Category: faith

I can’t narrow it down to one year but a series of years that began shortly before I turned twenty. Over the period of the next four years, I’d marry, have two babies and buy our first home. Change always seemed to be around the corner but change that brought joy and blessings. We were too young to know what we didn’t have but old enough to know we were blessed. I’d have to say those were the best years.

Jack said this year was the best year of his life. The year he lived at the Salvation Army. That’s his best year. My mind has to let that settle as I can’t come close to imagining that. To think my best year would include walking into a place alone because there was nowhere else to go. Sharing a dorm room with nine other strangers and a shower room with no curtains or doors.

That’s the best year of his life.

He said it with enthusiasm. Jack is always thankful in that way that rings true. I don’t know much about his life before he walked through our doors at 1901 W. Broward Blvd. I only know no one comes here because they’ve heard we have Celebrate Recovery or because Friday night Bingo is on their bucket list. I never knew if he’d settle down when he first got here. He’s a younger man, a bit jumpy and you hope he won’t jump right out before his mind clears.

But he did. He stayed. He went to his meetings, he performed his work therapy assignments, participated in group sessions and did everything required of him. What we can’t require is for the men to take it to heart. We can’t make them change their thinking or find purpose. Those they have to do on their own. Jack did.

The best year of his life has been in a tired building with leaks, signing in and out when he leaves, and having to blow into a breathalyzer when he comes and goes. The random U/A tests, eating what’s served in the kitchen or go without and a curfew. He has to ask permission to have an overnight pass. But this has been the best year of his life. Not a good year. The best year.

He found more than comfortable living can offer. He’s found sobriety, peace, and purpose. He’s found redemption. He’s found a home.

“And now I have it all—and keep getting more! …You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.” Philippians 4:18-20

faith recovery Salvation Army

Every Sunday we are meeting across the country with residents of our ARC programs. We gather to worship in song and words. There will be a prepared message but often the real message comes from the men.

The church word is testimonies. Sometimes we just call it sharing.

It’s a little more real in our setting than it is in the traditional church. There is no need to pretend or dress up our words. When you’re living at The Salvation Army that tells its own story.

My sister-in-law tweets the words from their time of sharing. From in the large chapel in Dallas, TX, she listens and shares bits of their redemption stories.

“Grateful God is a restorer of broken hearts. Lost my wife 2 yrs ago. Grief owned me. I’m learning to see beyond my grief.”

“Recovery is not for those who want it. It is for those who work it. Recovery takes God, the Steps & hard work.”

“Returning here after a relapse that cost me everything I applied the principles & gave myself to God. He blesses.”

“10 years ago I entered this program. 7 1/2 years later I relapsed. What do I know? No God & no program means no recovery.”

Need more encouragement? Check out the hashtag #ARCtestimony on Twitter. You’ll be praising with us God’s redemptive grace.

faith recovery Salvation Army

faith Salvation Army

Preston Yancey writes in the Coming Clean Austin Outtakes that he wasn’t “raised in a house where alcohol made a showing. It wasn’t actively demonized, but it wasn’t given favor.” He was recalling the night Seth came clean to a group of friends, came clean about his recent acknowledgment he was an alcoholic. Preston and others there had a drink in hand. It gave him pause as he considered his shift from being raised in a faith that were squarely abstentionists.

Preston goes on to write: “I see now the icons of bourbon and gin for what they are—
not signs of community, but signs of otherness…I still haven’t gotten beyond the impulse to see alcohol as secretly and seductively insidious. It’s an icon of rebellion. Not by its doing, but my own.

Rebellious years. They are as common for those of us raised in the church as anyone. Sometimes I think perhaps more. It’s like the fruit in the Garden of Eden. The one that is forbidden is the one we want to taste.

Have you noticed that diabetics have an especially sweet tooth? Or that when you have to fast before a blood test is a time you are hungriest?

For me, Preston’s words reveal a side not seen. Beer commercials portray drinking as community. It’s an easy one to buy in to. But for me, the rebellion would be my motive and that doesn’t create community. To call it otherness is right. As he says, not be the doing of the drink but by my own.

We recognize wine as being the most common drink in bible times. We’ve all heard the stories that it was more available, and healthier than water. The bible speaks little about drinking specifically other than to say don’t drink to drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). It espouses drinking wine for the stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23). There was that embarrassing incident of drunkenness with Noah which sounds more like drinking stories of today.

photo from Pixabay
photo from Pixabay

 

Earlier this year, author Sarah Bessey wrote on her blog about her decision to quit drinking:

I grew to love the imagery of wine in Scripture, to see it as an emblem of the New City and of heavenly banquets. I liked the sophistication of wine, the theology of wine, the metaphor of wine, the community around wine at the table. I liked the celebration of champagne, the warmth of a cabernet, the summer light of chardonnay.

Without noticing, I was drinking almost every night now. It didn’t bother me in the least.

Yes, the Scriptures provide us with beautiful portrayals of wine. The first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine. It was, and can still be a sacred drink.

What’s a Christian to do?

