There are a whole lot of reasons we retreat into seclusion from our fellow man. We may not want people to see who we really are, we may have been hurt, we may just not "feel pretty", we may be angry or we just may need some time alone, especially some alone time with God to get re-directed. In modern terminology, we may go into our prayer closet for those directions.
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
So what is it about this closet we speak of that seems to offer protection and direction? For me, being an only child I tend to go back into it way too often because it is a place of safety, free from any chaos, judgement, and wrong decisions. When I find too many things not going well, I retreat not only for a word from the Lord, but because I won't say or do the wrong thing to my fellow man since I seem to be on a negative roll at that time.
For those who really know me they would say I am way too positive and accepting. That's good, because I don't usually let you see that other side, the one who spends timeout in that closet. But, if you can identify with me, over a period of years of building up this tendency to retreat, it adds to a feeling of loneliness and self-loathing that is not healthy.
That is why today, I am coming out of the closet! That's right, what you see is what you are going to get, the real me. And from all this closet time the reality has set in that what John Eldredge wrote in the book "Wild At Heart" about discovering the heart of a man's soul is absolutely true, a man needs:
A battle to fight
An adventure to go on
A damsel in distress to rescue
Out of the closet (which is good for the time needed, not way too often), means going hunting for us men, whether it is hunting by providing for your family, looking for deer or for a dear, or maybe as I have found out, looking for souls. Yes, that damsel in distress could just be those folks who need to find the Lord that are lost, and lately I haven't been doing a whole lot of finding, or hunting.
I have the battle, and the adventure but as I realized this weekend all the work stuff lately has shifted the purpose of my heart and it is time for me to come out of the closet and do battle again on this field of addiction and recovery. If you see a new fire in my eyes I hope it helps you too to rekindle yours if needed, and please pray for and encourage me to keep it., as I will for you.
My door which has been closed too often lately is now open, we are ready for battle!
The sound came from the kids sitting at the table doing their best impression of a Thanksgiving turkey. A few days before two wild turkeys had actually come in our back yard (have the pictures to prove it) which along with the deer, squirrels, snakes, dogs, wild cats, moles, geese, ducks and chipmunks makes us something like Wild Kingdom out here in Snellville.
Little did I know that their impression would trigger this small mind of mine into thinking about the nature of our society in general and those of us with addictive personalities in particular. We gobble up things, people, money and adrenalin because we believe living large means taking everything we put our hands on. Truth! Why so, because it goes back to Cain and Abel and has trickled down through the centuries, even generating its own mantra not long ago, "He who dies with the most toys wins".
Gobble gobble gobble without regard to how many people it hurts. Jacob and Esau, Saul and David, the Holy Wars, on through the centuries to Hitler, Stalin, corporate takeovers, and the belief that "if it feels good do it" and now we have ISIS and an addiction problem that grows faster than we can stop it. Bad news, hardly.
Life boils down to a simple belief of faith that God in those who believe is greater than those who are in the world. Because of that we have mercy, grace and receive blessings that are not gathered by gobbling up but by receiving provision from the Lord. When we lay down our toys, the process of receiving real joy in life begins. The need to step over other folks to get ahead subsides. The need to run from problems stops. Medication now becomes dedication. No longer do we act like like turkeys, but as it says in Isaiah we soar like eagles.
Where would this world be if everyone understood that? Back in the garden of Eden, but we can't go back. What we can do is learn from those gobbling turkeys. They are so busy looking down to gobble up food that they don't have time to look up and see there is more to life than gobbling.
Like you, I'll be enjoying my Thanksgiving meal thinking of that poor turkey, but thankful that I have finally learned how to receive and give blessings rather than steal them from others.
Happy Thanksgiving, Glenn
Seems like in this last year I have been like that Disney character the Tasmanian Devil, always in a buzz saw rushing from here to there, one day in ATL, then Orlando, then Daphne, Pensacola and all stops in between. In the last few weeks it hit warp speed as a trip to DC was sandwiched around two to Florida and because of a lower sales volume and my desire to just chill, ATL may be my stop for at least a week or so. Good to be home and get refreshed.
Though there are still auctions here to work, there has been time to walk my grandson back and forth to his bus stop, play with my granddaughter, listen to some uplifting messages including Andy Stanley's "One King Leads To Another" (really worth watching), and even get promised a home cooked meal tonight. I have slowed down from a whirling dervish to normal life speed, and quite honestly my thinking is much clearer.
