For the last 25 years where we live hasn’t been our decision. Our denomination transfers its clergy. They decide when and where. The moving usually takes place in June but which June? This year or next? How long we stay is never a guarantee, never known.
We gave this over to faith that even though the decisions of man are imperfect, God will use it for His good.
We are in our last appointment. Our next move is into retirement. The location has been decided by us, our retirement home purchased and occupied by renters.
I am living in the in-between stages of what is and what is to come. We’re looking at boxes of stuff we’ve moved too many times. We’re remembering people and places, happy and sad. I am trying to choose wisely where I will live mentally and emotionally from now until then.
One place I’ve chosen not to live is in regret. I have plenty. If asked if I’d change anything in my life I’d say yes. There are decisions I’ve made I would readily change if I could. I could use a few “do-overs”. What I can do is decide not to allow space for regret in my life.
Regret is a thief. It steals joy and peace. It hangs heavy like steel gray clouds rumbling full of thunder. When I see storm warnings, I can shift my thoughts to the assurances of God’s grace and forgiveness. I choose to walk in hope.
The week brought us another relapse. We’ve watched the struggle for years and were trying to be hopeful this time was the time he’d make it. But he didn’t it. He’s alive but so are his demons.
Hard decisions had to be made. Decisions that can make you feel uncaring and mean.
“The only way I can deal with this is by numbing,” I said out loud. I can’t leave myself unguarded. No one chooses the ride the roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been on it enough and this week I wasn’t going to go through the dips and dives. I can continue to smile and hug while I shut down inside.
This isn’t the way to live. It’s the opposite of how we counsel the men. Numbing is what leads many to drugs. Brene Brown reminds us that we can’t selectivity numb. When we numb the bad we also numb the good.
But sometimes caring betrays you. The children you raised creating a good foundation make destructive choices. The spouse you thought would always be there is taken by cancer. You wonder how much a heart can bear. Not feeling seems a way out or at least a way to get through.
I saw Adrian holding his sign on the bridge. I thought it was him but he gets so thin when he’s out there ‘ripping and running’. He had a softness to his face, not the frenetic, cold eyes I’ve seen in others. I rolled the window down, holding a dollar in my closed hand. He came closer and smiled bigger as he recognized me. I asked the silliest question ever, “How are you doing?” Did I just say that? He’s on a bridge holding a sign and I asked how he’s doing as if he’s just walked in from work.
He gave me a kind smile and we both spoke at the same time…well, not too good.
“You know where to go”, I said. Our facility, the one he’s been in two or three times was one block away.
“I know. But you have to be tired.”
His truth was hard to hear but it broke through the numbing of my heart.
I wanted to get out of my car and hug Adrian at that moment. I wanted to wrap my arms around his dirty exterior. All I could say was God bless you.
I was on my way to our Sunday chapel service. In our time of sharing, words of gratitude from broken men continued working in my heart. Reed lost his mother and sister in a 4 month period and then got a diagnosis of throat cancer. But he stood to thank God for this community and bringing him through this dark time.
Charlie gave thanks for his son being with him. His son who chose to fly down from Atlanta to celebrate his 25th birthday with his dad who is living in our residential facility.
Others continued and with each one, I felt the numbness fade and compassion warm my heart.
The answer to hurt isn’t numbing. It isn’t turning inward and withdrawing. It’s taking the risk to care more. To invest in hope. To see the flicker of light and know darkness will not overtake it. It’s feeling the pain and loving anyway.
To be fair, I need to tell you Henry first told me he felt God’s calling to full-time ministry when I was pregnant with our second child.
We were sitting across the table from each other at a diner. It was 1980. Our daughter was 15 months old and our second child was due in 4 months.
I looked across the table and told him I didn’t think I could do that at this time in our lives. I didn’t want our children in daycare hours on end while we were at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, first through two years of seminary and then in full-time ministry. I had wonderful, godly in-laws. Henry talked to his mom who told him she agreed with me about the timing.
Henry and I met and married in South Florida in the late 70’s. We had two children in quick succession and planted ourselves deeply into the community. Henry was self-employed and worked hard to allow me to be home with the children. We were faithful to church activities and found a wonderful peer group there. Life was very good.
As our children got older, a few people began to joke with Henry about going into the ministry. I guess he would have been voted “most likely to…” I began to ask him if I was holding him back. He always said no. Until the spring of ’93.
