Category: grace

I saw his grizzled face, breadcrumbs around his dry mouth, as he offered a smile that looked genuinely happy to see me. I returned the smile that probably showed more concern than joy. He didn’t look well, not like the last time I saw him. He was much thinner, unkempt, but his eyes eager to be seen, to be welcomed ‘home’.

He’s not the only one I’ve seen worse for wear lately. Jay is still too thin after being back a month or so. Joe looked good but he’s just come from jail and detox so he’s had time for life to brighten his face again.

This is our work.

Whether they leave or stay, for this moment, they’ve been rescued.

There are few who speak of being delivered from their addiction. The kind of deliverance church folks talk about when they said God delivered them from smoking. They put the pack down and that was the end. They never had a desire for another cigarette.

Can’t say as I’ve heard that in our 13 years of working with folks in recovery. I believe it happens, but not often.

The way we’ve seen it, delivery comes one day at a time.

Sundays my husband is at the pulpit, I’ve planned the service and we worship with this unlikely group of seekers. I sit in our small chapel, large enough to hold our 100 men and an extra twenty or so. They come in wearing the clothes we’ve given them: all in ties, some in full suits. Their shirts are always tucked, their hair groomed, faces shaved…We start with the small changes. My husband tells them they look like a room full of doctors or lawyers and collectively, they know plenty of doctors and lawyers.

We sing old hymns that only a handful of them know scattering some newer songs they’ve taken more of a liking to. They raise their hands when we sing Amazing Grace and every week we sing Amazing Grace because it is and they are living trophies of that grace.

Those sitting up front will get called on to be ushers and collect the offering.

Another will read the selected scripture for the morning. It’s as if we have a front row seat to God’s redemption story watching these men labeled addict, alcoholic and thief be part of this time of worship. Yes, they’re required to attend and some will be pulling their ties off the minute they’re out the chapel doors. Some will not hear a word of God’s message. But this is not for us to decide. Ours is to be obedient to sharing his message of hope and every one of us in that room needs hope.

“It’s God’s job to judge. The Holy Spirit’s job to convict and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

grace hope recovery Salvation Army

When Clint told us he and another graduate were heading west to Las Vegas we didn’t think it was a good idea. This wasn’t Clint’s, or his friend’s, first program. To the staff, they were babies in recovery. They would be leaving their support group.

They tried to assure us by telling us that family had a guaranteed job waiting for them. We shook our heads and wished them well.
It doesn’t feel much different from your 18-year old telling you thanks for everything, but I’ve got this.
You know you can’t hold on. You know you have to let them go. You pray they will be alright.
Our experience has proven us more right than wrong in these areas. Clint and Mike proved us wrong. And we love being wrong about this.
They connected with family and friends who were grounded in faith and had a good home church.
Several years later Clint came back to care for his ailing father. We had a position for a truck driver for him. Clint brings more than a clean driver’s license to work with him. He represents recovery at work every day. His character shows in his work ethic and his faith shows in his character.
He managed his job while caring for his dad and watching his decline. He was by his father’s side when he breathed his last. Through tears, he thanked God for the peace in his heart about his dad’s eternity and healing in heaven.
Clint has two church families. We’re grateful we are one of them. We asked Clint to go west again. This time only a couple of hours away to Florida’s Gulf coast to help those still struggling in the aftermath of Hurrican Irma. He was taking one of our trucks and leaving after Sunday’s worship service. During our time of sharing last week he stood and shared these words:
I use to steal from everyone. Now, I’m entrusted with a $60,000 truck, cash in my pocket sent to help others in need.
Clint returned today, more grateful and more committed to helping others.
This man who had a chip on his shoulder six years ago is a man changed by God’s redeeming grace. His smile is a welcome sight. He’s part of this glorious fellowship of the broken being made whole by God’s grace, step by step.

faith grace recovery

Danny is the best kitchen supervisor we’ve had. He leads with an even temperament even as he speaks correction when needed. He prepares for the smallest of details putting the needs of the residents above his own.

