On the Boeing 707 Jet aircraft, a line of small blades is placed halfway down the upper wing..These little blades that stick up from the otherwise smooth wings are called "vortex generators". They are put on the plane for the purpose of creating turbulence in the airflow that passes over the wing.
The plane designers had discovered that the Boeing 707 would not steer accurately when the air current is too smooth. Seems like our addiction recovery does not steer accurately when everything is too smooth either. We seem to need a little roughness and turbulence in our program to make progress.
When Jesus got in the boat to cross the lake with his disciples, he knew he was about to become that spiritual vortex for them. As the thunder grew louder, the waves rushed over the boat and the wind almost blew them out of the water, they woke him up and shouted "Lord we are going to drown". As He calmed the storm, he taught them something about having faith in the turbulence, he awoke their faith in Him.
He is that vortex turbulence for us now, the one that reminds us this human race is not for sprinters in extreme highs and equally extreme lows - it is about distance runners who don't panic and bail out or use when things get a little rough. He is the one who steers us accurately into understanding how to live not only in those highs and lows. but also in that smooth sometimes mundane middle of life.
And when we need to be reminded who is steering, and where we are going, he lays out this perfect scenario for us in James 1:2-4 NLT as if to say, "This is your captain speaking.....Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. For when your endurance is fully developed you will be standing in character and ready for anything!
Fasten your seat belts brothers and sisters, we are on an adventure of faith!
This is a first: Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Jesus and Bob Marley in the same blog to make a point.! Stay with me.....
Have you had enough of using?
Have you had enough of not feeling like you are enough?
Have you had enough of what you needed to live a sober life and be happy and free from addiction?
In plain words, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Thousands of years ago Solomon wrote frustrating words about "the eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing" - he could never get enough despite having everything. He kept doing more to get more.
We too, tend to keep trying to achieve and be everything on our own and add God on for the leftovers because we can handle it, we are taught to be self sufficient, only to realize it has gotten out of hand, and we have gone beyond human limits to extremes. Then Solomon comes to his senses and finds a key: When God gives us what we need and we accept what our lot in life is then we seldom reflect on what else we need, and instead become happy for what we have.
You see, he has no limits, but his limits for us are always enough. Take the Samaritan woman at the well, she of 5 marriages and living with her boyfriend. She could never get enough or thought she could be good enough. But Jesus set her right by speaking to her when no other Jewish person would, then asked her for help - he validated her, which is what he does for us, even at our lowest point - he speaks to us today in what he said to her.
If you drink that well water you will be thirsty again, but if you drink my water of life, you will have living water and never thirst (for any form of addiction) again. In other words, don't worry about achieving it all yourself or you will never have enough, just put your hope in me and you will always have enough!
So, we will let Bob Marley take us toward home in this blog: Here's a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don't worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double, don't worry, be happy. As Solomon says, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart, not because he keeps worrying about what he doesn't have.
Then Jesus again said: Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it's own. Was Bob Marley thinking the same thing? Don't know but I know God will supply enough, make us feel like enough and give us enough to live on that we remain happy, even in the midst of trouble.
As we close, sing it and remember who the original author was: Don't worry be happy, you have enough, and He, not Bob, (but thank you for the song) will make sure of it!
It was moments of electricity! Last week at Real Talk Recovery we got in circles to talk about life changing situations where God had shown up. Incredible stories by people who had been locked in an addictive culture.
One woman shared that she had just entered a dope house when a smoke bomb was thrown in (not by police) and the place quickly caught fire. She jumped out of a second story window to safety but everyone else perished in the fire. Accident or the providence of God?
There were more enlightening stories of escape from death, an overdose and countless bad moments, all this in just one of a half dozen circles with 5-10 people. While it's easy for people to talk about solutions to drug and alcohol problems who are outside the circle so to speak, those who are in it experience these types of things almost daily living on the edge.
The question is why? And, the answers would take many conversations to come forth. But here is the problem which can be resolved. Change the circle you live in. We get so caught up in having to be a certain way or living a certain lifestyle that we forget there is a way out that leads to circles like the one we were in where truth, forgiveness and understanding prevail.
Jesus created a circle of 12 men and selected women he would operate his ministry in that helped to create a new culture and offered redemption from any wandering lifestyle. Once he passed on to heaven, he left behind his Spirit literally, and figuratively in those closest to him - his circle. They helped change the world.
Today, we the recovered, we the redeemed from addiction, we the freed from sin are the circle that offers hope and encouragement to those who have barely escaped death. We need to remember to keep that circle open to anyone who wants to join us because the solution exists within the circle not just in the programs.
In that circle where the Lord is present, is where freedom is found!
The decisions we have to make about who to help and whether we are actually helping or enabling are often very difficult and heart wrenching. Our first thoughts as a Christian are to help everyone, but not everyone gets helped when we think we are helping.
There was the man on the side of the road with that sign, you know the one that says "Need work" or "No food". We all have differing opinions as to what to do, but quite possibly helping that person randomly when the Spirit speaks to us is obedience that transcends a perceived notion, and may be benefiting us as well to do it. What we did was right, what they do with it is between them and God.
Do you remember that scripture in Matthew that ends with "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me"? Well this week a couple asked me for a tent to protect them while in the woods after recent relapses - I said no. (Next day they bought their own tent) Then they asked me for food, which we provided enough to last until Monday when they can get to a rehab, and only after I spoke at length with both of them.
Here's a key to making a difference. Think the way God responds to our prayers: he doesn't always give us what we want, but he supplies what we need. And, when you think of it, he knows we may squander some or all of what he gives us, but he gives it to us anyway, whether as a test or because he just loves to give.
Get to know the recipient of your gift if possible, then you will know what they may do with it. And if they don't use it wisely, then we learn, but we also ring up credits with the ultimate giver who is smiling I am sure when we act like Him.
Who knows, by giving we may actually be making more of a difference in ourselves!
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!
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.