Have you ever thought “It can’t get any better than this…”? I know that it’s occurred to me from time to time. So here I am, sitting in Hawaii with my three wonderful grandsons. You’d think this would be an appropriate time for it, right? Well I know it’s fixing to get better! My third daughter is coming to join us on Thursday. Now THAT’s some aloha for ya!
God does the same thing for me in my life all the time. Things can get pretty good, then WHAM! God sees and raises. I love that guy. Everyday is an opportunity for me to erase what’s happened the day before and start anew. The world has a peculiar habit of sifting through a person’s life and highlighting the most negative stuff they’ve done, then slapping a nice bright label on them: “you’re an alcoholic”, “you’re an addict”, “you’re a __________ (fill in your bad day”. Sorry world, but I’m a Christian! Sure, I have some hurts, habits, and hang-ups, but they don’t define me or limit me. I have a loving God who tells me who I am. In the words of Pastor Mark Godfrey “Access granted”, grace is mine.
It can always get better than this, I just need to remember how and where to focus my eyes so that I can see it. Aloha, and Rise Up!
So it’s Memorial Day weekend here in the beautiful U.S. of A. And I’ve been spending the whole thing with my Mom. Early Friday morning she fell and broke her hip so we’ve been hanging out in a hospital room watching Lawrence Welk on the TV. A hospital stay is a lot like being in recovery Thursday she was cruising along (I was going to say minding her own business, but everyone who knows my Mom knows THAT would be a lie!) with no real issues. Then BAM! An early morning trip to the bathroom left her lying on the floor waiting for me and the ambulance to arrive. Sometimes we are progressing in our recovery and feel like there is nothing to worry about. When we lose focus, we lose our balance, and we lose.
The neat thing is that Jesus is always on my speed dial! Every time I fall, he’s right there to pick me up. When Baba fell she called me first and I showed up. That’s like our Sponsors and Accountability Partners, and our Forever Family. But what she really needed was an ambulance and some doctors, that’s the Jesus portion. When we fall in our recovery we need to lean on everyone, and not leave anyone out. We need to use our phones and call those people who care about us. We need to find a way to get on our knees even if we’ve fallen flat on our faces! Falling off our wagon, whatever our hurt, habit, or hang-up is, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world; it just means that we have a lot of rehab work to do.
Keep your mind in the game. Keep focusing on getting and staying better. But remember, if you fall, someone will always be there to watch Lawrence Welk with you!
I’ve heard it said both ways by people that I trust. In April of 2010 an excited iPad fan made an inquiry about availability of the revolutionary new tablet in an email to Steve Jobs. Steve’s stunningly succinct reply was “Yep.” Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am very much the Apple Fan Boy and have fallen under Steve’s Reality Distortion Field many times in my life, but I could not be dissuaded by his use of the word yep. Truthfully, I DID spend some time considering it. I used the same technique that Joey used in episode 203 of Friends “The One Where Heckles Dies”. You remember…”Supposably? Supposedly?…….Supposably!”. I’m a “yup” guy.
How many other mindless debates do we get caught up in? People fought and died over crossing themselves with two or three fingers. I’m here to tell you that people can get distracted.
And then this can tend to trivialize important matters. How about the difference in my life between justification and justified? I always have a justification for everything I do. No matter what it is, how insignificant or weighty, I have a reason for why I did it. This is my justification. I would argue that we all do it. However, sometimes I get my justification confused and twisted. Sometimes I act as if the fact that I have a justification for what I do that translates into my actions being justified. Yup, that’s me. This is not strong math! Justification is not wrong, in and of itself. Yet all to often, it sounds more like a first grader’s reasoning than the balanced thought of a rational adult. Honestly, if I were to put all of my justifications into a stew it would mostly be two ingredients: what I want to do and what God wants me to do. I’m not on the Food Network, but I can attest that the “Me Stew” isn’t even close to the “God Stew” when it comes to flavor, nourishment, or sustenance. The “Me Stew” is like candy: it tastes good for a moment, but rots my teeth, leaves me feeling tired, and offers nothing for survival. Yep, it’s true.
So which is it, yup or yep? I really can’t say, and it probably doesn’t really matter. But I do know this: I need to focus on what is real and what is important. I need to keep my justifications justified. I need to eat more “God Stew”.
So tomorrow night I am taking my lovely wife to a concert…we are going to see Barry Manilow. Now before you judge, let me say this: the man can write catchy songs and I’ve been told that he puts on an amazing show, so we are going to see his farewell tour. So I’m listening to a little Barry to get “prepared” for the show and I heard “Ships”. Now this is a pretty song, complete with all of the schmaltz we’ve come to love and expect from Barry, but it really occurred to me that it fits into a recovery lesson on denial.
How often do we tell ourselves that everything is ok even though the world is passing us by and we aren’t able to connect to the ones that we love? I have come to detest the phrase “It’s all good!” Don’t get me wrong, I am a pretty big optimist, but it isn’t all good. If it was we’d call it heaven not earth! I need to make sure that I am taking a realistic look at the world around me and process it in the words of the serenity prayer “as it is, not as I would have it.”
