Prayers for Carol Ruth

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“Turn Your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Hey everybody, one of my best pals from high school days is having a health crisis.  She has spent 3 days in ICU fighting a virus.  We would appreciate your prayers; if you are not a prayer person, just set aside a moment to wish my friend a speedy recovery.  Her name is Carol Ruth and she lives in Sunbury, Pa.  She loves Jesus, so here’s a message from Chris Tomlin for Carol Ruth.

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“Pretty danged froggy.  Better than I deserve to be.”

As a teenager, I worked with my grandfather on his farm.  One of his hired hands, Bill, several years older than me, was a simple sort of fellow with a wisdom far beyond his age.  When someone asked Bill how he was doing today, he always replied, “Pretty danged froggy.  Better than I deserve to be.”

Isn’t that true for most of us in recovery?  We haven’t won awards for civic accomplishments, we failed in our relationships, and we certainly missed the “citizen of the year” bus.  But, for reasons beyond our understanding, grace and mercy were extended to us, we latched on to a miracle, and our lives were transformed.

“Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”

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I love you !

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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When was the last time you arose in the morning, went into the bathroom, stared at your reflection in the mirror, and looked into your eyes saying, “I love you; you are worthy of joy, peace, contentment, happiness, prosperity, and fulfillment?”

Whaaat? You have never said that?  Aw, c’mon, surely you look at those big, beautiful eyes and say, “Hey there, good-looking, I love you.”  Must I also assume that you don’t believe you are going to do great things and become the man/woman whom you have always wanted to be?

So, let me understand the start of your day.  You just stumble out of bed, throw the spouse out the door, kiss the cat and pour a cup of go-go juice, sit down and read the newspaper, get pissed off and stagger into the bathroom hating the world.  You do your morning nature call, slather on some smell-good stuff and turn on the TV.  Your favorite morning hosts are interviewing the latest sex pervert, forecasting a 3 day torrential rain, and predicting the stock market is about to crash.  Your sister calls and screams you are a nitwit because you forgot her dog’s birthday and little Johnny across the street has just pulled your prized begonia to take to school for show and tell.  Wow, have a great day!

Now, back up.  Climb into bed, pull the covers up over your shoulders, and set the snooze alarm for 8:30.

Ahhhh! What a wonderful night’s sleep I had.  Thank you Lord for giving me another day in your perfect world.  Streeeeetch those legs and arms.  Ahhhh, deep breaths, fill those lungs with the glorious scent of the gardenia outside the bedroom window.  Look around the room.  The beautiful family photos on the dresser.  The lovely quilt which Grandma crafted 80 years ago.  The old wooden rocking chair in the corner.  Now, off to the bathroom to splash some cold water in my sleepy eyes.  Rinse my mouth with refreshing minty mouthwash.  Look into the mirror at the Lord’s perfect example of me.  Those beautiful eyes.  Stare into them, they are amazing, are they not?

“I love you.  You are worthy.  You are wonderful.  You are perfect.”

God says that to you every minute of every day.  So, who are you to dispute and disagree?  Oprah starts her day with that routine and we all know that Oprah has all her bases covered.  So, pleeeease, you have lost the argument.  God and Oprah cannot both be wrong.  You are worthy of love, especially from yourself.  And when you love yourself, others will find you interesting, attractive, and…..worthy.

There’s that word ‘worthy’ again.  For the first 35 years of my life I was the lowest scum on earth, the dirtiest of the filthy, the most sinful of the sinners, the vilest of the vile, the most unworthy of the unworthy.  And that was just my personal opinion of myself.  I didn’t dare venture out into the brotherhood of decent folks living happy, fulfilled lives.  Only the Lord knows what they thought of me.

Today, I am claiming the parables of the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the lost sheep.  (LUKE 15:1-24) The Lord of my life never gave up on me.  Patiently he swept the floors looking for his lost coin, he searched the fields for his errant sheep and when multiple addictions had beaten me to a pulp, God ran down the highway to meet me, threw his arms around my neck, kissed me and said, “Welcome home, son.  I have always loved you and I have been looking for you.”