For Sarah, it began with what she recognized as a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

“I am always grateful how the Spirit isn’t harsh or overwhelming but rather how at the right time and in the right moment, we know it’s time to change.

We begin to sense that this Thing that used to be okay is no longer okay. The Thing that used to mean freedom has become bondage. The Thing that used to signal joy has become a possibility of sorrow. The Thing that used to mean nothing has become something, perhaps everything.

Or at least that’s what happened to me. It was fine, everything was fine. And then I knew it wasn’t going to be fine for much longer.”

That’s the thing. For some, it won’t be fine much longer. Can you be honest enough to recognize if this is you? It is not easy to give up a habit. It’s not easy to change in front of your friends. It’s not easy to say, “Just water please” when your friend’s glasses are filled with temptation.

After a long day, when all you want to do is unwind, what do you reach for now?

I’m thankful to Seth and Preston and Sarah and the others who are writing publically about something about which the church has said little. There’s no right or wrong answer. There is a discussion that needs to be open and filled with grace. It needs to be true. And the Church needs to be a safe place to have it.

If you or someone you know may have an alcohol problem. find a Celebrate Recovery or AA meeting in your area. Today. Reach out. Speak out.

faith The Church

“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” Understanding drug use and addiction

We are not a treatment center.

Our sign says Adult Rehabilitation Center.

 

Our goal is to provide this rehabilitation through addressing their problems which more often than not, include addiction.

While we differentiate between treatment and rehabilitation we do identify addiction as a disease. This can be hard for many of us to wrap our heads around. The common thought is, just stop. Stop drinking so much. Stop taking all your prescribed meds for the month in two days. Just stop it!

I don’t have the scientific knowledge or words to explain this. I can’t find the exact analogy that would make this more relatable. I only know that addicts aren’t this way by their own choosing. No one thinks they’re going to be an addict or alcoholics. There isn’t even a clear predictor of the cause of this disease. Yes, it seems to run in families but no family is immune.

David grew up in the church. His father is a pastor with regional oversight for his denomination.
Sue’s dad was a lawyer.
Arnie’s family all held white-collar professional jobs.
Sam’s brother was a neurosurgeon.

Some are the only ones in their family with this disease. Or maybe the only ones addicted to the “wrong” things. There are acceptable addictions like workaholism and smoking. We applaud one and frown on the other.

Sue was college educated and taught school. She never drank before college but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She ended up in jail in a DUI charge. Her family wouldn’t bail her out. She eventually lost her job. It took this well-educated, bright woman 11 attempts at sobriety before something clicked. Twenty-five years later she can’t tell you why it finally did. She is only grateful it did.

None of these people wanted to be who they became. All of them are thankful for who they are now. They are part of the redeemed.

I haven’t struggled with addiction. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Something was missing in my life. I knew it. I also knew the answer. It’s the same answer we offer them: redemption through Jesus. For some, he has miraculously removed the desire to use drugs. For most, he uses people, programs, and groups, to help in the ongoing battle.

It is the same with sin. There are temptations all around. They are not eliminated from our lives. God works through a myriad of ways to walk with us in our daily journey as redeemed. For all of us, life is lived one day at a time.

There has to be a willingness to change. There is healing. There is grace. One day. Every day.

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

I don’t know Margaret’s story. I only know her critical spirit matched with a voice like a sharp-edged knife could make my shoulders scrunch with tension.

It was our first pastorate. We were not what she expected. Their congregation of retired pastors and long-time members were entitled to more. She took it upon herself to let us know.

Margaret let us know plenty in the two years we were there. She and her husband invited us to dinner at their house. It was a simple meal meant to provide our need for food. No more, no less. This would be an indicator of Margaret’s way of life. No fluff, no need for compliments, just clear and direct.

Most Sundays she inspected me. She’d put her hands on my shoulders squaring me with her as she flattened my color or smoothed my lapels.

She marched into my office one day informing me our son had given her a real scare. He was crossing the street as she was parking their car. He hit the front of her car with his hand intending to make her think she’d hit him. He succeeded. More than startled, she was, let’s just say, not happy.

I listened, nodded yes in agreement that wasn’t appropriate behavior but inside, I was smiling. I could only think how she couldn’t see what everyone saw: she was an old biddy!

Margaret was a talented pianist. Hum any song in her ear and she’d pick it up and play along. Lead a hymn that is noticeably high for your range and Margaret magically lowered it to just the right key. No fuss. No need to tell her what a talent this was. She could have been the originator of the expression “it is what it is”.

She and her husband were faithful in attendance and giving. They gave of their time, talents and finances.

Whatever her hard edges were, Margaret was no stranger to redemption. While her rough exterior was evident, so was her desire to serve. She held her faith in Jesus dear. It just didn’t look the same way in her life.

Familiarity is comfortable. Even in redemption. We question the different, the unfamiliar. We question practices and which Bible translation is the “right” one. But His grace fits all. God’s grace isn’t limited to color, gender, geography or talents. Redemption is given to all who believe and accept Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

faith grace Salvation Army

Tuesday night is our Celebrate Recovery meeting. We start with an hour of singing and either a lesson or someone sharing their story. The lessons are the 8 CR principles which correspond to the 12 steps. It’s usually my time with the guys. I try to have some short videos playing before the meeting starts. It gets them in the chapel sooner because often the videos are humorous and we all need to laugh.

