"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Step 6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step 7. Humbly asked him to do so.
We can certainly be ready for God to remove a defect of character, or a thorn from our side, but maybe God isn't ready to remove it yet. Maybe we need some more work on it, some more humility, some more revelations of how wrong we are or how much we need change. A few days ago God removed a thorn from my side by having me listen with a clear unobstructed mind. Not coincidentally, the day before I had a complete cave day of reading, scripture, prayer and football. (Okay maybe the football didn't help as much as the others).
And, more amazingly I was humble that day, looking at life like it would come to me and I would not try to orchestrate the movements of the day. I was like a gentle, humble and completely dumb sheep when God, through another person spoke to my heart. And what I heard set off a chain reaction of self-awareness that left me speechless. Then the next day, as if sending me a confirmation it was Him, I got another follow up wake up call.
You see (I am going to get vulnerable here to make a point) no one ever taught me how to be a husband and father, like many of you, there was no male role model present that guided me into the do's and dont's of a relationship. Of course TV was good to view, with its sitcoms about families and marriage, and there were friends with whole families that I could watch, but as I embarked on my journey into marriage, I failed, and I failed and I failed again. As one kind friend put it, what was the common denominator in those failure?, and of course it was me.
Then I came to the Lord and though my heart changed, and I became a much better person, and even after reading book after book, my relationship skills became a disaster. I could never totally figure out why, even with prayer and consultation from some of the best men I knew. It was certainly, as if, I had a thorn in my side that prevented me from seeing the truth. Meanwhile the ministries I became part of were thriving as long as I remained humble and persevered. So I thought, what's up Lord, why can't I see the light in this most important area?
Then I failed again, and this time I became as Step 6 states, "entirely ready to have God remove these defects.” But God's timing is not the same as ours, and it took almost 6 years to reach the point of removal (crossing my fingers here.)
You see, I had always looked at marriage or even any relationship with a female as an accessory to me. Maybe reading the story of God adding Eve to Adam skewed my thinking, or maybe all those years of being accused of being a MCP (if you don't know what that means please text or email me) made me think that a woman was there to be the supporting actress not the star. If you think that way, as I have, then you miss the completeness of what a woman is all about. Women could of course reverse this if they are also thinking this way, but let's focus on my defect of character, my thorn.
Some of you may have never experienced this as you have been taught what is right in a relationship, but again, I missed the boat on that. Now, that evening as I listened, I began to realize there is only a star in a relationship if you can help your mate to feel that way, as if you are making them the priority behind your love for the Lord. And, as he talks about, love them as your own bodies, as Christ loves the Church. And as he asks us to "shine like stars in the universe,” you can look across the table and tell whether you are making that significant person in your life feel like they are shining. Look at their demeanor.
We can take this even farther, because if we think we are being a servant, being humble, and treat others like they are our supporting cast, we are playing the wrong role as I have been in this particular area. Why can we get it right in so many other areas and fail in the most important one, in our own family?
I think I understand now, and God waited until I was ready to listen to remove that thorn. With His help I can heal and change my way of thinking. So now, I am sure I will become aware of another one, because that may be the only way He can keep me humble.
New Year, New Thorn, in some cases they can actually be removed after serving their intended purpose!
Happy New Year
This last trip to Florida for me was great, but in trying to get home for Christmas there were many obstacles to arrive safely. Timing, bad weather and just plain fatigue were contributors, and it seemed like it was an uphill battle. As I was driving up Alabama 65 though, things took a turn for the better. Passing several dead deer hit by passing motorists and many vehicles that had spun out in the driving rain, an old southern preacher came on the radio with a sermon I will not soon forget.
It was about how he and his wife had gotten kicked out of a Waffle House because of no one to serve them (the waitresses had either quit or called in sick), and how they had traveled about 3 miles away to another one where they were treated like royalty. Their waitress, a young girl in her late 20's was serving them and the preacher decided to ask her if she knew Jesus. She did, and proceeded to tell them the story of her life and how she had met the Lord after 7 years in prison.