Does life do that to you as well? Seems like that are so many important tasks of the day that we tend to pass right over the refreshing we need to provide for our heart and souls. Though we want to be servants to our brotherhood and family, there is a me or a you in there that is crying out to be nurtured, loved and given some time to relax a moment or two. When we are constantly on the move, we become like that saying, "it's hard to hit a moving target." Sometimes we need to face up and be God's bull's eye for an arrow of sustenance.
We all talk about the time Jesus withdrew from the crowds and his closest disciples to go pray and be refreshed. Because he had a single minded purpose it is unfair to compare our lives to his, but the point that enough can be enough for any mortal to take, much less God, makes me understand I must take care of me before I can be of good use to someone else.
In order to be the best for you, for God, family, friends and an employer, there has to be a balance of life that includes constant refreshing. This includes spiritually, emotionally and physically which is truly the balance Jesus always remained in.
Think of it as part of the symphony of life. Everything plays together as one to provide beautiful music. Of course you need a great conductor which we have, but if you have ever attended a concert, you know there is an intermission. Why, because they know too much effort and strain can lead to playing the wrong notes!
We all need a refreshing intermission...........
The other night I was asked by a teenager if I was ever afraid while in Viet Nam. My truthful answer was no, and I think most 19 year olds look at being in war as an honor, and if you died for your country that would be next to heavenly. But if I answered honestly today, there are things that I do fear because my youth has gone and the circumstances of my life make me understand what I must fear. That was long ago and far away.
Maybe you also have moments when the words of the Bible seem that way, from a distant time and you cannot identify with those situations. Most of us grow up hearing more about the "Thou Shalt Nots" than grace and mercy. We tend to look at "stories" rather than fact. Did David really slay a giant with a sling shot? How about Daniel killing a lion bare handed? Or maybe folks walking through a parted ocean seems like a fairy tale? Wow, did Jesus really feed all those people with a little more than a Happy Meal?
After landing at the airport from my DC trip last weekend, I was too tired to carry my heavy bag to the Economy lot so I rented one of those carts. I placed my bag in the basket and my notebook with laptop on the top storage area, and I was on my way. Getting to my car and heading home I was in a great mood after a wonderfully healing time with my first family.
In my driveway, I grabbed my bag and then it hit me that I had left my notebook and laptop behind in that cart, about an hour away in that lot. I remembered the attendant said, "just leave it and someone will collect it later" and I thought that at 11 at night there might just be a chance it was still there. So my choices were to call the airport (ever try that?) or go back. Then I remembered I left my checkbook and some credit cards in that notebook as well. I began to earnestly pray., and drive very fast!
Miraculously it was still there, and when I saw it I dropped to my knees because it was truly a miracle that at one of the busiest airports in America my cart was left untouched. When you think about it, look around in your life and think of the times God has saved you, of the times he has healed you of addiction or medical problems. Or how he has come through just in the nick of time, and all of a sudden those old stories of faith and powerful triumphs are your story, you are right there in the Bible.
Long ago and far away? Think God is not concerned about you despite your past? Try re-reading the parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15:1-7. In the first few lines it says this:
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him. And the pharisees and the scribes all grumbled, saying "this man receives sinners and eats with them". (So then Jesus tells them the parable of the lost sheep and ends with these words) "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance".
Many of us were lost, long ago and far away from God. Just like my notebook with its treasures in it, we were sitting in the dark full of life and treasure when we were found by God himself. Now, we drop to our knees and rejoice that we are found and know that as we do the angels are having a party on our behalf.
What was amazing to me about that story is that Jesus could have condemned those folks as lost, but he chose instead to tell them how to be found. Is that your story too? Let us know we'd love to hear about it, and I don't think He ever gets tired of hearing us telling about it.
It looked like the deal of the century, $125 for a round trip ticket to Washington DC from ATL. As I boarded the plane my thoughts were about how good a decision this was on my part. Then...........
I found out the normally complimentary beverages were at least $2, the beautiful TV screen in front of me stopped showing ESPN and had a message that said insert card for further use as we took off. About half way through the flight the captain comes on the intercom and says, "Folks we are about to hit some mild turbulence so please remain seated". No problem for me, mild turbulence is minor compared to what has transpired in my life to this point, or so I thought.
Suddenly the plane starts rocking, it feels like the wind is turning the plane sideways, then we go into what feels like a dive and the stewardess next to me bends down to sit on the floor of the plane and grabs my arm to hold on. Women begin to scream mildly, I put my other arm over the stewardess and tell her with complete calm, "Everything is going to be okay". Meanwhile I am making peace in my heart with God and thinking, we are going down. She turns to the other passengers and says "He's got me" as if in the middle of all this a sense of peace takes place.
