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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?"

"Whatever."

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?"

"Just stuff."

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.

"Thanks, Mom."

"For what?"

"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"

 
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REPENTANCE IN THE WHITE HOUSE

In 2001, Tim Goeglein started running the White House Office of Public Liaison, providing him almost daily access to then President George Bush for seven years. Then it all ended abruptly on February 29, 2008. A well-known blogger revealed the startling fact that 27 out of 39 of Goeglein's published articles had been plagiarized. By mid-afternoon the next day, Goeglein's career in the White House was over.

Goeglein, who admitted his guilt, said that this began "a personal crisis unequaled in my life, bringing great humiliation on my wife and children, my family, and my closest friends, including the President of the United States."

Goeglein was summoned to the White House to face the President. Once inside the Oval Office, Goeglein shut the door, turned to the President and said, "I owe you an..."

President Bush simply said: "Tim, you are forgiven."

Tim was speechless. He tried again: "But sir..."

The President interrupted him again, with a firm "Stop." Then President Bush added, "I have known grace and mercy in my life, and you are forgiven."

After a long talk, a healing process was launched for Goeglein, which included repentance, reflection, and spiritual growth. "Political power can lead to pride," Goeglein later reflected. "That was my sin. One hundred percent pride. But offering and receiving forgiveness is a different kind of strength. That's the kind of strength I want to develop now."

(Warren Cole Smith, "Wins & Losses," World magazine, 10-23-10, p. 11. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Love and Longing, 5/13/2011)

 
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NO ATHEISTS IN THE WATER

David Harrell wrote a book telling the story of his father, Edgar Harrell. Edgar was one of the 300 survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the last US ship sunk by enemy contact in WW2. 600 of the 900 men who survived the ship's sinking were stranded in the water for five days - many with only a life vest - all facing thirst, hunger, injuries, dehydration and sharks. They all came face to face with fear and their own mortality.

Edgar testifies of those days alone in the ocean, "Clearly there were no atheists in the water that day. Gone was that damnable attitude of pride that deceives men into thinking that there is no God, or if there is, they don't need Him. When a man is confronted with death, it is the face of Almighty God he sees, not his own. We were all acutely aware of our Creator during those days and nights."

(David Harrell, “Out of the Depths,” Xulon Press, 2005, 112-113).

 
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JUST TO BE NOTICED

Every spring, hundreds of Hollywood “stars” gather for the Academy Awards. Very few “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the stands (who, by the way, all had to apply and go through extensive background checks), showing off their clothing (and undoubtedly a bit more), chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.

Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8, He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9, He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1, a demon possessed man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”, to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!”

Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way.

Until today. Until the e...

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CHRISTLIKENESS: A PAINFUL PROCESS

The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.

For a powerful example of this, read in C. S. Lewis’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader about the boy, Eustace, who becomes a dragon. In order to become a little boy again, he must undergo a tremendous amount of pain as the dragon skin is peeled away and torn from him. Only after he endures this painful process is he truly transformed from a dragon back into a boy.

Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us. The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful.

(Francis Chan. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (pp. 50-51). Kindle Edition.)

 
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THE CADDY

Two golfers stepped up to the first tee on the St. Andrews course in New York. The older golfer was a kindly man who played a thoughtful, deliberate game. The younger golfer was full of pride and impatience.

On the first hole he sliced, lost his ball in the tall grass, hit another one, & had a score of 8 instead of 4 or 5. And the next hole was even worse.

Frustrated, he began hollering at the caddy: "Keep your eyes peeled. I'm not here to do your job for you!" Thereafter, every bad shot was the caddy's fault! At the end of the first 9 holes, the younger golfer was so upset that he discharged the caddy & carried his own bag. "That caddy made me nervous. He doesn't like me, & I blankety-blank sure don't like him! I say good riddance to him!"

After several more holes had been played without a word, the older golfer broke the silence: "Several years ago a little kid from Yonkers came up here & became a caddy. He was a sweet-natured boy; quick-witted, willing, & had a nose for golf. Everybody liked him. His name was William; he had a clubfoot. But that didn't affect his caddying. It was a pleasure to go out with him."

"A famous doctor, a member of the club, became interested in William & took him South that winter & operated on his foot. When William returned, he went back to caddying. The doctor, however, had to give up golf shortly after that because of his health. And it wasn't long after that when he died.

"Months later I was playing a round with William carrying my bag. It was Spring, & the fields & hedges were alive with blossoms. William stopped several times to gather flowers until he had quite a bouquet. 'Who's the girl, William?' I asked. 'I haven't any girl, sir,' he said. 'They're for my friend, the doctor--twice a week I take flowers to his grave.'

"Now that's a caddie worth having," the younger golfer said. "What ever happened to him?" The older man paused & then replied, "For 9 holes he was carrying your bag."

(From a sermon by Melvin Newland, Thanksgiving and Praise, 11/24/2010)

 
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We think that God wants us to try something on our own first, and then come to him in prayer for help only after we’ve worked at it and can’t figure it out. We hear the saying, “God helps those who help themselves” and think it’s true. Many people even believe it’s in the Bible. It’s not. It actually comes from Greek mythology.

