You know the story. Year after year the resolution and plans are made to change things, to lose weight, get out of debt, save money, be nicer to other folks. Then, six months later we look up and nothing has changed. and we wonder why and where the time went?
Then, there are those victorious moments, when something is accomplished we planned, and sometimes much greater than that plan had planned for, and we look back and realized we asked, we prayed, we knocked, and God answered in a mighty way. Not us, it was Him. All we did was show up to execute the plan.
And, as we perused why the others failed, we did pray about some, we did ask and we did knock, but that door was not opened. The problem was we kept trying to bang that door down when another that God had shown to us was open, but we ignored it. We were too locked in on losing weight and God was trying to show us how to eat right, we were too concerned with our own success that we couldn't see what He wanted. Makes us understand our own humanity.
Some things did a whole lot better in 2019 that I could have ever imagined, but some went backwards, some at the cost of other plans succeeding. Looking back, I see where God showed me another opportunity in some situations, and I ignored it. We live and learn, but will we actually change our thought process, and even if we did, we must realize we will never be perfect, we must only resolve to make a new plan and pay attention to the life plan of He who knows how it needs to be done.
Solomon said, "Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given to him - for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart." Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
We can make all the plans we want, but unless they fall under his "lot" they don't mean much. In other words in all of our plans, we have to understand He has a gift to give us - we just have to accept it, and know how to use it after we unwrap it.
That is our "lot", that causes us to reflect on the whole lot he has given us instead of the lot that got away.
There it was this morning, the news we had lost another one to overdose. Her name was Autumn Miller, she was 31 years old, and she had passed through one of our partner programs about a year ago.
You would have never known by looking at her that she was a drug addict, she looked like someone with a plan, a dream, and a future, someone you would bet on to have a productive life. But as we know, addiction is cunning & baffling, it has no boundaries, makes absolutely no sense as to why we keep trying to destroy ourselves, and takes bad turns when we least expect it to, even when things seem to be going right.
At the end of our meetings we say "keep coming back- it works if we work it" and that phrase is the key. We can never stop working on our recovery just like an athlete cannot stop training if they want to succeed. In some form or fashion we must continue to work on destroying the big, bad wolf that chases us.
This week I did "Eat The Wolf" at some of our meetings. It was a spin on the story of The Three Little Pigs, with a conclusion that the smart little pig, the one with that brick house - he devised a plan to trap the wolf in a boiling pot, then when the wolf slid down that chimney trying to eat those little pigs, he fell into that pot and the smart pig slammed the lid shut on it. Then they cooked that wolf up and ate him for dinner.
We who are unable to fight that wolf off by ourselves need to turn our lives over to the chef who knows how to serve that wolf up for dinner. Read it in the story in Matthew 7 of The Wise & Foolish Builder - we put into practice what we read and hear about Him, stand on that rock that He is, and we can withstand any storm, any wolf.
On December 4, Autumn posted this on her Facebook page, and as I write this my eyes are tearing up. It was a re-post from someone else's post: "My relationship with God is my number one focus. I know that if I take care of that, God will take care of everything else."
I don't know what happened, but the Wolf got her. It truly is cunning & baffling. But I do know that all of us in this addiction recovery battle hurt for those who have been lost, and we will never stop ministering to those who want to be saved from the clutches of that big, bad Wolf.
RIP Autumn Miller!
Eleven years ago three young guys were looking for a way to improve the image of their Car Meet group (tricked up cars and Hot Rods), so they picked a way to go on a ride and donate toys to kids in need at the same time, thus Cruise For Kids was born. One of those young men was my now deceased son Paul who was 22 at the time, and a fledgling mechanic.
Over the years it reached a peak of 60 vehicles in procession to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a sometimes circuitous route but a much worthy cause to help children in need. Since his passing, it has gotten much smaller, but last Sunday, for the first time ever, I joined about 15 riders on that trip, along with my son-in-law (also one of the founders), my youngest daughter, and a couple of grandchildren on an often teary eyed trip in his remembrance.
It's funny how grief works; it seems to never stop. It does get better, happens less often, but it is always with us when we lose someone we love deeply. I often think of how God felt watching his son die, and even though we understand so little about the complete nature of God, he must have felt pain, he must have felt some anger about having to save mankind again, and again and again, and now offering the ultimate sacrifice. Somehow that comforts me.
For our family, as it may be for yours who have felt this loss, the holidays are not the same anymore. But in little things like finding ways to honor those we have lost, their presence remains in our spirit and propels us to celebrate the time we enjoyed their physical presence.
As my grandson Logan eloquently spoke at a Christmas service at Campus Church, without Christ in Christmas all you have is a mas (mess). Though the holidays are without Paul, it is in honoring him with the CFK, as it is in honoring the birth of Christ, that we feel just a little bit closer to our roots. Honoring the life, not the death.
Though Paul is not here on earth with us, the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1), comforts me and asks me to comfort others. That's what the CFK is about now, and to me, Christmas is now about the last few words of that scripture in verse 3:
"...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
This year remember the joy of life of those we have lost, comfort others with the gift of compassion, and live your life to the fullest with every moment you have - it is our gift from a God who understands us.
It was so much fun coming up with a new name for our recovery ministry when we upgraded back in 2009. I remember praying often that God would shed his light of wisdom on me, and then one day it came, Across The Bridge. It flowed like the river that would run under it, and it made sense that it had many meanings.
Certainly we can say it is a bridge from darkness to light, addiction to sobriety, death to life, lost to found, and many other analogies, but what the bridge is has only one meaning to us - Jesus - he is that bridge from nowhere to somewhere, from unsaved to saved, from the God of our understanding to the one we understand, and he is most definitely the crossing from all the things mentioned above.
But he is also that bridge that has connected ATB to the recovery community this past year in such an impactful way. Simply, we serve on his behalf with the excellence he gave us - he is not the Golden Gate Bridge, he is the Golden "Gated" Bridge! Everything he did is all about everything we are trying to do. Serve, accept, love and give with the absolute best we have to give.
People keep asking me to write a Strategic Plan, and if we weren't so busy growing, I would and maybe one day we will, but so far, that plan has been only to pass through his Golden Gated Bridge and take as many people as we can with us, and that seems to be very strategic to me.
We may be a Human Services Organization but in everything we do, we serve humans with His services. Come to one of our meetings at Campus Church or Life Church International or better yet join us on Friday night at our Community Worship service and experience that acceptance and love, and feel the power that fuels our growth.
Lots of folks are saying I am the glue that holds it all together, but I have news for them, my glue don't stick - but His does - and that powerful bridge in the middle of our name is held up by way more than glue!
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.