Category: hope

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Mark 12:41-44 Message

I am sitting in the back of the room scanning the men in front of me. There’s a former teacher, an electrician, a business owner, panhandler, a day laborer. George was a jockey and Ken was a lawyer. The young ones were caught up in drugs before they knew who they were or what they could do. Jobs came and went faster than seasons change.

Their resumes are sketchy. There are gaps and blanks where there shouldn’t be and, for some, too many words to answer the questions about criminal background.

Regardless of degrees, titles, or resumes, today they are broken. They are empty. They are former construction workers and former office managers. They have nothing but what is listed on their property list.

But they are not without wealth.

The collection plate is passed each Sunday in our chapel. From the assortment of residents and graduates who return to worship with us more than $100 will be collected. The money will be sent to help support a children’s home in Haiti. Their small coins will become the bread and fish Jesus enlarged to feed the crowd.

It’s the broken who rush to help the wounded.

It’s the forgotten who take in the abandoned.

It’s why we have two dogs and a cat as residents. It’s why when one of the dogs got an injury requiring a $3000 surgery they wanted to give.

And they did. The amount collected doesn’t come close to paying for the surgery but their example shames my small offerings.

Like the story of the woman giving her small coins, they aren’t giving from their surplus. They are giving from their heart.

I’ve seen them sneak food to one sleeping on the sidewalk. The ones with cars take others to meetings or to Walmart. They encourage each other with their words.

They believe in second chances because they’re on their third, or fourth.

Gratitude isn’t always saying thanks. It’s about giving from all you have.

“…she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

 

Linking up with Holley Gerth for a little coffee for your heart.

SaveSave

faith hope recovery Salvation Army

To walk into the bedroom of our 10-year old granddaughter is to be on sensory overload. Her room is littered, I mean arrnged, with stuffed animals, clothes, shoes, dolls, Legos, more clothes and shoes, drawings, papers, books….did I say clothes?

It takes a lot of coaxing to get her to clean out what she doesn’t need.

I know the differenc between need and want but it’s still something I struggle with myself at times.

Writer, Emily Freeman, recently talked about the essentials. That’s a word with weight. It means absolutely necessary; extremely important.  It’s a word that needs more than a 10-year old maturity to understand. American Girl dolls are essential to her like health insurance is to us. (Oh for the days of childhood!)

Our retirment date is growing closer each day. Two years from now. Lord willing, we will be in another city, another house, another life. Even now, I am considering what our needs will be. The obvious ones are easy. We will need furnishings for the house. We’ve lived in furnished parsonages the past 23 years so this is a big thing. We will need to learn when the garbage is picked up and become familiar with new street names and directions.

But what is essential?

That’s not easy to answer a year and a half away. So I turn that question, as Emily did, to today. In this time of year that schedules get packed and to-do lists get longer, what is essential?

The answer is harder than it sounds. It may vary day to day. Can it even be answered for more than one day at a time?

Today, it’s essential I go to my dental appointment. It’s part of health/self-care. It’s essential that I eat and more beneficial if I eat nutriously.

Our basic human needs are just that: needs. And they are essential.

What is absolutely necessary, extrememly important to me is to know I am loved. To know I have hope. That’s what I desperately need and what I have in Jesus.

 

Most Friday’s I link up with other writers for Five-Minute Friday a 5-minute free write prompt. And most weeks I take more than 5 minutes. Sorry, not sorry.

 

SaveSave

faith family Five-Minute Friday hope

Ask me, I’ll be your witness. I’ll shout it out when you try to get out of your way and let God in. I’ll testify that you’re a new person. I’ll let it be known that you are not the same person. Just ask me.

If it’s true, if I know it, I’ll be your witness because we all need one some days. The days when your strength is gone and you’re not sure you’ve got an ounce of faith left, I’ll remind you. I’ll tell you, you aren’t the same person who walked through those doors. I’ll tell you I remember the day you came in with a hollow face and soul. I saw you sitting in the day room with that vacant look. I remember.

 

But then, then, you got some rest. The good kind of rest that comes after a shower with the water streaming long and hot to wash all that you’ll allow slip down the drain.

Then you slept on a bed for you with clean sheets. You ate and your belly was filled with good food and the dope sickness begins to pass and your hands stop shaking and, miraculously, you feel more human than you remembered in a long time.

It’s taken a while. I saw it when you got anxious and thought you were going to leave again like you have before. That time you thought you felt human and could do it this time, all by yourself.

But you stayed. You listened to someone. Maybe God spoke to you through the big book or through a counselor or, maybe even from the sacred word you hear read each morning. Yes, God was talking to you, I saw that too. I’m your witness. You listened.

Everyone needs a witness and I’ll be yours because your life is a witness to a God who works miracles.

We are his witness. All of us who’ve let him in to reshape us. We’re witnesses to His restorative power, to His redemption and grace.

