Yesterday was a full disclosure day for me. I got some news I wasn't expecting that temporarily threw me off. Things have been going very well, so well that I was floating on a cloud, but yesterday the cloud burst, storms and thunder came as they always eventually do.
If you are wondering, no this is not about my health, finances, relationships or the health of ATB. It will remain personal but I would rather talk about how I worked through it. Stunned, disappointed, a little angry and immediately reflecting on what I could have done may be familiar to you as you may have felt exactly as I did. These are all natural feelings, but then the supernatural kicked in.
Just because things don't happen like we want or others don't become what we expect them to be, doesn't give us the right to play God and judge the situation or the person. Instead we look down on it as God would do from above and think as he may be thinking. What was he thinking, what would he do in this situation?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
That means something obvious to us, he loves us enough to die for us even when we were or are at our most dysfunctional. In my case my life has been dysfunction junction and the hurt level of those who I steamrolled over has been great. So, the not so obvious is how does that scripture makes us look at life?
With forgiveness, with compassion, with understanding just how much we have been loved and forgiven ourselves before we determine how we respond to adversity of any kind. Point the finger at me before I point at others, or my circumstances. Doesn't stop us from getting stunned or somewhat angry, just takes us in a supernatural direction instead of our natural response.
Just something to think about, how we can Expect The Unexpected without getting misdirected from the path God has set us upon. Stay focused, He will calm that storm, most likely without our help.
I had read the chapter many times, the story of the Apostle Paul's conversion in Acts 9. Many points had been made in sermons and meetings about the parallel from his transition from unbelief to belief and how it mirrored addiction recovery. What I had missed though was the significance of verse 26.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
And the words from Monday nights meeting came back to mind as one spoke of the man receiving his one year chip, "When I saw him I never thought he would make it". He was referring to his cocky know it all attitude, much like Paul's arrogance about his faith in God and his Jewish roots rather than belief in Jesus. Paul was ignorant about who Jesus really was much like we are unaware of what it takes to recover at first.
We are afraid, like the disciples, to be around someone who so quickly changes direction. Time proves whether change takes root, unless of course it involves the Lord. After this man received his one year chip there is still doubt, but not in his mind because he is working in a detox facility to help others, he is giving back in the same arena in which he failed before. His faith leads him to understanding what it takes to succeed.
After a few days, Paul got up and preached, and he did so boldly even though he had doubters. In fact some tried to kill him. But the church grew, it enjoyed a time of peace as well as growth and Paul's incredible influence grew. He told his story until people began to believe in the one who changed his life. He got back in the same arena in which he failed before, this time he got it right.
It is important to note here for those in recovery that at first, your friends, family and known associates may express disbelief in your change, but we must press on boldly, yet humbly led by God's Holy Spirit and eventually others will start to believe that we have made a real change. Don't let the feelings of others stop your faith and confidence in your walk from growing.
Speaking of that time of growth in the church, these are the words in verse 31: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
We must remember if we speak in faith, if we know we are headed in God's direction, we may be moving our mouth's, but it's Him doing the talking.
That's what makes the difference between Truth Or Dare!
I have been blessed to have three sons, and they are all a true light to my life and to others, including my youngest Paul, who looks down upon us now from heaven. In each one of them is a light that helps others, and I am sure it began from the light my own mother shined upon me.
In one of the last cards she wrote me the pre-printed caption reads as follows: Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others can't keep it from themselves. In a way some could look at this as why shine the light on yourself when it should be on others. Some would also say it is the blessing for being a blessing.
Great leaders stand out. People notice them and look to them for guidance and answers. If they reflect truth and provide solutions folks tend to shine the light back on them by re-electing, contributing or joining them on whatever journey they are on. Consequently time judges the quality of their efforts and history documents it.
In the book of John, these two verses do so for Jesus. Through him all things were made: without him nothing was been made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Simply, he is everything, he is Son Light, he is truth, and the light has reflected back on him because of it to show us how to navigate the darkness of life's challenges, as a true leader does. If we are to lead, we must lead like him though we are not him, and if we do, we do not need to shine our own light in the face of others, we just need to reflect his light.
And then, not only does he light the way, but his light falls upon us in such a way that others want to know how we got so illuminated. Simple answer.
The last two years have left us all a little worn out. Things have changed dramatically to our lifestyle and to our contact with others. It has been a challenge but true to the American spirit, we have adapted.
While my personal health has taken a bit of a hit due to the severe COVID that took me out for a month in 2020, the health and well being of ATB has never been better. I have backup in two beautiful souls in Joel & Jen, we have been blessed by generous donors and grants. Some of the long haul affects of having COVID linger but God has truly blessed me with incredible people and family during 2021 and I am immensely thankful.
Now we embark on a New Year filled with much promise but also the sense to navigate through the continued troubled waters of public health concerns. We will strive to make a safe environment for our people but also remain on the front line of recovery which means, as always, that we have to take some risks. We have new ideas, new programs and a whole lot of love to share in 2022, so we invite you to join us in this amazing adventure.
