Remembering July 7, 2016 (Psalm 22)

Two years ago, at the end of protests on the night of July 7, 2016, a lone shooter ambushed a group of Dallas police officers, killing five men and injuring nine others. The ambush came amid high tensions across the nation concerning a rash of police shootings that received massive media scrutiny and sparked nationwide outrage, particularly in black communities.

Dallas is a city that has witnessed horrific events before. In 1963, JFK was assassinated here. After September 11, 2001, the skies above DFW, normally filled with flying machines, hovered quietly and somberly for days on end as the nation attempted to come to grips with what had happened that fateful day.

Two years after the shootings in Dallas, tensions and dissension remain. Yes, the focus and topics have changed, but the societal gaps have widened. We are not a nation that has been drawn closer together. The cohesiveness and unity of the day after 9-11 are a distant memory.

In the days that followed the cowardly attack, I had the privilege of attending several of the funerals for the officers. Pulling up to park at the memorial service for Dallas Police Sergeant Michael Smith, my friend Mark Jones and I were blown away at seeing the thousands of police cars and motorcycles lining the streets around Watermark Church. Mark and I lamented the state of race relations in America, discussing how, as ministers, we should respond to the ever-increasing tensions between our two respective races.

While we did not assess people by their skin color, we knew that people in the world did. We both believed in law and order and supporting those who protected our families and communities. Our hearts ached for the fallen officers and their families and the tensions splitting our nation apart. Walking to the church, neither of us knew that the Lord would call my friend Mark home the following year, days before the one-year anniversary of the ambush.

One Dallas

The focus of those days has shifted. The vitriolic venom, though, has not subsided. Our country is not any more united today than it was on that day. The divide still exists. Protests continue. As a nation, we are weary. Weary of the terrorism, tired of war, fed up with the drug epidemics, and frustrated by the unending protests against seemingly everything and everyone.

Psalm 22 The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

22 1-2 God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
  leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
    they cried for your help and you gave it;
    they trusted and lived a good life.

6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!”

9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother’s breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
since the moment of birth you’ve been my God.
Then you moved far away
and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.

12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
    the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
    like a herd of buffalo on the move.

14-15 I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled,
every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
in the dirt.

16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.

19-21 You, God—don’t put off my rescue!
    Hurry and help me!
Don’t let them cut my throat;
    don’t let those mongrels devour me.
If you don’t show up soon,
    I’m done for—gored by the bulls,
    meat for the lions.

22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
—worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
—worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
—worshiping!

30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

The Devotional Guy_preach the gospel

In Psalm 22, we find David weary and frustrated, feeling despondent, and wondering if God had forsaken him. Yet, he remained confident that God would look after him. Frustrated by God’s apparent lack of response to David’s prayers, he found encouragement through remembering God’s past faithfulness and goodness.

David teaches us a valuable lesson through his response. We see David demonstrating attitudes and concerns in similar ways that we do when the world seems to be piling problem after problem at our door. Amidst the turmoil swirling around his situation, David steps back long enough to remember the Lord’s previous mercies and grace. This made his present troubles appear small in retrospect.

David outlines his dire circumstances and then confidently expresses his personal trust in the Lord and belief that the same God who provided for him before will deliver him from certain death now.

When we find ourselves mired in the valley, we forget what we experienced on the mountaintop. My late friend Mark would often say something like “Don’t forget in the darkness what God showed you in the light.”

Yes, in this life we will have trouble. But, as we see in this Psalm written by David centuries ago, we can be confident that we serve a God who is trustworthy. God is able. With an able and faithful God on our side, we have nothing to fear in this life.

As a nation, I pray we will remember what we share in common is far greater than that which divides us. We must move past the vitriolic discourse and begin having honest conversations about what ails us. In my lifetime, I have seen our nation move far away from God. We have forsaken and forgotten Him, pushing Him out of virtually every facet of our lives. We’ve taken the wheel. We’ve become the pilots now. At best, we ask God to be our co-pilot, to ride along with us, as we pursue our will and seek out our own ways. Along the way, those who have pledged to protect and serve us are slaughtered on the battlefields far away and those close to home.

DPD Memorial 2016Please checkout Gary Miller and I discussing “Everythingness” on the WorshipMinistry.com podcast.

