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NOT MY JOB
The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.
[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."
As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.
She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."
"Not now. I'm tired."
"I found your pipe."
She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."
The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"
I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.
"Mom!" She jerked away.
"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."
I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.
I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?
I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.
"How should I know?"
When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.
"What'd you talk about?"
Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.
I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.
"Come over for coffee," she urged.
I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.
"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."
"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."
The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.
I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:
"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."
I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.
Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.
"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.
"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."
Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.
Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)
Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.
From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"
H. YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD THE OLD STORY ABOUT THE LATE, GREAT DR. A. J. GORDON, A FAMOUS PREACHER FROM ENGLAND WHO CAME TO A VERY DEAD, DULL, FORMAL, CHURCH IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON, MASS. I. HE WAS A FIERY PREACHER, WHO REFUSED TO WEAR A ROBE, WHICH WAS MANDATORY IN THAT CHURCH AND HE PREACHED “JESUS” TO THOSE PEOPLE WITH SUCH FERVOR, THEY SAT OUT THERE SHELL-SHOCKED, AND AFTER A MONTH, THEY WERE READY TO FIRE DR. GORDON. J. ONE SUNDAY HE PREACHED A SERMON CALLED “THE FUNERAL OF THE CHURCH” AND THIS IS WHAT HE SAID, “ECCLESIASTICAL CORPSES LIE ALL AROUND US. THE CASKETS IN WHICH THEY REPOSE ARE LINED WITH SATIN AND ARE DECORATED WITH SOLID SILVER HANDLES AND ABUNDANT FLOWERS. LIKE ALL CASKETS THEY ARE JUST LARGE ENOUGH FOR THEIR OCCUPANTS WITH NO ROOM FOR CONVERTS. THESE CHURCHES HAVE DIED FROM THE DISEASE OF FORMALISM AND HAVE BEEN EMBALMED IN COMPLACENCY. IF BY THE GRACE OF GOD THIS CHURCH HAS ANY LIFE LEFT IN HER, I WARN YOU THAT THOSE THAT BURIED THY SISTER CHURCHES WILL BE AT THY DOOR TO CARRY THEE OUT, BECAUSE I PREDICT THIS CHURCH, WILL BE DEAD SOON, BECAUSE I HEAR THE DEATH RATTLE” M. AFTER HE PREACHED THAT SERMON, SIX MEN CAME THROUGH THE BACK DOORS CARRYING A CASKET, AND HE HAD THEM PUT IT AT THE FRONT OF THE CHURCH AND OPEN IT AND THEN HE ASKED EVERYBODY IN THE CHURCH TO WALK BY AND SEE THEIR DEAD CHURCH. O. AS THEY WALKED BY, THEY LOOKED IN THE CASKET AND YOU GUESSED IT–THEY WERE LOOKING AT THEMSELVES, IN A MIRROR
Sermon Central Staff
"PLEASE COME BACK"
Max Lucado tells us about a girl named Christina. She lives in a small dusty village in Brazil. She’s bored. She feels like her strict parents have cheated her out of the joys of life. She longs for the excitement of the big city of Rio.
One morning her mother Maria finds Christina’s bed empty. Maria knew immediately where her daughter had gone. So she quickly throws some clothes in a bag, gathers up all her money, and heads for the bus station.
On her way, the mom enters one of those photograph booths in a local drug store and takes pictures of herself. She puts the pictures in her purse and takes the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
She puts up pictures of herself all over town. But she can’t find her daughter. The weary mother gets back on the bus and weeps all the way home.
Months later, Christina slowly walks down the hotel stairs. She’s already worn down by life. Her young face is tired. Her brown eyes no longer dance with youth but speak of pain and fear.
A thousand times over she longed to go back home. She remembered the warm secure feeling of love and acceptance she had experience back with her mum in their little village. But she thought it was too late to turn back.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes notice a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back were these words: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And she did.
Christine’s mom pulled out all the stops to get her child to come back home, and this is exactly what God is doing for His children. It’s not His will for anyone here in this room to perish. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come back to Jesus."
(From a sermon by Maarc Axelrod, Crazy About His Kids, 2/9/2011)
Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between a spotlight and a laser beam?
How can a medium-powered laser burn through steel in a matter of seconds, while the most powerful spotlight can only make it warm?
Both may have the same electrical power requirements.
The difference is unity.
A laser can be simply described as a medium of excited molecules with mirrors at each end.
