In my world, finding the time to go on vacation is not easy, plus the effects of COVID-19 make it difficult to travel
where I would like to be - the beach. Maybe you have dealt with this issue now or in the past and it has hurt you. It behooves us to find an alternative which allows stress relief without mind altering substances.
I found one, actually more than one, but this one allows me some sunshine and meditation. It's sitting in the back of my pickup truck facing the sun with virtually no one around, in the parking lot of the ATB building. Now please, do not rush to be a part of this, but understand this is my beach - for now!
Get a tan, have some conversation with the Lord and listen for instructions. Very relaxing, extremely stress free and totally priceless - really it costs nothing. Actually I got this from a reliable source, Jesus himself. When he was tired and stressed, he found a place to go off and pray, he found his proverbial beach.
Truth of the matter is that burnout can be just as harmful as not doing enough. And even truer is that when we operate on our own power without plugging into the ultimate power source, we find we have a weak battery so to speak. Especially when we are trying to serve others, we can become angry, judgmental, short with words and many other symptoms of doing too much, when we use that personal battery up.
We have to find our power from above, and find our beach wherever we can or like a car without a relevant battery, we won't start. And, for sure, we won't finish.
Finding my beach is essential in helping you find yours!
What are the influences that control our lives? Money, Power, Sex, and Popularity are but a few possibilities. Another of course, is the influence of God's Holy Spirit and walking in the flow of His grace.
Recently, I did some meetings on this topic and some honest talk came from it. A book was written about this and it suggested there are myths and realities of addiction recovery. Here are a few myths:
Once you have come to an addictive mindset you can control your using.
I can quit anytime I want.
It's everyone else's fault I am using.
The devil made me do it (RIP Flip Wilson)
Of course common logic, which we don't often use while in addiction, dispels those four, but nevertheless they are convenient excuses to do what we want to do. As a practical example, think of the man or woman providing the income for the family that spends all his or her time at work under the guise that they need more money for this and that while the kids at home are left unloved and uneducated about life. Sure, we need money and many have to work 2-3 jobs just to get by, but when money is our major influence things tend to go haywire.
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Tim 6:10
Not money, but the love of money, just like a heroin addict falls in love with a needle, or a cocaine addict loves that crack pipe. Addiction to wrong influences causes the door to evil to open, and then it opens and opens, until it is wide open. On the other hand, coming under God's influence opens the door in a different way.
As the Israelites were leaving Egypt behind, the Lord gave them a formula how to remain under his influence without looking back to their slavery (addiction is just that - slavery), in Deuteronomy 11:8-12. In summary, he said, do what I ask of you, I will give you strength, provide what you need such as a land of milk and honey and while you go through the mountains and valleys of life I will be with you, and watch over your life.
While to you and I that would sound absolutely great in theory, we often ignore those words and head in our own self-will direction. But, here are the absolute words from that passage that have turned my life around and re-directed my influence:
But the land that you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. Updated to today, that is the crossover from addiction to recovery, from slavery to freedom, and that phrase drinks rain from heaven equates to the living water Jesus said to the woman addicted to relationships that would cause her to be thirsty no more.
Bang! Addictions gone, money, power, sex and popularity all put into perspective and in the amount that God chooses to bless us with which will be enough! We walk in the Spirit of confidence and assurance that we will always have what we need even if today is not as good as tomorrow because in the land we possess under His rule, there is always enough rain to drink for us all.
Boom! Maybe that is a better word than bang because God blows up every myth that we need to keep working for more, doing more and being more because with Him we are more than enough!
If we want to be happy, under THE influence of Him is where we want to be.
Right now we seem to be in the middle of a storm. Part of it we were victims of and the rest we have created. The fundamental elements of our health, security and traditions are at risk all at once. We are challenged on several levels that have impacted the status quo. And, it's taking its toll on our freedom and our economy.
My point in this blog is not to change the world only to make a few observations about how I feel. First, I am angry, angry that we cannot treat each other like God has asked us to. It has been that way for thousands of years, and it will take many more to impact fundamental changes. But I am also hopeful at the same time that each one of us can make a huge difference with a few simple changes to our attitudes that reflect the mindset of Christ.
And I am sad, that the next generation may experience major turmoil before the storm subsides. I have been in the Marines both at war in Viet Nam and as an occupying force in Washington, DC during the riots after the MLK assassination. I have seen way too up close and personal conflict that has cost lives, property and has influenced major change. When it's time to rebuild the roots of the original cause of human conflict run deep and require tolerance and acceptance to heal. May God grant us those things.
And maybe, we needed this storm, because the fast pace of life needed to slow, and oppression of others not the same color or gender needs to be removed. After the rain and thunder come sunshine.
And the one element of reconciliation that is needed most to heal is son-shine! We need Him.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
I am hoping I did not misunderstand this scripture, but in its purest form I am looking at George Floyd, and I am looking at the image of God. Just like I look at my sisters Jen or Gina or Tabatha, or my brothers Trey, Darryll or Barry, I am looking at the image of God. They and I may act funny sometimes, but we are created in his image and I see no tag on what color is the best. In fact, all the other colors came later, and so did the attitude of prejudice in the Bible, not only between colors, but between nations.
