They fumbled and stumbled in the top of the 12th inning and basically gave away 3 runs to the Phillies. They were down 3 runs and all looked lost. But for the third time during the game the Braves came back and won in dramatic style, with major emotions spilling over in the celebration.
To put this into perspective, they have had an up and down year when many predicted a championship. A lot like us, people say we have major potential, but we just keep screwing up big time when it's all on the line. But the Braves not only made that comeback but went on to win 6-1 last night looking like the team we thought they were without the shortcomings. We don't know for sure, but it looks like The Turning Point.
A.A.'s 12 Steps & 12 Traditions quotes this on page 75 "A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven: "Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings."
Here's an example: the Apostle Paul thought he knew it all, had it all together and was willing to have others killed who opposed him. No humility, just pride in his religious standing. Then he was humbled and blinded by God's force, but because he loved God, he must have wanted to be humbled to understand what God wanted during his 3 days of being blind. He found out, his shortcomings were removed, and he went on to win many souls for Christ.
It's a bit of a stretch, 3 runs down, 3 days of being blind, but the results may be the same, a win, a Turning Point! Think about it, what was yours in whatever situation had you losing or blinded?
I am not saying the Braves had it, but Paul did, and you and I may have had it too - divine intervention!
I wish this blog would be about something else, but after the tragedy of the past week it will be instead about the lives that were lost and how we remember the fallen. I saw it in Viet Nam, I saw it in my family way too often and now we see Ashleigh, Rose, Normisha, Tina, Alishia and Kristie losing a life here on earth but alive in heaven.
First I ask you to consider they perished while trying to flourish. They were courageous enough to escape addiction and step into healing. The folks primarily responsible for housing them and nourishing them have been responsible for changing hundreds of lives and certainly these ladies were on their way. When others rejected them, even their own families in some cases, We Are Living Proof took them in and gave them a chance.
Just a week before this I wrote about two ladies helping a homeless man - one died, Ashleigh, the other escaped through burning fire but walks around shaken and searching for answers. Ashleigh urged me to baptize her, she couldn't wait, and truthfully I couldn't wait to do it, she was an absolute gem of a person.
Kristie sat me down and told me the horrific story of her past and the incredible pain she had to endure, and I again had the pleasure of baptizing her. Just the week before the accident she showed up in church beaming but asking for prayers for a back surgery she needed. She was a true woman of courage.
Tina came to church with us on Easter sitting just a chair away from me so I watched her praise the Lord in such a magnificent way, her booming voice shouting Hallelujah! She was a strong women of faith. Now she can do it with Him in person. Two of the ladies, Rose and Alishia I did not know very well but from what accounts I here of, they were equally special.
Finally, there is Normisha, or Normi as we affectionately called her for the two years we knew her. She was a blessing to so many others, spreading her joy and love - she too was baptized here at ATB. We often spoke of her struggles and her desire to become a leader. I would guess right about now she is leading a meeting in heaven and looking down at us concerned about our welfare. She will be truly missed.
We will remember them, we will mourn their loss, and we will never forget the struggle we face every day to win the battle over addiction. In so many ways these lives are a major loss, but in the most important ways, we helped them find a pathway to heaven.
Rest in peace ladies, and pray that so many of us who continue to struggle will join you one day!
The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me!" Matthew 25:40
Most folks know by now that we have begun our new program "Under The Bridge" designed to help homeless and helpless people. Just this week we helped two individuals maintain housing, and just yesterday we encountered two more homeless folks that we aided. To say God is opening a door for us is an understatement. We are planning a big event for June that will further open the door to this, but for now I want to talk about yesterday.
First of all I encountered a homeless man on the ramp leading to Hwy 20 near ATB. I gave him a few dollars and spoke to him about where the encampments were and how people would respond to our event. He told me where to place the flyers, where they were and then I unveiled to him some of what we plan to do and there was a definite excitement in his response. Many may give money but not too many also have a conversation.
Then, a few hours later two ladies who came to our meeting last night and had gone to get some food, ran back into our building into my office very disturbed about a homeless man they had found laying on the ground behind a dumpster near us and behind the convenience store on the corner. They grabbed some blankets and clothes, I gave them a few dollars to pass on, and they came back with a touching story about how he wrapped up in that blanket so thankful for the warmth.
Lots of folks may pause here and get upset that maybe both those men we encountered may spend the money on alcohol, etc. To us, and how it must look in God's eyes, we just helped two lost souls who would qualify as the least of these, which means we did it essentially for Him, not for how they use our kindness.
But there is a sidebar here. Helping one man opened another door to help another man, that is definitely how God works. And though the ladies knew nothing about me helping the other man, they know how we help every man & woman who comes to us at ATB. So they gave back.
That's how it works, from the top (God) to his believers, to the ones who become new believers, to the ones who may one day become believers. In fact one of the ladies was recently baptized at ATB.
I don't know about you, but I am jacked up to find just one more, and then another, and then another......
How do you look at people? Not just people you know, but those who you pass on a daily basis that may not look a lot like you. How we choose to do this is a great reflection of where our walk with Christ is.