Everyone needs a witness. I’ll be yours.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT

faith hope The Church

There have been times this month that I wondered if I had one more story to tell. It was a fleeting thought because every day I look into the faces of Johnny, Blair, Chris, Matt, Jason, Jeff, David, Robert, the Steves, and Mikes, and Joe’s. There’s JoJo who never got one swing for the Mets, the team that drafted him before he injured his arm and eventually lost his teaching career at the grip of addiction.

Or Armstead who carried the label “black sheep” of his family. How did his alcoholism fit with his college grad siblings working their professional jobs? Today he holds a blue-collar job but his fleece has been made clean by God’s redemptive grace. He’s welcome at family reunions again.

Whether I look in our counseling wing, administrative office, warehouse, stores, kitchen, truck drivers, I will see faces of redemption.

The challenges some have overcome are nothing short of miraculous. How can one not see the hand of God when their lives have been touched by it?

There are the faces we see when they’re coming back to worship with us or as sponsors or to lead a group or chair a meeting. There’s Curtis, Alfredo, Jason, Jack, Joe and Richard and Dodd whose life wasn’t changed through our program but is no less a redemption story.

They are talented and brilliant. They are, as the old hymn says, once lost but now found.

 

But those aren’t the only stories of redemption. Most of our stories aren’t grand, they aren’t what miracles are made of except that God’s hand has made each of one of us a miracle.

There is a list of women’s names who are signs of God’s redemption. They haven’t come through the doors of our Center but their souls have been changed and their lives marked as God’s own.

Phylis and Joan, Betsy, Crystal, Ruth, Dawn, Beki, Janice, and Lisa….and more, so many more who share the light of Christ in a world stumbling in darkness. They are singing redemptions song. My life is touched by theirs and our awkward notes work to sing the song of hope.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble[a]
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Psalm 107:1-3 ESV

We tell our stories to give thanks to our Redeemer. We tell them to speak light in a dark world. Because our redemption shows it’s available to everyone.

We tell them to speak light in a dark world. Because our redemption stories prove it’s available to everyone.

faith hope

Sunday testimonies

 

“I’m thankful that today I’m not raising hell but going with my kids to church and sharing Jesus with them.”

“I’m grateful that God has given me the Holy Spirit in my life today.”

“This place is going to give you the tools you need to change your life. God is good all the time, literally.”

“I accepted Jesus in my life and everything has started to change. I’m a new man today.”

“Thanks to God I’m 5 months sober.”

“Thanks for welcoming me back and for my brothers who reached out to me.”

“So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:8a

 

 

faith hope Salvation Army

Some people just need to be heard. They need to be seen. They need a hot shower, a clean bed. They need hope. Fun doesn’t hurt either.

Murder Mystery Night

 

Root beer floats on a hot day

 

80’s night

 

“But what is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?” – William Booth, founder, The Salvation Army

 

hope recovery

Some families are dancers with feet never touching the ground. They dance with words cutting wide circles around politics or problems. They smile and curtsy to others who are tripping on their own feet.

It’s okay. If you don’t say it it’s not happening. Just keep dancing to the song playing in your head, keep singing to the tune we’re playing.

***

It’s obvious he has a problem with alcohol but let’s never say it. Let’s not actually confront or intervene. They still have their job. They just don’t remember last weekend or the conversation with their son.

We might nod in agreement when someone uses the word relapse or raise our eyebrows as if in surprise. Really? I never noticed there was a problem.

***

You never smell the alcohol. You haven’t seen them touch a drink. She says she’s going through the change. Or maybe some kind of allergic reaction.

We can dance and twirl and sing and smile because as long as we’re playing this tune the song will never end.

There’s no dancing in recovery.

***

Our work is about naming the song. About learning new steps to new tunes that sing true words. Our work is about redemption. About reclaiming life.

We say you’re only as sick as your secrets. Ignoring the disease won’t bring healing.

You recognize the voices that are singing out of tune. We try to help them hear the pitch, to tune their ear to the words that are true. The counselors are vocal coaches really. We’ve all admitted we’re a bit tone deaf and we help one another find the pitch.

But there’s this tune the family has been singing for generations. The lyrics sing a happy song but the notes never seem to match. There’s always a clunker in the choir who’s offbeat and off key. The others try to fix it by singing louder hoping the volume will cover up their mistakes.

***

She’s trying, she really is. Him? His hearing has never been sharp. Sing louder and no one will notice. Maybe they can mouth the words and we’ll keep smiling. It’s our family song, after all.

***

A mama got tired of trying to sing the happy words. She came in with her 33-year old son who was fresh out of detox. Their voices carried pain and his seemed tinged with anger. There’d been a misunderstanding and the voices of both raised. A third part started bringing the crescendo down and then the rest for a breath. Everyone took a breath but the mama wasn’t letting hers out. She was afraid. The real song is terrifying. But it must be sung for healing to begin.

She hugged the counselor then grabbed me in her embrace while the tears couldn’t be contained. This song was a bit warbly. There were no words in this section, just the tender sound of tears.

