It was so much fun coming up with a new name for our recovery ministry when we upgraded back in 2009. I remember praying often that God would shed his light of wisdom on me, and then one day it came, Across The Bridge. It flowed like the river that would run under it, and it made sense that it had many meanings.
Certainly we can say it is a bridge from darkness to light, addiction to sobriety, death to life, lost to found, and many other analogies, but what the bridge is has only one meaning to us - Jesus - he is that bridge from nowhere to somewhere, from unsaved to saved, from the God of our understanding to the one we understand, and he is most definitely the crossing from all the things mentioned above.
But he is also that bridge that has connected ATB to the recovery community this past year in such an impactful way. Simply, we serve on his behalf with the excellence he gave us - he is not the Golden Gate Bridge, he is the Golden "Gated" Bridge! Everything he did is all about everything we are trying to do. Serve, accept, love and give with the absolute best we have to give.
People keep asking me to write a Strategic Plan, and if we weren't so busy growing, I would and maybe one day we will, but so far, that plan has been only to pass through his Golden Gated Bridge and take as many people as we can with us, and that seems to be very strategic to me.
We may be a Human Services Organization but in everything we do, we serve humans with His services. Come to one of our meetings at Campus Church or Life Church International or better yet join us on Friday night at our Community Worship service and experience that acceptance and love, and feel the power that fuels our growth.
Lots of folks are saying I am the glue that holds it all together, but I have news for them, my glue don't stick - but His does - and that powerful bridge in the middle of our name is held up by way more than glue!
This Monday night we begin Thanksgiving week with a Celebration at our ATB Building, the first in our new facility, which gives us the opportunity to feed probably about 200-225 people. It is a distinct honor and pleasure to feed those folks, involve three different cooks and many volunteers to serve. It is a true blessing.
Yet, at this time of year when the holidays are celebrated, many are heart broken and relapse due to the inability to deal with overwhelming feelings of grief, shame, and disappointment in themselves. Feelings are triggers to that relapse and are heightened by memories of past times of love and acceptance that are just not there anymore. Though we cannot replace those memories, our goal is to provide an atmosphere where those qualities exist to lift them up out of any sort of pit of despair or loss, and bring them hope of a better future.
What we ask of you who read this is to continue to offer your donations, prayers, and support of ATB, and especially pray for those mentioned above, so that we can operate as an agent of change in a broken and lost world. As we celebrate people, we also celebrate what you have helped us to do in 2019 to become a relevant force in our community for good. Take a look at what we have done together:
Created 15 meetings a week of all different types - ATB 12 Step at Campus Church, Real Talk Recovery at Life Church International, Friday Night Community Worship at ATB led by Good Landing Recovery, Certified Addiction Counselor Training, CA, CMA and SAA Meetings, 6 meetings at Sober Living facilities, Community Meetings and a Women's Group at ATB.
Have served 19,443 people in 505 meetings through November 23rd. Last week we set a new record of having 646 people in our meetings.
Clothed hundreds of people through our Men's and Women's clothing Closets. We continue to receive and distribute for free, clothing donated by our partners and friends.
Placed several hundred people in sober living facilities or rehab. With our six partnering facilities we have a wide range of recovery options to help find the right place to begin recovery.
The list could go on and on but for today, I just want to thank everyone for your support and offer my own personal wishes for you to have a most blessed Thanksgiving holiday season!
To God be the glory, Glenn
To be honest, I thought I did a terrible job of relating, in two meetings yesterday, to what God wanted me to say. The topic was Dysfunction Junction, the intersection where all our addictions and abnormalities meet reconciliation. It was all about how the cross was where our debt of dysfunction was cancelled and where healing begins.
Here's Dysfunction: abnormality or impairment in a system, and here's Junction: a point where two or more things are joined. So we could define Dysfunction Junction as the coming together of abnormalities and impairments. In other words, the Cross.
It was about a decision, a hard thing to ponder for those listening as it requires surrender from a life we we're so used to into one we know often little about. As they spoke of being addicted from 8, 9, 12 years old, coming from families that used together, had a drug dealing business, and the code of the street vs. a code of morality, I could see they were confused but pondering, and I did not know if I had their attention like I usually do.