I heard a great sermon today and in it the phrase "Looking at folks through God's eyes is looking through the lens of love." Our eyes? Often not so much like God's. We pre-judge, hold grudges, don't like those who do not agree with us, and will not stop to help those who look like they should be helping themselves. Many of us are still living in the Old Testament, which is named that because it is old but it is our background of faith for reference.
For example it is no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, it is love your enemies, and walk an extra mile with an adversary. It is love where it used to be hate, it is forgiveness when it used to be punishment, it is grace when it used to be stoning. Somehow we have not chosen to learn the new covenant we just like to live in the old because it is easier to point fingers, judge others and stay angry.
That is not how our vision is supposed to be. The lens of God's love has mercy on those who do not deserve mercy, it has encouragement for those who are discouraged, and healing for those who are addicted even by their own personal choices. If we were ALL not sinners, Christ would have no need to die for us, but he did, because we are all in need of forgiveness and restoration.
Next time you pass a homeless person and say why don't you get a job, send him or her to us, we know which lens to look at them through!
One thing people said always bugged me, "You have great potential". In your 20's that is a compliment, in your 50's it is a reminder that you have lived a mediocre life. Potential unfulfilled is mediocrity.
I read an article with this title that also mentioned the frog stuck in the pothole who finally jumped out when his life was threatened. It took that possible disaster to get him to go beyond an ability level he thought he ever had to act in a heroic manner. He leaped out of mediocrity into greatness.
There is also a book I read by Chuck Swindoll titled "Living Beyond The Level of Mediocrity". It reminds us that Jesus never called us to live an unfulfilled mediocre existence, in fact in the Book Of Philippians it instructs us as to what he might have us do. In Chapter 2 verse 15 it tells us to "Shine like stars in the universe" and it even tells us how to get there. Don't complain, don't argue, become blameless and pure and you will shine above others who are depraved and crooked.
If ever there was a generation where this is true, it is now. It is time for us who have "potential" to realize it and show others how to start shining. Think of it, look up in the sky tonight and see if you can spot a mediocre star?
Don't fall into the pothole of just existing, live and shine because others need to see that this faith we have means something.
Or, if you prefer, look to the life Jesus lived and let me know if you see mediocrity. He was a superstar that continues to shine above us and through us if we let him.
All is takes is one giant leap of faith out of potential and into fulfillment!
fThinking too much! It's a lot like worrying too much, it never solves the problem but usually makes things worse
and paralyzes us when we need to act. How that happens reflects what we believe.
For example, I don't need any more information to know Jesus came, was crucified, and rose again. I can read all the books, watch all the documentaries, hear all the arguments, but the fact is, I know my redeemer lives, because I have lived it out. C.S. Lewis speaks about it in the Screwtape Letters, the devil's goal is to get us confused so that we don't act our faith out. His demons operate as confusers, and paralyzers of faith.
Jesus recognized this in Mark 2 when he healed a paralytic and all the experts focused on who he was instead of what he did. Sorcerers and magic men may try to heal, but they can't heal like Jesus did, and he asked them this question - Why are you thinking these things? Is it not enough that he did the impossible, and why would he bother to heal such a lame ordinary person? To demonstrate who he was and why he came, question answered.
We can certainly think our way out of faith, out of recovery by questioning why methods that are proven work. In the Big Book of A.A. it says "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has followed our path". Yes we have a right to question things but why do we keep questioning to the point of not believing and not acting on the belief?
There's a simple answer - we don't want to let go of control of our lives, so we stay paralyzed in our own minds, thus the Paralysis of Analysis which usually keeps us in a non-focused state of mind. We become God but we are not. That's why Jesus said "Come to me like little children". No need to question it, just accept it.
The ups and downs of life may cause us to have that occasional question that asks "why God"? But where the rubber meets the road is still that he is God and I am not. Whatever question I may have was answered on the cross and in the tomb. He came, he died for me, he rose for my redemption. I am sober and alive because of him, now let's go get it, that which he created me for to do.
Empty tomb, appeared to many as a walking, talking dead man - what more do we need to know? That tells me he has all the answers I need to know.
What's your favorite Rocky movie? Most people I asked say IV where he fights the Russian Drago. I just like them all because it's all about being Down But Not Out! They are all about getting knocked around but getting up the strength to fight again.
Like Abe Lincoln. He was born in poverty, lost 8 elections before becoming President, twice failed in business, had a nervous breakdown, yet he led our nation through the greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis during the Civil War. What if he had lost that election and quit, where would we be now?
But, the greatest example of being DBNO is how Jesus went to the cross before his death and resurrection. All accounts speak of his torture but nothing depicts it better than the scourging scenes from Passion of The Christ. If you haven't seen it check it out on YouTube. God could have chosen something different, with much less pain to show us the way to redemption, but he did not. What this tells me, is that without pain, there is no gain in life.
Listening to Joyce Meyer the other day who suffered from childhood abuse, she mentioned that someone gave her a book on healing to read when she was younger which she promptly threw away because it brought up too much pain. That's how we tend to react when something is too painful to face, we escape the process. But if we do, the pain never goes away, in fact it causes us to inflict pain on others.
