Monday, December 23, 2019

UNCOMFORTABLE

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
Good morning my DISPATCH/OFH family.  Christmas is coming! Love all of you so very much! 
You know, I have been offered the rare “opportunity” to live in the house I grew up in as a kid.  A lot of “less than favorable” circumstances led to that, but in recent years I have come to appreciate not just having a place to live but the familiarity of it especially at this time of the year.  From the moment of the first fall colors to the Christmas season, being “at home” is, we very COMFORTABLE.
Yet as I was thinking about “how comfortable” Christmas can feel when surrounded by the familiar, can you imagine just how “uncomfortable” the ORIGIN of Christmas was?
A scandalous pregnancy.  That couldn’t have been anything comfortable.  Awkward at best.
People whispering. The morality police making their judgements. Joseph’s buds questioning his judgment to hang in there.  UNCOMFORTABLE!
Then the census.  Really?  They had to think, now?  Now we must pack up and take a long trip?
How comfortable do you think that trip was?
We complain these days because they have reduced our airline comforts by shrinking the seats and the snacks not to mention pillows being at a premium. 
Can you imagine what their trip was like?  Mary in her condition? Not to mention she was so young. 
My parental friends think about trying to take more than an hour trip in the car with your adolescents.  And our couple didn’t have any IPADS or Switch’s to distract. 
And then they hit town, exhausted; Mary in contractions and no one has anywhere for them to land?  You’ve got to be kidding right?  And we thought the trials and tribulations faced by the fellas from Planes Trains and Automobiles was harrowing.
Uncomfortable doesn’t do the journey justice.
And that should enhance your appreciation for the OBEDIENCE and PERSEVERANCE of our main characters, Mary and Joseph.  They PRESSED on.  They didn’t waver.  They had both heard from the angel and regardless of challenge, they had an obligation to that prophet fella Micah and the rest of those revered prophets to get to Bethlehem and have this child.
Period. End of story!
And they did.
They weathered the MOST uncomfortable to brings us the ONE of ALL COMFORT and REST. (2 Corinthians 1, Matthew 11…)
So, think about that while you are experiencing the inevitable “discomforts” in the next couple of days; traffic, stolen parking places, missed sales, cramped aisles, and rude folks.
Then take a breath.
And thank GOD.
And then pause to remember our brave travelers who willingly weathered the most UNCOMFORTABLE of circumstances so Mary could give…
…birth to a son and name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21

I love you all!
Have a BLESSED DAY!
Opportunities for Hope

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A LIFE MULTIPLIED

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
Good morning my DISPATCH/OFH family.  It is good to be at the keyboard today.  I pray that ALL of you are doing well in this holiday season!  Don’t forget to take a breath. 
Soak the time in, because there are no guarantees.
Case in point, this past Tuesday I was honored to lay to rest little Camiyah, the grand-daughter of a special colleague who though works for a competitor (see eyes rolling cause I really don’t have those), is a dear friend, an advocate for the recovering and an amazing lady.
Little Camiyah, 18 months, was tragically killed in an auto accident on Thanksgiving.
As I prepared my remarks, never doing the funeral of a child before, I sought some counsel and got some excellent direction from some trusted friends and mentors including my mama.
And while deeply sad, I was able to share the TRUTH that Camiyah was with Jesus.  Indisputable. And to be able to paint that picture to offer that hope that resonates from 1 Thessalonians 4 was for me heartening and I pray for the family, reassuring.  My mama even gave me a wonderful poem to share, you will find it here. https://aislingjenningsphotography.wordpress.com/tag/spending-christmas-with-jesus-christ/
But I want to share something else from this heart-breaking situation.
Camiyah’s mama is in recovery.  She will boldly cop to that. So, I am not breaking any anonymity my AA/NA friends, she is quite proud of it.  And as I mentioned, grandma works in my field as one of the outreach team at Brightview Health.
Now why share this.  Here is why.
Camiyah donated some of her organs to others in need.
From what I was told, her heart went to a child down south.  Her liver to another one in need, a kidney as well.  But it is the second kidney’s destination that will make you pause.  In fact, when the story was shared, I immediately thought of this promise.
To all who mourn he will give…a joyous blessing – (From Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
The second kidney if you can imagine went to a grandma and not just any grandma but a grandma who was mobilized into caring for her grandchildren following the death of her daughter to, wait for it, drug overdose.
I can’t make that up.
Remember, mama’s in recovery and grandma serves the recovering community, dealing with overdose and hurt every day.  And yet GOD offered this blessing amid the mourning.  Hope for another through their tears.
I found that to be remarkable and inspiring.
In fact, I didn’t know this story until I after I had penned my talk.  And yet within my talk I shared that I was believing that Jesus had already paused to show Camiyah the other kids she had helped not knowing that that population was much bigger than I had originally thought.