Day 8339: Continuing to Face the Challenges of Living Life in Recovery

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how challenging sobriety is. I’ve lived in recovery for over 8,300 days. 8,339 to be exact. Even after all that time, I’m not guaranteed sobriety tomorrow. It’s a decision I make first thing in the morning when I get up out of bed. Every day.

“I’m going to live sober today,” I say to myself.

“Yes,” my Self replies.

Keep in mind that I do this even though I don’t always feel like it. Yes. There are days where the fight to stay clean and sober is difficult. Even 20+ years later. And I still run into people every day who don’t really understand addiction or know what to do with former addicts like me (that’s ok–I don’t always know what to do with myself either).

Recovery isn’t’ something I got right the first time. It took a few tries. I wavered between stringing a few days back to back and over a year of sobriety. That’s right. One year. It ended like this:

“Want a beer?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. And off to the races we went.

For me, alcohol is the key that unlocks the door to a wild ride. Prior to recovery finally sticking, I went out on a 33-day binge that nearly killed me. My binge was fueled by a ton of things I won’t mention here. I don’t want to glorify them. I don’t want to tell you that you can do them and live. You can. Most people don’t. Those that do, usually wind up in jail. A fortunate few of us get rescued, finding refugee in the Halls and solace in the Rooms that offer us a free space to be ourselves. There’s no judgment in the Rooms. At least not usually (we are human after all). I guess a better way to say it is that there isn’t supposed to be any judgment. We each have our own story to tell; our own truth to share.

I’ve seen addiction steal lives. I’ve witnessed addiction destroy dreams. I’m grateful that I found a way up from the Bottoms. Although it’s something I had to do first and foremost for myself, it’s not something I did alone. A lot of people have helped me overcome my innermost personal demons. It’s because of the love and kindness of others that I can claim to live in victory today.

Semi-colons mark a point where a sentence could have stopped; a spot where the story could have ended. But by the grace of God…my life didn’t end with my addictions.

semicolonAre you struggling with addiction? Has alcohol or have drugs taken control of your life? You aren’t alone. You don’t have to keep suffering. You don’t have to keep living a lie. You don’t have to keep leaving a wake of devastation wherever you go. You can change. Life can be different. But you got to want it…

Start here or here.

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What to Do When the Crazy in Your Life is You

Admitting your life has become unmanageable and asking for help takes courage. You’re not quite sure when it happened, but sometime during the 24-7-365 party, you became powerless over your addictions and compulsions. You may just have one; or if you’re like me you suffer from a combination collectively destroying your life. And make no mistake about it: your addiction and compulsion will kill you, unless you get help.

Getting over yourself, your hurts, habits, and hang-ups isn’t a solo show. You can’t do it alone. You need strength from above and support from a community of people who know what you’re going through because they themselves have gone through it.

It won’t happen overnight. You won’t wake up Monday morning cured. What ails you runs deep and has its roots firmly implanted inside you. Addiction won’t let go easily. You won’t just suddenly give up your compulsion.

overcomer

The longer I was out and about actively chasing my highs the floor of my lows gradually dropped lower and lower. What were once solid boundaries crumbled like the walls of Jericho. The friends I once partied with got busy, so I got busy getting new friends. The crowd I hung out with got rougher and rougher. The line between right and wrong faded in the distance. All I cared about was copping a buzz or getting high. No matter what the cost or consequence. The more the merrier. Until one day, everything came crashing down and I found myself  hugging the porcelain god, sick and tired of being sick and tired. Getting clean and sober became a matter of living or dying. The choices before me were clear. One road led to recovery and a new life. The second road led to a lifetime behind bars (the kind they have in jail cells not by the hotel lobby) or an early grave. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen easily. I stumbled a lot early on. And I got up, only to stumble again. But I kept trying. “Hang in there,” they said. “Keep coming back.” So I did.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you can’t quite yet.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7:18 (NIV)

Change

Wherever you are in your journey, know that you don’t have to go it alone. You weren’t meant to. There’s plenty of help out there. You can find meeting rooms for you compulsion or addiction of choice in your community. You can find support and help online (this blog is an example).

Life CAN be different. Life IS worth living. Remember to keep it simple and take it one day at a time. I’m praying for you. You CAN recover. Take the first step…

You’re not alone.

recovery is possible

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37 (NASB

#recovery #itworksifyouworkit #overcomers #together

One Day at a Time