Free to wander past his conscious mind
Love will come and take you home - Love is written in the stone
Do you believe my friend in what you claim, people of the world all doubt the same
Bringing questions of their own - truth is written in the stone
In the stone you'll find the meaning why you are not standing tall
In the stone the light is shining, forever touching all
Life experiences a passing day, time will witness what the old folks say
Getting stronger every day, strength is written in the stone
Deep inside our hearts for us to keep, lies a spark of light that never sleeps
The greatest you have ever known, Yea, is written in the stone"
I have listened to this song so many times now and it has brought me such enlightenment that indeed, truth and love is written in those commandments. I envision Moses in the form of Charlton Heston walking down from the mountain with his hair standing straight up thinking God has just given him the formula to love. To love God and your fellow man by not harming yourself or your neighbor. This must have been the way God tried to show his people love before Jesus came, and like we often do, they missed the point entirely, as they did with Jesus.
Read them. It reads like a love song, not a list of do's and don'ts. Actually on that tablet or stone that they were written on "the light is shining, forever touching all.” The words "Truth Is Written In The Stone" remind me of Jesus own words, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And what was his statement before he echoed those great words.........If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. And what was he teaching? What was written in the stone? And who was he? (Eph 2:20) ...the chief cornerstone (the foundation of our faith).
May be that my perspective here is hard to follow for those who have never been far away from God, but to me we can see him in all things, we can take what was previously a stumbling block and use it for a stepping stone because our hearts have totally changed.
Please always be yourselves, God never chose you because you were ordinary. Truth is written in the stone, and the real truth is that you are an extraordinary work of His art. His love is now written on the tablet of your heart.
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.