This week I pulled out the song we used as our theme song of the weekend when we had our annual camp retreat. The song, appropriately titled: I AM FREE.

The men, already on their feet, were into it from the beginning. Singing out, jumping up on the line “I Am Free to Dance” and then Felix happened.

 


There’s an instrumental bridge in the chorus. A rather lengthy one. So many men began hollering out what they’re free from I could barely distinguish their words.

“CRACK” “ALCOHOL” “SISTER-GIRL” “ANGER” “FEAR”

Their voices on top of each other. Not done yet, Felix, in sports-huddle style began hollering into the crowd. Again, I couldn’t make out the words as he turned to face the room, arm piercing the air as if he’s leading an army. He calls out, the men respond. Back and forth this goes until we all begin singing the chorus I Am Free.

I was taught you sing one of those “just above a whisper” songs to lead into prayer. Not tonight. Not tonight. This is in your face recovery and time for some big loud prayers. O.k. the prayer wasn’t that loud but the energy surrounding it was huge.

After the meeting was over Felix came and apologized. Apology? For what?  This is church, your church. This is an expression of worship and praise. Not an imitation but pure.

Just what God wants from us. The pure, honest expression of praise. It doesn’t have to be loud, sung or spoken aloud. Just true. And offered to Him because He is.

faith recovery Salvation Army

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

When we were kids there was the boogie man. I wasn’t sure what he looked like but I knew it was scary. Left to my imagination, he would have been shrouded in dark shadows, hunched over with a wicked smile. Maybe a little like Ebenezer Scrooge.

For years I thought addicts looked like dead-eyed men, swaying on their feet in front of convenience stores asking for change. Their clothes were crusted with dirt as they hung from their bony frame. Their skin was weathered from the sun and their faces hadn’t seen a razor in months. Aren’t these the faces of alcoholism? Of crack?

What does an addict look like?

President Trump has declared an opiate crisis in our country. The word is out. It’s broadcast on the evening news and Netflix documentaries. We have a drug problem. Addicts are being made every day and they look a lot like me and you.

There are more people addicted to prescription medication than any other drug. Kids are more likely to get their drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet or from the doctor to help ease the pain of a sports injury. Xanax will ease the stress and Vicodin will soothe the pain.

Let’s not forget our love affair with alcohol. The morning news anchors laugh about one more glass of wine. Wednesday is called Wine-day and the commercials show all the fun we’ll have with a Bud Lite in hand.

The problem isn’t necessarily the substances, the problem is us. We decide how best to medicate us. If one is good, two will be better. There’s a saying for alcoholics: one drink is too many and 1000 is never enough.

Steve, JoJo, Thomas, Anthony, Terrance, David, Matt, …none of these men look like addicts. They look like my son or your brother. You wouldn’t cross to the other side of the street if you saw them walking your way. Today. Today they are healthy, clean, employed and productive. They are still addicts.

We don’t look like sinners. We keep our secrets and hide our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I know. I’m well practiced at this too.

When men enter our rehabilitation program, we start with the basics. We start with the outside. Collared shirts have to be tucked in and belts worn. Their hair can be no longer than their collar, and no beards. It’s about change. If you aren’t willing to change the small things how can you expect to change the big things?

Their outward appearance is a starting place. What we hope will change most in inside.

They don’t look like addicts but they can look like redemption.

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

All My Hope, Crowder

faith grace hope recovery

Randall comes from a line of artists. His grandfather designed Dugan glass, his oldest son teaches art at a university in the midwest and he is a floral designer. He also curates our silent art auctions, decorates our facility for every holiday including 7 Christmas trees, the Advent table and every holiday in between. Randall is my right hand. He’s also an alcoholic.

It wasn’t Randall’s decision to walk through our doors over ten years ago. His younger son gave him an ultimatum: get help or I’m done.

He was in the program when we arrived. He quickly told me he was good at making floral arrangements and volunteered to help if needed. I was hesitant. I asked him to show me something first. He’s made every arrangement we have since then. It’s not a talent I have nor something I think about other than something on the dining room tables.

Quite simply, he’s amazing and our building wouldn’t look as good without him.

 

 

Randall culls through the donated bits and pieces and fashions beauty from others have cast aside. In the right hands, the old and dirty are given new life. In the hands of a loving Savior, we are given new life too.

More than that, Randall has become a grandfather and it makes me smile when he shows new photos of his grands. He is a welcome part of his son’s lives.

His redemption story is played out every day. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. He didn’t complain when he had to ride the bus to work. He doesn’t bemoan not having a high paying job. His life has struggles but he doesn’t need alcohol to cope with them.

We are thankful for the family members who’ve made the hard choice to demand their loved ones get help. We know it may be the hardest things they’ve done. But that is love. Love wants more. Love wants the best. Redemption answers with grace.

 

faith recovery Salvation Army