It is very simple to understand. Ten months ago our ministry consisted of about 15-20 tried and true folks, people who had been on the front line of addiction recovery, some dealing with their own, others helping those get through it. These were the bricks that laid the foundation of who we are.
Now, we are regularly about 3-4 times that size and growing daily and when people ask me why there is one word to describe it, food. Every time a group meets there is eatable food and "edible" food. The real food and the mental banquet that comes from God. We feed the stomach and we feed the soul and that pretty much sums up how we have grown.
In the recovery communities we work with, a real meal is rare. Not much money for food, they may catch a meal here and there but they know when they come to ATB they will eat. And, they will take home a takeout plate of spiritual guidance that will offer hope and encouragement as they struggle to stay clean and sober.
We offer much more than Food For Thought as we go out into these communities as well with meetings, Celebrations and individual studies all geared toward feeding them. Jesus fed the multitude but he also said "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God". Everything we do sometimes conventional, often unconventional is geared toward food.
Last week I did 6 meetings and by Friday I was literally exhausted, but I was very happy. And I realized that having watched some of these original bricks of ATB serve others with their massive cooking, servant hearts and love, that this is working, this is what God intended for us to do, feed his sheep. We try to complicate things in our own way of creatively serving but it all boils down to food.
Last night, one of our own, David who is a chef spent 6 hours cooking for what we thought would be a holiday turnout of 40 maybe 50 people. During that time two of our singers got sick, the 15 passenger van broke down of those who were coming and our elevator broke that would transport the food upstairs.
No problem, more than 65 people showed, most of the food ran out, but we fed the sheep and we fed the soul, everyone got a ride home and when it was all said and done, Santa's message was about the real meaning of Christmas, which when you break it all down, is about food.
God sent food down from heaven to give us Food For Thought! Pretty simple, that's how we roll.
He Can Fix It
At about 11 PM the other night one of the guys in a recovery program sent me the video to the song "Jesus Will Fix It" as sung by Lee Williams.
To say that it lit me up would be an understatement. I could not sleep for awhile as I listened to this song many times before fading away in total confidence and peace.
So tonight at the ATB/SLR meeting and tomorrow at the SBS Celebration this will be my topic. And it fits in perfectly with this time of year when God did fix the problem here on earth by reconciling mankind to him. Problem is we keep breaking it again and again by trying to fix things ourselves and then realizing in total frustration, we cannot.
We come to a crossroads where we look and see trouble on our left, more trouble on our right, a mountain pile of problems in front of us, and we realize we can't go back because it is even worse back there. Almost out of force, we have to look up for answers and ask the question, God, can you fix it?
Sometimes the answer comes slowly because we have not consulted Him in quite awhile. And when he does answer, he answers sometimes with a question, "Can I fix it"? For sure, but we have to lay down our drugs, our bottles, our needles, our compulsions and our dysfunctions at the foot of the cross where it was all fixed in the first place. We surrender our problems to the master fixer.
It may sound too simple to refer to God this way, but when you have a leak you call a plumber, when you have termites you call pest control, when your tooth is buckling you over in pain you call a dentist. All experts in their field, but there is only one expert at changing the heart of a man or woman going wrong, and he was born on Christmas day, He is our greatest gift and our only permanent repair.
Merry Christmas to all and thank you for supporting and being a part of ATB!
"....we think that if we can just get enough food, enough sex, or enough money, we'll be satisfied and everything will be alright". Basic Text P 77
We might add to that the phrase "when we get enough success," so let's start there this week. As long as things are going well, we feel like Superman or woman. Once dramatic changes happen to us, whether through addiction or just real life, we find out how full our spiritual tank really is. Lately, I have been on a personal good roll, until that is, the last month or so.
The cushion of my part time jobs went away through no fault of my own, and my personal life began to unravel in certain areas through a definite fault of my own. Either way, I found myself a little staggered sitting in a Publix parking lot just before an 11 AM recovery meeting. I felt emptied out, seeking God's divine wisdom for direction and purpose. I really did not want to do the meeting which is definitely not like me.
Then an old man passed in front of me walking at an extremely slow pace pushing a grocery cart with no one around to help him. Obviously in pain, I could feel his loneliness. Then another man passed by looking very down and out, and I could sense his disappointment of life. As I came to the meeting, a woman took me aside and asked if I would pray with her about people coming against her with jealousy and anger, and I could feel her hurt.