As we leave 2021, we have touched the lives of 25,338 people in 530 plus meetings and handed out over 2100 recovery chips. We have Baptized 52 people, given out 40 one year plus medallions, awarded 8 -$1000 Scholarships to families affected by overdose, held 6 Under The Bridge events, and assisted 100 plus homeless people, We have distributed hundreds of food items and meals and given out over 10,000 articles of clothing. It has been a year where many were blessed through ATB, as we ourselves were blessed.
To put a bow on it, we go to the words that guide us so magnificently as we go forward from the book of Joshua: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Move over COVID, let's go into 2022 ready to rumble!
This is a blog about two special people. One was homeless about a half mile from us at ATB, the other we found wandering in a meth induced psychosis in Lawrenceville just a couple miles away from us. You may not be running into folks like this but this is happily the norm for us.
We will call the homeless person Fred to protect his anonymity. I ran into him several times on the ramp on 316, and later in a ride-a-along with the Lawrenceville PD in the woods. He came to some of our meetings, came to church on Sunday and we fed him on Thanksgiving. He told me his story but never acted like a victim, just got gut level honest about his situation and his addiction. We got him into sober living and out of the woods - for two weeks now.
The second wanderer, let's call her Mary, was in and out of mental health/addiction centers for the last couple months. It seemed hopeless. While the police officer (same one from Fred's situation) who I was with when we tried to help her was in my office I received a call from her that sounded like a completely different person. Imagine that timing, it was certainly a God moment. Tonight she is picking up her 30 day clean and sober chip, and she has re-united with her family..
Obviously these two have something in common, but there are some things beyond what seems to be which is a key. Neither played a victim, when offered help they eventually accepted it. Neither one asked us for anything monetarily they just wanted healing, and they can't stop thanking us for helping. In fact, they just wanted someone to see them as relevant.
In John 5, Jesus tells a story of a man crippled for 38 years, of whom he asked a simple question, Do you want to get well? At first he played the victim, but Jesus helped him anyway. He was Homeless & Helpless and Jesus gave him what he needed, healing. So were Fred & Mary, only their story required us to represent Jesus, just like that bracelet says, W.W. J. D., in the way that he works through his followers.
So we just asked those questions and responded. It's also good to have one of Lawrenceville's finest with you when you do because they kind of have the same mindset, to protect and serve.
It's utterly amazing how simple it is to understand the mission Jesus sent us on: to go to heaven and take as many people as we can with us. Especially the Homeless & Helpless!
I remember....Elan's, The Limelight, Disco Nights, dancing and thinking I was moving like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I was moving, grooving, twirling whoever dared dance with the self proclaimed king of disco. I also remember that most of it was a fantasy.
Most of it was an alcohol or drug induced high followed by a next morning of pain, nausea, and frequent trips to find a place to throw up. Then there were the memories of what happened the night before if I could even remember. Sure we romance the stoned days, but we remember the pain we inflicted to ourselves and others in that delusional process. It was Disco Insanity!
Get down boogie oogie oogie was replaced by I'm broke, I'm sick and I'm a mess. It seemed so harmless too, but of course so does just a little bit of sin. We say in the 12 Step programs that just a little bit of something bad (another different drug) will lead you back to what takes you down, we can't romance it for too long or it comes back to bite you.
Thus the definition of insanity: repeating the same actions expecting different results. Wow, that must be why Jesus told this parable:
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. Gal 5:7-9
Not going back to the Disco Insanity nor that addiction that cut in on my way to a better life. It's fun to listen to some of that old music and envision that I could dance at one time, but my dancing right now is limited to dancing for joy in the Lord (that I can do)!
As for the yeast, representing the evil that was present in my life that dominated my actions, well that was yeasterday and yesterday is gone!
Back in 2009 God put a desire on my heart to expand our former recovery efforts. At the time we had one meeting and a little class on Sundays. Campus Church in Norcross was fully behind our efforts, but we had to find a name for it.
So I asked about a dozen people to pray for wisdom and a name that had impact. After awhile God spoke to my heart again, saying he did not care what the name ended up being just make sure the cross was in it. Thus the name Across The Bridge came to be and through it flows a myriad of meanings. sermons and a change of life.
We connect folks to each other and God Across That Bridge bringing them out of darkness and into the light. We connect all the recovery places to us and to others, and we provide a complete menu of every kind of meeting imaginable so that we see folks multiple times during the week. We are not only a bridge to hope but also that bridge to a relationship with Christ.
Last month 2351 people interacted with us through 47 meetings - 8 people picked up one year or multiple recovery medallions. To date we have baptized 50 beautiful souls this year and added wonderful partnerships that have expanded what we can provide. That's a far cry from 15-20 people a week prior to that change and us going out on our own as a non-profit. There's a reason why that is.
It is so simple when others are trying to make it so complex. If the cross is in what you do, if God speaks his words to us through his Holy Spirit in that endeavor, then it is blessed in enormous ways. Doesn't mean we are perfect, doesn't mean we listen always, but it does mean that in all adversity and prosperity we look to that cross for the answers whatever God has for us.