Some of the excited molecules naturally decay into a less excited state.
In the decay process they release a photon, a particle of light.
It is here that the unique process of the laser begins.
The photon moves along and “tickles” another molecule, inviting another photon to join him on his journey.
Then these two photons “tickle” two more molecules and invite two more photons to join the parade.
Soon there is a huge army of photons marching in step with each other.
It is this unity that gives the laser its power.
A spotlight may have just as man...
Max Lucado, in No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, tells the story of Maria and her daughter Christina. Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent living at home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she ran away, breaking her mother’s heart. Her mother knew what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, so Maria quickly packed to go find her daughter. On her way to the bus stop, she went to a drugstore to get one last thing—pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the money she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she got on the next bus to Rio de Janeiro. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. At each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, or fastened to a corner phone booth. On the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before Maria’s money and pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The tired mother cried as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. A few weeks later, Christina was coming down the stairs in a seedy hotel. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times she had longed to trade all those countless beds for her secure pallet. And yet the little village seemed too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back Maria had written this: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And Christina went home. God is the same way. He wants us to come home. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It doesn’t matter what we’ve become. We can always come home to Him. It is like Maria, reaching out for her daughter even when her daughter didn’t realize it. It is like God reaching out to us while we are living a life of sin and we are lost and yet, Christ is there...reaching....longing...desiring to bring us home. It is prevenient grace—it has kept us, as Newton writes, “safe thus far.”
Sermon Central Staff
WHO MADE ME?
I love the story of the boy sitting on his father's lap as they were looking into a mirror. The boy said to his dad, "Dad, who made me?"
He said, "God made you, son."
He said, "Dad, who made you?"
He said, "God made me, son."
He said, "Dad, who made granddad?"
He said, "God made him, son."
He said, "Dad, who made great-granddad?" He said, "God made him, son. Why do you ask?"
The boy took one look back in the mirror and said, "Well, it just seems to me He's been doing a better job in recent years!"
Laugh as we might and should, the boy was right. God so starts at conception to develop a child that unborn children have detectable heartbeats at just 18 days.
(From a sermon by Larry Moyer, What Does God Say about the Sanctity of Life? 1/5/2011)
We live in a world that has shaped our priorities, skewed our perspectives, and taught us what to value. Rather than permitting God to challenge those values--to confront and replace them--a great deal of energy is expended in the attempt to win God’s approval and support of the values that God actually detests. We want God to baptize our standard of living, our pursuit of financial security, our accumulation of money. We want his approval of large houses, large bank accounts, large credit card limits. We want him to look at our consumer culture, our capitalistic dreams and pronounce, "It is good." It is all theological smoke and mirrors, imposing on God a value system that is foreign to his very nature. It is culture dictating the shape of faith. And, in this, we are culture's collaborators.
After being away on business, a man thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift. “How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk.
She showed him a bottle costing $50.00. “That’s a bit much,” he said, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.00. “That’s still quite a bit,” he complained. Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15.00...
THE TROUBLE TELESCOPE
Most of you have seen the wonderful images from the Hubble Space Telescope. From the far reaches of space, we're able to see God's most breathtaking creations. Do you remember that in the beginning the Hubble Space Telescope was not the wonderful machine that it is today. After lots of excitement, the telescope was launched several years ago and the first images were blurry. There was a flaw in the mirror. It was a terrible disappointment. That problem was later corrected, but at the time there was a joke making the rounds that said the only thing NASA learned from the Hubble Telescope was to never name a project that rhymed with "trouble." It was a huge embarrassment.
The self-centered life is just like the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. It makes everything out of focus so that you don't see truth and reality -- you just see a blurry image of it. The self-centered life makes you think that you are the most important thing in the universe -- but you're not.
The royal palace in Tehran, Iran has one of the most beautiful entrances of all palaces in the world today. As one enters the royal palace the doomed ceilings, sidewalls, and columns seemed to be covered with diamonds. When the Royal Palace was planned, the architects sent an order to Paris for mirrors to cover the entrance walls. The mirrors finally arrived in their crates. When they took the crates apart, all the broken pieces fell out. They were all smashed while being transported. They were going to throw them all away when one of the men had an idea to see how the broken pieces would look if they fitted them together. The result is an enormous distortion in reflections, and it sparkles with diamond like rainbow colors.
Broken to be more beautiful!
That is exactly what God can do with the broken pieces of our lives if we will just turn it over to Him.