This is the final chapter in Part One of “A Life Unplugged”; at the end of this chapter will be an invitation to get to the “meat” of the book. For all those who have taken the time to read my testimony recorded in Part One, I appreciate your taking the time to do so. For those who haven’t had the time (I know in a blog format very few have the time to read the lengthy chapters), you will be blessed by Part Two with or without having read my testimony. The first part of this work was written to give my readers a perspective and a personality to guide what follows in Part Two. May the Lord bless you in a way only He knows how.
Part One, Chapter Seven: The Beauty of Present/Future
When I returned home or rather what was left of it, the reality of the wasteland came into full focus and acute clarity. Many days I wished I could return to the controlled and safe rampart of that little farmhouse of social rejects. Rehab gave me the tools, showed me how to use them, but I was the one who had to do the work. I have been quoted as saying, “Sometimes you have to move mountains one shovel of dirt at a time”, and that is exactly what re-entering my own life was like. Everything was as I had left it; nothing had changed…except me! The disenchanted wife was still there, the children that walked on eggshells around me were still there, the financial woes were still there, and the world greeted me like a tidal wave approaching a grain of sand. Yes, I felt that small. And the reality of having to rebuild was daunting to say the least. But the silver lining here is that I had no choice but to depend on God. This is the primary reason that people don’t make it after the storm: they think they have to do it themselves! I would be lying if I told you that some days I didn’t feel completely hopeless and overwhelmed. It is hard work, this entering into God’s rest…oxymoronic, I know. The return to the speed of modern life looks foreign to you and it is easy to revert back to “default mode”; it is all too easy to jump back into your old ways of coping and thinking. The Bible tells of this when it speaks of “the renewing of your mind”. You have to fight thinking in old patterns; people in recovery call it “stinking thinking”. This stinking thinking is one of negativity and focusing on the impossibility of life, of always seeing the glass half empty, and of always seeing yourself as the sum of your past instead of your potential in the future. One of my favorite writers explains it this way: we must put to death the life of “past-present” and give attention to the life lived “present-future”. In a nutshell, this teaches us to define ourselves through God’s eyes in regard to being forgiven, that our sins are “remembered no more”, and that God has a plan for you that is one of “prospering you and not to harm you”. This is all fine and dandy, it’s just that everyone else in your life didn’t get that memo! And because they didn’t get the memo, they are incessantly defining you by your past. So the whole system is screwed and is set up for failure. It is hard to move forward when everything and everyone in your life is reminding you of what’s behind you.
The beauty in this very challenging part of recovery is that the Lord holds you very close. Like a newborn baby, He will coddle you and give you a lot of attention! The only requirement is that you allow Him to operate. How do you allow Him to operate? Here is the formula for success: when you awaken every morning, hit the floor with your knees instead of your feet; instead of T.V., internet, or whatever other worldly distraction, have a time of devotion and reading from the Bible; have fellowship with other people to fulfill the mandate in James (this usually takes the form of a “meeting”); and seek the Lord’s hand in every part of your day. This book is not intended to be a guide to recovery, but it in many ways is just that! Many reading this right now are thinking, “What does this have to do with me?” and I understand. But, as we will see, the formula will be almost identical to living a spiritually unplugged life of unbelievable beauty! At this time in my life, the Lord and I were rebuilding what had been destroyed, and I will challenge all who are reading this to tear down their walls and begin to rebuild as well!
Like building a foundation one cinder block at a time, so is living a focused life one day at a time. After some time has passed, you will lift your head and survey the situation. You will be pleasantly surprised on every single occassion; after a stretch in complete discipline and focus, it is good to look up from your work and take heed of the progress. This is why recovery programs have “chips”; these tokens are ebenezers that mark the road back to God. So after about a year, I looked up and was stunned at the distance the Lord had walked with me. This motivated me even more. Another year, my marriage was healing and my children hung on me like jewelry. Another year, I am surrounded by a bunch of loving people I can honestly call friends for life. Another year, I have a key to the church and teach Bible classes. Another year, I am involved in non-profits helping “the least of these” and promoting unity in the church. Another year, another year, and here I am! I can never forget where I have been. I don’t look back in regret, for this road has shaped me into the person that I am and uniquely qualifies me to be a minister of hope and healing. So imagine with me for a moment: if you were to walk up to me while I was sitting in jail broken and battered by life and hating God and then told me that in the not too distant future, that I would be writing a book about Christian spirituality, being a leader in my home, in my congregation, and in my community, what do you think my reaction would have been? Only God can do this kind of miracle; you can’t make this stuff up!
We are about to enter together into a world of unbelievable magic and wonderment. I wanted to give you this compass so that you didn’t think I was some preacher up on a soapbox (not that there is anything innately wrong with that), I wanted you to see that God is a master of taking what was destroyed and building something magnificent, I wanted you to see that God can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, and I wanted to show you a real picture of what a redeemed man of God looks like. I can’t talk down to you now, can I? You must understand that the words that follow this relatively short version of my testimony are not mine. I cannot overstate the fact that what follows is a gift from God to me to be shared with you. It does me no good to harbor these revelations, it gains me nothing to protect these truths that I will attempt to bring to light, and I have no ulterior motives in giving to you what He so graciously gave to me. This testimony was not an attempt of self-deprecation to create an ambiance of false humility, but merely an honest attempt to assuage anyone’s fear that somehow God can’t or won’t use you. It’s almost too cliché, but I have to say it: if He can use me then He can surely use you as well. I don’t want to celebrate my life, that’s not the point. I want to make much of Jesus and His call to the spiritual life available to all who would choose it, and I want to make much of you regardless of how you perceive yourself. This is an attempt to shed light on an undeniable truth that you were worth dying for and that you are God’s most prized possession. The Lord and I both want you to move from the natural into the supernatural by unplugging from the false, worldly constructs all around us and plugging into the unbelievable, spiritual life that Jesus purchased for you! Understand this: I am not selling Jesus, God does not need a lawyer, and I have committed to be brutally honest with you. I will not stretch the truth, I will not spin, and I will not add or subtract to what the Lord has given me. The Bible has stern warnings about being a teacher, and I am going out on the proverbial limb here to attempt to teach things. That being said, if I err it will be on the side of safety…not in taking liberties. One thing I have noticed in the Christian writing world: a man can take 99 steps with God and his readers and make the fatal flaw of taking the 100th all by his lonesome! And anyway, who am I but a highly flawed individual? Why would you take teaching from a guy like me anyway? Haven’t I convinced you that I am in no way equipped or accredited to teach you? So take what I have to say only as the Lord speaks to your heart, listen to Him speaking through me, and remember that this is a safe environment and every urge to bite has been divinely removed from my disposition.
This concludes Part One of “A Life Unplugged”.
If this is the first post you have read from “A Life Unplugged”, you can go back and read all seven chapters. The best thing to do is to click here on the Introduction and Outline. From there, at the bottom of each successive chapter, you can simply click the link to the next one. Part Two will begin next week (March 11th, 2013) and it is TOTALLY different than Part One! Part Two is all about YOU and how you can let your life be plugged into God’s life…not the other way around.
***Please note: This is a limited time blog publishing of this book; it will be removed in a month and, God willing, will be in hard copy sometime in the future. The purpose for this limited-time publishing is to receive feedback. To those who have emailed me and commented on these posts, I wish to express to you that your input has been invaluable and will be taken into consideration. See you next week…I hope you are as excited as I am. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!!!!