He came home from a men’s retreat and told me he felt God calling him again. For something I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, my response wasn’t fearful or objectionable. It wasn’t so much a calling to ministry I felt, but a calling as a wife. Not one in a complementarian way but as ministers in The Salvation Army, husband and wife are both ordained. I felt a strong leading from God to accept Henry’s call as a call on our life together.
To read the rest of my story hop over toThe Perennial Gen. My thanks to Michelle and Amanda for allowing me to share my story.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s day is a sort of pause. Sometimes we fill it with more shopping and parties and travel and more, more, more.
As a child, we left our Christmas tree up through New Years. The last few years I’ve had it all put away before New Year’s day anxious to start fresh without this chore lingering.
Growing up in (and now serving in) The Salvation Army, this in-between week was a mixture of work and rest. Rest from the long season of serving others and work to put away the kettles and bells. Work to clean up the borrowed warehouse that was filled with toys only days ago. Satisfying work, but work.
When do we pause? When do we exhale the busy and breathe in rest?
We have a Watchnight service to prepare. Our tradition is to gather on New Year’s Eve in worship and celebration, which shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Another thing on our to-do list during this in-between week.
We’re a bit weary but we’ll find time to pause because stopping for a moment is the only way to continue.
We have done our best to hit the pause button this week. While our body clocks awakened us at nearly the same early hour, we stayed in bed enjoying the soft sheets and no morning schedule.
There were things on a to-do list but everything was in pencil giving ourselves permission to do or not do. I’m not a stay in my pajamas kind of girl but there were two days I didn’t even put on mascara.
I thought I would read more and write more but I’ve puttered around getting things back in order and playing mahjong on my iPad. It’s been pure luxury that I struggle with laziness. It can be a fine line.
I have thought about my word for 2018. Last year I chose peace and managed to remember and reflect on it for the whole year. I considered new words for the coming new year. Words like hope, contentment, and capacity were on my mental list. That is until I read Holley Gerth’s post in which she said she was staying with the same word for another year. She says:
“I’m keeping “content” as my word for the year in 2018 too. I feel like I’ve just begun to understand its layers, the true meaning of it. I need more time and practice and leaning into the Love that makes contentment possible. I’m not done with the lesson yet. And I don’t think it’s done with me.”
I’ve barely scratched the surface with this word, peace. Yes, I’ve recognized it doesn’t mean calm and quiet that it goes deeper. But as Holley says, I’m not done with the lesson and it’s not done with me. There are layers I need to explore.
I guess you could say I’m in between with this small word with enormous implications.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT
I went through grade school in the 60’s. We all seemed to dress alike. Girls wore dresses that were the same length, ankle socks and similar styles of shoes. Like other moms of that time, mama made some of my clothes. I fit in and to fit in has always meant acceptance.
It was in 5th grade when one particularly obnoxious boy made mean remarks about my dress, a dress mama made. I still remember it’s empire waist and medium-sized vertical stripes in autumn colors. A ribbon went around the high waist to complete the fashionable style. It was the last time I wore that dress.
To be different in any way meant to stand out and all I wanted was to fit in.
That would become increasingly hard in our church, a church whose members wear uniforms. When I told my dad I didn’t want to wear a uniform he told me everyone has uniforms. He pointed out my generation had chosen jeans as our uniform. I didn’t like it when he was right like that.
Maybe it’s ironic that one of my favorite scripture portions tells us not to be conformed to the world. The Message puts it this way:
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:2
Noted theologian, R.C. Sproul, said: “The Christian life is a life of non-conformity.”
This isn’t easy for someone who is more comfortable with blending in. Oh, I want to stand out but just a little. You know, a memorable laugh or smile.
Yes, our church members and clergy still wear uniforms. And I alternate between a certain pride and exhaustion of explaining it all.
But I understand the dangers of conformity have nothing to do with outward appearance. It’s about the heart. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus we need a different heart, a purpose not shared by all. We need to stand out in ways that others want what we have. Our joy and peace need to shine like a city on a hill.
It’s not an easy call. We will often go against the flow of popular culture. But it’s a worthy call.
“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” Romans 12:2 the VOICE
We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.
We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.
During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.
These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.
Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.
Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.
Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.
The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.
Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.
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.
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.
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.