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’  And they began to be merry.”  LUKE 15: 22-24

Loved – just as I am.  Worthy – just as I am.  Perfect – just as I am.  Today, the reflection in my mirror has kind, loving eyes looking back at me with optimism and hope.
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Well, I never!

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In high school junior class, “Well, I never,” became one of those responses to just about every situation that caused one to raise an eyebrow or melt in shame.  The math teacher assigns 2 hours of homework for homecoming weekend – “well, I never.”  Our English teacher assigns 3 hours of reading for the night – “well, I never.”  My girlfriend tells me she’s pregnant – “WELL, I NEVER.”  I relate my generation’s words to the recently popular, “Shut up.”  Yeah, thankfully, what was cool years ago like, “cool, daddyo,” and “friggin far out,” wear out and the younger hip dudes and dudettes come up with their own lingo.  OK, OK, forgive my lack of current jargon literacy, I don’t interact with many young people.

But, it was, in my days of being cool,  just an expression of exasperation over something another person said or did.  And it caught on in junior class to the point that even junior high kids were using  it.  Of course to us hip cats in junior class that meant that another response needed to be found.  “Well, I never,” was just so not cool anymore.

Later in life, after years of self-flagellation at the hands of alcohol, when sobriety became a matter of life or death, we heard the “I nevers,” many times at our recovery tables.  I never cheated on my spouse, I never stole from my employer, I never beat up on my lover, I never hurt the kids, I never wrecked my car, I never swore at my dad, I never murdered anyone, I never, I never, I never.  And the correct response to all those “I nevers” was a resounding, “not yet.”

Go back out for more field research, hang out in my favorite bars, start feeling sorry for myself and that I never list will dwindle.”  Many sober drunks became again drinking drunks and did things they boasted would never happen.  Their I never list shrank.  Some died chasing down remaining items on their list.

I don’t tempt the statistics.  If those numbers prove that hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places doing the wrong things reduces my chances of staying sober than I will not put my sobriety in jeopardy.  When my friends argue with me that I have been sober a long time and not an alcoholic anymore, “Go ahead have a glass of wine,” then I am in a dangerously precarious situation.  When I am tempted to forget my last drunk and my last car wreck and my last blackout, then I need to get on my knees and turn it all over one more time to the God of my understanding.

That same God says in the Book of Hebrews in chapter 13, verse 5:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

That’s an “I never” to which I will nail my sobriety.  How about you?

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Why are you surprised?

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The Good News of the Gospels is usually relegated to back page stories in this newspaper called life.  Every new day brings increasingly savage and violent news of mankind’s failure to understand our purpose during our visit to this life.  Perhaps people are unaware of the necessary path we must take to ensure our species is existent a few millennia from now.  Deadly armaments and unbridled displays of man’s inhumanity to man foretell a fiery demise.  Is there any hope?

Days like yesterday and today leave me questioning.  The salient media story has been about one man intent on killing as many other men and women as possible with his accumulated stash of weaponry and ammo.  Disgruntled about political differences and incited by racial hatred this one person had a desire to destroy the world.  Can you fathom a crazed mind that intent on having his will let loose on mankind?  I cannot.

Several books of our Scriptures prophesied the “end times.”  Some of us believe the writers could indeed foresee the future of man as related in their writings.  Some of us who are less inclined to agree with prophesy call today’s world circumstances a coincidence.  I certainly don’t know the answers.

However, I do believe those ancient men of scripture knew instinctively the nature of man.  They knew and experienced the violence and hatred inherent in humanity since the beginnings of time.  We do not descend from peaceful stock.  Our genes do not comprehend the words love and compassion and tolerance.  Our primal tribal nature teaches us to kill that which is different from us.  We have millions of years of DNA driving us to be killing machines.  So, why should we be surprised when one man sets out to destroy as much as possible of God’s creation?

Understanding the aggressive, violent nature of mankind does not excuse the task set before me which is to evolve to the highest levels of peaceful coexistence with all races, creeds, nationalities and lifestyles possible within my broken, human condition.  I can never do this perfectly, but I can make progress.  How about you?  Together, maybe we can modify those genes and change our world.