Danny and his family were under evacuation orders when hurricane Irma headed in our direction. We were planning to evacuate the men and he volunteered to come along if we’d allow him to bring his wife and 5-month old son. The next few days we saw him prepare for every situation. In new surroundings, he took charge of the kitchen and assigned men to help in cooking, serving and cleaning up. He led the way. He was, quite honestly, amazing.
When we lost power for most of the day, they managed their way through the dark food storage areas so not one meal was missed. His assistant found a way to make coffee. When you have over 70 addicts and alcoholics with you, coffee is a necessity.
But this isn’t the Danny we met 5 years ago. This isn’t the young man who came in angry and rebellious. It’s not the one who came through the program not once or twice but a third time before his hard-head and heart began to soften.
It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It starts, it always starts, with willingness. We must be willing to listen, to accept suggestions, to let go of past hurts and mistakes. You have to let go of pride, anger, and self-will. You have to be willing to take action to change.
The good news is, redemption happens before the external change. Restoration begins when the heart and mind are willing to admit wrongs and accept God’s grace.
There’s a song often sung in the halls of recovery. It’s a good old Black gospel style of song but the words are wrong. The song says I got to clean up what I messed up. Jesus says, his grace cleans up what we messed up.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageableFor I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18-23

grace hope recovery

Jason stood up to share during our testimony time. “This is the best-kept secret in Broward County.” He was talking about this place, this program, this residential facility, a place I call Grace-land. He was talking about The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was talking about our ministry, our people, our heart, our prayers. He was talking about redemption.
Granny and mama both saved Green Stamps. As a child, I helped put these stamps in little booklets that mama would take to the Redemption Center. She would hand the required number of stamps to a clerk in exchange for something she could use in our home. Redemption was a process of exchanging one item of lesser, or no, value (the stamps) for something of greater value, for something of use.
The Oxford Dictionary defines redemption as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil: God’s plans for the redemption of his world.
Redemption stories are testimonies of the priceless value of God’s grace in the form of his son, Jesus, being exchanged for the wreckage of our lives. This is amazing grace.
 

We were gathered in our chapel for our regular Sunday worship service. The congregation is made up of the residents who are required to attend and other men we call Alumni; they’ve completed this 6-month month program and are living on their own. Sometimes we have family members join us but most Sundays the only two women in the service are our paid pianist and me.

Our surroundings are humble. This 55-year-old building that has kept winds and water at bay through a few hurricanes doesn’t look like much from the outside. The street in front of us is one of the busiest in town. Yet, the thousands who drive past us each day aren’t aware of what goes on behind the concrete block walls. The sign spells out Adult Rehabilitation Center but really, we are a redemption center. Like the Green Stamp store, we’re exchanging hope and grace for broken lives.
As Jason said, we are the best-kept secret in town.
Write31days is an annual event joined by thousands of bloggers. The challenge is to write every day of the month. As I write through 31 days, I want to share stories of redemption.I want to share about addiction and disease and hope and restoration. We’ll share stories of living in this place I call Grace-land.

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grace hope recovery Salvation Army

If I were to make a list of things I’m somewhat, sort of, envious of these would be on it:

  • all the glorious flowers my photography friends have in their area to capture: dahlias, hydrangeas, and coneflowers to name a few
  • Katie’s ability to style hair, including her own
  • Beki’s skill at the piano
  • The mild summer temperatures in Indiana where our son lives
  • my husband and daughter’s fitness discipline
  • Marian’s endless enthusiasm
  • the talent to fashion words that hold space in my head by the many bloggers I read
  • Anyone who goes through life fearless
I don’t labor over these things. They don’t crowd my mind all the day long but when I see those photos of flowers I don’t know the name of in my photo feed, well, I breathe a sigh of ‘I wish…’
What do you do when the feelings of envy creep into your thoughts? Do you soldier on, pushing them aside as an unwelcome fly buzzing about? Or, do you allow them to land, like a mosquito leaving you with an itch that reminds you of what you’re not?
Phil Hansen is an artist who developed a tremor in his hand, keeping him from practicing the art of pointillism. Rather than allow this to destroy him mentally, rob his talent and work, Phil developed another attitude and he decided to “embrace the shake”. You can watch his inspiring story in this 10 minute Ted Talk here:https://www.ted.com/talks/phil_hansen_embrace_the_shake
Our lists will probably have things we can’t change and things we can. The first step is to realistically determine which list our pesky envy fits. Do we accept or take the challenge to change?
When the photos of dahlias filled my Instagram feed, I took pictures of limes and blueberries; of blueberry bread and cornbread. I took the opportunity to practice food photography, an area I needed to explore.
We can’t change the intensely long, muggy summers of South Florida but we can celebrate our ocean breezes and hold tight to the knowledge we’ll be walking our sandy shores while others are shoveling snow. Sometimes life is about trade-offs.
winter at the beach

