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View from Andrew Johnson's Grave, Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Greenville, Tennessee

Your Serve

Your Serve

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 KJV

The branches hung low. In the darkness, their appearance was like that of long, dark arms extending from the clouds. From them extended smaller branches, like fingers just waiting to grab you if you moved in their direction. The tiny glimmer of moonlight, in the distance, offered no comfort. Instead, it cast an eerie shadow that made things even scarier.

A creak in the woods, a hoot of an owl, and a steady breeze rustling against the branches would offer no confidence to your steps. Your mind is racing as to which direction you should turn. A panic fills your soul and you want nothing more than to escape from this horror.

Thoughts of what you should do run through your mind. Do you shout for help or will that only alert the evil creatures lurking in the woods? Do you walk, run, or just stand there? Should you turn to the right or should you backtrack? There are no answers, only options.

Have you ever faced a situation in life that has felt just like being trapped in the dark, lonely woods? I’m not talking about one of those trials we all face almost on a daily basis. I’m talking about one of those earth shattering experiences. One of those experiences that really tests what you believe and who you really are.

I remember, all too well, one of those experiences. It shook my very soul. Life was nowhere close to where I thought it was supposed to be. Reality and belief collided together. I came face to face with the fact that my life was well beyond my control. It soon became obvious that others could impact my life just as much as anything I could ever do.

Dedicating your life to a cause or a marriage hurts when that dedication isn’t returned or it has been betrayed. Some people handle those trials pretty well. I’m not one of them. In my situation, I was devastated. The pain seemed endless. There seemed to be very few positive answers.

I set out to prove my worth. That didn’t work. I went to look for things I could improve. There were too many of them. I did the self-pity thing. No one seemed to notice. I prayed to God, real hard, to take away my pain. He didn’t answer, or at least in a way I could see.

Then I decided I just had enough. I guess when you start looking up instead of looking down, you know that you have hit the bottom and there is now only one way to go.

I started reading my Bible. I bought a notebook and each day I would copy verses that meant something to me. When I finished my reading, I would pray. I would write those prayers down in my notebook. I started reading, mainly self-help and religious books. I started attending church all by myself. I sat in the back, with only me and God.

I started taking little weekend trips by myself. I noticed some new friends starting to hang around me. They started inviting me to things. Then some really good personal relationships developed. They were nothing but friendships, but they were people I could talk to and trust. I started getting involved with activities at church, like helping out with a puppet group.

I started getting more and more friends. My confidence was growing every day. I was asked to lead the puppet group. I was starting to become a leader at work. I was starting to like myself again.

Then, almost out of nowhere, the most incredible girl walked into my life. The cycle of Job’s life seemed to be mirroring mine. For all the bad things that Job experienced, when God was through letting Job be tested, Job began to experience what it really means to be blessed by God. God was doing the same for me.

One of the friends, that really helped me through it all, gave me one piece of advice I have never forgotten. He said, “Don’t forget, when you get through all this, help someone else.” I have really taken those words to heart. I try to let people know I’m there for them just like these friends, who used to be strangers, were for me.

It was one of those special birthday parties. Well, it really wasn’t a party, it was more like a “joint celebration” with some friends. They had all gathered at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. They were celebrating this future President’s fortieth birthday.

There was nothing spared in this celebration. After all, you only turn forty once. There was a big meal that everyone really enjoyed. And the wine flowed. I’m not talking about any of that cheap stuff either. Numerous bottles of sixty dollar a bottle Silver Oak wine were emptied on this celebration. The toasts were even more numerous. “Here’s to our health,” “Here’s to our kids,” and “Let’s not forget the babysitter,” were just some of them.

At one point, the forty-year-old, and one of his friends, Don, got their little routine together and went from table to table to see how many laughs they could garner. In his autobiography, he states, “We shut the place down, paid a colossal bar tab, and went to bed.”

Life was going pretty good for this Bible character. It had been a long time since he last saw his own family, but he was very happy, just where he was, with a wife and her family. Gone were the days of all those decisions and expectations. Yes, he thought he was at peace.