No matter who we are, we are his image, so why not act that way. It only takes a fundamental look at how humanity divided from Genesis to now to see the utter devastation that prejudice, holier than thou and arrogant supremacy attitudes tore apart nations, started wars and created chaos where peace could have been had with simple reflection on how God created us to be. My mother fortunately, taught me that.
A black woman basically raised me in my early years, Evelyn. Her son, Junior was my best friend. Once I heard the "N" word and asked Junior what that meant whereupon he chased me around the block in anger. Haven't used it since out of respect for he and his mom who played a major role in my life, and for my mom who taught me we were all equal.
In Viet Nam, there was no color in war. Our Drill Instructor called us hogs, chocolate or vanilla hogs but we were all hogs. and we were all green as in a lean green fighting machine. My 3 best friends in Nam were black. James taught me how to box inside like Joe Frazier to destroy a bigger mans reach. Humphrey taught me to love Cajun food and Caldwell taught me how to laugh at myself. I guess I taught them something, maybe that it didn't matter where you came from or what color you were.
Then, later in life I coached an all black basketball team that included several pros. One time I asked our center Harvey, who had graduated from Bucknell University with honors, and set their all time rebounding record, if the guys minded being coached by a white man. Matter of factly he said, "they didn't notice".
That my friends is the point. If we don't spend so much time noticing the color of our skin we will come to realize we were all created by the same God, all in his image. So let's all do one simple thing that may make a difference, let's be the color of God, who encompasses all colors in one God!
Then, we may treat each other with a little more respect, and that may make this world a whole lot better to live in.
There is one thing sure about faith, that we cannot physically see all the results of faith until we actually step out in faith. Peter saw Jesus walk on water, he was sure when he started to walk to him that the Lord would honor his faith to walk out onto that water. But when he let the wind and the waves overcome his faith, he nearly drowned.
We cannot physically see Jesus today but we believe the promise in Matthew 28 that "he will be with us always to the very end of the age", and our faith steps are now based on the scriptures that teach us about him, and his Spirit that guides our movements. And even when we know all of this, we can also step out in faith and still come near drowning, through our doubt, insecurity and evolving circumstances.
In these COVID-19 times we take uncertain steps into uncharted waters when we feel like the Lord has led us to, and when the waves seem to calm down, when the wind stops blowing so strongly. But we never know for sure because this virus is much like our A.A. saying, it is "cunning and baffling".
Monday night we opened up ATB again for the first time since March 9th for in person meetings. It went better than I expected and everyone was compliant to our guidelines, and though there were risks involved, we were prepared. In every way possible we are doing "back to the basics" things, yet we do walk out in faith in some uncharted waters needing divine guidance.
As we embark on this new journey, armed with faith and confidence as well as a whole bunch of sprays and masks, we ask for your prayers for success. May we never take our eyes of the one who orchestrated this walk, and initiated it with one simple word: Come!
That's how we started!
We've heard it so many times, it's like a cliche that will never go away. You never know when it will happen, whether or not it will make a difference, how many times we have to learn the same lesson or if things are going to change. But it's true, we never really know for sure.
One thing we do know, God is with us in the dash between our beginning and our expiration date. During this time, he gives us the opportunity to choose what happens during that dash. We can use it as a- (minus) and waste it away, or a add a line that makes a + (cross) which includes Jesus in that dash. Doing so gives us an enormous purpose to live in a powerful way that constantly has surprises from God.
Most of you have read about my near disastrous encounter with two deer in a rainstorm last week, and the prompting of God's Spirit that saved me from a potentially fatal wreck. What I did not say in that story was how shortly thereafter I saw those familiar numbers 1003. These numbers have appeared shortly before or after almost every significant event like this in my life.
You never know what might happen but it is an assurance to me that God is with me whatever may happen. It happened again when I went for a COVID-19 test to ensure I was okay before we open ATB for meetings again. Heading toward my doctor's office there it was again 1003 on my truck clock. It gave me confidence that either way he was with me. Results, negative for the Corona.
Surely there have been times when the events have not turned out so well, but through it all when I see those numbers appear I am reminded that God has a purpose for me to accomplish on his behalf. You never know about many things, but we do know his work is never done, and we are His ones to do that work here on earth.
And how do I know for sure? Those numbers are my birth date and until he adds those last two numbers of my expiration date I am going to continue to live on the + side of life.
That would be on the cross side of A+cross The Bridge!
It all seems so clear, and then life happens, and it all changes. The plays we called that seemed to work so well now become secondary to a new game plan that is called survival. All of a sudden just staying healthy and providing food on the table supersede everything else.
Then like a tidal wave, one day it all hits you as if the weight of the entire world is on you. You could be a single mom, a recovering addict that is on the edge, a corporate executive or a pastor of a church, or maybe a person living alone who is the sole supporter of your future. And when it hits, we look for clarity, how will I survive?