I could take piano lessons but it doesn’t mean I’d play with the years of experience Beki has. Every two months I carefully watch how Leah styles my hair after a fresh cut but once I get home and wash it, it’s never the same. Katie has a natural talent for this and is now going to school to build on that. I choose to celebrate her ability and appreciate Beki’s musical talent that extends beyond the piano.

Some of my envy list can only be managed by admitting, and embracing, who I am and who I’m not. Some of the admissions are tough, like knowing I’m probably not going to do much better at a fitness program than walking. I have to be okay with that or change it. Or, maybe the hardest thing, stop whining about it.
I think it’s good to surround ourselves with people smarter and more talented than we are. It challenges us in good ways and builds our character and desire to keep learning. I need to flip that and consider what it is others may need to see in me. Are they seeing an ability to ‘embrace the shake’? To adapt when things don’t go as we planned? Or do they see someone going through life wringing our hands and singing a continuous chord of woe is me?
I know who I want to be. I know God has made us for more.

grace

I get to decide what to accept.

Her words fell heavier than her feet when she walked into the room proclaiming impending disaster. Drama is her way and it’s a way I don’t accept.

Too many times I’ve stood in his office door and listened to words of self-pity, knowing it was my job to listen only. It’s not an easy one as words swirl in my mind of what I’d like to say. Not the time. Not his need.

Words are hurled, good, bad, hurtful, lies, false flattery, like a tornado they swirl about touching down in random places. We discern which to accept and which to let fall. Which do we allow to make their mark with pain or joy?

I wish it were as easy as only allowing the sweet-sounding words as truth. Growth comes with accepting the hard ones too. Our faith is grown accepting God’s way over our own. Transformation comes with accepting his grace.

Five-Minute Friday grace

I don’t often take breaks from my blog because I fear I’ll lose what few readers I have. I’m trying to learn to let go of a lot of things and counting the numbers is one of them. It’s hard, because what other measure do we have of if we’re good enough at our craft?

I thought the week away, in the mountains surrounded by a different view of creation, I thought our family hike, time spent laughing with friends, hearing good teachers, I thought all of that would fill me with words to share. That’s how it’s been before. My mind racing to get the words down on paper.

This year was different. I’ve got nothing. While our time felt full and easy, the words aren’t bubbling up inside. It was a week to soak in rather than pour out.

It was a time to grab my camera and walk around the outside of the old stone chapel taking pictures of the flowers in bloom while listening to the preacher’s voice coming through the open stained glass windows. Not once did I crowd in on the wooden benches, getting distracted watching others sing or the band playing. Instead, my mind listened while my fingers snapped the shutter again and again. A voice carried over the stone floor and walls through open windows in the early mornings when the mist hangs on the lake just beyond.

I put the camera down and got in the raft to go ride the white waters of the Nantahala with our group of men in recovery. The water intentionally splashed on us by the other rafts in our group felt like buckets of ice water dropping in our laps. We screamed and paddled faster and screamed some more. I let my hair stay a crazy mess when 40+ came to dinner at our house that night.

We ate the best blackberry pie and mumbled words we barely knew to whatever the guitar player strummed after dinner. And I soaked it in. The smiles, the community, the hugs…all of it seemed intended to fill rather than share.

 

 

I know, I’m sharing it now but just glimpses of what I think God is trying to do right now. He’s trying to fill some spaces in me that have been shallow and dry. The reserves aren’t always there. 

Has that been you? Have you been in that place where you can only give from what sometimes feels forced? Where is it that our creator Father takes you for filling?