By processing the pain and struggles that come into my life each day I am able to keep the piles at a manageable height instead of getting buried under the endless hurt that gets produced by some 7 billion people on this planet.
So tomorrow night I’m sure that Mr. Manilow will play this hit for us, (ed. note: he did, here’s part of it in a Greatest Hits medley https://youtu.be/83AZwxdsWlg) but as he sings about a father and son who drift through life I’ll keep remembering that we can change course at anytime, work that 4th step and that 8th step (and that 9th step too!) and find healing through our Higher Power Jesus Christ!
As I write this another season of “The Walking Dead” has concluded and the new season of “The Walking Not-Dead-Anymore” begins. This is Holy Week, and even though recent trends have played down the events and happenings of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter I think it is still important to recognize the importance of what happened in Israel some two thousand years ago.
Pastor Heather keeps the memory of Maundy Thursday alive and speaks about it in the office to keep us mindful. She also got us all palm fronds this last Sunday and taught us how to make them into crosses. I love her enthusiasm!
So what’s the deal with this week and why does it seem like there was more chatter on the “interwebs” about the Season Finale of a TV show than there was about my Jesus? Why does it feel like there will be more people watching their DVR’s to see who lives and dies than those who come to church this week to hear about the One who did live and die and live again?
This week, I’ve been told we should plan to see a lot of CEO’s at church service. No, not business leaders, but the (C)hristmas (E)aster (O)ne Other attenders. This is a great opportunity to show them how much we love them. This is a great opportunity to show them that our churches are open, warm, and alive. This is a great opportunity to show them that God’s not Dead!
Wow, the folks I run into sometimes just make me scratch me head and wonder… I’m sure you’ve experienced that too. It can be easy to sit in a crowded mall or at Starbucks and people watch, adding my own commentary about what people are doing or wearing. I bet most of us have seen the “People of WalMart” website. Here’s the thing: people are often times “weird”. And here’s the other thing: I’ve probably had people making that commentary about me at certain times of my life too.
It’s no fun being the subject of scorn or ridicule or humiliation. At one point I got to be front page news in my home town for about a week and there are still plenty of folks out there who haven’t yet decided that I am worthy of forgiveness. As attenders at Celebrate Recovery I am sure that you have probably all know how it feels to be an outcast. Sometimes it can feel like the only group I belong to is “those people”. So as I was listening to Pastor Todd’s sermon this week I began thinking about loving people. It’s easier to just make fun than to love people like me, but it’s more important to love those unloveables.
I noticed my daughter and son-in-law playing with their new baby. He’s cute, and pudgy, and has dimples in his fat rolls. When I complemented the kids on how great it was to see how much they loved little Luc my daughter replied that “he’s pretty easy to love.” It’s obviously true. Yet, shouldn’t that be true of all of us? At some point we were all cute little babies who were easy to love. As we age, we become more independent and start acting in ways that takes some of the luster off of our cuteness. I try to convince people to see my “overweightness” in the same way they see Luc’s, to no avail!
So how do we love “those people”? How do we push through their brash behavior or break through the walls they’ve constructed to keep us out? It isn’t easy, but it is basic: we just keep loving them no matter what. I once went through a period of months working in awkwardness with one of my best friends. I had said something that offended her and she reacted with hostility and anger that lasted for almost half a year. My other co-workers all noticed because the two of us had been so close and jovial before. One of them asked me how I was able to maintain and keep pressing forward. My response was that I had no control over their reactions and feelings toward me, but that I did have control and responsibility over myself. I chose to exercise that control by continuing to love my friend no matter what. Unconditional love is just that simple: it has no conditions. I cannot make a person love me, but conversely, they can’t make me stop loving them. Let’s go into these last weeks before Easter and be intentional with our love. Don’t limit it to the people who already surround us, but start adding strangers to the mix. There are about 7 billion people in the world, most of whom I don’t know, so the hunting should be easy!
Like a lot of Americans, I have had my phases of fascination with movies about the mafia. Plenty of us have seen “Goodfellas” or “The Godfather”. I was always trying to figure out what they meant when they talked about “running numbers”. So as I got older and “wiser” I found out more about what it was and learned about these private lottery systems. All that to say, in ministry it can be easy to get caught up in my own “Numbers Game”. As I prepare for our weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings I get visions of large crowds and multitudes coming through the door. Then on Fridays at 7 I stare plaintively at the door waiting for all those people to come in and when they don’t I feel a bit of the air in my balloon release…
It was brought to my attention this week, after another less-than-hoped for crowd, that Jesus spent three years just getting to know twelve men. As I ponder this fact I have come to realize that he was not getting to know them (after all Jesus knows us all and knew us before we were formed in the womb!) but rather they were getting to know him and each other. The disciples were in training for the ministry to come, and even after those three years they were found lacking.
So as I sit and type to my internet audience this week I am trying to remain mindful that God is preparing me and you for greater things to come. It won’t be all at once, if it were I would likely fumble the ball. No, it will be a gradual learning and growing that happens and that this process will achieve far greater long-term results for us all. So I will embrace the crowd I have, small or large, and rejoice in the knowledge that even just one soul reached, even one life changed, even one heart renewed is worthy of my all.