My hope was they wouldn’t find these poster-sized coloring pictures childish.
My hope was that the story portrayed in these pictures would help their understanding of the biblical Christmas story.
And I really hoped they do them one at a time in accordance with the 4 weeks of Advent. That one hasn’t worked out so well as they’ve nearly finished them all.
Hope is a desire or expectation for something to happen.
Ous is an audacious hope.
We have many hopes for the men entering this 6-month rehabilitation program. We want them to regain their health, for families to be restored. We want them to find jobs and respect. Our deepest desire is that they’ll embrace a program of sobriety and walk hand in hand with Christ as their Savior. We want to see them give back as they live this example.
Some days are hard in this work where disappoint happens regularly. Six photos hang on the Christmas tree in the chapel this year. Photos of men who’ve passed this year as a result of their addiction.
Friends and family have asked how we can do this day after day. It’s because we have an audacious hope. Hope that stares in the face of relapse and addiction and says we believe in a power greater. We look at hope eye to eye because flesh and blood is wrapped around this Hope.
This is bold and living hope expressed in new lives. This is the Hope of Jesus. He is our only Hope.
When the words get lost because of complacency, when I’m looking for the extraordinary rather than finding gratitude in the routine of everyday life, it’s our community, the fellowship of the broken, who guide me.
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.
He sat quietly trying not to be seen but he had to come back. He had to try again to get this thing called recovery. He had a piece of it but it’s hard outside our walls.
It’s hard to work your job, go to school, attend recovery meetings and meet with your sponsor – the things that keep you sober. So you miss an AA meeting because your job has left you worn. One becomes five when no one is requiring a signed slip like when you were in the ARC. You don’t have a required group to attend where the tools of recovery will be reinforced. You aren’t surrounded by 99 other men, many supporting and pulling for you. You’re out there. On your own. And sometimes it’s too much.
“Welcome back”, I said as I saw him sitting in the chair outside the Intake office. He’s always been a soft-spoken man and this day perhaps softer as he said, “thanks for having me back.”
Really? As if we wouldn’t or as if we aren’t the ones grateful you chose to come back and regain order and sobriety and peace. Thank you! Thank YOU for knowing this is a safe place.
This story of redemption is one played on repeat. I confess my failures and sins one day and take them up again the next. I fall victim to gossip and pride because it’s hard out there when I stop following the program of following Jesus.
I’m scarcely different from these men who have couch surfed in crack houses or lost their business, their nursing license, their teaching positions, lost it all because of the disease of addiction.
The only difference is that my failures have been kept quiet. It’s like that for most of us. The envy, hate or whatever it is that haunts us makes us no different. Just more presentable. Not to God but to each other.
God stands before us with open arms saying ‘Welcome back’, again and again through his forgiveness and grace.
Addiction has its own time schedule and with Bo, it came during college.
Growing up, his family attended Sunday School and various church activities. Bo was confirmed and served as an altar boy.
By the end of high school, tensions at home were mounting with an older half-brother dying of AIDS and his sister running away. His parents separated and eventually split by the time Bo was 22.
He made it through these challenges without turning to drugs or drink for solace. Even touring the US with a couple of bands and seeing their indulgence, Bo stayed clear of what would later bring him to our doors.
His passion was culinary arts and it was working two jobs and going to school that the pressure mounted in Bo’s life.
He felt depression creeping as the cycle of work, work, school, never seemed to stop. After class, he hung out with friends at a bar. Drinking made him relax and helped hide the hurts in his life.
Bo managed to graduate with honors and had a new relationship. His drinking was manageable, or so he thought.
He got his first Driving While Intoxicated in ’97.
Bo took a job cooking at Club Med where his addiction had a chance to grow. His dad was diagnosed with cancer and alcohol seemed just the cure for Bo’s anxiety and depression.
By the time 2004 came around he was in a pattern of working to drink and when one job ran out he moved back with family. It was a sick cycle but one that became comfortably familiar.
Bo attended AA meetings but most of the time he was either drunk or headed out to drink after the meetings. Nothing was connecting with him.
He would go from his home in Baltimore to Florida to Canada where his new girlfriend was from. It would be six years of taking her on a “drunken ride” before he knew he had to make a change.
A video of him passed out on the floor when his girlfriend and kids came home was his bottom. It was also his reality check; his wake-up call.
He and Merri began researching free rehabilitation centers in South Florida, a place with which he was familiar.
“The miracle happened for me at their altar with the Chaplin and I gave my life and reconnected with Christ. That was the thing all these years that I needed to fill that ‘Hole’.
Celebrate Recovery meeting saved me. Salvation Army saved me. Getting back into Church here saved me. I used everything that God gave me in my teachings and meetings at the ‘Sally’ from what we call our ‘toolbox” to keep me connected, humbled, grateful and in line with all of my meetings.”
I now describe my life as a “pie chart”…..always re-evaluating my “slices” so that I spend time in all areas of my life instead of just the whole pie being split between ME and alcohol. It’s got to include others, my family, the kids, my business, ME time, my recovery and Jesus Christ as my savior.”
Bo keeps up with us through a private Facebook group for our graduates and staff. He often shares words of encouragement to new graduates. He is owner-chef of Wolfbay Cafe where he makes amazing cakes.
He is also a talented watercolor artist where he especially enjoys painting portraits of the felines helps rescue as a volunteer at areas rescue shelters and part of the Rescue Task Force.
Our thanks to Bo for sharing his redemption story. It’s a story with a guaranteed happy ending.
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.
There are some people you’re drawn to. You don’t always know why and I couldn’t tell you even now what it was about Mike that drew me. He’s not musical or with any other special talent. He’s not the outgoing sort. He was quiet but not introverted and I figured he was around my age.
It was Mike’s 4th time in our program. It was easy to welcome him back because there was something that gave me more hope.
I suppose part of what drew me to Mike is that he’s local. He grew up here and while I’m a transplant like most residents, this is more home to me than any other place. Mike graduated from my high school’s rival. We know the city and where things use to be. We talk the local language and he laughs at my silliness.
Mike had the God part down. He grew up in church and having a belief in Jesus wasn’t his problem. Alcohol and drugs were. He had prayed, his family had prayed, for deliverance from this addiction.
This time, Mike determined to do things differently. He was going to take suggestions and get a sponsor that was more than a name to tell his counselor.
When he shares his story he talks about looking for a sponsor. He figured the man would be a lot like him. African American. Mid 50’s. Christian. That didn’t work out too well.
Who eventually became Mike’s sponsor is a short, white man nearing 70. He was college educated and retired from a high-level government job. I call them the Odd Couple.
While Mike was still in the program, *Dale would come and meet with Mike in the dining room weekly. Four years later, they are still meeting every week in the dining room.
Mike moved out long ago and has been driving a truck for us since graduating. He goes with his sponsor to AA meetings, sometimes chairing the meetings. He’s at his church every Sunday and with us for special events.
You can count on seeing this odd couple every month at our Sobriety Awards dinner. You can also count on seeing them roar in laughter about anything and everything.
Mike knew God’s redemption from sin many years ago. In his addiction, he took his will back and until he surrendered to God’s will his story was incomplete.
Like many others, life isn’t problem-free in sobriety. Like redemption, sobriety brings peace. The combination of both is priceless.
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
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.