***

I’m not sure what song their family has been singing. I’d guess it’s somewhat like the part in Bohemian Rhapsody where the two parts seem to be singing against each other.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
No, we will not let you go!
(Let him go) No, we will not let you go
will not let you go

Only there are three parts being sung. The mama pleading to the drugs “will you let him go” and the son hearing the familiar refrain of heroin’s song “No, we will not let you go”.

It’s always the song of desperation that brings people to us. These are the songs of aching desire and fear of failing, again.

They are akin to the songs of King David as he wrote in his despair. His sins had found him. They had been named. There was no more hiding, no more dancing. Psalm 51:3 VOICE

There are songs of truth to be learned. There is a new rhythm in which to choreograph our steps. We sill sing and march and claim recovery found in truth. It is the only true recovery.

We will dance to the redemption song.

faith family hope recovery


You’ve heard deaths from drug overdose are rising at alarming rates. These are our statistics. This is our county.

The sad reality of recovery is that even those who’ve experienced a year or more of sobriety relapse and sometimes, it’s fatal.

*Scott finished the program and left on his own. He came back earlier this year when a good friend of his, another graduate, was beaten to death in an alley known for drug deals and use.

*Roger came back for his third time. He had done well. He’d kept the same job over a year. But he’d left the principles of recovery and, as so many do, was doing it on his own. Then he and his girlfriend overdosed. He was resuscitated with Narcon but she couldn’t be revived.

Last year we noticed the rise in fatal overdoses from men who’d been in our program. The recovery community is close and word spreads quickly about relapses and ODs.

As the year came to a close we printed photos of those lost to addiction and put it on the Christmas tree in our chapel. It was a time of deep sorrow looking at the faces of men, some barely 30, lost to what many don’t see as a disease.

Earlier this year we attended Mike’s funeral. He was several years in recovery. Mike counted being part of his grandchildren’s life as one of his greatest gifts of recovery. He was in his late 50’s at the time of his death, a death contributed to from what is commonly referred to as wet brain. It’s a type of dementia caused by long-term alcoholism. The medical name is Wernicke-Korsakoff.

Whether it’s long-term or immediate death from substance abuse, friends, and family are left to mourn their loss.

Pat is 3rd from left

Alex in back

There’s a David Crowder song that makes me think of Pat. And it’s hard to get Alex’s dimples out of my mind. Some days I forget we won’t see them again. But the sting of death returns and my smile turns sour. Too young. Too soon. Too sad.

It’s tempting to think about the maybes and what ifs. If we’d kept him on restriction or maybe we missed something.

We could never continue in this ministry if we allowed those false thoughts to take space in our minds. Each person is responsible for their own recovery.

Good love has boundaries. But it’s grace is without limits. Perfect love, God’s love,

Perfect love, God’s love, is beyond our understanding. It’s a love that never fails.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38-30 the Message

grace hope recovery

Even the deaf use words.

John signs as he uses his voice to speak to me because he really does talk with his hands. While I need the spoken word to understand, his comfort is forming the words with his fingers.

I thought John had been using sign language most of his life. At 18 months old he was sick with a fever that spiked so high it made him deaf. The only life he remembers is one of not being like the rest of his family. Not hearing when everyone around him did. His mother wouldn’t allow him to learn sign language until he could speak with his voice. He learned to form the words with his mouth by watching the lips of others.

John attended hearing schools. Somehow he kept up with his classmates but he never felt like he fit. It wasn’t until college that he found himself in his world, a world that would be silent to us but came to life for him. For the first time, he found his tribe, his place. He belonged.

Already his story is one of triumph and victory, overcoming limitations and finding new talents but it takes another turn. The college keg parties turned into alcoholism for John. Friends, family, the normies who can stop drinking at will don’t understand why he can’t. John doesn’t understand why he can’t. A marriage becomes a divorce as his family backs away. He is walking the streets of Fort Lauderdale with an art portfolio in his hand. His drawings are his only possessions now. The evidence that there is some good in him.

In a moment of clarity, he realizes he needs help but he finds place after place telling him they can’t help him because he’s deaf, until he comes to our door. We don’t have anyone who knows sign language. We have no interpreters. We only have space for him. It won’t be easy. But John has been in hard places before. Maybe it was his schooling in a hearing world that gave him the determination or maybe he was just sick and tired of being sick and tired but he made it. He made it through the group meetings where he strained to read the lips of the counselor, sometimes getting it, sometimes not. He sat on the second row in the chapel to get the best view of the speaker’s mouth shaping the words but too many words got lost.

William Booth as drawn by John T.

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for John but I can’t come close to knowing the silence that surrounded him. Even now I hear the whirring of an air conditioner in the office and faint voices in the outer room. I have the luxury of turning down or up the volume.

John was recognized as Man of the Year for 2013, an honor that took him by complete surprise. He stays active in the recovery community and comes back for our Alumni events.

He happened to be in front of me in line at a convenience store one day. He turned around and said, “You saved my life.” I knew what he meant. It wasn’t me. It was God’s redeeming power working through all of us that gave him renewed purpose. What a mighty God we serve.

hope 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