Think about that for a second. 
Four lives suffering through tragedy of their own given the gift of their grandma.  So, while we can’t bring Camiyah back, Camiyah has been multiplied in amazing ways.
I found that story while paradoxical to offer a comforting assurance. And it reminded me of this quote from Charles Swindoll, “If God gave such forethought into your birth (see PSALM 139) and designing your body, surely, He’s given no less attention to your future.”
…Even when we don’t fully understand it.
RIP little Camiyah.

I love you all!
Have a BLESSED DAY!
Opportunities for Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

GRATEFUL HAPPINESS

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
Here we are, ‘Gratitude Week’.
Pastor Mark at my home church yesterday asked us to be SENSITIVE to the time of year.  He asked us to "constantly" be SELECTING SOMEONE/CIRCUMSTANCES to SHARE gratitude for & with. 
Simple assignment, right?
A few days ago, I shared a little study about the IMPORTANCE and IMPACT of gratitude on the brain.




Gratitude RESULTS in happiness!
Why is that you think? 
I have always taken the lead of Dr. Charles Stanley when he surmised that HAPPINESS is CIRCUMSTANTIAL and thus “a choice”.  He maintains that JOY is SUPERNATURAL because it comes from the LORD as our strength and a gift of obedient living.  Happiness on the other hand can ebb and flow based on our response to what is happening to or around us. 
I will give you a personal example.  Last Saturday I was REALLY happy when the Buckeyes were up by 21 points against Penn State.  In fact, I moved from my typical “edge of seat, nail biting posture” to putting away my laundry, relaxed feeling that this one was “in the bag”.  I was GRATEFUL and HAPPY!
But in a matter of minutes my HAPPY left, my gratitude for JK Dobbin's ability waned as Penn State, benefitting from sloppy play on the part of the Bucks, made the score 21-17.  Thankfully the boys righted the ship and won the game, which of course made me happy and grateful.
And while I know for some it seems ridiculous to have one’s mood PREDICATED on the performance of a bunch of 18-22-year-old kids, I can’t seem to overcome it. EmojiLOL. 
Just wait til we tangle with the villains from that team up north Saturday.  I am confident my mood swings will be pronounced.
But I share that little, and yes silly, example to hammer home the point that HAPPINESS is a circumstantial thing and if we KNOW that being GRATEFUL for LIFE, for BREATH, for GOD, for SALVATION, for GRACE; the list could go ON and ON, then WE SHOULD take my good Pastor’s advice and be READY to EXPRESS and SHARE GRATITUDE!  It is HEALTHY! 
whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God – Colossians 3:17 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul even went so far as to say, REGARDLESS of CIRCUMSTANCE, be GRATEFUL!
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:12-13 (MSG)
So there is the assignment.
…let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings! - Henry Ward Beecher 
And happiness to boot.
I love you all!
Have a BLESSED DAY!
Opportunities for Hope