Little did he know that this “peace” was just there to disguise the turmoil that was brewing inside his soul. He was pretty good at “blowing off” those little nagging things that would pop up from time to time. “None of them was a really big deal,” he would tell himself.

Sometimes when we reside outside the will of God, God will just let us sit there for a while. It’s almost like God is telling us what to do, or explaining how we should be, but we think we have a better answer. God will sometimes fight back by placing uncomfortable people or events in our lives to give us hints of the changes we need to make.

Yet, despite all God has done for us, we think we can figure it out on our own or we can make our present situation work. Before we know it, our life is covered with misery. God seems to be saying, “I can outwait you. I’m here for eternity.”

A short time before his big fortieth birthday party, his wife and he were having a discussion. Actually, it wasn’t really a discussion, but it was a question she raised. She wasn’t nagging, nor did she really expect an answer. She asked him, “Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?” His “indignant” response was, “Of course I can.” He would walk out of the conservation without a real answer to the question, but the question stayed on his mind.

He thought about his last week as he walked away. He had a few beers with the guys on Monday. Tuesday, after dinner, he had B&B Benedictine and brandy. He had a couple of bourbons and Sevens after he put his daughters down to bed on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were beer-drinking nights with the guys. On Saturday, he had martinis before dinner, beers during, and B&Bs after. It was no use continuing, the further he looked back, the more he realized it had been a long, long time before he had a drink free day.

The future President admits that he had a habitual personality. He smoked cigarettes, only to give that up to dip snuff, only to give that up to chew long-leaf tobacco, only to give that up to smoke cigars. He also tried to rationalize his drinking. He wasn’t as bad as some of the drunks he knew. He didn’t drink during the day or at work. Besides, he was healthy and in good shape. And he jogged every afternoon. Yeah, all that should count for something.

George W. Bush describes his drinking problem in his autobiography Decision Point. It is in the front part of the book that he mentions it. It seems that he describes this as the point in his life when he had to make a decision as to where he wanted his life to go. In a real sense, he had hit the bottom. He had nowhere to look but up.

After many years of living the “peaceful life,” our Bible character was taking a walk down one of those dusty roads. He probably had traveled down it several times before. His head was probably in a cloud and his actions were on automatic. He turned to his left and he noticed something strange.

There out in the distance he saw a fire. That was probably not an uncommon thing, but it may have sent a sense of panic through him. After all, those fires could spread rather quickly and they could leave nothing but destruction in their wake. So off he went into the distance.

The strangest thing happened when Moses arrived at the burning bush. Flames were shooting from the bush, but the bush itself wasn’t burning. The fire also wasn’t spreading. One can only imagine the confusion that was going through Moses’ mind.

Then, to make matters worse, a voice came thundering out from the midst of the burning. “Moses! Take off your shoes! You are on my holy ground,” the Lord cried out to Moses. In other words, “Moses, you are not where I want you to be. You can stay right where you are, but it’s not where I want you. If you stay where you are, little by little, miserable things are going to come into your life. Keep being stubborn as long as you like, but I have eternity to wait for you to get where I want you.”

God places people and things in our paths when we decide we know what is best for our lives even when that is not what He wants us to do with our lives. Our lives seem to get more and more frustrating. We just don’t understand why we are being mistreated. We don’t understand why our efforts aren’t being rewarded. We don’t understand why misery has filled our souls.

God sometimes has the answer to our stubbornness. When we don’t want to get on the path he has for us, he just places little potholes on the path we have chosen instead. Then God just sits back because he knows He has eternity.

Then, when we have no further to fall, we start to look up. Our wisdom no longer shields us from the misery that surrounds us. That drink no longer seems to make our troubles go away. No amount of water or effort is going to allow us to put out the burning bush. And God is there with His arms crossed saying, “Are you ready for Me to help you yet?”

When we get to the point where we are willing to listen to His leading, He says, “It’s your serve, where are you going to place the ball and your hope?” When you start listening to His direction, you will start winning the game.

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Thank You for all the patience You have had with me. Thanks for outwaiting my stubbornness and for placing people in my path who have helped guide me to Your path. Some of those people have been helping hands and some of those people have made my life miserable, but each has served the purpose of getting me to where you want me to be. Amen.

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