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I claimed my miracle, have you?

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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“I’m sorry, we are out of wine.  Would you like a cup of water or perhaps fermented goat’s milk?”

“Noooooooooooooooo.”  Undoubtedly, the scream echoed through the hills and valleys of Galilee as the feast master in charge of the wine supply realized his calculations for the wedding’s needs were misjudged.  His reputation throughout Israel would be ruined.  Nobody would hire him to cater their wedding after this fiasco at Cana.

And then Jesus, having been summoned by his mother, saved the day by turning six stone pots each filled with 20 to 30 gallons of water into vessels filled with wine.  When the wine was tested by the ruler of the wedding feast he went to the bridegroom saying, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  (John 2:10 NIV)

The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John reveal to us the miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in the ancient manuscripts.  Turning water into wine was the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry occurring three days after Nathaniel became a follower.  John 2:11 tells us that this “was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed him.”

“He did whaaat?”  Had I lived then and one of my neighbors who attended that wedding at Cana told me about some yahoo preacher man turning about 150 gallons of water into wine, I am certain my doubting Thomas nature would have replied, “You’re out of your mind.  What were you smoking up there at Cana?”

Many people today say they don’t believe in miracles.  They also deny Jesus, God, and eternity.  Years ago I was one of those people.  I wanted to be an atheist, tried to be an agnostic and failed miserably at both.  If God did not exist why was I on my knees in a drunken stupor begging God to heal me?  If Jesus was just a myth like Santa Claus why did I talk to him like a friend when I wanted to end my life?

Yes I believed, but I refused to accept my miracle.  It was right there in front of me for years , but I was not done with the pain and self-loathing.  I wanted to beat up on myself for a while longer.  It gave me satisfaction to be a victim.  The floor of my bottom had a trap door that I wanted to explore.  Let’s kick me around and refuse my miracle a little bit longer.

But, you see, the God which I rejected did not give up.  Every night on my knees in a drunken stupor, God held my hand listening to me, comforting me, showing me the way to accept grace and mercy.  I tearfully forgave myself and accepted life, eternal life.  Miracles still happen today.  I claimed mine.  Millions of others like me, addicts and drunks clean and serene, are each and every one the story of a miracle.

“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed him.” (John 2:11 NIV)

I believe him too.

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the awakening

 

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The ugliness in the world somehow seems much uglier than it did yesterday.  The darkness of a government missing its moral compass is darker.  The inequalities gripping humanity appear more unequal.  What happened to my complacency and my acceptance of this status quo?  I did not ask to be made aware.  I was happy with a world that accepted me.  I was content to just fit in and be unnoticed.  Then he came along.

Then he came along and changed my life forever.  Minding my own business casting my nets, this preacher man walked by and said to my brother Andrew and me, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Who is this stranger?  Does he really believe I am going to leave my nets and my boat and walk away from my wife, my children?  What does he want?  What does he mean by ‘fishers of men’ and why is my brother abandoning his nets also and turning our boat over onto the beach?  Why are we doing this?  

Look!  There are James and John with their father Zebedee mending nets on their boat.  This stranger is calling to them.  They, too, are dropping their work to slosh through the water to join us.  He says we are going to be his followers, his disciples.  We are going to preach at Capernaum and everywhere in Galilee.  Preach what?  Who is this man who calls himself Jesus?  Just yesterday I was content to simply fish and mend my nets, but now he wants us to be fishers of men.

Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John encountered a dilemma on that day nearly two-thousand years ago working their trade on the Sea of Galilee.  What would you have done?  How about me?  My spouse would definitely not understand and my friends would think I’ve had too much to drink.  And what about the neighbors?  “Yeah,” they would chortle, “Larry just left the mower in the yard, joined Joe and Bobby following some guy who said, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. He’s bonkers! ‘”

Everyone of us has had our day in the boat just fishing and easing along through life when Jesus appears on the shore beckoning us to follow.  It happens unexpectedly, doesn’t it?  He says our nets will catch something bigger and better than anything our dreams could imagine.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Folks, that’s not a request.  It’s a command.

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