Moved and happy to be enjoying one of his favorite breakfast spots, he felt the Lord nudging him to leave her a big tip. He remembered that $100 bill he had stashed in his wallet for a rainy day that not even his wife knew about. He felt the Lord urging him to give up that stash to the waitress, but he was severely resistant, wondering if that was God or just the devil playing with him. Like we might be, he was looking for excuses why not to give that $100, so he asked his wife, "Honey should we give that young lady a big tip?" (This is of course what we men do when faced with a decision we don't want to make, ask the woman to re-enforce us?).
Unfortunately she said "Yes" and now the preacher was beginning to sweat because he now knew it was the Lord asking him to give up something of great value to another human being he barely knew. As he reluctantly walked up to the counter to pay the bill, he reached out his hand with that $100 in it and shook the hand of the waitress, telling her the Lord told him to bless her. Now balling in tears, the waitress knew now she could afford Christmas presents for her children. The Lord had sent her a gift for Christmas, and she could go home to those kids with her faith re-affirmed.
The preacher of course received a severe reprimand from his wife from whom he had hidden that stash (in a loving way of course), but in the end he had realized why he had gotten kicked out of that other Waffle House. The Lord wanted that $100 to have a new home for Christmas, and he wanted to teach the preacher a lesson in priorities. You see, when things don't look so good to us, when it seems like we are mistreated, disrespected and denied what we want, that may be the exact moment God is ready to use us to bless someone else.
Sort of like, a certain young couple who were denied a place to stay, who ended up in a barn and delivered the most precious gift ever received to a world full of strangers who didn't deserve it. Jesus didn't have a real home for Christmas, only a temporary place to stay. Sort of like that $100 bill stashed in an obscure spot in a wallet, that became the topic of many future sermons for that preacher. And each time he told the story, someone would come up to him after the sermon and give him a $100 bill, which he in turn, would give away again to bless someone else.
It, as did our precious Lord and savior, became the gift that keeps on giving. This Christmas may he find a home in your heart as well, and though the trip to get there may have been filled with detours and trials, once you have received his gift you will always Be Home For Christmas!
Joy To The World, Glenn
Many times when I think of what to write in these blogs, you come to my mind, what can I write about you? And in 2014 I would ask that you send me some stories or better yet, take a turn at a weekly blog based on your own experiences. Because I find the easiest topic to write about is something I know about, my own personal experiences. So, if you have time and would like to share yours, we would love to have you take a turn or two. Kind of more of you, and less of me.
One personal situation that is most dear to my heart this holiday season is what I am thinking about when I drink coffee on the run from The Little Red Cup my oldest daughter and her children gave to me. I have to provide some background to help you understand. When Tara was very young, about 7, she had to experience the divorce of her Mom and Dad, mostly due to my own stupidity. Tara and I were very close, she was my darling little girl, but, I hurt her in a way that took years to recover from, and to this day has certainly left scars. Though I have asked and received forgiveness, my mind is always thinking back to how much pain I caused and how I wish things had been different.
So every time I look at that Little Red Cup, I think of that, and I vow never again to disappoint her or any of my kids or grandkids, or great grandkids, because of how deeply these things affect them. I certainly wasn't thinking at the time of how much pain it would cause her or the other kids, and I was totally selfish. As the years have passed and God has taught me about grace and love, I have come to be a much improved person, and a much better father. But looking at that Red Cup reminds me that I missed a part of her life I can never get back.
Watching her and her husband Mathew, I see what working on a marriage and love are all about. They have sacrificed much to support each other and their kids. They have also taught me so much about being a better man, and I am humbled to still be a part of her life. When she sent me that Little Red Cup, I did not realize how valuable it would be to me to understand all of this, but I take it as often as possible with me when I travel to remind me to stay connected to my family.
Maybe you too have shared a situation like this and have also a reminder to keep you humble. I believe the most important things we can get out of something like this is understanding grace that God has given us to heal, and the vow to keep our commitments even when it requires putting the needs of others in front of our own.
I heard a preacher once say about his transformation and relationship with the Lord that "He would ever increase, and I would ever decrease.” That remains my hope as well, that my children, my family and friends, would see more of God in me than Glenn. That's why that Little Red Cup is so important, to remind me.
May God bless your week, Glenn
It hit me this morning like a ton of bricks. Ever have an idea, a thought, a feeling that just came to you out of nowhere? How about one in particular God sends directly to you to confirm or deny your direction? This was my morning to get one.