Earlier in the day as I was preparing, I finished printing out the copies, went to get ready to go to the first meeting and turned on one of my favorite preachers, Jentzen Franklin. His topic - the Cross. Confirmation of our message but delivered far more eloquently. More on this in a minute.
As I struggled through the second meeting late, knowing I was fatigued from a very long day and a hard week, I realized while I was talking that I wasn't really saying what I wanted to say, and it did not even make sense to me. When done, several people came to me to talk, one who was really struggling with resentment, and he genuinely laid out his heart and soul to me, wanting to change. And another angry man, who had been through a horrendous battle listened close by. We then prayed together for that decision to follow him to be made.
Somehow, some way these men were affected then this morning two folks friended me on Facebook from that meeting and it totally hit me, remembering the words of the Apostle Paul - he did not come with words of eloquence, but he came to talk about the cross, and it literally speaks for itself in what it can do to change a man's heart.
My seemingly clever approach was not what made the difference, as the lord confirmed to me in that sermon by JF. When you talk about the cross, let God do the talking, just be there to repeat his words.
But it truly is where Dysfunction comes to its Junction of healing. (Sorry, had to throw that one in). Amen
All week long they happened. I have seen His amazing presence at work before but never this often up close and personal. When the creator of the universe takes the time to encounter us - we just stand in awe of His work!
The events are too numerous to mention, but my focus will be on yesterday, when in honor of the departure of our dear sister Sheila Robinson, may she rest in peace, the celebration of her life was held at what I might call an old school Church of Christ where they sang out of those old hymnals still, with the songs that I first heard when coming to sobriety and coming to Christ.
Not the new school lights, drama, hype and music, but just old fashioned form of worship through singing and prayers. It took me back to where I came from and it was definitely God speaking to my heart to remember my first love, those moments when I fell in love with Him rather than a bottle. Page 807, 522, those days when I hardly knew what He was all about, but I kept singing those words that I did not understand but sang anyway because I was so happy to be sober and saved.
Then, one by one they spoke of how you could hardly talk to Sheila about anything before she began speaking about Jesus, the one who led her out of prostitution and substance abuse. And God spoke to my heart about how sometimes I shrugged her off, more concerned with the events of the moment than I was with hearing that same story over and over again. I respected her, I just wasn't as attentive as I used to be.
Surely you see the point of my terrible example. We can get so caught up in our ideas, plans and concept of how we think God is working today and forget to listen to him, especially when he is saying remember how it was when I saved you before you take another step, that we had such a simple, beautiful relationship before my life got complicated.
This week I was more attentive, I listened for his voice more often rather than interpreting what I thought he would have me do, and you know what happened? Virtually everything worked out just like he said it would.
More listening, less doing, a lot more like Sheila, and less like Glenn. As we sang "When We All Get To Heaven" the joy was roaring in my soul with the power of His Spirit - listen Glenn, listen, and you will encounter the God who knows you, saved you and loves you more than any other. Just listen and feel His presence as you first encountered Him!
And we sang on, "what a day of rejoicing that will be". It's actually happening right now
What turns on the joy in your life? Children, grandchildren, doing a job well, walking on the beach, feeling loved, or one of many other wonderful things that can turn a bad day into a blessing? These feelings are priceless but ever fleeting.
Truth is, if we rely on feelings, we are a constant roller coaster ride and are destined to rise and fall on the whims of today. Better yet, why not live a life of gratitude which puts us in position to withstand whatever storms may come our way and becomes contagious to those we come in contact with?
The Apostle Paul showed us how: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13
That was written from prison, why would any grown man in a bad place like that have such a great attitude? Because they can take away all of what we have, but they cannot take away our attitude. It is our choice to flip that happy switch which does not rely on circumstances, but does require building a faith that can withstand any situation.
In the Big Book of AA, in the story entitled "Gratitude In Action", the writer who began A.A. in Canada in 1944 says that alcohol became his best friend, his way to turn on that happy switch, his way of becoming someone greater than he thought he actually was. It caused destruction of his family, losing his job and any self-esteem he ever had, but he still used it until it stopped working. It turned on him and sent him into internal incarceration.
Then, he found something in A.A. - he found God, and he found a God who restored his family, the respect of his wife and children, set him free, and gave him a purpose to show his gratitude daily. And in the conclusion to his story, he tells of how he doesn't have to drink again, he doesn't have to self destruct because he found the key to gratitude and that happy place.