Once the meeting started, the answers to my lead question "When is enough enough?" prompted responses from a double overdose, to near death, to being shot at but the chamber jammed, to being passed out in a parking lot with an alcoholic black out only to wake up miraculously in an emergency room, to other similar stories that caused me to feel the compassion in that room over and over again.
Then I knew God had shown up to fill my spiritual emptiness in a very big way, showing me exactly where I belonged. And he had given me that topic not just for them, but surely for me. I wasn't using, but I was feeling that failure, and I was in need of comfort and reassurance. We have our good days and bad days, but in all days we turn to our creator and ask, what do you want me to do? When he answers, the living water he speaks of in John 4, fills completely our thirst, and reminds us we have been drinking the wrong water.
In that Basic Text, Just For Today, it goes on to say, "The world of addiction is a world of taking and being taken; the world of recovery is a world of giving and being given." The woman at the well that day wanted to take home enough of that well water so she would never have to come back to draw more.
Jesus wanted to give her the kind of water that would fill her emptiness in life, despite her failures so she would have enough that would be more than enough!
There I was in a very small Chinese restaurant after a brief workout watching a TV program, naturally in Chinese, and I became enthralled with the scenery and talent on display. It was their equivalent of America's Got Talent or The Voice, but the colors, displays and way they filmed it was amazing. Didn't understand a word, and it was thoroughly entertaining, but just a little weird.
It was a perfect example to me of The Kaleidoscope of people that populate this world we live in. And it was the perfect example of how someone who has not been an addict or been involved with an addict may view this world of recovery we deal with at ATB. Strange, can't understand it, and definitely unusual. We call it cunning and baffling in the program.
But there is a draw to it that Jesus saw back in his day, that these are people who need his help. These are sons and daughters who have lost something somewhere, who usually have great talent and skill, but have yet to reach their potential. Of course, I know, because I have been there, but to some today, as the Pharisees were back then, it may seem very strange and very weird.
At every possible opportunity, the Lord sought to make the point that he came to save the lost. So who in today's modern world is doing that? Are we in the religious community really focused on doing that, or are we leaving that to someone else? Do these kinds of folks fit into The Kaleidoscope of our colors, or do we just see them as folks whom we don't understand a word they say?
What I have found is that we are all made to fit into a ministry whether large or small, and God calls us to do it according to our own talent and understanding level. We should never be critical or not understand why each of us does what we do. We should understand that in God's awesome kingdom there is a Kaleidoscope of way different people who do way different things.
Let's just applaud each other, get on a path to heaven, and take as many unusual people with us that we can on that journey!
It was easy for Jesus to see; he was looking through the very eyes of God. One after another the addicts of his time came forward. Money, Sex, Power, Co-Dependents, Alcoholics, Religious addicts and Sinners of all types made their way to him. They saw something he had that was more valuable than what they were doing.
Fast forward to today. Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit, but to some of those same lost folks he remains unseen because his miracle working, love preaching self is in heaven and not walking among us. He works through us, but to those lost people we may not look a whole lot like someone who can change their mind.
Unless, of course, we have been there where they are at and have seen the light. But we have limitations that prevent us from being God or making an instant change to demonstrate the power of God. We have instead a Bible, a Big Book and 12 Steps as well as our experience, strength, and hope.
Then comes the man of God last night with his 11 trips to rehab, 4 DUI's, several relapses even after he was saved and suddenly it is as if Jesus is speaking to the multitude and is empowered by the Spirit of God to penetrate hearts that have grown very cold to modern day religion. They heard, they responded, they came to me asking for more, and they left, some crying in shame, but most just changed from what they had just heard.
They heard the truth, and we know that the truth can and will set you free, not the traditions, not the songs, but the truth. The truth he spoke is that God has a destiny for each of us and we spend most of our lives running away from it. David did, and his enemy was not drugs or alcohol but the very barbaric people whom he had just defeated. He ran to them to hide from what God wanted him to be.
We addicts, we run, we hide, but the very truth is, as he spoke last night, wherever you go, there you are. Until we surrender to the will of God we are just running around like a chicken with our head cut off. But God, he has something special for you, for me, and for our children.
Through The Lens Of Addiction we look like losers, but to our Creator, he has something way more valuable to give to us, the moment we stop running away from him.
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.