Maybe God was showing us that to get to redemption from our sins, addictions and pain, we only need to look at what Jesus went through to take heart, dig in to fight, and get to that bell in the last round? Think of how those punches in Rocky would have hurt if they were real. Do you think Abe was in pain after all that loss and having to face a divided warring nation?
It's simple, no pain, no gain. If we want to bounce back from adversity, we only have to look at the one who would not let pain hold him back from his purpose. In fact, if we have a purpose, we will fight through any pain to get where we need to go.
Fact, pain is weakness leaving the body. Don't hide, don't run, just keep punching, and though you may be down temporarily, you won't get knocked out if you find that purpose. Rocky's purpose, Adrianne of course. Abe's purpose, human rights, Jesus purpose, change the world.
Initiative: the action of taking the first step or move; responsibility for beginning or originating. Or you can take the second definition which I absolutely love: the characteristic of originating new ideas or methods; ability to think or act without being urged.
My one, simple but powerful goal in life remains this: go to heaven and take as many people as I can with me. It is stated boldly, it's message never changes, but how it is delivered always does. Through words that must be backed up by action to take root, or by Initiatives that may go where no one has gone before, this goal is being lived out daily by myself and ATB. We are truly an Initiative in progress.
When we were given an opportunity by a city in Gwinnett County to help with a homeless situation we were right there to help though we had no prior knowledge of how to do it. We pieced together partners and gave it our best shot but the men preferred to live in the woods. We learned something that we will unveil in a new program that will be introduced in April called "Homeless & Helpless", with a more targeted response to these situations.
When we presented an idea of having a Baptistry at ATB due to the generosity on one individual, and then another, some folks thought we had lost our mind. They forgot that no one baptized in the Bible was done so in a church, it was all in open water or other situations. Our Initiative has produced 28 new souls in roughly 45 days, most of which would not feel comfortable being baptized in a traditional church, but at ATB they found a home.
My point, don't be afraid to live your dreams, go where others have not attempted to be. Look at Jesus for inspiration, he went everywhere where no one else bothered to be, with folks no one wanted to be with.
He never tooted his own horn, and we aren't tooting ours, we are just doing what he did! But it takes Initiative without him always asking us to do so, it's in the blood he shed for us that is in our DNA!
In John Chapter 5 Jesus comes upon a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years. He asked him a simple question, "Do you want to get well?"
In the world of addiction that simple question is the key to recovery. If the answer is yes, we have the resources and skills to get you there if you are willing to endure the journey. But many of us are like this man who made an excuse why he hadn't gotten well before. His answer to Jesus question was not a resounding yes but this:
"Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in someone else goes down ahead of me." (note: when the water of the pool was stirred it supposedly had healing powers)
Excuses, we have a ton of them, it's called denial. Why don't you go to detox - I can do it on my own. Why don't you get someone to move you closer to the pool so you can get in quickly? Why? I believe the main reason why is we get so comfortable in a bad situation that we wallow in it, lamenting why everyone is against us and why no one understands me. It's classic from this story 2000 years ago until this very day. We are way too comfortable in misery.
Jesus then tells him to Get Up, which he did. Pick up that mat or in today's jargon Get Right and walk or simply Get Going! Then later he gave him a warning, that same warning we give to those who are thinking about a relapse, "stop sinning or something worse might happen to you". Or, stop using or you may die.
For the rest of this message you will have to come to Real Talk Recovery next Wednesday March 17th at 7:30 PM or be a male resident of Good Landing Recovery on the following morning, but here is the wrap-up:
God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, but he won't do for us what we can do ourselves. Think about that and then regardless of what trials you are facing, Get Up, Get Right, Get Going!
I love the phrases used in A.A. that say we are a "work in progress" and that we strive for "progress not perfection". The reason why is simple, humility. Only by being humble can we overcome the powerful forces that powered our addictions and our sins. Check out the quote in the book of James: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
No doubt that a life moved from darkness to light is continually under construction. I have seen and heard so many stories of life transformation and how it occurred that my own personal faith has continually been bolstered to know God is still in the miracle working business. Grace has abounded where punishment was deserved, and the more we understand that concept the more forgiven and understanding we feel.
But yet, we are still capable of bad decisions, horrible relationship skills, irresponsible financial choices and what we refer to as "stinking thinking". On both sides of this, the doers and the observers, need to understand these key words, under construction, humility and grace that need to be put into practice and remembered the way the Lord has taught us to do.
If God opposes the proud, then he is not happy with those who constantly point out what others are doing wrong (Luke 18:9-14) and also is not pleased with those who remain in denial that they are lost in sin or addiction. It takes humility to live it and grace to understand it, both not automatic for us as human beings.
That is why we who are more wrong and those who are more right need to both realize we are all under construction. Not just me, but also you. The day we arrive in heaven we will be roaming around with a whole bunch of recovering sinners, and we will all be perfected then..
Until then, let's strive for progress not perfection, and give each other a little space to grow.
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.