Eloquently he states that key to be: to put his hand in the hand of God and walk with him daily. That's what Paul did and that is why he wrote what he wrote in a dark, cold and thankless prison. He was not where he wanted to be, but he was right where God wanted him to be - and that made him content.
Gratitude creates solutions, it removes the complaining and gets to the gaining of life and meets life on life's terms. We can either embrace it or let it take us back out to use something else that will just leave us more empty.
Want to flip that happy switch? Put your hand in the hand of God and let him flip it for you!
They were not the trendy couple in the world's definition of it. Addicts, drug dealers, prostitution, those words do not appear on the resume of the most admired couples. But yet, these two, there was something very special about them from the very beginning, especially when Sheila would finish Will's sentences.
They would tell their stories but even that was together, seemed like everything they did was together because their love and faith had been forged in the battle of addiction recovery and finding the Lord, and they were completely united in their walk in life.
Several years ago I went to visit Will in the VA hospital and was struck with his incredible faith and courage. We had a long conversation, and throughout it all he spoke of his beloved wife. Suddenly he passed away and this couple who seemed to be joined at the hip was torn apart in life, but not in spirit.
Sheila carried on, but you could see the spark missing in her eyes despite all her attempts to connect with others. I remember in one of our meetings someone trying to "hit" on her and she quickly rebuffed him saying that Jesus was the only man she wanted besides Will. It was always as if Will was still here, just not speaking those sentences she would finish.
Yesterday, Sheila passed from cancer complications and was rejoined with Will again. We will miss her courageous spirit and steadfast love of both the Lord and how she loved Will. And we will also remember the tremendous battle they both fought to find freedom from addiction - we will remember those huge smiles when they described their victories and we will remember that they showed us you don't need to be trendy to be heroic.
Rest in the peace of the Lord Sheila, and thank you for blessing us with your enormous presence!
Inspired by the lesson we are doing at Campus Church this morning about "Taming The Tongue", realizing that the tongue is such a "small member yet it boasts of great things" James 3:5, I embark on a blog about how doing the little things gives God great pleasure.
We like to think big, do great things for ourselves, sometimes also for God and mankind. Depends on what level our self meter is on as to which takes priority. Many, many times in my life I have missed the little things, the ones that make a relationship work, the ones that stay with you all day long that may come from the smile or embrace of a child, the ones that make such a major difference in someone else's life.
Holding a hand, just listening, cleaning up someone else's mess, taking time to understand - so many little things that God is looking for in us when we think he wants to make us bigger, better and smarter. Yes he certainly does, that's how the kingdom advances, but it takes learning how to do the little things well that builds the bridge to any success.
He speaks, about coming to him like "little children", learning how to be trusted in the small things so that the big things are not mishandled. He speaks about how a tiny mustard seed sprouts into a majestic tree and how five loaves of bread and two fish fed thousands. Yes, to him, the little things mean so much.
The little things, the details of faith building like reading a Bible verse a day, setting aside time to pray and meditate, the devotional that begins our day- all these add up to a huge faith. But if we fail to do these, we soon find ourselves asking, what went wrong, how did I get here, and we realize that we were trying so hard to be big that we forgot to remain little.
Yes, I have personally experienced this many times, that's why I write about it, and the feeling when you get to that point is what really matters. That's why right now in my life every time someone or something tries to make me feel "bigger" I just go back into my God cave to get smaller.
What really matters? The little things that God asks us to do that brings others pleasure, makes Him smile, makes us grow, and brings each of us just a little closer to Him.
All of that makes Him big, and us just a little bigger and better, and sometimes even smarter.
No doubt that we men do not listen to most directions, but lately I have trusted in my MAPS app on my phone with the gentle female voice to guide me. More than once during the directions there has been a course correction due to impending traffic jams, which gave me the idea to do a couple meetings this week on that topic.
The process of recovery and living life in general goes much better with prayer and meditation. If we need to correct the direction our lives are going in what better way to do it than consult the creator as to where we should go? They call it God's will and it is so hard to know it if we keep medicating or hesitating to open a communications door to him.