It hit me this morning when I woke up, boom, my usually rosy and optimistic attitude took a nosedive in altitude. But instinctively, instead of reaching for the Valium that calmed me many years ago, I reached for the book that helped me find a new life, free from addiction, and showed me a new way to cope with things of this nature. Then, I turned on the computer (one of our favorite friends in this pandemic) and tuned into a worship service.
As the clarity began to gradually return, the songs and the sermon were pointed directly at me. The preacher spoke of how he felt anxiety and depression recently as well as the weight of his church's future. That being a great person of faith does not preclude moments of a "tidal wave" experience.
He went on to say in so many words, we need a new play called that has always worked when needed, and as that clarity grew stronger, the words of the song resonated in my soul, "your presence is an open door - I know a breakthrough is coming".
And I remembered how many times God has brought me through moments such as these. Clarity, how the sweet the sound of His voice!
Yes, right about now we are all about to jump up and shout "get me outta here"! But, we are confined by the rule of law and common sense to wait. Now, that is a problem, waiting while in confinement, especially for those in addiction, because confinement means we have to be alone with ourselves and face who we are.
I am reminded of two important things, one is the story of the caterpillar who goes into a cocoon for about two weeks and completely changes its body and character to become a butterfly. Lots of change involved here but also a period of time that it takes to be reborn into something new. Maybe we have put on a few pounds from inactivity, but we have also gained some valuable insight into ourselves, and into our faith during this confinement. We will all come out of this pandemic changed and hopefully stronger if we get the point.
The other, of course is relating to today, and the fact that you can confine the author of our faith, but they could not confine the spread of that faith once he arose from the confinement of a tomb. Nothing can hold back the faith that relies on real truth, and the truth is that what the son set free, is free to prosper, grow and multiply.
He arose, and like a butterfly majestically cast his presence to other people so that we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt, you cannot confine the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is I Am, and to take a look at the majesty of him who is the redeemer of our souls. Once that happened the spread of faith could not be contained.
We will come out of confinement, and we will arise again as changed people with a new found appreciation of what faith and freedom means, and hopefully understanding we don't have to escape through addiction or any other means to be free, because what he did for us has made us free indeed!
A few days ago, I was coming home carrying a bag of groceries, and walked past the postal clerk processing the mail in several mailboxes. Heading back for the second bag I heard her coughing without a filter, then heard a friend of hers say hello and asked why she wasn't wearing a mask and gloves. So I used a different route for sure.
Yesterday while waiting for a prescription at Walgreen's I put my hands not only on the counter but also putting in my codes for my bank card on the pad., and it struck me that there is only one way to prevent this virus from growing - stay home and lock the doors.
Despite any other precautions we might take there is no way we can think of every answer to the constant threat of an unseen enemy. Does this sound familiar?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
We can't see it except in the results of it, but we can prevent it from taking over our mind by going to the one who has every answer to an unseen situation, and though that may not prevent difficult things from happening, it provides faith and security through the trial.
We may have to hunker down, but doing so is the only way we will survive the bombardment of situations we in our finite minds have no answer for. And when we survive we will understand how to face the next ongoing battle.
God is the answer when we have none of our own, he is the answer when we are lost and alone, and he is the ultimate answer when we lock the doors and stay home!
There are times when opportunities present themselves that tell us what we are made of. Our faith and perseverance are tested beyond anything we faced before, and we wonder how strong we are.
What we are facing right now in the COVID-19 crisis is a big challenge, but it is no greater than any one we have overcome before. For some of us, it is just another mountain to climb, for others it is an immense struggle. What makes this one different is the media hype and social media frenzy that has stirred up fears rather than calm them.
In Viet Nam, most thought we had a walk over, an easy battle to win over a nation far inferior in weapons and technology. It was the first war the media could report back to the US with uncensored coverage. We spent a few years fighting with one hand tied behind our back (a politicians war), then we got hit hard all across the country by the enemy in what was known as the Tet Offensive.
This surge, which was later pushed back, inflicted major casualties on the enemy, but it gave them confidence they could win. Simultaneously the media sent back photos of broken and torn up bodies, dead American soldiers and made commentaries about the severe brutality of it all. It was certainly bad, as all war is, but the hype made it worse.
Much of it was true, as are the mounting number of cases and deaths of COVID-19, but any attempt to think positively and have optimism about the outcome, the supplies coming, the many who are sacrificing to help others, is met with way more amounts of gloom and doom. The Tet Offensive turned the Viet Nam war in the enemy's direction, and today, an attitude of negativity and dire consequences can turn our faith into many fears. With that attitude, the enemy wins.
David, who faced battles and controversies seemingly daily, said it like this in Psalm 144: Praise be to the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold, and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me.
We may not be ready for all the consequences of COVID-19 and all the medical emergencies that come with it, but we have already been given, through our faith in the Lord, all that we need to overcome what's coming in this battle.
Don't let anyone tell you anything different!
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.