Friday, November 22, 2019

CONSCIOUS CONTACT

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
Good morning my DISPATCH/OFH family.  I know it has been a minute. Here we are mid-November of 2019; can you believe it? And as I awoke this morning, I was so glad to look at the calendar and see no colors.  
Colors indicate “needing to be somewhere”.  And I haven’t had a “color free day” since April (I think 😊).
And before I go further, I want to thank a couple of colleagues who took the ball for me today in Columbus so that that canvass could remain white.
The last week or so I have been sharing the wisdom and insights of Dr. Charles Stanley on the FACEBOOK version of this blog.  The devotional was called, “Stuck in Reverse”
 Inline image
Reason I picked it is because even though there has been so much good going on, multiple states and cities, multiple conferences and recognitions, I was feeling SPIRITUALLY stalled; dare say even going in the wrong direction.
For you see with the travel comes TEMPTATION for me. 
Lots of it.
My “right-brain” modality people would attribute the anxiety and the stress as “sensory” in nature.  Airports, hotels, restaurants, expense accounts, all “felt” very familiar. 
Very.
I had a more than a few moments when I almost forgot that it wasn’t 1994.  
For real. 
And while I knew we are most certainly ADVANCING the WORK of FAITH in recovery with our presentations and interactions, the environment did its dead-level best to shift me, my mind, and my spirit into reverse. 
Just being honest.
Jesus was DEFINITELY right when He remarked, (The) spirit wants to do what is right, but your body is weak. (Matthew 26:41 ERV)
But what was a little strange in 2019 vs 1994, is that back then I LOVED being away from Beth and the family.  Loved it.  Would add days on to trips just to keep it extended.  But in 2019 I really looked forward to coming home.  And I learned that my days of being gone for a month or two are over. 
They are. Too old and too fragile.
Now why share this with you today? 
I wouldn’t blame you if you are thinking what does that have to do with me? 
I share it today as a simple reminder of just how important it is to recognize our limitations and how easy it is to have the SPIRIT’S influence DISRUPTED; remind us that the enemy prowls and he loves it when we are “out of community” and separated from the “safe”.  (1 Peter 5:8).
And how important maintaining mindful connectedness is.
I have the honor of speaking at NEXT STEP at Ginghamsburg Church tomorrow evening and “coincidentally” have been asked to share a message on STEP 11 from AA.  That step says, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Timely huh?
So, my simple encouragement today is a FAMILIAR one.  Keep your SPIRITUAL CHANNELS open.  Mind your environment and your “feelings”.  Be alert to the enemy’s desires.  Cling to your community, the healthy community. And most importantly mindfully maintain your CONSCIOUS CONTACT. 

I love you all!
Have a BLESSED WEEKEND!
Opportunities for Hope

Friday, November 1, 2019

USEFUL COMPASSION

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
The last couple of months I have been at “a bunch” of recovery/trafficking events and have spent a little time with medical folks and science folks.
And it was during one of the many recent sessions that a presenter, and sadly I can’t recall exactly which one provided some remarkable insight regarding COMPASSION.
He/She remarked that COMPASSION resides in a very different place in the brain from that of EMPATHY or SYMPATHY. I found that fascinating.
For EMPATHY as Brene’ Brown surmises is “feeling WITH people” and is a key to CONNECTED relationships.  Sympathy on the other hand if not careful often creates “disconnection”.  I share a little cartoon video when I offer my presentations on the ROLE of the CHURCH in RECOVERY that does a really good job of explaining this further. You can find it on YOUTUBE.
Yet the presenter went on to say that EMPATHY and SYMPATHY reside in “passive” areas in the brain.  So, while I can feel them, share them, offer them, and they are often soothing and helpful, they don’t often SPUR me to DO SOMETHING more.  Make sense?
My empathetic or sympathetic response to a friend or situation can be impacting and even helpful for the other party, but it doesn’t MOTIVATE ME to much more action.

Compassion on the other hand resides in a PART of the BRAIN that is NOT PASSIVE but ACTION ORIENTED.  So, COMPASSION often will DRIVE a response, PUSH one to act, and require a next step.

Isn’t that interesting?
In other words, COMPASSION often makes things “personal”.

Jesus is an example of COMPASSION causing ACTION!
Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. – Matthew 14:14 (NLT)
Jesus could have gotten off the boat and felt sorry for the hurting, even offered a little empathy but instead HIS COMPASSION moved Him to TAKE ACTION!

The Bible is saturated with compassion. It seeps through the pages of the Old Testament, pours out of the Gospels, and presents itself as a CHALLENGE to followers of Jesus.  It tells of a Savior who suffers for the world due to his COMPASSION for it, and it asks us to live and act similarly.
Emerson reminds us that, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be USEFUL, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
USEFUL COMPASSION.
That is the encouragement for today.
If you encounter some suffering today allow the ACTIVE part of your brain to guide your NEXT step.  Move from sympathy to empathy to compassion and EXPERIENCE WHAT GOD will have you DO next!
Remember the words of James,
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15-17 (NIV)


I love you all!
Have a BLESSED WEEKEND!
Opportunities for Hope

Thursday, October 31, 2019

SNEAK INTO

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.

The past six or seven weeks have been a bit blurry but certainly blessed. 

