I sat in my office in early December pondering the usual lament of lack of year end donations that was a repeat of 2019. As a non-profit, you always remain on edge in a start-up mode (two years now), and unless you are relentless about fund raising these dips just happen.
Well, I am not relentless about that, but I do it out of necessity. What I am relentless about is praying, planning as the Lord leads us, and believing that what we do is what He wants us to do. Therefore, I put my trust in Him to provide and in His people to provide it. So far so good!
The grant providers all want numbers, which I am happy to give them, but their numbers center around specific programs and time of service, which we are just now entering into that zone in our third year. But, there are individuals with uncommon hearts to give that have sustained our journey. And recently, as in the past 30 days they have blessed us with wonderful gifts. They wish to remain anonymous but what they are is not.
What they all have in common is that they love to give, they believe in what we do and they have a spirit of kindness that leaves you speechless when they give. Their confidence in us propels us to reach higher, go farther and it is not a coincidence that in these last two weeks our numbers have soared. One gift of kindness spurs another and then another, and like domino's falling it just continues to perpetuate on and on.
To you who have that uncommon heart, we thank you and we will do our absolute best to make you proud that you believed in us. And to the God we serve that directed this generosity toward us, we will become less of us and more like you each day we spread this message of hope.
It's all about showing them who you are, that's why it is all working!
The clock magically ticks toward midnight and then all of a sudden, it's a brand New Year! New chances, new ideas, new friends, and a clean slate before we make the first mistake, or solve the first problem. It's a new opportunity and it's your time!
That's right, 2021 is your time to make amends, trust more in the Lord, go skydiving, skiing or just be a whole lot better person. Whatever gets you out of your comfort zone, brings joy to your heart and makes you feel alive, its time to do it. Love more, live more, not be afraid, and tell others good news as often as possible.
If this sounds like a motivational blog it is! You have survived a pandemic of medical proportions, an election of dysfunctional proportions and a year that changed the way we think for sure. But the one thing it did, is point out to us how valuable the time we have on earth is. God has given us a gift of life and we are meant to live it, so this year, some now and some later when the smoke clears, let's live with passion and purpose and make a difference.
In Ephesians 5 we are implored to "make the most of every opportunity", in Acts 20 Paul speaks about how he has only one task, and that is to "testify to the good news of God's grace". If we are down and out about quarantine's and pandemics, how is that any different than persecutions and being in prison? We are free, we can spread the word, even if it is in a Zoom call. It's not Zoom and gloom!
It's Your Time, it's my time, to step up in 2021 and show somebody hope and encouragement, and show them why we have such joy in our faith. We are survivors, we need to be thrivers, and prove that nothing can stop us from helping this world to be a better place to live in.
Yes, feel free to sing Kumbaya, but more importantly, go make it your time!
There are many ways to look at something, such as the glass is half empty or it is half full. Or, I made a dumb mistake and I am just a complete wreck or, okay I made a dumb mistake but I need to forgive myself and move on. Or, God doesn't love me, but God so loved the world......
Perspective is a product of what is inside of us, do we feel good about ourselves and our relationship with God, or are we constantly beating ourselves up, feeling lost and Godless. There are so many examples I could use, but let's take my Christmas morning as one. I did my normal routine of making sure the coffee maker had water, then changed out the K-cup and turned it on to brew. (You may already be laughing).
I was pretty tired, even though I slept late, thinking I was a little comatose. As I returned to that lovely machine I saw the puddle on the floor and all around it - I had forgotten to put the actual coffee cup in to receive the coffee. But I had a wonderful family time the night before and I was happy, so I cleaned it all up laughing all the way. My perspective, was that this was not that big of a deal and it had not happened before, but I was still a knucklehead, so don't forget next time.
So, this morning, the very first thing I did as I approached the coffee monster was to put in a cup that read "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Yes, he is in the making of coffee and he is the center of a great perspective on life. And, I enjoyed that cup today that taught me a lesson - maybe I should have hit my knees or read a scripture and woke up before I operated machinery.
And I laughed, thinking maybe God was laughing a little with me as well. After all, he knows we are not perfect, and he certainly knows the lessons of life begin in the simplest of details. That's why he wants to be in every aspect of our life, so that our perspective remains good.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Even making coffee wrong can teach us how to get right!
But the angel said to them "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
I spoke to someone the other day that said they dreaded Christmas shopping, and I am sure we all can echo that sentiment as we have stood in the lines, experienced that special toy being sold out, and felt the wrath of the ugly shopper. Then looking at how much we spent and realized there goes a mortgage payment.
Then there's the decorations, and every year it seems like more. I remember bringing 15 boxes out of the attic one year that my wife had stored up over the years and almost every one was emptied out on decorating the house. Then decorating an entire island in front of the house that looked like a mini Lake Lanier light show. This took several days and required daily maintenance as lights burned out by the elements of nature.