Lots of things prevent this but the main one is pride, closely followed by fear, rebellion, and the natural desires we have to have some form of control over our lives. No time for detail here, but let's focus on a possible solution. Whatever way, the best ways to understand what he wants us to do can be summed up in two scriptures:
Be very careful then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:15-18
Pretty easy interpretation that using to the extent that involves any addiction leads to a dysfunctional life marred by missed opportunities, even some that God laid out right before us, because we made a whole bunch of bad choices. But in it is the key - be led by the spirit, not the "spirits". And how does that show us God's will? By living by the fruit of that Spirit.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
If we live our lives by these nine principles, we will walk, even sometimes accidentally into God's will because these are wise things that bring freedom, not evil. They are a constant GPS reminder that to make a course correction we need to follow someone that knows the right directions. We pray and meditate to seek his answers.
It's not complicated to understand, but often hard to follow because I left out one important thing that prevents this- we are stubborn. Might add the ladies to this as well.
So here's the point, don't let being stubborn keep us stuck on being stupid. It's so much easier God's way!
I am constantly amazed at how many people who are in addiction recovery get in my truck and do not fasten their seat belt. Do they think I am that safe a driver, or that it is too restraining?
Either way, when I asked how many flew through a windshield in an accident only one hand went up. The rest may not have survived. So what is the bottom line of buckling up? Rebellion, lack of restraining boundaries of life, buying into the adrenaline rush of living life on the edge. But doing so actually perpetuates something else.
The free dictionary defines Buckle Up in 3 negative ways and one positive: 1. To bend, warp or crumple as in crumple under, 2. To give way: collapse, 3. To succumb, as to exhaustion or authority; give in. Yes, here's the paradox, not buckling up can cause buckling up. It can happen to addicts who escape every responsibility by using and it can happen to good people who never get the point of life.
Look at the Apostle Peter, he buckled up despite living with God himself for three years. When challenged he succumbed to the pressure by bailing out. Why? We can only guess it was fear of losing his life, but Jesus himself told him he who loses his life will gain it. Maybe Peter failed to read the ancient scripture passed down by the Jewish faith: As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: He is a buckler to all that trust him. 2 Samuel 22:31.
So, after Peter failed, he wept. Then, he became buckled up with the very Spirit of the Lord and turned his life around. We can too, it is our choice to buckle up or not, but when we do it clearly says in that scripture, the word of the Lord is tried, it has passed the test, it endures, and it takes us through whatever is before us, good or bad. Either way we are buckled up with protection.
In the A.A Big Book it says, "rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path". The 4th definition in that dictionary says: To become fastened with a buckle. That would be the buckler who fastens together all the aspects of our life, if we thoroughly follow him.
My advice, buckle up before we buckle up!
For we football fans this terminology is completely understandable. A defense can give up yards that seem easily taken and then suddenly buckle up and hold their ground. Thus, bending but not breaking!
This morning my devotional took me to Job 1, or in today's terminology this would be Defcom 7, the point where four separate messengers come to him with catastrophes that are seemingly unbearable. But, amazingly my Bible titles that section "Job's First Test". Test? You lose your livestock, your servants, and your children and this is a test?
To us, in this mentality of humans, we see this as ridiculous. A great man facing a test when he was doing nothing but being good and doing what he was supposed to do. In God's world, which sees things a whole lot different than we, this was his way of showing the devil there were certain people on earth, who were believers, that would possibly bend, but would not break under intense trial.
Even after hearing this news, Job hit his knees and began to worship and think of how we might directly act if this happened to us. Hit our knees and worship? Test? When the word came to me by messenger that my son was killed, I buckled, but somehow, and I don't even remember all the details, I did not break and somehow my relationship with the Lord got stronger. I take no credit, it must have been divine intervention, because if you had said test to me I would have raged against you. Fortunately, no one did.
When I look around a room filled with 100 people in addiction recovery, I see hurting, broken folks who have bent severely, but somehow by the grace of God have not been totally broken and have actually been brought to this point of decision. Rage against the situation or come to believe that a power much greater than us can help us understand and recover.
Luke 18:1 says, "pray and do not give up." Job, bending in his sorrow, but not breaking, came praying and worshiping his way out of the funk and found redemption. He never gave up, even under heavy criticism from his family and friends.
To us, we may in our logic never understand this test, but we do know how to pass it!
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.