A man is pushing his cart along a dirt road and it gets stuck in the mud. He sits down on the ground next to the cart and asks the gods to free his cart. Hercules appears say, “Get up, man, and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.”

This focus on doing things ourselves without asking for God’s help leads us to believe we actually did them without God’s help, which in turn grows to our believing we don’t need God’s help.

And if we believe don’t need God’s help, we can easily believe that we don’t need him or his rules. We start doing our will instead of God’s, and the more we do it the more prideful we become. Our pride causes us to focus on our will which in turn makes us even more proud of ourselves. It’s like a self-licking ice-cream cone.

 
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A young pilot had just passed the point of no return when the weather changed for the worse. Visibility dropped to a matter of feet as fog descended to the earth. Putting total trust in the cockpit instruments was a new experience to him, for the ink was still wet on the certificate verifying that he was qualified for instrument flying.
The landing worried him the most. His destination was a crowded metropolitan airport he wasn’t familiar with. In a few minutes he would be in radio contact with the tower. Until then, he was alone with his thoughts. His instructor had practically forced him to memorize the rulebook. He didn’t care for it at the time, but now he was thankful.
Finally he heard the voice of the air traffic controller. “I’m going to put you on a holding pattern,” the controller radioed. Great! thought the pilot. However, he knew that his safe landing was in the hands of this person. He had to draw upon his previous instructions and training, and trust the voice of an air traffic controller he couldn’t see. Aware that this was no time for pride, he informed the controller, “This is not a seasoned pro up here. I would appreciate any help you could give me.”
“You’ve got it!” he heard back.
For the next 45 minutes, the controller gently guided the pilot through the blinding fog. As course and altitude corrections came periodically, the young pilot realized the controller was guiding him around obstacles and away from potential collisions. With the words of the rulebook firmly placed in his min...

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TAKE MY HAND

The story is told of a man and his boy who was with him, when a little fellow, in Scotland, and for the first time he possessed what in that country is known as a top-coat. They were walking out one cold day, and the way was slippery. The little fellow's hands were deep down in his pockets. His father said to him: "My son, you had better let me take your hand," but he said you never could persuade a boy with a new top-coat to take his hands from his pockets.

They reached a slippery place and the boy had a hard fall. Then his pride began to depart and he said: "I will take your hand." and he reached up and clasped his father's hand the best he could. When a second slippery place was reached, the clasp was broken and the second fall was harder than the first.

Then all his pride was gone, and raising his little hand he said: "You may take it now," and his father said, "I clasped it roundabout with my great hand and we continued our walk; and when we reached the slippery places," said he, "the little feet would start to go and I would hold him up."

This is a picture for the Christian. I am saved not so much because I have hold of God as because God has hold of me, and He not only gives me shoes with which I may walk and which never wear out, but Christ holds my hand in His and I shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck me out of His hand.

(J. Wilbur Chapman, Heartwarming Illustrations, accessed: QuickVerse. From a sermon by Chris Surber, The Holy One Among Us, 7/30/2010)

 
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BAPTISM: CLOTHED IN CHRIST

Just this last week we baptized a 9-year-old boy into Christ. His name is J.J. J.J. knew all the answers to the questions I posed to him, but his father was concerned that his young son viewed baptism as a "magic act" that would make all kinds of marvelous changes without J.J.'s having to do anything at all.

So after I baptized him, I had a little talk with J.J. I explained to him that Galatians 3 says that when we are "baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Galatians 3:27 I then explained to him that none of us can make it into heaven just as we are. We've sinned. We've all messed up. I have, the Elders have, the Sunday School teachers have, his mom and dad have. But Galatians is telling us that when we're baptized into Christ we put cover ourselves with Jesus.

(At this I put my hands over his face like a mask, and said) "That means that when I come before the judgment seat... all God is going to see is Jesus. He won't see 'me' -- He won't see my sinful past and bad decisions or actions. All He'll see is Jesus, because I'm clothed in Jesus (that's one of the beauties of baptism by immersion, because it best conveys that truth).

"So, J.J., do you think Jesus would lie?"

"No," he said

"That's right," I replied. "And because you've now been 'clothed' in Christ, you shouldn't lie either, should you?"

"No," he said.

"And J.J., do you think Jesus would cheat?... do you think Jesus would hurt anyone?"

"No," he replied.

"That's right," I replied. "And you shouldn't either should you? Because when you were baptized you were clothed in Jesus, right?"

"No," he replied, "I shouldn't."

Then I drove J.J. home. While we were driving along, J.J. shared how a young boy in his neighborhood wanted to fight him. And I could sense the youthful pride in his voice...he could whip this neighbor boy. So I asked him "J.J., what do you think Jesus would do with this neighbor boy? Do you think He'd fight him, or would he do something else?"

J.J. was quiet for awhile and then said "I don't know."

"Well, J.J. why don't you pray about that? Then you do whatever you think Jesus would do about it, OK?"

The beauty of baptism is that it drives home the fact that in our salvation, we are changed into the image of Christ. We put on Christ (Galatians 3:27, KJV). And that was the truth J.J. needed to hear.

 
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