Ah, the joy of Christmas, where has it all gone? It has gotten away from us it seems because we have gotten away from the reason for the season. Our focus has been clouded by the continual search for more gifts, more decorations and more unfulfilled expectations of what we receive in return for the mortgage we just spent. It was never intended to be that way, and it's intention is clear in the next verse in Luke:
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
That's the joy, we got the ultimate gift, nothing can top or replace it - and we give it back to others by spreading the good news of great joy. Wouldn't it be so nice if our children wrote on their wish list "I want to know who Jesus is?"
They will and our families will ask if we act like we know him and show them Christmas is all about Him, and a lot less about us. Merry Christmas all, may you feel that great joy as we celebrate this momentous day!
Right now we find such division on how to handle the COVID-19 crisis, and that's natural since we have a free country to express our own beliefs. Some of us believe in the risk/reward approach, others the safety/protection philosophy. Whether or not we agree, our Governor has allowed us to choose. Thankfully, so has God!
I look at this as a parallel to Jesus ministry on earth. Which category was he in, how did he handle things like this, and what was he trying to teach us? He touched lepers and sick people, hung out with despicable characters and took risks when it came to preaching the truth. He was all about human connection, all about spreading love to the unloved and the broken in spirit. He was here to heal, despite the risks.
He was truly a front line responder, and those of us who are need to take that example to heart. We may not always enjoy the danger, we may often give up something we are comfortable with to do the uncomfortable, but we are assured of who has our back when we do and that breeds confidence in purpose.
I didn't get the Coronavirus from working the front line, it came from another situation. God protected me and us. And when I was in the hospital I never doubted I was coming out because our work is not finished. He provided me comfort, he provided ATB with another leader who stepped up, and he granted me a whole army of prayer warriors and supporters who pulled me through.
My reward for the risk is played out every day in the hundreds of lives we touch who touch each other, and who touch me. Live meetings are diminishing, we are increasing. You can see the hope in the eyes of those who come in the connection that we and our partners help to provide. And when we talk about the Lord, they are listening because they know they need something more than a God they can conceptualize.
God took an enormous risk sending his only son to save us knuckleheads here on earth. The way I look at it, taking a risk on the people he loves and wants to have a relationship with is the least we can do!
What are those situations in your life where you wish you would have paused before acting? I have plenty circumstances that would apply to that, and I believe for many of us it is a learned behavior. In this rapid paced society we now live in, pausing is not popular and it is considered "old school" behavior.
Andy Stanley did a teaching series called "The Pause" which I would highly recommend taking a look at. My take from what he said and how Christy from WLP has adapted it to addiction recovery, is that we need to prepare for the pause by changing the way we think if it is something we struggle with. If we act by emotions in most situations we will loose control of what should be, and act without regard to sanity.
Here is a simple anacronym for PAUSE:
Pray don't prey on the situation - don't overreact
Assess the current situation - what is really going on
Use my past experience as a reference - how did that work out
Seriously consider your future plans and dreams - how does this action reflect my goals
Embrace the suck - you may not do what you want to, but do what you need to and own it
In the A.A. Big Book it says on page 87: As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful and ask for the right thought or action. The key here is "the right thought". We have a thought but is it the right thought?
In my sober, saved life now, I take my cue from David's words in Psalm 27 which indicate that our complete trust in the Lord, which transforms the way we think, will help us approach these situations with confidence that even though the wrong thought may be our first one, we will insert the pause and eventually the right thought will emerge.
The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall i be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; thought war break out against me,
even then I will be confident. V 1-3, and this:
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. V14 There's the pause, wait before we fly off the handle, make a bad decision, give in to those using thoughts. We become confident through a learned process of faith and subsequent work on our defects of character, that help us pause to win the moment.
Insert pause + pray + assess + wait = the right choice! So simple, yet so far away sometimes in the moment.
"When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am"
These words are from a Goo Goo Dolls song Iris in 1998. But they apply to one of the key reasons it is so important that we continue to give to the downtrodden, the outcasts, the marginal of society including sometimes hopeless addicts and alcoholics. They just want you to know who they are, despite everything being broken in their lives.
That is a major reason why ATB exists and so many others who are in a similar role as an organization - we understand what these folks need to begin a new journey that may change their lives. They need someone to talk to, they need some attention, they need a spark that lights the fire to come out of darkness. And once they understand the authenticity of why we give, many begin to listen to a message of hope.
They need someone to know their story, to know who they are, and now they need someone to point them in the right direction. Further in the song are these words. "Yeah you bleed just to know you're alive". So we give, and often it requires sacrifice and often we see no appreciation, but every now and then folks show it and it makes us realize that we were glad we bled, for their sake, it made us both feel alive. And, when they make it to a year clean, we rejoice and feel like if we only reach one in ten, it's worth it.
Someone else bled for us, but before he did he gave a gift of healing to 10 lepers, and only one came back to thank him. In fact, he was not only an outcast as a leper, he was a hated Samaritan. But I guarantee you Jesus was pumped, he felt alive in his purpose because he knew what knuckleheads we are, and he just converted someone who was in darkness.
Giving for sure is living, it is the purpose God intended for us to have as demonstrated by the greatest, Jesus. And even the greatest ignored the nine who seemed unappreciative, to go on for the one who was. This is a blog, but it could easily be a sermon.