I mean just yesterday my dear friends from a multitude of partnering ministries/programs including HerStory received awards for their innovative recovery work. 
So many deserving compassionate people. 
Also, yesterday while in Louisville with 70+ deeply dedicated folks resolved to “reclaim recovery” for those suffering through research, innovation, and advocacy I was stirred by their energy and zeal.
I was reminded of this…
…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38 (ESV)
My friends and colleagues KNOW the impact and energy giving power of GIVING.  They do.  It shows.  And while some go about their work of service in a more secular construct, it doesn’t diminish their hope-filled impacts on those they are called to serve as well as themselves.
But over the course of this latest conference something was shared that “I knew” but hadn’t thought about in a while.
Giving is GOOD for your brain.
It is.
Spiritual pursuits, even better.
They are.
Dr. Nicole Labor who is a prominent expert in the “brain science” of addiction reminded us this week that as folks EMBRACE a SPIRITUAL program in recovery (and that includes SERVICE and GIVING) the brain HEALS even faster.  Add DAILY GRATITUDE to that and the healing accelerates even more.
Isn’t that remarkable?
We shouldn’t be surprised though.
GOD KNOWS what is GOOD for us and WHY WOULDN’T He have the things that PLEASE Him also be positively impacting?
I do have to admit, I love it when GOD finds ways to sneak into the psyche of my science-led colleagues.  For sometimes my “Pastoral approaches” get a little ridicule from the “evidence based” evangelists.
So, it is cool when GOD invades their space and their scans.
And I will be honest I have been with a bunch of them over the course of this 8-week tour of the country that has kept me from the daily OFH duties some.  And whether chatting with clinical folks in Denver or sharing in Maryland with nurses and practitioners, it is HARD to anyone to DENY GOD when it comes to this vocation of RECOVERY.
And the good news is that MORE and MORE folks are beginning to EMBRACE what GOD can do rather than spend the energy discounting or ignoring Him.
But I share this today for this reason.  Never forget, GOD is in all things, all that you do, your plans, your purpose and your destiny.  GOD also loves you so very much that He offers you pathways and opportunities that WILL BLESS you.  Trust me. He wishes not just to permeate the recovery expert; He desires to REVEAL HIMSELF to YOU in amazing ways as well.
Lambros said it this way, “How often we neglect, ignore, overlook, or simply miss the presence of our loving God. We often look for Him in the great rolling thunder when, more often than not, He comes in gentle whispers . . . in the soft cooing of a baby, through the touch of a loved one's hand, in the warm embrace of a trusted friend, in the pitter-patter of a sudden summer shower on a tin roof, or with the cool touch of an evening breeze on an Autumn night. Through hundreds of ways, God whispers, "I love you and I am always with you." Don't miss Him or His presence as you go through this day. Open your eyes of faith and look for Him in the most simple of ways. The experience can be extraordinary and life-changing!”
So, the point today is GOD is looking to “sneak into” your day too.  Don’t miss HIM!
I love you all!
Have a BLESSED DAY!


Opportunities for Hope

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

GOD IS ALWAYS

Have you thanked Him?
Have you praised Him?
Have you made it your priority to agree and cooperate with Him today?
Have you taken that deep breath and listened for what He has for you today?
1 Timothy 2:1 (The Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.

As I mentioned late last week, I recently was blessed and honored to share a message at Mosaic Church.  And I shared the first half of the message a couple of days ago here on the DISPATCH/OFH. 

Just to jog your memory, the talk was titled “In the Middle of the Mess” or in other words “What is true about GOD when we are in the middle of our mess”.
So, here are points 4 through 6 from that message.  Points 1 through 3 if you recall were GOD was ALWAYS, COMPASSIONATE, COGNIZANT, and CAPABLE. 
Continuing on…
The Lord is always CALCULATED in the middle of the mess.  
…we are convinced that every detail of our lives …
(EVEN THE MESSES)
is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. For he knew all about us before we were born, and he destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son – Romans 8:28-29 (TPT)
Piper put it this way, “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
GOD’S MATH, the EQUATION of our LIFE is without error.
GOD is always CONSUMMATE. In other words, we can trust that he is PERFECT; that ALL His ways are PERFECT.  So even when we are in the middle of our mess as our PASSAGE from ROMANS above says, …we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan
Next, GOD is ALWAYS CLEAR.  Mandy Hale remarked, “The more you go with the flow of life and surrender the outcome to God, and the less you seek constant clarity, the more you will find that fabulous things start to show up in your life.”
We should pray as the PSALMIST prayed to GOD to, “Give (us) revelation about the meaning of your ways so (we) can enjoy the reward of following them fully.” – from Psalm 119:33 (TPT)
I think I am going to hold off on number 7.  Hopefully I will be able to pen it tomorrow.  
My hope is WE BOTH remember these TRUTHS when we are in the middle of OUR MESSES!

Love you all!
Have a BLESSED DAY!
Opportunities for Hope