Going Across That Bridge means standing on the promises of God more than your Strategic Plan, because when he tells us to pivot we cannot be locked into our own plans and will, it must follow his. Some business folk have a problem with this but what I have found in these last three years of growth is that God doesn't because as it says in Step 11:
Praying only for the knowledge of his will, and the power to carry it out. Working pretty good so far, I think we will let Him decide what's next!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7
This day before Thanksgiving are you doing a lot of leaping or much weeping? The holidays can be depressing, thoughts of loved ones prevail that we have lost, or maybe life has taken a downward spiral for us and we think of all the things someone else has compared to our zero possessions. What will the kids say when I don't have enough to give them presents?
I was there two years ago and most folks did not know it. Thinking of my son Paul; who was killed in a motorcycle accident, pretty much broke from giving all I had to ATB, very few solid friendships, just a proverbial pity party broke out in my mind. But as always, God pulled me out of it and maybe I could write a book of Psalms that would rival David's writings.
Here's how I would start it: Praise your way out of grief, out of debt, out of trouble and into a mindset of thanksgiving. Praise God that whatever we have left will be enough to sustain us until He provides more. Sounds too simple right? I understand the pain one can feel now but trust me, so does He. Ask Jesus about it.
Once the praise and thanksgiving begins to set in there were will be much leaping for joy, and possibly some heavy dancing. When God multiplies something from our nothing it becomes a powerful gift we pass on to others. It reminds us of Thanksgiving day tomorrow, only there are more than one or two days set aside to be thankful, it becomes a lifetime of thankfulness.
He also becomes a full time helper, a constant shield of protection from the next potential catastrophe, and someone in whom we can trust to speak to of our sadness and fears. We write our own Psalm for the next generation to see, that yes, God is still here within us, and he is still working through us.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving of thanksgiving!
Don Henley's song is a classic message of forgiveness and how it affects the soul, If you have time go to Youtube or google Heart Of The Matter and take a listen. The classic line is "But I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness, even if you don't love me anymore".
How many times have we hurt someone, or been hurt ourselves? Crushing experiences are the worst, and I can truly say I was on the distributing side of many hurts to my family and friends. This compelling line comes from the Life Recovery Bible: Few things can make us feel crazier than expecting something from someone who has nothing to give.
In my addiction I was a rolling hurt locker, rolling over everyone to selfishly have my own needs met. I had nothing to give and took everything. Especially my first family of a wife and three kids that I hurt badly. In succeeding years the pain I felt was enormous until I met the grace of God and understood that other resentments I had in my life in other areas propelled my addiction and self-seeking.
Don Henley said "You better put it all behind you, baby, 'cause life goes on. You keep carrying on that anger, it'll eat you up inside, baby". Jesus said "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father, also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses".
The war ate me up inside, my childhood ate me up inside, the rejection by a careless mother of my girlfriend ate me up inside, an earthly father who left us ate me up inside. But then I encountered Jesus experiencing his healing and forgiving powers, and gradually all those resentments and anger fell away, clearing me to forgive myself, to forgive others, and ask for forgiveness from those I hurt.
And now, as another scripture says that once we forgive, "there is nothing in them to make them stumble'. The way is clear, the path is paved through the cross of forgiveness, and the time is now to live and love. Henley says "There are people in your life who have come and gone, they let you down, they hurt your pride".
I know this Don, they have, and I have too, but that Jesus, he has never let me down, he has only lifted me up from an unhappy eaten up with anger life to one of great joy! That's the real Heart Of The Matter!
It happened! The Braves gave us a World Championship to begin November, and last week we kicked off our Month of Giving at ATB with a whole bunch of clothing donations. Not the same as a World Series win, but to those who needed those clothes to work, survive and just feel better about how they look, it became their championship.
This week we ask for toiletries, next week non-perishable food items that we can pair with our box giveaways for Thanksgiving. Then we ask during Thanksgiving week for toys for the children of those we serve and books for both children and adults. All of this will help us continue to better serve those we wish to be restored to sobriety, health and to their families. Each week we have a raffle for the givers for a gift card or haircut/style.
This idea which was originated by our Jen (my nickname for her is Jensational because of her incredibly tender heart), and comes form all of us who are just following what the lord has asked us to do:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 7-8
We are all about abounding with grace in the good works that help others and ask you to join us in this wonderful spirit of November giving. If you cannot donate the things we ask for, you can donate money to purchase them on our website (acrosthebridgeinc.com), or by donating at one of our meetings, or by mailing us a check at 900 Cripple Creek Drive Suite A, Lawrenceville Ga 30043.
As we cheerfully give and approach the holidays there is much to be thankful for, including those amazing Braves. They taught us to never give up despite the odds and to use all the parts of an organization to accomplish an incredible goal. Ours simply, is to deliver a championship caliber month to those less fortunate than ourselves.
Not reluctantly, not under compulsion but because God made us cheerful champion givers through the salvation gift of His son!
* Across The Bridge Inc is a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit - all contributions are fully tax deductible!
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.