Since I am writing this you know we are safe, but this was the first plane ride that I took where the passengers all cheered when we landed. A number of passengers remarked to me how kind my actions were and yet they did not realize that inside I was thinking I am going to one funeral, let's not make it more. It goes without saying that I can't wait for the bargain flight home tonight.
All of this to say that in the often bumpy ride of life, we need to remember that "He has got us", not Glenn but Him. No question the ride will be bumpy but as I have spent most of my time in DC renewing relationships with my first family and see all the healing and forgiveness that we have within this group, I see that the thread of redemption has to be present for our lives to make sense.
At the end of each bumpy ride there is standing there a loving God with his arms wide open to hold us up, calm the turbulence and give us the wisdom to see what has just transpired and how we apply the lesson. Everything is going to be okay, really it is, he told us so.
My $125 bargain is nothing compared to the deal He gave me, a free flight to heaven. Only one thing Lord, can I make it back to ATL without such a bumpy ride?
When I booked the flight to attend the funeral of my former mother-in-law, I did not fully realize the impact of the trip would have on me. I wanted to go to support my ex-wife and older children simply because it was the right thing to do, but as I prepare to leave for Washington, DC tomorrow afternoon I thought I would share my thoughts.
In her mid 90's, Mary Callahan Schwartz was ready to join her husband in heaven, these were her words just before she left this earth. But in the years she was with us, she had a major impact on many lives and her six children. Mine was one that was influenced by her kindness, love and forgiveness. She reminded me of the actress Maureen O'Hara who played John Wayne's wife in one of those old Irish movies, she was strong, opinionated and not afraid to let you know how she felt. She will be truly missed.
Her beautiful daughter, Teresa and I were married by 3 Catholic Priests (that's another story) and went on to have 3 children who are now very successful adults with families of their own. What will always be a thorn in my side is how my own alcoholic behavior tore that family apart and is something I will always regret. But when I came to the Lord, I realized there was a chance for redemption.
My feelings this moment are not about the disappointment and hurt, but about the forgiveness that has been given me by Teresa and my kids, which mirrors the forgiveness of our Lord. When my Mom died, we were all together again, and their support helped get me through. When Teresa and I met in my Mom's apartment to discuss what the kids would get, etc., she pointed out with precise memory what each memento meant, and where it came from.
In those moments since through various trials, we have remained there for each other, and as I think about this trip, which commemorates Mary's homecoming to heaven, it also is a homecoming for me. It is a chance to stand side by side with the people who I love most in this world whom I have also hurt the most.
The impact on me, as it may have on you, is that no matter how much hurt we have done God stands by us ready to forgive and have us move on to reconciliation. Though we never forget how we have behaved, today is more important than yesterday, and how we turn our lives around is a testament to the forgiving grace of Christ on the cross.
If we always live in yesterday, today will never mean as much. There was a song that said, "That was yesterday, but yesterday's gone." We can't have a homecoming without coming home, and as the father accepted the prodigal son back, it is important that we as human beings reflect this wonderful image of God.
As Teresa mourns through this loss, it is heartening to know we will see her Mom through her. And it must be a distinct thrill when God sees his image carried on through us.
The cycle of life pedals from up to down, side to side, sometimes without any prior notice. Just when we think we have it all going our way, the bottom falls out. We ask, where is God, why do I deserve this, why can't I change, and on and on the questions flow........but meanwhile, the walls keep tumbling down.
If I have learned anything from scripture and the same can be said of recovery, it is that through adversity we find out who we really are. And, we also find out who our true friends are and how strong our faith is. I am reminded of this by how many other folks I know are going through things this past week or two. The headlines of USA Today scream of prediction of walls tumbling, and yet there is a calm inside me knowing that the God we serve didn't bring you or me this far to let us down.
Yesterday morning I just let my Bible fall open (I know you do that too) and it fell open on Psalm 146, so I read that and through Psalm 150.
Here are some of the highlights that bring that calm to my soul, lifts me up, and I hope it does the same for you:
"Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down."
Are you feeling like your walls are tumbling down? "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds"
Do you need a word from your Lord to give you strength? "He has made his people strong, honoring his faithful ones - the people of Israel who are close to him"........."For the Lord delights in his people, he crowns the humble with victory. Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them, Let them sing for joy as they lie in their beds."
Maybe nothing in this present world, no medicine, no construction company, no drug or other human being can keep your walls from tumbling down at the moment. But I know who can build them right back up, who can lift you out of that sick bed, and who can restore your broken heart.
"Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord". He is the lifter of your soul!
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.