I was that one, that's why I know, and now all I do is what he did for me in whatever manner he asks me to. That's why I really know I am truly alive!
It stuck in my mind like Gorilla glue, it would not go away. That song we used to sing in church that seems to be buried as somewhat irrelevant compared to today's new worship music. "Count Your Blessings" and those prophetic words, "count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done", they just keep on rolling through my spirit.
And then I think of Job, who despite all that came against him, remained faithful and full of blessings during the process of severe hardship. And I ask myself a question, one you may be asking too, am I honoring God in the same way he is blessing me? Am I thankful enough that I act the way he wants me to, and in the way that serves him best? And when things get extremely difficult can I still sing that song myself?
Hard questions to answer, but I know that I must admit to myself, I will never give or love like God can, but I can never forget what he has done, and despite my flaws and ridiculously skewed sense of logic, I must get back on the path of gratitude even if I take a short detour. God loves me anyway, which is definitely hard to grasp for someone who spent many years trying to destroy himself and others.
And then, that song plays again, and I realize that this amazing God we serve has delivered me from addiction, healed me from COVID, propped me up every time I tried to fall and has placed in my heart a desire to serve others like never before. Sometimes I ask why?
A good friend called me the other day and talked about how great she felt from helping someone else, getting outside of herself and her own problems. So I remarked that maybe she wasn't such a pain to me after all that she thought she was with all of her problems, maybe it was a blessing and honor for me to listen.
Maybe our greatest blessings are simply found in the moments of our greatest service to others, not in trying to repay God through our good behavior. Our commitment to him is not to be perfect, but to perfectly fit into his plans. Thus comes the blessings of joy in service to the ultimate joy giver.
There goes that song again!
It was an electric moment. The nurses came in and said that I had been released from ICU to go to a regular room. Joy filled my heart and as one of them who had talked to me quite a bit extended her arms to get out of that chair I was in, she said to me....
Do you want to dance?
Ever the one to not miss a special moment I took her in my arms and as feeble as I still felt, we took a few spins as the other nurses cheered. Certainly a highlight of my COVID trip to the hospital but to me it was part of a philosophy of life. Do you want to dance, or sit this one out?
Jesus asked that question in a slightly different form to his disciples, more of a statement: follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Yes, I know this is stretching the dance analogy, but he was in effect saying, do you want to make a difference, help change lives, or do you just want to exist as an ordinary fisherman? The dance is life itself and how we approach it, as living in a relative box, or coming out to really live.
As folks in addiction, we took this to the extreme, we danced way too much to the wrong kind of music. But now, as this incredible rash of one year plus sobriety chips continues, we find the Lord extending his arms to us saying, now you are on your way to healing and out of the woods, let me use you to really make an impact on others. Take a few new dance STEPS.
Think about it, a nurse asking a patient fresh off off COVID to dance is just like Jesus going to eat with tax collectors and notorious sinners. Reaching out to those in need by taking a dance spin, and taking a chance that instead of getting hurt in the process, you will bring the joy of healing to their life.
To the missionaries, the evangelists, the sponsors, the mentors, the sober living founders, those who put themselves at risk often to help others, let's dance to the rhythm of God's beautiful music of a full life.
And, take a little time to go fishing!
My partner since being released from the hospital with COVID has been an oxygen supply in various forms. I have a main control unit that stays on 24/7 which allows me to be fed by an extended tubing from about 50', or if I travel there is a 3 hour tank for use as I need that goes with me. It supplies 3% of what I need, a whole lot less than when admitted to the hospital.
As I remain under my doctor's order, plus what the lung specialist says, I should be able to discontinue the oxygen within 30 days. But for now I can go 60-90 minutes without it and still rate on a high level of supply. But I can feel a difference - very subtle, but I know when I have gone too long without it.
In a simple manner, receiving a supply of faith every day is just as easy to receive as any oxygen machine, yet difficult for so many of us who have no time for refreshing. It's there, read about it or listen to it, take it in in a meeting or service, faith runs 24/7 available always. All it takes for a boost is the time it takes to receive it.
Just before going into ICU, someone bought me a pulse oximeter, one of those things you attach to your finger to measure your oxygen and heart rate. Mine was so low then that I had to go in. And there are days that I realize without prior warning, that I have ignored hooking up to my faith meter components. Then I feel a subtle difference that I may be off course in my daily direction.
And without faith it is impossible to please God...... Hebrews 11:6
If I only have 50% of the faith I need, then I only give a halfway effort to the Lord. It is impossible to generate the other half from within myself because I am already down on supply. I need a hook up to that faith meter to re-supply my needs. And, I can never forget that because the people we serve need to see 100% of the faith God gives us, not 50% of Him and 50% of what I make up as a substitute.
Having this constant companion with me lately has reminded me of this, maybe He designed it that way. Whatever the case, truth is that this Oxygen machine will go soon, but I cannot ever stop breathing in the air of God's spirit daily, 24/7 to reach the level of faith he wants me to operate at.
It helps us to breathe life into others when we have a full supply!
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.