"When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am"
These words are from a Goo Goo Dolls song Iris in 1998. But they apply to one of the key reasons it is so important that we continue to give to the downtrodden, the outcasts, the marginal of society including sometimes hopeless addicts and alcoholics. They just want you to know who they are, despite everything being broken in their lives.
That is a major reason why ATB exists and so many others who are in a similar role as an organization - we understand what these folks need to begin a new journey that may change their lives. They need someone to talk to, they need some attention, they need a spark that lights the fire to come out of darkness. And once they understand the authenticity of why we give, many begin to listen to a message of hope.
They need someone to know their story, to know who they are, and now they need someone to point them in the right direction. Further in the song are these words. "Yeah you bleed just to know you're alive". So we give, and often it requires sacrifice and often we see no appreciation, but every now and then folks show it and it makes us realize that we were glad we bled, for their sake, it made us both feel alive. And, when they make it to a year clean, we rejoice and feel like if we only reach one in ten, it's worth it.
Someone else bled for us, but before he did he gave a gift of healing to 10 lepers, and only one came back to thank him. In fact, he was not only an outcast as a leper, he was a hated Samaritan. But I guarantee you Jesus was pumped, he felt alive in his purpose because he knew what knuckleheads we are, and he just converted someone who was in darkness.
Giving for sure is living, it is the purpose God intended for us to have as demonstrated by the greatest, Jesus. And even the greatest ignored the nine who seemed unappreciative, to go on for the one who was. This is a blog, but it could easily be a sermon.
I was that one, that's why I know, and now all I do is what he did for me in whatever manner he asks me to. That's why I really know I am truly alive!
It stuck in my mind like Gorilla glue, it would not go away. That song we used to sing in church that seems to be buried as somewhat irrelevant compared to today's new worship music. "Count Your Blessings" and those prophetic words, "count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done", they just keep on rolling through my spirit.
And then I think of Job, who despite all that came against him, remained faithful and full of blessings during the process of severe hardship. And I ask myself a question, one you may be asking too, am I honoring God in the same way he is blessing me? Am I thankful enough that I act the way he wants me to, and in the way that serves him best? And when things get extremely difficult can I still sing that song myself?
Hard questions to answer, but I know that I must admit to myself, I will never give or love like God can, but I can never forget what he has done, and despite my flaws and ridiculously skewed sense of logic, I must get back on the path of gratitude even if I take a short detour. God loves me anyway, which is definitely hard to grasp for someone who spent many years trying to destroy himself and others.
And then, that song plays again, and I realize that this amazing God we serve has delivered me from addiction, healed me from COVID, propped me up every time I tried to fall and has placed in my heart a desire to serve others like never before. Sometimes I ask why?
A good friend called me the other day and talked about how great she felt from helping someone else, getting outside of herself and her own problems. So I remarked that maybe she wasn't such a pain to me after all that she thought she was with all of her problems, maybe it was a blessing and honor for me to listen.
Maybe our greatest blessings are simply found in the moments of our greatest service to others, not in trying to repay God through our good behavior. Our commitment to him is not to be perfect, but to perfectly fit into his plans. Thus comes the blessings of joy in service to the ultimate joy giver.
There goes that song again!
It was an electric moment. The nurses came in and said that I had been released from ICU to go to a regular room. Joy filled my heart and as one of them who had talked to me quite a bit extended her arms to get out of that chair I was in, she said to me....
Do you want to dance?
Ever the one to not miss a special moment I took her in my arms and as feeble as I still felt, we took a few spins as the other nurses cheered. Certainly a highlight of my COVID trip to the hospital but to me it was part of a philosophy of life. Do you want to dance, or sit this one out?
Jesus asked that question in a slightly different form to his disciples, more of a statement: follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Yes, I know this is stretching the dance analogy, but he was in effect saying, do you want to make a difference, help change lives, or do you just want to exist as an ordinary fisherman? The dance is life itself and how we approach it, as living in a relative box, or coming out to really live.
As folks in addiction, we took this to the extreme, we danced way too much to the wrong kind of music. But now, as this incredible rash of one year plus sobriety chips continues, we find the Lord extending his arms to us saying, now you are on your way to healing and out of the woods, let me use you to really make an impact on others. Take a few new dance STEPS.
Think about it, a nurse asking a patient fresh off off COVID to dance is just like Jesus going to eat with tax collectors and notorious sinners. Reaching out to those in need by taking a dance spin, and taking a chance that instead of getting hurt in the process, you will bring the joy of healing to their life.
To the missionaries, the evangelists, the sponsors, the mentors, the sober living founders, those who put themselves at risk often to help others, let's dance to the rhythm of God's beautiful music of a full life.
And, take a little time to go fishing!
My partner since being released from the hospital with COVID has been an oxygen supply in various forms. I have a main control unit that stays on 24/7 which allows me to be fed by an extended tubing from about 50', or if I travel there is a 3 hour tank for use as I need that goes with me. It supplies 3% of what I need, a whole lot less than when admitted to the hospital.
As I remain under my doctor's order, plus what the lung specialist says, I should be able to discontinue the oxygen within 30 days. But for now I can go 60-90 minutes without it and still rate on a high level of supply. But I can feel a difference - very subtle, but I know when I have gone too long without it.
In a simple manner, receiving a supply of faith every day is just as easy to receive as any oxygen machine, yet difficult for so many of us who have no time for refreshing. It's there, read about it or listen to it, take it in in a meeting or service, faith runs 24/7 available always. All it takes for a boost is the time it takes to receive it.
Just before going into ICU, someone bought me a pulse oximeter, one of those things you attach to your finger to measure your oxygen and heart rate. Mine was so low then that I had to go in. And there are days that I realize without prior warning, that I have ignored hooking up to my faith meter components. Then I feel a subtle difference that I may be off course in my daily direction.
And without faith it is impossible to please God...... Hebrews 11:6
If I only have 50% of the faith I need, then I only give a halfway effort to the Lord. It is impossible to generate the other half from within myself because I am already down on supply. I need a hook up to that faith meter to re-supply my needs. And, I can never forget that because the people we serve need to see 100% of the faith God gives us, not 50% of Him and 50% of what I make up as a substitute.
Having this constant companion with me lately has reminded me of this, maybe He designed it that way. Whatever the case, truth is that this Oxygen machine will go soon, but I cannot ever stop breathing in the air of God's spirit daily, 24/7 to reach the level of faith he wants me to operate at.
It helps us to breathe life into others when we have a full supply!
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.