I was reading "My Utmost For His Highest" and it tied together what I'd been thinking about this past week. Not much business, no travel, actually a small break in the middle of a wonderful period of success God has blessed me with. But, in the events that have happened, as I look back, without a doubt now, this is the week God wanted me to give Him. He promised something, and in His covenant he wanted me to keep my end of the deal with Him.
"I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9:13
In his passage this morning Oswald Chambers writes this: "Waiting for God to act is fleshly unbelief. It means that I have no faith in Him. I wait for Him to do something in me so that I may trust in that. But God won't do it, because that is not the basis of the God-Man relationship. Man must go beyond the physical body and feelings in his covenant with God, just as God goes beyond Himself in reaching out with His covenant to man."
So many days I have gone beyond my feelings to do meetings, reach out to others, always try to go the extra mile, but early this week I was just tired. So much travel. so many things going on, but all the while really receiving the promise of that rainbow. I even skipped the Monday meeting because someone else was doing it (as it turned out there were some breakthrough's and it was from all accounts, a great night.) Tuesday at two auctions I was shut out, Wednesday at two auctions I was shut out, this being highly unusual even though my list to buy is much shorter this week. I was a little frustrated to say the least.
No money earned but at each something happened that made me think something was about to happen. On Tuesday, God reminded me of a commitment I made that I had not kept yet, and I fulfilled it. On Wednesday, I had several conversations with others about the Lord, about ATB and then did the Step By Step meeting. The meeting was one of the best, and at the end a young man came up to talk to me about his life. He was from a different world, poverty, drugs, sex and violence related to gangs. He was trying to change, trying to fit in but he felt like an alien around the folks who came from a different culture. His is an almost impossible change, but then I spoke with him about the bridge that can close the gap between where he used to be and where he wants to go.
Ours was limited to only a short time as he was required to report somewhere else, but I felt the awesome presence of God, the reassurance that despite having a lousy work week, I was where I was supposed to be. There was no rhyme or reason why this young man spoke to me except that God had sent me there for him. Then some friends called that needed help and that came to an incredible God conclusion, so as I awoke Thursday, I wondered what was next.
As usual God showed up. I got a bunch of cars and invited down to the dealerships to straighten out some old inventory, so I could buy more cars (the rainbow in the cloud). Remember though, this didn't happen until God had my complete attention to do what he wanted me to do. I didn't wait, didn't sulk, I just knew he would have my back if I just gave Him what he needed of me. But this is not just about money and people, this is about keeping my end of the covenant with Him. Listen to Oswald's conclusion:
"When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of His covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement - no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of being bought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy."
He has said it all, thank God for The Rainbow In The Cloud to remind us!
Every now and then in lieu of a blog, we will just post a tribute to folks who just make us want to stand up and cheer for them. You know those people who are making a huge difference or overcoming tremendous obstacles. I will use first names only, and these folks may or may not be part of ATB, but they are a big part of the family of God.
This week there are several folks on my mind. First is Camille, a single parent who some months ago was without enough income to provide for her family, and somewhat confused about the direction her life was taking. Like many women faced with this situation, she had few options. What she chose to do was find a job that would still allow her to home school her kids, and to take some of that income to put herself through school for a better financial future. Her "man" became Jesus, and with faith and perseverance, she is
moving forward with her life instead of lamenting her plight.
Then there is Chan & Sheri, a couple who have made major differences in the lives of children they have taken under their wing and adults they have helped to get back on track in life. They connect particularly to Rob & Tosha, who had at one point to give up custody of their child to Chan & Sheri. What is unique about this situation is the way they took it upon themselves to help Rob & Tosha find themselves again. I am leaving out the private details, but they not only gave of themselves, but they got a whole church involved in helping. This holiday season, because they all worked together through the power of the Holy Spirit's leading, Rob & Tosha will have full custody again of their son.
These are not awesome stories that leave you breathless, these are just people who will not give up when things get tough, and they will not let adversity dominate their choices. Instead, they allow God to direct their paths into uncommon courage. Thank you Camille, Chan, Sheri, Rob and Tosha for your examples of how to be Heroes of Faith!
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.