Giving is part of our Christian calling. Jesus showed us servant leadership when he fed the crowds and washed the feet of his followers. He told stories of caring for others and not ignoring those in need. He also spoke of taking a break, of getting away to the other side of the lake. He went to the hills or a garden to pray. Even the Son of God needed to be filled from his Father.

This verse has been with me from the start of this blog. It says so clearly what we need to hear and know.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 the Message

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What kind of break might you need? How is he filling your soul?

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faith grace hope

He picks up a shell from the shore. “This looks like a heart….sort of”, he says. Yes, it does, sort of. Close enough to add to the other sort of heart-shaped shells we collect. You tend to find what you’re looking for. We look for hearts.

No special reason except the first time we spied a shell that resembled a heart it seemed special. They aren’t made in heart shapes. It’s not how they are designed by our creator. At least not the ones lining our beaches. That started our hunt and turned our eye looking for the different. The shells that are surely meant for us.

I’m a collector, sort of, who doesn’t want a bunch of stuff. The kind that has to be carefully dusted and grows to more than your shelves can hold. I don’t tell people I have a fondness for black and white cows because your congregation and employees will give you cows on every occasion for the next ….well, forever! (Forget I said I like cows 😉

We all collect something. Some of us seem to collect aches and pains, our woes are out there for everyone to hear. Some of us collect friends and some collect more manageable things like shells.

What I most like to collect are stories. Some about grace, some about grief; some about love, some about loss. All about living out life in its fullness.

This is a collection I want to grow. There is always room for more stories. There is always room for more grace.

family Five-Minute Friday grace

I don’t like coffee. There, I said it.

I read blogs and listen to podcasts. I’ve seen the memes. Women who are younger than me – a lot younger than me- who write books, wear great earrings, who all seem to know each other. And they all seem to love coffee.

Somehow I’ve told myself if I were ever in Nashville or Chicago or the next blogging conference I’d be able to blend right in. If I wore a cute pair of boots, a long skirt, found some cool earrings from a free trade company and wore my Warby Parker glasses, it might distract from my obvious age. But then someone would say, “Let’s grab a coffee,” and I’d be exposed for the outsider I am.

Even in the photography class, I’m taking I try to fit. When I scroll through Instagram to the pictures of others in my group they are full of spring blossoms, of lilacs and peonies, tulips, cherry blossoms and ranunculus- bundles and bundles of ranunculus. I sigh a lament of not having these beauties around me. When the prompt is branches and blossoms, I grab my fake branch with pretty pink blooms on them. It might be a fake cherry blossom branch, but I hope it doesn’t look too fake. I look at these photos and again feel like I don’t belong. What can I do that will look as lovely? How do I fit in with this group of artists?

I’m used to standing out having grown up in the Salvation Army but not always comfortable with the things that make me different. It all sounds so juvenile. Am I still worried about fitting in? At 60, is that still clawing at me?

I’m over at The Mudroom today. Read the rest of the story here

 

grace

Comfort is a word with a double edge.

We are urged to get out of our comfort zone and curb our indulgence in our comfort foods, the pint of Ben and Jerry’s we crave at the end of a hard day….not our best go-to.

Comfort is familiar. It is routine and known and safe.

It is also complacency and hiding and avoidance. When does the contentment that soothes your soul become bad?

Harder still is the answer. The answer for me isn’t the same for you. And it seems to change, starting with the disclaimer: it depends.

It’s not that comfort is bad, maybe it’s that we don’t always look for it in the best places. To be honest, I’d rather toss back a few almond M&M’s than recall a verse of scripture or inspiring quote. Comfort=easy=lazy=not real comfort

Most would say it’s about balance. The truth about balance is that it’s elusive. It’s not 50-50 as I’ve mistakenly believed. We grab our doses of ease when we can. We stay in our zone. We lap up conversation with a good friend because it tastes better than ice cream and is calorie free. Or maybe we share the conversation over the sweet comfort of ice cream or cookies or pie – yes pie…with ice cream!

While we’re at it, let’s put our favorite play list on in the background and talk about the last good book we read. Let’s laugh at our silly mistakes. Let’s get comfortable with the rhythms of life and let’s make space for grace, the truest comfort.

 

 

Five-Minute Friday grace